On Not Feeling Alone

08/30/13

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{Latest sketchbook entry}

Yesterday I had an AWFUL day. It seemed that everything was going wrong — several small things, and one really big thing. Circumstances had left me feeling sad and confused. It was a day when I felt like crawling in a dark hole and not coming out until everything had miraculously resolved itself. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you see it), I couldn’t crawl into a hole. I had paintings to make, illustration work to finish and a book to write. I generally don’t have time to fret. Over the course of the day, several friends (plus my sister) came to my rescue, offering their support for my situation. Others confided in me that they were having crappy days too. On Facebook I learned that more than three of my friends had spent the day in tears. One of my friends declared, “Mercury is in Uranus!” We consoled each other, gave each other virtual hugs, and took strength in the fact that we were all suffering.

By the end of the day, almost nothing about my situation had changed. The things that had upset me at 9 am were still true. But what had changed was how I felt about it. I no longer felt desperate or crazy. I felt supported. I had a sense of humor. I remembered that we all have bad days — and it’s the bad days that soften us and help us to be there for each other.

Thank you to everyone who helped me get through my day yesterday. You are all my sunshine.

Happy weekend.

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New Print :: Les Cuillères

08/29/13

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You may remember my sketchbook series from my time in France, and I’m happy to report that I’ve turned my drawing of spoons into a special white-on-black print (available now in my shop)! It’s available in both 8.5×11 inches and 11×14 inches. Also, I do custom colors on some of my prints (and this is one of them), so If you’d like it printed in a special color for your kitchen, convo or email me! Perfect for your kitchen! Get it here.

 

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Samantha Hahn: Well-Read Women

08/28/13

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{The stunning front/back cover of Well-Read Women, new from Samantha Hahn}

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I posted about the stunning work of my friend Samantha Hahn, and I am so happy today to write about her work again — this time a new book she’s published with Chronicle called Well-Read Women. The book is a collection of FIFTY portraits from literature’s most legendary female characters (along with stunning hand lettered quotes), including the likes of Daisy Buchanan, Clarissa Dalloway. Anna Karenina, and Nancy Drew. I adore this book and think you will too. To quote my very own blurb on the back of the book: “Richly illustrated and exquisitely hand-lettered, Well-Read Women is the perfect convergence of literature and art–and a wonderful gift for any passionate reader. I have devoured it already several times over.” (It’s true.)

I’ll leave you here with some of my favorite spreads in the book. You can get the book here or at your local bookstore.

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Happy Wednesday!

CATEGORIES: For Sale | Inspiration
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My Love Affair With Oakland

08/27/13

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Six months ago, I moved to Oakland from San Francisco, where I’d lived for 23 years. The move was agonizing for me; I felt like I was losing a limb. I wrote about it here.

Despite my hesitation, almost immediately, I noticed there was something special about this place called Oakland. Amazingly, even though I’d lived in San Francisco for so long, I’d only been to Oakland two dozen times, and only to a few parts of the city for very brief periods of time. I didn’t know my way around at all, and so moving here became like an adventure, as if I’d moved to Chicago or Pittsburgh or Austin–a plethora of new sights and experiences. I love a new adventure, and I’m still experiencing a sense of wonder and excitement six months later. It seems that every week I discover new shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes, parks, swimming pools, even a magnificent lake. Let’s just say, I’ve fallen in love. In fact, I’ve said to Clay more than once: What took us so long?

One of the things I love about Oakland is that it’s an urban place with tall buildings, incredible diversity and fantastic culture, but, compared to San Francisco, there is just a lot more space around everything, both literally and figuratively. People are more spread out (Oakland is about 78 square miles to San Francisco’s 47 square miles), so there is more space around everything — people, buildings, homes, cars — which provides for a much more open, less cramped, less intense vibe. I love to take long walks and hike, and Oakland also has so many gorgeous outdoor areas. I especially love the redwood forest of Roberts Park, walking around beautiful lake Merritt, and much smaller Temescal Park, which even has a small lake. Almost daily I walk my dog at Mountain View Cemetery, which is close to where I live and was designed by famed Frederick Law Olmstead. We hike to the top to see views of downtown Oakland and downtown San Francisco, and in the evening, the sunset.

The weather here always felt like some sort of myth to me when I lived in San Francisco. It’s not really that much warmed over there, I told myself. But it is — on average it’s 10 degrees warmer and with less wind. The part of Oakland where I live is sometimes even 15 degrees warmer. I like warm weather, so the average summer 70-80 degree temperatures suit me (to be fair, I realize that many people enjoy the cold of San Francisco, but I never did).

We have wild turkeys that roam our street, the same street that I can look down and see tops of the buildings downtown, and the fog rolling in over San Francisco. We are growing vegetables in our backyard. We even have room for an outdoor chaise lounger on our deck for soaking in the sunshine. Last night, we sat outside and listened to crickets. The part-country, part-city feel of Oakland is what I love most. So many little neighborhoods here are like small towns. People are incredibly friendly. Life is good in Oakland.

I’ll leave you with some photos I’ve taken here since I moved here in February.

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Lake Merritt early on a Sunday morning.

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Wilfredo watching the sunset at the top of Mountain View Cemetery.

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Duende Restaurant, before opening hours.

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The gorgeous outdoor pool at Mills College, where I swim laps.

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Umami Mart, one of favorite shops downtown.

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Wilfredo enjoying the warm sunshine on our back deck.

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Small town charm off Piedmont Avenue.

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Temescal Alley, a true gem.

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A mural in my Oakland studio building.

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View from the top of Mountain View Cemetery.

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Margaret enjoying our yard.

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Wilfredo in Roberts Park.

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A view of downtown.

Happy Tuesday.

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Desktop Wallpaper!

08/23/13

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This past spring I designed free “summer” desktop wallpaper for Yoplait Yogurt! You can download it here.

Happy weekend.

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Paris 2013: Shopping

08/22/13

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There are so many incredible sights in Paris, and the shops are among the best. We spent many days in shops, most of the time just looking. Plenty of shops in Paris are like museums — beautiful things beautifully displayed — and often looking is enough. I wasn’t able to take photos in every boutique, but I did get a few, and I’ll share some of my favorites here. Where possible, I’ll include the name of the shop for your reference (in case you are heading to Paris soon).

Enjoy & happy Thursday.

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Illustre Boutique, located on Passage du Grand Cerf, one of the great shopping arcades in Paris, was a treat. As you can guess, they sell illustrated prints and cards, many limited edition by French artists. A fantastic place.

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Boxes of Monogram Ribbon from one of the weekend brocantes, which are small flea markets in different parts of the city (not to be confused with the large Les Puces). When you arrive in Paris, look for signs indicating where that weekend’s brocantes will be held.

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Do you enjoy galleries? There are many gallery hot spots in Paris, and one of our favorite areas was in St. Germain des Pres.

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Gallery windows are like eye candy.

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Department stores in Paris are fantastic. They are pretty inclusive, and in addition to clothing and homewares, many include art supplies, stationery and even tools! Our favorite was BHV.

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Wall display in the homewares section at BHV on Rue de Rivoli.

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Perhaps our favorite shop was Astier de Villate on Rue St. Honore. The shop is filled with 18th century inspired ceramics made of black terracotta clay (glazed in white), along with candles, paper goods and other delicate goodies. It is incredibly expensive, but worth a visit for the experience alone. One of the most inspiring places I visited there.

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Stacks of beautiful ceramics at Astier de Villate

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Another favorite shop was Merci on Boulevard Beaumarchais in the Marais. The stunning entryway will stop you in your tracks.

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Merci is filled with beautiful, modern linens, kitchenware, clothing, furniture and books. The entryway includes the best, most current Parisian souvenirs. The bookstore/cafe is totally charming as well.

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Linens at Merci.

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Chairs at Merci.

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Another fantastic, historic and beautiful department store is Le Bon Marché. My favorite departments were the furniture and the separate grocery store chock full of French treats and delicacies (salt, condiments, etc).

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Last but not least, Deyrolle on Rue du Bac, a shop filled with incredible taxidermy (they include only animals who have died of natural causes) and scientific posters and books. Part cabinet of curiosities, part museum, this place is a sight to see.

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A spread from a wonderful book of scientific posters I got at Deyrolle.

I hope you have enjoyed this mini-tour!

Bonne journée!

CATEGORIES: Travel & Adventure
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I Like Wednesdays

08/21/13

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A few weeks ago I shared that I was dedicating time once a week on Wednesdays to make personal work in my studio  (as opposed to commissioned illustration work, which is what I spend most of my time doing). Wednesday is turning out to be my favorite day of the week, as you might imagine.

I realized that I’ve been so busy painting and drawing that I haven’t cut paper (in my studio) since March 17 when I took Lisa Kokin’s mixed media class. This is crazy, especially for someone whose medium used to be collage. So I got out my scissors and exacto knife (along with the usual graphite, ink and gouache) and and finished this piece. I’m participating in a couple of group shows coming up, and she will probably also be for sale. I’ll keep you posted.

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{Gouache, ink, graphite and cut paper; finished piece is 11×14 inches, framed in shadowbox}

On another note, so many people wrote kind notes and tweets yesterday after I posted this short essay on comparison. I can’t respond to all of them (there were so many), but I wanted to say thank you to everyone who wrote & tweeted. Most simply said: “Yep, been there too” — and that alone was comforting to hear. It makes me remember that it is our humanness that connects us.

Happy Wednesday.

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On Comparison

08/20/13

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{My latest sketchbook entry}

There is a quote credited to Theodore Roosevelt floating around the Internet lately that says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I have worked hard since I first started posting pictures of my artwork on the Internet eight years ago to put my head down, focus on my own work, and not compare myself to others. For the most part, I’ve been pretty successful at it. My mantra has always been “Live your own life,” which essentially means: make your own work  & carve your own path. As a forty-something self-taught female artist in a field dominated by young people with prestigious BFA degrees in fine art,  illustration and design, I have had no choice in order to make it. In fact, when I do write and speak about my journey, I credit my ability not to compare myself to others as something that’s helped my career tremendously.

As some of you know, this past weekend I spoke at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest in Cleveland, Ohio. It was an amazing event: chock full of fantastic creatives, inspiring speakers, and warm, wonderful people. I had a fantastic time. I was, in a word, joyful. That is, until Sunday evening.

Over the weekend, speaker after speaker gave incredible, inspiring talks about their lives and work. Some speakers were hilariously funny and brought the house down with laughter. Others told personal stories about their journeys that made members of the audience (including me) cry. One speaker on Sunday got a standing ovation. Others showed incredible projects with prestigious client after prestigious client.

Then it was 6:15 and time to give my talk. As the host was announcing my ascent onto the stage, half the room emptied out (admittedly not surprising at 6:15 on a Sunday) and I jokingly quipped,  “Come back! I promise not to be boring!” Then, in the dark, I gave my talk to a half full room. My topic was a recent illustration project that had been quite challenging. I’d worked hard on this talk and labored over the order of my slideshow and talking points. And then, as if in an instant (time goes by fast in public speaking) my talk was over. I even had to rush at the end to finish. The half-full audience clapped, I exited the stage, said goodbye to as many new friends as I could, and left with Clay and her aunt, who picked us up so we could spend the night at her house in a Cleveland suburb.

“That went okay,” I said to myself in the car as we pulled away. In truth, I was completely deflated.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. “I’m boring,” I told myself. “My work is boring.” And “I’m a boring public speaker.” And “The topic of my talk was boring. ” Then there was, “I’m old.” (I was definitely one of the oldest, if not the oldest speakers and participants). I replayed the excitement earlier in the day over what other speakers had to offer the audience and then compared it to my droll subject matter and delivery. “I’m never doing this again,” I thought. I felt like crawling in a hole.

It’s often true that when I feel vulnerable or not-good-enough, I want to hide or become invisible. I also realize that when I do feel shame, it’s usually caused by my need to be perfect or important or even “the best” at something. If I don’t feel good enough or important enough (or in the case of public speaking, funny enough or inspiring enough), I sometimes experience self-deprecating remorse.

As I mentioned earlier, I have worked hard to value and honor my own experience, and to stay humble. But Sunday I felt terrible. Comparison had stolen my joy.

What’s ironic is that over the very same weekend,  while I was at Weapons of Mass Creation, I was drawing the piece above in my sketchbook. It includes a favorite line from Mary Oliver’s To Begin With, the Sweet Grass  that says, “Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.” I’m not sure I’m right, but to me this means it’s dangerous to always put so much focus on yourself and your own importance. Sure, it’s good to love yourself, but what’s more important is the connection you have and love you share with other people.

By the time I got home last night, all my fretting seemed so silly. I was back in Oakland, far away from the event and had gained some perspective. What matters is not whether I make people laugh or cry when I talk about what I do for a living. What matters is that I have a joyful life filled with good work and good people.

Maybe that’s the topic for my next public talk.

Have a good Tuesday.

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Illustration in Martha Stewart Living: September ’13

08/15/13

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I am lucky to work for some great clients, and am super excited to have recently added Martha Stewart Living Magazine to my list. I’ve got a little illustration in the September 2013 issue, and it accompanies a story written by a women from Brooklyn who moves with her family to Italy — and her identification with what it means to have a “home”. I loved illustrating this essay!

Here’s a close up of the illustration:

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On another note, I’m traveling to Cleveland today to speak at the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. If you happen to be attending, please say hello!

Happy Thursday.

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Paris 2013: Street Art

08/14/13

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One of the joys of being in Paris is just walking around. Yesterday someone asked me on Instagram for advice about what they should do on an upcoming trip to Paris. And I said to him, just walk. Nearly everything in Paris is eye candy. The streets are filled with gorgeous storefronts, signage, doors, architecture,. restaurants, and, the topic of today’s post, street art. Look up, look and look down, and you will find wonderful street art in the most peculiar places. Here is some of what I caught. Enjoy.

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Happy Wednesday.

CATEGORIES: Travel & Adventure
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Paris 2013: Marche Aux Fleurs

08/09/13

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{On my rented bike on Île Saint-Louis in Paris}

During our second week in Paris, we rented bicycles and rode all over the city on them. Paris is a very bike-able city, since it’s fairly flat and there are bike lanes on most streets. One of the most exciting discoveries we made on our bike adventure that day was the Marche aux Fleurs, the flower market on Île de la Cité that is open to the public. It is comprised of a set of buildings topped with glass ceilings off the Rue de la Cité. If you love vintage signage, birdhouses, pots, garden trinkets, greenery and beautiful flowers, you will love this place! Enjoy.

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Happy Friday, friends!

CATEGORIES: Travel & Adventure
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Samantha Hahn for The Shiny Squirrel

08/08/13

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I love a good painted photograph (the one I did for Simon & Schuster was one of the most enjoyable illustration jobs I’ve ever had), and so when I got an email yesterday from my friend Jessica Goldfond of The Shiny Squirrel about her new look book collaboration with fellow illustrator (and friend) Samantha Hahn, I gasped with excitement. Samantha delicately painted a montage of flowers, butterflies and other bits of nature onto these already beautiful fashion photos. I love the pops of rich color and organic shapes on the slightly muted photos, all shot on black backgrounds. In addition to Jessica and Samantha, credit also goes to photographer, Gregory Aune, stylist, Heather Breen and make up artist, Laramie Glen. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

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Happy Thursday.

CATEGORIES: Inspiration
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On Keeping a Sketchbook

08/07/13

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When I first started making art years ago, I sketched a lot. For the purposes of this conversation, when I refer to sketching, I mean “drawing in a blank book for pure enjoyment and exploration.” But then I got really busy with illustration work — which, for me, was the goal — and found that I didn’t have time to draw for fun. I was sketching concepts for clients, but not ever drawing for myself.

Recently, as you may have read, I am working on creating a more balanced life (in which work doesn’t rule). As part of that effort, one of the things I’ve been trying to reincorporate into my life is art for pure enjoyment. And so I’ve started sketching again. My current sketchbook is a wonderful large book with huge spreads that I got in France, and I’m working on some more detailed pieces with my micron pens across each spread, mostly in the evening or during my daytime breaks. The piece above is the latest spread I finished in this current sketchbook. You can see the previous spread here, and some of the pages from my Paris sketchbook here.

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{Detail shot}

 

Keeping a sketchbook for professional artists is like recreation swimming for competitive swimmers. You are doing something you enjoy tremendously, but without the pressure or time constraints — like feedback, deadlines or preparing for a exhibition. Keeping a sketchbook also helps me to explore and experiment with new ideas. And, best of all, it’s entirely mine. Sketchbooks can be intimate and even highly personal. I can share what’s inside or not — that part is up to me.

Happy Wednesday.

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Paris 2013: The Medieval City of Tours

08/06/13

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One of the highlights of our trip to Paris was getting on a high speed train and traveling to the medieval city of Tours. We originally decided to go to Tours because the Tour de France was rolling through, and it’s been on our “must do before we die” list to see the bike race in person. And while it was pretty awesome to see the Tour de France finish that day, it turned out that the town itself — situated in the Loire Valley — is incredibly beautiful, and worth a visit on its own. Clay commented more than once walking through the oldest parts of the town, “It’s like we’re on a movie set!” And it’s true — the place is so old that it’s almost unreal. We also took a side trip from Tours on our second day there to visit two different nearby chateaus on the Loire, but I’ll save that excursion for another blog post. For now, I’ll leave you with some photos I took in this gorgeous old city.

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And last but not least: the TOUR DE FRANCE!…

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Happy Tuesday, friends.

CATEGORIES: Travel & Adventure
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Genevieve Asse

08/02/13

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When in Paris, I discovered for the first time (and fell in love with) the work of Genevieve Asse, a 90 year old French painter whose work was on display at Centre Pompidou while I was there. The small exhibition spans more than sixty years of her work, from 1946 to 2009.

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This was one of my favorite paintings in the show. Her sketchbook pages are especially wonderful:

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Asse is a monochromatic painter. Her medium to large abstract paintings on canvas are mostly blues, greys and whites, and her motifs reference the solice of the sky,  the sea and light. There are often narrow crevices in her work, which I also find so beautiful.

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As an aspiring abstract painter, I am very interested in the ways that abstract painters work and how they come to their “subjects”. I bought the exhibition catalog, but it is in French, so I am hoping to find a book in English about her work, though I’m not sure one exists.

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For now, I’ll stare at the pictures of her beautiful work. So grateful that I stumbled upon it at the Pompidou!

Happy Friday.

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