Getting the bigger picture


Where is he , Red Fudo, no sign of him in this pic. – its not that I have abandoned him or he abandoned me. After all every piece of learning has its context… but this life class is my new context for a few weeks.( Once a week ) So he is hiding here tapping his feet , while the life model rests. This weeks’ model has a mobile which rings every fifteen minutes. He heaves himself into a robe, resting his stillness by moving among the easels examining the images we have made. He is very polite  and  moves  his bulk easily among us all.  I am relieved to find most of us students are using pencils and graphite sticks like me. As to how I compare as a visual artist … too early to say… my first effort  in  more than thirty years, below.



section of my first attempt

Beforehand I wondered if I would last two hours concentrated  observation and mark making  but I take the same breaks as the model  and all is well. I think of this as a holiday in a manner of speaking. Away from the stresses of every day.

I now have a much better appreciation of Lucien Freud’s work. portraiture,  in particular the civil servant  model , the one in  ‘All too human ‘ exhibition mentioned in the last blog She is/was also very corpulent and they had, perhaps have, interesting bodies to draw. I think I can draw a body like that without judgement, having been pretty heavy myself.

Sonnet on my body

I miss my luscious body

buttocks spreading, cushioning my bones on a bench

breasts billowing over bra cups

the texture of a good marshmallow

now they are thin pour like a reluctant liquid

 my ankles are bony like a girls

thighs like soft slack tubes

rather than supportive columns

 a backside that could take a music hall slap

a seaside wobble

self image takes a long time to learn

this was not the body I wanted

wrinkled , meagre and slack

but generous, given over to pleasure

and up for just one more !


I wrote this after losing weight because of having diabetes, and I am grateful to be symptom free but see the cost above.. All the images of Fudo are thin and muscular, well I am not muscular, but having a body which no longer causes comment makes for a new learning context. This is the body which acts as  others first introduction to me. The assumptions made  by strangers about me are noticeably different ( less judgemental ? ) now I am thinner.

There are other places to discuss the disappearance  of middle and older women.…/invisible-middleaged-women-are-fighting-back or google dissapearing women   So I will not do that here but needless to say it’s a real  lived experience and the purple hair mitigates some of the worst effect of that I find. Back to the weekly mark making and more on Fudo’s role.











All too human – not visited yet !

Leigh Bowery

An image from the current Tate exhibition ‘All too Human,

The current exhibition Tate Gallery in London which concentrates on the portrayal of humans in paint looks like a real treat for Fudo and I. But why ???

Why I am I not afraid to come out as a person who goes to posh art galleries, enjoys paintings… ( let alone a dancing alter ego of a Japanese Demon !)

  • I am not intimidated by the fact they cost millions and will never belong to me – the art market is a big con and you need to know that when you go to a gallery
  • As you get older you lose inhibitions about what people think of you – so I feel more secure in my choices
  • Art can feed the inner life  and memories – my grandfather collected pictures and knew London Artists in the later thirties so the Tate  exhibition has people he knew in it.
  • I am in a time of feeding my creativity so I allow myself a few galleries – most recently the Photographers Gallery  where I saw Undercover. (Click the link for more ) And Grayson Perry’s Album .drag1Treats both.

so I don’t feel guilty, or snobbish or that I should conceal my interest but continue as I have in this blog to bring you what I learned.

At the Photographers gallery I saw Undercover – a history of drag – so many lovely, intriguing images divided into categories jammed next to each other in small white rooms. small white frames.   sections such as


prisoner of war camps,

looking like a man,

mock weddings  

 Focussing on women  presenting as men. Each one copiously illustrated. with photos from the last century (hence black and white) having a nostalgia tinted view  added to with a text which has a a slightly ‘This is was curious …. tone. There  was virtually no  colour and no links to the present state of drag and feminism.  It intrigued Fudo but provoked no dancing . Merely sadness  at the shame and confusion that permeated some photos but manifestly was not there in some others. The Gallery describe the exhibition thus.


Sébastien Lifshitz was born 1968 in Paris, France.  An avid collector of photographs Brought together, the photographs reflect a range of styles and attitudes from theatrical, defiant, shy, proud, subversive and understated; showing individuals and groups from different classes, professions, genders and nationalities, whose only commonality is that they dared to play with dress codes in front of a camera, even if unable to do so in public.

Under Cover: A Secret History of Cross-Dressers celebrates the collective inventiveness and liberation that the seemingly simple act of dressing differently provides. The exhibition offers a fascinating context for today’s Trans community and looks towards a world where personal choice is celebrated.

Emboldened by this I decided to attend a one off poetry workshop based on gender . At which I wrote, or rather drafted this poem. The stimulus by the leader was to identify that moment when we knew we were different and to give it some context.

See Me

Now I am old and my gender seems less visible

the identity and sexual encounters I treasured

are no longer open to me, the prejudice against age

rolls over me like early summer mist

When I kissed her, felt that sweet waist

the flesh against the scented leather belt

pressed her to me- I knew-

but the denial started at once , lasted most of my life

Now as the mist occludes me I shout into the folds

I am like this , more kisses, love this, like this

my denial is effected – no one hears me still.



Last tango of Brighton’s belle

This weeks dance is the tango Not the Argentine tango with all those flicking knees and exacting joint manipulations but the one where the couple move smoothly, extraordinary stuff, across the floor with legs and feet doing the tango

This is the last week of preparation, and the last but one  weekly blog. The next one will cover the opening, the private view . After that I shall wait to blog  till  Andi and I go to Brighton to return Marietta’s clothes to John ( her partner of many years)

Preparation 0

Yesterday we framed up the prints, I could feel Fudo tip tapping away – ready to start the dance as soon as the first one slid into place. His footsteps matched only by the  butterflies in my stomach. At last the prints were done and carefully wrapped in blankets for transport.

Preparation 1

In the mean time the  I am packing the emergency box for the gallery. It contains tea bags, fruit teas, milk, sugar, toilet roll, coffee pencils  So you can write in the comments book   and I can offer you a drink if you have time.

Preparation 2

Preparing the tailors dummies and dusting the garments we’ve chosen to display.

Preparation 3

We have been thinking about how to secure items  and display them safely  so they dont slip if visitors knock them … secrets of the fishing line .

Preparation 4

Negotiations with the delightful Amber Chin Own who will document the exhibition

Enough detail on the preparation… all the artistic decisions are made and there is not much to do now except wait for the time to hang the work… This is much more of an art than I imagined until I saw Nick Moore , then working with Studio Upstairs    demonstrating how to make each piece shine by contrast with its neighbours and using the colour balance in one piece to illuminate its fellows. I have been doing this on paper  and am ready now. See you soon I hope. exfloor


okey dokey …

How to characterise this weeks dance? Its been very busy and both Andi and my blood pressure has been up and down. We have both been in out – in out and the exhibition has been shaken all about so this weeks dance must be the Hokey Cokey !!! Fudo has certainly held my hand tightly this week.

Firstly there were the original pictures taken by Luke Adams on his mobile phone some of which you have seen already, all to go IN the exhibition.

The printer said most did not have enough pixels so they had to go OUT. We had to re shoot a new set and choose new ones to go IN.

At this seasonAt this season

So I’ve put the right photo in taken the right photo out in out  – in out  swapped it all about, and with some help from Andi lunches, coffees and discussion we have put together some Jpegs showing the layout of the big pieces  for the exhibition.

Andi has also prepared final word documents  of the poems So I’ve put the right word in taken some commas  – out,  in out  – in out  swapped it all about between  documents  and at last we have the poems ready to combine with the images.

Lastly today hokey cokey  on down to the printers to choose the paper and the type face

This is Liberation serif

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.


This is Callisto MT

the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

 The next task is to arrange the images and poems in the order they will hang in the gallery  and this is an interesting task.

Interesting is always a good word in my view

and the, so called, Chinese curse of

May you live in interesting times

does not apply. to me.


Its is interesting because the poems and images read slightly differently when set against one another in a different order -in, out shake it all about.


I’ve turned around. the ideas in my mind .. I really do hope you will enjoy finding Marietta  your own way through to Marietta…. WHOAAAA hokey Cokey !!!!  that’s what its all about.


Home to the comfort zone exhausted … thanks Andi !!!

button up !!!

Fudo and I have been trying the cha cha cha  with the exhibition this week. A curious form of it where other dancers have joined me

Andi,  A photographer, A poet, A  student, A printer and

a  guilty conscience

not necessarily in that order, more later and names will be revealed. 

The cha cha cha needs a rock step  where the couple ease into the dance as well as  steps  which initiate the movement across the floor. It is this process where easing into working together – the rock step-   is an integral part of the preparation.

Andi and I have worked together for a while now so are used to the odd rhythms that this preparation for the exhibition has produced but  this  section of the dance was followed by a wave of decision making. We had to re-shoot a number of  the garments. And I need to give a big shout out and thanks to my friend Dave Brown who came over for the day. Dummies were used, clothes carefully eased into place, light and effects of folds and fabrics considered. pixels discussed and shots approved.  It was a very busy day – punctuated with tea and as the daylight levels dropped curry, The new photos lack the rosy cast of the originals and  will prove a better foil to the ghostly light and shadow show by

This week , thanks to Pat Simmonds ,  fellow poet,  I met Claudia a fashion/ textiles student who was entranced by the collection of Marietta’s clothing and Marietta’s Wardrobe and has decided to take on the  some of the work I have done as a platform for her photographic project. In exchange she will make sure there is a documentary record of the exhibition.claudiaand this photo shows her taking notes on the original display held at the Easton Arts Trail with a pile of  framed poetry/ photo images at her feet.

Now to choose the final images from the selection and get them to the printer. Our contact is Toby Abbott … still haven’t invited him to the private view… there’s another job for today.


Can you spot it ?   I think the mend is invisible – as this lovely item was eased over the dummy a button came off. Not a problem you would think – just sew it on… well yes BUT a this is a vintage piece =  its buttons. were originally sewn on with black pure cotton.  To maintain the integrity  of the piece and the dress makers work ,which I celebrated in the poem, I would need to source some pure black fifties cotton.  I sewed the button on with invisible nylon thread. So guilty conscience. … may the the dressmakers of the past  and Lucy Worsley forgive  me.


More next week…




Cold toes, cold feet

How to put on an exhibition… Fudo says its a bit like the  Norwegian Halling dance… of which I knew nothing until recently. The parallels are

Click on the  link to see it danced in championship style

  • a bit of neat negotiating footwork is needed with other artists
  • a period of learning about the important twiddly bits ( in this case technology )
  • there is a key element out of reach , your vision may be steady but no one else can see it !
  • its a refined cultural thing , not to everyone’s taste

So  We Fudo, Andi  and I  have been trying the Halling Dance   this week. And very complex it has been. Whether I can do all the tasks needed to bring it off as professionally as I want  we shall see… hence the cold feet.  Not a patch on the Inuit dancers above of course.

 We manged the journey back  from Brighton in good order tho’ trapped in traffic for some time near Shoreham-by -Sea which was much more industrial than I thought in the setting sun. No worries -suitcases , the golden head and other items  crammed ( carefully) in the back.  All safely in Bristol ready for their outing at Marietta’s Wardrobe in Centre space later in March.


One of the strange things about collecting some of the objects is that I have not remembered them as they are.  But my memory of them is of the item is as in the photograph. For example.  The wonderful snakes skin handbag which poem I shared earlier in the blog I thought the lining was pink and the skin brown and soft beige is in reality more like a grey beige lining with brown and cream skin. It must have been the rosy glow from the sunset pervading the room when Luke took the pictures over two years ago This makes the photo creamy and pinkish.  So collecting the items has been a bit strange – finding the real items again… as Marietta knew them.

Andi and I could have taken another hundred photos with the treasures revealed this time.  Many I had never seen before…

here’s one …  mp30

Marietta in Indonesia with ????




halling dance