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Of my (roughly bazillion) photos in the past month…

…at least a hundred are NOT of the UMAG (Universe’s Most Adorable Grandbaby). Okay, maybe fifty. Because the UMAG keeps insisting on doing (adorable) things like sleeping, I often found myself on the streets, member of a nomadic tribe of grandparents killing time until the next available UMAG-cuddling session.

My friend Janine took pity on me and decided I needed to fill the empty hours with culture. But it was obvious to her that it would take more than the Great Masters tastefully displayed in their indirectly-lit museums to counter the incredible cuteness of the UMAG. We headed for Baltimore and the American Visionary Art Museum.

"Visionary art as defined for the purposes of the American Visionary Art Museum refers to art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself." [image credit: Wayne Coyne, detail: The King's Mouth, sculpture/installation, Photo: John Lewis]

[image credit: Wayne Coyne, detail: The King’s Mouth, sculpture/installation, Photo: John Lewis]

An hour or so later, I was lying on a giant pink tongue, the color and sticky consistency of well-chewed bubble gum. I swear that I am not making this up. Looking up into the head’s incredible color and light show, it was disturbingly difficult to believe that nothing I saw was the product of illicit pharmaceutical enhancement.

Inside The Kings Mouth, AVAM

Inside The Kings Mouth, AVAM

“Visionary art as defined for the purposes of the American Visionary Art Museum refers to art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.”

It was just the beginning of my alternative cultural immersion. A few days later, we were in Pittsburgh for Halloween and of course, the Steel City Squares’ Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) square dance.

It was (awesomely) held in the eclectic Uptown district, so during the break we wandered into the neon-turquoise studio next door where internationally-known sculptor James Simon was busy with his next massive commission.


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The skyline, the beer, the step back in time to nostalgic neighborhood trick-or-treating, the dancing, the art. But (sob!) NOT the ice-cream—Klavon’s had switched to winter hours.

So when it came time to put in a search term for this week’s FridayFive, my choice was obvious. (No, it wasn’t “grandmother”. Again.) I put in “Outsider Art” and prepared to be impressed. I wasn’t disappointed in the gorgeous covers displayed. But even among them, one stood out. Burning Man: Art on Fire, a photo essay by Jennifer Raiser, seemed to leap from the page.



Rosie Amber’s Friday Five challenge is to take ONLY FIVE MINUTES to browse an unfamiliar category and select a book based solely on the cover art.

Book blurb:

51ecAR7gseL._SX414_BO1,204,203,200_Every August, tens of thousands of participants gather to celebrate artistic expression in Nevada’s barren Black Rock Desert. This vastly inhospitable location, called the playa, is the site of Burning Man, where, within a 9-mile fence, artists called Burners create a temporary city devoted to art and participation. Braving extreme elements, over two hundred wildly ambitious works of art are created and intended to delight, provoke, involve, or amaze. In 2013, over 68,000 people attended – the highest number ever allowed on the playa. As Burning Man has created new context, new categories of art have emerged since its inception, including Art to Ride, Collaborative Art, and of course, Art to Burn. Burning Man: Art on Fire is an authorized collection of some of the most stunning examples of Burning Man art. Experience the amazing sculptures, art, stories, and interviews from the world’s greatest gathering of artists. Get lost in a rich gallery of images showcasing the best examples of playa art with 170 photos. Interviews with the artists reveal not only their motivation to create art specifically for Burning Man, but they also illuminate the dramatic efforts it took to create their pieces. Featuring the incredible photography of long-time Burning Man photographers, Sidney Erthal and Scott London, an introduction from Burning Man founder Larry Harvey, and a foreword from Will Chase, this stunning gift book allows Burners and enthusiasts alike to have a piece of Burning Man with them all year around.



  • Book Title: Burning Man: Art on Fire
  • Author: by Jennifer Raiser et al
  • Genre: Art Photo Essay
  • Publisher: Race Point Publishing (August 8, 2014)
  • Price: $26.95/£17.48
  • Reviews: 58for total of 4.8 out of 5 stars (with 86% at 5 stars)
  • Pages: 208

My Analysis: Burning Man. It’s been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. The scale, ephemeral nature, and audacity of the festival are incredible. As soon as I looked at the book trailer, I was hooked—especially because it doesn’t look like I’ll make it to Burning Man any time soon. Unless I can persuade the UMAG’s parents to move to the Nevada desert, my upcoming vacations are all spoken for. After all, I’ve only got a few gigs left in my camera’s storage space, so I’ve got to reserve them for more baby pictures.

BUY or PASS:   PASS –for now. But I really do want this book. No kindle version for me, though. I’m going to be explaining to Santa why I need the full print volume, and apologize for the additional weight to his sleigh. If he looks inside, he’ll get it.


Here is Rosie’s Friday Five Challenge. It only took five minutes and a couple more to write up, and was a ton of fun. I hope you’ll consider joining in. All Rosie asks is that you link back to her original post here so we can all join in viewing your challenge results.

AUTHORS – You often only have seconds to get a reader to buy your book, is your book cover and book bio up to it?

Rosie Amber's Friday Five Challenge. Get yourself a cuppa and give yourself 5 minutes.

Rosie Amber’s Friday Five Challenge. Get yourself a cuppa and give yourself 5 minutes.

My Friday Five Challenge is this….. IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….

  1. Go to any online book supplier,
  2. Randomly choose a category,
  3. Speed through the book covers, choose one which has instantly appealed to your eye,
  4. Read the book Bio/ Description for this book, and any other details.
  5. If there are reviews, check out a couple,
  6. Make an instant decision, would you BUY or PASS?
  7. I’ll be back next week with another Friday Five Challenge, do feel free to join in.