No, not a Star Trek allusion: the beginnings of an art project. Every generation of my maternal family has had its artist; my great-grandfather was asked by Walt Disney to be one of his original animators, my grandmother (in addition to raising four daughters) focused on oil paintings a

nd still teaches classes to girls in her mountain town (former students of hers are here and here!), and my aunt exhibits her watercolors extensively in San Francisco.

Among my cousins, I’m probably the most artistic, but I don’t have the zeal or dedication it takes to do it professionally. I hate waiting for paint to dry, my sense of proportion and dimension is bad, and I’m prone to destroying anything that doesn’t turn out exactly as I had planned. Still, I have ample art supplies and find that it soothes and distracts me when I get in one of my fussy moods, which is, oh, 90% of the time.

Anyhow, I’ve been brooding about all this since I last visited my grandmother, when she took me up to claim paintings of hers as my own — “The rest are going in a dumpster!” Horrified, I took as many as I could, stored them at my mother’s house, and forgot about most of them until this Christmas, when I decided to reclaim them and install them in our luscious Queens digs. We lugged them back and set them around the room, and it became clear to met hat they … don’t really fit with our decor. We have lots of old propaganda posters from the Soviet bloc (don’t ask), the husband’s photos of Buddhist India, and my own small collection of Indian street art. We needed something to tie all these together.

So I, in a fit of inspiration, decided that I would try and reinterpret her works. Here’s the first of my efforts; her original is a scene with my grandfather fishing in the Tuolumne River. My edition is done in conte crayon and Sharpies, and the limited color palette has lent the interpretation an air of Munch or Van Gogh. I don’t know how I feel about it; I’ve already tried to throw it away once, and was thwarted by the beloved; but I love the idea that I can take something of my grandmother’s, add a bit of myself to it, and come to a new vision of my family and the world.

(Apologies for the blurriness of these; I’ll try and replace them with clearer images, but I was excited to post them at all!)

I will go see Pieter Hugo’s exhibition, “The Hyena and Other Men,” at the Yossi Milo Gallery (525 W. 25th St.) before its run ends on Jan. 12. Hugo followed a troupe of what are sometimes described as wandering minstrels and sometimes described as animal charmers, men in Nigeria who travel with chained hyenas, babboons, and snakes. He won the first prize for portraiture in the 2006 World Press Photo awards and is genuinely interesting, in that rather than exploiting this already-charged topic, he takes quiet, sparse photographs contrasting man and beast, wildness and domestication. Top notch.

So, I considered not posting these, because, well, they’re juvenile, they’re not very well executed, and they’re cartoonish, but what the hey. Let it all hang out, yes? Two excerpts from a series of small canvases for my kitchen. The theme, obviously? “Cookin’!” That’s right, I dropped the G. I’m that serious.

I think I was a pointillist in a past life.

(Instead of drinking my way through the Village …)

1. Gustav Klimt at the Neue Galerie — an old favorite; what’s not to like about Viennese art nouveau?


2. “My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love,” Kara Walker, Whitney Museum of American Art — probably the best-reviewed show of the year; I don’t explore contemporary American art nearly enough as I probably should.


3. “This is War!”, Robert Capa, International Center for Photography — a retrospective of the Magnum vet’s war photojournalism, and a reminder that the images coming out of Iraq now lack a certain independent spirit of earlier eras.


4. “Pricked: Extreme Embroidery,” multiple artists, Museum of Art and Design — I stitch, I bitch, therefore I am?

5. “Arts of Kashmir,” Asia Society — a deeply divided region that nonetheless houses some of the most beautiful art in the known world.

Back to blogging. New and improved. Preemptive publishing goal for 2008 (hello, resolutions!): Updated content five out of seven days of the week, or 260 posts per year.

And: What’s with the title? Well, “bed tea,” in India, is the tea that you have right when you wake up, or right before you go to sleep. It’s a habit, but a pleasurable one; without bed tea, the day feels just a little bit emptier. This little corner of cyberspace is dedicated to beautiful daily traditions that don’t have to be a drag; it’s dedicated to art in the every day, to the making of new habits that die hard, and to friendly collaboration with a tiny kick of caffeine — the jolt that gets one’s neurons to firing.