Archive for Art

Taking a Risk


I took advantage of an offer from a poetry journal to submit five poems and, in addition, in exchange for $20, I would receive comments on the poems within a few days plus a copy of their journal.  So I picked some poems I liked and thought were finished and a couple I thought still needed work.

The comments came back within three days.  The email started and ended with friendly enthusiasm but in the middle were snarky and sometimes contradictory comments on each poem.

The poems included one that used the concept of Wabi Sabi, the Japanese aesthetic that things are transient and imperfect.  I wrote about making an error in a piece of needlework and I said, but the Japanese are intentional, meaning an artist may include an error on purpose, whereas my error was just that, an error.

The Editors said, “… we collectively cringe slightly at the cultural references in this one, especially the so self-assured pronouncement, ‘Japanese are intentional.’ Without knowing much about the poet, it’s hard to say whether such a statement is earned, or not.”

Then they said, “We like the central idea in this piece, the intentional inclusion of error in human-made work to reflect the (“non”-intentional, though inevitable) imperfection of the universe.”

Am I wrong to think those comments are contradictory?  Whatever.  What really annoyed me was the comment about my so self-assured pronouncement that Japanese are intentional.  Reading that, I reached for my keyboard to send a response, but then I stopped, took a breath and decided the best I could do was to let it go.

But the comments reminded me of recent controversies in the art world where an artist is criticized for making an artwork that is about another group’s culture.  In two examples, the artists withdrew their artwork from exhibit in one case and from future sale in the other.

Then, a friend recommended an acclaimed book of short stories by a Hispanic woman.  The first story I read was in the voice of an African American male.

Confused?  So am I.

However, I am thankful that The Editors decided that “…we are going to give the poet the benefit of the doubt on the cultural references, because to us, none of them rise to the level of actual appropriation”.

I ended up taking their advice to remove the wabi-sabi references and keep the ideas in the poem.  I have submitted it elsewhere, and we’ll see how it is received.



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High Wind Warning

Blog Photo

Spring Garden Show at Olbrich Gardens

Gusts to 55 mph.  Even for a girl from North Dakota, that’s an impressive number.  Well, if this is the March lion, then April should be lovely.

I spent the autumn studying metaphor and other things poetic in a couple of on-line classes and by December I was in a really creative period.  Then on January 4th my husband was diagnosed with a detached retina.  It was a little like this wind, it came out of nowhere, upended everything for two months and is fading away, leaving just a memory of turmoil.  Unfortunately, the retina also stopped my creative renaissance in its tracks.  But only for the time being, I hope.

I had a poem accepted by the Ariel Anthology, Solitary Plover, the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets 2017 Calendar, Postcard Poems and Prose, Portage Magazine, Origami Poems, and Poetry Speaks, a celebration of arts in the community coming in April.  Homes for poems.

My husband says I should write for myself and not worry about publishing.  But if you write and think it’s good and speaks to something that will resonate with a reader, you want to share it.

I listened to the artist Manabu Ikeda talk about his work this week.  Manabu is artist in residence at The Chazen Museum of Art.  He opens his studio four afternoons a week to visitors and recently indicated he wants to invite people to come on the weekend as well.  His work is so focused and solitary that I was surprised he wants more visitors.  But in the video he talks about how he thinks about viewers as he works – how they might enter his work or a viewpoint that might interest viewers.

All creative people want an audience, I think.  Partly it is ego and accolades, yes.  But also to invite viewers and readers into your world as welcome guests to be greeted with gratitude and respect.

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Of Heaven and Earth



Beauty.  A Rhinoceros or an Italian painting from the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance?

I attended an exhibit of 500 years of Italian painting from Glasgow Museums at the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) last week.  It was a great romp through art history – who was influenced by whom and who were the influencers.  The images selected for the MAM website are the best ones, I think.

One of the centerpiece works in the exhibition is a painting of the Annunciation by Sandro Botticelli.  Mary’s expression is what interests me when I see paintings of The Annunciation.  How does she react when the Angel Gabriel appears to tell her she is about to be with child.  Therefore, I was especially fond of Botticelli’s version from Glasgow Museums, painted 1490-95.  Botticelli uses sparkling gold lines to symbolize the Holy Spirit piercing Mary, a symbol used by Medieval artists.  On the other hand, he is almost severe in the depiction of the interior arches and columns that separate Gabriel and Mary, exploring the early Renaissance of perspective drawing.

Botticelli painted other versions of the Annunciation.  One, from 1485, is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City is similar to the Glasgow painting.

There is another Botticelli Annunciation in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence from 1489-90 that places Gabriel directly in front of Mary. Here, Botticelli emphasizes the use of perspective as the eye follows out the window to the countryside beyond.,_annunciazione_di_cestello_02.jpg

In all of the Botticelli versions, Mary looks serene and thoughtful, but in other artists’ hands she can look startled, shocked, disbelieving and even dismayed.  Or she can look most pleased and delighted.

Imagine a virgin rhino

Visited by an angel

Touched by the Holy Spirit

The pleasure spreading

Over the tough hide

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Mail Art

Back with insert

I took a class this summer called Introduction to Art:  Concepts and Techniques at Penn State University through Coursera, the free on-line university.  You could submit up to five art projects but you had to do two to get credit for a certificate of accomplishment.  It was a lot of fun.  The readings, videos about artists and the teacher’s demos were great.  Some of the projects were conceptual, which was a good stretch for me.  For instance, selecting an environmental setting to add to, enhancing whatever in the land spoke to you.  I chose a wonderful hole in a big old tree and filled it with shells because it reminded me of how much of the earth was under water at some point and shells appear everywhere as fossils.

The project I enjoyed the most was mail art.  That is the photo above, and here is my Artist Statement.

I Dream of Paris

My process involved taking apart an envelope and copying it on good paper, then collaging over it.  My theme is travel, specifically to Paris.  As a child in a cold, land-locked state, all I dreamed of was traveling to Europe.  I used French ephemera I have collected over the years.   I keep it all in a small suitcase.

The outside of the envelope is decorated with cartoons by Toulouse-Lautrec.  These were from an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Since I studied French, a long time ago, I wrote a few sentences on a page of a French language text and pasted it on top.  The inside flap of the envelope is decorated with a road map of the region around Paris and a weather map from a copy of a French newspaper.

The insert is a cancelled passport that I altered with additional ephemera, some from Italy, Hungary and other places I have traveled.  There are a few pictures of bicycles in the insert.  I rode my bike a lot when I was a kid, always thinking about going somewhere far away.

I would like the viewer to think about the fact that every journey starts with a dream and that dreams can become reality.

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Gorilla Art & Poetry Foiled!

Flowering Crab

I like to alter postcards people send me from their vacation spot.  I collage over the picture, adding some paradox, and I paste something interesting over the address.  I either leave the message or alter it by crossing out words to create a poem or I type a poem – mine or another’s – and paste it over the message.  Then I stick the postcard in books I return to the library.  The card masquerades as a bookmark or is recognized as Gorilla Art & Poetry to those in the know.

Today I got a call from the library.  It was a library in a small town nearby.  We are part of a large system that encompasses perhaps a quarter of the state.  The fellow said they had found a postcard in a book I’d returned that belonged to his library and he wondered whether I wanted it back.  I was so taken by surprise I didn’t know what to say at first.  How did they get my name?  Oh, right, I’d checked out the book and I have a library card with identifying information.

I told him it was just a bookmark, I did not need it back.  Then he said, ok, we’ll toss it.  Toss it!  Oh, my poor altered card.  It won’t be seen by any unsuspecting recipient.  Which card was it?  The one from Eric and Kristen thanking us for being so helpful when they visited?  The one from my brother when he went to the WWII battlefields our father fought on?  I have kept these cards for years in some cases and I am ready to let them go, to let them live a new and altered life.

Why did I not tell the librarian about the Gorilla Art & Poetry?  Well, it just seemed like a lot to explain and, in retrospect, it seems leaving it in the book – it’s a bookmark, I told him – was not an option he entertained anyway.

Oh well.  I do this a lot and this is the first time I’ve been caught.  Won’t stop me from doing it again, either.

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Look What I Got!

What's in Your Heart Swap

In October I shared in this blog the small art card I designed and stitched to swap with another quilter.  The theme was, “What’s in Your Heart,” and a few submissions were selected to appear in the February/March 2013 issue of Quilting Arts magazine.  When the issue arrived I looked at the cards selected for the magazine and was especially drawn to one that used a technique similar to the one I chose but to much greater effect.

When I got the mail on Saturday, there was a brown envelope and I knew my swap had arrived.  And look!  It’s the card I had admired so much.  I recognized it immediately.  The name of the artist and her email were on the back.  I discovered she lives four hours south of me in Illinois and is a retired art teacher.  Of course.  Such a good eye.  We did actually swap, so she has the piece I made, but I’m really certain I have the best one!

So…since this is a poetry blog, I should say something about poetry.  Today was a good day.  I wrote two poems when I woke up.  One was inspired by friends who are struggling with losses and yet soldier on because there is nothing else to do but keep going.

The second poem was in response to the Ellsworth Kelly Prints exhibit that just opened at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.  I agreed to write a poem to be read at an event in March called, “Distilled from Nature:  Poetry and the Works of Ellsworth Kelly.”  I had written a funny poem about a conversation between two colors, but after I listened to the curator and the collector discuss their long relationships with Kelly, who is 92, I felt I had to try something more respectful.  It came together quite nicely, I think.

However, instead of sharing my poems, I am sharing the artwork of a woman I have just “met.”  Isn’t it amazing what art can do!

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St. Petersburg, Russia

SPb:  St. Petersburg


The Russians and Germans at war, bombing

each other’s treasures:  palaces, churches,

town squares and bridges blown up and exposed

to the elements and looters.  Always,


this is the way of conflict.  And later,

people, the ones who survived, pick away

at the rubble for some small thing they might

recognize:  a photo or mother’s broach.


Our guide says the Germans destroyed Catherine’s

Palace.  But volunteers restored the rooms

and added the gold leaf, each stroke putting

distance against the memory of war.

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