Archive for Museums and Libraries


Pope Farm Conservancy

Pope Farm Conservancy


The sound of ringing hand bells and laughter.

Around a corner in the Rijksmuseum,

with as many twists as a licorice rope,

a tall woman stands in an apron and floppy hat.

Her hand points there.  A clutch of seated

children wearing gold paper crowns raise their bells.

Her foot points here and the ones in front ring away.

Next door, brother Theo’s collection of Vincent’s

late paintings are hung, each canvas striped with,

slashed with, swirled with paint, thick as ripe

and hairy sunflowers stalks in mid-August,

petals dripping sunshine, grotesque and grasping

pinwheels, scary to someone whose ears

still hum with chimes of innocence.


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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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Space Haiku

Silk Road Photo

Central Asian Caravan Woman Rousing her Camel While Nursing

China, Tang Dynasty 618-906 C.E.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Kansas City, Missouri

Today at the local food coop, I watched a young woman nurse her baby while she texted away on her phone.  I enjoyed the irony of moms then and moms now:  always more than one thing to be done at the same time.

I wrote these haiku after reading an article about the earth’s risk of being hit by an asteroid.  I was also working to get the yard and garden in shape for summer.  The juxtaposition of what is going on in space and what I am doing here on earth appealed to me.

Asteroids whizz by

millions of miles away.

Brown toad in garden.


Meteor of stone

veined with iron-red lacework.

Crochet a sampler.


Pictures of an asteroid

arrive from Deep Space.

Petals fall like snow.


The asteroid belt

lies just short of Jupiter.

Horses graze on grass.


A moon in orbit

follows asteroid to earth.

Light bulb drops, splinters.

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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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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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At Vasa we learned that 17th c. Swedes sought ties to ancient Rome and included carvings of Roman rulers on their doomed warship…but the Roman figures were all blue eyed blonds!

Another downpour at 3:30 p.m. Is this going to be a regular thing?

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Sinclair Lewis

About halfway between Minneapolis and Fargo, just off I-94, is the town of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, hometown of Sinclair Lewis and the setting for his novel, Mainstreet.  In 1930, Lewis became the first American novelist awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Only ten Americans have won this prize and you’d think that Sauk Centre (yes, it’s spelled that way) would be happy to celebrate their hometown hero. 

His home is open in the summer and there is a small museum attached to the Visitor’s Center that is just off the freeway.  We talked to the woman who volunteers at the Visitor Center.  She is quite knowledgeable about Lewis’ life, work and loves.  She suggested that Sauk Centre city officials don’t know what an opportunity they have to attract visitors to come to Sauk Centre and learn about Sinclair Lewis…and stay in the historic Palmer House Hotel and eat downtown and hike the Lake Wobegon Trail. 

Well, the life and times of Sauk Centre perhaps have not changed much since Lewis used the town to explore the futility of trying to change stubborn, well, Scandanavians mostly.  The lady at the Visitor’s Center just wants the city to pay for a sign that can be seen from the freeway and would direct more traffic into town. 

She seemed the feisty type who will continue to bring the possibilities to the attention of the city fathers, but it’s sad that other than English majors, most Americans don’t care about their literary heritage.  Where, for instance, is the bus tour to take people from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport to Sauk Centre?  It’s at the Mall of America, that’s where.

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