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Susan Jane Walp

Four Figs, Two Swans, and Pair of Scissors, 2017, oil on linen, 10.125 x 10″

Matt Klos invited me to sit in on a group Zoom last week with Susan Jane Walp, hosted by Klos and Candice Hill, who teaches in the English Department at Anne Arundel Community College, where Matt teaches painting. Walp has a quiet, distinguished career, living in Vermont, studying Tibetan Buddhism and painting and doing little else, having moved there from Soho where she worked in the 80s. It was a long, interesting conversation partly because so much of it felt attenuated by Walp’s difficulty in putting the most essential elements of what she does into words. That’s refreshing, a person of few words in an era where we live under a tsunami of social media inanity. A lot of the discussion was about a series of improvisational paintings she’s done as a meditation on the loss of her husband six years ago, paintings that somehow remind me of Jung’s The Red Book images, not in form but in spirit—as if she has been sketching emotional and spiritual archetypes drawn from her own subconscious. These are quite different from her core work in still life. What I found most useful was the discussion of these still lifes on linen.

The most interesting questions and answers were on how her work in oil resolves itself into something she considers finished; how she manages to keep the process feeling alive and risky after investing long days and weeks or months into a given painting; and what her primary considerations are, the core values, she tries to observe in the process of making a painting.

This last issue was very appropriate to this particular conversation, because Candice Hill specializes in lyric poetry with a focus on Emily Dickinson and found many parallels between Dickinson’s sidelong, elliptical poetry and Walp’s spare, improvisational watercolors. Walp has said she draws inspiration from Dickinson’s poems, their paradoxical sense of scale, particularly in Dickinson’s ability to evoke cosmic truth through such a tiny pillar of words on the page. That use of scale links her with Dickinson: the leverage involved in using something small to evoke something big. Walp’s paintings feel in some ways even smaller than Dickinson’s gnomic lines. Walp said: “Even in these paintings that are quite small, eight inches by eight inches, if that relationship becomes accurate (between the precise detail and the more indefinite lines of larger areas), I feel there’s something big about the painting.” Given this indebtedness to poetry, it wasn’t shocking that Walp cited Elizabeth Bishop, who was a serious painter as well as a uniquely great poet, as someone who perfectly articulated the three qualities creative work must have. Bishop said every poem needs to be accurate, spontaneous, and mysterious. Walp wants her paintings to hew to those rules.

There is a tremendous tension implicit in those first two qualities. How to be both improvisational and accurate seems to be a core competency for perceptual painters in general and a difficult tightrope to walk for any painter. (Fairfield Porter managed to balance accuracy and spontaneity perfectly again and again toward the end of his career, but Walp’s work doesn’t owe much to the way Porter handled paint, except in a few instances.)

Walp said: “In Dickinson the thing that has struck me in my non-scholarly reading of her work is the way that she can go from some very almost microcosmic detail to just the macrocosm. This idea of scale; how there can be an infinite space in such a physically small poem. That’s something I aspire to certainly in the still lifes . . . Bishop’s . . . three criteria for evaluating poems: accuracy, spontaneity and mystery. I’ve spent a lot of time working on the spontaneity. The mystery is divine grace. It’s given to you in certain work.”

Matt asked about how a painting arrives at a state she considers complete and didn’t get a direct answer, but more of a meditation on her process, especially the symbiotic counterpoint of going from watercolor to oil and back again. Specifically, she touched on a struggle all painters endure: having the courage to do what you don’t know how to do with a painting after having spent many days or weeks or months on it, plus the simple investment in materials, the monetary cost, all of the selfish concerns that work against creativity—how the prospect of loss in time and money can kill the courage required for spontaneity.

I’m a painter so in love with working toward articulating detail and the danger can often be that things kind of tighten up, so working on paper is a way to work more quickly. It has to do with the support I’m using. On paper, there’s a freedom in working on paper. If it doesn’t work out you can just toss it. It doesn’t really matter. Once you have this stretched linen that has been prepared with white lead and the stretchers are ordered custom-made, so there’s a certain pressure to actually bring the painting to completion. On paper it’s a much freer kind of endeavor. I always have worked on the paintings on paper, and I often work on two pieces on paper as I work on something on linen, and it becomes almost like a horse race. In the morning I’ll pick the piece that is the least good, and it’s very freeing because there are two that are better, so it frees you up to be courageous with it.

Klos asked her if the assiduous rendering of a little town on the side of a cork in one of her paintings was the byproduct of the same process that produced the rest of the much less minutely detailed surface. Her answer demonstrated how difficult it can be to describe the impetus of a painter’s quest—the inarticulate imperatives that govern how somebody applies paint in a certain way. Braque is without parallel in this regard, and there is much in her work that reminds me of Braque. His mid-career gueridons all look perfectly realized, and cosmically monumental, but their accuracy and grandeur has little to do with anything Braque could have captured with a photograph. There is nothing but the painting: no familiar source for the image against which to compare it. It has to have its own “inner necessity” as Kandinsky put it. It’s all pushed toward an intricate, decorative flatness, and yet you feel you’re almost looking at a life form he’s evolved in his studio lab rather than an image of anything outside the painting. Every centimeter of a Braque oil from that period is alive and proper in a way that can’t really be arrived at through a reasoned process. Walp talks about working from what she sees but the heart of her process is about “keeping it alive” which is when the representation of what she sees fails to be enough. Like Braque, but in a less radical way than his neo-Cubism.

Walp said, “I’m someone who believes that technique should follow the seeing because I’m working from observation and looking at the motif for a long, long period of time, so the technique just follows and serves the observation. (The question is) how do you keep the surface of the painting alive for as long as it takes to bring the painting to resolution. Every painter finds their own way to work with the surface of the painting so it can continue to receive however many layers are required to take the observation and see where it needs to go.”

She said that she’s reluctant to teach or critique another’s esthetic, and avoids value judgements about work her students have done, preferring to stick with technical tips, matters of craft or motivation and she especially avoids delving into a painter’s internal relationship with the work.

I haven’t taught for a while, but . . . I’ve always admired Morandi, who gave so few interviews. He said the reason he taught only etching is that he only wanted to teach technique, his knowledge of print-making technique. He wouldn’t presume to pass esthetic judgement on his students’ work. That’s always been my favorite way of teaching, someone who wants to know the limited knowledge I have. I’m much more comfortable teaching technique than talking about students’ inner lives.

Matt said, “If spontaneity is the muscle you are trying to work on and accuracy is your home base, maybe using the different substrates is a way to cut against that, and you can remember when you are working on linen the spontaneity (of watercolor and wonder) how can I do that on linen?” She answered:

I start the linen paintings very freely, they start the same way as the paintings on paper. Technically this is something I probably learned from Lennart (Anderson). What you do the first thing in the morning sets the tone for the entire day; what you do first on canvas sets the tone for the rest of the painting. You have that memory of the beginning being very free and spontaneous. It’s important to keep the edges open and not prematurely define those edges. In nature edges are porous, they’re different.

With her watercolors she tries to recapture the tone and mood of a dream she has had. With her still lifes on linen, it’s more about arranging objects without a pre-determined motif in mind, and discovering the right arrangement for a particular painting. It’s a process of discovering the motif rather than re-excavating the dream. This is something I would imagine most painters would recognize, the sense of connection and “rightness” with something seen or imagined.

The set up becomes very important. I take a lot of time to set up the motif. I’m really waiting for this image to appear and it comes with a very strong feeling, and I’m waiting for this feeling of the rightness of it and my connection with it. I do a lot of measuring, and so I’m constantly redrawing, but generally I’m not moving the objects in the motif. At some point I’ll dismantle the motif and it goes on the wall and the painting takes over. That often happens. It’s usually nothing that dramatic. (It’s) important, but nothing very radical at that point. Sometimes it involves bringing out the more abstract properties or a simplification.

Near the end of the Zoom, Matt Klos brought up a particular work, Walp’s simple painting of a luminous greenish-yellow compote she has used in many paintings—she goes back to a certain set of objects again and again as Chardin and many other still life painters have done—and he marveled at the value of the dish in comparison with the background, which is of almost the same value, so that the dish pops toward the viewer only because of its hue, the tone of that vibrant yellow and not because it’s lighter or darker than the ground. It contains a few figs, and is accompanied only by a pair of scissors and a greeting card, maybe, showing a pair of facing, symmetrical swans. (Maybe a callback to the days of her marriage.) It’s probably my favorite of all her oils, probably because of the almost neon intensity of that hybrid yellow-green—a sort of pickle-juice color—that seems to glow in a rambunctious way that oil paint almost never can, alongside the incredibly beautiful and much more typical muted blue-green of the patterned swans below it. That brilliant compote brings the image to life in a unique way, full of a spring-like affirmation of the present moment. And yet if you squint you can hardly see it. It’s a rare technical achievement and an image of rebirth, full of restrained energy.

“The thing that’s so remarkable is that the green is so invisible if you squint,” Klos remarked.

“It’s the same value, yeah.”

“They are just kissing values, and you always talk about the need for experimentation and constant change and people might look at the still lifes and say, oh that’s a Susan Jane Walp. But in this painting and in your work there’s a quality of risk-taking from one show to the next,” he said.

“Yes, this was in the last show. That object, one of my friends in New York alerted me to the fact that it’s Depression-ware and a lot of it is radioactive and I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve decided I’m just to attached to it. At my age, what does it matter. . . “

“Just don’t eat the figs,” he joked.

Lydia, oh Lydia

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Agnieszka Nienartowicz

The ultimate tramp stamp. Amazing work from a young Polish artist, evoking both Bosch and Richter, with a cautionary twist to the allure it conveys.

Vision Quilt Images for Atlanta and Boulder Mass Shootings

Dear Friends of Vision Quilt, I imagine your hearts are heavy with the tragedies of the last two weeks.
My nephew taught and coached one of the Boulder young women and my son’s friend lost her sister in the same shooting. Vision Quilt is determined to honor these blessed loved ones and to continue to do our part to amplify the Call For Change. Let us know if you want to be involved in any way.

Thanks to a new wonderful volunteer in Oakland, Janine Grossman, I am sharing the blog Janine has written about Nancy Bardos’ commitment to honor these lives. 

Feel free to share these images on social media.

Ever onward, Cathy DeForest, Vision Quilt

Nancy Bardos is a dear friend and a long-time supporter of Vision Quilt. Ever since the Charleston shootings, Nancy felt a strong inner calling to express her grief and pain in a creative way, much like many of our young people who make the quilts. She uses her iPad and the image of hands to memorialize and honor the names of the victims. The number of hands corresponds with the names. 

Before COVID, we printed Nancy’s images on canvas and now we show them digitally. In 2019, we were invited by Moms Demand Action to showcase these panels in Sacramento, at California’s State Capitol. When the pandemic is over, we look forward to showing these panels live. In the meantime, check them out at https://www.visionquilt.org/view-quilt.html

Thank you Nancy, and together with you, we reach out our hands and hearts to those who are left with the pain of the aftermath.


TOGETHER WE CAN PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE

Vision Quilt empowers communities to create solutions to gun violence through the power of art and inclusive dialogue.www.visionquilt.orgInstagram, Twitter, Facebook Pinterest.
DONATIONS made here are tax deductible.

More from Nancy Bardos:

You may recall when Cathy DeForest operated her lovely gallery in the Railroad District years ago.  She has stepped aside from all that and for the past 6 years or so has devoted herself to the cause of gun violence and gun safety measures through the 501C3 she started, Vision Quilt.  I was part of one of the first teams formed but eventually stepped away because of the time commitment.  However, I could not step away from the cause itself…and when the shooting occurred at the church in Charleston I knew what I wanted to do.  I have made 24 of these banners since then…way too many for a civilized nation…and I am sure I have missed some.  I recall the banners I made for Orlando and Las Vegas had so many victims I didn’t have room to add the names…though, as in all the others, there is a hand for every single victim filling those banners.

I guess the point of my writing is to let you know that this is an instance of an artist’s artmaking for the sake of acknowledging and documenting important and shattering events as well as a recognition and honoring of the innocent people who became the victims. Perhaps there is a healing of sorts, too.

I did NOT create the original art of the hand silhouettes.  I saw it in a blog post years ago and ended up emailing the author (a woman Episcopal priest as I recall) on the East Coast.  She had used it and I knew I wanted to use it so she gave me the name of the artist……who happened to live in England.  The artist had offered it upon one of those sites artists and photographers use to post things that people can use without attribution and can “buy them a cup of coffee” as payment if one wants to.  Which I did.  I also emailed her and told her how they were going to be used and she was quite touched I think.

I can’t recall how many hands were in the original piece I downloaded from the site but I adapted it over and over and over again as every massacre consisted of a different number of victims.  It has been a sad task to do.  And a small task to do…..but I still feel this is a quiet and meaningful and powerful way for VISION QUILT, as people as well as an organization fighting for change, to honor them.

ART BEYOND: Saturday in the Park – Invitation from Sarah F Burns to participate

I’m working with the Schneider Museum of Art organizing a couple of plein air events this summer as part of their exhibition ART BEYOND.  Please consider participating in the Lithia Park Painting Event Saturday, June 19th.  There is no limit to the number of artists who would like to go out and paint, but we can exhibit the work of the first 30 to register. The show is called ART BEYOND: Saturday in the Park  – it’s a snapshot of a day in the park.  Exhibition at ScienceWorks in partnership with SMA. Also – it says painting, but of course any media that you like is welcome! 
Please register right away! I want you in the show! 

Lithia Park Plein Air Painting Event

Date: Saturday, June 19th
Time: 9am-7pm

Open to all. Sign up to join fellow Plein Air artists in Lithia Park on Saturday, June 19th. Artists can come and go throughout the day. The general public will be encouraged to engage with the artists between 10am-5pm where you can talk about your work and process. This event is part of Art Beyond, a new initiative from the Schneider Museum of Art to promote the visual arts in outdoor spaces.

Artists will be invited to show one piece created at this event at Scienceworks Hands-On Museum from June 21 – September 16. Art will be sold at by Scienceworks with 50% of sales price going to the artist and 50% to Scienceworks.

Please register here to be a participating artist by June 1, 2021.

sarahfburns.com

Calls to Artists April-October Deadlines

April 04, 2021 – EARTH.ORG GLOBAL WILDLIFE & NATURAL WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY 2021

Earth.Org invites explorers, professional photographers and photographers working on the front line of wildlife conservation across the world to submit their photographs for the following categories: • Overall Best Environmental Photo • Wildlife in Peril • Human Impacts on the Environment No Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/3dLrcOw

April 11, 2021 – NOAPS 2021 SPRING INTERNATIONAL ONLINE EXHIBIT

The National Oil & Acrylic Painters Society (NOAPS) invites oil and acrylic painters 18 years and older from around the world to apply to this exhibition.Current 2021 membership is NOT required. $4500 in awards. Best of Show $1000, 2nd Place $500 3rd Place $300 & more 200 paintings will be accepted & eligible for awards. $30 for one image and $10 for each additional image up to a maximum of 5 Entry Fee. Details: 226-246-7607 OR http://www.noaps.org/2021-spring-on-line-prospectus OR [email protected]

April 12, 2021 – IMAGINE 2200: CLIMATE FICTION FOR FUTURE ANCESTORS

Welcome to Imagine 2200 – a new climate-fiction contest by Fix, Grist’s solutions lab. What we’re seeking: short stories that envision the next 180 years of equitable climate progress. What will our planet look like in the year 2200 – or anywhere between then and now? How will we move around the cities of the future? What will we eat, drink, wear, use, and live in? No Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/38NyGPN

April 13, 2021 – LATIN AMERICAN CONTEMPORARY FINE ART COMPETITION

The Competition is an ideal way to exhibit your talent to a wider international audience. With a distinguished panel of jurors and more than $70,000 in valuable prizes, it is open to visual artists from around the world at any stage of their careers. Painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, mixed media, and print are the accepted mediums. Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/3nEFsNd

April 14, 2021 – OPEN CALL: “NFT NOW” INTERNATIONAL JURIED EXHIBITION EXHIBITION

Techspressionism refers to a contemporary, digital take on Expressionism. NFT Now will be drawn from submissions referencing Expressionism or any art-historical period that inspires you. The show will open May 5 during Frieze Week and will be presented on Techspressionism.com using the Kunstmatrix VR Platform. Artists identifying as women are especially encouraged to apply. Entry Fee. Details:http://nftnowshow.com/

April 15, 2021 – “YELLOW” CALL FOR ENTRY ONLINE ART SHOW

Theme- “Yellow” This primary color is often associated with happiness, spontaneity, amusement, gentleness, but also with envy, jealousy, and cowardice. In Iran it has connotations of sickness, but also wisdom. Yellow symbolizes many things and has different meanings in different cultures. Pay It Forward- We will be donating 10% of all entry fees from this show to Soles4Souls. Entry Fee. Details:http://www.colorsofhumanityartgallery.com/Yellow-2021/Yellow-2021-Prospectus-Entry/n-HD96VK OR [email protected]

April 15, 2021 – SOCIAL ART AWARD

Applications are welcome that focus on this year’s theme “New Greening” providing hopeful prospects towards climate change, resource saving, environmental protection, ecosystem recovery, water conservation, biodiversity, resilient cities etc. No Entry Fee. Details:http://social-art-award.org/open-call-social-art-award-2021 OR [email protected]

April 18, 2021 – STILL LIFE INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY CONTEST 2021

The competition is organised by Agrupació Fotográica de La Rioja, Spain. The theme of the competition is “Still Life”. A still life, also known as dead nature is a composition that represents still objects, generally brought from daily life, that can be natural (animals, fruits, flowers, food, plants, rocks or shells), or made by men (cutlery, antiques, books, jewels etc.) in a determined space. Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/3lmh1nn

April 18, 2021 – “SHINE: CATCHING THE LIGHT” AT ANNMARIE SCULPTURE GARDEN

This exhibition will explore the myriad ways artists consider light in their practice. What does it mean to shine? Or to “be the light?” How can light reveal an attitude, a person’s character, express a transformative experience, or a reflect on social issues and current events? How can artwork physically catch the light and shine? Application Fee. Details: 410-326-4640 OR http://annmariegarden.wufoo.com/forms/shine-catching-the-light OR [email protected]

April 25, 2021 – KNOXVILLE PHOTO | CALL FOR PHOTOGRAPHIC WORKS

A dazzling, annual juried exhibition celebrating photographic works of all styles and subject matter. We hope to continue honoring and encouraging photography that runs the gamut from innovative to timeless. $1,000+ in cash awards, 40-45 works selected for display at The Emporium Center, July 2-30, in downtown Knoxville, TN’s Arts District. A pay-what-you-can entry fee option is new this year! Entry Fee. Details: 865-523-7543 OR http://www.knoxalliance.com/knoxville-photo OR [email protected]

April 27, 2021 – CHELSEA INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITION

The Competition is an ideal way to exhibit your talent to a wider international audience. With a distinguished panel of jurors and more than $55,000 in valuable prizes, it is open to photographers from around the world at any stage of their careers. Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/31IUs1t

April 28, 2021 – MERGE: NATION’S BEST EMERGING ARTISTS WITH DISABILITIES

The VSA Emerging Young Artists Program amplifies the voices of visual artists with disabilities through career development and professional empowerment. The competition seeks excellent work from emerging artists with disabilities, ages 16-25. Grand Prize is $20,000, First Prize is $10,000, Second Prize is $6,000, and the remaining Awards of Excellence are $2,000 each. No Entry Fee. Details:http://artist.callforentry.org/festivals_unique_info.php?ID=7457

April 29, 2021 – F(R)ICTION’S SPRING 2021 WRITING CONTESTS

We accept work, written in English, from anywhere in the world-regardless of genre, style, or origin-and welcome speculative writing and experimental literature. Strange is good. Strange with a strong character arc is even better. Keep it weird, folks. Entries must not have been previously published in print or online, been broadcast or won a prize. Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/2XVO75f

April 30, 2021 – NIKON SMALL WORLD COMPETITION 2021

The Nikon Small World is the world’s preeminent photographic competition for images TAKEN THROUGH THE MICROSCOPE. There are two contests: • Nikon Small World Contest is for images taken through the light microscope. • Nikon Small World In Motion Contest is for movies and digital time-lapse photography taken through a light microscope. Photomicrographs must be taken using a light microscope. No Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/31wvSmB

April 30, 2021 – LET’S TALK ABOUT WATER | INTERNATIONAL FILM PRIZE 2021

The International Film Prize is open to anyone around the world over the age of 18. Let’s Talk About Water is soliciting short films-up to two minutes-that inform, educate, inspire and motivate people to come together and embrace our ubiquitous need to value water and to share compelling narratives about water issues and solutions. No Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/3loaAQz

April 30, 2021 – INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE PHOTO COMPETITION 2021

This annual photography competition is part of the International Wildlife and Nature Photo Festival in Montier, France. The aim of this competition is to show still or filmed images of wild flora, fauna, landscapes, as well as accounts supporting the conservation of habitats, species and biodiversity. There are 9 photo categories and 1 video category. No Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/3lnftcI

May 01, 2021 – MUDHOUSE RESIDENCY ON CRETE SUMMER SESSIONS: APPLY NOW!

We will be holding three summer residency sessions in 2021; JUNE 14 -JUNE 28, JULY 5 -JULY 19, and JULY 26 -AUGUST 9. The Mudhouse Residency includes the artist’s accommodations, the artist’s studio facilities, and breakfast, lunch and dinner each day in the village. We are inclusive to studio and non-studio based artists. We are accepting ten artists per session, apply on our website. Entry Fee. Details:http://www.mudhouseresidency.com/about OR [email protected]

May 01, 2021 – ALLARD PRIZE PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITION

Entries should reflect themes of courage and leadership in combating corruption, especially through promoting transparency, accountability and the rule of law, and of human rights and/or anti-corruption generally. We also particularly welcome entries that depict corruption and human rights violations in the developed world. No Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/2Z7lWgL

May 07, 2021 – TRANSVERSALIDADES 2021: PHOTOGRAPHY WITHOUT BORDERS

The pictures collected under this contest should portray the diversity of territories, societies and cultures of different continents in order to allow crossed looks on the changes which are taking place in different parts of the world, show different styles of social organization and space, capture signs of continuity and change… There are 4 categories. No Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/2V9JgHv

May 15, 2021 – 2021 LANGE TAYLOR PRIZE WORDS + IMAGES

An award from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University supports documentary artists, working alone or in teams, who are involved in extended, on-going fieldwork projects that rely on and exploit the interplay of words and images. Application Fee. Details:http://documentarystudies.duke.edu/awards/lange-taylor

May 21, 2021 – OPEN CALL: THE WEIGHT OF TIME

‘The Weight of Time’ is an exhibition that explores the social and economic effects from government quarantine orders, as a direct result, of the novel virus COVID-19. We invite artists to submit their introspective works that examine the solitude of quarantining during the global pandemic and the shutdown’s lasting effects on vulnerable populations. No Entry Fee. Details: 216-282-3826 OR http://www.kaisergallery.com/opportunities

May 23, 2021 – CLOSE UP PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2021

All images entered in the competition should be close-up, macro or taken with a microscope. Any image that shows the subject closer and in greater detail than would be seen with the naked eye is counted as a close-up photograph and can be entered in the competition. Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/2vJ6xZQ

June 30, 2021 – NORTH STREET BOOK PRIZE FOR SELF PUBLISHED BOOKS

7th year. $13,750 in cash prizes for self-published books, including a top prize of $5,000. Any year of publication eligible. 7 categories including Art Book (new!) Final judges: Jendi Reiter and Ellen LaFleche. Sponsored by Winning Writers and co-sponsored by BookBaby and Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Winning Writers is a partner member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. Entry fee: $65 per book. Entry Fee. Details: 413-320-1847 OR http://winningwriters.com/north OR [email protected]

August 31, 2021 – AESTHETICA CREATIVE WRITING AWARD 2021

The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award is an international literary prize that is a hotbed for new talent in Poetry and Short Fiction. Now in its 15th year, the Prize supports both emerging and established writers. By entering, writers can showcase their work to key industry figures and organisations including The Poetry Society, Granta, VINTAGE and more. Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/2LZtJLh

October 06, 2021 – EMBRACING OUR DIFFERENCES | 2022 EXHIBIT

Artists, professionals, amateurs, students are asked to submit their interpretation of the theme ”enriching lives through diversity and inclusion.” All art must have a horizontal orientation. No Entry Fee. Details:http://bitly.com/37ExM7Z

The famous little patch of yellow

Vermeer’s “View of Delft”

I find it encouraging that the greatest philosopher and the greatest novelist of the 20th century agreed about some fundamental, crucial things, at about the same time, early in the century. It seems everyone else except maybe T.S. Eliot were heading in the opposite direction—Nietzsche a bit earlier, the modernists in art, Einstein in physics, Freud in his field, Marx in economics and politics–all of them striving to destabilize the values and norms of the Western world. Meanwhile, Wittgenstein and Proust were suggesting that the most fundamental realities hadn’t changed at all and would never change, even though many didn’t understand this about the philosopher, and it this isn’t immediately obvious in Proust, given the structure of his virtually plotless novel, a tapestry of interwoven stories that evolve almost imperceptibly toward his majestic renunciation of society in favor of art.

Wittgenstein, whose efforts have been camouflaged by his role as the patron saint of analytical 20th century philosophy, asserted that human values can’t be derived from our experience in the world. They exist outside the world, and thus, in a sense, can’t be analyzed or deduced, but are simply a given, transcendent and immune to rational justification or questioning. They have no utility. They just are. You don’t “adopt” them to make the world a better place (on what grounds would one chose a set of values that give you the rules for calculating which values are best?). Goodness is an unassailable framework within which human purposes evolve and can be understood. Goodness and truth and beauty govern human behavior, as the essential structure of human experience, whether or not an individual is conscious of them or not. In other words, Wittgenstein actually had a metaphysics, about which he forbade himself to talk, because its truth was impossible to prove, hence the famous last line of the Tractatus: “Whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent.” However, he meditated quite a bit on these values during that silence. He carried around a copy of Tolstoy’s The Gospel in Brief all through his service in World War I, and he relinquished one of the largest inheritances in Europe. He seriously considered becoming a monk at one point. These transcendent values he lived, rather than asserted, because he appeared to consider them impossible to justify through reason or philosophical language. His silence about everything that actually mattered seems, in retrospect, almost uniquely noble and honest.

One finds a similar point of view, an even more Platonic one, from Marcel Proust in A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, written during the years Wittgenstein wrote his Tractatus, about the death of Proust’s fictional novelist, Bergotte. In The Captive, he talks about the role of the creative imagination, in painting and fiction and music. These thoughts precede one of the great revelatory moments in the story, when Morel’s musical performance triggers for the narrator a crucial moment of enlightenment about the nature of art. (It is typical of Proust that Morel is one of his few genuinely evil characters, the embodiment of sadistic cruelty, yet he is also, despite his depravity, a rare musical genius, one of God’s messengers, as it were, through the medium of the violin.) This passage makes Proust’s narrator sound a bit like a Cathar or a Buddhist, but his essential point is that human beings don’t pick and choose their “values;” those values precede and ground all human choices and behavior, and people spend their lives struggling to simply see them and exemplify them as directly as possible, to live “beneath the sway of those unknown laws”—an achievement that is, like a great golf swing or a sumi-e painting—both unconscious and ego-less, almost automatic, when done perfectly, and yet immensely difficult to “get right”:

He was dead. Dead forever? Who can say? . . . All that we can say is that everything is arranged in this life as though we entered it carrying a burden of obligations contracted in a former life; there is no reason inherent in the conditions of life on this earth that can make us consider ourselves obliged to do good, to be kind and thoughtful, even to be polite, nor for an atheist artist to consider himself obliged to begin over again a score of times a piece of work the admiration aroused by which will matter little to his worm-eaten body, like the patch of yellow wall painted with so much skill and refinement by an artist destined to be forever unknown and barely identified under the name Vermeer. All these obligations, which have no sanction in our present life, seem to belong to a different world, a world based on kindness, scrupulousness, self-sacrifice, a world entirely different from this one and which we leave in order to be born on this earth, before perhaps returning there to live once again beneath the sway of those unknown laws which we obeyed because we bore their precepts in our hearts, not knowing whose hand had traced them there—those laws to which every profound work of the intellect brings us nearer and which are invisible only—if then!—to fools. So the idea that Bergotte was not permanently dead is by no means improbable.

–The Captive

 

The Personality of Process: On the Enneagram, the house we built, and marriage

The house foundations last August


Blobs, spots, specks, smudges, cracks, defects, mistakes, accidents, exceptions, and irregularities are the windows to other worlds.—Bob Miller

 

Part One: In Which I Vent About the Enneagram (Though I Love It, Too)

 

If you know a bit about the Enneagram, you know that you are likely one of nine types—and that each type has specific fears and desires and motivations. Learning about this framework helps us understand ourselves and others. 

 

However…I’ve also learned that you can come into this world as one type but can learn to adapt into another type that appears to serve you or others better. And then you can be very confused.

 

There are various schools of the Enneagram, and many of the types have different names according to which one you study. I believe I came into this world a Four—the Romantic or Individualist. But the world rewarded my ability to be a One: the Perfectionist or Reformer. I joke that I’m either a Perfecting Romantic or Romanic Perfectionist.

 

From my school years through the first months of my marriage, I lived pretty well as a Perfectionist-Reformer One. Even my creativity was highly structured; I’d embark on a series of 100 portraits, 30 days of painting-poems, et cetera, et-orderly-cetera. It didn’t help that most organized religion and education love achievers—and boy could I achieve. In grade school, I memorized whole chapters of Corinthians for our church version of the Girl Scouts, The Missionettes. (Somewhere, there exists a photo of myself wearing a turquoise polyester sash with all of my badges). I worked to be high school valedictorian. Then I worked even harder to be undergraduate summa cum laude. By grad school, I let myself breathe and settled for magna cum laude. And that was probably because, while I shaped my poetry thesis, I rediscovered a wild creativity longing to play free—uncaged by a rigid grid of quantification.   

 

And then, decades later, I got married. Funny thing about marriage: your True Self emerges in a way it never did before. True union eventually squeezes out anything false. And when two become one, a lot of shit has got to go. (I could make a terrible pun here about two each becoming the most annoying parts of the Enneagram’s Reformer One, but I shall not!) 

 

Suffice it to say, that whatever façade we’ve built basically gets shaken off, and whatever’s underneath probably has some black mold and maybe a rat or two, despite however many years we think we’ve done our spirit excavation. 

 

And also, I married an Eight: the Challenger. Challengers can call your bluff pretty darn well. 

 

Part Two: In Which I Vent About Building a House (Though I Love It, Too)

 

This all leads me, most indirectly, to the process of building a house—before we’d been married a year. (In fact, as I write this, we are just about to reach our nine-month anniversary). 

 

But before I get to that, I should also mention that it took me until my forties to see an obvious life pattern. During my college years, I worked as a housecleaner—for residential and professional buildings. And then I worked as an editor in some capacity for longer than most starting editors have been alive. Cleaning and editing. Basically, I trained myself to see the mess and the misspelled and to perfect them all. But such tasks, though they felt good when done, didn’t feel good in the process; they felt exhausting and never-ending. I wouldn’t so much celebrate as check off the completion of each round of “perfecting,” even as I braced myself for the next round of trash and typos. Versus celebrating the process—mud ‘n’ all. 

 

And let’s just say that pointing out all the dirt and dialogue flaws is not a beneficial marriage skill. But the long-entrenched One in me—the Perfectionist-Reformer—was so used to doing this, that it was hard to stop. It took me a while to be grateful for the fact that my husband doesn’t really care if things are clean or if every T is crossed. “But these are my strengths!” a part of me kept shouting. 

 

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the truer part of myself kept saying she loved going off on muddy river adventures and not needing to analyze the etymology of the kayak term “boof.” 

 

One book on the Enneagram is called The Road Back to You. The One-Me never understood that title. The Four-Me is jumping up and down for childlike joy, saying, “Yes! We’re back!”

 

Marriage has invited me to return to my creative being: my True Self, the Self who loves paint splatters and rough-edged canvas and impromptu word play for pure fun; the Four who knows that all of life is poetry, not just words on a page—or a specific page count. That Self has risen up alongside our house.

 

Yes, finally, I get to the house. It has become my metaphor for building a more authentic self and marriage. 

 

Last summer, I took a photo of the foundations—surrounded by heaps of displaced earth. Where wild grass had grown in beautiful abandon, the hillside looked like a jagged scar. But we wanted to build something, and so we had to tear into what was there. We had to make a mess.

 

Now, a brick home stands on that site, finished, after months of trucks and lumber. But nothing is ever finished, is it? The wake of construction rubble and ruts surrounding the house remind me how ongoing building really is.

 

Our first day in the house

So that Miller quote I opened with; I am still struggling to love the messy process. But now that I’ve been building a life with someone and building a house with someone—I am beginning to get it. 

 

I am also beginning to embrace both the Reformer and the Romantic in myself—and I consciously choose those two labels for the One and the Four. The drive for excellence in the former helped ground the often formless creative sensitivities of the latter. Maybe I’ll call myself a Romantic Reformer—head in the clouds but feet on the ground. Imperfectly trying to bring Heaven to Earth.

 

The two types in me have finally become one.

 

Union starts in our very own hearts. 

 

Part Three: In Which I Don’t Vent About Marriage, But Instead Write A Poem About It

 

O this strange bliss—

brimming with

mess & misspellings 

mud & wonder—

I embrace all 

your stains & stars.

 

Two become 

one house 

uniting 

divided hearts

 

We build

a mystery.


Right after the land became ours last spring


From Prompt to Print Winter 2021 ~ A Celebration of Our Creative Process!

This collective publication is a celebration of the creative process! This anthology of poetry, fiction, and memoir came from a six-week writing group at Writers’ Room, a creative writing studio in Jacksonville, Oregon. We began by free writing to a series of prompts. Over the next weeks we developed our writing, provided feedback to one […]

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Announcing: Central Art Gallery

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Hello fellow artists! Big changes are coming this year at 101 N. Central – In addition to revamping and improving our classroom space, we are proud to announce another major new venue – Central Art Gallery.

Featuring 650 sq. feet of exhibition space, our newly-renovated annex provides the perfect venue to showcase emerging talent as well as more seasoned career artists. Shows will be held one night only in our gallery “in-person” on Third Fridays of the month, from 5pm-8pm, to coincide with Medford’s Third Friday Art Walk. Exhibits will also be available to access “virtually” via our official website: www.centralartsupply.com

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