Saturday, October 31, 2009

Last Words With Her Executioner (Poem)

Last Words With Her Executioner
(jeanne d'arc)

How did you silence my voice?

        I raised it to the king,
        who stopped it with his laughter.

        I signed it to the deaf,
        who had nothing but smiles for you.

What happened to my hands?

        I wrapped them in rope
        behind your back.

        I broke them in surrender.

What became of my eyes?

        I lifted them to princes
        to wear as jewels in crowns.

        I covered them with my sins,
        ornaments in my palms.

How did you care for my wounds?

        I healed them with my sword.
        I bound them in the name of war.

What did you do with my tears?

        I raked them to your stake.
        I drank them as your guilt.

Where did you place my bones?

        On a scaffold in the streets,
        cobbled dirt of France's feet.

How do you remember me?

        As a woman singled out.

        A woman with the body
        of a tender boy,

        a bell tolling round her neck,
        flames spurring to her waist.

To whom did you give my love?

        I passed it among your generals,
        who wear it as their cause.

        I pinned it lonely to my heart.

What did you do with my soul?

        I scattered it among rosemary
        to grow from the courage of hurt.

Who follows me now?

        A name that will not die.
        We: other women beside you.

Copyright Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 30, 2009

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

Roll With the Music: Scott McKnight & The Jelly Roll Mortals are performing for Second Thursday Music at the Athenaeum (201 Prince St.) in Alexandria, Virginia, on November 12 at 7:00 p.m.

Check out the group's five band members,  music, gigs, and pictures at or

David LaFleur will be playing in the same space at the same time on December 10. More about this master of the guitar, dobro, mandolin, and dulcimer can be found on LaFleur's Website:

Second Thursday Music at the Athenaeum is presented in association with the Songwriters Association of Washington.

What Matters to You?: An imaginative collaborative art project, executed under the auspices of the contemporary Nevin Kelly Gallery in Washington, D.C., offers artists and non-artists alike the chance to participate in art-making live.

As part of an upcoming Nevin Kelly exhibition, "What's Important to You?", artists Sondra Arkin and Judy Byron are asking the public to answer, in 100 or fewer characters, the question, "What's Important to You?" The artists plan to incorporate respondents' answers into their show piece, the final conception of which will be unveiled at the exhibition's opening reception on November 19.

Members of the public who want to offer their thoughts should log on to a Website created expressly for the project: Multiple entries are permitted.

Nevin Kelly is located at 1400 Irving St., Ste. 132, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20010. The exhibition will run from November 19 to December 12. The opening reception will be from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Direct inquiries to or telephone 202-232-3464.

Talking Art: An engaging show of the work of American sculptor Anne Truitt (1921 - 2004) is now on view at Washington's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. On Saturday, November 14, in celebration of the exhibition, James Mundy, director of The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center (FFLAC) at Vassar College, will be joining Kristen Hileman, curator at the Hirshhorn, and Mary-Kay Lombino, The Emily Hargroves Fisher and RIchard B. Fisher Curator at FLLAC, for a conversation about the Vassar collection.

This special event for FLLAC members will be preceded by a 10:30 a.m. tour of the museum exhibition, with Hileman and Lombino, and a reception at 1:00 p.m. at the home of Sheila ffolliott and Shepard Krech. The conversation with Mundy is set to begin at 2:00 p.m.

Advance reservations ($70 members, $100 nonmembers) are required. Please direct inquiries, before November 7, to Jennifer Cole, FFLAC's coordinator of Membership, Special Events, and Volunteer Services; telephone 845-437-5391 or e-mail

Anne Truitt: Perception and Reflection will be on view at the Hirshhorn through January 3, 2010. Images from the show and podcasts are available here. For one of many interesting posts on the Truitt show, see Deborah Barlow's essay "Color Ecstacist" (October 29) on her blog Slow Muse.

FFLAC's collection comprises more than 17,000 works, including Truitt's Signature (1975), in acrylic on wood.

Give Her a Hand: Maryland artist Judith Olivia HeartSong, the subject of an All Art Friday Special Edition interview on October 23, just celebrated her seventh year in the Washington, D.C., area. Congratulations, Judith! We look forward to many more years of creativity in your VisArts studio.

In New York Now: I was in New York City recently and spent much of the time taking in the city's many wonderful exhibitions. Two of particular note are Slash: Paper Under the Knife, at the beautiful Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle, and Kandinsky at the Guggenheim.

Slash features work of 43 artists from around the world, all working in cut, torn, shredded, or burned paper. The exhibition is on view through April 4,  2010. If you go (and you should), stop by and visit for a few minutes with MAD's resident artist Jil Weinstock. Represented by New York City's Charles Cowles Gallery, Weinstock is working with vintage clothing and rubber to create imaginative, highly tactile, and profoundly evocative pieces, including old frames recast in rubber and a family tree made out of antique antimacassars.

The Kandinsky show, on view through January 13, 2010, is eye-opening. Comprising nearly 100 large-format paintings and more than 60 works on paper spanning some 50 years of artistic output, the show is lyrical, inspiring, and highly informative. Kandinsky's later works and his works on paper are among my favorites. Before you go, treat yourself to these excerpts from the self-guided audio tour. (And take the full tour while you're onsite; it's worth your time.)

Painting by iPhone: Take a look here to see how a Jorge Columbo New Yorker cover gets "painted" by using an iPhone app.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Tweets for the Twoem on Love

Earlier this morning, I directed you to TweetSpeakPoetry for "Love at the Masquerade Ball"—the latest twoem (Twitter poem) to be created from an online poetry jam. Below you'll find my tweets for the twoem, which was remarkably edited by Glynn Young of Faith, Fiction, Friends blog.


With kohl did Cleo paint her almond eyes
marking yet the time till Mark might seek
to bid her well

Asp did leave a mark
greater than mine own mark on Mark

Mine eyes hold you Cleo
as sun holds light

And yet the glint of thine own eyes, Mark
leave me stunned

Interesting shapes
do our sands foretell
if there be pyramid moon

Does yet one bite of asp
leave you for loss of tongue, dear Mark?

Such be the Sphinx
enigmas be all we have

Quick sand does pull us in
honey gives of too much that's sweet
and on peagreen boat do we wreck such havoc

Mark's ship goes out on sands of time
Cleo an uncontent to show
in kohl-burned eyes


Flying carpets
threads aflutter
magic lamps to rub and wish

Jasmine's sweetest smell of all
turning heads
magic is one wish yet granted

Honey drips from cave walls
leaving Ali and his thieves in sticky situation

Each tooth a falling star
on which to count the days
till Jasmine's sweetest scent does rise

Teeth lie unfound in sand
covering a thousand lost wishes

In all of India
no heart cries more
than mine for thee


My native ground
scarce left behind
I traveled to England
John's country

A curiosity they found me there
though John did soothe
my longing

My skin be red yet soft
John saw the difference
made of it a dream
we dreamed together

I need not ask their courtesies
My John saw to that
Defended me


Samson's strength
shorn as a heart
in love might be shorn
of dreams
when cut in two

Love that binds
and frees
'tis woman's ways to find the means

A single lock
its strength
enclosed in memory

Of pain
recalled by light


Scarlet's heart a scarlet tear
so rent by Rhett


Lost on Moors
from tower ramparts
do I wish to fling myself
if your love be denied

Shadows in heather
do gather


Juliet might yet speak up, Glynn
showing you the way of words

A silly friar's potion
was all she needed
to test Romeo's true love


As long a nose
no lie might tell
ever did my heart
yearn for Roxane

One's own true love
if she know it
may be luckiest of all


Compare me to soil
to dirt
wherein grows love
like so many blooms unseen


Just means
my secrets yet
await you


Guinny waited for her knight
all night
their story to retell

And too soon did grow weary
of spinning
tales of Camelot

Cold not
if fire
we do build
to scorching

Who be left
on whom we cast
such spells
as love might make


A wisp
of snow
her love burned out
Lara' theme so ends

Veil of longing
dropped quietly
for love steps softly
in moon's light
and shadow

Russian boots
do stamp
love out
too quick

Too many questions
do make of love
a bitter ending

Soldiers' whines
of loves lost
never to be recovered
in snow dreams

Cold long nights
in Russia
leave little else but time for

all lovers bid
sooner or later

All aspens mourn then
the morning song
to seize the day

Before goodbyes
leave us all
to other dreams

'Tis difficult
and yet methinks
we did quite well
Evening ends in Lara's song
of knights
and nights
and Jasmine
Juliet's sorrow at end


Applause to all
Goodnight on this note

Advance thanks to @gyoung9751 for magic
you'll be working on our words. . . .

Buena sera.

Tweets of Love at the Masquerade Ball

We got into another jam the other night—a poetry jam on Twitter, that is. Our theme this time was "love in character", with prompts from Julia Cameron's The Right to Write. For an hour we played at being Antony and Cleopatra, Samson and Delilah, Scarlett and Rhett, Jane Eyre and Rochester, Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, and a number of other fictional and not-so-fictional pairs of lovers.

It was a fabulous evening full of stars, pyramid moons, kohl eyes, flying carpets, and pretty good acting-by-word.

Our co-Tweeter and editor extraordinaire Glynn Young of Faith Fiction Friends knit our many words into "Love at the Masquerade Ball". You may read the twoem in full at TweetSpeakPoetry.

Read and be as delighted as I was!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Exile (Poem)

The Exile
for Frederic Chopin
(1810 - 1849)

Only shadows enter my tent
      as men pass between me and the sunset.
                        ~ Ezra Pound


The pride in Warsaw fails,

Its absence a kind of embarrassment —
like that first lesson on your childhood piano

            when the notes ran around
            in a panic
            heavy and smudged
            the mark of a fist unpleased.

This is the story of an evening in Poland.

            Your fingers slipped
            on a fragment of time.

            A permanent dream
            walked upside down
            in your hands.


Catherine's lover,
the former King Stanislaus,
imagines crown and scepter unbesieged.

But on his throne night lies

And in the pockets of his streets
soldiers shuffle death
like a deck of marked cards.


What does it matter
the smoke of a burning city
rises like your last audience

your cafes
conspire in a Russian tongue

men in your beloved country
touch their women darkly?

At just the right moment
your once-denied hands
will speak to the deaf
with their own gestures.

Mazurkas will lighten your moon-starved room.

Copyright Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gang-Raped on School Grounds

Gang-Raped on School Grounds

She is 15 years old. She is gang-raped. On school grounds. For two hours. She is also beaten and robbed. There are at least a dozen people who may have been witnesses, watchers, observers. Not one of them, it is reported, calls 911.

Rape is a weapon of war. It happens in places called Rwanda, in Darfur in the Sudan, in the Congo and Chad and Liberia and Sierra Leone, in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzogovina. It's taken place in Vietnam. It's happened in Iraq. It's happening now, probably, somewhere in Afghanistan.

It happens in America, too. In 2002, it happened at least 95,136 times. That's just the number of known incidents.

Just the other day gang-rape happened in a town called Richmond in a state called California in the United States of America.

The United States are not united against this; every state's law defines just a little diferently the act of sexual assault and how it deserves to be punished.

The world is not united against this crime against humanity. The UN is still making "recommendations" on how to stop it.

In the meantime, females — children, teens, adult women, married and not —want for a mandate from God.

The 15-year-old, according to the AP wire report, was attending her high school's homecoming dance. When she left the dance in the school gym, setting out to walk however far she needed to go to get to her father's car, to get inside where steel might make her she safe for her ride home from homecoming, someone said to be a friend asked her to come and have a drink. So it's reported. Apparently, she did; she went to drink, consuming more than she should.

The fact that a 15-year-old female at a high school dance might drank is important. It's just not so important as her gang-rape is.

The facts, such as they might be, are that the 15-year-old never made it to her ride home, that five or six males — who knows the real number? — and I can't call them men — had more than their way with her. They beat her to bare consciousness, they robbed her, they gang-raped her, one after the other took her trust and the thing women are taught to understand is a gift of love and then left her in a place on the school grounds where students gather at cement tables and do whatever students do when they're not in class learning. They left her on the ground beneath a bench. In the dirt.

Inside the gym at Richmond High School, some four police officers and three school administrators were monitoring the moves of the students who danced. The gym, it's reported, was not near the place where a 15-year-old can learn a truth about the kind of evil that can stalk a young girl when she goes out at night, alone. No one rushed to tell the officers and administrators inside the gym that something else was going on, outside, that they might want to know about.

Someone finally called police, though not one of the alleged dozen or so who are reported to have witnessed or seen or observed something near a cement table, not one of the ones who stood ground while the males gang-raped. The caller said there was a man without a shirt, running — running who knows where? one can hope away from himself. The caller, the police reported,  expressed concern for a female, too.

Acting on the tip, police went to the place where the caller said to look, they saw, and gave chase to five, maybe six males. Just one at the time failed to elude the officers: a 19-year-old, not a student at the school, who's now unable to post $800,000 bail. Yesterday, Monday, October 26, 2009, the police took into custody a 15-year-old, said to be one of the several alleged assailants. But I'm ahead of myself. Well before that, a medical crew landed a helicopter on the school grounds and flew the 15-year-old to hospital. Barely conscious, maybe even unconscious by then, she'd been savagely beaten, robbed, gang-raped. Left in the dirt.

Left in America's soil.

Rape is a weapon of war and, according to the United Nations, in some circumstances, rape is an act of genocide and a crime against humanity.

What do we call gang-rape in America, where we supposedly are not at war with each other?

And if the 15-year-old makes it, will that ability of hers to live through and out this too-early Halloween nightmare mitigate what happened to her?

I have a few other questions, too. Like these, for example:

Did the father who was coming to give the girl a ride home go looking for her? Did he dial a cellphone trying to reach her? Did his heart skip a beat when she didn't answer? Did he call home asking if maybe she was already there?

Did the four police officers and three school administrators monitoring the dancing inside ever think when they were planning security that maybe being only inside isn't good enough protection?

Who among those who watched or observed or saw or happened by any part of two hours of the gang-raping of a 15-year-old considers him- or herself a Christian? Do you stand in church on Sunday and hear the Gospel, take the wafer in your mouth and drink the wine? Or text-message what you'd rather be doing?

Who among the five, maybe six who joined the gang-raping was taught right from wrong? And when? How did you learn the lesson? Or is your defense going to be that you had nothing better to do, that the dance was boring, that you were looking for action and the girl was drunk and asking for "it"? And when you lined up to take your turn, did you even hesitant, even once? Was there no voice inside urging no? No mind recalling the "thou shall nots" of your early church teaching? No heart feeling the slightest twinge for the 15-year-old who lost more than virginity that night?

Remember Kitty Genovese? New York in the 1960s? I do, and I wasn't yet 12 at the time. Her story on a spring night, on March 13, 1964, to be exact, lives on, even though she doesn't. It was reported at the time that she was stabbed repeatedly, sexually assaulted, and robbed in the early hours of the morning, that dozens had heard her screams and not one picked up a phone. The facts, such as they were told then, are disputed a bit now; most recently, they've been clarified here. No matter. If even one person in that Queens neighborhood heard and did not call for help, does not that entire community share blame?

The United Nations has called the Sudanese government's efforts to "stem the wave of sexual abuse" a "dismal failure." CARE reiterates that in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo the use of rape as a weapon of war "must stop." It, too, has "practical" steps to end sexual violence in conflict.

I have a question. Why is ending sexual assault, sexual violence, attacks on women and girls, gender abuse, gender-based violence, rape — how many words do we need for the same thing? —the business of governments alone?

If it is true, as it is said, that we are made in God's image, shouldn't we all be asking the same one question: why didn't I call?


The crime described above is true. I first read about it late yesterday on AOL; click here for the updated story. I also saw this morning a number of other reports, including this one and this one.

Another interesting version of the Kitty Genovese story is found here.

Statistics on rape of women in places of armed conflict (think about that phrase in this context) and individual countries are readily available online.

The UN adopted, in June 2008, Security Resolution 1820, signaling its commitment to end rape in conflict zones [my emphasis added].

What Kind Do You Have? (Poem)

The following poem is one of more than 50 poems in an as-yet unnamed manuscript I wrote to document my experience of my brother's cancer. I have shared a number of the poems with my online support group at Our Cancer. This one I publish for the first time here.

What Kind Do You Have?





bladder thyroid stomach

Hodgkin's non-Hodgkin's Kaposi's leukemia




carcinoma sarcoma fluid-borne

common rare detectable inoperable curable treatable hard to find

invasive noninvasive disfiguring malignant benign
advanced contained out of control spreading

NED recurrent

caught in time cured in remission progressive
metastatic life-threatening

stage 1. . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4

in-between stage late stage end stage over stage

I hold my breath for the day they add:

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

NED is an acronym meaning No Evidence of Disease.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Trial Season (Poem)

Trial Season

Only yesterday
earth was cut-away layers
of browned forgotten bloom,
the tired slog going on.

But things happen.

        Images run together

Winter slinks away,
slow, like an old man
making do with a gimp left leg.

Spring starts up
a widespread yellow operation
dressed for the challenge,
armed with emerald swords.

        Tiny eruptions
        surround themselves
        with unclaimed crowns,
        circles of fire.

It's a mystery mixing you up.

        One day the wind shakes out pollen,
        smuggled gold, gods of love;
        the next, glimmers of honey, shimmering bronzes,
        the colors of light in the south of France.

Summer just as soon changes heart,
waves colors like an invader his banners
before committing suicide
on a city sidewalk in front of you.

        Unbuttoned buds turn scarlet
        small and round and infectious
        in the hand invited to touch
        small and round and viral,
        a violet more intense than blood
        on the hand squeezed with passion.

You think,
this is no big secret

        this yellow to blue to red
        then again to red.

         You think what you like most is
         the sureness of it,
         how you can count on it
         coming back
         like a lover you've argued with.

Copyright Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

If It Is Enough (Poem)

If It Is Enough

If it is enough
to cup two hands

To once hold

And once
bring back

Your hunger soothed

And if
to put parched lip

To goblet lip
is yet enough

To make one sip

No slip to last

How is it
you lie alone

As your heart arcs
in squid-ink

Your plaster cast
of shadows


Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Homage To a Sculptor: Ruth Duckworth (Poem)

Homage To a Sculptor
Ruth Duckworth,  1919 - 2009

Defying the Nazis,
you lived,
making of a converted pickle factory
on the North Side of Chicago
a space where
hands and eyes and brain
could dance with your unconscious.

First to England
you fled,
Hamburg's life-denying streets
no place for a girl with a Jewish father
and modern art ideas.

You polished dies for casts for bullets
meant for many little Hitlers,
got married, had a solo show.

But the British, you later said,
preferred what (to you) was small,
and you needed to think beyond what
might be contained within outspread arms.

In America,
you could be as wide open
as your mind would allow.
There, yours did
big things with just a little.

You took from slides of clouds,
Mt. Fuji's topography, NASA photos,
and conjured and glazed a stoneware
Earth, Water, and Sky.

It hangs, still, a mural
on ceilings and walls
of Henry Hinds Laboratory for Geophysical Sciences,
400 square feet of imagination

University of Chicago students
learned you could teach them
a thing or two.
For 13 years, you did.

After, you stayed on,
and on the North Side
tended a courtyard garden
two hours daily.

Whenever you got sick of clay
you could always
water, dead-head,
turn soil, grow ideas
the way your masses of flowers
put down roots, grew shoots,
took a fancy.

You made Clouds Over Lake Michigan
and molded joy with breath-taking beauty
in bronze and stones and porcelains
fine as hard bone,
serene as lovers in bliss,
toned by earth elements.

You gave no names
to the forms and shapes
that flowed from kneading hands.

What you thought you made clear
didn't matter.

You insisted we have
our own ideas and fantasies
about cups and blades, little tabletop
heads, fins and circles,
the organic body parts of
abstracted figures walking around
inside your head.

Styles and trends not your own
came and went.
You stayed.
You weren't much
into concepts or theories, after all.
Just letting "it" happen
happened often enough
to keep you busy.

Even after acclaim came,
your hours in studio stayed long.
You could not repeat yourself,
not in large, not in small,
gifts that made you — and us —smile
for the sheer joy of parting lips.

By 86, you'd had
your retrospective — all the best
museums called —
and reigned supreme.
By 90, you'd put
your loft and workplace
up for sale,
your fired tiles and backsplash,
some 50 feet of windows,
a lakeview, all-inclusive.

Days later, you were dead.

God did not let you
finish with the flourish
you said you wanted done.
No matter.
In the story of your Creation
is a never-ending spiral
of what goes on,
keeps going on,
where God is thinking.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Artist Ruth Duckworth died on October 21, 2009.

Of interest:

* A video of Duckworth's Chicago home and workspace, now for sale:

* Images of Duckworth's art (slides):

* Transcript and Video of 2006 Interview with Duckworth:

* Obituary:,0,2021310.story

Upcoming Local and Regional Arts Events

Some upcoming arts events you'll want to put on your calendars:

* MAIMfest: Mid-Atlantic Independent Music Festival, October 31, 12:00 p.m. - Until — Halloween at the Prison promises live music at the Workhouse Arts Center (9601 Ox Rd.,  Lorton, Virginia), plus costume contests judged by the bands. Do you dare? A list of the bands and ticket information are here and here.

* 6 Artists of Rappahannock, October 31 - November 22 — R.H. Ballard Gallery (307 Main St., Washington, Virginia) presents the work of artists Kevin Adams, Robert Ballard, Jim Conaway, Vivianne deKosinsky, Nina Moore, and Thomas Mullany. A reception for the artists is Sunday, November 1, 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Click here for more information or telephone 540-675-1411.

* 22nd Annual Washington Craft Show, November 6 - 8 — 190 jury-selected contemporary craft artists will be presenting and selling their work at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (Mt. Vernon Place, between 7th & 9th Streets., N.W., Washington, D.C.). Hours are 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., Friday; 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., Saturday; and 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Sunday. Admission Fee. Leave your car at home and take the Metro to Mt. Vernon Square station. For additional information, click here.

* 5th Annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio & Gallery Tour 2009, November 7 - 8, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. — Seventeen artists open their studios and seven professional galleries open their doors to show off the art of the Rappahannock region. Two of my favorites: Sara Schneidman and Jeanne Drevas. Sponsored by the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community. You'll need to get in your car for this one and head to the Fire Station in "Little" Washington, Virginia, where you'll find maps and a list of participants. Click here for more information.

* L'Invitation au Voyage, November 14, 7:30 p.m. —IBIS, a chamber music society, begins its season of free local concerts with a wonderful program featuring the music of Duparc, Piazzolla, de Falla, Pierne, Corigliano, and Dvorak. If you have a hard day at the office, take the Metro to the Clarendon station and walk to the concert site at Clarendon United Methodist Church (606 N. Irving St., Arlington, Virginia). The schedule for this and other performances around the region is here.

And now. . . My heartfelt congratulations to my friend Marga Fripp, entrepreneur and founder and executive director of Empowered Women International, a nonprofit organization that supports the arts and cultures of immigrant and refugee women. Marga recently was nominated for and awarded a 2009 Alex Art Award from the Alexandria (Virginia) Commission for the Arts, which is celebrating its 25th year. The Alex Awards program honors individuals who contribute significantly to the arts in the City of Alexandria. For Marga, Alexandria is like a second home.

Friday, October 23, 2009

All Art Friday Special Edition: Artist Interview

Learning to paint for the first time is all about little successes. Loving an area of color, or a lyrical passage of scumbled paint and building on that. . . .
~ Judith Olivia HeartSong

Today's Special Edition of All Art Friday is an interview, conducted via e-mail, with award-winning artist Judith Olivia HeartSong.

I first became acquainted with Judith via her blog, where she displays her "process" photos of paintings and other work in progress and writes about her artist's life. After leaving a few comments to blog posts and corresponding a bit by e-mail, I attended a reception at Judith's Maryland studio and introduced myself. Subsequently, I contracted with Judith to license the image of her "Peacock Crimson" for a custom, limited-edition "thread painting" (Vietnamese hand-embroidery), which will become available through my company Transformational Threads next month.

All Art Friday Special Edition
Interview with Artist Judith Olivia HeartSong

Maureen Doallas: Judith, tell us a bit about your background and how it influenced your decision to become a professional artist.

Judith Olivia HeartSong: I come from a long line of artistic souls, two of the most recent being my grandfather who was a photographer and my aunt who was a professional painter. There was not a lot of money when I was young and, therefore, not a lot of toys, but my mother made me beautiful paper dolls that sat by my bedside at night and dresses out of scraps for my dolls, and my imagination was nurtured.

I learned early on to draw what I see, and [my talent] was noticed by educators. By seventh grade, a teacher called me "a diamond in the rough", and although I did not understand it at the time, her support of my artistic exploration was invaluable. I was fortunate to have several art teachers throughout my school-age years who knew that I would go on to be a professional artist, and they took their duty of nurturing the spark very seriously.

MD: Do you have an art degree? If yes, how has the degree facilitated your career; if no, do you feel that not having a degree has adversely affected your career in any way?

JOH: That is an interesting question. I do not have an art degree, and although I have studied with other artists, I am primarily self-taught. All in all, I am very glad I followed this path, as so many degree programs have a tendency to take away everything artistically and give back only those bits and pieces that fit into the mold of what the particular school is teaching. It can become very formulaic.

[On the one hand,] I am unique and my skill set and abilities are all my own. My originality has benefited my painting career. On the other hand, having a time of study that was sheltered and away from my troubled home could have been tremendously good for me.

I would encourage any artist to follow the path that feels right.

MD: When and where did you begin your artistic career?

JOH: Early!

I began to identify as an artist in the second grade, when bulletin boards needed decorating and my teacher, who had seen my drawings, gave me some large sheets of rolled paper and some direction. I drew a detailed crayfish, from an encyclopedia, and some other large-scale things that decorated our classroom that year, and the die was cast for my future.

MD: How would you characterize your style?

JOH: First and foremost, I am a painter. I paint what I see (which may not be what you see), and I never much concern myself with characterizing my style because as artists, we are always evolving. A few years ago, a friend saw a large body of my work and uttered two words that fit, and I loved them immediately as they resonated with something deep inside. She said, "Romantic Pop" in the most reverential way and that term has stuck [as a description of my work].

My large bold florals, the goddess series, all the murals . . . I paint the natural world and women because of the beauty that I see in those subjects. The curves of a pear or a leaf or of a woman's neck are all pieces of the same vocabulary for me. There is a dream-like quality to my paintings that is all my own. . . It is the way that I see the world, with a surreal twist.

MD: In what ways has your style changed or evolved over your long career?

JOH: My work used to be quite tight and controlled, and it took years of painting to loosen up and feel what the subject was telling me, and to allow that to flow from the brush to the canvas or paper. My style continues to evolve and is informed by everything I see and everything I experience. People see a lot of joy in my work and that pleases me.

MD: What are your sources of reference and inspiration?

JOH: My inspiration comes from artists who have come before me: O'Keeffe, Kahlo, Cassatt, Monet, Chagall, Klimt, and Joseph Cornell . . . just to name a few. I spend a lot of time outside, in the woods or near the water, and the natural world provides tremendous inspiration.

My sources of reference come from everything that I see and photographic references that I have taken for many years.

The Internet is another wonderful tool for researching a subject.

MD: You are a muralist, creating works in public spaces and private residences. What are the particular challenges of this kind of work?

JOH: "Muraling" is a totally different animal than easel painting. Perspective is totally different on a grander scale, and I have seen many artists who cannot translate their work from the page to the wall. You have to have an eye for it and a special knack. I was very surprised many years ago to meet a rather famous muralist who could not draw free-hand in a demonstration and had to use a grid system for his murals. It was rather stunning to me at the time, and I have never forgotten the lesson in it.

MD: You work in acrylics and watercolors, to name just two media, and do collage and 3D pieces. Recently, you've discovered photography. Is there any medium in which you haven't worked that you'd like to explore?

JOH: I have actually loved photography since early high school, when I would take a camera out in the woods and, thinking of Ansel Adams, take pictures of leaves and waterfalls and mossy trees. With the advent of the digital camera and the ability to take hundreds of images of a subject, my skill and ability have increased. Now, I take almost all of my own reference photos for paintings.

A medium  that I would love to explore would be stone sculpting. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Pamela Soldwedel's studio, and I was enthralled. The idea of finding an object inside of a beautiful piece of stone calls me . . . maybe the next time around.

MD: Tell us about the preparations you make once you get an idea for a work of art.

JOH: A painting idea is usually generated from a photograph I have taken or something I have seen. Some of these ideas have been percolating for years and refining themselves in my mind. Usually, I will poke around on the Internet or look for a book on the subject, and then some thumbnail sketches may result; but often, I go straight to the canvas or paper and start sketching. A sketch may sit for a while as I work out details and then, when I can pretty well see the finished painting in my mind, I begin to paint.

MD: You currently have a studio in The Metropolitan Center for the Visual Arts, VisArts at Rockville, in Rockville, Maryland. What are the benefits of being a resident studio artist? Any negatives?

JOH: I love my studio at the art center, and it is my home away from home. Many artists who come to see me say that they could not work in such a public space, with a huge glass window fronting the studio, but having [painted murals] in public spaces for many, many years, I am oblivious to being watched and think that it is probably fascinating for a lot of people (adults and children alike) to be able to peek in on the artistic process. I  try to always be available for questions and am very much a people person, so those interactions can be really wonderful.

A huge benefit to being there is the access to large numbers of visitors who come by to visit or attend events at the art center who might not have seen my work otherwise. The flip side of that is making sure that I stay on schedule with the work that I want to accomplish in a very social atmosphere. First and foremost, it is all about the work.

MD: You teach quite a range of popular art classes. What kinds of students do your classes attract, and what advice or encouraging words do you offer, especially to those who confide they aspire to be artists?

JOH: I  think most of my students come because I am a nurturing person and my studio, visually, is a very nurturing space that reflects who I am. People are drawn to my space and say that it is a happy place with good energy that they want to explore.

Some people want to get back to their creativity in a supportive environment, and that is probably the number one goal of my teaching: to be supportive and positive. Over the course of many years of teaching, I have led workshops for all sorts of groups, including police officers, healthcare professionals, troubled teens, and so many people who were positive that they could not paint. With instruction, explanation of materials, and step-by-step support, everyone can learn how to paint and enjoy the process.

Learning to paint for the first time is all about little successes. Loving an area of color, or a lyrical passage of scumbled paint and building on that. Teachers must always remember that it is not "their" piece being created but the students' vision and work. I celebrate the effort.

For those who would be artists, I provide encouragement, because even though everyone might not get to a place where they are selling their work, every single person can benefit from the creativity and stress-relief that artistic endeavors provide. There just might be an artist inside every person.

MD: What's the most unusual art-related workshop you've ever taught?

JOH: Probably the spontaneous watercolor workshop for police officers and detectives. They were not allowed to bring their guns and, by the end, they were blowing paint through straws and delighted with their painting successes, with a great deal of camaraderie and laughter. I was so proud of the fact that they let down their defenses and allowed themselves to have fun.

MD: You consider requests for mural and painting commissions. What do you view as the pros and cons of accepting commissions? What's the most interesting commission you've every accepted?

JOH: Murals and painting commissions have been beneficial to my career over time, because they have placed my work in notable locations and collections. Murals, of course, take time and energy and months can be spent on one piece.

Commissions are wonderful when you find the right client with a similar energy and vision. I am fortunate now that I can be very choosy about which commissions I accept and, if it feels as though it might be too much of a challenge to work with someone, or if the person is not clear about what it is that he or she wants, I can gracefully decline and send the person in another direction. After years in this business, I can usually tell immediately if there is a good fit with a potential client.

I am also in the early stages of working on mural design that I hire out to muralists to execute, which frees up more time for me to work in the studio while keeping my hand in the process.

My most interesting mural commission to date? It is a tie between the large mural at the National Zoo [in Washington, D.C.] and the year I spent as an artist in residence at a Florida elementary school, painting murals and working with hundreds of children.

MD: As I gotten to know you, I have been impressed by your strong business skills. How do you market yourself as an artist?

JOH: Ahhh, the "M" word! Some artists are allergic [to] and hate the idea of marketing themselves or putting their work forward. Some have a misplaced notion that if they paint it, someone will come [buy it]. In this age of the Internet and instant accessibility to thousands of artists and their works, marketing has become even more important, especially with current economic challenges.

Throughout my career, I have been responsible for all of my own marketing and, over the years, I have gotten quite good at it. Early in my career, I sent out two or three times a year to my collectors a physical mailing with photos of recent work, clippings or recent articles, and a personal note. My brightly colored envelopes stood out, and the people at my local post office would smile when I came in with my bins for mailing. Six years ago, an old friend and collector of my work pulled out a handful of those envelopes that she had saved for years. And that was when I realized how effective my marketing had been. It was a delight to see those envelopes again!

Now so much client contact happens via e-mail and, as times have changed, so has my strategy. I keep my Website updated with current work and workshop offerings, and maintain the site itself. I also put out a monthly Constant Contact newsletter that is bright and artsy and interesting, with articles and information on upcoming shows and events, links to click on, and, sometimes, coupons that offer a discount on my work. I keep a daily artist blog that has now received almost 60,000 hits and regular readers hear about an artist's daily life and inspirations, and also see the very first process shots of new paintings.

I take every opportunity to promote my work and offer my business card, as I am my own best advocate, and nobody is more motivated to see my business succeed. On the outside of my studio window, postcards and business cards with my images are always available, as well as brochures that list my class offerings. So, my marketing works for me, even when I am not there [at my studio] to speak with people.

In this economy, I am also moving into the giclee market with my work to provide high-quality reproductions at a fraction of the price of originals. I am also producing smaller items, like notecards, that people can feel good about buying without spending more than their budget will allow.

Sometimes business deals come along, like the limited-edition prints of four of my pieces for Princess Cruise Line.

All of those opportunities cast the net a little wider to bring a new audience [to me].

MD: What types of social media do you use to facilitate your artistic career or promote the exhibition and sale of your art?

JOH: My blog has forged all sorts of new relationships with potential buyers and clients. I also maintain a profile through LinkedIn, as I really appreciate the level of professionalism that I find there. Networking is now a vital part of any business strategy, and you ignore the Internet at your own peril as an artist.

MD: Do you have gallery representation? Any upcoming exhibitions?

JOH: I currently have work in several galleries and shops, including the VisArts, TOO! gallery shop, nominated for a Niche award this year, and Angel Eyes Gallery in Rehoboth, Delaware. I am always interested in exploring new possibilities with galleries but like to take a hands-on approach with my own sales.

Early this year, I had a solo show at the Washington School of Photography that joined my paintings with my reference photos. I am just now completing a Resident Artists' show at VisArts, and my photographs are featured in a show at Art House Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia; the exhibit will move to San Francisco in January. In October of 2013, my work will be featured in a large format show at The Ratner Museum. In the meantime, I am sure that other exhibit opportunities will appear.

MD: What is the price range of your art?

JOH: My original watercolors start at several hundred dollars and large, intricate canvases can range upward of $4,000.00. There is a price point for everyone and a payment plan is always a possibility.

For me, it is certainly not all about the money, and there have been times that I knew a painting was meant for a certain person and I have made sure that the person could afford the piece. I have also given a few [pieces] away. I believe that art should be accessible to everyone.

MD: Of what piece of artwork are you most proud, and why?

JOH: I am usually most proud of the piece that I am currently working on. [All of my pieces] are important to me for one reason or another. Some will go out into the world and some stay with me for a time. But the current piece is always the freshest view of what is happening in my world. . . perhaps a new technique is being explored, or some new idea is being fleshed out.

MD: What would you describe as your "lucky break" as an artist?

JOH: I have been fortunate to have some tremendous patrons and supporters who have nurtured my career and have afforded opportunities through their associations and connections. So many instances of wonderful people offering support have lit my path along the way, making so many things possible: from the art store owners who took me under their wing early in my career and provided advice and discounts and total support of my endeavors, to the businessman who has for years counseled me and offered his business expertise, even hand-delivering one of my paintings to First Lady Hillary Clinton at [her husband's] first inauguration. The mural opportunity at the National Zoo, the Princess Cruise Line prints. All of these things have helped along the way, and down the road, more wonderful things will happen.

MD: You are fast approaching 30 years as a professional artist. What are your plans for celebrating those 30 years?

JOH: I am just starting to really think about that number. The celebration will definitely involve a party, and I would love to see lots of my collectors and supporters who have been there so long in attendance. There will probably be a drawing on my daily blog for a major painting. I delight in seeing all sorts of people having the opportunity to own a piece of art and, over the years, those drawings for art have been tremendously popular. Maybe I will plan a trip somewhere with fantastic light and paint quietly outside. Take a trip to a major museum. Who knows? It is all about the journey and the process and the work, and I am so fortunate that I have had the opportunity to spend my life as a working artist.

MD: Judith,  thank you. We are fortunate that you could find time in your always busy days to respond to my request for this interview. You have shared much wonderful information about your painter's life, a rather enchanted if challenging life, I'd say, and one in which you so completely engage.

Judith may be reached at

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not a Rush (Poem)

Not a Rush

Water doesn't always
have to


to eddy
the way love can hover
and get your back up.

When it somehow
knows to lull,

to run calm at the surface,
no matter the storm below,

water recalls
what it's like

to be rocked
with a new mother's promise.

Life Study: Homage to Picasso (Poem)

Life Study: Homage to Picasso

Guernica turned your cheek.

Before, you painted with the love of a Frenchman,
with the quick pulse of a Spanish grandee.

    Woman, after all, was
    your favorite topic of conversation.

    You dressed her in soft curves,
    exposed the body's lines in pink chemise
         thin as an illusion.

    Eyes you muted with shadows
    the color of fall afternoons.

        (Francoise's were pale mauve,
        her lids, heavier, suggesting.)

    The neck you made slender,
    to hold the way a swan holds its own—
        proud, high, twisted with no regret.

    The mouth is only slightly sad
    describing the end of happiness in winter.

At age 20
your works played in all the right places.

You sculpted, engraved, painted, married.
Shapes you defied crowded your canvas
with the rareness of your smile,
odd and broken choices,
the objects of Neruda's house.
Forms you twisted into secret rendezvous
with young boys' hopes,
bloody petitions to line bureau drawers.

You were young in Guernica.

You were a man with a pendulum in his head
    subtracting fragments of reality.

    You left your sentence unfinished.

        Spaces discontinued.
        Angels quit reluctantly—
        like generals out of breath.

Today, students fuss
about your message.
Rich men still own you.
Loveless old ladies in famous galleries
insist on tired explanations
of your business.

I would say,
    Your name carries its own weight.

    But some might give apologies
    for looking at you wrong,
        not meaning to.

Copyright 1978 - 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Thought for the Day: On Creative Expression

Thought for the Day: The Power of Creative Expression

. . . the power of the arts and humanities to move people has built bridges and enriched lives, bringing individuals and communities together through the resonance of creative expression. It is the painter, the author, the musician, and the historian whose work inspires us to action, drives us to contemplation, stirs joy in our hearts, and calls upon us to consider our world anew. . . .

  ~ President Barack Obama
  Declaration of October 2009 as National Arts and Humanities Month

For the full text of the President's declaration, click here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heartfelt (Poem)


Pain that breaks open our hearts
        isn't a wound we can stitch
        to a close

The way we patch
        the hole that a bullet makes
        or lace the skin that bones pierce.

When our hearts break,
        pain rises between the gaps left behind
        for the mind to wander in

And tears, when they come,
        get swapped for words we've learned
        to speak only to ourselves.

We can't force pain
        the way our hearts pull blood in
        before pushing it out.

We have to take its measure slowly,
        wait for it to dull,
        offer it time and our memory.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

One Word at a Time: Trust (Poem)

This week's blog carnival, One Word at a Time, features posts on trust. Below is my contribution. 

What Can Be Said of Trust

What can be said of trust is this:

You will be loved before you are born.

Your teachers will help you
to see what cannot be written.

Your friends will hear more
than just words when you marry.

Your husband will mean
what he pledges in sickness and in health.

Your son or daughter will remember
 to say hello before bidding goodbye.

Your doctor will be honest
when your chances are more or less than good.

Your death will be no more
painful than your birth.

The wine will be the blood.

The wafer, the body.

These words will come true.

New York City Restaurant Scene (Poem)

New York City Restaurant Scene

Steel ribs un-becoming, twisted splints
A masquerade of hovering protection
Fitfully flung the length of the room

Questions could be asked:
Picked up by mistake? Petty theft?
Simply someone more in need
Of what you had than he left behind?

Red-chalked words go slick on city sidewalk:
The stop-and-go story
Not about that
One black umbrella

Monday, October 19, 2009

'Give Back the Human'

. . .What kind of weapon impedes the soul/ from its soaring?. . .
    ~ from "The Tragedy of Narcissus" by Mahmoud Darwish


Give Back the Human

Give back my father, give back my mother;
Give grandpa back, grandma back;
Give me my sons and daughters back.
Give me back myself.
Give me back the human race.
As long as this life lasts, this life,
Give back peace
That will never end.
        ~ Toge Sankichi

"Give Back the Human" is a beautiful, elegiac poem I read in translation for the first time a few nights ago. I found it entirely serendipitously, the result of my endless curiosity to find out what lies behind the name of a Website.

The poem is carved in Japanese and English on the front and back, respectively, of a monument in Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park to the peace movement leader and Japanese poet Toge Sankichi. Sankichi, at his home in Midorimachi three kilometers from the hypocenter, survived the dropping of "Little Boy" on Hiroshima in 1945; he died in 1957, age 36, from the leukemia that multiplied uncontrollably in his body as a direct result of exposure to atomic bomb radiation.

Reading this fragment stopped me cold.

You see, this poem is as relevant today as the moment Sankichi wrote it. It is no longer just about what happened in Hiroshima.

For me, it is about what happened today in Afghanistan, yesterday in Uganda and Rwanda, two days ago in Iran, last week along the border of Pakistan, a month or so ago in North Korea, years now past in a stone prison called Abu Ghraib, before that on a bridge in Fallujah, Iraq, before that in a meeting room where a vice president of the United States spoke so persuasively for torture, the word he would not utter publicly; decades ago when a spray of napalm sent a child, naked, arms held out at her sides, screaming down a highway in Vietnam.


Poet Darwish asks, ". . . What kind of weapon impedes the soul / from its soaring? . . ."

On August 6, 1945, at 8:15 in the morning, the streets filled with schoolchildren and mothers and fathers on their way to work, the weapon was a pica don — Japanese for, literally, a "flash-bang": what, at some 500, maybe 600 meters above ground, an observer of atomic testing in Nevada only the month before had described as "brighter than a thousand suns".

A sun of death.

It left a skeleton upright in a barber's chair, dead babies on mothers' backs, a child nursing at the breast where no breath exhaled, only an outline of a person, such as is drawn when an accident happens.

In Japan that morning that began serenely, the next weapon was fire, which at its center burned 5,400 - 7,200 degrees Farenheit. Those unsuspecting enough, who failed to take cover within a radius of 2.8 miles of the hypocenter, suffered severe flash burns; anyone unlucky enough to be in a wooden structure within 1.2 miles of the center's blast, obliterated.

In supreme irony, it later began to rain that day in Hiroshima, and for those whose throats were more than parched, whose bodies had turned coal black from being on fire, whose forearms and hands, out and raised to protect the eyes, took the brunt of flash-burning that left skin hanging, the rain had seemed a blessing. Water, after all, is elemental. This blessing, this kuroi ame was, however, black, and it left black streaks on walls, and on what clothing remained on Japanese backs, and because it was so elemental and therefore drunk, it piled radioactive debris on the insides. Debris that later made itself known to its ingestors in the form of nausea, bloody vomit, hair loss, inexplicable red bruises, nose bleeds. . . . cancers for years in the future.

That same day that "Little Boy" was delivered, some two dozen American POWs were in prison somewhere in Hiroshima. Theirs, too, was an unspeakable fate, rendered by the dead who survived.


In the Northern Hemisphere, in places like Guadalupe, Mexico, in some places in Central America, and in the U.S., in Mesa, Arizona, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, for example, "el dia de los muertos" — "the Day of the Dead" — is celebrated. Hundreds of years ago, the Americas' Spanish (and Catholic) conquerors, believing death to be an end to life, appalled by the ritual practice of indigenous people, who saw death as rebirth and thus continuation of life, first tried conversion. Failing to fully exorcise the Aztec spirits, the Spanish, giving in, ultimately moved the date, making the Day of the Dead coincide with our All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, November 1 and 2, respectively. Today, in rural Mexico it is not uncommon on "el dia de los muertos" for celebrants to enjoy picnics on loved ones' gravesites, or, in homes in the U.S., for ritual observers to light candles and transform a room into an altar to the dead, complete with flowers, music, a departed loved one's favorite foods. More recently, some altars are dedicated to the memories of family members who, given to dreaming, died while being smuggled across the Mexican-U.S. border.

Did you know that Japan also observes an All Souls' Day? There, the observance falls either in mid-July or mid-August, depending on whether the lunar or solar calendar is followed. Celebrants first welcome back their lost loved ones with folk dances and then "see them off" again in the evening by letting loose on rivers or other bodies of water floating paper lanterns, their insides lit by candles, their exteriors painted with pictures or words. The words are prayers for the souls of the dead. They are prayers for peace set loose on rivers that in 1945 had filled with the bodies of ghost-souls, arms upraised to heaven. As if heaven had the answer.


The poet Darwish asks, ". . . What kind of weapon impedes the soul / from soaring?. . ."

Today's weapon is 23,000 nuclear bombs more than the one needed to spell our end. Improvised explosive devices that cut armored vehicles in shreds and leave remains of human beings untraceable. Cars that won't stop at checkpoints because, being killing machines, they're not made to drive. Children wearing belts that when pulled on just right light up a cafe in Tel Aviv. A truck filled with fertilizer guaranteed to take off the front of an office building in Oklahoma where children are at play in daycare. A fully fueled plane sent into first one, then another tower in New York City. A man with cancer given a hero's welcome in Libya, having succeeded in freeing himself from the bonds of those to whom he gave no second thought.

Today's weapon is the lie we accept in the name of our peace and security, wrung out of terrorists who know to play the game until they're waterboarded for the 300th time.

Today's weapon is below ground on our subways in England and Japan, shooting at us as we stand, waiting, at a bus stop, walking through the door of an Indian hotel or along the platform of a train station, addressing us in videos made in caves, photographing us with cell phones that pinpoint the time of day we're on a street in Tehran demanding our rights, taxi-ing on a fake license through a tunnel in New York, opening fire on us in a Baptist church for espousing a view not our own.


Give me back myself.

Give me back the human race.


Following are some sites that may interest you:

* Mahmoud Darwish, "The Tragedy of Narcissus The Comedy of Silver",  Translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah (Copyright 2009 by Fady Joudah), from Darwish's If I Were Another: Words Without Borders

* No Nuke Network: Students of Hiroshima Against Nuclear Weapons

* "Ground Zero 1945: A Schoolboy's Story, A First-Hand Account by Hiroshima Survivor Akihiro Takahashi ("I gazed at the rain and wondered if black rain had ever fallen before on this Earth.")

* El Dia de los Muertos: and

* "Day of the Dead History: Indigenous People Wouldn't Let 'Day of the Dead' Die" by Carlos Miller, The Arizona Republic

* James Nachtwey's Searing Pictures of War (Nachtwey is a 2007 Ted Prize winner.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

To Be Re-enchanted Is Uneasy (Poem)

To be Re-enchanted Is Uneasy

To be re-enchanted is uneasy
With an unquiet mind
Holding on to daily reminders
Of what you're about to lose that
You imagine you've lost already

Moment and moment and moment
Clocking away unaccounted for
As you, sitting as on watch,
Join sentinels all praise-worn and
Too quick to gather for the left-behind
Before the gone are gone

I would just as soon die as miss
Morning coming up, the swelling round of
Cloud before lightbursts, the press of
Stars to complete a night's worth of sky
For clearing dreams

To be re-enchanted is to listen
Closely enough to
See near enough to
Wait just long enough
For what really matters

For love

Arriving with words let loose of rage,
Gentling breaths, fingertips that know
To touch away the scrum in eyes
Turned dimmer by the hour

To be re-enchanted
Is to dance when no one else
Can hear the music
Where you are today
Where I come to sing

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Breaking It Off: Letter from Anne Sexton (Poem)

Breaking It Off
Letter from Anne Sexton

It is not enough
I have waited, a woman
With her knees bent to the dawn.

I have slept with your promises, too.
They tiptoed away like defeated soldiers.

I celebrated with an empty nightgown
In a bed big enough for two,
With booze that faded in seclusion.

Like a madman I nursed
Nightmares in my arms.
I rocked them to sleep like a baby.
I scoured them with the ocean's sand
Till my knuckles bled.
I looked for them in my veins
Among the metal and the glass.

With my voice I wove days full of hunches,
but rumor flew all to pieces.

I covered my lips with your good right hand
so the habit of words would not come too easy.

You covered my eyes with your fingers
so I could not see I was losing you.

I watch the pause of roses
Failing at my window.

Copyright 1978-2009 Maureen E. Doallas.
All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 16, 2009

All Art Friday Special Edition: Artist Interview

This week's All Art Friday is an interview with silk painter Nuch Owen of Naples, Florida. Nuch (pronounced "Nuht") is a graduate of Poh-Chang College of Arts and Crafts in Bangkok, Thailand.

Nuch's paintings on silk — often, lush flora-filled still lifes — have won awards at the Art League of Bonita Springs and the Ft. Myers (Fla.) Alliance of the Arts. In September 2008, Nuch was the subject of a feature article, "Painter Nuch Owen Turns Silk Into Artwork That Celebrates Pyrotechnic Life of Nature in Bloom", by Harriet Howard Heithaus of the local Naples News. In 2009, Nuch was awarded the Art League's Ione Anderson Memorial Award, honoring the past Art League member.

Nuch and I "met" over the Internet, through her husband Andy, after one of my sisters recommended her work to me. I subsequently licensed Nuch's image "Koi" in late 2007 and currently offer through my company Transformational Threads a limited edition of custom "thread paintings" based on that image. Nuch and I conducted our interview by e-mail.

An All Art Friday Special Edition
Interview with Artist Nuch Owen

Maureen DoallasYou are from Thailand. How did your life in Thailand influence the artist you've become?

Nuch Owen: Many members of my family have great artistic skills. They, along with wonderful teachers, inspired me.

MDWhen did you first know or decide that you wanted to be a professional artist?

NO: I was surrounded by creative people while growing up. To follow the arts was natural for me.

MDYour background includes expertise in fabric design and, in Bangkok, you worked five years as a textile designer. Tell us a bit about your experience as a designer of men's clothing that sold throughout Southeast Asia.

NO: As a designer, I was able to see a great variety of current trends in design and techniques. I also was able to travel to Hong Kong and Singapore and check out what was going on in contemporary design.

MDYou currently live with your husband, an artist and arts instructor, in Naples, Florida, and you have your own silk painting studio, Pink Diamond Design. How did you come to settle in Naples?

NO: My husband's family is in this area. It's tropical and feels like home.

MDDid painting on silk naturally grow out of your work as a textile designer?

NO: I worked with silk as a student and fell in love with it. Years later, I have returned to this medium.

MDHow would you characterize your style?

NO: Tropical and floral design. I use these motifs as a vehicle to play with color.

MDWhat are your sources of reference and inspiration?

NO: My garden.

MDWhat preparations do you take before beginning a silk painting?

NO: I do a series of preliminary sketches. My sketchbook is filled with ideas.

MDWhat are the challenges of painting on silk?

NO: It's a one-shot deal. I have to get it right, because I cannot erase anything or cover it up.

MD: How long does it usually take for you to complete a painting on silk?

NO: [The time varies,] from three days to three weeks.

MDDo you favor other materials than Habotai silk, and are you experimenting with other types of materials?

NO: I have found the Habotai silk to be the best for my techniques.

MDDo you share your artistic skills by teaching classes or workshops in silk painting?

NO: No. I have no teaching experience, and I prefer to work on my own.

MD:  Do you accept commissions and, if you do, what do you view as the pros and cons of commissions?

NO: Yes. Commissions are always considered. They are fine to do so long as we are all on the same page.

MDHow do you market yourself as an artist?

NO: [I'm] still working on that. I have a Website and enter as many juried shows as possible.

MDDo you use FaceBook or other social media to publicize your art, gallery exhibitions, or the like?

NO: No.

MDDo you have gallery representation? Any exhibitions forthcoming?

NO: My work is represented by Jungle Drums Gallery on Captiva Island [in Florida].

MDWhat is the price range of your art?

NO: [My pieces are priced from] $350 [to] $1,800.

MDWhat would you describe as your "lucky break" as an artist?

NO: I was hired as a designer straight out of school. This was a great start.

Thank you, Nuch. I appreciate the time you gave for our interview.

A number of "Koi" thread paintings are still available.  A popular image, the hand-embroidered re-creation, crafted exclusively for Transformational Threads by Vietnamese artisans, may be purchased directly from Transformational Threads. For details, click here.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thought for the Day: Standing by Your Words

Thought for the Day: Standing By Your Words

". . . If there is, indeed, a real presence in the things we lovingly receive, then standing by our words is a political, moral, and religious act as well.

"In living out the words we stand by, word becomes flesh — our flesh."
~ Brian Volck, from his essay "Real Presences"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reading 'Goodnight Moon' (Poem)

Poet L.L. Barkat offered us another challenge the other day, to attend her "slowing" party by way of Ann Kroeker. A recent blog post by Ann, "Catch a Falling Star", urges us to take a breath, listen to the inner voice we carry on our rounds, respond to the tugs in our heart that our minds would prefer to ignor. Oh, and also to carry a pencil and a 3x5" card in our pockets. Below is my contribution to the party of voices that understand there's a secret to slowing down.

Resisting the Urge: Reading Goodnight Moon

Reading Goodnight Moon 
is not like stopping
at McDonald's
for your favorite double-shot latte.

You don't drive through Goodnight Moon.

You take each word
in a languishing slide off the tongue,
naming what is named
that you never saw before.

Looking, finding, pointing delighted
in the room the moon the light
the red balloon that lifts

Darkness even as sleep
falls fast
and clock's hands change

What you see changing
before a child's eyes.

If you slow long enough
to take in what your child sees
with eyes that

Refuse to be moved
to a new page before the
first page is exhausted

The last page you turn
holds the dream you
thought would never last:

A snuggling close closer closest still
beneath moon's shadows.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Coming Back (Poem)

This is a poem I wrote several months ago for a friend whose wisdom and love remain steadfast in the presence of the overwhelming darkness that sometimes floods her life. She is a very special person in my life.

Coming Back
for Joyce H.

The window closes;
your heart pushes its reserves.

You still see.

The dark resists
what light begins to fill the cracks.

Still, you see.

Time — slowed to a crawl —
binds you to tomorrow.

See, it's always like this:

Sometimes you ride instead of walk.
Sometimes you pull in before reaching out.

Usually, it's enough
just to notice what's outside

Beyond the pane,
awaiting your welcome home.

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Note: I'll be unreachable for the next several days, although I've scheduled some posts, including an "All Art Friday Special Edition"—an interview with Florida artist Nuch Owen whose image "Koi" I licensed for Transformational Threads. I'll looking forward to catching up with all of you. Namaste.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Less Deceived (Desdemona) (Poem)

Below is another of my long-ago experimental poems about real and imagined women, published here for the first time.

The Less Deceived

And lies in secret plotted pain
Good name they wove with threads of loss
And faith a strand of knots they pulled apart

For she had eyes
and chose him

But he her soul
in object set

       a blush of silk:

            a token spun of maiden heart
            a cloth wrung through with jealous breath

Copyright 1978-2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Things They Carry (Poem)

This poem was written several months ago, in response to posts on Our Cancer, an online support group in which I have been active for some time. A number of my more recent poems have found their genesis on that site but I like to think the words are about a whole lot more than cancer.

The Things They Carry


Wipes, diapers, burp bibs,
   a portable changing pad
Clothing change (maybe two)
Stroller, sun lotion, blanket, keys
Off! depending on time of year
Graham crackers and juicy cup
Tin of cheerios and apple juice
Tape, crayons, glue sticks
Magic markers, hand sanitizer
Rubber stamps and ink pad
Sketch pad and coloring books
Colored pencils and sharpener
Alphabet stickers, tiny-hands scissors
Stencils, picture books, music tapes
Throw-away camera for not-to-be-missed moments
Kit to render first-aid


The clothes on his back
Swiss Army knife
Recycler's acumen
Grocery cart (one wheel that won't stay on)
Cardbox box, heavy plastic tarp
Newspapers, yellowed foreclosure notice
Mensa member card, expired Rx bottle
Plastic shopping bags (no ties)
Styrofoam cups (one for coins)
Refillable plastic water bottles
Salvaged energy bars
1 umbrella, its ribs broken
Green Salvation Army-issued blanket
2 quarters a dime and a nickel
The Good Book
Cardboard "Will Work for Food" sign
Magic markers, hand sanitizer
Someone's morning pastry, last night's handouts
The story of his life


List of questions and spaces for answers
State-issued parking pass/disabled tag
1 small plastic bin and extra liners (just in case)
Cooler, ice packs, bottled water, juice packs
Saltines, plastic spoons, fork and knife
Magazines and New York Times crossword puzzles
Hand-sanitizer, hand towels, soft hankies, tissues
More tissues
Toothpaste and brush, gum and mints
Disinfecting wipes (for chair, tv, remote, etc.)
Plastic gloves and freshening wipes
Back pillow
Menus for local restaurants (when there's time)
Cell phone, charger, phone numbers
Coins for times cell phone won't work
Chemo and radiation schedules
Appointment records, Rx records, OTC drug
   records, lists of supplements/vitamins
Blood-work results and comparisons
Button-down shirt, comfortable shoes, easy-waist pants
Replacements for the above (just in case)
Books on tape, books not on tape
iPod and earplugs
Study Bible (optional), highlighter, journal
Pen to collect thoughts and recall dreams
Something to hold all of the above


Silence on lips, words in stolen glances
The feeling when two hands touch
Power of attorney, medical directive
The mind's eye
A god-box of after-thoughts
List of questions and spaces for answers

Copyright 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.