Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thought for the Day: Almsgiving

. . . almsgiving is . . . a state of mind and of being, in which we recognize that all of our resources — material, intellectual, attitudinal, etc. — are precisely gifts, gifts given to us to help others, and most certainly not given for our own indulgence or gratification. It's not only hard to adopt that attitude, but it's hard to figure out how to do it right. Lent is a time for us to think in those kinds of terms, and to ask God to show us how. . . .


* Robert Heaney is the John A. Creighton University Professor and Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine, Creighton University. The quote is from Heaney's Lenten Presentation at CU on February 21, 2008.

Heaney's online ministries bio is here.

Creighton University Online Ministries

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

Can another week have gone by already?

This column has received a wonderful response since I began it several weeks ago. It's even inspired a few sister bloggers, and maybe a few brothers, too, to go exploring. It's fun to put together, and sometimes surprises me with the gems I've uncovered as I pick up and follow a thread from here to there. It makes for a richly patterned quilt of connections. Ready to get out from under the covers?

✭ Augmented-reality mapping technology lets you broadcast your telepresence. A demonstration of the Microsoft technology is here. I think it's amazing.

✭ "I love you: the wall" is witness. (With thanks to Louise for sharing.)

Cajal's Butterflies of the Soul, by Javier DeFelipe (2010, Oxford University Press), is one of the most beautiful and fascinating books published this year. The book (reviewed here) is named for Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1852 - 1934), known as the "father of modern neuroscience" and winner of the 1906 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Its drawings are inspired by 19th Century and early 20th Century scientific illustrations of the wonders discovered on experimental slides viewed under a microscope.

Cajal, who wanted to be an artist, wrote that "only artists are attracted to science". Is it any wonder, given the beauty of the 282 unique images in this book?

You don't have to be an artist to be inspired by this book. The images delight and astonish, and the text offers insights into what reviewer K.A. Jellinger called a "vision of science as an artistic and esthetic enterprise."

A detailed description of the book is here.

For a related item on an art exhibit, "Curious: the Craft of Microscopy", go here and here.

✭ If you're not still celebrating Valentine's Day, maybe you need a little help getting in the mood. Try reading this lyrical and sumptuous poem, "The Common Lover's Song" by Flavien Ranaivo of Madagascar, posted at Words Without Borders by Geoff Wisner. (Pssst. You don't have to report back.)

✭ Everyone is always going on so about time. Here's an arts and social media blog by Devon Smith that might inspire you to consider how you might spend 24 Usable Hours.

✭ You won't be able to get a word in edgewise but phone in here anyway to listen to a podcast with Frances Justine Post, the 2008 recipient of "Discovery"/The Boston Review Poetry Prize, and to read a short Q&A. Phone-in poetry podcasting is brilliant!

Friday, February 26, 2010

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

ECVA Exhibition

The Episcopal Church & Visual Arts's newest exhibit, "Recognition & Return", is online now. Curated by The Reverend Catherine Quehl-Engel, chaplain of Cornell College and associate priest of Trinity Episcopal Church, Iowa City, Iowa, the show presents spiritually and artistically "mature" work from more than two dozen ECVA member artists, including Diane Walker, Roberta Karstetter, David Orth, and C. Robin Janning.

ECVA's next call for entries for In Fellowship and Communion, is here. Submissions are due April 26.

Upcoming Passion, Revenge. . . and Tango

LaCarmen Tango is coming to Washington's Lisner Auditorium (730 21st St., N.W.), March 6, for an international premiere performance of "love, passion, obsession and. . .tango". Choreographed by Alicia Orlando, with music by tango composer Raul Garello and Pan American Symphony Orchestra, LaCarmen Tango is set in Buenos Aires circa 1900 and features as principal dancers Alicia Orlando, Claudio Barneix, Alvaro Palau, and Arlington, Virginia's own Lucy Bowen McCauley of Bowen McCauley Dance Company.

The performance is sponsored by GW Lisner Auditorium, Trinity Washington University, D.C. Commission on the Arts & the Humanities, the Embassy of Argentina, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, and Comercio Internacional y Culto de la Republica Argentina. Tickets ($30 - $45) are available through TicketMaster or PayPal.


Artween is the latest fully wired social network for artists, galleries, museums and foundations, art students, and plain folk who love art. You may register at no cost, create a personal page, and talk art with like-minded members. The site includes Weenart, described as the "first search engine of artworks" registered on Artween; News; ArtweenTV, which delivers art news and interviews with artists; and MarketPlace, which traffics in all things art, including job announcements and offers to exchange studios.

Art Heroes Thought Radio

Recently, I happened upon Art Heroes Thought Radio, subtitled "Conversations About Living and Working in the Arts". Host John T. Unger, a designer and professional artist known for his "fire bowls", says that his goal for AHTR is to help figure out how artists do what they do. To that end, he features every Thursday evening conversations with emerging and established artists, creative professionals, and experts in related fields. He goes behind the scenes to learn how artists build their careers, market themselves to success, and manage their artistic lives. On Tuesday evenings Unger devotes himself to call-in shows, each with its own pre-announced theme, such as pricing art, approaching galleries, or selling art online. A recent show was about promoting art on the radio.

Art Heroes episodes are available free as downloadable podcasts or streaming audio. Transcripts of archived shows may be purchased individually or via subscription.

To learn more about Unger and what he has to offer, go here. He's on Twitter and Facebook, posts images of his work on Flickr, and writes at I Got No Zen.

Twisp River Glass

I wrote last Friday about the Baltimore Craft Show in town through this weekend. If you go, be sure to check out the work of Washington State artists Allison Ciancibelli and Jeremy Newman of Twisp River Glass. Images from portfolios on their site will knock you out.

Call for Artists

Artists in any medium are encouraged to answer Adam Lister Gallery's call for submissions for a summer group show to take place June 4 through July 18. Lister, in Fairfax City, Virginia, will consider artwork in any medium, subject matter, and size (up to 70x80 inches). The deadline is May 1. Details are here. (Note: ALG will receive 30 percent commission on sales at the exhibition.)

He Said It!

. . . I love art and I love the life of art and I only wish that the real life of art could affect social change in a good way and that the invasion of commercialism in art and the invasion of entertainment into all areas of our lives hadn't brought some of the worst features of our culture in the realm of art. ~ Painter Kenneth Noland, (1924 - 2010), "The Bennington Years" Symposium, University of Hartford, March 1988

Noland's official Website is here.

For a wonderful remembrance of Kenneth Noland, see Mark Dagley's "Kenneth Noland" in The Brooklyn Rail.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Celebrating Poet Robert Hayden

Last week, I featured the late poet Lucille Clifton. Continuing an appreciation for National African American History Month, I introduce you today to Robert Hayden, a much-celebrated poet and the first African American selected to be Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, the position now titled Poet Laureate.

Like Clifton, a poet he championed, Hayden, who was born in 1913 and died in 1980, drew deeply on his African American ancestry, culture, and especially history to craft elegant poems addressing "this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful and terrible thing"* for which all people dream. He began researching African American history in the 1930s for the Federal Writers' Project, finding in the story of slaves' journey from Africa to America a narrative on which he built a writing career, though he forcefully rejected being judged a "black poet". 

Hayden's identification with and intuitive understanding of the historical experience of his forbears are palpable; hear, for example, the insistent rhythm in this excerpt from "Runagate Runagate":

Runs falls rises stumbles on from darkness into darkness
and the darkness thicketed with shapes of terror
and the hunters pursuing and the hounds pursuing
and the night cold and the night long and the river
to cross and the jack-muh-lanterns beckoning beckoning
and blackness ahead and when shall I reach that somewhere
morning and keep on going and never turn back and keep on going. . . . 

An adherent of the Baha'i faith, Hayden also wrote poems inspired by that religion, which espouses unity and universality, the belief that we are all creations of one God and part of one human family.

Hayden devoted more than three decades of his life to teaching: 23 years at Fisk University (1946 - 1969) and 11 at the University of Michigan (1969 - 1980). He also taught at the University of Louisville and was a visiting poet at the University of Washington, University of Connecticut, and Denison University. His teaching, he said, allowed him to earn a living so that he could "write a poem or two now and then."

Writing in more than one poetic voice and using an array of writing techniques, Hayden could be as dramatic as he sometimes was chilling, as apt to employ formal diction as folk speech or vernacular. His presentation of the routine details of personal life could be very moving, as in this excerpt from Hayden's beautiful poem "Those Winter Sundays":

. . . slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

A reading by Hayden of "Those Winter Sundays" may be heard here. (An interesting aspect about this poem is that Hayden is not writing about his genetic father.) The same poem can be read in full and heard here.

Hayden's Selected Poems of 1966 brought him acclaim; he was deemed then "a major talent" and by the time of his Library of Congress appointment in 1976, he had earned a reputation as one of America's most eloquent and accomplished voices. He was elected to the American Academy of Poets in 1975.

Among his 10 collections of poetry are Heart-Shape in the Dust (1940), Words in the Mourning Time (1970), Angle of Ascent: New and Selected Poems (1975), American Journal (1982), and Robert Hayden: Collected Poems (1985, 1996). He contributed to numerous periodicals, including Atlantic and Midwest Journal and, in the late 1930s, was the drama and music critic for the Michigan Chronicle.

A biographical essay from The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (1997) is here.

A critical essay on Hayden's poetry, including the poems quoted in this post, is here.

* The lines "this freedom . . . this beautiful and terrible thing" are from the poem "Frederick Douglass".

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday Wonder: Artist Maureen O'Kane

I'm told my grandmother always said she would work until she died 
because she loved it so much and I am sure I will do the same.
~ Artist Maureen O'Kane

Maureen O'Kane, based in Wales, describes herself as "a professional public artist specializing in site-specific public art works in a variety of media." She works with mosaics primarily but also does casting in plaster, bronze and other materials, and creates concrete and mixed media relief murals and other sculptural pieces. Recently, she began creating medals that are purely art objects.

O'Kane works alone and collaboratively, on small commissions and large, producing art for interior and exterior locations, such as schools, hospitals, art centers, urban environments, and woodlands. She is a teacher, too, offering workshops in art and design for all ages. She travels around the world — Spain, Argentina, Canada, Japan, Finland, Russia, England, the United States — presenting seminars on her work or on Byzantine and Roman mosaics. (O'Kane studied Byzantine mosaic production at Studio Arte del Mosaico in Ravenna, Italy. Ravenna is known for its extraordinary Byzantine mosaics. Its early Christian churches and mosaics are designated a World Heritage Site.)

Much to my delight, I discovered that O'Kane has an interest in animation and has produced two films, Unswept Floor and Dove Life. Both were the subject of a feature on the blog Mosaic Art Now. Both are truly inspired works of art, lyrical and playful and entrancing.

Unswept floor from maureen o'kane on Vimeo.

Dove Life from maureen o'kane on Vimeo.

O'Kane's blog is Momosaic. You'll find there photos of O'Kane at work, as well as images of completed pieces, which are wonders to behold.

A brief but excellent BBC interview with the artist is here.

For information on Byzantine mosaics, go here. Information on where to find examples of Roman mosaics is here.


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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Show Me What Kindness Looks Like (Poem)

Show Me What Kindness Looks Like

Show me what kindness looks like.

So in the darkness, he touched her arm—
        once milk-white silk-clad
        trafficked now, elbow to wrist,
        in one line of hope after another.

Touch my wounds with kindness.

So in the darkness, he touched his muscle of remembrance—
        fingering gently
        what he could neither see nor make believe.

Kindness never gets you an audience.

And so he said—
        faith is always tested
        stitches always itch.

Pray kindness takes me.

So in the darkness, he touched—
        lips to air, feeling the weight
        of edging tears
        rending frail-woven endings.

Speak kindly of me when I'm gone.

And so he turned once more to after—
        the grip seeded of limits
        letting go but one quick second
        before turning red again with his single heart's pulse.

Copyright © 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

I wrote this poem for today's Blog Carnival and for Carry On Tuesday #41.

The Blog Carnival, a biweekly online event open to anyone, is sponsored by Bridget Chumbley at One Word at a Time and Peter Pollock at Rediscovering the Church. Today's prompt is "kindness". Go here for a list of links to all of the contributions.

Carry on Tuesday provides each week as a writing prompt a quote that is to be used wholly or partly in original prose or poetry. The prompt for February 23 is the opening line from Michael Crichton's 2004 novel State of Fear: "In the darkness, he touched her arm and said. . . ." Go here for a list of links to all of the participants' sites.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Passing Time in Lent (Poem)

Passing Time in Lent

If you have never made offense,
whose gospel do you follow?

If you have never gospel followed,
to whose arms do you run to escape the sin?

If you have never smudged the ash,
for whose sins must you be sorry?

If you have never felt too full,
where do you create the space inside?

If you have never denied your want,
how do you know how hunger feels?

If you have never given up,
how do you learn to receive?

If you have never crossed the desert,
by what clock do you watch sun rise and fall?

If you have never offered your table,
what claim do you make on feast prepared?

If you have never consumed the bread,
at whose altar do you sacrifice?

If you have never walked the stations,
how do you tell God's emptied Himself?

If you have never sat with emptiness,
out of what do you fashion your hope?

If you have never done the mourning,
what sign do you accept it's spring?

If you have never seen spring light,
from whom did you learn to sing?

Copyright © 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thought for the Day: Lent's Challenges

Lent as a holy season challenges you to aspire to be as Godlike as possible in forgiving and loving. We've all heard how the average person actualizes very little of his or her potential mental powers; the same is true of our spiritual potential. Lent as a holy season challenges you to reach for that potential, to aspire toward the greatness of soul that comes from cultivating virtues 
like justice, mercy, and love.
~ Edward Hays


Father Edward Hays is a Catholic priest, a spiritual guide, the co-founder of Forest of Peace Publishing, and the author of more than 30 books, including The Lenten Labyrinth: Daily Reflections for the Journey of Lent,  Psalms for Zero Gravity, Feathers on the Wind, Meeting Christ at Broadway and Bethlehem, A Book of Wonders, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim, Pray All Ways, and Chasing Joy: Musings on Life in a Bittersweet World. In addition, Hays is a painter and illustrator (see some of his work here).

Father Hays also writes a blog here.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

Once again, it's Saturday and time to show you where I've spent some little bits of my snow days in the last week. Where have your days gone?

✭ Take a moment to watch this trailer for Europa, East, a new film by Anita Doron that premiered at this year's International Film Festival Rotterdam. Viewing it is like watching poetry come to life on screen. Doron, a 2010 TED Fellow, is a surrealist filmmaker and documentarian.

✭ Jewelry that is not for the faint of heart gives Valentine's Day just passed a new twist. Since 2008, artist Lola Brooks has been crafting her tropes of love using ruby-red garnets, 14k gold, copper, vitreous enamel, stainless steel, diamonds, vintage rhinestones, and other materials that might surprise you. Brooks's work is as stunning as it is sometimes outrageous. Here's an interesting article on the artist from the February/March issue issue of American Craft. Images from her solo exhibition Sentimental Foolery may be seen here; images from her show Confection are viewable here.

✭ Another "cabinet of curiosities", perhaps also not for the faint-hearted is thisMorbid Anatomy: Surveying the Interstices of Art and Medicine, Death and Culture. For the curious (and I have to say I'm one of them), this site is, in a word, fascinating. (With thanks to John Ptak for directing my attention here. His own site, Ptak Science Books, deserves a calling-out, too.)

✭ Looking for art underground? Go here. I promise you'll find enough on this site that you'll forget the clock's ticking. See, in particular, Linear: Dryden Goodwin, featuring 60 portraits of line staff on London Transport's Jubilee line. Now what's keeping my region's Metro system from doing the same? Art like this would sure beat dirty concrete walls and give us something more to consider than a jump in fares.

Mark Rothko's The Seagram Murals are at Tate Liverpool. Wish I could see them! Since visiting the serenely meditative The Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, more than two decades ago, I've been struck by how gorgeous and emotion-packed Rothkos are. The nine paintings comprising the exhibit can be seen until March 21. Enjoy this, too.

✭ A fine piece of writing this is. The essay "Once a Writer, Always a Writer?" strikes the difference that separates writing as a job from writing as an "existential vocation". Rest in peace, J.D. Salinger.


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Friday, February 19, 2010

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

Meet Artist Phoebe Greenberg

Artist Phoebe Greenberg discusses her film Next Floor (2008) at the Hirshhorn Museum on Thursday, February 25, 7:00 p.m. Conceived and produced by Greenberg and directed by Denis Villeneuve, Next Floor — a fascinating statement on society's excessive consumption (my husband and I saw the film some months ago) — won Best Short Film, International Critics' Week, at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. The Hirshhorn's one-hour conversation with Greenberg is free. Additional information about the film is here; details on the talk are here.

Baltimore ACC Show

The American Craft Council is holding its annual winter show at the Baltimore (Maryland) Convention Center February 25-28.

This is one of my favorite events; it is also exhausting (take comfortable shoes!), because the number of fine craft artists who gather to display and sell their one-of-a-kind work usually exceeds 700. One highlight is the opportunity to meet and talk with the artists; another is to visit Demo Stage, which offers live demonstrations and hands-on projects (for example, "throwing" a pot, fusing glass to create jewelry, designing a greeting card) with some of the show's artists and local craft organizations, such as Baltimore Clayworks; and yet another is to take part in the Awards of Excellence Walking Tours, conducted by the show's jurors, who discuss what makes awardees' work so noteworthy. The show this year brings back School to Market, a section set aside for craft artists from Savannah College of Art and Design and Rhode Island School of Design; and AltCraft, a reserved marketplace-style space for 20 artists. For additional information, including craft categories, admission costs, and a New Exhibitors list, visit the show's Website.

The ACC opens its show in the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, Georgia, March 11-14. Details are here. After that, it's on to St. Paul (April 16-18) and San Francisco (August 13-15).

Caton Merchant Exhibition

Last Saturday evening, my husband and I braved the snow and blustery winter winds to drive to Manassas for the opening reception for Myth & Mystery, a three-artist show at Caton Merchant Family Gallery.

We went specifically to see the new work of exceptional oil painter Tracey Clarke, who first caught our eye at an exhibition at the Athenaeum in Alexandria, Virginia, and was the subject of a two-question interview I published in a run-up to the Caton Merchant show. Of the 11 paintings on display, "The Dream" (sold before the show opened), "The Landlord", "The Guide", "Exile of the Black Horse", and "Nee's Passing on the Third Day of the Spring Revolt" were my favorites. (Images are here.)

The encaustics of Karen Eide were beautiful, too, and we lamented that the artist couldn't attend the opening at Caton Merchant, which is housed in an old candy factory. (We wish her a speedy recovery from an earlier accident.)

We delighted in making the acquaintance of Fairfax, Virginia, artist Kathleen Kendall, whose intimate mixed media work drew attention all night.

Some of Kathleen's pieces combine oil painting and paper collage; others, such as her small icon-like portraits, are made from clay and layered with such "found" materials as beads, wrapping or other patterned papers, shells, lace, printers' letters, and maps. They are intricate and precise but not fussy. Full of symbols you needn't understand to appreciate them, the works often appear as though torn from a book about classical or Renaissance art. They're both dramatic and theatrical, mysterious and mythic, telling stories of their own that may or may not be complete. Their wonderful titles give only a clue to their narratives: "Like Taking the Black Off a Crow", "The Sphinz", "Abracadabra", "Fortune Teller", "Sirene", "Knot of Fools", and "Three Graces" (seen above, at left). As Kathleen says, "All of my work is concentrated in a language that is psychological and personal to me."

Kathleen was  the subject of an Elan magazine featured-artist profile in 2009. Read it here. The article highlights Kathleen's use of tissue paper to create a layered effect that does not add bulk and includes images of a number of her rather haunting and ethereal beauties.

If you're in the area, don't miss this show! Work of the quality of the art of all three of the artists deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. And buy the work now, while it's still affordable.

Shipping Art C/of DHS

Do you regularly ship art from here to there? Listen up! Our Department of Homeland Security has a few rules for you. Go here to read the latest on DSH's new rule on air cargo, which has more than a few art world denizens complaining of headaches. You might also find Randy Kennedy's New York Times article on the rule a good read. The DHS mandate becomes effective August 1.

Cat's Out of the Bag

The Washington, D.C., area often takes a bad rap for being "too inside the Beltway"—in politics and in the arts. Well, we don't all live inside the bubble; I'd even say most of us don't. Need proof? Go here. Contemporary artists from New York City, Los Angeles, and the D.C. area joining forces for a temporary art exhibition that just might land our area the kind of press the art scene here deserves. And now that the cat's out of the bag, keep spreading the news.

Visual Artist Podcasting Network

If you're an artist and can't stand the silence in your studio, the Visual Artist Podcast Network may be the resource you're looking for. Launched this month, VAPN offers a choice of podcasts to keep you "informed, inspired, and entertained" while you're creating. Select one of the "channels" offering interviews or articles about painting, drawing, and story-telling; tutorials; a "process diary"; pop culture discussions; and news of what's going on in the arts community.

VAPN also just announced it has joined forces with the Artcast Network, a directory of artists who broadcast their work on live Webcasts via streaming services (Ustream, Livestream, and others), so that you can also watch artists paint or draw in real time. Created by freelance illustrator Dani Jones (she's a professional illustrator of children's picture books, magazines, and educational materials), ArtCast encourages artists to submit their own Webcasts.

He Said It!

All art is good or bad according to how much life it holds and releases. ~ Art critic Jonathan Jones

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

God Is (Poem)

God Is

God is—
      the first poem made
         stars in black holes
           fault lines redrawn

God is—
      the space after goodbye
         a memory's chip
           a will to be done

God is—
      an idea
         a question
           an article of faith

God is—
      a sign in ash
         a repeating petition
           a doubt removed

God is—
      a looking for
         a running behind
           an end to no hope found

God is—
         son and
           holy ghost

God is—
           the last poem ever made

Copyright © 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

This morning, Christine Valters Paintner of Abbey of the Arts wrote of and shared her contribution to the "first ever" Theoblogger Challenge at Patheos to write in 100 or fewer words an answer to the question "Who or What is God?" Christine, whose own response is here, invited her readers to write their own reflections and to post a link in her comment box, at the Patheos site, or on their own blogs. I decided to accept Christine's invitation, and after a few moments of quiet, the response above emerged.

How would you give voice to the Theoblogger Challenge? Offer your answer in my comment box and then visit the Patheos Public Square, where the topic for the week is "Gods and Goddesses".

Essaydi: Artist of Multiple Lenses

In my art, I wish to present myself through multiple lenses — 
as Artist, as Moroccan, as Saudi, 
as Traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim.
In short, I invite viewers to resist stereotypes.

* * * * * 

She lives and works in New York. She was born in 1956 in Morocco. She represents both East and West.

Her family is conservative and Muslim. Her education is European (Paris) and American (Boston).

She's a painter, a photographer, an installation artist. Her name is known throughout the art world, and she is represented in many public and private collections.

Her work crosses cultural boundaries, invokes art history, is at once personal and political, domestic and social. It reaches back to myths, unburdens stereotypes, upsets our thinking about gender, hierarchies and power, and traditions that limit as well as preserve. It's about the past —colonialism and independence — and also certainly about the present, about perspectives and attitudes — about women, by women, toward women, of women. And it's about confinement and freedom, constraint and control; about beauty and objectification; about the surface and what's lying below, the spaces within, between, and without. It's subversive and provocative; sensual and ritualistic; also exotic and mysterious. It's written all over. It's more than art: It's testimony, witness, documentation.

Meet Lalla Essaydi.

Pictured at left: Moorish Woman, 2008, Chromogenic print mounted to aluminum and protected with Mactac luster laminate. Collection Lalla Essaydi. Copyright © Lalla Essaydi.  Edwyn Houk Gallery (New York) and Howard Yezerski Gallery (Boston).

Les Femmes du Maroc, an exhibition of 17 of Essaydi's photographs, opened January 30 at Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick. Organized by DeCordova Sculpture Park + Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, the show continues until June 6.

A color brochure about the exhibition, available on the DeCordova site, is here. (The show was at the DeCordova from September 26, 2009, to January 3, 2010.)

Like her contemporaries — Shirin Neshat (Iran), Shahzia Sikander (Pakistan), Ghada Amer (Egypt) — Essaydi is hailed a "feminist". Her extraordinary art, to my mind, defies so singular a label and connotation. It provokes too many thoughts, raises too many questions, contains too many contradictions, allows too many interpretations to be any one thing. As Essaydi herself says, "I invite viewers to resist stereotypes."

The photographs in the exhibition all show women, either a single woman or a group of women; all but a few are veiled, and their clothing is layered, encumbering, both hiding and revealing, and unmistakably if somewhat unsettlingly beautiful. They and their ground (floor, cushions or other furnishings, drapery, and backdrop) are all of a piece, covered entirely by calligraphy, an art form that in Islamic countries  until recently has been the province of men who transcribe sacred literature. The inscription in Essaydi's photographs, as in the image above, is in henna. Henna has long been used to "decorate" women's bodies, though it has many other uses, including medicinal; traditionally, henna painting has been deemed a woman's art. Thus, to use henna in calligraphy is to defy status quo, to enter space "owned" by men, to upset the already imbalanced scale that puts men on one side, women on another. Also, the text in the photographs is not from the Qur'an; nor is it sacred to anyone but the writer. It's culled from the artist's own journals and, according to gallery notes, speaks about memory, communication, cultural identity, self-identity, and personal freedom. It's Essaydi's private narrative exposed.

Essaydi's work deliberately invokes, in title and use or staging of women, Eugene Delacroix's famous Les Femmes d'Algiers, painted in 1834 and now in the Musee du Louvre, and other Orientalist art of the 19th Century (for example, Ingres, Regnault, Sargeant) that, interestingly, is pursued avidly today by collectors in the Middle East. (See "Why Orientalist Art Is Hot", Forbes Magazine, April 13, 2009.)

This is art to linger over, talk about, argue over, be inspired by. It cannot leave you neutral.

In 2011, North Carolina Museum of Art plans a mid-career survey of Essaydi's work.

There are many informative articles on Essaydi and her fascinating work, including this one from 2007.  This, from Tindouf Gallery Marrakech, shows additional images, including a photograph of Essaydi. Lisa Sette Gallery, in Scottsdale, Arizona, carries the artist's work, and offers an essay on the artist here. Essaydi's work also is featured in the Brooklyn Museum's Feminist Art Base.

This YouTube video offers a view of Essaydi photographs in Indelible, a show last year at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, in Nashville, Tennessee.

An interesting art historian's perspective on Orientalism and the term "Islamic art" is here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday (Poem)

Ash Wednesday

mark my forehead
with a sign

dust and dirt    dirt and earth
of this are we all made

dust and dust   dust to dust
to this we all return


am I

mark my forehead
with the sign

dust and dirt    dirt and earth

hear my cries
hear me grieve
let me rise

mark my forehead
with Your sign

dust from dust    dust to dust

speak in me
speak through me
speak to me

I am You are

Copyright © 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

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Wednesday Wonder: Systems of Simplicity

Carpet tape.
Cellphones with cameras.
Egg Beaters.

Each of the items above has a relationship to the other that is uncovered in the 16-minute TED Talk that I'm sharing with you today. Each has to do with the need for lab tests for disease diagnosis in the most needy populations in undeveloped and developing countries. Each represents a creative and ingenious solution to the problem of manufacturing "dirt-cheap" medical testing devices that can be used without a doctor being present.

Delivered by renowned chemist George Whitesides, the talk reveals the fascinating capability of the mind to come up with elegantly simple responses to complex human needs.

Whitesides himself is something of a wonder. He leads the Whitesides Research Group at Harvard University, which explores nanotechnology, fluidic optics, magnetics, functional self-assembly, and a host of other subjects. He's co-authored more than 900 scientific articles and co-founded 12 companies. His name is on more than 50 patents. His nonprofit, Diagnostics for All, works closely with his research group to bring low-cost, easy-to-use, point-of-care diagnostic devices to developing nations.



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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reading Hearts

. . . Just as the image of a word on paper can instantaneously conjure up powerful emotions (positive or negative), so to a cardiologist a second's glimpse at an echo image conveys volumes of information about the patient's disease and prognosis. The echo images that I see add in some unfathomable way a richness and another dimension to my thinking and imagination about the patient and myself.
~ Joseph A. Gascho*

Cardiologist Joseph A. Gascho, M.D., reads pictures — echocardiograms ("echoes") — for a living. When he's not seeing, listening to, or examining patients to learn how well or how poorly their hearts are working, Gascho is making pictures of his own and linking the images he creates to poems he writes. 

Gascho is a story-teller — on and off the job.

During office hours, Gascho listens to stories his patients tell him. He reads stories captured in the black and white and gray (and sometimes color) of patterns produced by high-frequency sound waves directed to and reflected back from hearts being tested. After looking at the still or moving pictures on a computer, he writes explanations to help give patients and their doctors a clue to a man's inability to catch a breath, a woman's swollen ankles, a grandfather's chest pain, a teenager's heart giving off the sound of whoosh instead of whish.

Later, after his white coat has come off, Gascho re-sees, re-reads, and re-writes the pictures and words in his mind, transforming them in his imagination. He conjures new stories with the camera's eye and through his own; he writes new stories with words drawn from his own questions about his patients and himself.

Like seeing a heart beating in an open chest cavity, Gascho's images can stun and his words move. And they are prompts: When we look at and read those images and words, we filter them to make them our own, to imagine our narrative of blues and reds and yellows pulsing on a screen, dipping, rising, falling flat before rising again.

Recently, at Penn State Milton Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and, earlier, at Parrot Cafe in Lancaster, Gascho's work was the subject of an exhibition, Diastole**. Diastole, Gascho says on his Website, "occurs not just in the heart but in our lives as well. Diastole is all around us, if we are open to seeing it!" (Diastole 6, right; published with permission)

Gascho has two Websites: Gascho Photography and Joseph Gascho Photography. I've selected as highlights these favorites of mine:

Diastole: Color Doppler

Diastole 9 (seen above, left; republished with permission)

Meditation: Rain Drops

Sky (viewable as individual images or as slideshow)

Land & Sky: Maryland Barn

A few other Gascho images are here, where you can see one of his diastole images paired with a poem. The image and poem have been selected for publication.

Take a peek, then come back and let me know what your favorites are. You might even want to write a story or a poem about seeing diastole up close.

All images property of Joseph Gascho. Copyright © Joseph Gascho. All Rights Reserved. Diastole 6 and Diastole 9 published with permission.

* Joseph Gascho, "Echos of a Doctor's Heart" in Journal of Medical Humanities (2009), 30:201-205.

** Diastole alternates with systole to form pulse; it's the part in the heart's rhythmic cycle when the heart relaxes and is filled with blood.

I thank Jan Phillips for bringing Dr. Gascho's work to public attention.


However much concerned I was at the problem of misery in the world, I never let myself get lost in broodings over it. I always held firmly to the thought that each one of us can do a little to bring some portion of it to an end. ~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer

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Monday, February 15, 2010

fear not the rub of ash (Poem)

fear not the rub of ash

fear not the rub of ash   the burning
away of want   of wanting
for the future  a yet to be  He stripped
and bared before us our own cross
bears   our sacrifice but tincture
of tears weep none   for the past
once passed returns our Son
our scarlet scars to heal   in dark
to rise from ash His sign revealed


I wrote this poem for Abbey of the Arts Poetry Party #44, "Entering the Desert's Fire"; and for Carry On Tuesday's prompt for February 16, which comprises this quote from 19th Century poet Percy Bysshe Shelley's "To a Skylark": "Fear not for the future / Weep not for the past".

Go here for the poems or the links to the poems collected for the Abbey's poetry party. The deadline for contributions is Friday, February 19. There will be a random drawing that day for a copy of Christine Valters Paintner's Sacred Poetry: An Invitation to Write.

Go here for links to all the poems for Carry on Tuesday.

Celebrating Poet Lucille Clifton

may the tide / that is entering now / 
. . . carry you out / beyond the face of fear . . . . 
~ Lucille Clifton, from blessing the boats

February is National African American History Month in America, and every month is the best month to celebrate poetry. Today, I'm featuring the inspirational African American poet Lucille Clifton. Clifton, age 73, died Saturday, February 13, 2010, at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. She had cancer and other illnesses.

New York-born Lucille Clifton, winner of the 2000 National Book Award for Poetry, loved words all her life; her parents kept her and her siblings well-supplied with books and nurtured a deep appreciation for learning. Clifton took up poetry in the mid-1950s, while still a student, and began then to develop what became her signature style: free verse lyrics marked by use of allusion, repetition, minimal punctuation, puns, lowercase letters, and the most basic but evocative of words, a vernacular that celebrated her African American ancestry, history, and culture, as well as her own person.

In 1969, Clifton won the YW-YMHA Poetry Center Discovery Award for work that poet Robert Hayden submitted on her behalf; that led to publication of her first collection, Good Times, which in turn brought her critical acclaim. She enjoyed a long and prolific career, rewarding her readers with words that could jump off a page and often startle when heard aloud.

Clifton's 11 volumes of poetry include Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969 - 1980, Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988 - 2000 (the National Book Award winner, the first for work by an African American), Quilting: Poems 1987- 1990, the terrible stories, Mercy, and Next: New Poems. She also was the author of picture verse books for children, juvenile fiction, and memoir. Her Two-Headed Woman was a Pulitzer Prize nominee and winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry. Maryland's Poet Laureate from 1979 to 1982, Clifton was awarded numerous fellowships, arts grants, honorary degrees, and other significant prizes, including the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

Clifton was distinguished professor of humanities at St. Mary's College of Maryland, where she held the endowed Landers Chair until she retired in 2008.

* * * * *

Poetry is meant to be read, and to be heard. When shared by the poet herself, you feel the words as you do not when you see them on the page. Listen now as Clifton reads her powerful and powerfully delivered "won't you celebrate with me" (from The Book of Light, Copper Canyon Press, 1993).

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

A PBS profile of the poet, audio of Clifton reading a 9/11 poem, and resources on Clifton are found here.

A "Since You Asked. . . " video interview with Clifton, produced by WGBG, is here. I particularly like her statement that she wrote "with serious intent, which doesn't mean intending to be published; it means intending to try to do it well."

A broadside of Clifton's "aunt jemima" is here.

A Baltimore Sun obituary that appeared shortly after Clifton's death is here.

Go here for "Hand in the Water", a tribute from my friend Deborah at Slow Muse.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Finding Love Within 18 Miles (Poem)

Finding Love Within 18 Miles

His message read,
Meet me at 12th and Broadway?

Like that. A question.
Not so much an invitation.

But how could I refuse?

He didn't know
how I spent my life
about growing up among the stacks
where the best best-sellers vie
with rare and fine first editions

What Strand calls
collectibles for everyone.

I e-mailed back:

And so it was

How we read our love.

He quoted Sartre
and I, Camus.
Philosophy's so grand
an invention.

Another time?
he nudged

And I nudged back.

What came up next
but Religion.

Shaky ground, I demurred.
This, I'm not so sure.

No problem, he insisted.

And so it wasn't.

Down from shelves came tomes
some to seek our homes.

We squinted at
sacred Judaic text
and quoted Buddhist wisdom

Fell silent
at sweet Saint Mary's face,
Qu'ran's illuminations.

Eyes met, hands touched.
Occult we checked,
sealing our two oft-bright visions.

Side by side, and aloud
we read. Words to fill out our cloud.

Lessons of Merlin, Alchemist's Kitchen,
10,000 Dreams Interpreted.

Of all the rest he liked one best:
Complete Idiot's Guide to Numerology.

I wondered then, as well I might,
where any of this was going.

He understood my words not said
and spoke his last Tao Daily Meditations.

Take your time. Go slow, and savor.
Strand's been here since, well, forever.

And so it was

We passed Games by, and Food and
Wine and Business/Economics.
No need had we
for Sports or Math, Comics or Military.

Transportation, we joked,
we could have used,
first mile turning eight miles more,
and seven more thereafter.

It was enough, I thought.

And so it was

How he guessed me right:
my need for Art, the Drama, Dance
the Fiction and Lit, aaahh, Poetry.

Two miles more that last
our brightest together,
our final stretch,
our knowing.

Between Byron and Keats
one kiss did land.
Cummings and Plath, one more
then another.

Next Lowell and Rich,
Hirshfield, Oliver, too,
and Paz before Pound,
then one other.

With Neruda we lost
our breath

And so it was

February 14 nearing,
he declared his love.

No secret that!
Books through and through

I knew.

But kindred spirit that he was
in my hands he placed
Strand card, marked Gift.

Whatever Your Heart Desires
it read.

And so he was.

Copyright © 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.


Thought for the Day

It seems whatever the door, whatever our fear—be it love or truth
 or even the prospect of death—we all have this choice, 
again and again:
 avoiding that part of our house, or opening the door
 and finding out more about ourselves
 by waiting until what is dark becomes seeable.

~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening


Mark Nepo is a poet, a philosopher, an essayist, a cancer survivor, and a spiritual writer. His books include The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life, Facing the Lion, Being the Lion, Surviving Has Made Me Crazy, and Unlearning Back to God: Essays on Inwardness, 1985-2005.

Nepo's books of poetry are listed here. You will also find more than a dozen of his poems on his site.

Weekly reflections from Nepo appear at Three Intentions.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

It's Saturday again and time to share some sites you might have missed during your spin this week on the Web.

✭ Thirty "awesome" poetry blogs have been compiled by Online Universities and Colleges. Some of the blogs in this list are in my own blogroll. One, How a Poem Happens, was the subject of a post of mine last year. (Note: Be sure to scroll down to find the blogs, which are linked. A few ads at the top tend to obscure the post.)

✭ Art auctions may never be the same. On 140hours, original artworks, including photographs, are sold using Twitter. A special "140hours Valentine's Day Weekend" is going on now. Instructions on how to bid on the art using Twitter are provided on the homepage. You can find 140hours on FaceBook, too.

✭ Iconographer Caroline Furlong, who is listed in The Artists Registry of Episcopal Church & Visual Arts, views her art as a "visual language" that allows her to communicate "mystery [of] the ineffable kind". In a feature on Menachem Wecker's always interesting blog Iconia, Furlong says that she regards  her work as sacred art, "because in creating we participate with God, the Creator of all things." Hers is a wonderful statement of our art-making gifts.

Images of Furlong's recent works are here. Images of her lovely icons are here. Furlong is listed as a studio artist at Scottsdale's Xanadu Gallery and has a page on FineArtStudioOnline.

musician, Furlong lives in Houston, where she's director of contemporary music at Grace Episcopal Church. Her debut album was Wondrous Love.

Follow Furlong on Twitter.

✭ Word of Reflection Art Gallery & Studios, operated by the Art for Change Foundation in New Delhi, came to me by way of my blogging friend Jan Richardson, about whom I've written several posts.

Reflection is no ordinary art gallery, and its name reflects its mission: to hold a mirror to call us to "look again", to create art with a social conscience. As its About page says, "And conscience has at its core the idea of human dignity, a fact which flows from each human being created as a reflection of the Divine. Conversely, beauty outside and the creative process within each of us reflect something uniquely profound about the Creator."

In addition to an Artist-in-Residence program, the gallery and foundation sponsor an annual "Creative Conscience" workshop, as well as specialized workshops for persons who are "marginalized" in society, and offer art and social impact training and social issues seminars for students and adults. The gallery has a unique program to rent art.

Currently on exhibition is artwork by children from the Windows Art Center, established in New Delhi in 2000 to promote creative, discovery-led education founded on observation and inquiry.

✭ Ever wonder why Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear? The Art Newspaper has done a bit of sleuthing and thinks it's found a clue. And yes, it involves a fateful letter and brother Theo. Enough mystery! Go here for the "exclusive".

✭ Japanese aesthetics are the focus of Leonard Koren, artist, designer, architect, and author of Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers (the catalyst for this book was a tea ceremony), Gardens of Gravel and Sand (described as a "philosophical enquiry into Japanese rock gardens"), and Undesigning the Bath, among others. According to Koren, "Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional."

Cyber-Space Station 1. I promise you, this is not like any other interactive site on the Web. (A nod and a thank you to Jan Phillips for the link.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Homecoming (Poem)


for Al

Two hundred people
make a place

Where you start out.

When you don't come
from somewhere else

Dirt and rock can be enough.


Yesterday, you
went home, you said.

You kicked up clumps
when no one looked, imagining
the lying-in neat-like, cared for

You beside your wife

Your and her remains
together mixed with family gone
there now
and yet to come.


A cousin's funeral took you back,
you said. She was 90

And suffered her dementia.


A plot of family land
makes place

For peace of mind.

Untidied stones calling out
parents      aunts and
uncles   cousins     husbands
and their loved ones

Count for more than memories

Of who they were
when you stood young.


To be buried on the land 
is to trace the lines of one
to still another

Relate the sister to the brother,
the 12 on her side

A number on your own indivisible.


A century can make or 
break a place, build it up or

Level it.

Who's gone can't hold together
what love leaves out   brings in   lets go.


A place can get a hold of you, or not

Mince the sadness   refigure grief
weed out goodbyes    fill in
the family circle.

I'll take my place, you said I'm thankful.

Copyright © 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.