Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Interview with Poet John Guzlowski (Part 1)

I want people to know about how much suffering
took place during the war.
~ Poet John Guzlowski

Professor Emeritus of Eastern Illinois University, where he taught American literature and poetry writing, John Guzlowski came to my attention serendipitously. Back in March, I happened upon one of his poems, "What the War Taught Her", and left a comment to which John kindly responded by e-mail. The e-mail included a link to a YouTube video that I immediately watched and another poem, "Night in the Labor Camp", from John's book Lightning and Ashes (Steel Toe Books, 2007). The latter poem has an unforgettable image in its concluding couplet: "He is a man held together / with stitches he laced himself." On reading the poem, I knew not only that I needed to obtain and read a copy of Lightning and Ashes but also that I wanted to interview John, who is the son of the late Jan Guzloswki and the late Tekla Hanczarek Guzlowski, two of many millions of persons rounded up by the Nazis in World War II who were destined to spend years as slave laborers and, subsequently, having survived the war, as "displaced persons" in refugee camps. As I like to do when a subject interests me, I asked John for an interview. Gracious person that he is, John agreed, telling me that he appreciates every opportunity to keep his parents close, stir the memories, and "clarify [his] own feelings."

Cover of Lightning and Ashes
Cover and Book Design by Joelean Copeland

Below is the first of three posts containing John's responses to my numerous questions via e-mail. I am grateful for the time John took to relate his parents' experiences in the horrific camps, as well as his own life, both as a child of Holocaust survivors and as a writer. John also provided the poems and family photos that accompany our interview. Brief biographical information and resources follow the questions and answers.

Living the Stories:
During and After the War
Interview with John Guzlowski, Part 1

Maureen Doallas: How old were you and what do you remember feeling the first time you heard either of your parents speak about their experiences in Germany's slave labor camps?

John Guzlowski: I really can't say when I first started hearing the stories. My father was an unrestrainable witness to what had happened to him. For instance, he would be hammering a nail into a door and he would suddenly remember something that had happened to him earlier in the concentration camp, and he would start telling me about it.

Honestly, I don't remember a time when I wasn't hearing these stories. [My father] would have friends over. These were people he had known from the concentration camps or refugee camps, and they would sit around the kitchen table drinking beer and start telling stories.

We lived in a small apartment; my bedroom was just off the kitchen. I remember lying [on my bed] there and listening to the stories. I heard some terrible things—stories of hangings and beatings, killings of mothers and children. One of my first poems about my parents is called "Dreams of Warsaw", and it contains an image from one of my earliest memories of my dad's stories: the image of a young girl getting her breasts cut off with a bayonet by a German soldier.

If my mom was there in the kitchen, she'd sometimes try to get them to stop or go outside with their stories.

She hated to hear the stories.

MD: What do you think prompted your parents to begin sharing their experiences with you?

JG: My father couldn't control himself. The war was always with him. He would wake us up sometimes, screaming in his sleep about the Nazis and what they were doing to him and the people in his dreams, taking them to the ovens or beating them across the eyes. The whole war was there again, in his head, and he couldn't get it out, couldn't shut it off.

Sometimes it was like that, too, when he was awake. He wasn't a man who could hold his liquor, so even after a single beer or shot of vodka, he would start letting the stories roll out of him.

This never stopped.

Even after he stopped drinking in his '50s, he had to tell the stories. I remember visiting him in the hospital when he was dying. There were stories he had to tell me. Just before his death, when he was still able to speak, he told me a story about a friend of his who was castrated and then beaten to death by the German guards. That story became my poem "A Story My Father Told" ["My Father Tells a Story" in Lightning and Ashes].

My mom was just the opposite. She didn't want to tell the stories, didn't want to hear the stories being told, either. I remember her telling my father to shut up, to stop telling the stories.

I've talked to a lot of children of survivors and they've told me that, generally, one parent serves as the person in the family who will tell the story of what happened during the war. I think that my dad was that designated person.

There were times when I would ask my mom specific questions about the war, and she would just wave me away. I wrote a poem about this called "Here's What My Mother Won't Talk About" [in Part II of Lightning and Ashes]; here's a section that describes her reaction:

Ask her

She'll wave her hand
tell you you're a fool
tell you

if they give you bread
eat it

if they beat you
run away

That was something she would say sometimes, if I pestered her: "If they give you bread, you eat it. If they beat you, you run away." And she'd fall silent and walk away.

There were things she didn't want to talk about, didn't want to bring back. I think now that part of that was her desire to protect us, the kids, my sister and me, from what had happened.

She had seen terrible things: her mother shot, her sister raped and murdered, her sister's baby kicked to death.

How does someone start talking about that to their kids?

The surprising thing was that she started talking, telling her stories. It was after my dad died in 1997. About a half-a-year later, she started telling stories, not only about what had happened to her but also [about] what had happened to him and to other people she knew.

Sometimes when I'd visit her, she'd ask me to take out some paper and write down a story that she wanted to tell me about. This was around 2002. My first book about my mom and dad, Language of Mules, had come out, and a Polish version had been published.

I remember one time I was going to give a poetry reading at Western Kentucky University, and I was telling her about this, and she stopped me and said, "Tell them we weren't the only ones in the camps."

I think that in those last years of her life, she felt that she and I were sometimes collaborating on these poems, these stories about my mom and dad and the people they knew in the camps. I think she realized that her stories were important and that people needed to know about what happened.

I think, too, that she realized that the pain of talking about her experiences was worth it, if people learned about those terrible things.

MD: Victor Frankl wrote, "Life isn't ever made unbearable by circumstances but only by lack of meaning and purpose." How, if at all, might this statement help to explain how your parents were able to endure their horrific experiences? Did your parents themselves ever relate why they thought they survived while so many millions of others did not?

JG: I asked both my parents how they were able to survive. They both said same the same thing: They didn't know.

My father spent four years in a concentration camp where every year it's estimated that 25 percent of the prisoners died from starvation, exhaustion, execution, and cruelty. At the end, there was almost no one left who had come in with my father. They had died in one way or another.

Cover for The Third Winter of War: Buchenwald
Poems by John Guzlowski, Art by Vojtek Luka (Poland)

My father didn't know why he didn't die when so many of his friends did. He once told a story about being hauled out of his barracks with hundreds of other prisoners for a roll call. It was a January night, snowing and below zero, and the men were in rags. The guards started doing a roll call and, as they read the names, men began to drop from the cold, falling to their knees. A man here and another there, and then more. When the guards finished the roll call, there were dozens of dead prisoners in front of the barracks. But they didn't let the men go back in the barracks. Instead, the guards started the roll call again, and more men collapsed. That roll call went on for six hours. At the end, garbage trucks came to pick up the dead.

My father didn't know what kept him alive.

Did he have meaning and purpose? Maybe. He loved Jesus, and often referred to Him as Baby Jesus. He hated the Germans. He loved the other prisoners he was with in the camp. They were his brothers, his family. Did this keep him alive? Maybe. But he saw other men in the camp who had meaning and purpose, dreams they lived by, faiths that would keep them safe, die in the camp every day.

Here's something I said in a recent interview for Rattle: "I'm sure hope and courage were important in the camps but probably what was most important was luck."

MD: You and your sister were born in refugee camps. What do you recall about living in such camps?

JG: My sister was born in 1946 in a refugee camp and I was born in 1948 in a different camp. We left the camps in 1951; [my sister] was 5 and I was 3.

[My sister] doesn't want to talk about her time in the camps. There aren't a lot of people around who were born in 1946 in the camps. There were diseases in the camps, and the women had been starved and worked to exhaustion by the Germans. The mothers were weak, sickly after the war. There were a lot of miscarriages, premature births, infant deaths. At some of the refugee camps, they had mass graves for the babies. My sister was one of the fortunate ones — when my mom got out of the camps, she weighed about 100 pounds — but even so, there were things she saw that she feels she shouldn't share.

What I remember is very little, fragments, and maybe these are based as much as anything else on the photographs that I played with as a child. I remember living in refugee barracks, watching the convoys of dark green army trucks always passing. I remember a pair of camouflage pants my mother sewed for me out of material that she salvaged from an old army parachute. I remember being lost in the barracks, wandering around, calling for my parents and my sister Donna. It felt like I was lost for hours, and like the barracks and the camp went on for thousands of miles. And maybe [that camp] did go on for thousands of miles, from one end of Germany to the other. It felt like that.

In a Refugee Camp
John Guzlowski in Camo Pants

MD: Did you experience in America any stigma from being a "displaced person"? When did that phrase have meaning for you?

JG: I grew up in an inner-city neighborhood in Chicago full of "displaced persons" ("DPs") and regular people. I must have been 5 or 6 when I started hearing people calling us "DPs", and I was told that that meant "dirty Polacks". It hurt to be called "dirty" and a "Polack".

I still don't like it when people tell Polack jokes. All of that feels like I'm being called a "DP" again, a "dirty Polack".

"Displaced Persons" in a Field After the War
Jan Guzlowski, Pictured Left, Hands on Knees

Please join me tomorrow for Part 2 of my interview, "Telling the Stories in Poetry" in which John Guzlowski answers my questions about writing poems about his parents and their experiences as slave laborers and refugees.

John Guzlowski's first book about his parents is Language of Mules (DP Press). He continues telling stories with Lightning and Ashes and follows that with his chapbook The Third Winter of War: Buchenwald (Finishing Line Press, 2007). John's poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Atticus ReviewCrab Orchard Review, The Drunken BoatEscape Into Life, Mississippi ReviewNimrod, Poetry East, Rattle, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Writer's Almanac, and other print and online literary periodicals and blogs; they are anthologized in Battle Runes: Writings on War (Editions Bibliotekos, 2011), Common Boundary: Stories of Immigration (Editions Bibliotekos, 2010), poet Charles Fishman's Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust (Time Being Books, Rev. 2nd Ed., 2007), and other publications. His work also appears in City of the Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2012). John's critical essays can be found in Polish American Studies, Polish Review, Studies in Jewish American Literature, and other literary journals.

Winner of an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry (2001, for Language of Mules) and a four-time nominee for a Pushcart Prize, John Guzlowski, who is profiled in The Polish American Encyclopedia (McFarland, 2011), writes sparely, movingly, and with deep sensitivity to the issues he chronicles. In light of the experiences he recounts, he gives profound expression to facts themselves, letting them shape all the voices that have been forever silenced.

John Guzlowski on FaceBook and Twitter

John Guzlowski's Blogs: Lightning and AshesLiving in Partial Light, Writing the HolocaustWriting the Polish Diaspora (Be sure to read John's excellent post "Polish Literature and Me".)

Poems from Language of Mules at The Scream Online and Escape Into Life

"Never Tell Your Children: Poetry by John Guzlowski" at AGORA: Faces of War, October 2007

YouTube Video: Reading and Discussion with John Guzlowski, October 11, 2011, St. Francis College

Megan Green's interview with John Guzlowski at Rattle

Review of Lightning and Ashes at Barn Owl Review

Review of The Third Winter of War: Buchenwald at JmWW

"Truth Teller - John Guzlowski" at Bibliotekos 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Muse: Lannan Poetry Readings

Tuesday, September 30, marks the start of the 2014-15 series of Lannan Readings at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. All of the poetry events are free and open to the public and all take place at 8:00 p.m., on campus in the Copley Formal Lounge (37th & O Sts., N.W.).

Today's post spotlights the readings this fall, September through November. A post highlighting readings by poets in February 2015 will appear at a later date.

✭ Beginning the series is poet Rowan Ricardo Phillips, whose The Ground: Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012) was awarded the 2013 Whiting Writers' Award and the 2013 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, among other prizes.

In the beginning was this surface. A wall. A beginning.
Tonight it coaxed musk from a Harlem cloud bank. It freestyled
A smoke from a stranger's coat. It stole thinned gin.
It was at the edge of its beginnings [....]
~ from "Tonight" in The Ground

We'd cut school like knives through butter, the three
Of us—Peter, Stephen and I—to play
Just about all the music we knew, [....]
~ from "Boys"

An associate professor at Stony Brook University, Phillips also is a critic (When Blackness Rhymess with Backness, Dalkey Archive Press, 2010), translator, and novelist. His work has appeared in such publication as Granta, The Paris Review, Poetry Daily, Poetry Society of America ("In Their Own Words" series), The New Republic, and The New Yorker.

Rowan Ricardo Phillips Profiles at Blue Flower Arts and The Poetry Foundation 

✭ English poet, lecturer, and editor Jo Shapcott reads on Tuesday evening, October 14. Shapcott has published, most recently, Of Mutability (Faber and Faber, Ltd., 2010), Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times (Faber and Faber, 2004),  and Her Book Poems 1988-98 (Faber and Faber, 2000).

It's as easy to make an antibubble in 
your own kitchen
as it is to open up a crease in language

and reveal what you couldn't say
yesterday. [....]
~ from "Deft" in Of Mutability

Among Shapcott's writing awards are a Forward Prize for Best Collection (2010), a Costa Book of the Year Award (2010), a Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry (2011), and a Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Collection (1989).

Videos of Shapcott Reading Her Poems

✭ The second of two readings announced for October takes place with Eileen Myles on Tuesday, October 28. The author of more than 20 books, including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and plays, Myles was honored in 2010 with The Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Award.

[...] You are too intact
the dappled sunlight on the law
or pots of darkness
like salt [....]
~ from "Choke" in Snowflake / different streets

Myles's most recent poetry collection, a double volume, is Snowflake / different streets (Wave Poetry, 2012).

Eileen Myles Profiles at Academy of American Poets and The Poetry Foundation

✭ A double-header is planned for Tuesday evening, November 11, when Natalie Diaz and Rigoberto Gonzalez read.

Recipient of the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, Natalie Diaz, a Native American, has been published in Drunken Boat, Gwarlingo, Iowa Review, Narrative Magazine, Prairie Schooner, and numerous other literary periodicals. Her debut collection is When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), winner of a 2013 American Book Award.

Love is a pound of sticky raisins
packed tight in black and white
government boxes [....]
~ from "Why I Hate Raisins" in When My Brother Was an Aztec

Rigoberto Gonzalez, recipient of a Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and other literary awards, is the author of four poetry collections, including Unpeopled Eden (Four Way, 2013) and Black Blossoms (Four Way, 2011), and nine books of prose, among them novels, a memoir, and  two bilingual books for children. He is on the faculty at Newark College of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers.

The nightclub's neon light glows red with anxiety
as I wait on the turning lane. Cars blur past,
their headlights white as charcoal.
I trust her driver not to swerve. I trust each stranger
not to kill me [....]
~ from "Other Fugitives and Other Strangers" 
in Other Fugitives and Other Strangers

Rigoberto Gonzalez Profiles at Academy of American Poets and The Poetry Foundation

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Thought for the Day

High rooms in white houses feel their age....
~ Sam Willets

Quoted from the poem "1969 Fin-de-Siecle" in Sam Willets's New Light for the Old Dark (Cape Poetry, 2010)

New Light for the Old Dark is Willets's first poetry collection. Willets is a contributor to Granta and has worked as a teacher, journalist, and travel writer. His poem "Digging" (with audio) is available to read and hear at the Poetry Foundation.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday Short

This building will sing for all of us.
~ Lonnie Bunch II, Founding Director, NMAAHC 

This brief video is a first peek at a forthcoming 30-minute documentary in which director Oliver Hardt talks with architect David Adjaye about the challenges of building the museum, which is scheduled to open in 2015. Hardt also highlights the historical, social, and aesthetic considerations of Adjaye's design. The building will encompass 420,000 square feet. 

NMAAHC on FaceBook, Twitter, YouTubePinterest, and Tumblr

Friday, September 26, 2014

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

All Art Friday Spotlights

✦ Fall is time for open studio tours. Among those coming up: OpenArts Open Studios Fall Artist Tour, Boulder, Colorado, October 4-5 and October 11-12; Grass Valley (California) Center for the Arts, Fall Colors Open Studios Art Tour, October 4-5 and October 11-12; Arts Council Santa Cruz (California), Open Studios Art Tour, October 4-5 (North and South County) and October 18-19 (Encore); Vermont Craft Council Open Studio Weekend, October 4-5; Cape Ann (Massachusetts) Artisans 2014 Tour, October 11-13; Arts Obispo (San Luis Obispo, California) Open Studios Art Tour, October 11-12 and October 18-19; Portland (Oregon) Open Studios Tour, October 11-12 and October 18-19; High Line Open Studios, Chelsea, New York City, October 17-19; 2014 SF Open Studios, October 11-12 through November 9, San Francisco, California; Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Philadelphia Open Studio Tours, October 11-12 (West) and October 25-26 (East); Berkeley Springs (West Virginia) Studio Tour, October 25-26; and Tucson (Arizona) Pima Arts Council Open Studio Tour, November 8-9.

✦ The International Center of Photography, New York City, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., are partnering to offer digital access to their Roman Vishniac archive, which the ICP describes as "the most extensive photographic record, by any single photographer, of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe before the Holocaust." Vishniac documented East European Jewish life from 1935 to 1938. The digital archive will make nearly 10,000 of Vishniac's negatives available; earlier, the published images numbered only about 350.

The Roman Vishniac Collection: Project Details and Photo Gallery (USHMM)

Last year, the ICP presented the exhibition "Roman Vishniac Rediscovered"; read the ICP press release and view the virtual exhibit.

✦ Grey Art Gallery at New York University has issued its first e-book: Modern Iranian Art: Selections from the Abby Weed Grey Collection at NYU. View and read it on the Web (no-cost pdf) or purchase a print-on-demand copy for $10.60 plus shipping. The exhibition for which the e-book was created bears the same title.

Grey Art Gallery on Facebook and Twitter

✦ My friend, painter Randall David Tipton, is included in Lynne Cunningham's  Nature in the Abstract: Inspirations and Techniques for Painting in Acrylic and Mixed Media (August 2014). The step-by-step guidebook with more than 100 images is available through Cunningham's Website.

✦ If you are an artist uncertain about how to price your work, this article from ArtBusiness, "Quantifying Creativity", might help.

✦ Below is a trailer of Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People, which made its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival this past January and was screened at the New York City Documentary Fortnight Festival at MoMA and, most recently (August 27 - September 9), at the Film Forum in New York City. The documentary by Thomas Allen Harris examines how "black photographers have used the camera to define themselves, their people and their culture" while white photographers have used it, historically, to portray racist imagery. Work of a long list of photographers is considered.

Read Craig Hubert's feature "'Through a Lens Darkly' at Film Forum", Blouin ArtInfo, August 26, 2014.

TALD on FaceBook and Twitter


Exhibitions Here and There

✭ The Museum of Modern Art's exhibition of works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec continues on view through March 22, 2015. Read "The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters" for information about the show and the availability of the catalogue of the same name (a sample from the catalogue is available to download).

✭ Today is the opening for "Lie Quietly: New Works of Karen Green" at The University of Arizona Poetry Center in Tucson. Work by Green, also a much-lauded writer (Bough Down), will be on view through December 10.

View Karen Green's artwork.

The Poetry Center on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

✭ The Ohio State University's Wexner Center for the Arts recently opened "Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection". On view through December 31, the exhibition features work by Edgar Degas, Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Willem de Kooning, Pablo Picasso, and Susan Rothenberg. Curated by Robert Storr, the exhibition, the first of its kind drawn from Leslie and Abigail Wexner's personal collection, is accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Storr, Lisa Florman, and Diana Widmaier, all prominent in the art world. The Wexner has created a dedicated Website for the exhibition that includes presentations on the artists represented and their artistic techniques.

Catalogue Cover

Wexner Center for the Arts on FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, and Vimeo

✭ In Arizona, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art opens on September 28 "Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns". Described as "the first major survey of a generation of artists working in the violent and uncertain decade following the 9/11 terrorist attacks", the exhibition, which will be on view through January 11, 2015, examines themes of secrecy and disclosure, violence, power, surveillance, subterfuge, geography, the visible, and the hidden. Among the 13 multidisciplinary artist and collaboratives whose work is featured are the late Ahmed Basiony* of Egypt, Thomas Demand of Germany, and Jenny Holzer and Trevor Paglen of the United States. A catalogue will be available. A symposium is scheduled for November 22.

*Ahmed Basiony died January 28, 2011, after being shot in Tahrir Square by Egyptian police snipers.

SMCA on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

✭ "Mark Rothko's Harvard Murals" goes on view at Harvard Art Museums on November 16. The exhibition in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which will continue through July 26, 2015, offers a look at abstract paintings the university commissioned from Rothko for the dining room of the penthouse at Holyoke Center. Five of six huge panels Rothko made in 1961-1962 were hung but subsequently deteriorated from exposure to light; one was removed in 1974 and those remaining were removed and put in storage in 1979. The exhibition not only includes the original six as they have been conserved but also features more than 30 of Rothko's studies on paper and canvas. According to a press release, the HAM worked with MIT's Media Lab to create "noninvasive" digital projection technology that "recapture[s] the original hues" of the faded paintings. The show marks the first time both paintings and studies will be presented together. A variety of related programs is scheduled.

Read Francesca Annicchiarico's article "Rarely Seen Rothkos Highlight Harvard Art Museums' Reopening", Harvard Magazine, May 20, 2014, or Geoff Edgers's feature "Harvard's Rothko Murals to Be Seen in New Light", Boston Globe, May 20, 2014. Also of interest: Colleen Walsh's feature "A Light Touch for Rothko Murals", Harvard News, May 20, 2014.

Harvard Art Museums on FaceBook, Twitter, and Vimeo

Thursday, September 25, 2014

'Rothko's Rooms' (Documentary)

. . . The people who weep before my pictures are having
the same religious experience as I had when I painted them.
~ Mark Rothko

Rothko's Rooms — The Life an Work of an American Artist is a documentary about the life of Mark Rothko (1903-1970) and the conception and evolution of his artistic philosophy. In addition to interviews with other artists and friends of Rothko's, the film includes archival footage and commentary by Rothko's children and art curators and critics, art historians, and art collectors; it is, as well, informative about abstract modern art and Rothko's demanding and commanding pursuit of the ideal. Produced and directed by David Thompson and released in 2008, the film is available as a DVD.

Below is a trailer for the documentary:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday Wonder: 'Be the Inside of the Vase'

Below is Echo Morgan's extraordinary performance "Be the Inside of the Vase" (2012). The title comes from advice from her mother, "Don't be a vase, pretty but empty inside, be the inside, be the quality!" According to the notes accompanying the video, Morgan tells a two-part story of her childhood, the first beginning with her father's attempted suicide and the second relating her relationship with her mother. Ultimately, her story is, as Morgan emphatically states, hers: "This is my voice, my story, my childhood; please break my vase." Photography is by Jamie Baker

Performed live, the four-hour "Be the Inside of the Vase", reduced here to some 13 minutes, is profoundly moving and lyrical. During the performance, Morgan uses clay, Chinese tissue paper, willow sculpture, water balloons, aluminum sculpture, and audio, in addition to beautifully applied body paint that lends enormous expressiveness to Morgan's story.

Echo Morgan's Chinese name is Xie Rong. She grew up in ChengDu and moved to the United Kingdom at age 19. She lives and works in London. Read Morgan's informative Artist Statement and browse her portfolio, which includes installations and performance, text and collaborative projects.

In 2014, in GuangZhou, China, Morgan performed "Touching Happiness", a three-hour live performance photographed by Baker. During the performance, Morgan, who was 24 weeks pregnant, enacted a Chinese custom, "Touch Blessing", during which she invited the audience to touch her belly; a hidden noise sensor sounded a mix of a temple bell and her child's heartbeats as each person reached out. Morgan also blew 200 balloons that she urged audience members to take away as a sign of shared happiness. (Photos of the performance are available on Morgan's FaceBook page.)

Be the inside of the vase from Echo Morgan on Vimeo.

Echo Morgan Website

Echo Morgan on FaceBook, Vimeo, and Tumbler

Echo Morgan Blog, Echo's brain container, can be accessed from her Website.

(My thanks to Ann Tracy for sharing this wonderful video of performance art.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Family Ties (Poem)

Family Ties

What ties us
one to the other
are not deep roots, nor the dark
earthen plots that seed
the patterns of our blessed mendings,
but the lines of thread we draw
unequal to the lengths we go,
and too-small buttons
that gather bits of textured cloth
so tight we have no space
to trace the back-and-forth
of that old and rusty needle
through our hearts.

© 2014 Maureen E. Doallas

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Muse: 'River-Born' Preview

Premiering at Bournemouth Arts Festival by the Sea, in the United Kingdom, this coming Saturday, September 27, is River-Born, a performance piece by Cabinet of Living Cinema. A mix of words from Tang Dynasty poet Li Poe and British poet Ted Hughes (River of 1983), plus text by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung that relates the concept of the primordial image (archetype), it also includes images of rivers and graphic novel illustrations. Projected spoken verse is accompanied by a music performance, with the tabla (a pair of small drums) accompanying the Hughes work and the dulcimer that of Li Po. Also included is a commissioned composition for violin. A guitar also is played. A film documenting the performance is being made. See the preview (without sound) below.

Cabinet of Living Cinema, founded in 2010 by Kieron Maguire, a composer and theatre and film producer, describes itself as "a meeting of artists dedicated to creating 'performance cinema'". Its live "Cabinet Voyages" take place in galleries and museums, at arts festivals, and in a range of other venues that are geographically and culturally diverse. In addition to Maguire, Cabinet of Living Cinema's performers include Robert Parkinson (dulcimer, bass, foley [special effects]), Tim Karp (banjo, guitar, foley), Francesca Ter-Berg (cello), Camillo Tirado (tabla, cajon, foley), and Joe Perry (percussion). Others are involved as guest performers and workshop facilitators. Be sure to explore the music section on the Website.

River-born (preview) from Cabinet of Living Cinema on Vimeo.

Cabinet of Living Cinema on Twitter and Vimeo

(My thanks to Poets & Writers for the introduction to Cabinet of Living Cinema.)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thought for the Day

. . . Maybe this is the point: to embrace the core
sadness of life without toppling headlong into it,
or assuming it will define your days. The real trick
is to let life, with all its ordinary missteps and regrets,
be consistently more mysterious and alluring than its end.
~ Gail Caldwell

Quoted from Gail Caldwell's memoir Let's Take the Long Way Home (Random House, 2010)

Gail Caldwell, Book Critic and Memoirist

Caldwell's most recent book, also memoir, is New Life, No Instructions (Random House, 2014). She won the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism in 2001. Her first memoir was A Strong West Wind (Random House, 2005, 2007).

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday Short

Today's short, from Minnesota Original, features book carver — and cognitive psychologist — Julia Strand, who talks about her artistic process and why she finds it so satisfying. To see numerous examples of Strand's creations, visit her site Hokey Stokes!

Julia Strand's Profile at Carleton College

The feature on Strand appeared at MN Original on April 17, 2014, and was reposted at the PBS NewsHour Art Beat on August 12, 2014. The video is available for viewing on YouTube.

Friday, September 19, 2014

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

All Art Friday Spotlights

✦ Harvard University Press publishes this month William Kentridge: Six Drawing Lessons, which HUP describes as "the most comprehensive collection available of Kentridge's thoughts on art, art-making, and the studio." The book is based on Kentridge's 2012 Charles Eliot Norton Lectures. (A video, "A Drawing Lesson", is available at the link.)

Harvard University Press on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

✦ The second of four Getty Vocabularies — Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)®  — has been released by Getty Research Institute. The free data set, which is available to download, share, and modify, includes names, descriptions, and other information about places important to art and architecture. Read The Getty Iris post for additional information.

✦ The new Artist Watch column at Escape Into Life features work by British artist Nicola Slattery. It's all about cats.

✦ Glass artist Carol Milne of Seattle, Washington, creates beautiful knitted glass. Her artistic process is described in Steve Isaacson's book Carol Milne Knitted Glass: How Does She Do That? (March 2013). Browse the videos and portfolios on Milne's Website and take a look at her own book In the Name of Love, featuring bombs reimagined as gifts.

Carol Mine on FaceBook and Twitter

✦ Portland, Oregon, glass artist Eric Franklin, whose work is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution's Renwick Gallery, creates extraordinary life-size human figures (skulls and skeletons) into which he infuses light. Watch this Discovery video in which Franklin demonstrates and talks about his techniques, then browse his sculpture portfolio.

Eric Franklin on FaceBook

Exhibitions Here and There (A Washington, D.C., Edition)

✭ Wood- and paper cuts by Franca Bartholomai are on view in "ApocalyptiCAT" through October 10 at the Goethe Institut in Washington, D.C. Inspired by Albrecht Durer, Expressionism, and German art tradition, Bartholomai, an award-winning freelance artist and lecturer in graphic arts in Germany, instills her work with imagination and allegories. Read an interesting interview with the artist (pdf). View her superb artwork and a book of her woodcuts.

✭ The exhibition "Femininity Beyond Archetypes" continues through October 5 at the Art Museum of the Americas, Organization of American States, Washington, D.C. Featuring the photography of Natalia Arias of Colombia, the exhibition includes the series Taboo (1999-2005) and Venus (2005-2010), both of which present Arias's challenge to established and imposed generalizations about feminine identity and empowerment. 

AMA on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Installation and Japanese performance artist Chiharu Shiota has brought to our Nation's Capital a beautiful monumental installation of discarded shoes and notes she has collected in a conceptual installation about past moments, personal memories of the departed, and the totemic power of ordinary objects. The installation at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery remains on view through June 7, 2015. A slideshow on Storify is available that shows Shiota setting up her installation.

Shiota lives and works in Berlin, Germany. She was selected to represent Japan at the 56th Venice Biennale 2015; her installation is titled "The Key in the Hand". Shiota needs keys for the installation (keys must be received by October 31, 2014); submission directions are at the Venice Biennale link above.

Browse several installation views in the gallery space. Also see Shiota's Website for photos of other work.

Chiharu Shiota Website

Freer | Sackler on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

Bento, Freer | Sackler Blog

✭ The portraiture of mid-20th Century artists (1945-1975) is the focus of "Face Value: Portraiture in the Age of Abstraction" at The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. More than 50 paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture are in the exhibition. Among the artists whose works are featured are Alice Neel, Romare Bearden, Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Alex Katz, and Jamie Wyeth. The exhibition continues through January 11, 2015.

In  the "Portrait in a Minute" video that follows, NPG Warren Perry talks about Elaine de Kooning's 1946 self-portrait:

✭ In "The Lure of the Forest", Washington, D.C.'s Kreeger Museum is exhibiting Emilie Brzezinski's monumental wood sculptures through December 27. These chain-sawed and hand-chiseled tree trunks have been transformed into graceful, if imposing, artworks that look expressly made for the Kreeger's lovely setting.

Kreeger Museum on FaceBook and Twitter

Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Artist Watch Feature at EIL

Nicola Slattery, Curious Friends, 2004
Acrylic Painting on Board
60 cms x 60 cms

Please join me today at Escape Into Life, where I've posted a new Artist Watch column on an animal theme. Today's post features the wonderful British artist Nicola Slattery, who shares with us her impressions of cats. In addition to a selection of images of Nicola's paintings and prints, the post includes an Artist Statement and brief biographical information.

In addition to creating her charming artwork, Nicola teaches art courses in painting and printmaking.

I've had the pleasure of working with the delightful Nicola in the past, when she allowed me to share her Red Shoes acrylic-on-board painting for which I'd written an ekphrastic poem, "A Girl Can Dream", for the Image-ine series at T.S. Poetry's TweetSpeak Poetry blog.

Nicola Slattery on FaceBook

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Saved by Poetry: Essay at TweetSpeak Poetry

I came to poetry by way of music—the quarter, half, and whole notes I learned to "read" while taking piano lessons; by way of a retired Chilean banker who in 1971 won a Nobel prize but long before then filled my ears with his cantos and odes and loves poems; and by way of the death of my brother Patrick. . . .

My essay for the TweetSpeak Poetry column "Journey Into Poetry" appears today on the blog. Please join me and share your impressions.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Busted (Poem)


Who takes sides
stands with his hands
in the air.

We don't
get the whole story

about them sitting in that car
in a private drive
past curfew.

© 2014 Maureen E. Doallas

During the curfew in Ferguson, Missouri, a story ran in The Washington Post about a group of youths smoking cigarettes and talking while sitting in a car in the private driveway of the home of a family member. Smoking was not allowed in the family member's house and the youths, knowing of the curfew, thought there would be no trouble. They were wrong, as they discovered when a police officer cruising through the streets decided to stop. The youths were arrested for "refusing to disperse". 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Muse Reads 'Mortal Blessings'

It would be infinitely lonely to live
in a world without blessing.
 ~ John O'Donohue*

There exists a space between some mothers and their daughters. It may be filled with judgments and misunderstandings, with fear or disappointment or anger, with deliberate distance and unexpressed sorrow. It can be deep, seem an unbridgeable chasm.

It also can be, in the words of the late Irish poet John O'Donohue, "like the discovery of a fresh well", the source on which to draw "our power to bless one another" in "privileged intimacy".*

For Angela Alaimo O'Donnell, author of the recently released memoir Mortal Blessings: A Sacramental Farewell (Ave Maria Press, 2014), a sudden fall and its complications provide an unexpected pathway into that transformative space.

Early in Mortal Blessings, we learn that Marion Salvi Alaimo, the author's mother, age 82, has fallen and broken a hip. We also learn that that fall "prove[s] catastrophic"—not because of age alone but because of alcoholism and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other factors that have left Mrs. Alaimo's body severely weakened. So relentless is disintegration of her body that Mrs. Alaimo dies 48 days after her fall.

Between the time of the fall and the time of death, O'Donnell recounts how, at the time unconsciously, she and her siblings uncover, close, and bless the space between their mother and each of them, individually and collectively. In what O'Donnell describes as "wandering through strange terrain", they find their way forward, through joy and suffering and loss and grief, by creating and observing "rituals, methods of dealing with overwhelming difficulty, which [are] rooted in sacramental practices" learned during their Catholic upbringing. 

Catholic, yes, of the church, but also not; all-embracing, available to any reader of any faith, even no institutional faith. Because while making use of wholly contemporary or the most ordinary of tools—a cellphone, a wheelchair, a portable DVD and movies, get-well cards, a pair of scissors, nail polish, and a mirror—the rituals practiced by O'Donnell and her sisters call forth, fundamentally, their abiding love. Love that does not require pastors or priests, rabbis or imams.

The rituals involving their mother are simple, sometimes communal, at other times not: writing in a journal while traveling, selecting clothes, naming family members in photographs, watching Dirty Dancing, phoning friends and family, eating pie, combing hair, pushing a wheelchair, holding hands, praying in the dark. In each activity is vested the knowledge that "[s]acrament is enacted" in everything we do when we do it for someone we love.

Indeed, what stands out so clearly in this book, is informed by O'Donnell's rich understanding of the meaning and use of ritual, is that we all have available to us "numberless and immeasurable" ways — Andre Dubus's "seven times seventy sacraments, to infinity"** — to give, affirm, and heal with love.

What is so refreshing and ultimately compelling about O'Donnell's story is how very human and personal yet universal it is. The truth of her narrative is that it is recognizable, she says, "to anyone who has cared for a sick or dying parent". And, most important, the "methods" the author and her sisters practice daily while caring for their mother require the presence of no one but themselves.

It is, after all, presence—in laugher and tears, in witness, in memory and remembrance, in forgiveness—that, O'Donnell intuits, "gives us the opportunity to become better people." Presence affirms, gives meaning to, and honors the unbreakable bond between parent and child, mother and daughter, not only in life but also long after death. It is, O'Donnell shows us, sacrament and blessing both.

John O'Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us (Doubleday, 2008), xiii, xiv, xv.

** Andre Dubus, "Sacraments" in Meditations from a Moveable Chair (New York, Random House, 1998, paperback, 1999), 85.

Angela Alaimo O'Donnell is a poet, essayist, and Fordham University professor. Her poetry collections include Waking My Mother (WordTech Communications, 2013), Saint Sinatra and Other Poems (WordTech Communications, 2011), and Moving House (WordTech Communications, 2009). O'Donnell also is the author of The Province of Joy: Praying with Flannery O'Connor (Paraclete Press, 2012), among other books.

Mortal Blessings is available in print and as an e-book and may be purchased directly from Ave Maria Press or through other booksellers.

Read an excerpt from Mortal Blessings.

Below, O'Donnell talks in depth about some of the sacraments she and her sisters observed while caring for their mother:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Thought for the Day

Absence is a house so vast
that inside you will pass through its walls
and hang pictures on the air.
~ Pablo Neruda

Quoted from Neruda's "Sonnet XCIV" in 100 Love Sonnets (Trans. Stephen Tapscott; University of Texas Press, 2014) This is a bi-lingual edition. Neruda published the collection in 1959.

Pablo Neruda, 1904-1973, Chilean Poet, Winner, Nobel Prize in Literature 1971

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday Short

Use whatever you have to create peace!
If you have music, use your music to create peace.
For us, we have coffee. We are using coffee
to bring peace to the world.
~ Founder J.J. Keki

Below is the trailer for Kawomera — Plant, Pray, Partner for Peace, a documentary produced and directed by photographer-filmmaker Marla Mossman. The film is about a transformative interfaith community of coffee farmers in Mbale, Uganda, who created a cooperative to export their coffee and live in religious harmony. Today, the cooperative, founded by J. J. Keki, has more than 1,000 members. The farmers sell at fair trade prices directly to the artisan roaster Thanksgiving Coffee Company (read about the business model), which enables the members to achieve a higher standard of living. 

The film includes interviews with local rabbis, ministers, and imams; examines the community's various traditions; and explores how peace can be achieved through cultural acceptance, respect, and understanding. Its message of Peace Kawomera, or "Delicious Peace", is profoundly timely.

Kawomera won "Best Documentary Short 2014" at the NYLA International Film Festival. A screening is scheduled for September 16-21 at the Global Peace Film Festival, in Orlando, Florida. (My thanks to International Arts Movement for the introduction to Mossman's work, which also includes the documentary-in-progress Peace Caravan Journey Along the Silk Road. Watch the trailer and visit the Peace Caravan Website.)

KAWOMERA - Plant Pray Partner for Peace Trailer from Marla Mossman on Vimeo.

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released in 2013 an album titled Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda (recorded in 2012). All of the songs are written and performed by the cooperative's farmers. (Read Jeffrey A. Summit's article in Smithsonian Folkways Magazine about making the recording.)

Mirembe Kawomera Coffee (Website)

Friday, September 12, 2014

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

All Art Friday Spotlights

✦ Another great resource goes online! Folger Shakespeare Library, in Washington, D.C., last month made available online, free from restrictions, almost 80,000 images. Under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license, the images may be used for any purpose, provided FSL is credited as the source. Read the announcement about the Digital Image Collection and view a selection of the images for re-use. The Public Domain Review also has published a selection of images.

D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers has issued the first major monograph, Emilie Brzezinski: The Lure of the Forest, about the career of the marvelous monumental wood sculptor Emilie Brzezinski. The 200-page book includes 180 color and 20 black and white images of Brzezinski's work created between 1974 and 2013. 

Monograph Cover

Brzezinski, who lives in McLean, Virginia, was the subject of a feature article in The Washington Post Magazine this past August: "Emilie Brzezinski Is Her Own Kind of Power Player: An Artist With a Chain Saw" by Frances Stead Sellers. The feature includes a brief video and a slide show. A solo exhibition of the same title as the monograph is scheduled to open at Kreeger Museum in Washington, D.C., on September 16, and will continue through December 27. (I plan to see it.)

CBS Sunday Morning Feature on Emilie Brzezinski (2002)

✦ A practitioner of Kundalini meditation, California painter Jamie Brunson has translated her contemplative states into quiet visual language in her series Lattices & Veils. Read his Artist Statement about the series to learn how he "conjoins" her studio and meditation practices.

✦ The unique vessels and wall discs of Irish ceramics artist Sinead Fagan are wheel-thrown and distinctive in color, which is achieved with a firing process known as saggar. Decorative-only, the beautiful pieces have won a number of awards and are found in both public and private collections. Fagan's work may be seen in galleries in Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Waterford.

Here's a brief look at some of her work at Mill Cove Gallery, which seeks to promote and highlight the excellence and diversity of Irish ceramics:

✦ Today's video, Coloring the Landscape (Chris Farina, Rosalia Films), features Nici Cumpston, who talks about her process of hand-coloring photographs. Winner of the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award and associate curator of Australian art at Art Gallery of South Australia, Cumpston was  in residence from January 17 to May 18, 2014, at the wonderful Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. See more of her beautiful works.

Nici Cumpston on FaceBook

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ Colorado's Aspen Art Museum continues through October  26 "Mainly Drawings", the first survey of the drawing practice of German-born painter Tomma Abts. Abts won the Turner Prize in 2006. The exhibition spotlights 41 abstract works from 1996 to the present (some are being shown for the first time) and new works created expressly for the show.

An exhibition of Abts's work runs through October 25 at David Zwirner in New York. The first at the gallery since 2008, the show features all new work. (Read press release.)

Aspen Art Museum on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ The first exhibition of its kind devoted to a gorgeous calligraphic script developed in 14th Century Iran, "Nasta'liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy" opens September 13 at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C. The show, which will run through March 22, 2015, features more than 20 works from the years 1400 to 1600 that relate how the script transformed from a tool to convey the written word to an artistic form. The work of four master calligraphers — Mir Ali Tabrizi, Sultan Ali Mashhadi, Mir Ali Haravi, and Mir Imad Hasani — is spotlighted; also included are examples of calligraphic tools and accessories and a demonstration video of techniques. Tours of the exhibition are scheduled throughout the run. Read the press release for additional information. Browse a selection of images.

Freer | Sackler on FaceBookTwitter, and YouTube

✭ The 2D high-definition video projection The Ocean Within (2013) by German-Brazilian artist Janaina Tschape continues on view at St. Louis Museum of Art through October 19. It is, according to the exhibition notice, exemplary of the artist's "great interest in the ocean and her characteristic interpretation of it as mysterious, dreamlike, and fantastical." Take some time to visit Tschape's Website, where you'll find images of beautiful paintings, mono prints, cut-outs, and more.

SLAM on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

Tschape's work is included in the current National Museum of Women in the Arts exhibition "Total Art: Contemporary Video", continuing through October 12. Visit the exhibition page with video clips and scroll to the end for Tschape's Lacrimacorpus (2004).

Janaina Tschape on FaceBook and Twitter

Montana Museum of Art & Culture, at the University of Montana in Missoula, is showing through September 27 a selection of lyrical recent work by award-winning painter Sandra Dal Poggetto, who uses abstraction and wood, wire, feathers, and other appropriate fragments from the natural world to explore philosophical and aesthetic conceptions of our landscape. A solo exhibition from Dal Poggetto's ongoing American Folk series, "Meditations on the Field", also includes the artist's selection of objects from the museum's permanent collection that she has re-contextualized to illustrate how humans relate to the natural world, both apart from and as part of the landscape.

Sandra Dal Poggetto, American Fork #4, ca. 2010-2011
Oil, Oil Pastel, Charcoal, Graphite, Buckskin on Canvas
83.5" x 79.25"

A roundtable discussion with the artist is scheduled for September 25. 

Listen to a radio program with Poggetto, who lives in Helena, at Reflections West.

Sandra Dal Poggetto on FaceBook

MMAC on FaceBook

✭ Continuing through September 28 at New York City's Museum of Biblical Art is "Back to Eden: Contemporary Artists Wander the Garden". Among the 19 artists exhibiting in the show are Barnaby Furnas, Jim Dine, Mark Dion, Naomi Reis, Lina Puerta, Mary Temple, Fred TomaselliAlexis Rockman, and Matt Collishaw. The artists explore metaphors, the ways humans have tried to re-create a "perfect garden", and questions of dominion over and stewardship of nature. A slideshow is available at the exhibition link above. Read Artnet's review (complemented by color images), "You'll Fall for 'Back to Eden' at the Museum of Biblical Art" (pdf).

MOBIA on FaceBook, Twitter, and Vimeo