Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday Short

Today's short is the trailer for a recently recommended film, Decoding Annie Parker, directed by cinematographer Steven Bernstein (Gathr Films). The film relates the true story of Annie Parker, a three-time cancer survivor who lost her sister and mother to the disease, and the research scientist Dr. Mary-Claire King, who discovered the BRCA-1 breast cancer gene, thereby validating breast cancer's genetic link. (Additional information about Dr. King is here, here, and here. She was the subject also of this June 2, 2014, Time article by Alice Park.) That discovery is considered one of the most important of the last century. Parker, author of Annie Parker Decoded: Surviving Hereditary Cancer, was one of the first women in Canada to be tested for the gene.

You will find additional videos related to the film at the film's Website.

Decoding Annie Parker on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

Annie Parker Website

BRCA Gene Awareness Website

Friday, February 27, 2015

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

All Art Friday Spotlights

✦Mississippi-born, now Memphis, Tennessee-based, Carl E. Moore is both artist and designer whose works in acrylics, latex, charcoal, and graphite addresses current social and economic conditions by creating narratives from simple forms and figures. He claims as his influences artists Jacob Lawrence, Stuart Davis, Salvador Dali, Michelangelo, Charles White, and John Biggers.

Carl E. Moore at L|Ross Gallery, Memphis

✦ If you teach art in grades K-12, take note of Getty Books in the Classroom, a new, free online resource that includes educational activities related to Getty publications, including Art & Science, The Brilliant History of Color in Art, The California Missions: History, Art, and Preservation, The Incredible Voyage of Ulysses, and Marguerite Makes a Book. Read "Inspiration for the Next Generation" at The Getty Iris blog.

✦ Applications are being accepted for the British Ceramics Biennial, comprising the Award and Fresh exhibitions, at Stoke-on-Trent from September 26 to November 8. The deadline is March 30, 2015. Read the details and access the applications.

British Ceramics Biennial on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

✦ Avant-garde Swiss painter, photographer, sculptor, designer, and dancer Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943) is the subject of Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Today is Tomorrow (Scheidegger & Spiess, 2014), a 288-page monograph with 432 color and 5 black and white images; in English, the catalogue accompanied a retrospective at Aargauer Kunsthaus, Switzerland, and Kunsthalle Bielefeld (on view through March 15), Germany. Work by Taeuber-Arp is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.

Catalogue Cover

Additional Information

✦ Take a moment to view Maysey Craddock's 2013-2014 works comprising gouache and thread on found paper. (Craddock, who is also a sculptor, uses paper bags laid flat and stitched together; the "canvases" provide an interesting texture.) Evocative and lovely, the work conveys Craddock's trademark imagery: water, trees, topological landmarks. Craddock's most recent exhibition was "Strand" at David Lusk Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee, where additional images of her work may be viewed.

✦ Artist Christine Sun Kim, a sound artist who has been deaf since birth, is the subject of this PBS NewsHour Art Beat feature. The short was made at Artisphere, one of our local art centers here in Arlington, Virginia.

Artisphere on FaceBook

(My thanks to Art Beat for feature and the link.)

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ In Jacksonville, Florida, the Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting through April 26 "White", which takes as its subject artworks in which white is inspiration, color, material, and conceptual premise. On view are paintings, photographs, sculptures, and installations by such artists as Tara Dovovan, Ann Hamilton, Vik Muniz, James Nares, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Robert Rauschenberg, and Rachel Whiteread. Following is a preview:

MOCA Jacksonville on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art has mounted the first major exhibition of the work of photographer Anne Collier. Continuing through March 8, the show presents some 40 images Colleier has made since 2002. An illustrated catalogue is available. 

Catalogue Cover

The museum also is presenting the first retrospective of sculptor Doris Salcedo, on view through May 24.

MCA Chicago on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

✭ Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook is exhibiting at the nonprofit Sculpture Center, Long Island City, New York, through March 30. The artist's first retrospective in the United States, the exhibition comprises more than 20 artworks, including video, sculpture, and photographs. On view are a number of new works: sculptures portraying stray dogs in the artist's care. In addition to animals, Rasdjarmrearnsook's subjects include women, the deceased, the insane, and others existing on society's margins. Read an Artspace interview with the artist.

Sculpture Center on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

✭ Forty-four paintings by Italian Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo (1462-1522) are being shown at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., through May 3. Included in this retrospective, "Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence", is the work Madonna and Child with Saints Elizabeth of Hungary, Catherine of Alexandria, Peter, and John the Evangelist with Angels (Museo deli Innocenti, Florence). A catalogue is available (see image to right).

A different version of the exhibition, including works by Piero's contemporaries, will be on view at Galleria deli Uffizi in Florence, Italy, from June 23 through September 27.  

"Piero di Cosimo: A Closer Look"

NGA on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Examples of the American folk art known as fraktur, comprising hand-drawn or printed works on paper in ink or watercolor and having a broken ("fractured') lettering style as well as embellishments such as flowers, birds, and angels, have gone on view at Philadelphia Museum of Art. Continuing through April 26, the exhibition, "Drawn with Spirit: Pennsylvania German Fraktur  from the Joan and Victor Johnson Collection", covering the period 1750-1850, features birth and baptismal certificates, sheet music, a watercolor of Adam and Eve, illustrated religious text, bookplates, writing samples, cutworks, broadsides, and a wide range of drawings; it also showcases Pennsylvania German decorative arts, such as painted furniture, redware pottery, and metalwork. (Additional information is found in this press release.) The collection is one of the most important in the United States; more than 230 of its works have been promised to the museum. An illustrated catalogue (Yale University Press, February 2015) is available (see image below).

Catalogue Cover

Philadelphia Museum of Art on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday's Three on Art

So many thoughtful and interesting posts have appeared since the start of this new year. Here are three from last month that you might have missed—all a good read.

✭ Sarah Cowan, "All in One: An Interview with Tomi Ungerer", The Paris Review, January 30, 2015 ~ Subject of a Drawing Center exhibition "All in One", on view through March 22, illustrator and author Tomi Ungerer, now 83, talks with Cowan about the clarity of cartoons ("The drawing has to be able to speak without any balloon or anything. . . ."), the presence of politics in his work ("In a way, my whole life has been working and fighting for causes. . . ."), his erotic works, opportunities for illustrators today, making children's books "a challenge", his early childhood drawings, and his sense of the absurd. The article is generously illustrated with Ungerer's wonderful drawings.

✭ Sonya Chung, "Agnes Martin's Perfection: Now and Not Yet", Bloom, January 12, 2015 ~ This is personal and thoughtful look at Martin's art and writings and others' perspectives on the painter. (My thanks to Deborah Barlow for the link.)

✭ In "The Forgotten Side of Henry Moore", posted January 26 at the Christies Website, Florence Waters talks with Peter Murray, a friend of the late artist (1898-1986) and director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, United Kingdom. Murray speaks about his friendship with Moore and the influence of his work. The exhibition "Henry Moore: Back to a Land", which Murray says brings "fresh perspective", opens March 7 at YSP and continues through September 6. Murray reveals that the exhibition will include Moore's drawings of Stonehenge, photographs of Moore as he drew coal miners at Wheldale Colliery (one example), and Moore's drawings in the London Underground during World War II. Moore's daughter Mary Moore helped curate the exhibition, which also features personal artifacts, notes, and sketches.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

'Dogs in Art'

Taking her inspiration from the video Women in Art by Philip Scott Johnson, artist Moira McLaughlin created her own mashup: Dogs in Art.

If you wonder what all those breeds in the video are, visit Dog Art Today (go to the section Video in the menu). McLaughlin founded Dog Art Today in 2007 to "celebrate dog art as fine art. Seriously." The categories on the site range from 5th Century (or earlier) dog art to dog art in the 21st Century. In between, you'll find jewelry, fashions, art books, posters, tattoos, even a dog bar. It's great fun!

My thanks to Dog Art Today for the link.

Dog Art Today on FaceBookTwitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tomorrow Is Another Day (Poem)

Tomorrow Is Another Day

A metaphor could save your life,
so let your imagination wander

next time you have the opportunity.
Affirm it, visualize it, believe it

when I tell you everything now
will come your way—

darkness when there is no light
at the end of the tunnel

a moment of awkwardness
in a Chinese bakery

an unexpected relationship
with an alien of some sort

whose fortune is as sweet
as a cookie you never tried before.

There are no shortcuts to any place
worth going. No matter what

your past has been, face facts
with dignity. Smile,

and order takeout. Otherwise,
nothing will change and you will

be hungry soon. Until you stop trying,
you can't naturally feel upbeat.

If you want the rainbow,
go confidently in the direction

of rain. The last thing you want
is to upset the penguin today

if the love of your life is sitting
across from you. Be prepared.

The only true adventure,
the important thing, is working out

the kinks. Better to be the head
of a chicken than the tail of an ox.

But word to the wise:
It never pays to kick a skunk

even if life is a dance floor.

© 2015 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem, including its title, is made up primarily of fortune cookie sayings (I did have to add a couple of bridge words here and there) that I've combined or recombined in various ways. I thank the Fortune Cookie Database for its still-growing number of pages of fortunes.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Muse: Kelly Cherry's 'Twelve Women'

Cover Image

Kelly Cherry is one of our most talented, inventive, and prolific writers — in multiple genres. In addition to being an award-winning poet (she served two years as Poet Laureate of Virginia), Cherry writes essays, memoir, novels, and short stories; she also has published translations. She has received numerous honors for her fiction writing. I last reviewed Cherry after reading her  book A Kind of Dream: Stories (see link below). More recently, I had the opportunity to read in advance* her tenth book of fiction, Twelve Women in a Country Called America, which will be published May 1 by Press 53.

Cherry's Twelve Women is a marvelous collection, beginning with its title and a wonderful Norman Mailer quote Cherry uses as epigraph: "This country is so complicated that when I start to think about it I begin talking in a Southern accent." The former hints at something of the rich range of protagonists and experiences Cherry is alert to and mines; the latter suggests Cherry's own firm grasp and understanding of the influence of place and how she makes it serve her again and again in these dozen tales.

Set in America's Deep South — you'll hear, among others, the accents of Civil War-era Richmond, Virginia; Bon Secour, Alabama; Tallahassee, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana — the stories in Twelve Women bring alive indelible portraits of wonderfully named women (Georgianna, Ramona, Philomena, Carolina, Sheba, Lorna Jo, Sassy, Calista, Lizbet), young and old, alone and not, sometimes down on their luck, often struggling to make ends meet, having affairs, bumping up against long-held stereotypes, and driven to define their ambitions and, most of all, themselves. As a collection, these stories, while unlinked, cohere beautifully, and yet Cherry manages to show each character as the complex individual she is. It's heartening to read fiction like Cherry's in which women are given such distinct and distinctive voices, have pronounced interior lives, and occupy so central a position in the making of their own narratives. 

Notably, Cherry makes an art of opening paragraphs that draw us in and keep us reading. Consider  just two excerpts:

She is seventeen, a freshwoman, as she calls herself. She is African-Italian-Cuban-Native American; the native part is Ojibway. She wears an earring in her eyebrow. ~ "Her Life to Come"

Georgianna Starlington had won Miss Fried Okra, Miss Yoknapatawpha County, Best Sandra Dee Lookalike, and Miss Delta Deltoids before she was out of her teens. She would never be Miss America, but she had been Miss American Pie. ~ "Famousness"

Cherry also is masterful in crafting sharp, unforgettable characterizations:

Lorna Jo had big hair, makeup you could skate on, and high heels. Her perfume was like an advance team: it tacked posters to pillars, beat the drums, got out memos, rallied the crowds. It let people know she was coming. ~ "Serious Love"

Henrietta was sixty-six; she had retired last year, a single woman in Richmond, Virginia, once the capital of  the Confederacy, staid and conservative, belated in so many ways, now a place where you could actually buy a drink. Or go to dinner with a black man. ~ "False Gods"

Cherry's stories, some of which ("Will Fitts Finds Out", "The Piano Lesson", "Famousness") first appeared in such prestigious periodicals as CommentaryThe Literary ReviewThe Kenyon Review, and The Idaho Review, are deftly paced and balanced. The author knows when to allow her characters to speak for themselves and when to propel their stories forward through use of an omniscient narrator. The dialogue, often witty, reads true-to-life, as do many of the situations in which Cherry places the women, especially in relationship to men. But Cherry also scores relief in humor, as in a wonderful description of a character's visit to Frederick's of Hollywood ("Famousness") or a son's introduction to his mother of a painter with whom she's having an affair ("Mother's Day"). And though Cherry may drop clues to meaning and action and outcome (one reason to pay attention to the stories' titles), she is game for surprises, sometimes rendering unexpected conclusions that send one back for a second reading, if only to better appreciate the skillfulness of the story-telling.

There are haunting stories in Twelve Women, too. One is "Au Secours" (keep the meaning of that title in mind), where the reader first meets "a woman named Jeanne[, who] is getting ready to cook dinner for herself and, she hopes, her husband. She wheels her chair to the refrigerator, removes a rubber-banded bunch of collard greens and a small brick of fatback, and then wheels to the counter, which is lower than most counters because the trailer's interior has been rebuilt to meet her needs." (Notice that Cherry doesn't define Jeanne as "disabled".) As "Au Secours" progresses and the reader learns Jeanne's compelling and sad backstory, Cherry introduces husband Lucas, as only Jeanne could have known and remembers him. Cherry takes the reader deeply into Jeanne's mind and physical and emotional states. The ending, which I will not give away, is tragic, in the way the best southern gothic tales can be—and altogether believable and understandable.

Another of Cherry's stories deserving mention is "The Piano Lesson", a dark and disturbing tale of a lonely widow and piano teacher, Mrs. Edith Womack, who gives her student Jessie a surprising, never-to-be-forgotten lesson on Thanksgiving Day. (The irony of setting the story on this particular holiday resonates.) As is the case in a number of stories in this collection, Cherry shows us women who bear not only deep emotional pain but who also must contend with wrecked bodies: ". . . Jesse caught herself gaping and shut her mouth. She had seen her mother get dressed for gala evenings but her mother did not look the way Mrs. Womack did. Her mother's chest was not crisscrossed with stark, savage lines that looked like somebody had carved a map into it. . . Edith's chest was not only flat and scarred, it was dented, like a fender. Like two fenders. . . ." The accumulation of such details produces a vivid portrait of Mrs. Womack that is horrifying though not necessarily unsympathetic; at the same time, that portrait is drawn with sufficient appreciation for Jessie's and the reader's intelligence that Cherry has no need to explain what has happened to Mrs. Womack or the value of the lesson Jessie will receive.

Put Cherry's Twelve Women in a Country Called America on your to-buy and must-read list, or pre-order now from the publisher to receive a signed copy. This is a collection that is worthy of and rewards multiple readings. 

* I received the advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review.

My other reviews of Kelly Cherry's work:

Other Posts:

Monday Muse Profile of Kelly Cherry Appointed Virginia's Poet Laureate (January 24, 2011)

Interview with Kelly Cherry at Writing Without Paper and TweetSpeak Poetry (May 16, 2012)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Thought for the Day

All that is empty is space
like a broken mouth.
~ Jake Adam York

Quoted from Jake Adam York, "At Sun Ra's Grave" in A Murmuration of Starlings: Poems (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008)

Jake Adam York, 1972-2012, American Poet

Read everything of York's. He was a superb poet.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday Short

Today's short is the trailer for the documentary August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand. The film is the first about Wilson, winner of Tony and Pulitzer prizes. It draws from the playwright's theatrical archives and includes interviews and readings by Viola Davis, James Earl Jones, and other film and theatre actors.

The documentary was broadcast on PBS's American Masters program on February 20. It was co-producced by WQED. A DVD of the documentary is available as of February 24 via PBS Distribution.

August Wilson, 1945-2005, American Playwright

Friday, February 20, 2015

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

All Art Friday Spotlights

✦ The Containments series (I and II) of ceramist Juliet Walters are inspired!

Juliet Walters on FaceBook and Twitter

Paper folding is a fine art and few have mastered that art as Richard Sweeney has. Be amazed! Sweeney's work is on view in "Above the Fold: New Expressions in Origami" through April 12 at Michele & Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Art, Springfield, Massachusetts. Sweeney offers paper sculpture workshops in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom.

In this video, Sweeney crafts a piece of paper jewelry inspired by the Quatre collection at Boucheron:

Richard Sweeney on FaceBook and Twitter

✦ British-born painter Noel Paine, who maintains studios in Vienna, Austria, and Lazio, Italy, cites "conceptually abstract" ideas as the foundation of his beautiful landscapes (I especially like his Italian series), which are full of brilliant color and shapes, and sometimes quite lush. Paine's recent exhibition in London included not only new paintings but also drawings and etchings. Watch a demonstration video of Paine at work in Italy.

Noel Paine on FaceBook

✦ If you are looking for a good winter read, pick up a copy of Christopher Simon Sykes's David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012 (Nan A. Talese, 2014). It's the second of two volumes (the first covers 1937-1975) and is absorbing and enlightening. I had not realized until reading this the extent to which Hockney has used technology, from fax, to phone, to iPad, to video.

✦ Beauty and intricacy are hallmarks of Amy Cheng's serene, lushly colored paintings and works on paper. Her mandalas are exquisite. Her public installations can be found in a variety of locations, including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Jacksonville (Florida) International Airport, and New York City's 25th Avenue subway station. Chen teaches in the art department at SUNY New Paltz.

✦ The short below features Candela, an installation created for the Victoria & Albert Museum by designers Felix de Pass and Michael Montgomery and ceramist Ian McIntyre during the 2014 London Design Festival.

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ Winter exhibitions have opened at American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C. Among them is "Identidad", a solo show of works by Silvia Levenson, a glass artist of international renown who pays homage to Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo human rights organization in Argentina. On view through March 15 are Levenson's 111 glass pieces of baby clothing, a representation of the number of solved cases of "disappeared" children. 

Silvia Levenson on FaceBook and Twitter

AU on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

✭ Continuing through March 8 at San Antonio Museum of Art is "Picasso: Nelson Rockefeller's Picasso Tapestries Commissioned for Kykuit". Fourteen of 18 hand-woven tapestries from Kykuit, the Rockefeller's family estate and a National Trust property, and two loaned from private collectors in Mexico City are in the exhibition, which marks the first time the tapestries, which were adapted from Picasso paintings, have appeared together outside the estate. A catalogue with color plates (see image below) accompanies the show. Check the events page for exhibition tours, gallery talks, and lectures. Learn about Cubism in this interactive exercise.

Catalogue Cover

✭ At The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, installations by Michelle Grabner, Simone Leigh, and Russell Maltz are on view in "Same Difference", running through April 12. The artists' works, which take advantage of the museum's architecture, include abstract canvases by Grabner, ceramics by Leigh, and paintings by Maltz that incorporate plywood sections. (To learn more about each of the works, go to the exhibition link.)

The Art Museum on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Save the Date: On March 21, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, opens "Van Gogh, Manet, and Matisse: The Art of the Flower". Described as the "first major American exhibition to consider the French floral still life across the 19th Century", the ticketed exhibition, which will run through June 21, will spotlight an estimated 70 paintings by more than 30 artists, including Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri Matisse. (See the pdf of images. Artworks come from public and private collections.) Organized chronologically, the exhibition will cover the topics "18th Century Paintings", "The Lyon School", "Early Impressionist Influences", "Henri Fantin-Latour", "Impressionist Practice", "After Impressionism", and "20th Century Explorations" (descriptions).

A range of related events, including drawing and painting sessions, a trunk show, and family and children's activities is scheduled. Among the latter: puppet shows, Zany Umbrella Circus, and a 19th Century Paris tent sale of books and prints.

A catalogue, Working Among Flowers: Floral Still-Life Painting in Nineteenth-Century France (Yale University Press), will be available for purchase.

Catalogue Cover

Notable Exhibition Abroad

✭ On view through March 15 at London's Victoria & Albert Museum is "Russian Avant-Garde Theatre: War, Revolution and Design, 1913-1933". The exhibit features more than 150 theatrical production designs, for both costumes and sets, by Russia's avant-garde, including artists Kazimir Malevich, El Lissitsky, and Varvara Stepanova. Also showcased are stage designs by Sergei Eisenstein. Most of the works on display are from A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum in Moscow and St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music.

El Lissitzky, 1923 Costume Design for Sportsmen
from Portfolio "Die Plastische Geschtaltung der Elektro-Mechanischen
Schau 'Sieg ├╝ber die Sonne' for Victory Over the Sun" (Unrealized)
Lithograph on Paper
St. Petersburg Museum of Theatre and Music

Russian Avant-Garde Theatre Exhibit on Pinterest

Russian Avant-Garde Theatre Exhibit Blog

V & A Museum on FaceBook, Twitter, InstagramYouTube, and Vimeo

Design Is History

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life

Tina Leto, Mississippi Clover (Prairie Series), 2014
Scanned Botanical Printed on Baryta-Coated Paper
With Archival Pigment Inks
30" x 40"
© Tina Leto

You'll find me today at the online arts magazine Escape Into Life, where I've posted my latest Artist Watch column showcasing the gorgeous photography of Tina Leto.

Born and raised in Chicago, Leto uses a dual lens flatbed scanner as a camera to "photograph" her botanicals, which she then prints on archival papers in limited editions of five to 50. She sometimes prints her images as large as eight feet. Her archival pigment prints are available for purchase.

Leto's photographic projects include a series on Romania.

You'll find eight images of Leto's botanicals in my Artist Watch post, as well as Leto's Artist Statement, a Note on Process, and a brief biography.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wednesday Wonder: 'Fur Elise' on Five Guitars

For today's Wednesday Wonder, Steve Onotera, a.k.a Samurai Guitarist, plays Beethoven's Fur Elise on five guitars.

Samurai Guitarist on YouTube

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Blue Blurred (Poem)

Blue Blurred

It is stained,
the glass I see you through,
red-lined like the lips
of the few white roses
you would not take
after your last visit.
They are, you said,
thorn-less and thirsting,
much the way I thirst
for your welcome home
just in time for spring
violets to blur my blues.

© 2015 Maureen E. Doallas

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday Muse: Oklahoma's New Poet Laureate

Oklahoma is more to me than just the place I live; it is my home, my
homeland. The opportunity to combine my deep love for this land
with my poetry is an opportunity I am very thankful for. . . .
~ Benjamin Myers*

Benjamin Myers, Ph.D., began his position as Oklahoma's State Poet Laureate on February 11, 2015. He succeeds Nathan Brown, who completed his two-year term on December 31, 2014. Myers will serve through the end of December 2016.

Information about the honorary position can be found in my Monday Muse post about state poet Jim Barnes, dated December 13, 2010.

In one interview about his appointment, Myers said he plans to "visit schools, universities, libraries, and community organizations to talk about poetry. I want people to know that poetry is not an elitist form of art, that poetry can enrich everybody's life in a number of ways." He told The Bison, the student newspaper of Oklahoma Baptist University, that he also plans to offer public workshops. "Encouraging poetry is the main thing."

Note: Myers is scheduled to read and sign books on April 17 for "The Big Pasture Reading Series"; the event will take place as Cameron University's CETES Conference Center in Lawton, Oklahoma. (Information is available through Oklahoma Humanities Council.) In May, Myers will conduct a craft workshop at Cameron University as part of the Military Experience & the Arts program. Myers will be a guest speaker at the Giving Voice Writers Festival, John Brown University, on September 24-25.

* * * * *
Poetry is good for the soul. Without poetry, and without art
in general, the soul lacks an essential part of its necessary diet.*

A professor of literature at Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, and a native of central Oklahoma, Benjamin Myers is the author of two poetry collections: Lapse Americana (New York Quarterly Books, 2013) and Elegy for Trains (Village Books Press, 2010), which Myers describes as an elegy for his father, also a poet who used poetry as therapy for veterans. (His mother is a writer of historical fiction.) The latter collection was awarded the Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry in 2011.

Myers's "bedrock American"*** poetry is informed by his knowledge of American, European, and Asian poetic traditions. It takes such various forms as haiku, sonnets, and free verse; it may or may not be rhymed; it may be in couplets, or broken, or not, into stanzas. It is populated with allusions and written in plain, stripped-down language that nevertheless can be lyrical and invoke emotion. As Myers told a World Literature Today interviewer,** ". . . Sometimes I use  traditional forms; sometimes I use free verse. . . My simple working criterion is that the form fit the tone or mood of the poem." 

Of every poem I write, I ask myself if it is three things:
vivid, engaging, and poignant. . . those are my standards,
because that is the kind of poem that sticks 
with me as a reader.**

At the heart of Myers's poetry is experience of life as lived in the Midwest and the Midwest landscape. But while Myers could be said to be a "regional" poet, he is not hemmed in by his Midwestern borders. He tackles the significant themes all accomplished poets address: love, faith and doubt, memory and forgetfulness, death, loss and redemption, time's passage (the past and present), courage, hope. Place, home, and personal history figure prominently, yet subjects range as far afield as Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, or Anchises, Paul Klee, the Alamo, weather events, even divorce. Myers has written about Alzheimer's ("Odin"), coffee ("French Press"), farming ("Hauling Hay"), analog devices ("Sometimes I dream of he analog world"), fatherhood, Irish migration ("Rail Arrives in Rock Island"), fishing ("Noodling")

I think that all good poetry is, in a sense, 'local' poetry,
because the only way of getting at the universal
is through the particular. . . .**

Following are excerpts from several of Myers's poems:

Think also about a toothache,
a cold wind
rising from under the door at night,
a tedious neighbor who holds
you too long with a bony grip
on your bicep. [. . .]
~ from "When You Meditate on the Cross"

[. . .] I wanted

to go on the Ferris Wheel,
for the way it turned above
the noise and the smell
of manure and funnel cakes,
how it reminded me
of a queen I saw
in a movie once, raising
her head to meet the eye
of the executioner. [. . .]
~ from "Spook House" in Lapse Americana

[. . .] maybe like my father,
lifted light
as a bag of popcorn
in my arms,
slipper feet brushing
the floor between the hospice bed
& wheel chair, [. . . ]
~ from "What Peter Looked Like Stepping on Water"

Poems by Myers have been published in The Chiron Review, Christianity and Literature, The Iron Horse Literary Review, The Mayo Review, The Mid-America Poetry ReviewThe New York Quarterly, Nimrod, Numinous, Poetry NorthwestRuminate, Salamander, San Pedro River ReviewTar River Poetry, Texas Poetry ReviewThe Yale Review, and numerous other literary journals and magazines. His work is in the anthologies Ain't Nobody that Can Sing Like Me: New Oklahoma Writing (Mongrel Empire Press, 2010), Travelin' Music: A Poetic Tribute to Woody Guthrie (Village Books Press, 2010), and America at War (McElderry, 2008), an illustrated anthology for children.

Myers's reviews of poetry appear or have appeared online or in print in World Literature Today, Faith and Theology, 32 poems, and Books and Culture, at Visual Artists Collective, and in such periodicals as Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century, while his scholarly articles on Malory, Wordsworth, and Spenser have been published in English Literary History, English Literary Renaissance, Studies in Philology, and other academic journals. 

Among Myers's honors are a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from Sewanee Writers' Conference (2014),  a Pushcart nomination, and, in 1996, a Byline Award for Poetry (for "For Jack Kerouac"). Myers is a member of the Oklahoma Literary Arts Alliance, sponsor of a Poets & Writers in the Classroom program.


Photo Credit: Bill Pope

All Poetry Excerpts © Benjamin Myers

* Quoted from Oklahoma Arts Council News Release (Link Below)

** Quoted from April 2013 World Literature Today Interview (Link Below)

*** As characterized by Karen Swenson in her review of Lapse Americana 

"OBU's Myers Begins Terms as Oklahoma Poet Laureate", Tahlequah Daily Press, February 11, 2015

"Shawnee's Ben Myers Named Oklahoma State Poet Laureate", Oklahoma Arts Council News Release, February 5, 2015

Benjamin Myers Poems Online: "Spook House" at Verse Daily and the poetry daily Critique Blog; "Talking to My Racist Friend" at Cybersoleil - A Literary Journal; "On Taking Communion with My Students" at TitusOneNine (Blog of Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon); "What Hamlet Got Wrong" and "When You Meditate on the Cross", Both at Numinous Magazine; "Cedars" at This Is Just to Say Blog (Myers's Blog); "Mannequins" and "Bad Harvest", Both at Visual Artists Collective; "What Peter Looked Like Stepping on Water" at Books & Culture: A Christian Review; "Tornado" and "Talking to My Racist Friend", Both at Valerie R. Lawson Blog

A number of sample pages from Lapse Americana may be viewed at NYQ Books.

"Myers Received Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry", News-Star, April 14, 2011

Benjamin Myers, "Poetry and Redemption", Ruminate Magazine, September 14, 2010

Sara Wilson, "Poetry with 'Something at Stake': Benjamin Myers on Past and Present", Interview, World Literature Today, April 29, 2013

Red Lion Square Podcast Featuring Myers's Poems, on iTunes (Episode 16) (Also see Archived Podcasts.)

"Benjamin Myers - Lapse Americana (an interview)", The Toronto Quarterly Literary & Arts Journal, June 14, 2013

Valerie R. Lawson, "Let's Talk Poetry - 'Lapse America Review", June 2, 2013

Glynn Young, "Poetry Review: The Submerged Depths of Lapse Americana", TweetSpeak Poetry, May 28, 2013

Glynn Young, "Pinocchio in Nineveh", Review of Elegy for Trains, The Master's Artist Blog, October 5, 2011

Brett Foster, "'Poetry's Places': A Review of 'Elegy for Trains' by Benjamin Myers and 'This London' by Patrick Hicks", The Englewood Review of Books, September 9, 2011

David Oestreich, "Review: Elegy for Trains by Benjamin Myers", Religious Affections Ministries, October 26, 2010

Benjamin Myers on FaceBook and Twitter

Mongrel Empire Press

Oklahoma Arts Council (FaceBook)

Oklahoma Center for the Book, Oklahoma Department of Libraries (Finalist Page for 2011 Awards)

Oklahoma Humanities Council

Oklahoma Poems . . and Their Poets (Mezcalita Press LLC, 2014)

Shawn Holliday, The Oklahoma Poets Laureate: A Sourcebook, History, and Anthology (Mongrel Empire Press, February 28, 2015)

Visual Artists Collective

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Thought for the Day

One does not become enlightened
by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious.
~ Carl Jung

Quoted from Alchemical Studies, Vol. 13, Para. 335 (pg 265)

Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss Psychologist, Founder of School of Analytical Psychology

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saturday Short

The 3:30-minute short below, Mankind Is No Island, was filmed entirely on a cellphone. It comprises primarily signage on streets in New York City and Sydney, Australia, to underscore lack of empathy and compassion and need for profound social change. Produced for Tropfest NY 2008, the film was directed by Jason van Genderen

Tropfest on FaceBook and YouTube

Friday, February 13, 2015

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

All Art Friday Spotlights

✦ Save the dates! The New York Botanical Garden is presenting "Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life" from May 16 through November 1 of this year. This promises to be a not-to-miss event, featuring a dozen original Kahlo paintings and drawings and a "reimagining" of the artist's garden and studio as they existed at Casa Azul in Mexico City. A series of poetry readings, lectures, Frida al Fresco evenings, Mexican-inspired goods and foods, and arts activities for children will give context to Kahlo's life and cultural influence. Tickets will be required. Read Charlotte Burns's article in The Guardian, "Re-creation of Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in New York to Show Different Side of Artist".

NYBG on FaceBook and Twitter 

✦ If you are looking for an artist residency, you might start your search first with ResArtis, a worldwide network of artist residencies and residential art programs.

ResArtis on FaceBook

✦ If you are not familiar with The Methodist Modern Art Collection, take a few moments and browse. You will be rewarded with some extraordinary finds, including works by Elisabeth Frink, Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Graham Sutherland, and Sadao Watanable, among other renowned artists. Expert commentary accompanies the online images.

✦ A new 19-part video series from The Getty was announced in mid-January to demonstrate tested classroom strategies and techniques for meeting Common Core educational standards through arts integration. The online series, which is free, covers such topics as interpreting ancient art in social studies, building analysis skills through art, connecting sculpture and writing, and applying knowledge at a museum. Read Sandy Rodriguez's post "19 New Videos Show How to Engage Students with Art" at The Getty Iris. The video below provides a series overview.

✦ There is no end to what creative artists do with paper.  Just take a look at the work of Hawaii's Wendy Kawabata to see why. Kawabata makes handmade sewing needle perforations through paper, producing artworks that are as inspired as they are stunning. (My thanks to The Jealous Curator for the link.)

✦ Craftsmanship is being celebrated through February 22 in "It's All Material" at Anchorage Museum in Alaska. The exhibition includes video demonstrations of contemporary artists' inventive uses of natural materials. In the short below, June Pardue talks about fish skin and how she sews it to create her objects.

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ New York City's Rubin Museum of Art continues "The All-Knowing Buddha: A Secret Guide" through April 13. The exhibition consists of a series of fifty-four 18th Century Chinese paintings, shown for the first time in the United States, each depicting the centuries-old meditation practice that is judged to "unlock the secret" of using the mind to transform reality. Each painting is a step toward visualization of Buddha Sarvavid Vairochana and his meditation practice and rituals, which typically were communicated orally and not shown in the form of visual art. Lending the exhibition artistic, religious, and historical context are sculptures and paintings.

Visualization (This is an interactive image comprising Leaf 10 from an album of the All-Knowing Buddha.)

Cultural Connections (This is an interactive image comprising Leaf 17 from an album of the All-Knowing Buddha.)

 An exhibition preview:

✭ The artists Milton Avery, Nancy Graves, Grace Hartigan, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, and Mark Rothko are among those represented in the exhibition "XL: Large Scale Paintings from the Permanent Collection", continuing through March 29 at Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. Browse a checklist of artworks featured in the exhibition. 

FLLAC on FaceBook

✭ Collectors of prints take note: stellar artists from Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts are exhibiting through March 14 in the nonprofit Jacobs Gallery at the Hult Center, Eugene, Oregon. Every print on view is original, hand-pulled, and fully documented. The list of artists includes Rick Bartow, Edgar Heap of Birds, James Lavadour, Wendy Red Star, and Marie Watt; see the complete list. Prints available through Crow's Shadow and artists' biographies may be viewed on the institute's Website.

Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts on FaceBook

✭ The solo exhibition of work by Alaska resident Ashley Lohr continues through March 1 at Anchorage Museum. Lohr's oil paintings are described as explorations of imagery, realism, abstraction, texture, and light in interior spaces and structures that are purposely "disrupted" to create unexpected perspectives.

Anchorage Museum on FaceBookTwitter, and YouTube

✭ Art once again finds resonance in nature, science, and technology in the marvelous sculptures of Yuriko Yamaguchi on view through May 31 in "Interconnected" at Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa. Fashioning organic objects from nets of wire and resin forms she casts from dried potato curls, onion ends, leaves, seed pods, and other natural, found materials, the artist, born in Japan and long a resident of Washington, D.C., examines how we "interconnect" with each other and the natural world.  As she states on her Website, her view is that "art is not separable from science, philosophy, social, economic, or political reality." 

On May 7, at 7:00 p.m., area artists will talk about Yamaguchi's work. Yamaguchi's artistic inspiration and process are described in a press release and in text accompanying some images of her work on her Website, where you'll find photos of her installations, as well as prints and drawings (also wonderful). Installation photos are available on the museum's FaceBook page. 

A catalogue accompanies the exhibition—a don't-miss show! 

Yuriko Yamaguchi at Adamson Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Culver City, California; and Howard Scott Gallery, New York City

Figge Art Museum on FaceBook and Twitter

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Documentary 'Surviving Terminal Cancer'

A privately funded, patient-led documentary, Surviving Terminal Cancer (Waking Giant Productions) examines oncology research and the extraordinary story of Ben Williams, Ph.D., professor emeritus of experimental psychology at University of California in San Diego who at age 50 was diagnosed in March 1995 with glioblastoma multiforme, a usually fatal form of brain cancer; Williams survived and appears in the film, the trailer for which is below. (Williams is the author of Surviving Terminal Cancer: Clinical Trials, Drug Cocktails, and Other Treatments Your Oncologist Won't Tel You About. See updates.)

Following its premieres this month at BFI SouthBank in London (held February 4) and Lincoln Center in New York City (scheduled for February 18), the entire film will be accessible at no cost (check the film's Website after February 18), so that all cancer patients and their families may access the information provided. 

An international collaborative initiative involving the filmmakers, newly diagnosed patients, oncologists, and charities, including The Brain Tumour Charity, which is providing financing and marketing for the film, is seeking to launch a clinical trial investigation of a "multiple agent" or "cocktail" approach to oncology, similar to efforts that have helped make long-term survival possible for persons with AIDS. (Donations to the trial may be made, once the entire film is available, to The Brain Tumour Charity.)

Translations of the documentary, into French, Italian, Greek, Spanish, Hebrew, and Mandarin, are underway. Volunteers who wish to help translate the film into other languages should use the Communicate link on the film's Website.

A number of cancer-related information resources are provided at the Learn link.

I dedicate this post to my friend, the late artist Tracey Clarke, who died of stage 4 brain cancer (glioblastoma) on December 29, 2013, and to her husband and family, who never gave up hope.

(My thanks to Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, from which I learned of this documentary.)