Sunday, May 31, 2020

Thought for the Day

We each have to choose what is inconceivable for us. As
artists—and this is the curse that is upon us—we must 
each visualize our own city, ourself at its centre. . . .
~ John Berger


Quoted from John Berger, A Painter of Our Time (Vintage, 1996), page 132; Epigraph, Chapter 6 in Joshua Sperling, A Writer of Our Time: The  Life and Work of John Berger (Verso, 2018), page 161

John Berger (1926-2017), English Art Critic; Novelist, Poet, Essayist, Screenwriter, Dramatist; Painter

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXIII

Jennifer Davis, Justice for George Floyd

Fatal Force

                                       Memorial Day
                                       May 25, 2020

George was not muzzled
but he could not breathe

but the cop on his neck
could, and did, he breathed,

and the two on his back,
they breathed, too, too easily

taking the law in their hands
well-practiced in their malice

in blue and a badge.

For almost nine slow minutes
George was pinned to ground,

crying out, I can't breathe I can't
breathe man my face I can't breathe. . . 

camera on, taping going on,
a girl somewhere crying out,

you're killing him, Bro,

and bystanders understanding
he's dying, Bro,

and George would be like Eric was
before him — remember? —

and plea

till his very breath cut out,
silenced under a damned cop's knee.

Knees on spine, another knee on neck,
knees never kneeled to George

no more than their dead suspect.

Transported away,
his name never prayed,

George Floyd it was, George lost his life that day.


May George Floyd rest in peace and peace be with his family.

My thanks to artist Jennifer Davis for use of her portrait of George Floyd.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXII

They Had Names, They Had Lives

          for all who have died and are mourned

Say her name. Say his. Start here:

Leta, 22, nonverbal special-needs daughter.

Kevin, 87, retired judge, presided over three World Trade Center

Joe, 61, pure, note-perfect voice of a country-singer.

Chad, 49, always cheerful, an inquirer, a peacemaker.

John-Sebastian, 59, Franciscan monk, first to die in Washington, D.C.

Lorena, 59, mother, advocate and hero to a Queens transgender

Ellis, 85, one of the great music greats, said to be an even greater

Leilani, a.k.a. "Butterfly," 27, loved helping her Giant customers.

Howard, Chicago blues devotee, always a big hugger.

Amihilda, 76, registered nurse for 50 years, believed to have died

Michelle, campaigner for justice, equity, dignity for all, one of
     the "Mothers Out Front."

Lamine, 50, shared a passion for African drumming and dancing.

Benjamin and Kathryn, husband and wife, died three days apart.

Anne Mae, 82, known for sweet potato pies, and daughter Connie, 64,
     days after her mother.

Jaimala, 65, designer of saris and tapestries.

Dianne, Stella, and Maria, the three sisters, dying within a month of
     each other.

Mike, over 60, called a "heart survivor."

"Miss Minnie," no symptoms.

Motoko, 92, the last of the surviving "Monuments Women."

Newborn Baby Girl, no chance to be named.


All of the above names represent people who have died of COVID-19. (I did not use last names to respect families' privacy.) Many lived in the region known as the DMV (Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia), the rest in other states. Ages were not always given. The stories of these individuals are told in print and online articles, opinion pieces, and obituaries and death notices, in The Washington Post, by NPR and  the Associated Press, in a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, newspaper called The Advocate, and on the Website COVID Memorial, to which anyone may add information about a lost loved one. May they all, no matter their station in life, rest eternally in peace.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXI

Here is the first question that must be asked: 
What have we done with America? . . . .
~ Writer Marilynne Robinson

The June 11, 2020, issue of The New York Review of Books features a brilliant essay by writer Marilynne Robinson. Titled "What Kind of Country Do We Want?" this trenchant essay is a must-read that asks each of us to take advantage of the opportunity we've been given to restore hope and purpose to each other by considering "what kind of habitation, what kind of home, we want this country to be." Robinson lays bare decades of the "kind of thinking [that] has discredited ideals like selflessness and generosity" and made a "practice of denying working people the real or potential value of their work" in favor of profit and self-interest. 

Our current "ugly economic and social configuration. . . offers no vision beyond its effects," Robinson points out, adding that "the depletions of public life, the decay of infrastructure, the erosions of standards affecting general health are not intended to make America great again. They are, in the experience of the vast majority of Americans, dispossessions, a cheapening of life." Robinson argues persuasively against "accepting competition as the basic model of our interactions with other countries" and for moving beyond "the habit of thinking in terms of scarcity" so that we might "recover and sharpen a functioning sense of justice based on a reverent appreciation of humankind, all together and one by one." For America to engage in any but the most rigorous self-examinations, as individuals and as a nation, she says, "would be a world-historical shame." 

Read the essay, discuss it with others, share it with your elected representatives, demand change, and be the change. The crimes and injustices that color so much of American life are well-known to all of us; they will not be overcome, unless and until we begin to exercise a deep moral and ethical scrutiny of who we've allowed ourselves to become and find the means to act "for the good of the whole society and its place in the world."


One of the best new words arising from the pandemic: doomscrolling (a similar term is doomsurfing), and one I used in a poem appearing in "Musings XX". (Use or don't use a hyphen; it won't change the bad news you're browsing.) The term already has appeared in The New York Times, according to the editor of the newspaper's "The Morning," a daily briefing, and in who knows how many other news periodicals. It's even appeared in Hindi.

If you're wondering, COVID-19 is a mash-up of coronavirus disease 2019, which Merriam-Webster added to its dictionary on March 16, 2020 just 34 days after its usage at a WHO conference on February 11.

Sadly, the pandemic has brought with it increased domestic violence, also known as "private violence," "intimate partner violence" (a term that does not encompass the violence done to children), and "domestic terrorism." Whatever the term, it is, as numerous articles have indicated before and since the pandemic began, a kind of disease itself that has no simple fix, and certainly not the resources required to stop it. In a bit of coincidence that shines a stark light on the subject, journalist Rachel Louise Snyder has published this month No Visible Bruises: What We Don't Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us (Bloomsbury Publishing). It's a book I think everyone should read, especially women, for Snyder exposes through skillful storytelling the reasons women — and the victims of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women — enter unknowingly into relationships with their future abusers only to find they cannot leave when they've finally had enough. It's not a matter of just getting out and starting over, as Snyder relates again and again. The case studies, both of men and women, that Snyder presents expose profound problems in our civil and criminal justice system, the reform movement, and even our thinking about what domestic violence is, what and whom it affects, and how to respond to it. It's a deeply researched book but also one I found difficult to put down, because Snyder, sometimes at great risk to herself, pursues the subject doggedly, from all angles, and writes about it clearly and frankly and with eyes-opened awareness.


Lest anyone think I'm doing only heavy reading, know that I break up my time during lockdown with many different kinds of books. I have read recently Erik Larson's The Splendid and the Vile, Rebecca Solnit's Recollections of My Nonexistence, Laura M. Fabrycky's Keys to Bonhoeffer's Haus, Joshua Sperling's A Writer of Our Time: The Life and Work of John Berger, W. David O. Taylor's Glimpses of the New Creation: Worship and the Formative Power of the Arts, and many, many collections of poetry, most recently Leila Chatti's Deluge, Carolyn Forche's In the Lateness of the World, Reginald Dwayne Betts's Felon, and Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic. And I have a table-full of waiting-to-be-read books, among them Jane Hirshfield's Ledger, Philip Metres's Shrapnel Maps, and Tommy Orange's There There. If I couldn't read and couldn't write; didn't have Zoom meetings, podcasts, Webinars, and FaceBook; and couldn't plan my future art exhibits, I think I would be in a very bad place during this pandemic.

See Stefan Fatsis, "How COVID-19 Led Merriam-Webster to Make Its Fastest Update Ever," Slate, March 26, 2020.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (22)

Self-taught artist Jeanie Tomanek contributed images of three of her paintings to the online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic." All of Jeanie's artworks seem especially appropriate to the exhibit, because they address many of the exhibit's themes and words we associate with the coronavirus and the disease it causes, covid-19: "Grief," "Faith," "Healing," "Isolation," "Loss," "Love," "Quarantine," "Remembrance," "Safety," "Sheltering," and "Solace." It's a privilege to showcase here the images of Jeanie's paintings.

Jeanie Tomanek, "Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief"
Acrylic on Panel
16" x 12"

Jeanie Tomanek, "Prayer Tree"
Acrylic on 11" x 14" Bristol Paper
10" x 13"

Jeanie Tomanek, "Safety"
Acrylic on 1.5" Deep Cradled Birch Panel
8" x 10"

Jeanie Tomanek has been called a mythic artist. She draws upon themes she first developed as a poet: exploring feminine archetypes from myths, folk tales, fairy tales, and her own experiences. Her experience growing up on a farm in New York's Genesee Valley strongly influence her work, which is populated with trees, flowers, birds, and snow—symbols for emotional states or story elements. Dogs sometimes accompany Jeanie's protagonist, a pale, bald "Everywoman," as she journeys beneath a starry, moonlit sky. The ancient stories the artist tells with her paints never become old.

Poems and paintings by Jeanie grace the covers of many literary journals and poetry collections, and her work is represented in private and public collections throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia.

Jeanie lives in Marietta, Georgia, with her husband and  two rescued dogs.

St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), which supports the parish arts ministry I lead, is hosting the multi-part online exhibition. On the church's new Instagram page, you'll find images of the exhibited artwork, which are augmented daily. Websites and other information about all the artists can be found at "Artists' Biographical Information." Some artworks, including one of the three above ("Safety" and "Prayer Tree" have been sold"), are available to purchase; for information, see "Purchase List for Artworks." In addition to the poetry and "Poets' Biographical Information," the exhibit includes a generous playlist, compiled by artist Stacy Ericson, to listen to while viewing the artwork or reading the poems. The playlist is embedded on "Artwork in Response to the Pandemic" and "Poetry in Response to the Pandemic." 

Note: Jeanie Tomanek and her work were the subjects of my October 18, 2018, Artist Watch column at the online arts magazine Escape Into Life.

Today's feature concludes the showcasing of work by all the wonderful artists and poets who contributed their work to "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic." To all of them I extend once again my thanks and deep appreciation.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XX

This is Memorial Day 2020:

flags lowered countrywide
to half-mast, our polluted beaches

thick with unmasked mouths,
which, unlike Bartholdi's lady

in New York Harbor, fail to
beckon us to be our better selves.

Told not to come to Baltimore,
the man in the White House plays

a round, the first time since March,
he claims, he's chased that

little white ball some
distance over newly open greens,

his shorts-suited self trailed
by squads in shades, phones in ears.

Days ago, he ordered churches
open, declared them essential,

as if our prayers for the dead,
at rest in urns on our shelves,

need four walls and a pew
to reach any known gods.

Tuesday, our three days
of mourning up, cookouts over,

we'll go back to collecting a mess
of numbers, thoughts of

the dying and the dead, already
nearing one hundred thousand

names yet to be inked in news-
paper print, lasting only so long as

the time it takes to doomscroll
our way to a different page.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (21)

Painter Sue Turayhi is represented by three paintings in the online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic." In recognition of her generosity, I'm highlighting today images of each of those artworks. Sue offered these artworks for their relationship to the pandemic-related words "Isolation," "Quarantine," "Lockdown," "Loss," and "Love."

Sue Turayhi, "Locked in Woman"
16" x 12"

Sue Turayhi, "Missing Love"
Acrylic and Oil
18" x 24"

Sue Turayhi, "Step to Heaven"
18" x 24"


Sue Turayhi was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. After earning an art degree in design from the Academy of Fine Art at the University of Baghdad, she worked at the Iraqi National Museum and later was sent to the archeological site of ancient Babylon, where she immersed herself in the study of Iraqi antiquities and history. Subsequently, to advance her studies, she migrated to Chicago, Illinois, and in 1980 received a bachelor's degree in industrial design from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition to creating art, Sue is a fully licensed and certified interior designer.

To learn more about Sue, see her profile and Website in "Artists' Biographical Information." For sales information, see "Purchase List for Artworks."

St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), which supports the parish arts ministry I lead, is hosting the multi-part online exhibition. Images of artwork featured in the exhibition appear on the church's new Instagram page; images are added daily. Poems included in the exhibition can be found at "Poetry in Response to the Pandemic," where you'll also be able to listen to some recordings from the poets or a playlist compiled by Stacy Ericson.

Thought for the Day

[Art is] about intuition, imagination and fantasy. . . Once you have
your nose pointed in the right direction, you can start smelling
something. It's not about expertise. I don't believe in it.
I believe in innocence of spirit.
~ Wolf Kahn

Quoted in The Washington Post, Obituary for Wolf Kahn, March 22, 2020, C9*

The quote comes from Vermont Arts Living, "A fortunate life: Morning coffee with artists Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason", Fall 2017. The quote appears toward the conclusion of the article.

Wolf Kahn (1927-2020), Painter

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (20)

Two artists participating in the online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic," which is hosted by St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Arlington, Virginia, created or selected from existing work a piece addressing the word "Inspiration". The artists are Kari Gunter-Seymour and Marcus Parsons. Their work is highlighted here today.

Kari Gunter-Seymour, "Waking Us Up"
Digital Art
10" x 8"

Marcus Parsons, "Stars in the Sky"
Archival Print of Digital Painting
7" x 10"

Marcus's artwork also addresses the words "Spirit/Spiritual".

In addition to this piece, Marcus contributed to the exhibition "On the Inside" (see below) and "Faces"; the latter was highlighted on May 9, 2020, in "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (6)." Both of these works were inspired by the words "Community/Connection."

Marcus Parsons, "On the Inside"
Archival Print of Digital Painting
9" x 10"

Kari Gunter-Seymour is Poet Laureate Emeritus of Athens, Ohio, and the author of A Place So Deep Inside America It Cannot Be Seen. Also an artist, Kari founded and is the executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project.

Marcus Parsons is a digital artist who paints and draws on an iPad using a stylus (and sometimes his fingers). In addition to exhibiting in juried gallery shows, Parsons presents his work online at his Website, in his newsletter, and on social media (Instagram). He prints his own work. The founder of Parsons Audio, one of the nation's leading professional audio suppliers, he sold the company in 2010. Marcus lives in Newton, Massachusetts. 

Both Kari and Marcus are offering for purchase prints of their work; see "Purchase List for Artworks" for prices. For additional biographical information and Website addresses, see "Artists' Biographical Information."

Friday, May 22, 2020

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (19)

Two works by artist Billie Bond are included in the online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic": "Breathe 1 and 2" and "The Look of Resilience". I have paired the former, which addresses the words "Masks/Personal Protection Equipment" with a stanza from Drew Myron's poem "Tuesday, pandemic."

[. . .] A neighbor has sewn masks that she hangs /
from a string with a sign that says take one /
as if we're sharing tomatoes or gossip. // [. . .]
~ from "Tuesday, pandemic"

Billie Bond, "Breathe 1 and 2," 2018
Black Stoneware, Resin, and Gold
33 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm

Read Drew's poem.

Billie Bond is an award-winning sculptor who approaches her figurative abstractions with great sensitivity, creativity, and appreciation of human anatomy. 

A member of the Royal Society of Sculptors, Billie has displayed work on the 4th Plinth in Trafalgar Square in London, in a curated space at London's Saatchi Gallery during the Strarta Art Fair, and in the national campaign "Breaking Depression."

Billie lives and works in Essex, England.

Drew Myron is a writer and editor who lives in Oregon. "Art," Drew says, "is solace in these dark days, and writing is providing me great comfort."

St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), which supports the arts ministry I lead, is hosting the multi-part online exhibition. On the church's new Instagram page, you'll find images of other artworks, which are augmented daily. Websites, blog sites, and additional information about all the participating artists and poets can be found at "Artists' Biographical Information" and "Poets' Biographical Information," respectively. Some of the artworks are available to purchase; see "Purchase List for Artworks."

Note: Billie Bond was the subject of my April 16, 2020, Artist Watch column at the online arts magazine Escape Into Life.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (18)

Three contributors to the online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic" created work inspired by the word "Technology." One, Pauline Kusiask, contributed "Screentime," a piece spotlighted on May 4, 2020. The two remaining, and highlighted here today, are the artist Greg Dunn and the poet Shanna Powlus Wheeler.

Infinitesimal germ, we are not immune /
to your majesty. //

Our scientists bow for hours before the statuesque /
microscopes of our design // [. . . .]
~ from "Crown"

Greg Dunn, "Brain Machine Interface"
Microetched Print
"18" x 24" (Unframed) and 24" x 32" (Unframed)


Dr. Greg Dunn is a neuroscientist and an artist. His collaborator on his microetchings is Dr. Brian Edwards, an applied physicist and artist. Together, using physical and digital techniques, which are explained at Greg's Website, Greg Dunn Neuro Art, they create complex renderings of the brain based on deep neuroscience research and actual scientific data. Their work has been exhibited at numerous scientific venues.

Dunn describes "Brain Machine Interface" as "a piece about the interconnected future of the human brain [that] comments on both the amazing benefits and potential dangers of these powerful neural interfacing technologies." 

Given the world's overwhelming use of computers during the pandemic, I thought Greg's was a particularly apt contribution to the exhibition.

Shanna Powlus Wheeler is the author of two collections of poetry: Evensong for Shadows and Lo & Behold. Shanna teaches writing at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. 

Shanna's poem "Crown" describes in striking terms the electron microscope images of the novel coronavirus that has produced the pandemic. Those images were released in February 2020 by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. While it might not be considered beautiful physically, the virus and its mutations certainly are artful creations of nature; their workings continue to elude the most brilliant of scientists.

St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), which supports the arts ministry I lead, is host to the multi-part online exhibition. On the church's new Instagram page, you'll find images of other artworks, which are augmented daily. Websites, blog sites, and other information about the artists and poets can be found at "Artists' Biographical Information" and "Poets' Biographical Information," respectively. Some artworks, including Greg's, are available to purchase; see "Purchase List for Artworks."

New Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life

Linda Plaisted, Sojourner, 2020
Photographic Mixed Media

© Linda Plaisted


I am privileged to introduce Linda Plaisted, a painter, fine art photographer, and encaustic and mixed media artist, in today's new Artist Watch column for Escape Into Life, the international online arts magazine.

Linda, who holds degrees in fine art, illustration, and literature, is a storyteller whose gorgeous works of art comprise images she has captured in original photography, drawings, paintings, and collected ephemera. She created her two most recent bodies of work, "Underworld" and "Motherland," during and in direct response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

My Artist Watch feature includes eight images of Linda's photographic mixed media, all created this year; her Artist Statement; and a brief biography.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XIX

The war narrative has an intentional history in public health
campaigns. It seeks to discipline society and mobilize resources
of a nation "under siege." The invisible virus is hard to imagine,
so human enemies must be targeted and shunned....
~ Nayan Shah
Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History
University of Southern California


The quote above comes from a recent article by Alex Langstaff in  the Los Angeles Review of Books, "Pandemic Narratives and the Historian" (May 18, 2020). I recommend reading the article for its many insights into the language of the pandemic, how historians of public health, epidemics, and disaster science regard and use coverage of the pandemic, and how the public and media address it. Of particular interest are concepts of "crises," the stories and narratives created in response to pandemic events, the use of metaphors of containment and destruction as well as concealment, the use of scientific facts and how they are construed, the need for scapegoats and stigmatizing, the use of fear, the abstraction of risk, the practice of exclusion and racism, and what the pandemic portends for the future of individuals and the world, especially in terms of social responsibility, redistribution of resources and aid, environmental change, and political power. Along with post-pandemic possibilities, the thoughtful questions raised among so many areas of interest are all rich for exploration and discussion. Any one could be the subject of a dissertation.

The interviewees in addition to Shah are Alison Bashford, research professor in history at University of New South Wales Sydney; Simukai Chigudu, associate professor of African Politics and fellow of St Antony's College, University of Oxford; Deborah Coen, professor, Department of History, Yale University, and chair, Program in the History of Science and Medicine; Richard Keller, professor, Department of History and Department of Medical History and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin at Madison; Julie Livingston, Silver professor of history and social and cultural analysis, New York University; and Paul Weindling, Wellcome Trust Research professor in the history of medicine, Oxford Brookes University. The interviewer lectures at Cooper Union in New York City and is a doctoral candidate in history at NYU.

Some comments worth noting:

Coen: ". . . The media should allow fear to do its vital work, instead of giving disaster experts a platform to explain it away."

Livingston: ". . . This normal cost of doing business in America is now suddenly revealed as the emergency it has long been. . . ." 

". . . The pandemic shakes the system of global capitalism to its core, revealing multiple fault lines. . . The commodity fetish is completely naked now. . . ."

Livingston: ". . . the normal that Americans want to get back to is one characterized by high rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses that COVID-19 has surface. . . ."

Keller: "Any 'end' [to the pandemic] will be dubious, illusory, and politically instrumentalized, and will represent a return to a state of extraordinary precarity for most who've experienced it. And the pandemic's continuation will be baked into the local social worlds of those least able to withstand the additional blow. . . ."

Chiguda: ". . . Public health information does not exist in a vacuum; it is inevitably interpreted and contextualized in wider social and political contexts."

Bashford: "The pandemic has made me perceive how far beyond 'globalization' we now are. . . ."

Weindling: ". . . the rationing of resources does raise uncomfortable questions about the valuing of life. . . ."


Old Men on Rikers

What’s there to fear

of the old men on Rikers

condemned to die —

not for their crimes

but for living long

enough to pick up

the lethal virus from

their concrete beds.

No visitors allowed.

The men on the island

can’t speak of how

spring pushes up

not daisies not miracle

cures but takes away

their little breath left

the crown of the virus

colonizing their lungs

robbing their hearts

of energy enough

to beat bad odds.

Bio-containment rules

rule out the six feet

of physical distancing

but not the six feet

down where the trench-

diggers go, where

the bodies, their own,

come to rest four deep.

They rest

not days on end

soon to be hours

and then a few minutes

of palliative care —

another painkiller

a relief in the letting

of hope of dying

of death and of one

last loud hallelujah

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (17)

An excerpt from a poem by Yahia Lababidi and an artwork by Salma Arastu are my selections today from the online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic." Yahia's poem addresses the words "Spirit/Spiritual"; Salma's artwork is inspired by the word "Loss."

[. . .] Don't bemoan your four walls, give thanks, for your necessary isolation /
and pray to emerge from this chrysalis into a new consciousness. // [. . .]
~ from Section II of "Spiritual"

Salma Arastu, "Pandemic," 2020
Charcoal and Acrylics on Canvas
40" x 60"


Salma Arastu expresses her identity as "a woman, Hindu, Muslim, artist, and mother" who works "to create harmony by expressing the universality of humanity through paintings, sculpture, and calligraphy." Drawing her inspiration from her Indian heritage and Islamic spirituality, Salma seeks to "use [her] artistic voice to break down the barriers that divide in order to foster peace and understanding."

Influenced by her studies and experiences of different cultures, Salma, who resides in Berkeley, California, and has lived in Iran and Kuwait, has exhibited in nearly 40 solo shows nationally and internationally. In addition to receiving several prestigious awards, she has public art pieces on display in Pennsylvania and California and has written and published five books.

Salma also contributed to the exhibition the artworks "Prayer I" and "Prayer II" and the poem "Love and Adore (We Will Come Out Together)." 

Yahia Lababidi is the author, most recently, of Revolutions of the Heart (Wipf & Stock, 2020), a collection of essays, poems, and conversations. His several books of aphorisms include Signposts to Elsewhere (Hay House, 2019). In addition to writing nonfiction, Yahia publishes his poems widely in literary journals and anthologies and has been a nominee at least three times for a Pushcart Prize. Yahia's work has been translated into Arabic, Hebrew, French, German, Spanish, and a number of other languages.

St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), which supports the arts ministry I lead, is hosting the multi-part online exhibition. On the church's new Instagram page, you'll find images of other artworks; these are augmented daily. Websites, blog sites, and other information about all the participating artists and poets can be found at "Artists' Biographical Information" and "Poets' Biographical Information," respectively. Some of the artworks are available to purchase; see "Purchase List for Artworks."

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (16)

For today's selections from the online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic," I have paired an excerpt from a poem by Robert McDowell with an artwork by Patrick Seruwu. Robert's poem addresses and is inspired by the word "Love"; Patrick's artwork is inspired by the word "Faith".

I thought I knew       I thought I knew /
A dozen times what love is /
& who was bringing it up hill /
Like water in a bucket /
One by one they collapse /
Among the poppies saying /
I am tired bearing love all this way / [. . . .]
~ from "Love"

Patrick Seruwu, "Faith"
Collage on Canvas
73 cm x 103 cm


Patrick Seruwu is a self-taught Ugandan artist who currently resides in Johannesburg, South Africa. An art enthusiast since childhood, Patrick participated in community art competitions. After relocating to South Africa, he was fortunate to meet the Ugandan-born, South Africa-based artist, activist, and arts patron Benon Luaaya, who mentored Seruwu until his death in 2019.

Well-received by the art community, Patrick's work has been featured in group exhibitions in Johannesburg, displayed at corporate locations, and featured in several art fairs. He had his first solo show in February 2020 at Lizamore & Associates Gallery in Johannesburg.

Robert McDowell is a poet, author, educator, activist for women's rights and advancement, public speaker, storyteller, and mentor. He has written more than a dozen books, including the forthcoming Sweet Wolf: New & Selected Poems (Spring 2021) and The World Next to This One: Poems (Salmon Press, 2014). Co-author of two volumes of literary theory, Robert also is co-translator of a story collection by Ota Pavel and the editor of three anthologies. In addition to teaching at the college and university level, conducting conferences and workshops for writers, and leading retreats, Robert is the founder of the new Homestead Lighthouse Press and founding publisher and editor of Story Line Press. He also is the co-creator of The Poets' Prize and the Rural Readers Project.

St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), which supports the arts ministry I lead, is hosting the multi-part online exhibition. On the church's new Instagram page, you'll find other images of the exhibition artwork; these are augmented daily. Websites and other information about all the participating artists and poets can be found at "Artists' Biographical Information" and "Poets' Biographical Information," respectively. Some of the artworks, including Patrick's, are available to purchase; for information, see "Purchase List for Artworks."

Note: A selection of Patrick Seruwu's artworks, including paintings and collages, appeared in my Artist Watch column at Escape Into Life in December 2019.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (15)

Images of artwork by 22 artists is included in the online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic." Since the exhibition went live, I have been highlighting daily one image and several lines of a poem by one of the 18 participating poets. Today's spotlight is on artist Amy Pleasant and poet Martha Silano, both of whose works are inspired by the word "Hope."

[. . .] Maybe it's all been sowed. And Look! A few tufts /
of bright yellow grass, a bush in the foreground aflame with— /
blossoms? An awfully dark red but flowers, nonetheless.
~ from "Van Gogh's 'Spring Garden'"

Amy Pleasant, "Garden of Hope"
Acrylic on Canvas
18" x 24"


Amy Pleasant is a figurative and abstract painter who explores in her work memory, the complexity of family relationships, and generational transition. Amy has participated in national exhibitions in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco, and has had solo exhibitions in Seattle, Washington, and Amsterdam. She was one of 12 artists featured nationally in 2012 by the Women's Caucus for the arts. Amy's work can be found in private and corporate collections in the Pacific Northwest. She lives and works in Seattle.

Martha Silano is the author of five poetry books, including, most recently, Gravity Assist and Reckless Lovely. She has published poems in Poetry, New England Review, American Poetry Review, and Paris Review, among many other well-known and prestigious periodicals, and in at least four dozen print anthologies. She is co-author, with Kelli Russell Agodon, of The Daily Poet: Day-by-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice. Martha teaches at Bellevue College in Washington State.

St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), which supports the arts ministry I lead, is hosting the complete multi-part online exhibition. On the church's new Instagram page, you'll find images of the artworks, which are augmented daily. Websites and additional information about the exhibition participants can be found at "Artists' Biographical Information" and "Poets' Biographical Information." A few poets have contributed recordings of their poems. Some artworks are available to purchase; for information, see "Purchase Life of Artworks."


Note: Martha's poem is ekphrastic, that is, written in response to the van Gogh painting "Spring Garden," which is mentioned in the title. An image of the van Gogh painting is found at the end of the pdf with the poems.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Thought for the Day

Indeed, the whole distinction between art and trash, between food
and garbage, depends on the presence or absence of the loving eye.
~ Robert Farrar Capon

Quoted from Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection (Modern Library Food, Reprint, 2002) (The quote can be found in after "Ingredients" in section One.)

Robert Farrar Capon (1925-2013), Episcopal Priest, Chef, and Author

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (14)

The artist Lisa Goesling and the poet Michelle Ortega, whose work appears in the online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic," are in the spotlight today. Lisa's artwork was inspired by the word "Touch"; Michelle's poem was inspired by the word "Spirit/Spiritual."

[. . .] Earth never stopped this song; 
only now am I still enough to hear it. [. . . ]
~ from "Marcescence"

Lisa Goesling, "Pussy Willows All Lined Up"
5" x 21"

Read Michelle's poem.

Listen to Michelle reading her poem.

Lisa Goesling, who began taking classes at the School of the Art Institute/Chicago at age 12, creates hyper-detailed renderings of her observations of nature, using black scratchboards composed of Kaolin Clay covered with India inks. Her painstaking technique, requiring an X-ACTO knife and deep knowledge of etching and design, results in exquisitely meticulous images that erupt from white clay. Sometimes, she adds colored inks to give luster and depth to her ecological visions. At others, she adapts nature's lines to abstract images that pay homage to their botanic core.

Strongly passionate about her art and nature, the latter the catalyst for her work, Lisa produces series after series of acclaimed work, which has been exhibited in solo and group shows around the country and abroad. Her work can be found in public and private collections worldwide.

Lisa contributed images of three other works to the online exhibition: "Uprooted," "Group of Columbines," and "Open Magnolias." All of those images can be found in "Artwork in Response to the Pandemic."

Michelle Ortega is a licensed speech-language pathologist in private practice. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming, online or in print, at Tweetspeak Poetry, Casual (an e-book), Tiferet Journal, Exit 13, and other periodicals and, abroad, in Horizon: The Haiku Anthology. Her microchapbook, Tissue Memory, is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press.

St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), which supports the arts ministry I lead at the parish, is hosting the complete multi-part online exhibition. On the church's new Instagram page, you'll find images of the artwork; additions are made daily. Websites and other pertinent information about all the participating artists and poets can be found at "Artists' Biographical Information" and "Poets' Biographical Information," respectively. Some artworks are offered for purchase; for pricing and other information, see "Purchase List for Artworks."

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (13)

My selections today from the online art exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic," hosted by my parish, St. Michael's Episcopal Church, are artist Manal Deeb and poet Marc Harshman. The words associated with the image and poem are "Fear," "Solace," "Isolation," and "Love."

A fall of blossom in a sudden breeze /
and, like snow shaken from a limb, /
you shiver with what you've carried /
here from the headlines /
and bow your head. / [. . .]
~ from "Knowing in a Time of Fear"

Manal Deeb, "Flower of Love II", 2020
Digital Art
10" x 8"

Read Marc's poem.

Listen to Marc's video recording of his poem.


Manal Deeb is a Palestinian-American visual artist who was born in Ramallah, Palestine, and currently lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

Manal's work, comprising original paintings and digital and fine photographic art, presents many identities that are indistinguishable from one another. Each identity has the same apparent memories and perceives identical surroundings while believing, with evidence, to be representing the real self and the actual memories. Manal's principal subjects are humanity, global cultures, Arab women, women's issues globally, and identity. Her passion and mission are to create bridges among religions.

Manal, whose work has been exhibited in many cities in the United States, as well as in Europe and the Middle East, contributed to the exhibition images of three additional digital works: "Flower of Love," "Dawn," and "A Song's Echo." These images can be seen on the exhibition Website and on Instagram.

Marc Harshman, the seventh Poet Laureate of West Virginia, is a poet and children's book author. His collection Woman in Red Anorak , published jointly by Lynx House and University of Washington Press (2018), won the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize. His fourteenth children's book, co-authored with Anna Smucker, was Fallingwater, published by Roaring Brook/Macmillan (2017). Marc's poems have been anthologized by Kent State University, University of Iowa, University of Georgia, and University of West Virginia. Marc holds degrees from Bethany College, Yale Divinity School, and University of Pittsburgh.

St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), which supports the arts ministry I lead at the parish, is hosting the complete multi-part online exhibition. On the church's new Instagram page, you'll find images of the artwork; additions are made daily. Websites and additional information about all the participating artists and poets can be found at "Artists' Biographical Information" and "Poets Biographical Information," respectively. Some of the artwork, including all four of Manal's pieces, are available to purchase; see "Purchase List for Artworks."

Friday, May 15, 2020

Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic (12)

Today's spotlights, drawn from the online exhibition "Artists and Poets Respond to the Pandemic," are on artist Joyce Wycoff and poet Diane Walker. Joyce's artwork was inspired by the word "Remembrance"; Diane's poem was inspired by the word "Compassion".

We hold in our hearts a prayer
For all who walk alone; for all the vulnerable;
For all the church doors, once open, now closed;
For those who've died, and for all the ones who loved them;[. . .]

Joyce Wycoff, "Remembrance of Time Past," 2020
Digital Image Print on Metal
12" x 12"

Listen to Diane reading her poem.

Read Diane's poem.


Joyce Wycoff is a digital artist, photographer, writer, active blogger, and avid maker of personal photo books. She recently completed a five-year plan at an age when most people do not buy green bananas. After days of contemplation and construction, she came up with four words: Live life in delight. Joyce lives in Reno, Nevada, an art-filled place that calls itself "Quirky by Choice."

Joyce also is represented in the exhibition by her digital artwork "Cycle of Life," also printed on metal.

Diane Walker is a poet, artist, photographer, and actor. She pairs her writing and spiritual practice with her art to produce a daily blog of meditations, poetry, photographs, and paintings.

St. Michael's Episcopal Church (Arlington, Va.), which supports the arts ministry I lead, is hosting the complete multi-part online exhibition. On the church's new Instagram page, you'll find images of the artwork, which are augmented daily. Websites, blog sites, and other information about all the participating artists and poets can be found at "Artists' Biographical Information" and "Poets' Biographical Information," respectively. Some artworks, including Joyce's, are available to purchase; see "Purchase List of Artworks."

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XVIII

Society needs artists, just as it needs scientists, technicians,
workers, professional people, witnesses of the faith,
teachers, fathers and mothers [. . . .]
~ Pope John Paul II, "Letter to Artists," 1999*

When life becomes too heavy to bear and circumstances too
dark to see a way forward, beauty has the ability
 to alleviate fear and offer hope.
Encaustic Painter

I shared recently on FaceBook two different but related articles:  Jody Hassett Sanchez's "Why Art and Beauty Matter During a Pandemic" (Christianity Today, May 1, 2020) and Michael Wilson's "The morgue worker who buys a daffodil for each body bag" (The Baltimore Sun, May 6, 2020). The former article begins by describing how shoppers at a Trader Joe's (location unspecified) never fail to pick up bouquets of fresh flowers before checking out. It then discusses from many perspectives the concept of beauty and why we turn to beauty when ill, fearful, in despair, confronting death. The latter article is about a forensic technician at a hospital in New Jersey who has a standing order to pick up and take to work every morning an armful of yellow daffodils, one each of which she places on every new body bag containing the remains of someone who has died of covid-19. Asked why, she said, "It was something I just did, out of being emotionally exhausted and depleted." It was, she also noted, "therapeutic."

Poems, visual art, virtual art exhibitions, virtual museum tours, virtual musical performances, streaming films, dance online, photos of meticulous food presentations, an armful of yellow daffodils: beauty in one or another form is all over our social media. #ShelterInPoems, #ArtHelps, #ArtHeals are just a few of the hashtags that often accompany what goes viral. Artists post throughout the day images of work in progress, completed projects, or projects about to begin. While the quality of the initiatives varies, the posting never ceases. Nor does the sharing, whenever something grabs our attention, leaves us in awe or wonder, or moves us to experience an emotion that a moment ago we did not feel. We may be moved to tears, provoked to laugh, left to reflect on our own small place in the universe, relieved to feel, finally, a connection. In this pandemic, which has so deprived us of touch and daily reminds us of death, to feel a connection is to experience hope.


The Experiment Station, the blog of The Phillips Collection, one of my favorite museums in Washington, D.C., offered on May 8, a commentary on artist Ben Shahn's Still Music written by music director Jeremy Ney: "I Miss Ben Shahn's Still Music". The post prompted me to write the following ekphrastic poem.

Ben Shahn, Still Music, 1948
Casein on Fabric Mounted on Plywood Panel
48" x 83-1/2"
Acquired 1949 by The Phillips Collection

They've Stopped Playing

They've stopped playing
musical chairs the way

we're used to: no violinists
up front, slightly off-center,

their smooth fingering
and bowing everything

we've come to expect.

No dropping by rehearsal.
The concert hall curtains

are drawn, first chairs all
wily-nily, stands empty

of notes, sharps and flats
inaudible, double-doors

locked against pandemic entry.

Musicians, sheltering
at home, risk the noise

complaints to practice,
knowing no one can tell

them when intermission
will end, when each will

rise from a hard-back seat
and nod encores to the end

of spring's sullen silence.


* The quote from "Letter to Artists" is in the section titled "The artist and the common good". 

Renee Phillips, "Art Enhances Brain Function and Well-Being," The Healing Power of Art & Artists (September 2019)