Talking about the materiality of wood with CAW member Melinda Rosenberg

Melinda_10Melinda Rosenberg’s wooden sculptures often include an organic piece, like a branch, that cuts against a more rigid form constructed from boards. No source of wood is off limit. Skeletal Christmas tree trunks, weathered barn wood, and traditional lumber are all stowed away in her studio space. Pristine or weathered, she highlights the inherent nature of the wood – often with layers of stain and careful sanding. She has amassed a workshop full of tools and is constantly learning new methods to create her forms. Although Melinda works predominantly in wood, her influences are far-reaching.

A large selection of Melinda’s “boat” forms will be on display for Remnants at the Urban Arts Space. She is also represented by the Sherrie Gallerie locally, as well as the CIRCA Gallery in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Haen Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina. I met up with Melinda at her studio. Tagging along was her furry sidekick, Maggie who really sunk her teeth into the material – or at least the scraps on the floor.

9. X-43
X-43 by Melinda Rosenberg

You started working with wood whole-heartedly while getting your MFA at Ohio State. What was the pivotal project or moment that sparked your interest?

It was the first thing I did there. I was really excited by the artist Ree Morton. I had just come back from New York City and she had an exhibition at the New Museum. She brought play and humor [to her work.] In one piece (image here), she had made a tabletop with just a piece of plywood and some sticks. It looked very handmade. Then she had little sections of tree and put a rock on it at different heights. Then on the wall, she had diagrams that were very carefully drawn of each little vignette. I was excited because it was a bridge between the 2D and the 3D, but it was also her pleasure. She was showing you how carefully she had observed this thing. That is what we do on the beach, we collect rocks. It took something very ordinary and it made me feel like I was going to the beach with her. It was a fun, intimate thing.

I was all inspired by her, so I just started right away doing things in wood that I would then paint or draw. I would find a log and make it into a ballerina by putting a lot of tutu stuff on it. I painted the wood grain to make it more evident – with neon and bright colors. I then banded it off, sort of like it was an altar. I was inspired by [Ree Mortin]’s idea, but I had gone crazy with it.

You combine formalist elements like shape with organic wood pieces. Does a series start with the organic pieces or a more geometric framework?

It starts with the framework. I will set something up. With the X’s it was an exploration of more painterly issues, but also optical and material issues. I was trying to directly solve what can happen as a painter dealing with wood in all of its multi-faceted aspects. With the boat forms, I was more inspired by the desire to reintroduce something more organic into the geometric and really make a deal of it, like the Cha-shitsu Architecture [of Japanese tea houses]. When I write about it, I talk about how the organic can be a metaphor for the more natural side of human life and the geometric the more rational side. I think about that dichotomy and I want to try to bring things into balance that may not be so in harmony in my life – your desires against what you know you should do.


Is there a reason these boat forms have a negative space framing the organic item running through the center?

I was thinking about many things at the same time.  I was thinking about male, female – the stick is phallic and the opening is vaginal. The stick is natural and the surrounding form is man made. I wanted to give space so that the natural object has room to be observed and appreciated. So there is definitely a reason why there is space. I was really playing around with how thin to get the sticks on the sides. When you go really thin, what will that do to it? Playing around with all that stuff kind of formally, but also seeing how it made it feel when it’s done.

I know you plan to hang your boat series in a configuration for Remnants. Do you have the arrangement in mind from the outset, or is it more a response to the space when you install?

That part definitely comes to play in it, but it’s not pre-planned. In the beginning, it is enough to wrap my head around what I am going to do with a stick and a piece of wood. Every time that I put on a show, I spend a lot of time doing thinking about how is it going to be arranged, how it is going to fit in the space and what the relationship between objects are going to be, both in size and style. By working in a series, I want to point out differences and subtleties in the material.

Boats by Melinda Rosenberg

Wood isn’t like other materials. It has a growth history. Can you speak to that?

It is one of the reasons I love wood. The growth history seen in the wood grain and how wood decays is very important. When my daughter was three, it was fall and in our backyard there are tons of trees and there were leaves everywhere. She ran out to this pile of leaves and picked up a leaf and screamed, “Mommy, I found a leaf.” She was pure joy that she had found this leaf. I think that’s it. She had her finger on the pulse of life to appreciate something like that so much. With wood, it is my way to get at the pulse of life. I want to be able to put my finger on something that is alive. It is metaphorically, for me, the whole great life thing that we’re a part of.

Your influences range from such disparate examples as minimalist painting to Japanese architecture to conceptual photography. How do these synthesize in your work?

When digesting influences, I think it’s really important to both be respectful of the source and its original intent and context, but it’s also important to let go of that. Maybe I am too accommodating as a person, but I feel like if we are going to progress as a culture we have to be able to communicate visually. I’m not Japanese, but I’m really excited about Cha-shitsu Architecture, which I have been for years. I could tell you stories about this architecture. It’s grand. They do optical stuff that is designed to bring you into the present moment. I am inspired by the intent and the effect of those moves. I think we should use them intelligently to move forward. We should learn from them.

I take what I get excited about and find it in my work. It’s not what it looks like, it’s what it does to me. When I’m going through the museum I’m not seeing 99% of it. The things that I see are the things that I need to see. That’s how we work. You learn what your antennas are up for. I think the information comes in because we’re ready for it to come in.


In showing me a new system to cradle your works-in-progress you mentioned working with Cliff. Who is Cliff?

I got a professional development grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council to work with Cliff Lewis, a woodworker, to help me problem solve throughout this past year. It has been transformative. I encourage all you guys to apply for a professional development grant. He has provided a plethora of ideas that have enabled me to do more things.

Do you have any words of encouragement for other artists?

I have been on an amazing roll for the last five years or so. But I want to recognize for all those artists that aren’t on an amazing roll, that I have gone through terrible dry spells where it has been drudgery – making bad art, after bad art, after bad art. So just hang in there. Have faith.

What broke you free from the drudgery? Time?

I started working on this series before I retired, so it’s not only time. It was also finding something that was really exciting. Every day is a pleasure. I feel so blessed to have the time and the space and the ideas. It’s really been amazing. I wake up all excited to work.

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Books by Melinda Rosenberg

Visit to view more of Melinda’s portfolio. 

Herstories and How-To’s: Victorian Strongwomen.

I don’t know about you, but as soon as the sun starts shining and brisk spring breezes begin to blow, my mind instantly wanders to Pursuits of Health and Fortitude. When I see the first robin scratching for her first worm, I know I’m just a stone’s throw away from rugged hikes and bench pressing grown men.

Okay, so that last part might only be true in my dreams, which is why this month I’m living vicariously through my current obsession- Victorian Strongwomen. I know that being a “strong woman” is nuanced and that in many cases ‘strong’ denotes more than just physical might. I’d argue, though that these women were strong in many ways. Not only could they perform feats of strength unthinkable to most humans, but they did so during the Victorian Era- a time when women were expected to be the daintier, fairer (and weaker) sex, and even table-legs were deemed indecent for lady-eyes. Though we’ve come to accept even the shapeliest of furniture, women today are still sent all kinds of messed up signals about our bodies- told we’re too big, or not big enough, or too big but only in relation to other parts of our anatomy- told to build muscle, but be sure the muscle is ‘lean’ and not ‘too bulky’. (And heaven forbid any of us feel too good about ourselves, no matter what size or shape we may be).

Which is maybe why when I stumbled across Stuff You Missed in History Class’s episode about Katie Sandwina, I knew exactly who I wanted to share with you. And given the impending warmer weather (and accompanying reminders from the media to tone up our post-hibernation body-anxieties), and because I couldn’t choose just one, this month I’d like to briefly introduce you to four fabulous females:

‘No, no, what time should I pick YOU up, sirs?’ via wikipedia

Katie Sandwina (b. ‘Katherina Brumbach) was born in 1884 to a family of circus performers. Besides being just incredibly strong, Katie was also a talented wrestler. Early in her career, her father would offer 100 marks to anyone, man or woman who could best Katie in a wrestling match. Not only did she go undefeated, but during these impromptu matches Katie managed to best the famous strongman Eugene Sandow (AND take on his name), as well as Max Heymann, her future husband of 52 years. Perhaps my favorite thing about Katie was the way in which she embodied all of her roles- weightlifter, stronglady, performer, mother, restaurant owner- thoroughly without ever seeming to become a parody of herself. Her life was filled with fantastical moments- really, I can’t recommend the above podcast enough for the full story.


(there are other, more impressive pictures out there, but I just love the confidence in her whole stance) via wikipedia

Kate Williams, aka Vulcana, was a Welsh strongwoman who, when not performing, was busy being a Real Life Superhero. Her feats of heroism included punching out pickpockets, rescuing horses from fires, lifting stuck wagons and stopping a runaway horse (at the age of 13!).

One of the few confirmed images of Minerva via wikipedia

Minerva, was born Josephine Wohlford. Known for such standards as breaking chains with her chest and unbending horseshoes, Minerva was also known for her crazy extreme hip and harness lifts. (For years she held the Guinness World Record for lifting over 3000 pounds above her head.) Unfortunately, much of her life is wrapped up in vaudevillian glamor and hyperbole, leaving us with few substantiated facts.


BAM! via Girls With Muscle

And finally, we come to one of my personal favorite performers, Lavarie Vallee, a.k.a.  Charmion. Charmion was a strongwoman and trapeze performer who literally threw Victorian taboos to the wind. She was best known for an act in which she would demurely appear in full Victorian attire, then, through a series of acrobatic maneuvers suspended high in the air, she would remove one garment at a time until she was flipping and flexing in a leotard. (ESCÁNDALO!). Her many fans included one Thomas Edison, who loved her act so much, he preserved a simplified version of it for generations to enjoy.

While many of us will (sadly) never achieve phone-book-ripping strength, we can still take care of and pride in our strong bodies. And whether no matter what your movement of choice is- be it bending iron bars, yard-work or creating elaborate dance routines to ‘Mr. Roboto,’ odds are good you’re going to sweat, so this month, I’m going to show you how to:

Make Your Own Cheap, Effective Deodorant That’s So All-Natural You Could Eat It If You Had To (Like, If You Were On A Deserted Island Or Something)*

(Shameless self promotion: For more information about the fascinating history of commercial deodorant, tales of middle school anxiety and even a real (old) picture of armpit scabs, click here!)

  1. In a small jar, combine 4 Tablespoons of coconut oil, 3 Tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot and 3 teaspoons of baking soda. (note: if you find this ratio is ineffective, up the amount of baking soda and cornstarch. If you find this ratio is too harsh, decrease the baking soda)
  2. Microwave jar for 30 seconds at a time until the coconut oil is melted. Stir to combine everything, and let cool until solid again. (Before using fully, be sure to try a small test area to the back of your hand.)
  3. To use, swipe a bit onto your finger and schmear into your pits. In the summer, or if you live in a hot climate, you may find the deodorant reverting to a liquid state. Either store in the fridge or just know that you’ll have to wait a few minutes between application and putting on a shirt.

And that’s it. You can add fragrance or bees wax or the blood of a virgin to yours to make it extra smelly or solid or imbue it with powers, or you can use magic to somehow finagle it into an empty roll on deodorant container, but, should you wish to put forth the barest minimum of effort for satisfactory results, this is it. I’ve used this deodorant recipe for over two years now and not only have I had no complaints, smell-wise, it also has not given me a rash so far.

[*DISCLAIMER: I am in no way a physician, dermatologist, beautician/etc. These are recipes which I’ve tried and while they work for me, they may not work for you. This may be because your skin/hair/pits are different from mine or because your ingredients are from a different source or hell, because the moon is gibbous over Capricorn- I don’t know. I went to art school. If something’s not working for you, use common sense- either tweak it a bit or quit using entirely.]

 Go forth and sweat shamelessly whilst daintily foisting pianos on your pecs, my proud titanic Amazonian beauties!





Our Creative Rituals: the music

Music has been a constant in my life since I was an awkward 12 year old girl and my childhood best friend, Ronda, introduced me to Def Leppard and Duran Duran.  In my car, in the shower, the kitchen, at work, in my studio, it’s there.  Always.

Music often transports me to another place, allows me to settle in, exercise my vocal chords and if I’m alone, practice a few dance moves. Music also frames my creative ritual. A typical art day for me means a few steps out to my studio, lights on, heater on, incense lit and music on. What I listen to depends on my mood that day. Sometimes it’s my iPod on shuffle (Dixie Chicks to Led Zeppelin), other times it could be a One Republic album 75 times or Sirius set to alternative 80s or singer songwriters of the 70s. Many times it’s all of the above.

On occasion I try an audio book. It’s usually something funny. Life is too serious therefore everyone needs a little David Sedaris in their life and he reads them which makes them 100 times better. My personal favorites are Me Talk Pretty One Day and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.

When I asked friends about their listening & watching habits, this is what I found.

Allison Buenger – Nothing…or NPR, podcasts. This American Life, Radiolab, Invisibilia, Serial.

Stephanie Rond – I don’t watch anything but I do listen. If I have a full studio day full of intense creative thinking I shuffle all the Coldplay albums so I can go in and out of “it”.  I guess his voice and their music puts me into a meditative, inner dialogue state.  If I’m doing more of creative thinking in a productive rather than thinking….I listen to all kinds of music. If I’m doing super mundane stuff, like cutting stencils, I listen to podcasts.

Betsy DeFusco – I never watch anything when I am painting but almost always have music on.  Lately I have been listening to Yoyo Ma playing Bach, because that’s what my studio mate is into.  at first I didn’t like it, but now I love it.  Really helps you get in the zone.  Other days it’s lots of other things, ranging from classical to pop (Taylor Swift fan) to Broadway tunes.  It kind of has to be something I can dance around my studio to.

Amy Leibrand – If I’m shooting in the studio, I listen to moody music; stuff that hits me in the gut tends to get the mind going.  If I’m doing less creative things, like framing or staining, I listen to NPR or podcasts.

Mollie Hannon – When I take actual photos, I don’t listen to anything.  To be honest I’ve never tried it.  When I edit photos I listen to music.  It really depends, but most of the time it’s mixes I make with lots of slow intentional melodic music, like Andrew Bird and Beirut.  When I write I listen to music as well, but it’s usually something more aggressive, with a faster pace.  Finally when I assemble art pieces I don’t listen to anything at all because it’s usually last minute and I’m in a rush and I need to super de-duper focus.

Lisa McLymont – I just flew through watching the Deadwood series while working. Talk radio. For sounds, Meshell Ndegeocello, Cinematic Orchestra, Little Dragon, and Sbtrkt are my go-tos, and Glass Animals is my new ear candy.

I play things when I want to get into a groove. I’ve tried to play different things for different projects, but I don’t like focusing too much on these details when I’d rather be focused on making! This is connected to why I forget to eat while working in the “zone”

Caroline Kraus – I do a lot of driving so music always fills my car. When I’m shooting during a bright sunny day, music from Donovan, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, mixed in with a whole lotta music from Stax Records, Motown, and Muscle Shoals.

In the evening at that beautiful golden hour, things slow down and darken a bit with Junior Kimbroug, Lee Moses, The Xx & of course one of my favorites, The Velvet Underground.

But as the sun takes the light, the music gets darker still. My car fills with the reverb of my favorite band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Joined with the likes of, The Kills, Black Angels, Iggy & The Stooges, The Oh Sees, The Cramps & Deap Vally.

At home editing, I go between music, podcasts, and movies. It really just depends on which way the wind blows.

Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Ratatat, Thievery Corporation & Spindrift all help me focus down.

I have recently been obsessed with The Harry Dean Stanton, Partly fiction, doc on Netflix. The pacing is great.

Of course the Serial podcast got me through many hours of editing. But I also listen to 99% invisible, Savage Love, Radiolab, SModcast & Every day feminist.

If this post sparked something and you’re curious about the habits and routines (audial and other) of other famous creatives, you might want to check out Daily Rituals: how artists work by Mason Currey published in 2013 by Knopf.

Feeding Creativity

Creativity is like a fat, needy cat. You must nurture it, care for it, and feed it to keep it thriving and healthy. As someone who has experienced a creative lull early in adult life, I know what happens when you let your creativity sit idle. I blame my lull on a variety of factors, including a bad high school art teacher/uninspiring college classes, a lack of creative partners, and general laziness on my part.




Like most people who feel uncreative, I thought that my dearth of creative output was due to some innate lacking. However, in truth, I’d just had it drilled out of me and I needed to do a little work to call it forth again. Really, what I needed was a creative exorcism.


Right before she puked creativity everywhere.


Luckily, at the end of my fourth year of college, as I was nearing graduation with a Bachelors in Journalism, I FREAKED OUT.

Long story short, I started taking studio art classes and began an internship in the Education Department at the Columbus Museum of Art, which eventually turned into a jobby job. I began exploring various media and art concepts, something I was able to do at school and work. I met people who became my collaborators (RIP Art Club).


Art Club, when we were powerful business women.


Slowly, but surely, I became a creative person again! What was really cool was that, though I had switched my focus towards the visual arts, I became more creative in other ways, such as writing. As a journalism student, my writing had been grammatically sound but mind-numbingly boring, even to me.  Now it’s not, I think…

So, now that my brain is “fixed” and I’m creative again, I’m very careful to keep it happy and fed on a regular basis, lest I become a sad, Fox News watching sheeple, with no ideas of my own.


Without creativity, the terrorists have really won.


Here’s how I do it:

  • Never go too long without a project. It’s nice to take a break but if it’s too long, I get antsy. It’s not that I’m a super serious, prolific artist, I just always have something on the horizon.
  • Collaboration! I’m better at going solo now than I was during my creative resurrection, but it still helps. That’s why I joined CAW. Even if we’re not working on a project together, a community of creative minds is inspiring, motivating, and fun.
  • Make life into a creative project. I’ve been planning my wedding lately and I’ve had a really good time making the invitations, coming up with a killer look, and envisioning decorations. I figure, if it’s not fun and creative, why do it?
  • Remember to be creative at my creative job. The longer I’ve worked at CMA, the more administrative duties I’ve had to take on. BORING. So, I have to remind myself to take time for creative ideas because that’s what makes my programs good and that’s what makes my job rule.
  • Healthy patterns. It may sound lame, but I can be the most creative when my house is clean, my fridge is stocked, I’ve exercised, and my other chores are out of the way. I try to keep up good habits between projects, so that it doesn’t get too chaotic when I’m in a frantic time crunch.
  • Constant inspiration. This one is easy because it gives me a good excuse to read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies, listen to a lot of music, and go to a lot of museums. Some of my more unique sources of inspiration are quirky museums and roadside stops, old toys, campy sci-fi, and punk rock aesthetics, just to name a few.


I’ve seen this movie a bajillion times.


At this point, I may not be an amazing artist but I’m totally owning what I am and it feels great. I know I will only get better.

So, I’m curious, how do you FEED your creativity?

Emerging Female Artist: Jes Moore

There are so many emerging female artists in the Central Ohio area and I just had to tell you all about one of them this month…..Meet  Jes Moore, encaustic artist and soon-to-be-graduate of Ohio Dominican!  This level-headed single mom and artist and I conducted most of our interview online but then we met at Polaris Mall’s kids’ play area to finish up while her adorable little guy, Jonah, ran around and had a grand time!!

jes moore

Jes  and I first met at Joe Lombardo‘s show at Art Access in September and after a short conversation with her and some other artists, I asked her if she would be interested in being interviewed…luckily, she said yes!

Jes has had a studio in Wehrle Hall at Ohio Dominican University campus for about 2 years. She designs under her name “Jes Moore” and hasn’t really created an official business  although she is working as a designer while in school. Much of her work has been designing for the faculty and gallery at school where:  I am the student gallery manager and have been learning exhibition design as well as creating graphics for our shows. I have also had some work go live in “the real world” which is good for a student. I just finished a complete rebranding project with a technical education company in Dublin. Check out the new design at:

Celestial Self Portrait
Celestial Self Portrait

After high school in Harrison Ohio, Jes attended the Art Academy of Cincinnati to begin her art training from 2001-2003.  It was a very influential experience and set the foundation for her artistic career as the traditional curriculum gave her a solid understanding of drawing, painting and color theory. Eventually, she chose to major in sculpture and had many opportunities to explore 3D art-making. Sadly, without any financial support from loans or family, she was unable to obtain a degree from AAC.  Since her grades and motivation were very high at that time, this was a large set-back for her. Read more

Uncomfortably Numb, Performance at the “Woman As” Opening

In CAW, we are blessed with artists of many disciplines.  CAW is happy to showcase our performance artist members and include them in our exhibits.   Instead of brushes and paints, these ladies use their bodies with choreographed pieces they debut at CAW openings.  While our visual artists work can be viewed the entire time of the exhibit, our performers have one opportunity for others to view their art.  I’m excited to share, beyond the opening, these artist’s heartfelt craft.

The following performance is by Heidi Madsen at the latest CAW opening for the show titled Woman As.   Heidi explores her emotions during a difficult time and the result had many audience members moved to tears.

Herstories and How-To’s: Wangari Muta Maathai

This month, on Herstories and How-Tos, in the spirit of optimism, and in preparation for the spring which is Definitely Coming Soon, guys, I want to introduce you to one of my new favorite ladies, Wangari Muta Maathai

Wangari Maathai (b.1940 – d.2011) was a Kenyan environmental and political activist who, in 2004, became the first African Woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Wangari was born in 1940 and raised in Kenya. In 1966, After earning a couple of science degrees in the United States, she secured a research assistant position at the University College of Nairobi (later, the University of Nairobi). When she returned to take the position, however, she found it had been given away- she believed due to gender and tribal bias. Not one to mope, she used the opportunity to go to Germany for a bit of post-doc study, take up microanatomy, get married, start a business, start a family, oh, and become the first Eastern African woman to earn a Ph.D. from the same college that gave away her assistantship 5 years earlier. By 1975, she had become the senior lecturer in anatomy for said university (MIC DROP.)
The next 5 years (and really, the rest of her life) were truly incredible. Wangari casually acquired a whole slew of positions never before held by a woman in Nairobi, worked her ass off to improve women’s rights within the university and became involved in a number of socially engaged volunteer positions. (Seriously, do your brain and heart a favor and read about it all, because it’s all awesome). During this time, she came to believe that many if not most of Kenya’s problems can be traced back to environmental degradation. In 1977, Wangari combined this belief with a lifetime of championing for women’s rights to create the Green Belt Movement. The Green Belt Movement, which seeks to “…strive for better environmental management, community empowerment, and livelihood improvement…” among communities (particularly women) “…using tree-planting as an entry point.” You know what I love? Elegant solutions to multiple, interconnected problems. Nothing makes my heart soar like seeing words like ‘community empowerment’ next to ‘plant trees.’ *SWOON* In honor of her lasting impression as a leader in the ecofeminist movement, and in hopeful preparation for Spring, this month’s how-to is,
How to Plant a Seed: 

Every plant (and therefore, every seed) is slightly different and needs slightly different things. In general, however, sprouting seeds is a fairly straightforward affair. Remember, life wants to survive and has spent many, many millennia working on creating mechanisms to do so as effectively as possible. All you have to do is set up conditions to flip a few of those mechanisms ‘on’ to start the process of growing.
You will need:
-the seed you want to plant.
-something to plant it in (seed starting mix, soil, coir, etc)
-something with a porous bottom to hold the something you plant the seed in (t.p. tubes are perfect and cheap-o)
-Something to go under the something you’re using to hold the something you plant the seed in. A shallow dish or deep plate works great) 

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 6.13.40 AM
    1. Fill your container with your seed starting mix. You’ll want to make sure the bottom is packed fairly tight so that it creates a little sponge to draw up water. Whether you buy fancy ‘sterile’ mix, or get a cheap dehydrated brick of seed starting medium, the key thing here is that there’s not too much in the way of plant food/chemicals/organic matter. Plants carry all the nutrients they need for the first few weeks in their cotyledon leaves (like egg yokes!) and until those shrivel up and ‘true leaves’ emerge, giving them extra nutrients is, in the words of gardener Gayla Trail, like giving sugar to ten-year-olds.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 6.17.55 AM(cotyledon leaves left and right, the first true leaves (!) in the center)

  • Make a hole, roughly twice as deep as your seed is thick. Stick the seed in there and cover it back up.
  • Place the whole thing on a plate or in a shallow tray. Add a bit of water to the tray, wait, then check the top. Keep doing so until the top of the dirt is just barely damp. How often you water depends on how dry or warm your house is, but always always water from the bottom and err on the side of not enough water. (Plants can almost always bounce back from being thirsty. They never come back from being drowned.)

And that’s it! There are other tips and tricks depending on what you’re growing and where, but with the embarrassment of riches that is the internet and your smart brain, I know you (and your new seedlings) will thrive.




Travel and Creativity – The Creative Wellspring

I believe that travel is a renewable creative resource.  From journeys within our own imaginations, to road trips, to epic adventures in far away lands – travel is a wellspring.

Working intentional travel into your day is a fun and potent way to heighten your curiosity and become more aware of and inspired by the world you live in.  For example, I rarely use highways and actually enjoy getting lost. I build time into my busy day for exploration.  Traveling the back roads wakes me up and helps me see the wonder of the world.

Do you always travel the same roads to the grocery story, the studio, and the gym? Do you primarily drive on highways?  The following exercise asks you to re-frame your idea of the daily commute and approach your day-to-day travels with the intent of exploring your world.

Travel and Creativity – The Creative Wellspring

Creativity Boosting Exercise: Travel one day per week without highways. 

  • Purpose:  Take the back roads.  See your neighborhood and town as you’ve never seen it before, or haven’t seen it in years.
    • Alternate:  If you are already traveling the back roads, try taking a different route one day a week.
  • Why #1:  When you travel unfamiliar roads you develop your ability to see and live in the moment.
  • Why #2:  Driving is the exact kind of focused inattention that puts you into a relaxed brain state conducive to creativity.
  • Why #3:  There are more stories on the back roads and good art is often built on good story.
  • Why #4:  Transform your “just another morning commute” into a creative adventure. Take back your life and see travel as a fun and interesting part of your day.
  • Bonus points #1:  Add in a day of pure public transportation.
  • Bonus points #2:  If you get so lost you have to ask for directions, ask the person who helps you find your way about their life.  Make a connection with a stranger.
  • Bonus points #3:  Take your camera and journal along with you to record your adventure.

Do you find inspiration, creative freedom, and joy in travel?  Leave a comment below about how travel has affected your art.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Melinda Eliza Sabo is a an Artist, Creativity Coach, and Lecturer who believes that life should be an artistic journey:  truly well-seen and well-lived.  Visit for more inspiration.

A Tapestry of Creative Inspiration – Lorette Luzajic

Lorette C Luzajic head shot by Ralph MartinLorette Luzajic is a mixed media artist and writer from Toronto, Canada. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Lorette in person, but we have mutual friends, and have worked together off and on for many years. I have admired her for her writing style…she takes up quite a bit of room on my bookshelf with her attention-holding poems and tales. She has an interest for fascinating people and has published a couple of books with essays about the people she considers her inspirations and muses.

When Lorette is not writing and managing the Crad Kilodney Literary Foundation for her mentor, friend, and Canadian cult figure, Chad Kilodney, who passed away recently, she creates rich tapestries of collages and abstract paintings. She shows her work a great deal around Ontario, as well as in the United States.  You can read more about Lorette on her site, but please take a few moments to read this interview here before you journey through Lorette’s beautiful works and explore her vast accomplishments.

How do you get the word out about your art and writing? Do you have a method to your communications?collage january 2015 copy

There’s no motivator like results. It’s been a long path of trial and error, and I’m still learning, but at a certain point you begin to see that you get more out of it, the more you put into it. You find what works for you and what doesn’t. My self-promotion is a work in progress and I have a long way to go, but the confidence that develops along the way is a vital part of the process and it is an essential tool for doing a better job of communicating.

I’ve always been of the mind that no one else is going to do something for me so I need to do it myself. If I made an ass of myself, well, it’s been known to happen. But in general, people want to help you, just as you want to share interesting music or writers that you enjoy. First, those people need to know about you. So tell them.

All the writers’ magazines I read when I was a tween told me to develop a thick skin. I thought this meant I should be matter of fact about getting rejection slips.

But I was in my mid 30s when I really got it. A piece I had written about a brilliant novelist had not gone over well, and I was referred to as “the worst writer in the world.” I was devastated. It can’t get much lower than that. I cried like there was no tomorrow, but tomorrow came, and something had changed. Grow up, I told myself. Not everyone gets everything all the time, and not every word out of your mouth is genius. Toughen up if you want to be out there, or else retire and do something else. That was a real turning point.

Itinerary of a Traveller Through Darkness 2015 Lorette C. Luzajic copyDo you think social media makes it easier for an artist or more difficult? How has it enhanced or impacted your life as an artist?

Social media has made it possible to reach people all over the world, to be in touch with other artists and their ideas. It’s a wonderful facilitator of networks and learning. What we are able to see, share, and discover has never been more abundant. But it is, of course, overwhelming- and really drives home how there are so many writers and artists, and only so many people with walls and money at the same time, only so many books even the most avid of readers can plow through.

Where do you get the energy to do what you do? What inspires you?studio thurs jan 8 2015 copy

I have more time I suppose than many adults, because I don’t have children. Other people do their work and raise kids, and I don’t know how they do it.

I’m inspired by human ideas- literature, art, music, the imagination of religion, cities, culture, technology.

I know you had a close relationship and were an avid supporter of fellow Canadian writer, Crad Kilodney. How did he influence your writing with his life and death?

Crad Kilodney is a Canadian cult figure famous for writing inspired by vanity press, pulp, and b-movies. He is legendary for having a rather cantankerous personality- he was a self described misanthrope. He did not see himself as an eccentric, but I can tell you that he most definitely was.

Crad encouraged me and pushed me and infuriated me and adored me- it was a potent tincture. I worked harder to make him proud. We had almost nothing in common creatively save for our shared DIY philosophy and absurd sense of humour. It proved to be more than enough.

Now my work will always be intertwined with his, because I promised him  I would start the Crad Kilodney Literary Foundation the day after his death and provide a hub for readers to access his work and share memories of him. So he became part of my life’s work and vocation.   It has meant being asked to read on his behalf at major festivals like Luminato, and to being approached by luminaries like Anthony Stechyson, a brilliant young TV producer.

Stechyson is turning Crad’s biography, Putrid Scum, into a documentary. And so it is that I am now doing creative consultation for him, working on a feature length film. I am so happy for an opportunity to participate in the production of a movie, and learn so much about an art I’ve never been involved in.

I Know It Sounds Strange, She Says, Because It Is a Strange Story, 2015 Lorette C. Luzajic copyOf course this is a blog for women artists about women artists, so I must ask you about the women artists, or writers, that have also influenced your work.

Women are a tremendous source of inspiration, and while there have been so many obstacles to creation and recognition, I’m curious about how women have really been integral to art history. The role of the muse is  a lively history filled with unconventional women whose beauty or charisma is part of the hidden story of art. Certainly we have talents to offer that don’t involve taking off our clothes or giving our ideas over to men to use- that’s not the point I’m making at all. It’s just that we shouldn’t miss or  dismiss the extraordinary power of women’s beauty and character to inspire. Women were always behind the scenes, and I suspect that art would be much more sterile and soulless had that not been true.

Perhaps the great genius of Marilyn Monroe was her instinctive recognition of the role of the muse. She created the ultimate muse from the fabric of her own life- strong and vulnerable, tragic yet triumphant, an orphan girl turned goddess at the twitch of her own magic wand. She brilliantly performed for dozens of great photographic artists, using technology to immortalize herself, and she made mediocre artists great by giving them a dazzling subject. I view Monroe as one of the world’s greatest artists because she took that history and turned it on its head- the muse had so long been behind the scenes, and now she was more famous than anyone. This is why I included her in my book Fascinating Artists, in the essay, “Marilyn as Masterpiece.”
Place Me Like a Seal Over Your Heart, For Love is As Strong As Death Lorette C. Luzaic 2015 copy
The Hard Way to Heaven 2015 Lorette C. Luzajic copyI’m also really drawn to women on the other side of the camera. Many of my favourite female artists are actually photographers, like Mexico’s Lola Alvarez Bravo, and Berlin’s Elsie Neulander Simon. Elsie mentored Helmut Newton before she was butchered by the Nazis; her fashion photographs were sensual documents of contrasting details and lines, hands and stockings and buttons and seams. One book I never tire of looking through is Naomi Rosenblum’s History of Women Photographers. All creative people should own a copy- it is a revelation to see a chronological compilation of women’s pictures. It really drives home the importance of diversity in art, because you can see how differently women see things.

Two other women who are integral to my creative education are the critics Camille Paglia and Sister Wendy. They couldn’t be more opposite- Paglia, fiery lesbian and guerrilla scholar whose massive intellect is matched by her controversial persona,  and Sister Wendy, the endearing nun whose insights are simple, delivered so the common populace can understand. Wendy’s sweet pablum avoids the intimidating elitism and jargon that prevents ordinary people from appreciating art- she opens the doors to thousands of paintings by empowering regular people to enrich their life with art by igniting their curiousity and validating their perceptions.  Paglia offers rigorous historical inquiry into western civilization, poetry and literature, and art- most of us need to keep a dictionary handy as we work our way through her books. But she makes connections no one else does, and has outrageous opinions and an unmatched wit.

What is the art scene like for women in Toronto? fascinating artists cover turn to pdf-page0001

Women in the arts continue to break barriers and change the world. Toronto is one of the greatest places on earth, and it’s very exciting to work in a country and era where I’m allowed to vote, to show my face, and to show my art.

You know, I could ask you a thousand questions, because you to me are a fascinating person, but tell me about your series of books on fascinating people. Did that sound a little lame? If so…my apologies.

I have always been interested in human creativity and inspired by interesting people. There are so many characters and so many stories. The series of books, which includes Fascinating Artists, Fascinating Writers, and Fascinating People, shares my encounters with the biography and work of various unusual people. I felt that essay length stories about the lives of people who have contributed to the rich human tapestry might intrigue people to go deeper into exploring that person’s creativity or biography. Of course, these are subjective pieces about my own response as an artist to the work of others- a way of introducing people to my many muses.



Interview and Post by Peggy MintunPeggyMintun. Thank you to Lorette for taking time for this interview.

You can read more about Peggy at

A Week In O’Keeffe Country

In October of 2012 a friend and I drove west across the country.  Our ultimate goal and destination was to visit with friends in the highly anticipated and beautiful Santa Fe but, (no surprises here), we also found the journey along the way through ever changing terrain and color to be quite beautiful.  Those eleven days went quickly filled with beauty, newness and awakening.  So many memories were created that I revisit fondly and often especially on real life, daily grind, Columbus, Ohio February kind of days. Big blue skies, surreal landscapes of wind farms set against sunsets that could melt the coldest of hearts and an inspiring visit to O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu are my favorites.



O’Keeffe. Standing where she stood, seeing what she saw, breathing in the same air, sun, sky that she did and seeing her pieces in the very real landscape that surrounded me was an experience that moved me and one that I hope to never forget.  It produced stomach butterflies, quickened my heart rate and at the very same time, enveloped me with a feeling of overwhelming peace.  In those moments I realized I was in the presence of greatness.  Also in those moments I knew I would return to this place again and again.

At Ghost Ranch we met the resident librarian (a friend of a friend) who told us of a recently published book by author and University of New Mexico grad, C.S. Merrill.  The book, Weekends with O’Keeffe, and related stories that we heard that day recount a young grad student’s first and once in a lifetime meeting with the artist and the companionship that followed.  The book is nicely strung together, built from pieces of journals kept, sound recordings taken and memories.  It replays the unbelievable account of Merrill’s first meeting with the artist, her weekend job of organizing O’Keeffe’s massive book collection and eventually the daily companionship that followed.  (I have goosebumps thinking about it.) O’Keeffe was in her 80s and Merrill in her 20s, O’Keeffe was strong, hard and closed and Merrill was open.  The relationship that followed was moving and proves to me in some way that magic does exist.



You don’t have to be an O’Keeffe fan to enjoy this book.  It shares intriguing glimpses into the daily life of an aging artist, observations of another looking in at that mysterious life, and above all else an amazing connection between two women.

Weekends with O’Keeffe, C.S. Merrill, University of New Mexico Press, 2010