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.

unnamed (16)
Books by Melinda Rosenberg

Visit to view more of Melinda’s portfolio. 

Just. Go. Away.

I love to travel. I Love, luv, lurrrv it. I don’t particularly treasure the actual travelling part of travel, as I tend to puke everywhere and get super constipated. That part aside, I like to get away as much as possible.



Puke City, USA


I think that travelling is good for me and the creative part of my brain. Primarily, it’s the ONLY way I can truly clear my mind. If I take a week off of work and stay at home, I’ll probably get some stuff done, but I won’t feel too different upon my return. If I go somewhere far away (the farther, the better), the more I can become detached from my day-to-day existence.

Now, I don’t have a horrible life at all. Au contraire, I have an awesome life, full of good people and a cat and a fiancé and CAW and all that kind of stuff. But, as you all know, the day-to-day grind can get old. Work, billz, laundry, repeat. Travel helps clear it all away. Seriously, if I’m gone for over a week, I can’t remember why I let all those little things invade my brain. And once that crap has vacated the premises, I have more room to be creative. It feels so good.


Brain eating amoeba CDC

Brain-eating amoebas. I’m not making this shit up.


I also believe that travel can help you to see the big picture. Little things you took for granted are different, and it makes you rethink the whole scenario in the first place. For instance, did you know that in Europe (Copenhagen and Warsaw, in my experience), you can get hot dogs in baguettes??? They actually squirt the sauce (garlic mayo, wut?) into the hole. My world will never be the same.



How does this make you feel?


Or did you know that in Eastern Europe, NOBODY SMILES?! I’m joking. People smile, but I find it refreshing that the American ideal of “customer service” hasn’t saturated the globe. I don’t need to feel like I’m in a Starbucks every time I’m in a friggin’ store or restaurant.



“I live to serve you. Without you, my life would be a meaningless void.”

I just read a book on Vietnamese street food, cuz I’m going there on my honeymoon next month (AWW YEEAH). I guess they smile a lot there, so it’s not just us. Also, they have this cool shrimp paste stuff called Mam Tom that I’m excited to try… uh, wait,  I’m going down a food spiral! What I’m trying to say is that travelling is a great way to have new experiences that you never knew you were missing.

But that brings me to my next point. You don’t have to travel to have new experiences. Travelling can be really expensive. Some of my trips were funded by my mom, who was living in weird places for a while and wanted me to visit (free loading is optimal). Sometimes I took out extra school loans (oops). Sometimes I ran out of money and used my credit card for the rest of the trip (oops, again).


New Zealand 031

My mom in New Zealand. My last name is Underwood. Do you get it? I’M A HOBBIT.

No regrets! However, if you don’t want to add to your massive student debt or you make no money because you are an artist, there is still hope. There are many countries occupying this one little city known as Columbus. By this I mean that there are a lot of amazing restaurants run by people from other countries. and I’m going to give you an exclusive tip on my all-time favorite restaurant. Huong. There, I said it. Now you know. Tell no one.

There are also a lot of weirdo things to do in Columbus. Ever heard of the Early Television Museum in Hilliard? It rules. I recommend going after a massive brunch at Starliner Diner. Go outside the outer belt and you can find all kinds of treasure. Unofficial Lego Museum in an old school? Yep. A tour of ventriloquist dummies by a math teacher? Check. A park called Big Bone Lick? Oh, yeah. You don’t have to go far to discover new things.



Dinosaur World, in Cave City, KY

So, how is travelling and gaining new experience helpful to creativity? Well, to make a long story short, I believe that it makes my thinking more flexible, leaves me more open-minded and willing to take risks, gives me all kinds of fodder for my imagination, and most importantly, it helps me to remember what matters. And that’s big, when making art a priority.

So, go forth, ye wandering nymphs, and populate thee globe with creativity and enlightenment.

No, seriously, just go away!

Herstories and How-to’s: Fede ‘Galizia’ and Frozen Fruit

Sometimes I know weeks in advance of writing these posts what badass woman I want to celebrate or skill I want to share. Other times, like this time, it takes weeks of procrastination, pestering loved ones for ideas and noodling around aimlessly on the internet. (Come to think of it, this is not unlike my creative process in general.)

It was during one such internet-noodling that I stumbled across the artist Fede Gallizi.

Fede Gallizi (b. 1578) meets many of the requirements to melt my feminist art-history-nerd heart. Successful during times of Ye Olde Sistemic Misogynie? Check. Quietly excellent and forward thinking in a way that exceeds both men and women of her time? Check. Forgotten after her death, ‘rediscovered’ only recently? Check. Mad trompe l’oeil skillz? Oh check, indeed.

Judith Beheading Holofernes, widely believed to be a self portrait of Galizia, calmly being better than you.(via wiki)

Fede Gallizi or ‘Galizia’ as she was known, was introduced to painting at an early age by her father, a successful miniature painters. Galizia started rocking pretty early. By age 12 she was already getting shout-outs from grown-up dude-artists (As a rule, 16th century grown-up professional dude-artists were not prone to paying compliments to children, so we can assume she must’ve been pretty bad-ass). By the time Galizia was 18, she was an established painter, doing theoccasional commissioned altar piece, landscape and illustration. Her real business, though, was in portraiture. With her crazy attention to detail, especially when it came to clothing and jewelry, her work was in consistent demand.

WUT?! (both via )

What she’s best remembered for, though are her still lifes. Even if bowls of fruit and flowers aren’t your thing, consider this- The first one cataloged, done in 1602, is thought to be the first dated still life by an Italian artist.


OH, and if being a pioneer in terms of subject matter isn’t enough to impress you, how about the fact that the way she painted them- simple arrangements, often of one type of fruit, close cropped and balanced compositions- wouldn’t be seen again until the 20th century:

still life by Cezanne, 1890. 1890! via.

But all trail-blazing and forward-thinking aside, even separate from the ‘Larger Narrative of ART History’ Galazia won me over with her simple, charming, nearly-perfect arrangements and sheer painting skill. I mean, look at this:


Ah!  That grasshopper kills me every time! What did she use, a .000001 brush!? So. Rad.
Like most people living in the fifteen and sixteen hundreds, details about her personal life are few and far between. By all accounts, she continued to paint and lead a quiet, happy and successful life. (Take that Myth of the Tortured Genius.)

In honor of these simple but perfect paintings, and the beginning of berry season, this month’s short and sweet how-to is:


 How to Freeze Fruit (in a way that’s not totally annoying).


Okay, so obviously, you can freeze fruit by just sticking it in the freezer. But if you’ve ever stuck a bag of blueberries in the freezer only to find yourself later, chipping away at a purple iceberg and sobbing over the lost dreams of pancakes and cobblers, then you know what I’m talking about when I say ‘in a way that’s not totally annoying.’ Don’t worry, you don’t need to be Julia Child, or a a level 10 mage- all you need to know are a few tips:

  1. For fruit that needs no cutting (i.e. blueberries, raspberries, grapes, etc.)- spread the fruit on a cookie sheet and pop into the freezer for an hour or so. You can then put all the individual frozen fruit into a bag or container to store in the freezer, now frozen AND scoopable.
  2. For fruit that you want to cut in some way (i.e. peaches, strawberries, bananas etc), cut first, then follow tip number 1. Boom. Done. Go live your life.
  3. Special Banana trick: So you could follow tip 2. for bananas, but if you, like me, like frozen bananas in your smoothies AND are supremely lazy, there’s an even easier way. Literally stick the whole banana in the freezer, peel and all. When you need it, just microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. The banana will still be frozen enough to be awesome, but the peel will come away easily. You’re welcome.






Mixed Media At It’s Finest

20150307_120455Are you interested in learning mixed media techniques?  Would you rather learn them in person rather than online or through reading books?  I have got the instructor for you!!!  In March, I was fortunate enough to partake in a wonderful workshop with 10 other lovely ladies under the tutelage of the immensely creative and talented Christine Guillot Ryan at the McConnell Arts Center.

Christine at Chalk the Block last year

We started the two day workshop with an overview of what Christine wanted to teach us with lots of examples of how she incorporates these techniques into her own work.  We were able to see some of her finished pieces on display at the arts center for the Brave exhibition and, wow, was I inspired!  I couldn’t wait to get to work!

Christine's pieces for
Christine’s pieces for “Brave”

Christine first shared some books that she has found helpful to  explore a variety of techniques.  We introduced ourselves, shared our experience in creating mixed media and indicated what we hoped to learn during the workshop.  Each of us were given 2 – 16 x 24 canvas boards and were provided with materials and equipment to experiment with…a very relaxed and intimate atmosphere.

Using plastic wrap with paint

From there, Christine set up a palette of acrylic paints that she typically uses in her pieces and then she discussed the benefits of using acrylics vs. oils.  She explained the need for background, middle ground and foreground for our pieces to give them depth and texture before demonstrating painting the background.  At that point we learned about using bubble wrap, plastic wrap and various other textiles with paint to give the illusion of texture.

Another student incorporating tracing paper
Another student incorporating tracing paper

While the paint on those canvases dried, she discussed manipulation of xeroxing and gave a demonstration of the methods she used for this, particularly when manipulating text.  Everyone got into that! She had a ton of xeroxed images that we could use but we were encouraged to bring items like this to the class when given our materials list.

Using gel medium to apply paper

Time flew by that first day!  Just when I was beginning to really get into it, it was time to pack up for the day but what we learned certainly was fodder for the evening.  I gathered images from magazines, my stash of images, text and more for the next day’s adventures.

Demonstrating spray paint techniqes

Sunday was spectacular particularly because the winter dreariness seemed to have broken; the day was warm and sunny…perfect for our foray into spray painting.  Xeroxing was fun but it couldn’t compare to spray paint for me.  Christine demonstrated the techniques and showed us the materials and paints (mostly, Montana Gold but also paints from Lowe’s and Home Depot) she uses in her work.  Then she left us to play, play, play!  We sprayed on our canvases as well as on tracing paper that could then be used to create layers and more texture on our work.  Attaching these pieces and others using gel medium was also part of the instructions for both days.  She had tons of materials she shared with us like stencils, lace, plastic flowers, 3-d glasses, so much stuff I can’t even begin to describe it all.

Materials to use with spray painting
Materials to use with spray painting

Image transfer was also taught that day and she showed us two different methods for accomplishing this.  Fascinating and, although not extremely difficult, somewhat tricky.  I attempted this but think that I will have to have lots of trials before I’m happy with my results!  We also got to play with pan pastels, again to add depth and texture to our pieces.  Oh, my bank account is gonna be hurting!!!  I fell in love with these too!

During the last 90 minutes of class, Christine showed us how to finish our pieces to make them more permanent with a variety of gel mediums.  Once this demonstration was completed, she asked each of us to share our work the class, explain what we liked best about the class,  took pics of our work and gave us feedback on what we had created.

Students working
Students working

The majority of the ladies in the class stated that they loved the environment mainly because Christine was so supportive, non-judgmental and just plain fun!  I think that everyone there felt that they had learned a lot about mixed media even if they expressed that the were not sure if the would use the techniques in the future.

For me, the instructor (yay, Christine!) made the workshop enjoyable and encouraged movement around the class to talk to other participants, supported and encouraged but didn’t tell us what to do.  She was fun and funny as well as honest and forthright. I am so very glad that I took this because it was just what I needed to get myself out of a creative funk after recovering from surgery.  I would highly recommend taking classes from her and hope to do so again some time in the near future.

The beginnings of one of my pieces

Not only did Christine inspire me that weekend, the things I learned have carried over into the trio of pieces that I am creating for CAW’s upcoming show at Urban Arts Space in May entitled “Remnants”.  As you can see, I incorporated many of the techniques I learned but if you want to see the finished pieces, you will have to make your way downtown in May!

If you are interested in taking a class from Christine, she is hoping to offer another one at McConnell in the fall.  Check their upcoming schedules for dates and times.

Contact info for Christine:

Knowledge is Power but Ignorance Ain’t Bad Neither

As  big, fat grown-ups, there are things that we “know”, skills that we have accrued, information available to our brains from a lifetime of learning. This can be very helpful in many ways. We can do things we couldn’t do when we were younger, like sew, read, and poop in the potty. It’s great!


This picture makes me feel sad inside but I’m not sure why.


However, the older I get, the more I seem to realize how little I know and how little I’m likely to learn, in the great scheme of things.  I’m a learner. I’m constantly trying to learn new things but the vast amount of information out there combined with my nonexistent memory means that I will be forever ignorant of most knowledge that exists. Hmmm. Bummer.

Now, us fancy creative types know that information and skill is only half the battle. A lot of life, and art, is just figuring it out as you go. Making it up, faking it, and going for it. You can be a classically trained guitar player and suck at writing songs. The Kinks deride this type of player in their song, “Session Man”.


The Kinks, all high and mighty with their fluffy hair and fantastic music.


On the flip side, there are artists with little to no training, creating amazing art. Henry Darger is an easy example that comes to mind. His giant graphic novel with naked little girl/boys is beautiful in its imperfection.


“In the Realms of the Unreal” by Henry Darger is wonderful  and confusing.  


Influential punk bands like The Slits didn’t really know a lot about playing instruments, but they played anyway and created something new, distinctive, and raw.


The Slits, rocking the “back comb” hairstyle.


However, in her recent memoir, Viv Albertine, the guitarist for The Slits, said she wished she’d learned how to properly play the guitar. After the band broke up, she couldn’t play with anyone else. I wonder, though, if she had learned, would they have been as good? All I know is, her solo album is, well, pretty crappy.

It makes me wonder about the power of combined knowledge. If we can’t learn everything, maybe  our only hope is to combine forces. Easier said than done. When collaborations work, they are magical. You can achieve things unattainable on your own. However, they don’t always work. People are weird and difficult sometimes.  Sometimes collaborations just run their course.

And thusly, there is this constant struggle between acquisition of real, tangible knowledge and being comfortable with just going with it, regardless of how clueless we really are. I don’t think that there is a right answer and I think that it depends on the person. Personally, I’m just gonna keep on truckin’, learning new things, keeping my eyes, ears, and mind open, and trying to be brave when I don’t know the answer.


R. Crumb

The Muse as Shapeshifter

Sometimes the simplest ideas have the largest impacts.  Likewise, a single just-right question can change everything.

Many years ago a creativity guru asked me:  “Are you punishing yourself by not making the time you need for your art?”  This simple question had a huge impact on my practice and the amount of pleasure and joy I took in art making.  Looking back, it’s easy to see the huge, positive ramifications of that pivotal conversation.

My mentor’s question helped me reframe my relationship with myself as an Artist.  This idea of reframing is often at the center of conversations I have with my creativity coaching clients.  One common source of creative frustration in artists of all kinds is with inspiration and creative flow.  It goes like this:  “The Muse is here and all is well – Huzzah!” Followed not long after by:  “The Muse is gone and everything sucks.  Everything. Sucks.”

Muse as Shapeshifter

The questions I like to ask to start a conversation about the Muse are another example of how simple can be powerful:

  1. What if – instead of being capricious and often absent – your Muse were always with you but always changing?
  2. What if she were a shapeshifter?
  3. Who was she today?
    • A bratty four-year-old – demanding that you drop everything and play with her when you have dinner to cook?
    • A wise old woman asking you to take a walk in the park when you really want to catch up on Outlander episodes?
    • Did she have magnificent dreadlocks and a mysterious smile?  Did you stop to talk to her?
    • Was she a crow cawing loudly from the tree outside your home?  What message did she bring?

Next time you’re feeling abandoned by your Muse, give the following exercise a try.

  1. Use the first question from above and pretend for a moment that your Muse is always with you and that she is never absent.
  2. Pretend that she wants your attention and that she needs you to recognize her as she changes form.  In return for your attention and recognition, know that she will gift you with inspiration and creative energy.
  3. Go for a 15 minute walk and let the natural world and the people you encounter be signs from you Muse.  The neighbor boy.  The purple flower.  The running squirrel.  The glowing moon.  Each has a message for you.  Relax and let your Muse (and the inspiration she has to offer) find you.
Science has proven that walking is a natural way to boost creativity.  When you combine walking with the extended metaphor of a scavenger hunt for messages from your Muse, it’s my hope that you will quickly discover the creative magic you need to get back to the work you love.

“O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.”

– William Shakespeare

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.  This article was originally published in the April 2015 edition of Wild Sister Magazine.

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