Herstories and How-To’s: Septima Clark

February is awesome. It’s the only month with a million holidays -Groundhog’s Day, Candlemas, The Lunar New Year, Presidents’ Day, Galentine’s Day*, etc- that manages to feel both exciting AND chill (which, after December and January, is a huge relief). It’s also Black History month! It’s also, as I just found out, the International Season for Nonviolence. In honor of the awesomeness that is this intersection, let’s talk about activist, teacher, and all-around bad-ass Septima Clark:

“I have a great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking. I consider chaos a gift.” via.

 

Septima Poinsette Clark was born in 1898 in Charleston, South Carolina. As one could imagine, growing up in the segregated, reconstruction-era South greatly affected Septima’s childhood and, really, her entire life. As the 2nd of eight children in a working class family, luxuries were few and far between. From the beginning both of her parents stressed the importance of an education. After graduating high school in 1916 -following the uphill battle that was getting a quality education for anyone who wasn’t white- Septima took and passed the state exam to become qualified to teach by the age of 18. Despite her credentials, however, she was banned from teaching in Charleston’s public schools, due to the fact that she was an African American woman. (cue deep sighing and *headdesk*ing)

Septima, you’re so wise. Racism ruins enough things already- we shouldn’t let it ruin our ice cream too. (via.)

Not being one to generally take ‘no’ as a reason to quit, Septima found a position at a rural school on the nearby John’s island. There, she spent her days teaching children and her nights informally teaching illiterate adults. Not only was she essentially working two jobs, but she was also apparently a kickass, brave and experimental teacher. During this time, she developed innovative methods to quickly teach adult literacy using everyday materials like the Sears catalog. During her time on John Island, she began to take notice of the inequalities between her school and the white school across the street- where teachers were paid much more and the class size was laughably small compared to Miss Clark’s. It was around this time, too, that she heard several preachers speak about the still fairly new NAACP. These experiences led her to become a champion for pay equalization. In 1919, when she returned to Charleston to each at the Avery Institute (a private school for black children), she joined the local NAACP chapter and wasted no time in marrying her teaching practice with her passion for social justice. During her first year there, she led her students door to door to get signatures for a petition which would allow African American teachers within the public school system. After 1 day, she had thousands of signatures and by 1920 African American teachers were permitted to teach in private and public schools.

Hi, I’m your new teacher. Oh, PS I’m also going to create major social upheaval and peacefully start a revolution because JUSTICE. (via)

After her husband’s death in 1925, Septima moved to Columbia South Carolina, where she continued to teach and to work with the local NAACP chapter, using her summers to take classes and workshops at Columbia University in New York and at Atlanta University. In 1942 she earned her bachelor’s degree from Benedict College, and obtained a master’s from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in 1945. That same year, she worked with none other than Thurgood Marshall himself to bring to court a case that sought to gain equal pay for black and white teachers. After 25 years in Columbia, Septima moved back to her hometown of Charleston, where once again she continued to learn, to teach (both children and adults) and to work with social justice groups like the YWCA, The Council of Negro Women and the NAACP and, generally, win at life.

In the mid-1950s (or as I like to think of them Ye Olde Madd Menn Daes), South Carolina passed an asinine law which made it illegal for public employees (including teachers) to join civil rights groups. Septima refused to quit or denounce the NAACP and was fired. But, rather than be the end of a 40 year long career, this turned out to be the biggest opportunity of her life. Now a free agent, Septima was hired by the progressive Tennessee Highlander Folk School. While there, Septima directed the Citizenship school program, which helped community members learn how to teach others math and literacy skills. This was particularly important because at the time many states used literacy tests to keep African American men and women from voting. This was the work for which Martin Luther King Jr. was to call her “the Mother of the Movement.” When the Southern Christian Leadership Conference took over the project, Septima joined the SCLC as it’s director of education and teaching. Under her leadership, over 800 citizenship schools, where individuals learned how to teach their fellow citizens “self-pride, cultural-pride, literacy, and a sense of one’s citizenship rights,” were created. It’s estimated that by the early 1960s, the nearly 10,000 teachers trained at these workshops, which included Ella Baker, John Lewis and Rosa Parks. These teachers were then able to reach nearly 700,000 citizens who, as a result of Septima’s work, were able to have a voice and have a vote.

“I wanted to have the courage to accomplish the kinds of things that she had been doing for years.” -Rosa Parks (R) talking about Septima Clark (L). (via.)

NOT ONLY was Septima a power house teacher and activist, she was also an outspoken feminist. As she rose through the ranks of the Civil Rights Movement, she was quick to point out the misogyny of it’s prominent members and didn’t hesitate to take even Martin Luther Kind Jr. to task about equality for all men and women. Whether it was threats from the KKK, getting arrested or just being discouraged by the voices of authority in her life, she was a woman who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She peacefully (but not quietly), created not just change, but conditions in which other humans could be agents for change. Through it all, she never lost her common-sense or her humor:

“Don’t ever think that everything went right. It didn’t.” (via.) “

 

How to Show the Badass Ladies in Your Life That You Care
This Galentine’s Day:

Speaking of holidays and Herstory, it’s time for the greatest holiday invented by a fictional character ever.

Even if you don’t have the Knopian levels of energy needed to create needlepoints of your lady-friends faces, you can still share and celebrate with your lady friends this February:

  • Brunch! Breakfast foods (specifically: waffles) are the traditional Galentines meal. No need to get fancy- all you need is a box of waffles and lots of topping (You could even do it potluck style and have everyone bring a different topping to share. Just make sure that you have plenty of whipped cream and/or syrup.
  • Galentines cards! Happily, commercial card-makers seem to still be caught up in “Valentine’s Day” and have largely ignored Galentines. This means it’s time to get crafty! I like to focus on a theme each year (“artists” or “saucy suffragettes“) and include heavy doses of puns and glitter, HOWEVER much like being a feminist, there’s no one right way to make a Galentine. Follow your bliss, ladydudes.
  • Treat Yo Self…to Herstory! Whatever you do, don’t forget to celebrate your best lady-friend- the one inside you. Even if you don’t have time to make waffles or cards for yourself, there’s always a bit of time to feed yourself some braincandy. Personally, I’ve been obsessing over Rad American Women by Kate Schatz. Not only are the women profiled beautifully diverse (in all meanings of the word), but each one has a beautiful illustration by Miriam Klein Stahl and a little one-page history, making it perfect for for reading during your quick breaks from fighting the patriarchy.

 

 

Sources:

  • http://www.forharriet.com/2014/02/27-black-women-activists-everyone.html#axzz3zV6nYZVA
  • http://www.biography.com/people/septima-poinsette-clark-38174
  • http://www.blackpast.org/aah/clark-septima-poinsette-1898-1987
  • https://thosewhoteach.wordpress.com

 

10,000 Hours 365 Bowls: Thoughts on Making and Creating

 

 

Nothing happens unless you showup – Agnes Martin
Imagine – John Lennon
You have to be brave to get older – Bette Davis
Just Do It! – Nike

 

 

At a CAW meeting early in the year, we were asked how CAW has affected our artistic lives. Kate Menke bravely stood and intimated that circumstances had kept her from making her art for some time, and she wanted to do ceramics but did not have the appropriate space in which to do it. This blocked her. She spoke of how a CAW member encouraged her to move forward, and so she did. She made one ceramic bowl in her dining room. She was so charged by this she made a daily practice of making one ceramic bowl in her dining room for a year. She amassed 365 bowls, and I was impressed by her story. She had dedication to purpose as well as a need, but she needed a shove to begin and got it from our group. I have added Kate to my list of muses and heroes and she is in company with the likes of painter Agnes Martin.

Agnes Martin is on my list because she chose a difficult path early on in her life. She considered herself to be an abstract expressionist painter, but her work was thought by critics to be minimal, descreet, inward, and, to my way of thinking, silent. Her paintings reflected an interest in Eastern philosophy and religion. Born in 1912 in Canada, she died in 2004 in Taos, New Mexico, where she settled in 1967. She moved away from the New York art world, built her own simple adobe studio, isolated herself by choice, and died at 92. It is said she did not read a newspaper for 50 years. She took a seven year hiatus from painting and distanced herself from the social events that make a typical artist’s life. Agnes bravely chose her road and continued down it making significant use of its ups and downs. In a documentary of her work Agnes said, “Nothing happens in the studio unless you show up.”

 

Gratitude, Painting, Agnes Martin
Gratitude, Painting, Agnes Martin

 

Periodically I can be a slacker about going to the studio; I think this can be said of all of us. When this happens, Agnes’ words come to mind…..it ain’t gonna happen if you are not there… and I go empty-minded into a space that calls out for action, any action. So in blank-mindedness I start cleaning, piddling, picking up bits of this and that and, it never fails, something begins to happen. Sometimes just the studio gets cleaned, but at least I gave it a shot. Showing up is proactive and practice is proactive.

That brings me to Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers, who has brought us the concept of putting in 10,000 hours of work to become great. WHAAAT?

The idea is that 10,000 hours of deliberate pratice will make you world-class in any field. To Gladwell, greatness takes an enormous amount of time. There is no doubt that when you put 10,000 hours into anything you become a master from a technical and skill level, but is that all that matters? Does 10,000 hours really bring you fame and fortune? Does 10,000 hours allow you to make something good or important or interesting? Does 10,000 hours dig deep into your psyche or your soul? Gladwell doesn’t talk about imagination as part of the process; we can only infer that it rises when you work for 10,000 hours at the same thing. Is it possible for all of us to imagine something and then create it? Of course it is. John Lennon instructs us to imagine. Do we have to show up and put in 10,000 hours to make something that exemplifies our imagination or even our lack of one? I don’t think so.

Agnes Martin and the Nike Corporation had the right idea about the importance of being present and just doing it. So did Kate as she practiced in her dining room, making a mess on the dining room table.

 

Kate Menke, Watch Me
Kate Menke, Watch Me

 

Certainly one must practice one’s art or craft, but beyond mastery of a skill set, what else is there? What else does one learn from hours of practice? What draws us to a painting or a bowl? What drives us to make things, and if mastery is a matter of practice, then what is it about art that compels a reaction in the viewer aside from the fact there is an object before her? In her own words, here are a few things Kate learned from her practice:

The daily habit of creating a bowl for a year actually transformed me into an artist. Before, I was an art teacher who sometimes made art but I really had no drive or vision for my creation. Establishing this discipline, making the time every day and having an attainable goal awakened the artist in me. Now, I don’t feel complete if I haven’t worked on some aspect of my art every day. It has made me a better artist and I feel less afraid to create and to share with the world. I posted each bowl on Facebook and Instagram and many of my bowls are less than perfect (They we’re made in 15 minutes or less!). I opened up my imperfections to criticism and found that people loved them more for it. Finally, it forced me to seek people and places to encourage my work. If you value your art, dedicate a time and a place for it and don’t let anything get in the way. Working 30 minutes a day adds up quickly and can change your life. Going through the motions of creating allows your brain to expand into really creative places. If you can’t come up with new ideas just keep making something simple things. Eventually your brain will relax and the ideas will flow. Paying attention deliberately for a year and having a physical manifestation of each day allowed me to be thankful in a whole new way. There are a lot of people out there that will encourage your making but you have to put yourself out there.

Art like life is a journey; you pick a road and follow it moving off onto branches as suits your whim. You get older, wiser, and more experienced. As Bette Davis said, “You have to be brave to get old.” She may have  been refering to changes in the body, but I think she was implying you must be brave to keep moving forward, making mistakes, and having successes and failures as you go. In doing so, you begin to make work that has imagination, feeling, depth, and intellect, the qualities that make a truly interesting and great work of art when applied with skill and knowledge of the tools.

 

 

Kate Menke, Ceramic Bowls
Kate Menke, Ceramic Bowls

 

My hat is off to Kate who dared to show up and make one clay bowl a day for 356 days in her dining room, no less. Clay everywhere, perhaps kids and animals making demands, significant others wanting dinner, and the general interuptions of a busy life. One bowl a day. I cannot say I have done that. Whether or not you get your 10,000 hours in, practice moves you forward and that is what it takes to get it done.

One last thing. We all know Nike is a giant corporation and when you Google Nike, involvement in atheltics and corporate information is all that comes up. However, if you Google Nike goddess you will find she was a goddess in ancient Greek religion personifying victory. How interesting Nike chose a woman of power to brand themselves.

So, women of CAW, women of power, go forth in your practice, piddle and muddle, make mistakes in your studios; show up, do it, and become victorious; become Agnes, become Nike, become Kate!

 

Goddess Nike
Goddess Nike

 

 

Fieldworking: Cincinnati Brews

I love beer. Love it. So a brewery tour without a tasting might sound ludicrous. However, the promise of crawling around abandoned lagering caves set into Cincinnati’s seven hills more than makes up for a dry tour.

I used to work at the Ohio History Connection as a coordinator of teacher professional development. As a part of that job I was often tasked with organizing fieldtrips to historically significant parts of Ohio. Beer and brewing, drinking and temperance are deeply intertwined in Ohio’s history and uniquely so in Cincinnati with its German heritage. Cut to me and twenty or so social studies teachers taking in the view of Over the Rhine from the third story window of an abandoned brewery.

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View of Over the Rhine from Sohn Brewery, Photograph by Molly Uline-Olmstead

Bits and pieces of these breweries are left all over the Over the Rhine neighborhood and include remnants of ice-houses, bottling buildings, offices, and stables. By its heyday in the late 1890s Cincinnati produced four barrels of beer per resident – almost twice as much beer as any other city in the United States.

These buildings are beautiful, even if they are in rough shape. They feature details that highlight the rich history and symbols of brewing including hops flowers and beer sipping cherubs carved into the brickwork and ironwork beer barrels capping the interior banisters.

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Sohn Brewery Brickwork, Photograph by Molly Uline-Olmstead

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Sohn Brewery banister, Photograph by Molly Uline-Olmstead

Each one is another example of the Italianate Revival Architecture that made Over the Rhine one of the largest historical districts in the country and one of the most neglected. It is this combination of historical significance and dereliction that makes Over the Rhine so fascinating. The neighborhood follows a common demographic pattern repeated around the Midwest in which European immigrants build and industry and then move out to nicer neighborhoods to be followed by Appalachian immigrants and African Americans coming north in the Great Migration. Two wars, a Great Depression, and a highway system later and the neighborhood is gutted.

In the late 90s and early 00s Cincinnati artists began to move into the area setting up studio spaces and exhibition spaces and in some cases, squatting. Artists know great space. There is a lot of energy around the area now and debates that will be familiar to anyone who has lived in a city where neighborhoods have experienced the irresistible story of boom, bust, and, revitalization, perhaps gentrification. Each of the places we visited with the teachers had the tell-tale signs of art making and the clash of past and present that a thoroughly current white walled gallery or site specific installation placed in a building from the early 1800s can cause.

So Over the Rhine is equal parts raw material for one’s own work and inspiration from one’s contemporaries. To get a taste of what this former brewing mecca has to offer (pun so intended) try visiting during one of their Final Friday Gallery Hops. If you are interested in seeing the breweries first hand check out one of the Cincinnati Brewery Tours.

Sources:

  • Morgan, Michael D. Over-the-Rhine: When Beer Was King. Charleston: History, 2010. Print.
  • “OTR History.” Over The Rhine Foundation. Over the Rhine Foundation, n.d. Web. 05 Jan. 2016.
  • “Tours of Cincinnati’s Historic Breweries – Part of the Brewing Heritage Trail.” Tours of Cincinnati’s Historic Breweries – Part of the Brewing Heritage Trail. Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, n.d. Web. 05 Jan. 2016.

Herstories and How-to’s: Amarita Sher-Gil

Happy New Year!

For me, (and many others) the New Year is a time of reflection and planning. While this process starts by reflecting over the past, ultimately the fun part is looking forward and asking myself the important question- How can I better kick this year’s ass?  And if you’re looking for inspiration, the annals of Herstory have plenty of examples of people who basically won at life. For those times when I need a real kick in the pants, I look at those ladies who crammed as much life into the short time they had- ladies like the artist Amrita Sher-Gil.

Amrita Sher-Gil, looking slightly pissed that you interrupted her brief but influential career to take a photo of her. (via)

Amrita Sher-Gil was born in 1913, in Budapest, Hungary to Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia, a Sikh aristocrat and scholar, and Marie Antoinette Gottesman. Almost from the very beginning, Amrita’s life seems full of interesting portmanteaus and romantic touches fit for a Wes Anderson movie. Not only were her parents from two different worlds, but both seemed to delight in art and experimentation of all kinds. Their house was filled with diplomats and music, and her father, Umrao, was fascinated by photography. In addition to their own artistic pursuits, Amrita’s parents were also supportive of her growing interest in art. She began painting informally at age 5, and at age 8, when the family moved from Budapest to Summer Hill Shimla in India, she began formal training.

Amrita (right) with her sister Indira, as photographed by their father Umrao. (via)

At age sixteen, she and her mother moved briefly to Italy so that she could study at an art school in Florence (pause to appreciate the likely badass that was her mother Marie.). Although the move lasted less than a year, it was Amrita’s first exposure to European-style painting. Her interest in this style continued through her early teens. At age 16, she left home to train as a painter in Paris. After three years of study, she painted Young Girls, considered by many to be her first “important work.” (Note: how the powers that be (read: dudes) determine the importance of a work is a discussion for another day…) The painting earned her an election as an Associate of the Grande Salon in Paris in 1933, simultaneously making her the youngest, and only person from Asia, to receive the award.

Young Girls, by Amrita Sher-Gil. What were you doing when you were 19? If you’re anything like me, it probably involved the Internet and thinking about how to get free food. (via)

But, and here’s why Amrita is awesome- Just as she was poised to become the darling of the Western Art world, she “…began to be haunted by an intense longing to return to India,” which she did in 1934. When she returned, she began a quest to rediscover for herself the traditions of Indian art. Her aims were lofty- she didn’t want to just become a part of the establishment there either, but instead sought to create “a new technique, my own technique…this technique though not technically Indian, in the traditional sense of the word, will yet be fundamentally Indian in spirit.” Let’s pause to appreciate this moment, the chutzpah required to walk away from being good at something to invent something that feels more true to you. This, more than the accolades, is why Amrita wins at all the things.

Not just two girls now, but Three Girls, painted in 1935. These colors kill me. (via)

For nearly four years, Amrita toured Southern India, studying not only the Mughal and Pahari schools of painting, but also the poverty and the people she saw. Her subjects began to shift to depict the daily lives and struggles she saw. While a woman of some means and familial ties to the British Raj, she was a vocal Congress sympathizer. In other words, she was a painter of and for the people. She charmed the first Prime Minister of India, Nehru and was said to be attracted to Gandhi’s lifestyle. But lest you start to build an image of a saintly, humble artist, in her own words, she said “I can only paint in India. Europe belongs to Picasso, Matisse, Braque.. India belongs only to me.” Not only does this declaration carry some pretty strong “MINE!”ness, it also speaks of an interest in comparing herself with the big greats in the Western world she left behind. Like our friend Walt, or the inscrutable bride in her 1937 painting, Amrita contained multitudes.

The Bride’s Toilet, 1937. (via)

In 1938, Amrita married her Hungarian cousin and childhood friend, Victor Egan. In 1941, the two moved to a house in Lahore. Days before opening her first solo show in Lahore, she became suddenly ill, slipping first into a coma and then into death. To this day, the cause is unknown (though hemorrhage as a result of a failed abortion has been suggested). At the time of her death, she was 28.

Hill Women. Again, I love how each woman seems a universe to herself, full of thoughts, ideas and absolutely uninterested in being an object for your gaze. (via)

Although her public career barely filled a decade, within that time, Amrita managed to become a master of the current styles, invent her own style and cast ripples of influence that continue to affect not just the world of art, but also literature. (Contemporary novelist, Salman Rushdie based the character, Aurora Zogoiby, off of Amrita in his book The Moor’s Last Sigh). Her approach to not just how she painted but also who inspired social justice for women in India and abroad for years after her death. Like my absolute home-girl Frida, Amrita was a fully-human with contradictions, and while people with all kinds of agendas have tried to claim her or define her, she continues to elude them. You go Amrita.

Get it. (via)

Okay, so changing the world by 28 might be a bit ambitious. Still, it’s never too late to start making a better use of one’s time. While there are as many different ways to organize and keep track of the things you need to get done, today I want to introduce you to my personal favorite method: the bullet journal. Bullet Journaling was invented by genius, Ryder Carroll. It’s totally analog, completely customizable to your needs AND you don’t have to buy anything to get started.*

How to Start Bullet Journaling to Get More S*** Done And Feel Like a Boss for Almost Zero Dollars

  1. Find a notebook you already have/like. Find a writing instrument.
  2. Watch the original video here to get the gist.
  3. Set aside an evening or afternoon to search #bulletjournal and #bulletjournalhacks on tumblr, pinterest or google. Know that at this stage of the journey, you will fall down the rabbithole of the internet and actually lose time, briefly. This is part of the process. Trust it.
  4. Get started! See what works for you and what doesn’t. Just like yoga, ‘keep that which you need, let go of what no longer serves you’. I, for example, have found the daily log to be a temptation to cram more things into a day than is actually possible and have switched to a weekly planning log:
    (Each day has a square, weekends have smaller rectangles and the big spaces at the top are for tasks/things to know about the week which don't have a specific daily deadline.)
    (Each day has a square, weekends have smaller rectangles and the big spaces at the top are for tasks/things to know about the week which don’t have a specific daily deadline.)
  5. Periodically check back in with the internet and fellow bullet journalists to see if there’s anything interesting or useful you might adopt in this week’s/month’s journal. The beauty of this method is you’re literally making it as you go. You are the master of your own destiny!!

* I am not sponsored by Bullet Journal, I am just a believer. HAIL BULLET JOURNAL!

Sources

  • sihk-heritage.co.uk
  • telegraph.co.uk
  • wikipedia.com
  • ngmaindia.gov.in
  • bulletjournal.com

Fieldworking: New Straitsville, Ohio

I love to make work. As much as I love making, I love the research and fieldwork that goes into the making. I love archives, antique stores, libraries, and museums. I want all their juicy history, secrets, and mysteries. One of my greatest delights is to strike out and find the source, the place. I get this from my dad. One summer he took me to Centralia, Pennsylvania – the site of what is arguably the most famous mine fire in the world. He was just curious but I became obsessed. I was eleven years old and had just learned that the earth could burn under my feet indefinitely. That it could gut that underground and as a result gut an entire community. I was seeing firsthand the evidence of an empire built on non-renewable resources and the shiny diagrams in my 6th grade science textbook showing the process of coal production from dead dinosaur to prosperous society did not track with the abandoned towns, sinkholes, heaps of slag, and hard men and women.

Cut to 2009. I had been living in Ohio for thirteen years when I learned about New Straitsville, Ohio, site of the World’s Greatest Mine Fire. I immediately called my dad – “Did you know?!?!? Ohio has its own mine fire!!!”

My printmaking friend Rachel (also from Pennsylvania coal country) and I piled into my car and we drove southeastward on a route outlined by the incomparable artist and Professor Mary Jo Bole. We ate fried eggs at the counter of a diner on Main Street that had a 6 foot banquet table along its wall covered in mine fire memorabilia and historical pamphlets produced on a photocopier. We hiked up to Robinson Cave, site of the miners’ clandestine union meetings, our eyes ever-peeled for signs of smoke or steam. Since that first visit I have been back a few times – mostly on official business with the Ohio History Connection where I worked from 2009-2015. In 2012 I had the pleasure of dedicating an historical marker to the World’s Greatest Mine Fire near one of the sites where it started in 1884.

 

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Image from “Dedication of Ohio Historical Marker at New Straitsville.” Perry County Tribune

 

The text of that marker reads:

During the 9-month Hocking Valley Coal Strike beginning in June 1884, tensions between the Columbus & Hocking Coal and Iron Company and striking miners led to violence and destruction. Starting October 11, 1884, unknown men pushed burning mine cars into six mines located around New Straitsville to protest being replaced by “Scab” workers. Mine operators attempted to plug all fissures to no avail. As years passed, ground collapsed under buildings and roadbeds, and mine gases seeped into schools and homes. Residents were evicted and homes demolished. Potatoes baked in the heated soil and roses bloomed in winter. At times, the fire soared 100 feet in the air and could be seen for five miles.

Side 2:

Ripley’s Believe It or Not broadcast a radio report on the fire and local landowners marketed “The World’s Greatest Mine Fire.” Thousands of tourists paid 25 cents to see guides cook eggs over the fire holes and make hot coffee directly from a well. By 1936, the Works Progress Administration tried to create barriers to slow the fire by replacing coal and wood with brick and clay. Journalist Ernie Pyle reported on the fire for NBC Radio and in his syndicated newspaper column. The Wayne National Forest purchased many ruined fire lands in the 1930s. In the 1970s, the State of Ohio shifted a sinking Route 216 to more stable ground. Steaming ground areas stay green and snow-free in the winter. The World’s Greatest Mine Fire Endures.

I have been working on a piece about mine fires over the past few months and needed a refresher and some good photos of the site. I have a great photo I took on my Centralia visit of smoke and steam rising out of the ground, but I didn’t have the right images for New Straitsville. So I packed a lunch and spent my Black Friday with the Little Cities of the Black Diamonds.

My trip was blessed early with good omens. The weather report was revised from rain to sun and my tarot card for the day was the Knight of Pentacles – “Work on a project that is important to you today. You have a very practical mindset that will serve you well. Don’t get caught up in little details–keep on moving and producing. You can come back to refine later.”

The site of the marker is a few miles north of town on Clark Street or Route 93 at the trailhead of a mining reclamation area. Organizations like the Monday Creek Watershed Restoration Group have been working to repair the damage done by so many years of reckless mining and drilling for oil. You can see the oil derricks in this postcard:

 

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New Straitsville Oil Fields.

 

And evidence of still contaminated water in this photograph I took from a train trestle outside of Glouster, Ohio:

 

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Photo by Molly Uline-Olmstead, 2015

The site has been returned to wetlands status. Imagine the entire area completely clear cut, yellow and red mud replacing the tall grasses, pools and puddles of orange and black contaminated water, and heaps of coal and slag littering the landscape. The ground is still freckled with coal – it is everywhere, black, shiny, and crumbling under your feet. This is the site of Mine No. 5 where those striking miners allegedly set the earth on fire in 1884.

 

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Coal Mine Map, Ca. 1920, Showing Mine Workings in Sections 28-33, Coal Township, including Town of New Straitsville.

 

It is beautiful now – very quiet, very still.

 

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Photo by Molly Uline-Olmstead, 2015

 

While I am not certain of the exact location of the mine entrances there are a few clues in the landscape. Near the east end of the clearing there is a rise in the land that has several depressions. The strangest and most noticeable one is filled with earth and giant tree stumps, indicating a back-filled mine shaft. These were the images I wanted to complement my Centralia photo:

 

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Photo by Molly Uline-Olmstead, 2015

 

If you want to learn more about New Straitsville and the Little Cities of the Black Diamonds region I recommend visiting. The entire region is undergoing a revival thanks to the work of community members, many of them historians and artists. Here is a bibliography to get you started:

 

Carney, Brenda. “Dedication of Ohio Historical Marker at New Straitsville.” Perry County Tribune. Perry County Tribune, 16 July 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.

Cramer, Ann. “Historic Mine Fire Marker Dedicated.” Region 9 – News & Events. USDA Forest Service, 20 July 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.

“The Little Cities Archive.” The Little Cities Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.

“Little Cities of Black Diamonds.” Little Cities of Black Diamonds. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.

“New Straitsville Mine Fire Reported in Journal.” The Engineering and Mining Journal (1885): 42. The Little Cities Archive. 09 June 2011. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <http://littlecitiesarchive.org/2011/06/09/new-straitsville-mine-fire-reported-in-journal/>.

New Straitsville Oil Fields. N.d. Little Cities Archive, Shawnee, Ohio. Little Cities Archive. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <http://littlecitiesarchive.org/2012/02/12/new-straitsville-oil-fields/>.

Perry Co. Auditor. “Coal Mine Map, Ca. 1920, Showing Mine Workings in Sections 28-33, Coal Township, including Town of New Straitsville.” Boom and Bust in the Hocking Valley Coal Fields. N.p., 1920. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <http://www.library.ohiou.edu/hosted/boom/maps/>.

Talking about a love of portraiture with CAW member Kate Morgan

IMG_4346Kate Morgan exudes enthusiasm. Her studio at The Columbus Idea Foundry is the incubator for her mixed media portraits. Not confined to one medium, she utilizes painting, printmaking, collage and many other methods to articulate her figures. Elongated limbs, ethereal washes, and emotional tones signify her work. Kate is a relatively new member of CAW, but she is no stranger to art-making, nor the Columbus arts scene. She has been drawing since childhood and never abandoned that practice, even while studying fashion photography at CCAD. Since going full time as an artist, she couldn’t be happier. She is quick to mention the “fierce support” that has helped her get to this point in her career, from both family and friends, as well as other artists in Columbus and beyond. She is compelled to keep painting, drawing, and experimenting – constantly striving to discover the next thing on her artistic horizon.

Bound to You, Vintage map, enamel paint, acrylic paint, gold leaf paint, pencil & gouache on board 18 3/4 inches tall x 43 inches wide | ©2015 Kate Morgan
Bound to You, Vintage map, enamel paint, acrylic paint, gold leaf paint, pencil & gouache on board
18 3/4 inches tall x 43 inches wide | ©2015 Kate Morgan


Have you always drawn figures?

Originally, I was going to school for fashion photography. I would draw out little plans for shoots. Once I got an education about where the bones and muscles are in the body, I very quickly realized the models couldn’t pose like my drawings – it wasn’t humanly possible. So I let the drawings become one thing and the photography became another thing. Even though I studied photography, I have always drawn. A few friends from my high school history class have little drawings from me. It is fun to see those, before my formal education. Now I just let the drawing go free.


What part of the figure have you struggled to draw?

I hate feet. I don’t like them in person and I don’t like to draw them. I’ve always loved portraits, which are traditionally not feet. I accept that as a challenge that I need feet in some works. I try to make them cute to compensate. Like in this painting for example, I made round, little, berry toes. I have to make them not look like feet to trick myself into drawing them.


Your work brings to mind so many different references – Egyptian sculpture, Renaissance paintings, Modigliani’s eyes. What are some favorites of yours?

I run really hot and cold, not just between artists, but also within an artists’ body of work. I will love one piece, but not another. Egon Schiele was my first art guy love. There are things that he does, that just aren’t for me. That’s true for me too. There are some things that I make and it is an immediate no. Right now everyone is saying that I am channeling Gustav Klimt, and I can totally see that.

 

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What influences might surprise people?

Folklore and history are both inspiring me lately. I’ve been listening to history and old time radio mystery podcasts. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History goes in depth and is outstanding. Usually I listen to music while at my studio. Since I need to pause podcasts when I get a studio visitor and more often than not, my hands are dripping wet or messy, music is easier in the studio.


How do you approach the gaze of the figures?

I am obsessed with profiles, which I think comes from my love of Egyptian and Greek historical figures. One of my teachers a long time ago pointed out that the figures don’t look at you. That it seemed like they were hiding something. Her words felt like a challenge. It took a couple years to turn their heads. Now I have done some that are directly straight on. I don’t find it challenging any more, but it really did take awhile. For the longest time, I didn’t put pupils in the eyes. Since the eyes are the windows to the souls – if there was nothing there, the figure was just the shell vessel that contained the soul. I have somewhat abandoned this, in part because it really creeped a lot of people out. I now add pupils. To me it makes it look more traditional, which is where most of my references are coming from anyway.

Informer | Right: Madiera Lingers Mixed Media Mono Prints, Editions of 100 | ©2014 Kate Morgan
Informer, Mixed Media Mono Print, Edition of 100 | ©2014 Kate Morgan
Informer | Right: Madiera Lingers Mixed Media Mono Prints, Editions of 100 | ©2014 Kate Morgan
Informer, Mixed Media Mono Print, Edition of 100 | ©2014 Kate Morgan

You obviously embrace experimentation. It helps you stay engaged in your studio practice. When did you begin incorporating found paper?

I started out making acrylic paintings with light washes and several coats of resin or polyurethane. Quite frankly, I was broke due to student loans right after school. I couldn’t afford a color printer, so I started experimenting with mixed media monoprints. I couldn’t print with color, but I could add color as a layer underneath a black and white print. It was at this time that I was getting into incorporating old paper. The historical aspect of it was also really appealing. I have always been into art history. I minored in art history because I had a great teacher who taught all of the surrounding history to explain the relevance of the art. The paper is a textural element, but it also has more to offer – different points of conversation that you can engage someone in. I like the way old things like maps and old wallpaper look. It’s a piece of history in your art. The next step has become collaging more and giving the works more depth. It has been really fun to see people interact with these new works.


What was the impetus to go back to school?

I was working at the photo lab at Wal-Mart. I had fallen down on ebad decisions and some hard times. When you’re not feeling good about yourself, you make little decisions instead of big, good decisions. It took about four years to pick myself up emotionally and financially from that. It also took the courage and self-awareness to know that it was not where I belonged. At the same time, my friend went back to school to CCAD. She got a scholarship and I didn’t realize you could do that as an adult. So I tried too, and I got a scholarship that helped push me.

 

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At what time after school did you realize that you should pursue drawing full time?

Not until a few years ago. The very first show I did was Independents’ Day Festival. I prepared like crazy and brought all my college work and some of those new monoprints I had been making. I think I made $800 and I was thrilled. I initially started doing festivals to pay back my student loans. I had photography in there too, but I only sold three photographs and the rest were paintings and drawings. The more I did it, the more I realized the photography was not fulfilling my need to get dirty and make things with my hands. It was a different level of connection with the work when I was drawing or painting. I was working full time and it took about a year or two for me to quit my job and pursue art. I have been very happy ever since. I’m a giant dork. I make lots of lots of mistakes with my artwork. There are lots of rejects and things go wrong. Sometimes things just don’t work, and I am ok with that. I just want to be happy all the time, making stuff.

 

Ginger Float, Mixed Media Mono Print, Editions of 100 | ©2014 Kate Morgan
Ginger Float, Mixed Media Mono Print, Editions of 100 | ©2014 Kate Morgan

 

Visit KateMorganImageDesign.com to view more of Kate’s portfolio. 

Grand Screaming Yellow Wrong Time Without a Word Gurgling Key in Hand: Six Women Artists at the 2015 Venice Biennale

Part One: Joan Jonas, Fiona Hall, and Chibaru Shiota

Observations by Paula Nees; September, 2015-Venice, Italy

Paula Nees is an artist living in Columbus, OH

I have traveled to Italy a number of times in the last 15 years, but this was only the second time my trip coincided with the Venice Biennale. This is one of the oldest international art exhibitions dating back to 1895 and occurs every two years on odd numbered years with an international architecture exhibition on view during even numbered years. The major exhibitions are situated in two areas in the Castello Sestiere just east of San Marco. The Giardini is the original exhibition site and consists of a main pavilion along with 29 national pavilions scattered throughout this park like space. The other site, the Arsenale, consists of large repurposed industrial spaces once used for Venetian shipbuilding. Along with these two main areas there are numerous collateral exhibitions throughout Venice which include national exhibits from countries not situated in the Giardini plus special groups and individual artists presenting work during the Biennale – May through November.

 

My observations are focused on six women artists who are connected through installation as art form. Beyond that though they differ dramatically in theme, approach and materials. This is not a critique as much as a response and personal observations I recalled during my visit to this exhibition viewing artwork, sites and people. Along with these observations I have included photos taken while viewing these installations plus links to video segments which provide interviews of each artist.

 

Joan Jonas “They Come to Us Without a Word” – United States Pavilion

Jonas -They Come to Us 1

The United States Pavilion is one of the oldest structures in the Giardini. Neoclassical in design it looks more mausoleum than exhibition space. Representing the US this year is artist Joan Jonas. Long known for her performance and video art she created an installation titled “They Come to Us Without a Word”. Each room of the pavilion had video screens –some installed as freestanding structures in the center of the room along with the actual objects and props seen in the videos. Other walls were lined with simple line drawings. Each room was devoted to a particular visual element – bees, fish, Jonas’s dog running on a beach, children in costume and a figure walking through a forest. This installation encouraged wandering – not the “please sit down now and watch the video”. The rooms referred to sensations of being in the world – no evident narrative, but rather a layering of images. This was a spirited approach to the environment – not spiritual. Perhaps because children were involved with the video imagery the effect was one of fragileness and innocence.

 

http://labiennale.org/en/mediacenter/video/56-2.html

 

Fiona Hall “Wrong Way Time” – Australian Pavilion

Fiona Hall - Wrong Time 1

The newly inaugurated Australian Pavilion contained Fiona Hall’s installation “Wrong Way Time”. There was a dark and foreboding quality to the space; walls painted a dark gray with glass cabinets situated in the center of the room creating a smaller space within its interior. The perimeter of the room contained an arrangement of altered clocks – cuckoo clocks, grandfather clocks – all with moving pendulums and each set at a different time. Along with the clocks were more innocuous displays of driftwood that resembled animals or reptiles. The one display that I spent time investigating was a collection of quirky animals created out of grasses, cloth and colored raffia all situated on stacks of charred books (Kuka Irititja – Animals from Another Time, 2014). Hall’s connection to the environmental crisis in Australia has brought her to work with the Tjanpi Desert Weavers an Aboriginal women’s collective.

 

The glass cases were a Cabinet of Curiosities – delicate, bizarre, and puzzling objects made from humble materials like bread, collections of vintage glassware, and bird nests made of shredded dollar bills. In the interior space hung large humanoid mask-like shapes made from shredded camouflage clothing and grasses. Ultimately this reflected the Biennale theme of this year’s curator Nigerian born Okwui Enwezor titled “All the World’s Futures. “ In part he states “through which to explore the current “state of things,” namely the pervasive structure of disorder in global geopolitics, environment and economics.”

For his full statement see http://www.labiennale.org/en/art/exhibition/enwezor/

http://labiennale.org/en/mediacenter/video/56-50.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6prtsFJpqHs&feature=youtu.be

 

Chiharu Shiota “The Key in the Hand” – Japanese Pavilion

Before arriving in Venice I had read a review of the Biennale that mentioned Shiota’s installation, so I was intrigued with how one would see these elements in space. There were thousands of old rusted keys strung and woven into a mass of red thread – all suspended over decrepit wooden boats. This wasn’t a net as much as it was a miasma of red color – so dense it obscured the walls and ceiling of the rooms. By themselves keys and boats are loaded with symbolism, but with the addition of red threads linking them I thought of nerves and connecting synapses. Shiota specifically used old keys – skeleton keys – for their connection to the human form.

The keys are old technology now out dated but had once kept something safe and secured.

Another aspect to this exhibition was located in the lower level outside of the pavilion. There was a photo of a child holding keys along with videos of children talking about memories from before and right after they were born (!?). Perhaps we all manufacture memories based not in reality but what we wish to be true.

http://labiennale.org/en/mediacenter/video/56-22.html

Shiota - Key 3

 

Herstories and How-to’s: a special holiday craft!

How to Make Civil War Salt Dough Ornaments for Self, Friends or Family.

(In the interest of full disclosure: This time of year is busy and full in all kinds of wonderful ways. Balancing a full agenda of merry making with my desire to not miss a deadline, this month I’m giving myself the gift of time by re-posting a tutorial I wrote a few years ago. While the focus of the original tutorial was the many, many handsome dudes of the Civil War, the same steps (and many of the jokes) could be used to make ornaments featuring one of the many badass ladies of the Civil War…*)

Step one: Make the dough. There are more recipes for salt dough on the internet than there are johnnies in the North. I ended up using a 2-1-1 ratio (2 parts flour, 1 part salt 1 part water ). Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add water, stirring as you do to avoid lumps. Once it’s fairly well mixed, knead it a little with your hands on a floured counter-top . The final texture should be close to slightly sticky play-doh. If it feels too sticky, add a little bit of flour (though be sure you don’t add too much or the dough will be as tough and unpliable as Stonewall Jackson.)

Fun fact: Should you find yourself suddenly in the trenches and with rations running low, you can simply adjust the ratios to make hard-tac!

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Watching Ken Burns’ ‘Civil War’ helps to infuse the ornaments with a sense of historical gravitas appropriate to the holiday season.

Step Two: Get Sculpting! Using either the internet or your companion’s illustrated Generals of the Civil War books set, begin to model the faces of your favorite generals. Salt dough doesn’t lend itself to subtle details, so I recommend sticking to generals with interesting and distinctive hair/facial hair (which- Good fortune! Is roughly 95% of them)

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To get the small details I used a defunct ballpoint pen. I also found it advantageous to sculpt them directly on a cookie sheet covered in foil , that way transferring them to the oven was undisasterous. Also, don’t forget to poke a hole through the top for the string to go through.

Step 3: Bake the ornaments. According to the source I used, salt dough should bake for 2 hours at 250 degrees F. Two hours?! Balderdash! I’ve got nog to drink and carols to sing. I baked mine for an hour, handled them gently afterwards and they seemed fine.

My oven is boring and disgusting, so here’s a picture of a civil war campfire recreation instead.

Step 4: Decorate! If you want your ornaments to reflect the scarcity felt by the soldiers on both sides during the lean months of winter during those cruel war years, you can pull a loose thread from your grey or blue shoddy, string it through the top and stop here.

If you, like me, wish to give the ornaments a weathered, metallic sheen- as though it were a metal earned through service rendered and passed down through the ages, start by painting the whole thing black with acrylic paint, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies in those magnificent beards.

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Oh W.T. Sherman, not even salt dough can diminish your raw manliness.

Once the black has dried , lightly brush a layer of gold acrylic paint over the top

Braxton Brag- your service to the Confederacy may have been controversial, but there's no controversy about that rockin' beard.
Braxton Brag- your service to the Confederacy may have been controversial, but there’s no controversy about how rockin’ that beard is.

Step 5: Finish it! Attach a bit of grey or blue felt, maybe a bit of lace if that’s your thing (and it should be) and your ornament is done, ready to be gifted to starving Georgians under-seige or hung on your tree, next to the hardtack and salt pork***

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photo credit: Allison Buenger of the Creative Cleanse.

 

**And omg, if you DO choose to make Civil War Women Espionage ornaments, please send me a picture.

Meet the Truly Pugnacious Artisan, Terri Clow

 

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The former Etsy Team Columbus introduced me to quite a few artisans in Central Ohio several years ago.  Among them was this cutie, Terri Clow, owner and creator at Beaniestalk and now Fuzz Butt.  She has participated in several shows I have attended as well as the Falling for Local Show that I coordinated at Franklin Park Conservatory.  We’ve always had lots of laughs and I just love her perkiness, her love of her pugs and the adorable things she makes. We started the interview through email and then I made a trek to her adorable little house to finish up and meet her doggies (Oh, that’s another reason I love this gal…she is a true dog nut, just like me!). And, did I mention that her family has adopted me as an honorary red-headed member!!! LOL!

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Terri grew up in Mansfield where she was the only granddaughter on her mom’s side.  She spent  A LOT of time with that grandma who had a needle in Terri’s hand as soon as she could hold one..LOL!  Fortunately for her (and for those of us who love her work!), grandma was willing to teach her just about any craft she wanted to learn resulting in them tackling every craft out there and constant creation!!!  Who needs formal art training when you have that??

And, as if that wasn’t enough, her paternal grandmother taught her how to crochet.  Although she didn’t pick that skill up again till later in life, she admits that it has definitely become an addiction.  According to her, ‘I really tortured my family by making them some pretty bad hats and scarves when I was first relearning crochet! Hey guys you can throw all those ugly hats away now!’

Getting kisses from R.C.
Getting kisses from R.C.

Although she has a major in English from OSU and originally wanted to be a librarian, she didn’t pursue that field. Like so many of us, she opted for the English major rather than pursuing her artistic bent because it seemed like a ‘safer’ option for being able to support yourself after graduation. She wasn’t too thrilled with settling down to a 9-5 at that juncture in her life so, instead, for several years she worked in retail and as a bartender before she decided she better ‘grow up’, get a 9-5 and buy the cute little house she now owns. And, somehow, she ended up in IT…it just happened!!! First she worked at Alliance Data Systems and now she works at DSW.  Over the years, she took classes and moved from the call center to her current job of business analyst where she helps business and programmers ‘talk’ to each other. She says that this type of job feeds her Virgo side and fulfills her need to be analytical, helping to balance the more creative side of her personality.

Of course, we also had to talk about another love of ours: DOGS! She adopted one pug and that led to getting involved in a local pug rescue and getting 2 more pugs!!! Like me, she ended up fostering a bunch of pups…14 to be exact for her!  And we had to swap stories about how we got our babies, the silly things they do and how we couldn’t imagine life without them.

Beaniestalk at Urban Emporium
Beaniestalk at Urban Emporium

She says she doesn’t know if she ever consciously made the decision to “do art” or “be creative”…it was just something she grew up doing.Actually, she cannot remember a time when she wasn’t making something, a time when she didn’t have a stash of fabric, yarn, art and craft supplies. Sound familiar to anyone?? HEHE! Read more

Herstories & How-tos: Janet, Nelly and Naomi

I wish I could be cool enough to say that Halloween is my favorite holiday, but if I’m REAL honest with myself, Thanksgiving wins, hands down, every time. Despite it’s complicated and troublesome origin stories (best depicted through modern cinema), Thanksgiving wins for me, because of what it means today. Today, it’s a holiday, free from the pressures of gift giving, where one’s only obligation is to cook and eat with what you define as ‘family.’ In the case of my family, this also means lots of sitting around and, eventually, tall-tale-telling.

One of the (many) revelations I’ve had as an adult is realizing that what we call ‘History’ and what we call ‘Life’, aren’t two separate buckets, into which some old timey dudes with long beards cleanly sort discreet Moments from some bygone era. Life is history. “History” is nothing (and everything) but stories heard and remembered and passed on. As conscious human beings we have the gift to live and to listen to one another. So today, rather than share a story about some badass lady who lived a world away, I want to take a moment to share a few stories from some of the remarkable women I’ve had the privileged to know personally:

Janet

  • Janet Carrie née Lynch née Simendinger was my paternal grandmother. Born in 1928, in Winchester Massachusetts, by the time I met her, she was barely 5 ft tall with a voice marinated in years of smoking and half a life lived around Boston. She got tongue-tied calling out grandkids’ names and often simply referred to us as “little shits.” To those on the outside, she looked like a small, delicate elderly lady, with a tasteful pouf of white hair, classy jewelry and muted sweater sets. She was all of that. She was also a survivor of two husbands, the mother (and undisputed BOSS) of five sons and though she had a lot of health problems, including breast cancer and pancreatic cancer (!), she brushed them all off like the tough bird she was. She was also brutally honest in a way that was completely motivated by love. “Your hair looks like crap.” was said, not because she wanted you to feel bad about your hair, but so you had a chance to un-crap it before going out in public. From her, I’d like to think I inherited not just my small bones, but also a love of beer and pizza, the capacity to be swear a blue streak and a commitment to truth. The last words she said to me, when I visited her was “Well, thanks for coming. I love you, now get the hell out.”

Nelly

  • Nelly Studebaker (Or “Nelly Jean” as we all called her) was the perfect example of the family we choose. In 5th grade, when we moved to Indiana from the town in which my parents were born and raised, Nelly Jean, our new next door neighbor, was one of the first people we met and almost immediately we called her family. Nelly was retired from guidance counseling, which really just meant that she now gave guidance from her living room, rather than a school desk. Like Janet, Nelly was one of those sweet-looking elderly ladies who had a real gift for expletives. She got a tattoo at 70, and at 80 would mow her lawn in her favorite tube top. She was a shameless flirt who knew how to work a system. One day, my dad came home to find Nelly struggling to haul ladder out of the garage with the stated purpose of “Oh, Handsome, just cleaning out the gutters.” Given that Nelly had recently suffered a broken hip and was a bit unsteady, my dad grumblingly pulled out our ladder, shooed her away and proceeded to clean the gutters for her. Later, when my mom asked, “Nelly, what the hell were you thinking- you know you shouldn’t be up on a ladder?” Nelly giggled, “Well SHIT honey, I wasn’t going to get up there! I just knew if I said I was, he’d jump up to help without me asking.” If I am lucky enough to grow old, I want to do it like Nelly.

Naomi

  • My husband’s grandmother Naomi (pronounced “nay-oh-mah” and don’t you forget it) lived just shy of 100 years and raised hell for most of them. She wasn’t afraid of the hard work that came from being a the wife of a farmer. Of the many wonderful photographs we have of Naomi, my favorite is of her as a younger woman, standing tall (at 4′ 10″) and smiling proudly as she holds at arms-length a dead raccoon nearly as long as she is. She was honest and she was a trickster. She handed us our asses in games of ‘greedy,’ and hid under her bed from the staff in the assisted living home. (They only found her because she was giggling to herself). Though I didn’t get to know Naomi long, as a person, and in her presence in the lives of her family, she made a big impression. A woman who also loved thrift, and plants and coffee, she and I got along fine (when she wasn’t scolding me about my tattoos).

In keeping with the tradition of Herstories and How-to’s, I’ve chosen to share and celebrate three women who are no longer with us to share stories. While writing, I kept thinking- I wish I had taken more time and asked more questions while I could. This month, I encourage you to take a moment and listen to the women in your family. Thanksgiving break is the perfect time to begin your career as an herstorian. What better time for conversation than sitting around in a post-pie coma, or crammed in a vehicle traveling across the country? Because every person and every family is different, I can’t tell you how to talk with your family, but I can give you a few tips to help make sure your weekend’s full of history, rather than hysteria.

How to Begin Recording History in Your Own Terms:

  1. Define Family however the heck you want. Don’t have a positive relationship with your biological mom, grandma, sister, etc? No problem. What about the women you do want to spend time with- maybe a neighbor, best friend or the barista at your favorite coffee shop? Like Edna Buchanan (and Grey’s Anatomy) say, “Friends are the family we chose for ourselves.”
  2. Set aside time and space that’s appropriate. For some people in some families, the thought of sitting down to a formal interview in a quiet, private space with a family member to talk about REAL LIFE sounds mortifying. For others, it might be just what they need to feel comfortable. Whether your person of historical interest belong in the first camp, the second or somewhere in the middle, be sure to consider where and when might be more comfortable for them and you. Not sure? Just ask!
  3. Speaking of asking, ask for permission to begin and leave “outs,” specially if you’re taking notes and especiallyespecially if you decide to share this history with other. It may feel silly and overly formal, but it’s the polite and kind thing to do. Even if initially the person agrees, be sure to check-in again at the end- conversations are slippery and can quickly go to unexpected and intensely personal places. And don’t forget about yourself! Even as the initiator of this project, if you start to wander into territory, you’re not comfortable with, feel empowered to change your mind and bring the conversation to a close. Here are a few possible conversation starters and enders:
    1. Hey aunt B, I’m doing a project about personal histories. Would you mind telling me about what it was like growing up with Mom as a little sister? Or about that time you fought a bear in the Rockies?
    2. …It seems like this is a tough thing to talk about. Do you want to take a break?
    3. …I’m feeling uncomfortable. Let’s take a break and see if J needs help in the kitchen.
    4. …This was wonderful- I had no idea that you spent time as a professional yak hair braider in the 70s! Are you comfortable with me sharing this story with others?
  4. Record the conversation in some way. Even if you don’t plan on publicly sharing, take a moment after your conversation to write, type or sketch afterwards. Try to capture what you talked about, and also your own thoughts about it. While right now you might think “Why would I need to record a 20 min. phone call with my grandmother in which she dithered on about nothing?,” later, when she’s not here to dither, or you have even less time to listen, you’ll appreciate having some kind of artifact from this time.
  5. Share the stories you collect. Maybe you post the stories you hear in the comments below (please do!)? Maybe you publish them on your own blog? Maybe you just mention them in passing to a coworker on Monday. Whatever you do, don’t keep them to your self (unless, of course, the story-teller has requested that you do). History is full of stories about real women that never get told. Let’s change that starting now.

Happy Thanksgiving! May yours be as stuffed with Her-stories as a squash is stuffed with quinoa and tempeh sausage!*

*(vegetarian thanksgiving analogies are weird.)

CAWlling-1200x400-hdr2015-landmark

LANDMARK: Ft. Hayes Tour: Reference Files

Exhibit: February 29 – April 15, 2016
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 3, 6-8pm

Curators: Catherine Bell Smith, Stephanie Rond, Mollie Hannon
Location: Fort Hayes Shot Tower Gallery | 546 Jack Gibbs Blvd, Columbus, OH 43215
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Landmark is primarily an exhibition about place – its history and importance. Members of CAW briefly toured Fort Hayes, experiencing the hundreds year old buildings and foundations, uncovering myths and legends, and collecting inspiration to create the many works included in the show. Excavating for inspiration may lead some to consider other aspects of the word landmark, bringing depth and breadth to this benchmark exhibition. Landmark challenges you to consider what serves as a guide or beacon in your life; what is the watershed moment after which everything changed; what stands out in your landscape or marks your boundary; where is your place.

We are looking for substantial pieces to fill the gallery. Please submit artwork that is no smaller than 30”x30”, (or, if working in a series, add-up to at least 30”x30” when they are grouped together)

We would love to have some images of in-progress and finished work for postcard and on-line promotion. Please send to cawcolumbus@gmail.com, with “LANDMARK Photos” in the subject line

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Tour of site: November 16, 5:30pm (arrive at the Shot Tower Gallery by 5:15)

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Important Dates and info for our Members:

Process Meeting: January 7 at Tacocat 7-9p
Title Card:   
Form Due February 12

Drop-off:      February 22-23, 8am-7pm
Install:         February 24-26
Pick-up:       April 18-22, 12-7pm
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historic images from the presentation CD.

If you want to know about a specific building, follow the link to the folder structure:

 

the end!

Talking about art in all sizes with CAW member Dana Lynn Harper

IMG_4098Many Columbus natives were introduced to Dana Lynn Harper by her installation, Bloom Bloom. The billowing cloud of red-orange flagging tape emanates warmth and transports visitors into a new, but decidedly friendly, other world. Recently, Dana’s mural outside of ROY G BIV has been greeting visitors to the Short North. It depicts colorful, polymer clay diatoms created through an artistic evolution at the hands of Dana. Her work, regardless of scale, pulls you in with its vibrant colors and playful abstraction. It is no surprise that her studio is also full of color and play.

Dana skillfully oscillates between making big and small works. This has been very apparent in her recent flurry of artistic output. She created a large, outdoor installation for Independents’ Day, while at the same time planning for a pint-sized exhibition at S.Dot Gallery. This dollhouse exhibition will premiere on S.Dot’s Facebook page in the coming days. Dana will also have a few small works on display for CAW’s A Little Bit Closer at the Vanderelli Room which opens November 13th.

 

Dana with her Short North mural, Diatoms, outside of ROY G BIV on the corner of High St. and Starr in Columbus, Ohio
Dana with her Short North mural, Diatoms, outside of ROY G BIV on the corner of High St. and Starr in Columbus, Ohio

 

How does your process begin for a piece? Is it different for 2D work, sculpture, and installation?

Yes, its all different. I am always working on something 2D that is small. The smaller ones are more about play and intuition. They are sketches to me. From these smaller works, I usually come up with an idea for a sculpture or a bigger piece. Doing this process also introduces new materials. Im a stressed person with a lot of anxiety, so if I just approached a new project by thinking, “I am going to make a badass installation,” it would be too much pressure. I have to relax and have no overhang of responsibility. If I only did big projects, I think I would be a totally different person.

As for the installations, I usually find a material I can buy en masse. Then I buy a lot of it and play around. I search for a mark that I can repeat over and over to create a big texture or a big pattern. It is all about manipulating a material and a culmination of marks.

 

What materials do you frequently use?

Resin. Flagging tape. Plastic. Lots of times I list “found plastic” – just weird stuff that I find. I am also into transparent things right now, so I also use plexiglass a lot or even found glass. The plan for the glass globes I bought at thrift stores is to build little worlds in each of them. I’m going to stack these little worlds so that you can see and appreciate them, but they are protected and loved by each other. Each one of these worlds represents a person for me – not a specific person, but more the beauty in individuality.

 

I just want to touch all your art! It calls to me! 

I make everything to be touched. I dont take care of things very well, so things have to be very durable to last my beating. I make my stuff to last.

 
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You describe your work between undergraduate degree in Art and Tech and graduate degree in Sculpture as very feminist. Why is that?

I think it was the materials I was using. Every material had an absolute meaning. Panty hose, for example, signified restriction. What girl likes wearing panty hose? At that age, 22 or 23, I was just figuring out all of the gendered shit thats happening and all of the stuff that was ingrained in my head that I thought was the truth. That part of my life was about shedding those expectations to get to the core of who I was. The work wasnt more feminist, but it was more obvious to other people. I dont see my work as less feminist now, I just see it as more honest.

 

The work that people would recognize now began about a year into grad school when color entered in a big way. Where did the color come from?

I was making 2D works for my Etsy store, using a bunch of spray paint and colored paper. At the same time, I was taking advanced sculpture and I brought in some of the materials and things I was working on. Someone in class asked me why all my 2D works were in crazy colors and my sculpture wasnt. The simple answer was that I didnt know how to handle color in a three dimensional object. Slowly after that, I began to experiment. The first really colorful object that I made was this cone with cut paper triangles of color completely covering it. There were three chairs around it that represented the three female friends who have been the most influential in my life. The chairs were around this colorful, paper cone “bonfire.” Being a woman is really hard, but I dont have to spend my life being upset about that. I can celebrate the amazing things about being a woman and the amazing relationships I get to have with other women. That color just switched everything – from trying to understand my life and being upset, to being able to celebrate and focus on what makes life beautiful. It is not that I am ignoring the unjust world, but rather doing my best to make work that can be accessed by all people. The “bodies” or objects and shapes that appear are genderless, they are free. As an artist it is my responsibility to find my role, to find my purpose. By making installations, I can physically shape the world, I can forever change it and I can make spaces that invite everyone and anyone to enjoy.

 

What feedback did you get about that early, colorful sculpture?

I would set my art out in a critique and my fellow sculptors would talk about the objects – what every form represented. They were very vocal about the materials I used. Color was the last thing that was mentioned. I took a painting critique by chance because I heard amazing things about this professor, Micaela Amato. I showed up and she asked, “Where is all the work that youve made during summer?” So I showed it to her and all she wanted to talk about was color. She was able to tell me what was working and what wasnt.

 

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A lot of your materials, especially found plastic, are sourced from thrift, craft, and dollar stores. What is going through your head when you pick them out?

My work and process are sentimental. I pick objects that you could have seen as a kid. The color palette is from a roller rink or laser tag. Each object doesnt have a conceptual meaning in and of itself, but the process of choosing things is based on a familiarity and the ability to be two things at once. For example, this is a plastic toy, but when I set into a piece it could be a weird, robotic plankton. The materials need to feel accessible, but still have the ability to be abstract.

 

You describe your work as “gentle,” This is especially appropriate for Bloom Bloom, but does it still apply to your plastic/resin works?

Bloom Bloom is like a gentle embrace. I dont like it when people make art to force you to have an experience that maybe you arent ready for. I am saying that because I used to make really heavy work. So maybe it would be appropriate to say I didnt like that in myself – forcing someone to feel your pain in order to connect with them. My work doesnt beat you over the head. It is there to enjoy – to give you a moment of pleasure. It is there to counteract the negativity that we all face. It comes from a place where all people have potential. All people are wonderful. All people deserve to be loved. It is my way of giving you a hug or a gift. The plastic/resin works are still gentle to me, they disappear into the wall, they do not demand anything other than joy and attention.

 

Does making the big works fulfill a different need for you, or is it all the same?

I love when someone walks completely into something that Ive made and their environment is totally changed. That was my biggest goal. Then I started making small things because… look at the size of my studio! That was the only reason I started working small. I originally made tiny units to eventually build up to something bigger. But now I think that working small is just as important as working big. I have more joy in the process of working small – more fun! Im not over making installations. If you look at Yayoi Kusama, she makes massive installations, but also teeny, tiny drawings. An artist can do both.

 

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You make work quickly and without a preconceived notion. You have said that the significance grows with the piece. Does that free you, or is it scary?

It is both and that can be hard to get used to it. In graduate school it was the scariest, because that was the time I realized it was happening – that I was working too fast and my mind didnt have time to catch up. Saying that in a critique is hard. People just dont want to hear that. Now it is easier and I can trust myself. I have this philosophy that if you make something bad and it fails, you had to make the bad thing in order to get to the good thing. Any making is necessary and essential. If Im in the studio, thats good enough. At least I am stepping in the right direction. It is also liberating to have endless possibilities. That is why I dont like a plan. I like for the end goal to change based on the making.

 

What reaction are you looking for with your art?

It is very specific. You know when you see a really cute cat, and you are like, “Squeeeeee!” Sort of like the way kids react to cartoons with excitement and imagination. I want people to look and feel empowered by their own imagination.

 

You are so busy! What is on the horizon for you?

I am teaching at the Cultural Arts Center this fall. I will be featured at Stephanie Ronds dollhouse gallery, S.Dot, for the month of November. I have a solo with Sean Christopher Gallery in the Short North that opens December 5th. And I will be jurying the CCAD exhibition called “Young Hearts” during that time. I am also working in collaboration with The Vanderelli Room on a permanent sculpture called the “Vandelier Tree,” that will be comprised of painted chandeliers that are hung outside in one of the trees.

 

Dana Lynn Harper Still Growing, Even in the Dark  9" x 6.5" x 2" black acrylic, aquarium plants, polymer clay, found plastics, glass, resin
Dana Lynn Harper
Still Growing, Even in the Dark
9″ x 6.5″ x 2″
black acrylic, aquarium plants, polymer clay, found plastics, glass, resin

 

Visit danalynnharper.com to view more of Dana’s portfolio.