Art: a book and a broadside

This time of COVID-19 during our #stayathome orders* has afforded me an enormous amount of solitude, thereby a substantive amount of space for art. All this to note a very circuitous route to re-creating a letterpress broadside printed in 1995. It has taken me months to get to the point where I feel satisfied with this last reincarnation (which is good, as I am running out of prints!) 

Credit is given to staying home, but more importantly to a book published in 2000 that I cataloged this year for a small art library – Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang. For those of you who recognize the name, yes, she is the children’s book author.

In 1995 I wrote this short poem, made the paper and using a Vandercook proofing press, printed about 50 copies. I was never satisfied with the results.

Original broadside, 9″ x 11″ on handmade paper with flower inclusions

In March of 2020 I pulled out the remaining copies to re-design. Below are some of the additions and attempts; some never panned out:

Chose the words that I felt gave the sense of frustration during the COVID-19 news, White House reports, newspaper articles. Overprinted using fading shades of gray with my HP inkjet printer. Each broadside needed to be printed one at a time.
Graphic attempts to direct the eye from the original phrase in the poem to the “garden” below, expressing hope.
FINAL PIECE: trimmed all edges except the bottom which remains deckle; use larger triangles in a less random manner; added a triangle in gold, symbolizing hope.

The point I hoped to reach is one where I can say to myself, “I can live with this.” It took two months of off and on viewing and re-making. It was Bang’s book that give me direction.

C’est fini.

*Let me say this straight out – I know how fortunate I am during this time of COVID-19. I am currently reading Madeleine Albright’S memoir, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937–1948. My sets of grandparents both escaped living under fascism in Czechoslovakia and Italy; my parents and in-laws lived and fought in the U.S. during World War II. I get how fortunate I am even during this pandemic during 2020, living where I do; being who I am.

#stayinplace with cat

In the time of COVID-19

This post is a diary, of sorts. Bits and pieces of events and thoughts that fill my days. Bits to share with you, dear reader, as you construct your days during the time of Covid-19.

Onto week 5 of #stayinplace-


Time to consider art; root through old pieces to re-work; “play” with new ideas, and to include some not-so-usual respites.

At least two weeks have been spent on re-working my artistic endeavors that are “failures” and remain so. Consolation: there is much to learn. The first was an edition broadside I made years ago. Beautiful handmade paper of linen and cotton with flower inclusions, poetry and letterpress with a misspelling! I worked for a week straight trying to salvage this. Sometimes there is no getting around the fact that something you love is not salvageable. Next, a flower drawing that went nowhere; finally, a collection of 8”x10” blue-jean handmade paper with disassembled monoprints hoping to re-work. Still waiting on inspiration with this!

Out of the failures, though, comes a very small edition of 20 prints, Kruh, that are my contribution to Pyramid Atlantic’s Member Print Exchange.  

From this, another series of 4 prints, Kruh.2, evolved for giving away to the first four requests [See, ABLUEBUNNY post for details,

Three circles or kruhs (Czech)
three kruhs (circles)

Interspersed during the week and weekend were some delightful respites listed here:

Visual & Tactile Respites

Writers Center, Bethesda, MD – This one hour poetry session, Writing About Place, was so well planned by our instructor Mathu Subramanian that every participant was able to offer her work in progress. I am working in my poem as I write this post!

Rock Paper Plant [Pop-Up] – online workshop from a Washington, D.C., women-owned business. All materials for constructing an air plant were sent ahead of time; thorough and concise workshop by the co-founders, Alicia and Cielo, gave me tons of information on these strange and wonderful plants. Moreover, after logging off, I have a stunning plant to keep me company!

Auditory respites

Classical WETA 90.0 Radio – the most sublime piano piece of Debussy: Suite bergamasque, L. 75-3. Clair de Lune played by Lang Lang. It stopped me in my tracks. While the collection of his pieces are all worthwhile, it is this particular one that I play over and over.

Verified podcast – Riveting content about an Italian, serial rapist sensitively wrought by an outstanding production team including the Senior Producer, Dan Bloom, our local, Takoma Park, MD resident.

Epidsode 1 of 9

Tomie dePaola

A tribute

The death of Tomie dePaola took way my breath. His presence through art and writing have been constant threads in my adult life. Before children, I emulated (read: copied) his drawing in order to learn illustration. I was, and remain, in love with the seeming simplicity of the lines and appeal of colors, In 1997 I was fortunate to be able to spend an entire half-hour in his presence at a workshop. Forgotten is the place where it was held, the name of the organization hosting it, and the names of others around me. What I do remember is the spontaneous artwork he encouraged:  my “Henry”, a young boy, with hair sticking straight up and socks fallen around his ankles. This sketch of mine has been discarded long ago, but not the memory of this encounter.

During the 1990s, which revolved around raising two spitfire boys, Tomie’s picture books were a constant presence. Read alouds over and over and over. Our weekly attendance at the Italian Catholic church, Holy Rosary in Washington, D.C., where I sang in the choir and hauled my sons up the circular steps into the choir loft with me, brought his Italian stories alive. Strega Nona was my own Nona incarnate. Big Anthony, well, we all have a Big Anthony in our lives. How could I not love these characters?

Never was his work two dimensional; never just paint on paper. His art was a good friend with whom one never feels out of sync; one who stands by you through thick and thin. And so, with his death, I offer a goodbye through the eyes of my Prudence, who he nurtured in me unbeknownst to him. A goodbye from a friend he never knew, but who was always there for him regardless.

De Paola, Tomie. Strega Nona. NY: Simon & Schuster Books for young Readers, 1975. Print.

Wallpaper design: a story

Florence Broadhurst, Her secret & extraordinary lives

Growing up in a working class home during the late 1950s and early 1960s, wallpaper was all the rage. My sister and I retain a fondness for this inexpensive, decorative touch, even though we may employ less of it as we age. But, decades ago, we loved to pour through books and books of wallpaper designs when there were retail stores that specialized in this home accent, long ago.

This Australian woman born in 1899 seems to have been imbued, at birth, with a drive to create, unlike anyone I have ever read about. Beginning as a young girl, she created multiple, imaginative lives seemingly from nothing. With her family background rooted in the Australian cattle “wilderness called Mungy Station,” she became known across Europe and America as a stage presence singing and dancing with drag queens in the early 1920s to a Bond Street couturier known as Madame Pellier, along with a British accent.

It is the wallpaper designs interspersed throughout this handsomely produced book, that move the story forward. Her last reinvention as a high-end wallpaper designer gives her life the gravitas and accolades deserved as their intricacies are explained with care and detail by O’Neill. The patterns are stunning. For an artist, this is where the story lies – her creativity, her formidable personality to promote and believe in her art form. Yet, her ending is as tragic as any mythological figure diminish does not diminish her contribution.

O’Neill, Helen.  Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret & Extraordinary Lives.  Chronicle Books, 2006. Print.
Dedicated to my sister, Sandy, who just loves wallpaper!

Small trips & Hope

Visiting the Eastern Shore of Maryland & more

One cold and blustery morning in early November, the hub and I packed our warm jackets, some snacks, then headed out on the road for Easton, Maryland to the Waterfowl Festival. Please. Understand. I did not grow up in a rural area, so any trip like this is a peek into my husband’s childhood. Yes, even after all these decades together I am still amazed by his roots and his knowledge of a bucolic life.

Gotta love those dogs!

A scenic drive led us through the quaint areas of this historic town. After paying our somewhat substantive entry fee, we walked among the streets, and in and out of tents, getting a feel for the area. Taking a bus to several other venues smacked of a senior citizen outing, but we were game! Exhibits of guns, rods, hunting and fishing gear unsettled me a bit, but the addition of the retriever demonstrations softened my apprehensiveness. It was also good to know that many of the proceeds for events were slated for the Chesapeake conservation funding. In fact I met a quiet, but smart young man who, representing the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science at Horn Point Laboratory, gave me a detailed explanation on chemistry, toxicology and the effects on local aquatic life. It was astounding, to say the least. Yes, I will go on a summer tour of their facility!

Needless to say, it was prospect of seeing art that truly nudged me, emotionally, for this unusual destination. There was a plethora for artists from all over the U.S. and North America working in a variety of media and formats. George Raab’s art, an award winning printmaker (Ontario, Canada) left me breathless. His landscape, Catalpa, made my heart ache. The longing persists, as some images imprint themselves upon one’s soul.

Sculptor, Tom Ahern

The spouse’s particular interest in decoys, both contemporary and antique, not only evoked interest but presented a most serendipitous event. Squirreled away among dozens of vendors was a gentlemen, Tom Ahern (Bethlehem, PA) who works and lives where I was born and raised. Following a brief “hello” and chat, we discovered that we had more in common – “Was I related to “Snookie?” Lo and behold! I was. My uncle Snookie was his high-school athletic coach many, many decades past. I promised to visit his studio during one of my hometown visits. And, I will.

I love these small trips with my husband. Sharing lives, works, and landscapes that are so integral to others opens my narrow view of the world. Sharing words and smiles.

Whether with a spouse or stranger, sharing itself, is the solid foundation for hope.

black and white newspaper clipping of a man

Dedicated to my Uncle John “Snookie” Hudak, the eldest and most elusive uncle.

What drives the art?

Patience and creativity

Returning to life as an artist is a challenge after twenty years immersed in a left-brain career as a librarian – organizing, cataloging and instructional designing.  Nothing demonstrates this more than the past two months working on a seemingly simple artist’s book.

Prior to my life as a librarian, I was a working artist for twenty years with roots in calligraphy. This form is the foundation for everything I learned about art subsequently. Knowing the quality of work of which I am capable by looking back through the boxes and folders of my art projects, and then, looking at my current work, left me sorely demoralized. This is true, even with calligraphy, my first love.

So, I turn to writing prose and bookmaking, additional loves in the artistic life. My intention (please note this noun!) to create an artist’s book with my prose at the central point is a turning point. Designing the format and attempting to carry out the all the skills needed, demonstrates how far I have meandered my previous life. Nothing was meeting my standards. This went on for more than a month. Over and over, re-thinking, re-designing, re-hashing imagery…until, one morning, I collected all the debris and threw it into an envelope to shelve.

What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t this working? I was on my third attempt with this “simple book.”

May I suggest that you read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott


Cover art

Finally, after re-reading one chapter of the above title, it hit me. I was working with the left-brain. Intention. In my process to create, it was all linear – get from Point A to my Point B .

So, I cleared everything off my desk. Created a big open space. And played. Ran my hands over the handmade papers until I found those that felt right. Moved around the pieces of photographs like a jigsaw puzzle until they fell into place visually.

Continuing along this path for the next two weeks, the book I had never imagined began to form. Yes, there were times I was afraid to “be intentional” not wanting to subvert a new beginning. Each decision, intuitive or deliberate, was met with patience. I put the work aside and came back to it another day; played with it for an hour and then, went for a walk.

To continue to encourage my ability to create step-by-step, piece-by-piece with respect and composure is my task for this season – this month as we enter into the time of hunkering down for winter. If I can allow myself this time, spring will be a joy.

AS I AGE: free verse

As I age, I would like to sit across from my mother at the kitchen table, the one with the red and white enamel top the table where she rolled out her dough for Christmas baking, year after year; where she set our hot meals before us every day – except Sunday.

I would like to talk with her, mother to daughter, about our families, our marriages, and her grandsons. I would like to know my enigmatic father, her spouse, through her eyes and with her heart. To hear tales of my sisters as toddler, her girls. These sisters I love and who were born years before me.

There is so much I ache to know, but mostly it is this: to have my mother close by me again with her smile and scowl in equal measures, the sound of her voice surrounding me. Simply to be in her presence; to share our lives as women do.