Carnelians, a pink pottery bowl, and a sage leaf

 

This is a true story.

It was an ordinary day in November in the year 2015. I went to the mailbox to fetch the usual things I don’t want—advertisements, bills etc., but in the pile I spotted something unusual: an air mail envelope from the UK with a customs declaration on the front that also had a gift box checked and a description underneath that stated it was costume jewellery. What’s this?

envelope from Ann Connack Knowland, Malthouse Farm[1]

I opened it up at once. Inside was a valentine!

Valentine from Ann copy

And inside the card was a sort of letter:

card from Ann copy

Dear Lynnie, Paul,

Not before (not sure I am reading this word right) time I write to you for Valentines Day and have enclosed carnelians which I have found on the beach in Walberswick and sending them to you with the extract from your story in my mind, “Squinting through Carnelians” which I loved…

My heart danced a jig. My good childhood friend Ann, originally from the village of Walberswick, Suffolk, UK, went to the beach and collected carnelians for me! What a thoughtful thing to do!

 

package from Ann

“Squinting through Carnelians” is now a part of the book Jewels That Speak: Tiffanys, Freuds, and Me to be published on April 17th, 10 days from now.

Kirkus Reviews addresses this part of the book: ‘She did get one thing from her Tiffany heritage: her father shared with her an appreciation of beautiful precious and, especially, semiprecious stones…  “I never went with [my father] on his solitary walks. Alone, he ambled along the chilly shoreline, especially on sunny days when light shone through the wet stones, revealing their yellow-orange to reddish-brown to rich red tones.”’

And here are the carnelians three years later.

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Ann’s carnelians from the beach in Walberswick, Suffolk UK, in a pink pottery bowl from my daughter, Cora, and with a sage leaf from my son, Roland.

 

Only twelve days away…until publication

 

Where did I leave off? Staring at my last blog on the computer screen right now, I see it was February 15th. Forty-nine days ago, and the eBook is still not where I would like it to be! Almost, but not quite. It became so frustrating that I had to change eBook publishers and this one is better, but there have still been many issues perhaps because the original file was done in an InDesign file format for the print book to make it attractive to the eye and because it includes photos and graphics and InDesign does not readily convert to mobi–which is what you need for Kindle devices. The epub file needed for Apple devices, like iBooks, also had conversion problems from the original InDesign file. There have been entirely too many files to count!

Last night I carefully studied the new file I had just been sent on Kindle previewer in KDP (Amazon Direct Kindle Publishing) in font size 4 (it goes 1-9). I read the whole book through. Even though I know the book so well, it took hours to do the examination. I prayed that my eyes would be copyeditors’ eyes, instead of the ordinary eyes I possess. I found only a few things (4 exactly) that can easily be fixed. Big, big, sigh of relief! We just might make the deadline, which for a publication date of April 17th must be April 13th on KDP.

I receive Nathan Bransford’s blogs in my inbox. He’s been very good lately with his media tips for getting the word out about your books as well as his concentration for author writing tips.  There’s tip-meat there to chew on if you are an organized person, and if you’re not, if you make yourself be organized with what he calls “extreme calendering” (his spelling.) He said he would probably have a future blog about this in more detail. I was already doing his suggestion. Yay! How? By writing down every single thing I do for my book Jewels That Speak: Tiffanys, Freuds, and Me, its date and its time in a calendar notebook. I head to my study about 5:30 am, sometimes 6:30 am, and stay there working for hours until I notice a slump in energy and know it is time for some food sustenance. Following Nathan Bransford’s tip of last night, I have my computer on full-screen mode, my phone is put away, and I have a sticky note on the top right of my screen that blocks out any incoming emails from floating across my screen. (Next step is doing the blocking on the computer itself. Oh dear!). Concentration seems to be working though! Yay again! Thanks, Nathan!

Now, for something beautiful, peaceful, and relaxing about spring that I love.

Spring flowering daffodils are symbols of rebirth and often called Lent lilies. This leaded-glass window, c. 1916, from the Morse collection is by Tiffany Studios.

My Path to Art

 

It was my father who showed me the way by painting in oils himself. I observed his capturing what he saw in art from an early age. My mother never took a particular interest in art; she preferred reading or vigorous exercise as activities. Of course, I took on all these things both of them did, but by sharing an interest in art with my artist/architect father, I developed a powerful secret pull that helped my appreciation of art to flourish. Why secret, my writer friends ask? My father had my brother Stephen earmarked for the artist; I was the dancer, possible musician. My sister Krissie, the horticulturist and so on. It was secret because, while Dad never said, “This is your calling,” I gave myself permission to follow his interest and love it.

The next part, I think, was beginning to observe my surroundings and the things in them with care. This was long before I thought rationally; perhaps what I see is particular to me?

Then there’s the education. One gets educated in art history in college; one learns how to identify the art of particular artists and place them in historical context.

But then, there’s what you do with your free time after college. I chose to go to art museums in cities to see exhibits. This I did in many cities over a long period of time.

I still do this. Whenever I go to a city, the first thing I want to do is see art. I know what I like right away and with a little time and care I can explain what I see and what I like in writing.

Seeing is an art in itself. I think it means you think about what you see and you have developed the ability to define it. For me it begins with colors and shapes, then proceeds to line and form and design.

Recently I re-read Edward Hopper by Lloyd Goodrich. I was struck by the words of Hopper’s wife saying about her husband to a friend, “He’s been studying that empty canvas all summer.” The empty canvas became Sunlight in a Cafeteria.

You could say it took me a long time to develop an appreciation for the Kansas landscape. It also took me a long time to develop a seeing eye for art.

A few weeks ago, from April 5-26 of this year in 2017, I went on an art tour with my husband Paul to Barcelona, Antibes, Florence, and Rome…just the two of us.

“The Fundació Joan Miró, Centre d’Estudis d’Art Contemporani([fun.də.siˈo ʒuˈan miˈɾo], “Joan Miró Foundation, Centre of Studies of Contemporary Art”) is a museum of modern art honoring Joan Miró located on the hill called Montjuïc in Barcelona, Catalonia.”

Paul and I spent a beautiful clear blue sky april morning walking through Montjuic park to the Joan Miro museum. We got there shortly after it opened so it was not crowded. We got our headphones and took our time listening and looking at the exhibits.

Toward the end of our visit Lovers playing with almond blossom caught my eye. The primary colors are vivid. The lines curve, necessary to the “playing” aspect of the forms. The designs are simple, childlike–two lovers bend in harmony toward each other in their own private universe. They are large in size, as lovers always feel larger together than when they are separate. Nothing stands between them in the way of their intense, happy communication with each other. Simple, playful, colorful, arresting, fun. The viewer will not forget this Joan Miro sculpture: Couple d’amoreux aux jeux de fleurs d’amandier.

 

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…To be continued and developed with other art I saw and liked in Barcelona, Florence, Antibes and Rome.

 

An artist’s work brings hope, comfort, and energy to help beat youth cancer odds.

My brother Stephen, an artist, sent me an email on September 20th with a link to a September 18th Huffington Post blog by Jim Luce about Stephen’s installation “Whisper” at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The installation is part of The Lounge, a newly created space for teens and young adults with cancer at MSK.

I gave the blog a quick read and have since gone back and read it several more times in order to grasp the meaning of what Stephen is trying to convey with his “Whisper” piece.

 

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“Whisper.” Photo: TYA@MSK

I found that I like what he says about his work; that I can relate to it very well.

Here are some of his words that I have taken out of context but are all interesting words to me: whisper, hope, membrane, perceive the intangible, universal, search to find the spiritual, the mindful passage, elements, break through restraints, sensory world, cumulative knowledge, belief. These words in and of themselves draw a person in. In context, they take shape with meaning.

I wanted to go beyond art. “Whisper,” for me, is hope for the patients, the family and friends of children living with cancer. My work springs directly from envisioning humanity’s cumulative knowledge and belief encapsulated within an ever-expanding membrane that emanates from the Elements themselves.

My work stands for the universal Membrane and involves my search to find the spiritual, the mindful passage, to allow one to break through our restrains and to see what lies beyond our sensory world. To perceive the Intangible – that which is unable to be touched or grasped, that lacks a physical presence.

~Stephen Burlingham

Stephen says his yellow “Whisper” piece “offers a way to look through and beyond.” I am looking at the photo of The Lounge right now. My eyes are immediately drawn to the wall where his painting hangs. I love the yellow color. It is so vibrant. I like its soft shiny texture. I like the wispy wire imprints that suggest movement, undercurrents.

 

the-lounge

The Lounge at MSK

The title of the Huffington piece is “Stephen Burlingham Going Beyond Art for Youth with Cancer.” I think Stephen’s “Whisper” goes beyond art with the hope the art piece provides. It offers comfort, belonging, and the energy of a steady daring to beat the cancer odds.

Creative Emergence

Lately, I have been thinking of these two words: creative and emergence; about how they fit together to form a certain meaning.

In a radio interview on September 26th about my writing of The Starlings in London, I chose to focus on a section of the book where the artistic and aesthetic environment is evident. Here the narrator of the book, 12-year-old Lily Starling, is captivated by the allure and beauty of the English countryside and seaside as well as witnessing the working process of painters, like that of her father and his artist friend Lawrence.

Writing in a diary for the first time, Lily tries to express how the old windmill–where her father and Lawrence go to paint–affects her with its tangible and intangible spirit. “Is the windmill really brown?” she begins.

Lily is thinking about what she feels about what she sees. She is struggling to understand it. She decides to submit herself to its control over her thoughts, her being, and attempt to write about it. This is the narrator’s creative emergence.

Something about the place (private; overlooking the sea; by a reedy canal), the object (the old windmill…a sort of vessel), brings its visitors rapture, coupled with self-renewal. Why else would painters and impressionable girls, like Lily, go there again and again and try to capture its essence?

My present thinking about creative emergence is that it occurs not by the struggle to control it, but by submitting to its powers over you, the artist. It comes from the unconscious and the artist must recognize its appearance and harness it while you work your art to create your vision.

 

 

 

Open Road…

The Open Road, PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE AMERICAN ROAD TRIP, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, February 27 through May 30, 2016

With 100+ images, The Open Road features 19 photographers on the move across America from the 1950s to today.

My daughter Cora and I took to the open road (about a four-hour trip from Lawrence) to take in some art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville AK, and to be together, mother and daughter in the car, in restaurants, at a bed and breakfast, and at the art museum. We both like art and food and r&r time, seeing things, and being together, so we had our own short open road trip.

Here is a photo of us and a few images of what we saw at the museum:
(We shared the same camera.)
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Thoughts from a Trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

My last day in New York City in March 2012, I took myself to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My eyes were drawn to the wall niche where hydrangeas–slightly pink, slightly blue, slightly lavender–raised their plump arms towards the upper reaches of the Great Hall. Passing through this room, I climbed the large steps to the exhibit I wanted to see: The Worlld of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty. The Met’s program notes describe the exposition as covering the period from 1215, the year of Khubilai’s birth, to 1368, the year of the fall of the Yuan dynasty in China founded by Khubilai Khan.”

I spent an hour and a half with the guided audio tour taking in the paintings, sculpture, textiles, and other decorative arts. I came away with a sense of the art and culture of this period. My favorite single piece was a drawing in ink on a handscoll titled: Noble Horse by George Kai, which beautifully captures a once robust and noble horse, his jutting ribs depicting neglect while retaining nobility–a symbol of lament for the fallen dynasty.

Time running out before the clang of the airport call, I wandered down the stairs and into the American Wing. My purpose: to eat an early lunch in view of the Tiffany windows so that–in my mind’s eye–I would take home a piece of my great-grandfather’s (Louis Comfort Tiffany’s) art.

Whilst in my revierie, a woman put her coffee cup and Danish down on my table and sat down. Before long, I knew she was Dutch, lived in rural east Holland, had not recovered from her husband’s death but was trying hard to move on. Her two grown sons were applauding her uncharacteristic trip to get out in the world with this trip to New York. Then she found out exactly what I was doing at this table in this room with this view, in this museum at this moment in time.

She said she was thrilled to have a personal meeting story to take home to Holland and tell her sons.

Exploring the Mind and Creativity

Was it Camus who said artists recreate four or five experiences one had as a child? I thought about this listening to Bruce Carter’s WVIK radio interview with Mississippi River artist, Nancy Purington. I heard her say, “Yes, growing up in Princeton, Iowa–a town of 250 at that time in the mid 1940’s–there was nothing to do. The only stimulation was the river.” She is sure her parents took her for walks by the river at night; nights when the light from a full moon shone on the water and that as a baby attracted to light, she absorbed its aesthetics. It became one of her four or five primal experiences. “Moonlight on the Mississippi” became the name of many of Nancy Purington’s works: watercolors, paintings, gouache, pastels, and digital photography.

But, when I picked up an art catalogue on my way out of the Dubuque Museum of Art on July 31st, it was the catalogue’s cover of ice and snow, and the words NANCY PURINGTON/TWELVE VIEWS OF WATER that first drew me in. Winter! Water, 12 Views! Interesting. Who is this Nancy Purington?

2004, ICE SNOW IKAT, gouache on paper 6” X 8.75”
A small gouache painting, observation of a Mississippi River scene of white snow on indigo colored ice shaped into this zig-zag water design patterned by the wind.

It wasn’t until the morning after I woke up in my own bed at home in Lawrence, Kansas, and reached for the catalogue that I got to Purington’s Moonlight on the Mississippi series. Spring, summer, fall.

2007, MOONLIGHT ON THE MISSISSIPPI, digital photographic print, 22” X 28”
Photographic capture of the full moon inscribing its name on the indigo waters of the river.

Something was kicking in for me about my own childhood memories of water. Here’s one: Moonlight beaming on black water at midnight in summertime in Norway. The light created a luminous path across the Skagerrak. So mysterious, so enticing, so beautiful. As a child, it made me want to be the water touched by that magical light.

No need for my meditation book that morning. I became what Nancy Purington caught fly-fishing with her digital camera:

… the flecks of gold shining on the water

…the wavy lines of gold and azure

…the churning granite waves

…point, line, curve

…Lake MacBride with diamonds

…infinity in

These shots caught on the fly brought Purington home to visions of the Mississippi she had absorbed all along as a child. The Mississippi became her great teacher then and now. From this base, she recreated with formal training and a lifetime of developing her work as an artist what she experienced primordially living on the Mississippi River. TWELVE VIEWS OF WATER touring exhibit, gives to the world in various forms of art “the continuation and culmination of thousands of hours of living, observing, tasting, smelling, dreaming and otherwise being touched by the Mississippi River.” (Barbara Christensen, Director, Muscatine Art Center)

Purington’s work nourishes my mind and creativity. It is an intellectual and seeming kinesthetic exploration that offers what it knows, leaving room for what you know to find balance and harmony with it.

I can be all her different shapes in “Flotsam & Jetsam.” I can be her little warning triangle in “M.M.5,” her waves in “New Wave,” her fiery rectangles glowing from underneath folding sheets of indigo blue in “Prelude (in the dark).”

Nancy Purington’s Twelve Views of Water invites you in.

A few highlights from Nancy Purington’s Artist Vitae: Kansas City Art Institute BFA Painting, Nelson Atkins Group Invitational: The Pleasure of Pattern 1987; Jeune Peinture 39e, Grand Palais Paris 1988; J.P. Morgan Library, research access 2001; Major Iowa Artist Grant, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs 2006; Launch of Twelve Views of Water touring exhibition, 2009: Muscatine Art Center, Waterloo Center for the Arts, Clear Lake Art Center, Dubuque Art Museum.
For more information on this artist, go to nancylpurington.com

Norway Part VII

I had wanted to see the Gustav Vigeland sculptures for so many years. Even though it wasn’t that convenient to be doing it with suitcases, I am so glad we did.

What a shocking contrast to the art of Munch seen only the day before! (These two Norwegian artists lived during the same period in history – 1860’s to 1940’s – and knew each other.) From paintings of pain, sorrow, passion, and stress of Munch to large sculptures of the joy of human life of Vigeland. Having done my research, I know that Gustav Vigeland’s actual treatment of women and children was not played out as wholesomely in his life as it is in his art. But what he created, once seen could never be forgotten. And it is JOYFUL, just about all of it.

Here are some of my favorites.

Our train left Oslo at 3:00 for the approximately six-hour ride southwest to Kristiansand.

After enjoying the scenery for quite some hours, we suddenly became thirsty and hungry. Paul went off to get himself a beer. While he was away, I guiltily unwrapped the tin foil and nibbled on some of the pommes d’amour.

Paul returned happily with his beverage, saw what I was eating and asked for some, I guess, to go along with his beer. Rich cake and beer. Yum!

Rather suddenly, the train pulled into a station. Couldn’t possibly be Kristiansand yet, could it? But, there was my cousin Grace standing on the platform. Paul quickly handed over the beer to a young couple. And, I must say they looked exceedingly grateful. (Any alcohol in Norway costs a fortune). It was only on our way in the car to the family property from the station that I realized I had left the rest of the wonderful, fabulous, amazing POMMES D’AMOUR on the train. As Europeans are not as picky as Americans, I am absolutely certain someone savored the feast. I like to think it was the young couple.