Category Archives: Art

Who Tells Your Story?

“Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?”

“Who keeps your flame? Who remembers your name?”

Them be powerful words.  Written by the genius who wrote the Broadway hit musical, Hamilton.

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I am not a Broadway buff.  I am not a history buff.  I am not even culturally engaged really. But Pops gave me tickets to the Broadway show a few months back.  I had seen a few trailers on tv and it looked intriguing.  The original cast is winding up its first year and I was a lucky one to see them before handing over the baton, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, the genius writer, and leading actor.

There is something striking about this musical that has struck me and many others.  It swept the Tony’s.

Maybe its  hip-hop meets 1776.  Maybe its the diversity of the cast.  Maybe its the tiny little  subtle nuances throughout the whole production that strike yours and my heart at different intervals.  Maybe it’s the depth of humanness displayed.  Maybe it’s America trying to absorb the history class they slept through in High School.

Who tells my story?   Hmmm.

Who carries my flame?

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Will my flame be too burdensome to carry?

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What is my story?  Does it matter to you?  Does it matter to anyone?  I have been reflecting on it lately.  Well.. since I have been trying memorize the whole soundtrack.  It is that awesome.

I know we all have a legacy that is left at the feet of our family, friends, community and for some,  far wider.    What is that legacy?  Money?  Children and Grandchildren?  Careers and talents?  Integrity?  Our sins and mistakes?   Our physical traits?  Our quirks?  Our habits?  Wow.  It could be anything.  And everything.

Sometimes I sit back and look at my art and the other efforts I deem important and wonder if this will mean a hill a beans when I am gone.  What are the sum of my parts?   Who will keep my flame?  Some people would believe it doesn’t really matter.  When you’re gone, you’re gone.  I am not of that belief.  I believe we are here for a mere breathe but the sum of our mere breaths are vastly important.   (Look at Hamilton.  His mere breath got himself on the face of  an US note.)   Every breath counts.  Every last one of them.  We have a huge opportunity to spread our love here.

I listened to the Hamilton song with my son, Charlie.  He told me that HE will tell my story.  He asked me what part of my story is important to me?  If I could be there to tell my story, what would I want said.  That is a good question.  A really good question.  If I had to give him a jump off place, I’d say:

In all things, she tried desperately to love Jesus………..

If you get a chance, go see Hamilton.

Peace,

Karen

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When Am I Ever Going To Learn..

….Or do I need to?

In my studio there hangs a print of a couple back in the old country that are bowing at the harvest that lay at their feet.  In prayer.  It is called The Angelus.  It’s lovely. It’s humble. And I like it.

The Angelus

When I was outfitting the retreat lodge, I came across two prints that looked to be from that same era of The Angelus. The Angelus, by the way, was painted by Jean-Francois Millet in 1859.  I was drawn to them in the same way and thought they would be a great addition to our lodge.  One print is of three women farming and the other is a gentleman winding up his day walking his tools back to the barn. I do not have the artist’s name who rendered the original work.

A few weeks back a good friend noticed the prints and brought to my attention that I had hung prints of slaves on my wall and that may not be in the best taste given the fact the lodge is used for many people coming and going.  Someone may find this to be offensive.  I was taken aback and argued as to whether or not these figures were in fact African-American.   That is not what I noticed when I purchased them.  I saw people farming.  He further said that these people had to be slaves given the time portrayed in the picture and the activity they were engaged in.  huh.  My first response was, well…that is not my intention and of course, I cannot be in control of how others interpret the print.  And that I see people as people and not as a color.  And why would I try to make a statement about slavery on my wall?  There is not a racist bone in my body and African Americans were very much a part of my childhood.    My friend agreed,  but others may not feel the same way.  If the lodge is to be used for retreating,  then  it is vital that I do not make anyone uncomfortable in their retreating experience.  Point taken.

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My second response was a pity party.  I felt attacked for a decision I had made and how dare someone question my decision.  That is my go to even if it is not called for.  Working on that.  Diligently.

After I got over the attack which  wasnt an attack  at all(it was a sensitive concern about a sensitive subject brought on by a sensitive fellow), I talked to another good friend about it.  She said..wait a minute….Did these people in the print live north of the Mason/Dixon line?  Or south?   (I love this woman.)  Could they have been, perhaps, celebrating their freedom to farm?  Could these people be just plain farmers?

Yeah.  I liked these answers.  I wasnt looking to be vindicated but it helped that there COULD be more than one answer here.

I want to do the right thing but I don’t see the world always the same way the majority does sometimes.  Just like the farmer picture.  I didn’t see slaves.  I still don’t see slaves.  I see people.  Like me.  Like you.  I realize that that is not the experience of others so  I DID take the prints down. The last thing I want to do is offend people. If I was African-American, I might see all photos of farmers from another time as slaves.  I don’t know.  But I take some comfort in seeing these people as people. Which is what they are.  And for me?  I am glad I don’t see color when I look at them.  And I get that color is important, but the people underneath the color are more important.  I feel the more distinguishing of differences we make about each other the greater the chasm we create.

I’ve thought about what to do with the prints.  The farmers and I have a history now.  We’ve been through some.   While I believe some African-Americans don’t want to associate themselves with farming because of their ancestral background, I can assume there are a good handful of them that love being farmers or would love a slice of land they could call their own to grow their food.  Next door to me.   Farming  + African-Americans doesn’t = Slavery all the time.  I have decided to keep the prints and enjoy them in the privacy of my bedroom  where there won’t be a chance to offend another and I can share my love of farming with people in the picutres who  I am choosing to believe are people enjoying their love of farming.

Peace,

Karen

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Try, Try As I might.

My plate is full and I cannot keep up.

Today and yesterday, I installed my 2nd panel for Marian University. Whew.  Taxing event.  But I had good help  (Thanks MC and Holly!)  and it is done.

2 down.  3 to go.

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Came home to very rainy beautiful fall evening.  The leaves were spectacular on the drive home.  I looked up our peak last year and it came a full two weeks earlier last year.  That was normal.  Peak the last day in October is not normal.

Happy Halloween.

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We only have three trick or treaters.   I dont know if they are tricking us or treating us.  Or are we treating them?  Or…. I never understood Halloween.  It falls in the same category as amusement parks and parades for me.  Maybe I don’t know how to have fun.  That’s it.  I’m no fun.

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My mosaic project is a large project for me.  Largest ever by far.   My farm duties, studio work, normal chores are spreading me quite thin.  I am thankful that the mosaic job is not a permanent add to my daily agenda. But am sure glad I have it.  It is all my passions rolled into one.  Art, God, and nature (The nature part is the fact that St. Francis, who the work is about, is a patron saint of nature. and I love him and nature).  He is the bomb.  This work is affording us to visit his hometown this coming Christmas in celebration of him, my work and Marian University.  My job will end and I will be able to resume painting and creating at the pace I am used to.  Everything I love to do will be given more attention.  Including this blog.  I have so enjoyed writing here.  Many days are spent in solitude, which I love, but I also love being connected.  This blog gives me that opportunity to connect.  Especially to those I miss so much from the ol’ hometown.  I am going to suspend writing until my mosaic is through so that I can fully pour myself into my work and  not feel pulled so thin.   I don’t even have any tomatoes put away for the winter  the pulling has been so severe.

I will see you next year!  I love you.   I  pray that God blesses us and keeps us until  next year.  And forever.   He is so good I can’t stand it.

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See you soon!  I will miss you.

God bless,

Karen

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The Face of Life Changes

It does sometimes, doesn’t it?

As I try to step back into routine, somehow I have found that my routine has changed. It  doesn’t seem like routine to me.

Yet.

After all, isn’t routine what we settle into once an adjustment occurs.   What do we call that time in the interim?

Ah.  Maybe transition?  Whate’er.   Life is different right now.

Back in March, I got a big art commission that is demanding a huge chunk of my day.  So, I am looking for about 5 extra hours each day.  Do you know where those hours are?  Did you swipe them from me?   Many things have been tossed aside so that I could meet the first deadline of this project.  I finished it yesterday.  So my old routine returned today.  But will be gone tomorrow when the second part begins.

Marian University (Indianapolis) is building a Nursing/Osteopathic Healing Center School.  They chose me and five other artists to enhance the aesthetic beauty of the building.  I much obliged.  I designed 5 images that I felt best depicted their value missions of the University.   They are: prayer, stewardship, forgiveness, justice and peace, and dignity of the individual.   The project is for me to take my 1 sq. ft. paintings and create mosaics that are 6′ x 6′.

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Pack it up time for installation.

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Combine the crate that we built to transport and the mosaic, we figured the thing weighed at least 300 lbs.  It was cumbersome and SCARY.

Delivery.

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A lot of resting  goin’ on here and there.  We were frightened  to continue on with opening it and getting the thing up on the wall.

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But we soldiered onward.

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And there it sits.

Now I only have 4 more to complete.

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The thought of doing 4 more of these things and transporting them up the highway is daunting.  But, God willing, it will get done.  Please pray.

I am grateful for this job.  It feels good to be needed and/or wanted, doesn’t it?

I look forward to  the transition of my day to become routine so that I can resume fun things like blogging, walking in the woods,  buying food for my family,  taking showers, brushing my teeth……..saying hello to God.  All that fun, necessary stuff.

Food for the soul.  And family.

God bless,

Karen

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A Budding, Er, I Mean Blooming Artist.

Pops, our oldest, Eric, and I  traveled to our youngest son’s college for his junior recital several weeks ago.  Oberlin Music Conservatory outside of Cleveland Ohio.  Do you ever find yourself spending time in a place somewhere far from your life?  Ya get to know the place.  And it’s just a place in the midst of thousands of other places.  The other places you will probably never see in your life but for one reason or another your life circumstances have taken you there.  One of our sons  went to a military school in the middle of nowhere in Ontario, Canada.   We traveled there often over the course of 18 months.  It’s a place I would never in my wildest dreams thought I would spend time,  let alone get to know pretty well.  Life takes me places and sometimes I ask, why this place?  Why not that place?  What is that place I will never go?

The past three years we have found ourselves visiting Oberlin, Ohio.  Tiny, tiny town.  Oberlin is a very “liberal” liberal arts college.  A tad too liberal for my taste, but it is what my son feels he needs in this time of his life.    Makes my heart hurt.   I love ya, baby.   They have to grow up sometime, dont they?  I donlikit.   But I will take what I can get.  Overall, this college choice has been pretty spot on whether I like it or not.

Oberlin is a darling town with much collegiate history and a college of “firsts”. They were the first college to admit female AND black students.  Pretty progressvie,eh?  The oldest operating music conservatory in the country.  It was founded by Presbyterian ministers. Where did they wander off to??   During the civil war, it was an active underground railroad location.  The proprietor of the B and B we stayed in showed us the trap door in the kitchen used for the slaves to slip down into to hide.

B and B in Oberlin, Ohio

B and B in Oberlin, Ohio

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Oberlin Campus

Oberlin Campus

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Charlie’s recital was Saturday night.  We had the opportunity to be his gophers for the day in preparation for the big shewww.   His show was a combination of his own composed and recorded music,  his produced videos and dance movement projected onto a big screen.  He  nailed it.    He rented out racquet ball courts for the show which was a great idea and worked well.

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I took 557 photos that weekend.  The images that were being projected onto the screen by his movements and lighting  were stunning.  Great artistic inspiration for my own art hopefully.

His little wheels are spinnin'

His little wheels are spinnin’

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Eric helping, err,  I mean resting.

Eric helping, err, I mean resting.  Actually he did help.

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It was a great weekend. We got to hang out with all of Charlie’s best buds.  We missed the fact that our middle son, Sam, could not be with us.  He is  busy working hard to protect you and me from dangggga.  Thank you, Sam,  for sticking your neck out for us.

Have a super weekend.

God bless,

Karen

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God’s Country

I had the good fortune to travel to a very special place this past week.  Seattle.  AND.  Vancouver.  Wow.

A little background on the event…..When I began my blog exactly one year ago, a follower who popped up pretty quickly after beginning commented frequently on my posts and found my postings by discovering my art on the web.  We quickly became furious penpals,  writing back and forth about art (she is an accomplished artist in her own right),  family,  and the wonders of life.  It was really cool.  This one person in the world out there. Thousands of miles away.   We meet by accident really.  Our friendship is awesome, fresh , not to mention we have lots in common.  Well…I don’t eat Nutella.  But she doesn’t eat cultured veggies.  But chocolate is a no brainer for each of us.  So, almost a perfect match.

Fast forward….I have attended the National Mosaic Conference several times  over the last ten years.  This year it was taking place in Seattle.  Seattle is a super cool place to visit if you have not been there.  That alone is reason enough for me to attend.  But my little pea brain starting rollin’ and I realized Seattle is so close to Vancouver, where my pen pal is from, that wouldn’t it be neat to meet her in real life.

I emailed her about it.  She thought it was great.  And so the journey began.

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I attended my conference in Seattle, which was a great learning experience, and my pal drove down to Seattle to hang out and then take me up to her home north of Vancouver.

Seattle’s year round farmers market, Pike Street Market, is right on the wharf and it is  filled with goodness, tradition, age, color and a great vibe.  A photographers dream.  My photos cannot do it justice at all.  Since I am not at all a photographer.  It is a crap shoot EVERY time I click.

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HUGE bundles of flowers cost 10- 15 dollars. Thousands of them.   I remember one time I was there and bought a single bouquet for 15.oo and was able to break it into 4 pretty good size vases.  ugh.  To have that available for  our wedding coming up.

As you can imagine, having a few short days to talk about our whole lives, I am sure she is as wiped out as I am.  Jabber jabber.  Danga danga.  I don’t have to talk for a good couple of weeks.

We visited the Museum of Glass, and a favorite artist’s studio.  Marc Bohne.  It was a pleasure meeting him after all this time of drooling over his paintings.   He was very generous with his time.  Even shared some painting secrets.   I now have a Marc Bohne painting in my home.

Marc Bohne Painting

Marc Bohne Painting

Then it was off to my friends land.

View from her living room.

View from her living room.

Come on. When you have inspiration like this out your window every day.  How can you not express it in some way.  Good girl.

Again, from her window

Again, from her window

My favorite corner in her home.

My favorite corner in her home.

At the little beach at the base of her street.

The little beach at the base of her street.

It was a whirlwind of fun and learning for me.  If you are out there, my penpal friend, thank you for your hospitality, your loveliness and sharing your awesome family.

If you haven’t visited that end of the world, it would do your soul a bit of good to do so.

God bless,

Karen

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Are We Original? Or Copycats?

We are all creators in one form or another.   Are we creating something that has been done  before,  or are we original?  As an artist, I think I’m being original.  But the fact is, I’m not.  Literally everything I do has been done before in someway.  My unique style and interpretation or impression  makes my work original.  The gift  that God gave me and only me.  He wants us to use each other for learning, inspiration and encouragement.   I’m sure you’ve heard that copying is the highest form of flattery.  Just as long it is not copying verbatim, I am sure.  I’m glad you like my stuff,  but don’t take it and call it yers.

There are few people in the world that are truly original. Thomas Edison.  Benjamin Franklin.  Bill Gates.  da Vinci.  Those kinda folks.  Even the lady who invented Spanx was just modeling her product after the ol’ girdle.  Not sure her name for it is better though.

Dale Chihuly is an artist. I have studied him for years but recently  I saw a documentary about him that stunned me.  He blows glass.   In that regard, he is a copycat.  His style is so completely original that I’m almost sure that he is the only guy that has done what he does to date.  In our history. I could be wrong.   Enjoy his beautiful glass gardens and sculptures.  Complete and utter genius.

Dale Chihuly

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I hope this brightens your day as it has mine.

God bless,

Karen

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