Category Archives: repairing the world

Quilts by Men

During a visit to Civil War sites in Winchester, Virginia, I learned that convalescing Confederate veterans were encouraged to work on quilts.  The wartime headquarters of Stonewall Jackson (1861-62) had such a quilt on the General’s personal bed, made by an amputee.

Traditionally women’s work, quilting was recognized for its therapeutic benefit to wounded soldiers, who were undoubtedly suffering from PTSD, as well as physical injuries.  Artists and crafters know well the meditative zone one enters while immersed in repetitive, creative work.  We forget to eat, we forget to stop working, we forget the world.

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Letterforms prominent in “Fractured Yet Rising” exhibit at ARC Gallery

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“Fractured Yet Rising” is a juried multi-media exhibition of works on the subject of violence against women.  In addition to works submitted by artists, the artist-members of ARC, a women’s co-op gallery, worked with residents of a domestic violence shelter on collaborative pieces, giving voice to their experiences.

Dates:  March 5-29, 2014.  Details here.

Flowerchild: Then and Now

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I walk daily on a path through a virgin prairie near where I live.  The blooms change week by week, and I photographed some of them, to preserve their image before they withered and stepped aside for the next wave of blossoms.

I was listening to the sound track of “Forrest Gump”, which has songs from the late 60’s and early 70’s, the music of my childhood and teen years.  “Volunteers” by Jefferson Airplane was playing:

“Come on now we’re marching to the sea
got a revolution got to revolution… ”

I thought about the flower children of the 60’s, calling for revolution, and the  reference to “marching to the sea”, which calls up Sherman’s march to the sea, from the Civil War.  I am currently reading Sick From Freedom:  African American Illness and Suffering During The Civil War and Reconstruction by Jim Downs.  Mr. Downs revises the glossy view of the emancipation of the African slaves in the United States, and documents the catastrophic wave of privation and disease which met the newly emancipated bondsmen and women, because of medical ignorance and administrative incapacity.  Thousands upon thousands of former slaves died of exposure, starvation and disease following emancipation.  Which is obviously not to say that they were better off in slavery; in fact, the fear of that argument kept the grim facts from coming to light for generations.  It is important that this story is finally being told.

It may seem odd to make a jump from beautiful wildflowers to catastrophic demographic displacement, while in the midst of a gorgeous meadow on a summer day, but that’s how my mind runs.  Tearing down, I thought,  is quick and easy; building up is slow and torturous.  As I listened to the song calling for political change, I felt glad that the cultural revolution of my youth did not escalate to a violent overthrow of the U.S. government.  This sounds simplistic; but as I watch social/political upheavals around the world, and see our country use “shock and awe” as a “defense” policy, I worry.  Change is essential; people are suffering under cruel dictatorships, but as with the prairie, the return of life following a scorched-earth policy takes generations; the cost is terrible and the results are always mixed.

My little photographic record (which led to this line of thought) began with seeing a flower I’d never seen before, a few days earlier.  Since I didn’t have my cellphone/camera that day, I took a mental photo and did a little sketch in watercolor while I was at my teaching job at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Fay, an avid gardener in my class, didn’t recognize it, either, and suggested that I take it to Plant Information, where they were able to identify it for me:    Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea Purpurea).  The description in the book said it requires a “rich, well-developed environment.”  In other words, it only grows where generations of untouched prairie plants have been able to flourish and propogate and create the right conditions; it’s not just going to pop up on a foreclosed subdivision where people stopped mowing the grass for a year or two.  Which explains why I’ve never seen it before; it doesn’t grow just anywhere.
The custodians of Gallery Park, the beautiful jewel which contains patches of untouched prairie, utilize controlled burns to maintain the natural cycle of destruction and rebirth that allows the prairie to flourish.  How do we replicate a “controlled” burn in the world of politics and nation building?  Now, there’s the challenge.

Free Yourself: It’s Passover!

May this Passover bring freedom and redemption to all who are enslaved.  May we find ways to free ourselves from the constricts of mind and attitude that bind us.  May we be open to new ways of solving the problems that face our world.

Looking For Wildness

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If you live in an urban or suburban area, wildness is hard to find.  I found it at Gallery Park in the Glen, a recently developed suburb that was created when the Glenview Naval Air Base was decommissioned.  Along the verge and in between all the runways, naturalists found original, untouched Illinois prairie.  Amazingly, in our era of greed and despoilment, environmentalists successfully lobbied for a set-aside of this untouched biodiversity, and the Glen planners preserved a pristine wetland/prairie area in the heart of the development.

I have found that I can briskly walk its paved paths and crushed gravel trails, which loop through neck-high grasses, for an hour without repeating my path.  I see:  a sandhill crane, many ducks, egrets, little birds that tweet up from the path, masses of purple asters, wild roses, weeping willows, oaks.

Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic, writes in today’s paper:  “Chicago’s high-toned Latin motto, ‘Urbs in Horto’ (City in a Garden), makes it sound as though the expansive open spaces of the city’s lakefront extend to every corner of the city.  They don’t.”

Kamin goes on to quote Perry Duis, a University of Illinois at Chicago historian, speaking about the dearth of green spaces planned into post-Great Fire Chicago:  “The older industrial areas were so jammed by the expansion of factories that any kind of open space was considered to be sort of a luxury.   It’s just logical… Chicago is the most thoroughly capitalistic city there is.”

As protestors mass on Wall St. and LaSalle St. in revolt against rampant corporate greed, it is well to bear in mind the environmental results of greed, in its most basic impact on our communities.  If you can find yourself some wildness, embrace it and appreciate it, and fight for it.

The Bridge Between Health and Disease

Please come and see my Bridge Between Health and Disease.   It was commissioned by the Art Center, Highland Park, for the Voices and Visions Exhibit, an uplifting and inspiring juried show (opening reception tomorrow, 9-30-11.)

The Bridge Between Health and Disease, The Art Center, Highland Park, Illinois

From ABC- Channel 7 News blog:

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Art Center in Highland Park holds an art exhibit that honors women and their families impacted by breast or ovarian cancers.

In addition to 50 works of art on display, there is also a wall of statements written by women from across the country who have been affected by cancer. Caren Helene Rudman, an artist and curator of the exhibit, says the purpose of the exhibit is to empower people who live on the bridge between health and disease.

The Art Center (TAC) in Highland Park is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to education in the contemporary visual arts through its teaching, outreach, events and gallery exhibitions. TAC brings the benefits of visual expression to all sectors of the community.

Voices and Visions: Standing on the Bridge between Health and Disease
September 30 – October 30, 2011
Opening Reception: Friday, September 30th from 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Free Admission to Exhibit

The Art Center Highland Park
1957 Sheridan Rd.
Highland Park, IL
(847) 432-1888
theartcenterhp.org/voices-and-visions

“Knittivists” Repairing The World

There is a wonderful project called “Tikkun Tree”, which is organizing fiber artists to contribute knitted, crocheted, embroidered and sewn leaves and doves to a fiber olive tree.  The tree will be a symbol of peace and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.  It is inspired by  “the courageous and remarkable efforts of Jewish and Palestinian citizens and activists in Israel and Diaspora who have been working toward peaceful coexistence” and also by “the many recent knittivist community needlework projects, including the pink tank, knitnotwar 1,0o0 Project , Knit a River, and the Red Sweater Project“.

I can embroider and sew, I think it will be fun to foliate!  If you want to participate, send your leaves to:

The TikkunTree Project
P.O. Box 2088
Philadelphia, PA 19103

I love to paint olive trees.  Here are some works which include olive trees from my portfolio:

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