Friday, February 24, 2012

Mistress of the Universe

A Note to my Reader:
          I have been choosing excerpts from The Daimon, (my story in progress), to share with my images, while preparing my internal world for my show.  Pray Tell of Things to Come, a multi-media show, is on display at Orr St. Studios in Columbia, Missouri, until March 12.  For local readers, my reception is Wednesday, Febraury 29, (leap day) from 5:00-6:30 p.m. 


An Excerpt from The Daimon:

                 It was an ugly demon that took Der Junge’s life.  It was the raging silence that had given the demon’s devouring nature a place to grow strong, to destroy Elisabeth’s ancestor.  It had taken the shape of illness.  Of consumption.   Coughing, coughing blood, lots of blood. 
                Elisabeth would be forever thankful for Viola being her vigilant companion; she helped keep the demons at bay while encouraging Elisabeth to speak her peace. 
                Early August 1994:
                Despair is the demon that lives within me.  I would hear its thunder while lying in my crib at night until I was three or four.  Thump, thump, thump—dump. The metered beat of my heart murmuring, rang loudly in my ears, as I drifted to sleep.  Bringing fear and despair when I could not calm its pace and volume.  I feared my own existence.
                                   Der Junge was not afraid that the boat workers would discover that she was a female.  She had become the identity of her name.  Although, they might not see her as “the boy,” Der Junge didn’t care.  She would do anything to be free of Johann.  His despair was driving her mad.  Ironically, it was Der Junge’s silence that would destroy her, but it also saved her from the wrath of a drunken father.  With no contention, Johann’s rageful fists never touched Der Junge.  Instead, they busted the chairs she had crafted.  That’s when Der Junge took to pulling barges up the Volga River.
                                 “She’s shy!”  Momma would say, generations later, to camouflage the awkwardness of Elisabeth’s gulps of air that responded to a question from a well-meaning adult. 
                                 I spent my waking hours in solitude (with Viola of course), padding around barefooted until my feet were caked with dirt.  The Prairie dirt validated my existence. It gave me an identity.  I was silent but I was a Prairie girl. 
                                 “In this lifetime, I will learn to speak my peace!”  The Daimon constantly reminds Elisabeth of her soul’s commitment.  Her yoga teacher would show Elisabeth how to do the Kali breath of the Hindu Goddess of Destruction, Slayer of Demons, Mistress of the Universe.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Gateway

          "Gates [doors] stand between the here and there, betwen the known and unknown. At a psychological level, gates are found between the inner world and the outer, between sleeping and waking:  We labor to bring a half-remembered dream through the gateway between sleep and the daylight (James Hillman)...gates are places of transitions from one state to another."  The Book of Symbols.

          A friend used his welding torch to cut this hand out of metal for me, my shape influenced by the Woodland Indians of North America from 200 B.C.E. to 400 C.E.  I used it on a door that I had painted with a group of college students. Each working in small groups, we installed eight doors.  After our door installation weathered through, I hung the hand on my front door to be a gateway.   

An Excerpt from The Daimon:
February 12, 2010:  A reckoning.
          I dreamt I was strolling along at a gallery, viewing the pieces when a younger man wearing coveralls and boots approached me, hitting me on the rear in a familiar gesture and then encircling me within his embrace, pulling me along to walk with him within his charismatic stride.  Speechless, I was swept away.   Resenting it, I somehow broke loose to continue my own viewing.  He went on, sprinting across the gallery floor to take pictures of a life-sized photograph of cowboys on horses heading full force at the viewer.  I snuck off a different direction to escape his overbearing overtures.  I entered the women’s bathroom and thought about escaping as I looked out the window to the backdoor, latched tight with a padlock and chain.  While I pondered possibilities of undoing it, he appeared, opening the door as if it was never locked and stood before me, questioning my intentions of rejection.  Giving him a piece of my mind, I punched him on the arm with a “mind your own business” air.   I spun my heels and hurried away from him, refusing to look back. 

          Daddy looked like a fire breathing monster when he welded.  He put on his big leather gloves and his protective mask that he pulled down over his face.  Little Elisabeth could see his eyes through the slits.  She knew he was in there.  She couldn’t help but be curious. Watching from a safe distance, Momma would pull her little one even further away at the first sign of the torch.  Sparks flying in an arc, spewing around Daddy, somehow this didn’t frighten Elisabeth.  Silently, she watched her father craft tools out of metal rods--glowing red--bending and shaping shovel handles, spades and pitchforks but the sight of hammers would send her clinging to Momma’s skirt.  Yet, she stood erect, as if in a showdown with a dragon.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lady Eve

A Daughter Of Eve by Christina Rossetti
A fool I was to sleep at noon,
And wake when night is chilly
Beneath the comfortless cold moon;
A fool to pluck my rose too soon,
A fool to snap my lily.

My garden-plot I have not kept;
Faded and all-forsaken,
I weep as I have never wept:
Oh it was summer when I slept,
It's winter now I waken.

Talk what you please of future spring
And sun-warm'd sweet to-morrow:--
Stripp'd bare of hope and everything,
No more to laugh, no more to sing,
I sit alone with sorrow.

Lady Eve
78 Record Cover, yarn and other treasures, mosaic on wooden shadow box
A colleague and friend found solace in this piece, calling it Lady Eve.  I find that endearing after teaching at the college level and discovering that most of my adolescent male students blamed Eve for the downfall of humanity.  I remember reading an intriguing thought that Eve gave mankind a gift by giving us the opportunity to be human. 

An Excerpt from The Daimon:

          “For your penance, say three Our Fathers and two Hail Marys.”
          Little Elisabeth listened attentively to Father Karney give the standard reply for confessing that she had disobeyed or sassed her mother—a much different sin from that of her ancestor.  Elisabeth had been nick-named Snotty Snodgrass by her brother, Joseph, for a combination of reasons. Momma had slapped her face once (it only took once) for being snotty.   And then of course there was her incessant runny nose and Joseph loved to terrorize his baby sister.  It was as if he thought it was his job to toughen her up and make her stand up for herself.  Father Candy Corn, as the boys and girls called him when he wasn’t present--because they loved him so, chided them for confessing sins that sounded trite.  Elisabeth, in keeping with her nickname, repeatedly “confessed” being snotty. 

          Guilt.  That’s what had driven Johann, Elisabeth’s Great, Great, Great, Great Grandpa, to confess his sins.  The war of seven years had finally ended and he had come home to find his wife had died, buried in an unmarked grave.
          “Why, she left this world shortly after you returned to the war.”  The townspeople gave recollections of several years back.  Johann learned from the villagers that she had died during childbirth leaving behind a child cursed with the sign of a beast.   
          “How could it have lived?” Johann flashed back to his bearlike rage that had taken only moments to plunge his soul to the depths of hell.  He dropped to the mound of dirt, convulsing with the shocking reality of his sins. 
            Fortnights came and went as Johann slumbered, tossing and turning, in and out of a nightmare trance, entangled within the psyche of guilt-ridden grief.  Folks, who passed by the burial ground, nodded and whispered of lamias, while envisioning the serpent tailed sirens reaching up through the earth, ensnaring a lost soul.    


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt

          My principal asked the teachers to fill out a paper telling what song we would listen to if marooned on a dessert island.  I chose “Let it Be” by The Beatles.               
          Recently experiencing judgment that felt like a blow to the stomach, I turn to my piece “The Tribunal” and seek counsel. 
         “Forgiveness,” was the answer, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

The Tribunal

An Excerpt from The Daimon:

           “Since you have been studying shadows,” Elisabeth had begun her unit with the third graders, “We will make shadow puppets in art.” 
           She went on to tell them that they would use their shadow puppets to tell the stories of Aesop’s Fables.  The third graders were excited because some had been reading fables in their class. 
           “You will use your mind’s eye.”  Elisabeth pointed to her forehead teaching the children to be focused, watching for their imagery. 
           “If you get frustrated and think you can’t draw, your imagination will be overcome by a dark cloud.  Then you will not be able to see the images that will come to you as I read aloud to you.”  Elisabeth forewarned the children. 
           And so they listened.
           It was The Goose that Layed the Golden Egg that drew the strongest response. 
           “That’s awful that they killed the goose!”  The children exclaimed. 
           “That’s too sad to draw!”
           More fables were read as the children drew in their sketch books in search of a good omen to shadow. 

           Crow had difficulties helping Johann explain to his commander why he brought his chicken along with him to fight in the war.  “Are you mad?”  He wanted to know.
           “He’s obviously never read Cisero,” Crow muttered.
             Johann didn’t know Cisero but he would listen to Crow’s rehearsed explanation:  “Cisero wrote... wrote... Cisero wrote about the diviner taking a ch, ch, ch chicken to war to predict the outcome of Gr, Gr, Gr...of Greek battles.”
            Crow was an enigma, not the typical foot soldier’s companion.  He was learned, not from school but from being a mystic.  In the real world he would be considered a daydreamer.  Crow, however, was very aware.  He had access to information beyond text.  That’s why Crow stammered inarticulately in conversation because he was constantly processing the laws of the universe out of the corner of his eye, as the physical world paraded in front of him.   

             I can relate to Crow.  Being introspective, I often cannot express myself in the moment that unfolds.  I need help--in the form of an image, or a sound, or a motion--to create a word.  I give thanks to my principal for asking for a song. It helped me make peace with myself for a situation that overwhelmed me with the shadow of doubt.  Moving beyond, I am adopting the mantra, “Let it be!”

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Thousand Cranes Under a Red Blood Moon

          It was a collective effort to make a thousand cranes.  Adults and children worked together, folding and sewing.  To hang under a red blood moon in the spirit of "Hope for Japan," after the April 2011 tsunami.  The glass mosaic shines forth, with magazine images of destruction and revival cratering the moon.


Excerpt from The Daimon:

January 11, 1998
                He knew things
                                about me
                That words will
                                never tell.
                Huddled within
                                his wings,
                His eyes spoke
                                of Hope
                Transcending pain.
                Although Johann had not been visible to Der Junge as she danced the crane dance in triple time, moving through the stone paths of the labyrinth, she had realized his hawk-like presence.  He had dubbed her, "the boy." She felt a glimmer of faith that Johann would try to take care of her as they embarked on their journey to Russia. 
                “He’d better take good care of Der Junge!”  Elisabeth gave a side-glance, as she read on in her journal.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Born into Stories

December 31, 2006

“We are each born into a situation—a particular body (its race, sex, health...), a set of ancestors, a community, a nation—and born into the stories told of each of these.”  
Lewis Hyde, Common as Air: Revolution, Art and Ownership

"Saddam Hanged"

 Excerpt from The Daimon:
                “So how are things with the mold?”  Elisabeth’s friends wanted to know. 
                “The mold was a gift.”  Elisabeth found herself saying as she relayed her purging efforts and the transformation that took place within her as she developed an allergy from mold growing in the air ducts.  “I was becoming a hoarder.”  She confessed.
                “Oh my!”  A friend’s eyes got big.
                “Everything I kept was a treasure for a possible future project.”  Elisabeth continued.
                “Well of course,” Her other friend acknowledged, “You are an artist!”
                Elisabeth went on to tell her friends about the people who came to her curb to retrieve her displayed treasures, rescuing them before the trash truck came on trash days.  A high school girl who lived in the neighborhood had told Elisabeth that her art teacher had complimented her on projects that she was making from Elisabeth’s castaways.  “This has been your best work!”
                “My old dollies…my mom’ chair—now, that’s a story to tell you!”  Elisabeth proceeded.
                ”There was this woman who was loading my mom’s chair in the back of her truck and I called out to her, ‘Thank you so much for rescuing my mom’s chair.’”                               
                Elisabeth’s friends listened spellbound.
                “And so we started talking and the next thing I know, she offered to take my mom’s chair and get it reupholstered for me.” 
                Elisabeth was very grateful for the offer because she loved Momma’s chair.  It had been the one piece of furniture that she could sit in without her back complaining to her.  It desperately needed reupholstering and then when the air conditioner was turned off, the house became steamy and the chair became moldy.     
                “Time passed while I was no longer at our house and the lady couldn’t find me to ask about the kind of fabric to use.”  Elisabeth loved telling this part:  “So she looked at my window flower boxes and tried to imagine what the inside of my house looked like.”
                Months passed, seasons changed and Elisabeth had moved back home.  The lady came by and knocked on her door. 
                “Would you like to go with me to pick up your chair?”   
                “Of course!”  Elisabeth grabbed her purse and hopped into the truck. 
                It was a scenic drive to the country home inhabited by a couple who used their basement for an upholstery shop.  Upon entering, Elisabeth spotted Momma's chair.
                “Do you like it?”  The lady asked.
                “It takes my breath away!”  Elisabeth replied knowing she would not have picked that particular print but it would match her house perfectly.  Elisabeth gladly paid for the reupholstering.
                “That chair is the focal point of my living room!”  Elisabeth ended her story.  “I get lots of compliments on it.
                “It’s like The Gift,” Her friend told of a book by Lewis Hyde who writes about creativity and the artist in the modern world.  “There is this conflict between viewing your art as a gift to be shared and marketing it.”  She explained to Elisabeth that by letting go of her treasures, a gift came back to her. 

                "Saddam Hanged" is a piece made from broken treasures that (like the rest of my pieces)  was not made with a marketing intent. I'm not sure what my intent was other than to create something that I felt compelled to create after Saddam was hanged.  It has hung in the center of my home and now I am sharing it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"The Portrait"

“A wonderful painting is the result of the feeling in your fingers.
 If you have the feeling of the thickness of the ink in your brush,
the painting is already there before you paint.
When you dip your brush into the ink you already know the result of your drawing,
or else you cannot paint.
So before you do something, "being" is there, the result is there.
Even though you look as if you were sitting quietly,
all your activity, past and present, is included,
and the result of your sitting is also already there.”
- D.T. Suzuki

          An embellishment of a print entitled, "The Portrait."  Hidden in the shadows of the women's presence is an overlay of a newspaper photo of Anthony D. Woods, a St. Louis man who spent more than 18 years in prison for rape of a white woman for which DNA testing exonerated him.  Another overlay includes a Cardinal closing the doors to take a vote for the new Pope, behind closed doors.
          As my kindergartners work on their self-portraits I wonder what their futures hold.

Excerpt from The Daimon:

          Green Eyed Lady, a self-portrait of a younger Elisabeth looking out across time, stays in Trailer G gazing at the school children sitting on the carpet gathered at Ms. Elisabeth’s feet.  Painted in a post-modern yet Renaissance style, a Mona Lisa pose¸ Green Eyed Lady looks softly but directly at the viewer as if to see through layers of skin and tissue, down to the bone—through the marrow—into the soul. 
Green Eyed Lady sits and reminds Elisabeth that teaching helps her re-shape her own life from the past--to create wholeness.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Writing on the Wall

The writing is on the wall,

but I look away in fear of becoming what I see.

The true confession of my soul yearning to be set free.

Am I not a coward?

Who goes there?

What judgement has been rendered?

Do you see what I see?

These words are no longer my words.

They are the writing on the wall.


Excerpt from  The Daimon:

          From her dream, Mother had seen the writing on the wall but she had looked away in fear of becoming what she saw and she accompanied Father to Russia.  Mother had begged Father to stay in America.  She had watched their son, Edgar grow to be a man, take a wife, and have children.  She could see that Edgar was struggling in his relationship with his eldest son.  It reminded her of Father and Edgar.  She saw the shaming passed on and on and it broke her heart.  She felt helpless in both scenarios:  staying and going.  Being a dutiful wife, she went with Father.  She would miss the births of her Great Grandchildren.  Mother’s dark eyes that held mysteries of knowing the future. She foresaw Daddy’s relationship with Elisabeth and although she would not be there to bear witness, she vowed to keep watch from afar.  
         Daddy was not a hugger but he grabbed onto his grandmother and held her tight before Mother got into the car and sat next to Father who had donned a top hat.  Daddy had caught a glimpse from Grandmother’s eyes.  Mother knew what would greet them in Russia.  She had seen it all coming.  A timeline of struggles for the Volga Germans--Father and Mother had escaped from part of the historical devastation--The Bolshevik Revolution followed by Lenin moving the Volga Germans off their farms into collectives.  Famine struck. Now, Stalin awaited them, just as Father thought it was safe to return. Mother knew better.  What could she say to a man who had outlived his life expectancy?  He had lived a full life, yet he felt unfilled. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Offering

The Offering

It presents itself in glory of the moment.
It has no past, no future...
Only sacrifice.

The honor is to be told.

I awoke with visions of a head on a platter.  My dream prompted me to dig out my oil pastels and draw the image of a beheaded St. John the Baptist on the newspaper, next to a rubbing of Mary Magdalene sitting with her healing oils.   
December 2004

Words and images
are my tools
to express
my quest

I need words and images.
But they don't need me.
They can unite
with someone else.

I share words and images
to make connections with the viewer.
But you don't need me either.
You could unite with someone else.

I need you,
for you bear witness.
Together, we mirror our world. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012


February 4, 2012
                The boys and girls at school often talk about their god and the devil while painting, weaving, cutting or pasting in my art room.  I teach in an elementary public school.  I listen. 

The Swordsman and the Cat from a seventeenth-century master’s book on swordplay:
In the evening, all the cats who had participated in the rat-catching had a grand session at [the Swordsman’s] house, and respectfully asked the great Cat to take the seat of honor.  They made profound bows before her and said:  “We all wish you to divulge your secrets for our benefit.”  The grand old cat answered:  “Teaching is not difficult, listening is not difficult either, but what is truly difficult is to become conscious of what you have in yourself and be able to use it as your own.” 

          And so I take my mandala, signifying my prairie roots with the stars overhead and the snake in the grass, and as my own, I use it to create "Justice."

          The headline of May 2, 2011 Columbia Tribune reads:  JUSTICE HAS BEEN DONE!   

          "U.S. Forces Kill Osama bin Laden in Covert Operation."

           What is justice?

         So, dear great Cat, in the seat of honor, I wonder if finishing this long overdue project truly transforms my difficult teaching moments? Perhaps, I need to contemplate this with my fifth graders in mind.