Beauty is Precedent

Red Rope 24x 24 inches acrylic and collage on canvas by Gwen Meharg

Precedent.

Beauty is precedent.

Not so long ago a famous person (POTUS) misused the word.  Maybe it was the wee hours of the morning.  Maybe it was autocorrected.  Precedent and president DO sound similar.  But just to be safe here is the definition:

Precedent: an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances.

Dangerous Spring by Gwen Meharg 36 x 36 inches.

“Beautiful works survive sans virtue.
Virtuous works, sans beauty, do not.  ”

In my last blog, I mentioned a book I am reading, The Invisible Dragon, Essays on Beauty, by Dave Hickey.  The quote is from the book.

It is a slightly challenging read.   I am reading with the book in my right hand and a dictionary in my left.    I seldom need the dictionary to understand the meaning of words I don’t quite know.  But if Jubilee were to ASK ME what the word means, I could not give her a definition.

I am on a quest for clearer understanding and a broader vocabulary.

Here is an example of a sentence that would have been awesome in the ORIGINAL Pirates of the Caribbean.  (I adored the original.  The words were so beautiful.  The sequels-every last one of them- are shameful, – absolutely SHAMEFUL!)  There are probably better examples, but I came across this sentence first.  Here goes Dave Hickey, “The vivid, corporeal verisimilitude of these paintings, striving to beguile an unlettered audience, striving to change without changing, enlisted ravishing sensuality in aid of sacred circumstances and created the fulcrum upon which all future critiques of “truth besmirched by beauty” would turn.”

Friends by Gwen Meharg 48 x 36 inches in collection of Reflections of Glory

Honestly, folks, it has been a long time since I used verisimilitude in a sentence.     Using Google to double check the definition I pressed the little speaker button for pronunciation and OOPS!  Let us just say, I had the syllables in the wrong places.  (In case you are wondering, ver·i·si·mil·i·tude: the appearance of being real.)  Popular usage of the word peaked in the late 60s and has been on a steady decline since.  (I wonder if vocabulary itself has been declining since the late 60s along with reading?)

I don’t know if I have heard corporeal outside of science fiction – ever!
Beguile, yeah, I got that one!  I LOVE the use of fulcrum.  I am going to look for an opportunity to use fulcrum in a sentence.

My Favorite Tree by Gwen Meharg 36 x 48 inches

OOOH! OOOH!  This blog is the fulcrum upon which I realized my vocabulary is sorely lacking and committed to using grown-up words.  (And the use of “grown-up” here exemplifies my dearth of vocabulary. )

1,009,614 words, give or take, in the English language.  Most adults English speakers range manage only 10-35,000 words in their vocabularies.  It is estimated that Shakespear had 66,534 words at his disposal.

I keep wondering if the extinction of words in our general vocabularies contributes to our lack of understanding what is going on in the world and understand not only others but also ourselves.

We train our young children in feeling words so they can express their feelings without throwing a tantrum.  I believe our limited vocabularies contribute to the tantrum-ic nature of politics.  (SEE! I don’t have a word to describe the whiny baby attitudes of our governmental figures.)

I wonder if declining vocabularies affects our ability to enjoy beauty.  Tony Saladino, one of my art heroes, says that until you can articulate what it is you love about a painting you will not be able to appropriate that aspect into your own work.

What if a limited vocabulary limits our ability to appropriate beauty into our lives?

Beauty is precedent.
Teach your children well.
Be kind to yourself,
the world,
expand your vocabulary.
See what you might not have seen.

Share your favorite words with me.  We can grow together.

PS  One of my favorite raconteurs, Dave Hickey.

 

What Lasts?

What lasts?
I am asking what endures.?

Words swirl,  inviting new possibilities.

Lasts becomes an action verb and begs, “Who?”  Who lasts?
Who and what ends the queue?
Last because of tardiness or lack of skill?
Last because others are lifted up?
Last because of circumstance or
last because of choice.

She lasts.
Mother Teresa lasted.

Bible training kicks in,
“The last shall be first.”
Does this mean the least shall have their recompense?
But I am pretty sure some think it is a tactic to get to the front of the line. (Servant leaders! PSHAW!)

Back to art since, in theory, this is an art blog.  No, artist blog and circuitous thinking is my process. The dancing words feed the art which, in turn, I desperately hope feeds hearts.

I am reading “The Invisible Dragon, Essays on Beauty” by Dave Hickey.  If you have not met Dave Hickey and the opportunity presents itself, I highly recommend you make the effort.  If you care to expend less effort, check Youtube for a plethora of entertaining, snarky and informative interviews.  Dave HIckey is saucy so if your constitution is delicate, you might not want to listen.  If your constitution were delicate you probably would not be reading what I write-so never mind.

“Beautiful works survive sans virtue.  
Virtuous works, sans beauty, do not. ”
David Hickey’s essay, American Beauty.

Beauty lasts.
Beauty endures.

Beauty lasts.
Beauty serves the least of these.

Maybe art is simpler than we think.

Maybe art is more complicated than we know.

Have a beautiful day.

 

PS  Grammarly does not appreciate me playing with words.  So many red underlines! PSHAW!

 

Credit Card Party WITHOUT Me

Yesterday my credit card partied without me.  Salt Grass Steak House- $100.  Followed by purchases at a bookstore and an advertising agency.  This morning, Goodwill – $150.  

Good grief.  After a strong start of steak and booze in Kennedale, surely my card could do better than a morning $150 purchase at Goodwill.   Breakfast at The Pancake House, at least!?!?

One time a debit card of mine traveled to Cairo and St. Petersburg.  THAT card knew how to live.

I am thankful that Wells Fargo’s fraud department called today even if they did interrupt my flow.  I am thankful that the charges will be reversed and that a new credit card is coming tomorrow via Fed Ex.

I KNOW Wells Fargo cheated thousands of customers out of money.  I KNOW they back the pipeline.  I have been trying to transfer all my money over to a credit union, but it is hard not dropping bills.  I also KNOW that the folks in my branch are helpful and today I talked to two helpful phone guys.  
Here is to first world problems.

May you always have more fun than your cards.

Peace out!  Gwen

PS   If the fraud department sends you a new card it takes five to seven days.  IF you call the number on the back of the wayward card, they will offer to expedite it for you.

One Less 7th Grader

The automated message from the Benbrook Middle High School principal came Sunday evening announcing the death of one of Jubilee’s 7th grade classmates.  No name. Details to be released later. Only the name was released.

I told Jubilee that when there are no details the death is often suicide.

Details were released concerning the Thursday night the viewing and Friday morning the funeral at the tv church in the old Food Lion grocery store.

Jubilee and I left Benbrook Middle High School (BMHS) at 10:45 Friday morning to attend the funeral.

(The school required the children turn in the bulletin from the funeral to have an excused absence.  Doesn’t it matter that the parent signed out and wrote FUNERAL on the form? There were too few bulletins so we collected a half-dozen signatures on a single bulletin and turned that into the office.)

Benbrook Middle High School is our local school.  It is one of the biggest, shiniest, newest schools in FWISD. I don’t know how it ranks on the bullying spectrum but, bullying is a problem. It used to be that the middle school years were cruel.  Cruelty is a k-12 game now.

I homeschooled my children for two decades.  It was hard.  It was really hard.

Having a child in public school is harder.

Jubilee and her friends practice maintaining low profiles. They don’t want to be noticed. They don’t want to become targets.

Invisibility is not a skill 7th-grade girls should have to practice.

The first week of school there was not room at the lunch tables for everyone. Children sat on the ground outside in the 100+ degree heat. The circumstances, ripe for hostility and bullying. The second day of school my daughter came home covered in chocolate milk spilled when boys fighting smashed into her while she was carrying her lunch tray. The school’s response?   I will paraphrase, “Meh.”

Two gymnasiums.  Not enough space to eat.

Last year Jubilee was bullied during PE. Male classmates tormented abused her for sport and for not knowing the intricacies of soccer. The teacher claims to have seen nothing. Everyday Jubilee was crying when I picked her up. How does a teacher not see that?  The teacher told me there was an imbalance of boys in the class and she asked the counselor for more girls. She knew there was a problem and STILL did not SEE anything?  My response, “Meh!”

 

 

She made it Jubilee’s fault that the abuse continued. She has to advocate for herself. She has to tell. She has to tattle. What does the teacher have to do? The young man who killed himself was in the same PE class. I doubt he faired any better.

Jubilee accessed her deceased classmate as one of maybe ten truly nice kids in the school. Smiling. Funny. NICE! Bullied.

Yesterday during lunch, a bully was teasing a heavy girl. The bully punched her in the stomach. She punched him in the nose-twice.  Good for her.

Bullying that was a problem the first week of school. Six weeks into the first semester and bullying remains a problem.

Homeschooling is hard.  Public school is harder.

Bullying picked up during the election cycle last year.  The vitriol escalated after the election.  Children yelling at the brown-skinned classmates, “Go back to Mexico.”  “This is our country,” “You don’t belong here.”

Waiting to pick Jubilee up after school I parked behind cars bearing enticement to vicious action against our current President’s running mates. Children read their parent’s bumper stickers and took the messages to heart.

Words matter.

The BMHS 7th grade curriculum has not gotten to the unit on bullying this school year.

We don’t talk about suicide. A suicide is a failure of family, a failure of friends, a failure of school, a failure of church, and a failure of character.

Suicide is taboo because a discussion about suicide raises too many questions and inflicts too much pain and guilt amongst the survivors. Suicide is complicated.

My head hurts. My heart aches. I am frightened for my child. I am frightened for your child. I am frightened that one of these bullies might grow up to be the President of the United States of America.

PS.  This painting does not yet have a title.  I see it as uplifting.  A triumph over circumstances.  A statement both bold and gentle.  It is 48 x 36 inches and $2800.  I chose it to go with this blog because of the raw nature of the piece.  One color.  Once pass.  The rare moment when experience and chance conspire to defy the routine and everything comes together on the first pass.

Most of us get more than one chance in life.
None of us gets more than one pass through life.

Make today count.  Sincerely, Gwen

Ruminations and the Wall Street Journal

Where do you get your emotional support?
Today I found mine ruminating with the cows and in the Wall Street Journal.

This morning, walking Wesley, we stopped and watched the cattle ruminating.  And I realized I was ruminating.  RUMINATING on EVERYTHING I have done wrong as a mother over the past 28.5 years.  I look back and see what I could have done and I see that  I am too late in seeing.

Too late to do this and too late to have done that. I failed this child and this child and this child and this child and this child, and the other child. I could have been fun. I should have been patient.  I could have, I would have, I should have… The hammer of would have, should have and could have was doing a jig on my heart.

I KNEW IT!  And. I. Could. Not. Stop!

“Gwen, you are in a downward spiral and to no avail.  It will change nothing.  Spiral up, Gwen, spiral up!”
“But, oh, that time….”

Do you know where the word ruminate comes from?  It has to do with cattle and their crazy digestive process.   Check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svw5KA8YlAA
Crazy awesome and exceedingly disgusting.

Basically, the cow swallows the grass whole and then after a few laps around the stomach (rumen) it comes back up a cud for the cow to chew again. So ruminate means (of a ruminant) chew the cud.

synonyms: think about, contemplate, consider, meditate on, muse on, mull over, ponder on/over, deliberate about/on, chew on, puzzle over; formal cogitate about
“we ruminated on the nature of existence”

HECK YEAH!  I was so ruminating on the nature of existence! 

I get home and sit down with the WSJ while I am brewing my green tea.  What kind of green tea?
Wild BITTER!
Bitter tea to go with the state of my heart!

After reading about imaginary war games played by the US and NATO military (WOW!), the Casanova exhibit showing at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth (now through December 31, 2017), Kushner and Russian stuff, some editorials from indignant GOP writers (I am trying to understand the other), I discover:  “A Survival Guide for Parents Now That Your Child Is Off to College.”    WAAAALAAAAA!!!!!

Unexpected emotions. CHECK! Happiness. CHECK!  Grief. CHECK!
And the coup d’etat  (and by that I do not mean a sudden and decisive action in politics, especially one resulting in a change of government, but a sudden and decisive change in my understanding.  Hmmm, maybe I need another French word here.)  I find a paragraph that exactly describes my morning rumination.
WSJ: What are some of the emotions that empty nesters typically feel?
Ms. Boykin: The empty nest kicks up much more than just sadness or loneliness. For many parents, there is also guilt about what they wish they had, or hadn’t, done while raising their child. This can range from specific negative interactions along the way to a broad sense of not having done enough to prepare them for the “real world.” And they can feel a great deal of anxiety and worry about how their child will fare in a new environment.  Parents can also feel excitement, pride, joy, and relief as they get a glimpse of a life that doesn’t center around kids and their goals all the time.

I am a bundle of guilt and grief. Oh, it is not all about the empty nest, there are other things going on that have set me up for the empty nest experience to be magnified, but the WSJ nailed it.  The exact discussion I had been having with myself.

There is more than empty nest going on.  I am also grieving other familial relationships, but the WSJ gave it a name.  

 

I was not instantly over it.  But the name helps.  I can separate these emotions from the other stuff and deal with it.   Misery loves company is how the old saying goes and I am relieved to know I am not alone in dealing with this insanity.

And my nest isn’t empty yet.
Poor Jubilee, I hope I don’t try to make up for 28 years of failure in the next six years with her.  Poor, poor Jubilee.

Here is to all of us dealing with emotions whose sources we maybe have not recognized yet.  Here is to finding healthy ways to process those emotions.

This afternoon, while I wait in the endless line of parents picking up middle schoolers, I will ruminate on the human beings my children are in spite of me.

I will ruminate on their resilience and varying degrees of grit.  I will forgive myself for 28 years of failure.  (It probably won’t stick, but I will start and start again.)  I will focus on getting through the ride home and finding swim gear without any drama from myself or Jubilee.  (PLEASE, GOD, PLEASE!  Wow, that was dramatic!)  I will exchange the fungicide at the feed store and see what the afternoon brings.
YEE HAW!  Gwen
PS  It was VERY good for me to go back through photos and remember that it was not all bad.  I love my little family.  I am so very thankful.  SPIRALING UP!

Summer Daze.

Greetings!
The end of summer has been anything but dull.A mini-road trip with Peter, my youngest son, to visit my oldest son and his wife in Birmingham, Alabama.   Birmingham has a plethora of beautiful places to engage nature.  This trip we took a picnic and the puppy to Turkey Creek.

  I fell into Turkey Creek (I was just looking for a rock to sit on and read ) and somehow managed slip head over heels into a surprisingly deep, narrow swift channel and lose my white buffalo turquoise bracelet, chip my glasses, but keep my book mostly dry.
It reminded me of Schlitterbahn water park on the river in New Braunfels, Texas.  Peter even FOUND my bracelet further where the channel bifurcated.  I found new bruises for a week.

Forrest and Julie also have a new puppy who we had yet to meet. It was a great visit and I knit 8 preemie baby beanies while watching starting season 4 of Game of Thrones. I only made it through 8 episodes. If you wanted to loan me DVDs, that would be nice.

Sunday morning, Peter and I headed west to Cleveland, Mississippi, the home of Delta State and the Fighting Okra. Peter is a freshman and apparently Okra swim team because Peter and his best friend, Alexis, are both on the swim team. 

The dorm smelled funky. The humidity was brutal. And there was no GPS signal. But other than that, the transition went well. Probably better for Peter than for ME!

Yes. Yes, I cried, but mostly when Peter was not looking. Happy tears. Sad tears. Tired tears. I don’t know what the hell is going on tears. My GPS is not working tears.

I hoped the GPS would reconnect after a few blocks. Nope. With nothing looking familiar, I pulled over and ask an older gentleman for directions to the highway.

“Go South and East and eventually you will get there.”  I was glad the sun was low enough for me to figure out which direction was South and which was East! I drove South and East and I did indeed find the highway.

The drive between Fort Worth, TX and Cleveland, MS is 8.5 hours so I stopped on my way home. (I did not want to get home after 2 a.m.)

Monday morning.

Peter’s first day of college. Jubilee’s first day of 7th grade. Forrest and Julie were in Nashville to see the eclipse. Roy (20) and Londyn were in Savannah to see the eclipse. (This was their second big road trip this summer.)

Roy and Londyn also got engaged on this trip. (ALL parents are happy as are all the siblings. Londyn has a brother named Forrest and a sister named Jubilee. CRAZY, RIGHT!)

Driving home Monday, I switched back and forth between audible and the radio and hoping to get there in time to pick up Jubilee after school. The highway signs in Louisiana warned people to turn on their headlights during the eclipse. (Louisiana was in the 70% eclipse zone. It barely was noticeable.) Roy had provided me with proper eclipse watching eyewear so I was ready to pull over and watch!

At the Texas state line Welcome Center, I caught my first glimpse of the eclipse. Just barely, but it had begun. (I am wearing the safety glasses under my prescription glasses. )

Half an hour or so later I pulled off of I-20 onto the road to Starrville to watch the eclipse. (STARrville, get it? I am watching the eclipse of a star on the road to STARrville. Well, it seemed ever so clever at the time.)

I sat on the J5 Ranch fence to watch the eclipse. Maybe 70 -80%, and I watched it reach peak coverage and then I watched for another ten minutes. (I forgot that we were only going to get a partial eclipse.)

It did not get dark, but it got eerie. I was overly jazzed by the whole process. I pulled over a few more times before it disappeared things returned to normal. I wished I was watching with Jubilee

David was working from home and he captured some beautiful images the eclipse created by the tree shadows.

I made it home in time for after first day of school Yogurtland!

Everything between then and now has been a blur.

My son Josiah, 22, is in the Texas Army National Guard and is currently deployed helping with the Hurricane Harvey fallout. The scariest part was evacuating people from the Crosby area. They were in danger from the chemical plant. Nothing had exploded, but they were told could blow any minute.

They were still rescuing people and animals after dark. Two first responders had to wade waste deep water, one soldier on each side of the road, to be able to tell where the road was. All the time wondering when the chemical plant would blow. Even though it was a mandatory evacuation, half refused to leave. It was hard for the rescuers to leave them behind, but around each corner was someone else, waiting.

Josiah and his team rescued over 70 animals.

Now the water is receding and Josiah says it smells horrible. It looks like Hurricane Irma will be devastating Florida which means he will be headed. Now another’s son, another’s daughter will be called in to drive flooded streets looking for those in need. Most of the guard are happy to serve. Well, not happy, but thankful for the opportunity to serve their fellow Texans.

The cost, emotional and financial, is high. The debate over money, who gets it, who doesn’t get it, who pays for it, will be long with a great many losers. It is impossible to contemplate the years or rebuilding ahead.

In 2004 the children and I lived in Glogow, Poland. It had been 80+% leveled by the Germans as they retreated at the end of WWII.

The city was STILL rebuilding in 2004. Walking to the market, we would peek through the fence to see the bombed homes, the opera house, and skeletal churches, the empty and broken foundations. The fence was there for safety purposes, but I think more so that the residents would not have to look upon the devastation every day. Two generations have grown up in Glogow and the devastation remains. These are the images I imagine the aftermath of the hurricanes. This is what I think about when I contemplate rebuilding. A long slog.

60 years later, they are still rebuilding

Those of us not living with the consequences will not mean to, but we will soon forget.

I am old enough to remember when the news came three times a day. First the newspaper, then the six o’clock new, then the ten o’clock news. (We did not get a second evening paper.) Six o’clock and ten o’clock. Mostly kids were not allowed to watch the news at 10. The news could be turned off.

Now nothing ends. We are plugged into tragedy around the world 24/7. The immediacy is overwhelming. The effect is numbing.

All this circles back to the painting I am currently working on. Red Cypress and Carpenter Ants. It began as part of my wildflower abstracts, but I had not gotten to the abstraction part. I was happily sidetracked by a wedding commission.

When I got back to it this week red ants were weighing heavily on my mind. There is a lone red ant bed up at the horse stables. I get nostalgic every time I see it. I was showing it to Jubilee and telling her about horny toads.

Red ants and horny toads used to be plentiful across Texas. Horny toads feasted on red ants. The fire ants crept north and killed off the carpenter ants and the horny toads died. No red ants, no horny toads.

Horny toads are awesome. The cousins caught horny toads and chiggers at Grammy Simpson’s house in Goldthwaite, Tx.

My children have never seen a horny toad. They have never had the chance to catch one. I find that quite sad.

“WAIT!” you say. The painting is titled Red Cypress and Carpenter Ants.

Well, yes I know. I was thinking about red ants and how industrious ants are. My mind strolls over to the rebuilding due to hurricanes, the Mexican earthquake, and the fires the western states. All the sudden thinking CARPENTER ants. It just made more sense.

I am looking at my 4-foot square canvas with my drawing of red cypress flowers and thinking Carpenter ants. I research carpenter ants, but it is no good. Instead, I am thinking tiny, little bitty human carpenters. (Carpenter ants. CARPENTERS! Get it? Yes, well, it seemed clever at the time.)

Then I add spider webs. Spider webs because I had walked through several with Wesley. He walked beneath them, I walked into and through them on my way up the hill. One industrious spider rebuilt his/her web across the road so quickly that I walked through it again on my way back down the hill!

Somewhere along the way, I learned that spider webbing is quite strong. (It might have been in a comic book.) Spider webs, when not stuck to one’s face, can be quite beautiful.

Spider webs and carpenter ants.

My canvas was too big to work with inside my studio so I headed to the front lawn. On my way out the door, I grabbed a box of coins and another box of washers and nuts. I tossed these into the wet paint and allowed it to dry. Oh! And dice. I tossed in 40 small dice from a game we never played. (Here is a 45-minute video of the.  The first of it is sorta interesting. RIght away you can see I am in trouble!)

The washers, nuts, and coins represent the cost of time and materials that go into a rebuilding. The dice representing the gamble of waking up each day with less control than we like to believe.

Along the way, I learned that while watercolor and acrylics often behave similarly, there are vast differences. I did some Facebook Live videos of me making and discovering the differences. OOPS!  This hyperlinks to the beginning of the process including the moment I realize IT IS NOT WORKING as I planned and how I improvise.  It is fun to skip around in it.  You don’t need to watch 45 minutes.  

This is the hyperlink for a six-minute video at the end of the process .
(here is the link to the VERY long video where I go back after the paint dries and realize acrylic paint makes for a powerful GLUE!!!   This is the hyperlink of me taking the coins, dice, washers, nuts and rice papers off of the dried painting.  It took 68 minutes to pry them loose! 

But it is all good and this hyper- links to a 2-minute video of the details up close and personal. IF things had worked the way I intended then the painting would be done. As it is there are many hours ahead of me.

Maybe I will remember these lessons for the next painting. I would say there is an 80% chance that I will not have to relearn this lesson. Okay, 75% tops, but I will definitely remember for the near future.

Rebuilding.
Dice.
Money.
Gambling!

Do you know a gambler? Someone who likes to take chances and expects to win?

This size painting finishes out at $3800. ( this hyperlinks to a 2 minute video of the details – so far.)
BUT for someone passionate about rebuilding,
passionate about hope,
willing to take a risk on an unfinished painting, there is an $800 discount waiting for them!
The person who claims it Red Cypress and Carpenter Ants before it is complete gets a hefty discount. (Payment plans are doable.)

Red Cypress and Carpenter Ants is changing by the hour. I will post images as things develop.

I really hope you are safe.
I hope that you know when to stay and when to go.
I hope that all our sons and daughters make it home tonight.
I hope our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, know they are loved, regardless.

I hope YOU know that I am glad you are journeying with me.
Sincerely, Gwen

PS. I am toying with a discount for all works in process. It is so labor and time intensive to market a painting. The discount will save me time and you money. Win/win! I love the infinite game. The one that keeps rolling along.

THEY SAY Opposites Attract

They say oppositesarising-prophetic-art-painting attract.

My husband is a truly excellent human being.

What “they” say does not bode well for me.

David is quiet and soft spoken.

David is tall and thin.

David looks before he leaps.open-broken-hearts-prophetic-art-painting

David follows recipes.

David remembers details.

I think “THEY” should mind their own business.

Grammie Could Spit, or A Family Legacy

Grammie Hannan, Abbie not Monette, could spit.  I am not saying that Grammie Monette lacks an impressive spit just that this memory is about Grammie Hannan (Abbie).

Grammmie Hannan is my father’s mother and she was born in early nineteen aught something.  1902 or 1904.  All my grandparents were born in the early nineteen aughts and I just can’t remember which was when.

Jubilee, my bonus baby, was born one hundred years later in two thousand aught four.  Wow.  I had not thought about that before – 100 years.  Wow.  Grammie Hannan died over a quarter of a century ago.  My heart aches that none of my children know her.  There were long seasons when Grammie Abigail Stevenson Hannan was my best friend.   She was tough but I knew she had my back.  David’s, too.

Sometimes GrammieDSC_0333 used words like aught.  Aught can be used as an auxiliary verb, a pronoun, and a noun.  Aught is one of those words that is hard to work into ordinary conversation, but we all know what it means when we hear it.

To be certain that I truly did know what it means, I looked it.   I learned that it is considered archaic and identified, in three out of four sources, as Old English.  One source credited ancient Scottish roots.   If I had found ancient Irish roots, too, it would be a word akin to my own heritage which leans more Scottish and Irish than English, but I have not done the DNA testing so who knows.

Grammie Hannan sometimes used terms and phrasing that was new to my young Texas ears.   I don’t consciously recall many of them, but they will occasionally pop into my head and I remember her using them.   Or, like today, I am telling a story and there they are.  “Pooh” was integral in several color phrases.  Don’t stir it with a stick.  He thinks his doesn’t stink.  I feel like hammered doggie… you get the picture.

DSC_0330My favorite poetic memory from Grammie Hannan ended with, “I don’t know how in hell ‘e can.” It is a great poem.  You ought to look it up.  (Ought is derived from “to owe.”  And, yes, I did spend too much time looking at definitions this morning, but it was genuinely entertaining and mentioned nothing of politics or the downfall of civilization.)

Oh, never mind.  I looked it up for you.  It appears to be by Dixon Lanier Merritt.

“A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week!
But I’ll be darned if I know how the hellican?”

DSC_0331Don’t you hate it when writers take too long to get to the point.  I know I do.  Apologies!

So, we loved to go walking with Grammie Hannan in the woods, my sister and I.  At least I loved it.  I think Brenda did, too.  If she did not love it, she was at least game to join us.   There were THICK woods behind Grammie Hannan’s house in Liberty, Maine.  At least they seemed thick at the time. We did not go back there often, but sometimes with Grammie.   Often we would walk the dirt road in front of the house or up the hill to the garden.  Grammie was always on the move.   AND SHE COULD SPIT.  Impressively.

When I tried, if I were sitting, the spittle ended up on my lap.  If I were standing the spittle ended up on my shoes.

I was a spitting failure.

The opposite of a flaming success.

Fast forward forty something, maybe fifty years and…

I GOT IT DOWN!   Grammie would be proud.

Wesley-2015Revelation dawned during an early morning walk with my boxer/ ridgeback mix, Wesley.  It was cold.  No tissues.  Only one option:  spit.

Turns out the key to success is seasonal allergies!

Happy memories of walking with Grammie Hannan flooded my heart and mind.
Grammie’s legacy has come full circle.
I hope one day to have grandchildren carry forward the legacy, but without the allergies.

 

Abstracting Hope

Today we are going to look at abstract paintings that dabble in social justice and resound with hope.

  Adoption is 4 x 3 feet acrylic painting on birch panel.

Adoption is a breakthrough painting, it was my first large scale abstract, and it was the first time I had painted on this sub-strait. This painting was my prayer while a family member was going through a painful adoption. It is a painting of perseverance and victory. Adoption explores the power of hope and the beauty of joy.

  Late Blossoms, 12 x 24 acrylic on canvas board, is a marvelous expression of happenstance. Of going with the flow and holding plans loosely! One thing leads to another and suddenly one thing is something completely different. This began as a beautiful realistic painting of lilies.

I thought it needed a touch of cadmium red. Then a touch more and before I knew it Jubilee was sitting on the floor crying, “Because you ruined it.”

Poor baby. What she saw as ruined had me doing the happy dance. I kept the title even though the original intention evaded capture! ( would insert one of those laughing smiley faces but I don’t know how.)

The texture in Late Blossoms revved up  my texture curiosity and Not By Sight was the next step.  Could I paint something that would be interesting for someone who could not see?

Yes! Mixed media and collage on canvas. Paint applied with a knife the way one applies butter to fresh bread- thick, thick, thick! Not by Sight hangs vertical or horizontal. There is a musicality in this painting that I just adore.

Overarching Considerations dabbles in questions of social justice illustrated by the variety and subtleties of the color black.

 

 

Winter Solstice continues the exploration of black as a color and as an ideal. Black paint, when watered down, reveals a plethora of surprising colors. Warm blacks against cool blacks. The purples in this painting is part of one of the black paints.

There is a richness in the black that is seldom explored. A richness worthy of exploration.

So as not to end on a heavy note…

NOPE! We are going to end on a heavy note.

Not a negative note, but a serious note. The Prophet, 25 x 35 acrylic on 140# paper deals with boundaries.

The prophet sees the boundaries, sees the blockades, sees the struggle and in spite of it all sees beyond to victory. The prophet sees the way through. The way to the other side.

There are innumerable boundaries and blockades in our society. The struggles are real and the struggles are endless. But we are not without hope. This painting reverberates with the promises of hope and the promise that we will get to the other side.

I take my position as artist seriously. Something in me drives me to create. So often I am creating out of personal experience. Other times I am creating as a response to what is happening in our world. There are times when I do not understand what I have to say until the painting is complete.

My hope is that you will find a work of art that gives voice to your heart.

Much freedom, Gwen Meharg

PS. If I can help you with any questions my number is 817 832 6952. I often know where my phone is and I make moderate efforts to keep the ringer on. Just in case, though, you can leave a message or email me at Gwen@Gwen Meharg.com

Thank you, Gwen

Life, Death, and Serendipity

Gerda, Stephanie, Joyce, Gwen once upon a time at an IAM gathering in NYC

Last night I learned of a friend’s death.
She died in September of 2015.
Joyce and I had corresponded for ten years. Not often, but once a year or so, and we spent time together each year at the International Arts Movement (IAM) gatherings. We would sit together, and share meals, friends, and stories. October 2014 was the last IAM gathering and Meaghan Ritchey did a splendid job putting it all together. That week Joyce and I wondered what would happen to the friendships of such widely dispersed people held together by this brief annual meeting. Artists and creatives from across the states and around the world. For some of us, this connection kept us going throughout the rest of the lonely year. We wondered and hoped for the best. After the glorious grand finale banquet, Joyce and I shared a cab. It was raining and icky out. I was planning on taking the subway, but my hotel was on the way to her’s so it was not an imposition. Besides, the end of something so important is hard and the cab ride extended the event a few more minutes.

 

I remember the last time I spoke with Joyce, but I do not remember when it was. Joyce called rather than write. It was so good to hear her voice. It did not seem like a goodbye.
Joyce was an important person who knew important people. People whose work I admired while it hung on the walls of my favorite museums. To me, they were abstract art gods, names on labels and in books. To Joyce they were friends. Her stories were not about celebrities, but people. Some of these people happened to be celebrities.

While she moved in big city circles, she lived in Colorado and had a western mindset and heart. Perhaps our pioneer roots connected? Or, maybe it was something more mundane and yet extraordinary that began our friendship.

Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love

Wait a minute, I knew about the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation from International Arts Movement (IAM) gatherings in NYC. I knew Marie Sharp! (I wrongly assumed, with the passage of time, that the woman speaking, the head of the Marie Sharp Foundation, was Marie Sharp.)

Sylvia gently, and with a good sense of humor, explained to me that I did NOT know Marie Sharp as she had been dead for quite a while. Eventually, we puzzled it out. The key had been when I told Sylvia that she looks like you.
Sylvia said, “You met my sister, Joyce!”

The world is small. Be careful what you say about people. You might be talking to their big sister.

The next year at the at the IAM gathering my friend and fellow creative, Ping, and I ran into Joyce in the bathroom. Joyce was important and we were not, but bathrooms are great equalizers so I told Joyce the story of meeting her sister. I had forgotten Sylvia’s name, but Joyce knew who had the book so it was not long before we had all the details sorted out. “You met my sister, Sylvia!” Laughter ensued and we all went to dinner and were fast friends ever after.

Joyce was both an encourager and a story teller. So I am.

The next year my oldest two children, Ruth Meharg and Forrest Davidson (I will explain his last name another time), joined me at IAM and I was able to introduce them to Joyce. We shared stories about life, art, and her grandchildren. Our impromptu dinner club kept growing.

I knit a “Generative Bunny” one year for the IAM show. Her she is, too big for her box!

Ruth, Forrest, and I stayed on in NYC for a few extra days after the IAM gathering to see sights and we ran into Joyce at the Strand Bookstore. She was adding to her children’s book collection. We compared our finds and she went back in to get a book that we introduced her to. (I wish I could remember which book it was.) 

Another year, crossing a street at night, Joyce pointed out two young men crossing from the other side. She called out and they exchanged waves. She told me who they were and shared their philosophies as creatives. Rex Hausmann, artist and community builder in San Antonio, and I connected later on Joyce’s recommendation. A new artist friend. (Google Rex. He is amazing!)  So many new friends.
Beyond art and family, we connected on faith. Joyce lived out of her faith. She rubbed elbows with movers and shakers and she was not moved. She was light everywhere she went. She was also tough. I like that combination. My life is brighter for her presence.

I am not sure how we started writing letters. Maybe I sent her a thank you note? Maybe she, a master communicator, sent me a note- I do not remember, but it started and I am thankful. Sometimes we wrote notes and other times letters. I wrote because she had sewn into my life and I appreciated her. I also wanted to share my creative journey. I think Joyce wrote back out of kindness.
I was aware that I had not heard from Joyce for a while, but she was a VERY busy woman and not busy in the fussy kind of way. Joyce got things done. I had no idea how long it had been since we visited.

I am not a linear thinker. I tend to bunch similar events together in my mind. All the IAM gatherings, in my heart and head, are one enormous, glorious event! I had some postcards printed with my artwork on them. They turned out so nice that I decided I needed to get back to writing notes. I wrote to Joyce.

Yesterday came the call from Colorado Springs, CO. The connection was bad. I could not understand who was calling. I asked her to call me back on the landline. By the time the caller finally heard all ten numbers the line had cleared. It was Kathi.

Kathi is Joyce’s daughter. She told me her mom had died in September 2015. I tried not to cry, but I cried a little.
Kathi and I had a good visit. She is a painter, too. I think someday our paths will cross. I hope so. Heck, out of 400+ people in a line I met her Aunt Sylvia and the next year I met her mom in a NYC bathroom. Meeting Kathi would be the least strange connection!

Joyce became sick in July and died of cancer in September. Kathi told me that her mom made the most of the time she had left after the diagnosis. Joyce made the most of her time before the diagnosis, too. Her last months were filled with family and friends. Her youngest grandchild heard Joyce give a talk about her vision. (I wonder if this was the grandchild that she was buying the books for when we ran into her in the Strand. (We crossed paths in the Strand two different years. If you are not familiar with the Strand, it would behoove you to look it up.)
Joyce sang in her church choir for decades. Kathi shared that 70 members of the choir came to the house to sing with and for Joyce. They left and she died a half hour later with her family close. It was a good end.

Tears welled up sporadically yesterday afternoon and evening. Joyce and I were separated by generation and distance, but she was dear to my heart. This morning snippets of that last conversation are coming to mind. Seems like she was telling me about new music the choir was preparing for the 2014 Christmas season.

The moral?

Write letters. Don’t wait. Surround yourself with family, friends, and people who sing songs.
Do what you are called to do. (Calling and job do not have to be the same to be happy.)
Buy children’s books. Go to banquets. Share cabs. And talk to strangers standing with you in long lines.

I am very glad I did.