Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Icons for the Bereaved - Poetry Reading - December 17, 2009 Hennepin History Museum, Minneapolis, MN

Sometimes the only place that feels like home is someone else's home.

December 17, 2009 - Icons for the Bereaved Poetry Reading at the Hennepin History Museum, 2303 - 3rd Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN. The photo at left shows a bit of the warm ambience I felt here reading with my poet friends. We shared our words on death, grief, loss - leading to hope. It was almost winter solstice, the time of the darkest night, when light will begin again to creep into our lives, to lengthen our days. Thanks to Jada Hanson, Executive Director, for letting us perform in this beautiful museum space.

When I went to the exhibit opening about a month earlier, I was so moved by the artifacts and the feelings I experienced I just had to share it with everyone. I thought of my friends that may have writings related to the exhibit theme and with a connection or two, I was on my way to curating the reading series. I wanted to bring poetry to those who may not have attended a reading. I wanted to bring the museum and this exhibit to writers, and to help expand the museum publicity new faces. Cheryl Ullyot graciously provided the food and wine, and we were off.....releasing grief and sorrow out into the Universe and the dark winter night, where it was magically transformed into something larger than ourselves. The cycle of life and death continues. Several of us have mothers, uncles, friends who are hovering at death's door, or who have passed through. We let it be, it is, and we remember we are not alone.

The exhibit has some powerful photos and artificats of late 19th and early 20th Century rituals. Full mourning lasted a year, wearing black in public with modest crepe fabric, hats and veils for women. Another 9 months of black silks and velvets. Relatives were born at home and died at home. Photography was in vogue and familes wanted portraits of their deceased loved ones with the living, sometimes the only photo they would have of a mother and daughter, or father and son. Two photos in the exhibit stood out for me. One was a young deceased child sitting on a rocking chair in a white dress, holding a stuffed toy, in front of the fireplace. The other was the deceased mother dressed in black, standing behind her living baby; the mother's eyes were closed and her hands are clenched in fists, wrapped towards her child. I'm sure the family wanted this as a keepsake, probably the only photo of them together, but oh, what a moving, powerful, almost creepy tribute.

Anya Achtenberg read an excerpt from her novel - it seems like the man in the painting is listening in, waiting to announce his approval - whoever he is. (His name was listed, but I did not recognize it, that is a subject for further research).

Kari Fisher shared a moving tribute of poetry and memoir, referencing W.S . Merwin's "For the Anniversary of My Death" (Every year without knowing it I have passed the day....) and Meridel LeSeuer into something I can only now recall as magnificent!

Our John Berryman experience (Berryman is referenced later...) was when we visited his gravesite a few years ago, where he is buried next to his mother in a Catholic cemetery in Mendota Heights, MN. See the separate blog entry on that.

Cindra Halm - your musings on your mother and Lake Superior, the sounds and rhythms you bring were enchanting - you bring us hope and light through the solstice!

Freya Manfred opened with one of my favorite Bill Holm poems on the Solstice (Bill passed away earlier this year). She shared her work from her sixth book of poems, "Swimming with a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle." Freya and I have a bond with our philosophy on reading - her father, the novelist Frederick Manfred was always reading, before or after dinner, or anytime he could grab a minute. "The best way to be a good writer is to read," he said. I agree. Bennington College, my alma mater, always told us, "read 100 books, write one."

One of the themes I see in Freya's work is water - how it represents a passage through time, and hope. Here is one of her poems from "My Only Home" part of the "Winter" series:

Down on the frozen lake,
I look for signs of life.

In the center of the bay
I find three round holes
drilled and abandoned by ice fishermen.

I lie on my stomach and peer
into one pale green cylinder,
hoping a fish will swim by.
I wait until the entire lake
tilts upright -- with me at the knothole --
but I see no fish, no mermaids, no stars,
just pure water rising toward me
from a meadow of green light:

like a memory of a dream
of a place I once

Loren Niemi's theme was John Berryman - he read a poem that referenced something about meeting a girl in a bar, being stood up for lunch, and quoting Berryman. He shared one of his masterful stories about sitting in on a U of M class where Berryman could be in one of three states when he walked in: drunk, sober or hungover. Loren closed with a poem, and although I didn't write down the number of the dream song, I have included a John Berryman poem below, #11 - (from "77 Dream Songs") that I thought would be a good tribute. Loren's mother was dying when this reading was taking place, and she died on December 24th. Our thoughts and sympathies are with everyone who has had someone they love pass on to the other side.

#11 - by John Berryman

His mother goes. The mother comes & goes.
Chen Lung's too came, and came and crampt & then
that dragoner's mother was gone.
It seem we don't have no good bed to lie on,
forever. While he drawing his first breath,
while skinning his knees,

while he was so beastly with love for Charlotte Coquet
he skated up & down in front of her house
wishing he could, sir, die,
while being bullied & he dreamt he could fly --
durring irregular verbs - them world-sought bodies
safe in the Arctic lay:

Strindberg rocked in his niche, the great Andree

by muscled Fraenkel under what's of the tent,
torn like them limbs, by bears
over fierce decades, harmless. Up in pairs
go we not, but we have a good bed.
I have said what I had to say.

I shared poems on suicide and a monologue on Liam's shoes. They felt like a collection of eulogies, or notes on what is coming: cancer, unrequited love, waiting impatiently for resurrections. My uncle had died two days earlier. I find my solace in nature, it's healing presence, and in friendships. This reading was a tribute to acknowledge those who have passed before us, to release the grief out into the universe, into the darkness. I wonder if some of those gone were listening. I know those still here were. With friendships and shared writing and reading, shared poems and stories, we help each other heal, we bring forth the light that will last longer each day.

Roslye Ultan - your poems on the loss of your husband were deeply moving and I loved the progression they took through time as the years have passed.

I will end with a poem by Minnesota poet Bill Holm - a fitting tribute:

Letting Go of What Cannot be Held Back
(from "Playing the Black Piano")

Let go of the dead now.
The rope in the water,
the cleat on the cliff,
do them no good anymore.
Let them fall, sink, go away,
become invisible as they tried
so hard to do in their own dying.
We needed to bother them
with what we called help.
We were the needy ones.
The dying do their own work with
tidiness, just the right speed,
sometimes even a little
satisfaction. So quiet down.
Let them go. Practice
your own song. Now.

Thanks to one and all - I will be focusing on a quarterly reading series. This was the beginning - Winter. Watch for something in Spring.

For reader bio's, click here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trust the Vortex

So long since the last post, I suppose it's appropriate that when I post again it's back from another visit to Bennington. This time for the Bennington Writing Seminars 15 year all class reunion. For me, it is 2 1/2 years, since I graduated in January 2007. Two of my classmates, Jan Johnson and Woody Lewis were there - whom I haven't seen since graduation. So good to see them! And others, from other classes, Tanaya, Nancer, Suzanne.....the faculty and staff. New friends made from other classes, in our poetry craft gathering with Henri Cole - we hung out in the dorm living room and dug ourselves deep into discussing a few works from Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Talking about poetry re-energizes me. I also signed up for the nonfiction gathering with Bob Shacochis - mostly hanging out with good discussions and a bit of workshopping. I am working on memoir and playwriting and it's good to have feedback from non-fiction writers.

I went back for a two main reasons -
1. To reconnect with friends - life is short. Sue Case, our class of Jan 2007 passed away this spring- her cancer came back. This was a bit of a surprise, as I thought she was doing better and she will be missed by all of us. I don't know when I will see classmates again, so I needed to get out there. Jan and Woody made it and we had a lot of fun reconnecting - besides a kick-ass time out on the dance floor! Woody, you always beat me partying every time, rumors were that you jammed with the Dog House Band till the wee hours (I missed that one, dang!) and hit the Blue Benny diner at 5 am and someone was tree climbing. That's all I say about that one. I took care of Jan and I - we both so needed to escape and relax from work and everything else.

2. To recharge my writing batteries and creative spirit. Sometimes I have to leave Minneapolis and get out of my groove here to re-connect with the wild woods of Vermont and sit in the vortex awhile. It truly is a magical place for me.

I had a bit of a change of plans at the last minute. My classmate Mary Elizabeth (my Auntie M as I call her) were going to meet in Hartford, CT and drive up together. She had a funeral to go to at the last minute, so she wasn't able to go to campus, so I rented a car and drove up and then stayed with her on Sunday evening so we had a day together before I had to leave on Monday.

Whenever I drive I get more of a feeling for a place. I drove up I-91 from Hartford, all the way to Highway 2, in northern Massachusetts - I've always wanted to see what that road is like - gorgeous! Through the Green Mountains - pouring rain all the way, but creeks and streams, forests, hairpin would be cool to hike and explore that area more. I stopped at North Adams, MA - a college artsy town with a lot of galleries. Then a short drive up to Bennington - this time I stayed at the Best Western - I've stayed there before when the June heat got to me and I couldn't stand my dorm room another minute - but this time it was raining and cool and it was getting late so I got a few comfort foods from the nearby Hanaford grocery and settled in my room to watch cable TV and veg out. Those 4-pack single serving wine boxes are nice! Vermont has wine, beer and groceries in the same store - will Minnesota ever catch up to that? "That 70's Show" was on; love the reruns. Eric's girlfriend was becoming best friends with his mom and he hated that - but she didn't have her mom to hang out with, so they were going shopping, baking cookies, doing mom/daughter things. This triggered an emotional outbreak - my issue has always been family. I'm realizing I married the first time for the family I thought I didn't have, I haven't been that close to my mom until recently, and when my parents moved out of state 18 years ago; well let's just say I don't get to go shopping with my mom much. I now call my parents once a week or so - I used to go months without keeping in touch. Friends have always been like family to me. I missed my girlfriends which I don't see enough of - I've been in a bit of a funky anti-social depressed spell since the last blog post. I wanted to remedy that.

I also feel very midwestern whenever I travel east - Vermont has all these wonderful 'farms' - vegetable gardens, mostly. I think of farms as those vast stretches in Iowa where one can see for miles....Names I only heard about in books were now on highway signs. Hamden, New Haven, Yale, Middlesex, the Berkshires, Appalachian Trail. I didn't grow up around colleges and English Lit majors, I've learned more from experience than someone pointing me in the right direction. But that's what the Vortex is all about - make your own opportunities. Read hundreds of books. Write one or two of your own. Always Be Closing. The trip begins when I arrive on campus Friday morning.

Bob Shacochis had the first lecture that I attended, at 10 am - "Postmodernism 2.1 - the Blurring of Genre." I like Bob, some women seem to hate his male chauvinism, or they call it that and he can piss some people off. I like that quality that he tells it like it is without the academic babble and game playing. Be real. Life is unbearable without illusions. What is unrecognizable in yourself? No one ever knows themselves. When writing, let the conversation (dialogue) speak for itself, tell vs. show. Sometimes truth needs lies. The 'control' of life is a facade. Genres can be bent and twisted. A collage has to be edited to be art. Selective imagination?

By now it's stopped raining. Sun peeks out, more humid. I walk to the 'end of the world', that group of rocks at the end of the commons lawn to sit in the armchair for an hour and close my eyes in the sunlight. I only have to write one poem - maybe. I know I can always come back here, and that is comforting. I start writing....

Alumni dinner in the yellow dining room, Jan hasn't made it yet, I won't see her until later this evening in the student center....she drove in from New Hampshire from work. Welcome, everyone, we are back together, some haven't been back for years and years, some many times. We toast to Liam. Share stories. There is someone here from every graduating class!

At the evening guest/faculty reading we have Mary Gaitskill and Nick Montemarano. Mary's work is enchanting - she wrote the story "Secretary" that was the basis for the feature film of the same name. She reads a bit from "Don't Cry," her new collection of short stories. "It was a sad situation....except...." (write from there!)
Nick talks about the Law of Attraction and I realize he is reading from his novel with the protagonist as a motivational speaker dealing with is fears - of doubt, his sickly wife. A new life, the one you've always wanted...start now....

We hang out in the 'new' student center - at least the lights are dim and the Doghouse Band is about to play (Sven on guitar, David Gates on guitar too and others...) but Jan and I miss the old one. Change is the only constant. She's had a rough year, both parents died, a feral cat she was taking care of wrecked her apartment and she had to move, but we survive and move on. Her book is out there, yay for that! I watch everyone dance. I am relaxed, I feel at home. I wish I stayed on campus now, but it is too late for that.

Saturday graduate lectures - I miss the first one, but didn't miss a quick cafeteria graduate (Rider Strong, what kind of cool name is that?) does an excellent piece about Ernest Hemingway and omissions - he ties it in nicely by starting off with how his wife packed his manuscript and carbon copy in a suitcase to take to visit him in Paris, and it was stolen, so he lost everything. How did that affect his writing style? An exercise to consider for yourself - write your first draft, then, without looking at it, rewrite it.

Panel of 3 alums and Sven - the Life of Letters post-Bennington. I'm glad they called this the Life of Letters vs. something with publishing. It's all about closing, creating your own opportunities, letting the vortex help you out....

Our poetry session with Henri Cole - he is now visiting faculty. I never had the chance to have him as an instructor, so it was good to get to know him better - and the other poets, all new friends. By this time I was ready to write again, but the graduation ceremony for this year's grads was looming in a half hour, so quick changed clothes and walked over to Usden Hall. It is different without Liam, and Sven Birkerts does a fine job. He laments a bit about the future of reading and writing (see any of his books on the subject) Mary Gaitskill was the commencement speaker, who also shares some stories about students who - if they don't read much, or aren't exposed to much art or music - they still feel the power of it, they RESPECT it. She told the story of a renowned classical musician who played for 45 minutes in a subway station in New York City. Only 3 people out of a thousand stopped to listen. One recognized him, the others paused, one was a child who wanted his mom to stop, but he had to move on. All were in a hurry. What are we listening to? Will we stop to listen to something on the street that people pay high ticket prices for in a concert hall? All I can hope for is that people will hopefully feel something that is real once in awhile.
Dinner, wine, talking with everyone, a good time had by all! And dance, dance, dance...there were hula hoops too...something finally clicked in me about halfway through the dance in the student center - and I let go and we all danced till closing. It was REAL. The DJ was okay, he kept playing weird mixes. I requested "Fame" by David Bowie for old times sake (my graduate lecture used that as a theme song).

Sunday morning breakfast, Bob's workshop and on to our alumni luncheon in the Carriage Barn. Last chance to see everyone, along with faculty, Ed Ochester my instructor was there too. Closed with a reading by Henri Cole, Jill McCorkle and Bob Shacochis. There were more activities planned, but it was time for me to leave...hugs, kisses, goodbyes and my drive on south Hwy 7 to I-90 across the mountains again - more pouring rain for a bit - I listen to Garrison Keillor on the radio. I-91 to Hartford, and then Cheshire, CT where Mary lives. (about a 3 hr drive) It's always good to see her, she is so sweet to have dinner ready, and her husband Bruce joins us as we all chat and have a good time talking at the dinner table, and more wine in the living room. Her kitty, Elliot, passed away since my last visit, he was 16. I am happy and peaceful and in a much better place emotionally than I was in January. The next day (Mon) she drives us to Guilford on the coast and we do some shopping and eat at a Thai place for lunch. I leave her some books to ship back (I always bring and buy too many books to haul back!). I love seeing the coast off Long Island Sound.

We drive back past Sleeping Giant State Park and she tells me the legend behind the name. Sleeping Giant was a Chief who enslaved many people and he ate a lot of oysters (oyster harvesting was in the area, and still is) until he ate so many that he bloated up. He is now the mountain that is in the area. The environment was destroyed, the people were enslaved, the oysters were over-harvested. Many lessons here, still going on today. Maybe someday Mary will come to Minnesota, she has never been here.

Hartford airport is nice and cozy compared to Minneapolis and I breeze through security and wait awhile before my flight. Slowly come back to my other world, make a few calls to friends and family. Landing in Minneapolis it is 95 degrees and sunny - wow, it's hardly ever nicer here than where I'm coming from, and I take my time getting home. Step off the light rail onto Nicollet Mall and walk the 6 blocks to my apartment downtown. A band is playing at Peavy Plaza so I sit a bit in the heat with a brat and an iced tea and enjoy the downtown scene. I am grateful that I have a good place to live, and the front desk people are feeding my cat, Cleo, when I am away. She is, of course, happy to see me when I walk in the door. I sit on my balcony and say hi to my neighbors and we make plans to get together soon for dinner, something I've been meaning to do for a long time. The next day I will visit my sick friend, my boyfriend, go to work in the evening....but for now I am back home and I am content. Life, the vortex, trust it.

Photos taken by Jules in order of apperance:
1. Bennington Commons
2. Jan Johnson and Jules
3. End of the World rocks on campus
4. my feet
5. Green Mountains
6. David Gates and Doghouse Band member
7. me with new poet alum friends Debra, Leslie, Tim
8. me, Jan, Woody at Grad dinner alumni table
9. Mary Elizabeth Lang at Guilford, CT area coast
10. me at Guilford, CT area coast off Long Island Sound

NEW BOOKS I'm reading:

"Rudyard Kipling in Vermont" (Birthplace of the Jungle Books) by Stuart Murray ISBN 1-884592-05-8

"Naming the World and other Exercises for the Creative Writer" edited by Bret Anthony Johnston (Bennington bookstore, Random House ISBN 978-0-8129-7548-2

"The Art of Time in Memoir" (Then, Again) by Sven Birkerts (Graywolf Press) ISBN 98-1-55597-489-3 (actually re-reading this one)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Out to the Vortex

Mid-January, I was back at my alma mater, Bennington College, in Vermont. I caught the last few days of the residency. I did this for a writing break, and also to get out of the midwest and reflect on my life. What to bring? Books - one for each of my former instructors. I will start this with an excerpt from each -

1. "American Prodigal" poems by Liam Rector


To memory, that enormous bowl of water.
To what we imagined, what sent us off.
To that pitcher, which poured us.

To water and to what we drink nw
Which brings us back
As though we were water to each other.

The plane, the car service, and here I am, at Tishman. 2 years have passed. Walk up the snowy path, night, stars, pines, the sky and smell I remember. Open that black door and there I am - the same benches, the balcony, faded blackboard light - Sven there, in his hat, in his usual spot on the balcony right. Memory of Liam lingers. My name is still known, familiar faces, I see Jack, sit, welcome back. He started when I graduated, now he is graduating. Journal in hand, I write while the faculty reads. David Gates reading a work he thought was no longer in progress, I am in the midst of it suddenly, yet drawn close, intimate, immediate, sex, sex, sex, "hands under sweaters", nakedness. Askold Melnyezuk works in progress about the 70's, Norman Mailer, what he stands for, the library, front lines, bedroom, "weeping while fucking was not a good sign.." Time now to hang at the bar (well student center not quite the same) no lectures due for me, I can do whatever I want. Erin calls me from Boston, a student reviewed one of Ed O's books - she thought of me - Ed has this semester off, first time in 10 years. We will do lunch yes? I forget we are 4 hours apart back home.

My first night in the Alumni House - room #1 - full moon - the trees, so quiet, 6 degrees. I walk back at 11 pm, a bit lost, the half mile at least walk in the plowed snow path the houses all look the same, and find it, around the brick garden gate, to the left...who else is here? I will find out in the morning.

2. "How We Sleep on the Nights We Don't Make Love" E. Ethelbert Miller

Space is the Place

Love is the last planet in our solar
system. Your heart crying like the
rings of Saturn. How can we believe
in stars in this darkness? I watch
the sky for your return. Inside my
hands nothing but gravity.

Morning breakfast, trek to Commons, my student id card still gets me a meal. Grad student lectures 8:30 am. Someone references the book "Poetics of Space" - poems that begin in rooms, kind of poetry architecture. I think about the color of my room when I was 10. The color of the sheets, what I dreamed my life would be.

3. "Snow White Horses" Ed Ochester

Robert Bly Watched by Elves

On snowy evenings I like to
drive downtown to place my
cheek against the steel
of the lonely midwestern mailbox.

Tonight I receive illumination
from the street lamps
as I lie in snow
surrounded by elves

lifting their arms, Salud!
Their mittens are filled with snow.
The snow is shaped into balls.
Now the elves run from a ghostly

snowplow plowing through
snow toward us. It is good
to lie in snow, seeing things
invisible to impure men.

Ed, I miss you, your cigars, smoking with you, I will again next time. It is like boot camp here again. I expect to see familiar faces of my classmates, but they are not here. I am already tired, hungry, writing, into the vortex all over again. I do not have any workshops. I cannot sneak a ride to the Blue Ben Diner. I walk to Crossett library and sit by the window downstairs in the law section to stare out the window. Anything can happen here.

I am home away from home. New friends and old. Some students seem a bit enamored that I had Liam as my instructor, they want the stories. I get to know them a bit, and know faculty more. Wine, talk, new possibilities. What happens here, stays here, we are at the end of the world. Late night movie in Tishman, "Love Song" (Cannes 2007) a French musical comedy, perfect for this mix of men/women/trans/straight/gay/bi/poets/novelists/memorists/playwrights mix of everyone where there are no boxes, it just is and is perfect the way it is. How absurd to try to categorize.

4. "Swan Electric" April Bernard

12. Opera Interlude (excerpt)

I feel like explaining something.
When I lived through those days,
my private score was always Brecht and Weill,

oompah-dark and clarinet snaky.
That man I loved had a photograph of Weill
and would claim he was his father.

We had all come to believe in them,
and knew that only they had understood us;
they had predicted us.

How tough and paradoxical and worldly we were;
how still in love with the tuneful
and the heartbroken, but that was before

we had any idea what heartbroken was.....

April and Alice sitting together, your big black furry hat...we had our semester review in the rocking chairs on the porch facing Usden Hall, the open grass lawn and the fireflies out on a June night. I was going from heartbreak to heartbreak myself, and managed to pull through those poems.

Michael Kruger lecture - visiting from Germany. "You dont' find an empty space in Europe anymore.." Translate - a worthy ambition. Notes to myself. A few hundred poems in a lifetime, a few dozen in anthologies, performances, what is to be remembered when it is all done? The Life of Letters.

Create your own opportunities. Always be Closing.

I leave on Saturday, take the Amtrak to Penn Station (layover, hook up with Star, what are the chances that we both need to be at the station?) and on to New Haven to see fellow Benny alum Mary, my Auntie M. A few days to enjoy her hospitality, in the country; relax, see a movie, and visit the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice" (Innocents Abroad- Mark Twain)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Wanda Gag house in New Ulm, Minnesota

On a sunny December day, (12.28) Kari and I drove to New Ulm to see the Wanda Gag house. We had talked about this for awhile, and I am glad we did it. Kari and I are in our writing group together and she introduced me to the Gag family history. First, we saw the Schell Brewery - the peacocks were sunning themselves!

"Herman the German" is a statue on the hill overlooking New Ulm - this commemorates the battle between the German tribes and the Romans back in 9 A.D. - the Germans won. Next summer will be the 2,000 year anniversary of this event and New Ulm will stage a reinactment of the battle of the Teutoburg Forest.

A visit to New Ulm is not complete without a German meal for lunch. Kari has a
relative that owns a restaurant so we had sauerkraut and ribs, bread pudding, and warmed ourselves with some 'chocolate' beer.

We had a personal tour of the Wanda Gag house, built in 1893. When Wanda was 14, her father died and asked her to make a name for the family. There is a nephew of the Gag family in Bloomington, but very few relatives remain, Wanda did not have any children. She was 35 when "Millions of Cats" was published, her most well-known children's book that has a fairy-tale style to it. The font of the book was hand-lettered by her brother.

At the time, in the 1930's and 1940's, she was very independent - she had a scholarship to a New York school and chose to accept it and move there (this was after her mother died) and the older children worked hard to put the younger children through high school. The rest of the family wound up moving to Minneapolis and selling the house - it eventually became a rental and had to be restored after it was bought by the historical society. Her father, Anton Gag, was also a well known painter and photographer and supported the family by painting the ceilings of many churches, and he had his own photography studio, the Elite Art Studio. Several of Wanda Gag's drawings are in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, however they are in storage. The MIA was dedicated in 1915 and Wanda and her fellow students served as exhibition guards on opening night. This was when she was going to school at the Minneapolis School of Art.

My personal favorite for her drawings is "Two Trees" a linoleum cut from 1923. (I can't find a photo on line of this print) Wanda submerged herself in nature and art theory and was a bit disappointed because she never went to Europe like some of her other friends, but she found solace in nature - this is a diary entry from June 1922 in which she describes her response to being among daisies on a hilltop:

"There is an exuberance and lavishness about the foilage that is
intoxicating and the lascivious plentitude of their form filles me with
primitivism..I want to tear off all my clothes and lie among the grasses...Or
else I want to run -- fast and selselessly...I also like to sit and watch the
forms and rhythms of the clouds and the essence-form of the trees and hills, and
I like to let my eye create compositions wherever I direct it, with curved and
diagnol force-lines, inter-relation of spaces and forms, all

(from the biography "The Gag Family: German-Bohemian Artists in America" by Julie L'Enfant, a good intro bio I recommend)

I like how Wanda Gag focused on intensifying a message - forms are simplified and distorted, a bit like folk-art. She was a bit of a surrealist - and used sexuality and the unconscious as the routes to art.

Wanda Gag had many lovers and did not get married until the end of her life, to Earle Humphreys, and only because he needed to be married to keep his job at a machine shop. Wanda died of lung cancer in 1946, but as was the custom then, the doctor didn't tell her what was going on, he told her husband and Earle never told her the truth. He left her estate a mess and died a few years later. Wanda's younger sister Flavia did some paintings of her own but Wanda was the one who supported the family and made a name for herself.

The Gag house was decorated with Christmas trees when we

visited - one for each of her books. Here we are standing in front of the one for "Millions of Cats" and there are paper cats as ornaments. I did not know much about Wanda Gag until our visit, so I am glad we went and I look forward to going back in the summer.