Where have I been these days? All around town, sometimes even beyond the boundaries and into Milwaukee, Riverwest, Bayview, or pedaling on the bikepath to some sort of predetermined destination. Or dancing at the free concerts in the parks.
The weeping willow dances in the breeze, and so do I.
But the willow has a different choreographer, though sometimes I give it a try, try to choreograph the trees with my brush or pen,
and they dance according to my whim.
And sometimes the trees choreograph me,
not from just their outside appearance, from their in.
For when I paint on wood, I let the grain below
my brush tell it where to go.
In our artwork we look at ourselves, laugh at ourselves, consciously or unconsciously paint ourselves. Or we gaze into others' eyes and try to turn our paint into their emotions. We may lose the human figure in its surroundings, or let it overpower the space. Or perhaps we abstract it so much no one else knows it's human. There are as many ways to look at humanity as there are people looking. And the latest show at the Rosenblatt Gallery features four very different artists, Davey Noble, Eriks Johnson, Virgi Driscoll, and Nancy Lamers, painting their fellow earthlings.
It's all about the students. That realization triggered a friendship between my husband Adolph and Jo Pulver which lasted over 40 years until she died last Friday. Adolph taught art at UWM, and Jo was the advisor for Fine Arts students. Whenever a student had a problem, with another faculty member, with grades, with scheduling, or perhaps with more personal issues, Adolph could depend on Jo to be the perfect intermediary.
Few professors get to see, years later, how their students turned out. Adolph Rosenblatt is fortunate: in a few days two different exhibitions of work by his former students will be up at the same time. In fact one is already up, at UWM's Inova Arts Center Gallery: Adolph Rosenblatt and three of his students.
The Milwaukee area is filled with my husband Adolph’s former students. He taught art at UWM for 33 years, and now, eleven years since he retired, they often stop him in the street or at an event to say they studied with him in the ‘60s, or ‘70s, or ‘80s, or ‘90s and loved his classes. They describe his impact on them and the work they’re doing now.
In the late 50's and early '60's in New York City, my husband Adolph's work was 2-dimensional. Well, not completely. He was applying oil paints to giant canvasses with a palette knife, thick dollops of bright color that captured the energy and excitement of big city life. Finally he gave up the canvas and the oils for wax, then bronze, and then settled on clay.
Kids love dandelions. When the flowers bloom they gather bouquets, and later on in the season they blow feathery spores and watch them float away. Fifty years ago no one questioned this. Things have changed, not for kids, they still love their bouquets, but for adults, some adults. I heard one recently rave, “I hate dandelions, I hate dandelions, I HATE dandelions!”
"I'm not getting older, I'm getting busier." That should be the twenty-first century mantra.
Does busier make us age faster?
Maybe that's why so many people dye their hair;
they want to hide the gray, as if gray matters.
It's gray matter that matters, the substance of our overworked brains.
The more matter the better, as the gray blur of whirring remains.
Does busyness kill us or help us survive? make us dumber or smarter?
And where do we place the blame For all this Busyness?
Adolph loves to turn the life around him into more permanent forms. In New York City he watched pedestrians on rainy city streets, eaters at Horn and Hardart’s Automat, the chaos of Herald Square, and created works of art.
We may slosh through snow, and grouse
Avoid the blowing wind, by staying in the house
Wish we were down south, to skip winter time
in a climate, where each primate, is an artist of some kind
a scribbler or a fiddler, or a closet singer
a dancer or an actor, or a comic with a zinger
especially when we’re touched by, the Arctic’s icy finger...
So whither shall we flee?
From gallery to gallery
on the 15th of January
I think I’ve got it right, Friday the 15th is Gallery Night!
I gaze at the lawns as I walk along Jarvis and, hey, the grass isn’t supposed to be this green, this is December 5! It’s time for holiday parties, not garden parties. Holiday parties, that’s what I’m supposed to be contemplating, not blades of grass.
I’m already missing the recent past when the temperature and my age sometimes coincided (low seventies). I threw a tarp over collards, arugula, lettuce, and cilantro during the first frost, managed to prolong my garden’s life and thus, perhaps, my personal summer.
Dancing’s in my genes. On my mother’s side. Even at age 85 she wildly improvised to Paul Cebar at Bastille Days. She loved the human body in action, loved the movement and the freedom of dance. And so do I.
Thursday, August 6, was dream-lake afternoon. The water, placid and aglow, was the ideal surface for hundreds of gulls, and an occasional goose, to float, dive, and harmonize. “It sounds as if the gulls are singing!” I exclaimed to my grandsons, as sympathetic vibrations replaced the usual seagull squawks.
Summer seems fleeting and finite, and the list of things to do while our heavy coats hang in the closet seems infinite: parks, parades, fairs, gardening, house repairs, weather-proofing, painting, pruning, exhibits, concerts, chores and culture all in one giant grab-bag.
On Gallery Night, Friday, July 24, there’s a reception at Rosenblatt Gallery for our guest artist, Deidre Prosen (please see Sarah’s lively description of the exhibit at the end of this blog). Adolph’s and my works are also in the gallery, and Eli’s work is on the first floor (Artasia) and on the third floor (Cuvee).
Adolph and I will once again have a tent at Artist Marketplace on Saturday, July 25, 10-5, in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Every year we say we’re too old, this is the last time, and then we do it anyway, because we do enjoy talking to friends, passers-by, and Adolph’s ex-students and seeing the local art scene. Here’s our tent from last year.
There are also two projects in the works this summer that I’ll write more about in my next blog. One is the All-City People’s Parade and Pageant on August 8 here in Milwaukee, modeled after the Minneapolis “Heart of the Beast” annual May Day Parade. There are lots of opportunities for your creative participation!
The second project is Keith Schmitz’s plan to start a coop bookstore café, Open Book, in Shorewood now that we no longer have Schwartz Bookshop. It will only succeed with everyone’s support.
Our family has two events this weekend, and in a funny way they're related. They're both rooted in the basic human instinct of creative play. The event on May 8th, which I wrote about in my last blog (and which I'll update here) is a display of creativity in several of its many forms, dance, music, acrobatics, and visual art. The second event, on May 10th, is a discussion of the process of creating by Adolph and me at the Urban Ecology Center. The title is "Does my left brain know what my right brain's doing?" And a follow-up question might be: Do I WANT it to know?
Adolph and I have different approaches to talking about creativity, though basically our process is the same. I can't merely say to my left brain, "Stop monitoring, let the dream side take over." It might not cooperate! So I'll discuss how I go about getting into the creative flow. And how that flow has gone about changing me.
Adolph, on the other hand, who's always right-brained, in fact was born that way, will talk about what his thoughts are when he works. He's focused on what is happening, about his relationship to his subject. Whether it's a person, a house, a tree, or a cow, he wants to capture its spirit.
Another April, another spring, another Gallery Night, Earth Day, Poetry Month...Adolph paints his sculptures, plays chess. I draw dancers, wake at 3 AM with a poem written in my head. Guests come and go, time to start planting again, the usual green onions have sprouted in my garden. Life continues, repeats itself, yet is never boring.
Nothing’s the same the second time round, nor the 70th. No face is perfectly symmetrical. No actor plays his part identically each night. And I imagine my hair’s a bit greyer each day. I appreciate the unpredictable: what thoughts I’ll wake up to, what news on NPR, what weather out the window, the quality of sunrise and sunset, the people I’ll run into around town.
This Friday, April 17, once again is Gallery Night, and the surprise is who will stop by and what amusing or interesting conversations we’ll have. Adolph repainted his WE ARE ALL MAKING ART sculpture. The pieces haven’t changed shape, just color. Are they still the same sculptures? And even if the color hadn’t changed, do we ever see things the same way twice? As always I have the walls in Rosenblatt Gallery, Adolph has the floor, Eli has added new work to his show in the back of Artasia, and photographer Aliza Ksobiech has a show in the revolving gallery.
Details: RECEPTION: Friday, April 17, 5-11 PM at ROSENBLATT GALLERY, 181 N. Broadway: Art by Adolph and Suzanne & guest artist, Aliza Ksobiech.
Adolph and I met about three hours before 1959 turned into 1960. By midnight we realized we both loved “play” and had had a little game of balloon volleyball, which ended when the balloon knocked one of my contact lenses out of my eye. “Hey, you have a big tear!” he exclaimed.
Adolph was already a working artist, and I wished I was (I had a BA in political science). I became his first student, and we’ve collaborated in one way or another ever since: three children, eight grandchildren, and, combined, over a century’s worth of art.
He sculpts, draws with Craypas, and paints; I paint, draw with brush and ink or micron pens, and write and perform eco-poetry. Our styles and our media may not coincide, yet our involvements and intent often do. We’re both concerned with light and form, with keeping the work alive. And our subject matter veers towards people: eating, swimming, sitting, relating to each other, caught up in their everyday activities. Or it veers towards nature, as in our show at the Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E. Park Place, “Treescapes, Seascapes, Lagoons, Lake,” April 1st-June 30th. The opening reception is on Sunday, April 5, from 2 to 4 PM, and at 3 PM we’ll discuss why we’re drawn to draw nature.
Here are some of Adolph’s tree drawings (with Craypas):
This bus stopped in front of Pick ’n Save at 12:17 on the dot, got to Capitol Drive at 12:19. Amazing punctuality. Now I have to figure out what to do as I ride downtown. Too many choices. Should I write, should I draw, should I people-watch, look out the window? We’re cruising along Oakland Avenue, fresh mail stuffed into every single mailbox, hangs out over the tops, and it’s not because people are suddenly writing and receiving letters. If it’s like MY mail, it’ll all go directly into the recycle bin.
That’s tragic. We cut down forests to make paper for flyers, catalogues, donation solicitations, annual reports, on and on, and no one opens anything. We toss it all into containers that may or may not be for recycling. And beyond the loss of trees, what energy is used to make the paper and ink, print the info, send the never-to-be-read mail, then recycle the paper or truck it to the landfill?
I recently read that it takes over 100 million trees to produce all the junk mail that arrives in American mailboxes each year. Let’s see, US population, 300 million, number of trees used, 100 million, that’s a third of a tree per year for every person in the USA, just for junk mail! Then think of all the paper towel, paper plates, tissues, toilet paper, packaging, Americans use. Maybe there’s another two-thirds tree per person beyond the junk mail.
I guess I’ll draw the other passengers instead of contemplating loss of forests. Or is that a waste of paper, too? At least I work very small these days. And I can take solace in the idea that the arts is what distinguishes us from other species. Anyway I try to use as little of the earth’s resources as possible, as I walk, bike, bus, reuse, recycle. If they could walk a carbon copy of my sole, I suspect most Americans would leave much smaller carbon footprints than they do now. So I might as well draw.
Gallery Night and Day comes round once each season, and the years go by. And the Milwaukee art scene spreads its venues over time and place, further into the heart of the city, reaching into the outskirts. On Friday, January 16, Gallery Night comes galloping in once again. Crowds will tramp the cold sidewalks, seeking the warmth of art.
We’ll have a Gallery Night Reception at 181 N Broadway. In Rosenblatt Gallery Adolph has added several small sculptures to his mix of Lunch Counter, Balcony, Benjy’s, Pools, Highway, Herald Square.
Ideas are like amoebas, shape changing with input. And that's how the Shorewood Conservation Committee’s Reusable Bag Campaign developed.
The Conservation Committee was divided into three subcommittees, and I was on the Sustainability Subcommittee. One issue we decided to tackle was toxins in the environment. I had long ago bought educational door-hangers to put on the doorknobs of neighbors who use lawn pesticides. I never did it though. So I suggested we make our own lawn-care door-hangers to distribute in the village.
Someone else suggested we make them two-sided, one side for safe lawn care outdoors, the other for safe cleaning methods indoors. We then all agreed that the door-hanger would be in the shape of a house. And that was our plan when I went to visit our son in New York last December.
When I returned a week later, subcommittee members had met again and instead of mere door-hangers, they planned to distribute reusable shopping bags to every household in Shorewood. Our inside-outside door-hanger would be an insert in the bags. And subcommittee members were already checking out manufacturers, costs, materials, and possible delivery dates.
Of course we also had to design the bags and figure out how to pay for them and how to distribute them. Many more issues cropped up, with countless meetings and Emails, discussions and disagreements.
The corner of this project that I know most intimately is the design of the bags. The artwork was my responsibility. I was working with Tammy Bockhorst, who was in charge of putting it all together, an endless project that required new software and extended learning curves.
At first everyone wanted a logo. Someone directed me to show Shorewood between a lake and a river, and she drew ripples to illustrate what to do. Since no one disagreed, I assumed that was my first assignment, and I wasn’t too happy about it! For a few weeks I played around with the idea in my wordrawing style, though someone else had told me not to include writing. Well, I always knew I’m not a logo-type.
Finally Tammy pointed out that that was just one person's suggestion, and I could do whatever I wanted. I decided leaves would make a good logo. So with Tammy's help, we modified an old drawing of mine of mulberry leaves as a prototype.
I figured it wouldn’t be a final logo since mulberries aren't native to Wisconsin. Actually I just researched that on google, and red mulberries with lobed leaves ARE native. However they’re considered invasive.
In any event, we needed a drawing for one side of the bag, and we settled on non-invasive native plants. Since it was winter, and no native plants were in bloom, I drew from photos in catalogues and online. After I'd done a series of flowers,
As a painter, poet, performer, dancer, my creativity usually begins with getting into the flow. My hands become my eyes and put down the image, my feet listen to the music and decide the moves, the dream part of my brain tells me what to write. It’s basically losing the self to find the self. I have decades of flow behind me; I don’t know what I’ve got ahead!
I’ll have the opportunity to discuss my thoughts on creativity in a presentation at Danceworks, 1661 N Water Street, on Friday, October 17, at 7:30 PM. I’ll also have some of my latest artwork, and some of my oldest artwork, on exhibit there from October 10 to January 8, opening reception October 17, 6:00 to 8:30 PM. Below are a few of the recent drawings I'll include in the show, and some comments about them.
Why do I draw dancers? I'm not a dancer, I just love to dance, even if I make an absolute fool of myself, love to move to music, letting my feet guide me, love feeling energized and free. So when I draw dancers, I'm feeling the movement and energy. And freedom.
On Sunday I glanced at the lake from Atwater Bluff, expecting nothing special. Yet it was spectacular! What made the lake look that way? There were dark streaks, turquoise streaks, and a startling band of white in the distance, probably a mix of mists and cloud reflections.
That's what's so fascinating about life: I never know what I'll find somewhere until I get there, what friends, what strangers, what mists.
I of course have no idea who will show up at Friday night's reception in our gallery. I do know what work is there! Adolph recently moved his BALCONY from the Regent's Board Room at UWM's Chapman Hall to the gallery, and his Oriental Pharmacy Lunch Counter is still there. I just set up a show of dancer drawings that I did last year when Margot Sappington was setting Common People for the Milwaukee Ballet. These drawings aren't yet on our web site, but some earlier dancers are. Our guest artist is Joe Boblick. You can see his work in the MIAD Online Gallery.
As for the Artist Marketplace on Saturday, I'm not yet sure what sculptures, what paintings, what drawings we'll use, don't know if our tent will consent to another fair, don't know if the weather will be fair. What I do know are the details of both events, if all pans out as planned:
FRIDAY, July 25, 7 to 10 PM, reception at Rosenblatt Gallery, work by Adolph & Suzanne Rosenblatt & Joe Boblick, 181 N Broadway, in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward
SATURDAY, July 26, 10 AM to 5 PM, Fourth Annual Artist Marketplace, in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 North Art Museum Drive, Milwaukee
I feel as if our kids grew up in an art warehouse, walls covered with, and racks filled with, paintings and drawings, sculpture on every table and shelf, and yet all five of us were producing more. And I'm thankful the tradition continues, with spouses and grandchildren thrown into the mix. Recently Eli has been on a painting roll. You might sense from his work that he once owned a bar (in Taipei) and that he has a long-standing relationship with pool halls, as he takes the inhabitants of the night and brings them back to life in his unique style. You can also sense that painting is a natural part of his being. From March 8 to May 30, he has a show at Gallery H2O, 221 N. Water St., Milwaukee. The hours are a little unusual, Mon-Fri, 7:30 AM-4:00 PM, but he'll have a reception on Gallery Night, Friday, April 18th, 6 PM-10 PM, and the gallery will also be open Saturday, April 19th, 11 AM-2 PM. You can see some of his work on his home page.
Tonight’s Gallery Night, and we’re always in the same quandary: We want to stay at our own gallery, yet want to go to all the other exhibits. This evening Adolph and I will stay at Rosenblatt Gallery, 181 N. Broadway, with our work and with Davey Noble's work, which is in our north gallery. Here's his press release: “Hot on the heels of the world premier of the 'Super Noble Brothers' film release, Milwaukee artist DAVEY NOBLE is for the first time in 5 years unveiling some of his most enigmatic work for the eyes of his home city on Gallery Night, January 18, 2008 at the Rosenblatt Gallery in the Historic Third Ward. DAVEY, the youngest of the three Noble brothers, is known first for his incredible take on the human form and his uniquely individual persuasion of color and line. He is also known for his one-of-a-kind style and attitude that is classically Milwaukee. The public is warmly invited to come and view the most recent creations from one of this city's most up-and-coming artists, and to enjoy the company of a genuinely noble Milwaukeean.”
So we'll unfortunately miss the opening of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Relationships and Love, a show at Walker's Point Center for the Art, 911 W. National Ave, that includes work by Adolph, our son Eli, and me. There's a condensed version of the show on blogspot.