Oops, today is Thursday, time's running ahead of me,
And I can't seem to pull up even,
My toes walk into a room
While my hair's already leavin'
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.
Crumple the calendar, toss it into recycle, it no longer suffices. Earth Day, Poetry Month, Gallery Night. Emails, iPhones. iPads, iPods. Texts, tweets. Forest fires, oil spills, mine collapses. Quakes, tsunamis, tornados. Rallies, revolutions. A moment of silence for the dead, a century of noise for the living. Noise. No-ise. No-ease. Everyone on the move. What's the next event?
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.
When I was Adolph's first and only student fifty years ago, I thought it was a shame. He was such a great teacher, and I was the only one who got to study with him. I guess I can now say, "I told me so!" since he ended up teaching at UWM for 33 years and helped untold numbers of students learn to do their art from the inside outward.
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.
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.
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):
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
The older I get, the smaller my artwork. Some reasons: I can carry a tiny drawing pad without needing a big purse. I can capture fleeting passers-by more quickly and unobtrusively. Anyway, less is often more. Here's another advantage: In the Roberta Avonn Fiskum Art Gallery at UW-Whitewater I can fit several small works into my quarter of the "Phenomenal Women" show. The opening reception is Wednesday, February 27, 4:30-6:00. Marie Mellott and I will perform at 5:00, "Three Ladies in Their Eighties" plus some of our poems. Marie will become her 101-year-old grandmother, I'll do my global warming poem, which you can see on YouTube if you won't be in the Whitewater area.
Beginning on Gallery Night, October 19th, our son Eli's vibrant, richly textured paintings will be on exhibit in the North Room of Rosenblatt Gallery. Unlike his parents, Adolph and me, who work directly from life, Eli creates his own dream world triggered by the many places he's traveled and the characters he's met there. And suddenly you are there with him, in that playful, brilliantly-colored world of strong-faced men and women stealing glances at each other, or puffing on cigarettes, or waiting. You can see some of his work on his website and on YouTube,