Category Archives: Art

Garden Time — The Poetry of W.S. Merwin

I am familiar with W.S. Merwin because Garrison Keillor has read his work often on The Writer’s Almanac. Merwin has written more than 50 verse collections in his 89 years. Visit the Merwin Conservancy for more on the poet, his work, and love for nature.

Garden Time, Merwin’s most recent work (I hope it’s not his last), is the only one I’ve read so far. I was very surprised by its brevity. I was drawn to it by its garden theme (apparently a favorite pastime for him). He also writes about memories, favorite places, love, and loss. In fact, as he was working on this, Merwin was dealing with losing his eyesight. I’ve watched people go through this, and it’s not fun. It absolutely sucks.

I enjoyed the entire collection. Two poems lodged in my memory and didn’t let go. Later, when I looked up specific details, I realized they were about paintings. Most of us think we can interact with art only in a visual way. In reality, many options exist. I hope that Merwin does not give up his interest in art.

One poem reflects on a work of the late Morris Graves, called “Blind Bird.” Here’s a picture:

Morris Graves Paintings | morris graves "Blind Bird"

Merwin based the poem “The Mapmaker” on Vermeer’s The Geographer. Here’s a really fabulous interactive page that explains the painting’s details.

And the painting:


Last fall, I wrote about Picture This tours at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The article starts on page 10. The tours are intended for people who have low vision, but everyone is welcome. They alternate between the East Building and West Building the last week of each month, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Attendees examine one or two paintings in depth. I have attended several of these since the story was published, and it helped me to see in different ways.


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Filed under Art, Birds, Poetry

In Sunlight or in Shadow May Inspire Readers to Write Their Own Stories

Image result for Edward Hopper free clipart


This is the only Edward Hopper painting I’ve ever really liked–all because of the collie. It’s called Cape Cod Evening. Hopper created this in 1934. I can go to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. at any time to admire it. NGA’s major exhibit of Hopper’s work ran from September 16, 2007  to January 21, 2008 in the East Building. The West Building’s major exhibit at that time was the British artist J.M.W. Turner. I much preferred Turner because I feel more hopeful and optimistic studying his paintings. Hopper usually makes me think of and feel loneliness, isolation, disconnection, and discord among people. In the painting above, I wonder what the dog’s name is. And I really want the dog to calm down so I can pet it (if the scene were real, of course, and if I were actually there). Most of all. I wonder what’s troubling the people, and who they are. Is it money woes? Have they lost a family member or friend? Will they have to move? Or are they angry with each other?

Recently, I discovered the 2016 anthology In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper. Lawrence Block is the editor. I love what his wife of many years tells him: “You’ve been at that computer forever. Why don’t you go over to the Whitney and look at some pictures?”

Many well-known writers have contributed, such as Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King. A biographer (and curator) of Hopper’s also contributed a story about a little-known incident in the artist’s life. Her biography, mentioned in the introduction, is worthwhile reading for those new to Hopper–or who just enjoy exploring artists.

I have recommended  the book often. Be careful to name the exact title, though. Insert “and” by mistake, like I did, and you may confuse it with a book by Mark Halprin.

The painting below is called Cape Cod Morning. The real painting is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum–another favorite place. Hopper painted it in 1950. It is the frontispiece of the book, and doesn’t have an accompanying story. This gave me some ideas, but I haven’t started writing them down yet. I’m happy that the paintings  are included with each story. Even though you might not enjoy Hopper’s work all that much, you still wonder about the people’s stories. Maybe that’s what he intended.

As I find with most short story collections, this one is not an easy read, but one to be savored. However, I also have a favorite already. When I reread this, I’m pretty sure I’ll notice some things I didn’t before in each one.

Image result for free clip art Cape Cod Morning


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I Never Realized Silhouette Art Could Be So Cool!

When I logged on to Google today, I discovered a beautiful Google Doodle about Lotte Reiniger, an early pioneer of stop-motion animation using silhouette cutouts. I never heard of her, and I was really taken with her art. A cursory search didn’t turn up any books on her life, Anyway, I thought it was pretty.  Today’s Google Doodle follows, along with a video of how it was made. I also chose a clip from one of the films she worked on: “The Adventures of Prince Achmed.” Here’s the website listed on YouTube:

My own experience with silhouettes happened when I was 4. A lady came to our preschool and drew our portraits in silhouette. I wore a light blue dress with a pink tie, and my hair was in a ponytail. I remember holding  very still as the artist worked, and the lights shining around me. It turned out really well, and my mom framed it. I think I still have it somewhere.






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I Always Loved You — A Novel of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas

I’ve been studying art history independently since the seventh grade. I began with Vincent van Gogh and Michelangelo. But it didn’t take long for me to discover the Impressionists. I try to explore the works of many artists, but as a group, the Impressionists remain my favorite. There are still a few artists from that group who I don’t know very much about yet. My first experience with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., happened on a ninth grade field trip. I’ve been back many times since, and have also enjoyed many other local museums. Several years ago, the museum offered a major exhibit of Cassatt’s work alone, which my aunt and I also enjoyed together.

I always go back to Mary Cassatt and .Edgar Degas. When I learned about the Degas-Cassatt exhibit at the National Gallery last fall, I couldn’t wait to go. The only thing that marred the day was that my aunt didn’t want to go with me. So, I went alone and still managed to enjoy it.. Local media had publicized the show a great deal. The show explores their personal and professional relationship. Both artists learned from, influenced, and admired each other’s work. I particularly liked a painting by Degas of Mary Cassatt at the Louvre, where she is enjoying an exhibit. Her bak is turned to the viewer, but you can sense her enjoyment and excitement. I get that same feeling in a museum, too. Degas made numerous sketches and a print of the work. Cassatt learned printmaking  from him. I also admired Degas’ fans.

Around this time, I discovered the novel I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira. The author researched her subjects well. I felt as though Degas, Cassatt, and all the people around them come to life in this work. You cheer for them, celebrate their joys and empathize with their disappointments and sorrows. On occasion, you get really mad at them as well. Give it a try, and you’ll see what I mean. At the museum shop I bought a book about the Beaux Arts period in Paris. Also, I suspect that The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, by David McCullough, gives an excellent portrait of the era.

I also felt bad for Mary’s maid, who was devastated as she witnessed her boss destroy canvases she didn’t like and felt weren’t very good. If the maid had only known! She would have asked to take a painting she especially loved home with her.

Whenever I think of Cassatt’s work. I think mostly of her family portraits, and paintings of mothers with children–all of which move me very much.

I also found a biography of Cassatt at the library. I kept recalling another novel about the Cassatt family, told from the point of view of Mary’s sister, Lydia. It’s called Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, by Harriet Scott Chessman, 2003. It too is very beautiful.

Sometimes, aspects of my life can be told through refrigerator magnets. Here are two I bought that day:

“ART is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

–Edgar Degas

“I have touched with a sense of art some people–they felt the love and the life.”

–Mary Cassatt

Palette - Wooden palette with paints and brushes - vector...

All in all, a good day, considering. I waited outside for MetroAccess. Since for once I didn’t feel like reading, I just looked around me. I decided to tilt my chair for a few minutes, and I happened to notice the cloud patterns. So I snapped the picture below on my cell phone.

On warm days, when my aunt and I can sit on our balcony, we look at the cloud patterns–a way she taught me to relax. We guess what they represent, which can be rather fun. I recalled those times as I waited.




The next day, I shared the souvenirs I bought and told my aunt about the paintings. She likes the fan that I bought, and still gets a kick out of my “Little Dancer” bookmark.


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Filed under Art, Fiction, History, Impressionism, New Titles