Monday, July 27, 2009

Heaven on a hot day:
Homemade Blueberry Cobbl

I love blueberry season. Not just because blueberries are luscious, of course, but because I love to bake. Yes, it's my little secret. Not very feminist of me, I know, but domestic as it is, baking is one of my joys in life. Perhaps, it's time to come out of the closet, so to speak.

Ever since my Grandmother Gallacher taught me to make her scones, I've been hooked on baking. I became the family cookie maker and when my children were little, I developed dozens of muffin recipes for their snacks. True to my creative side, I'm always coming up with new recipes or modifying old ones, and although I do have a library of cookbooks, I rarely follow these recipes. I use them as concepts or guidelines or a jumping off point to something I'd like to bake. Although, I love my Grandmother's traditional scone recipe, I've made my own creations based on it such as Poppyseed Lemon Scones, Chocolate Raspberry and Maple Oatmeal to name a few. I'm not sure she'd be happy with me about that, but oh well.

Today's piece of heaven is a blueberry cobbler that I baked using a filling of fresh, local blueberries, sugar, tapioca and lemon juice topped with a variation of my Grandmother's scone recipe. Serve it warm or on a day like today, cold with a generous dollop of yogurt. Yum!

It's a little slice of heaven on a day when it's already 99 degrees outside and it's only 1pm. This is not my kind of summer day, which is why I live in Portland, Oregon, to be able to have moderate summer weather with highs in the mid 80's to low 90's. But, Mother Nature has her own ideas.

So I'm glad that the other day, I had the idea to bake this cobbler and today I get to enjoy it! It's delicious coolness of such a hot day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Art & Labor & The Labor of Art Show:
How what we do, influences our art.

I entered one of my sculptural boxes, “Zara, a woman from Niger” in a local show called, ‘Art & Labor and The Labor of Art’. This piece, one of a series of three, started with the face of a Nigerian woman. As I worked on her face in clay, I started wonder: what is her life like? What does she do to sustain herself and her family? How does she dress? Who shares her life?
This piece became a series of three, depicting the faces, textiles, landscapes and lives of women from Niger, India and Japan. I researched their countries, lifestyles, work and history. I read books about their countries, searched National Geographic articles and found travel books for photos of the country’s landscapes.

With this information, their stories emerged.

‘Zara, a woman from Niger’ begins her day by the fire warming herself in the cold desert morning. Her husband is away on a caravan in search of salt, a prized commodity in this desert country. ‘Sartha, a woman from India’ wakes at dawn to go out into the crocus fields to carefully pick the stamens which become the highly prized spice, saffron. ‘Meiko, a woman from Japan’ farms her small plot on the island of Hokkaido. She is an Annui, the indigenous people of Japan once exiled on the island by the Japanese government.

On the outside of each box is a copper repousse’ illustrating some aspect of their daily life. Inside the door is a short written piece about their daily life. Mounted inside the box, the clay faces are adorned with ethnic jewelry, textiles and tattoos. The background behind the faces depicts their native landscapes.

I’m thrilled that all three ‘Ethnic Portrait’ series boxes were accepted into the show. Art & Labor, the Labor of Art exhibit focuses on the issues of labor, making ends meet and the effects of economy on family and society. As well as the relationship between the arts and labor movements and the reality that human toil is the foundation of creativity.

I’m honored to be one of many wonderful national, regional and local artists in this show curated by Lora R. Fisher, such as Gwenn Seemel, Mitch Baird, Christopher B. Mooney, Celeste Bergin, Allen Schmertzler, Patricia Gifford, Susan B. Schenk, Anthony Lazorko, Jr. and Sarah Hauser. If you’re in Portland, Oregon, you can see the show at the Olympic Mills Gallery, 107 S.E. Washington Street, through August 30, 2009.

To see all three ‘Ethnic Portrait’ sculptural boxes, visit my website, Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture

Friday, July 10, 2009

A visit with author, Janet Riehl

Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry & Music

Janet and I met over the internet while doing a blogtour for author, Eric Maisel. I visited her blog. She visited mine. And a blog friendship was born. We’ve supported each other often, commenting on new events in our lives both good and bad. Today, I’m so happy to have her visit my blog as part of her own blogtour for her new audio book, ‘Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry & Music’.

Janet’s coming to Art & Words from Janet Muirhead Hill’s blog. You can see the complete calendar for Janet’s blogtour

The audio book, ‘Sightlines, A Poet’s Diary’ is a weaving together of the lives of six generations featuring Janet and her father reading poems, telling stories, singing and playing music that brings us all back to the true meaning of family.

Welcome, Janet. I’m so glad you’re here to visit, so let’s chat.

Susan: When you began commuting from California to your family’s home in the Midwest after your sister’s tragic death, what was your creative life like in Lake County in Northern California?
Janet: I’d moved up to Lake County in 1998 to continue my life as a working artist by living less expensively after living in the Bay Area for about a dozen years. By the time I moved back to the Midwest, I’d spent around 22 years in California. That wasn’t part of my life plan, it just worked out that way.
In the Bay Area, in 1990, the art came in for me. I painted large scale banners on cloth and had my first solo show 9 months later. I belonged to a story telling troupe led by Luisah Teish—Storyteller, Yoruba Priestess, Writer, Director, Teacher and Performer. I wrote my own stories, preformed them, and used the banners I’d painted as the backdrops and props. I began a stream of creative writing in addition to the stories I performed.
When I moved up North to Lake County—a sparsely populated, breathtakingly beautiful, poor, rural locale—I made my mission to promote arts and culture within the county. I did that in every media possible: writing, visual art, and performance.
As a writer I sponsored poetry readings and a monthly writing circle. I was twice nominated Poet Laureate of Lake County…a surprisingly hotly contested position.
As a visual artist I mounted outdoor celebrations-performances-installations in both state parks in the county. I was given a grant from UC/Davis to be bio-regional artist in residence the year of my “Water Ceremonies” work. I showed throughout California and engaged in mail art internationally.
As a performer I appeared twice in The Vagina Monologues and several local theater productions. For three years running my sweetheart and I produced a comedy variety review show called “Comedy on Tilt.”
Plus, I supported much of this community arts work through substitute teaching all around the lake, running a family literacy program, and teaching art class for children.
In other words, in many ways, my life was not unlike the lives of most practicing artists: I did what I could, when I could, as well as I could.

Susan: How did you keep it going during these years between 2004 when your sister died, through your mother’s death in 2006, to the time you moved back in 2007?
Janet: I had to scale back. I’d be in Illinois for six weeks and then back in Lake County for three weeks. This schedule lasted for years. What I loved about writing “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” was that it was portable. I could write while caring for my mother and supporting my father. All the information I needed I carried on my thumb drive. The book was something I could shape and control and own—at a time when the wheelbarrow of my life had completely tipped over.

Susan: Did you do more visual art before your sister’s death in 2004?
Janet: For 17 years I kept my visual art practice going: 1) from 1990 when the art came in… 2) through 1996 when I graduated with high distinction from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland as a clay sculptor… 3) and on up to the time of my definitive move to the Midwest in 2007.
My studio, Rocking Triangle Studio, was active in producing work and projects in many media. I continued to contribute to the visual art world of Lake County after Julia’s death in 2004. I joined the board of EcoArts of Lake County during that time.
My method was to rotate between writing, visual art, and performance, in terms of where my energy was focused during any given period.
As I prepared for my move in 2007, trying to figure out what to pack, I decided that I would close my studio. I gave away much of the art I’d created and my art materials. I took some materials to my father’s house just to play with myself and with my great-nieces.

Susan: Writing is now your main art form?
Janet: I decided that I needed to make my life simpler by focusing on one discipline. I decided that would be writing.

Susan: Do you see the story poem becoming an ongoing form for you?
Janet: My main form of writing is memoir. The first book came out as the story poems. The memoir I’m currently writing “Finding My African Heart: A Village of Stories” is solely in prose.

Susan: In your new audio book, Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music [hotlink to CD Baby], you combined your love of words with music. How did that come about?
Janet: When we were kids we always sang in the car. The great love of my father’s life is the music of his boyhood and young manhood. He’s an excellent musician, performer, and composer. But, for him, it’s all about the music.
I’d used music in my talks as I traveled sharing “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary.” In Illinois, my father performed with me several times during these talks. I’m a musician myself.
Shaping the audio book into interweavings of poems, songs, family stories, and the banter of our recording session in Pop’s parlor naturally provided a fuller context.

Susan: You’ve talked about quilting as an important part of your family history, how have you carried on the tradition of quilting?
Janet: I’ll never be a quilter as my great aunties were or as my mother was. I’m not adept at fine stitches, for instance. My sister and I embroidered on a flower quilt in the car on our family vacations. My stitches, as a 6-year younger sister, were always so sprawling compared to hers.

In Ghana I pieced a quilt top from the hand-woven strip cloth made in the North. When I came back to the States in the late 1970s, Mother worked with me to complete this to bed-size, pad it, line it, and tuft it as we did her comforters.

I’d collected marvelous Maridadi silk screen prints from Kenya. (Maridadi is Swahili for anything beautiful, tasteful, or pleasing to the eye.) Mother worked with me in the same way to make a doublebed quilt top and take it all the way to a full-fledged comforter.

After 911, I made a Peace Quilt out of paper towels which carried the words to my poem “What I Want to Say about War” against a back drop of black trash bags…embellished by other media.

The quilting instinct is the desire to bring together fragments into one object of beauty and meaning. I do that through collaging in a variety of media. “Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music” is, essentially, collaged from pieces of sound that tell stories in words or music.

Susan: How has sharing your feelings, music, and poetry helped you through this tragedy and brought you closer to your community?
Janet: In some ways, this has happened by bringing the community closer to me. I was able to create a far-flung community of people who don’t know each other and have never met who have found the two projects in The Sightlines Collection—book and audio book—helpful to them. This gave our experience a sense of meaning and purpose.
There are even some readers who go back to read “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” once a year since it’s come out. That’s an astonishing outreach for an individually produced project.

Thank you for stopping by on your busy blogtour, today. The next stop on Janet’s tour is with another Janet. You can hear her on Janet Elaine-Smith’s internet radio show, “Marketing for Fun and Profit on PIVR(Passionate Internet Voices Radio)
To win a free audio book view and comment on the featured video of the week on the top post at Janet will use a random numbers generator to choose a winning comment.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Telling Tales:
Art & Story time for the kid in all of us.

Tearing out pictures. Making up words. Putting them together to create a story. Then telling the tale to others. Giving people a chance to work with words and pictures in a fun, easy, free-form way was the idea behind the workshop, ‘Telling Tales’.

This storytelling, mixed media workshop, brought people together to work on both a group story, and their own individual story. This mini-workshop was given in conjunction with the Subject/Object show at The Kingstad Gallery. In the short time span, I didn’t expect anyone to have a finished product, but a jump start their creative juices and inspire them to create in a new way using words, pictures, paint and glue.

Here’s what one artist, Carolyn Rondthaler, started in the workshop and finished in her studio. This is a mixed media accordion book, using magazine images, words, paint, glue, glazes and more. I love the natural flow of images and words that Carolyn uses to tell her tale.