Speaking in Flowers: In Front of a Window

“Wallwurz und kleine rosa Nelken vor Fenster,” 1935. Gabriele Münter [Wallroot and small pink carnations in front of window]

The postcard above, which features the work of German expressionist painter Gabriele Münter, was one of the first I received for International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month. It came from my Love Notes friend, Eileen V.

In honor of our sharing flowers with other women throughout the world, Eileen added another “flower.” She affixed to the message side of the postcard the story of the Greek goddess, Iris:

Since Iris is the Greek goddess for the Messenger of Love, her sacred flower is considered the symbol of communication and messages. Greek men would often plant an iris on the graves of their beloved women as a tribute to the goddess Iris, whose duty it was to take the souls of women to the Elysian fields. — Hana No Monogatari, from The Story of Flowers

2019 has been brutal thus far, and I’ve lacked the intellectual energy to give words to my feelings and experiences. Flowers have been easier, so taking a cue from nayirrah waheed, I’ll be “speaking in flowers” for much of the next few weeks. I’ll mix things up a bit and try not to bore you. 😉


Speaking of Love Notes, the deadline to sign up for the next round is in a few days. If you love receiving snail mail and want to be part of a wonderful community of creative mail-loving souls, click the link.

More #TreeLove | Live Like the Tree

If I could offer you any advice it would be to live more like the tree. Root yourself deeply in the One who gives you life. Extend your branches outward to aid those in need. Bloom abundantly growing steadily in every season, and be resolute in your calling to breathe life into a starving world. —Chante Marie

I couldn’t resist sharing a little extra tree love this week. My [former] student, singer-songwriter-artist Chante Marie, speaks to the trees too. She shared her ink drawing of a tree and the tree inspired advice above on her revamped Instagram page recently.

For more inspiration, check out Chante Marie Official on IG and her new single, “We Need.” It has nothing to do with trees, but it’s just as beautiful.

Happy Weekend!

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 12

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

–Howard Thurman, “Christmas Is Waiting to be Born” in The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations 

Our final “12 Days of Christmas” post features a card Michael Lomax, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and former President of Dillard University (DU) in New Orleans (1997-2004), sent to University employees in 2002.

Of course, this card wasn’t just lying around waiting for this moment. I found it a couple of weeks ago during my latest “I’m going to purge for real” session.

The cover, entitled “A Tribute to Peace,” features the work of Damion Hunter, who was then a sophomore at DU. A native of New Orleans and DU alumnus, Damion now resides in Houston, Texas. Like this piece, much of his work reflects New Orleans themes.

“A Tribute to Peace” pairs well with Theologian Howard Thurman’s “Christmas Is Waiting to Be Born,” and both work well to end our 12 Days of Christmas.

Hoping you will join me as we begin the real work of Christmas…


If you’re in the Houston area, you can see more of Damion’s work up close and personal on January 11 downtown at Kulture Restaurant. If Houston’s too far to travel, see below for links to some of my favorites from his Instagram profile.


12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 10

Christmas magic is silent.
You don’t hear it–
You feel it.
You know it.
You believe it.

Today’s postcard was not handmade, but it so thrilled me that I have to share it. It was sent with warm holiday greetings and love by my Love Notes friend, Eileen V.

I love the seeming simplicity of the art and the subtle nod to the magic of Christmas.

The watercolor reindeer is the work of Claudia Brandt, an artist I have fallen in love with. You can see more of her art on her website, A Painting a Day or Two or Longer, or on her Facebook page.

The postcard arrived in pristine condition because Eileen placed it in a bright red envelope and stamped it with a breathtaking Chagall image.

[Enlarged for detail]

I think she was trying to send me over the moon for the holiday season!

The stamp features a small part of one of the nine stained glass windows Marc Chagall (1887-1985) completed for St. Stephan Church in Mainz, Germany. The image depicts Mary cradling Baby Jesus with an angel hovering above them.

Chagall worked on the windows from 1978-1985, completing them shortly before his death. They feature themes common to Christians and Jews and serve as Chagall’s contribution to reconciliation between the two groups.

Here’s an image featuring the full panel: Chagall Window by Tomosang.

For a visual feast of Chagall’s stained glass windows:

For more information about St. Stephan’s windows:

Hang in there with me! We have just two more days of Christmas postcards to go!

Lessons in Art and Piano

Pure exhaustion made me miss my “Focus on Black” post last Friday, so I’m posting this morning to avoid the same mistake this week.

Today, I’m using children’s art to “introduce” African American artist Romare Bearden.  Even though Bearden is far from an “unknown” artist, few people know who I’m talking about when I reference his work:

Considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th century, Romare Bearden’s artwork depicted the African-American culture and experience in creative and thought provoking ways. Born in North Carolina in 1912, Bearden spent much of his career in New York City. Virtually self-taught, his early works were realistic images, often with religious themes. He later transitioned to abstract and Cubist style paintings in oil and watercolor. He is best known for his photomontage compositions made from torn images of popular magazines and assembled into visually powerful statements on African-American life.  -from Biography.com

Last year, my favorite (now retired) second grade teacher, Mrs. Crarey, introduced her students to Bearden’s work. They studied his art, noted his interest in jazz music–which influenced some of his art–learned about his collage technique and then created their own Bearden-esque masterpieces. [Click an image for a closer look]

The children used rulers, pencils, Sharpies, crayons, and markers to imitate Bearden’s collage style. As you can see, they used piano keys patterns for their borders.

I pretty much love everything Bearden created.  The Piano Lesson: Homage to Mary Lou is my favorite, probably because it was the masterpiece that inspired African American playwright August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, one of my favorite plays.

The piece was inspired by jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams who collaborated with Bearden’s wife, Nannette, on a musical and dance composition.  If you are familiar with Henri Matisse’s The Piano Lesson and The Music Lesson, you will see his influence on the work as well.

There are two versions of the work–the original:

Romare Bearden’s  “The Piano Lesson: Homage to Mary Lou” (popularly known as “The Piano Lesson”). Watercolor, acrylic, graphite and printed paper collage on paper.

And a signed lithograph:

Romare Bearden, “The Piano Lesson,” Lithograph

For more about Bearden’s life and influences, click the links below:

The Bearden Foundation’s page features more resources such as a timeline and an impressive collection of Romare Bearden’s artwork.

Until next time…

Look for the Gift

Do you remember my student, Chante Marie?

She’s leaving in a week to pursue her music career! Needless to say, I’m so proud of her. I know “just going for it” can be a scary venture, but Chante has a beautiful gift and spirit and she’ll be more than okay.

She and her hubby (they’re such a cute couple) dropped by my office yesterday and brought gifts—a lighthouse postcard, which I’ll share later, and a journal. Chante did not give me a journal to fill with words, but she gave me her very own art journal—filled from cover to cover with her art and brief musings!

Dream: Chante’s Art Book

This is such a precious gift. I am speechless.

During the drive to school and work this morning my son and I talked about the importance of looking for the gift in each day. Life can be, well…life. Something might happen during the course of the day that “knocks the wind” out of us—an injustice, an unkindness, a failure, a disappointment. Some days we’re knocked down before we can recover from the last blow, and sometimes we feel like we can’t “catch a break.”

A page from Chante’s Art book

Even on those days when it’s a struggle to lift our heads, there’s a gift waiting for us.

Sometimes the gift is tangible—a flower, a letter, a beautiful art journal, or a hug when needed. Sometimes, it’s intangible—the beauty of another’s soul, the sighting of a hummingbird, a painted sky, the good feeling that comes from doing well, a phone call that comes just when needed, or the sudden appearance of someone who just crossed your mind.

Actively seeking the gift works to rescue us from slipping into a mundane pattern of doing and getting and merely tolerating life. It saves us from cynicism and from fretting over trifles.

Fly Away: A page from Chante’s art book

Chante’s gift provided that for me yesterday and continues to bless me today. She gave me more than a physical journal; she also gave (part of) her soul journey. The intangible expressed through the tangible makes a very powerful gift.

 

Join me in making a habit of looking for the gift in each day. If you need a little help, check out my penfriend Beckra’s blog: Every Day, One Good Thing.

Be sure to collect a few gifts from Chante’s IG and blog too!

Ciao!

Postcards = Love

Shannan, a Love Notes participant, stopped by my office today.  She traveled all the way from her office on campus to say hello.  That’s right!  One of the participants and I live in the same area and work at the same university. What are the odds? We discovered this just after the October round began.  Furthermore, I had been following her blog and never made the connection between the blogger and the grant writer who helped me with a recent grant proposal. The world is so much smaller than we think, and I’m always surprised by that reality.  Anyway, her stopping by reminded me that I hadn’t written about my October Love Notes!

As you may recall from an October post, Love Notes is hosted by Jennifer Belthoff.  Participants sign up for the swap on her website, and then she assigns partners–notified via email–who correspond with each other for three weeks based on a prompt she provides each Sunday.

My October partner, Martha Slavin, is an artist and writer who resides on the West Coast.  She sent beautifully designed cards with well-considered messages.

"Imagine," art by Martha Slavin

“Imagine,” art by Martha Slavin

In response to the week one prompt, “Imagine,”  Martha wrote:

Imagine

a word that resonates deep

inside you–like

Remember

Kindness

Joy

words that connect us.

For the week two prompt, “Don’t forget to remember…,” Martha sent a community themed postcard that underscored the message she wrote on the back.

"How to Build a Community," Text by members SCW Community. Karen Kerney, watercolor and colored pencils.

“How to Build a Community,” Text by members SCW Community. Karen Kerney, watercolor and colored pencils.

She reminded me of our connection to each other as humans and advised:  “Don’t forget to remember…”

  • that community is what makes us human
  • that it takes at least two to be whole
  • that you can reach out every day to someone who needs you

If you’re interested in the postcard art, you can find more information here: Syracuse Cultural Workers.  It can be purchased in various forms–print, notecard, bookmark, t-shirt.

For the final week’s prompt, “Courage is…,” Martha sent a mixed-media piece she created:

"I See You, Butterfly," artwork by Martha Slavin

“I See You, Butterfly,” artwork by Martha Slavin

She defined courage as:

  • taking the next step
  • seeing with new eyes
  • living with you feelings
  • reaching out to others
  • getting help when you need it

Martha sent an extra piece with the final mailing:

"What Blows in the Wind?" art and text by Martha Slavin

“What Blows in the Wind?” art and text by Martha Slavin

What blows in the wind?

songs. leaves. smoke. dust. memories. seeds. scents. Mary Poppins. rain. sleet. snow. hail. storms. sailboats. birds. hats. thoughts. feathers. doors. whispers. bubbles. petals. curtains. longings.

Who wouldn’t love a poem in which “Mary Poppins” makes an appearance? Notice the mix of abstract and concrete?

Martha also tucked into the envelope her business card which features her artwork (on back):

"Tree of Life," art by Martha Slavin

“Tree of Life,” art by Martha Slavin

A lovely reminder of the life-sustaining contribution of trees.

I also received cards from other Love Notes participants–Christine, Lorelei, and Jacki–but I’ll share those tomorrow (maybe).  For now, take a few extra moments to enjoy Martha’s pretties. You can find more of Martha’s art and writing at: Postcards in the Air.

Save the date:  The next round of Love Notes begins January 2017.