Thursday, May 22, 2014

April May-anderings: Life, Death, Manure and Art, Art, Art

It's been a great month for the Painted People!
Here they are at Grand Central Station, with a "real" painted person.
To see more of their activities, and art events including Karen Heagle's open studio,
"Shadow Odyssey" at Mahlstadt Gallery, Yonker's Art Weekend, 
and the Fridge Art Fair, scroll down.
Otherwise prepare for a fascinating farm report, and
the some of cutest baby pics in the entire world, OMG!

First, farmers in jeopardy:
On my way to Madison for a fabulous week of spring break,
I buy a magazine at the airport, as is my wont.
I didn't think Newsweek still existed, but here it is all semi-glossy 
and semi-slick, with a cover article that strikes at my heart during this, my post-farm life.

Here are some views of our Wisconsin farm back in the day...

Winter above, summer and fall below.

Below, one of our ill-fated barn cats who inevitably succumbed to some sad, macabre, heart-rending
end like being rolled on by a cow at night, getting caught in farm machinery, coming down with
a hacking, phlegmy lung disease that seemed to come with our barn...ah, those were the days.

And then there were the cow/calf dilemmas and deaths. And the machinery breaking down.
And the weather/crop disasters. And the never-enough-money. And the never-ending stress and worry.
And the 24-7 schedule. And ours was a tiny enterprise compared with some of the monstrous spreads farmers try to run these days. 
Most Americans are at least a generation away from the farm
so they can afford to have warm and fuzzy romantic imaginings about rural life.
But farming isn't about love of all the happy growing things under your care,
it's about control.
Control of life, control of growth, control of fertility,
Many, if not most, farmers are control freaks, but after a certain point, 
no matter how large and organized and mechanized you get, 
Mother Nature sneaks in to undermine your hubris and outsmart the overalls off you.
You depend on her absolutely, but she doesn't really give a shit about you, as it were.
She mocks your pathetic attempts at "efficiency" as she 
efficiently grinds you up and scatters you to the winds.

At times she was absolutely my sworn enemy, seriously out to get me.
That one tiny rain cloud in the far distant sky?
That cloud settled over my field (not my neighbor's field right across the road) of recently cut,
perfectly sun-dried dry hay ready to bale,
and that cloud poured its dark heart out, rendering my field of green hay a sour shade of brown, stripped of nutrient-rich leaves and useless for anything except garden mulch (see pic below).
We'd open the bales and they'd be steaming and hot inside, on their way to bursting into flames.

Two more ill-fated barn kitties:

And there's lots more where that came from.

I have no problem understanding the rising suicide rate of farmers here and in other countries, 
like France for example. French farmers, the original artisans of food, 
are killing themselves at a rate of one every two days!

And then there's India, where farmer suicide is rampant, particularly due to 
monstrous Monsanto corporate policies of suing farmers and subsequently 
running them out of business because they do what farmers have always done: save their seeds.
Which is illegal if you deal with Monsanto who is out to patent life and 
make a killing from it. Like, for example, poison the bees and then make a profit
developing robo-bees at Harvard.

Despite all the issues, however, I loved farming.
Well, maybe it was a kind of love/hate thing.
Here's our cow, Violet, under a big tree on a hill, waiting patiently for lightning to strike.

And lo and behold, I get a nostalgic whiff of farm right across the street here in Brooklyn on 
8th Avenue and Third Street,
where they have piled up a shit-load of half-mulched manure whose smell brings
me right back into the barn where the cows are happily slapping their tails 
in my face after carefully dipping them into the sloppy gutter. 

And right up the street from the manure, 
a movie being made! Brooklyn, what a city! 

Here is a more positive magazine cover, the latest New Yorker showing the proper direction
farming should be going. This is what we'll do if we get smart.
And if the rising oceans don't get us first.
But I'm betting the latter will happen before the former.

So once again I've been thoroughly shaken up and disturbed by a news magazine, which has been
happening ever since my Grandma gave me a yearly subscription to Time 
and the likes of this would arrive in my mailbox:

Maybe I should learn from experience and stay away from the news.
Then I can be happy. At least until the odd flood or hurricane or tornado or its new incarnation
 - the "firenado" - slams into my world.

(internet photo, May, 2014, near San Diego)

Well, moving on to Madison, where Andrew and Elliott "imagine"
a better world in this amazing cover of John Lennon's classic.

(photo by Jennifer Keeley Yonda)

Who could be cooler than us?
We're taking a walk checking out the Madison yards which are wonderful even
in the fallow season.

After our walk, Elliott goes for a ride.

Baby you can drive my car,
yes you're going to be a star.

Then he listens closely to important words 
from Great Grandma Shirley and Great Aunt Sherry. 

Great Uncle Brett is a Skype-hog as he pushes Sherry aside to wave.

Elliott explores new terrain via Uncle Derek, who is
actually first cousin once-removed, or would it be second cousin?  Uncle is easier.

And out in Andrew's music/garage band room, Andrew does a rock star turn...

...with Aaron on keyboard and Arya on castanets...

...Kellen is percussionist-in-training...

...Elliott eats the instrument...

...and Alicia is surrounded by happy feet.

Elliott and Jennifer imagine, too, and
Easter morning, Elliott wears appropriate headgear.

He seems more happy being a hipster than a pink bunny.

Elliott has got his "smizing" down (smiling with eyes) - Tyra Banks would be proud.

We wait patiently for our table at Graze Restaurant near the Capital.

 And down State Street, famed Madison singer Art Paul Schlosser holds court - 
not doing too well today, it appears. Although he may be crafty about the money.
He is known for his songs like "Four" about Brett Favre, former Green Bay Packer star,
whose lyrics go, 

Four four four four four four four,
four four four four four,
 four four four four four,
throw the Hail Mary!

and "Show Me Your Crazy Legs"
which goes:

Show me your crazy legs
Show me your crazy legs
Show me your crazy legs
And I'll show you my crazy legs too...

Here's a recent line-up of songs from him, found at

One gets the sense that Art Paul doesn't support Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker, who
is in turn famously supportive of Republican corporate giants like the Koch Brothers 
who are in turn famously supportive of Scott Walker.
A mutual admiration society, with Walker sporting a kind of dog-like loyalty to his owners.
Mr. Walker apparently is unable to keep church and state separate as evidenced by the Easter cross
in the window of the Wisconsin State Capital building:

Later in the waning hours of the day we spend quality time relaxing on the deck.

Hard to say au revoir to this face
 especially since when I see him next,
he'll be a new person all over again!

So, home again, home again, where the city does a jiggity-jig.

Back in NYC, there are cute babies, too!
One of them I see at my friend Karen Heagle's open studio in the Sunset area of Brooklyn.

Above is Rachel Churner and her little one, Margot, and below, Karen and the baby...

...and Karen and me...

...and Karen and her work.

Karen and I know each other from Wisconsin - UW Stout in Menomonie where,
post-farming, I got my undergraduate degree in art, art education and special ed.
After getting her BA, Karen came to New York to go to Pratt, as I did, and stayed, as I did.
She has a thriving art career now, and I've written an article for d'ART International Magazine
about Karen and my recent studio visit. Here's an excerpt from the upcoming article:

"Karen Heagle seems to spring from earlier roots than her rural background would indicate: she is a gatherer like women of yore, collecting and processing not foodstuffs but images that appear along her life’s path. She uses data from pop culture – superheros, muscle-bound men, big-breasted women – but she strips Pop of its deadpan flatness and denial and gives us instead something actively humming." 

See more about Karen at

While I'm in the area, I also hit the Greenwood Cemetery, which
is looking exuberant and full of life under an early spring sky.

Here's a bit of "who knew?" about the cemetery:

But Greenwood is a youngster compared to the cemetery I saw in New Rochelle recently
where I went to an opening at Mahlstadt Gallery:

This site goes back to 1688 when it was used for worship by French Huguenots 
seeking religious freedom. 
The current Trinity St. Paul's Episcopal Church is the fourth on the site, and was built in 1863.

(internet photo)
Down Huguenot Street is the Mahlstadt Gallery, itself a building with a history, having been built in 1920 by the Mahlstadt Lumber and Coal Company in Neo-Classical Revival Style.
(internet photo)
Sorry I didn't get better pictures at the opening of "Shadow Odyssey"but I was busy chatting with
all the visitors about the Painted People, who make a strong appearance here.

Two days after the Mahlstadt opening, I'm in Grand Central Station again, this time sparsely populated in the early morning, the police being the largest presence.

Today I'm heading up the Hudson River to Yonkers 
where the tracks run awfully close to the water.
Indeed, up in Yonkers there had two days earlier been a track closure due to
mega-rainfall undermining the tracks.

 Yonkers Art Weekend is my destination,
where my dear friend Haifa Bint Kadi has put together a wonderful "Pop-Up"
show of my work and her fabulous Middle Eastern Brunch.

The above photo was taken by Donna Davis, photographer extraordinaire,
seen here with her weapon of creation in front of my Scotland video.

A good time is had by all!

 Malia shines, above, and below she and her cousin Amari rock with the Painted People
who star in "La Isla Bonita" sung by chanteuse Courtney Collins!
People said Courtney was way better than Madonna! 

Back in Grand Central, the Painted People are surrounded by painted persons!

And finally, finally, finally, the big day of the Fridge Art Fair, and 
Video Fridge! I've been working on this for the last ten years.
Well, not really, it just feels like it.

It takes place in Long Island City, as you will remember from 
past posts, because the fair planners had to find a new venue after our first home, the Lower East Side's Angel Orensanz Foundation's beautiful Gothic Revival Style former synagogue, was shut down
because of structural problems.

The view from the new venue in LIC is New York at its best.

The artists' presentation was well-attended and quite wonderful,
if I do say so myself.

Creighton Michael, one of the artists, called it
 "an atmospheric evening infused with wondrous visions and ideas." 

Thanks SO MUCH to all the artists!
A special thanks to Victor Faccinto (2nd row end, below) for contributing toward printing costs.
He came from North Carolina to participate, as did Julian Semilian (4th row in the hat) and
his lovely wife Laura Ingram Semilian who has a gorgeous soprano voice as evidenced
by this video of an old North Carolina song, "The Dear Companion":

And also special thanks to the three participants who came to me through Pratt Institute,
Chen Lin, Macklen Mayse and Danielle Orlowski,
and to Ken Cro-Ken for his generous help and photography at the event,
and to Sean Capone, Dennis Hlynski, and Lee Arnold for their stellar contributions.

Below, Creighton Michael's complex and fascinating abstractions are featured.

Julian Semilian's vivid work, above;
Graciela Cassel's mysterious dance, below.

Here is Daria Dorosh talking about her compelling "Patternwoman" series.

And here I am, pedagogue-ing away.

Selections from the presentation can be seen until the end of June at 

Here is the press release information about each artist:

Thanks to the organizers of the Fridge Art Fair, Eric Ginsburg, 
and especially Linda DiGusta, shown here
in her LIC studio that also contains the work of her late husband, Mark Weiner who has
been featured in several past posts, like this one:

Linda worked dawn till dusk, and dusk till dawn, to make this event happen.
You go, girl!
And then take a deep breath and relax for a while.

So long, Long Island City!
And thanks for all the videos!


  1. Great blog postings, Jeanne. Beautiful photos of your family. The articles about the farmers was fascinating, too.

  2. beautiful....all the way through.......

  3. Thanks for reading, Tracy and Sally. I know it's a long one!

  4. My friend Janice says: i think we are all like Violet, wiating for lightning to strike, but just don't know it. Excellent piece. My short life on an Irish farm taught me so mean it's not like disney? Ob the romance of mucking! Well drawn. you need a bigger soap box.

    after reading Eating Animals, I cannot stomach meat, not so much because they are animals, (or because I actually ate very much at all), but because of the perversion of people in bringing it to the table.

    We are basically cooked!