Art Conversations on Art

The Art of Seeing: Ficre Ghebreyesus

Artist Ficre Ghebreyesus exhibit at Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco

I first learned about artist Ficre Ghebreyesus after he died at the too young age of 50. His wife, poet, Elizabeth Alexander penned a memoir called Light of the World and painted such a picture of her husband that I needed to see more of his art. I’ve written about Alexander’s memoir and there’s a painting on the cover of a boat (a recurring theme) painted in jazzy blue and coral stripes. The colors and the composition depict stillness coupled with an energy and movement that compelled me to search for more. Google did not lead me astray. The images it pulled up were vibrant, some like a veritable patchwork that might have seemed too busy in any other hands, but in his, it all just worked. In the way that some art moves us and we can’t quite reason the whole why, his art spoke to me of joy and peace.

Artist Ficre Ghebreyesus exhibit at Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco 2018

One afternoon, I happened upon the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco and couldn’t believe my eyes: Ficre Ghebreyesus had an exhibit! And it was in its final week, closing the weekend upcoming! I made a date and we walked the compact, well-appointed galleries the following Saturday for the first time, listening to a docent talk through his work.

Artist Ficre Ghebreyesus exhibit at Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco 2018

The piece for which the entire exhibit was named, “City with a River Running Through” is actually four pieces and all told measures over 18 feet long. Can you imagine what it must be like to envision the still unpainted entirety, while working on each section? Unlike some artists who do pre-sketches or small paintings as a way to work out composition and color ideas, he went in wholly invested in the final outcome only he could see. I lingered in front of the painting for a few minutes, walking up to different sections wanting to see the detail work of his brush and get a sense for how he might have thought the green swatch needed to go next to the coral one with wavy lines on it. The painting is enormous and it hung well on the wall, me grateful that there was a space that we could see such a large painting displayed.

Artist Ficre Ghebreyesus exhibit at Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco 2018

It reminded me of why I like museums, that sense of discovery and seeing the world in a different perspective that can shift our own. It also emboldens me to think how artists work in private and sometimes get to see acclaim while they’re alive, but also how their work lives on after they do, even if in back rooms and how it takes someone who believes in their work to put it out into the world and how that work can sometimes bring a needed light into the world, even after the creator’s light is extinguished.

Artist Ficre Ghebreyesus exhibit at Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco 2018

Through this exhibit and its curated pieces of work, I saw a broader scope than what the online search had afforded. He painted scenes from his home country of Eritrea like a painting called Paradise influenced by the Adam and Eve garden of paradise, but this time offset with bottle trees reminiscent of Eritrea.

Artist Ficre Ghebreyesus exhibit at Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco 2018

In several of the paintings, boats cropped up, both placid and yet symbols of movement. One painting that became a new favorite involved a boat on water that’s green then blue, the boat itself striped in greens and swatches of periwinkle and pale purple. Underneath the central boat there is another boat that looks like a shadow. I could stand in front of this painting for hours and find new insights it provides. The tranquil colors kept me transfixed as the subject kept me wondering, if I climbed into that boat where would I go? Or, how sometimes, when difficulties arise, wouldn’t we want a boat to just sit in or go to another part of our lives, rowing out past the difficulty. And, right now, the thing I wonder as I look again at the boat is if there is a shadow self who wants something else from life hovering underneath what everyone else can see, and yet also supported by an unseen hand that holds those dreams and hopes intact.

Artist Ficre Ghebreyesus exhibit at Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco 2018

When Ghebreyesus was alive, he and his brother owned a cafe in New Haven, Connecticut—I remember that from reading Alexander’s account. He came to painting later in life, studying and making art until the end.

“I started painting ten years ago, but I suspect I have been metaphorically doing so all my life. When I started painting, I just did it. I had never felt a stronger urge. The pieces that flowed out of me were very painful and direct. They had to do with the suffering, persecution, and subsequent psychological dilemmas I endured before and after becoming a young refugee from the Independence War in my natal home of Eritrea, East Africa. Painting was the miracle, the final act of defiance through which I exorcised the pain and reclaimed my sense of place, my moral compass, and my love for life.”

Ficre Ghebreyesus

Even though he died of a heart attack at 50, what a prolific body of work he left behind! And, what does it say about doing the work you know you must do with urgency?

Artist Ficre Ghebreyesus exhibit at Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco 2018

It makes me question where next he would have gone artistically if he was still alive today—what motifs would continue showing up in his work. Would he have gone through a blue period or started a new school of thought or methodology? Might this refugee offer refuge to others? Would his connecting to where he was from and where he lived today and the latent struggles of being an immigrant in today’s United States have resonated with others disillusioned by the current state of affairs. I like to think he would have continued offering joy by way of brushstroke, layering colors that at first glance don’t seem to have anything to do with one another, but when the final detail is filled in, culminates in a canvas that thrums with life.

Artist Ficre Ghebreyesus exhibit at Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco 2018

“Tucson” by Stephen Dunn

Poetry curated. Believing poetry can change the world, the intention here is to introduce and discuss compelling poems. My desire is to invoke a sense of longing in you to find a poem and a poet whose work speaks to your soul. When it happens, it can set your skin ablaze. In a good way.

Recently, my friend Jay came over for a Sunday afternoon poetry workshop. We hadn’t seen each other in quite a while- enough time had passed to learn he is working on a screen play and I’m recently married. As we settled into our workshop time, we kicked it off with writing prompts. Later we exchanged poems, providing feedback and the conversation expected during a workshop. I highly regard him as a friend who writes poems in form and meter with litheness of pen, and he shared some tips for me as I set out in my exploration of writing in rhyme and meter.

If you ever get the chance to ask a poet what they are reading and what is inspiring them, stand back. The answers are mellifluous! Jay shared the poem below with me and I in turn am sharing it with you. Poetry is like that- it’s meant to be shared.

The poem “Tucson” by Stephen Dunn is not the kind of poem that shimmers with adjectives. I think the spare description in this narrative poem builds such a fantastic tension that’s augmented in the line “but I’m not important.” – the narrator wants all eyes on the scene unfolding. Even the line length seems like a stilted dance with some short lines and others that are long in this tight poem. The poet builds the climax by naming the frailty of the human body instead of naming the fight breaking out. “I’d forgotten / how fragile the face is, how fists too / are just so many small bones.” The dexterity of this line really calls out the humanity that is the point in this poem because there are a lot of people in the poem. And they are “Mexicans, Indians, whites.” The deft way the woman in question moves on to dance with another woman after the fight breaks out points to fights being a regular occurrence. Even the narrator’s hands “were fidgety, damp.” This poem encapsulates place by naming it after a city and using the scenario of a bar fight to describe the tensions among its inhabitants.

It’s an interesting way to consider writing a poem. If you were to write a poem about your city, how would you structure it? Where would it take place and what would be the core essence of your city you would want as a grand take-away?


by Stephen Dunn from “Loosestrife

A man was dancing with the wrong woman
in the wrong bar, the wrong part of town.
He must have chosen the woman, the place,
as keenly as you choose what to wear
when you dress to kill.
And the woman, who could have said no,
must have made her choice years ago,
to look like the kind of trouble
certain men choose as their own.
I was there for no good reason myself,
with a friend looking for a friend,
but I’m not important.
They were dancing close
when a man from the bar decided
the dancing was wrong. I’d forgotten
how fragile the face is, how fists too
are just so many small bones.
The bouncer waited, then broke in.
Someone wiped up the blood.
The woman began to dance
with another woman, each in tight jeans.
The air pulsed. My hands
were fidgety, damp.
We were Mexicans, Indians, whites.
The woman was part this, part that.
My friend said nothing’s wrong, stay put,
it’s a good fighting bar, you won’t get hurt
unless you need to get hurt.


Meter and Flow

iambic pentameter drawn

Sometimes I’m too quick to make a judgement.

Up until recently, I have been quite biased and worming my way out of ignorance when it comes to the function of rhyming in poetry. If I had to put a finger on it, I think it might have something to do with ease and lack of complexity. Writing poetry that rhymes somehow seems easy and quaint, a crime story that neatly wraps up in an hour segment like CSI.

Where is the drama of the undeterred line? Where too, the building anticipation of how and where the poem is going to end up? Part of this long-held bias is I have an uncanny knack for guessing end words in songs. It’s not hard: think of something that fits the context and rhymes. Done. I’m working my way out of this particular ignorance and nose-snubbing for one main reason-

Beck and I have begun tackling songwriting as a couple.

When we first started dating, part of his wooing ritual included a guitar and songs written for me. He didn’t know it was part of the wooing exactly, (okay maybe he knew), but music is one of my favorite languages- one my dad began teaching me in my earliest days. I joke that even before my gift of gab, I sang. I look to music as a balm and catalyst. Some wounds exist that only music can massage.

As our wedding date neared, Beck and I met for band practice. He played this incredibly melodic music full of minor keys and driving rhythms. A pallor veiled his face, a moodiness entered his eyes and I found him as beguiling and bewitching as ever. One evening, he casually asked me if I could help him write lyrics. I vehemently responded, “No way- I’m a poet, not a songwriter…”

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

On any given day away from our working selves, Beck sits in the living room strumming out new riffs in old-to-us now songs. Other times, I am baking or cooking as he sits and plays in the kitchen. One such occasion, I hummed a playful line of words mirroring each other in a nonsensical way. And it stuck.

I have begun rethinking the art of meter, of rhyming and flow. A good off-rhyme in a poem clinches my interest; a good story in a song cocks my head. This challenge makes me rethink the error of my thoughts- poetry is music and music is poetry set to song, but there is more to it than that. My original work tends to be lyrical, but the thought of setting it to music leaves me stumped.

Over a month ago, I enrolled myself in a new b-course using “Rhyme & Reason” as textbook. To help with listening and rhythm, I’m supplementing with Gerard Manley Hopkins. He is the king of consonance and makes me want to rhyme my lines, to delve deeper into the way sound and word position influence the ear.

And friends, it is slow going.

I’m diving into scansion – listening to English as if for the first time, trying to weasel my pronunciations into iambic pentameter and coming up short. I’m plying my writing group, Tayve, Dee, Steven and Terry for tips on writing in rhyme and form. But here’s where all of this gutting of self and opinion is so very right: I am awakening the wonder – becoming ever more smitten *and sometimes admittedly frustrated* with language.

I am measuring and weighing my words in meter and flow.


“The Guitar” by Federico Garcia Lorca


Maybe the last time you picked up a book of poems (if ever) was in high school. You might think they’re boring, inaccessible or just not for you and I’m not one to disagree with the last point. But hear me out for a moment: I have a hunch that given the right poem or hearing the right poet is akin to listening to your favorite musician for the first time. It’s a discovery, an epiphany of a world you didn’t know existed and you feverishly want more. Poetry as an artform does make its way into speeches, newspaper articles and particularly when paired with music, into song. So maybe it’s not poetry you’ve written off, just the idea of it.

April is national poetry month and I would like to be your curator composing my own Annelies anthology of poems. This is not your Norton’s Anthology, and by now, if you stop here often, you might notice I’m a fan of multicultural food, traveling to other parts of the world and international poetry. Shoot, I’m an associate editor for Poetry International, a fantastic annual journal of poems from around the world.

And I want to get you excited about, if not think twice about poetry.

I guarantee every poem will probably not resonate with you and that’s okay. But just maybe, you will hear something that rings true to you. Something that makes your pulse quicken or even makes you tear up. My appreciation for poetry’s complexity and simplicity only grows with time.

If you stick with me through the month, I will share a panoply of poems and think it will be quite a journey.  I may try to pair up poems with recipes- the story-telling need not stop because the form is shorter or different.



The Guitar
Federico Garcia Lorca from Lorca & Jimenez

The crying of the guitar
The goblets
of the dawn break.
The crying of the guitar
No use to stop it.
It is impossible
to stop it.
It cries repeating itself
as the water cries,
as the wind cries
over the snow.
It is impossible
to stop it.
It is crying for things
far off.
The warm sand of the South
that asks for white camellias.
For the arrow with nothing to hit,
the evening with no dawn coming,
and the first bird of all dead
on the branch,
Heart wounded, gravely,
by five swords.


Bookbinding Bender


“We might not be a good match if I write you a poem and you think we’re getting married.”

Wearing all the brassiness and bravado I could muster, I retorted, “Well, what if I write you a poem?”

Thus began the early workings of a relationship in motion. On our first date, out came a beloved spine of Blake poems. We canoodled over Rilke and Jaroslav Seifert.

Our love of words in collusion, our growing love of each other only increased that sharedness of mine ours.

It might go without saying my first gift to Beck at the outset of dating was a journal: the way he took care of his books told me a lot about how he takes care of his women.

To this day, his eyes light up at the sight of fresh journals with the grand possibilities of worlds yet unexplored. My Beck is conquistador and matador of words, spearing them into submission.

For our wedding, it had been my intention to make him a journal from scratch. I headed to my favorite paper store and conspired with my favorite seller of papered goods. I fingered Japanese papers gilt and expensive. Surveying bumpy textures from bright graphics, Sunday afternoons became my delicious secret. Alone to my schemes, I paired papers with book cloth looking for that supreme combination that would spell Beck. After signing up for a class on bookbinding, I felt set.

As life sometimes goes, the wedding had other plans and I put my project on hold. The holidays marched on, class and materials all but forgotten until one day they weren’t.

I met up with my favorite papered products seller to learn book binding 101 at a local arts community space. Over the course of an hour and a half one Saturday night, we cut and folded, affixed adhesive and pressed down the paper and book cloth.



His journal finished, I felt the giddiness of Fred Astaire tapping his heels with satisfaction and glee. Here, this delicious secret gestated until Valentine’s was nigh.

Beck’s eyes drank in the bright blood red book cloth, the black and white geometric tiles. Could he hear the castanets clicking in the distance? The surge of energy as the bulls entered the arena?


I felt drunk with the joy that comes from having an idea and seeing it through to completion. My hands felt invincible and strong. Something about taking the sum of parts and making a whole energizes and replenishes some carnal desire to create.

The next weekend, I had my work cut out. Sure, I’d made this journal under the trusty eye of my favorite seller of papered goods, but could I do it alone? Like a child left alone to her own devices, I pulled out the scissors and made my phone into a ruler. I traced and measured believing myself to be on my way to bookbinding greatness. Scraps of yellow book cloth dissuaded that same impetuous tenacity of response my Beck saw in our first communication. Somehow I’d mixed up a few steps along the way. This project would need to wait until my frame of mind had settled down. My utter excitement at beginner’s luck had gotten the best of me. For the moment…

This Sunday, I’d felt a bit forlorn. Conversations with friends and a movie under my belt, the evening unfolded ahead of me, full of promise and perfect for a project.

I’d drawn and dated the pages for my 2011 daybook… a perfect cap to the evening.




Watch out world. I’m on a bookbinding bender.

Art Conversations on Art

Art Unexpected

A glass house.

Mark Rothko chapel.

A museum built by disco.

Walker Art Center. (the free outdoor sculpture garden boasts a giant cherry perched on a spoon)

A gigantic balloon dog.

The Fisher Collection (you need a friend who’s a G A P employee at corporate. wink. wink.)

With all these interesting spots, it’s time to venture out!

Art Conversations on Art

Word as Art- R.H. Quaytman

Modern art. Canvas of miniscule stripes atop larger canvas of miniscule stripes. Just another painting hanging at the MOMA. Or is it? Upon closer inspection…

A poem that Borges would like! The artist, R.H. Quaytman we discover has coyly engaged verse from Jack Spicer into his paintings.

CONVERSATIONS ON ART- Word as Art- R.H. Quaytman

It starts, “The poem begins to mirror itself/”
And we as spectators see this to be true in the manner in which the poem is conveyed.

We stand there, drinking in the words, literally reading between the lines because isn’t that what we love about poetry? And we discover the poet singling himself out and wishing to be changed, but recognizing the fallacy of such a desire. And we are suddenly stopped in our tracks with the gravity of his words “Things desert him.  I thought of you / as a butterfly tonight with clipped wings.” In one instant, we feel his abject loneliness. In one instant, his beloved close by but wishing to alight upon the air away from him. It is no accident that he too craves wings and avian form.

The lines become a cage we are peeking into. You never know when you’ll be arrested by word as art.

Art Conversations on Art

Word as Art

In college, I discovered that many things in life are free. Then again came the reality that a whole heck of a lot of things aren’t. Sometime during my sophomore year, I stumbled upon a delicious secret. It kept my weekend evenings regularly packed. It kept me well versed and amused at the theater. I volunteered as an usher. By signing up in advance, taking tickets and pointing paid ticketholders to their seats, I received free entry. As the lights would go down, I would find a nook at the back of the auditorium to watch the play or musical performance. Many good nights were spent in the three theaters on campus.

One evening in particular, I remember ushering with a girl we’ll call Jessica. We’re going to call her Jessica because I don’t actually remember her name. Anyways, she was studying dance at the art school on campus and in between spurts of tearing ticket stubs, we began talking philosophically about what art is. A seemingly innocuous question, ” what are you majoring in?” had taken an unexpected turn. I replied I was studying journalism and poetry. She practically snorted as she quickly responded, “that’s not art.”

For 10 minutes we discussed the fine points of writing as an art form.  Her comment had jostled me to the core. I remember it gestating in my head, distracting me during the performance. Many years later it sits there on the shelf of memories. What could have been one artist talking to another about how their art forms might inform one another ended up being a conundrum of she said, she said. Even after cited attempts of Shakespeare, Woodward and Bernstein, she was unmoved.

Right now we live in interesting times.

The visual form holds our attention so completely that many Americans don’t read. Why read a book when you can see the movie? I have enjoyed my chats with film protagonists and buffs including Sandra and Xavier. I see the visual form as visual storytelling and when done well, what’s not to love. An image can transfix the viewer with such powerful appeal. It tells the viewer what to see when. Some directors show such skill with this medium that you can’t help but be wooed and thusly changed after encountering their work. I love that.

Then again, I live in a city well known for its books and authors. I remember once hearing a statistic that San Franciscans pay per capita more on booze and books than anywhere else in the country. Many people here tout themselves writers “with a book inside, waiting to get out.” And if this is the case, who will read those books?

Cue blogging. Sometimes people stumble upon a person’s blog and find themselves inexorably drawn into the story being told, whether it’s food recipes with photographs that make readers want to lick the screen or whatever appeals to their personal tastes and whims. We live in an age where newspapers are increasingly going from print to online and where books can be printed by the author for a price without having to shop them around to mainstream publishers as the only avenue.

Interesting times indeed.

Several years ago, I developed a fun ritual with my then-roommate Mindy of Tuesday nights as poetry night. See, I knew if she got a taste of it, she might be interested in bigger bites. It didn’t hurt that I scratched her back as we read Billy Corgan, Coleridge and Strand. Night after night, I could count on the television being on, but Tuesday nights, we set aside time for reading poetry aloud. She still mentions how much she loved poetry night.

The need for people to tell their stories is intrinsic and really one of the primary reasons I pursued journalism in the first place. We want details, an insider’s perspective, the close-up shot. If a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps that says more about the quality of the words used. I for one, am a fan of film, but as with that conversation with Jessica so many years ago, am interested in how film can inspire or inform writing. I love the idea of conversation between art forms. And I believe in the power of the word.

Art Conversations on Art

Images a la Sauvette

Last Sunday, the sound of rain pelting the window pane woke me up. Plans to lead a walk along the Golden Gate bridge were definitely off. One of my favorite past times and excuses to love rainy weather is the opportunity to ensconce myself in a museum. Two photography exhibits proved to entice me to visit the MOMA. New friends, Elina and Carolyn accompanied.

Henri Cartier-Bresson first got my attention in graduate school, his photo En Brie hung over my roommate Yoo Mee’s bed. I called her a woman-child, she called me “Chick”. Her mother sometimes called in the middle of the night, not speaking any English and sounding frantic to speak to her daughter. I learned a few select words in Korean to help our phone communication along. The evening I said chamkamanyo in response to the repetitive litany of her daughter’s name, it was met with a brief pause and then a giggle. When Yoo Mee graduated, she left me a bit of herself in the form of Henri C-B.

I arrived at the MOMA expectant and anticipating. Henri Cartier-Bresson photographed Colette and other French literary dignitaries. A room away, a historical photo of Nehru and Lord Mountbatten was framed to the left of a close-up of Gandhi’s funeral pyre. His way with the 35 mm camera set the stage for modern photojournalism and point-and-shoot photography. He called his style “images a la sauvette” which translates to being “caught red-handed.” This also fit the end of the photography exhibit upstairs: “Exposed: voyeurism, surveillance and the camera since 1870.”

The photos in this exhibit really created topics of conversation and brought the museum visitor into the same voyeur stance as the photographer. There is something compelling about watching other people. Babies can sit in front of a television watching video of other baby faces roll by for hours. People watching is infinitely fun, but when does the fun act cross a line of inappropriate. I think we’d all agree that watching people stroll by a window of a coffee house is innocuous. Watching the lit window of a person in a dark evening, not so much. What does privacy look like in today’s world and what should it look like? Do you take the photo if you’re about to catch a murder in progress or try to stop it? A whole room devoted to catching murder and suffering in action turned my stomach and included images of suicides in progress, prisoners of war being put to death. Thankfully only the one room existed and one photographer communicated he took the photo of a POW being killed so the killer could never be lost in obscurity.

One particular project of note involved photographer Nicholas Nixon shooting his wife and her three sisters over the course of 24 years. Along one wall hung the 24 pictures with the sisters standing in the same order, but with time and age marking them. Sometimes the photo showed arms wrapped around each other, other times stoic and not touching. This left an indelible impression because of the thoughtfulness and length of time necessary to finish it. I wondered what this might look like in my own life. If translated into poetry?

Another artist took a job as a housekeeper at a small pensione in Venezia for the express purpose of  snooping through the guests’ staying in the rooms she cleaned. She described her findings with alacrity. This “research” took place over the course of several days. She read one man’s journal and his movements to Venice from France. She watched the orange on his desk become orange peels in his wastebasket a few days later. She photographed his room and along with her writings, it was on display at this museum. Were her actions sanctioned in the name of art? It definitely gave me pause.

Another photographer, Emily Jacir, positioned herself at a square overseas for a series called In Linz and using time lapse photography, placed herself in different spots of the square each day, describing in her cutline, her location in the pre-timed photo. This prescribed breach of privacy may have shown her physical location but did not break into her interior landscape.

Surveillance, voyeurism sees to an extent what it is shown, what it wants to see.  Often, I wonder if we are seeing, rather than just zooming through our lives. Do we see what others might be seeing in our direction? One of the concepts I took away from both exhibits and notably, a favorite reason for loving photography is the act of looking, which is exactly the name of the overall exhibit at the MOMA. If we look around us, what might we see that’s innately there if looked for?

Art Conversations on Art

Open Studio, Open House

Bldg. 116

For Halloween, as my friend Bryan walked to church, I yelled at him across the street, gesticulating wildly and told him about the afternoon planned. A happy captive, he joined me as we set out for the Hunter’s Point artist colony open house and an afternoon of stepping in and out of people’s subconscious. Art shows what is important to the person, like the subject matter that keeps a poet writing different lines about the same thing.

I found myself drawn to the Shipyard Open Studios primarily to see my friend Amanda’s recent foray into painting and collaboration with her mom Lynne, an established painter.

So Bryan, one of my favorite people over the years to drag along to art exhibitions and I drove to Hunter’s Point, the weather warm and sunny. One of the great things about attending an open studio is to see so many different points of view and style.

Bryan taking a quick bite before continuing Open Studio tour

$3 Cold sesame noodles never tasted so good.

Bruce Katz painted a clump of radishes that popped in their pinky-purples. He and I discussed the varying styles represented in his open studio. While the realistic fruits and vegetables he painted invited me in, his Tuscan streets mixed media pieces kept the conversation flowing.

I rediscovered Susan Spies and her abstract paintings. Her work found resonance with me the last time I visited the Shipyard Open Studios several years prior. “Push Pull, Orange” drew me into her studio those three years ago conjuring up blue sky out of a rustle of grey clouds sweeping the canvas. This piece to me communicated a hopefulness in spite of circumstances. The orange square seemed to be a happy pop of color to almost ground it back to earth. This time, her star of the show, “Azure” did the opposite. Its teal and robin’s egg blue tonality evoked a sense of whimsy and fun. Those would be the top notes of the painting. Below the surface, the painting is comforting. It relaxes the eyes, and the very colors remind me of the ocean off of Kauai.

Sharon Beals’ bird and egg photographs make me gasp a little, in a good way. The collection she showed encompassed photographs and still lives of birds including a cheerful looking tanager and many nests of bird eggs. She shot them at the California Academy of Science and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. One part scientific study and the other vantage point felt as if the object had been captured in place for a moment. Some of the nests felt stumbled upon, involving the detritus of the environs in which the nest might have been found. I immediately wanted to buy the lot of them for the dramatic impression they left. Even though the colors might be subtle, they really popped against the black background. Something about her photos in this collection convey life and death dichotomy, showing beauty in both. Her compositions are quite conversational.

Then there’s Amanda. The thing to know about her is she’s a bit loud and brash. She works in sales and thus has a fine-tuned gauge on the best way to speak someone’s language to make the pitch. This, at least, was always the side of her I saw professionally. In 2009, she sustained a big loss and in the same month of 2010, so did I. Where we had talked about having dinner for seven years and never followed through on it, once dinner finally transpired this year we talked over cocktails and talked over dinner. When we finally said goodbye, it had been a five hour gabfest.

She recently took up painting and collaborating with her mom, Lynne Sonenberg. While none of her paintings hung in her mom’s studio, one painting showed detail work and swirled flourishes she incorporated into the work, which is one of two paintings in that series, “The Leap”, inspired by a story of the Lori’s. Both Lori’s were training for a long bike ride in the Wine Country when one of them cycled off a cliff. The other Lori saw her friend’s predicament as it happened and instead of calling 911, she leapt off the edge after her friend. Both sustained injuries and it was that bit of risk in the name of love that inspired the paintings. One shows an abstract figure hurtling over the side of the mountain. And it is at the bottom of this painting that my friend painted her flourishes. It’s fitting really.

Art has its way of sneaking in a side door of a person to help them express the inexpressible. These ephemeral subtleties that art tries to define on canvas, paper or form keep the conversation interesting. Death and life after death can do that to a person. It’s that life after death theme that for me is getting me writing and delving back into creating art on multiple platforms.

Art Quotables


“The artist is the antennae of the race.” (pound)
“You must love your crooked neighbor with a crooked heart.” (auden)
“You don’t choose to be an artist, the art chooses you.” (gioia)
“Poetry is a way of remembering what it would impoverish us to forget.” (frost)
“Art is the light by which human things can be mended.” (murdoch)