Happy Birthday, Mom!

karen mom and meMy mom was a cooking and sewing teacher.  After graduating college, she worked in our hometown as the high school’s home economics teacher.  She couldn’t have been much older than her students and, newly married, she must have gotten a kick out of them calling her “Mrs. —–“. She worked there for two years, then stayed home to raise her five children for another 15 years.  My mom continued to sew, and cook, of course.  My father, the sole provider then, was no good in the kitchen (although he can cook a mean pasta sauce now).  She made a lot of my clothes when I was little, and all of our Halloween costumes (a tradition I have continued).  She was always a good cook, but I remember her baking the best.  My brother once told me he could always count on a few extra dollars on the days Mom packed cookies in his lunch because he would sell them to kids in his class.


#13 1976 colonial girl #12  Me in dress 1973 #11 Bill and I Christmas outfits 1979

When I was 13, my mom returned to work this time as our town’s middle school Home Ec. teacher.  She would eventually wind up teaching the children of that first round of students she taught. 🙂  My mom was voted favorite teacher that first year by my class — an award she would get countless times over in her career.  She was a good teacher; patient, kind, attentive.  Often a student’s first experience in the kitchen would be with my mom.  When I first got on Facebook and touched base  with some of those friends from middle school, they would inevitably ask after my mom.  Some told me they still use her chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Mom had to retire in 2003 after contracting a very rare disease that effected her spinal cord.  She’s been in a wheelchair since.  A lot of people, when faced with a life altering illness, change who they are and their responses to the world around them.  My mom lives with pain every day, but she still somehow manages to be the same person.  She is an inspiration to those who know her — living a life of faith and love.

This woman who inspired countless others has of course inspired me.  I, too, got a degree, worked in my field, then walked away from my career to raise my children.  As my mother before me,  I sewed and cooked for them and my husband (but Terry’s cooking has always been better than mine!)  And as hard as it was, I can’t regret that sacrifice because I know what it meant for me to always have my mom there. As she still is.  Her encouragement of my artwork knows no end.  When I have setbacks, she reminds me that many famous artists are rarely recognized in their lifetime.  {Like I could ever be famous! –but what faith in me!}

For her birthday this year I created my rendition of naturalist John Audubon’s painting, The Greenshank. The building in the background is of particular interest to my folks.  It’s the Castillo De San Marcos — a 17th century fort constructed by the Spanish when they occupied Florida.  It is in St. Augustine, their adopted hometown.  I sent it down with my husband and daughter, who were visiting in time for her birthday this year.  Within a day the folks had it mounted on the wall in their condo. 🙂

full sized quiltGreenshank image


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Another Challenge

living roomA few weeks ago my sister-in-law (a great supporter of my work, as well as a fellow admirer of Halloween) asked intriguing question… why there aren’t more females characters represented at thisIMG_8766 time of year?  Yes we have witches, but that’s not the same as the person of Dracula, or Frankenstein’s monster.  When I glanced around my living room, which I decorated for the season, I noticed the macabre portraits I displayed were of two male writers and a male musician.

So it got me thinking… what female character could I chose that would perfectly reflect the horror of the season? { Here’s a hint — I used one of my authors for inspiration. }


carrie full quilt

I chose the most recent “Carrie” movie to base my quilt on.  Of the three movies, I liked the middle one best for its adherence to the plot of the book —- but I love love LOVED Julianne Moore as the crazy mom in the most recent film!!!  Carrie cut out

I’m a fan of all three “Carrie” movies, but I hold a particular affinity for the book.  I think what I truly love about it is the back story.  Steve felt inspired to try his hand  writing a story from the female perspective, but a few pages in discovered he couldn’t sympathize with the main characters.  He tossed the pages in the trash where his wife Tabby later found them.  After reading those pages, she told him “you’ve got something here” and pushed him to keep at it.  He did.  Nine months later he finished his first novel.  After 30 publishers rejected it, Doubleday purchased its rights, and the rest is history.

I enjoy this back story because it marks the humble beginnings of a truly prolific career.  But I also like it because reflects the relationship between a husband and wife — the mutual support and encouragement that we all need.  🙂


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Posted in Art Quilts, Halloween

Bust of PALLAS

Duh on me!  My wonderfully  brilliant father pointed out to me that the correct quote from the Poe poem is …

Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—

            Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

The funny thing is when I searched online under the “bust of Paris” LOTS of images came up.  Apparently it’s a common mistake (among the ill-informed).  The good news is my Dad caught it before the my pieces arrived at that show {yes, they all got in!} so I could correct the mistake and not appear to be too much of an idiot.

Thanks, Pa!

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Spirits of the Dead

My little brother forwarded me a call for artists he thought I’d be interested in.  It is for an art show inspired by Edgar Allanshortened poe two Poe. Good call, Jac!  The show is in Salem, Massachusetts this fall and is a commemoration of the October 7th anniversary of Poe’s death.

shortened poeI framed two of my previous Poes into the required 16×20 size, then got to work on a piece I had been kicking around for a while.

I’ve had a vision of the raven squatting on the bust of Paris ever since 6th grade when the poem was read to us in class.  It’s haunting.  I wanted to embrace the challenge depicting it for this show and this is what I came up with….

raven upon the bust of paris

I thought I’d post this now even though I haven’t gotten into the show yet.  Working full time has definitely eaten into my creative flow, but I have found time to do a little sewing.  Hopefully I’ll find some more time to blog about other pieces I have worked on over the past few months.  PLUS I have a daughter who has expressed interest in a very complicated Halloween costume — so stay tuned! 🙂

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Everybody’s Quilt Guild

This past Fall I was contacted by a local quilting group (Everybody’s Quilt Guild) to speak at a July meeting about my art quilts.  At the time of the booking, I had returned to school and didn’t yet know where my education would take me.  But I knew that whatever path I ended up on would include sewing, so I gratefully accepted. When I started back to full time work in mid-May I lost some of my drive to work on my art.  The last big piece I had done, The Wage Earner, hadn’t gain much traction out of the blog-o-sphere and I was feeling a bit discouraged.  But in the process of preparing for my talk, I reviewed all the pieces I had done and put them in chronological order.  I have to admit I was astounded at the amount of work I had produced in such a brief period of time.  My first quilted portrait was completed in the Fall of 2012 — that’s not quite 2 years ago.  And despite the part time work, then education schedule, I’ve made 27 quilted portraits, got 12 pieces into shows,  and sold 7 of them!  Not bad.

The show went wonderfully, by the way.  Now I’m not saying it went off without a hitch.  The projector we brought refused to communicate with our computer (which is where mytalking to group power point was stored).  My poor husband rushed to the store, twice.  First to get a replacement cord, then for a replacement projector.  The ladies who ran the meeting were gracious and kept things going until I had all my ducks in a row. The entire time I was surprised at how calm I felt. Terry said it was because I was “talking to my people” 🙂  There must be something to that because in the first 15 seconds I completely discarded my carefully crafted notes.  I had everything written down — I even highlighted the words which led up to the change of slide so my husband would know when to switch frames.  That all fell apart and I had to tap him with my toe (read: give him a slight kick) to get him to switch slides.  It all led to some laughs, which really broke the ice for me.

In order to better explain my process, I created two new picture quilts for the talk.  One quilted, and the other just pieced.  At the end of my talk I demonstrated my process.  It starts with the numbering of my color values….the picking of and labeling corresponding colors …. then the cutting and pasting…. Finally all that work (and a bit of sewing) will result in the final piece…..

A final thank you to the ladies at the Everybody’s Quilt Guild — thanks for listening and being so gracious with your comments and encouragement.  I look forward to working with you in the future. 🙂



jfk 3 fdsdfs









finished quilt

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Migrant Mother

Almost a year ago I was challenged by a fellow artist to “sew what I know”.  She advised that if I created work that inspired me, I would in turn inspire others.  With that in mind I want to share with you my latest piece.  For those of you who do not recognize the original work, this piece is based on an iconic photograph by Depression Era photographer, Dorothea Lange.  Her photo, Migrant Mother (1936), perfectly encapsulates the emotion of the Great Depression.  I think I remember first seeing it in college, but it wasn’t until I had children of my own that I found myself identifying with the woman depicted.

Florence Thompson was the mother of seven children at the time this photograph was taken.  She worked in the fields, following the harvest of the crops in California.  When Dorothea came upon her, she and her family were stranded at a pea farm.  The crops they hoped to pick were frozen and their car’s timing chain had snapped.  The desperation Florence must have been feeling was perfectly captured in Dorthea’s photograph.  What I have chosen to do is modernize this mother’s plight.

I left my chosen field to stay at home and raise my children full time back in 1995.  Over the years I have returned to part time work here and there to help make ends meet and I have discovered something  both daunting andMaho1 depressing.  Given no perks, no regular hours, no real direction and, worst of all, no trust, I found myself working as hard as I could in faceless system. All without hope for true advancement or to have a chance at meaningfully impacting our family’s finances.  I have been fortunate that my husband has remained gainfully employed, and doubly so since he has provided for me the opportunity to return to school and create a new future for my family.  I know many people do not have that option.

So that is why I recreated Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph.  In my opinion, the times haven’t changed all that much.  Today my daughter and I saw a small tent community in the woods off a local highway.  She asked why people were camping on a school day ….



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On ShipRecently I received an email from a student at the college where my nudes are on display.  For his Design Class, he was assigned the task of writing a paper on one of the show’s pieces and chose my “On Ship” as his subject matter.  He had a few questions for me: where did I make my piece (in my living room), is it a recent piece (yes, made for the show) and what was my intent…. Uh oh….  What was my intent?  Why did I chose to depict a naked sailor on a WWII era ship in the middle of the ocean surrounded by a convoy, all done in blacks and whites, except for the American flag and the swirling ocean? Yikes!!  Is this a Freudian question?  Do I have to have an answer?

I thought carefully before responding to Adam.  I tend to not think very deeply about what draws me to a subject matter;  when the inspiration knocks,  I invite it in with open arms. But because I am not a trained artist, I desperately did not want to offend this college student with my lack of conscious effort.  I wrote back that I read about the show in an open calls for artists and  was intrigued to try my hand at a nude figure.  My initial thought on the subject was that through the years, women have had more than their fair share of attention in this regard and I wanted to show a nude male.  In searching public domain figures, I found this naked sailor almost immediately.  Something intrigued me about his smile and I started to think of where I should put him.  As at the beginning of every idea I have for an art piece, I talked with my husband.  He suggested on board a ship and *POW* — the image I ended up with is the one that popped into my head at that moment.  As to why I chose that image and in the setting I placed him in,  I don’t know.  What I wrote to Adam was this….

“I like the idea of art for art’s sake.  I think it is the obligation of the viewer to take from the piece what they will.  After all, you know nothing about me.  I am married to a former Marine who served overseas and on board ship.  I am the granddaughter of a Merchant Marine who traversed the Pacific during WWII.  These are the reasons I was probably drawn to portraying this sailor — but how could you know that?  What is important (to me, at least) is that you liked the piece — something about it drew you to it.  Any further interpretation of it lies with you”.

I was hoping that this explanation did not come across as a cop-out.  It wasn’t.  I wrote what a wrote with a very good friend in mind.  This summer, Lisa drove Carmen and myself into NYC to attend the opening of the show for my ‘Michelle: The First Lady.  At the beginning of a tour of galleries, while everyone was standing around discussing the pieces on display, Lisa turned to me and said “Art makes me feel stupid”.  Lisa is one of the smartest people I know.  She holds a master’s degree and is the Director of Clinical Services in South Orange NJ for Children’s Aid and Family Services.  She is a deep thinker, but art makes her feel dumb.  And I know what she means.  I believe art shouldn’t be something you need to study to simply appreciate.  I am not saying that the study of art is unnecessary – techniques, history, movements — understanding these things is as important as understanding human history.  Art and man’s need to express himself go hand in hand, after all.  But I do like art for art’s sake.  And if it speaks to you, makes you smile, if it holds a message for you — then that’s the art for me.

Adam wrote back (it was weeks later and I was really afraid I had offended him – but Terry reminded me I was dealing with a college student 😉 ).  He thanked me for my reply and said “It is finals week and I’m totally bub admires artdelirious. I’ll send you a copy of my highly complimentary report as soon I’m finished with it.  Thanks again for submitting your picture. It made me truly happy”.  My piece spoke to someone and made them happy.  What more could I ask for?

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