January 28: I have been delayed in keeping up this blog because of a potential move and the recent political changes. Stay tuned!
September 4: another blog entry, this one on Year Seventeen of writing the Quaker Artists columns, has been added. A review of Richard Nixon has also been added.
I plan to add a Blog entry at least weekly from now, around Sunday. As well, I will be posting a new piece on Friendly art or artists monthly in Quaker Artists 3.
This blog is about the book Quaker Artists. I regard writing as a garden in which I work. So in this blog I may continue to adjust words, remove words, add words, switch the order of entries, etc., etc. (Even after I have posted them to the website). As I become more familiar with website tools, I will be altering the look as well. (I am a painter, too, and design is important!) The garden is always growing. It will change. Feel free to return.
(Original cover of Quaker Artists, drawn by me, for the first edition of Quaker Artists, in 1992, is to right).
March 26, 2016
In my early twenties I was becoming serious about both my art and Quakerism. It seemed natural to bring the two together so I began collecting material on Friendly art and artists. In 1983 I started editing the McHenry County (IYM) Meeting newsletter and wrote the first Quaker Artist column. This was on Walt Whitman. (After I checked my archives, I discovered that the first QA piece was not James Dean as I posted recently). And 33 years later I still scribble them once a month!
April 5, 2016
The Quaker Artists columns quickly became a delight to write. Since I had the opportunity to share them with the small community of McHenry County Meeting Quakers in our newsletter, I set myself a goal of writing them once a month. (Though, as I carried a concern for outreach, our newsletter got sent to a fair number of non-Friends). In reviewing my archives, I find that I covered a mixed group that first year: Walt Whitman, James Dean, Thomas Merton, Joan Baez, Joy Povolny, Jean Toomer, William Bartram, Ned Rorem, Daisy Newman, Pieter Byhouwer, Joan Slonczewski and Elizabeth House. In turn, a poet, actor, essayist, musician, poet, essayist, musician, novelist, poet, novelist and clown. Some were famous; some were IYM Friends I met at our annual sessions. I was fascinated to learn more about artists who were both well-known and Friends. I enjoyed the whimsy of writing about whoever interested me. I set myself no limits other than I didn’t want to write about the usual suspects, like Fox, Woolman or Jones. (I would cover them many years later, however, when it came time to publish the second edition of Quaker Artists).
April 12, 2016
In reviewing the second year’s list of Quaker Artists columns, I remember discovering what became some of my favorite columns. The Angel and the Badman was a fascinating RKO western, wherein John Wayne, an outlaw, fell in love with Gail Russell, a Quaker girl. It was very deftly and faithfully done. Sylvia Shaw Judson, the sculptor, created wonderful things. I was so impressed that I placed her as the last artist in both the first and second editions of the book as a sort of climax. I was excited to find that the actor Ben Kingsley worshiped at Stratford Meeting. I also wrote about Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s caustic reference to Friends in The First Circle. Solzhenitsyn’s column never made it into either the first or second edition because I thought the account was peripheral. But perhaps I should revive it. It was curious and not altogether off the mark.
April 25, 2016
The third year’s worth of columns began to explore early Quakers, among others. I discovered the fascinating story of Solomon Eccles, a fabulously talented musician who turned against his art; and Thomas Story, an early poet. I wrote about Edward Hicks and John Greenleaf Whittier. As well, I reported on more popular art and artists like Jessamyn West, Friendly Persuasion, and Brinton Turkle. A piece on “Journals, Crafts and Lifestyles” was not published in the second edition of Quaker Artists but instead folded into the Quaker art history section. For the first time I wrote about a Friend I knew personally: Mary Fyfe, a weaver.
By the third year I had adopted a process for writing the QA columns. I gathered as much source material as I could. I wrote everything down that seemed interesting on a single sheet of paper, prefaced by the ¶ sign, and in my own shorthand, a version generally dropping vowels; using occasional other signs, like &; and employing substitutions, such as “r” for are or “n” for and. (Because I wrote so much, the shorthand was very helpful). Then I organized the material into sections, prefaced by the ¶ sign, like Who (they were), Quaker (connections), (My) Opinion. I wrote the column as quickly but as well as I could. I left it alone for a day or so. Then I returned to it with fresh eyes for a second and final draft. Years later, when I turned to publishing the pieces in the first edition of Quaker Artists, I added material that had since become available or revised it a little more. It was a speedy and efficient method. I transferred the writing quickly, pausing, then revising to my fiction, too.
Sorry for the delay in a new installment in the blog. I have been wrapped up in working on the local Teen Peace Jam for Plowshare Peace Center!
May 2, 2016
The fourth year I wrote Quaker Artists columns, they continued to range widely: Founding Friends, Quietist Friends and Modern Friends as well as novelists, painters, film-makers, sculptors, poets, dancers and musicians. I loved Lucy Talley’s haunting films. I was fascinated to learn about James Michener’s Quaker background. I was knocked out to discover June Yungblut’s dancing and Charles “Lucky” Roberts’s jazz music. And I loved the story of Bernard Barton, a poet who was called “the versifying man” by a Friend and then gently rebuked by the Friend’s comment: “that is a thing quite out of way!” (Charles Roberts is to the right).
May 20, 2016
I began researching and thinking about Norman Morrison during the fifth year of columns. Morrison burned himself to death in November 1965 in protest of the Vietnam War. I discovered two plays about him, US and Fire. He would continue to haunt me, and I would write several other pieces about him over the years. (Morrison is pictured at right). Henry Taylor, a Pulitzer Prize poet, and Marcus Mote, a wonderful painter from the 19th century were featured. And Doris Peters, a great painter and one of my all time favorite Quakers, was shared with Friends. And I was barely getting started!
May 29, 2016
Year Six was a year of new categories of art I covered Bruce Dienes, my first photographer; Ken Laughlin, my first comedian; Erik Howenstine, my first potter; and Joan Slonczewski, my first science fiction writer. I was happy to write about Bonnie Raitt, a long-time favorite of mine, ever since the 1972 Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival.
June 13, 2016
When I first began writing about Friendly art and artists, I avoided exploring early Quakers. (Aside from a few scattered columns here and there). Those Friends, wonderful as they were, were the ones whom everyone wrote about. I wanted to share art and artists that were not the usual suspects. In Year Seven, that is, 1991-1992, however, I deliberately turned back to those Founding Friends. I studied and wrote about William Penn, Margaret Fell and Thomas Ellwood. They turned out to be as fascinating as contemporary Quakers, of course. And this led to me to delve into other Friends from our Founding and Quietist Periods as I continued to write on this subject. As well, I published pieces on Winifred Rawlins and Elizabeth Yates, fine poets. And on Quaker stained glass! (To the right is the Presence in the Midst panel from Garden Grove Friends Church in California).
June 19, 2016
1992 was the year I published the first edition of Quaker Artists. (And Year Eight of writing the columns that would go into the book). I had mostly written about modern North American and European Friends. With that in mind and the book’s forthcoming publication, I delved again into Early Friends (Burroughs, Stubbs, Early Portraits, Crisp); Quietist Friends (Darby, Opie, Harvey, Scott, Wistar, Thornton, Southall); and diverse Friends (Brooks, Chinese Friends). I wrote a few sentimental pieces (Ponce’s Girl on Subway, a goodbye to Chicago; and McCandless, an exuberant poet). I actually wrote more than my allotment of a dozen columns a year so as to add more material to the book.
And in May 1992 the first edition of Quaker Artists was published in Columbia, South Carolina. It was typed on a typewriter; scotch-taped with drawings and photos; produced on a copier at Kinko’s; punched with heavy-duty staples; and taped at the edge to cover the staples. I was disappointed that it didn’t look like I had hoped. In fact, it looked a little cheesy. But I was so excited to smell and feel the new books. I began peddling them to local Friends and through ads to Friends Meetings. (Signed and numbered…..) Friends Journal and Quaker Life published positive reviews. Fellowship of Quaker Artists featured an excerpt on their website and in Types and Shadows, their magazine. Orders began coming in. I had a book published!
(Helen Morgan Brooks is to the right).
July 2, 2016
Year Nine of writing the Quaker Artists columns was really the beginning of the second edition of the Quaker Artists book. I had met Signe Wilkinson, a cartoonist who had just won a Pulitzer Prize, at the 1992 Friends General Conference Gathering so the very first piece I wrote for the second edition was a piece on her wonderful ‘toons. Unfortunately, for various reasons and after considerable struggle, that next edition wouldn’t emerge until 2015! (Signe kindly gave me permission to include a self-portrait in the second edition, which is featured at right).
I wanted to explore Friendly artists beside North Americans and British ones so I wrote about Clive Sansom, the Australian poet. I continued to write about past Friends: Samuel Lucas and Patience Wright as well as the prominent Quaker cabinetmakers in Philadelphia and Newport; the color of Quaker Gray; the anti-Orthodox Friends play The Intolerants; and the “Am I Not a Man and a Brother” emblem and print.
And all the while I was busy peddling the first edition of Quaker Artists!
July 16, 2016
In 1994 and 1995 I continued to publish Quaker Artists columns, still in the Columbia Friends newsletter and then in in the Fifteenth Street newsletter in New York City. I delved again into Early and Quietist Friends: the Grimké sisters; Quaker Idylls, John Collins, Silhouettes, and Early Poets. A highlight for me was a three part series on Early Friends and Music; Quietist Friends and Music; and Modern Friends and Music. I discovered some fascinating stories about the journey of Quakers regarding music. I was pleased to write a piece on William Bacon Evans, a poet, plain Friend and whimsical character, who I found very endearing. (A picture of him wherein he wears a broadbrim hat but has a trick arrow-through-his head is featured at the right).
July 17, 2016
In Year Eleven I wanted to explore foreign Friends. I managed to find material on Sok Hon-Ham, a Korean; Emilia Fogelkou, a Norwegian; and Heberto Sein, a Mexican (and Aztec). In addition, I wrote about about more Quietist Friends: John Fenimore Cooper; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Benjamin Franklin; and White Hart Courthouse Meeting. (The Quietist artists all had Friendly connections, though they were not members). I also did a fascinating piece on the Quaker art of gardening. So I continued to expand the palette! (Above is the painting White Hart Court Meeting, c. 1730).
July 27, 2016
I delved mostly into Founding and Quietist Friends as I continued to write the QA pieces for the twelfth year of my labors. They included: a pair of scissors and letter-opener from the Bath Museum in the United Kingdom; a Penn William wampum belt; Charles Brockden Browne; the Fair Quaker and the Sincere Quaker; John Lilburne; John Kelsey and Rebecca Scattergood Savery. A few Modern Friends were featured, too: Emily Cooper; Kim Bennet; Sam Freund; and the poem Brotherly Love. It was Brotherly Love, a contemporary poem, that moved me very much. Here is an excerpt:
beseech/a gift of tongues/that words bear/witness, true/to what we hear/chiefly in silence/before and after/speech now, as/these letters/whiten the space/ surrounding them.
To the right is Daniel Hoffman, the poet of Brotherly Love.
August (Posted August 28, 2016)
In Year Thirteen, 1997-1998, I poked into some curious manifestations of Quaker art: the Quaker Oats Man; and the Liberty Bell. I also continued to poke into older art: Quaker Shillings, A Quaker Funeral, John Endicott, and Quaker Clock- and Instrument-making. I was especially delighted that year to write about James Turrell’s art of light. The Norman Morrison stamp was issued by the Democratic Republic of North Vietnam. (Morrison burned himself to death at the Pentagon in November 1965 in protest of the Vietnam War). When the Vietnamese government gave me permission to include it in the second edition of Quaker Artists, the embassy official referred to the war as “that unfortunate time in our history”. I was very moved by that. And then there was “Popeye the Quaker Man”. (Pictured to right)
August (Posted August 28, 2016)
Year Fourteen -1998 to 1999 -I wrote about some interesting subjects. Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty. (She is shown at right). Westtown students created ornate needlework samplers. (Years later I saw examples in the Abby Aldrich Museum in Williamsburg). Old Broadbrim was a Quaker detective in 19th century dime novels. The Prince and the Quakeress recounted the story of the marriage of King George III and a Quaker maiden. I was delighted to explore the history of Friends broadbrims and bonnets in a pair of columns.
That year I also began thinking about creating a second edition. By then I had collected more than 70 new pieces about Quaker art.
August 20, 2016
Year Fifteen I made use of the internet, in a big way, for the first time. I had been wanting to do a piece on Jenna Oterdahl, a leading Swedish poet and Friend, for years. But I thought I would have to learn Swedish or find someone who could speak Swedish to communicate with Friends there. Or at least do so to translate Oterdahl’s poetry. I would also have to find an address for Sweden Yearly Meeting. At last, however, I thought I would try using the internet. ( I had recently acquired a computer). So I found an email address for Sweden Yearly Meeting and posted an inquiry asking whether anyone had known Oterdahl and could send me some of her poetry. The next morning I received a response from Stockholm. A Friend kindly replied, “Yes! I knew Jenna!” and promised me to send details about her and English translations of her poetry. And, sure enough, two days later, another email delivered the information. I was able to write a column on Oterdahl quite easily!
Some other fascinating pieces I wrote that year were on an alleged portrait of John Woolman; Gerard Hoffnung, a cartoonist and musician; Gulielma Penn and her lute; and Maxfield Parrish, the painter. Finally, the distressing cartoons, drawn during the Separations, attacking Orthodox Friends….
And I thought again that I should get going on the second edition of Quaker Artists.
(Above is the alleged portrait of John Woolman).
August 22, 2016
Year Sixteen, 2000-2001, I wrote about some delightful subjects. I found that Monopoly had been invented by Quakers. I covered some Friends who were famous: Dave Matthews, Sandra Boynton and Annie Oakley. I also wrote about a terrible Law and Order, in which Friends were portrayed as defending a rapist. (It was a bit more complicated than that). But when I emailed the scriptwriter, he didn’t really offer an explanation for his plot and then didn’t respond further. And, finally, I wrote to Judi Dench to see which Friends Meeting she attended. She responded that she didn’t want me to write about her Quaker background….
In 2001 I began working on the second edition of Quaker Artists in a basement office in Flushing, Queens. I used a scanner there that a Green Party friend had lent me. I thought it would enable me to produce the book more quickly if I could just scan in the first edition. Little did I know what lay ahead for me!
September 4, 2016
Year Seventeen -2001-2002 -was a mixture: Founding Period (Isaac Penington); Quietist Period (Caroline Stephen, Quaker Martyrs Monument, Joseph Southall); and Modern Period (Alivia Biko, Emily My Child, Valerie Taylor, The Quaker Graveyard at Nantucket, In Good King Charles Golden Days, Sabrina Jones). Alivia Biko’s music was wonderful. Sabrina Jones’s cartoons were remarkable. Emily My Child was an especially affecting poem by To Huu, the Vietnamese poet, about Norman Morrison.
A great focus that year was my work on the second edition of Quaker Artists. I had been able to scan in and correct the text of the first edition. But I began to run into problems with scanning images and formatting text due to my lack of computer experience. And what a wave of information was available from the internet to update the old columns!
(To right is my good friend Alivia Biko).