Fingerprints and Freedom


Elvis Costello -
Elvis Costello – Photo Credit: Mary McCartney Donald

“Who put these fingerprints on my imagination?” – Elvis Costello –

How many times have you come to the turn of the New Year and approached it in the same manner as all the others? If your approach yields good results at the end of 364 days, then by all means, keep doing the same thing. If, on the other hand, you find yourself like me, staring at a planner six days into the New Year (an all too familiar situation) looking at a week full of well-laid plans that have all gone awry, it is truly time to rethink the whole “this time I’ll get it right for sure” attitude.

As I stare at my planner and the blank page upon which I now write, I can’t help but think of the quote by Elvis Costello with which I headed this post. I have a tremendous imagination. If I didn’t, I would be a lousy writer. Yet in so many circumstances that occur off of the page (planning my year or my day, running my blogs the way that feels and works best for me), I seem to feel that other people’s approach is the only way to go – after all, they’ve been successful at it.

Other people praise and advocate the method of planning out one’s day with precision, laying out a blog chart of specific content and its release date, of following a specific regimen for one’s business or life or fitness. As much of a planning junkie as I am (I truly do love for things to run on schedule and as planned), I am reminded every day that my life at this time does not work that way and that every time I try to make my life and my art fit into other people’s methods, I fail miserably. I fail, not at my life, but at my life their way.

I have spent the past five days trying to write this post according to a schedule I set for myself according to all of the Gurus’ advice, on a topic I thought was required, and in a style that just didn’t suit me. With so much inherent pressure working against my very nature, I realize that I set myself up for failure. I finally found myself shaking my head and asking, “Who put these fingerprints on my imagination?”

This question is one that I kept myself from asking last year yet struggled with the sense of pressure and failure nonetheless. This year, I will write more regularly, trying to stick to the schedule I planned because it is a good one; one that will stretch me out of my comfort zone and one that will allow you and me to touch base more often. This year, I will not shy away from monthly themes; rather, I will use my smudge-free imagination to stretch those themes in any direction they take me. This year, I will work hard to remind myself that it is O.K. if what works for other people does not work for me; that there is a version of their advice or their example that will work for me and that I will find it by using my imagination.

Happy New Year, Everyone. May the year ahead be infinitely better than you could ever dream.

Cathleen Recommends – Scott Yoo’s Now Hear This


Vivaldi

Hello, Everyone. I am just popping in to recommend you watch the video below. Truly eye-opening. I just watched it twice, end to end. Wow.

Now Hear This “Vivaldi: Something Completely Different”

Please let me know what you think of it. What was your favorite moment? What did you learn that most affected you?

Have a lovely day,

Cathleen

Keeping Thyme with Mozart


by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Mirabell Garten in Salzburg, Austria

 

“Harp of the North! that moldering long hast hung

On the witch-elm that shades Saint Fillan’s spring,

And down the fitful breeze thy numbers flung,

Till envious ivy did around thee cling, Muffling with verdant ringlet every string–“

Sir Walter Scott, Lady of the Lake –

Many years ago, I spent six months in Salzburg, as many students do in cities all over the world, spending my junior year in college (“Uni” to my European readers) abroad. As a Political Science and German double major, it was perfect. Salzburg is enchanting; a place that felt like home before I finished plunking my suitcase on the bed and settling in. To this day, lo these many years hence, I still get homesick every year as freshly and deeply as I did when I first had to leave for home after my Time-of-Enchantment was over.

These feelings of adventure and homesickness for Salzburg have been stirred anew at the return of a dear friend from a trip to Sicily, Italy – one in which the place attached itself to her heart as Salzburg has mine. She even sent me a video clip of a violinist rehearsing in a church before a wedding which, naturally, brought back memories of the music of Salzburg and my own experiences attending classmates auditions at the Mozartium, or listening to these same classmates playing Violin for the crowds on a whim by the magnificent fountain in the Rezidenzplatz, or attending a concert of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik at the university.

Yesterday morning, I was out in the garden to tend to all the work that needed doing after being forced inside for much of the summer due to either extreme high temperatures or heavy rains. As I was cleaning out the fire pit basin, relieving it of the ashes of past campfires, I noticed how small the brick area underneath it seemed. “I could have sworn that I made this area much bigger,” I thought as I bent down for further inspection. As it turns out, with my neglect in tending the garden, the grass and creeping thyme had taken over; encroaching on half of the brick floor I worked so hard to lay in order to provide a safe place to gather around the fire.

In my efforts to reclaim my little fire pit’s brick safety flooring from Nature’s and Time’s progression, I began to realize that a similar encroachment had been happening in my life. With all the balancing of work, home, writing, family, friends, and health that happen in everyday life, I had become neglectful of my inner fire and its safety flooring. I had become complacent about keeping the grasses and creeping thyme at bay; from the envious ivy encircling its verdant ringlets around the strings of my Harp of the North, thereby muffling my melodies in the form of physical exhaustion, or of ill health, or of the need for mental down-time to clear away the demands of the day.

With this newfound understanding, I immediately turned to Herr Mozart and his Little Serenade to energize me with its uplifting tempos and remind me of my love of adventure and all the courage it took for me to make the trip to Salzburg all those years ago. I have been reminded, not only of a place far away that, after all these years, is home to me, but also of the home I have always had here and the need to connect with, maintain, and care for my home here and now. This home maintenance includes the maintenance of relationships, of my health, and of my writing. So, happily, I embark on a new journey that will bring me that much more joy and contentment, music and memories to last another lifetime mingling with those of years past, composing quite a little serenade of my own.

 

Winter Lessons from Vivaldi


by Cathleen Elise Rossiter


New York City Ballet – The Nutcracker

Allegro
To tremble from cold in the icy snow, 
In the harsh breath of a horrid wind; 
To run, stamping one’s feet every moment, 
Our teeth chattering in the extreme cold 

Largo 
Before the fire to pass peaceful, 
Contented days while the rain outside pours down. 

Allegro 
We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously, 
for fear of tripping and falling. 
Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground and, 
rising, hasten on across the ice lest it cracks up. 
We feel the chill north winds course through the home 
despite the locked and bolted doors… 
this is winter, which nonetheless 
brings its own delights. 

Winter, from Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons              
As another year concludes, I find myself in the predicament of having not written for a bit more than the year that has slipped by me, day upon day piling up like snowfall on a mid-winter’s night.  Thus, I felt it fitting that I begin and end this year with a tribute to winter and the lessons I have learned in the time since my last visit to the written page.

I find it also fitting that I frame these lessons in terms of Vivaldi’s fourth season, so as I write, Winter plays on a continuous loop (here is the link to the piece). As many of you may remember, I posted a series about the four lessons I learned from Antonio Vivaldi’s composition of Spring from his Four Seasons concerti.

The past year and a bit has been rife with obstacles to my writing, either physically due to severe constraints and demands on my time or presence elsewhere or emotionally due to too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen sapping me of my creative energy and motivation, depriving me of the space I need and the oxygen that writing is for me; creating a fear of writing because one or more of the proverbial cooks will criticize it for this or that reason or miss the point entirely. I felt as though I were in the midst of the Blizzard of ’76 stuck outside in the ice and cold as the snow poured from the sky, covering me entirely, rendering me invisible.

Simultaneously, my tenacious creativity poured forth its own blizzard of ideas that (unlike Signore Vivaldi’s snow and rain which fell on frozen ground) quickly melted as they fell to the terra firma of my mind burning with the aforementioned fear of putting thoughts onto paper. Strangely, the feeling of being cold, wet, frozen, and limping from a fall on the ice with the ever-present fear of the ice cracking underfoot is strangely similar to the emotions I feel as I listen to the symphony playing in the background.

Yet in the midst of all this cold, isolation, and fear, I recall that I have been happy and hopeful; that I have seen beauty in the snowfall and comfort in front of the fire despite the wind’s defiance of the doors securely bolted against it. I find comfort in the sense of protection that being snowed-in produces, as if wrapped in warm blankets safe from assailing forces outside. I find many reasons to dance among the snowflakes, celebrating each one’s unique beauty, grateful for the life-sustaining water they provide for all the new growth that will happen in springtime.

Capturing Nature’s Art


Capturing Nature’s Art

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

 

Maine Summer - Nita Leger Casey

Maine Summer by Nita Leger Casey

Life is like a landscape. You live in the midst of it but can only describe it from the vantage point of distance.” – Charles Lindbergh –  

 

Recently, I had the pleasure and the privilege of being able to join some friends on a scenic, meandering drive along Maine’s coast, among tiny, hidden coves, past endless acres of pasture draped over the earth like Sir Walter Raleigh’s velvet cape over a puddle, the ocean lapping against the verdant fringe. During the drive, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The further along our drive we went – and the further away from centers of activity – the quieter and more introspective we became. The excited chatter of friends catching-up gave way to silence laced with internal expressions of awe that couldn’t be contained.

What is this fascination we humans have with landscapes? Since the time of the Greeks and Romans at the very least, cultures have made a point of depicting their natural surroundings. These early attempts captured gardens and various ways that man curtailed nature – a form of bragging or of preserving one’s hard work eternally. By the sixteenth century, the focus changed to depicting the unaltered beauty of nature as the subject of the painting rather than as the customary backdrop for important personages or events of the times.

Landscapes, live or captured on canvas, bring peace to our bodies, minds, and souls, drawing us away from the visible and audible noise that pervades our daily lives. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that as most landscapes are predominantly filled with green – one of the few colors on the spectrum that requires the brain to do no work – thereby producing a sense of calm, abundance, and refreshment within our weary selves. A lush landscape also lets our brain know that water, therefore food, is abundant, relieving us from another form of stress and worry.

During my lifetime, the landscapes I have seen – filled with singing birds, whispering trees, and periods of activity and rest – have reminded me that there are infinite opportunities during our struggle to survive to find happiness, spread a little joy, and gain a sense of security in the knowledge that we have everything we need for today. The art of landscape painting is a way to capture the peace and joy we feel in the natural world; to bring with us that reminder of our choice to be optimistic and happy; to pause, breathe deeply, and appreciate the moment.

The Golden Thread: Five Artists. Five Approaches. One Goal.


The Golden Thread: Five Artists. Five Approaches. One Goal.

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Chaos - 1875 George Frederick Watts
George Frederic Watts – Chaos

To name an object is to suppress three quarters of the enjoyment to be found in the poem … Suggestion, that is the dream.” – Stéphane Mallarme’

The discovery of the treasures buried within a particular work of art – be it painting, sculpture, music, literature, theater, or any other creative expression of a soul – is, like life, a journey. Along this journey, we find help and inspiration from those who have previously traveled the road upon which we find ourselves. Frequently, if we remain open, this help and inspiration comes from unexpected and seemingly incongruous places. Such is the thrill of discovery.

In my last post, I stated that this year I would write about the discoveries I made, the lessons I learned from the artist whose birthday fell on the date of the post. As February did not see a posting, I decided to look collectively at the artists who would have had their own, separate posting to find a commonality, a creative thread binding random strangers through the ages.

Three of the four artists about whom I was to write – George Frederick Watts, Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin, and J.J.P. Oud – were born in the same century yet lived in different eras (1817-1904, 1841-1927, and 1890-1963 respectively). Each of the four artists – Giovanni “Guercino” Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666) being the fourth – came from different countries and cultures (England, France, Holland, and Italy, again respectively) as well as global social realities. Added to the mix are my variables of era, country of origin, culture, philosophy, and global social realities. How can we have anything in common? What possible creative thread could there be woven into our tapestries that connects us through the expanse of centuries?

The best way, I find, to discover this golden strand running through our lives, connecting our creative endeavors, binding our souls is to explore each section closely then step back to see the entire picture in its full scope.

Mr. Barbieri was a naturalist as heart. His paintings were noted for their luminous qualities and lively style yet contained a delightfulness and muted gentleness not found in the works of his peers. As a Naturalist, he sought to depict the subject of his paintings in its natural setting and with as much of a realistic feel as possible. Stylized, romantic manipulation of subject and/or setting, in vogue at the time, would not do for him. Beauty comes from truth; therefore, the truth is what he sought to put on the canvas.

Guercino - Hironymus
Guercino – Hironymus

Two centuries later, we happen upon Mr. Watts, Msr. Guillaumin, and Mr. Oud; each trying to discover, reveal, express, or explore Truth – a particular truth that their respective life experiences brought them to and which their societies (in general, artistically, spiritually, or in other fashions) tried to hide or avoid through strict conventions.

Mr. Watts, a painter and sculptor of the Symbolist Movement, was in search of a way to reveal the inner truths and energies that compose Life, affect and are effected by evolution. Mr. Watts, inspired by Michalangelo’s Cistine Chapel, envisioned his works on one enormous canvas; a self-contained, continuous allegory of truth upon which mankind could ponder. In spite of his inability to conquer some of the constraints he faced, specifically that of finding a space large enough to encompass his vision thereby forcing him to break up his colossal dream into smaller units, Mr. Watts overcame the constraints of convention through developing new techniques with which to depict classical traditions. He overcame the constraints of public opinion by opening his own museum as a way to familiarize the public with his philosophy and methods.

Industry-and-Greed,-1900 - George Fredric Watts

Industry and Greed – George Fredric Watts, 1900

Msr. Guillaumin – an active member of the Impressionist Movement, friend of Camille Pissaro, and major influence on Vincent van Gough – sought the truth of the moment as felt through the impression left by the experience. Msr. Guillaumine’s paintings (as did those of other Impressionists) sought to strip away the extraneous details that clog the senses, depriving the viewer of the momentary sensory effect of the scene, of the moment of truth.

iguilla001p4

The Bridge of Louis Philippe oil on canvas by Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin 1875

 

J. P. Oud – an architect, writer, and original member of the de Stijl movement- like other creative souls of his era, sought his truth in a minimalist, pared-down approach to life resulting from the chaos of the First World War. Art was a means of personal transformation of the soul and spiritual redemption. The focus of creating the art was that of universal truth and understanding versus the pursuit of individual sensory pleasure in an attempt to bring harmony out of the chaos of the war.

JJP Oud Rear view of Weissenhof Row Houses in Stuttgart

JJP Oud Rear view of Weissenhof Row Houses in Stuttgart

Each of these men sought to explore and express Truth in a manner that would allow each person who viewed his work to explore Truth, to internalize it through his creative expression and become a better, more enlightened, more understanding person in the end.

Each of these men found that their visions, beliefs, and philosophies could not come to life nor thrive under the thumb of the conventions and dictates of the artistic and societal times. These conventions and dictates were, and are, the equivalent of naming a thing, of stripping it of the enjoyment of discovery and confining the soul of the piece to the box into which the name places it, from which it must never stray.

Enter the twenty-first century. Enter Cathleen Elise Rossiter, a writer with a passion for truth and art and the lessons contained therein from which to learn and grow. My pursuit of truth has taught me the fine art of paring-down and de-cluttering in order to unearth the core, the essence of a person, place, or thing. My quest has taught me that somewhere in all of us lies the need to express and expose the truth of our lives, our communities, our times. Some have an easier time suppressing this need. Others fall on the opposite end of the spectrum, finding it impossible to leave the truth hidden, unexposed. Somewhere in all of us, we rebel at the names we have been given, be it on the playground, within our families, in the boardroom, or by some random stranger who feels it necessary to judge us as we pass by.

I fully understand the need to name things. Naming a thing brings with it a sense of security since we rarely fear that which we know. When faced with an unknown yet nagging truth lurking in the shadows, beneath the surface, or around the corner, human beings find it easier to avoid the fear of the unknown. We tend to do this by giving the-thing-to-be-feared a name that makes it easy to accept and explain. Yet, as Msr. Mellarme’ shows us in the quote at the beginning of this post, when we give a name to a thing we give it a specific definition; we close the door on further exploration  and discovery of the thing because the name, the definition creates a sense of finality, of completion.

In a world so full of others telling us what to think, believe, and ascribe to, I am grateful to those brave enough to suggest a line of thinking through the uncluttered depiction thereof and the freedom to enter the discussion and wander around at will to form my own impressions in my own style, at my own pace. I am grateful for the respect with which these artists treat me (and every viewer) in allowing me to use my intellect – trusting me to do so – to see the truth they are trying to expose, trusting me to do the right thing with this truth.

 

 

 

New Year, New Possibilities: Through the Eyes of Kees van Dongen


Happy St. Valentine’s Day!  

A note about the post below: You will notice that this was written a few weeks ago. Balancing my writing with the other responsibilities that make up life in general is proving to be a challenge. Sadly, life-in-general wins out more often than not. I am working on making this a much less frequent occurrence as we move through the year so fear not, dear readers and faithful friends, you are not forgotten – I am simply not as super-human as I imagine myself to be.  Thank you all so much for your continued readership in spite of my long absence. Your faithfulness is truly inspiring.


New Year, New Possibilities: Through the Eyes of Kees van Dongen

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

maria-kees-van-dongen
Maria by Kees van Dongen

It is very difficult to paint as light and bright as nature. It is so easy to dirty the painting. So we used pure colors, sometimes brutal in their intensity.” – Kees van Dongen, February 8, 1960 article in Life Magazine.

As we near the end of January in this new year of 2017, I return to you after a long hiatus – full of hope, full of excitement, full of possibilities. My time away from you has been filled with challenges of various sorts and the subsequent soul-searching required in order to come out of them a better person. What one inevitably feels at the end of a struggle from which one has reigned victorious is a sense of strength and of infinite possibilities stretching beyond the horizon.

In honor of this new birth in this New Year, Art Life Connection focuses on artists and those pursuing creative expression whose birthdays fall on the specific posting date at hand. I thought this would be a wonderful way to celebrate, learn about, and learn from a wide variety of people around the world and throughout the ages whose art can connect us with life through their creative endeavors and visions of the world around them.

Today, 26 January, is the birthday of Dutch artist Kees van Dongen, a major player in the Fauvist movement of 1904 – 1908. Mr. van Dongen, like his friends and fellow artists of the time, felt constrained by current and prevailing schools of thought in art, in contrast to the increasing freedom of the times (1890’s – 1920’s), so he and his friends broke out of their creative jail, following their instincts as to how to capture their vision on the canvas. As the quote above by Mr. van Dongen reveals, the painting techniques taught to artists at that time were dark, weighty, and imposing. These characteristics revealed themselves on the canvases. What Mr. van Dongen and his fellow artists craved was to breathe life into their works, infuse them with vibrancy yet to be expressed. They found their answer, their release in the use of color – rich, vivid, often violent color.

Change is hard for those who are comfortable in their surroundings, for those who have closed their eyes to their gradually decaying environment in an effort to preserve the familiar and the security that familiarity brings. Change creates fear at the realization that one cannot stop the change, therefore the loss of one’s safe, familiar haven. With this fear comes criticism and obstinacy, a lashing out at those leading the charge for change.

As pioneers exploring new territory, Mr. van Dongen and his colleagues met with negative criticism and obstacles, harsh judgment and closed-mindedness. Yet, as all true pioneers do, Mr. van Dongen and his fellow artists paid no heed to the criticisms and opinions of those who could not see through their eyes. They painted their vision in the manner they deemed best, most beneficial to the conveyance thereof.

The vision of the Fauvists was one of hope and possibilities, of light and a life full of joy in the ordinary things that fill one’s days, of the beauty of nature and the vibrancy of life. They painted landscapes using as pure a color as possible. Looking beyond the obvious flat green of a tree in spring or a brown wheat field in autumn, those of the Fauvist school of thought painted the underlying blue of the leaves on a tree, or the flaming red that characterized the hair of a sitter for a portrait, or the purple of the mountains at sunset.

The object of this approach to painting was to open one’s eyes to the world and its beauty, to the depth and range of colors found in everything, to open one’s mind to possibilities beyond the narrow confines of a mind conditioned to think a certain way. Van Dongen’s figures have the same characteristic deep, wide eyes suggesting the subject is taking it all in in wonder; it suggests a sense of hopefulness and adventure; an open-mindedness and intelligence; freedom and life.

“We were always intoxicated with color, with words that speak of color, and with the sun that makes colors live.” – Andre Derain

As I move through this new year lain at my feet, I turn my face towards the sun in search of a life full of living colors and a world full of possibilities.

 

Patience and Persistance: Revisited


Patience and Persistance: Revisited

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Degas
Edgar Degas, The Dance Class, c. 1873. Oil on canvas, 18 3/4 x 24 1/2 in. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., William A. Clark Collection.
“Fear of repeating oneself, of repeating oneself may be the greatest bugaboo of late capitalist society. The fear has been marketed so effectively that a will to sustain attention on any one thing can be cancelled out easily in favour of the latest distraction.”

 –Jan Peacock –


As a child, I first encountered the work of Edgar Degas in an art book we kept on the coffee table in the living room. This book was, in the eyes of an eight-year-old, enormous; filled with glorious color reprints of a hundred or so masterpieces by celebrated artists of the ages – Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, Da Vinci, Copley to name the few that I remember as mesmerizing.

At eight years-old, I was infatuated with ballet. Although I did not take lessons (I tried once but the dance teacher, although a caring person, had no training in ballet – the Can-Can, yes. Ballet? No.) I spent all my time buried in books with photos or stories of the ballet, ballerinas, and the beautiful shoes and costumes the ballerinas wore. I do not know if I would have been any good at executing the art had I been able to pursue it, but I do know that at that time in my life, I was not ready for the discipline and patience necessary to persist in my pursuit of mastering the art form.

While looking for the quote to accompany this post, I encountered innumerable quotes about how life is not worth living in the face of repetition; that there is something inherently wrong with repeating a task, a statement, theme; that repetition in art is a sign of stagnation and a lack of talent.

I beg to differ.

Life is full of repetition that is useful and necessary for our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth. Without repeating the fundamental movements involved in any art form, the beginner will remain just that, a beginner. No one would ever be able to become adept at any task if he or she only attempted the task once. Would you want a surgeon operating on you who had never performed the heart valve replacement you needed? Would Michelangelo be the artist and sculptor he was if he didn’t repeatedly try to master the techniques? Likewise for Mikhail Baryshnikov or Margot Fonteyn or any Olympic athlete.

In this day and age, we are told constantly to get on with our lives, to move forward. We live in a fast food, disposable world that is getting more impatient with every passing minute. This constant state of motion makes it difficult to be patient and to persist in learning to master something through repetition. It makes it difficult to see that in the repetition there is forward motion and growth. This week, I pledge to embrace repetition and the mastery of one job, task, or skill. I pledge to be persistent in my quest for growth in my chosen job, task, or skill. I pledge to repeat this persistence each week in order to get on with moving forward in my life – effectively; productively.

Local Treasures


 Local Treasures

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Lillian Wescott Hale - L'Edition Deluxe
L’edition Deluxe – Lillian Wescott Hale

 “The home should be the treasure chest of living.”

– Le Corbusier –

I once had a friend who moved to another part of the country when she married. As her husband was in the military, therefore away from home for long stretches, she had frequent visits from family and friends wanting to help ease the loneliness and solitude. During my visit to her new home, we spent several days seeing the sights and helping her settle in. One day, on a carriage tour of the city, she said, “You know, Cathleen, I know more about this city, have seen more, done more here than I ever did in my own hometown. If it weren’t for all the visitors, I probably wouldn’t have seen this one either.”

This statement popped into my head the other day when I came across a copy of The Boston Painters 1900-1930 by R. H. Ives Gammell while helping at a local library. Flipping through the pages, I realized that I never knew my hometown was so full of renowned, influential artists – certainly not to this extent.

Ever since my first visit to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum as a child, I have loved spending long hours at museums. Although my visits through the years have been infrequent for various reasons, I always get a sense of coming home each time I walk through the doors of a museum. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that one’s treasures are safe, well cared for, and easily accessible; that they are there for you to discover and rediscover whenever you are ready.

Through this long forgotten volume, upon which I stumbled, my own corner of the world has been expanded and enriched because I now have a host of new eyes through which to view my hometown, gaining new perspective through the wisdom and insight of those who lived here before me. By understanding the lives and worlds of my artistic forbears, I gain insight into the things that influenced their vision of their world as well as why they had such an influence in the world around them.

Learning how others view their worlds, of which I became a part decades or centuries later, opens my eyes, mind, and heart to new ways in which to view my own. This enriched vision only enriches any of my creative endeavors which enriches the life of anyone who encounters my art.

This volume has inspired me not to wait for a time when I am showing visitors around my city in order to get to know her and benefit from her treasures. Today, I take it upon myself to discover my local treasures by seeking out local artists of all sorts – architects, musicians, painters, sculptors, textile creators, et al – past and present, to see my world through their eyes.

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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Presenting Reality


Presenting Reality

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

 

vcm_s_kf_repr_120x80
© Kitsen | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.”

–  Jim Morrison –

Sitting at my table by the window on this hot, summer day, I glance up and catch the alluring stare from across the room. Perfectly tanned, well-dressed, oozing charisma – the glistening melted cheddar dripping enticingly over beef so moist I want to reach out and wipe down the picture glass, all in perfect proportion to the ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise exuding down the sides of the burger from under the bun. “I’ll take that one, Alex!” I exclaim to the waiter in breathless anticipation of the first bite.

I speak, my friends of the fine art of food photography and styling – in this case, that of the classic American cheeseburger. It is the job of the food photographer to present the menu item to the consumer in as enticing a way as possible; to use whatever visual means available in order to present the menu item in its best, most consumable light. As the perfect shot does not always happen with the first click of the shutter, food shoots may take as long as couture fashion shoots.

Additionally, as food does not perform on cue, the photographer will have to hire a food artist or modeler to sculpt the menu item of materials that will behave as needed, yet look as real and enticing as the actual food item. For example, shaving cream often replaces whipped cream, lard or shortening is a standard stand-in for ice cream, and lipstick is a go-to fruit ripener.

While waiting for my order, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I have taken the same approach to how I present myself to the world; how often I have sculpted, molded, colored, and shaded parts of my life with characteristics foreign to my natural self in order to project a perfect image of myself to my target audience. Recalling specific instances, I realize that those times when I continually reworked – molding, sculpting, morphing – myself to get the perfect shot, were times when I was most unhappy and exhausted with all the subterfuge. What is wrong with being imperfect? Some of the sweetest fruits are the ones with a blemish or a bruise, the one that isn’t perfectly round or red or radiant. We all ripen at different rates and by different processes.

Perfection is overrated. After all, people and things are rarely what they seem. Even an imperfect looking cheeseburger can surprise you with interior perfection and depth of flavor. I’ll take interior depth and flavor every time.

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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Wishing Revisited: Same Message, Different Voice


Wishing Revisited: Same Message, Different Voice

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Pelléas and Mélisande by the well - Painting by Edmund Blair Leighton
Pelléas and Mélisande by the well – Edmund Blair Leighton

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the same horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.” 
― 
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

My last post dealt with the concept of wishing; how easily it can take over our lives if we let it, stopping us from actually doing what is necessary to make our wishes reality, as I had been doing with my garden – wishing it were neat and trim while watching it grow out of control.

The story I relayed about The Girl Who was Quite Fond of Wishing is the story of me in grammar school. The revelation that I was wishing my life away came upon me suddenly, in a moment when I heard myself whining that I couldn’t skate like the other girls in class. I finally saw that the other girls in class just went out and tried to do what the instructor showed us. They did not spend their time afraid that they would fail, or fall, or hurt themselves. The other girls in class tried, failed, fell, hurt themselves, and eventually succeeded – attaining their dreams, fulfilling their wishes of becoming figure skaters while I stood back and watched my wishes stagnate. In that moment when reality confronted me, I let go of my fears, tried, failed, fell, hurt myself, and worked hard to fulfill my wish to become a figure skater.

There is always a danger in unchecked wishing. Tragic love stories the world over – those ancient and contemporary, those of legend and those of people we know – are riddled with examples of one or more parties in the relationship wishing they had someone else’s special someone. Tristan and Isolde, Pelléas and Mélisande, Anna Karenina, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are a micro-sampling of the fictional and real-life instances of the devastation of unchecked wishing. Rather than focusing on living the life he or she was meant to have, he or she focuses on the wish of a life that the other person’s life and possessions represent, thinking that one must possess exactly what someone else has in order for the wish to be fulfilled.

It’s easy to get lost in the wish, to forget or never realize that the wish represents a potential reality that we can make real, on terms and conditions that are best for us. Trying to replicate someone else’s dream and expecting it to make us happy or fulfill us in any sense is like Cinderella’s step-sisters trying to cram their feet into the glass slipper that was custom-made to fit Cinderella. The slipper will shatter, leaving the false wearer in pain and confusion. We get lost in the passive part of wishing, forgetting – or perhaps never knowing – that there is an active part of wishing, the part that we must do to attain the reality. In the process of getting lost in the wish, we begin to confuse the model, the representation of our ideal, our Long-Hoped-For with the True One meant only for us.

Wishing can become a way of giving up too soon, of turning away too soon because we do not see our ship of dreams landing on shore. Like the miner who tires of swinging his pick-axe, walking away dragging his axe in dejection, when he is only two axe swings away from his mother lode, we also tire, often turning to wishing at the moment we stop swinging our pick axes, often only steps from our goal.

Wishing is a good thing. It helps us to see what’s possible which leads to a plan of action. Today I vow to keep swinging my pick-axe until I reach my mother lode, to not turn away in resignation but to “act and do things accordingly”.

Wishing It Were So


Wishing It Were So

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

girl gathering flowers - Jessie Wilcox Smith
Jessie Wilcox Smith

Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

This week, while finally trimming the verge after weeks of wishing the garden were not so overgrown, the song “Wishin’ and Hopin'” sung by Dionne Warwick kept running through my head as well as the painting of the little girl gathering flowers by Jessie Wilcox Smith (above). The following fable with its corresponding lessons is the result of my latest encounters with art.

The Little Girl Who was Quite Fond of Wishing

Once upon a time there was a little girl who was quite fond of wishing. She was quite fond of wishing, in fact, that she spent all of her time doing so.

“I wish the kids in school liked me.”

“I wish I did better on my math test.”

“I wish Johnny would ask me to the dance.”

She spent so much time wishing that she no longer realized that she was doing it. Eventually, her wishes began to take different forms:

“I can’t wait until school is over.”

“I can’t wait until Friday.”

“I should have gotten that part in the play.”

“If I were class president, we’d have an awesome school.”

“I wish I could play soccer like Mary Sue.”

One morning, while brushing her hair, she looked in the mirror just as she finished wishing she had hair like Sally MacPhereson in Mrs. Jones’ class. For the first time in her life, the little girl saw something quite unexpected; she saw a beautiful person with hair that far outshone that of Sally MacPhereson in Mrs. Jones’ class. The face staring back at her was that of an intelligent person who had great ideas and, in spite of a perceived laziness from all the wishing for the easy way out, the face reflected in the mirror actually loved to work hard and get things done.

The little girl who was quite fond of wishing looked into the eyes staring at her and finally saw herself. From that moment, the little girl who was quite fond of wishing refused to use her wishes as another form of complaining, was careful not to make a wish for anything that she would not work hard to make happen, and never  – ever – wished to be like anyone else (because really, it’s rather wonderful being one-of-a-kind).

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

 

The Fine Art of Blooming


The Fine Art of Blooming

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Van Gough - Irises - 1890
Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise) Irises, 1890 Oil on canvas; 29 x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 x 92.1 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Adele R. Levy, 1958 (58.187) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/436528

 

“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”

– Clarissa Pinkola Estes

As spring marches steadily toward the moment when she hands over her mantle to summer, my garden persistently puts forth waves of blooms from the daffodils in April to the rhododendron, lilac, and apple in May, and the peony and iris in June. Some blooms are brand new; others at their peak, while still others rapidly fade. These blooms universally symbolize the struggles and triumphs of life and our human resilience amid difficulties.

These blooms – individually and collectively – also represent, for me, the effect that each human being has to bring happiness, comfort, and beauty to those around us each time we allow our truest selves to shine through – the person hidden in our core waiting to burst forth upon the world.

This task of finding our hidden selves is not complicated but it can be difficult. In the case of Vincent van Gough, his life was filled with the struggle to find himself amid his struggles with mental illness. He focused all of his endeavors to discover his style and identity as an artist – therefore, as he mistakenly believed, who he was as a person – on imitating other artists that he admired and wanted to emulate. He thought that his imitation of a master painter would make him successful, well liked, equal to or greater than the masters. Eventually, he was able to make the changes and adjustments to how he painted so that his methods and finished works reflected his vision of the world and how he fit into it. Yet, in spite of being able to discover part of whom he was and what made him special, Vincent van Gough still craved confirmation of his worthiness from the outside world.

How many of us have done the same thing in some form or other at some point? Something inside us says, “You are not enough; you are not special; you are not worthy of love, or praise, or friendship; you are worth nothing and have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the world.” Therefore, we think, “Since I am worth nothing on my own, I must have to change myself to fit the image of worthiness that the person or people I am with have so that I will be deemed worthy in their eyes.” I often wonder why we are never enough in our own minds, why we crave affirmation, why we can’t seem to be satisfied.

Van Gough’s Irises, like my garden, reminds me that each bloom is beautiful in its own right; each bloom has beauty enough for the world regardless of its level of perfection; each flower that refuses to bloom to its best ability deprives the world of happiness, comfort, and beauty; that even though a blossom is cut from its primary source of nourishment, it can bloom in the vase, in another environment. What a comforting thought to know that even when I feel cut off from nourishment, I am still able to bloom and bring beauty to those around me; that I can make life beautiful like no one else can because only I have my special combination of character traits and gifts. How will I choose to bloom today?

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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Artistic Remembrances


Artistic Remembrances

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

View_of_Tantallon_Castle_and_the_Bass_Rock_by_Alexander_Nasmyth,_NGS

View of Tantallon Castle and the Bass Rock by Alexander Nasmyth, NGS

 

“Now are the woods all black, but still the sky is blue.

 May you always see a blue sky overhead, my young friend; and then,
even when the time comes, which is coming now for me, when the woods
are all black, when night is fast falling, you will be able to console
yourself, as I am doing, by looking up to the sky.”

 – Marcel Proust, Swami’s Way

 

It is nearing dinnertime. I have been trying to write this post for three days now. Perhaps my reluctance to put these words down in black and white stems from the reason for the topic, Artistic Remembrances. I procrastinate because, once it is in writing, it becomes real.

Today I delve into the world of remembrances brought about by encounters with the artistic or creative expressions of others.

My remembrances today come to life at the sounds of the Scottish bagpipes, a memorial to a dear family friend – the news of whose death I just received. Strangely, as much as I regret that the last time I saw her was in the early 2000’s and that I did not write often; and as much as I have missed the company of her and her late husband, the memories that flood my thoughts at the sound of the bagpipes are those of the truest friendship and happiest times together.

We first met through an exchange program hosted by a church in my hometown. A Scottish bagpipe band was on its way to America to visit its sister town across the pond as the saying goes. The minister of the church in the sister town was friends with the minister of the host church in my town so plans were made for the band to play in our Fourth of July parade and stay in the homes of residents. Not having enough homes in his congregation to house all the band members, the minister sent requests to all the churches in town. We replied with a resounding yes. Thirty-two years and four cumulative trans-Atlantic visits later, the relationships continue.

I find it interesting that it is to art and music to which I turn to rekindle the memories of people, events, and days long past rather than to the many photographs or mementos of our visits. Perhaps it is because photographs reproduce a specific event or person in two dimensions; literally, a snapshot of a moment held in suspension for eternity (or at least for as long as the photograph remains intact).  In situations where I want to remember a multi-faceted person or conversation, or what-have-you, I turn to music that has meaning to the situation I am trying to relive or person with whom I am trying to connect. Likewise, I turn to art – like the landscape above – that has some connection to the person or event thus evoking depths of character and an equally deeper, more vivid connection.

Bagpipes, you may think, are a peculiar form of music to which to turn for solace and comfort. It is an understandable concern. To most, the sound is offensive, jarring, droning. To me, it is the sound of steadfast friendship, of closeness in spite of long distances or too much time spent apart. The bagpipes remind me to keep my chamber filled with air so that I may have a ready supply for the times I may need to take a breath, to fill my lungs with air in order to keep playing my tune, whatever form the chamber, air, and tune may take at any given moment in my life.

Today, I draw breath and play my tune of remembrance for a fine woman of tremendous character who I am blessed to have known for a third of a century. As we say in America, “Happy trails to you, Jean, until we meet again.”

 

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

 

 

Four Lessons I Learned from Antonio Vivaldi: Spring’s Fourth Lesson


Four Lessons I Learned from Antonio Vivaldi: Spring’s Fourth Lesson

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

(As this is part of a series and it may be helpful to see where it all began, here are the links (+ this + this) to catch up on my endeavor to learn something new from repeated exposure to a single work of art).

Norman Rockwell - Day In the Life of a Girl
Norman Rockwell – Day In the Life of a Girl

 

“Repetition is the mother of study.” – Latin proverb –

This fourth time around with the spring season in musical form, I find a wave of sadness wash over me, for it means the final installment in our four-part series. These frequent visits with a now dear friend have become a source of joy and comfort in the midst of a busy week. For in order for me to learn something new from each visit with a work of art, in this case, Antonio Vivaldi’s Spring from his Four Seasons concerto, I must sit with the piece for a while. When the piece is in musical form, I play it on an endless loop while I research the composer, the time in which he lived, as well as everything and everyone who would have had a direct or indirect influence on the composer while creating the piece.

One would think that a constant repetition of a single piece of music would eventually make one sick of the music. Well, when viewed in the light of developing a friendship with the music, I ask you, “Does one ever tire of spending time with one’s true friend – the one who knows you inside and out and who has been there for you in all of the lovely and messy moments that make up your life?

Relationships develop by repeated contact and interaction with another party. During each interaction, each party reveals a bit more about himself or herself as he or she gains trust in the other party. It is through the repetition of coming together and exchanging more about oneself that one comes to know another person more deeply. Amid the knowing, develops ever-deeper levels of caring and compassion that creates a desire for more frequent contact and a deeper understanding of the other person.  

Music, art, the creative endeavors of others are capable of reaching you at your innermost places in ways that a school chum simply can’t  because when you are with a work of art, you expose every aspect of yourself to the art, even your innermost treasures or pains that you hold back from the live person in front of you. Through repeated exposure to a single work of art, you allow yourself to become ever more vulnerable to the message of the art for you at each given point on your life.

Music, art, the creative endeavors of others truly can become as friends if we open ourselves to discovering the intended and unintended messages of the artist by repeatedly coming into contact and interacting with the same individual work even as we continually expand our artistic horizons.

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

 

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Four Lessons I Learned from Antonio Vivaldi: Spring’s Third Lesson


Four Lessons I Learned from Antonio Vivaldi: Spring’s Third Lesson

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

(As this is part of a series and it may be helpful to see where it all began, here are the links (+ this) to catch up on my endeavor to learn something new from repeated exposure to a single work of art).

 

Where The Clouds Love to Rest - Alfred Jacob Miller 1830 oil on canvas
Where The Clouds Love to Rest – Alfred Jacob Miller 1830 oil on canvas

 

“Nature always wears the color of the spirit.”

 – Ralph Waldo Emerson –

 

After a week of rain and general dreariness, with the promise of more to come tomorrow and the following days, this solitary day of sunshine, with a cleansing breeze to dry things out, is a tiny piece of Heaven complete with singing birds, treetops chattering amongst themselves, and the fragrance of new life bourn upon the wind. This solitary day of sunshine and happiness brings with it a sense of hope, even in the face of further impending doom.

Antonio Vivaldi, through his expression of it in his Four Seasons compositions, clearly understood that life is a series of patterns and rhythms. Be it the patterns of the natural world in its daily, seasonal, or annual cycles or the patterns of the internal worlds of every human being as evidenced in our cycles of joy and grief in their varying forms, these cycles give us a built-in sense of hope, even in the face of further impending doom – if we choose to accept the hope we are offered.

Looking at the sonnets that accompany Signor Vivaldi’s seasons, Spring shows us that although the storms of our lives may feel as though they will never end or come into our live far too frequently, we actually have far more about which to rejoice than over which to sorrow. Storms have their time and place, yet their time is finite. With this in mind, we are able to ride out the storm – sometimes under the safety of cover, sometime getting soaking wet – and come through the darkness rejoicing in the light, a better person for our struggles.

Spring – Concerto in E Major

Allegro
“Giunt’ è la Primavera e festosetti
La Salutan gl’ Augei con lieto canto,
E i fonti allo Spirar de’ Zeffiretti
Con dolce mormorio Scorrono intanto:
Vengon’ coprendo l’ aer di nero amanto
E Lampi, e tuoni ad annuntiarla eletti
Indi tacendo questi, gl’ Augelletti;
Tornan’ di nuovo al lor canoro incanto:”

Largo
“E quindi sul fiorito ameno prato
Al caro mormorio di fronde e piante
Dorme ‘l Caprar col fido can’ à lato.”

Allegro
“Di pastoral Zampogna al suon festante
Danzan Ninfe e Pastor nel tetto amato
Di primavera all’ apparir brillante.”

 

Spring – Concerto in E Major

Allegro
Springtime is upon us.
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.

Largo
On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.

Allegro
Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.

Courtesy of www.baroquemusic.org

There is a second part of the joy/sorrow cycle, however, that we too often miss. In this modern world that spins at an alarming rate, rushing from here to there and back again making a dozen stops along the way, far too many of us are conditioned to feel guilty or as an unproductive failure if we take time to rest and regroup – particularly after a major loss. Yet, as Signor Vivaldi shows us, after the storm has passed and we have rejoiced, it is necessary for us to rest before taking the next steps in our newly changed lives.

Many years ago I met a woman whose husband (her best friend) had died two years prior to our meeting. She was in such a state of quiet distress at the fact that she “couldn’t move on with her life” as everyone kept telling her she must. After explaining to me that she had spent the last two years helping everyone else grieve the loss of her husband, she began to see that she, herself, had not been allowed to grieve. Now that everyone else was in the rejoicing-after-the-storm stage, they expected, nay, demanded that she be in the same place as they. “Mom, it’s been two years now. You have to move on!” her only child remonstrated endlessly. Finally, in the face of further protests from family and friends alike (those who didn’t want to actually deal with the messiness of helping someone else grieve), this woman rented a solitary beach house for the summer to give herself the time and space to face the storm, rejoice in its passing, and take the rest and recuperation time she needed in order to take the next steps in her newly changed life.

Grief comes in many disguises. A simple change in our lives can trigger a sense of loss and death hidden beneath an unrelated incident. For example, while in the middle of your routine housecleaning chores, you may find yourself in tears or an agitated state because you knocked over and broke a dish. It was an accident. You didn’t mean to break it. It isn’t until you look at why you are behaving in such a way over a simple mistake that you connect the fact that the dish was a gift from your sister during a time when you were the best of friends. Your relationship has suffered over the years and the broken dish brings back to memory that something you did was the cause of the brokenness in your relationship.

The situation may seem dark and painful, especially in the light of this new revelation that requires you to make the first steps in order to heal the relationship. Yet, if we remember Signor Vivaldi’s example, we will know that the storm is necessary for new growth and that it will not last. The important thing is that we face the storm, rejoice in its passing, and take the time to rest and recover to ensure that the healing is permanent.

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

 

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Four Lessons I Learned from Antonio Vivaldi: Spring’s Second Lesson


Four Lessons I Learned from Antonio Vivaldi: Spring’s Second Lesson

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

(As this is part of a series and it may be helpful to see where it all began, here is the link to catch up on the reason for and start of my endeavor to learn something new from repeated exposure to a single work of art).

 

Portrait of a Chess Player - Marcel Duchamp
Portrait of  a Chess Player – Marcel Duchamp

 

“What seems mundane and trivial is the very stuff that discovery is made of. The only difference is our perspective, our readiness to put the pieces together in an entirely different way and to see patterns where only shadows appeared just a moment before.”

 – Edward B. Lindaman –

 

In my adventures with Signore Vivaldi this week, I have come to appreciate the power of pattern. Vivaldi composed the Four Seasons around a pattern of fast-slow-fast or, in musical terms, allegro-largo-allegro, tweaking the pace to match the season in question.

Belonging to the Baroque era in music, which focused on bringing the communicative powers of music to the forefront, Vivaldi saw the untold potential to paint masterpieces of sound that evoked a feeling and expression in the hearer allowing the hearer to become part of the scene himself. Hence, his experimentation with the Program Music form – finding the right combinations of rigid and supple, fast and slow, high and low, loud and soft – allowed him to develop not only the benchmark of the form of music, but to develop into the benchmark for how to execute the form. Through the development of the pattern of program music, Signor Vivaldi gave every musician henceforward the tools needed to be able to speak through music.

Patterns fill our lives. Sometimes these patterns are beneficial – think of the calendar with its daily and seasonal repetition, or of the tidal patterns. Other times our patterns are detrimental, particularly when it comes to the patterns we fall into of filling our days with too many things to accomplish, giving no regard for our physical and emotional capacity; or of repeatedly pursuing a course of action that fails us every time. In fact, every fiber of our lives exists in a pattern (D.N.A.), functions according to a pattern (our intellect, nervous system, digestive system, sleep patterns), and is part of a larger pattern of patterns (the body as a whole which functions within an ever-widening community of other bodies).

As it happens, and as many of you who expected this posting last week know, my pattern of posting Art Life Connection every Thursday was interrupted. This particular interruption was due to illness. Other interruptions have been self-imposed for sundry reasons.  Still others were beyond my control. The fact remains that in spite of our efforts to break patterns (a good thing if breaking a harmful pattern) and escape the routine, patterns are here to stay. For good or for bad, we cannot live without patterns. Thankfully, Signor Vivaldi has shown us how to create beautiful music with the patterns of our lives.

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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Four Lessons I learned from Antonio Vivaldi: Spring’s First Lesson


Four Lessons I Learned from Antonio Vivaldi: Spring’s First Lesson

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

640px-Marco_Ricci_-_Landscape_with_River_and_Figures_-_WGA19400

Marco Ricci– Landscape with River and Figures. c. 1720. Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice.

 

Spring – Accompanying Sonnet for Concerto in E Major

Allegro
Springtime is upon us.
 
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.

Largo
On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goatherd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.

Allegro
Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.

– Antonio Vivaldi –

 Lately, I have been thinking of my annual reading of Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott. As many of you know, I read it every summer and have been doing so for the past twenty-ish years. The more I read this one piece of literature, the more I learn about it and from it. This thinking has reminded me that we can learn something new from repeated exposure to any single creative endeavor (my term for Art in general). Therefore, for the next four weeks, I will be writing about the different lessons I learn from my repeated exposure to a single creative endeavor of a particular person. With spring upon us, I thought it fitting that I explore what Antonio Vivaldi has to say to me through the first concerto of his Four Seasons, Spring (the link is to a good YouTube recording of Spring only).

Signor Vivaldi, I have learned, embodies the theme of Art Life Connection in that his music, particularly The Four Seasons, was inspired by the landscape paintings (the creative expressions of) Marco Ricci, a contemporary artist of Signor Vivaldi – in fact they both appear to have lived in Venice around the same time. Signor Ricci’s landscapes created a desire in Signor Vivaldi to replicate the scenes on the canvas in musical form. Art imitating life as imitated through the art of another – a beautiful cycle of creation.

Looking at the landscape above, the easy, flowing technique with which the artist painted the scene transmits a sense of movement and life. I can almost hear the little stream and feel the spray of the water as it tumbles over the rocks onto other rocks below. The movement depicted in the trees allows me to imagine the breeze winding itself around me, fiddling with the loose strands of my bangs hanging in front of my eyes; I am almost able to inhale the scent of new-grown grass filled with wildflowers.

Listening to Vivaldi’s musical interpretation has the same effect. The opening has me dancing for joy along with the birds as they flitter about in the springtime sun; reveling in the happiness of the brook as it frolics on its way downstream, encouraged by the afternoon breeze; running for cover at the approaching rain shower; dancing again as the storm passes, singing in delight with the birds. The other movements evoke different images and their corresponding sensations.

Signor Vivaldi has taught me that there are no limits or confines to the number of inspirations nor of the methods used to relate those expressions – a look at the list (in section 5 of the link) is quite an eye-opener. In order for him to express the inspiration that Signor Ricci’s landscapes provided, Vivaldi refined an existing form of music, Program Music, becoming an acknowledged master of the form. What a thrill to imagine just how far the ripples of our own creative expressions might travel.

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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When It Comes to Our Artistic Judgements, We’re All Freshmen


When It Comes to Our Artistic Judgements, We’re All Freshmen

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

 

The Freshman

Clark Kellogg: I don’t want to go to Palermo Sicily!

Victor Ray: Have you ever been there?

Clark Kellogg: No, of course not!

Victor Ray: Then you really can’t make an informed judgment, can you, Rodolfo?

 – The Freshman, TriStar Pictures 1990, written by Andrew Bergman –

 A not-so-long time ago, in a land quite near, my brother went off to college – a young freshman heading to a tiny island off the coast of New York City. Coincidently, that same year, Matthew Broderick did the same thing – on the big screen at least. Shortly before my brother headed south for his orientation, we jokingly purchased the movie The Freshman, starring the aforementioned Mr. Broderick, and watched it as a family to show my mother that she had nothing to worry about (insert filial giggles, nudges, and winks here).

One of my favorite scenes from the movie is the scene when Cousin Vic surreptitiously hands Clark Kellogg a fake Italian passport – a Plan B in the event that the evening’s escapades go awry. I come back to this scene often, particularly when I feel myself becoming closed-minded in the safety of my cocoon-of-the-moment.

In the realm of the creative endeavors of others, our cocoons-of-the-moment wrap themselves around us readily, and often, without notice. We become so caught up in our interior universes, which we rule with the withering authority and dry wit of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, seeing all from the lofty heights upon which Superiority perches. We echo the sentiments of Clark Kellogg when faced with art that challenges us, our way of thinking, our superiority, our surety in life-as-we-know-it, “I don’t want to go to Palermo Sicily!” Like Mr. Kellogg, we have never been to the place to which this confrontational work of art begs us to go. Yet, we think, if we admit that this new world may be worth a visit, may have something positive to offer, we jeopardize the very foundation upon we have established our claim, thereby ceding our rule and authority, our superiority.

Vulnerability is never an easy territory to occupy, yet those who do so reveal their true strength and greatness. Opening ourselves to the possibilities and wonders of new worlds reveals just how confident we are in our abilities to hold onto our homeland by expanding its borders. Opening ourselves up to new ways of seeing familiar things allows us to take in the wider view, the fuller picture to be certain that we are proceeding in the best manner possible for the situation, to be certain that we are making informed judgments.

Even if that judgment is the determination that we honestly do not like the artistic version of Palermo Sicily presented to us, we may move forward, confident in our decision. Remembering that with every artistic encounter we have, we are seeing it anew; that we are the freshman on campus, not the graduating senior, helps to keep our perspective and our minds open to the message we need to hear at that moment. The same artistic work seen at another moment will have another message to give us. As long as we venture forth into the land of vulnerability with a mind open to listening, we will hear the message every time, expanding and enriching our universes along the way.

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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Art Inspiring Artists: A Literary Idea


Art Inspiring Artists: A Literary Idea

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Lines of Vision - Irish Writers on Art - large

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle –

 Of the great artists of the world, the community of the uninitiated would immediately bring to mind names of artists or works of art from countries such as France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. Some slightly more initiated may recall the names of artists from North or South America and England. The one country that surprises in its abundance of truly great artists, lush with talent, skill, and influence, is Ireland.

People generally remember Ireland for her wealth of literary geniuses – Joyce, McCourt, Banville, Behan, Wilde, Enright, Swift et al – as well as her plethora of musical prodigies, of which new ones spring forth regularly. Upon further investigation, Ireland is the birthplace of tremendous artists of the painting, sculpting, even stained-glass-making variety.

Ireland is a country, like others, with a storied history; one of tremendous hardship and struggle to survive. The difference with Ireland is that, as an island, cut off from the masses, she has had to look inward for her strength, she has had to use her wits and her wit to survive and thrive under inhospitable conditions. This constant inward gaze acts as an incubator for creative thought as a means of finding and making sense of the truth, which ultimately needs to express itself in some form.

In 2014, in celebration of the museum’s 150th anniversary, the National Gallery of Ireland invited fifty-six Irish writers to spend time in the gallery, choose a work of art for inspiration, and write. The book Lines of Vision: Irish Writers on Art, documents the results. Simultaneously to the release of the book, the NGI held an exhibition along with a full program of events centered on the theme of art as inspiration, a theme chosen because of the tremendous link that the museum has been in the lives of Irish writers since its opening in 1864.

This book and exhibition exemplify the core message of Art Life Connection – that art in all its forms reaches into our souls, touches us in some meaningful way, and leaves behind a better person, inspiring that person to reflect and create his or her own art. One person’s tangible, creative expression of his or her own inner truth/pain/struggle/joy has meaning to every other person who sees the artwork. The beauty of it all is that none of us has to be an expert or professional in order to create art, to express our inner truths/pains/struggles/joys. We simply have to look for the connections as we go about our daily lives, taking time to reflect, then apply what we learn in whatever form it takes.

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

 

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Inspired by Art Worksheet

 

Facing Facts About Art I Don’t Like


Facing Facts About Art I Don’t Like

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

BDRT Mech.indd

“Look, it’s my misery that I have to paint this kind of painting, it’s your misery that you have to love it, and the price of the misery is thirteen hundred and fifty dollars.”
Mark Rothko

In my journey to discovering the art that I enjoy – art that has something to say to me about my life, life in general, mankind, or what-have-you – I invariably encounter art that has the opposite effect on me. Not being one blessed with an effective Poker Face, my impression of the art in front of me is quite clear by my expression. Although I always try to be diplomatic (“my Mamma taught me right,” as my friend Nancy always says), the writer in me who simply must describe the precise reason or reasons why the art repulses me too often wins out – to the chagrin of those in my party (“Who’s she? Is she with you? NOT ME!”).

My high-mindedness regarding art began in grammar school with my first official visit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston Massachusetts. I was completely in awe of the art that surrounded me. Everything else that came along simply had to meet the same standards. It wasn’t until I began writing Art Life Connection and embarked on a quest to learn all I could from the art that crossed my path – no exceptions – that I began to appreciate whatever form or quality of art I encountered.

What I have come to understand is although the product of an artist’s expression is the tangible result of said expression; the thing (music, painting, poem) that communicates the artist’s message, the essential component of the act of communicating the message is the effort and the personal condition that the artist pours into the product. The quality of the result is not important – helpful in making the message more easily digestible, but not important.

Some would say that art exists to bring beauty to our lives. They are not wrong. What often is overlooked or misunderstood is that beauty can come in the form of a poignant message delivered through an off-key tuba rendition of Amazing Grace played with the gusto, love, and conviction of an eight-year-old during his first parents’ concert; or the Portrait of a pug dog painted with the unsteady hands and failing eyesight of a doting, elderly owner with no other family.  I am learning that the beauty we derive from the creative expressions of others comes from the artist’s person that he or she pours into the finished work rather than from the quality of the work.

Art is a means of communication above all. The artist creates because he or she needs to tell the world a truth. This truth can no longer remain untold so it wells up inside the artist until it comes out on paper, canvas, or through an instrument or dance, or any means necessary as appropriate to the message. Let me be always open to the message, regardless of the vehicle.

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

 

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Fried? Scrambled? Baked?: What Julia Roberts Taught Me About Art


Fried? Scrambled? Baked?: What Julia Roberts Taught Me About Art

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

MFA Exterior 2

“I love Eggs Benedict, I hate every other kind.” – Julia Roberts as Maggie Carpenter in Runaway Bride –

 

In many ways, art can be intimidating. I remember my first visit to an official museum (as an eight-year-old, the various living history museums we regularly visited were too much fun to be seen as a museum to which sophisticated adults went). We left early that late spring Saturday morning for the trip into Boston. It was Family Day at the Museum of Fine Arts.

We found a parking spot on Hemenway Street, a stroke of rather good luck as we had only a short walk to the museum and the parking garage was full. Everything about the visit was larger-than-life; the 500-foot-long granite façade that would swallow my whole neighborhood,  the front stairs cascading into the circular entry drive like rapids over the Merrimac River’s fish ladders, enveloping an oval lawn the size of my yard at home.

Appeal to the Great Spirit is a 1909 equestrian statue by Cyrus Dallin

Towering over all who approached the museum, standing watch, arms outstretched, head tilted heavenward was a bronze statue of a Native American man on horseback. This ten-foot tall man and his horse seemed to me so real, so welcoming that I kept waiting for them to wake up, lead us inside, and show us around.

That day in the museum, I remember being mesmerized by the grandness, the greater-than-one-person-ness of the art from every age and culture as well as the building that housed and protected it all. Even this monumental structure was decorated elaborately, grandly, yet the decoration never competed with the art within it. I just knew that I would want to do the same if I were part of building something to protect and display the artwork I saw.

The overriding feeling of that day, for me, is one of being swallowed by greatness, beauty, and the souls of the people who created everything around me. I could not tell you the specifics of which pieces were my favorites, although I do remember wanting to make friends with the daughters of Edward Darley Boit, because I could not process the specifics. I was too in awe of the experience. I was too in awe of being allowed the privilege of the experience, I mean, this was serious stuff for adults, and sophisticated ones at that.

Runaway Bride
(c) Paramount Pictures

As a result, I went for years not having the courage to admit to myself whether or not I liked
a particular piece of art because it felt as though I was betraying the privilege of entrance into the world of art. I felt as if I was spitting on the souls of the people who put the best of themselves into work that did not speak to me. Therefore, like Maggie Carpenter in Runaway Bride, I adjusted my tastes and opinions to suit the people I was with at any given moment.

It wasn’t until I finally realized that just because I am not drawn to a particular work of art (pardon the pun) does not mean that the artist cannot speak to me through that particular piece. All I have to do is listen and look for the message to me in the moment and I will honor the artist as well as the work itself. I still don’t have to like the piece but I will have chosen to walk away a better person because of it.

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

 

 

 

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Balancing Act: Balancing Your Individual Identity While Developing a Relationship


 

Balancing Act: Balancing Your Individual Identity While Developing a Relationship

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Jane Eyre - detail
Jane Eyre, 2011

“I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me – for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.” 
― Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre

As an independent sort, I have never been one to follow the crowd. Belonging to the In Group never made sense to me, since in my eyes, everyone is the same, we are all in the same group. It hurts at times, not belonging, but I was never willing to pay the price of admission – my Me.

As a business owner who struggles like every other business owner to find one’s place – what the best way to structure, run, and market the business is -, I find that as much as I rely on the experience and expertise of those who have gone before me and succeeded, their way does not suit me, does not work in my business as it does in theirs. Similarly, what works for others in their personal relationships does not work for me in mine.

Each of us struggles to find our way in the world, to get to know who we are at our core. Some struggle harder than others to unearth the treasure of our Me, the treasure of our true self that we seem so afraid to display. Oftentimes it is easier to become what others say we should be because experience has shown us that others cannot be trusted to value our treasure properly. So, we never take it out, we bury it under someone else’s vision of who we are.

When developing a relationship of any kind, it is critical (if one intends on developing a solid, healthy relationship) to know yourself solidly, to be so comfortable with your real self that no one has the power to determine your value, your worth, or your happiness. If you place that power and responsibility into someone else’s hands, they will always get it wrong and you will always be unhappy. The relationship will never be healthy because you will have given up responsibility for the outcome and thrown the balance off kilter.

Many people fail to make the distinction between asserting one’s individuality as an equal partner and becoming a dictator. Too often I see relationships that fall apart because one or more parties are caught in the trap of rigidly dictating how the relationship will run, leaving no room for movement, stifling natural growth, overcompensating out of fear of being a victim that the offending party becomes what he or she sought to avoid.

This month, take the time to get to know yourself. Get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly as it were. Know what you want from yourself, from life, from others. Know where you draw the line on different issues and what the consequences are for stepping over these lines. Learn how to set limits and expectations while allowing for the humanness that will inevitably rear its head.

Solid relationships require hard work. Anything worthwhile always does.

Making the First Move: Stepping Out on Unsure Footing


Making the First Move: Stepping Out on Unsure Footing

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

 

180405733Getty Images
“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Brian Tracy

That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. Steve Jobs

 

Misty Copeland performs in Coppelia in 2014 - Photo - Wikimedia Commons
Misty Copeland performs in Coppelia in 2014. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

 

I have said it before, “Relationships are tough nuts to crack.” My experience has been that the two main reasons for this is that we 1) are afraid to step out of ourselves because we might be rejected or made a fool of, and 2) make everything so complicated that we cause innumerable hurts and barriers to a wonderful experience free from stress and anguish.

Lately, I have been binge-watching Hallmark movies. Invariably, one of the main characters responds, “It’s complicated” when questioned about his or her reasons for either not expressing his or her feelings towards the other main character or for not clearing up a misunderstanding that is damaging the relationship.

Sometimes, it seems to me as though the human race is inherently a race of Drama Queens. We seem incapable of living our lives in peaceful, uneventful bliss with each other. We are forever creating drama where none need exist. For example, while having dinner with friends at a local pub, one of my friends and her sister were commenting on how great their relationship had been lately. They were talking and clearing up a bunch of old hurts and misunderstandings; they were shopping together; they were getting together to try out new recipes and have in-house movie nights. Out of the clear blue sky, a tornado hit their relationship (and our delightful evening) as her sister started an argument over a ballet recital they were both in as children. My friend was dumbfounded as accusations of treachery flew from every corner as the ill-timed and infelicitous remark sucked into its vortex every spec of goodness they had worked so hard to build, instantly crushing their relationship with stunning ferocity.

How many times is a similar scenario played out in our lives? How many variations on this theme have you experienced? Be it on the large or small screen, in literature or the news, in real life or fiction, relationships are complicated because people are complicated. Each of us has a multitude of experiences that leave their mark on our psyche. The bad experiences leave scars or open wounds from which we must heal.  Since each person heals in different manners and at different rates, we cannot always expect nor be expected to be in synchronization with another person; therefore, as we are healing and learning we are going to make mistakes, we are going to complicate matters.

The key to overcoming the complications we create in our relationships is to overcome our fear of what lies beyond our comfort zone; to embrace the awkward and the uncomfortable because we hold a vision of ourselves as movers of mountains.

Whether these complications revolve around initiating a new relationship or healing of an old one; whether these complications arise out of ignorance or fear, shame or anger, deliberate or unintended betrayal; or whether these complications arise in personal or business relationships of varying degrees of intimacy, our fears of our own inadequacy or of rejection often overtake our desire to take the first step, to act. Our fears cause us to over-think the situation, which creates a web of reasons for us to remain frozen, inert.

This St. Valentine’s Day, I will send myself a bouquet of ways for me to make the first move. I will push myself to step onto unfamiliar terrain and learn how to clean up my thinking, working hard at keeping things simple so that I may move the mountains that stand in the way of the great relationships I could have with my family, friends, clients, and those with whom I am yet unacquainted.

May this month be for you one filled with awkward, uncomfortable moments as you step out on unsure footing on the road to simplicity and the joy of discovering the best your relationships have to offer.

 

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Under One’s Nose


Under One’s Nose

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Norman Rockwell - Day In the Life of a Girl
A Day In the Life of a Girl – Norman Rockwell

 

 

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” -George Addair

Relationships are tough nuts to crack. Whether it’s the romantic kind, the familial kind, the societal kind, or the business kind, relationships inherently have innumerable moving parts. They inevitably jam up and break down frequently. The best relationships are the ones where all parties involved work hard to keep their moving parts cleaned and well oiled while helping others to do likewise.

With so much involved, why bother? Isn’t life easier when you eliminate the hassle? Who needs it?

As it turns out, we all need it, whether we care to admit it or not. According to a paper written by psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary,

it seems fair to conclude that human beings are fundamentally and pervasively motivated by a need to belong, that is, by a strong desire to form and maintain enduring interpersonal attachments.”

Forming these attachments has its challenges, particularly when one is becoming aware of a connection, a desire to get to know another person on a deeper level. It does not matter what type of relationship one is forming either. Romantic, familial, societal, and business relationships all encounter the initial period of uncertainty, apprehension, and doubt about whether a mutual attraction exists then taking the first step to initiate the relationship. This awareness of another as a possible kindred soul can stop us in our tracks as we fill to the brim with thoughts of self-loathing, unworthiness, and fear of rejection.

I always find it interesting that the instant we, as individual human beings, think about reaching out to another human being to make a personal connection, we begin compiling a laundry list of all the reasons why we are too flawed to make the connection, thereby talking ourselves out of reaching out.

The most likely reason for this phenomenon is that our fear of rejection overwhelms us, so we try to head off the stranger’s impending rejection by rejecting ourselves first. How many times have you dreaded going to a party, a networking event, or some other superficial situation because it requires a tremendous degree of vulnerability from you? How many of you reading this experience extreme anxiety in such situations? If you think that there is something wrong with you because of this, you can breathe easier when I tell you, “there is nothing wrong with you”.

Think about it.

  1. We fear what we don’t know.
  2. We are hard-wired to make deep personal connections. In order to attempt such connections, we must open ourselves up, thereby becoming vulnerable.
  3. Since our earliest Paleolithic days, we are also hard-wired to belong to a group for basic survival needs. The Group provides safety, opportunity to reproduce, and an increased ability to gather food to name a just a few benefits of belonging.
  4. Being denied admission to The Group, even if The Group consists of only two members, creates a fear for one’s safety and survival. In the modern world, this safety and survival is on an emotional level since food and shelter are infinitely more readily available than in our Paleolithic days. In today’s world, emotional survival is essential.
  5. The more superficial the situation (meaning situations with a large proportion of strangers who do not necessarily intend to continue an association with others from the group once the situation is over – for example a luncheon for a friend’s book group, a fundraiser, cocktail party, or as a Plus One at a wedding), the greater the chances are that we will be rejected because humans can only handle a handful of deep personal connections at a time.

These natural instincts for survival clash with our fear of being denied survival because rejection means that we are alone in the world, vulnerable, and susceptible to attack.

In this month dedicated to declaring affection to those we love, our awareness of and focus on initiating new relationships is heightened.  This brings to mind a lesson I learned early on when I was getting the hang of relationships. Today, I leave you with the words I told myself after losing a friend in high school as my wish for you in the year ahead. May you, too, discover that the best relationship you’ll ever have is right under your nose.

 “Do you know the best way to be a best friend? Practice. Practice being a Best Friend to yourself. Learn how to get to know who you are, what you like and dislike, what makes you laugh or cry or happy or angry, everything about you. Learn how to talk and how to listen. Know what you are afraid of and learn how to act in spite of your fear. After all, you cannot give what you do not have. If you do not know how to be a friend to yourself, you will never be able to be a friend to anyone else. If you can’t be a friend, you will never be able to have a healthy relationship with a boyfriend or husband, nor will you be able to make your relationships with your family work. Make certain that you are a friend to yourself first. Everything else will follow naturally.”

 

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

 

Please support the next generation of Artists:

February 6 through March 6, 2016

EXHIBITION OPENING EVENT
Saturday, February 6, 2 – 4 p.m

A lively and diverse exhibition of original works by Berkshire County high school art students celebrating the region’s talented youth will be on view. Sponsored by Berkshire Bank.

 

Los Medanos College Student Art Show 2016

TUESDAY FEBRUARY 2ND TO THURSDAY MARCH 3RD, 2016

gallery hours are T/W/TH 12:30-6pm.

Categories
(Awards given in each category)
Drawing, Painting, Graphic Design, Sculpture / Ceramics, Photography, Animation / Digital Art and Advertising Art

Reception: Thursday 2/4, 4-6pm. Join us for light refreshments and come see the Awards Ceremony at 5pm.

 

University of Nevada, Reno

University Galleries Valentine’s Auction: Public Viewing

Friday, February 12 at 6:30pm

Jot Travis Building, Student Galleries South 39.5386300785728, -119.816557914018

The highlight of Reno’s winter season, University Galleries’ biannual Valentine Auction will be held in the Jot Travis Building. Art priced from $20 to $10,000 is available for online preview before a silent auction the night of the event. It’s a not-to-be-missed community event. Free parking is available at Davidson Academy. Become a member, and get into the VIP member-only preview before the main event. Visithttps://universitygalleries.wildapricot.org/ to become a member.

 

Beautiful Imperfections


Beautiful Imperfections

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

IMG_4471
Photo by Cathleen Elise Rossiter (c) 2015

 “Perhaps, that is the way of friends, to love one another for their imperfections, not despite them.” 

― Scott WilbanksThe Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

Yesterday, I was helping my neighbor carry in some bundles. We have been neighbors for several decades. Now, for various reasons, she is moving. Because she needs to move quickly and the house is not in the latest fashion, is smaller than standard houses today, and needs a bit of work (“You’re going to need to put $150,00 worth of upgrades into this house. No one will buy it with this paneling on the walls or these carpets. No one wants this stuff”), she had to accept an offer by an opportunist whose son will tear the house down and build a shiny, perfect new home from which he will profit handsomely.

I do not think that my neighbor realizes that someone she has trusted in other matters has taken advantage of her. With all the other things happening in her life right now, this realization would be too much to handle. This is the house that her beloved father built for his new bride on return from the Second World War, the one she grew up in, the one in which she faithfully cared for her 100-year-old mother. To think that someone would reduce it to a pile of scrap would devastate her fragile heart.

Perhaps it is strictly a cultural trait of those born to a nation who had to start from scratch in a strange and unfamiliar world, fighting hard to make a better life. Yet somehow, the trait that helped the inhabitants of the New World to survive by saving what was good about the past or their experiences and building on that has evolved – or rather devolved – into a spoiled whine that says, “I deserve to have everything given to me, brand new, in the latest trend with no imperfections. You owe me.”

What happened to the long-held American Dream of starting out modestly, working hard and saving wisely to earn each new acquisition? What happened to the sense of pride we used to hold in each of these hard-earned acquisitions? When did we start believing that it is O.K. to obtain our happiness at the expense of someone else? When did we start thinking that if something belonged to someone else it is no good; that we can’t build on everything they put into it, tweaking it to add our layer to the thing’s history – its story; that it has to be new and fresh and perfect in our eyes?

Imperfections enhance one’s beauty by highlighting one’s rareness. Repeatedly, writers, fashion designers, and others make similar statements:

  • “There is a kind of beauty in imperfection.” – Conrad Hall
  • “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” – Francis Bacon
  • “The more you mature, you realize that these imperfections make you more beautiful” – Beyoncé
  • “Beauty is an attitude” – Estee Lauder
  • Things are beautiful if you love them.Jean Anouilh
  • “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”― Michelangelo Buonarroti

Our dissatisfaction and impatience with our own imperfections creates an urgency, a compulsion, to acquire perfection in our surroundings. By constantly striving for perfection, which we see as normality, we throw away the treasures hidden in the imperfections. We throw ourselves away when we treat imperfections as disposable because we are stating that there is no room for being imperfect, for flaws, or mistakes.

No one is perfect. Likewise with everything else that makes up this world in which we live. Finding ways to work with imperfections brings with it a sense of pride in having made it work. Learning to look for the beauty in our imperfections brings with it a sense of happiness, peace, and contentment that will surprise you.

A dear friend of mine is a collector of coins. Until I opened my mind and began truly to see the coin as a work of art, I was unable to see the exquisite detail and wonderful surprises in each coin. My friend has helped me to see that even the coins that appeared to be ugly because of discoloration (toning) hold a certain beauty that the shiny ones do not have. Although you can’t make it out in the photo above, the coin in the photo actually has a rainbow in it. The  appearance of this traditional symbol of promise and hope is not possible on a coin that is perfectly polished and untarnished. In fact, untarnished coins either have been tampered with (which significantly reduces the coin’s value) or have never had a life. They have no history, no story.

Life is a beautiful mess of imperfections, mistakes, and flaws. When you come to the end of yours, wouldn’t you rather leave behind a history, a story instead of having been left in the box? Wouldn’t you rather have a rainbow in your pocket?

IMG_4470
Photo by Cathleen Elise Rossiter (c) 2015

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Upcoming Exhibits Not to Miss


Revelation2With the New Year in full swing, I have set the goal for Art Life Connection this year to be more informative regarding the opportunities available to me and Art Life Connection readers to experience more art – more of the art we love as well as to expand our exposure and discover more, to let more souls speak to our own through the art they create. We might like it, we might not like it, but at least we will have tried.

With that in mind, I will be posting regularly about the various exhibits and collections, performances, readings, and any other public sharings of the creative endeavors of people around the world as I come across them – beginning below. The exhibits to follow are not in any order. I have tried to capture a variety of art forms to account for all tastes and to expose us to a wider  view of creative expression.

Please share any information you may have on local exhibitions and the like in the comments so that we may all benefit. Technology Trap

As always, you may e-mail me with questions, suggestions, requests, as well as personal stories of how you came to know of and love a particular art form at ArtLifeConnection@gmail.com (tweeting  and pinning are encouraged also –Twitterfollowbutton pinterest-footer-logo ) . This year, let’s create an active community of people around the world (37 countries at last count) who are learning and sharing life lessons from the art around us.

As always, I send you all of my best wishes.

What Not To Miss in the World This Month

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography
October 6, 2015–February 21, 2016

Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows
Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows
October 6, 2015–February 21, 2016
Contact Information

Phone: +1 (310) 440-7330
Fax: +1 (310) 440-7751
E-mail: (for general Museum inquiries)gettymuseum@getty.edu

The Kimball Museum

November 8, 2015 to February 14, 2016
On view in the Renzo Piano Pavilion
November 22, 2015 to February 14, 2016
On view in the Renzo Piano Pavilion.

The New Orleans Museum of Art

#AFAMGenius

Opens February 26 at theNew Orleans Museum of Art

On view through May 22, 2016, New Orleans

The exhibition and national tour are made possible by generous funding from the Henry Luce Foundation, as part of its 75th anniversary initiative.

Tim Youd performing William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury at the Faulkner House in Oxford, Mississippi, June 2014

TIM YOUD: 100 NOVELS

on view through February 21st, 2016

Los Angeles-based contemporary artist Tim Youd will visit NOMA to perform the latest installment of his 100 Novels Project. READ MORE

TIME/FRAMEMy Hand

on view through February 28th, 2016

This selection of photographs from NOMA’s permanent collection invites an intimate reflection on the concept of time and our place within it. READ MORE

 

 

The Hermitage Museum

TODO: img description

 

TODO: img description

 

The Russian Museum

VYACHESLAV MIKHAILOV. "RETROSPECTIVE". PAINTING, GRAPHIC WORKS

VYACHESLAV MIKHAILOV. “RETROSPECTIVE”. PAINTING, GRAPHIC WORKS
24 December 2015 – 15 February 2016
Marble Palace

 The Reina Sofia National Center for the Arts

Juan Giralt. Zumo de limón, 2006.  Acrilic and collage on canvas. Private Collection. Image: Juan Giralt Ortiz, VEGAP, Madrid, 2015

December 2, 2015 – February 29, 2016

 

 Poetry in Paris

POETS LIVE presents Malik Crumpler and Edmund Hardy

January 12 @ 7:30 pm9:30 pm

| Free

Art in Lynchburg

January 14 @ 5:00 pm6:00 pm

|Recurring Event (See all)

The Ann White Academy Gallery and The Up Front Gallery,

600 Main Street
Lynchburg, VA 24504 United States

+ Google Map

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Art Talks is an opportunity for the community to hear from the artists who are a part of the Academy’s network of artists. Each art talk will feature a different artist or artists who are either being showcased in the Academy’s galleries, on our stage, or are doing interesting work in our community. The artist/s will share their process, perspective and story. Join the Academy every 2nd Thursday, 5-6pm for Art Talks!

Find out more »

January 29January 31
Hansel & Gretel web banner

90-minute family opera based on the classic fairy-tale! This wonderful take on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tale will be appealing to audiences of all ages. Watch the famous siblings get lost in the woods, battle the ravenous Witch, and find their way home. Friday, January 29, 7:30pm Saturday, January 30, 3:00pm Sunday, January 31, 2:00pm Tickets: $8 Children / $10 Adults

Find out more »

New Year’s Gratitude


New Year’s Gratitude

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Iberê Camargo Museum, Porto Alegre, Brazil  - site plan

There is no getting around the fact that I am a bundle of contradictions. At once, the consummate planner with an adventurous spirit of spontaneity. Making plans and lists and alternate plans and alternate lists is a near constant occupation for my brain.

The plan doesn’t even have to be mine and it does not matter what type of plan “it” is. A particular favorite down-time activity (did you catch the contradiction there?) of mine is to go through books of home plans and re-imagine the layouts. I love re-working spaces in as many configurations as I can

Christmas Baking Joydream up, or re-decorating them to suit various styles, often using traditional things in unexpected ways (like the Christmas cookie jars I have been using to hold my baking supplies of flour and various sugars – a counter lined with seasonal happiness).

Planning, for me, is an exercise in hope and possibility which always leads to gratitude. Unleashing the possibilities in front of me (regardless of how fantastical or unattainable they may seem) through the process of making a plan and it’s accompanying list of things to do to achieve it – or of related possibilities, following them as they branch out, some taking leaf – helps me to weed out the real from the unreal, the plausible from the unattainable. Once I see all the roads available to me on which to begin the next journey, only then do I have the power to choose the right road for the journey I need to take.

As I see the universe of possibility laid at my feet, I recall all the reasons I have to be grateful. My gratitude begins as a babbling brook with family, friends, basic necessities. Following each related reason for gratitude, my babbling brook becomes a river pouring into an insatiable ocean of things for which I am grateful. Is it any wonder that I love planning and list-making?typewriter thank you

In this new year before us, I thank you, kind readers for your faithfulness, your willingness to share your appreciation of Art Life Connection with me and the world, and your patience in allowing me the time I need to rest, refresh and rejuvenate my creative juices in order to always give you my best. Without you, dear friends, I would not muster the motivation to write and to push myself beyond my self-imposed boundaries. Knowing that you are here, waiting patiently, encouraging my personal growth that you may grow as well is quite a miracle, a perfect example of how miracles happen every day, and of the overriding theme of Art Life Connection – Ripples and Consequences. Your ripples have positive consequences in my life, which in turn ripple out positive consequences in your lives. And so the cycle continues.

May this New Year be filled with possibilities, plans, and peace.

P.S. Don’t miss these exhibits, closing this month around the world (click on the images for exhibition details):

Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing, about 1665. Oil on canvas
Class Distinctions Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer October 11, 2015 – January 18, 2016 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

Susie Ganch - Drag - 2012–13 Mixed media steel - Photo courtesy Sienna Patti
Crafted Objects in Flux August 25, 2015 – January 10, 2016 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

Archibald J. Motley Jr. (1891–1981), Blues 1929 Oil on canvas  © Valerie Gerrard Browne
ARCHIBALD MOTLEY: JAZZ AGE MODERNIST OCT 2, 2015–JAN 17, 2016 Whitney Museum of American Art New York, NY

Arthur Lismer, Olympic with Returned Soldiers, 1919 © Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario
EXHIBITION SEP 19 2015 – JAN 17 2016 Witness: Canadian Art of the First World War Canadian War Museum, Ontario

Exposition-Osiris,-mystères-engloutis-d'Egypte-IMA---630x405---©-OTCP-DR
Osiris, Egypt’s Sunken Mysteries – the Institut du monde arabe, Paris, France Until January 31, 2016

Of course, this is only a sampling of the options available to you. Make it a point this month to try something new. See an exhibit that you think you might not like. Who knows? You may be pleasantly surprised at what you learn from seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.

 

 

Quick Note – Do Not Miss This Exhibit


Jackson Pollock – Blind Spots | the Dallas Museum of Art beginning November 20, 2015

Time Away


Time Away

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

“After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game, or whatever, or even talking to someone you’re not vitally interested in.”

—Henry Miller

Edith Wharton at her desk. 1905. Photograph courtesy of The Mount, Edith’s home in Lenox, MA.

It has always struck me as curious that, in spite of our knowledge that a particular behavior or practice is either good for us – body, mind, and soul – or bad for us, we invariably court the opposite behavior. In America, having a rich heritage in working hard to provide the best from nothing for ourselves and our families, of working our way up the ladder from the mail room to the board room, we feel guilty if we slow down, take time away from our jobs, or even take a few minutes to go to the cafeteria to eat.

A friend of mine in France was dumbfounded when he learned that, in my days formerly in the corporate world,  I used to eat breakfast in my car on the way into the office and that I ate my lunch and dinner at my desk.

“When do you breathe?”, he inquired. “Surely you have the time to take a break, to clear your mind and refresh yourself by connecting with your co-workers over lunch? Surely you are not chained to your desk?” 

I admit, his question had me stumped. No, I was not actually chained to my desk. I had the freedom to come and go as I pleased. There was nothing physically restraining me in my chair. I finally answered,

“It’s conditioning. From an early age, we are told to work hard, give it your all, and be better than the rest if we want to succeed. If we take a break, we are made to feel inferior, as though we do not have what it takes to succeed. So we just never stop. Even now, it feels strange to be away from the office, on vacation, lingering over lunch in the open air and chatting about something other than the projects piled on my desk.”Overtraining Syndrome

My previous experiences in business have taught me the value of stepping back and taking time away to refresh myself, clear my head, and spend time looking at the ways my business also needs rejuvenation and refreshing. Study after study shows the damage that over-training does to an athlete’s body and performance. Other studies show that by increasing periods of rest, the body has the time and space it needs to repair damage and allow the body and mind to perform at their best.

In other areas of my business, I take time away at the end of every year from the rigorous schedule to step back and view things with a  fresh perspective in order to be certain that I am bringing my best to my clients and readers. Therefore, although it is my intention to post to Art Life Connection weekly as always, bear with me if I miss a random posting. Know that you are my inspiration and impetus for paying attention to all that we can learn from one another through our forms of creative expression.

Tweet: Share your stories about experiences w/art that made a difference in your life at ArtLifeConnection@gmail.com. I'll post them on the site.In the meantime, please share your stories with me via e-mail (ArtLifeConnection.gmail.com) about why you are attracted to your favorite form of art or any experiences with art that made a great impression on you. You will find them on the Setting Sail Readers Page. As more readers share their stories, I will add them so keep checking.

Have a wonderful weekend. Do your best to make it a restful one.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

What Not to Miss: A Guide to Awesome Exhibits Around the World


I recently received an e-mail from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston reminding me of the Dutch Masters exhibit that will be ending in January, reminding me not to miss it so I thought I would take this time to make you aware of exhibits of note around the world that would be a shame to miss out on. Let’s just jump right in, shall we?

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has two exhibits of masters,

Class Distinctions
Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer

 Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing, about 1665, On loan from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

October 11, 2015January 18, 2016
Click this link for a video about the exhibit from the curator

Yours Sincerely, John S. Sargent

Henry Tonks, John Singer Sargent Painting, 1918

July 25, 2015November 15, 2015

Click this link for a video about the exhibit from the curator

La Gourmandise est un Art

An exhibition of chocolate sculptures

3rd September – 1st November 2015

Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye

Through January 3, 2016 at the Art Institute of Chicago

There are several current exhibitions worth seeing here.

Jackson Pollock’s Mural: Energy Made Visible

Jackson Pollock, Mural, 1943

April 23–November 16, 2015

Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni
Dorsoduro 701
I-30123 Venezia

Drawing in silver and gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns

silver and gold exhibition

Until 6 December 2015

The British Museum  – also on display,

Celts art and identity

24 September 2015 – 31 January 2016

There are infinite exhibitions happening every day all over the world. The best way to discover the Art Life Connection in your life is to get out there and expose yourself to the art of the world. Although this post focuses on museum art, find the art on display in the media you love – film, music, dance, photography, and so forth – and go experience it. Then, e-mail me (ArtLifeConnection@gmail.com) your thoughts on your experience so that I can share it with the rest of the Art Life Connection community. Enjoy!

Gratefulness


Today I do not write to you with insights profound or otherwise,  nor with words of wisdom. Rather, today I write to express my gratitude to everyone who has taken the time to read Art Life Connection. Thank you to those who have made the extra effort to comment on what you have read, and those of you who have shared Art Life Connection with others. It is because of you that Art Life Connection touches people every day, in thirty-one (31) countries. It is because of you that Art Life Connection’s readership increases daily. 

As a token of my appreciation, I am gifting copies of my new book, Setting Sail: Selected Ports of Call on the Voyage of Art Life Connection, to my readers during the Pre-sale period (5 October – 1 November, 2015). To receive your gift, click on the Thank You note below, then enter the coupon code ( KL65W ) at checkout. Although the book may be downloaded in many formats to suit most digital reading devices, I find that the e-pub version is my personal favorite. 

Thank you, again, Dear Readers for your loyalty and support. 

vcm_s_kf_m160_160x126

School Days: Inspiring Greatness


School Days: Inspiring Greatness

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

 Norman Rockwell - Artists Daughter

“Everybody we meet has an influence on us and an impact – good or bad. And I think that’s why we have to be careful with the way we handle people because what we’re doing is making an impact. Ernie Harwell

In Cambridge, MA in the early part of the last century, my mother’s cousin Ted was born. Ted was a spunky kid who grew up under less-than-stellar circumstances after his father died and his mother re-married. Apart from the comical tales of his escapades as a practical young boy trying to provide for his mother and younger siblings, the things I loved most about Cousin Ted was his complete understanding that he was always a role model; that he made the choice not to pass on to others the treatment he received; that he never shied away from helping other kids turn their lives around to reach beyond their circumstances and make a solid, happy life. By the time Cousin Ted died a little over a year ago, we figure that he influenced in a positive manner over 1,000 people simply by living his life to the best of his ability, being a role model and an honorable man in his everyday dealings.

I believe Cousin Ted learned this way of living from his uncle, my mother’s father. I hear more people tell me how Denny saved them, changed their lives. Whether it was by giving up his chance at overtime so that a father could feed his family; by having people in place invisibly to watch out for and protect Cousin Ted and his siblings; by being a safe haven for another nephew, the lone survivor of 250 kids in his unit in Viet Nam; or by a million other kindnesses, my grandfather (and grandmother, too, as they were a team) influenced an unknown number of people in their lives because of the example they set in the ordinary things they did. Like Cousin Ted, they accomplished the extraordinary while tackling the ordinary. Each one inspired greatness in others.

As a longtime proponent of the concept that you can change the world one person at a time, I cannot emphasize enough that the importance of being a role model cannot be overstated. Research shows repeatedly the positive impact that good mentorship has on an individual’s success in business and in life. In everything we do, or say, or write, we are a Role Model to someone, whether we have ever met this person or not. Ripples and Consequences. The question is, “how seriously will we take this responsibility and do our part to make the world a better place, one person at a time”?

Alexander Calder and his grandson
Alexander Calder and his grandson

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

School Days: Bringing it Home


It’s glorious to be able to go onto the Internet and hear any kind of music anywhere, from anywhere, and get it instantly. But there’s also something glorious about having a record with a sleeve and looking at the artwork, putting it on the turntable and playing it, there’s still something romantic to me about that.

Conor Oberst

Norman Rockwell - Connoisseur Courtesy of The Norman Rockwell Museum
Norman Rockwell – Connoisseur
Courtesy of The Norman Rockwell Museum

The other day I received a notice from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston telling me of the upcoming exhibitions. As I read the information, I couldn’t help but feel just a bit giddy at the prospect of seeing the Dutch Masters up-close-and-personal. I remember going to the same museum as a child, being awestruck at the fact that there were people in the world who could look at a block of marble or an oozing mess of color on a plate and see the intricate form or combination of colors that so perfectly represented the physical and emotional form of people, places, and things.

I was never able to recreate the scenes they did until I discovered writing. Still, the impression that seeing these masterpieces in the flesh as it were was a formative experience for my life, one upon which I continue to draw inspiration. In honor of this opportunity that I had, Today’s post is all about bringing your attention to programs dedicated to bringing art, in all its forms, to schoolchildren. Below are the links to some great programs. May they continue to inspire you.

There are so many other programs and collaborations between museums and schools that provide wonderful experiences for students, experiences that influence all aspects of their lives. If you are part of a program that brings art in its various forms to students who would otherwise not have the exposure, send me an e-mail  (ArtLifeConnection@gmail.com) with the details.I will include the links in future posts. I am happy to spread the word and give others the chance at experiencing art in a way that will change their lives.

Have a wonderful day.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

School Days: Making the Most of It


School Days: Making the Most of It

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

In my school, the brightest boys did math and physics, the less bright did physics and chemistry, and the least bright did biology. I wanted to do math and physics, but my father made me do chemistry because he thought there would be no jobs for mathematicians.”

Stephen Hawking

The_Mikado_Three_Little_Maids

It seems as though September is the month for running into old schoolmates of mine with a chance to reminisce.  A running theme seems to be the path we took versus the path we dreamed of taking, often through the interference of parents who dreamed of different paths for their children.

Some of my friends have difficulty getting beyond the fact that their parents made decisions about the lives of their children that they had no business making – Guiding, yes. Deciding, no. –  (“I don’t care what you want. You’re going to do what I tell you to as long as I’m paying for it.”) Others see that treasured opportunities would never have been available if they had defied their parents and pursued their dream-of-the-moment yet still regret that they were deprived of the experiences of trying, failing, and altering their dreams. Still others, realize that no matter how much they wanted to become an Olympic figure skater or mathematical savior of the world, or even a Wall Street wizard, if they had pursued their dreams at that time in their lives, they would not have succeeded because they simply were not ready to handle the responsibility and discipline required to achieve the level of success to which they aspired.

In my case, I followed the corporate path in spite of my desire to become a marine zoologist because of external circumstances and my own lack of self-confidence. After a long career in Customer Relations, I finally came to understand that I was meant to be a writer, something I never considered in my school days. We all take different paths to the thresholds of our life’s work, our calling. Consequently, some arrive later than others do. Coincidentally, the paths we take teach us precisely what we need to know in order to recognize and fully accept our calling as well as what to do with it once it’s ours. My training in the corporate world, for example, was the perfect preparation for the message I feel called to bring forth, that of Ripples and Consequences, of the dignity of every human being, and of the greatness in the ordinary lives we live.

As the school year transitions from novelty to established routine, let’s think about all the ways our life path has brought us to our current threshold, what lessons we have learned along the way that would not have otherwise been ours, how these lessons have shaped us into the persons we are today, and how we will embrace the journey before us walking headlong through the next portal to see what wonders lie in wait.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

School Days: Celebrating Regionalism, Expanding Horizons


School Days: Celebrating Regionalism, Expanding Horizons

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Heidi - Jessie Wilcox Smith - 1922
Heidi – Jessie Wilcox Smith – 1922

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.

George A. Moore

Monday night, Labor Day here in the U.S.A., I was suddenly transported to my grammar school days when I had my first bite of tonight’s dinner. On holidays that celebrate national traits or events, as Labor Day does, I like to cook dishes that celebrate the roots of the day’s meaning and origins. In the case of Monday’s celebration, the usual hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the grill  or the fried chicken I was planning on making just didn’t seem to express the meaning of the day.

Out of the blue, I thought of a dish we used to have in school. Our grammar school did not have a kitchen so most of the meals were prepared at the high school and delivered in shiny, insulated boxes to keep them hot. Every Thursday, the sub shop down the street would deliver the Special of the Day as a treat – good old-fashioned, traditional Merrimack Valley fare – Chicken Barbeque sandwiches, or “Chickin Bahb” in true Bostonian dialect.

Chicken Barb is not what one from outside the area expects, a piece of grilled chicken dripping in barbeque sauce. No, Chicken Barb in the Merrimack Valley is boiled, shredded chicken served hot on a bulkie roll slathered in mayonnaise with a little lettuce. I did not have an official recipe on hand so I used my deductive reasoning skills to create as authentic a recipe as possible and to my delight, and that of the rest of the diners, it was just as we remembered – heavenly.

Print this out and try it tonight.
Print this out and try it tonight.

Regional traditions, cultures, and specialties are a tremendous source of pride for people the world over.  Some people create rivalries over these regionalities, as I have dubbed them,  to varying degrees. Much of the history we study in school is of the clashes between two or more cultures over such regional pride. From Puerto Limon to Rarotonga to Auckland to Bangkok, Mumbai, Haifa, Dubrovnik, Venice, and every other place in the world, people have had to struggle to preserve their culture. Oftentimes, the conflicts arise out of a desire to spread one’s culture and way of life beyond one’s boundaries at the expense of other cultures; therefore, one is either the perpetrator or the victim. This need not be so.

What is this need we humans seem to have to dominate other ways of life, to see difference as detrimental? Around the world, people in every village and city, region and nation build centers to celebrate and preserve their expression of life and history through music, dance, literature, and all forms of art. Hong Kong, China has at least ten major opera houses. Venice, Italy likewise. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica celebrates a Day of the Cultures on Columbus Day. You will find some form of cultural center, a place to gather to display, re-tell, and preserve local traditions and art forms, wherever people live. I have a friend in France who helped start a museum to preserve the local insect population because these insects played a role in many of the traditions she grew up with.

One thing that my travels around the globe have taught me is that regionalities bring infinite levels of richness to our lives. Regionalities are what ground us, what root us in who we are and give us wings to expand our horizons by exploring the world, adding richness by discovering what makes others who they have become and how they came to be so, learning life lessons along the way. I have made more friends around the world by letting people share their traditions, listening to their stories, trying their special foods, making a point to learn what I can of their languages. Who would have thought that a simple bite from a sandwich of my youth could take me on a journey around the world, bringing me home to find deeper meaning and richness in my roots, my heritage, and my family?


School Days: Learning to Make a Difference

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Norman Rockwell - Studying
Norman Rockwell – Studying

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”

George Washington Carver

School. It can be a touchy subject for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Anyone who has been packed up and shipped off to school for twelve or so years, will have encountered his or her fair share of experiences good and bad that set the course for his or her taste for learning, oftentimes for the rest of his or her life.

I met a long-time friend of mine for coffee a while back. We first met in high school, I following my prescribed path through the public school system, she trying to make the most of a situation in which she did not want to be. Back then, I can’t think of anyone who would have known that my friend hated the situation her parents had placed her in.

After winning an academic  scholarship to her school of choice, her parents refused to let her attend the school because of their own fears and limitations involving their experiences with school – “This family’s not smart, she has no business going to a school like that,” “We’ve made a comfortable living with our public school education so it’s good enough for our kids,” “Sure, she’s smart compared to the kids in her small town class but she’ll never be able to measure up to the kids in that school”. This not-so-smart friend of mine recently graduated from Harvard with an impressive ranking and having made substantial contributions to her field of research.

Norman Rockwell - Inventor
Norman Rockwell – The Inventor

As we were talking, we discussed the tremendous role that others play in one’s sense of self and confidence in one’s abilities, as well as how much damage others can do to your psyche when they live, not only their own lives but yours as well, out of built up fears and misconceptions. We talked about the life choices we made based on what others had to say or had done to us that we regret. Ultimately though, we realized that we both have chosen to take the responsibility for our lives and educations, making the most of the opportunities before us. We both realized that we embrace education in any and every manner in which it presents itself to us, that we have always done this. We both realized that because of our tenacity in our unconscious pursuit of learning and becoming better people, it allowed us to discover our passion for learning later in life and have consciously pursued it ever since. Education for us truly has been the key that has unlocked the golden door to freedom.

The Problem We All Live With - Norman Rockwell
The Problem We All Live With – Norman Rockwell

Although the opportunity to have a basic education is de rigueur for many people around the world, so many others have difficult struggles to obtain a fraction of a fraction of what we take for granted. As school begins here in the U.S.A., keep in mind that your experiences, fears, and desires regarding school, education, and career is not the same for the children you encounter. Their experiences and attitudes may be far worse than you can imagine, or they may be far better. What matters is that we listen to them, truly listen. Read between the lines. Pay attention to words and behaviors,  to what is said and what is not said. Try to revisit your own experiences, deal with them and use those experiences to help someone else obtain their key to freedom a little more easily. Your support and encouragement may be the defining difference that changes lives.

By the Seaside – Learning to Treasure


By the Seaside: Learning to Treasure

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Celia Thaxter In Her Garden by Child Hassam
Celia Thaxter In Her Garden by Childe Hassam

Across the narrow beach we flit, One little sand-piper and I; And fast I gather, bit by bit, The scattered drift-wood, bleached and dry, The wild waves reach their hands for it, The wild wind raves, the tide runs high, As up and down the beach we flit, One little sand-piper and I.

Celia Thaxter

Circles of friends. The wider the circle, the more value one has in the eyes of the world. Houses, at least in the United States of America, are designed to hold ever-larger numbers of people with floor plans providing large, open spaces to accommodate the eternally happy masses. Commercials and other forms of media continually show groups of smiling people enjoying the multitude surrounding them as they use the featured product, their lives validated by the volume of people who are a part of their lives.

Celia Laighton Thaxter knew a different truth. Growing up on an island nestled off the New England coast between two states, Celia’s friends were the flora and fauna of the island. Although her circle of friends widened as she grew up, this time spent getting to know herself and her surroundings was invaluable in establishing the most important friendship we all need yet rarely have, that of a friendship with ourselves. Without getting to know our inner selves intimately, coming to grips with our faults, failings, and fabulousness, we will always be looking to others for approval, for value, and for our happiness.

Perhaps because we have been trained to downplay our merits outside of the work world, we are uncomfortable admitting that we have a great sense of humor, or are smarter than people give us credit for, or that in spite of all the mistakes we have made and attempts at goodness that have failed, that we really like the person we have become.  Many of us find it hard to sing our own praises even in the workplace. We feel that there is something inherently wrong in liking ourselves from an objective point of view so we do not look at ourselves other than with a critical eye.

Celia Thaxter’s time spent alone with the natural world, secluded as the daughter of a lighthouse keeper in her early years, allowed her to become friends with herself, to understand her innermost heart and thoughts. This time spent by the seaside, encouraged exploration of her physical world as well as her emotional and interior worlds. Her strength of character came from her thorough knowledge of herself, which enabled her to enter into her ever-widening circle of friends as she grew up and her family began operating a hotel on their little island. In fact, when she married and moved to the suburbs of Boston, MA, she felt suffocated being cut off from the seaside and nature in general.

Spending time alone with yourself, taking the time to become friends with yourself regardless of what your past may be like is the surest way to avoid loneliness. If you are your own best friend, you are never alone. By learning how to be a friend to yourself, you will know how to be a friend to others, thus allowing your circle of friends to expand and be filled with true friends, rather than a room full of people who really do not know or care about you.

Will you accept the challenge as Celia Thaxter did? The only thing you have to lose is the loneliness of chasing empty happiness.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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By the Seaside: Discovery


By the Seaside: Discovery

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.”

Robert Wyland

I remember, a few years ago when I taught Eighth Grade in the city, we were studying the short story The Love Letter by Jack Finney. In order to help the class understand the position that one of the main characters, Helen, is in and why her letters are compelling, I said, “Imagine what it must have been like for her to have no means of earning an income, to be forever dependent upon her father or her husband to provide for her. Imagine how you would feel if you were faced with the prospect of having to marry someone you didn’t even like because you were expected to?

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Bobby’s hand inch its way towards the ceiling. Calling on Bobby for his question, he asked in all earnesty, “What’s an imagination?

Bobby was the jokester in the classroom. This means that under other circumstances I would have issued a reprimand as the class broke out laughing. The difference this time was that Bobby was serious. The fact that the other students appeared relieved that someone else asked the same question plaguing them so that they didn’t have to look stupid caused me tremendous concern. It then dawned on me that the students in front of me had never had to use their imagination; these children had been moved like pawns in a game from one activity to another and told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it from their earliest days. These are the children whose parents used videos and television shows as a babysitter, an infant’s narcotic that burned out their brain cells as they were still developing.

After I recovered from the shock and overwhelming sadness that enveloped me with this realization, I discovered a newfound appreciation for my childhood. I grew up in a time when you could stay out long after dark playing Kick the Can or walking to the playground for a heartfelt talk on the swings with your best friends. I grew up with plenty of time spent at the beach discovering its secrets, learning new things, and imagining the journeys each starfish, skate, or seagull made to reach me in that spot at that time. Unlike me, these children had no one to read them stories at night or encourage them to discover new worlds that only exist in the mind.

This recollection of my time as a teacher reminds me of Jessie Wilcox Smith. Before becoming the nation’s most influential illustrator and artist, she taught kindergarten. Miss Smith transitioned into a career as an artist early due to medical issues that prevented her from keeping up with the children. Although she no longer formally taught children, her work centered on capturing the innocence of children and their excursions of discovery as they navigate the world around them. In fact, Miss Smith specifically used live, unprofessional children as models because, as stated in this article about her, “professional children lacked the same soul and willingness to explore as amateur models”.

As we look to the beginning of a new school year, let’s look to be an influence to the children in our lives and an example of how to discover one’s imagination and put it to good use. In these last days of summer, perhaps you can work in a trip to the shore (any body of water will do as they all have something to give and from which to learn) to inspire the imagination and bring eternal joy to the souls of those close to you.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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By the Seaside: Focus


Mary Cassatt - Children on the Beach 1884“There was a single blue line of crayon drawn across every wall in the house. What does it mean? I asked. A pirate needs the sight of the sea, he said and then he pulled his eye patch down and turned and sailed away.”  ― Brian AndreasStory People: Selected Stories & Drawings of Brian Andreas

I remember going to the beach as a child. It was a magical place, particularly back then, before they put up the barriers, when we were free to roam the sand dunes and explore the world hidden beneath the sumac and beach plum bushes and other sundry brush that blanketed the dunes. As much as my brothers and I played together on the beach, periodically running back to the blanket to share a discovery with whichever one of our parents was there as if running to gools in a game of Hide-and-Go-Seek, we all spent some time by ourselves in contemplation, either walking along the shore, sitting at the edge of the dunes absorbing the heat from the sand into our bones, or exploring the outcropping of rocks that stretched its bulging arm into the sound.

The ocean has always provided me with the gift of focus. As a child, this gift of focus took the form of concentrating on the proper construction of sandcastles and repurposing flotsam found in the waves. In my teens, focus came in the form of long walks along the shore and longer conversations with my friends about the mysteries of life and growing up. Since then, the seashore is my refuge and respite from the scatteredness of life in the modern world.

Throughout the existence of the human race, the rhythm of the sea upon the sand or the rocks has provided focus to countless people. The horizon calls the concerted attention of adventurers and contemplatives alike, focusing their thoughts on journeys far and near or on crises public or private, their guide to their destination. Tidal pools, microcosms of oceanic life, focus attention on various aspects of relationship, or whatever the goings-on inspire.

Focus brings order, peace, and contentment. Without focus, we bumble about hoping we don’t break something. It is ironic that sometimes, in order to focus our attention we have to let go of our concentration and focus on nothing in order to filter out the extraneous. When I find myself unable to let go of all the worries or what-have-you that keep me from focusing, I remember those days by the seashore and focus on the task of building sandcastles. Soon enough, I have the mental space I need to find my point on the horizon that will bring me safely to my destination.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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By the Seaside: Persistance


Girl Fishing by John Singer Sargent

By the Seaside: Persistence

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

“There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”
Sarah Kay

Persistence – that life-saving  quality of all who succeed, that life-changing quality of which so many feel the lack even in the face of proof to the contrary – is what keeps us going, gives us hope, allows us to reach our goals and fulfill our dreams.

Persistence is that gnawing notion in the back of our minds, in the hidden recesses of our innermost being that tells us not to give up, to try just one more time because this time will bring us the results for which we have been hoping.

Persistence brings with it a certain amount of discipline because through our persistence we experience mental and moral training, our personal version of The School of American Ballet or Julliard or training for The Olympics.

Ultimately, if we cease to persist, we die – physically or emotionally, we die -, for the soul of the word persist is existence.

With August just beginning and the summer winding to a close, I think of walks along the beach, soaking in the sun and the music of the surf penetrating my soul in a continuous call. The rhythmic repetition of the waves persistently lapping or crashing on the sand has a cleansing effect on the brain, overtaking all external thought, drawing the mind inward for reflection, clarification, and healing. The more we succumb to the reflection, clarification, and healing that the surf affords, the stronger we become in our belief in ourselves and the gift we are to the world. The more we heal our relationship with ourselves, the more we desire to heal our relationships in the wider circles of our family, friends, and various communities. This desire breeds the never-give-up mentality that pursues the relationship until it is healed then to persist in keeping it healthy.

We all have our own set of experiential and emotional baggage to unpack, sort through and determine what is in good shape and can be hung up, what needs cleaning and how much of a cleaning it needs, as well as what simply needs to be thrown away. Because we all pack differently – taking more or fewer things than others, taking great care or none in the act of packing our belongings, taking items that need pampering or no care at all -, our sundry healings may take just a little time or may take decades. The amount of time it takes to heal is irrelevant, as the waves on the sand remind me. What matters is that we keep at it; that we refuse to stop kissing the shoreline of our own healing no matter how many times we send ourselves away; that we remind ourselves how much we want someone to think enough of us to persist in the pursuit of us even when we turn others away, then do likewise for the other people in our lives.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Transforming the Girl in the Mirror


not-too-short-erich-auerbachTransforming the Girl in the Mirror

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

“Not at all. It’s why people come. They say it’s about looking smart, or beautiful, or professional, but it’s not. Gray-haired ladies try to recapture their former brunette. Brunettes want to go blond. Other women go for colors that don’t arise in nature. Each group thinks it’s completely different than the others, but I don’t see it that way. I’ve watched them looking at themselves in the mirror, and they’re not interested in conforming or rebelling, they just want to walk out of here feeling like themselves again.” 
― 
Antony JohnFive Flavors of Dumb

The other day I went to the hair salon, a birthday gift from my brother, he knows it’s something I would not have splurged on for myself. I have curly hair that no one has ever been able to do anything with, so I just do not bother. In fact, the last time I had my hair done was a year and a half ago, again, a present from my brother (he said I was in need of a little de-stressing and remembered me saying how relaxing having my hair done is). The sad thing is that I love the experience of going to the salon, meeting new people, having an hour or two to myself free of stress and full of pampering.

I remember the first time I went to an official salon. I was eleven. My cousin was getting married and I was a junior bridesmaid. For the occasion, my mother took me to get my hair cut, officially. There was something magical about the whole experience. The consultation – “Wait! You want to know how I want to wear my hair? I have a c-h-o-i-c-e?” -, the washing basin with the hand-held shower nozzle, the chairs that elevated or lowered slowly at the touch of a peddle, spinning to get the best view of the work, mirrors as tall as me. I felt like a super hero in the protective cape as it enveloped me, warding off all the mean comments from my classmates – “Hey, Dorothy [Hamill]! You’re not in Kansas anymore!” and “Brillo! Don’t you have some pans to scrub?” among others.

My image of myself has always been inextricably linked to my hair on so many levels. Even at my most confident and fearless moments, somewhere under the surface lurk the echoing voices of my schoolroom peers as they try to drag me down and pierce the armor of my faith in my abilities and my ever-present trust in the goodness of humanity. It wasn’t until the other day, sitting in the stylist’s chair, mesmerized by the physical transformation, the tangible interior change of the woman in the mirror from a meek, apologetic being into a lively woman of strength and value, that I realized the art involved in being a Stylist.

In school, when it came time to go on to college it was hard on the few of my friends who wanted to go to Beauty School to become Hairdressers, as they were called then – Stylists were only in the big city or Hollywood. Then, Hairdressers had a poor reputation, at least among our parents’ circles. The only ones who became Hairdressers were those who weren’t smart enough for anything else. In fact, there is so much more to being a Stylist and running a salon that it takes up to two years to complete the coursework, which includes chemistry and math, business management and marketing, as well as the art of cutting and styling.

Think about it, hair is a highly individual entity influenced by endless factors. A Stylist needs to know the biology of hair – how it grows, how to keep it healthy, what it takes to repair it, how it responds to heat and chemicals -, the chemistry of hair – how to analyze hair in order to know what chemical mixture it needs to achieve a specific color, what else is needed to prevent damage to the hair during the coloring process, how many processes are needed to achieve complex results  -, and the business of hair including marketing and public relations, financial and legal aspects, as well as client and employee relations.

Looking into the mirror from the Stylist’s chair as she snipped and clipped and shaped my curls to perfection, freeing them from decades of oppression was like watching Theoden in The Two Towers transform from a shriveled shell of a man into the vibrant king of his people. Perhaps my experience was not as epic. It was, however, equally dramatic a change in me and my outlook on myself, all of which would never have happened without Michelle’s skill, empathy, and passion for changing people’s lives one clip at a time.hairstylist-cutting-hair-of-female-customer-jacek-malipan

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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Capturing the Soul: Landscapes and Portraits of Matthew Richards


Ferry Beach Maine by Matthew Richards Photography

“When I look at great works of art or listen to inspired music, I sense intimate portraits of the specific times in which they were created.”
 – Billy Joel – 

Portraiture is an ancient form of leaving our mark on the world in which we live and for the world that will continue after we die. Many portraits are composed carefully in order to control the image that will remain, to present the subject at its best, hiding any flaws or insecurities. Often we feel that our unadorned selves are inadequate, incomplete, and something about which we should be ashamed. Many lucrative industries feed on our fear of our unadorned, unaltered selves. We strive so hard to be like everyone else, to fit in, yet rile against the fact that our inner selves are not seen or heard. We crave to be loved for who we are at our core.

self5 - Matthew Richards self portrait by MAtthew Richards Photography

Portraits can be created in any medium. Perhaps it is because I grew up in the Twentieth Century, perhaps because photography has such an immediateness about it, regardless, I love portraits made with a camera. I love the chance of catching that unguarded moment that captures the soul of the subject, a moment that the paint brush or chisel does not afford.

The media available for sculpting portraits is cold, impersonal, and generally hard in its final form. Although sculpture affords a three-dimensional view of the subject’s exterior, the subject’s interior self is opaque and obscured from view. Painted portraits done by masters may afford the illusion of illuminating the subject and revealing its soul, yet rarely is one truly able to connect with the essence of the portrait’s subject since painting still has a two-dimensional aspect about it.

Photography, although still a two-dimensional medium, has an element of activity and life about it. Adding to this living, dina-9 - by Matthew Richards of Matthew Richards Photographybreathing aspect of photography is the ability of the camera to pierce the veil as it were, to see beyond the exterior of the subject, opening the interior, the essence of the subject to full view and scrutiny of anyone who cares to see. It is no wonder that there are cultures and religions who ban photographic images as only God should have that power. It is no wonder that so many people are averse to having their photograph taken to have their flaws, inadequacies, and insecurities exposed to the world. Conversely, in a world full of people screaming to be known and loved for who they are, it is no wonder that selfies are such a hit.

As I was perusing WordPress the other day, I came across a photographer who has an innate sense of the soul of his subjects and the skill to preserve that essence on film. Matthew Richards is so adept at Soul-Catching that he is able to extend the concept of portraiture to see in his surroundings and inanimate objects the essence of the subject that reaches out to that particular place in us that needs attention and he secures it for posterity. Be it a hidden beach he stumbles upon, a skyline, wooden bridge, or neighborhood hangout, through Mr. Richards’ lens, landscapes become portraits, capturing the history, life, story, and future of a particular place at a particular moment. Like a close-up of a human face in its raw state, Mr. Richards reveals the true character of the people and places he meets, unadorned, unashamed, and at their most beautiful because he brings the abstract, the intangible to life.store - by Matthew Richards of Matthew Richards Photography

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Stolen Moments and Cleansing Breezes


Stolen Moments and Cleansing Breezes By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

“Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” Oscar Wilde

As the mid-summer breezes make their way up the hill from the valley below, a tiny, soft breeze wanders

Woman Reading, Asta Nørregaard. Norwegian (1853 - 1933)
Woman Reading, Asta Nørregaard. Norwegian (1853 – 1933)

down my garden path and finds its way to me seated at my red wicker desk under the shade of the cherry tree, lingering for just a moment longer to refresh and revive my weary soul. The breeze carries with it the softest scent of the neighbor’s grass being mowed at the far end of the street above me. I catch the eternal scent of summer’s essence as another breeze winds itself around me, fiddling with a loose strand of my bangs hanging in front of my eyes.

Stolen moments, like this one, are the ones that always seem to provide the deepest satisfaction to me. I relish the simple joys with which I try to fill my day – the little green fruit bowl on the corner of my desk that I filled with this morning’s clippings of oregano seed-heads, the birds trying to figure out how to access the new birdbath I have hidden beneath the mountain laurel, chancing upon a forgotten letter from a dear friend prompting a telephone call that lasts far longer than either of us expected, a quiet moment to read in front of the open window while waiting for the next batch of Toll House cookies to finish baking – each one becoming a treasure to add to my vast store of riches. These stolen moments refresh my soul, cleanse my mind, and remind me that life is only as difficult as I allow it to be.

Consolation


Consolation

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

“I took that smile and I put it right where the hole in my chest was. It was better than coffee, or chocolate, or a perfect pirouette. I clutched it and held it tight.”
Cecil Castellucci, Rose Sees Red

Consolation is a quirky thing. Well, perhaps more correctly, it is the objects of consolation that are quirky.

The After the Ball - Confidence, Alfred Stevens, 1874situations in our lives that require consolation are as numerous and varied as the individuals who inhabit Planet Earth, as are the reasons one gives or withholds or accepts or rejects the outreach, the personal connection, the support of another Human Being.

Our experience in similar situations often determines our level of willingness to extend or accept consolation. For example, if our reaching out in a time of dire need was met with rejection or callousness, we are wary of turning to others the next time. If we extended comfort and likewise were rejected, it is hard not to take the rejection personally, therefore we, likewise, are wary of offering ourselves to another in the future.

There are times in our lives when we simply are hit too hard by whatever blow was struck us. We dissolve under the weight of the circumstance, throw down any security measures we have instituted for our protection, accepting whatever consolation is available.

As a consoler, these moments are defining moments for our character. More often than not, when we are the person available in the moment that another is struck an unbearable blow, we are caught off guard and not prepared to give of ourselves on such an intense level. Our lives are interrupted, inconvenienced. We must now make a choice. Do we feed our irritation at the intrusion and act accordingly? Or, rather, do we take our eyes off of ourselves and connect with another’s anguish? Do we endure the suffering of someone else as something to be gotten over, like the flu? Or do we push the world aside and enter into the relationship fully for however long it takes to restore solace and bring the needed relief?

During my teenage years (which were, naturally, turbulent), there were many times when my mother gave me permission not to attend the wake or funeral of various family acquaintances in order spare me some anguish. Shamefully, more often than I care to admit, I accepted this permission to avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation, to not have to get dressed up and go out just before dinner. I have since realized that whether or not the situation means anything to me, my presence means a great deal to the grieving person because my presence shows him or her that he or she matters, is not invisible, is worthy and important enough to make an effort for. In fact, by extending myself to another in pain, my own pain is lessened and often healed.

My experience has shown me that oftentimes all it takes is a genuine smile, a smile that connects on a personal level, that touches the other person’s soul and lifts it from the mire. People want to be noticed, to be known, to be invisible no longer.

My experience has also taught me that the more fully and freely I enter into a person’s situation, the more I receive from the experience – be it anonymously from the other end of the subway car or alone in the room with a dear friend who receives devastating news. Instead of viewing the need to be present to someone as and annoyance, I now embrace the opportunity to make a difference in the world one lonely soul at a time.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Personal Independence: Rights and Responsibilities of Doing It “My Nowm Self”


The Birth of Our Nation s Flag by Charles H Weisgerber

Personal Independence: Rights and Responsibilities of Doing It “My Nowm Self”

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

A few years ago, when I was three years old, my mother and I found ourselves in the middle of a valuable teaching and learning moment that would stay with me to this very moment. This teaching and learning moment is the butt of many a running joke in my family, for good reason. Not only does it illustrate my self-reliant nature and personality, it also makes for great comical imagery.

One day, in my early days of being fully ambulatory, my mother and I encountered a street that necessitated our crossing. Mumma extended her hand for me to take for safety, as had been standard procedure. This particular day in my thus far brief life was the day that I consciously discovered my self-reliance and confidence in my abilities to handle the situation, for it was this particular moment in which I chose not to hold my mother’s hand to cross the street.

“Cathleen” Mumma coaxed, “you have to hold my hand to cross the street.”

Grasping my own hand, I responded in earnest, “I’ll do it my nowm self” and proceeded across the pavement, carefully placing each awkward step between the crosswalk’s milky lines, Mumma right beside me.

As a nation, America in the 18th century is the equivalent of my three-year-old self declaring my autonomy. With independence comes responsibility. As a three-year-old claiming independence, I was responsible for knowing and following the rules of the situation I asserted I could handle. As a parent, Mumma was responsible for guiding and protecting me in my journey to adulthood. The more mature we become the more responsibility we take on, the more independent we become.

Oftentimes we confuse demanding our rights with independence, as a child throwing a tantrum or sulking because he or she did not get his or her way. My trusty Oxford Dictionary states that independence means “not dependant on”, thus implying maturity. To mature means, “fully grown” or “to ripen”. To ripen means, “to be ready”. How often have we demanded our independence only to discover that we were not ready to handle the situation? In retrospect, the situation we were not ready to handle came with certain responsibilities that we were not willing to accept or rise to. Acceptance creates the readiness to act.  My experience has taught me that the more I accept the responsibilities, duties, obligations of whatever situation I find myself involved, then proceed to fulfill my responsibilities, the more independence I enjoy.

This Independence Day weekend has made me more mindful of the responsibilities others have accepted, sacrifices others have made, and lessons hard-won that form the foundation for the independence I enjoy today. Thank you, Mumma, for your patience as I fumbled my way to maturity. Thank you to all those who have made sacrifices in your lives or with your lives in order that I might be free.

Happy Independence Day, America.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Alighting


Alighting

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Cardellino by Marco PreziosiThis morning as I was washing the dishes, staring out the kitchen window at the flutter of activity in the apple tree – watching the birds flitter from branch to branch, from the apple tree to the blueberry bush (the birds are on their annual summertime vigil for the perfect moment to abscond with the sapphire spheres of delight), from one birdbath to another – I began thinking of all the ways we do the same thing in our lives in an endless quest to find the perfect place on which to alight.  Perhaps our hyper-paced society has conditioned us to be impatient. Perhaps our training in instant gratification keeps us ever on the lookout for that one big thing that will satisfy all our needs, at least until our patience wears thin and we seek further gratification.

It is difficult to be patient. When you are searching for direction and answers to what your life is all about, you want the answers now so as to not waste time and get into the full swing of living a meaningful life. I am not immune. Finding your calling in life is oftentimes a painful, drawn-out process. Even when you discover the What, the How, Why, Where, and When may remain elusive.  Sometimes we feel guilty for the gift of knowing our What, so we fret over whether we have made the right decision, even when all the evidence points to the affirmative. We feel the driving need to flitter from branch to branch, from apple tree to blueberry bush, from one birdbath to another just to be certain that we chose the right branch in the first place. All the while, we keep waiting for our life to begin.

Cardellino, by Italian wildlife artist Marco Preziosi reminds me of the need to settle in for a while on each branch, observe my surroundings, enjoy them, and be happy that I am alive, knowing that the life I have lived thus far is part of the ultimate answer and the training I need to be prepared for what is to come.  The answers will come if I stay still long enough to hear and listen. All the flittering and fluttering creates a din that drowns out the still, small voice whispering the answers we seek.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Snaking Our Way through Life: Laying Our Journey One Stone at a Time


Snaking Our Way through Life: Laying Our Journey One Stone at a Time

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

The work of Andy Goldsworthy has fascinated me since I was first introduced to his work through my local PBS station and his documentary, Rivers and Tides. Lately, his works have been on my mind as my life takes unexpected turns, leaving many unanswered questions in its wake.

I am reminded of late of Mr. Goldsworthy’s sculpture The Walking Wall snaking its way through and around the grounds ofAndy Goldsworthy - The Walking Wall the Storm King Sculpture Park. Oftentimes the wall’s path seems illogical and a waste of effort. Myriad questions pepper my thoughts about the make-up and the journey of the wall, yet the one that persists is, “Why does the wall go around the trees, seemingly deliberately, when it could have avoided them all together?”

Until this morning, I never had an answer. Perhaps the answer never came because I was not ready to hear it. Perhaps I did not have sufficient life experience and wisdom required to see or the heart to understand. Perhaps, my current situation unearthed the necessary materials for the key. Whatever the reason for my blindness and deafness, and I suspect all of the above are a great part of the reason, this morning my ears and eyes were opened.

Our lives, as much as we love to plan them out and lay straight paths for them, are rarely if ever straight. Life is unpredictable. It pulls us away from our plans in the form of  family or  friends in need, unexpected opportunities or obligations, and obstacles of varying shapes and sizes creating detours and courses that seem illogical to anyone other than ourselves.

Andrew Goldsworthy - The walking Wall 1These detours create a beautiful ebb and flow when we have a chance to stand back and view the structure of our lives from afar. The apparent randomness and accompanying senselessness that we feel as we live through the detours reveals itself as a fluid dance, a beautiful ballet that expresses the patterns, struggles, and emotions of our journeys over the ground we travel.  We see that we are stronger than we imagined, made of sterner stuff, and have reason to be proud of where we are in our journey because, whether we realize it or not, we have done the best that we can under the circumstances in which we found ourselves with the materials available to us at the time. Hindsight will inevitably provide us with better ways to have dealt with each situation. Yet, hindsight, by definition, is not afforded us in the heat of the moment. It is only by stepping back to take in the wider view that we see our accomplishments, in all their lovely imperfections, and dance a dance of joy at the mark we have left on the world.
2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

For your further enjoyment and enlightenment:

Here are two short videos of The Walking Wall at the Storm King Art Center Sculpture Park that are worth watching as well as an amazing hour-long video of Mr. Goldsworthy speaking at the St. Louis Art Museum (all videos obtained via YouTube).

Delicate Balance: Life through the Eyes of Alexander Calder


Delicate Balance: Life through the Eyes of Alexander Calder

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

 Vertical Foliage, 1941 Sheet metal, wire, and paint 53 1/2 × 66 in 135.9 × 167.6 cm Courtesy the Calder Foundation

Outside my office window a soft, yet purposeful late spring breeze blows, making forays into official wind-like territory.  As the leaves flutter and rustle in the sunshine, with the sound of neighborhood birds holding lively conversation perched atop all and sundry branches – a delicate balance of the complexities of survival and the simple joys of living – I can’t help but think about my trip last year to the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts to experience the Alexander Calder exhibition.

The first thing you hear is the gentle, random clanging of metal sheets bumping into each other. The sound produces a sense of the fluid, rhythmic swaying of seaweed dancing in the ocean’s currents. It took me a while until my brain registered the sound consciously. By this time I was about halfway through the exhibit, drawn, nay, compelled from one piece to the next as if some invisible hand had taken me by the heart and the imagination to walk me through for a private tour.

Parasite, Red Disc Black Lace, Blue Feather                  Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic
Parasite, Red Disc Black Lace, Blue Feather Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic

At that moment, I happened to be viewing with wonder a series of Mr. Calder’s standing mobiles.

What fascinated me was Mr. Calder’s ability to transform solid, clunky, cold materials into a delicate dance of joy, each piece in perfect visual balance and physical balance with the others; each piece uniquely its own yet a perfect part of the whole.

It is said that what is in one’s heart finds expression in what one says, “The good, the bad, and the ugly” as I often note. Artists talk through their work, as they are often notoriously solitary, silent folk hiding their treasures until the message can stay silent no longer and finds expression in the artist’s favored medium. For Alexander Calder, his intense curiosity, child-like imagination, and simple, straightforward approach to life’s complexities (famously telling a client who wanted the piece he commissioned to be gold, “I’ll make it gold if that’s what you want, but I’m painting it black,” because that is how he envisioned the piece), all find expression in his works. One feels the joy from which his pieces emanate. Calder, himself said, About my method of work: first it’s the state of mind—Elation (joy).”

Calder with 21 feuilles blanches (1953), Paris, 1954
Calder with 21 feuilles blanches (1953), Paris, 1954

Finding joy and balance in life may seem complicated at times. Today, with the reminder of a gentle breeze and through the eyes and soul of an uncomplicated man, I have that joy, simplicity, and balance. May you find the same and keep it all the days of your life.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Golden Deluge


Golden Deluge

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Pluie D'Or by Michele RousseauThis morning, as I was putting books away in my bedroom bookcase, I came upon one of my favorite paintings. My friend, Michele Rousseau, an artist whom I met in Monaco ten years ago this August, sent me a handcrafted card with an original, small-scale version of the painting to the left. My card depicts a lime-green sprout emerging from the earth, soaked in golden rain. Accompanying the painting is a verse about the golden rain falling to earth to nourish the poet.

Having now had a full day’s respite from our recent two-day (much-needed) deluge here in the Boston, MA area, I am again grateful for the rain. As Michele so rightly points out, rain is the source of our nourishment. Without rain, we have no crops and no habitat for the fish, therefore, no food. Rain washes and cleanses our bodies and environments, keeping us healthy. Without rain, we dry up, physically, and die.

Beyond the physical life that rain provides us, rain brings with it a sense of hope, renewal, and possibility. Rain clears our minds with its rhythmic patter, drowning out the noise that keeps us from seeing what we wish to avoid. Rain washes away the clutter, uncovering new growth and surprises as it rushes down hills over soil and streets, rural and urban territory alike. Rain reminds us that life is good, regardless of what life might be throwing at us right now. Rain reminds us that droughts do not last forever. Flood waters do recede. Dry land appears, bringing with it signs of lush life and hope of good things to come.

Merci, Michele, pour votre amitié, votre gentillesse et vos encouragements dans mon écriture. Je vous remercie pour le déluge dorée.

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Clarity Through Delay: Part Two


Clarity Through Delay: Part Two

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Francisco Goya y Lucientes, Two Men Fighting, 1812–20Delay is thought of as a bad thing by a great many in today’s society. We are trained carefully from an early age to “Act NOW!” because “Time is running out!” and if we do not make our move in this “Limited Time Only!” we will miss out, we will have missed the boat and be left behind to continue life in drudgery and toil. We will have failed if we fail to act immediately.

My own journey to attend the exhibition of Goya: Order and Disorder at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts nearly ended in my own missed boat. My entire experience surrounding the exhibition was fraught with the overhanging sense of delay, that of necessitating an heroic leap from the pier in order to land precariously on deck of the last ferry to enlightenment. As it happens, I caught the exhibition with only two days to spare before it was gone. I then spent an hour in line to get my ticket, then forty-five minutes waiting for permission to enter the gallery.

From the moment I set foot in the gallery I was knocked over with the sense of urgency and chaos, of a need to rush through the vast exhibit 1)  caught in the wake of the throngs of tourists who seem to have come simply to check the event off of their Must Do While In Boston list, 2)  to make certain I  saw it all in the now truncated time-frame left to me, and 3) to find some small, secluded corner from which to take it all in at my leisure, away from the crush of humanity pressing me ever forward, drowning me as if caught in a riptide.

Couple the above with the multitude of selections depicting the raw, baser side of human nature and a long life that witnessed horrific events, determined to record their horror in order that the participants and victims should not be forgotten. It was all too much for my ultra-sensitive nature to take in en masse. Thankfully, I made certain to learn as much as I was able during my time at the exhibit, taking in the curators’ explanations and pointers on viewing  and comparing the individual works, making as many mental notes as possible hoping for total recall when I sat down to write.

As mentioned in Part One of this series, my ability and desire to write anything about Goya’s works simply vanished the moment I exited the museum.

Delay.

Not a word would allow itself to be laid upon the page. I was faced with a desert of detachment from Senor Goya and everything he was trying to say to me – a desert that stretched before me, unending. The clock kept accumulating used-up seconds, adding new baskets as each month filled to overflowing with its allotment.

Delay.

Still not a word would present itself causing doubt, confusion, and frustration.

The words finally came in a deluge, exhausting themselves , and me, in one sustained torrent. In the end, I realized that the stories some artists have to tell are too powerful to take in, process, and pass on in an instant. My mind needed space and time to sort through everything and come to terms with it – an artist’s version of Post Traumatic Stress. I had seen too much, my senses assaulted by a master because Senor Goya has an ability to draw the viewer into the scene and experience its essence with all five senses.

Delay is not denial, as the world would have us believe. Delay can indeed bring us the very thing we seek, oftentimes so much more than we imagined possible. Delay causes contemplation for those willing to ponder, which always makes us better versions of ourselves should we choose to accept the teachings. Good things do indeed come to those who wait. goya-şemsiye - Parasol

2015 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

Clarity Through Delay: Part One


calder-grandson-554x700 This past December, I went to two major exhibitions here in the Boston, MA area – Alexander Calder at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA and Fransisco Goya at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. My intent was to attend these exhibits, pick a piece that spoke to me, then write about what I learned. I was not prepared for what happened next.

Days, weeks, months plodded by with no inkling of what to write, nor the desire to do so. This is a new feeling for me. If writing is my oxygen, what happened to my supply? What was wrong with me? Was I fooling myself when I laid claim to the title Writer? An overwhelming sense of failure and of having disappointed people took over which kept me frozen, lifeless in the lands of the blank page and empty mind.

Through the love and caring of a dear friend, he freed me from these frozen wastelands by reminding me of my own words when he uttered that fateful word Excuses.

How many times have I chided others for choosing to be overwhelmed? How many times have I repeated with disdain my catch-phrase, “Being overwhelmed is a choice. Stop moaning and tackle the pile from the top. It’ll be cleared away in no time,”? How blind are those who refuse to see as I have been.

The choice to be overwhelmed stems from a fear of some kind. In this instance, mine was the fear of imperfection. I am a writer after all. I can’t have improper sentences, misspelled words, and unsavory slang riddling my thoughts and permanently engraved in cyberspace. Surprise, Cathleen! Writers are here to record and re-tell the stories of Humanity in all its imperfection.

Goya and Calder have taught me many things, of which I will write later. Those I am most grateful for are the lessons that there is beauty in imperfection, imbalance – the good, the bad, and the ugly as it were -, and that the only way I can fail as a writer, indeed as a Human Being, is not to express that beauty, to remain silent in fear of misunderstanding or misspeaking. As my friend so adeptly showed me by example, if I don’t say anything, I am not loving those I proclaim to care about.

So, kind readers, I place my thoughts before you. Incomplete. Imperfect. In love. Thank you, Kevin.

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Taming My Inner Higgins


Taming My Inner Higgins

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Higgins and the LadsStalwart, upright, honorable. All of these are admirable qualities possessed by Jonathan Quayle Higgins, III, the fictional majordomo of the Hawaii estate of the also fictional Robin Masters in the 1980’s television show Magnum, P.I. (which I have been marathon watching shamelessly of late).

Higgins, as he is affectionately known to Magnum and his friends, has a great many admirable qualities that we, the viewers, are made privy to on occasion. Higgins is not prone to letting down his guard, allowing any glimpse into his innermost self where he hides Jonathan – his childhood self who just wants his father to love him, to be proud of him, and to want to get to know him. Sadly, Higgins spends most of his time working so hard to attain perfection that his great qualities often are used against him.

One of the most prevalent examples of this is in Higgins’ continual accusations that Thomas Magnum, the estate’s security manager, has fouled something up (broken something, stolen something, or has been generally slovenly and irresponsible) again. Higgins and MagnumHiggins’ admirable qualities of dependability, thoughtfulness/eye for detail, and thoroughness have led to a perfectionism that has taken over and become, for Jonathan, the definition of himself. Without perfection, Jonathan the child/person and Higgins the majordomo have both failed – therefore, Jonathan Quayle Higgins, III is a failure. As the character of Jonathan Quayle Higgins, III develops and we are allowed glimpses behind the curtain of his life, the root causes of his insecurity are revealed, making him a character we can identify with, like the fundamental person of, and sympathize with on a personal level.

It is easy to allow our great qualities to take over and become the definition of who we think we should be. There are so many voids in our lives that we cling to anything that seems to fill even one. Yet our worth is not diminished if we can’t bake the perfect pie, or our laundry isn’t sunshine fresh, or the nail was crooked when we hammered it in. Our worth is not diminished because we’d rather be home with our family than working for the sixteenth straight hour, nor is it diminished because circumstances beyond our control had a say in the outcome of something we were working on or in charge of. Our worth is fixed, and it is great, simply because we exist.

Identifying with the Higgins side of me is not pleasant, although I do welcome it. When I find myself becoming overly critical, judgmental, and dissatisfied, I need to tame my Inner Higgins by addressing the root cause  and adjusting my behavior accordingly (making apologies and restitution where necessary). In doing so, I become a better person. I come closer to being my true self.

Masquerading Normality


Masquerading Normality

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

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Last night I went to see a movie. During the pre-previews (do not get me started), there was a commercial (again, do not get me started) for the Mini Cooper. Mini’s tagline stated, “Normal can never be amazing”, going further to ask, “Why would anyone want to be normal?” The commercial changed from depicting drab scenes of men and women in business suits commuting to work, staring blankly at the air, and various scenes of a stereotypical day at the office, to scenes of young Twenty-Somethings engaged in over-the-top activities just for the excitement factor. The message being that responsibility and working hard to build a solid life for oneself is to be mocked – is worthless – while the incessant pursuit of the next wild time is all that matters; that anyone who thinks otherwise is a Loser.

This commercial begged me to ask, “Why is it that we never feel as though our unadorned self is ever good enough to present to the world?” What has happened to us as a society that has brought us to the point where reckless abandonment, with no thought to the consequences of our actions (however harmless we tell ourselves they are), is now considered a trait to be admired and aspired to? We live in a world that gets louder by the  because everyone is trying so hard to be heard and noticed above everyone else (a vicious cycle). We seem to have forgotten, and in many cases never knew, that it is the still, small voice that is actually heard above the din.

Think back to your days in the classroom. Which teachers actually had the most impact on you? Which ones did you actually HEAR – the ones who screamed at you to sit down and pay attention because they had something important to cram down your throat, or the ones who sat with you and quietly helped you discover the beauty of the information (and, along the way, the beauty of your own values and gifts)? Quite frankly, the times when I feel the most accomplished, creative, and that I have had made a positive contribution to making the world a better place are the individual, quiet moments of my normal life. Whether I am sitting in a coffee shop full of quietly writing; catching up on the normal lives of my friends, family, neighbors, or perfect strangers; or commuting to work making the train conductor’s day because I look him in the eye, smiling with genuine care and concern when I ask him how he is, it is in these still, quiet moments of my ordinary, normal life that amazing things happen. Humanity is lifted to a higher level because one person cared about another more than her own wants or desires.

At our core, we want to be known for who we are in our unadorned state; we want to be known and deemed worthy as the person behind the masks we wear, our genuine selves. In the world today, we believe that our unadorned selves are not enough, are of no value, have nothing to contribute because we are told that this is true. My mission in the remainder of this year is to prove every day that the makers of the Mini commercial are dead wrong with their claim that “Normal can never be amazing”. On the contrary, normal is always amazing. You just have to want to see it.

2014 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

THANK YOU


Good Evening, Everyone.

Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments, your faithfulness, and your patience. In spite of the fact that I have had to take some time away from Art Life Connection, you continue to visit, read, and share your thoughts and encouragement. I truly appreciate it.

My goal is to be writing again within the month. I hope you never leave this page disappointed. Have a wonderful day.

As Always,

Cathleen Elise

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