Luck, beauty, atoms, and ideas in Muskegon.

A lot of things have happened in my life that I could never have predicted. Having two of my paintings hanging in a beautiful museum is one of them.

The 91st Michigan Contemporary Art Exhibition is up through November 13 at the Muskegon Museum of Art. It is a lovely show of 125 works from Michigan artists across the state. My paintings ‘Luck and Beauty’ and ‘Atoms and Ideas’ are hanging there now—I am honored to be included.

The opening night reception was a lot of fun…discovering the beauty in Muskegon and along the way there and back.

Check it out if you can.

Give me your hand.

“So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute.” The poet Wendell Berry wrote this in his poem, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front. I just learned about this poem a couple of weeks ago by chance. The entire poem is beautiful but this particular line means a lot to me. It’s in doing the things that have no clear end that I find the most comfort in and interest me the most.

This also describes my painting habit well. I rarely have the end in mind. It’s more interesting to see what appears. To build up, remove, think, destroy, start again—a time to free my mind and let go to what ‘won’t compute’. This painting was not trying to be figurative, but it felt that way in the end so those words followed. No plan, no pre-sketch, no set of steps to get there, but suddenly there is this thing that is beautiful to me with a sentiment that has meaning.

Later in Berry’s poem he says,
“Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.”

View up close in the gallery.

Off to Muskegon...

Just shipped a couple of paintings off to the Muskegon Museum of Art! They were invited to be a part of their 91st Michigan Contemporary Art Exhibition. The exhibit will run from September 5 - November 13, 2019.

I’ll be there in the evening of September 5 for the opening. Please come and see it if you can.

Read more about the exhibit here.

Atoms and Ideas blog post

Luck and Beauty blog post

Wings folded for sleep...

Wings folded for sleep,
a nest in the universe,
like a distant moon.

View up close in the gallery.

View photo of this frame and painting on the home page.

I find myself thinking about perspective a lot. How things look from above—safety, warmth, love. How the smallest things can mean the world to us. How a little bit of the right thing can be enough. This painting and poem represent that thinking.

It is also framed in a new frame color option I am now offering on my website: Galactic Blue. It’s deep in the shadows and sparkles in the light.

My heart in May.

The favorite flowers of my life: in my mother’s garden, what I grew in my own garden when I had one, the ones growing in parking lots—feeding bees and goldfinches, the ones by the side of the road, or hidden in the thick forest, the ones growing in the gardens of friends, the ones that look so fragile but are stronger than we can imagine. The tall bearded irises that have a scent like licorice. The patterns and colors and shapes that repeat like the constellations and are made of the same thing. The names and the lore and the bouquets and the symbolism. William Carlos Williams contemplating wild Queen Anne’s Lace. Theodore Roethke on the roof of the greenhouse. Basho’s heart breaking with every bloom under the moonlight. And the belief that I can still be surprised at any given moment by beauty and hope.

This painting represents this bursting feeling that starts at the beginning of the blooming season. Some things break through in the sketchy days of April, but May is when it all begins, and then continues through the last days of October. And my heart depends on it.

View up close in the gallery.

I would tie a wish...

These squares of paint, arranged in lines and detailed with pencil, came to look like strips of sheened, patterned paper. Like hidden poems or wishes, intricately folded and to be tied to a tree—making a new kind of tree made out of ideas—in the open but still a secret. Symbolic things can have a lot of sway. The idea of a wish is what we want to create in ourselves. C.S. Lewis said, “We are what we believe we are.”

So, it becomes: what do we believe we are?

View up close in the gallery.

All the living things.

These days approaching the summer solstice are shaped by morning light that holds on well into evening. The air is scented with growing things. Wild immaculate iris untouched in the swamp. Seedheads as big as softballs in the parking lot. Six baby swallows perched on a high branch twittering against the changing evening sky. The stillness that breaks under what is to be.

View up close in the gallery.

Jennifer FarinaComment
Atoms and ideas.

The title, Atoms and Ideas now reminds me of a favorite passage from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass where he talks about what poems and poets do:

They prepare for death—yet are they not the finish, but rather the outset,
They bring none to his or her terminus, or to be content and full;
Whom they take, they take into space, to behold the birth of stars, to learn one of the meanings,

To launch off with absolute faith—to sweep through the ceaseless rings, and never be quiet again.

I have made a few of these multi-colored spatter paintings laid over a base of black, silver, gold, or green brushstrokes. There is something soothing about making them. Adding many layers of tiny colored spatters then hand circling clusters of tiny dots in white pen. This one also has fine pencil details of circles and connecting lines, like a thread through the tiny universe. The paint itself creates a nice presence that is simple yet complex and deep.

A new batch of paintings available!

These nine new paintings are now available. I have many, many more that are in various stages of completion that will follow in the coming weeks. The early days of spring have had me up early and painting just about every morning. It is a habit that has saved me—painting, writing, reading—considering all kinds of art and nature, as well as the creative path of others. Finding peace, telling the truth, looking for beauty in the darkness—these are lifelong pursuits.

The poet Allen Ginsberg said, "Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does."

The path…

The path, the shadow,
the song, the sun,
the moon, the bloom—
the poet’s companion.

View up close in the gallery.


The heart’s beginning.

View up close in the gallery.


The late spring night sky…

The late spring night sky,

new moon with a nebula,

Orion, so close.

View up close in the gallery.


Electric blue sky...

Electric blue sky.
Before I see them,
I hear a V of geese.

View up close in the gallery.


On his March birthday...

On his March birthday,
thinking of Jack Kerouac,
and the world explodes.

View up close in the gallery.


Wild and gentle things.

View up close in the gallery.


At the water's edge...

At the water’s edge,
a reflection of the sky,
in small living things.

View up close in the gallery.

Feather in the leaves...

Feather in the leaves,
the tenderest among us,
things made of beauty.

View up close in the gallery.


About a month ago when signs of spring started showing in earnest I began walking my favorite forest nearly every day. It was such a relief to see green popping up against the still chilly and rainy days and the walks brought with them sighs of relief. One day I came across this Golden-crowned Kinglet dead on the forest floor. It was poignant since spring was just barely beginning, he had travelled a long way to get here, and already this tiny bird was gone. In the walks that followed I would see his body just off the trail until flooding rains finally washed him away.

Golden Crowned Kinglet.jpg

The crosshatch pattern that his feathers made and their color was beautiful. Birds are mighty, especially these tiny songbirds—barely bigger than a hummingbird—being in the world in a way that humans can hardly imagine. This painting and haiku are for him.


A day in May that starts with sun. The writers, long gone, who wrote stories on a day like today for future readers, for readers forever. The artists, who made something every day—on paper and walls, confined to their beds with illness, or out scavenging the fields and streets for beauty. The poets, who tried on the moon, who fell in love with all their hearts, who were beyond consolation and then found again. The singers, who consider the evening trees, the blackness and beauty in the human heart. The scientists, who watch and are struck with awe at their own method.

To this day in May and to all the things that give us hope and breath.

View up close in the gallery.

Cherry blossoms fly...

Cherry blossoms fly,
clouds moving fast overhead,
endless beginnings.

View up close in the gallery.

This haiku and painting conveys the revived energy and reanimation of the earth in spring. The green that emerges almost overnight, buds breaking, flowers blossoming, bulbs popping out of the sodden earth, birds returning, and the sky changing. Clouds moving fast in the sky this time of year is something that has always been exciting to me—the spring winds.

Growing up, my mom called it the chinook, the winds that carried the scent of sweet, loamy earth—a sure sign that spring has settled in and winter is behind us. I still look forward to the day I smell it in the air each spring—a bellwether of the beauty to come.

The butterfly.

One thing becomes another. This is the story of the butterfly. It is also the story of people. Every day—every moment—changes us. Sometimes it is as dramatic as the metamorphosis of the butterfly, sometimes it is only when we stop to look back that we realize how much we have changed, and what made it happen.

It can also be the not changing, the not becoming another thing that is startling. I appreciate the chance every day to decide what to do—the blank piece of paper—the impulse to put down marks and then change them to see what else they can become.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.”

View up close in the gallery.

Permanence and Change

Exhibiting my work is a new experience for me. It means a lot to have people see and consider my paintings and the writing that goes with them. At the moment, I have two paintings hanging in an exhibit around the theme of Permanence and Change at Concordia University here in Ann Arbor. The exhibit started on April 3 with an artist reception and will be up until May 8, 2019. Please go and check it out if you can, the Kreft Center Gallery is a beautiful space and there is a lot of interesting art in the show. Concordia also has a nice campus situated on the Huron River—and spring is really bursting here in Ann Arbor—it’s a great time to visit.

Just about all of my work is about the theme of Permanence and Change. The two paintings that were selected for the show specifically address the longing for personal connection—and the attempt to understand that connection in spite of the inherent ambiguities of the human heart.

Concordia University Ann Arbor
4090 Geddes Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

2019 Kreft National Juried Exhibition
April 3 – May 8
The gallery is open to the public, free of charge.
Tuesday – Friday | 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday | 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm.

The morning bird.

The morning bird—
his call repeated
in the heart of the forest.
Darkness, black branches,
colorless April leaves.

Like a heartbeat,
like a heartbeat,
like a heartbeat,
he calls.

He is a cardinal.

First to sing in the morning,
last to sing at night—
he wills the light,
he calls to the dark.

View up close in the gallery.

Jennifer FarinaComment
The stars floating down.

The lost echo
on a moonless night,
the slim silhouettes of trees,
enough to hide the animals.

Animals that look like you and me
in their wandering.
Tentative steps along a path
in the woods.
Unaware of their age or home.
They are just here,
moving from place to place,
finding warmth at the base of a tree in May,
winds coming in from the west.

Noises overhead
and underground.
Waking to a darkness
that becomes light
one way or another.

The stars floating down
into your hands and then gone,
most times, you don’t even know.

View up close in the gallery.

The treeline near my studio where I envision the animals moving at night.

Jennifer FarinaComment
Luck and beauty.

Looking up from the bottom
to where the tops of trees
meet and reach for each other
against the sky—one crow
crosses over, looking.

Tiny moss is starting to grow
and sprout despite the
April cold.

It says:

I am no forlorn angel,
I am luck,
I am beauty,
and I grow
without knowing the end.

Moss sprouting leaves on the floor of my favorite forest.

Now on exhibit!

Permanence and change. This is the theme of Concordia University’s 2019 Kreft National Juried Exhibition and I’m so pleased to have had two paintings selected to appear in this show. I think I can easily say that most of my work relates to this theme in one way or another.

It is up now through May 8 with an artist’s reception on Friday, April 5, from 7 - 9pm. Please come and see it and say hello this Friday at the Ann Arbor campus if you can.

Concordia University Ann Arbor
4090 Geddes Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

2019 Kreft National Juried Exhibition
April 3 – May 8
The gallery is open to the public, free of charge.
Tuesday – Friday | 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday | 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm.

Reception for the Artists: April 5, 7-9 pm
Kreft Center Gallery
Free and Open to the Public

Learn more about the Kreft Center Gallery here.

The Mind Bloom bloomed.

Thank you to all who came to see The Mind Bloom exhibit at the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens, purchased paintings, and showed support. All of it means a great deal to me. The experience of sharing 40 paintings—each with their corresponding poems and writing—was like taking a leap. I knew what it all meant to me, but had no idea how it would be understood or received. Well, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. Hearing people's comments and thoughts and questions enriched the work even more.

One friend in particular, knowing how important it all is to me, congratulated me on the first day of the show, and said that one of the things she liked most was that all of the work was so 'uncynical', which is one of the best comments I could have asked for. My temperament has always skewed a bit towards the melancholy, which is not a bad thing, but I would want my work to ultimately represent the experience of being alive and awake—despite the darkness that everyone faces at times.

This cycle of making and sharing is one that I plan to continue for the rest of my life. Looking ahead to more experiences and exhibits...and leaps.

View all paintings in the gallery.

Jennifer FarinaComment
The river.

View up close in the gallery.

The vernal equinox. This year the day also brings with it a full moon: sap moon, sugar moon, worm moon, crow moon—all signifying movement—awakening. This is one of the things this painting represents, the movement of the river and the life above and below its surface. The Huron River flows through the city I live in. It originates from the Huron Swamp and flows 130 miles to Lake Erie. It is a caretaker of many living things. I’ve seen exhausted migrating birds taking a rest on it, purple swallows criss-crossing to catch bugs above it, a baby kingbird singing an evening song perched on its bank. I’ve seen sunlight caught on its current, the blue evening shadows diving below, silhouettes of trees rising above it—my own reflection. The river is a caretaker of me, too.


I have an old photo of my father next to this river. He is kneeling, clean and angular, with a shiny watch on his wrist. The colors behind him are violet and cream, blue and green, and shadows, shadows, everywhere. He died young, and I have tried ever since to understand why.

I think of Norman Maclean writing in A River Runs Through It, “It is those we live with and should know, who elude us, but we can still love them, we can love completely without complete understanding.”

JF by river.jpg