Posts tagged abstract
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.

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.

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.

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 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
All that a promise can hope to mend.

View up close in the gallery.

Sometimes the words come for a painting and they are just right. Here, I am thinking of the word 'promise' in the sense of what can be—what is possible—the mystery that remains, no matter what.

It is the possibility of learning new things, making new things, seeing new things that maintains momentum—in mind and body. And this is where the mending comes in.

These black lines feel powerful and here they are protecting the thing full of promise—the emerging spring—the life under the ice sending up bubbles in the forest creek—the possibility.

Blue herons, blue night...

Blue herons, blue night,
silhouettes on their way home,
the sun, already set.

View up close in the gallery.

Maybe more so than other forms of poetry, the haiku lets you be in the moment with the poet who wrote it. You are with Basho looking at the moon and feeling lonely, with Shiki seeing a trout in the river that is the color of the river, with Jack Kerouac at the sea contemplating nothingness… It is comforting—the shadows that fall, the birds that move with the seasons, the questions and longing that persist for centuries. 

In small living things...

In small living things
weight is carried like air,
in sky and water.

View up close in the gallery.

It is March—finally nearing spring—though it still feels like the middle of winter in Michigan with snow, ice, and bitter winds most every day lately. One day this past week though I had a mourning dove just outside my window at dusk making his call. It was so loud it startled me—I heard him before I saw him. He kept at it for a few minutes, eyeing me as I peeked through the blinds. The next morning he was out there again (or, had been out there all night sleeping), balanced on a rail. This time at least the rising sun was just starting to shine on him. His soft grayish brown body looked like velvet, his chest puffed out against the cold. Watching me again as I peeked out at him he made a small step sideways.

I’ve read about mourning doves and know they can fly incredibly fast and straight, but that morning he was still and silent as the sun rose, his instincts telling him things will change soon. My thought was to write a poem for him: the tiny bones of his ribcage that create the space for air to pass through as he practices his call to find the mate that hasn’t arrived yet and has no awareness that he is on this balcony, calling to the setting sun.

To me, every small living thing represents this kind of mystery and majesty. A whole complex life that we can observe and document but really only guess as to what it feels like to live it.

Photos taken from inside the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. My exhibit there continues until March 24, 2019.

All-sky map maker.

A seemingly impossible task…

This painting came together over a few weeks. It started with the black line, kind of an automatic painting just for the sake of a putting down a nice line to see where it goes. Then I set it aside for a while. Next came that deep ultramarine in the center with a wash of lighter blue emanating from it. Again, I set it aside for a bit, not even sure which orientation felt right.

Then one day I laid the gold down in the same way—quickly and enjoying how the swirls fell together. It suddenly felt like an aerial view of a pond, land meeting water, caverns and canyons—and also suddenly a face. A surprise, but once I saw it, the orientation was decided. I set it aside again for a while longer, until a snowy Sunday and like a meditation I hand-dotted all of those specks with a white pen, then the light blue wash, then the white pen carving out that blue, then black pen finishing off the outer waves—like lapping water, or atmosphere, or sound. All of the sudden it was an otherworldly figure made out of an otherworld.

The name came to me thinking of a beautiful thin hardcover book I bought in the fall at the library used book sale for 50 cents: The Cambridge Star Atlas, by Wil Tirion. It has a table of contents that is deceptively simple: The Moon, The Monthly Sky Maps, The Star Charts, and The All-Sky Maps. Pages of bright blue maps of the stars, shown as dots, connected by lines forming constellations. Keys that identify single and double stars, open clusters, globular clusters, planetary nebulae, galaxies.. Like poetry.

I loved that someone mapped all of this and put it in this book…and that person is the All-Sky Map Maker.

View up close in the gallery.

The belief.

When I was younger
I had the belief
that there would be 
one who I will love
and one who 
I know loves me—
almost that love 
is a fixed place.

And yes, there can be walks in 
the April woods that
feel full of infinity—every leaf a universe
and the thawing stream a bounty. 

The unspoken amazement at 
a crush of trout lilies,
pushing their way up through
last year’s leaves.

The imagining of this path
as seen from above—
two people on their way through 
the woods, as if it’s the cosmos.

With atoms visible and all 
ideas entertained—the sheerness
of it all—so immediate 
and available. 

But this love between you two
is not a place. It floats
just above as you pass by
the maidenhair fern.

Growing, living, and dying, 
in spite of 
the belief.

View up close in the gallery.

The fresh blue meandering shape of this painting with its complications of winding lines and dashes made it a good match for the walk that this poem takes. I wrote it last spring thinking of the literal feeling of taking my favorite forest walk—but the writing of the poem brought out a deeper, more metaphysical and personal meaning. I saw that curved perimeter of the painting and knew that poem would complete it.

Looking at it today, it reminds me of the photographer Duane Michals’ photograph called ‘This Photograph is My Proof’, which shows a couple sitting on the edge of a bed, a man in a suit, smiling, the woman giving him a warm embrace with her head resting on his back, also looking at the camera smiling. The title and words that follow it are handwritten: “There was that afternoon, when things were still good between us, and she embraced me, and we were so happy. It did happen, she did love me. Look see for yourself!”

The image and words work together perfectly to reveal the ambiguity and mystery of memory, love, and life itself. How is our experience of the world—of the people in our lives—defined? Is it only our perception? Can an image be ‘proof’? It is frozen in time, and does that truth last beyond that moment? Aren’t images and words and the combination of them constructions that exist somewhere on their own, outside of time?

To me, this is the work of words and images—constantly asking questions about what it means to be human, what it means to love others, and the world itself.