Monday, October 31, 2011


(The Potter, George de Forest Brush, 1889, Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, Texas)

I love this painting.

It speaks to me in a very intimate way.

But before I tell you about my personal feelings, we need some background information.

First of all,  many of our prominent painters of the American Indian - Frederic Remington and Charles Russell are but two of these artists - often depicted male natives in the act of conflict with white men.

Certainly that was a fact of life for these people and one not to be glossed over nor forgotten - least of all by anyone who was caught in the middle of these struggles.

Still, it seems to me that genre scenes of Indian warfare serve to stereotype American Indians primarily as a war-loving people.

Here's another thought:

These same artists - and others - painted American Indians who were nearly always engaged with the natural world in one way or another.

For example, a popular theme was the depiction of American natives traveling across the heat of the desert on horseback.

In addition, depictions of the physical rigors of battling and conquering buffalo were favorite subjects as well.

Finally, painted scenes highlighting native customs and culture were frequently favored by Old West masters.

Obviously, there is a place for each of these themes in American native art.

But I sometimes wonder if these sorts of subjects haven't been over done a bit.

I think it's possible.


In time, George de Forest Brush entered the world of American native art.

And with him came his masterpiece, "The Potter."

Brush, a native of Shelbyville, Tennessee, spent three years in Paris studying at the prestigious Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts.

Now, let's take a closer look at our Indian potter.

Examine his taut muscles and his finely detailed bones.

Only a master of the physical form could depict such attributes so perfectly.

Dr. Rick Stewart, a senior curator at the Amon Carter Museum, has said:

"Brush's academic training was grounded in the French tradition, which focused on the idealized human body.  Brush drew and painted the human figure with meticulous precision."

No kidding.

But that's not all.

When I first encountered "The Potter," I thought it was a photograph.

That's because the colors placed on the subject's body were so true to life.

As I peered at the painting, I became entranced with the shimmery texture of the man's skin.

I nearly expected the potter to rise up off his teal-tinged rug and walk toward me.

I'm glad he didn't.

But, needless to say, Brush brought a highly defined talent for depicting realism to his work.

And - please excuse my personal musings - I am a huge fan of realism.

The current powers that be in the world of art would not necessarily approve.

According to many of them, realism is old school and, thus, infinitely boring.


Perhaps those same powers that be should open their minds a tad more frequently and make room for beauty wherever it's found.

Just a thought.

Here's another one:

Our American native is shown as a solitary figure.

He is, of course, creating a work of art.

More often than not, the act of creating art REQUIRES solitude.

An artist must be able to think.

And an artist must be able to feel.

A serious creator can't perform either of those acts if someone is jibber-jabbering in her ear.

I can testify to that.

I am a writer.

I create flows of words on a page.

Some of those flows may be effective.

They may serve to enlighten my readers' understanding of the subject at hand.

Some of them may miss the mark completely.

My point is this:

In order do create those word flows, I must be able to think and I must be able to feel.

So when I am in the act of writing, I can not be disturbed, distracted or otherwise disengaged from my work.

Fortunately, I live with a person who understands this.

So does our native potter.

He is intently focused on the work at hand as he glazes his vase.

Please believe me when I tell you that the green glaze on that vase catches your visual attention with lightening speed.

The white glaze - swirling as it does across the body of the pot -  adds to that dramatic effect.

We could say that "The Potter" is a simple painting.

After all,  Mr. Brush has painted an economy of things on his canvas.

We see one man, one rug, one animal skin and three pots.

Not a lot of stuff, to be sure.

And that's a good thing.

Because all we need to see is that focused human being in the act of creation.

Human beings have been destined to create since day one.

The act of artistic expression is one of the attributes that distinguishes us from other life forms.

Creation brings light and life to our lives.

It brings hope, understanding and joy as well as a myriad of other virtues.

Art matters.

It speaks to our spirits in ways that edify our fragile humanity.

That is why art excites me.

With "The Potter," we see a single, solitary individual creating a work of art with his heart, his mind and his hands.

For me, that is a godly image.

A sacred image that refreshes my spirit daily.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


(Chloe And Sam, Thomas Hovenden, 1882, Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, Texas)

Little did I expect to find two new friends as I ambled into a brightly lit gallery at the Amon Carter Museum.

But find them I did.

I felt honored to be invited into their lives if only for a few hallowed moments.


Chloe and Sam are two of the most elegant human beings I have seen on canvas or in any other place for that matter.

Each of these people exude a dignified richness of grace.

In addition to that, American painter Thomas Hovenden has blessed them with a restrained and tasteful simplicity.

Chloe and Sam possess a refined sense of propriety.

They know what is good, proper and right.

And, in my opinion, they represent these virtues to the highest degree.

Hovenden found his model for "Sam" in his neighbor, the elderly Sam Jones.

Samuel Jones was a free black man.

Today, it is presumed that Sam's real life wife, Hester, served as the model for "Chloe."

Or, more specifically, "Aunt Chloe."

This name was easily recognizable to late 1800's viewers because "Aunt Chloe" was the wife of Harriet Beecher Stowe's literary character, "Uncle Tom."

"Chloe" represents the stalwart black domestic worker who is the very backbone of the ante-bellum Southern household.

In 1881, Thomas Hovenden moved to Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.

Ultimately, he chose a house that had served as a stop on the underground railroad.

We may be correct to assume that the house and all that it symbolized profoundly affected the painter.

He used the cozy abode as a backdrop for several of his domestic genre scenes.

Eventually, Hovenden created a series of paintings honoring the heritage of abolitionism that distinguished Plymouth Meeting - a peace-loving Quaker settlement.

Let's examine "Chloe and Sam' closely.

What is that circular object Sam is holding in his right hand?

It's a lid to a pot.

Sam has removed the lid so he can better see what's cooking in that copper pot.

Domestic portraiture doesn't get any more basic than this.

Most of us can relate to Sam's desire to check on his culinary work.

It's part of what naturally happens when you cook.

But what I love about Sam's portrait is the upward, vertical position of his left hand.

His fingers are gently bent toward his head.

Is our artist deliberately trying to point to Sam's head with those lithe fingers?


But we don't really know.

If that is the case, perhaps Hovenden wants us to realize that Sam is thinking about his soon-to-be meal.

But there could be more to it than that.

For me, Hovenden's Sam has become a master cook.

One who has gone beyond the point of simple domestic duty.

Indeed, Sam is creating an edible masterpiece.

With the grace and flair of any respected artist.

Frankly, I can hardly wait to be invited over for a taste of whatever is brewing in his pot!

Now let's take a look at Chloe.

The light shines directly on her creamy cotton bodice.

Under that bodice beats a heart of gold.

Chloe is a caretaker extraordinaire!

How do we know?

Obviously, she's tending to her batch of ironing.

But there's something else.

She's glancing down at Sam's pot.

And checking up on Sam's activities.

Chloe is a multi-tasker.

Like every single domestic goddess on this planet.

She's got to oversee the whole of what's going on!

But is there any sign that she is a meddler?


Not at all.

She's simply investigating and surmising.

Perhaps she's dreaming about the delicious things to come from Sam's creative hand.

Don't you just love that fabulous turban on Chloe's head?

The colors in that turban echo the rich terracottas and the forest greens seen in the layered rugs under Chloe's feet and in the folded fabrics on the chair.

Except for these intense shots of color, this room is awash in earth tones of subtle beige and brown.

I love the fact that Chloe is wearing glasses.

Obviously, she needs them in order to see her work.

But in my heart of hearts, I want to believe that Chloe is a woman of spiritual humility and godly refinement as well.

She has evolved in that way because she studies her Bible every day.

Chloe knows what's important in her life.

And she's determined to stay focused on all that is true and edifying.

I do not mean to imply, however, that Sam and Chloe don't know how to have a rollicking good time.

Because I truly sense that they do.

Their good times are filled with conversation,  laughter and affection for family and friends.

Maybe even some dancing and game playing.

Oh, my!

Our glimpse into the everyday lives of Chloe and Sam humbles us.

There is no way for us to understand the hardships of their lives.

We were not alive when they lived and breathed.

When they suffered through body and spirit wrecking work.

Uncalled for abuse.

And the deepest humiliations.

I am glad of it.

Not long ago, The Amon Carter Museum presented a lecture entitled "Beyond the Power of Words to Tell."

A discussion of Hovenden's "Chloe and Sam" was included in that lecture.

The title of the lecture says it all, doesn't it?

There are those times when words alone will not suffice.

That was the feeling that settled over me when I first met "Chloe and Sam."

I feel privileged that I got to "visit" them in their own home.

Where the rich tapestry of their private lives is so beautifully represented.


Harriet Beecher Stowe's moral charge to her reader's is this:

"Think of your freedom every time you see "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Monday, October 17, 2011


(Store Front, Robert J Smith, 1933, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio)

I have a black belt in shopping.

And it's a good thing or I never would have made it through the retail maze known as Harrods department store.

Truth be told, Harrods had a rather humble beginning.

Years ago, a gentleman by the name of Henry Charles Harrod opened a small grocery shop on Brompton Road in London.

Actually, this retail event took place more than a few years ago.

It was 1849 to be exact.

Henry's store soon became known for its wonderful service and high quality goods.

Ahh - the sweet smell of success!

Today, the store's patrons enjoy over-the-top shopping at Harrods current premises in the Knightsbridge section of London.

The star department at Harrods is its magnificent Food Hall.

Gawkers from all parts of the globe unite at the Food Hall to stare at the outrageous culinary wonders.

Is fresh fish on tonight's dinner menu?

Don't worry your pretty little head another second.

Harrods will fix you up in fresh fish style!

They sell artisanal cheeses from all over the world.

And highly exotic fresh fruits and veggies.

Don't even get me started on the chocolate!

Or the tea cakes, jams and the British biscuits.

(Otherwise known as "cookies" to us clueless Americans.)

In addition to these stylish grocery items, Harrods sells - among other glorious things - fashion, china, art, electronics and jewelry.

Did I mention jewelry?

Why, I believe I did!

Do you hear it?

Miss Merry's bling bell is clanging like gangbusters!

Now let's get serious here.

Harrods's bling has absolutely NOTHING to do with Macy's bling.

Harrods's bling doesn't even reside in the same galaxy - let alone the same planet - as Macy's bling.

You can trust me on this.

I've salivated over every twinkling piece of Harrods spectacular jewelry.

More than once.


More than three times.

Harrods is a department store operating on some serious steroids.

It sells the best, of the best, of the very, very best.

So I guess it shouldn't come as any surprise that Harrods restrooms are equally smashing.

I'm talking about the ladies rooms, of course.

(Just so you know, I plan to live the rest of my life in complete ignorance of what goes on in the gentlemen's restrooms.)

I'll never forget the day I was introduced to the ladies room at Harrods.

Gretchen and I had been shopping and eating our happy brains out.

Eventually, the inevitable happened.

Nature called.

In my case, she went right to speed dial.

Immediately, Gretch and I went on the hunt for the nearest restroom.

I soon decided to cut to the chase and put our Harrods map to good use.


Here's what happens when you arrive at Harrods:

The doorman hands you a map of the store as he graciously opens the door for you.

Then he smiles brightly and says:  "Good morning, Madam!"

(Please remind again me why I'm choosing to live in the United States of America when I could be living next door to Harrods in London, England.)

There's good reason for holding onto your map.

Harrods is humongous!

And by that I mean B......I......G!

There is a blurb on the brochure/map which states that a mother/daughter shopping team once decided to go their separate shopping ways after dining on lunch in one of Harrods' yummy restaurants.

They spent two hours trying to find each other until one of them got smart and asked  Harrods superb customer service personnel for assistance.

Just for the record......



After consulting the map, we are ecstatic to discover that the nearest ladies room is just steps away.

We quickly waddle over there.

Gretch opens the door to what is obviously...... ladies room heaven.

Immediately, my eyes fall on a woman attendant dressed in sparkling white.

She is busy flitting around the spacious ladies room.

And smiling at everyone.

She holds a gorgeous crystal perfume bottle in her hand.

The kind that has the rubber ball that dispenses a spray of perfume every time it's squeezed.

I glance to my left and see a magnificent silver tray sitting on the marble topped vanity.

An assortment of beautiful perfume bottles stand on the tray.

I study them for a few seconds.

These wonderful perfumes are - what else? - the very best perfume the world has to offer.

I am standing in the doorway staring at this delightful attendant when she sees me.

Our eyes lock.

Then she smiles as her arm gently brushes against the stall door nearest her.

The door opens slowly.

She beckons for me to come toward her.

I obey.

That's because I've never had a personal escort to a restroom stall.

Not once in my natural life.

Unless, of course, you count my mom who escorted me regularly when I was three years old.


Not counting that.

I am completely transfixed and ready to soak up every moment of this experience.

Really ready.

Please allow me to be honest here.

If this charming woman had asked me to accompany her on a toasty tour of Hell I would have looked at her glassy-eyed and said,  "When do we leave?"

As I walk toward the stall, I see my attendant flush the toilet ever so gently.

Not that it needed to be flushed.

The previous patron had already taken care of that duty quite nicely.

My "lady- in- waiting" is making absolutely sure that my commode is as fresh as a summer's day.

Just before I reach the stall, this saintly woman squeezes the perfume's atomizer directly into my stall.

I can hardly believe what I am seeing.

Suddenly, a spritz of soft, citrusy fragrance floats into the surrounding air.


With my angelic lady-in-waiting.

And with the idea that I must, contrary to popular opinion, be a queen after all.

Hadn't I just been treated like one?

I tip my attendant a ridiculous amount of money and then step into my freshened stall.

As I sit on my "throne" I meditate on all that has just occurred.

Then, much too soon, my mind snaps back to reality.

Seconds later, Gretch and I meet at the marble vanity.

"Can you believe this?" I ask her in hushed words.

"They do make you feel like royalty," she replies enthusiastically.

Reluctantly, we shuffle out of the ladies room.

I think to myself,  "I wonder if I could persuade Bob to spritz perfume into my bathroom at home?"

"Like maybe 53 times a day."

Instantly, my mind answers its own question:

"Honey, live right and die happy because there's not a chance in this world!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


(Cheese Ball Eating Alligator, Merryscribe, 2011, Windshield Museum of Art)

Occasionally, some well meaning person will ask me the following question:

"Since you love art so much why aren't you an artist?"

My answer to this inquiry is always:

"Get serious.  I love art.  I don't love work. Creating art is hard work. Therefore,  I'm a gazer; not a do-er.  End of story."

But something has happened that has rocked my world to its very foundation.

And, as a result, that statement is no longer true.

Whenever I am asked that question in the future, I will be forced to say:

I am an artist.

A full-blown,


honest to goodness......


Let's back-track a few days:

Bob and I are driving to Dallas to begin our TOTAL TEXAS ART TOUR.

We've been sitting in our trusty Malibu long enough to petrify our lumpy backsides.

I decide to prop my feet on top of the dashboard.

Please allow me to paint a more complete picture for you:

This means that my heels are digging into the dash and my toes are scrunched up and pasted to the


This is what I call TOOTSIE HEAVEN!

That is, if I don't let my feet rest on the dash too long.

If I get careless and lose track of time, my legs become paralyzed within minutes.

On this occasion I remove my feet from the windshield in the nick of time.

Under normal circumstances, TOOTSIE HEAVEN is over at this point.

So I move on to counting hairy goats as we breeze by on the interstate.

But not this time.

This time I notice a distinct image on the windshield.

"What is that thing?" I ask myself.

It looks exactly like an alligator head.

An alligator head with its jaw cracked open.

An alligator head with its jaw cracked open snaring a line of cheese balls in its mouth.

I study this image in wonderment.

Naturally, I say nothing to Bob.

He already believes I'm two tacos short of a combo plate.

This will only confirm it.

I can't take my eyes off the alligator head.

Maybe I'm seeing some sort of apparition.

Or maybe a bird flew into the windshield while I was snoozing.

And its dead body left a fascinating souvenir on the exterior glass.

Who knows?

I decide to think about other things.

Like where to eat lunch.

Just then I see a huge billboard whiz by.

Chick-fil-a is three exits ahead on the interstate.

We pull off and wolf down 8, 492 fat grams in less than four minutes flat.

Returning to the Malibu, my eyes are immediately drawn to the alligator head.

"Its still there," I think to myself.

"How in the world did this happen?"

Suddenly, my brain fires up two – maybe three – wobbly cells.


I massaged my feet with peppermint oil this morning before we left the house.

My toes did this.

They smudged the glass when I scrunched them on the windshield!

It was me who created this cheese-ball-eating alligator head.

(Leave it to me to create art with food as one of the primary subjects.)

Later, I decide to throw caution to the wind, and draw Bob into my artsy world.

"Do you see anything over here on my side of the windshield?" I ask innocently.

Bob glances at the windshield.

"Sure" he says matter-of-factly. "I see an alligator head."

"Nooooooooo! You do not!" I reply in mock horror.

"Yes, I do. I definitely see an alligator head."

My heart is racing.

"Me too!  I created it!" I tell Bob enthusiastically.

"I put some oil on my feet this morning and this is the incredible result!"

Bob smiles weakly.

Then he looks at me with a vacant stare.

"Is that right?" he asks.

"Yes! Do you see the cheese balls flying into its mouth?"

"I guess they could be cheese balls," he replies hesitantly.

"Oh, they're definitely cheese balls!" I inform him.

Returning his gaze to the road ahead, he says, "If you say so."

I study the alligator head more seriously.

"I'm feeling a surge of creativity coming on. Maybe......" I think to myself.

"Maybe I should add a body to my alligator's head."

Then, using my oil based  toes, I squish a new series of smudges onto the canvas – umm- windshield.

(Alligator Head and Body, Merryscribe, 2011, Windshield Museum of Art)

As I joyfully create, I think to myself: "Hey, if Claude Monet is the father of Impressionism,  it's totally obvious that I am the mother of Smudge-ism."

Furthermore, it's equally apparent that I have discovered not just Smudge-ism.

It's way bigger than that.

I will forever be known as the distinguished founder of ACCIDENTAL ART!

Who knew?

But then again, this is how pure genius is born, isn't it?

It's all coming together right this very minute.

My name will go down in the annals of art history.

And deservedly so.

Because I create stuff.

I am an artiste!

And any artiste worth her salt must go where no artiste has gone before.

She must  innovate.

She must create new ways of looking at objects.

Then she must use new materials as she shrewdly molds those objects into previously unknown visual representations.

I humbly submit to you that I have done just that.

My alligator head has sprung from the enlightened use of my oily toes.

Hence, "Smudge-ism" has entered the world.

That, my friends, is the artistic process.

It really is as simple as that.

Let's take a few minutes to examine some basic art history.

For instance, take your ordinary, garden-variety canvas painters.

I'm talking about people like Leonardo da Vinci,  Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh.

All boring brush users.

I'm yawning already.

I have come up with something totally new and cutting edge.

Trust me on this - toe tools are the wave of the future.

And here's another thing:

All of the above-mentioned artists used an oil based medium just as I do when I create art.

I'll give them that.

But - and this is a very big but - were any of them clever enough to add a splash of peppermint scent to their paints?

I think not!

And - let's face it - it's that subtle hint of peppermint that makes all the difference to the viewing public.

Finally, it must be recognized that my artwork appears on vehicular glass.

Absolutely none of my revered colleagues were using any such thing!

I lean back into the passenger seat and admire my day's work.

I've just given my alligator head a smudge-based torso with my dainty peppermint-laced toes.

The beguiling result?

My alligator head has suddenly morphed into a stunning stegosaurus.

(Stegosaurus Morphing, Merryscribe, 2011, Windshield Museum of Art)

Surely, my work here is done.

But wait!

I'm feeling oddly creative again.

And that creative itch is just begging to be scratched.

So I carefully place the toes of my right foot on the windshield.

Awestruck,  I watch as my nimble appendages apply smudges to the lower torso of the stegosaurus.

Smudge by eerie smudge, four spindly legs appear on the body of my dinosaur.

Then, with no warning, my toes move to the business end of my smudgy creature.

As if by magic, a tail appears on "Steggy's" hind side.

Suddenly, my whole being collapses into a lengthy sigh.

I feel drained, spent, limp to the bone.

Instinctively, I know that my critter is complete.

And perfect.

(Steggy Completely Perfect, Merryscribe, 2011, Windshield Museum of Art)

"This must be what Leonardo felt like when he finished the "Mona Lisa!" I muse to myself.

Although it has been a long and frustrating journey,  I have finally discovered the purpose for which I was created.

And because of that discovery,  everything in my life has changed.

Now - there can be no going back


By the way, I've got a message for you, Mr. Michelangelo.

You know that ceiling you painted in the Sistine Chapel?

We're over it.

It's time to move on, Mike.

Merry's bringin' on the smudge.

Note to my readers:

Lithographs of "Steggy Completely Perfect" will soon be available to my art savvy readers for $1, 500,000  per print.

The artist will sign each lithograph for an additional $500,000.

You must get in on the ground floor of this offer before the art market swallows up "Steggy Completely Perfect."

Consider yourselves warned.

Please do not  follow in the sad footsteps of Renaissance gentleman, Guido Botcheditup, who passed on the opportunity to purchase Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" for a mere 5 florens in 1510.

Guido's descendants are still cursing his name to this very day!