Sunday, April 15, 2018

Art & Books

My apologies for not updating my blog last weekend. I’ve been busy soaking up a bit of culture the last two weekends. Last Saturday was the annual CCAD Art Fair and this Saturday was the annual Ohioana Book Festival.

Neither my husband, nor I, had ever attended the CCAD (Columbus College of Art & Design) Art Festival, and I heard about it from an advert on WOSU morning radio. Tickets were only $5 and proceeds benefit CCAD student programming. The Festival contained three floors of art being sold by ‘top alumni and students.’

In a way, it’s like a tiny slice of the Columbus Arts Festival that’s held downtown by the river in early summer. It probably goes without saying that these are some very talented students with a bright future ahead of them. Had I had an unlimited budget (i.e., no husband controlling the purse strings), or a bigger house in which to display various items, perhaps I might have bought more, but we did our best to support the students.

Probably my favorite two purchases were the pink t-shirt that says, “Home is where the Art is,” (with a picture of a room in a house) and a necklace made out of a penny and a dime that almost resembles a $2 Canadian coin. Someone asked the artist, “Is it legal to make jewelry out of money?” Apparently it is not unless you plan to continue to try to use the coins as legal tender.

I also bought a cactus pin, a colorful, floral coin purse, an Ohio-shaped wooden coaster, a couple booklets, some stickers and a bunch of postcards. Andrew and I decided to get some art for our house, so we bought a couple mixed media pieces from an artist by the name of Mary Miller.
One is hanging on our living room wall (after mending a couple holes and repainting the area),and the other is displayed on the lower eave near our front door.

This Saturday I attended the annual Ohioana Book Festival which was held at a hotel in downtown Columbus. Andrew and I had only ever attended once before when it was held at the Ohioana Library located elsewhere in Columbus. Holding it at a hotel was a good idea because I think there were a lot more attendees at this one than when it was held at the other venue.

According to the program brochure, there were 120 authors of all different genres invited to the event (though I saw a sign indicating one or two weren’t able to attend due to extenuating circumstances). My friend, Karin, mentioned the festival to me, so I am grateful to her for reminding me about it. I’m only sorry she couldn’t attend.

After looking at the program schedule, I wanted to make sure to meet David Giffels, author of Furnishing Eternity,
his latest book about him and his father building a coffin together. I read about his book in the December 2017 issue of Ohio magazine, so I already knew I was going to purchase it at some point. I’m just lucky that he was attending the festival, so I also got my book personalized (To Cindy, with thanks and eternity…). During one of the panels he spoke on he told the audience the coffin is now serving as a bookshelf until needed, and is the first thing he and his wife see every day reminding him that every day is a gift.

I attended four different lectures with a cross section of authors.

The first one I sat in on was called “Gone to the Dogs: A conversation about man’s best friend, from inspiring stories of photographing rescue dogs to the selfless loyalty of canine service animals.” There were three panelists – two who had out photo books (Peanut Butter Dogs by Greg Murray & Rescue Dogs by Susannah Maynard), the other was a blind poet (Stephen Kuusisto) with his own seeing eye dog. 
His latest book is called, Have Dog Will Travel. Surprisingly or not, he was more of a subject of fascination than the other two authors. In fact, there was a blind girl sitting in front of me who had all sorts of questions. Though I didn’t purchase any of their books, I hope to buy the next one the two photographers have coming out, and will probably get Mr. Kuusisto’s book from the library.

The next lecture I attended was called “Close to Home: Biographical and Autobiographical Stories of Family.” As Mr. Giffels was one of the panelist, I made a point to attend this one. Without any offense to the other authors, I had a hard time relating to them, so I found myself studying the program to see where the various authors were sitting so I could go meet some of them afterwards and get more books signed.

The third panel I attended was an unconventional choice for me being that I’m not very familiar with the genre, but always try to keep an open mind. “Cozy Mystery: Grab a cup of tea and a furry friend and enjoy this chat about the cozy side of mysteries.” Probably the closest I’ve come to reading a cozy mystery is the occasional Debbie Macomber book. I like the idea, but to me just feels a little frivolous and I need to be in the mood for that as I rarely ever read anything that’s not a memoir.

According to Wikipedia, “Cozy mysteries, also referred to as "cozies", are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. Cozies thus stand in contrast to hardboiled fiction, which feature violence and sexuality more explicitly and centrally to the plot. The term "cozy" was first coined in the late 20th century when various writers produced work in an attempt to re-create the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.”

I have to say that the lecture proved to be very interesting from a publishing point of view. For instance, I didn’t realize that cats are integral to Cozy Mysteries because they sell books. In fact, Olivia Matthews (author of a series of religious themed mysteries she described as a bit like Sister Louise meets “Murder She Wrote”) said her publisher’s assistant once asked if she could add a cat to her story (even though the book was nearly ready for publication).
She said she felt like a fraud because there’s a cat on the cover, but no cat in the story. I found that quite funny, but hardly surprising. I wish the author of Death by Eggnog, Alex Erickson, 

had been on the panel. It would have been nice to have heard a male point of view in what seems to be a very female-dominated market (not surprising).

I should probably give a shout-out to Lisa Karon Richardson,
author of a series of Nancy-Drew like Cozy mysteries with titles like, The Counterfeit Clue and The Case of the Clobbered Cad (both of which I just bought on Kindle) and have the silhouette of a female on the cover, in a similar style to Nancy Drew books.
Speaking of Nancy Drew, I also bought Missing Millie Benson by Julie K. Rubini, which says on the cover: “The Secret Case of the Ghostwriter and Journalist Nancy Drew.” I had heard of this book quite awhile ago, but hadn’t yet gotten around to reading it (my life story!) When I saw it on a table amongst a stack of other autographed books, I picked it up and purchased it, then noticed that the author was actually there, so I got her to personalize it, “To Cindy, Happy Sleuthing.” (She came up with that on her own).

The last lecture I attended was also quite interesting, and I frantically took notes in between the various anecdotes. This one was simply called “The Creative Life” and featured Tom Batiuk (comic strip artist of Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean), David Giffels, Susanne Jaffe, and Margie Shaheed. Out of all the authors, I think I could probably best relate to Mr. Batiuk 
who said he often has a hard time just concentrating on just one project at a time, and has notepads scattered all over his house (and one in his car) for jotting down ideas. He also said he sometimes procrastinates by doing things like “reorganizing my bookshelf.” Like most writers, I can relate to that. I got the impression that the other three authors are a lot more disciplined.

I may also feel simpatico with Mr. Batiuk as we’re both Kent State alumni (he graduated one year before I was born and Kent State forever went down in history). I am also familiar with both his comic strips, though I wouldn’t say I’m exactly a regular reader. I probably prefer the curmudgeonly Crankshaft to Funky Winkerbean (I was never in band, so perhaps it’s a little harder for me to relate).

Probably the best part of being somewhere like the Ohioana Book Festival is being among my “tribe” of fellow readers, though I don’t read nearly as much as I used to and usually prefer to read in small doses. I liked reading everyone’s bookish shirts
and noticed the book bags they all seemed to have. I brought my “dictionary” bag and wore my “So Many Books, So Little Time” (Café Press) shirt. I also like that there were a couple dozen tables representing various libraries and bookstores, writers’ associations, etc. I picked up some free swag including a pen that lights up, a pair of sunglasses, a water bottle, a cute little cuddly toy, and lots of free brochures. I can’t wait to go back next year!

Sunday, April 1, 2018


April 1, 2018

For me Easter is almost as highly anticipated as Christmas for both similar and different reasons. Both are busy seasons. Easter is busy for me because I am on the Arts & Environment Committee at my church, so every Saturday in March was spent prepping for Easter (and there’s still a few more evenings ahead watering the lilies). It’s also a relief when Easter is over and ordinary time begins because there’s very little to do (other than checking and changing the altar cloth periodically) until Thanksgiving weekend (Advent).

It’s different than Christmas because the period between Thanksgiving and the new year we tend to stuff ourselves like the turkey we ate, then go on a diet once the new year begins. Lent is when we give up something for 40 days (a second attempt at a diet for some) and then stuff ourselves on Easter when the fasting is over.

Last year I definitely did a bit of the stuffing thing enjoying the chocolate peanut butter bunny I bought myself, but this year the only stuffing I plan to do is the stuffing I am going to make to go with the rotisserie chicken we’re having for dinner. Now I’m not judging anyone who has eaten more than their fair share of chocolate today, as that would normally be me, but I think the chocolate chocolate chip pancakes my husband made me for brunch more than satisfied my sweet tooth. By the way, he bought me a Dove dark chocolate bunny, which I plan to enjoy once the mood strikes me.

Easter is usually a non-event for my husband and I since we rarely ever spend it with family (due to geography more than anything else). Hence, it tends to be just another weekend for us with the exception of spending a bit more time at church. However, I would say this year was definitely one of our better Easters if for no other reason than I was pulled out of my grumpy mood by the huge turnout of volunteers we (the Arts & Environment Committee) got on Wednesday and Saturday. Not expecting that, I was taken a little off guard and almost didn’t know what to do, but the head of our committee, Kathleen, and me, soon started delegating various chores to our helpers. As a result, we got most of the Garden of Repose set-up for Holy Thursday so there wasn’t a lot of work to do before mass (since we have fewer volunteers available during weekdays).
Also, on Saturday we got done in record time (about an hour and a half, though some of us stayed a bit longer to touch up various areas and do a final clean-up). The volunteers on Saturday were also good at tending to what needed to be done without being asked, as they soon found neglected areas that needed tending to (like washing windows, dusting, vacuuming, etc.).
The gathering space has never looked cleaner. Thinking about it afterwards, the only task I really did (other than supervising and answering questions) was to wrap a (faux) cherry blossom vine around the Easter candlestick, which Kathleen liked (and our pastor didn’t take it off, so he apparently didn’t mind either).

By the way, I gave up chocolate candy and “The Gilmore Girls” for Lent. One of the ladies said she gave up “Target” for Lent (the one store you go into for one thing and come out with three because they’re so irresistible). She said one year she gave up shopping (other than for groceries). I would love to do that, but just know that that would be impossible unless I simply didn’t have time for it (though I certainly have a lot less time for online shopping these days). I have also found that if I don’t see it, I can’t want it, so it definitely helps to stay offline and put blinders on when you shop (or just go with my husband who almost never strays from the list and always gets out in record time).

Have a good week ahead everyone!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Sphere of Magic and Other Visionary Objects

Yesterday my husband Andrew and I visited the Dublin Arts Council gallery on Riverside Drive. We visit periodically to see some of the art depending on how enthusiastic we feel about what’s displayed on the postcard we receive.
We have yet to be disappointed by a showing, though our preferences definitely influence how well received it is. I can tell you that Artist Mark Soppeland* hit it out of the park with this one. We couldn’t tear ourselves away from the light pieces in the first gallery studying the intricacies of each piece. Though it was difficult to choose a favorite, we each had strong feelings about a particular work.

*Artist Mark Soppeland, a distinguished professor of art emeritus at the Myers School of Art, The University of Akron, performs the roles of conceptualist, designer, craftsman, historian, philosopher, storyteller, pantheist, scientist and magician in The Sphere of Magic and other Visionary Objects/Extraordinary Images, his solo exhibition of mixed media paintings, collages and sculpture at Dublin Arts Council. The artwork relates to Soppeland’s interest in interpreting the symbolic and cultural baggage of found objects and images to evoke memory. (courtesy of DAC)

My favorite, or at least the one I could most identify with (or that those who know me would say it reminded them of me) was this one:
(kind of reminds me of a girl reading in a shed)
 This one (one of the 'Guardians') is probably more like me:

(yeah, I definitely have enough jewelry to support something like that)
Andrew really liked this one and definitely would have bought it had it not been for the $$$$ price tag:
(I think we both loved that it was made from an old slide projector)
Several of the walls contained collages displayed in rather ornate frames, which was a funny juxtaposition I thought, and certainly something I wouldn’t have thought of doing.

We also lingered in the last room off the kitchen which contained tile-like paintings, a couple of which we are still contemplating purchasing if we can find the space. My favorite, because of the color scheme and the fact that I think it would go with our décor, is a rather small piece:

If you live in the greater Columbus area I would strongly encourage you to visit the gallery and check out these amazing pieces. The light sculptures alone are worth a closer look for all the detail that went into them. Mr. Soppeland is truly a gifted artist and I hope to see more of his work in the future.