Tag Archives: writing

What Follows

The Birthing, 2019, mixed media on paper, 22″ x 30″

The Art of Grief and What Follows
Paintings and Writings by Tremain Smith

May 1 thru June 1, 2019

Old City Jewish Arts Center
119 North 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Gallery Hours: Mon-Fri 10-5, Sat & Sun 12-5

May 3, 5-9 pm: First Friday Opening
Sun, May 19, 2-4 pm: Art & writing workshop led by the artist
Wed, May 29, 6-8 pm: Closing Reception/Poetry Reading

All events are free and open to the public.

Rare Orchid

Let it blossom in its time
Let it unfold of its own accord
Slowly gently imperceptibly 
Like that rare orchid you spoke of, Mom
It’s multiplied
In my window in the light of my window
protected by the pine and nestled in peace 
Brand new bold stems have come 
It’s you.
I made it, Mom. I made it through the grief.
I’m happy now. I’m living again.
Changed and sustained by your life and death I love you.
You fell into my soil
like the leaves from the trees
Bountifully nourishing my essence
I grow,
strong, deep, solid
I can touch the sky
I touch the sky indeed.
You smile.
Ever my encourager, now you are my guide, my holy being.

Remember how we said as you were leaving this earth:
“I place myself in the hands of holy beings.”

I do that now, while still on earth.
Thank you.
That line that stretches back
Before time
And forever
That’s where I meet you
Thank you to Tremain Smith for the content of this post.

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CHROMOGRAPHY: WRITING IN COLOR, Rowan University Art GalleryMelinda Steffy and Gerard Brown, Sketch for The Hours, 2014, colored pencil on paper.

The Text for Translation

Written by Jane Irish

“The task of the translator consists in finding that intended effect upon the language into which he is translating which produces the echo of the original.”—Walter Benjamin, The Task of the Translator, 1923 (translated by Harry Zohn)


I am an artist writing this essay. In my work, I try to practice openness, to travel eagerly through territories of another’s culture. By painting about Vietnam, France, and the United States resistance histories, I practice to rectify the problem with European-based training of art history and history in general. Looking at Brown and Steffy’s work takes me to some stories that I often repeat. They are my core experiences with translation.

I. Counterpoint

In 2008, I traveled for my first time to Vietnam. I was inspired by John Balaban’s Remembering Heaven’s Face and reading his poetry and his translations of Ca Dao Vietnamase folk poetry. Just after, I saw him speak in Philadelphia. He was in his 60s. Some people are connectors, and John is one of these. He is highly thought of, a sage, someone who has stuck with his subject matter.

I have looked up to him. In 1994, nearly 15 years before meeting John, Linh Dinh was another person I looked up to. He was a young poet and painter living in Philadelphia; he was rough-talking and tough on his feet. I had him to my studio long before I started on a Vietnam narrative. He liked my paintings that day in my studio; he thought I had moxie.

CHROMOGRAPHY: WRITING IN COLOR, Rowan University Art GalleryMelinda Steffy, Prelude in C Major (red), No. 1, 2013, watercolor on paper, based on music by J.S. Bach.

Both of these idols of mine went on to translate the poems of Vietnam’s favorite poet, Hồ Xuân Hương. John was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War but served in Vietnam with the Friends International Volunteer Services, first as a teacher, then saving burned children. Linh Dinh was born in Saigon in 1963 and in 1975 came to the U.S.

In 2010, I was visiting John Balaban in North Carolina. I had come to learn from the sage and to deliver a gift to him—a vase I had made with the collected Ca Dao poetry. When I arrived he was wearing a heart monitor, as he was in the midst of tests for a serious heart condition. I spent the evening learning about his days studying Mekong folk culture, his continued alliances with activists, and about Hồ Xuân Hương. The next morning, I learned how utterly emotional

the competition can become between translators. I mentioned Linh Dinh at the kitchen table and John flew into rage, heart monitor bleeping. They were both in the midst of working on the translating the same 18th century Vietnamese poetess. Returning home, I saw on many literature blogs that an ongoing insult fest was in high gear.

CHROMOGRAPHY: WRITING IN COLOR, Rowan University Art GalleryMelinda SteffyParallel Motion, No. 11, 2014, based on music by Béla Bartók.

II. Dissonance

There are three artists I visit in Hue, Vietnam: two twins (the Le Brothers, born in 1975 in Bình Trị Thiên) and one printmaker. They pick me up or have a student pick me up, and I ride on the back of a motorbike to a curatorial camp for a discussion of communist post modernism on a reclaimed French plantation. Or they send me on a boat trip up the Perfume River with a calligrapher and his family (wife, brother with Agent Orange disfigurement, father, grandfather, and student). In 2012, artist Phan Hai Bang invited me to work in his printmaking and bamboo papermaking studio in Hue, Vietnam. This was my third trip. On the first I had mused on finding motifs in dissident Vietnam Veterans’ literature. Then I traveled the poetry of Hồ Xuân Hương. Now I was intent on replacing right-wing myths with nuances. I was into serious iconography, combining images of monks and anti- war veterans, signifying a combination of spirituality and post traumatic stress disorder. The young artists working with Phan and me said, “You are killing he said, “a score!” His closest aesthetic hero/col-the monks,” which they found very funny.

III. Notation, with alertness after speaking with Gerard Brown and Melinda Steffy David Stearns and I were to go to the orchestra. He is a classical music critic. That evening we met for dinner, and later quickly stepped into his apartment so he could retrieve a Brahms score. His parlor had dim light, lots of upholstery and lamps, very French bohemian. As my eyes adjusted, what appeared to be floor-to-ceiling bookcases on three walls of the room became a multicolored grid of a smaller scale, made of thousands of CDs of classical music. I still want to paint that room.

David grabbed a large folio of sheet music from the back room and we walked to the Kimmel Center. In the dark of the theatre, he followed the large-scale score and wrote notes on his playbill. Soon after, David told me, “the score, it’s a blueprint.”Just now, I chat with my office neighbor at Penn, Bill Whitaker at the Architectural Archives. I asked him what a blueprint was, and no backstory given,he said, “a score!” His closest aesthetic hero/colleague, the landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, was solid on this idea—that a blueprint was time-based. “One doesn’t see a building or a garden like a photograph,” Bill said, “the architect’s blue drawing tells us the process by traveling through it.”

Coda: In visual art, knowing the backstory isn’t really necessary, it is more important to be completely present. But Brown and Steffy’s work embody a process supporting our journey; we can see how conceptualism is a way to travel through painting.

Jane Irish. A self-described history painter, Jane Irish has been making work on the theme of heroic resistance movements since 1998, building on her interest in using art to explore the concepts of social class and political art. She has exhibited her work in NewYork and Philadelphia since 1983. The recipient of many awards and fellowships, she received her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and her MFA from Queens College, CUNY.

CHROMOGRAPHY: WRITING IN COLOR, Rowan University Art GalleryGerard Brown, After Edith Wharton (In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world…), 2015, Digital print on Dibond.

About the Exhibition

‘Chromography’ examines the relationship between graphic communication and sound. Writing is an ancient and elegant system of recording the human voice, and it has spawned other systems for the notation of music and movement. Most of these systems are so successful they seem to achieve invisibility – we can imagine the ‘voice’ of the writer when we read a page, or ‘hear’ the music described in a score. The system of representation disappears into the thing being represented. The authority of these systems is unchallenged; it rests on communicating their messages ‘in black and white’.

CHROMOGRAPHY: WRITING IN COLOR, Rowan University Art GalleryGerard Brown, After Robert Smithson (Language should find itself in the physical world…), 2015, Digital print on Dibond.

‘Chromography’ insists on a place for color in the description of sound and music. This complicates the relationship between seeing and reading because colors bring associations along with them. Are they bright or dull? Warm or cool? In sunshine or shade? What does it mean that a piece of music is composed mostly reds, oranges and yellows?

What do we see when the letters are switched with color symbols? Could such changes reveal patterns that tell us something new about communication? Translation scholar Lawrence Venuti argues that the translator’s invisibility results in important decisions being hidden from view. By pushing back against the conventions of writing and musical notation and exploring the space that such actions open, we hope to learn more about the content we represent.

CHROMOGRAPHY: WRITING IN COLOR, Rowan University Art GalleryGerard BrownAfter Judith Butler (An active and sensate democracy requires that we learn how to read well…), 2015, four screen prints on paper

About the Artists

Gerard Brown, a writer and painter, is an Assistant Professor at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. His work explores how the mind moves from seeing to reading by concealing writing in patterns and color. His paintings and drawings have been exhibited at the Woodmere Art Museum, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Painted Bride Art Center, Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, and the Icebox (all in Philadelphia), as well as Finlandia University Art Gallery (Michigan) and 5.4.7 Art Center (Kansas). He has also organized exhibits for the Center for Art in Wood (Philadelphia) and Hicks Art Center at Bucks County Community College.

Melinda Steffy, a visual artist and classically-trained musician from Philadelphia, has had artwork displayed across the Northeast and beyond, including the Icebox, the Hall at the Crane Arts Building, and Sam Quinn Gallery (Philadelphia); Delaware Center for Contemporary Art and Fringe Wilmington (Delaware); Lancaster Museum of Art and Villanova University (Pennsylvania); Finlandia University (Michigan); Micro Museum (New York); and Stamford Art Association (Connecticut). She is an artist member of InLiquid and a LEADERSHIP Philadelphia fellow. An accomplished musician, Steffy currently serves as Executive Director for the innovative music non-profit LiveConnections and sings with the Chestnut Street Singers.

This program is made possible in part with funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Additional funding was provided by The Vice Provost for the Arts Grant from Temple University, Philadelphia. Rowan University Art Gallery Westby Hall Rowan University call 856-256-4521 or visit www.rowan.edu/artgallery

Thank you Mary Salvante and Jane Irish for the content of this post on DoNArTNeWs

Mary Salvante is Curator, Gallery and Exhibitions Program Director Rowan University Art Gallery, 201 Mullica Hill Road, Westby Hall. Glassboro, NJ  08028

Rowan University Art Gallery is a premier cultural destination for the
Rowan University community and greater South Jersey region presenting the
work of professional contemporary artists.

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Karmic Choices

Karmic Choices: How Making the Right Decisions Can Create Enduring Joy – by Djuna Wojton

“Open up to more satisfaction in your life, from career and relationships to your own self-expression. With Karmic Choices: How Making the Right Decisions Can Create Enduring Joy, you’ll release the blocks that keep you immobilized and create an exciting and productive life you’ll love. By connecting with your soul awareness through exercises, questionnaires, and the three-step karmic pattern formula, this book will help you:

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By sharing her new perspective on the laws of karma and attraction, Djuna Wojton helps you to fully manifest the life you desire. Discover how you can incorporate a variety of helpful modalities, including yoga sutras, meditation, energy work, and more. When you follow the three steps—clarify, clear, and create—you’ll be more satisfied with your life than you ever imagined possible.” – Amazon.com

“Reiki (霊気?/ˈrk/) is a spiritual practice[1] developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui, which has since been adapted by various teachers of varying traditions. It uses a technique commonly called palm healing or hands-on-healingas a form of alternative medicine and is sometimes classified as oriental medicine by some professional medical bodies.[2] Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe that they are transferring universal energy (i.e., reiki) in the form of qi (Japanese: ki) through the palms, which they believe allows for self-healing and a state of equilibrium.[3]

There are two main branches of Reiki, commonly referred to as Traditional Japanese Reiki and Western Reiki. Though differences can be wide and varied between both branches and traditions, the primary difference is that the Westernised forms use systematised hand-placements rather than relying on an intuitive sense of hand-positions (see below), which is commonly used by Japanese Reiki branches. Both branches commonly have a three-tiered hierarchy of degrees, usually referred to as the First, Second, and Master/Teacher level, all of which are associated with different skills and techniques.” – wikipedia

Djuna Wojton is a Philadelphia based author, artist, dancer, reiki master and radio personality offering advice, workshops and mindful healing sessions. Congratulations Djuna for publishing your second self-help book.

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