Z is for Zarasthustra

Last day of April A to Z, blogging about Women Artists and particularly Helen Burling Ottaway, my mother. Can you name five women artists now?

This etching is from 1975. I was fourteen years old. I remember my parents discussing titles of etchings. My father, Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway, would often help title them. This etching is titled “Thus spoke Zarasthustra”. I wish that my parents were alive so that I could ask about this etching. Why Friedrich Nietzsche? When I am fourteen, my father receives his MA in mathematics and leaves SUNY Binghampton for a job at General Electric in Alexandria, Virginia. We move from New York State to Virginia and I start high school that year. I think that Alexandria was a much better place for my mother, all the art and artists, than for my father.

I hope that you have had a wonderful month in April: and I hold those in my heart in the war zones or who are lost and suffering.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

Y is for Yellow

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

My parents both loved puns and my mother loved gardening. Cowslips is an etching that is then painted with watercolors. She has a whole series of pun flower etchings.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #Christine Robbins Ottaway #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

X is for X-Acto knife

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

My mother disliked cutting mats more than almost anything except vacuuming and cutting glass. In the late 1980s and early 1990s my grandmother lived two doors down in Alexandria, Virginia. My mother took over part of the basement for matting, glass cutting and framing. Times right before shows included complaints about cutting mats and glass, her saying that she didn’t have enough things framed (though she always did) and at least one piece of glass broke. The X-Acto knife was the tool for mat cutting at that time. My mother usually cut herself at least once for each show. She was particularly annoyed if she bled on the freshly cut mat or the painting or etching.

Hanging the show involves a lot of time out words as well, but she would get excited once it was hung. Then it was time for dress up. Shows were a command performance: my sister and I were to go as well. We dressed up and talked to people politely and ate the strawberries when my mother was not looking. The opening of the show would include food and usually wine. In small glasses. And no, we weren’t allowed to have any. We had to look at the art and be polite to adults.

The photograph today is another of my poems with my mother’s etching. And look, she has avoided cutting a mat. She bought special frames, with two slots. One holds the glass. The second holds the mat with the mounted etching. If the glass rests on the etching, it can ruin it. She mounted all of our ten prints and poems this way. Clever artist and they look wonderful.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #Christine Robbins Ottaway #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

U is for unruly

I am blogging from A to Z about Helen Burling Ottaway, my artist mother, and other women artists.

Artists are unruly. They are not obedient. They are usurpers. They are unreasonable. This is another etching of my mother, a self portrait, titled “Giantess”. She looks giant, rising from an ocean. Will she have arms and hands and legs, or is she an octopus? We do not know. It may depend on her mood.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

R is for Resume

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

I find two copies of her resume. One is from 1991 and one from 1993. I will add the 1993 information, but it’s a LOT. My mother was prolific! She complained about getting ready for shows and I did not realize how very many she did! I am so proud of her. She died of ovarian cancer in 2000 and I do miss her still.

Helen Burling Ottaway

  Del Ray Atelier

105 E. Monroe Ave

Alexandria, VA 22301

SELECTED SOLO SHOWS

1991 Nov     Will have solo show at Bird-in-Hand Gallery, Washington, DC

1989 Sept     “Cascades: Watercolors of Washington State”, Bird-in-Hand Gallery, Washington, DC

1988 Nov     “Fantasy Etchings”, National Orthopedic Hospital, Arlington, VA

1987 Oct      “Spirits to Enforce, Art to Enchant”, Fantasy Art, River Road Uniterian Church, Bethesda, MD

1986 Mar     “Prints and Poems”, Poetry by Katy Ottaway, Martin Luther King Library, Washington, DC

1984 Nov     “Forests, Flower, and Fantasies”, Sola Gallery, Ithaca, NY

          Apr     “Birdland and other Lullabies”, Pastels, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

1981 May    “Fantastical Bestiary”, Etchings and Drawings, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

          Mar     “The Way of the Brush”, Watercolors, Gallery One, Alexandria, VA

TWO PERSON SHOWS

1986 Nov     Two Person Show, “An Occasional Pair of Claws”, Fantasy Art with Omar Dasent, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

1985 Apr     Two person Show, “Figures and Foliage”, Pastels, Capital Centre Gallery, Landover, MD

1982 Nov     Two Person Show, “The Four Seasons”, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

SELECTED GROUP SHOWS

1990 Feb     “Visions 1990” Westbeth Gallery, New York, NY

1989 Feb     “Year in—Year out”, Studio Gallery, Washington, DC

1988 Mar     “independent Visions III”, Metro Gallery, Arlington, VA

          May     Juried Show, Sculpture, The Art League, Alexandria, VA, Juror: Bertold Schmutzart

1987 Dec     Juried Show: “The Best of 1987”, Martin Luther King Library, Washington, DC, Jurors: Dr.

                     Jacqueline Serwer, Sandra Wested, Robert Stewart

1987 Apr     “Independent Visions, Fifteen Women Artists”, Metro Gallery, Arlington, VA

          Feb     “Portraits 1987”, The Art Barn, Washington, DC

1986 Oct     “Juried Show, “Printmakers VIII”, The New Art Center, Washington, DC

          Jan     “Independent Visions”, Metro Gallery, Arlington, VA

1985 Dec    Invitational, “Highlights of the Year”, Martin Luther King Library, Washington, DC. Jurors:

                     Linda Hartigan and Monroe Fabian

          Nov    Invitational, “The Macadam Nueve-Splintergreen Conspiracy Show”, Gallerie Inti,

                     Washington, DC. Curated by Omar Dasent and Ann Stein

          Oct      Juried show, “Printmakers VII”, WWAC, Washington, DC. Juror: Jane Farmer

          Mar     Invitational, “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Artists”, The Splintergreen

                      Conspiracy, Martin Luther King Library, Washington, DC. Curated by Omar Dasent

          Mar    “Shakespearean Images”, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

1984 Nov     Juried Show, “Printmakers VI”, WWAC, Washington, DC. Juror: Carol Pulin

           July     Juried Show, “Printmakers VI”, WWAC, Washington, DC. Juror: Jo Anna Olshonsky

           Oct      Four Person Show, “Just Four”, Galerie Triangle, Washington, DC

                        “The First Great American Camel Show”, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

1983 Mar      Juried Show, “Printmakers V”, WWAC, Washington, DC. Juror: Barbara Fiedler

          Feb       Juried Show, “Artists – Art Historians: A Retrospective 1972-1982”, National Conference, The Women’s Caucus for Art,m Bryce Gallery, Moore College, Philadelphia, PA

1982 May      Juried Show, “Woman as Myth and Archetype”, WWAC, Wshington, DC. Juror: Mary Beth Edelson

          Feb       Invitational, “Art is where the Heart is”, Gallery 805, Fredricksberg, VA

          Feb       “The Printmakers of the WWAC, The Torpedo Factory, Alexandria, VA

          Jan        Juried Show, “The Eye of Eleanor Monroe”, WWAC, Washington, DC Juror: Eleanor Monroe

1981 Oct.      Juried Show, “Collage and Drawing”, WWAC, Washington, DC Juror: Jan Root  

Numerous juried shows, the Art League, Alexandria, VA

Numerous group shows, Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

EDUCATION

1967 B.F.A Cornell University, Ithaca, NW

WORK EXPERIENCE

1992-currently   Teach Drawing and Watercolor, Capital Hill Arts Workshop, Washington, DC

                              Teach Art Class for Seniors, Recreation Department, Alexandria, VA

                              Teach etching workshops and watercolors at the Delray Atelier, Alexandria, VA

1987-1990           Graphic Artist, Al Porter Graphics, Washington, DC

1985 Fall               Co-Director of Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

1982                       Director of Exhibitions, WWAC, Washington, DC

1982                       Director of Gallery West, Alexandria, VA

1981                       Chair of Exhibitions Committee of Gallery West, Alexandia, VA

                                Taught watercolor classes at Washington Women’s Art Center, Washington, DC

                                Taught children’s art classes for the Arlington Recreation Department

1967-1970             Assistant Curator at the Ithaca College Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #Christine Robbins Ottaway #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

Q for quiet

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

Landscapes can be so quiet. This watercolor is of Lake Matinenda, in Ontario, Canada, where my family has summer cabins. They are one room cabins and old and very beloved. I love the rocks at the lake and the reflections in the water. I spend every minute that I can outdoors there. If it is pouring rain or I am cooking, I am in the cabin. I sleep in a tent, because we slept in tents when I was growing up there. I like to feel the earth under the tent and the sound of the water on the rocks and the wind in the trees.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #Christine Robbins Ottaway #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

P is for Paper over

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway. Today’s post is about my mother and my sister: another woman artist. Christine Robbins Ottaway.

I do not have much of her fine art. She was a landscape architect and historic preservation expert and worked for Caltrans. She also wrote, on her blog Butterfly Soup, and in other places.

The painting is an oil, by my mother Helen Ottaway, done when my sister was 14. This painting seems especially creepy to me, the oranges and blues. I love the painting but it is frightening as well. My sister could write terrifying stories. Here is my poem about one of her stories. The title of her story is “We don’t make good wives”.

Paper over

They are papering over your memory
They want the clean version
The inhuman perfect version
I remember the violent sea serpent
Related to Aunt Nessie: me, I think

He stole your skin, you say
But you lure him to, posing
On the shore naked
And let him take you home
And impregnate you

And then you have six daughters
What did he expect? you say
Cold blooded and beautiful
White skin and greenish hair
Who all can swim like fish
and all seven search
Until you find the skin
and then away

You say, he took my skin
Now I have taken his

Let them paper over your memory
Let them pretend you were sweet
I hold your words in my mind
And I love you wholly

__________________________________

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #Christine Robbins Ottaway #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

O is for Opening

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

Openings, art openings, were a part of my childhood. Sometimes they were my mother’s openings. Group shows or solo shows. She cut her own mats and cut her own glass. She hated cutting glass and would be doing that right before the show was to be hung. Hanging a show is a skill in itself: the pictures at the right height and arranging them and checking the lighting. I hung a show of her work and managed to drop one picture. Glass chipped off along the edges in the frame but it did not shatter entirely. I dropped a second picture and that one DID shatter.

My mother was usually dressed in ink stained t shirts and jeans, or else very dressed up and dramatic for a show. She wore make up for shows or going out to lunch or dinner, but not daily.

We would also go to other artist’s opening. We knew many many artists and showed up for their openings. There was also a gallery in Alexandria where we thought the art was consistently awful but the food for the opening was wonderful. Whole smoked salmon, plates of pickles and olives and vegetables, and chocolate dipped strawberries. My sister and I were always cheerful going to that gallery.

Three years ago my son and daughter and future daughter-in-law went to the National Museum of Women in the Arts. It is in Washington, DC and is wonderful. It is not part of the Smithsonian. They do not have a museum devoted to women yet.

I spent time wishing that a piece of my mother’s art was in that museum. When I started this A to Z blogging, I pulled her resume out of one of the portfolios. The last section on the last page is titled:

COLLECTIONS

Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY
U. S. I. S, The American Embassy, Jakarta, Indonesia
The National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC
Numerous Private Collections

So she already HAS art in the National Museum of Women in the Arts! I did not know that. I would like to know what they have. A watercolor? Prints? She was very active in the Washington, DC Printmakers Association until she and my father moved to Chimacum, Washington State in 1996. I am so proud of her! And she is in the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian.

O for opening but it has also been a joy to open up my mother’s work and look at her resume. More about that when we get to another letter…..

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

Visit the National Museum of Women in the Arts: https://nmwa.org/ and advocate for women: https://nmwa.org/support/advocacy/ .

The featured image is an etching by Helen Burling Ottaway in 1971, photograph taken by Renata Fleischner. It is in their collection.

Egg art

I have been collecting eggshells for a while. I am not sure exactly what I am going to do with them, but this is my first piece of egg art. I keep thinking about the large sugar eggs with the window, with small figures inside, that we got as children. I am saving real eggshells and bits of feather and fluff and pine cones and shells. With Easter tomorrow, I may dye some eggshells.

My mother loved dying eggs. We did not go to church but both my parents sang masses and the record player was just as likely to play Bach or Brahms or Carl Orff as the Loving Spoonful or Bob Dylan or The Beatles. We did elaborate egg dying, with wax and multiple layers of color. The complicated planned ones were often not pretty. It was the ones that we weren’t particularly trying that were often gorgeous. We always had both blown and hardboiled eggs. We would have “egg wars” when we wanted to eat one. We would each hold an egg and tap them together hard. The winner was the one with an intact egg. We ate the less pretty hardboiled ones first and the prettiest last. Mmmmm, egg salad and deviled eggs, yum.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: eggs.

N is for Normal.

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

My family was not Normal. No, no, not normal. I don’t think anyone is normal, really. In clinic one year I think, wow, all of my people are SO interesting. Why am I so lucky to have all of these wonderful people? And then I think: OH. Everyone is interesting. No one is “normal”. They may try really hard to pass for normal. I certainly had MY work cut out. And why is that, you say. I am so glad you asked that question!

My parents were both obsessed. My mother was obsessed with art. With music, a secondary joy. My father was all about music. Mathematics and language was his secondary joy. By age nine I discover poetry and that is it for me. That is the be all end all. I am so obsessed that I am amazed at age 40 when I make a discovery: poetry is not it for everyone.

I am fired by the hospital for fighting a clinic quota of patients. I might have kept the job if I had shut my mouth and been diplomatic, but I was not diplomatic. I write a protest song and sing it at the open mike and sing it into the CFO’s voicemail. I think I could be the poster girl for the opposite of diplomatic, right?I thought about quitting and then thought, no, I stay and fight this for my patients. I am fired the next day.

A group of people try to intervene and get me rehired. At some point I suggest sending one of my poems to the hospital commissioners. Six people email: NO!

I am confused: What do you mean, no? Why not?

YOU DO NOT COMMUNICATE WITH HOSPITAL COMMISSIONERS VIA POETRY.

I am still confused: I communicate by poetry. Poetry is the highest form of communication.

HOSPITAL COMMISSIONS DO NOT LIKE OR UNDERSTAND POETRY.

Ok, THAT is mind blowing for me. I call my father. What is this about?

My father says People are afraid of poetry.

I say You are kidding me.

My father says Poetry is magic. People are afraid of magic.

I say I’m not afraid of poetry.

That is because you are a poet, says my father.

And I really look at my thoughts on writing and poetry. I realize that writing and poetry are SO IMPORTANT to me that I assume that EVERYONE WANTS TO WRITE AND BE A POET. I ask my group of people trying to get me reinstated. None of them want to be poets. I ask my father. He does not want to be a poet. I am completely floored. I realize that I thought my mother loves art but wants to be a poet. My father loves music but wants to be a poet. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It must have been rather weird for my sister Chris, three years younger. She has three people who are all obsessed with their form of art. My sister Chris was a brilliant writer, an excellent musician and an artist. But I don’t think she was obsessed with any of them the way the rest of the family was. That must have been a little lonely.

The photograph is me and my sister in 1965. I am four and she is one year.

I say to a counselor once that in spite of alcohol problems in the family, the music was amazing and my sister and I learned it. The counselor replies, “Children connect with adults where they can.” I think OH. That is amazing. My sister and I see my father praise my mother for knowing all the words to the songs. She is always be the last one singing because she knows verse 8, 9 and 10. My sister and I assume that this is a woman’s job: memorize the words. We did. We photocopy the back of Beatles albums and on long car trips we memorize ALL THE WORDS. I think I can still sing Yellow Submarine start to finish.

I start school. I know there will be singing. No one knows my songs. The songs they know are the songs to television shows and we do not have one. I quickly go silent. I play flute and I sing all the songs in my head when I am bored, but I do not sing out loud. And I choose medicine because I want to understand people, for the writing. I still think people are very very weird. But I have written the whole time, every single day. And that is how my mother did art and how my father did music. Every single day.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link