Elephant

My daughter got the elephant in the mail yesterday.

She called me, very happy with it. “It has a TAIL! It matches the pillowcase. I love the fishy fabric.”

The back story is that when she was a baby, her father’s mother made her a pillow. It had two pockets. In the pockets were four small stuffed toys. Her older brother has one too. The toys were not exactly the same. Hers had an elephant.

When she got sick earlier this year, I start sending her care packages. I send the pillow with three of the stuffed toys. However, I don’t find the elephant.

She loves it but asks, “Where’s the elephant?”

“I’m still looking.” The elephant is pink, with fabric ears that are different from the body. I find it! She is coming here for a month, so I don’t mail it. She is very pleased with the elephant.

It goes AWOL before she flies back to work. “Check the tent, mom.” She stayed in the tent in the back yard with two of her friends. I take the tent apart. No elephant. I check the sleeping bags. I sweep under her bed and search the house. As my daughter says, my house has a lot of hiding places and the cats like the elephant too. No elephant.

So for her birthday I make one. I remember how it looks and I make it while watching some continuing medical education. It’s easier to hand stitch than to get out the machine. I have to buy a large bag of stuffing, because the store downtown only has one size. Never mind, maybe I will make more elephants.

I made her a pillowcase last year, with the whale/mermaid fabric and the fish. So the elephant matches.

And she likes it! Hooray!

_______________

My daughter says I can’t make clothes for her, but pillowcases and elephants are great! A breakthrough!

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: breakthrough.

Doll culture

When I was married, my husband described my parents as “Time-Warp Beatniks”. That is a good description. We had no television until I was nine and my sister was six, because my parents disapproved of television. This lack made me even less social at school, even though I was never ever good a small talk. I still don’t understand the small talk code.

My mother disliked Barbie, so she conspired with her brothers. We had five girls and two boys in my maternal cousin generation. My mother got the four younger girls all 8 inch china dolls, instead of Barbie. The next summer, the younger boy got one too, since the girls were all sewing and building furniture and generally going to town with them.

I was also given the doll in the picture. She was my grandmother’s china doll, Katherine White Burling. I do not know who sewed the dress that she has on, possibly my great grandmother. The stitches are by hand and tiny. We understood that the dolls’s world was in the late 1800s and since this doll came with a wardrobe, we sewed doll nine patch quilts and my grandmother helped make demure pantaloons for our dolls.

My sister and I did manage to score Barbies eventually, though our china doll world was much more full. The china dolls went with us to Ontario, to Blind River, Canada, where my maternal family has shacks on a lake. We were all allowed to use scrap wood to build tables and chairs and benches and beds, as long as we PUT THE TOOLS AWAY.

Meanwhile, my paternal grandmother, Evelyn Bayers Ottaway, was a brilliant knitter. She taught me to knit at age 8, but it didn’t really take. I learned again in Denmark and still knit. Grandma Ottaway knit elaborate Barbie clothes on microscopic needles. I still have a few of them. They were in the late 1960s and early 70s and really beautiful. One was a tiny knit stole, with a mohair, lined with brown satin. My china dolls stole it from my Barbies. Or perhaps there was an exchange, I don’t know.

The hand sewing came in handy. I have had surgeons ask me where I learned to stitch. “Doll clothes,” I say. They tend to look confused at that.

At one point I had a patient here who was indigenous to the area and age 104. She told me, “When I was in my twenties, even if I dressed like the Caucasian women, they would get up and move to a different pew if I sat by them in church.” I apologized. She told me not to worry, things are changing. So in the photograph, the woman behind my grandmother’s doll is an indigenous weaver. There is a tiny baby on a cradle board. They are having tea together. That is wishful thinking on my part, but we are allowed to wish for peace and work for harmony. Two cultures, still trying to come together with respect.

Blessings and peace you.

__________________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: culture.

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.

S is for Shame

I am reading Kim Addonizio’s Ordinary Genius for a Centrum poetry class.

She challenges white poets: why don’t you write about racisim?

I write that we are afraid. I think it is more than that: it is shame. Thinking about her words, I thought about one of my mother’s pieces of art and how it makes me uncomfortable. And that my discomfort with it is new. I wrote this poem.

Race forward

Kim Addonizio asks
Why don’t white poets write about race?

Chickenshits, I think.
Afraid. We are afraid.
My mother called one color Nigger Pink.
She says, “It’s the color that only looks good on black people.”
She looks wicked as she says it and I know that I never should.
She didn’t think she was racist nor a feminist.

One time she says, “Maybe I am a feminist.”
“Why do you say that?” I ask.
“We had a group of women who went to plant trees. None of them could dig a hole.”
“Oh,” I say.
“They didn’t know how to use a shovel!”

She might be horrified how many high school graduates today would call a spade a shovel.

A mentor art teacher says, “Stop being small,” to her. “Get bigger.”
She starts pastel portraits, larger than life.
One that I love is titled “One Fist of Iron.”
Now: don’t lie. What race do you think the person is? And what gender?

Did you guess correctly?
African American and male.

Another friend tells me he is trying to get his father to stop calling Brazil nuts nigger toes.
My mother told me that term too.
And that it was unacceptable.
At my friend’s father’s birthday, I focus my camera on the birthday man.
He holds a bowl of nuts. He says to himself, “I will now eat a politically incorrect nut.” and the camera clicks. I love this photograph because he is 90 and white and reluctantly changing his wicked words.

My mother says there might be hope when a small black child trick or treats her house in black face, in Alexandria, Virginia, in the 1990s.

I think there IS hope, even though the race seems slow and painful and there is so much anger
Look in the mirror, white poets.
And write the words.

One Fist of Iron, by Helen Burling Ottaway

The photograph at the beginning of this is not my mother. It is her mother’s mother, Mary Robbins White. I have pictures of five generations of women with that serious expression. She was the wife of George White, the Congregationalist Minister who was president of Anatolia College in Turkey. They and my grandmother and siblings were escorted to the Turkish border in 1916. George White and his wife were two of the main witnesses of the genocide of the Armenians in Turkey.

Let us not stand by and witness more genocides.

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.

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.

I is for Imagination

Blogging from A to Z, all women artists, and this one is not my mother. Now we have a third woman artist, Nancy Clough. I know her through her daughter, who went to medical school with me at the Medical College of Virginia. I visited them in Portand, recently.

Nancy Clough does bronze statuary, clay statuary and pottery, and installations. I took the photographs when I was visiting. That sculpture is titled Summer and is one of four Season sculptures. She said that she needs to pour Winter again, because she sold her most recent one.

Statue by Nancy Clough.

Nancy Clough and her daughter have houses on the same property, with wonderful sculptures outside. Her art is imaginative and joyous! I asked how she started doing sculpture and she said that she had a class next to a sculpture class. She was drawn in. Like a moth to flame, I think! Contact me if you want to reach her about her wonderful work. Or surf the interweb. We are all spiders, skittering around the web.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #NANCY CLOUGH #ATOZCHALLENGE

H is for Helen and Hurricane Ridge

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

H is for Helen and Hurricane Ridge. Here is one of her water colors.

My mother loved water colors. I think she loved them best of all the art techniques she did. Etchings and water colors were the two most important.

She wanted to move to the Pacific Northwest for years, but she and my father were worried about moving my grandmother, Katherine White Burling. Katy B. died while I was in residency at OHSU in Family Practice, in 1994. My parents then spent at least a year dealing with the will and two houses and stuff and also looking for the right place. They drove all over the northwest. My mother liked the rain and gardening and art. My father wanted sailboats and singing and music. At last they called me and my sister: Chimacum, Washington. “We found a house in Chimacum.”

My sister Chris and I both replied, “WHERE?”

We said to each other that we were mildly horrified that they were selling “our” house in Alexandria, Virginia, though we really had only lived there from when I was 14 and she was 11. My sister had worked for the US Forest Service and lived in Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula, so she knew the area much better than I did. I finished residency in Portland in 1996 and moved to Colorado. Shortly after that my parents moved to Chimacum, Washington.

My mother lived four years after they moved. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1997 and died on May 15, 2000. This is one of her northwest watercolors. I am glad that she had time to do some, though I wish that she had more time.

Here is the Hurricane Ridge park information: https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-hurricane-ridge.htm. Be careful, though, because the park is big and wild and it can be dangerously wet and cold. People are more likely to die of exposure if they get lost than from a cougar or bear. Take some emergency gear if you hike, because the park is very big and wild. My sister wrote about duncehead expeditions, where people camp with inadequate gear. She mostly worked trail crew for the US Forest Service, but they did search and rescue as well. My sister died of cancer as well. Her blog is here: http://e2grundoon.blogspot.com/ .

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

F is for Fish

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

F is for Fish. But… it isn’t a fish, right? It’s a dolphin. At the moment I do not have access to all the art because I am on a trip. I have what I have.

This is one of my mother’s tiny etchings. It is 2 inches by 1.5 inches. She very much enjoyed the tiny etchings. She said that tiny, etching and fantasy were NOT popular with her college professors at the University of Tennessee. She said that her friend, Maline Robinson, was doing large abstract works, both silk screen and oils and that those were much more to the professors’ tastes.

Maline Robinson is another woman artist. Her silk screens are 18 by 24 except then she wanted bigger ones. She built her own frames to do 24 by 36. Her painting tend to be 4 by 6 feet, and she has done triptychs that size. Three large oils that go together. She says that most of her really large works are bought by companies, who hang them in their huge imposing atriums. The tiny dolphin would be lost.

Here is one of Maline Robinson’s works. I took the photograph a few years ago when visiting. I wanted to be immersed in the painting. I think that this one is 4 by 6 feet. I will have to contact Maline for the title!

Not all of H. Ottaway’s work was tiny. This etching is another ocean themed one, with the plate size 9 inches by 11 inches. This is a proof and I will have to look up this title as well! She has used two colors together inking the plate. That is one technique. Another is to have multiple plates and run the paper through the press multiple times.

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