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.

V is for La Vague

I am blogging from A to Z on women artists.

My father would pretend to speak French, but he spoke terrible French. Right after high school my mother went to Europe with her parents. They traveled and she stayed in Paris, doing art. Her French was much better than his.

Helen Burling Ottaway was influenced particularly by Japanese art and the empty space on the page. We have an ancestor named Morris Temple. I have a photograph of him in his Civil War uniform and of his wife. He was the owner of Temple Pumps. However, the family story is that he was more interested in Japanese art then pumps and proceeded to “run the company in to the ground”. I do not actually know if this is true. My maternal grandfather’s mother was Tessie Temple, and Morris Temple was her father. My middle name is Temple and my cousin is Fred Temple Burling II but goes by Temple, as my maternal grandfather did. He was F. Temple Burling I.

My mother started a series of paintings of Mount Rainier after she moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1996. I think that she planned to do fifty views or one hundred. She did not get to finish the series but I do have some of them. La Vague and the views of Rainier are tributes to other artists that she loved.

This is an etching where more than one color is applied to the plate. This is a proof, so she is still messing around trying to decide what she wants as final colors for the edition.

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

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

T is for tree

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

My mother loved painting trees and doing etchings of trees, but this is a tree peony. Another etching, and this printed with two colors at the same time. Delicate work, to ink the plate with two colors and gently wipe off the excess without mixing them.

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

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

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

M for Maline and mothers

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

Maline Robinson is a mentor to me and one of many mothers. As a baby, my mother has tuberculosis, so I am passed around and get a bit confused about the intentions of adults. Maline went to school at the University of Tennessee with my parents and knew me from birth. I went to college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and got to know her there. I had very little money and we went second hand store shopping together. As well as her wonderful oil paintings and silk screens, she refurbished antiques and had small stalls to sell these treasures. She makes earrings, often from antique buttons, as well.

She also is a brilliant gardener. These photographs are from her house in Michigan. She lives near one of her sons and his family. My mother is gone, in 2000, so I get to visit and have her as another mother and wise woman in my life.

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

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

L is for landscape

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

L for Landscape. This watercolor is of Coolfont, West Virginia, a view from the deck of my grandmother’s house.

My grandparents lived in Trumensburg, New York. My grandfather, F. Temple Burling, died when I was 13. He was 79. My grandmother lived in the enormous house for a while, but eventually sold it. She moved to West Virgina, a couple of hours from my parents. Later she bought a second house two doors down. Her sister and sister’s husband, Estie and Russ Parr, moved in and they all lived on the same block as my parents until their deaths.

I love this landscape, both because it is so gorgeous and because of the memories of all of the family.

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

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

K-k-k-Katy

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

This is a multigenerational post. I am Katy, Katherine after my maternal grandmother. The drawing is of that grandmother, done by my mother H. Ottaway in 1978. My mother mailed me the sketch diary for Christmas. My grandmother was Katy B, for Katherine Burling, and I was Katy O, for Katherine Ottaway. I have inherited a spoon that has Gertrude, Margaret and Kathryn engraved on the bowl. A different spelling, so I don’t know which Kathryn that was.

So K is for Katy. My father used to sing K-k-k-Katy to me when I was very little. It is from 1917!

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

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

J is for joy

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

I am nearly done traveling and I am running out of photographs of Helen Ottaway’s work! J could be for jonquil but there are none in this watercolor. But I think it is a joyous and messy bouquet, typical of my mother. She would complain about her garden, how it was riotous chaotic beauty rather than neat rows. But I loved her garden and her bouquets and her paintings, untamed and joyous!

This watercolor is from 1994, the year before my parents moved from Alexandria, Virginia to Chimacum, Washington. My grandmother’s house two doors down from my parent’s house was sold. Someone came to my parents’ house and said, “They are ripping out the garden!” The new owners tore out the beautiful and elaborate garden that my grandmother had paid her granddaughter in law to design and build. Many uncommon plants, torn out and in a pile on the sidewalk. The whole neighborhood of gardeners turned out to take the plants home and replant them. The garden was replaced with bushes and two rows of marigolds down the path. I suspect that that household was shunned by the neighborhood gardeners for years after that and I wondered if my grandmother would haunt them. I do not have marigolds in my garden! My mother shrugged and said, “Well, they own the property.” but she could barely stand to walk by it.

I think the bouquet is from my mother’s own garden, a mix of humble and more exotic flowers. I love the purple and it gives me joy.

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