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MEET ME HOME: An Art and Poetry Exhibition

ARTIST: MARSHA PIPPENGER, Dayton, Ohio

POET: AIMEE NOEL, Dayton, Ohio

INTRODUCTION: This exhibition will hang at The McMillan Gallery in Dayton, Ohio through the spring. Due to coronavirus, the opening was live on Facebook. Collaborating with a talented local poet, Aimee Noel, I made art and she wrote poetry in response to the art. Following is our theme.

In our conversations about collaborating on a joint art/poetry exhibition, Aimee and I realized that we were both concerned about the treatment of refugees and immigrants to this country. People turned back at the border, people traumatized by dangerous travel, people separated from their family members, people being treated poorly because they were from somewhere else. In addition, we knew people who had come to Dayton from other countries because their own homes were not safe, who took risks that we could only imagine, who landed here and made a life, a good one, and who are now integral members of our community. So we decided to talk to some people about this topic called Immigration.

I started creating art, and Aimee looked at my art and started writing poetry. This is the result.

Journey Map One: J

I started by interviewing J, who came here years ago from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He had to leave home when he was in college because he supported democracy and was being pursued by rebel forces. Today he is a University professor.

Aimee’s poem is about one of her students who also made a perilous journey from his home country to the US.

JOURNEY MAP: J, COLLAGE ON CANVAS, WITH GROMMETS, 36″H BY 48″W, $1550

Abdi’s Journey

Aunties. Silhouetted

faces eclipse my sky.

Near-song words

flow into me.

They pass me

from cradled arm

to arm-cradle. My baby feet

never touch the Kenyan—

I run from other boys.

They catch me when

I stumble and they kick

powdered dirt at my face

until it traps my breath. I learn

their Somali words, stronger than

Swahili, for hurling back at them.

Grandfather joins pirates for routine,

he says, and money. He practices

lobbing a pipe the length of dynamite

until black plumes of diesel carry him—

I go home, to Kenya, to leave. Aunties cluck at my foreign-

bird sounds and fuss over my height and

pass papers in a circle like they are sharing

a cherished photo. I am to carry the papers.

Because I am a lone runner, it is easy

to believe that I am the fastest in my family—

Modesto cousins point to their shoes, their bed,

their dad and say Mine.  I do not know this English word.

I do not know any word they want me to say. I eat

from their discards. They leave for school and I wash

clothes and am warned not to leave the house.

But eventually I end up—

This is my stepdad, they say. Stepdad. San Diego. He beats

English words into me, but not fast enough for him to—

Grandmother teaches me how to make her tea.  I match

the drink’s temperature to the weather. It is winter and

her tea could melt all the snow in Toronto.  I am helpful,

add Arabic, and pretend my grandmother wants me to stay.

I pretend she is my mother. We are both afraid of all the cars that—

Columbus, I learn, understood my family’s future.  He knew how

to enslave.  To cut off hands of those who robbed the gold mines.

That young girls were the same value as a farm to the right man.

That dogs are worth feeding for the terror they caused. Fitting city

for me in Ohio. No one, not even the fastest in the family, could out run—

I move to a corn town where I am a crow.  I join my mother.  I meet siblings who wear citizenship like the right name brand. Easily. Unconsciously. I miss school to attend

my asylum hearings. Twice denied.  I agree to join the military. For routine. And for money. 

Journey Map Two: MJ

When I interviewed MJ I learned about her kidnapped father-in-law, still missing, and her family’s perilous journey from Colombia to Dayton. Like J, their lives were in danger. She now works for a successful non-profit.

JOURNEY MAP: MJ, COLLAGE ON CANVAS, WITH GROMMETS, 36″H BY 48″W, $1550

Welcome

because your daughter had to find different ways home from school

because you were on the losing side of a war you did not start

because you were on the losing side of a war you did not fight

because you could not leave work at a predictable time

because you eventually had to leave work

because they kidnapped your father-in-law

because you had to close the restaurant

because protection money ran out

because your friend was murdered

because a ransom was demanded

because you still have a bag packed

because you still check for exits

because you had to move

because you had to move

because you had to move

because we have enough

because we certainly have enough

because we certainly have enough to share

Tumbling Walls

Early on I looked at the prototype border walls. At the time there were
eight. So I made eight tumbling walls made mostly of rusted metal.

TUMBLING WALLS, COLLAGE ON CANVAS, EACH CANVAS 12″ BY 12″,
FRAMED SIZE 17″ BY 17″, 8 PIECES HUNG EDGE TO EDGE, $2600

Tumbling Walls

Once upon a time, our leader

called for a wall’s deconstruction.

And both sides cheered.

Once upon a time.

Maybe someday we will

be the swift current,

reminded of our own

checkered-sky past,

undercutting foundations

of this concrete hubris

until top-heavy sections

topple like hated monuments

into a stained-glass sea.

But that is more hopeful

than I can be. Right now

I can only offer masonry 

dust and rusted flakes of hate

and ask you to remember

                                                            [      Aurora       ]

                                                [      Dayton       ]

                                                [Charlottesville ]

                                                [  Squirrel Hill   ]

                                                [     El Paso        ]

that, before blueprints,

walls were built

in our own minds.

Sanctuary
“Give me your tired, your poor” …Emma Lazarus
Look closely: you may see the Statue of Liberty.

SANCTUARY, WOVEN COLLAGE TAPESTRY, 72″ BY 50″, HANGS ON COPPER ROD, $9000

Lady Liberty’s Truth

for Emma Lazarus

She arrived a mere skeleton, copper over iron bones,

for solace on American soil. She waited in the ship’s hold

while this country, arguing over where she should land,

scraped together a spit of sand. The island they offered,

having already harbored pestilence and plague,

seemed a fitting proposal for the woman dressed

as a slave. This country had no vision to see Liberty

over their mounds of money. Only washerwomen

and children had piled their pennies to build her a base,

so, offshore, she waited for months in crates. Until Emma

stabbed a pen to the center of our shame. And the wealthy,

who would not be left behind, hearkened to a Jewish woman’s

sonnet strong enough to pry open purses with subtle rhymes.

Give me your tired and your poor, every time.

Our Country’s Heart
is in its immigrants.

OUR COUNTRY’S HEART, WOVEN COLLAGE TAPESTRY, 76″ BY 48″ , $7500

Words by Heart

Concentric stories ripple  

like emotional sonar:

a baby born along the way,

strangers sharing a garden row,

a job, loved or hated, left behind,

parents, too life-tired to leave.

Refugees flee with only their anthems,

harbor here and offer their best:

hard work, persistence. How lucky

we are, humbled by people

who remind us of our humanity.

Remind us how kindness grows

when used.  That empty chair

in our home begs for another

human being. We have room

to share our own woven stories:

a baby born along the way,

a garden growing, world-weary parents.

And at the soft-organ center, beet red,

beating hearts repeat until

our circling lives sync because

nothing separates us beyond our skin.

Those Who Sit in Darkness

The title refers to a verse in the Bible. I see this person in darkness but emerging into light.

THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS, COLLAGE ON CANVAS, CANVAS 36″ H BY 24″W, FRAMED 42″ BY 30″, $1250
Circle
Shut Out
Taken In

This is a trilogy; each piece shows one part of the story.

CIRCLE, COLLAGE TAPESTRY, 33″H BY 26″W, HANGS ON COPPER ROD, $1200

CIRCLE TWO, SHUT OUT, COLLAGE TAPESTRY, 34″H BY 241/2″W, HANGS ON COPPER ROD, $1200

CIRCLE THREE, TAKEN IN, COLLAGE TAPESTRY, 34″H BY 28″ HIGH, HANGS ON COPPER ROD, $1200

Outwitted

He drew a circle that shut me out–

Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!

                              – Edwin Markham

Where have I been?

A good question! It has been a very active winter and spring, and I have not kept up with posts at all! So a quick update. I taught five classes during the winter – crazy crazy – but all are now successfully completed. I welcomed grandchild number two! I went to Italy. Now I am home and in the studio working on several new projects….to be revealed in the next update!







INTERACTION IS THE ART

Yesterday I read in the Dayton Daily News about the newest special exhibition at the Dayton Art Institute. The show is titled “Into the Ether: Contemporary Light Artists” and is the first of five exhibitions, each one focusing on one of the elements (air, earth, fire, water, and in this case, ether).

What struck me was a comment made by one of the artists, Daniel Rozin, who teaches at New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts. Referring to his work as a light artist, he commented: “It’s important to understand that the art is not necessarily the object. The art is the moment of the interaction.”

While Rozin goes on to say that this is unique to interactive art and not to painting, and by extension other forms of 2D art, I am not sure I agree.

My collages are art, of course, just as my painter friends’ paintings are art. However, they also exist in the dimension of experience, specifically, the viewer’s experience or interaction with the piece of art, no matter the media. Is not that communication also part of the art? It’s something to ponder.

 







Art Travels…

Belgium, Netherlands, Christine de Pizan, New friends, and Art, art, art! And the Internet, did I mention the Internet?

Wow, what a summer I have had! So many new experiences, so many new friends from all over the world, and world class museums! Where do I start? In small bites I think.

Conference hosts Olivier and Tanya show off a thank you gift from conference participants: Framed images of my collages from The Dinner in the City series!

Conference hosts Olivier and Tanya show off a thank you gift from conference participants: Framed images of my collages from The Dinner in the City series!

To begin, about two years ago, a medieval scholar from Chicago, Julia Nephew, discovered my artwork on the internet. She was writing an article on the 15th century writer Christine de Pizan for an academic journal. I just happened to have used Christine in a series of collages I created between 2003 and 2007.

Julia asked permission to use some of my images in her article. We negotiated a contract and some months later a book arrived from Florence, Italy containing Julia’s article and my images. Because of this I was invited to speak at the North American Conference of Medieval Scholars at Western Michigan University. Because of that, Julia and I were invited to co-present at the International Colloquium Christine de Pizan in Belgium!

So, off I go to Belgium, by way of the Netherlands. I will expand on that in a future post, but this time I want to give a shout out to the organizers of the conference, Oliver and Tanya of the Catholic University Louvain la Neuve in Belgium. They were the ultimate hosts!







MONTGOMERY COUNTY WORKS FOR ARTISTS!

One of my favorite art collectors approached me a couple of weeks ago and asked me: “Do you know that Montgomery County’s Office of Community and Economic Development has a special section for artists?  He showed me on his phone and by gosh, there it was!

Montgomery County, Ohio for many years has been a leader in supporting the arts, providing grants for artists in many disciplines. Due to budget issues, these grants are on hiatus, but this new app could be very helpful. Take a look: http://www.businessfirstdaytonregion.com/. Go to Tools For Your Business-top left, then select on bottom right “See more” and you will see The Business of Art.

Take a look, because, as my husband noted in this image he sent to me:







I’ve been an absentee blogger…

When I started writing this blog my intention was to write once a week and post on Monday. Now, I have to confess that I have not done so well with that, and any of you who read me already know this.  While I enjoy writing very much, when I am really consumed with art making the writing takes a back seat, and my writing pen has been languishing there since the second of February. Oops. Can’t keep to a schedule? Sometimes, I can’t. It’s not possible to do it all, all the time.

Since February’s posting I have hung a new exhibit of my work in the office of the Dayton mayor, participated in an evening of art in Centerville, hosted an art party, submitted several proposals, completed one very large tapestry collage and several other collages, tweaked my new studio, given a workshop, delighted in the newly revised Montgomery County Business of Art website (more about that in a later post), and begun the planning of an art trip to Belgium and the Netherlands, all this while continuing my usual teaching and studio work schedule. Odd, all of a sudden I am feeling slightly breathless….!

It’s been a satisfying and productive last two months. I have made new art and met new friends. I have been lucky to spend time with old friends. Life has been good.

I am planning now for the summer and fall, and scheduling work on several series of collages, in addition to working on some other new non-collage possibilities. I have lots of ideas; more ideas than hours in the day!

I also don’t like to write posts that are too long, so I am going to close now with some pictures. Keep it creative! 

Here is a (not great) photo I shot of one of my new tapestry collages from the Paper Lives series. This is the second one I have done and plans are under way for number three. The title is Sea Change.
My grand puppies, Olive on the left, Guyute on the right. They are good buddies. 







Half the Sky?

Half the Sky is a new series I have started using colored pencil. The title comes from a Chinese proverb which states that “women hold up half the sky”. I was inspired by this saying when I read a book of the same title by the writers Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn ( Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide; www.halftheskymovement.org/).

So, I am experimenting with this idea and how to present it visually, Let me know what you think of this first image!  Half the Sky







Looking for a title

I have already posted some pictures of the first in my new series of woven collages, but I am searching for a title for the entire series.  For instance, my collages inspired by Jerusalem’s Western Wall is “The Wall Series”, and the Judy Chicago/Christine de Pisan collages are known collectively as “Dinner in the City”.

I am currently working on the second woven piece – it will be in blues and yellows – and would like a series name that reflects the idea of weaving paper, weaving thoughts, fibers, threads, etc. Send me your ideas!

AND, check out my facebook pages and my new blog, all listed here:

https://www.facebook.com/marsha.pippenger, Pippengart and Pip’s Awesome Cards

https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2836655160107730714#allposts: PipART (hope I got this part right!)