Category Archives: Art

Everything is in the Shape of a Bird, a Fish or a Woman


Everything is in the Shape of a Bird, a Fish or a Woman

Look how they frown in the old photograph:
my grandmother, her sister,
her two daughters and her granddaughter.   
All of the women are very stern.
Grandma looks out of her element,
her eyes shielded against the sun.

In the yellowing photo,
“Taken at homestead” written on the back,
They stand, stark house behind them.
From the porch overhang, a sparse vine hangs,
but on the hidden tendril of the vine,
in the dead tan prairie that surrounds the scene,
in the summer grass bent low, I imagine birds.

It is a drying photo—brittle, cracked,
of three generations of prairie women.
Although none there knew it,
a waterhole is in their near future,
and in this stock pond that my dad would someday dig,
would swim perch and crappies,
sunfish, northern pike.

And although none there will ever see it,
in my house, everything is in the shape of a bird, a fish or a woman.
On the wall hangs an earthy goddess–
stolid and substantial. 
Birds perch on her shoulder, arm and knee.
On the hearth, a crow formed out of chicken wire.

A soapstone fish swims the window ledge
beside that aging photograph
and on another window ledge
 are two ancient terra cotta figurines.
The small one kneels in her kimono, playing pipes.
The large one stands wide-hipped
with arms narrowing to points
above the elbow.

In my studio,
a still-damp terra cotta figure
holds a fat plum.
On drying canvasses,
Women recline in their vulnerable states–
layers of wet flesh tones, yellows, purplish reds.

The house in the photograph
has been long-felled by rot and fire and rust.
All of the people except the youngest are dead.
Yet still in the grass, the meadowlark.
and in the muddy pond the minnow.

In the glass of the photo frame, I see my own reflection–
thinning lips pulled into one straight line.
around me is their house, their sky, their prairie grass.
In the glass, my face
turns into the face of my grandmother.
I flinch but do not falter.
I look deeper.
Reflected in one eye, a perched bird.
in the other eye, a swimming fish.

for dVerse Poets Open Links

(To enlarge all photos, click on first photo and arrows.)


Men At Work

Click on photos to enlarge and read captions.

Jesus and Eduardo have been working here for about 2 1/2 months now and have worked wonders. They’ve finished with the house, but I took a few photos yesterday and today as they worked on the studio. What next???


What I Did on My Coronavirus Vacation

What I Did on My Coronavirus Vacation

What I did was issue a challenge to six friends to all start out with the same materials and to create an art piece. Each of us here lakeside contributed a number of items and the only instructions were to use as many of them as we wished and to add items to make a work of art. In my case I chose to do a piece reflecting my activities during this time of “seclusion.”

Here are the items we all started out with: (you may click to enlarge images.)

It was my intention to show you the finished project, but as I was photographing it, I thought of six other elements I needed to add, so tomorrow–the finished project. Want to join us? Create your own Shelter in Place collage.


Mother’s Day: NaPoWriMo 2020, Day 20


Mother’s Day

Twenty wooden clothespins, slightly askew,
painted every color of the rainbow,
clipped to an empty Starkist tuna can.

A handful of dirt,
a tiny plant
and a quarter cup
of crushed lava rock.

A gift from an 8-year-old,
it graces my typing table
in front of a painting—
gift from another friend—
that it seems made for.

Thank-you, Yoli, little girl
who makes priceless gifts
for a childless friend.

Like me, my grandmother,
peerless collector of cast-offs,
handicrafter extraordinaire,
would have declared it beautiful.



For Apr 20, 2020 NaPoWriMo we are to write a poem about a handmade gift you have received.

The Lonely Artist Arts Challenge


 The cache. Think we can make anything out of it?

About the third day of my isolation, when I had to cancel a visit by a friend who has in the past been a fun art playmate, I came up with a plan whereby we could sorta do art together without breathing on each other. The idea was to find a couple of other artist friends and for each of us to contribute a bag of “stuff” to each of the others. No rules except that the same stuff needed to be contributed to each of us. As it turned out, the participants were my friend Brad, my friend Candace, Candace’s friend Jean and yours truly.

After a week or so to collect the stuff, I said I would go collect Brad’s stuff in Ajijic, drive to Chapala to give our stuff to Candace and she could give me the bags from Jean and her, then I could take all of our stuff back to Brad, Now, you might have noticed  that we live in three different towns ,and since I haven’t been out of my house  for two weeks except once two days ago to drive less than a mile down the mountain to the tiny grocery store at its bottom., this was a big expedition! And I was going to see people! Albeit from at least 6 feet away.

I showered, washed my hair, put on makeup and clothes for the first time in two weeks, and compiled a list of things to do and buy in town: i.e. visit bank, paint store, pharmacy, Walmart and Super Lake–the best miracle all-and-everything-American edibles store in Mexico–and disperse the art supplies. All ready to go, I went out to my car to find the battery dead!  Now I have an electric battery charger, but I also have a very small garage, so once the car is parked inside it, the front bumper is just about one inch from the door of the cupboard that the battery charger resides within.  And, without juice in the battery, I can’t shift the car into neutral to roll it back to get the cupboard door open or to get the engine in a position so jumper cables can reach from it to another car. Luckily, my gardener Pasiano was there and we finally jerry-rigged three separate sets of battery cables end-to-end and using the car of a friend who just happened to start painting a mural on the outside wall of my house that very day, we tried to charge the battery but was dead as a, well, dead battery!

Suffice it to say that my big plans were changed and my self-enhancement procedures all in vain. I called my friends, cancelled my plans and st 9 at night, Yolanda’s son, who just happens to both be a mechanic and to work in an automotive supply store, came with a new battery, installed it, and finally today I was off again. (This time I didn’t bother with makeup but I did again don clothing.) The plan was that I would put on my mask and collect Brad’s bags in Ajijic, take our material to Candace’s house in Chapala, and when I arrived, call her on my cell phone. She would open the gate from her upstairs apartment and I’d set our bags inside the gate and collect the bags of Jean and Candace.

When I got there, however, Candace had a more creative exchange in mind. Taking isolation to its furthest extreme, she was on the roof of her house letting down an incredible pulley-fueled bucket within which to put our bags. She then pushed a button and up they went. Her and Jean’s MUCH larger bags were hanging on a hook on the wall. I took them and was off to Brad’s and then homeward. The last time Brad came to my house, he brought me an ECHO, to which I immediately became addicted. “Alexa, play John Prine.”  This time when I put on my mask and called to let him know I was waiting in my car outside his house, he arrived with art bags and an ice cream bar! Some men just know what women like!  Thanks, Brad.

So. I was off with a car fully-laden not just with art materials but with 5 liters of paint, groceries, appliances and animal food from Walmart, food from Super Lake and business taken care of at the bank, and when I got unpacked and the former”stuff” swept to one side on my dining room table, I opened the four bags to reveal the items that were to become the materials for my next art project. A mighty heap, to say the least. Hmmm. I think I’m going to change the rules to say you don’t have to use all of the material. Perhaps at least one of each category of things? Upcoming, I hope, will be photos of our projects.. perhaps at different stages.

So, if you are an artist, or if you aren’t—why not mount a similar project with your friends and show us your contents of bags and final results? It’s a Challenge!

Click on photos to enlarge.


DSC08411Mixed Media Retablo  “Macho” by Judy Dykstra-Brown


That stern detective, hewn from stone,
is a kid when he’s alone.
Looks at cartoons, lives on snacks—
bubble gum and Cracker Jacks.

Just goes to show you cannot tell
what delusions you must dispel
to find the truth of those you know.
You must look at what’s below.


Prompts today are hewn, detective, jack and snack.

Children’s Art Project: Painting the Town

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Isidro Xilonsochitl led this project to encourage students to decorate the telephone poles in San Juan Cosala. I took a little drive today to try to find some to share with you. Incidently, he is also a wonderful artist, the illustrator for my books and the painter of murals and eleven other works of art in my house. I’m a fan!