Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wyofile's Studio Wyoming Review features my take on Wimmer exhibit

Studio Wyoming Review is the section Wyofile devotes to art in Wyoming, specifically the visual arts. I am one of the writers providing reviews for the Review. Spearheaded by my former Wyoming Arts Council colleague, Camellia El-Antably, SWR fills a gap in arts coverage formerly addressed by some of the state's larger newspapers, if at all. Camellia is an artist who co-owns a Cheyenne gallery, Clay Paper Scissors. It's housed in a renovated downtown building and features work by contemporary regional artists, most of them from Wyoming.

My first contribution to SWR appeared today in WyoFile with the headline: "Wimmer collages draw on past, touch on today's politics" Feel free to read it and tell me what you think.

And keep reading Wyofile. It's a welcome addition to the Wyoming media scene. Not new, really, although some of you may be noticing it for the first time.

Keep reading.

P.S.: Attention artists.  Mystery Print Gallery in Pinedale and Clay Paper Scissors are co-sponsoring "Rendezvous: A Juried Exhibit of Wyoming Artists." Enter your work via Submittable through April 14.

Monday, March 27, 2017

During spring cleaning, the bell tolls for booklovers

What do I keep? What do I recycle? What do I throw away?

The questions of spring cleaning.

Over the weekend, I vowed to clean up my writing room. Spring cleaning fever hit us on Saturday as we helped our daughter move to a new place in Fort Collins. We tackled her room first, which she hadn't lived in for 18 months. Because it was vacant, I used it as a storage room for the stuff overflowing from my office. The jig was up. She's at home, searching for stuff for the move. So I had to comb through the boxes of receipts and old checkbooks and manuscripts and books.

I tackled the books first. The difficulty is that I want to read parts of a book to decide if it's a keeper. Got stuck on a Brad Leithauser poem, "The Odd Last Thing She Did" by his collection of the same title. It's about a suicidal young woman who disappears after leaving her car running on a cliff overlooking the ocean. "The car/Is Empty. A Friday, the first week/Of June. Nineteen fifty-three." A mystery is at the heart of this poem. Could be the setting for a 250-page hard-boiled mystery novel, a case for Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. But it's a four-page poem, long for a poem, short for a novel. The summer night is lovely with "the stars easing through the blue,/Engine and ocean breathing together." She could have been abducted, but that's not what the poem implies. She threw herself off the cliff. A suicide. A pretty, 23-year-old, and one with a car. But she didn't want to live.

"What are you doing?" Chris asks

I look up. "Reading," I say.

"That's not spring cleaning."

"Yes, but..." I want to say that this poem is wonderful and filled with mystery. It's why we read. But realize that I have been caught in the act.

Now my daughter is looking at me. She writes poetry. "C'mon, Dad," she says, hauling another box of rejected books out to the car trunk. She will take three boxes of books to the library today.

Caught in the act. I close Brad's book and put it into a box labeled "Mike books." Our rooms and basement have many such boxes as the bookshelves are full. In some circles, I would be labeled a hoarder. But among booklovers? Also in the box is "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy, which I keep pledging to finally read; "The Voice of America," stories by Rick DeMarinis, which doesn't have my fave DeMarinis story ("Under the Wheat") but does have "The Voice of America" and "Aliens;" and a 1968 Fawcett Crest Book edition of Erich Maria Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front" or, if you prefer the German, "Im Westen Nichts Neues." I have been tempted lately to reread the latter book as I am working on a novel set in the years after The Great War. But I have other research to do and may never get to it.

Therein lies the bookie's dilemma. What to keep, what to send to the library? I cannot bear to throw away a book as it seems too much like burning a book. Someone, somewhere wants to read the book that I don't want. Just as I want to read a book that someone else doesn't want, which is why I stop at garage sales.

I am 66 with grown children who are both readers. What will I make of all of this when I am gone? My accountant father painstakingly put the division of his library in his will. He read history and presidential biographies and autobiographies. I got everything from Lincoln to Kennedy, including a beat-up 1885 edition of the "Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Volume 1." Not sure which of my four brothers got the other volumes, if there were any. But I also got a trade paperback of the Grant memoirs which is comprehensive but not nearly as compelling as the original.

Technology is changing reading and collecting habits. Old books fall apart. Indie bookstores die along with their proprietors and aging customers. Good news, though -- it appears that this trend may be reversing. Our kids read books but spend a lot of time on Kindle and online reading.

I am tempted to bring up all these issues with my family. But I am in a losing battle against time. Nobody will care for these books as I do. Some will be claimed by my heirs but most will end up in library second-hand sales or in paperback bookstores or on the curb in garage sales. I will get rid of those that I can now and let time take its toll on the rest. John Donne said it well, and I don't have a single Donne book, not even holdovers from my undergrad and grad school English courses.

Here's the quote, which you may recognize:
"... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
Before those bells start tolling, I need to tackle these books. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Call for artists: Juntos Wyoming May 1 exhibit

Here's a call for entries for a May 1 exhibit in Cheyenne that's part of the May Day March to Keep Families Together sponsored by Juntos Wyoming:
ATTENTION! Calling all Artists from all walks of life...painters, writers, poets, photographers, graphic designers, sculptors and dancers to join us May 1. We are want to have an artist exhibit showcasing the struggles immigrants endure, sacrifices and successes through artwork and literature. 
Any artist interested in participating and showcasing their work please contact: adriennevetter@gmail.com with info by April 19. Please include:
-artist name
-name of artwork
-medium of artwork
-is art for sale.

Artists need to arrive with their work and setup between 9-11 a.m. So it can be displayed for the duration of the day. Thank you.
En Espanol:
Nos gustaría invitarles a todos a nuestra marcha anual! Este año, es especialmente importante que se presente y se mantenga firme en contra de aquellos que harían daño a nuestras comunidades de inmigrantes. 
Únase a nosotros mientras luchamos para mantener a las familias juntas, en Wyoming.
¡Póngase en contacto con nosotros para ver cómo puede ser voluntario para ayudar!  
Juntos (Together).
P.S. If you have some lightweight display walls you can lend Juntos for this exhibit, please comment below or message me on Facebook.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Trump and his minions jeopardize 50 years of arts progress in Wyoming

I missed The Idea of Trump postcard tsunami on March 15 since I was out of town. But did pick up some postcards from Ernie November and sent them on their way yesterday to Congressional delegation. Thanks to Melanie Shovelski for the postcards, yours free for the asking at Ernie November in downtown Cheyenne. The local group 307 Craftivists are fully engaged in The Resistance.
Dear Americans :

Trump's proposed 2018 budget stinks.

It cuts or eliminates all of the programs that I care about, programs used by my family members and neighbors in Wyoming. Eliminate Meals on Wheels? Come on, what kind of heartless bastards are these people? School lunches? The Arts Endowment (NEA)? The Humanities Endowment (NEH)? NPR? The list is endless. The Trumpies are following Grover Norquist's admonition to make the federal government so small you can drown it in a bathtub. Except for the Department of Defense budget -- that grows like Trump's ass. We can see Trump and his minions following the script of the strongman. Impoverish the citizenry, take away their rights and voices, and wage endless war.

Eliminating the NEA cuts me to the quick. The National Endowment for the Arts turned 50 in 2015. It began as one of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs. Johnson left a fantastic legacy, except for a little skirmish called the Vietnam War. The NEA thrived under Nixon, Ford, Carter, even Reagan, for God's sake. Bush 1, and then came Clinton and the Republican culture wars. The NEA was devastated due to Newt & Co. cuts. Rebounded under Dubya and Obama. And now, we have Dufus in the White House and he doesn't read books and others in his cabinet have only read Ayn Rand, over and over again. I read Rand too, back when I was a teen and didn't know any better.

I worked at the NEA for two years and the Wyoming Arts Council for 23. We did great work during that time. The WAC, which was spawned by the NEA and turns 50 this year, gets about 40 percent of its budget from the NEA. If that funding disappears, and state government continues to get cut due to lack of foresight among state legislators, Wyoming will be in trouble.

As an arts supporter, I received this dispatch from the Wyoming Arts Council -- you can also find it on the WAC web site. It cautions Wyomingites and arts orgs to please remain calm and keep doing the good work that you do. The work is important. Civic engagement is yuge. Without it -- sad.

Here's the letter:
On March 16, 2017, the White House released a budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2018. This proposal calls for reductions to a range of government programs, including the elimination of federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  
It is important to remember that the legislative branch ultimately decides how to allocate federal funds. This is not the final word; this is the beginning of a conversation. The budget process will likely last well into late summer/early fall.  
As a state agency, the Wyoming Arts Council does not design or coordinate advocacy efforts. However, part of the Arts Council’s mission is to ensure that constituents are informed about the impact of the arts in every community across the state. We invite you to look to us as a resource for information and continue to engage us as a connector. Please feel free to visit our website for information about the value of the arts and the reach of both state and federal funding of the arts.
Should you be interested in advocacy efforts at the state and national level, we suggest you connect with the Wyoming Arts AllianceNational Assembly of State Arts Agencies, and Americans for the Arts.  
Please continue to apply for open grant applications from the National Endowment for the Arts, Wyoming Arts Council, and the Western States Arts Federation. The proposed budget will not influence any open application deadlines.  
We invite you to welcome this situation as an opportunity to articulate the impact the arts have had on your life and in your community.  
We encourage you to actively engage in this process by which our nation proclaims its values and vision. 
During this time, please know that the Arts Council staff will continue our work to ensure the arts are a driving force in building a stronger Wyoming. Thank you for all you do to support the arts in Wyoming.
Michael Lange
Executive Director
Wyoming Arts Council

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trumpcare is a huge issue as we prepare for Children's Mental Health Awareness Week in May

Republicans are trying to sell us Trumpcare or, if you prefer, Wealthcare -- I also like Tryancare.

Everyone deserves quality, affordable mental health care. The system we have now is not so much a system as a scattershot approach that includes mental health professionals, emergency rooms, state hospitals, and treatment centers. Obamacare has helped insure millions and parity laws passed under both Democratic and Republican administrations have helped put mental illness treatment on par with other illnesses. Some mentally ill have found coverage with Medicaid Expansion (we didn't get it in Wyoming, thanks to the troglodytes in the legislature) or through disability clauses under SSI and SSDI. Negotiating the maze of local, state and federal coverage options can be a nightmare for someone who understands bureaucracy as I do. For a schizophrenic or bipolar person -- not so easy.

This announcement comes from the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health:
As national events continue to illuminate the critical need for mental health care reform in this country, we must increase our efforts to educate the nation about the importance of prevention and early identification of mental health challenges. We must also highlight the fact that children are an integral part of a family unit and create an understanding amongst policy leaders and practitioners that healthy families are better equipped to support resilient children. Legislation, policies, and practices must fully endorse the undisputed importance of full family engagement and participation in the care and treatment of their children. Further, we must advocate for a holistic approach to children's mental health that includes the provision of supports that strengthen the family as they nurture resiliency. 
Please join us as we create a national dialogue about the importance of finding help, finding hope.  FFCMH is tracking events for Children's Mental Health Week, May 1-7. 
Send them your activities. Here's more info:
What are you doing for Children's Mental Health Awareness Week?  Please share the activities that your organization or group is planning for National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week with us. We would also like to see any photos of your event after the week has concluded. Please fill in the event submission form with information about the events and activities you will be holding in your community for Children's Mental Health Awareness Week.
I don't know of any events in Cheyenne planned for May 1-7. If I find one, I will post here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Oklahoma artist Jack Fowler releases Woody Guthrie image to activists

Your message here: Oklahoma artist Jack Fowler released his image of Woody Guthrie to the rest of us, hoping we will make art and possibly political messages with it. Fowler projected this image on the Oklahoma State Capitol along with his own customized message, "How Did It Come To This" as a protest against the wingnuts in the Oklahoma State Legislature, which may even be worse as the Wyoming State Legislature, which is hard to believe. Fowler told Hyperallergic: “I released the blank image so people could write in their own statements. I have no more plans for ‘Woody’s Guitar’ except for encouraging and fanning the flames of the positive, tangible things that have started to result from it.” The authorities were not pleased, telling Fowler that next time he does any projecting of images on the state capitol, he faces a fine and/or seizure of property. I guess Oklahoma authorities are only proud of Woody's folk hero status when it suits them. FMI: http://hyperallergic.com/364138/this-projection-art-kills-fascists/

Friday, March 10, 2017

List for St. Patrick's Day: Top ten traits of Irish-Americans

What does it mean to be Irish-American?

Skin cancer, for one thing. We are light-skinned, except for the Black Irish who are not so much black as black-haired and dark-eyed. My mother was Black Irish, as was her father who came over from County Roscommon. Her brother John -- my uncle -- was often mistaken for a dweller of the Mediterranean, Italian or Spanish or even Basque, or possibly French like the Norman invaders. The Basques sailed the Atlantic and visited Ireland, maybe even made landfall in North America before other Europeans. Irish DNA maps are similar to those of Spain and Portugal and Normandy. You can look it up.

My initial question is important because we are in the midst of March and St. Patrick's Day arrives next week. It's the same week that March Madness begins and gives us two good reasons for day drinking. We also take a page from Mardi Gras in New Orleans and try to celebrate the entire month, or at least for a week or two leading up to The Big Day. Many St. Patrick's Day parades will be held this weekend, including the one in Denver which I will be attending. I was birthed in Denver, surrounded by Irish Sisters of Mercy, and my Irish grandfather is buried there. That gives me some claim to Irish-Americanism, Mile High City-style.

Did I mention that I have never traveled to Ireland to look up my ancestors? This is supposed to be on every Irish-American's wish list. I have gone 66 years without checking this off on mine. What's holding me back? Nothing, especially that I am now retired. I want to experience Bloomsday in Dublin, June 16. This is on my list because I can't seem to finish Joyce's 265,000-word masterpiece, Ulysses, hard as I try. I read Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Can't finish Ulysses. This makes me a member of a large club of people who have not finished Ulysses. I decided that a trip to Joyce's Dublin will help me with this task. And I will get to drink many pints of good beer in the process. I will get to hear Irish brogues and good music for a few days. That's enough.

I will make a list of "top ten traits of every Irish-American." Online top-ten lists are the bee's knees right now. A list will be instructional for us all, me included.

Ten traits of every Irish-American:
1. We are a freckle-faced, light-skinned people except when we are not.
2. At least one of our ancestors comes from Ireland. It's helpful if all of your ancestors came from Ireland, but not everyone is perfect.
3. We are Catholic, except when we are Lutheran or Episcopalian or Buddhist or Zoroastrian or Coptic or atheist or transcendentalist or.... Maybe that should be: We were raised Catholic but came to our senses once we were adults.
4. At least one of our ancestors fled the potato famine of the 1840s. When I lived in Boston, everyone's relatives seemed to have arrived on the Mayflower. That must have been one wicked big ship. And the potato famine? It was terrible, but we can't all use this as an excuse to blog about our Irish ancestors who almost died in the famine and then crossed the ocean in a leaky ship to be told "Irish need not apply" for jobs when they arrived in the U.S.
5. We all tell tales about our Irish ancestors who almost died in the famine and then crossed the ocean in a leaky ship to be told "Irish need not apply" for jobs when they arrived in the U.S.
6. We attended Catholic school. This may be a generational thing. I attended Catholic school as did  most of my eight brothers and sisters, for a little while, at least. We have stories of berserk nuns and cruel priests. Rulers across knuckles. After-school detentions where nuns smote us with cat-o'-nine-tails as we labored in the nunnery's vineyards. Our children and grandchildren think we are making up these stories because they all went to public schools.
7. We have big families. We did until some godforsaken Protestant told us about birth control. In the old days, we weren't allowed to consort with Protestants. The sixties changed all that.
8. We all have Irish names. My name is Michael Thomas Martin Shay. My wife is Christine Marie. My son is Kevin Michael Patrick. My daughter is Anne Marie. Yet, I have a nephew named Sean Martinez. America!
9. We celebrate St. Patrick's Day. It's almost mandatory to drink a green beer or a pint on March 17. We march in St. Patrick's Day parades unless we are LGBT veterans or twelve-steppers or disgruntled about the state of American politics. Everybody is Irish on  this day except when they are not.
10. We are inconsistent and stubborn. Except when we are not.

That's my top ten. Perhaps you have another list?

BTW, Erin go bragh, whatever that means. And slainte -- I know what that means. I plan to use it often on St. Patrick's Day.