Outsider, visionary, or folk artist–all of these labels might fit Simon Sparrow but not quite contain him. For example, look at the mythos of his birth place below, from Wikipedia…
Simon Sparrow (October 16, 1914 – September 26, 2000) was an American folk artist, a painter and mixed media artist. He was born in Pennsylvania or West Africa, and grew up in North Carolina on a Cherokee Reservation. He was a self-taught artist and received a Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award (WVALAA) in 2012. Sparrow’s work is considered folk art and his piece Assemblage with Found Objects is held by the Smithsonian American Art Museum on the 3rd Floor, Luce Foundation
For some reason, a desire to take stock has risen in me. Maybe because if the pandemic was a pregnancy, the baby would be born by now and looking around. Maybe because the year mark is approaching. I’m imagining a change and yet unable to imagine it. And although I respect the advice to just keep going, I’m also curious about the details of that.
So, tell me if you want to:
What have you learned about yourself since the start?
Are you doing anything that helps you that you think would help other people?
Just post in the comments or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In both cases, I’ll be creating blog posts from these.
I’m no kind of cook. I can do basic hippie–stir fry tofu, make a watery vegetable soup. If I lived in a big city, I’m sure I’d eat takeout three times a day (leftover Thai for breakfast). So how is it that once or twice a month I find myself cooking hearty meals for a dozen people?
I have the pandemic to thank. Right at the start, I got worried about my neighborhood homeless shelter and gave them a call.
Years ago, I’d been on the board of the shelter. We were invited to spend an overnight there–and I did. I was writing up the experience, and a photographer from the local newspaper accompanied me. Lying in bunk beds, she–a beautiful and dynamic young woman–started fussing over her professional prospects. Should she continue? Make a change?
A homeless woman in the next bed said sleepily: dear, I think you have a lovely career.
That funny moment of connection has stayed with me.
My daughter cooked there as a teenager, with an interfaith group. And the cooks would stay for supper. Not during the pandemic, though. When I called I was told yes they needed meals, home cooked and delivered. The shelter had cut its numbers and was following pandemic protocols. It was eight residents and two staff.
I started cooking. I remembered food shouldn’t be too spicy, due to health issues. I imagined people would enjoy hearty familiar dishes–American and New Mexican. I asked and was told that the group liked salad.
Frankly I hate salad, so this was a challenge. Iceburg lettuce is pretty much the only thing I won’t eat (when we raised guinea pigs I wouldn’t serve it to them either.) But salad was asked for. I started in on tomatoes and cukes and fresh mozzarella cheese. Then started adding cooked spinach. Would sometimes give up and just buy bags of mixed greens.
Out of dim starving-student recesses of my mind I pulled elaborate baked bean casseroles with hot dogs, bacon, and onions. I modified a hippie dish–couscous–by adding lots of squash and chicken. I cooked pastas and stroganoffs and more. Served with a baguette or dinner rolls. Sometimes more cheese. Sometimes kid-baked cookies. I got good feedback on a white bean dish, so I rotate that it.
The cost is about $2.00 per person per dinner. I take a vegetarian portion out for my husband Rich. And I make a full portion for myself. We deliver it, and I come home and have it for supper.
Ostensibly I’m eating alone, but it feels like company.
“The poet is the priest of the invisible”
~ Wallace Stevens
I haven’t touched my Tarot cards in a decade
shake, shake them out of the pouch
worn-soft fuzzed edges, coat-worn pliable
shuffle, shuffle, riff, riff, cut—
to the Hierophant
a Major Arcana heavyweight
whose power is as invisible
Cobwebs, dust balls, hairs, nail
clippings, skin cells, cookie crumbs
I see in the dark, shining.
You will find them useful.
Karla Linn Merrifield
I stopped writing lists long ago.
My ‘to-do’ lists transform themselves into a ‘list of things left undone’.
My ‘list of accomplishments’ is overshadowed by my ‘list of failures’.
My ‘list of places’ to go has diminished with my ability to travel
beyond my recliner and Discovery TV.
My ‘list of regrets’ continues to grow. Buddhism seems more attractive now,
there is never enough time to see and do all,
never enough time to learn everything,
too many books, so little time.
My lists are shorter now, as I try to simplify my life.
The ‘list of things to throw away’ grows as I strike off another item from my ‘save’ list.
Too many ‘lists’ to manage nowadays.
H. W. “Bill” Sparks
I’m experiencing a kind of renaissance in terms of my relationship to tarot cards. I started reading them my last year in high school. In San Francisco in the 1980’s I reviewed the feminist decks that were emerging for various publications. That is when I acquired the round Motherpeace deck. Since then, it is really the only deck I use to read, and I know it well. I still use my original copy!
But pandemic lockdown has brought so much learning opportunity on zoom–and I couldn’t resist a course on tarot cards called Death and Resurrection as Muse, via Morbid Anatomy. It’s been useful, with an emphasis on European art history and iconography. As if by coincidence, I also visited Santa Fe artists Alexandra Eldridge in her studio to buy a tarot card print as a gift. Her complete deck should be available this year–I can’t wait! (http://alexandraeldridge.com/product-category/prints/tarot-prints/)
Now of course I’m discovering and buying new decks. All this is because I’m writing a poetry sequence based on the Major Arcana. After I did the planets in my poetry collection STAR GAZING (Cholla Needs, 2020) I felt the urge to work more with the interplay between archetypes’ traditional meaning and my own understanding. It is coming along nicely–the course helped fill in connections to cards I don’t always relate to.
But I’ve always loved Zero, The Fool. Here is the poem:
the baby is naked
she has the hose
and foolishly I shriek
“don’t get me wet!”
egging her on
her blond tousled hair
bangs in her eyes
she can say “ant” and “please”
but what is she really
so too the neighbor’s bees
cast runes in the book of the day
I’ve cultivated for
in the ruined city
there is honey
beneath the masonry
(still standing in the desert)
how close, in autumn,
I’m sorry you’ve been getting stepped on so much. You’re my last one and I don’t want to see you get squashed down till you aren’t even a frazzle anymore. That’s why I’ve been hiding you away and not paying attention to you when you try and buzz me. I’ll try and be more sensitive from now on.
I feel things have changed around here lately, sorta cooled down, and you won’t have to worry about so many careless or just plain hurtful feet clomping around the place. So come back up out of the basement and we can connect again like the old days.
Maybe some of the other nerves that left way back when will even show up again. Stranger things have happened. Some of them must have healed by now and are ready to hang out and chill.
So, whenever you feel ready come over and catch up. I can put on a pot of Chamomile tea and we can feel good again. I’ll be waiting.
See you soon, I hope.
VITAL SPACES’ Community Art Closets Program Starts Saturday, January 23rd!
WHAT ARE THE COMMUNITY ART CLOSETS?
Vital Spaces is thrilled to announce our new initiative providing FREE art supplies to our community, the Community Art Closets! Community Art Closets are like food pantries, but with art supplies instead of food.
Those of us in the arts know that art and creative expression is healing. It’s medicine. And medicine should be a right for all, not a privilege. Even before this global pandemic the question of who has access to art and creative expression was problematic. Unfortunately now, as more people lose jobs and face poverty, and kids are out of school, art is becoming more and more of a privilege than ever before. Before COVID, most Santa Fe kids had access to art supplies through their public schools.
I may as well confess, not only do I love glass art, I love the Netflix competition “Blown Away.” I’m, perhaps sadly, not one to watch baking. But I will watch glass blowing.
In part because it leads me to artists like Benjamin Wright, who works in installation:
And unexpectedly in collage. It’s an almost punky aesthetic, boisterous and colorful. What does it inspire in me? A playful but forceful attack on empty space and the blank page.
I may be a writer, but I’m not the enemy of non-standard English. This is particularly useful because here in the pandemic’s “Bubbe’s Daycare” I spend three afternoons a week chatting with a toddler. I often feel we’ve had rather extensive conversations on the topics of “can you eat soap?” and “what happened to the cookie in the tea?” as well as more philosophical explorations about “if something is big, is it a mom?”
Speaking of moms, it seems that is my name too. I’m not bubbe, grandma, Mir or anything like that. Generically, I am a mom, and called as such.
My youngest niece called all her aunts and uncles “Steve.” She had an uncle Steve, and she extrapolated to the rest of us. I didn’t mind and I knew what she meant. One nephew called Rich “aunt Richard” which I also found cute. Anthropologists are interested in kinship systems, and little kids are no exception.
My daughter Isabel of course refers to me as mom, and so the toddler sees me greeted that way. My vibe must be similar enough to Isabel’s that the comparison is obvious. I try “yes, grand mom” but that does not take. The truth is, everything is mom right now–people, animals, large blocks, a Navajo doll. And I am mom too.
After all, Isabel once, in a toddler fury, called her father “a suitcase.” As long as you don’t angrily refer to me as an inanimate object, I’m fine.