Friday, December 31, 2010


A low head dam on the Great Miami River in Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio. This dam is across the street from the Miami University-Hamilton campus. Low head dams are dangerous, as the sign notes, and this one has claimed a few lives over the years. There's a second low head dam upstream from here, and together the two dams serve to create a pool of water for the once flourishing Hamilton paper industry and other factories. I doubt they'll ever remove these dams, since the pool is useful for the water skiing contests that Hamilton hosts in the summer. It sounds laughable, but it's a big deal. I've seen recordings of some of the contests on ESPN, and they are even duller than televised poker contests. During the summer, there seems to be very little insect life between the two dams. But immediately below this dam, you can find some good stuff, including state endangered Plains Clubtails, like this one:

May 27, 2010.
Plains Clubtail (Gomphus externus).
Great Miami River, Hamilton, Butler County Ohio.

Video recorded on December 18, 2010.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Great Horned Owl Duet

This pair of Great Horned Owls were perched in a tree and calling to each other in our backyard last November. Their calls were not very loud, and they were less than 100 feet from the house when I made the recording, just as the last light of day was disappearing. A neighbor's dog was, unfortunately, much louder. You can still hear the owls on the video, though, and you can make out some of their head bobbing and movements, all of which must mean something to them. I hear the owls calling in the morning every now and then. I assume they're a mated pair and are probably going to nest somewhere nearby.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ice fish

"ice fish." Great Miami River, Hamilton, Ohio. December 18, 2010. Just below the low level dam on Neilan Boulevard, across from Miami University, Hamilton Campus.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


"water." Great Miami River, Hamilton, Ohio. December 18, 2010.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Bird Count

Walking along the Great Miami River in Hamilton, Ohio. Late afternoon, during the Hamilton-Fairfield Christmas Bird Count. December 18, 2010. This was a snipe hunt exercise, and I found three. One flew from the river edge about 50 yards beyond where I stopped at the end of this video.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

petals tepals sepals peals

"petals tepals sepals peals"

Saturday, November 27, 2010


November 18, 2010.

A screech owl in a sugar maple is an echo chamber. This looped continually from daylight until about 4:37 p.m when the owl judged it was dark enough to depart.

The birds' reactions aren't unreasonable. When I clean out the owl boxes in the spring, there are usually Cardinal, Cedar Waxwing, and thrush feathers among the bedding.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"& So?" (Is that all there is?)

"& So?" (Is that all there is?)
Photo collage. December 2009/November 2010.
Collaboration with earthworms, starlings, crab apples, and hackberries on prepared asphalt driveway.

In fall, 2008, I used a squeegee to paint the background with a mix of water-based emulsions, clay fillers, latex polymers, and bitumen. The piece cured for over a year until it reached Munsell N7. Then, and only then, was it ready.

"& So?" is a very large piece--roughly 100 feet by 15 feet in its entirety--and is laid out on a precarious, sloping surface, which is very difficult to work on when it's wet or covered with substances with inherently low viscosity such as ice or snow. It took over two years to create.

Asphalt is an interesting medium to work upon, but most serious artists have nothing but contempt for it. Training the birds and earthworms took more time than I care to admit.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

". . . , dust to dust"

"Under the rug: EntROpY"
(manipulated photo/collage)

The Letter People were the stars of a strange t.v. program.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010



This is probably the last windy day soccer practice piece. It's an October scene. Not to be confused with Typhoo or Typhoo or Typhoo. Cattail tea probably wouldn't have much taste.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Digger Wasp

Digger Wasp (species?)
Haiti, November 23, 2009.

These digger wasps were all over the upper part of the beach we visited on Haiti last year. This one had dug a hole inside a boot print.

Digger Wasp (species?)
Haiti, November 23, 2009.

Fraxinus ad finem

"Here they come!" panel 1 of 4.

I think we're all going to miss our ash trees.

Sunday, November 21, 2010



Saturday, November 20, 2010

A funny name

"What's in a funny name?"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Quiscalus in space

"Quiscalus traveling through space sees his former self."
(Collaboration with William Hull)

This is a reworking of the Quiscalus quiscula piece from October. I can't remember what Photoshop trips I clicked on to get something that looks like a grackle in a spaceship, but it does look like a grackle in a spaceship. Bill Hull sent me a photo last winter of a Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) drinking coffee in Costa Rica; I have no doubt that eventually members of Quiscalus will travel through space and time, probably surpassing human efforts. I have that much faith in grackles. The first Great-tailed Grackle I saw was in Cozumel. It was pecking at a dog lying by the side of a road. I thought the dog was dead, but it wasn't. Some tourists riding by on mopeds woke it up.

At the November Cincinnati Bird Club meeting, there were a number of bird skins that the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History brought for an identification quiz. Bird skins can be tricky to ID, since the shapes and states of the birds are nothing like they are in life. Stuffed eyeless skins on sticks, invariably with flattened backs from spending their lives in a museum tray. But museum collections are treasures and it's a treat to look at the specimens. Last night, they had a Great-tailed Grackle collected or found dead in Texas. That's one species that's hard to confuse with anything else, whether it's stuffed or alive, pecking at a dog's back or drinking coffee.

For photos (and videos and sound recordings) of Great-tailed Grackles and other Quiscalus members, including the former self Quiscalus the space traveler is observing in the piece above, see the World Bird Guide on Bill's Mangoverde site. Click on "Passerine" then click on "Troupials and Allies." You'll get a wonderful list of birds.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


"aqui with extraneous umlaut / aqiii." October 26, 2010


If you grind coffee finely enough, you get a nice, thick residue at the bottom of the cup. Two doodles neither her(e), (aqui [aqiii]) nor there. The coffee was Highland Grog decaf. The residue makes a nice, pasty substance, perfect for jotting down a few notes.

A few days after making the above, I saw a video showing how Alex Gildzen creates entries for his The Book of Java, and realized that the idea to make something out of coffee must have been percolating in my head since I read Alex's Making Circles manuscript last year, which contains selections from The Book of Java. Now I remember from where this idea was stolen!

Friday, October 29, 2010

wind / gust / cloud

"Wind." October 27, 2010.

"Gust." October 27, 2010

"Cloud." October 27, 2010

A windy week. Three doodles while waiting for soccer practice to wrap up, and before it got too cold to sit on the grass and write. The fields are guarded by fearsome plastic swans, but that's for another day.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Sycamore Ouija and Zen Advocacy Group

In May 1792 twenty-four stock brokers met at 68 Wall Street in New York City and signed "The Buttonwood Agreement," which created the New York Stock and Exchange Board, which eventually became the New York Stock Exchange. According to legend the agreement was signed beneath a "Buttonwood Tree," that is, a sycamore. Sycamores are referenced in a number of myths and legends in both the east and the west, involving at least three species of trees from two different families. The story that the New York Stock Exchange was created by men meeting under a sycamore is yet another legend that joins the sycamore with the Druids, Jesus and family, the Egyptian afterlife, and a number of Native American stories, for starters.

While wandering around last summer, I found some sycamore bark that had been sloughed off a large tree growing on the edge of an old ice pond that was built around 1900. Today the ice pond is a 30-acre densely wooded swamp, filled mostly with ash trees, but its outside is lined with a number of sycamores.

The sycamore bark peels off in ragged, jig-saw-puzzle-like chunks. There are plenty of interesting shapes. After finding a piece that was about the same size and shape as a screech owl (I can use this! I thought), somehow or another, I came up with an idea to use a few pieces of the naturally "hol(e)y" sycamore bark as a sort of ouija pointer, with a copy of The Wall Street Journal filling in as a ouija board. The October 4, 2010 edition of The Wall Street Journal was handy, and one evening I set things up to see if the Sycamore Ouija ("SO") would produce any interesting results.

Sycamore Ouija, October 4, 2010. Ready for a little conservative divination, sir!

Perhaps because I don't believe in the existence of a spirit world outside our material world, and lacking the help of my own David Jackson, I couldn't get the Sycamore Ouija to lead me to anything interesting or coherent in the pages of The Wall Street Journal. For some reason, it kept arguing that Barack Obama was to blame for everything. (Did you know that Obama and Woodrow Wilson were behind the Hindenburg disaster? They purposely mishandled the guy wires during the final landing at Lakehurst, and then, well . . . Even Glenn Beck didn't know that.)

The spirits being unwilling, and hoping for something more interesting, I tried a random approach of opening the paper and dropping the SO wherever it might fall. Here are some of the results:

The Wall Street Journal said what?

"now say hurt . . . "


Unable to connect these dots.

eh . . .

This might make sense to someone.

The last one is a little outside the rules, random that they are, but while cropping the photos, the image editing software got into the game and created something called "Caring Americans in Foreclosure," which is "a zen advocacy group." Maybe the Sycamore Ouija and the October 4, 2010 edition of The Wall Street Journal are working together in some fashion. Right before adjusting the initial crop of this image, I noticed what had happened, and decided to allow the software to join in the game. I kept its work. It's not bad.

Perhaps someone more conceptually minded and skilled than I am, someone more attuned to the possibilities of the spirit world, could do better. There are warnings against this kind of thing, though.

But if you're still willing to give this a try, there's probably plenty of sycamore bark near you; if not, let me know, and I'll send you some.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

cow and violin

Half Price Books had a few copies of Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism, the catalog of the Guggenheim Museum exhibition of the same name on sale for six bucks a few weeks back. That would be more like "One Tenth Price Books," and I was happy to stumble on the deal. Malevich was born in the Ukraine in 1878, enjoyed success as an avant-garde artist and intellectual, most notably in the nineteen-teens and twenties, before his spirit and eventually his life were squashed by the Stalinist Soviet Union in 1935.

In 1915 or so he developed a theory and system that used basic geometric designs and shapes to create paintings and other works that were purely abstract. He called this "Suprematism." Sotheby's sold a Malevich piece titled "Suprematist Composition" a few years back for an ungodly sum of money. The Sotheby's site has a detailed catalog note about Malevich and Suprematism, which is worth reading if one is so inclined.

Malevich produced a lot of interesting work in various styles and in various media. Some of it is clearly in a cubist vein, and employs collage and humorous images, written phrases and words ("Composition with Mona Lisa," which features a tongue-in-cheek defacement of the Mona Lisa that might predate Marcel Duchamp's similar gesture, and "Private of the First Division" are a couple examples), etc. Many of the pieces have quirky titles--"Simultaneous Death of a Man in an Airplane and on the Railroad," as one example--others are more simply titled, such as "White Square" or "Black Square."

Last week, I had an hour-and-a-half to kill while waiting for a soccer practice to finish, and I read a reference to a work titled "Cow and Violin" in the Malevich Guggenheim catalog. I was bored, and it was getting too dark to read, but not too dark to make bad drawings, so I made a few doodles of what I thought a cow and violin might look like together. Here's the best of the bunch:

It's a really big violin or a really small cow.

Here's what Malevich's "Cow and Violin" looks like:

If you want, you can color your own version of "Cow and Violin" as well as other Malevich works, including "Suprematist Composition," on the Super Coloring website:

Maybe you can sell yours for sixty million dollars. Wouldn't that be nifty?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Let's Observe! A Lesson in Observation

I have been a serious birder for all of my nearly forty-two years of life. I well recall a second-year male American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) that I saw in my front yard when I was two-and-half years old. The amazing vitality of this incredible and plucky neotropical migrant imprinted itself on my young and inquisitive brain. This early observation was confirmed nearly twenty-three years later when I found an illustration of--you guessed it--a second-year male American Redstart in the first real bird field guide that I ever saw while standing in the Nature section of Borders Books And Music. All those years, all those miles, all those observations . . . I always knew I had been right. Besides birding for a lifetime, and possessing heightened powers of observation, every good birder must have the ability to recall specific details of their birding observations many years after the fact. It's true! (And remember, it's not bragging if you really can do it! And, well, I can!)

Take the following example, which I offer as a lesson in observation that might be helpful and informative to new or less knowledgeable birders:

Recently, while repairing a damaged screen door on the back deck I became aware of the alarm calls of a mixed flock of perhaps seven or eighteen Carolina Chickadees (Poecile atricapilla) and Tufted Titmice (Baeolophus bicolor). These sprightly little feisty balls of feather and sinew can create quite a ruckus when they encounter something their little brains deem alarming or dangerous. My years of birding experience created an absolutely unconscious response: immediately I dropped my spline and roller to the deck and began searching the canopy for the source of the birds' alarm.

Within minutes I found the reason for the alarm calls!

Eastern Screech-Owl (Otus asio)

An Eastern Screech-Owl! One of my favorite unnecessarily hyphenated common bird names! In my very own backyard! No wonder the birds were so upset. I walked backwards through the empty space where the damaged screen door once stood, and only once inside, and out of direct sight--so I assumed--of the owl, I ran through the kitchen to find my camera. After a few minutes of frantic searching for the camera, I finally found it right where I had left it the day before. Carefully, I went back outside onto the deck. I was in luck! The owl was still there, apparently happily roosting in one of the four owl boxes I thoughtfully had my grandfather build for me so that I could attract these wonderful little avian predators. (I care a lot about providing appropriate habitat for birds. That's another trait of serious birders, so take note, though if you must do so, perhaps you need more remedial help than I can give you). After waiting for ten or so seconds for the automatic focus to get itself set, I snapped the picture shown above.

But immediately the owl flew from the box, with three or maybe ten chickadees and between two and five Titmice in hot pursuit. Crestfallen, I lost sight of the owl . . . for a few minutes. Then. I. realized. it. was. right. in. front. of. my. eyes.

Eastern Screech-Owl (Otus asio) hiding in Panera Bread coffee cup.

Search the literature, and I have, and you'll not find a single reference to an Eastern Screech-Owl sheltering or roosting inside a coffee cup. This was a remarkable observation, and I was happy I had finished the coffee moments before. I was so relieved to have my camera at the ready to document this remarkable observation, and thankful, too, that this amazing event took place before the eyes of an observer with the perspicacity to appreciate its novelty and importance. With that in mind, I snapped a couple modest photos, the best of which you can see for yourself, above.

Of course, I didn't expect the owl to stay in the coffee cup for long. After a few moments of deathly stillness, the owl inquisitively swiveled its head from side to side to assay its surroundings; he shifted about in the cup, his little talons making soft scraping noises on the hardened paper stock; then, finally, the owl snapped its beak two or three times in an attempt to intimidate me (!) before it flew away into the shelter of a nearby Sugar Maple. Here is a photo of a couple feathers left behind in the cup after the owl took flight. I left the feathers inside the cup so that you can see for yourself how tiny the feathers are on an Eastern Screech-Owl.

Eastern Screech-Owl (Otus asio) feathers left behind in Panera Bread coffee cup.

Really good birders are really good at finding birds in places that the average birder or person on the street cannot. It's about that simple! But how does one hone one's skills of observation? Through practice, of course! It takes years of daily practice to become a really good observer. You have to take your nose out of the field guides and put your boots on the ground in order to become a better observer, and therefore, a better birder. A number of books and websites back me up on this point. You probably have them all in your birder's library, already. But don't give in to the temptation to consult them now! Instead, try this little exercise. See if you can find the owl!

First, a brief step back . . . after the Screech-Owl flew out of the coffee cup, I searched the branches of the Sugar Maple where I thought the owl had taken refuge. It took a few minutes: five, ten, thirty? It's hard to say. When engrossed with a challenge while afield, time seems to stand still for the serious birder, so intently focused is he or she on the objective at hand: find the owl! So I can't say with certainty how long it took me to find the owl, but through careful observation, find it indeed I did. I took some photos, which I'll share with you. See if you can find the Eastern Screech-Owl. To make this extra challenging, set an egg timer and see how quickly you can find the owl in the photo below.

Can you find the Eastern Screech-Owl (Otus asio) in the Sugar Maple?

Found it yet?

Okay. That's enough. I know how hard this can be, so I'll give you some help. Here's the Eastern Screech-Owl hiding in the Sugar Maple:

Notice how efficiently the Screech-Owl makes use of his environment, expertly blending in with the bark and leaves; in this manner the Eastern Screech-Owl (Otus asio) becomes one with the tree. "Owl, BE the tree." Folks, that's evolution! Remarkable.

So ends today's lesson in observation. As we've seen, through improved observational skills we become better birders. We are better birders because we are better observers. It's that simple! So go out there and observe, observe!

Monday, October 4, 2010


Bird tracks--Killdeer and Great Blue Heron--probably a Scirpus sedge of some kind, and a little bur-reed, maybe Sparganium americanum . . . or not. It's some kind of bur-reed, though. The Great Miami River edge last May. For a video of bur-reed in action, click here. The video is on the top right.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

It's National Captain Samuel Brady Month! This month! That is, October!

It's October, and that means it's National Captain Samuel Brady Month. Here begins a multi-part graphic biography of Brady, who was born of humble origins on the Pennsylvania frontier in Cumberland County on May 5, 1756. He served in the Revolutionary War and afterwards led a fabled group of Rangers who patrolled the Western Frontier at the time that the Western Frontier started at about Pittsburgh. He was Daniel Day-Lewis frontier chic before anyone knew it. He was tougher than Fess Parker, and probably did "kill a 'bar when was only three," and with his bare hands, too! He led an amazing life filled with mind-boggling adventure and hair-raising escapes. To reference Mr. Day-Lewis twice in the same paragraph, as we follow Capt. Brady's story there will be blood. And lots of it . . . But not yet.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


It seems important to mention this as we approach the November elections. But I'm not entirely sure why.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The following should serve to clarify a number of items that have appeared on these pages over the past year.

Corrections and amputations:

Most of the modern city is temporary and will be redone over time

Court backs owl project

You can flight city hall

Six stores above queens

Moth lab discovered in garage

Man struck by blightening

Ugly spider web mars pleasant meadow

Have you ever heard the window sill, calling in the night?

Nocturnal migrations

Crepuscular emissions

Avuncular vocations

Wholly rosaries

My other bimbo is a limo

My limo moped

Sightly gash left on victim’s temple

Two weeks of lovely weather in Bangladesh

In case of rapture this car will be unwomyned

Spring truly pleasant in Baghdad

Neanderthals wanted for new trans-Caucasus mail routes

Suicide bomber leaves gash in temple, scores of victims

A scissor-tailed flycatcher is a beautiful bird of open grasslands dotted with trees

Shrubs and occasional fences, which are all convenient perches

She doth plucketh the harp o’er dewy fields to inviteth me to swing mine net there

Look for it atop the barbed-wire fence or the dead Osage Orange

God Made The World For You!

Tea Party applauds higher teacher salaries

But not you or you or you or him

Residents happy for increase in gun crimes

And definitely not her . . .

Massive coffee spill threatens lunch

Pols stir the pot of resentment

Pols freeze the leftover casserole of contentment

Do not fear the guard is here

Robin builds nest in silly location

My barista can beat up your sommelier

Female mail carrier is ‘pretty pretty,’ observes local man

Trees obscuring view of forest, claims state agency in charge of casino project

Raccoon struck by car ‘stupid’ to have crossed road in first place

Thai anti-government protesters ‘tie one on’: twelve killed

Tree kills drunk driver

I said shoot; I didn't say shoot

The Knights of Columbus like to wear funny hats and carry swords

They protect Mary from Catholics and Irish

You think that is a secret, but it never has been one

Minor birds; major fleas

Moa more than never

Man on mower screams for guns

What is the enharmonic equivalent to a liver at flood stage?

A Great-tailed Grackle drinking coffee

Is it racist to say that all of North Korea’s leaders look like Elvis impersonators?

The King and the King of Kings shaking hands in a black velvet painting

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mayfly Central

A school whose entomology department creates something as nice as Mayfly Central certainly deserves to have its basketball team in the Sweet Sixteen.

A "flatheaded" or Heptageniidae mayfly, possibly in the genus Maccaffertium. Four Mile Creek, Butler County, Ohio. March 19, 2010.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Pied-billed Red-wattled Leaf-shrike Cuckoo

Paula McCartney has published a funny project involving photographs of store-bought decorative birds that she posed in natural settings. It's called Bird Watching and is done with a "straight face," as if the photos in the book document real species. There are field notes and fantastic species names for each bird, all done up in the archly classic style of a committed field naturalist's journal.

I've read through the brief material on the website for Bird Watching that McCartney provides to explain her project, and this statement struck me: "By controlling the brightly colored bird's position in the environment, I am creating a more idyllic scene than that which naturally exists, and creating a new environmental experience for the viewer and myself." Given the ability of photographers to Photoshop their bird and nature pictures, to remove twigs and branches, add or remove items, change the backgrounds, the lighting, the position of the sun, etc., it's curious to compare how an artist purposely manipulates a scene the way McCartney does with the purposeful manipulation of a scene after it's been captured on film, as many nature photographers do. What's the difference, besides the fact that McCartney's birds are fantastical fictions?

I'm not going to spend $800 on McCartney's book, but her idea is funny enough that I'd love to see a copy. Better yet, I'd love to place a copy on a display table at a meeting of ornithologists or serious birders or nature artists to see how they would react.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

BB King

BB King used to have a column in Guitar Player magazine sometime around the early '80s. I enjoyed reading that magazine and King's articles quite a bit. I stumbled upon a really good article about King that appeared in the Telegraph in the UK last spring while I was doing a little research on black velvet Elvis paintings. I've heard about a painting depicting Elvis shaking hands with Jesus--"The King shaking hands with the King of Kings," and I wanted to see one for myself. There's the famous Elvis shaking hands with Nixon photo, of course, but I couldn't find anything depicting Elvis and Jesus. Perhaps even kitsch and bad taste have their limits? The idiosyncratic nature of Google searching delivered up a gem of an article about BB King, and thankfully ended my research on black velvet Elvis art. There are some sad parts in the article, but it seems candid--to the point of bluntness--revealing without being tawdry, and generally optimistic and truthful. There's a little bit of commentary on American history, as well. The article covers just about every topic under the sun, in fact.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Stoneflies and Chironomid Midges

While birding along the Great Miami River in Hamilton on Saturday morning I found a number of stoneflies and Chironomid midges that must have hatched out Friday when it warmed up. The weekend temperatures were fairly warm, so I assume the hatch continued and continues.

Here are two stoneflies:

The top stonefly is roughly 10mm in length, not counting the antennae. The bottom stonefly is about 5mm in length, not counting antennae or tails.

There were also a lot of Chironomid midges. Here are two, each 2 or 3mm in length, which are possibly (probably?) the same species. A male, with his "feathery" plumed antennae:
And a likely female:
I hope to key out the stoneflies properly in the next few days and send them on to someone who knows more about them. The Ohio Biological Survey used to have a collecting program for winter stoneflies. Perhaps they still do. Here's a link to an article about Ohio River Plecoptera that has some information about winter stoneflies.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Aquatic Lives

This is an attempt to make something that looks like a quilt. Each photo was carefully hand stitched into place, in a manner of speaking; the weaving on top of and behind the photos is also handmade, after a fashion. I don't know how to sew, so the handmade stitches around the photos are what I imagine it would look like if I were to get a hold of a needle and thread.

The photos from the top and roughly clockwise are four mayfly nymphs from the genus Nixe (species unknown, collected on Four Mile Creek, Butler County, May 2009); an adult Flag-tailed Spinylegs that was caught, photographed, and released in Hamilton County, July 2009; an adult female Swift River Cruiser, caught, photographed and released on Four Mile Creek, Butler County, August 2009; a Flag-tailed Spinylegs nymph collected on Four Mile Creek, Butler County, July 2009 (this is a first county record of a species that is likely rather common in the county in appropriate habitat); and a subimago Stenonema femoratum mayfly collected on Gregory Creek, Butler County in May 2009. Mayflies are peculiar among insects in that after they hatch, they undergo a complete molt, including their wings, before becoming fully "adult." The wing molt is the unusual aspect of this change.

After the egg, the three stages of a mayfly's life are the water-living nymphal stage, after which the nymphs hatch into subimagoes, which then molt into sexually mature imagos. The molt from subimago to imago occurs within minutes, hours, or sometimes a day or more of hatching.

Fly fisherman call the hatched subimagos "duns," and the imagos "spinners." Serious fly fishermen and women know their insects, and there are a lot of good books about aquatic insects written by and for fly fisher-persons. Ernest G. Schwiebert is a really good first start. Volume I of Schwiebert's Nymphs, which was published in a revised two-volume edition after he died, is, for some reason, regularly found at Half Price book stores. That's where I bought my copy last spring. I'm not a fly fisher, but I read a lot of fly fishing material in books and online these days, and even occasionally check out fly fishing t.v. programs. Sometimes they talk about insects and fly tying. Usually, they just show dudes catching fish, which just isn't as interesting to me, but I appreciate how much they love fishing and being in the water.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The Fitton Center for Creative Arts annual winter quilt show, "Harmony," wrapped up on January 6, but I walked through the exhibit at least a half dozen times after it opened in mid-November. Initially I was more interested in seeing John Leon's music-related sculptures, which were part of "Harmony." (Many of Leon's works you can see on the page linked to in the last sentence were in the Fitton Center show). I wasn't disappointed. Leon's work is excellent. It was nice to be able to walk around the sculptures and see them from all sides and different angles. The "Rondo" pieces, made from limestone, marble, and bronze, struck me as something that might translate into a visual poetry piece--"S" shapes and figure 8's and ampersands suggesting a G clef, the way that a static sculpture can seem to be moving--and this is what I came up with.

Rondomisterioso (Take 4)

The basic shapes are a reversed ampersand, an "S," a backslash, and some dots. The effects are computer manipulated, and this was the fourth version. Thus the clever parenthetical title "Take 4." A few days after I did this, I was talking with a friend who also happens to be a sculptor, and he mentioned that he likes working with metal because it's hands-on and doesn't involve sitting down and running something through Photoshop. Hmmm . . . sounds a lot like what I do, albeit I don't use Photoshop. I use something much cheaper. I started thinking about using my limited art and handwriting "skills" (quote marks indicating sarcasm in this case) and to try to avoid relying so much on computer manipulation, although that's still fun to do. I wanted to do things that were more hands-on, if not hand made. Like something quilters or fiber artists might make, for instance.

I've never looked too closely at quilts before, though, and they were a surprise to me. Most of the quilts in the "Harmony" show were created by members of the ART Quilt Group, all of whom are Cincinnati-area based artists. Three artists from outside the Cincinnati area were also part of the show. One of the non-Cincinnati area artists is Donna June Katz, from Chicago. One of Katz's pieces titled "Bottom of the Sky," had trilobites, insects, and earth-like planets scattered throughout a sort of Milky Way meets the dawn of creation background. Another piece, "Water Over Sky," you can see for yourself on this page on the Fiberarts Magazine website in a web gallery devoted to work by Katz and Cincinnati artist Renee Harris. Though not in the show, Katz's piece titled "Riparian Zone" at the bottom of the Fiberarts Magazine gallery page looks really interesting.

Other pieces that jumped out from the "Harmony" show included "A Goldening of Ginkos" and "Cloudless Sulphurs and Columbines" by Lynn M. Ticotsky. (Here is a link to Ticotsky's "A Goldening of Ginkos" from a 2006 show in Indiana. The Fitton Center's presentations of the quilts and sculptures in "Harmony" were well-done and very professional. They put on museum-quality shows. One excellent juxtaposition that I would love to be able to show you involved Patricia Gould's "Siberian Moonlight Sonata," a large and luminous landscape quilt depicting a snow-covered, birch-dotted Siberian nighttime scene that was hung on the back wall of the upstairs gallery, with two of Leon's wood-carved pieces "Downright Upright" and "The Seeker" situated in front of the quilt. Those three pieces were meant to be together. Cathy Mayhugh, the director of the Fitton Center's exhibitions does a good job designing the center's shows.) Carol Schlegel's "Bird Songs" was interesting. She used raised fabric rectangles and their shadows to create visual interpretations of bird songs. I wondered if she had seen the bird song sonograms that many birders use to study bird songs and their variations. Cris Fee's human figure dominated quilts were unique among the pieces in this show. An article about the "Harmony" show featuring a photo of Cris Fee and one of her pieces appeared in November in the Oxford Press.

All of the artists in "Harmony" were represented by work that was worth seeing, and I look forward to seeing more fiber art or quilt work art in the future.

I can't sew much less run a sewing machine. I'm barely able to patch holes in my insect nets. So after seeing "Harmony," I wanted to figure out a way to make something at least resembling a quilt. After some thought, I gave virtual quilting a shot. Here is a piece that is mostly hand drawn--the vertical and horizontal "weaves." The waves are computer manipulated. I couldn't get a decent hand drawn wave effect.

Next time I'll trot out a couple visual poetry virtual quilts that use the above thingy with items from my collection of bad photos of odd insects.