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.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Eye Phone

Here is a link to a brief slide show and audio commentary about David Hockney and his iPhone art by Lawrence Weschler, from The New York Review of Books. There are additional articles plus examples of Hockney's artwork at his website.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I saw this link to Pieter Bruegel's "Winter Landscape With Bird Trap" on Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes yesterday. I can't help but to think of a few of my friends who love to set up nets at their feeder stations on snowy days to band birds. But I think the person on the other end of the rope trap in Bruegel's painting is planning on eating his birds.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Michael, Elvis, and Mozart

Over the weekend I saw a bit of This Is It, the documentary about the preparations for Michael Jackson's comeback tour that never was. The shows would have gone over very well and likely done quite a bit to restore Jackson's place in pop culture.

A few days ago, I took a tour of the Mozart museum that the first graders created in the hallway at GLS's school to celebrate Mozart's birthday. One really bright girl standing at the Mozart death station explained that Mozart died from "too many pills and heart attacks." I replied, "just like Michael Jackson." She said "exactly like Michael Jackson." Then she told me about a family vacation over the summer that ended up in Graceland, where she saw Elvis's grave and home.

I didn't care much for Jackson's music, though I still enjoy hearing anything from Off The Wall, and I can certainly understand why Thriller was so popular. Those are great albums, regardless of my opinions or taste. Despite many things he did in his life, to himself and others, I never enjoy seeing people suffer and I never relish the failures of celebrities. It was sad to see him go. I'm glad that GLS's schoolmate pointed out to me the parallels between Michael Jackson, Elvis, and Mozart. It was interesting to think about celebrity, success, genius, etc., and how very little about the world really changes from century to century.