photo: Judy Ferrara
Photo Credit: Tracy Raphaelson




December 2005

"Song has always served to immortalize names, even the names of kings of obscure little Greek states, as in The Illiad. Usually they were war heroes, although, thanks to Homer, we also remember the names of Helen and Cassandra."

  "Fame" from Milosz's ABC's by Czeslaw Milosz, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.


Three Weeks of Inspiration

Dear Reader,

As much as I dislike not being able to fulfill last month's promise, this journal will not a report of the Istanbul Biennial. This is a "strike while the iron is hot" decision because I have a journal full of impressions, supplemented by more memories and images floating in my head. I will begin by exploring the idea of experience transforming itself into inspiration.

Is any experience, especially one captured as "significant" in my many journals (see October 2004), fodder for the creativity mill? No, not everything I record will necessarily find its way into writing or artwork. There is a sifting process that takes time before an experience eventually filters through to a poem and/or painting. As I learned when we visited it in Turkey, Troy was as Milosz describes it: "an obscure little Greek state." For whatever reason, Homer was inspired by the story and the rest is literary history.

My poem, "Responsibility," describes my dilemma whenever I have an experience that seems to cry out for a place in a poem and/or a painting. The title comes from my feeling that I somehow have a responsibility to record inspiring experiences in words or paint.


Caught in the sunset
At the ship's rail, I

Wanted to dip my hand
Into the water

To scoop up gold flakes
Wild with shimmer and pulse

Strewn in the path
From ship to sun.

The sight seemed
Almost trite

And therefore forbidden
By the laws of art.

Wondering what was left
For me to do,

I stood for awhile
In the wake of the sun.

During the three weeks of being with friends and traveling around Germany and Turkey, there were many inspiration-soaked occasions. I dutifully recorded images in my journal, knowing that I will return to it in the coming months or years if that transformation should occur. I compare it to the 750 photographs that my husband, John Gaumond, took while we were there. Some will end up in a future exhibition, but most of them will be there to reinforce a fading memory ten years from now. My journal will be there when I need it to recall a name, a color, a sequence of events. Here are some entries:

  • Being entranced by the foggy early morning ride from the Munich airport. Punctuated with miles of hops fields with their harvest gone by, tall poles left exposed in an eerie pattern of verticals mimicking an extended musical composition…

  • Seeing onion-shaped church domes and Gothic spires, homes with red tile roofs, white stucco and brown beams, lace curtains in every window...

  • On the ride back from Pottenstein, thinking about the strange rock formations there, with a huge full moon following us all the way back to Vilseck…

  • Seeing Albrecht Dürer's house in Nürnberg, the walk through the old city, the pastry and coffee, inside St. Sebald's, the photographs showing townspeople rebuilding from the rubble that once was the church, the caption "a bride's portal. Will a bride ever walk through it again?"

  • Finding the Nürnberg town hall, with its first floor given over to contemporary art exhibitions. There are 23 canvases by a painter who used a 3 inch brush to make brightly lined patterns. When you stood back far enough, you could make out horses, women, mountains, houses. I think about the similar thing we artists do in the United States: search for a venue that will let us show our work for three or four weeks and hope to sell something…

  • Finding a Franz Marc exhibit in Munich was not a surprise, but finding the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus as we emerged from the Königsplatz stop on the subway was. There were not just a few paintings, either. It was a retrospective with drawings, paintings, and sculptures!

  • Being in heaven at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich because entire galleries are filled with paintings by Max Beckmann, Emil Nolde. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and August Macke, favorite artists whose work I knew mostly from books.
    I just reached my two page limit, and I have only looked through twelve pages of my journal, which is only the third day of twenty-three! More next month? That's not a promise, but a distinct possibility. If you have comments or questions about this or any other journal, please email me: