Saturday, September 30, 2017


A few weeks ago, everyday our kitchen television was tuned to men's and women's tennis at Forest Hills. My husband, John Cullum, is full-time fan and keeps me up to date. I peek over his shoulder.

I have loved, admired, and saluted Roger Federer for years. Before Forest Hills, every time I heard his name, the fact that he's now 36 was mentioned. I figured he and 31-year-old Rafael Nadal would be playing each other in the finals. I know how it feels to be told that you can't do what a younger  athlete can do, but Federer, winning the Australian open and Wimbledon earlier this year, has proved he's still a winner.

I was stunned when I saw Federer lose in the Quarter Finals -- upset, as I watched as he congratulated the winner, Juan Martin del Potro, and left the court.
He told reporters: "I didn’t think I played bad, I can do better maybe, sure, but I think the decisions that we both took, me serving, him returning, or whatever  it may have been, you know, it just didn’t go my way. The way I played or am playing right now, it's not good enough in my opinion to win this tournament."

The way he thinks/speaks about his work inspires me to think/speak to myself Roger's way, about my own work.

The vision of him in 2016 after the Forest Hills finals is still strong in my mind -- his friendly, kind manner that said I'm happy for you, as he shook hands with the winner, Novak Djkovic.

He thanked Djkovic for being  such an excellent player, and said, quietly, one sentence about being  back next year.

My ears tingled. My heart sang -- "Yes, be back next year. and try hard again."

Wherever  he is right now, today, he's not mourning or reviewing what he might have  handled better in that Quarter Finals Game with Del Potro. He said he'll be back next ear and he will be back. Right now he's probably playing tennis somewhere with his usual  intense total concentration -- like McEnroe said, "playing his usual  beautiful game."

Playing the game beautifully ...Yes, whatever Roger Federer did, does, and will do in tennis is a gift he gives me.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Her latest work, a huge 11-foot by 18-foot collage, is upsetting some audiences and being praised to the skies by others. It is now on display at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Gallery, on 22nd street in Manhattan, the premier marketplace for contemporary art for sale.

The 47-year-old Kara Walker, who has long been heralded as one of our country's most prominent black female artists for making art about her race and gender, declared on the Internet just before the opening -- “I am tired, tired of standing up, being counted, tired of  ‘having a voice,’ or worse, ‘being a role model.’ Tired, true, of being a featured member of my racial group and/or my gender niche.” Referring to the recent White Nationalist Rally in Virginia, she strongly acknowledged her right and capacity -- “To live in this Godforsaken country as a (proudly) raced and (urgently) gendered person who is under threat by random groups of white (male) supremacist goons.”

You and I need to get up close to see what's in this painting -- what you recognize, what it's saying about who, when, and what's happened in our country. According to New York Times critic Roberta Smith, it's the "Remorseless racialized America present."

Walker makes the title of this work into a 198 word parody that playfully suggests to the audience what she wants them to think about what they're seeing, referring to one group of silhouetted figures as the "Slaughter of the Innocents( they might be guilty)," suggesting the recent police shootings of unarmed African Americans. She titles another group, an array of black women in two-piece bathing suits, as "Pool Party of Sarandapalus (after a famous Delacroix painting), because it brings to mind an incident back in 2015 when a Texas policeman pinned down a black girl at pool party.

Studying the painting you will see recognizable figures of Klansmen, Trayvon Martin, Batman, Uncle Ben,  Martin Luther King Jr., and Donald Trump as a severed head bearing a swastica on its forehead, a second Trump head held aloft by a Black Panther-like figure.

New York Magazine critic Jerry Saltz says, "Walker's enormous collage rates as perhaps the greatest work about America made in the 21st Century. Walker surely must know she may be destroying her career with her protest, but still it will be a crime if this work doesn't end up on permanent display in a prominent New York Museum."

Take a look at some of her earlier works that I wrote about back in 2015-- Kara Walker Artist.

Her paintings, collages, and what she says about them express, perhaps, her frustration that she, as a mere artist, might might have answers for the urgent questions facing us at this moment in history.  Kara Walker is demanding, shouting, howling, that we look ... see ... pay attention.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Quick look at Plantee

Back in 2013, I usually said "Good morning" to the small pot of elephant ears that sat on my book shelf.
That's how it looked, in February, 2014, after 2 of its ears  turned brown. On the steps to our roof where we have a storage area, I found a larger black pot. My husband, John Cullum, got a flower shop owner, a fan who'd seen him in various shows, to sell him 4 cupfuls of potting soil, and we transplanted it. I put it on top of my printer just below a bright light. Calling it "Plantee," I started greeting it every morning and every night.

By October 2015 there were 5 nice-sized elephant ears, 3 small ones, and 2 sprouts. I got a bag of potting soil from Kmart for $4.95. We didn't have a right-sized pot, so we used a large Plaster of Paris can. Scrubbed it, loaded it with soil, adding 2 wood sticks, 2 straightened-out wire clothes hangers to support the 2 main stems, and installed a lamp to give it sunshine near the fax machine in the hallway between our offices -- it's Plantee's home now. I say hi and compliment it, whenever I pass through the hall to chat with John, golly, around a dozen times a day.

If you work in a small office, spend your day inside away from people and other living things, hey -- a plant to love and cherish, and talk to -- wow, it grows you like it grows the plant.

You're growing, and growing, like I say as I run out of words in this in this video about the wonders of growing, growing, growing like Plantee.