Sunday, August 7, 2016

PROCTOR ARTSFEST 2016 - Art Inspired Stories

Juried Art Show 2016
 Art-Inspired Stories Project 

This is the 20th Anniversary year of Proctor Arts Fest. This year's Juried Art Show and Art Inspired Stories Project are dedicated to the man who worked quietly behind the scenes for two decades, and whose vision of the arts in the Proctor District are reflected in the vibrancy of this annual celebration. 

  Thank you Gene Kester for your stewardship, your dedication, and your vision.

One Man's Garden
by Judith Cullen

To Gene Kester

The wise gardener knows the richness of inspired soil,
when to quench the eager thirsts of growth,
when to submit to the invigorating touch of the sun.

He toils compassionately among his rows, planting, tending,
a gentle influence over decades of potentialities.
The warm touch and twinkling presence is ever patient.

The vibrant mind, full of constant imaginative ideas,
always sees the garden in its fullest, most vibrant splendor
despite the cycling realities of decay and winter's rest.

His spade and trowel work on: encouraging, persuading,
gently assessing that which would remain in the safety of seed,
and seeks out just the right spot to plant for prosperity.

This man's garden shall never be fallow, fade or wither,
remaining a testament to one soul's stewardship and scope:
vivid color, dynamic shape reflecting the ardor of his vision

For he has planted to a design which conforms to the eternal,
and cherished it with the blessing of every God-given gift
that one hand, and one heart can hold in everlastingness.


Pieces Selected for Presentation
Note: All Stories are © 2016 by Judith Cullen
Use of any of the photo images on this page without the express permission
of the individual artists is strictly prohibited


Aunt Ruthie
Image copyrighted by the Artist 
by Janette Stiles, Graphite on Paper

Is this really her?  The undulating gleam of calculated waves.  The precise manicure and intense perfection of rouge and liner.  Determined lips reflect a polished, fell sensuality belying the softness of fur.

I question what I remember - what I choose to remember: impossibly good cookies whose recipe was never revealed, dizzy songs sung in the car that can never be forgotten, secret assaults on household furnishings that I was sworn never to disclose to my Mother.

That is the aunt I remember. That is the complex formula of imperfections that branded me with its eternal acceptance, and unquestioned love.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

THE THIRD ANNIVERSARY of Art Inspired Stories

It is hard to imagine that Mr Gene Kester and I hatched this idea over coffees three-plus years ago for the 2014 Proctor Artsfest.  While never claiming it was an original idea, it has turned out to be a very enjoyable and fruitful one.  Not only have I done two ArtsFests, but I did another installment got the Peninsula Art Guild last fall, and the project has extended into the virtual world as well.

I'll be at the Juried Art Show at Mason UMC at 11:30am on Saturday with the third set of Art Inspired Stories for this year's Proctor ArtsFest.

I happily dedicate this post and this year's stories to Gene Kester: Thank you for always seeing the creative possibilities, and being the first to stand behind them!

I love doing these projects, and it is hard to choose individual favorites, but here are some highlights from the five Art Inspired Story Projects, real world and virtual, over the past three years.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

WARMING UP for Art Inspired Stories: The Canvas of Childhood

It was a great morning to be out to breakfast.  Apparently I wasn't the only one to think so.  After placing my order, I began scribbling on my notepad in the usual hope that something will spark my interest or imagination.

One full page of drivel later (and a lot of frustrated page slashes), a family of four walked in complete with sparkly birthday hats and a cluster of balloons clutched in the hands of the birthday boy. The parents waved at me as I took a snapshot of them.  It made me think about what an open canvas childhood is, and how experiences big and small paint themselves on that canvas in hues that set the tone for the rest of life.  They can't be primed over or sanded away.

My 85 year old Mother tells stories all the time.  Almost all of them are about her childhood.  Very little is spoken of some 65 years in deference to fond recollections of the first 20.  It reminds me of the importance of that childhood canvas, and how the events and sensory input of those years are indelibly marked on the soul.

By the way, I gifted the young celebrant with a glass of chocolate milk, and when he left he was wearing TWO of the sparkly hats on his head.  I hear the chocolate milk is especially fine this season.

The Canvas of Childhood

by Judith Cullen
© 2016

Five balloons a float
each helium-filled token a year
excitement still fresh

Remembering times
of a world all bright and high
vibrant child essence

Remembering days
joy-infused with adventure
replete, repeat them

Remembering sense
sounds and smells of young living
surprises await

When decades have passed
indelibly imprinted
sounds, smells, colors, tastes

Five balloons a float
a special breakfast this day
seeds of memories


More haiku, drabble and free-verse coming for this year's Proctor ArtsFest Art Inspired Stores Project, coming August 6th!

Friday, July 22, 2016

CHANGE BEGINS AT THE ROOTS - #loverebellionchallenge

Two weeks ago - an awful week which terminated with the shooting of five law enforcement officers in Dallas - my friend Jason wrote a long, heartfelt post on facebook which concluded with the call for a love rebellion.  A revised version of that post is HERE, printed on this blog with his permission. 

Jason makes a point that I happen to agree with - change begins at the roots. There is a reason why the term grassroots came into popular use.  Those of you who garden know that no matter how healthy a plant is, if its needs are not met at the root level it will not flourish, it will eventually wither and die. 

We are faced with a lot of top end problem solving these days, as bursted-blooms on the national level declare that they can solve the problems that fuel our fears - they can lead us to prosperity.  And all the leaves surrounding them rustle the echo of top-down solutions.  We want to believe them, because living in our increasingly violent, hate-shame-blame filled world is getting unbearable.  Somehow our society has turned into Strange Days and we want to shout "No, no, this is not what we wanted!  That was supposed to be fiction. Can we get a retake, please!"

This descent is aided by the medias, which reflects the culture of our times as much as they shape it.  The news media is generally ready to provide you with the dirt on whomever you don't agree with, so you can not agree with them even more.  Social media creates the illusion of public forums for civil discourse that are false, that amplify discord and divisiveness, and propagate the spewing forth of opinions and ideas with a frightening anonymity which holds the individual minimally accountable for their role in the clamor.  It is a culture of entitlement where my right to be right, overrides any obligation to be kind and good. The whole rambling mess becomes a committee-of-the-whole in which everyone talks, no one listens, and nothing is resolved except that everyone becomes more entrenched in their established positions.

We have to start by treating the roots.  People are angry because they are afraid, they feel threatened.  In many cases there are legitimate causes for that.  Fingers are pointed, labels are placed and replaced.  The hopelessness and frustration can be overwhelming.  I know that is how I feel very often.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

ART INSPIRED STORIES 2016 at Proctor ArtsFest

It's almost time again for the annual Art Inspired Stories at the Proctor ArtsFest Juried Art Show.  The "big canvas" of artful fun is scheduled for the Proctor District Saturday, August 6th from 10am to 5pm.  There's plenty to see and do, with over 140 different vendors.

Art Inspired Stories will be presented at 11:30am in the Mason Church Parlors, at 2710 North Madison Street.  In the week prior I will be selecting some two dozen pieces from this year's submitted artworks, and writing a 100 word story, or a poem in any form (length not to exceed 100 words).  some of these compositions will be read live at the show, and all will be posted here after the Festival is over.  All artists whose works are featured in the live readings will receive a copy of the story or poem written for their work.

Check Art Inspired Stories from previous shows here:

Read all of the 2015 stories from Peninsula Art Leagues 13th annual Open Show HERE

Read all of the 2015 stories from Proctor ArtsFest HERE

Read all of the 2014 stories from Proctor ArtsFest HERE

I hope to see you at the show!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Just stop. Stop. STOP. Time for a Different Rebellion!

Public Domain image from
The events of the last days have only highlighted the weeks, and months of increasing disbelief that have been pounding us all.  Up until now, all that seems to have been accomplished is more debate, more divisiveness, more denial, and more of the same.

Meanwhile our society, our nation spins out of control fueled by hate, fear, hopelessness - a seeming lack of meaningful, supportable choices.

I remember gut-wrenching occurrences of the past - quick, sharp shots that left me breathless and staring at scrolling news reports in total disbelief.  The morning of the 911 attacks is the first that comes to mind.  At these times I pulled myself up out of my disbelieving torpor and said, "You are not doing any good by this, get back to business.  Do your job.  That's the best way to honor those lost."

Today is too much.  "Keep calm and carry on" is not enough. It is long since time to STOP and take a look at where we are going as a society, a people, and as a species.  This path we are all on is not working, and this pattern of hate, anger, fear, and hopelessness cannot stand.  Must not stand. Fighting anger with anger is not effective.  Fighting fear with fear is not working.

 A long time friend posted the following thoughts on facebook.  He proposes a reasonable first step that each and every one of us can take, every day, to start a groundswell of change in how we respect, and care for one another.  Feel like you already do this?  Do more.  There is no "too much" right now.

Jason Ganwich is a photographer/videographer living in Tacoma, WA.  He is known for bringing professionalism, experience, leadership, timing and humor to his projects. I am proud to call him friend, and proud to share his words (with his permission - revised from the first post) as my guest.
Jason Ganwich, self-portrait
Yesterday was a tough day for a lot of people. It got me down. I cried watching Alton Sterlings wife speak while her son sobbed "I want my daddy." My heart raced watching the video of Philando Castille who'd been shot 4 times in front of his girlfriend and her young daughter. My perspective on life continues to change and it feels so hopeless at times. The friends and families of these victims who have been hit with such devastating blows, are now forced into a harsher reality coming from one that, for many, was already hard enough.

These events interrupt our realities. We hear them. Perhaps we finally listen. For some, we truly absorb the words for the first time. For others, this is a skipping record which they yell over, "Make it stop!"

No matter the tone in which a plea to be heard is made, we must listen. If it's an angry plea, screw our devotion to good manners. It means we earnestly need to listen and hear and act. How can we respond to such intensity in a way that does not make the situation worse - more emotional, contentious, divisive?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

WORDS & PAINT . . . A Project Inspires a New Story

In one of this life's incarnations I made my living by my brush. I still have the skills, but my knees are not what they once were.  Still every now and again a project comes my way that I cannot resist.  In this case, an old classmate from high school asked me to rehabilitate something she and her daughter had found in an antique store for the imminent arrival of said daughter's first child.  I was happy to help.

It turned out to be one of those projects that just sparks to life on its own, and I soon found myself talking to the object, a rolling toy box, while I worked on it.  I have to give partial inspiration to William Joyce and his book Ollie's Odyssey for some of this fancy, as well as for the notion of a "code" for toys.

Here is the result, a copy of which was given to the mother-to-be at her baby shower today, when the finished toy box was delivered. ~ Enjoy!


Charlie is Waiting for You
The toy box "before"
by Judith Cullen
© 2016

For Corrie Rydberg

He could remember things, but not very well.  He knew that the antique store was cold.  He knew that for certain.  He could hear the mutterings all around: memories of things worn and now discarded, has-been belongings placed for sale to collectors or people who were not put-off by fading paint or little bits missing here and there.  Of course, there were pristine things there in the chill: snooty glassware sparkling in self-aware stacks, extended families of china shining in the fluorescent light, rare teapots holding court on utilitarian shelves.

He was a toy box with wheels, though it had been so long since he had been purposefully used that all he had were the ghosts of memories.  There had been careful hands that crafted him lovingly out of wood now pleasantly aged.  He remembered the squeal of delight when his first child - what was that child's name? - saw him for the very first time, gleefully filling him with all manner of toys before parading him around the room - pulling him by his horse head handle.  His child had grown, and there had been other children.  He could not recall much beyond the sparkle of playful eyes, the touch of small hands, and the joys of imagination.