Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Open for Grace

Ruthie Mae inspired what turned into a beautiful walk and an emotionally moving time for me.  We ventured out just before dusk, which is often the time of day I’m drawn to go outside, particularly when I’m in a melancholic mood.  I can’t think of anything that could have helped me more than our time together did.  It was perfect!

Ruthie saw a daring squirrel perched on a big tree.  She looked surprised when it didn’t immediately flee upon her arrival.  First, she appeared perplexed.  After a short moment, she had a hunter’s gaze that is so much a part of who she is, and which I do love.

There were several interesting sculptures in the park where we walked.  My favorite one is of three metal figures in the shape of women, holding their arms toward the sky.  They remind me of my two sisters, so I call them, The Three Sisters, but I don’t know the true title.

We came upon a bench formed into the shape of open hands.  I was especially inspired by the quote. 

park bench of open hands

The message touched my low spirit, lifting me from melancholia, to an inner place of hope.

“And Never Cease to Keep Your Wait

for Grace Lamp Ready.”

Hands Open.  Lighting Brown.


Thanks for visiting my blog, dogkisses, and I hope you have a blessed new year!

Wood and Chisel

Chisel revealed his tears

The Crying Man

“You need wood and a chisel,” Bo told me.  We headed to his backyard, which is where we always went when I visited.

Bo knew better than I did about the trials I would face in my near future.  He also knew a way to prevent me from going insane that summer.

I’d made a habit of visiting Bo when he wasn’t working.  He was definitely one of my favorite people.

Bo was a psychiatric nurse.  He had tired of the, “nine-to-fivers,”  and was instead traveling the country, teaching triage nurses how to, “be nicer,” to the psychiatric patients seeking help in hospital emergency rooms.   Humor was his magic in communication.

“I don’t know how to carve,” I told Bo.  I didn’t and truly thought he was joking.

“Oh, but you do! You do! Let me prove it to you.”

Bo was enthusiastic about life.  He lived every moment like it was the last one.

He’d created a wonderland in his backyard.  There were hills and wooden bridges, an old shed with a cute little deck perched above a small, but deep round fish pond.  The two short tree trunks for seats made the set up look very much like a hobbit house.

There was a sign on the front of the shed that read, “Bo Acres.”  He lived on almost two acres of land in a nice older neighborhood, not too far from downtown.

“Bo Acres” was a realistic fantasy land designed to nurture good mental health.

In the center of his backyard was a piece of wood at least five feet in diameter and three feet deep.  It was huge!  He didn’t know what he was making for the longest time.  A very large bowl perhaps?  A coffee table?

“I can’t carve wood Bo,” I told him again.  “I don’t even know how to use a chisel,” I added.

Bo laughed.  “That’s impossible!” he declared.  We walked over to the massive piece of wood.  For a few minutes I watched him work.  He talked about holding the chisel at an angle so that you didn’t take away large chunks of wood.  I was scared of destroying that wood, but he laughed about that too.

“Ha!  Miss prim and proper lady!” Bo said.  He had many nicknames for me, but they all had the same feel to them, which I liked.

He handed me the chisel and mallet.  “It would take you a long time to do any damage to that wood,” he said, still laughing and carrying on the way he did. It was a wonderful way that made people feel good.  “Believe me, you’ll be doing me a favor with every bit of wood you take off,” he reassured me.

The first few times I brought the mallet down, I either missed the chisel altogether or hit it in a way that made nothing more than a slight scratch on the wood.  Finally, Bo stood behind me, holding and guiding my hands as I held the chisel and mallet.  After a few minutes, I saw a perfect thin shaving of wood peel away.

It was a good feeling.  Secretly, I’ve always wished I could do something artistic with my hands.  I was quite pleased with myself.

“There!  You see!  That’s it!” Bo said with great satisfaction.  ” Now let’s get you a good chunk of wood.”

He stood in his yard with a big smile waving as I pulled out of his driveway, the same as he always did.  From my rear-view mirror, I saw him  still standing there waiting until I was out of sight.  I saw too, the chunk of Oak lying under the rear window above the backseat in my car.  I knew, on some level, that my world had changed.

Bo had helped me the only way he knew how, which was to give me something to take my mind off the terrible circumstances in my life.

An older heavy mallet.


 The mallet in the above image is very much like the one I used that summer.

Sometimes you gotta make your own therapy.

New mallet & my first chisel.

The mallet above is a new lightweight one. 

still visible after all these yearsBo wrote my name on the chisel.  Barely visible are the last few letters.

The face I carved is The Crying Man.   He holds a year’s worth of pain and tears.  Maybe one day I’ll write that story. 

Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s Blog.

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The Fence Sitter

Fence Sitter for Lady DogKisses aka Michelle. Image by Leslie S. IconDoit, the blog)

Fence Sitter

I wrote to my friend, Leslie Sigal Javorek, trying to describe the images and feelings I have when I consider ways to help my adult son in his healing journey, which has in the past meant navigating the mental healthcare system.

Leslie is a talented artist and author of the blog, IconDoIt, which is how I first came to know her. 

The drawings of the “FenceSitter” surprised me.  I loved them right away. The insight I saw in the image amazed me.  Little details, such as the red velvet fairy-like trousers and the white ruffled shirt reminded me of myself.  

The cute alligator came first and the dogs later.  They were perfect really.  I’ve only played with painting and drawing a few times in my life, so the Fence-Sitter was the first time I had seen my experience and feelings in a tangible form.

The woman I imagined can never decide which side of the fence she should be on.  “She has one leg on each side,” I had written Leslie.  “I’m not sure what is around her or the fence.  She simply can’t decide which road to take or what opinion to have.  She’s always wondering which side has less potential for harm.  Hard choices are on both sides and the fence is starting to hurt.  She needs to be free.  She knows in her heart she will probably never fully stand on either side of the fence.”

I haven’t always been a Fence-Sitter.  In my twenties I had strong opinions and was not afraid to express them, at least to people whom I trusted.  I was reluctant in academic arenas and sometimes in the jobs I held.  I knew what I liked.  I knew what I thought was right or wrong.  I knew what I believed in, but over time, I lost my footing.  Everything changed when my son was diagnosed with a mental illness.


“Fence Sitter” Image copyrights belong to Leslie Sigal Javorek.  Visit her here: IconDoIt.

Also, I wanted to share that Leslie has a store on Zazzle where she sells her original art– (IconDoIt, the Store).  Her art is very cool!  Thanks for visiting DogKisses.

Rosa La Rouge, who were you?

Rosa la rouge

At Montrouge – Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec   

I wrote about my first impressions of, At Montrouge: Rosa La Rouge, by Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec in an earlier post, “Rosa La Rouge,” was her name,” after buying the small framed print at a thrift shop.

I’ve learned that the model, Rosa, is a bit of a mystery.

sketch of Carmen Gaudin looks like Rosa

Français : Carmen Gaudin – Boulevard extérieur

The sketch (on the right), from Wiki Commons sure looks like At Montrouge, however the model’s name is documented there as, Carmen Gaudin.

Below are the words to a song that I found online at 

“It’s Rosa I don’t know she comes from
She has red hair, a dog’s head
When she passes they say, here comes ‘Red’
At Montrouge.

When she gets a ‘John’ in the corner
Me, I’m right there not far at all
And the next day the cop finds ‘red’ all right,
At Montrouge.”

Not such a pleasing song for such a lovely woman, even if she was a prostitute.  

I learned a bit more about Rosa from a Princeton blog (below).

“Redheads occupy a significant place in the work of Toulouse-Lautrec. As he declared to his atelier friends in 1884, his preference came from a characteristic odor of the redheads that he found arousing —

–Since the reason he liked to paint her (Rosa) was that he identified himself with her, and more specifically with her fake red hair, painting her as an ordinary brown-haired woman would have had the same connotations as considering himself an ordinary aristocrat, a condition from which he was getting farther and farther away.”  (Source:  The Calling of the Rose — See below for links)

An interesting and informed comment came in for this post from a friend and fellow blogger, Leslie Sigal Javorek, owner of IconDoIt.  Leslie is also the artist who designed the awesome digital art in this post titled, Too Loose to Trek.

From Leslie:

“As to Rosa* she was indeed a prostitute but, unlike most of society (then as now), Lautrec neither felt nor exhibited disdain for these women, rather he believed them to be far more “real” and honest than the upper-class females that he had grown up with. In Lautrec’s voluminous body of work, including paintings and drawings, his models were almost always invariably prostitutes. While many have taken this as a sign of degeneracy, it was simply a fact of life in late-nineteenth century France and also the only source of female models willing to bare more than their face or occasionally their hands. Importantly, Lautrec never portrayed his models in a demeaning way. He was simply a “reporter”, an observer who tried to accurately capture the spirit of his models and surroundings without any moral judgment. If anything, Lautrec’s work accurately reflect his own gregarious, open-minded personality than believed in revering beauty and humanity over dogma.”

“* As to the song you refer to (above), I could find no confirmation whether or not this referred to Carmen specifically or whether it had any connection to Lautrec’s paintings and sketches of Carmen. I suspect that if that song had any connection to a Lautrec model, it would more likely have been Jane Avril, who was not only a red-head but was a popular singer & dancer at the Moulin Rouge at the time.”

Thank you Leslie!

Too Loose to Trek, Nouveau for the 21st century, by Leslie Sigal Javorek

“Too Loose to Trek” by Leslie Sigal Javorek

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec was an interesting character.  His life and work, and also the lives of his models and friends, led me on an interesting exploration with rich little surprises along the way, such as who is blamed for his early death. 


Her name was Rosa La Rouge!


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Too Loose to Trek, by Leslie Sigal Javorek, IconDoIt, the blog.

The Calling of the Rose,

song via http://www.Christie’

“Rosa la Rouge” was her name.

by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901)

A-Montrouge Rosa la Rouge

I gazed into the small framed print for a few minutes wondering if I should spend money on something I didn’t need.   I was after all, at the thrift shop and had already chosen several items  from the art room.

I almost put the picture back, but I looked at it again.  I wondered what had drawn me to it.  There wasn’t anything that especially stood out to justify the purchase, albeit a modest one, except that I really liked it.  I decided that was enough.

As I write, over a year later, I remain captured by the woman in the picture.  

At Montrouge (Rosa La Rouge), by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Sometimes I take the picture down to take a closer look.  I want to understand what I feel when I look at Rosa.  

She’s mysterious and I wonder what she’s thinking.  I wonder where she is and where she’s going.  I wonder if she’s happy or content.  I think she has something on her mind.  More than that, I think she has a difficult life.  I’m rather delighted that this image evokes so many questions!

My sister came to visit me one day and remarked about the picture.  “She looks just like you,” she said.  “Exactly.”

I hadn’t thought about it, but oddly, I wasn’t especially surprised.  Looking again I saw a resemblance, but not as much as my sister saw.   It’s rather a feeling than her physical features that I relate to.

Rosa la Rouge was a French washerwoman; a laundress, which wasn’t an easy life.  They had a reputation of also being prostitutes.  Having learned that Rosa was likely a French prostitute evoked more curiosity about what I feel when I look at her portrait.

My first impression of Rosa made me think of a woman living the life of a poor share cropper’s wife.  I saw a woman trapped in a life of obligation.

Perhaps it is a certain loneliness in her that I see.   An alienation from the world of nine-to-fivers; the regular people who get up at the same time and go to the same place every day.  Regular people with regular jobs and regular relationships.

I imagine being a prostitute would call one to abandon, at least temporarily, a part of herself.  

So, I wonder about Rosa la Rouge.  What is it about her that intrigues me?

Is something lost to her?  A part of herself that she waits to meet again.

Is something lost to me, I wonder, when I see my reflection in Rosa’s image.


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864-1901).

“Toulouse-Lautrec was drawn to Montmartre, an area of Paris famous for its bohemian lifestyle and for being the haunt of artists, writers, and philosophers.”


“Rosa la Rouge was a prostitute who appeared in many of Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings.  Sadly, she is thought to be the source from which the artist contracted syphilis, a then-incurable disease which may have contributed to his early death at the age of 37.”


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