THE OLD GREEN SWEATER


drawing board

Some things take on a life of their own. This is the way of my father’s old green sweater. He didn’t really wear it much at the end of his life, but I had thought it a would be a stylish addition to his wardrobe in his nursing home.

After he passed away, I draped it over the chair in my painting studio, reluctant to let him go. Though it is many sizes too large for me, I snuggle into the old green sweater in winter, feeling his presence once more.

corner wall studio

We tend to keep the important things in our lives close at hand. My studio is such a place of comfort. It is crowded with things from past, present and future. Doohickies and thingamaabobs crowd the walls and hang from the ceiling. One great granddaughter who was by nature a quiet and sensitive baby, screamed her lungs out each time I brought her into this room. Bad karma I guess, but for some reason she smiled happily when carried into the sculpting studio. I have no answer for this.

side wall studio

All I can say is that my spirits rise upon entering this overblown and overcrowded haven and I think my Dad would approve.

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MOTHER LOVE


Mother Love
“Mother Love” stoneware sculpture 3ft.tall by kayti sweetland rasmussen

What stronger bond is there than the love of a mother for her children? During my life of art, I have been privileged to paint or sculpt people, and some of the most rewarding have been mothers with their children. Wherever I have gone, I am always touched by the enveloping warmth of a mother’s love for her children.

As a mother, grandmother and great grandmother, I can share this singular state of being. Children are our legacy to the world. It’s our responsibility to make it a good legacy.

100 Words

PUTTING LIGHT INTO THE DARK SPACES


Women painters were not always granted friendly acceptance by the male artistic community. In fact their efforts were often viewed as a curiosity. Artemisia Gemtileschi was a 15th century woman painter best known for her specialty of painting strong and suffering women. As it turned out, she had a good reason for doing so.

Born in Rome in 1593, she learned to paint alongside her father Orazio Gentileschi who tutored her and recognized her genius. When she showed promise at the age of 17, he engaged another painter, Agostino Tassi, to tutor her privately. Handsome and charismatic, Tassi was interested in more than teaching Artimesia to better her painting skills, and after much harassment by him and by other artists in his studio, Tassi raped her. As she was a virginal teenager, this enraged her father on many levels, as her reputation was ruined and she was no longer considered marriageable.

Artimesia’s mother had died when she was 12 and she had no female influence in her life. Her father rented an upstairs apartment to a woman tenant, Tuzia. Though Artimesia befriended Tuzia, on the day of the rape when she screamed for help, Tuzia ignored her cries. Later Artimesia’s work contained a strong sense of solidarity and unity between women, something that Artimesia had not found in real life, but showed a great longing for this kind of relationship.

Suzanna & the Elders, Artemisia Gentileschi
“Judith and The Elders” This painting may have been done before the rape during the period she was being sexually harrassed by Tassi and his friends.

After the rape, Tassi promised to marry her, but reneged on his promise, and was brought to trial by Artimesia’s angry father. During the ensuing seven month trial, it was discovered that Tassi was planning to murder his wife, whom he had acquired by rape, and had an adulterous relationship with his sister-in-law. He also had plans to steal some paintings from Orazio’s home.

A transcript of the infamous seven month court trial still exists, showing that Tassi was found guilty and was given the choice of five years hard labor or exile from Rome. He chose the latter, but he was back in Rome within four months, probably due to influence in high places. The trial influenced the feminist view of Artemisia Gentileschi during the late twentieth century, and she was rediscovered by modern feminists. She painted many pictures of strong and suffering women from myth and the Bible, and made it her speciality to paint the Judith story. Judith Beheading Holofernes showing the decapitation of Holofernes, shows very well her feeling toward her rapist.
She was criticized for painting bloody and sadistic paintings, notwithstanding her opportunity to show the unfairness of men toward her victimization. Her rebellion was duly noted and condemned.

That she was a woman painting in the fifteenth century and that she was raped and then participated in prosecuting the rapist, long overshadowed her achievements as an artist. Notwithstanding, today she is regarded as one of the most progressive artists of her generation.

Judith slaying---ArtemesisG.
“Judith Beheadidng Holofernes” The painting displays a strong sense of solidarity between women.

A month after he trial, Orazio arranged for a marriage for his daughter to Pierantonio Stiattesi, an uninspired artist from Florence, who it turned out was more interested in gambling than in painting. They returned to Rome ten years after the court case had mostly been forgotten by the general public. It was never forgotten by Artimesia.

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PART TWO

There are many great women artists I grant you, but why are there not more of them represented on the walls of our museums? Being an artist and having had a lifetime of being female, I have given this a lot of thought.

Being an artist is a career choice which takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. This is after a woman overcomes the male perception of the traditional role of women, which is as the guardian of hearth and home. At first women artists kept busy making needlepoint flowers, weaving, china painting, etc. These things made the house look better, so they were OK occupations.

The fact is also that the raising of children takes a tremendous amount of time and energy and doesn’t leave a ton of free time during which the brain is bursting with creativity. Women are also good at nurturing their husbands, making it possible for him to concentrate on art or whatever his profession may be.

Michelangelo had somebody to cook his meals, Rubens”wives darned his stockings so that he looked good while getting all those commissions. Gauguin had females taking care of his every need. And we know all about that. He left his wife and family and lounged around in the South Sea sunshine. Even Van Gogh was jealous of that.

It’s a matter of choices. A female artist can take care of other people or concentrate on art. It’s impossible to do both and reach the comparative level of famous male artists.

Rosa Bonheur had no children, no husband. Mary Cassatt, no children, no husband and an independent income. Georgia O’Keeffe didn’t have children, and her husband actively promoted her career. Grandma Moses was a Johnny-Come-Lately.

As far as “serious” art was concerned, it involved perhaps painting nudity, which of course was totally unsuitable. An artist, male or female, was considered a bit eccentric, and some people are uncomfortable with that.

Nevertheless, we are grateful for the women who persevered and have given us the privilege of sharing in their dreams

WHAT IS IT ABOUT TITLES?


I Am Home
“I Am Home” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen
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We are always advised to make a title inviting. To use it as a “hook” to get people to read or look at something we have created.
After all, who would want to see something bland and uninteresting? I have been making art and writing for most of my life, and I have yet to find the composing of titles an easy job. It has even been suggested to me that the titles I apply to my blog posts could be a bit more….you know. (My loved one is so forthcoming.)

Early on I used to try and think of great titles for my paintings or sculptures. I was even known to think of something and do a painting to match the title. As the years went by if the art stayed around, I would change the name on occasion. I have even found myself lazily changing the name of a piece which was sold long ago on its archive record. Dr. Advice will often ask “Wasn’t that painting called ….?” I am ashamed to admit I do not remember. Once out of my hands….. Foundries to which I have entrusted a piece sometimes suggested a better name, to which I often shrugged a shoulder. What’s really in a name?

Long time readers will remember that I frequently changed my own name as a child as well. Serving as my own shrink I determined some years ago that a change of name was an easy way to shake up the status quo and enter the world of pretend.

We too all have titles. Miss, Ms., Mrs. Are they really important in telling people who we really are? Emily Post and Miss Manners tell us there is a right way in written address for unmarried women, married women, divorced women and widowed women. How many people pay attention to those rules unless printed on heavy white bond paper in a social situation? According to that I am not kayti sweetland rasmussen, but a replica of my husband with Mrs. planted in front of it. Mrs. Dr. Advice probably doesn’t fly.

We are each unique. Many artists resort to the number system. If you can’t think of a name for a piece of art, give it a number. If you give it a big number it makes it seem as if there had been many precursors which is intriguing to those who decide to like what they see and they think you must be very important. I hesitate to resort to that method when recalling that prisoners and Holocaust victims are given numbers.

I have known people to give their pets the same name as their predecessor. That must be rather insulting to a new dog when he realizes that when their name is called, their master is remembering another.

In studying some of my family records, the name Hiram comes up three times, one after the other. It makes it hard to distinguish which Hiram made the dresser in my guest room, Hiram one, two or three, without looking through the papers. My own name, occurring in several generations, presents the same problem, though none of us was a cabinetmaker. It’s left to succeeding generations to make the call.

MENTAL HOPSCOTCH IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT


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“Kate and Nigh-Nigh” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Charlie throws himself onto our bed, snuggling heavily to gain more space between us in our antique double bed. There is no sleep from that time on till morning light, and the mind jumps from subject to subject, alighting on each for no more than a second. I am assured that 95 percent of modern society uses either queen or king size beds. I find myself needing a step stool to climb into some of these beds. A friend once asked me “how do you both sleep in this little bed?” I told her we were both little people.

As I have mentioned before, I was regularly displaced from a bed of my own as a child in my grandmother’s rooming house. Grandma felt it expedient to collect a little money for the room since I could very well sleep on a couch or large chair. I always slept with my mother while my father was at sea, cuddling a stuffed raccoon until my mother took it away from me before I left on my honeymoon. I am embarrassed to admit that I often wonder what happened to that comforting furball.

Once “bed” imprinted itself on my brain, I began thinking of various people I know and the beds they choose to sleep in.

When visiting an old high school friend, twice divorced, I noticed she had a single twin bed in her boudoir. Though she always seemed to be looking for a new boyfriend, I felt the bed was a clear signal that she chose to sleep alone and probably gave second thoughts to a prospective suitor should he have been invited into her bedroom. It reminded me of a sleepless night in Rome when the only available bed was a cot-sized single, which Dr. Advice and I shared. While he snored, I stared at the ceiling.

Another young woman of my acquaintance divorced a nasty husband who took the bed from their bedroom while she was at work. The empty space echoed her empty pocketbook, and left her with the possibility of displacing her children from their snug little beds, or sleeping on the sofa. Her older sister came to offer consolation and told her it was imperative that they buy a bed immediately, else “how did she expect to entertain?”

Many years ago my sister-in-law and I while looking for the bathroom in an older bachelor cousin’s home came upon a flimsy nightgown hanging on the back of the door. We giggled and wondered what her mother would think. She later became his seventh and last wife. No idea what size his bed was.

Once long ago on a night trip with two small children, we pulled over to the side of the road to sleep. Shortly thereafter, a tremendous roar occurred directly over our sleeping heads. Our two year old sat bolt upright in her sleeping bag, eyes as big as saucers. Unwittingly we had bedded down under a railroad track. Since then we have spent numerous nights in tents, in the back of a pickup truck and lying on the open ground under the stars with chipmunks darting over our faces. I don’t recall losing a lot of sleep on any of those occasions. Maybe I have more to think about now.

CHARLIE’S PAL


220px-West_Highland_White_Terrier_Krakow

He quietly moved into our neighborhood on the end of a leash which was attached to the hand of a nice-looking young woman. Charlie was enchanted as he struggled at the end of his own leash held by Dr. Advice. Introductions were in order for us and for the dogs. “What’s his name,” I asked. “Charlie”, his owner answered. I assured her that it couldn’t be possible, since the dancing bundle of energy on our leash was the real Charlie! Henceforth, this charming ball of snow white fur would be known as “Charlie 2”, and our joyous companion was “Charlie 1”.

Like some people, Charlie 2 developed some health problems which prevented him from enjoying his daily walks, so he “walked” in the arms of his owners. Not nearly as much fun as on his own 4 feet.

He was the very first dog the new neighbors had adopted, and was beloved as an additional child. After struggling for several years with ill health, Charlie 2 left as quietly as he arrived, leaving his human parents bereft.

I wanted to tell my neighbor to get a new dog right away, but I knew it was too soon. I remembered sitting in my car years ago in front of the vet’s, with tears streaming down my face when my precious Liza took her last sleep. A concerned woman leaned into the window of my car and told me to “get a new dog”. I’m sorry to say I rejected her well-intention suggestion by blurting out that “I already HAD” another dog and it isn’t the same. Our doberman Max, waited at home for his companion who would never come, while we adjusted to the unfamiliar life of caring for only one dog.

Each dog or cat as well have their own personality, and we humans are privileged to share it for an allotted time. At present I’m grateful to share the wild and happy personality of Charlie 1, who arrived after quiet and sublime Panda, and I wish the same for the neighbors. It just takes a little time.