Monday, February 18, 2019

2019 Will Be a Better Year

So, so much has happened since I last posted on this blog in June of 2018.  The art exhibit I wrote about then, was a great success.  I don't mean that I sold anything (I didn't), but that I got lots of art love from lots of people, made some new friends, got a write-up in the local paper, and some serious sales inquiries. But I set my prices high, for a reason. More about that, below.

Life is strange, the way it can lift you way up one moment, only to send you crashing into the depths, bruised and bloody, the next.  On August 28, 2018, I awoke to find my son, 47, asleep in his chair in the living room.  Only he wasn’t asleep.  He had passed on, quietly, during the night, with his cell phone sitting undisturbed on his knee. There was no apparent cause of death, but an autopsy revealed that a “benign” heart condition was the culprit.

I could, of course, write reams about this, but I won’t go any further at this point, because I am just now starting to come back to life myself, thanks to my daughter and other family members and friends, and getting back to work on my art has been a powerful healer. But I miss my son every minute of every day, and tears are never far away.
My beloved son, Joe (4.5.71 - 8.28.18) 

In addition to starting some new assemblage pieces, with the new year I decided to try marketing reproductions of my collages and paintings online. This is a goal I’d taken a crack at in the past, but never got very far with. Now I realize why:  these sites are not easy to use (for the novice seller), with all kinds of requirement for pixel sizes and other parameters; and you have to write a lot of product descriptions, key words or tags, etc. At this stage, it’s practically a full-time occupation in itself. I expect less time will be required once things are up and running.

I’ve started with Zazzle, mainly because it is free to use, no monthly fee. You can see my store here:
My Zazzle store banner.

I mentioned earlier that I consider my July, 2018 show of assemblage boxes at Irma Freeman Center for Imagination to be a success, even with no sales. Firstly, I am grateful just to have had the opportunity, and grateful that the director wanted myself and the other artist to each have her own space. It was thrilling seeing the huge front room of the gallery filled with my work---in fact, it was empowering!  

Me, Director Sheila Ali, and the other artist,
Valerie Herrero

I was am grateful for the many wonderful conversations I had with viewers, as well as the opportunity, occasionally, to overhear them discussing the work.  A friend reported overhearing a guy tell his comrades that my work was “absolute dope!” What better testimonial could an artist want? Total ego stroking. 

And, a write-up in the local Pittsburgh Post Gazette was also happy-making. You can read it here:

Finally, I was not really sorry that I had no sales. I priced my pieces high, so that if I was going to part with one, it would be to someone who really wanted it, and I would get a really nice check for it! The pieces in that show took many years to produce, and I like the idea of keeping them all together for awhile.  I’ll be adding to them, so that I will have an even stronger body of work when the next show opportunity comes. I will, of course, also be out there (come the nicer weather) talking to various gallery directors around the city, to help make that happen.

Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity.  
Albert Einstein  

Sunday, June 24, 2018

It's almost here! I'm almost there!

Here is the flyer for our show, which I made since, as it turns out, the gallery does some publicity but not postcards or flyers.

Also, please find me on Instagram, dianekeane6790, to see more art. Instagram is so much faster and easier than this blog, and reaches a MUCH wider audience. But the blog is nice if I feel the need to get wordy, so I will keep it going. For now!

Thank you for looking!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Down to the Wire

Four weeks until the opening of "Journeys Collected & Contained", the two-woman show of artwork by myself and Valerie Herrero, at Pittsburgh's Irma Freeman Center for Imagination. Going a little crazy here so this post will be short--very short! Here's the latest piece to be completed:

Icon Painter Shrine, mixed media assemblage, 15.5 inches high x 10.5 wide x 5 deep.  
You can see other photos of the interior, as well as the exterior of the box on my Instagram page, dianekeane6970.

RE: my last post, the title I finally settled on for the enfilade box is "I Shall Show You Mysteries."

Back to work!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Case of the Missing Title

Time is passing too quickly, as it always seems to. But not without progress. Two more pieces of work have been completed for the art exhibit in July, and several more are in the pipeline. I met with the other artist, Valerie Herrero, with whom I will be showing, and we came up with a title:  "Journeys Collected and Contained." Our art is visually very different, but we found, to our delight, that we share many underlying themes and concerns in our work.

The piece in progress in my last post turned out rather differently, but, I think, much better, with the addition of an old brass printer's block of a man's image.  Now there is a face to go with the name on the bookplate that gives the piece it's title. Here's the final version, with a detail shot:
Ex Libris Friedrich Stockler. Mixed media 18"x 10" x 2" 

Several of the items I used were brought back from my time in Germany during the 1990s, such as the bookplate, the brass box, the crucifix figure, and the papers that form the background. Note the date, 1921, just barely visible on the paper to the right of the man's image. (If you do Ctrl + click on the image, it will open at full size in a new window.) This is an actual sheet taken from a hand-written notebook, written (in German) in 1921. I was afraid the ink would smear when I coated it with acrylic gel to attach it to the backing, but fortunately, it did not.

I also completed an assemblage box whose title is still pending, because I can't make up my mind.
Mixed media assemblage in wooden box. 15" x 9" x 10"

Detail of the Over-door. Behind the head is a German 5-mark note c. 1930

View with the light off, taken at an angle to show the crucifix above the final door. 

Mysterious things are hidden in corners, such as this book (of spells, perhaps?)
The top, sides and back are collaged with esoteric devices and symbols. This is the top.

One side; detail below

Fibonacci's equation, the mathematics of the spiral. Sacred geometry. 

As for the title,  originally it was simply "Enfilade", meaning the view through a series of rooms that open out of each other (as was the case in the era before separate hallways for passage.) But a friend pointed out that enfilade can also mean a volley of gunfire. Nope.

Meanwhile, I was reading one of Donna Leon's fantastic Venetian mysteries, The Golden Egg. I came across this sentence, addressed to her protagonist, police detective Commissario Brunetti: "Come in, Commissario, and I shall tell you mysterious things."  Wham! This became the title, minus "Commissario."  But I wonder if it was too long? Especially since I want to include the attribution:

"Come in...and I shall tell you mysterious things."
Donna Leon, The Golden Egg

Maybe. I still love it!

Next idea, "Mystery Lives Here." Not too bad, but sounds rather like a slogan? Or something.

Then, I came across another quotation, from the artist who originated box art, Joseph Cornell (he is my god.) "The Light of Other Days" is Cornell's epigraph to Bel Canto Pet, his written homage to the great Romantic-era mezzo-soprano, Giulia Grisi. I think that could stand alone, without the attribution. Those who love Cornell as much as I do, would get it. 

So, what shall it be? I have until July to make up my mind. Meanwhile, back to the studio! Here are some glimpses of what else is cooking. 

Miniature icons, for an homage box for the old-time icon painters

A box of little buildings, awaiting their fate

And Cupid crucified, waiting for his box to be completed. (The big wings will likely go away. He's cupid, not an angel.)
And, on a final note, I was accepted as a member of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists at their recent Spring Membership Screening. Yippee!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Slow Progress

"Ex Libris F. S."  7 x 17" Assemblage box in progress, 02-11-18
The holidays were wonderful, as ever, but not a time when I can work on art (other than my annual Christmas card) or do much of anything else outside the celebration. I am a slow worker at the best of times; trying to put on some speed, without condensing the process too much, is a challenge. How does one condense a process anyway? One thing I'm trying, is Tai Chi. Loving it so far, and in fact it does seem to help my concentration.

The piece shown is one of several in progress in my studio at the moment. It may or may not turn out like this. Seeing it here, it is rather more somber than I realized. Or perhaps it's more a matter of what's lacking in the photo: the absence of the play of light on the brass of the oval box, the missing depth the wax gives to the image at the bottom, and the texture of the pebbly surface of the antique book cover.

The title derives from the small bookplate at the top, which came from a German flea market during my happy time living in that beautiful country.

I have not yet made the box in which the work will be installed, and to which the frame shown will be attached. At present, it is far too cold to work in the garage, where my carpentry happens. Thus, there is no depth dimension given in the caption.

But, the new year brings new possibilities. I'm getting back into the groove, back to work. That's the important thing!

Inspiration is a guest that 
does not often visit the lazy.   

 P.I. Tchaikovsky

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Off to a Fantastic Start!

In March, I posted about reviving this blog as part of starting a new phase of my life:  Retirement! And what this would mean to reinventing myself as a “full-time” artist. Happily, my new artistic life has gotten off to a fantastic start. 

One of the works in progress from that March 5 post featured a cast-paper bookshelf filled with tiny books that I’d made. I was able to finish the entire piece in time to enter it for the annual Salon Show at The Gallery 4 in Pittsburgh’s East End. The gallery’s original email, notifying me that the piece had been accepted, ended up in the spam folder (!) but luckily I found it in time, and dropped off the piece at the gallery three days before the opening. The title is "Death of a Bibliophiliac."

As mentioned before, the piece is a tribute to Dutch artist Peter Gabrielse, with a nod also to Joseph Cornell, who also used antique star charts in his work. I was raised Roman Catholic, so the sight and smell of many candles burning  is something that always evokes my childhood. The stack of books that the ladder rests on are actual vintage books, some from German flea markets obtained when I lived there during the 1990s. The thickest one is a prayer book that was bound (sometime in the early 19th c, if I remember correctly) in paper recycled from an even older book, a common practice throughout the history of books. I started to disassemble it to use the pages in collage, but went no further when I saw the old printing underneath the spine.

Below is a photo of the piece installed in the gallery, with apologies for the poor quality. The lighting was subdued to lessen glare, but made it difficult to photograph with my phone. (The almost-impossible-to-see etching hanging above my box is by Ciara Gray.)
Death of a Bibliophiliac, 2017, mixed media assemblage box, 26"x 12"x 8"
If I needed further encouragement to pursue my artwork, this was certainly it. Full-steam ahead on the other works in progress! As well as a list of 6-10 long-planned pieces that are embryonic rather than in-progress. Fodder for plenty of posts.

MEANWHILE, on the first Saturday of retirement, my dear friends Sharon and Dave threw a retirement party for me, attended by many of my favorite people and filled with good food, conversation, music and their three friendly dogs! It was truly a labor of love on their part, and I am so grateful. It was a very special way to start retirement.

Later that week, I went with friends to see giant glass flowers by artist Jason Gamrath at Phipps Conservatory 
Water Lily by Jason Gamrath
Next, we attended Phipp's annual May Market sale, where I purchased a hand-made garden ornament, which will no doubt feature in a future post. 

The next evening was the opening at Gallery 4, which lasted several hours and enabled me to meet some other artists, as well as another gallery owner who expressed interest! But I quickly realized that if I kept up this social pace, I would be too tired to make art. It's time to slow down and get back to art-making!

BACK IN APRIL, pre-retirement, my friend Kris and I made an excursion to Ohio to the Akron Art Museum to attend an exhibit, "Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose". This included contemporary artists who had been featured in Hi-Fructose art magazine during the first 10 years of that publication. We went on a Thursday (I took the day off) because that evening one of my favorite artists, Beth Caverner, ( was giving a talk. In a humorous and thought-provoking presentation, she shared the ups and downs of her artistic journey, and the breakthrough which set her on the path to her artistic blossoming. This was her discovery that people respond more readily on an emotional level to animals than to fellow humans. And so she began sculpting her signature clay menagerie, animals in attitudes and situations that convey human feelings. The label for her piece, below, states that "These animals communicate through gesture, with their body language acting as a metaphor for human psychological states...often responding to events in her personal life. Unrequited refers to Cavener's lack of feeling desirable after having her first child."

All the art in the Hi-Fructose show was stunning, very contemporary, and incredibly well-executed, even if not to my personal taste. A sampling of the art on view:

Unrequited (Variations in Pink) by Beth Cavener

Cement Truck by Wim Delvoye.

ratspiderbat by Fulvio Di Piazza

Incantation by Martin Wittfooth

Embraced #1 by Ronit Baranga

ON THE DRIVE to Akron, Kris and I had a discussion about “being an artist” and what attributes allow one to claim that title. Not that either of us really has anything but personal observation to go on; we are not up on our “isms” and contemporary art criticism is like language from another planet. In spite of our lack of art-world creds, we decided that nothing beats an interesting idea, well-executed, in a well-designed work. This includes conceptual, installation and performance art.

Here’s what else we came up with:

·         ORIGINALITY. The Japanese have been making wood-block prints for generations, yet every print-maker of note, while using time-honored techniques, has had something new and original to say. In short, avoid clichéd images. Milk cans in a field of daisies and tropical sunsets have been done. Millions of times.
o        What you can get away with:  paint the above, with the intent of irony. Make this clear.

·         ABILITY. The legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser observed that everyone at the Push Pin Studios (which gave us numerous classic ads and posters) could draw. It’s OK to break rules, but not if you’re doing so because you could never come up to snuff in the first place. Of course, there have been great artists (Joseph Cornell, for one, whom I revere) who never drew. But what they did, they did with total command of their materials.
o         What you can get away with:  do “bad” drawings deliberately, with attitude

·         AUTHORITY. Show hesitancy in the work and the viewers will know, if only on a subliminal level. So, you can draw like Leonardo but you want to make images of people with rubber arms and faces askew? Go ahead. But do it like you KNOW you know how to draw but are choosing to suspend the rules (see above), because you have something original to say, and you’ve made the conscious decision that dodgy anatomy conveyed it best. 

No particularly original thinking here, but it was an interesting discussion! 

I CLOSE with an observation on retiring:  I expected retirement to be a big adjustment; it is, after all, a total change in my daily routine. What has actually happened, is that being able to call my time my own has taken no adjustment at all! In fact, it was keeping up the employee mind-set for decades that took adjusting to, and I quickly sloughed that like a snake shedding skin that no longer fit. I am grateful that jobs provided the wherewithal to keep a roof over my head, but having spent all that time doing tasks many others could have done, I am now free to pursue that which only I can do:  my own artwork. Yippee!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Preparing For a New Beginning

In the April of 2010, I started this Collagitation blog as a means to present my collage-a-day project, “3SIXTY5”, in honor of my 60th birthday. Now, in 2017, it will be reborn as a platform to document my journey from full-time employee to full-time artist. 
As of May 5, 2017,  I’M RETIRING!!

Much has changed in seven years. There have been losses (my dear mother passed away in 2013) and gains (I got a new knee and the house got a new back porch); but what has remained constant is my desire to do my artwork, with my full attention, whenever I choose, and without interruption.  That’s a lot of emphasis on me, my and I.  Surely there are greater reasons, beyond personal fulfillment, for why people are given talents? This too I will discover, in time.

A man is not old until his regrets take the place of dreams. 
-Yiddish proverb

Meanwhile, here is a sample of what I’ve been working on. All of these were begun within the past 12 months; none is finished yet.

This first piece is entitled "Owl for David Caspar Friedrich," who is one of my favorite painters. (

"Owl for Caspar David Friedrich"  

Making tiny books for a library assemblage piece

The books in their gothic bookcase. The rest of the interior of the assemblage box is in the works.

This piece was inspired by another favorite artist, Peter Gabrielse, whose work I discovered last year on Pinterest. His website is here: And if you are into interiors as much as me, on my Pinterest page you can see photos of his home in Normandy (as well as his artwork) though it is sometimes difficult to distinguish rooms in his house from those in his work.

By the way,  most of the photos of Gabrielse's home were taken by London-based jewelry designer and photographer Kotomi Yamamura, who travels all over Europe every summer taking photos (MAJOR ENVY!!), and visits Peter. You can see her work here,  I recommend scrolling through her albums, there is an amazing assortment of inspirational things to see! Unfortunately (for me) her blog is in Japanese.

You can also see boards of my painting, collages and calligraphic art on my Pinterest page.

Finally, one more work in progress, tentatively entitled "The Cosmos in Her Hand." Another tribute to my love of books, reading, and the allure of old objects.

That's it for now! 

Watch this space!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Murder on my mind & saved by the book

The Murder - Paul Cezanne, 1868
I mentioned previously that my recent involvement with the Bizarre Bazaar Shoppe seems to be encouraging me to notice and explore--perhaps attract?--some darker aspects of life. In mid-August I was called upon for jury duty, and learned during the selection process that the case was a homicide. 

The Dark Side was creeping closer again, this time with no fantasy element whatsoever to buffer the chill.

Although I am a mystery fan from way back, the idea of determining someone’s guilt or innocence as a murderer, in real life, was daunting. As it turned out, our task was to determine the degree of guilt (first or third degree murder, or manslaughter) because it was already established that the defendant was the killer. Oh, good. That would make it easier, right?

Well, it did make the process simpler, in that incontrovertible, physical facts are just that and there was plenty of evidence (the details of which I will spare you.)  In spite of the considerable efforts of the Defense to convince us the defendant believed his life was in danger when he acted, you can’t fire a gun from across the street into an unarmed man’s back, and call it self-defense. Not only that, he killed the wrong man, a friend of his intended victim. (A person in the wrong place at the wrong time; which could happen to any of us, at any time. Random dark-sidedness. As my son would say, Welcome to planet-fucking-earth.)

The jury deliberated for only an hour before reaching a verdict on day three of the trial:  First degree murder. 

Nevertheless, putting a 36 year old man behind bars for the rest of his life, murderer though he is, is not without psychic consequences. We, the jury, had no other choice. But still.

As a friend said afterwards when we discussed my experience, “You’re watching peoples’ lives fall apart in front of your eyes” and you cannot help but be emotionally affected. At the end, I was left with a profound sadness that lasted for days. Sadness for the victim, the perpetrator, his children, their mothers, all their families; for communities where random murder has become almost normal; for our society as a whole where such things have become common and no one seems to have an answer.  I hope this is as close to murder as I ever get in real life.

Allegheny County Courthouse, Pittsburgh PA, c 1904.
Designed in 1883 by Henry Hobson Richardson. Build 1884-1888.

Well, something interesting happened during the days of the trial, which convinces me yet again that there are seldom coincidences, and our mental frequency, our state of attraction, determines what we draw into our lives. Yeah, it is definitely anti-climactic, after the above, to talk about a book I discovered, but I think it demonstrates not only the Law of Attraction in action, but also the power of words in the hands of a Master.

On the morning of the second day of the trial, I finished the book I’d been reading (a mystery by one of my favorite authors of the genre, Donna Leon). There's a lot of down-time while serving on a jury, so at lunch time I headed to the nearest discount bookstore in search of reading material.  I came across an author named Walter Mosley. There is an author named Mosley that I want to read, but I couldn't remember the first name. Was this him?  On a chance, I bought the book.  

As it turned out, Walter Mosley was not the author I had been looking for, but that didn't matter once I started reading.  In the book, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, Mosley writes eloquently about the human experience, through the often harsh lens of the contemporary African-American experience. Coincidence? 

Even though the book is not a mystery story, it was uncanny how settings and events in it related to my experience of being a juror on a black-on-black murder case. The book's protagonist, talking to a friend about a shooting victim, says:  “…so you think [the shooting] was just some mistake, somebody thought he was somebody else?”  Whoa! A person in the book has the same unusual surname as a person mentioned during the trial. The motive for the murder in the book is a love triangle. Also true of the real murder... 

I felt as if unseen forces had "sent" the book to help me cope emotionally with the surreal experience of the trial. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is  filled with Mosley's lively imagination and wit, and plenty of compassion. In spite of the often gritty settings and events, it was a joy to read. The contrasts and similarities between the fictional and the real shape-shifted in my mind as I read the book during recesses of the trial.

I finished the book, sitting on my sunny patio, the Saturday after the trial. I started to cry, and could not stop. Ptolemy Grey is a very old man, who dies at the end of the book. With a 91 year old protagonist, this is not a spoiler. But my tears went way beyond the death of an endearing fictional character, obviously, and the catharsis was intense. I couldn't start another book for days, because this one kept resonating in my mind and heart, softening the memory of the trial which also continued to haunt me. 

So, many thanks to Walter Mosley for giving me an escape valve for the head of emotional steam built up by jury duty and its consequences, and to whatever Power sent the book to me when I needed it most. To attract a book like The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey into my life, I would almost do it again.

"The great man say that life is pain," Coydog had said over eighty-five years before. "That mean if you love life, then you love the hurt come along wit' it. Now, if that ain't the blues, I don't know what is."

Walter Mosley, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

Moonrise over the patio, 3 days before the trial started.

I’ve also learned that Mosley is the creator of the celebrated Easy Rawlins mystery stories, which I've not read, but will now. 


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