Category Archives: Collage


When I came across this word recently, I experienced a minor moment of deja-vu. It somehow seemed familiar, but I wasn’t quite sure until I examined its origins. Maria Popova, who author’s Brain Pickings Weekly wrote about it a couple of years ago in a great post chronicling Vintage Social Media from years ago. She identifies Twitter as modern-day florilegium. I know it, though, from my days of studying theology.

The quick definition? A collection of other people’s writings–like a common place book.

Florilegium itself comes from the Latin flos (flower) and legere (to gather). Flower gathering! But how I know the word is that it was used to describe extracts from early Christian authors and others that were combined into a single tomb.

Mowinski Florilegium

Mowinski Florilegium

Here is a stack of mine. I’ve been keeping these books since the mid-1980s. One reflects a period of time when I was reading Dakota, Thomas Moore, Thomas Merton and Paulo Freire. Another is pure late-teenage mix of angst and hope. Right now, one of them combines text on the left with a collage on the right–this one holds a random compilation. I have another that is more theological based and one that contains commentary on creative practice/pedagogy. Do you keep a florilegium? Tell me how in the comments below.

Here are two entries from the most recent one. I’ve included the quote for you below the picture. The creation of these collages sometimes finds its way into my own going morning daily practice. I limit myself to less than ten pieces of paper for the collages…although I can add pen to them, like in this one below.

Text from MARCH by Geraldine Brooks

Text from MARCH by Geraldine Brooks

I do not ask your absolution. I simply ask you to see that there is only one thing to do when we fail, and that is to get up, and go on with the life that is set in front of us, and try to do the good of which our hands are capable for the people who come in our way. That, at least, has been my path.    ~Mrs. March to Mr. March, p268 in March, by Geraldine Brooks

Text from The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Text from The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.

Because–is it drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture–? From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Rumi to Tosca to Mr. Rodgers, its a curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do? Ho do we know what’s right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: “Be yourself.”  “Follow your hear.”

Only here’s what I really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed by a heart that can’t be trusted–?

p. 761, The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt


It all comes together through process

The first show at PRESS this summer features the work of Alke Groppel-Wegener, MCLA Hardman Family grant awardee who spent part of January and May working at PRESS and with MCLA students. Alke mined the tradition of mantras at PRESS to create this inspiring piece:

Alke Groppel-Wegener

Process Doesn’t Get You…by Alke Groppel-Wegener

You can see this and more of Alke’s work during her exhibit at PRESS What’s your Mantra? An Exploration of Academic and Creative Mantras during June and July. Alke not only explored mantras but how they help form and mold one’s identity. Different mantras work for different parts of our lives. To demonstrate this, she carved a linoleum block with a fingerprint. She transformed her prints of the fingerprint through weaving, collage and other manipulation. Through the process of weaving, cutting and collaging, she contemplated the five primary identities she holds, [artist, teacher, researcher, writer, designer] considering them visually.

She invited me to take prints of her fingerprint linocut, to think about the question of identity and transform the prints to represent me. I listed all the ways I identify myself:

| artist | educator | gallery chief | curator | lover | biker | runner | gardener | baker| seamstress | daughter | organizer | writer | auntie| friend | confidant |caretaker|mourner|teacher | researcher | naturalist | communicator |connector | woman | 

How to represent all of these ways I identify? I struggled to make the fingerprints work for me. Ultimately taking water and gesso to them to conceal a good portion of them then layering collage elements plus many little dots and pathways. I look at these five individual pieces that come together to form one larger piece as a conversation between the different parts of myself. I see the birds, dots and pathways my different identities and how I move back and forth between them. Sometimes quite seamlessly, other times with much distress.

Identity Combined by Melanie Mowinski

Identity Combined by Melanie Mowinski

Identity1 Identity2 Identity3 Identity4 Identity5One of the exciting parts of this next exhibit is that the viewer will have the opportunity to take one of the fingerprints and do the same thing. Make sure you come by PRESS beginning June 26th to take part in this creative exchange.


Happy 75th Birthday Dad!

My Dad is 75 today.

He was born at midnight and the doctor’s gave my grandmother the option for him to be born on 3-9-39 or 3-10-39. She chose 10–she thought that the round number was more auspicious. But my father, who loves numbers, and perhaps this is why–often wonders about that 39 39 paring. So this piece of artwork was created for him with the ideas of numbers in mind.Scan0001

There are 75 yellow squares, one of his favorite colors. Each square has a word. The words came from various family and friends who responded to this post on Facebook and an email that my mother sent out to all of their friends. As I write this I realize that the word magnanimous never made it onto the collage–maybe I’ll try to squeeze it in somewhere, because really, there’s that one for good luck, right and why not a word like magnanimous.

Along with these seventy-five squares and some other things, my siblings and I gave him $75 to spend at the casino, where he will be celebrating his big day. We were all excited about him putting $75 worth of quarters into the machines, until our mother enlightened us that they don’t have quarter slots anymore. And that my father likes to play the $5 slot machines–not as many chances, but maybe the winnings are bigger? So, if you are reading this, wish my Dad some luck today that he wins big in honor of his big day!

Happy Birthday Dad! Here’s to you and all these words that bring you to mind for me, for our family and our friends. I love you.

Meeting Gloria Steinem

Gloria. G-L-O-R-I-A.

Gloria Steinem spoke at MCLA this week as part of the Ruth Proud Charitable Trust Public Policy Lecture. It’s been on my calendar to attend since early September 2013.

She spoke about the importance of letting go of labels, gender equality, the end to violence, connecting in person in our technological times and the continued need to organize and act for social justice. She laughed, smiled with ease and gave the impression that I too, could do “this.” “This” meaning the great work of one’s life–for everyone that will be different. Yet, next to the importance of being together with others, my big take-away was that there is still much to do for all peoples of the world. And that each of us can find our niche where we make a difference, but that we must do it and we must do it together.IMG_2765















A complete bonus and absolute surprise came when I was invited a few hours before to a very small reception before her talk. It was a great opportunity for me to connect with a number of faculty and other people at MCLA that I don’t normally see. In some ways, I’m not sure which was more important for me–connecting with these other women, or hearing Gloria speak. It all comes together in her words–Because we were here today, hopefully each of us will have a better tomorrow.

And, I did get to meet her briefly–and give her one of our PRESS calendars–based on our popular monthly mantra cards that feature inspiring quotes from notable women. I hope she liked it.

What’s inspiring me now

I spent a good part of my day working on possible collages for Alchemy Initiative’s  upcoming 10×10 exhibition in Pittsfield. (In between two glorious ice-skating sessions on a lovely pond and then Queechy Lake!)

The exhibit opens on February 16th, from 5-6 pm followed by performances and other events. You can find more info about the 10×10 Festival here.

I was invited, along with a number of other women ages 10-100 to create a work of art that answers the following question:

‘What are the 10 things that inspire you most at this decade of your life?’.

From these inspirations, each girl/woman will create a piece of artwork. The visual exhibit, curated by the amazing Diane Firtell, will read like a timeline of inspiration. Beginning as you enter at one side of Y Bar is the work of young artists under age 10. The artwork and lists of what inspires the artists continue around the room, where it ends with the artwork of women aged 90 to 100. I am so excited to be in this exhibit with some of my favorite Berkshire County women including  Amelia Wood, Jordan Skowron, Rebecca Weinman, Laurie Coyle, Sophia Lee, Gabrielle Senza, Melanie Mowinski, Suzi Banks Baum, Karen Arp-Sandel, Nina Silver, Diane Sullivan, Diane Firtell, and Roselle Chartock, to name a few. I can’t wait to see what everyone makes

So today. I reviewed my list of inspirations, and started to play around with materials. My final compositions will not illustrate these inspirations, instead, will be inspired by it. My list:

  1. Little dots=pathways, words, memories, ideas of journey
  2. Circles=widening/narrowing
  3. Trees=relationship of tree dense space/treeless space to poverty, hunger, wealth
  4. Rilke
  5. Color=juxtaposed with black and white
  6. Standing up for what is right
  7. Mindfulness, meditation, prayer, intention
  8. Repetition, pattern
  9. Overconsumption throughout our society
  10. Slowing down, aging, changing priorities

I have two possibilities at the moment. I’m certain that these will change in the next couple of days and that a third one will be thrown in the mix as an option. The orange/green one with the figure holding the orb will definitely have some text added in–hopefully one of my more favorite lines of Rilke’s. The other may lose the white circles, but the figure and the infrared center pivots will definitely stay. What is your favorite so far?

10x10Collage1 10x10Collage2


Woodshed 2013

100 Hours in the Woodshed is a biannual event hosted by Danny O at MCLA’s Gallery 51. This is my third year as a participant. It begins with an opening reception/meet the artists from 5-7 pm on Thursday night, followed by three hours of art-making. We all leave around 10 pm and return on Friday and Saturday at 10 am working until 10 pm. Sunday we come back for eight more hours, again beginning at 10 am and this day working until 6 pm. At that point we strike the set, break down the tables, pile up the art and wait.

Monday, Ryder Cooley, G51′s new gallery manager and Susan Cross, MASS MoCA curator come onto the scene to curate the exhibit, and then it gets installed. Tuesday, like in two days Tuesday, the show opens to the public, from 5-7 pm. Hope to see you there!!

Please come. Please come to see the book I made. And the other stuff too, but I love this little book. I love everything I made. I haven’t been this excited by work I’ve made in ages. The book uses a structure that Alisa Golden is trying to get everyone who makes it call it the Australian Piano Hinge instead of Flat-Style Australian Reverse Piano Hinge binding. I agree with her. I saw the instructions for this on her blog and have been wanting to make it, and this weekend allowed me that opportunity.

Back of the book QUEST

Back of the book QUEST

Quest pages 1-2

Quest pages 1-2

QUEST pages 3-4

QUEST pages 3-4

QUEST pages 5-6

QUEST pages 5-6

QUEST pages 7-8

QUEST pages 7-8

Two important things happened for me this weekend.

1. It was confirmed to me, something that I already know and have read in countless books on creativity, that inspiration doesn’t just happen. Sure there are those moments of insight, but regular, focused work breeds inspiration. By the time I reached 29 hours into the event, two big huge connections happened. One–that one of the things I am doing in the collages that I really like is pairing the flat with the dimensional. This opened up a huge flood of visual connections and the opportunity to create more mindfully. Two, that the way to bring the God thing that I sort of haphazardly stab at here and there is by going back to the pages and pages of notes and writing that I did while earning my Master’s in Religion at Yale–and picking out text from that writing instead of the more cliche attempts that I’ve been making lately.

2. I am ready to move forward from events of two years ago. (If you know, you know. If you don’t–well, just know that I was very sad two years ago, and that sadness is really, finally and completely lifting. Don’t ask me about it.) While the raven will still be seen from time to time, there is a lightness emerging in my color and image choice that I haven’t seen in years. I even am consciously choosing to work with yellow. Unheard of for me. (Not that you will see it in this imagery, just trust me.)

Here’s the other work I made. I’m thinking it would be very much fun to cancel classes tomorrow, stay home and continue working, but I know I won’t be able to give into that urge. But maybe another day this week…

The work ist better in person–the light wasn’t so great today for these pics. I’ll do my best to update with clearer ones, so come on Tuesday so you get the best view!





I shall be released

I shall be released

Six collages, the top middle one is my favorite.

Six collages, the top middle one is my favorite.


Happy 2013!

I’m a little behind on the whole New Year’s thing, my intention setting got rolled right into the Haiti pre-trip, trip and post-trip, and now on the other side, life is slowly returning to it’s regular rhythms. Beginning tomorrow, I get back on the regular school schedule of getting up at some ridiculous hour to prepare and then head to work.

So 2013. My days will begin with A Year with Rilke: Daily Reading from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke Translated and Edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows. When I first decided to use this book as my morning inspiration, I was going to continue making a collage-a-day in response to the reading. So I bought my $1.99 Kindle edition that I can read on my iphone and have with me no matter where I find myself. But then I had this brilliant idea, why not do a visual response right in the book? Do my own Humement of sorts. So then I ordered a hard copy of the book and today I began.

I visually responded to both January 12 and 13th entries, honing in on the narrowing circles versus the widening circles, and completely focused on one of the lines from January 13th’s entry from Sonnets to Orpheus II, 13:

Be. And know as well the need to not be

This is the lesson I want to learn this year. To not always have to be doing something. To be okay with just being sometimes. This is my biggest intention. It doesn’t mean I will do nothing, but that I will, every now and then, really and truly rest and just be.

January 12 +13, A Year with Rilke and fabric circles from Onel

January 12 +13, A Year with Rilke and fabric circles from Onel

Onel discusses his work

Onel discusses his work

What you see pictured here is my visual response along with some fabric circles that I got in an exchange with the artist Onel while in Haiti. I gave him one of my Manifest cards, and I got the fabric circles. They will be in some collage soon. I’ll keep you posted.

I invite you to get your own copy of the Macy/Barrows translation and follow along/do your own altered book. If you do, let me know–we can share at the end of the year.


Out with the old, welcome the new!

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve Eve

New Year’s Eve Eve

I am returning to my weekly posting, usually on Sundays–after a great run of Advent posts. I can’t seem to stop the collage making, though! On the 27th I made six more collages, and then today made another in anticipation of the New Year. The Buddha form cut out of different papers fascinates me! I am currently fantasizing about taking my  September 2012 Vogue to a laser cutter and getting thousands of those Buddhas cut.  I have no idea what I would do with them, but 100 Hours in the Woodshed is right around the corner…

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. We will be keeping with our commitment to rest and quiet by staying home, making delicious food, dressing in white and practicing recapitulation. We will be using Sally Kempton’s Out with the Old from December’s Yoga Journal to help guide us.

So recapitulation, or taking a look at the successes and failures of the past, taking stock and then looking to how these successes/failures can help my intentions for the new year. As a teacher, I look at every semester as an opportunity to begin a new, but as this calendar year dawns, I have other intentions that I want to bring to my being from deep within my heart. I’ll be using Kelly McGonigal’s Willpower Instinct to help.

Let me know if you are interested in being part of a discussion group related to this.

I am still restless, and now feel the need to amp up my intentions to work through whatever that restlessness is trying to tell me. One thing for certain, rest and play, and in that order, are higher on my list than ever. And, my mind is backed by my will, so I’m expecting miracles.


Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, thank you for checking out my daily journey through this season of anticipation. I take away the importance of practice from these 25 days of creating and writing. May today be filled with merriment, joy and much peace, and the many days that follow. Let’s us all be open to being the change we want to see in the world, and sharing love and peace to all.  I offer this meditation to you from Thich Nhat Hanh.

Merry Christmas! The end of my Advent Collage Journey.

As we are together, praying for peace, let us be truly with each other.

Let us pay attention to our breathing.

Let us be relaxed in our bodies and our minds.

Let us be at peace with our bodies and our minds.

Let us return to ourselves and become wholly ourselves. Let us maintain a half-smile on our faces.

Let us be aware of the source of being common to us all and to all living things.

Evoking the presence of the Great Compassion, let us fill our hearts with our own compassion–to ourselves and towards all living beings.

Let us pray that all living beings realize that they are all brothers and sisters, all nourished from the same source of life.

Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be the cause of suffering to each other.

Let us plead with ourselves to live in a way which will not deprive other beings of air, water, food, shelter or the chance to live.

With humility, with awareness of the existence of life, and of the sufferings that are going on around us, let us pray for the establishment of peace in our hearts and on earth.


(Practice On.)