A Winter’s Challenge

Melisse Carr linocut prints pic 1

As a painter who is most comfortable in an outdoor studio, I have in recent years found it a challenge to keep excited about working steadily indoors through the long dark days of winter. Occasionally I have participated in group-creative challenges. The 100 Day Project, found online at The100DayProject.com, is now in its 7th year and is primarily a rich source of stimulation and artist-centered communication. Initially, the 100 Day Project seeks to encourage an artist to be focused on a project for 100 days. Weekly updates provide words and images to stoke the fires. A theme is provided, this year it is “Secret Places.” But the theme, the media, the processes and the real-time committed by the artist are totally self-determined. It is also free! This year it was the theme that took hold of me.

This winter I changed my focus several times until the day my brain connected with some long under-used equipment in my studio. The idea came to me…could I reconnect with the art of relief printmaking in a way that was totally loose, or seemingly lacking in the confinement of purpose? That seems quite illogical at first, especially when one considers the lack of fluidity of the media! But it is not totally impossible considering what changes occur from the point of carving lines and shapes into a linoleum block and printing that inked block onto paper. This morning’s writing counts as studio time because I am now trying to make sense of what I am doing. I am weighing the current outcomes of my 100 Day Project, now 6 days into the 100 days. I have already been focused for a minimum of 2 hours a day in my studio. I have lost my sense of time passing. I have seen my “mental images” be altered by the media. And I, in turn, have adjusted my carved marks as ideas adjust themselves in a conversation. I have lost myself in the process. I’ve traveled to another place. The fact that I’m there is no longer a secret. But the next time I re-enter, you will not know where I am!

Melisse –

Melisse Carr linocut prints pic 3
Melisse Carr linocut prints pic 2

Looking back on “the Collaboration…”

Marquette Poets and Borderland Arts Reception

Fourteen Borderland members participated in collaboration with the Marquette Poets Circle reacting to a theme of music. The challenge for the visual artist was to react to words and/or ideas. The medium for the exchange was made possible through the efforts of Janeen Pergrin Rastall who designed an interactive website. As the year progressed, the collaboration grew by increments. If we posted a visual to the website, a poet might write and post something in return. It was a virtual conversation. On reception night, after an hour of visual grazing in the gallery, all participants faced one another in a circle, introduced themselves and spoke briefly. As if removing masks, with identities revealed…poets and artists began a new round of conversation! Highlights for me included: 1. there were challenges to create along new avenues. 2. This was an open-opportunity to submit any number of pieces in any media, without size restrictions in a non-juried atmosphere. Time and effort were our only limits. 3. I feel the question was answered, “Does my work affect change outside of myself? “

There may be another opportunity to see this exhibit, hopefully using Bay College West in Iron Mountain as a venue. If it does occur, I hope the Borderland Artists and Marquette Poets Circle will experience a renewed energy and hopefully add new work to the exhibit…there is yet more to say!

I owe a huge thanks to the spirit and soul of Genean Granger who introduced us to the Marquette Poets Circle; to Stella Hansen local member of the Poets’ Circle; and, to the Peter White Library who provided the open space of the Huron Mountain Gallery from June 1 – July 26, 2019.

The exhibit’s website and its interactive display, the on-going communication between 31 individuals, as developed by poet Janeen Pergrin Rastall is still available for viewing at the following link. https://janeenpergrin.wixsite.com/borderlands

– Melisse Carr

Marquette Poets and Borderland Arts Reception

Marquette Poets and Borderland Arts Reception

Marquette Poets and Borderland Arts Reception

Marquette Poets and Borderland Arts Reception

Marquette Poets and Borderland Arts Reception

Words and Music Borderland Arts

Borderland Artists Celebrate National Poetry Month

What do poems and paintings have in common? What happens when poets wrestle with images created by visual artists, and visual artists listen to the word images spoken by poets? For the months of April and May Borderland members sought answers to these questions, creating new visual images and new poems as a result. We are deeply appreciative to local poets Genean Granger and Stella Hansen who were willing to share their poetry, discuss differences in writing style and commonalities with the visual arts.

From Ms Granger’s poem, Renvazuru, these opening lines created images of sandhill cranes and origami cranes for Melisse Carr:
“Fold, bend, crease.
25 strings of 40 cranes each.”


Genean Granger lived with a mixed media composition, “the Unfinished Laundry Line” by Melisse Carr, and wrote a poem, a portion of which follows.

“Cascading colors: poppy, lime, blueberry, and apricot catch my eye.
They jockey for position, “me” first, “no me” first, “no” pick me.
I taste their colors, as they peek-out from windows in my mind.
Unfinished art hangs high on a taut gray clothes line.”

Using the same process of “call and response, as a folk singer leads an audience, Stella Hansen’s poem “the Calling” begs me to see through the empty windows in the sandstone relics at Fayette State Park. I want to pick up my brush and respond to the gull…”what secrets do your walls echo?” or “who lived here”. More importantly, my imagination picks up on the poet’s last line, “the changes come to all of us, she (the gull) mutters and turns to face the sun.”

After an evening of sharing like this, there are hours of studio work that can be gleaned.

— Melisse Carr


THE CALLING by Stella Hansen

The shell of your life is faded yet sturdy

structure that has given itself to time.

The sky abides and waits.

The life within your walls has let go now,

Stone walls calling their roof, pale and crumbled.

The opening has rebuilt your spirit.

A sentry stands open now entering

stages of unbeing.

Who were you? What secrets do your walls echo?

The gull lights for a rest in the sunshine

Who lived here she asks?

The changes come to all of us she mutters and turns to

face the sun.

The following are more examples of images inspired by poetry for this project


MANICURE by Stella Hansen

Not sure how it began, maybe it was patent leather shoes that were too tight for my growing feet. Or it was the petticoats that scratched and chaffed when I sat down. “Go have your Dad tie the bow” religiously every morning I’d report to my father who would tie the sash bow of my dress behind me. I hated dresses and petticoats and all that they stood for.

Then came the combing – snarls, and snags and pulls. “stand up straight” “Look up now.” Okay, did you brush your teeth? Time to go now, the bus would be here soon. Out now hurry ..

From there it was taunts and teasing on the yellow school bus. Having to begin my day of sitting. Sitting in school, trying to learn, the teachers exasperated sent me over and again out to the hallway. One face stands out: Mrs. Edwards – grouchy, ugly and so terribly fed up with me.

“Out in the hall” I’d stand till she would come out. Her eyes blazing as she grasped me by both shoulders – shaking me back and forth.. How I had better learn to keep my mouth shut and quit talking and sit still.

I resented it all. The sitting still, the “act like a lady” talk, the petticoats, and frilly dresses that needed some grown up to allow me in and out like a dog on a short leash.

Finally it was bus time and the first one on was always the last one off. Most days there was our sweet Golden Retriever waiting for me and we would tumble after one another home.

Then there was freedom: woods, play clothes and dirt and the most humongous leaf pile from the golf course across the road. There in a mountain of leaves and grass the earth was warm and filled with lots of worms, my friends. The worm patch, the woods, the leaves.

There was no manicure here. Only squirrels, and birds, my dog and myself. This refuse was my refuge

Life in a sketchbook ….

sketchbooks and paintI have a confession to make…I have a habit I am not willing to kick!

It’s both relaxing and challenging. If I’ve been away from it…upon returning I feel becalmed! When I settle into my habit after an absence, I say…”now the real vacation begins.”

I can’t really say how long ago it was that the first tenuous marks in a blank book evolved into the repeated act of journaling in a sketchbook: observing and reflecting, drawing and/or painting. But sometime around 1980, when my family moved to the feet of Mt. Washington in Northern New Hampshire, I had already stuffed my sketchbook into a backpack with pencils, pens, and watercolors, camera and binoculars. The backpack became my traveling studio for day use and foot travel, on the Appalachian Trail, in the Boundary Waters, in Algonquin Provincial Park and the Sylvania Wilderness; in a canoe or at my feet in our pickup truck. The bottom of the original backpack has long worn through and the pack replaced. Multiple journals are now a record of where I’ve been, what I’ve seen and sometimes, personal reflections. Now, as the years and the books pile up, I revisit the pages and feel closeness to friends now past or hear the sounds of waves, of birds or the wind in the trees of northern Scotland, Canada, and the U.S. east coast to west. The books are also a record of my exploration with various art media. Somewhere along the way, I declared a rule not to tear pages out of the books, that’s when I discovered gesso which enabled me to recover an otherwise hopeless start! This habit of maintaining sketchbooks has created a family resource, from solving such riddles as “when did we travel there last” to harvesting sketches for creating gifts. This habit keeps my mind focused on the ever changing landscape…there is never a dull moment. So…

What do I grab when I go even for a simple trip? Yup…you got it…my traveling studio, because I never know what I might see that needs to be remembered!

– Melisse Carr

Art and Artifacts

We (that would be Mrs. Blog and me) have had the great good fortune to enjoy the glory and fun of outdoor adventures. From hiking, backpacking, climbing hills and mountains, kayaking, ocean sailing to just absorbing the sweeping grandeur of sites, both natural and man-made. But in this dispatch we retreat, mostly indoors, to share visits to those splendid edifices, large and small, that are museums. It’s a benign pursuit that is richly rewarding, and most of these places have interesting, if not outrageous, back stories.


A Bad Day at Work for M. Pellerin

train wreck photo


It was a cloudy autumn day on October 22, 1895. The Granville-Paris Express was running late on its way to the Gare Montparnasse terminal in central Paris. Anxious to make up time, the engineer, Monsieur Guillaume-Marie Pellerin, was driving the train at a hasty clip. It entered the station still barreling along. The brakes failed to fully stop the train and momentum carried it through the entire concourse. It crashed through a wall and fell outside into the Places de Rennes, some 33 feet below.

Mr. Blog on a skywalk in the Musee d’Orsay
Mr. Blog on a skywalk in the Musee d’Orsay


Over the following decades, the station became less and less relevant. By the 1970’s it was slated for demolition. Then the idea to construct a museum was introduced. It would be a figurative bridge between the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art. In 1986 the old railroad station opened as the Musee d’Orsay. Located on the Left Bank, it’s one of our all-time favorite museums.

Mrs. Blog and the less than beautiful pyramid outside the Louvre
Mrs. Blog and the less than beautiful pyramid outside the Louvre

Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Friends

Now we cross the Seine to the Right Bank to see the world’s most famous museum, the Louvre. It’s also one the largest and has over 8.5 million visitors a year. The Louvre is the very definition of a museum: a repository for historical art and artifacts. It conserves, exhibits and researches its inventory, invigorating the knowledge, the enjoyment and the beauty of their treasures. And it does all of this in a most perfect way. It’s pre-eminent reputation seems sullied in the eyes of some Parisians regarding the pyramids (one large and three other smaller ones). Critics feel the structure intrudes on the aesthetics of the imposing and stately historic Louvre, a centuries old castle that was once the world’s largest royal palace. In any event, however, the complex is a must-see site.

The crowds can be overwhelming at times, but almost any price should be endured to see the vast collections of art and artifacts. It’s interesting to see the people viewing (or attempting to view) the Mona Lisa. One hears constant murmurs as the visitors navigate the sea of people: “I can’t see it”; “It’s so small”; “Would you please move”. And when one needs some fresh air after a day at the Louvre, it is a short walk to the beautiful Tuileries Gardens.



The Spectacular Outdoors Museum

Also on the River Seine’s Right Bank, but 50 miles northwest of Paris in the bucolic village of Giverny, is the awe-inspiring Monet Gardens. Breathtaking flower gardens, the meandering lily pond and Claude Monet’s house comprise this splendid place. Monet lived here for 43 years until he passed away in 1926. The gardens and lily pond offer an explosion of color and seemingly endless subjects and scenes to paint. One of the most beautiful scenes where Monet enjoyed painting is the Japanese Bridge.

Reproductions of his work can be seen in the house where the furniture and other household items remain exactly as they were. We understood the impact the gardens had on people when we heard variations on the remark, “I feel like I’m in a Monet painting.”

– Terry O’Connor


Adventures in ArtPrize

ARTPrize Grand Rapids
It was a grand trip to Grand Rapids for the eighth annual ArtPrize fest. It was an especially pleasurable journey downstate when one’s spouse (Darlene Strand) was among the chosen artists. ArtPrize is a big deal. Really big. About 14,000 artists from around the world apply; approximately, and only, 10% are chosen. The entries come from roughly 45 states and a few dozen foreign countries. And that ten percent represents some of the most unique, creative, sometimes outlandish, always interesting art imaginable. The artwork is displayed at 170 venues around the city, mainly in downtown Grand Rapids, as well as at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, which we’re happy to tell you is alone worth the seven hour ride from the Upper Peninsula. (More on the Meijer Gardens in an upcoming Blog).

BY THE NUMBERS. Some 51 artists from the U.P. are showing their work in ArtPrize. It is not only an exhibition but also a competition, with a total of $500,000 awarded. Recipients are judged by the public as well as by a jury of professional artists. The entries fall into four categories: Two-Dimensional, Three-Dimensional, Time-Based, and Installation. ArtPrize has been described by The Art Newspaper as the most attended public art event on the planet! An estimated 500,000 people will see this year’s festival.

VENUE VARIETY. Venues include locations you would expect, such as galleries, museums, and public parks. Other locales are lobbies (particularly at downtown hotels and theaters), buildings of many sorts, restaurants, bars, bridges, retail stores, walls, churches, markets, even the Department of Corrections, body shops and laundromats. In short, Grand Rapids – both indoors and outside – becomes a gigantic kaleidoscope of the visual arts. Represented are nearly all art forms, including abstract, traditional, modern, graphics, calligraphy, industrial arts, sculpture, photography, etching, ceramics and lots more.

THE CITY. Grand Rapids is a progressive, diverse and really cool city. And one with a sense of humor: a large office building downtown is called The BOB, short for Big Old Building. It is quite-community minded, with hundreds of volunteers in brightly-colored vests, emblazoned with the legend “Ask Me.” They are friendly, well-informed, and help visitors navigate the various and dizzying array of venues. ArtPrize was founded by the DeVos family and their DeVos Place and Performance Center is a key venue in the downtown area, with a large and impressive display of art. If perchance you’ve missed this year’s ArtPrize, we highly recommend it for the future. You’ll truly enjoy it.

– Terry O’Connor