Monday, January 25, 2010

Greetings from Nebraska!

Well, my lovely, glorious, incomparable time here at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City is sadly coming to a close soon. This is my last week here, and unfortunately, I'm spending the first day of my last five rather ill. I'm hoping it's just a weird bout of food poisoning (my own, not Nebraska City's lovely restaurants).

I've had a splendid time here and feel so incredibly blessed to have been given this opportunity. I've met and been befriended by three beautiful, extremely talented, smart and kind visual artists, and two brave, exciting, lovely writers. All women, all amazing.

My writing has benefited enormously from the combination of solace and the community of other artists. Janice Baker, my roommie, is a one-woman band of supportive, encouraging energy, positive spirit, playfulness, compassion and fun! Her art is so cool! I'll send some pictures. Every day Janice gets up happy, and she's so excited to get in the studio--she's like a little kid getting to go out and play. No drama, all joy. She's my inspiration.

Nadine Stefan, a visual artist from British Columbia, makes these tender, arresting, understated but completely captivating installations using local flora and paint and wood. Her work is completely grounded in the natural world, and she seeks to celebrate balance between the masculine and feminine, and other so-called opposites. She's Miss Power Tools. If there's some weird loud noise reminiscent of our home-building efforts in Gardner coming from the studios, nine times out of ten, it's Nadine (the other time it's Janice and her power sander). Nadine is funny, and smart, and super sweet, and--like Janice--a delicious conversationalist (I'm the quiet one in the group, if you can imagine). Oh, and like every other woman here, she's also drop-dead gorgeous.

Skye Gilkerson grew up on a dairy farm in South Dakota. Her work has this delicate brilliance about it that I just love and that kind of reminds me of the stark, quiet beauty of the Plains (our Northerner calls them "Prairies"). There's a grace, a subtlety of form and thought there, with rods of steel running through the middle of it...I don't know how to explain it, but Skye's work just takes my breath away. I am floored to be in the midst of such amazing talent. If she doesn't mind I'll post some photos of her work.

Skye is a wonderful cook, and is really smart. She is as lovely a woman as her work, and she seems to me feverishly, fantastically dedicated to her craft--actually all three women are. I haven't gotten to know Skye as well as Janice and Nadine because she's not always decadently parking herself in front of the boob tube at night, like we are, but it's been a real privilege to spend the time with her I have.

My sister writers, Stephanie and Suzanne, have each been here only 2 weeks, in succession. My time with them was precious, but too short. Stephanie is this delicate, stylish, genteel-seeming beauty from Missouri with a wicked sense of humor and a penchant for dive bars prone to fights. I love her. I was so grateful to be able to hear her read some of her poetry while she was here--she's exceedingly gifted, and very, very skilled. Her poems really touched me, landing as they did on several important social themes with lyric use of language, syntax and metaphor.

I've really enjoyed my short conversations with Suzanne so far, in which we relish in sharing our stories of wailing and gnashing our teeth (metaphorically of course; we're writers--everything we do is a metaphor!). I look forward to hearing her read tomorrow night.

Pat Friedli and Denise Brady, the staff here, are super competent, friendly, down-to-earth women who have done a tremendous job of making this place work so well, and also of endearing KHN to the wider community such that we are welcomed with open arms and kind smiles everywhere we go in town. They're also just really interesting, smart women to talk with, and both are artists themselves. We got to see some of the gorgeous printmaking work Denise has done a few weeks ago, and I'm hoping we'll get to see some of Pat's work in fiber arts before we leave.

Well, that's my update for now. I had hoped to find some photos to post with this, but will have to look around and find them first. Next time!