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Calling all Writers: 2019 Joplin Writers’ Faire Registration

Registration is now open for the 2019 Joplin Writers’ Faire, an annual collaborative event that connects all sorts of writers to their existing and potentially new audiences while encouraging community support of local and regional writers.

Last year, over 25 authors participated in and over 300 people attended this annual event! Registration is FREE and open to all writers, writers’ groups, and writing-related organizations.

DETAILS:

  • The 3rd Annual Joplin Writers’ Faire is scheduled for Saturday, October 26, 2019 from 10am-2pm at Joplin Public Library.
  • Registrationis FREE and opens at 9am on Thursday, August 1, 2019 and closes at 6pm on Friday, August 30, 2019. Neither early nor late registrations will be accepted. Tables will be provided for the first 25 registrants.  
  • For an opportunity to participate in the public reading portion of this event, we request that you donate an item (e.g. one of your books, associated merchandise, a journal, pen set, etc.) to be given away as a door prize. If you’re agreeable to the donation and would like to claim one of the sixteen public-reading slots, then please state as such at the time of your registration. Note that participation in the public-reading portion of this event is optional and that slots will be given on a first come, first serve basis. 
  • Contact either Jill Sullivan (jhsullivan@postartlibrary.org; 417-623-7953 x1041) or Evan Martin (emartin@joplinpubliclibrary.org; 417-623-7953 x1018) to register.

The Joplin Writers’ Faire is a collaboration between Post Art Library (PAL) and Joplin Public Library (JPL).

Sculpture Works in Wood

“Sculpture Works in Wood,” a solo exhibition by local artist M. Justin Hale, is on display in our Bramlage and Willcoxon Foundation Gallery, our display cases, and in the Post Reading Room inside Joplin Public Library now through September 30, 2019.

Hale sees anatomical references whenever he carves. Most of his professional life has been spent working in prosthetics. Leaving the prosthetics field in 1999, he now devotes his life to his artwork.

His work is inspired by the bent and twisting forms found in remnants of trees from a long and well lived life. Finding and releasing the stored energy of the wood into a new life as sculpture is a great experience.

For more information, contact Jill Sullivan at 417-623-7953 x1041 or jhsullivan@postartlibrary.org.

Library exhibitions and displays are curated by Post Art Library. Their mission is to enrich the community of Joplin by perpetuating Dr. Winfred L. and Elizabeth C. Post’s love of art, architecture, history, and history preservation through public access to arts-related library resources and services, educational programming, events, and exhibits. Visit www.postartlibrary.org for more information.

Ukuleles Available for Checkout!

Imagine walking into a public library and checking out a ukulele. Now, imagine this: If you have a Joplin Public Library card, then you don’t have to imagine. Earlier this year, Joplin Public Library and Post Art Library partnered with Glory Days Music of Joplin to bring a series of ukulele resources to the library, including Uke Can Play! workshops, instructional materials, and, you guessed it, ukuleles. Although we no longer offer ukulele workshops, the library now has six ukuleles available for checkout to anyone with a Joplin Public Library card in good standing.

You might find it strange that a public library would include ukuleles in their circulating collection. But public libraries are increasingly making non-traditional material types accessible through their collections, ranging from hand tools to small kitchen appliances, from fitness kits to board games, from cookie sheets to cake pans, and much, much more.

But why ukuleles? Because ukuleles are, in a word, fun. So much fun, in fact, that all of our workshops were full and a waitlist was started before we were able to release promotional materials. In addition to their fun-factor, ukuleles are easy enough to learn to play and are relatively inexpensive, especially in comparison to other stringed instruments. Plus, we avoided reinventing the wheel by modeling our program like similar programs offered by other public libraries.

Although it doesn’t come naturally, ukulele is not a challenging instrument to begin learning. By the end of our workshops, attendees understood the basics and could play at least one song, regardless of whether they had previous experience with ukuleles or other instruments. Trust me–uke can play! And I encourage you to checkout one of our ukuleles to get started.

But let’s say you’ve started. Maybe you checked out a ukulele or you already have one. Yet you’re unsure about what comes next. We have resources for that, too. Following are brief reviews of other ukulele-related resources we offer:

Ukulele Method, Book 1 by Lil’ Rev – Of the ukulele resources we have, this is the one I recommend for complete beginners. Author and award-winning instrumentalist Lil’ Rev introduces a thorough, but laid-back ukulele method, beginning with ukulele anatomy and variations, how to hold your ukulele, and tuning before moving into notes, chords and chord charts, fretting, and strumming. Includes standard melodies for beginners.  

Ukulele Method, Book 2 by Lil’ Rev – This follow-up to Lil’ Rev’s Ukulele Method, Book 1 focuses on right-hand (fretting) techniques and melody playing. Players become familiar with movable chords and different chord families, as well as hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, and a few different strum methods/patterns. Like Book 1, Book 2 includes standard melodies for beginners.

Easy Songs for Ukulele by Lil’ Rev – Once you’ve learned how to read a chord chart, this book is an excellent resource for easy, popular songs, including pop, folk, country, and blues. Selective artists include Elvis, The Beatles, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, and Huddie Ledbetter. Admittedly, it’s a touch scary if, like me, you don’t know how to read music, but the chords are included above the music, thus making the music playable for anyone familiar with chord grids.

Alfred’s Easy Ukulele Songs by Alfred Music – This is a songbook of “50 hits across the decades” from the rock and pop genres of music. Like other songbooks, both the music and chords are included, making the book suitable for both advanced and beginning players. Sample songs include Abba’s Fernando, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All, and the Ghostbusters theme song. It’s a great resource for those who like pop and rock.

Ukulele Favorites for Dummies Admittedly, this is my least favorite of our ukulele books; however, it’s a good resource, especially for those interested in vocal melodies, chord harmonies, and performance notes. Although it includes intermediate material, many of the songs are suitable for beginners.  

Classic Rock Ukulele SongbookLike other songbooks, this, too, has musical notation as well as chord grids. It’s a fantastic resource for players who would like to learn some classic rock, such as The Who, Queen, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, and more.

Ukulele: A Beginning Method by Daniel Ho –  This is a DVD rather than a book. I recommend it to beginners who prefer visual either in addition to or instead of written resources. It includes basic techniques, scales, chords, strumming, and such, as well as highlights how to choose a ukulele, how to practice efficiently, and how to improvise.  

Finally, we’ve come to our last ukulele resource: Ukulele Club. When I started playing ukulele, I was told people are the best resource for beginners and advanced players alike. What better way to meet people interested in or already playing ukulele than to start a ukulele club at the library? First meet: Saturday, January 12th, 2-4pm. Bring your own uke or checkout one of ours!

Happy strumming…

Book Review: The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris

This book review is not for the faint of heart nor for the weak stomached. Imagine: You’re out for a stroll in Victorian London, prepossessed with the styles of that era’s architecture as you take in the crisp, comforting wintry air. In your prepossession, you fail to notice a spot of ice ahead on the walkway and, whoops, you slip. In doing so, your tibia breaks and, very unfortunately, protrudes through your skin. Seeing your plight, a passerby summons a constable and the two carry you to the nearest hospital, where, for one reason or another, the surgeon decides that your broken leg must be amputated mid-thigh.

Suddenly and shockingly, you find yourself on a blood-encrusted table in a stifling operating theater. At least one hundred spectators, some of whom have little or nothing to do with the study of medicine, and none of whom you know, are transfixed by the surgical sport of your leg being lopped off. Luckily, your surgeon was London’s most renowned at the time, Robert Liston. Unluckily, Joseph Lister was yet to arrive on scene and, though you survived the amputation, you died an all too common death—that of hospitalism. Or, as simply stated in today’s terms, infection.

Sparing no detail, Lindsey Fitzharris’ The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine is itself a grisly, though wonderfully written, account of the horrors of Victorian medicine, specifically those of surgery and post-operative infection. The bulk of Fitzharris’ history regards, as its title suggests, one Joseph Lister, who, most graciously, spared us from the brutal, Dickensian-like world she describes. In her words, Victorian medicine was “the age of agony.”

Victorian era British hospitals lacked cleanliness, to say the least. In one account, a patient was found convalescing in damp sheets covered with mushrooms and maggots. Putrid odors permeated the facilities, as well as the doctors and the medical students who worked within. Operating tables were not cleaned from one patient to another, instruments were not sterilized between patients, and employees’ hands, let alone the wounds of the afflicted, were scarcely washed. Surgeons and their assistants performed grimy operations, haphazardly throwing limbs and flesh into buckets or onto sawdust-covered floors. Literal body snatchers disturbed the dead by digging them up and delivering them to hospital dissection rooms, where men carved them up in the interest of medicine. This is but a sampling of pre-antiseptic conditions.

At the time, surgeons were paid less than those whose job it was to rid the hospital beds of lice and, often, those who chose to specialize in the field were stigmatized. Surgery was considered manual labor rather than medical practice. In part, no doubt due to the fact that, in its infancy, surgery was an absolute last resort primarily comprised of the quick lopping off of limbs. Not only was surgery dangerous for the patient, but for doctors and their assistants. Take, for example, a man who once assisted the aforementioned Robert Liston. Quick with his saw, Liston accidentally sliced three fingers off of the assistant when removing the patient’s limb. Both patient and assistant died of post-operative infection.

Enter Joseph Lister. Born into a Quaker family, it’s somewhat ironic that Lister chose to become a physician, as the Quakers were known for their disbelief in medicine. Fortunately, Lister’s family was very supportive of his medical endeavors. Lister and his father had a common bond–the microscope. Lister’s father made a number of improvements to the device and Lister was one of few students in medical school acquainted with it. In fact, his professors and  contemporaries alike thought the microscope either frivolous or superfluous to medical pursuits. Yet, and thankfully for us, Lister persisted.

While Lister’s predecessors and peers were more interested in treating the symptoms of infection, Lister was more curious about discovering its causes. He spent countless hours peering through the lens of his microscope, viewing, sketching, and painting human tissues, fibers, and the like. He acquired specimens from others within his field, as well as harvested from his own body. He was so devoted to his cause, that he and his wife, Agnes, who was the daughter of his mentor, spent their honeymoon collecting frogs for Lister to dissect. Throughout their marriage, she was often in his study or lab with him, taking notes and essentially acting as his assistant.

Eventually, Lister gained an understanding of infection, of how hospital environments impacted the outcome of procedures and the well-being of both patients and staff. Although his theories were initially rejected by the Victorian medical community, over time Lister was able to prove them and he received a number of awards and recognitions throughout his career. Conditions improved, not only in British hospitals, but in hospitals everywhere, as cleanliness became increasingly practiced.

Fitzharris’ narrative of the transformation of Victorian medicine is altogether fascinating, if gruesome and not for the faint of heart nor for the weak stomached. Although she writes in a manner that speaks well to those outside of the world of medicine, I wrote this review after reading this title twice. Trust, it’s a lot to take in and a lot to process.

As always, happy reading.  

Book Review: PATTERNALIA

What are you wearing? Plaid (tartan)? Paisley? How about stripes or polka dots? Perhaps a fleur-de-lis pin graces your lapel? Regardless, these motifs and patterns and more have fascinating associations and histories as told by Jude Stewart in his book Patternalia: An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage, and Other Graphic Patterns.

In addition to content, the book itself is somewhat unconventional by design, both physically and stylistically. Titles found in the adult nonfiction collection tend to be large and heavy, whereas Patternalia is small and lightweight. Stylistically, Patternalia defies the typical beginning, middle, end formula for telling such stories. The text is dotted with cross-references so readers may develop an alternate storyline. It’s also embellished with quotes and bold graphics throughout.

Stewart starts us on our journey with a crash course in patterns and pattern lingo as well as an explanation of how our brains perceive “symmetry, orderliness, and simplicity”–basically, a pattern–and how we define and process this into what we see. He discusses ‘pareidolia,’ “the process of seeing imaginary forms, especially faces, in random stimuli,” such as outlets, and ‘apophenia,’ which is the perception of pattern where there is none, which may be either visual or conceptual. A conceptual example of apophenia is that of “gambler’s fallacy.”

Before we delve into particular patterns proper, we learn a bit about the history of patterns and the textile industry. The gist is that as production became increasingly industrialized, patterned textiles became cheaper, easily portable, and shareable across cultures. As patterns and patterned textiles crossed national borders, their meanings could change or evolve, such as with popular “African print” textiles. (Why? Read the book!)

As pattern and textile technology continued to advance, patterns were able to be printed directly onto textiles, which led to disposable fashions. Think Paper Caper dresses and such. Imagine wearing your clothes a few times and throwing them into the trash can rather than the laundry basket. These sorts of disposable fashions didn’t fall out of fashion until the rise of environmental consciousness. (Thank goodness for environmental consciousness!)  

But what about the patterns? I dare say we take them for granted, no doubt due to their ubiquitousness–they’re everywhere! Patterns hold histories and connotations, whether we realize it or not. Take polka dots, for example. According to Stewart, dots and spots–polka dots–gained popularity “from an extended craze for polka music” that overtook Europe in the mid-1800s. But in Medieval Europe, polka dots were reminiscent of disease and death. Specifically, syphilis, bubonic plague, measles, and more. Yet we enjoy polka dot patterns on an array of items, from notebooks to scrapbooking paper, t-shirts to bathing suits, bedding to curtains, and so on, without considering their history. Not to mention the parallel Stewart draws between dot art and activism–bravo!

Overall, Stewart’s Patternalia is as charming as it is interesting. My only criticism is that it ends rather abruptly, not unlike this review. As for the other patterns–plaid, paisley, stripes, fleur-de-lis, checkered, houndstooth, etc.–you’ll have to check it out for yourself. I leave you with this anonymous quote: “Even a small dot can stop a big sentence, but a few more dots can give a continuity…”

As always, happy reading.

Book Review: BROAD STROKES

Bridget Quinn’s Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (In that Order) is as much an artful book as it is an art history book. Indeed, I was initially drawn to the title because of its vibrant colors—broad strokes of pinks and reds—with large, bold typeface. The book’s cover and jacket are appropriately textured to the look and feel of canvas. But I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, right? In this case, it did not disappoint, as it’s even better between the covers. A turn through smooth, thick matte-finished pages reveals a pleasing layout of double-columned text mingling with images of artworks. Plus, each chapter begins with an illuminating illustration by Lisa Congdon.

Yet the essence of this title is neither its cover nor its aesthetic appeal. The crux of the matter is that, too often, treatises on art history overlook the contributions of women. By contrast, Quinn offers a diverse sampling of women artists, spotlighting the significance of their artworks while carefully curating the stories of their lives.

Quinn introduces us to her 1987 self, a young, self-described “clueless woman-child with dyed black hair and a newly pierced nose” who “swooned with the romance” of artistic expression as it relates to humanity. As a first-year art history major, she soon realized that women-as-artists are scarcely mentioned in the standard text, H.W. Janson’s History of Art. She noted that in over 800 pages, women artists are referenced only sixteen times. Thus, Quinn made a list and set out to learn more about women artists.

While in graduate school in New York, she was assigned research regarding Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, a masterful French portraitist. After a long, presumably discouraging day “wrestling with eighteenth-century French” at the library, Quinn became despondent, dining on chocolate chip cookies and beer as she wondered why she ever decided to study art history. Finally, her aha moment: “I want to be an artist, not study them. I came to New York to be a writer.” And a good one at that.

Although she presents herself and her subject seriously, Quinn’s prose is informal and playful at times. She doesn’t shy away from insightful mini-digressions or the occasional bad word, for which she charmingly apologizes for in the dedication. Quinn warmly and skillfully weaves personal experience with the larger narrative and draws a parallel between visual art and literature. Through her writing, she paints portraits of women into the landscape of art history.

It’s worth mentioning that the fifteen women Quinn wrote about for this title are not the exact women whose names she discovered in Janson’s text, though three are common—Artemisia Gentileschi, Rosa Bonheur, and Lee Krasner. Additionally, she includes Judith Leyster, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Marie Denise Villers, Edmonia Lewis, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Vanessa Bell, Alice Neel, Louise Bourgeois, Ruth Asawa, Ana Mendieta, Kara Walker, and Susan O’Malley.

Arranged in fifteen chapters that chronicle the lives and art of as many women, each section could be read as a stand-alone biography. I recommend, however, that first-time readers read the book in its entirety, from beginning to end. Doing so helps contextualize the adversities and obstacles that these women overcame (or didn’t), as well as those that contemporary women artists continue to face.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not all about adversities and overcoming obstacles. It’s also about creation, passion, unconventional self-portraits, diversity, autobiographical abstraction, love, tragedy, sugar sculptures, expertise, mastery, Art Before Dishes, and so much more. But don’t take my word for it; check it out for yourself. You’ll find this title in Joplin Public Library’s new nonfiction section.

In what might be considered a flash afterward to her book, Quinn draws attention to the fact that she started by discovering sixteen women artists in the third edition of Janson’s History of Art, yet she presents only fifteen in this title. Answering her own question, “Why one short?”, Quinn writes, “I’ve left room for myself. For you. For anyone who wants it.” She began and ended Broad Strokes with three simple words: “Let’s get started.” Shall we?

Yes! Let’s get started with selective artworks discussed in Bridget Quinn’s Broad Strokes:

  • Judith Severing the Head of Holofernes (c. 1620) by Artemisia Gentileschi
  • Study of a Woman from Nature (1802) by Marie Denise Villers
  • The Death of Cleopatra (1876) by Edmonia Lewis
  • Self-Portrait (1980) by Alice Neel
  • Femme Maison (1984) by Louise Bourgeois
  • Untitled (1962) by Ruth Asawa
  • At the behest of Creative Time Kara E. Walker has confected: A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant (2014) by Kara Walker
  • Art Before Dishes (2014) by Susan O’Malley

As always, happy reading!

Lincoln School

This is the Lincoln School building, a former school of the Joplin R-8 School District, that once stood on the 800 block of East 7th Street. Predating desegregation, it was Joplin’s only school for black students, serving not only Joplin’s African-American community, but often that of neighboring towns.
 
This building was opened in 1908, with primary grades on the main floor, secondary on the second floor, and other rooms, including the dining room, in the basement. The building was updated in 1926, 1930, and again in 1950, just four years before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of desegregation. Following integration, the school was used for special education. It was closed in 1975, changed hands over the years, and was razed to make way for a car dealership in 1988. 
 
Lincoln School is a significant part of Joplin’s heritage. Not only did it serve as an anchor for African-Americans living in Joplin, but did so through landmark times for black people in America. Lincoln School was regarded as much more than that by those it served–it was a community center. During what was likely the last tour of Lincoln School before demolition, Thelma Meeks said, “It was a community center, because, you know, that’s all we had—the school and the church.”
 
Lincoln’s rich history–including its association with boundary-breaking community leaders Marion Dial and Melissa Cuther–makes it eligible for recognition as one of Joplin’s Local Landmark sites.
 
Months ago, members of the Joplin Historic Preservation Commission, a representative from the Emancipation Celebration committee, and members of Unity Baptist Church (who currently own the land) began that process. At a recent Joplin City Council meeting a presentation was given encouraging Council to move forward with Lincoln School’s historic designation. Move forward they did; unanimously so! Thus, the nomination process will soon come to a close, making the former Lincoln School site the first Local Landmark site that represents Joplin’s African-American community and the contributions thereof.

 

Lydia Humphreys’ New Portrait Series

A few weeks ago, local artist Lydia Humphreys popped into PAL and asked if she could take a photo of me to paint my portrait for a series that she’s currently working on. Between blushing and laughing as she snapped the photo, I managed to ask her a couple of questions about the series, which she’s been releasing via social media. Perhaps what intrigues me most is that she paints each portrait in the color that she sees the person. Not their auras, necessarily, but the colors that she associates with that person. Last week, I had the fortune of meeting with Lydia to further discuss her art and this portrait series in particular.

Jill: Could you tell me a little about your background? Are you from Joplin? How long have you been involved in Joplin Arts?
Lydia: I’m from Joplin, but I’ve been involved in Joplin Arts for about two years, since I started college at MSSU. Although I’ve always drawn, painted, and taken lots of art classes, I didn’t want to do art. I wanted to become a physical therapist and work with kids with disabilities.

What changed that?
I did an internship in St. Louis and art was all around. Living in a bigger city you catch on to trends more, see the arts more, and art is everywhere. Being there helped me realize that art was a possibility, that I could do it my own way, that it was something that was attainable. I started making art in St. Louis.

Why do you do what you do? Why art?
My brain works better with art. It’s easier for me to communicate through art. I can express things that I don’t know how to verbalize.

What if what you’re trying to communicate is viewed differently by the viewer?
If the person doesn’t see what I’m going for, then I’m either not communicating it right or they aren’t the right person for it.

How do you work? Meaning do you have rituals or routine?
I always have headphones on to tune everything else out because I work mostly at school. I work alone, mostly, but sometimes with one friend.

What are some of your favorite mediums?
Mixed media, installations, everything. I’m intrigued by big installations. I did one and it was exhaustingly fun.

In addition to making art, you’ve curated exhibits. What appeals to you about curating the art of others?
I like making a space pristine with art. Something about walking into an area to see the art and not being there for anything else.

What generally inspires your work?
Right now, it’s varied. …I’m upset with issues that are interpreted wrong, like the emotions and actions of others. So I want to destigmatize. For example, I did a series about depression and anxiety.

I’d like to talk about this portrait series that you’re working on. Why depictions of people?
People make up the community. It all feels like family and I love community. It’s another way to support the community. And the act of making the art breaks the ice, helps me to get to know the individual better. I’m inspired by spending so much time with the faces, getting to know a certain type of beauty that’s often initially dismissed.

You’re painting these faces in the color that you see the person. You said not their auras, but the color that you associate with them. Could you discuss this a little more?
I assign certain colors and patterns to things so that I remember them. It’s the same for people. I’ll remember a face and a color that I’ve assigned to that face better than a name. But none of the colors have particular meanings to me. I don’t know why certain colors, it’s just what happens. It’s not always personality based. Sometimes I see the same color for someone who I like and for someone who I dislike.

Does the color come to you more easily for some people than others?
Yes. Sometimes I start one color and change to another color. I might assume a certain color, but when I go to mix it I realize it’s a different shade, hue, or value. Or more than one color. Sometimes the background is another color I associate with that person.

How have those depicted reacted to the paintings? Has anyone been surprised or disappointed about their color?
Generally, people are excited to be painted. One person did think the color I chose was weird, but others agree.

Do you know how many portraits you will paint for this series?
I don’t have a certain number in mind. The project needs to evolve somehow. I like the idea of a large amount of portraits. I want to do a lot.

I have one more question. Do you have a certain color that you associate with yourself?
Pink. Vibrant pink.

At the time of this interview (2/2/2017), there were 14 portraits in Lydia’s series, four of which are shown here. You can follow Lydia and her artwork on Facebook (Lydia Humphreys) or Instagram (lydia_humphreys).

The Scoop: Coloring Book Club

In October 2015, Connect2Culture, Post Art Library, and Spiva Center for the Arts launched Coloring Book Club (CBC), with plans to meet every other month, alternating between the library and Spiva, for one year. Our goal was to offer adults a well-deserved “brain break” without expectations while promoting mindfulness and self-expression, reducing anxiety, and strengthening community. Now that we’ve met that goal, we’ve considered feedback from CBC-goers and reassessed to determine the best way to move forward.

Although Connect2Culture and Post Art Library had a wonderful time helping to launch this fantastic club, Spiva is taking the lead. Starting in January 2017, ALL Coloring Book Club meets will be held monthly at Spiva Center for the Arts on the second Saturday of each month, 10:30am-noon. We believe that participants will have a better experience with monthly meetings at a consistent location. Plus, this location eliminates the need to register for meets–simply show up and color!

If you have any questions about Coloring Book Club, then please contact Spiva Center for the Arts at 417-623-0183 or visit their website at www.SpivaArts.org.

Thanks for the great year and color on!

coloring-book-club-2

Words with Hiram Mesa

Throughout November, the Post Art Library is showing Hiram Mesa’s The Magic Mirror, which is comprised of mixed-media artworks, screen prints, jewelry, and wonderfully cut cabochons. Earlier today, I had the opportunity to ask Hiram some questions about his art.

Jill’s questions/comments are in bold,
whereas Hiram’s are not.

You’re making a name for yourself cutting stones. Could you tell me about what drew you to pursue lapidary work?
I was traveling with some friends through Colorado and New Mexico and we stopped at a rock shop. I noticed a nice piece of turquoise jewelry on display and I thought maybe I could do something like that. So I bought a rough, unfinished stone and I started buying Rock & Gem magazine and set about teaching myself lapidary work. Eventually I joined a gem and mineral club in Joplin and started borrowing some of their equipment and cutting stones. That was about 12 years ago.

Although you do buy some stones, you prefer digging for them. Where have you dug for stones?
Colorado, mostly. I’ve been to Canada, some places in Arkansas, and New Mexico.

What’s it like to dig for stones?
It’s the most amazing thing EVER!!! When you pull something out of the ground and it’s been there forever and no one has ever seen it and the light is shining on it—it’s very, very cool… I’d rather be digging for stones than doing just about anything else.

But tell me about the process. What types of tools do you use?
It’s actually a lot of work. It’s funny, I work harder on my vacations than when I’m working. I use shovels, pry bars, picks, chisels, brushes, things like that.

How do you know where to go?
This is a tricky question. I’ve read a lot of books and field guides so I have a pretty good understanding of how to read the geology. You have to know how to read the rock itself, the geology. There’s a host rock that most of the stones form in, so you have to know how to read the host rock and it will tell you where you need to be digging. But a lot of it is intuition and luck.

Some of your mixed-media art incorporates specular hematite. Could you tell me about specular hematite and why you like to use it?
Specular hematite forms in large masses. I take two of the stones and rub them together over a piece of paper and collect the flakes to use in my art. I love stones, so I feel the need to apply stones to my art. I like specular hematite because I like the way it feels.

You’ve mentioned that you’d rather be digging for stones than anything else. So how do you turn your attention away from that to your other art forms, such as metal work, jewelry fabrication, and mixed media?
The abstract images that I envision are more easily conveyed through paper and paint. Besides, I really enjoy painting.

What are some of your favorite mediums to use in your mixed-media pieces?
Markers, watercolors, fingernail polish, and acrylics.

Aside from the art that you make, what are some of your favorite forms of art and who are some of your favorite artists?
I like photography, poetry, music, watercolor, ceramics, and most all forms of art. In regards to my favorite artists, that’s tough. I like so many art forms and artists that if I answer this question I’ll just be thinking of the most famous and that’s not fair.

Thanks, Hiram, for answering questions about your art. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thanks, Jill.

Left: “Seascape” by Hiram Mesa
Right: “Waterfalls from the Heavens” by Hiram Mesa