Category Archives: Women artists

Daisy Garton’s farm

Daisy Garton with her Uncle John, reproduced from the website

Daisy Garton with her Uncle John, reproduced from the website

Daisy Hinkle Garton loved her home so much that she was determined to ensure its preservation as a house museum after her death. Once in the countryside, Daisy’s farmstead–a Queen Anne house, neighbored by a second house and outbuildings on several acres–is uniquely visible and easy to visit, since Bloomington has expanded around it in every direction.

Daisy left her home to Bloomington Restorations, Inc., a nonprofit foundation for historic preservation in Monroe County that now calls the farmstead home.

A lovely, short film about the Hinkle-Garton Farmstead has recently been produced by Michael Johnson.

Photographs of the farmstead also appear in a forthcoming volume  of essays on historic preservation that includes a piece co-authored by  longtime Bloomington Restorations board member Donald Granbois and Executive Director Steve Wyatt.

Carving course with Mary May

I spent the past week in a carving class taught by Mary May at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.  Although I have incorporated simple relief carvings into several pieces over the past several years–some doves and petunias, a grape vine with a cardinal, a stylized tulip, the odd sunburst or daisy–I had never had any formal instruction in carving.  What finally moved me to sign up for Mary’s class was the frustration I experienced on carving a decorative edge for “Corona Plumosa,”** the 1920s Spanish Renaissance Revival-inspired piece I built for an Indiana University Arts Week grant-funded project. The decorative edge effect, which Mary informed me is called “gadrooning,”*  seemed flatter than the antique examples on which I had based it.

Close, but not quite there yet….

I was ready to learn some official carving techniques.

Mary is a great teacher. She explains principles and processes clearly and will demonstrate techniques as many times as necessary. Having her minute paring cuts magnified on a pair of large screens was invaluable; in fact, her movements became so deeply etched (or carved? ouch) in my mind that I literally dreamed about them last night.

I can’t wait to put some of those techniques into practice.

Mary teaches at other schools, and for $10 a month, you can gain access to her online carving school. She also has several videos. See her website for further information.

**The name is misspelled on my website. It should be Corona, not Corono. (I’ll ask Jim to fix this as soon as he returns from sailing.)

*According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word, which is sometimes spelled “godroon,” is likely related to the French goder, to crease or pucker.

29 hours in Chicago


Big thanks to Jean Alan and Susann Craig for hosting a couple of sparkling events in November. 
Susann’s event was held to benefit Intuit, the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art.  Afterwards, Kendall and I went home to Susann’s loft for dinner with several of her friends.

Mike, Laurence, and Marsha

The following morning Susann explored her bookshelves and retrieved a variety of treasures, among them a pair of original Art Sinsabaugh calendars from 1966, along with a rare Sinsabaugh color print.  

Kendall and Susann

Later, at Susann’s urging, Kendall and I visited Douglas Dawson‘s awe inspiring gallery and made a quick stop at the Blommer Chocolate factory. Sadly, Kendall lost his chocolate covered toffees between the factory store and his vehicle.
Jean and Ruthie Alan, working with their dedicated staff, put on a spectacular spread to celebrate the renovation of their showroom and a book signing to benefit the Cancer Center of Northwestern University Lymphoma Research Program.  If Kendall ever sends me some of his snapshots from that evening I will post them here, but in the meantime, there are beautiful images at Jean’s blog, which you can reach by clicking on “book signing” above.


A home shared: Susann Craig

Many a woman living alone has taken in lodgers as a way to make ends meet. But having a housemate can enrich your life, as well as your bank account. There’s always someone to take care of your dog or cat. Your house will never be vacant. And unless your tenant is a mouse-like recluse (I had one of these–a doctoral student in chemistry named Guillermo; sadly, I think he was scared of me), there’s usually someone to converse with over a pot of simmering marinara sauce at the end of the day. 

Susann Craig's townhouse in Chicago, originally built to house faculty at the McCormick Seminary

Finding herself divorced and with an empty nest, Susann Craig decided she didn’t need an entire house to herself. She began posting cards on notice boards at a nearby college campus and soon found herself living with grad student renters, usually one at a time. One tenant from those years stood out, a young woman named Jeanne. Jeanne had recently completed a master’s in architecture at Harvard and was spending a few weeks in Chicago before leaving for Rotterdam to work as a lead designer for architect Rem Koolhaas.

Jeanne and Susann kept in touch, and after Jeanne returned to Chicago two years later, in 1995, she designed a loft to house Susann and her art collection.

Susann's loft today (left) and the same view in 1995 with Jeanne Gang supervising construction of the central shaft, which opens to the sky (right)

The two have become close friends–so close, in fact, that Jeanne’s mother made a curtain from stainless steel threads as a privacy surround for Susann’s clawfoot tub, which perches near the glass-walled edge of the second floor.

You can read their story in Chapter 9 of A Home of Her Own. Jeanne, whose work is now internationally renowned, was recently awarded yet another impressive bit of recognition–a MacArthur Fellowship. 

Photo Gallery

Susann with daughters Amy Craig Coleman, left, and Jennifer Craig Knight, right, 1968

Jennifer, Susann, and Amy in the 1990s

Jeanne Gang. Encore!

True Grit: Amy Brier

Limestone sculptor Amy Brier has an impressive résumé. She studied stone carving in Italy and Germany, earned a BFA in sculpture from Boston University, talked her way onto the crew of artisans constructing New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and spent six years on that project before earning an MFA at Indiana University’s Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts. She’s the first female board member of the national Stone Carvers’ Guild. She co-founded, and continues to direct, the Indiana Limestone Symposium, currently in its fifteenth year. Now a professor of art at the Bloomington campus of Ivy Tech Community College, she spends much of her time outside of the classroom on commissions from private and institutional clients.

But one of the things I find most impressive about Amy is that her home studio, in the walk-out basement of her house, shares space with lines of drying laundry. I find this impressive not because she hangs her laundry, rather than using a clothes dryer (though line drying is certainly the greener option), but because this particular aspect of her situation so powerfully expresses the down-to-earth reality of most working artists, and countless working women (though in this day, such realities characterize members of every gender and sex), in an era that privileges surface over substance.

You know what I mean. There’s this insidious pressure to present oneself as Successful And Loving It!—but only if we subscribe to a definition of success rooted firmly in the ongoing commodification of everything. It’s not that we–and here I’m speaking to those of us who are women–are to see ourselves as commodities for purchase by men. No. Things have become far more subtle than that. We–men and women–are now invited, even pressured, to purchase ourselves, cosmetically made-over and professionally reinvented.


To look older than 35 has become unacceptable in an age when dermatology, surgery, and (for the less affluent) Photoshop are available. Rail-like thinness continues to be de rigueur—the ultimate sign of power (requiring, as it does, an admirably steely will), yet simultaneously, I can’t but observe–at least among women–a reassuring signifier of our delicate frailty and thus supposedly inescapable dependence on a “provider.” And of course one must, throughout, display a stylish joie de vivre; even if one does not have the longed-for partner or satisfying, appropriately compensating job, one must avoid complaining or appearing to be anything less than “Fabulous.”

This is why I find Amy Brier, with her subterranean laundry-sharing studio, so impressive. She, like her home workplace, is real. And proud of it.

Stone rubbing of lettering by Amy

(Header image is not by Kendall Reeves.)