Friday, March 27, 2020


First of all today, thank you to the first responders, national guard units, essential food workers, mail carriers and other delivery workers, teachers and all you volunteers who have stepped in to perform your civic duty.

Many of us spend our lives ready for challenges, going through heartbreaks, and learning how to navigate the ups and downs of life. We don't think too much about getting old. I am having one of those cringe moments right now when I find myself in the age group that needs to stay in place. It's unsettling to be the person who needs help. I'm used to offering help instead. I am grateful for those helping hands today.

Luckily, our neighborhood is full of generous people with many offers of help and friendliness. We had a flash mob last Friday. We stood outside on our front steps to check in on each other and talk. We plan to do it again.

These past weeks reminds me of listening to my mother and grandmother talk about living through the Great Depression and World War II. My grandmother also lived through WWI, the War to End All Wars, which really was only the beginning of the strife and turbulence we see today.

My mother and grandmother talked of going without and making do, of using cotton feed sacks to make clothing, of the scarcity of butter and gasoline, of having to use coupons to purchase scarce items.

Today we wonder what actions our government will take to support the people who need help. Before the Great Depression, people had no safety net. Due to the actions taken by President Roosevelt, we now have Social Security, unemployment insurance, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the FDIC. Later President Johnson added Medicare and Medicaid. We can see the legacy of the PWA and CCC, programs that provided much-needed work for job-seekers during the Depression. The workers built post offices, dams, and developed national parks. These government programs provided support and certainty when it was needed most.

Thinking of my mother and grandmother, I picked up my pens to illustrate phrases that have slipped from our consciousness and values. As a student of lettering, I am still learning technique and my wobbles can only add character to my letters -- they are good practice.

Have you found other phrases and poems like these that can help us all through this difficult time? Post them on Instagram at  #postcardsintheair

If you are curious about feed sacks and what to make from them, check out the magazine Uppercase, a bi-monthly collection about creative people around the world. The publisher, Jan Vangool, offers an Encyclopedia of Inspiration with one volume devoted to Feed Sacks.

Take care everyone and reach out too.

Friday, March 20, 2020


photos by Bill Slavin

We marched right by Pi Day, the Ides of March, and St. Patrick's Day this week, days that usually provide us with a bit of fun during the end of winter. This week, like so many of us, I am sequestered at home with husband Bill, enjoying the extra time together and working on projects. I am occasionally stricken with doubt that we as a country are no longer up to the challenge of a crisis. Then I receive a series of texts from neighbors offering grocery or pharmacy deliveries. Another group of friends shares photos of their backyard flowers or views of the sunsets. Other friends let me know they have returned safely from trips and share, through their emails, their travel experiences and disbelief at what has happened this week. Our son checks in with us to offer help when needed. We are still together but in different ways.

Outdoors the world around us goes on, oblivious to our concerns. The apple trees are just starting to bud out as the leaves unfurl with deliberation. The birds scramble for a place at the bird feeder. Someone said that for the first time in many years people in Wuhan can hear the birds since there is no traffic noise.

We discovered yesterday that a squirrel has found an unlikely den between a rock and a concrete step that leads to our backyard patio. We watched as she brought mouthfuls of leaves and twigs and disappeared into a small hole. Her actions brought us to a standstill as she captured our attention with her pursuit of a safe place to nest.

Remember to breathe.

Friday, March 13, 2020


Hellebore by Martha Slavin
One art project finished!

While living in Tokyo, our son Theo and I stopped once a week at the small, crowded ice cream stand on our way home from Theo's school. We would order cones and sit in front of the store while we savored every bite.

One day as we sat, a younger friend of Theo's and his dad walked by. The boy sneezed and coughed profusely as he waved at Theo. I groaned. The boy was too sick to be outside. Two days later I had his cold.

White Rose by Martha Slavin

I catch colds easily. I always have. I've never gotten a mild cold either. Just when I think I'm getting better, the cold rebounds and develops into one of the hosts of bacterial infections that qualify for antibiotics. I've used up my share of antibiotics while spending weeks getting over something as simple as a cold.

Pink Tulip with Rain Drop by Martha Slavin

So, no I won't be participating in group activities for the next couple of weeks. I'm self-quarantined as much as possible. I may be paranoid, but unless I know that I can be safe in gatherings even from a simple cold, I will stay home. I hope you are taking precautions for yourself as well.

Two Tulips by Martha Slavin

Maybe the news about Corvid-19 will make other people think hard before they go out in public when they are sick, not just with this new virus, but with common colds and flu. I know I have been guilty of going out too soon and I have spread my germs around others. I know we need to take action to provide paid sick leave and other benefits especially for low-income workers, so they don't have to show up for work while they are sick. But, maybe with Corvid-19 reminding us how quickly viruses can spread, we all will stop and think about how our health can end up infecting others.

While I'm home, I'm getting a lot of art projects and writing finished in the meantime. I am counting on you to be doing the same. Stay safe and stay well.

Friday, March 6, 2020


Here is a hint:

T-shirt design from the Corita Art Center

We all are familiar with Frida Kahlo, who has become a cult figure, but few of us, including me, can make a list of women artists beyond Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot or Louise Nevelson.

Still flummoxed about these five first names?

courtesy of Corita Art Center
The first name on the T-shirt belongs to Corita Kent, an artist and nun, who became a popular artist because of her bright colors and simple expressions. She used silkscreen to produce her colorful message at a time when the world rocked with the Vietnam War and civil rights demonstrations.

Ray Eames partnered with her husband Charles to design what is now called Mid-Century Modern furniture. They are best known for the Eames lounge chair and molded wood or plastic side chairs. Ray produced many textile designs as well.

Hilma de Klimt, inspired by her quest for spiritual awakening, painted geometric shapes, used vivid colors and intricate patterns in the early part of the 20th century long before her more well-known contemporaries, Kandinsky and Mondrian. Born in Sweden, her work has remained hidden until the Guggenheim's exhibit from last year.

courtesy of

Faith Ringgold, known for her quilts and large paintings depicting civil liberties and conflicts, also has published 17 books including Tar Beach, which is based on one of her story quilts. She is a retired art professor from UC San Diego.

courtesy of Crocker Art Museum 

Elaine L. Cohen, a prolific graphic designer and artist, created Mid-Century work in collage, designed interiors of buildings and book jackets, museum catalogs, and paintings. She incorporated geometric shapes into her public spaces and women's images into her artwork. She was one of the first to develop a complete identity program throughout a building such as in the Seagram Building in New York City.

courtesy of Elaine Lustig Cohen

I have been on a hunt to discover who the five artists are. I can now name all the artists on my T-shirt as well as a few more.

I am standing in front of a serigraph print by Sudi McCollum, an illustrator and artist, while holding two beautifully illustrated books. One is The Four Seasons by Mary Azarian, a Vermont woodblock printer and the other is Sherrie Lovler's On Softer Ground.

Women artists are everywhere. You just have to look for them.

For more information on these five women artists as well as the three artists in my photograph: