The Lady of Shalott

If it was the fall of 1981 – then I was 13. We were visiting Boston as a family; my older sister was looking at colleges. We – as good tourists do – went to Harvard Square, and to the Harvard Co-op. This image was on the front of a bin of posters, dorm room decor at its finest. I was stopped dead in my tracks. No one noticed but me – my family walked inside the store… It was that feeling that time was slowed, and all sound and motion around you has ceased to affect you. I was enchanted. I had no idea who William Holman Hunt was, neither had I ever heard of “The Lady of Shalott”. My parents bought me the poster. It hang above my fireplace, the same print, to this day with pinholes from all the dorm walls it has faithfully adorned. I peppered my mother with questions in the car – to find that the Lady of Shalott was a poem by Tennyson. That was all she knew, but it was enough.  I have included the poem below – it still sends chills down my spine. 

Hunt's Lady of Shalott

My love affair with the Pre-Raphaelites had begun. It was met with a wee bit of snide derision from a college art history professor – herself a Classicist/Rennaissance scholar. It influenced my painting studies as I strove to find my own way of expressing myth/narrative/folklore/history. Yesterday I saw this painting in person and I cried. I am not trying to be dramatic – I was moved to tears both by the painting and the long lived influence it has had on me from the formative years throughout my training and career as an artist. (The painting is owned by the Wadsworth Athaneum in Hartford CT. Not that far… but not that close… Their page on the painting is here.)

This painting as well as many other favorites of mine are on view at the National Gallery in Dc until mid May. Many are old friends I visited weekly after art history class, while studying in London. Some are old friends from the Delaware Art Museum, my local establishment; others were met for the first time. It is a glorious exhibit – if you are interested in the late Victorian, in poetry, myth, medievalism, Decorative arts, Arts and Crafts style…. please dont miss it. 



National Gallery of Art


William Holman Hunt

Delaware Art Museum

Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Part I

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And through the field the road runs by
            To many-towered Camelot; 
And up and down the people go, 
Gazing where the lilies blow 
Round an island there below,
            The island of Shalott.1

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
            Flowing down to Camelot. 
Four gray walls, and four gray towers, 
Overlook a space of flowers, 
And the silent isle imbowers
            The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veiled
Slide the heavy barges trailed
By slow horses; and unhailed
The shallop flitteth silken-sailed
Skimming down to Camelot: 
            But who hath seen her wave her hand? 
Or at the casement seen her stand?             25
Or is she known in all the land,
            The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
            Down to towered Camelot: 
And by the moon the reaper weary, 
Piling sheaves in uplands airy, 
Listening, whispers “‘Tis the fairy
            Lady of Shalott.”

Part II


There she weaves by night and day 
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
            To look down to Camelot. 
She knows not what the curse may be, 
And so she weaveth steadily, 
And little other care hath she,
            The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
            Winding down to Camelot:  50
There the river eddy whirls, 
And there the curly village-churls, 
And the red cloaks of market girls,
            Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-haired page in crimson clad,
            Goes by to towered Camelot; 
And sometimes through the mirror blue 
The knights come riding two and two: 
She hath no loyal knight and true,
            The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
            And music, went to Camelot: 
Or when the moon was overhead, 
Came two young lovers lately wed; 
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
            The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling through the leaves,  75
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
            Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneeled 
To a lady in his shield, 
That sparkled on the yellow field,
            Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glittered free, 
Like to some branch of stars we see 
Hung in the golden Galaxy. 
The bridle bells rang merrily
            As he rode down to Camelot: 
And from his blazoned baldric slung 
A mighty silver bugle hung, 
And as he rode his armour rung,
            Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather 
Thick-jewelled shone the saddle-leather, 
The helmet and the helmet-feather 
Burned like one burning flame together,
            As he rode down to Camelot. 
As often through the purple night, 
Below the starry clusters bright, 
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
            Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;   100
On burnished hooves his war-horse trode; 
From underneath his helmet flowed 
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
            As he rode down to Camelot. 
From the bank and from the river 
He flashed into the crystal mirror, 
“Tirra lira,” by the river
            Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom, 
She made three paces through the room, 
She saw the water-lily bloom, 
She saw the helmet and the plume,
            She looked down to Camelot. 
Out flew the web and floated wide; 
The mirror cracked from side to side; 
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
            The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining, 
The pale yellow woods were waning, 
The broad stream in his banks complaining, 
Heavily the low sky raining
            Over towered Camelot; 
Down she came and found a boat 
Beneath a willow left afloat, 
And round about the prow she wrote  125
            The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river’s dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance — 
With a glassy countenance
            Did she look to Camelot. 
And at the closing of the day 
She loosed the chain, and down she lay; 
The broad stream bore her far away,
            The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right — 
The leaves upon her falling light — 
Through the noises of the night
            She floated down to Camelot: 
And as the boat-head wound along 
The willowy hills and fields among, 
They heard her singing her last song,
            The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
            Turned to towered Camelot. 
For ere she reached upon the tide  150
The first house by the water-side, 
Singing in her song she died,
            The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
            Silent into Camelot. 
Out upon the wharfs they came, 
Knight and burgher, lord and dame, 
And round the prow they read her name,
            The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
            All the knights at Camelot: 
But Lancelot mused a little space; 
He said, “She has a lovely face; 
God in his mercy lend her grace,
            The Lady of Shalott.”


Postscript: There are many glorious paintings of the PRB era inspired by this poem. John William Waterhouse painted numerous version himself, which I adore. If the poem speaks to you, don’t miss the song of the same name by Loreena McKennitt. 



Is your passport in order? Challenge of Travel preview (Part II)

Tomorrow is the big reveal – Erin’s Challenge of Travel. Yesterday I shared information on famous German figures in science, literature, music. Today – the arts. When I was in art school, getting a minor in Art History was a done deal. Literally! I had the credits almost completed after taking Art History electives. Art geek. That’s me!

There are so many German artists whose work I respect, especially when taken in context of history. How they were influenced by their patrons, reaction to events of the time… Art is propoganda, art as expression, art as cultural vehicle…My short list included Holbein, Caspar David Friedrich, Hans Hoffman, Kathe Kollwitz, Eva Hesse, Anselm Keifer… But I narrowed down to artists whose work I respect AND find visually compelling, evocative, inspirational…

(In no particular order)

Albrecht Durer – printmaker and painter. 1471-1528. 

Melencolia by Durer Young Hare by Durer

Melencolia I             1514.                   Young Hare                         1503. 


Franz von Stuck – Symbolist and Expressionist painter. 1863 – 1928

von Stuck's Spring  von Stuck's Sin

Spring                    1909                        Sin                               1893. 


Emil Nolde – German Expressionist painter. 1867 – 1956

Nolde Nolde's Moonlit night

The Sea                                                Moonlit Night                   1914. 


Kurt Schwitters – Dada and Surrealist painter and collage artist. 1887 – 1948. 

Schwitter's Miss Blanche Schwitters collage

Merz231 Miss Blanche 1923 Merzbild – for Alf Gaudenzi


Karl Blossfeldt – photographer. 1865-1932. 

Blossfeldt Blossfeldt


Sulamith Wulfing – painter and illustrator. 1901 – 1989. 



Hope you enjoyed that ecclectic sampler. Stay tuned tomorrow to see my piece. And I will tell you – all that I have posted in the last 2 posts – not what influenced my piece at all. Hmm. What a tease…


FaerieCon m.a.g.i.c – I is for inspiration



a : a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation b : the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions c : the act of influencing or suggesting opinions
: the act of drawing in; specifically : the drawing of air into the lungs
a : the quality or state of being inspired b : something that is inspired 
: an inspiring agent or influence
Well – FaerieCon to me seems to be all of the above! While this may seem obvious…When you attend any event and have the opportunity to meet artists and authors whose work you are familiar with, work you admire, of course it is inspirational. There can be  moments of star-struck tongue tied amazement, when you meet someone who has influenced your work, your outlook on life… (I had never dreamed I would meet and chat with Brian and Wendy Froud years ago as I showed “Labyrinth” to my 6th grade art students. Like in the early 90’s… a while ago! And some of those same students have now met the Frouds as well, with yet another generation in tow. Oh heavens!) At my first FaerieCon I was struck with the openness and generosity of the VIP’s – they were so accessible and giving of their time and energy. That continues to this day and it creates an atmosphere that is charged with energy. Where the air drawn into your lungs IS inspiration, coming from the community of like minded highly creative people gathered for fun, frolic, music, and mayhem. 
This is an atmosphere ripe with cross pollination. There is a print of Linda Ravenscroft’s called “Daughter of Avalon” inspired by the song “Rose Red” by Woodland.
Ravenscroft Avalon
Gorgeous in its own right, and more magical when you know the song… I have a tile design for a Gyspy vardo that is buzzing around my head, anxious to emerge in clay – inspired by “Caravan” by Frenchy and the Punk of course. Perhaps in time for next year?   Inspirational conversations spark up at any moment; a chat with Noelle and Stephanie about sculpture materials has me pondering sculpting skulls and bones. (And to Stephanie – the acorn! Many thanks. I will create a piece that does it justice…)
I am very fortunate to have met and developed friendships with amazing artists and creative people, growing from an initial encounter  at FaerieCon. Last year I struck up a conversation with Helena Nelson-Reed, whose work I had been drawn to for years. Her ethereal yet detailed watercolors are so rich with hidden images and symbols, they are dreamworlds in which I could lose myself. Mystical and spiritual, they continue to reveal hidden images and meaning to me over time. There is so much soul and passion inherent in her work; I was honored to meet her and thrilled to continue our friendship over social media. Through Helena I also met Antony Galbraith, a mythic painter and sculptor. His work is intense, powerful – images from myth and archetype. So often you meet new friends and talk long into the night swapping personal histories. sharing experiences. With Helena and Antony we have a friendship based on artwork, recognizing themes and beliefs each in the other, meeting on common ground through myth and metaphor. We were able to sit down Sunday morning to talk about the challenges one faces as a proffesional working artist, the long hours, the demands of family incroaching on studio time, the solitude. It is so valuable to have like minded souls in one’s life, and I am thankful to them for their sharing, their camraderie, and their friendship. We were joined by Charles Vess, and chatted companionably about art spaces, art retreats, collaborative works… and tricksters! Truly the most inspirational coffee and slice of lemon cake I have ever had!
And the authors! This year’s FaerieCon hosted the talents of: Carolyn Turgeon, Charles deLint, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman and Melissa Marr, among others. 
DeLint cover
“Dreams Underfoot” was the first Charles deLint book I ever read. The cover states – “Myth, music, and magic, and dreams underfoot…This is a book that you will never forget.” So true! (And cover art be Terri Windling! Fairy goddess-mother of the mythic arts, she is often called.)  I have been avidly reading anything that deLint writes since then. This book is a collection of  short stories set in the town of Newford, where magic and myth are woven into the lives and histories of contemporary characters. Modern day, urban fantasy. So fantastical and magical, yet so real – a place I would love to live. To those of you that know Newford – my dream would be to show in a group exhibit with Jilly! His work is a visual feast to me, and a source of inspiration. 
As is the work of Carolyn Turgeon. A friend gave me “Godmother” which I loved, then “Mermaid” which is incredible… a completely new enchanting vision of the Little Mermaid’s tale. Prince, mermaid, princess – a triangle of complex relationships with depth and grace. I look forward to her upcoming middle grade book “Under the Moon” about a girl who discovers her mother was a swan maiden. And regardless of any bookstore classifications – I will read them all! She crafts a well written, thoughtful enchanting tale – I recommend them!
Mermaid cover
Turgeon cover
After I read “Mermaid” I was in the studio creating siren themed jewelry. I wonder what the next book will inspire?!
I could go on. FaerieCon in a unique place, away from home, where one feels completely at home. Where the novice and the mentor can talk, where mediums influence and inspire each other, where like minded people share ideas and magic. It feeds my soul. Thank you one and all. 


A to Z: background

( Sorry. I was sick last Friday. So this is the first of two “B” entries. I will catch up soon – since I have so many letters and only so many weeks…)

a : the conditions that form the setting within which something is experienced (1) : the circumstances or events antecedent to a phenomenon or development (2) : information essential to understanding of a problem or situation c : the total of a person’s experience, knowledge, and education. 

When I made the original list, ‘Background’ wasnt on it. But it has been on my mind of late. How did I get here? How am I a sum of all my experiences? How has my work has evolved over time? How have friends and colleagues of mine enter the creative life – early or late? How did a particular artist get to where they are now? What is their background, experience, training?  Where did they start? When did they discover their path?  Hard work? Knowing the right people? Vagaries of fate? 

(One element of my musings delves in to craft vs art. Artist vs craftsperson. Art training or self taught? For now, that is something I am keeping to myself. Its a treacherous topic at times. I am not Pandora to open that particular box today. )

But to honor this curiosity – to look back on the road I have traveled… I thought I would revisit  parts of my background.

I was making and drawing quite a lot – as I remember it – as a child. I was encouraged, moderately. I never had lessons of any type, but my family was receptive and encouraging. I had quite a bit of freedom to explore in High school. Painting, enameling, ceramics… and the freedom to work independently. While that thrilled me no end – my interest and creative drive that earned me the freedom,  at times it meant that I was  missing out on the fundamentals. I wasn’t honing my drawing skills in still life compositions, I wasn’t finessing my paint handling abilities. And while that may have been a bit of a detriment as I entered my freshman year as an Art major at Skidmore – I had chosen a Liberal Arts college to nurture the Renaissance woman in me.  Strong in the visual arts, but not to the exclusion of literature, history, mythology and the like. I could make up for lost time. 

college pntg  

I thrived in the art building, my second home. I was an art geek, working long hours, switching from one studio to the next to complete work.  I had the foundation classes in design, drawing and painting. I designed and printed textiles, I threw pots and sculpted, I wove tapestries, I fabricated and cast jewelry in metal. I studied in London; painting and photography. I sampled Classics, mythology, women’s studies, I devoured  Art history tomes, and nibbled on poems. (Can I admit this was the era before the Internet? That puts it in perspective, huh? ) How wonderful to live and breathe, and sleep and eat art and Art History?!

My Senior show – the culmination of my learning and experience… my best artistic offerings to date – Paintings, a suite of photos, and Celtic inspired pieces, brooches and a bracelet. Very much influenced by my time in England, but that is another post!

Celtic brooch 1 Celtic brooch 2

I dont paint much anymore. For years I thought it was my medium. I was teaching Art full time, and not doing much of my own work…

Pomegranate series

I applied to Grad school. And I was rejected – twice. The Universe tried to make it clear, very clear, that oil paint wasnt my chosen medium. The rejection from the painting program at MICA led me to the Ceramics studio. And in a summer of throwing, sculpting, glazing, and firing – my first shrine came to be. 

Early ceramic shrine

( Not technically the first, but an early ceramic shrine from the MICA years…)

Thank you rejection. I am very happy working in mixed media – with all the materials I could ever think to incorporate. I no longer need turpentine, and linseed oil, and brush cleaner, and canvas stretcher bars. I am glad you led me to this place. 

I am proud of my experiences and my accomplishments. I am thankful that I recognized my creative self in my youth, and that it was recognized in me by others. Recognized, nurtured, pursued…  I value my college study immensely. I have a strong foundation, an informed perspective, a wealth of experience. I have been creating, making art, studying art my entire life. I respect the artists who come to art later – switching careers, finding a new path, and embarking on it as an adult. But it is a very different place to be, to speak from, to create from – when you have been seeing, thinking, studying, doing… for your whole adult life. This creative path, a creative self isnt who or what I have come to be. It is where I have always been.