I. Images For A Better World: Julie LONNEMAN, Visual Artist
Julie Lonneman would not describe herself as an activist. Her social concerns are manifested in her everyday life choices, such as using public transportation, shopping at thrift stores and farm markets, composting, and planting wildlife-friendly native plants in her yard. In the early 80’s, however, when the City of Cincinnati decided to build a waste-to-energy incinerator near the site of the ELDA landfill close to where she and her family then lived, and knowing that the incinerator would emit dioxins toxic to breathe, she helped found a coalition of neighbors to oppose its implementation. They succeeded in convincing the city that recycling was a better choice both economically and environmentally, and as a result the incinerator project was abandoned. Lonneman still experiences a strong sense of satisfaction whenever she sees Cincinnati’s recycling trucks on their rounds.
Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Lonneman arrived in Cincinnati in 1976 with a newly minted BFA from the University of Dayton and a desire to live and work here. A marker mockup of a shoe ad that she had created for her portfolio serendipitously led her to a position in the art department at U.S. Shoe, where co-workers taught her the finer points of graphic design.
Knowing she did not want to spend her career enticing people to buy more shoes, two years later Lonneman landed a position as an art director at St. Anthony Messenger Press, where she worked in publication design for a total of eighteen years. Still a fine artist at heart, she would often incorporate her own drawings in her design work, and eventually went freelance in order to focus more on illustration. Lonneman’s work has been widely published and her clients have included, among others, Crossroads and HarperCollins. Her career as an illustrator has generally satisfied her, much of her work having explored themes she cared about.
During the past decade, Lonneman shifted to producing more fine art, mainly printmaking. Tiger Lily Press, a local printmaking co-op, has proven to be an invaluable resource to her. In 2008, an individual artist’s grant from the City of Cincinnati provided her major encouragement in this direction at a time when her illustration business was contracting along with the economy. The grant allowed her to produce and show a series of ten relief prints documenting the stretch of Knowlton Street between Hamilton and Crawford Avenues in Northside near her studio. Her aim in the print series was to communicate her fascination with a somewhat overlooked corner of the city, and at the same time pay homage to the beauty present in the midst of a very ordinary streetscape.
Beginning in 2009, and especially since 2014, Lonneman’s printmaking has taken a dramatic turn away from the stark values and the narrative quality of her woodcuts and linocuts. She has been producing richly textured collagraphs originally inspired by her visit to a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Thailand, Ayutthaya, a Siamese kingdom founded in the mid fourteenth century. By the sixteenth century, Ayutthaya had become one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the East, and in 1767, it was besieged and ransacked by the Burmese. Lonneman found the haunting ruins much more visually and emotionally compelling than the multitude of perfect golden statues and temples she had seen everywhere else on her trip.
For several years prior to this experience, she had wanted to do a series based on broken Buddha statues as a statement on impermanence, but it never quite gelled. At Ayutthaya, she found herself surrounded by countless remnants of Buddha statues—legs, torsos, and heads—many stacked up to create quite poignant new figures. They spoke to her of human resilience in the face of inevitable loss and have since inspired her work. The resulting images are not all broken Buddhas; some are cairns and some, standing stones.
The plates for these new collagraphs are simple cardboard cut-outs textured with a thick coat of gesso to which Lonneman applies grit (usually carborundum) to create more texture and tonal values. The plates are then sealed before being inked, wiped, and printed in various configurations. Some of them are embellished with embossing. The resulting individual pieces, even though still prints, are not bound by the traditional restraints of creating an edition of virtually identical images.
This is a radical departure from the narrative subjects and the black and white or limited values of the relief work that Lonneman had been most closely associate with. The emphasis on shape rather than line, the increasing abstraction, the nuanced values and rich textures, and the freedom and playfulness of creating a variable edition in which no two prints are alike all seem significant to her. Lonneman may be exploring inner rather than outer reality at this point in her life.
Lonneman lives in College Hill with her husband Bill, who teaches nursing at Mount St. Joseph University. They are empty nesters with one daughter in Seattle and the other recently moved to Thailand.
This image of St. Francis of Assisi depicts him embracing a leper. Earlier in his life Francis was repulsed by lepers and avoided them at all cost. After his conversion he went out of his way to seek them out. Lonneman has used the image to emphasize that we also must face—even embrace—our personal pain and brokenness and that of the world if we hope to heal ourselves and others.
In ‘Song of Creation’ a dying St. Francis composes his great Canticle of the Sun praising all of creation. Lonneman created this print and the previous image for Franciscans Network’s Human Rights dinner.
Part of Lonneman’s Knowlton Street series created for the Cincinnati individual artist’s grant, the image of ‘Community Garden’ was inspired by a sign in the community garden behind The Village Green in Northside.
While taking reference photos for her Knowlton Street series, Lonneman happened upon a woman tending the garden in this pocket park, with her chair on the sidewalk. She was so busy weeding that she didn’t notice being photographed. Lonneman had before often noticed with gratitude the flowers in this little park and always wondered who took the time to bring that little patch of beauty into the passersbys’ lives. Lonneman had done this sort of work in her old neighborhood and knew that it can often be a thankless task.
Broken pieces of Buddha statues in Thailand inspired this collagraph that Lonneman relates to the resilience of the human spirit. In the face of impermanence and loss, we humans pick up the pieces and try to rebuild. The barely discernible anthropomorphic shapes of the stones suggest injury to human beings as well as the destruction of the natural and cultural world.
In ‘Meditation’ Lonneman attempts to communicate the peace of sitting in silence. Her use of blue and gray tones in subtle gradations, infused with white light, is intended to evoke serenity in the viewer.
The cairn represented in ‘Levitation’ can be interpreted as a figure, with the floating head an indication of quieting the mind. The transparency of the bottom two stones adds to a sense of unreality. The background also incorporates a labyrinth, for Lonneman a personal symbol of searching.
Throughout the ages and across cultures, people have assigned spiritual meaning to the practice of rock stacking. The transparent stones and gravity-defying compositions in Lonneman’s print ‘Cairn’ suggest transcendence of material reality.
Lonneman created the ‘Prints for Peace and Justice’ linocut in 2013 at the request of Tiger Lily Press to promote their juried exhibition, Prints for Peace and Justice, held in conjunction with SOS Art 2013. Inspired by the revolutionary art of the last century, she depicted a hand holding a printing roller, elevated in the manner of a raised fist to symbolize the power of the visual arts to promote social change.
II. Words For A Better World: Carol FEISER LAQUE, Literary Artist
Carol Feiser Laque, born in San Francisco, CA, lived in Cincinnati, OH, from 1966 until 2010 when she relocated to Chicago to be near her daughter; before she was 21, she had lived in16 different homes. Laque attended Wittenburg University where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree studying music, English and Humanities; at the University of Cincinnati, she obtained a Master of Arts degree in English followed by an interdisciplinary, self-designed Doctorate (PhD) in writing. Her dissertation thesis titled “A Laboratory Approach to Writing” was published by the National Council of Teachers of English and has been used since in many classrooms. At UC, Laque later taught comparative literature, writing, and women’s studies; she also taught at Xavier University.
In 1976, to celebrate the Bicentennial and in honor of Emily Dickinson, Laque founded Circumference Press to publish the works of Cincinnati poets. At the same time, with Juan Valencia, she directed poetry therapy groups at the Lighthouse (a shelter for homeless children) and at Longview State Hospital. In 1989, she founded the Poetry Critique Workshop for the Cincinnati Writers Project.
Referring to her own poetry, Laque describes it as the silent music of the mind, music she hears when she poetizes. Living in a culture where seeing is believing, her poetic vision is instead “believing is seeing,” and that the poet has always to take a leap of faith in a world that in fact nobody owns, and which is not for sale. Laque also states that she is ‘Midnight Noon,’ midnight referring to the indivisibility of light/darkness, terror/joy, sane/insane, integrity/ integration, an endless symphony…
Writing poems, Laque records them on stones, watching sundial seasons, her pen traveling on parallel places. She takes a longer view as she dances in ruby slippers to celebrate Anne Frank, the teenaged Dutch writer whose diary survived the Holocaust. In her own words: “I savor the fury of the birds, stitch jazzwork quilts, set sonatas on fire and then plant them in my garden. I make snow angels inside a house of rain, and commune with fleshly bread, with nervous wine. I dress up in fire and Queen Anne’s lace. Mapping water, I record the story of bees. My job is to celebrate: to poetize.”
Laque was the 1st recipient of the Post Corbett award in the Literary Arts (1981). The City of Cincinnati Recreation Commission proclaimed her Poet Laureate of Hyde Park (1984-5) and in 1986 she was the featured poet in Pudding Magazine. In 2010 Laque was awarded the lifetime achievement award from the Cincinnati Writers Project titled Sky Blue the Badass Award after Dallas Wiebe’s nationally known novel of the same title. The prize was in recognition of her contributions to the literary arts. She has published numerous collections of poetry in small presses from California to Virginia to Ohio, among them her latest book Poetize.
In addition to her passion for poetry, Laque has also a passion for music. She shared solo and choral singing with many musicians, and played saxophone at symphony.
At the end of the day, however, Laque’s favorite class always remains Recess.
1. In her poem “Chicken Little” Laque makes a statement about poetry and how it prepares the spirit to endure falling skies which otherwise would destroy life; and how by naming the forces of destruction one diminishes their power. For her, the real news is the heart of peace, and nature inside each of us. Thus, we should ignore the mighty who would destroy, and instead create beauty as the world’s graffiti, always making ‘Overground’ rather than ‘Underground.’
2. In “The Hero” Laque wanted to point out that when we talk of “wounded warriors” we often duck to avoid remains of the war’s dead. War in reality is about power, money, rape; it is Birth and Rebirth control.
3. In “Revelation” Laque reflects on how, in our society, the pursuit of greed prevails and how the destroyers, prophets for profit, are perfectly ‘sane’ while the poets remain our precious ‘madness.’ The truth ends up being locked up, starved, shot, raped and destroyed. By saying ‘Wishing I were God’ Laque does not mean power and control, rather unconditional love.
4. “First Communion” addresses how hierarchical institutions often destroy the small, the vulnerable, the innocent; and how in our world the glittering, convivial bestiality of power nourishes itself on child trafficking from parishes to entire countries; and how the power players run it, fund it, devour living children. For Laque this represents systemic terrorizing.
5. Laque is an abolitionist and a radical who wants to redefine “white” as good and “black” as evil as currently engrained in our western society, a dialectic on which is based an entire language. A black hand and a white hand in Praying Hands (Laque’s concept of Midnight Noon) can transform the way we see and say; and that is revolutionary.
6. Those who own newspapers, TV stations, Real Estates, own “Truth” in the news. As a result the little guy is silenced, invisible, non-existent. The cameras need blood, commercials and sex to make money; that is the truth they face and diffuse.
7. Laque’s poem “Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely…” is her rant, chant, sermon, lecture.
8. As long as there are poets to find what is lost and to portray civility, those who starved building cathedrals and pyramids can be regained. Nothing – not death itself – can erase integrity and those hard working in the everyday amidst joys and sorrows. Laque considers herself a poet prisoner of hope.
9. For Laque, Eve is the “Tree of Life,” and to blame her for the “Fall” of humanity would equal celebrating the “Tree of No Ledge” i.e. the outcome of knowledge without sharing, compassion, love. Eve needs to be re-mythologized.