Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Art Teachers - Carol & Diane

The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure. - Baryshnikov

We've been to slumber parties, on band trips, were both sopranos in swing choir, involved in class plays, sat in the same classrooms and even walked together at graduation, but who'd have guessed all those years ago that Carol and I would both become art teachers.
Carol and I are now both bloggers. We started our blogs the same day this summer and have connected again after all these years, sharing our ups and downs, art and activites, memories and moments in our lives via our blogs. She's only an e-mail away. Carol gave me kudos on her blog today so I'm returning the recognition right back at her. S. Freud said, "When inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it." Thanks Carol for meeting me halfway.
Art teachers are great collaborators, we search for that impromptu opportunity that sparks a light in someones eye, allowing students to search for different approaches, we're easily inspired and hope to be inspiring to others.

Photos: Carol and I in junior high, high school and a couple reunion photos since then in the mix too.

The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery. - Sir Francis Bacon

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Linda Jo

My cousin Linda has brought our family smiles and joy throughout her life. Born in 1950, she had fluid on her brain. Hydrocephalus, the medical term for this condition, occurs in one out of 500 births. Linda lives in Custer, SD. She has lost movement of her limbs and is blind, but she still enjoys a trip home to my Auntie Carol's and Uncle Wes's home for an over-night stay. Her loves are a good cup of coffee and listening to old I Love Lucy shows. She likes a good knock knock joke and lives in the past much of the time now. Recently she lost the ability to sing, a one time love, she can no longer hold a tune and can't remember all the words to long time favorites. The fluid in her brain stem is drying up. It's tough to hear of her struggles although she never complains. She's on my prayer list, add her to yours tonight too. Thank you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


A chance for a family photo back in 1968. Mom and Dad were going out, all dressed up, Blondie joined in for the smiles. Things I notice in there are the spinning wheel, we'd spin and spin that thing, I don't think we ever really spun wool on it but I imagined someone in days of old doing just that. It's moved to the landing going upstairs. The B & W TV/Stereo is behind the rocker, it's so huge! This is where I played my first records, danced to American Bandstand. The sofa, couch, davenport, wonder how those names all came to be? This was the longest one I've ever seen. It could fit 6 people in days when you visited neighbors and families got together often. It was a place to lay when you were sick, get back scratches and rubs from Grandma and fight for a corner when watching TV. The living room has changed so since then, but I guess 40 years deserves some change.

In 1967 we took a vacation to Yellowstone with our neighbors the Dieters. At the Black Hills the two groups split up and we stayed a few days longer at a camp ground. This was before our relatives all moved out to The Hills and little did we know they would buy land less than a mile from this camp ground near Hill City, SD. Here we are dressed in camping gear. I love Dad's see-through plastic apron protecting him as he cooked and notice the trunk of the Cadillac being used as a clothes line. Joe got cut by a can in a creek here and after arriving back home in Larchwood he was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night with blood poisoning.

The front steps of Grandma Johnson's house in Sioux Falls in 1960. It's us four Johnson kids and cousin Robin Whitcher. I love the boy's hats and how Steve looks like a little man straightening his tie.

Our favorite summer activities were outside. Mom made this one happen for us. She'd hook the garden hose up in the ladder and we'd run through the spray of water. It looks like Steve took over the hose and the rest of us have buckets trying to catch the water for a waterfight. If you listen hard you can hear the joyful sounds of screams of laughter and fun from more than 45 years ago.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Altered Book Page

My Art 1 students did a different project this week. We took a page from a book and they had to find a sentence or group of words on the page by circling those words and then using mixed media, create a new work of art. I don't always get the projects completed with the kids, but this time I did. It was fun and a chance to get them to think out of the box.

My circled words say: "ignored, held up in the human mind, please notice the light."

Check out some of the students work on our art gallery blog.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's FRIDAY!!!

Denver High School - this is the opposite side of the building than my room is on. It's a large one level school attached to a middle school and 3rd - 5th grade buildings on the far side. It's easy to get mixed up in on your first visit. It's been a busy week for me (teachers, aren't they all?) with a Monday in-service, Tuesday night class from 4:30-9 pm. and today was the end of the quarter. To add a little mix to it all, my kiln hasn't been working right and trying to fire clay pieces for a middle school exploratory class that ended today was a struggle. I've loaded and unloaded that thing every day and had to baby sit it through the firings, staying late at night. Add grading, parent contacts, applying for a grant, sorting donated items, putting unit supplies away, getting new ones out, getting kids to blog on our art gallery blog, a detention kid, lesson plans, adding grades onto the computer,... you start to wonder whether you're coming or going. To top it all, I got stopped for speeding after school on Tuesday! It's a 20 mph zone and you can't put your foot on the pedal and stay at 20 (I've tired), you have to coast away from school. Luckily I talked the town cop out of it or he decided an old, tired teacher in a dirty old station wagon wasn't worth it.
Tonight I rest, before tackling all the stuff I've put off each night all week this weekend. I've got the makings for some homemade soup I'll put in the crock pot and I'll have my pjs on before 8 and probably be asleep by 9! What a wild life I lead... :-) Wishing you a relaxing weekend too!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Altered Book

An altered book is any book, old or new that has been recycled by creative means into a work of art. This is a double post from my Denver Art Gallery Blog. One of my senior art students is working on an altered book for the first time. I'm so impressed by her creative approach to this new art expression for her.
Sarah explains about her pages in the following artist statements. "I've been working on an altered book for Studio Art, the pages are inspired by a few favorite songs, and each one has a theme. The page contains a line from the song Sophomore slump or comeback of the year and has a burning city and a marching Majorette. This was the first time I ever attempted artwork on a page so it was still new, I like the feather I used for the grass and the burned city the best.""This page was based around the song Northern Downpour by Panic at the Disco. I love the pieces of mirror and broken glass in the waves and by the boys feet, the glitter stars and the crumpled letter also make me smile. The wave and the ground I painted also came together pretty well." *Sarah

Sarah's still working on more pages to her book. The photos don't really do it justice. It makes me want to work on my own altered book... It's great when students inspire me! My friend Beth introduced me to Altered Books years ago. I've got the things gathered, just have to find the time to devote to it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Photos By Steve

Sharing some of my brother Steve's photos with you.

Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park, CA, 2004.
Steve hiked here in 2004. Mt. Watkins is reflected in the water. Mirror Lake is turning into Mirror Meadow, (a natural process common with mountain lakes). It is only a "lake" in the spring and early summer. After that, it becomes "Mirror Puddle" then "Mirror Sandbar".

Hearst Castle Gardens, CA, 2006.
I put the words on the photo.

The Sphinx, Egypt, 2005.
Steve and his friend Rebecca went to Egypt in January of 2005 on a trip with the University of Fresno. He loved this trip and all he saw and experienced. Here is the Great Sphinx of Giza (c. 2500 BC) in front of one of the Great Pyramids. My Dad has always had an interest in the pyramids so Steve especially enjoyed sharing his trip with Dad. He wanted to go back someday...

Kings Canyon National Park, CA, 2006.
Steve and I were together when he took this photo of a hidden waterfall we found back away from the main road. I remember he had to walk through some mist from the waterfall to get into position, the rush of the water was quite loud and I remember worrying he would slip on the wet rocks he was climbing over. We were excited about finding this unexpected view.

Yosemite National Park, CA, November 2003.
Probably taken on one of Steve's first visits to Yosemite. He e-mailed this shot back to family after a day of exploring and hiking the trails. I wonder if the clouds contain winter snow at the top of the mountains.

Hearst Castle Gardens, CA, 2006.
Steve's camera had all the filters, lenses and attachments and he could get the close ups of the flowers so beautifully.

The Johnsons, Mesa, AZ, 2006.
Christmas Day, our last Christmas with all six of us together. We're on the patio at Mom and Dad's winter home in Mesa Spirits. We had all just gone swimming and were all dried off and ready to smile. Steve set up his tripod and took this shot.

Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.
Pope Paul VI

Friday, October 10, 2008

Takes Your Breath Away

Kids, some of the things they do just leave you speechless. We can watch a sleeping baby for hours and feel the love and wonder of God's miracle or see a toddler perform on cue and think we need to catch a photo of that, to prove to them it happened once. Probably for that reason, Mom took this photo of the Johnson kids in the tub in 1958.
You have to admit, we're kind of cute in there.

There's nothing better than coming home. This is a view of my parents home from the top of the driveway. The house is on top of a hill so you don't get the full effect of being home until you reach this point in the driveway.

Uppsala, Sweden. Our group of four stopped in Uppsala in 2001, to visit with my Swedish brothers from my student exchange days in 1975. We stopped at Uppsala and connected with them and their families for an evening. They took us sightseeing before having a family reunion outside of the city. This view as the sun sets takes me back to that day.

In Stockholm we decided to ride the subway back to our hotel after a long day of sightseeing. It was only about 4 blocks to our hotel but we decided we were tired and would explore the underground railway which had a station stop underneath our hotel. Little did we realize, was that we traveled down level after level until our laughter wouldn't stop with the steep escalators going down, down, down to meet our train. We figured we went down as far as we could have walked to our hotel! They were the longest, steepest excalators I've ever seen, one after another.

Paco Rosic's spray can art interpretation of the Sistine Chapel in Waterloo, IA. Yes, this ceiling was painted with spray cans of paint! It's even more amazing to see in person.

Maybe it's the farm girl in me that has led me to appreciate nature. It's a simple lizard climbing a brick wall. I wonder if it knew I was there taking it's photo or if it even cared.

The Sioux River Falls in Sioux Falls. The power and magic of waterfalls, I'm fascinated by waterfalls. I love watching the water fly over the rocks and have searched out waterfalls wherever I travel. Luckily this one is close to "home".

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Class of 76

My school years have passed by faster than I care to admit at times. I went to school in Larchwood, Alvord and the "new" rural West Lyon Community school with an Inwood, IA, address. Graduating in 1976, our Bicentennial year, we were the red, white and blue class.
My class has a reunion every five years over the 4th of July weekend, but we keep in touch via e-mails, a class web site and when a few of us are able to meet up. These people are life long friends, the best kind. When we get together it's as if the years melt away.
The web site we have is easy to keep up and helps keep us informed on what's going on in each others lives. Take a look at our site,, and decide to make one for your class. It's available for any class in any state (free), give it a try!
A few views from my school years...

Left: The kindergarten bunnies in Larchwood, IA.

Right: Roxane and Diane in a photo booth.

Left: A slumber party at Tami's in 1971.

Right: Another slumber party, this time at Diane's in 1972.

Left: Lori and Diane at Countdown 1974.

Right: 1974 Junior Class Play, Rest Assured. I was a poor peasant.

Left: I was lucky to go on three big band trips. Here is a group of us at Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills in 1976.

The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.
~E. Foley

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Brohemmet, Ljung, Östergötland, Sweden

Built in the 1700's, the old home in Sweden is still standing, but a new house was built behind it. The new house is also named Brohemmet.

The Swedish-English translation of Brohemmet is Bridge Home. The river Motala Ström seperates Brohemmet from the Ljung parish church. So I imagine it was the home nearest the bridge to cross the river.
Above: the Ljung Castle and bridge across the river in the distance, taken from the driveway to Brohemmet.
When our ancestors lived in Brohemmet the owners of Ljung, were until 1862, the von Fersen family (they went bankrupt) and then the von Mecklenburg family bought the estate. They sold Ljung in 1906. Then the Lindström family bought it and sold it again in the 1920's to the Möller family. The brother of the owner of Ljung's estate is the one who has built and lives in the new Brohemmet, just behind the old house, his name is Mats Nordenhed. We were so welcomed to this house because by chance I had met Inger Nyberg on a genealogy message board on-line and she is on the board of a group of women restoring and giving tours of the Ljung Castle. She is good friends with Anna Karin who lives in a house next to the Ljung Castle on the grounds. Her family is the owners of the estate. Days after touring Brohemmet, she and Inger gave us a private tour of the Ljung castle, that will have to be another posting someday.
I had seen the house from the road back in 1975 when I was an exchange student traveling with my host family, but being a shy 17 year old had never approached the then owners.
How can I explain walking through the doors of this house with my Mom, Aunt and Cousin 26 years later? A large lump formed in my throat almost immediately. The home was much larger than we expected and even large by old Swedish standards.
We all snapped photos and Robin took a few videos shots although there was some trouble with the camera. These photos are all Robins, mine are still not scanned, taken in my pre-digital days.
There were two rooms on each floor, one small and the other large. The smallest room was in front of us and the larger room to the right. The small room on the ground floor was used as a kitchen. All had their own huge fireplace.

The chimneys all met in the center of the house to radiate heat and warm the house from the center.
A curving staircase with tightly spaced steps connected in the front hallway on both floors. The current owner was using the house as an artist studio so there were paintings, easels and furnishings in the house to add to the comfort and atmosphere we experienced.

My GGG Grandfather Sven Svensson was a torpare (tenant farmer who farmed some land owned by the Ljung Estate in return for working for the estate family for a number of days by contract) at Brohemmet and died there October 8, 1860.
Sven and his wife Katerina Larsdotter had seven children born at Brohemmet, three dying under the age of one. Their oldest Sven Johan died at age 22. Their three remaining sons were Karl August, Adolph Frederik and Alfred. Karl and Adolph immigrated to the U.S. Karl and his family in 1869 and Adolph and his entire family came to the US in 3 different trips between 1887-1889. Alfred stayed in Sweden and was the master gardener at the Stjärnorp Castle. We met some of his descendants on our trip there in 2001.

There were two outbuildings still standing from the time of our ancestors. One a storage building where they most likely kept their food supplies and the other a small building to put the animals is now converted to a garden shed. The current owners are Helene and Mats (newlyweds for one month when we were visiting) had refreshments set up on the lawn and we enjoyed sitting there taking in the atmosphere and talking about the history of Brohemmet and Ljung parish. Mats had lived there since around 1994 in the new Brohemmet just north of the old house.
Brohemmet is now available for rent by the week or day! So relatives please check out the link and plan to stay there on your next trip! When searching on line I even found a link to a site from Sweden that prints Brohemmet T-shirts and caps!


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