Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Kansas Artist

Birger Sandzen's "The Bridge"
Those of you who follow my blog will recognize the painting at left, for it was previously posted in my blog about the works loaned by the Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery to the Vernon Filley Art Museum for a wonderful exhibition several months ago.  (You may also remember the blog post about the now collapsed natural bridge near Sun City which many of us remember visiting as a child.)  These blogs can be visited in the blog archives.

Farley's in Lindsborg, KS
My husband and I had intended to visit the Sandzen Gallery in Lindsborg, Kansas since that exhibition, and on a recent beautiful autumn Sunday afternoon, we finally made the trip.  We began our visit with lunch at Farley's, a delightful restaurant in downtown Lindsborg.

The Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery is located on the left just inside the Bethany College campus gates.  The 1-story Gallery was dedicated in October 1957 and includes not only the work of Sandzen but also many other well-known works by his contemporaries, as well as prints by familiar artists such as Rembrandt and Durer.  Visitors might also be surprised to discover the wonderful Chinese and Japanese collections of the museum.

Sign near entrance to campus with gallery behind sign
Surprisingly, the Sandzen Gallery admission is free; however, like many museums, donations are essential to maintain the facility and carry on the programs.  The special exhibits during our visit were the work of Maurice Bebb, for which the wonderful hard cover catalog was done by Sandzen Curator Cori Sherman North, an exhibit of glass created by native Lindsborg artist Helen Koon Gragert, now living in Oklahoma, and a delightful exhibition of self-portraits by Kansas artists.  Having just done a self-portrait myself, I particularly enjoyed seeing the range of self-portraits displayed--classic, humorous, philosophical, modern--in a variety of media.  You may enjoy them too at the Birger Sandzen Museum website, where the full show catalog with all of the self-portraits may be viewed.
Sandzen home & studio

Birger Sandzen's Studio is only steps from the back door of his former home, and the Gallery is responsible for maintaining the studio.  It was not open when we were there, but we walked around the exterior.  I was charmed by the setting, beautifully landscaped.  Look right, and you can almost picture Sandzen striding down the back steps of his house, eager to paint!

Birger Sandzen's Studio
How fortunate Kansas is to have not only the Gallery, with its impressive collections, but also the studio of Sandzen.  Naturally, the studio represents another financial responsibility for the foundation that supports both the Memorial Gallery and the Studio.

It will not surprise any of you who follow my blog to know that we left with books from the Gallery gift shop and tucked a little more into the donation box to help support the Gallery & Studio.  If you are interested in learning more, you may visit their website.  The Sandzen Gallery has been particularly generous to the Pratt community in loaning the works to the Filley for the "Kansas Ties" exhibition of August 22 through November 30, 2014.  Many people in the Pratt area are collectors, and some of Sandzen's work is currently on display at the Filley Art Museum.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

P. S. to Libraries

I just discovered that September 25-October 1 is Banned Books Week.  I thought that was interesting, since this week's blog features the importance of books, libraries, and librarians!  The article I read said that this year the emphasis focuses on the importance of diversity in children's books.  A review showed that only 10% of published children's books have multicultural content.  That is not reflective of our population.  As for banned books, many popular books have appeared on that list over the years, including "The Wizard of Oz"!  Since my post shows my husband reading from "The Wizard of Oz" I thought it was worth mentioning that sometimes well-intentioned people  get a little carried away when it comes to banning books.  That is another instance in which the role of librarians can be so important!

Maybe that banning is why the Scarecrow looks so perplexed!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Libraries Make the Difference!

Reading Oz in Macksville Grade School Library
Whatever the cost of our libraries the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.  --Walter Cronkite

Isaac B. Werner left family behind to build a new life in the West, and as a young druggist he prioritized the acquisition of a fine library at the top of his list for spending saved cash.  When he decided to move further west to claim a homestead and timber claim in Kansas, he managed to find a way to ship his impressive library to his prairie home. 

His collection of books included a wide range of subjects, including law, penmanship, history, art, literature, biography, travel, politics, elocution, grammar, medicine, and other topics.  (See "Isaac's Library," 2/2/2012; "Who Reads Shakespeare," 5/30/2013; and "Art in Isaac's Life," 1/22/2014, in the blog archives.)  Isaac was a serious reader.  As I have indicated in other blogs, I attempted to purchase some of the titles Isaac had owned, buying the oldest editions I could find to better represent the editions he owned.  The scholarly content of most of the books he collected stand as evidence that he was a sincere autodidact.  See "Isaac, the Autodidact," 11-13-2014 in the Blog Archives.
Summer program in Macksville City Library

"...[W]hen a library is open, no matter its size or shape, democracy is open too."  --Bill Moyers

One of Isaac's ideas was to establish a library in the County Seat of St. John, where farmers and populists could go to study.  His local Farmer's Alliance did establish a library in the Emerson School where they met.  Isaac built the book cupboard, and members, strapped for cash as they were, voted an assessment to purchase books.  Much of the library was gifted by Isaac from his own collection, however.

Today we are fortunate to have access to books, whether we are rich or poor.  Schools have libraries, and in Isaac's old community there are fine public libraries in St. John, Pratt, Stafford, and even the small town of Macksville.

"The Public Library once an ode to the glory of our most democratic institutions and a culturally necessary prompt to defend them like we would defend our freedom to live, learn, and be--a freedom to which the library is our highest celebration."  --Maria Popova

Used book store in Philadelphia
Today we are also fortunate to have easy access to books through the internet, whether we are ordering books for our own libraries or reading e-books or excerpts available online.  What is less available online, however, is the guidance of librarians.  

"I see them as healers and magicians.  Librarians can tease out of inarticulate individuals enough information about what they are after to lead them onto the path of connection.  They are trail guides through the forest of shelves and aisles--you turn a person loose who has limited skills, and he'll be walloped by the branches.  But librarians match up readers with the right books."  --Anne Lamott

Statistics show that fewer people read books today, finding their entertainment and information elsewhere, and libraries are trying to adapt.  Not only are computers a part of modern libraries but also objects (like cake pans) may be checked out.  DVD rentals seemed to be an important part of one local library's service to the community during a recent visit that I made.

"The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community."  --Paula Poundstone

The ability to check out unconventional things at the local library may not seem to serve the ideals expressed in the foregoing quotes, but a library containing the most incredible books ever written serves no purpose unless people come to the library to read those books.  When Laura Bush said, "I have found the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card," I doubt that she was referring to the ability to check out things other than books.  Yet, perhaps the visitor that comes for a cake pan will leave with an armload of cookbooks, or the child that checks out a movie will discover books about that historic period or movie theme--especially if the librarian is a good "trail guide" with time to direct the visitor to appealing books.

Take a book/Leave a book in Pratt, KS
For Norman Cousins, "A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life."  Sadly, no ideas will be born if the library does not attract readers.  Imagine the excitement of children attending the country schools of Isaac's community in the late 1800s if they entered any one of the public libraries today's residents enjoy.

Libba Bray expresses the potential that many of us have come to take for granted:  "The library card is a passport to wonders and miracles, glimpses into other lives, religions, experiences, the hopes and dreams and striving of ALL human beings, and it is this passport that opens our eyes and hearts to the world beyond our front doors, that is one of our best hopes against tyranny, xenophobia, hopelessness, despair, anarchy, and ignorance..."

Isaac and his neighbors who settled the Kansas prairie knew that.

(P.S. for Pratt area residents:  After several months of renovations the Pratt Library is planning to reopen for adult and teen sections on October 24th.  The library will be closed Oct. 17-22 to move the book collection into the new locations. That will accomplish Phase I and II, with Phase III scheduled for the end of the year.) 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

May I Borrow Your Sewing Machine?

Ad from County Capital
The ad at right is from the County Capital published in St. John, KS.  Isaac B. Werner subscribed to that newspaper, and one day as he was returning home from St. John he stopped at a neighbor's home to borrow their sewing machine.  I do not know what kind of a machine he borrowed, but it is possible that whatever it was may have been purchased from Gray & Company in St. John, the local dealer.

Neither do I know why Isaac needed to borrow a sewing machine.  However, as a bachelor homesteader, Isaac would have needed to do his own mending.  I doubt that he made his own clothing, although he was so handy at doing anything he chose to do that he probably could have been a tailor.  More likely, he borrowed the sewing machine to patch his old clothing.  There wasn't much spare cash for buying anything new!

Quilt block & picture of quilt
You may recall that in my recent blog, "Waiting & Rejection" I said I would spend time learning to use my 'new' but untried sewing machine to take my mind off of waiting to hear from a publisher to whom I submitted a proposal.  Well, I kept my commitment, but after sitting unused for 2 1/2 years, the machine would not start.  Back to the store it went, and a new circuit board was installed.  My quilting project is now underway.  All the pieces are cut, and the first block is sewn.  The finished quilt alternates pieced blocks creating a cross shape and appliqued blocks of a bunch of flowers tied with a ribbon.  

Some of my quilting fabric
Apparently September has been designated Quilting Month for 2016, at least a website I visited made that claim.  That is a wonderful excuse for me to spend time at my "new" sewing machine and to take some classes to learn how to use it.

I like to make scrap quilts, using leftover fabrics that would otherwise have no purpose.  Since I no longer make garments, my collection of scraps is stagnant; however, I doubt that I will ever use all of the scraps I have inherited from my mother, my husband's mother and grandmother, as well as from others!  

State Fair Quilt
Some of my friends make lovely quilts with perfect corners.  My quilts will never win a prize for their perfection, but they are wonderful to sleep under.  I enjoy using my imagination to find uses for my collection of scraps, and when the quilt is finished I enjoy recalling the original purpose for which the fabric was purchased or the person who shared the scrap.  I believe my sister-in-law shared the green fabric used in the block pictured above.  Even when a pattern inspires my quilt I don't follow the pattern completely.  My flowers in the quilt use yo-yos as the blossoms, with antique buttons for their centers.  I also plan to change the border.

Pat Knochel at Pratt Area Quilt Guild
I like to think of myself as following the tradition of the early prairie quilters, who made their quilts from scraps because they were thrifty and did not have the money to buy new fabric to cut up for quilt pieces.  They used their imaginations to make beautiful, one-of-a-kind quilts, as well as crazy quilts with oddly shaped pieces of fabric.  Some of their one-of-a-kind quilts were so beautiful that they were copied and became traditional patterns.  For me, using my imagination is a big part of the fun of quilting!

This week has been a busy quilting week for me.  On Monday I took Lesson 1 from my wonderful teacher Michelle Nichols and gained a lot of confidence about using my new machine.  Tuesday we attended the Kansas State Fair and, as always, I enjoyed seeing all of the beautiful quilts.  One of my favorites was the crazy quilt pieces in circles placed on a black background.  We returned home in time for me to be a guest at the Pratt Area Quilt Guild's meeting at which Pat Knochel, sister of Eleanor Burns of Quilt in a Day fame, presented a demonstration and shared many beautiful quilts with hints about how to make them.  Thank you Quilt Guild for welcoming guests!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Why celebrate July 4th?

Painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1900
Ask people to quote the opening words of America's Constitution, and at least some of them will begin, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal..."  Those are important words, but they do not come from the Constitution.  They open the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.  We celebrate July 4, 1776 because 56 men were brave enough to sign The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.  Doing so made them traitors to the British Crown.  Today we know that their quest succeeded, but at the time they affixed their signatures the likelihood of success was shaky, to say the least.

Their Declaration began, "When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another...they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation."  These quoted sections are familiar to many Americans, and the date of the Declaration is known to nearly everyone, but many of us have forgotten or never read the detailed reasons given by the signers.  We sought our independence because of what those signers believed were "...a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.  To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World."

The U.S. Declaration of Independence
The key phase to this Declaration, in my view, is "let Facts be submitted."  It is the linchpin to our democracy.  These founding fathers did not simply say, 'Great Britain is a long way off and we are of an independent nature, so let's establish our own nation.'  Rather, they provided specific facts in support of their actions.  Neither did they stop by simply alleging "repeated Injuries and Usurpations."  They listed what they found injurious and wrongful appropriations.

When they concluded their Declaration by "mutually pledge[ing] to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor" they understood the consequences should their cause fail.  It was facts that they set before the world and facts which made ordinary men in the militia of the separate states take up arms.

In 1776 ordinary Americans needed to rely on the honor of their leaders' word.  Today we have Fact Checkers!

Political cartoon from County Capital
The drift toward name calling and distortion of facts was already well established by the time workers confronted wealth and power with the progressive movement.  Initially, Isaac joined with others in his county in a local Farmers' Alliance, and their goals included:  "To develop a better state mentally, morally, socially, and financially;" and "Constantly to strive to secure entire harmony and good-will among all mankind and brotherly love among ourselves."  The Alliance was the organization upon which Isaac and many other Kansas farmers placed such hope for educating and improving farmers lives and the methods which would allow them to succeed. However, ultimately workers came together politically, and the ideals of the Alliance were overwhelmed by political language.  Political speakers and political cartoons villainized those with opposing views and exaggerated and distorted facts to support their opinions and belittle the opinions of their opposition.

Were there exaggerations among the facts given in support of declaring independence from Great Britain.  Probably.  But causes are more likely to succeed when facts form the motivation for actions.  The People's Party failed when they set aside their original goals and followed the call of a candidate whose oratory drifted away from facts and appealed to emotions."...[W]e shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns.  You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold," cried William Jennings Bryan, and the People's Party left behind their own goals to join the Democrats in nominating the young Nebraska orator for President.  The power of strong language stirs voters now, as Bryan's oratory did in Isaac's time, but the Founding Fathers' example of basing decisions on facts remains a model for every generation.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Creating a "More Perfect Union"

Once "We the People" had declared our intention to "form a more perfect union," the Constitution needed to describe how that was to be done.  It is the details contained in the following 7 Articles of the Constitution that have both allowed the United States of America to succeed as a democracy and have often proven difficult to implement.  In very brief summary, provided primarily to inspire readers of this blog to review the full text of the Constitution for themselves, here are the 7 Articles.

United States Capitol, west front
Article I:  Section 1 reads, "All legislative Power herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."  Sec. 2 describes the makeup and powers of the House, and Sec. 3 does the same for the Senate.  Sec. 4 assigns the role of each State in selecting their Senators and Representatives.  Sec. 5 deals with the manner of conducting the business of each house, and Sec. 6 describes compensation, as well as certain privileges from arrest.  Sec. 7 assigns raising Revenue to the House and gives the Senate the power to propose or concur with amendments, and describes the process for passage of bills.  Sec. 8 defines specific powers given Congress, and Sec. 9 lists specific powers excluded.  Sec. 10 specifically limits the powers of States.  

White House, north & south exposures
Article II:  Section 1 deals with the manner of election of the President; Sec. 2 describes the President's powers; and Sec. 3 deals with the President's responsibility to inform and recommend to Congress, receive Ambassadors and Public Ministers, take care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and Commission all the Officers of the United States.  Section 4 addresses grounds for impeachment of not only the President and Vice President but also all civil Officers of the U.S.  

Dole Center, Lawrence, KS
Article III:  Section 1 describes not only the Supreme Court but also lower federal courts, and describes judges' tenures as limited only by lack of good behavior; further it deals with compensation of judges.  Sec. 2 describes the nature of cases to be heard, and Sec. 3 deals with Treason.  

Article IV:  As our nation has grown, the number of stars on our flag has increased, and Article IV deals with the relationship of the federal government with the states and their citizens.

Photo credit:  Larry D. Fenwick

Article V:  It was anticipated even as the Constitution was being drafted that there would be the need for Amendments, and Article V provides for that.  The image of me seated beside a granite text of the First Amendment was taken in Philadelphia with Constitution Hall in the background.  

Article VI:  While Article VI consists of 3 paragraphs, they are not enumerated as separate sections.  The first paragraph deals with debts incurred during the Revolutionary period.  The second paragraph imposes on the states recognition of the Constitution, laws, and treaties as the supreme Law of the Land, such that states cannot ignore or amend them.  Finally, Officials of the U.S. and the States shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, and no religious Test shall ever be required.  

Memorial to Soldiers in Philidelphia
Article VII:  Twelve states--NH, MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, and GA--were represented among the signers of the Constitution, but Article VII provides that ratification by nine states shall be sufficient for the Establishment of the Constitution.

In conclusion, the risk of offering such a brief summary is that confusion or misimpression may result.  Our Constitution is the treasure at the heart of our nation.  Some of us studied it in school, but full appreciation is difficult for the young.  I hope this blog makes many of you curious to read or re-read our Constitution.  Even in the midst of our busy lives, it is worth setting aside the time.  And, the truth is that such an amazing document is actually very short.

The people's voices are heard through elections, and Isaac B. Werner voted in elections in which the voices of Kansas farmers came together to express the power of the common man.  As the strength of political parties wax and wane, it is the Constitution that holds the nation together.