by John Bloner, Jr.
In parochial grade school, circa 1967, Sister Margaret, in her flowing black habit and veil, escorted me and my classmates every weekday to St. Mary Catholic Church in Kenosha, WI to learn from Scripture and to sing hymns of our faith. Our songbook contained a contemporary hymn, Shout from the Highest Mountain, by a Roman Catholic seminarian, which contained this chorus:
Shout from the highest mountain,
The glory of the Lord,
Let all men rejoice in Him,
Sing from the highest mountain,
The praises of the Lord
The nuns may have imagined we’d enjoy the tune’s jaunty, contemporary rhythm, embrace its message, and for at least a few minutes at least, behave ourselves. They underestimated the ribaldry of young boys. No sooner had the pianist played the hymn’s first notes, than my two friends and I sang triumphantly:
Sister Margaret, was not amused with our amendment. She was furious with us. In those days, the nuns of St. Mary did not spare the rod or spoil the child.
I wish the old Greek, Hegemon of Thasos, could have come to our aid. Aristotle called him the inventor of parodies; he altered the popular poems of his time, turning their high-mindedness into comedy.
On second thought, his defense wouldn’t have helped. Sister Margaret would have whipped him, too.
She might have gone off, too, on Cervantes for mocking Spanish romance stories in his novel, Don Quixote, and her tunic would have launched to the moon if she met the Muses of Mirth, a Kenosha and Racine artists’ group, when they were making their own live-version of da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper.
Not all artistic remakes are parodies. Consider William Shakespeare. Novelists, screenwriters, and playwrights have mined his work for centuries, producing the musical, Kiss Me Kate, and the teen drama, 10 Things I Hate About You (from The Taming of the Shrew); the animated film and stage musical, The Lion King, and the movie and play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (from Hamlet); West Side Story (from Romeo and Juliet); and, from the Japanese cinema of Akira Kurosawa, Ran (from King Lear), Throne of Blood (from MacBeth), and The Bad Sleep Well (from Hamlet).
I recently called upon the artists and authors of the Krazines (Kenosha/Racine Area Zines) to remix, remake, or transform the classics, rework images and abstracts into collage pieces, and to otherwise enrich the experience of seeing the world by viewing it through the prism of art.
The Krazines published their work in the March 2021 issue of Moss Piglet, a monthly art and creative writing magazine. This post contains many of the images presented in this edition.
Racine artist Jon C. Bolton melded Johannes Vermeer’s painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, with a pussycat for the magazine’s cover. I like his version better than the original. How about you?
A cat is also featured in Kristen M. Singer’s piece, A Girl With A Black Cat , her take on Henri Matisse’s painting of the same name. Kristen painted her piece in the same style as the French Master and included her longtime companion, Leo.
Full disclosure: Kristen is my niece and I am a very proud uncle. In January 2021, she was named as one of the Claes Nobel Educators of the Year recipients by the National Society of High School Scholars. She teaches at Harborside Academy in Kenosha.
Grayslake, Illinois illustrators Ashi Tara and Jeff Wozniak produced a pair of art pieces, paying tribute to Vincent Van Gogh, as did Kenosha photographer and collage artist Zelia Zeta, who got in on the Senator Bernie Sanders viral photo craze, parking him (and his mittens) in Vincent’s chair.
Will someone please turn the heat on? Bernie is freezing!
Inspired by Flemish Renaissance Art, Iowa-born artist Grant Wood recruited his sister and his dentist to pose for the painting, American Gothic, and used a farmhouse, constructed in a carpenter gothic style, in Eldon, IA, as the backdrop for his work. In the 90 years since this piece was completed, many artists have put their spin on it, replacing the stern-faced couple with an assortment of characters, including aliens and Homer and Marge Simpson.
Port Edwards, WI artist Jeffrey Johannes paid tribute to activist Gloria Steinem in his remake of Woods’ work, titling it, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”
PM Fallon of Racine, WI wasn’t satisfied in paying tribute to just one famous artist in her piece, This Is Not A Pug. She managed to include nods to (at least) eight painters in her watercolor. How many can you find in this image?
Not all of the art pieces in the March 2021 issue of Moss Piglet are parodies or reworkings of classic paintings. I had to do a triple-take at the so-called family photos provided by Racine, WI artist Terry Evans. While the pictures appear to represent relatives of bygone years, closer inspection reveals that each face belongs to Terry.
I’m inspired by practitioners of collage art, including Samira Gdisis, who is undergoing a renaissance of art practice in 2021 at her studio, the Black-Eyed Press, in the Racine Arts and Business Center. She recently created these floral pieces.
I also enjoy looking at the collage work of Mary Bamborough, Rhianna O’Shea, Serse Luigetti, and Terry Evans. Mary’s pieces are shown at top left and center, Rhianna’s is top right, Serse’s is shown at bottom left, and Terry’s is presented at bottom right.
My wife, Roberta, and I have gotten involved in this artform. She’s found the process of preparing collage papers – whether they’re made of tissue, old grocery bags, or from magazines – as enjoyable as arranging them into a finished piece. It’s a meditative practice when she pours Citrasolv over National Geographic pages, lending an otherworldly appearance to them, and uses stencils and other materials to scratch or otherwise disturb surfaces into complex and satisfying designs.
In the photo gallery below, she is seen at top left, taking part in a collage-making class at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI. Also shown is an overhead view of the classroom space, some prepared papers, two completed pieces by Roberta, and a picture of collage instructor, Laura Lein Svencner.
If you’re interested in collage art, Laura’s a fantastic artist and coach.
When she is not scouting Racine with her camera, taking photographs that look like tintypes, Mary E. Nelson is at work in her home studio, creating a variety of 2D and 3D art. One of her most recent pieces, Sheaux Redeaux, has attracted attention on the Krazines’ Facebook page and with good reason. Mary customized a pair of black leather shoes with so much bling it’s rumored Imelda Marcos badly wants them.
There isn’t enough room to share all of the work that appears in the March 2021 issue of Moss Piglet, but you can click HERE to view a digital version of the magazine.
I’ll end this post with a visual art/poem piece provided by Missy Isely-Poltrock. She offers a hopeful message after we’ve spent a year in isolation. We’re like a chrysalis that’s soon to emerge as a butterfly. We’re a snake shedding an old skin. We are beautiful and brave.
Thank you for reading this blog. I would appreciate it if you would share it with others and provide your comments. You’re invited to follow me on Instagram @juniorbarnesart and follow the Krazines at their Facebook page and join their Facebook group.