Finding a Poem For Katie Ohe

I’ve tried to write about Katie three times.  Each time, I got to a point and had to stop.  Today, I begin to write again.

As I reflect back on things that Katie said and then the unspoken power of her sculpture, I am left somehow overwhelmed.  It seems to me that she is some version of a fireball.  She is compacted energy that has been burning deeply for a lifetime and in connection with that light, I was left in awe.  So, once in awe, I had to go looking for a poem.

No luck. I found no poem for Katie Ohe.  That, in itself, is unbelievable. However, the act of looking for a poem caused me to sit for most of that particular afternoon, reading poetry, and that can’t be all bad.

After some days…more than a week…I found this.  It describes something of Katie Ohe.

A short version, my version, of one of Katie’s stories (and really, you need Katie to tell YOU her story…nothing compares).

Katie’s Dad gave Katie and her brother each a potato to peel.  Katie created a long spiral of peel…I think she said that she tried to peel the entire potato in a single peel.  (Her brother doesn’t even remember this, but Katie does.)  Her father then attached the end of her peel to a pin or a needle, suspended it by a string and then set the peel to spinning.  This image has stuck with her all of these years. (The metaphor…the image of the twirling potato peel offered up in this narrative, illuminated some very basic principles of Katie’s work…at least I think so!)

Katie spoke of Weeping Bees and Typhoon…and so much more and shared her studio space with us.  I was in awe the entire time.  I was left speechless.

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Katie Ohe IS a poem.

Visiting Al Gerritsen

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting Al Gerritsen’s woodwork shop.  I commissioned him to carve me a magpie, to add to my collection.  It was such an enjoyable visit and I felt in awe of his humility and his great talent, both.  The smell of his shop brought me very close to the young child, Jesus…and what it must have been like growing up with a father who was a carpenter.  It was fun to see Al’s nativity under his front yard tree.  I am blessed that Fred and Catherine shared theirs with me.

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Today I learned that Al was a Franciscan during the 1950s and 1960s.  I also learned that he apprenticed with John Nugent in Lumsden, Saskatchewan.  After Vatican II, Al was one of the artists who helped develop the liturgical spaces within churches, turning those altars around to face the people and creating visual art works that spoke of the connection between the Creator and his people.

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John Nugent, Lumsden, making final inspection of a chalice, 1959. On the bench is one of his wood carvings, entitled “Mother and Child.”
Saskatchewan Archives Board

Here, find a slide show of some of what I noticed and heard stories about in the studio.  Magic!

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Where are you, P. Jules?

I’m guessing Pierre Jules? Hmmmm

Another second-hand-find has got me doing a bit of research.  The winds are raging outside although the sky is brilliant blue.  I managed to reel in and wind up the Christmas lights and extension cords and now I sit for a short period of respite, hoping that someone will recognize this quality of wood carving and be able to give me a regional context.  This is what I’m thinking.  Haitian/Cuban/West Indian/Cajun American…I do know that there is a town, Saint-Jules, in Haiti.  I think that it’s a typical thing for family names to find their derivation from their place in the world, so I’m leaning toward Haiti as the place of origin for this $9.99 sculpture.  I think she is so beautiful and I’m going to pick up some bee’s wax to rub into this warm, nicely sculpted wood.  I think that the figurative work that is created by so many artists of this region is exceptional in its proportion and in its gestural presence! 

One piece, except for the dowelled chicken swinging in my lady's left hand.

Face Detail

I have looked at a number of regional sculptures now and have found the pendant to be a detail on most female figures. 

Back View

I really liked this print when I saw it.  It’s titled A Woman Carrying a Tray of Fruit on Her Head and the artist is Carlos Julias.

Carlos Julias: A Woman Carrying a Tray of Fruit on Her Head

This piece was sculpted by Ludovic Booz, the first Haitian sculptor to use Beeswax to treat wood and is said to sculpt with a brush.

Man Carrying a Sack on His Head

 The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. — Gustave Flaubert