Tag Archives: mixed media

Beauty Betty Bingo: Still Developing


Several months ago I was invited to create a piece about my relationship with my mother for an exhibit curated by Esther Hong that opens Friday 9.4.15 at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art (IGCA) in Anchorage.  My old stomping grounds. How could I refuse. Grateful for the invitation. Grateful for the inspiration and creative direction.  Now what –?

Beauty Betty Bingo –that much I knew. Maybe a hand of euchre or two. Are those special cards or regular? I really didn’t know. Later my family laughed when I told them I went on Amazon trying to buy a Euchre deck. I checked Walgreens and CVS too.

It’s a Michigan thing.

Since January I have been working with natural linen, pieces of canvas, old and new photographs, negatives and discarded silk in the vein of a Primitive Seamstress.  I decided to continue with this materiality. Initially cutting and stitching all these disparate materials together as some kind of scroll. Attach them to an old wooden rolling pin. What about that vintage potato masher?  That might be cool. We ate a lot of potatoes growing up –I’ve been wanting to do scrolls with rolling pins for years. . .but alas it was not to be. A friend made a suggestion and the idea developed. Bingo! As it does. Literally. Art morphs.


 Somewhere in all this stitching my stepfather died. The family gathered.

There were decisions to make in the execution and later in the installation.  The negatives made it too stiff for rolling but not for hanging and so hang they will but by line or by chain or some cool miniature hardware that would make it look –well finished? I tend more toward the conceptual. Lots of undone and nothing exact so I let that go. Clips and clothespins.  Keep it simple. Keep it real.  The theme of a photograph still developing. Our relationship still developing.  Love you mom and so happy you’re still here and alive in the world.  The clothesline works to represent both the rural America of my childhood and the line where photographs are hung to dry in a darkroom.  So many metaphors.  Memories. The tangle of threads. A button. A live birth.  A game of cards. A gamble. Stitching a life together. Love. The beauty. All that laundry.


I hope you can make the opening –and if you do–Thank you!!

Brenda is a visual artist and occasional poet currently living in Santa Fe, NM.  Her piece: Beauty Betty Bingo: Still Developing is part of an invitational group exhibition opening at the IGCA this week in Anchorage, Alaska.

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Family Secrets Redux –studio preamble

Pandora radio and Monday morning studio too quickly the day job announces time for departure.  I drag myself out of my apron.  Wash off the medium.  Unplug.  Recap.  Shift into 2nd gear.  Grab the I’m here for you happy mask and the car keys.  Close the door.  But today I long to stay.  Here.  The music.  The breeze through the door.  Quiet on Canyon.  Ideas and tasks and lists ado.  and now –36 hours later  I am up long past my usual bedtime.  Studio.  Music.  Door open to the night.  Moon whispers nearly full.   Open a bottle of red.  All the family (portraits) ready for hanging, the dresses darned and adorned and shifting as Family Secrets Redux prepares to launch into Santa Fe. Six years after a solo exhibit at IGCA in Anchorage, Alaska, seven years after Bolton Hill/MICA where dresses and other objects of the feminine domesticity came knocking.

I left for Mexico the following day.  It was February (06).  And a review in the paper found me checking internet a block from the beach.  Bearing witness, searing emotion, and the like.  More overt than my awareness.  Amazing the power of creativity:  telling a story far beyond our conscious intention yet exactly right.  That was then.  I won’t bore you with the details.   It returns changed, recycled –some pieces retired, published, sold, tossed in the dumpster (shh –we do that sometimes) and others introduced.  Happier.  Redux.   Time passes,  secrets unravel, change hands, reveal, revel.  Life moves on and forward and opens.  Up.

Such a tingle putting oneself into public view.  On display for company or candlelight.  Play the game board one and two.  Titles to title and prices to note.  The value is priceless but still a few will hang with dollar signs.  Just in case.

Our hearts dangle from the ceiling.  A dress on the wall.  On canvas.  Tiptoe past the portraits and “may I please be excused” on our way to a bedroom shared with sisters.  Nose in a book fast forward.  Such joy in the making.  Barbed wire not too fussy.  The healing healing and the knitting grows to include women I’ve met along the way.  A row of orange and yellow green and red ribbon.  Rose and Portia join hands.  Others die into each other.  Grief.  A hand across your face.  An unkind word.  Or moments of celebration.  A special dinner, a special dress, an occasion.  Maybe he brought you a flower or a child was born or graduated or a new job or a compliment day to yourself bubble bath no one knocking at the door.  Let you be.  Took you dancing.  A new appliance or fish on Friday you did not cook.  A ride in a convertible top down singing to the county fair with friends.  A kiss.  Memories and more to come.

The feet on the ironing board walk forward “one step at a time” to somewhere new and unknown and possible.

Some secrets unravel into a better place.  Of peace and identity and calm and thank you.  Others still in the basement poking in the night.  Remain to be known or not. Known.  Intuit.  Too much to articulate so let art tell the story.  Tell the tale.  A bit of myth.  Of suppose and mystery and maybe.   Of family secrets not always my own but yours or theirs or hers that girl standing at the grocery checking out your organic goods. . .ours.

Brenda is one of 6 artist/writers in residence at El Zaguan/545 Canyon Road/ Santa Fe.

Her solo exhibit Family Secrets Redux opens Friday August 31, 2012 at 5pm in the El Zaguan Gallery – home of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation.  Free and open to the public



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Happy 4th of July and I live in America

Santa Fe summer lightA moment of confusion after the day job and I call my friend Mike because what else am I to do . . .but it goes to voicemail and instead of hanging up I leave a discombobulated message apologizing at the end of it because why am I calling?  The phone rings.  He calls back.  I explain sort of –Not sure I want to make the effort for fireworks but maybe.  I leave it open. Fort Marcy hill climb.  He comments he hasn’t seen me like this for a long time and I agree though I wonder if he has ever seen me like this –I tend to feel quietly.  No one sees me like this.  Ever.  Well maybe they do but this isn’t low blood sugar.  I just need a direction.  Not exactly life or death but similar in a way.  That moment of in-between.  Two worlds.  The shore and tide.  The conscious and the subconscious.  The basement and the stair.  And so I abort the barbecue chicken and turn to cleaning.  The mop and the floor and Murphy’s Soap.  Seems to work.  I even walk around to the Canyon Road side of my humble (albeit charming abode) to dust the shutters but no windows.  I don’t “do” windows.  At least not often.  I break the sponge on the recycle mop but who cares –the floor licked of red dirt and dust bunnies and the art rearranged.  Manic –okay.  It happens sometimes.  The neighbors are noshing outside my window.  But we share a common portal. I jump in the shower.  The curtain closed.  And afterwards I am clean.  Rinsed and refreshed.  Reborn and fit for socializing.  The studio cleaned.  Everything rearranged.  No fireworks.  I pour a glass of white and walk out the door.  I don’ t see the watermelon.  It is monumental but I am not medicated.  Only the wine.  A bit of rain and the clouds still thick.  The temperature plummets to comfortable.  Only 66 degrees –and this a blessing.  We chat:  about writers and readings and music and marketing our artful selves from Nantucket to Etsy to Santa Fe Travelers.   Life is good.


The past two mornings my day job has turned into time in the studio.  As if I have a patron.  Thank you Portia.  The heat gets to her and she tells me not to come in.  Today specifically to work on my dress project and I do.  And yesterday too though I do walk over to deliver a few treats.  I need to feel as if I am contributing.   That Midwest upbringing.  The studio is invigorating and joyful and I realize how I love problem solving.  Not algebraic but the physical rendering of 3D mixed media:  sewing and barbed wire and the use of zip ties with metal and door knobs and such things.  How to attach without asking for help.  The drill press requires permission –or a favor.  Still not sure about the ribbon on the hanger.  Done. Lopsided.   How to attach all these rings?  OMG.  Not the way I envisioned but slowly one at a time embedded with the only stitch I know (of sewing).  I actually don’t know how to sew.  Still I do.  That’s what art does to a person.  This the girl who used to staple her hems.  Okay.  I wonder what it is I’m trying to say.  Do I ever know?  I write it down . . .all the knots have been tied and so many unravel-ing. . .a lifetime of pulled upon, charmed and rearranged. . .Excavating my art though I have an image.  It changes.

Still debating about the fireworks.  Might be nice for the walk up the Fort Marcy stairs with friends but I’m not sure.  I loved the 4th of July as a child.  We use to stand outside, in the country, with our sparklers and metal pail of water. And often went to wherever they were shooting them off. Though that was up to the parents.  I remember anticipation.  Would they rise to the occasion.   Like at the drive-in or a lake somewhere.  Hurry.  Are we going?  I really can’t remember clearly.  And later I hated the gatherings at the Lake.  In Whitefish. People poking out their own eyes.  Idiots with bottle rockets and no consideration for others or fear of consequence.  And so I am ambivalent, and older and my adventures take me down a different path.  Still I enjoy that burst of color in the sky dispersing in a flare of joy.  of celebration and glee.  Don’t we all?

And in that vein a poem I wrote once.  It mentions the holiday so I thought I might share it here.

Emmett Till


What do their children believe now?

The men and women of those men murderers

of Emmett Till: a 14 year old black Chicago boy

who whistled at the wrong white woman

in Money Mississippi?  Before the vote.

What has changed or stayed the same

or slipchanged straight back to murder?

Fear so great eliminates the great.

Only fear remains unspoiled across

this God Bless America 4th of July.


What if a woman murdered every white

man that whistled at her from a passing car

street corner blood bath Ford pick-up truck

Dodge Diesel convertible Chevy fat tire

ballcap banging up to no good American?

And the parade passes red white and blue

fireworks are illegal in the city and all the dogs

are deaf or terrified.

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Who’s gonna build your wall?

Sunday in the High Road House above Bisbee.  The super moon risen and roosted. The sun shines all the way to Mexico.  I awake refreshed from pondering and fall down too much in my own head surprised it is only 7am (that one hour time difference — but in my favor).  The wind blows but not in alarm.  I think, to no one beside me but many in particular, that when I write my first poetry book or perhaps a new blog it will be entitled “What Keeps me Afraid?” –What keeps me afraid of taking chances, of driving to (fill in the blank), of booking an airline ticket from here to there –of using all my cell phone minutes? What keeps me afraid from quitting my job, from moving to the ocean, from taking all day to sit and read?  What keeps me afraid of  success/happiness?

I decide it already a good day (these are the choices we’re given) and then I read about Erasure poetry.  Who knew?  How do I miss these things so relevant to my own life?  And well now I know and isn’t that the gift?  Of course.  Duh.  Gwarlingo again.  Mary Ruefle. Jen Bervin. Brenda Roper (ha ha. . .).   Mine likely more mixed media and collage than fully erasure since I can’t even follow a recipe but I love this. . .excited to get to those old books at my day job (thanks Portia) and work with thread and yarn and taking away and adding to.  Travel hurts so good for creative inspiration.  And yes justifying the money spent, the time away, the pleasures of this glorious High Road view to all those ghosts still watching from the cobwebs of my judgment days. . .and I’m such a good girl. Yeah right.  Who cares.  I know.  Babbling.

I make an amazing ravioli frittata –in the big cast iron skillet provided.  I know you’re thinking what?  Ravioli frittata –but amazing.  With olive bread toasted and spread with peach preserves.  Groovy yum. Afterwards the walk down the Rose stair to the historic P.O. (attached to the library) –don’t get confused and send happy snippets on artful postcards to the stacks.  I pause on the stair climb oh my lungs please sing yes I can like the little choo choo. Yes I can.  Do.  The drive to Tombstone to look see and then wonderment at the why?  Really.  Even the Bank of America is “for sale”.  Hmmm.  Fat people wait in line to watch the shoot-out at the Ok Corral while costumed cowboys lack enthusiasm in getting me to buy a ticket.  On a side street people target-shoot paper silhouettes as if that is “okay” because it’s just pretend.  Let us not condone the freedom of load and shoot.  People?  I wonder the thrill of such entertainment.  And if  I want I can drive to view the wall being build to celebrate the separation of borders.  Only one mile.  One mile to Mexico.  A thin line.  And white trucks with green lettering.  I didn’t even think to bring my passport.  and I love Mexico.

And all the while the Tom Russell refrain runs ’round . . .who’s gonna build your wall. . .who’s gonna mow your lawn. . .who’s gonna cook your Mexican food when the Mexican maid is gone. . .who’s gonna build your wall? and God Bless America but I do and I don’t.  Glad I went on the two second tour.  Bought a post card for mom and dad, but really this is why people travel across the country on vacation? the anti-creative or curious and aren’t we all sometimes.  Holsters, hats, a stagecoach –dull  dry brown– wind geysers sweep up in the distance.  No hiking in the Dragoon Mountains today though that would be lovely.  Lovely to retrace this trip with friends.  To hike and meander and bird.  Share wine on the porch.  Climb all the up down staircases,  pizza at the Screaming Banshee, and night cap at the Stock Exchange.

Why am I afraid of doing too much and not enough and stillness, when stillness is what I’m after.  Of opening too wide inside out so colorful for there is art to do the talking.  To tell the tale.  Clarity slowdown meander like a lazy river played hooky in High School 35 years ago.  May –from study hall.  Wow that was pushing the envelope.  Good for me.  Authenticity does not play games.  I was baptized by my boyfriend at the lake when I was 14.  I was told to do this.  Parents go to church for a few years phase. People were watching.  I still feel them watching.  Always watching.  As if I need to ask permission.  Still.  No one is here.  I turn around but I’m all by myself.  So what happened to the map?

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The art of collage and the collage of art: words and such

I have company coming this week.  Family.  A sister who loves Santa Fe and me and a good time will be enjoyed.  Wine tasting and green chile and Ten Thousand Waves.  She is easy and fun and I love her too.  In my efforts to prepare I put off the deep cleaning for the art of collage.  A trip to Michaels 40% coupon in hand.  A trip through words from friends important enough to print.  A glance at a journal entry from 2004.  A glance around the room.  A meander across my thoughts.  Christmas lights burnt out except for one edge still tacked to the wall.  “To Do” ironing and hand washing draped over a chair.  Green chile stew warming on the stove.  An invitation an obligation and an RSVP. . .waffles remind me of Montana.  I will, and maybe, and yes, later by phone but I have a birthday party on the same day.  Still I thank you.  Would love to.  How to admit I am scared of the phone.  Of conversation. Don’t want to bother.  You or anyone. When is the best time –is there a best time or better than now?  Will I catch you off guard?  Will you be happy to hear from me?  Are you eating dinner?  Making love?  Out in the garden?  Busy?  Silly.  I’ve always been this way.  Who knew?  I take after my mother.  The first sentence apology.  Better now.  Really.  Email is good.  –but I long to hear your voice.  What will you whisper? 

Desert dust gathers every 5 minutes anyway but she doesn’t like spiders so I sweep beneath the radiators.  Twice.  And reach toward that dark corner where the claw foot tub bends away from the wall.  I’ve seen them there.  Below the soap dish.  No bother.  I wish to go to the place where the spiders spin philosophy, to sleep with Henry’s letter beneath my pillow.  We are children who have lost our freedoms, disassembled by an installation of men with guns at the International Airport. Emotion and logic are at odds. I feel the weight of solitude.  A collage poem from long ago.  It sounded wistful and everyone wondered “who is Henry” –?  But I am obsessed with the possibility of love and the arrival of spring and all that pungent longing like pregnancy.  Nature’s pink blossoms cause me to trip over the buzzing bees who have not arrived.  Swollen with the fragrance of pollen.  Ripe.  From yesterday.

My mother is in the hospital.  Again. Her artery clogged at 95% — we gather hope  like clouds.  Soft and buoyant to keep her afloat.  To keep her longer.  Longer.  Even a little bit.  Longer.  Like a ruler one upon the other the lengths suspended across the map.  One inch legend.  A strong blue line.  A river.  Meanders.  No one is ever ready for that kind of departure.  So I check for updates — keep the phone on through the night.  All is quiet.  Love gathers in places not visible. 

The studio hovers.  In the background. Tin and blue foam and wedding paraphernalia.  Papers and glue and cake stanchions (of all things) but it seems important.  I will make my mark.  It is Sunday.  Collage somehow seems cheap and shabby.  No matter the sun shines and the pansies did not freeze.  Flat line daydreaming rocks me to sleep.  The photos too flat send me to Michael’s where I feel more crafty than conceptual though I surrender myself to believe in my abilities.  That I will shine in the end.  Chaos will prevail in that way creativity tumbles forth to protect me from shame.  Like a waterfall.  Pour-over and plunge.  No diving.  White chiffon and game pieces bring it back to perspective.  No dust gathers at the kitchen sink.  And a journal entry as I rummage and reminisce from Baltimore:  . . .trying to plan my life around an arrival that may not happen. . .or a departure.  Not my mother’s but my own.  Beyond the border of permission.  This crab is poking outside her shell and no beach has she found.  

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Inspiration & how dresses find me



Dear Hilda

I am inspired by little girl dresses.  White little girl dresses.  On a hanger or pinned with a single red pin to a gallery wall.  Aloft.  Ephemeral.   White on white.  Simple confirmation or a nightshirt with the tag Hilda sewn on the inside. So intimate suddenly.  Who is Hilda?  I remember worrying –how would Hilda feel, or her mother, if she could see what I turned the dress into?   A story now on view.  Not her own, or maybe.  Do I leave the tag or take it out?  From a thrift store in Baltimore.  I liked it in –something holocaust about that name (in my mind) –giving “it” more weight.   I’ve reworked it finally into the life intended.  From a bedroom wall on Bolton Street to the IGCA in Anchorage to Original Innocence (2010) at El Zaguan in Santa Fe.  On canvas with a silver chain like a girl scout badge of honor, and I think I will call her “Dear Hilda” having decided 6 years later to finally tear out the tag. Thank you. 


All Spice (aka Betty June) --love you mom

And how dresses find me.  Art.  An old pink tulle prom dress from Hope, NJ on a trip to visit a friend one October.  That piece (sculpture) made it into the Anchorage Museum of Art & History.  A friend bought it for $100 when I left Alaska.  It is about my perception of my mother’s life.  Her choices.  A toolbox filled with spices and domestic things: sewing and gloves and a vintage pair of nylons.  A pacifier.  Her hopes and dreams what were they?  About choices. Now people give them to me.  A brown christening dress I painted back to white (Thank you Bethany). Doilies too.  But it is the dresses that inspire most.  In the beginning I starched them with wallpaper paste and hung them on a clothesline –collaboration with friends.  I hung one from a tree in Bootleggers Cove  much to the chagrin of my neighbor.  He asked me to take it down.  I asked him to take down his flag (not really, but I wanted to). He was a bit of a curmudgeon.  I left it up for a few days. . .and some on canvas too, and now, and still.  One has a condom sewn into the throat. Another on the cover of Calyx, a journal of art & literature for women www.calyxpress.org (Volume 25, No. 2).


No More Secrets 2

A woman surmises, after some contemplation “. . .that is what happens when the condom breaks. . .”  I like that she shared.  A christening dress, she said. Thought about it –appreciated the work enough to pause in the gallery.  Though my intention may be different or on such a subconscious level that it is difficult to explain –but that’s okay.  That is art –visual articulation.  I get it but struggle if I have to explain outright.  Some get it mmediately. Thank you. That is validating.  You know who you are.

dressesA few weeks ago a friend brought me her mother’s wedding dress.  A lovely piece.  She tells me you can do whatever you want with it.  I ask, do you care if I cut it up, just to be sure though I probably won’t.  Well if you do she says, please send me a piece. . .like a lock of hair I think, and suddenly more attached than she realized. She tries it on.  They are beautiful together. I take photos.  We laugh.  A swirling glow of white wedding mom memory handed down to daughter dancing in the studio.   Afterwards I hang it for observation, for inspiration –in the corner where the other dresses live.  Next to the waterbottle collection.

 But it is the two red baby dresses I find in the package with other linens that inspire most.  Red.  So bold for a baby I think.  Did her mother know?  This child 60 years later doing the extrovert dance –did her mother know then?  Her baby, destined to be noticed, wearing power colors in the crib? 


I buy an old piece of ceiling tin at the Galleria at Double-Take this week.  Another $100 on the Visa but we won’t talk about that. . .I carry it home in the wind three days before Christmas.  Santa understands these things.  Excited about the possibility.  Should I cut it in half?  Make a frame for the back?  Two dresses or one at a time?  Stay tuned. . .For a studio tour of said dresses or other artful works please email dreamcafe943@yahoo.com 

Brenda Roper is a visual artist and occasional poet currently living at El Zaguan on Canyon Road in Santa Fe.  Her poetry (p.68) and photographs can be found in the newest issue of Cirque http://www.cirquejournal.com/index.php



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Deck the Walls: Celebrate Art with the Zaguanistas

painterly photos

Currently I am one of six (6)artists living in the James L. Johnson house at 545 Canyon Road in Santa Fe.  It is a magical place not only because of its location on the historic East side but because of all those feet that have walked through El Zaguan, stood upon the 150 year old floors, slept beneath the 12 foot ceilings, crawled inside their own lives within the ancient adobe walls.  Kiva fireplace, clawfoot tub, long windows fat with a geranium wintering in the high desert sun (well not today) and even french doors that separate my studio from my parlour (bedroom/live room).  Besides the porch swing, garden, orchard and fellow neighbors/friendship art that makes this compound a home, is the benefit of using the “conference room” adjacent to the Historic Santa Fe Foundation office (former Sala in the days of James L. Johnson) as an exhibit space.  Mind you it is not a gallery in the commercial sense but offers an abundance of charm and Santa Fe style that only exenuates the art and the spirit of the artists who present here.   Combine that with the warm energy of community and well our latest exhibit “Deck the Walls” was born.  Deck the WallsAn annual and group holiday show featuring the works of Greg Tweed, Max-Carlos Martinez, Brenda Roper (yours truly), Bethany Orbison, William (Billy) McLane and Adam Eisman.  A beautiful variety of painting, mixed media and photography. Our opening last night was quite fun despite the quietude of Canyon Road.  Holiday lights, farolitos, and a pair of candle sconces welcomed those who ventured through our gates. Nice interludes ensued with art speak &  holiday cheer, organic donuts & eggnog,  hello nice to meet you, and thank you for coming.

Feel free to stop by during the week and don’t be put off by “office” on the front door.  If the gates are open so are we.  Please come in.  I have a selection of handmade artist cards for $5/each and 11″x14″ photos ready for framing for only $45,  plus an abundance of fine original art that might be exactly what you didn’t realize you were looking for.    Deck the Walls this holiday season and celebrate art with the Zaguanistas.

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