When we hear the word narrative, we think about words and stories. We don’t think about abstract art. We don’t think about music and dance either. Not at first. Words are not a requirement of narrative, but do bring a time and place into focus.

I have a book called My Quotable Grandkid. It is fun to go back and read the exact narrative of a child at various ages. It might be good material for future embarrassment with friends! For example, at age 2, sitting with his pregnant and naked mother, Coen said “Good night baby. Good night nipples. See you later nipples” Or…. at age 2yrs 10 mo., Coen hurt his knee, and Grandpa held him in the extended calm hug that is usual for injuries. Coen then said “When I grow up, and you grow down, I will hold you.” And at age 3yrs 10 mo, Coen said ” Mom, you don’t know how to pronounce the names of the dinosaurs, because you’re not a dinosaur scientist, and I do, because I’m a Paleontologist.”

It’s nice to have these exact quotes! And when I write this blog, I get to explain myself. All of my artwork is a narrative about the times I live in and my viewpoint about it. Of course I hope that the person who sees the art can understand something about it, even without descriptions.

The piece above has monsters. What is this artwork about? There is a full description in last month’s blog.

Hope and Fear is 39 X 39 inches, and is about feeling these two emotions at the same time. Most of the fabrics used are painted with two colors, turquoise and fuchsia. These seem upbeat and happy, especially when combined with white, gold and green. There is energy. The biggest shape in the center reminds me of a tree, branches reaching to the sky and trunk visible. My husband sees a friendly alien head. A friend sees a brain. Another friend sees water. Are there happy dolphins swimming? I’m pretty sure there are.

When I shared this hope and fear concept with my art buddies, one of them said to make it mostly hope, and I did. The smaller areas of black represent fear. Even in the best of times, fear never goes away. And we are not currently living in the best of times.

Favorite Things is 54 X 26 inches, and uses favorite fabrics, including a lot of plaid and dots. In the center area of the piece are words, presented in groupings: good mood, good music, good memories. sun, dirt, time, hugs. walk on the beach, nap on the couch, boat on the lake. singing, working, laughing, weeding. frayed edges, dark chocolate, pockets. juxtaposition, metamorphosis, smiles. fresh bread, fresh herbs, fresh day. spaghetti squash, snuggles, morning coffee. combinations, conversations, imperfection. reading, thinking, cooking, stretching. cute baby, pick berries.

This artwork is about gratitude and about myself. It is how I find myself at this moment in time, and is more narrative than usual, with all those words in the piece. Maybe after reading the words frayed edges and pockets, the viewer notices there are two pockets, many pocket shapes, and many frayed edges.

Covid Limbo is 45 X 45 inches, and is about waiting and feeling stuck. In the year of 2020 many things were cancelled and it is difficult to plan ahead. The shoes seem to float above the steps, and they face in different directions. Having the focal point in the middle also feels static, and the wide border is quilted in a manner that feels boxed in. The small bits of shoe lace in the border also look detached, however the quilting did change course to move around the bits. Even when we are in partial limbo, we have an impact on the world, and I remain thankful for that.


Obviously, art and music and dance also tell stories, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes overtly. The musical play Hamilton, is a look back in time, showing an interpretation from today of events and people in the past. It is a powerful mashup of these two things, and has struck a chord with lots of people.

Now we move on to the blog recipe for this month. I have invented a holiday pudding enjoyed by children of all ages. Microwave 1 c. frozen or fresh strawberries and 1 c. fresh cranberries for 4 minutes in a glass bowl. Transfer soft fruit to a Ninja or blender. Add 2 T. sugar and 1 1/2 T. tapioca flour (or other thickener) and a small portion of 1 c. coconut milk. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add remainder of milk. Bring to boil briefly, stirring, until thick. Transfer pudding back to the first glass bowl used to microwave the fruit, or spoon into pudding cups. Cool.

2 Responses to Narrative

Liza Klein

Dear Joan, I love these emotional abstracts. I am considering purchasing monsters. I recently read A new book by Mayumi Oda which is both auto biograhical and about some of her
goddesses. It made me think about the value of representing hard realities. Is Monsters for sale? If so, what is the price? I have a lot of art in my house already, so I need to figure out what to change so I have some-where to hang it.


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