The Connectivity of 3 Women Artists

• Monday, May 21, 2018 •
3 Women Artists - talk about art, poetry and metaphor   

Elaine Sexton, Rita Baragona and Ro Lohin
To teach Workshops for Cullowhee Arts
June 24 – 29, 2018, Cullowhee, North Carolina

Elaine Sexton and Ro Lohin are neighbors in New York, and met by chance two summers ago, when Elaine hosted a pop-up exhibit of work by a mutual friend. They quickly found they had Cullowhee Arts, and so much more, in common. Ro, who has a passion for poetry, suggested they put together a panel on “metaphor, where poetry and visual art meet” during the 5-day Cullowhee Arts workshop session, where they will be teaching at the same time as Rita Baragona (June 24-29).

Ro Lohin, has been cross-pollinating with fellow artist NYC artist Rita Baragona for years. also teaching that same week during the Cullowhee Arts “Summer Arts Workshops Series,” to join in the conversation of “Metaphor, where Poetry and Visual Art Meet.”

Rita Baragona has been a good friend with Ro for many years. “We met through the NY Studio School. I think our friendship is one strengthened by simpatico sensibilities and ideas.  We both love to paint and to teach and intentionally bring a thirst for understanding through diverse disciplines including poetry, to our paintings.
Elaine’s poetry intrigues me.” 

“I am for a poetry that makes nothing happen.

I’m for a poetry that is too young to date, but too old to overlook.

I’m for a poetry that wants to paint.”

Excerpt from “POETRY & SMOKE: A MANIFESTO,” by Elaine Sexton

“I think for me I am a painter who wants to write poetry or play music too.” Rita Baragona

Who are these 3 remarkable women?

Elaine Sexton: Poet, Art Critique, Artist

She is the author of three books: Sleuth, Causeway, and Prospect/Refuge.  Her poems, art reviews, book reviews, and works in visual art have appeared in journals and anthologies, textbooks and websites including American Poetry Review, Art in America, Poetry, O! the Oprah Magazine, and Poetry Daily. An avid book maker and micro-publisher, she has curated many site-specific events with accompanying limited-edition chapbooks. She teaches text and image and poetry at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University and in private workshops. Formerly a senior editor at ARTnews, she serves as the visual arts editor for Tupelo Quarterly, and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. 

Ro Lohin: Artist, Curator, Lecturer

Ro is passionate about art and education in the arts. She was Assistant to the Dean of the New York Studio School and was a member of the drawing faculty. In Fall 2017 she curated “The Thing Unseen”, a celebration of Nicolas Carone, at the Studio School Gallery and organized and participated in a panel discussion about his work. Lohin taught painting and drawing at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University, Western Carolina University, and the Chautauqua Institution.  She is the former owner and director of the Lohin Geduld Gallery in New York City. Lohin’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally.  Her awards include artist residencies at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center and the Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris. She paints on site, on the North Fork of Long Island, and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Lohin is an avid reader of poetry, which often influences her painting.

Rita Baragona: Artist, Curator, Lecturer

Rita Baragona is an artist /teacher, who has exhibited her paintings in one-person and group shows throughout the USA, including numerous exhibitions at the Bowery Gallery, where she is currently in the exhibit “Cadences.” Also, in 2018, her paintings will be shown at Westbeth Gallery and with Zeuxis. Past selected one-person shows include exhibitions at Dutot Museum, PA, Washington Art Association, CT, Well Street Gallery, AK, Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ and Rider University, NJ; highlighted group shows at Prince Street Gallery, NYC, Lyme Academy, Lori Bookstein Gallery, Borgenicht Gallery; Bergen County Museum, Bryn Mawr College and Allentown Museum and, Noyes Museum and Lancaster Museums.

In Art in America Jed Perl wrote, “What a nature painter must do is impose some human logic or private poetry on the natural world.  By this measure Baragona is a very interesting painter.” 

I recently asked these three “connected” women, 
“What is happening in your creative work life at present?”


This spring was a featured speaker at City College (CUNY), teaching graduate students on “How to Make a Chapbook."

 I also taught a focused workshop on writing poetry and micro prose in response to visual art at the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute, where I teach poetry and text and image workshops. I have also been granted a month-long residency to work on my poems and visual art at the Siena Art Institute in Italy this Fall. 

I recently interviewed Ro, who will be a featured artist in the Summer issue of Tupelo Quarterly. I'm the visual arts editor for this journal. A beautiful portfolio of Ro Lohin's work, alongside a brief interview, will appear in the summer issue (out in June)! Ro offers some thoughtful comments into her process, making the connection between poetry and how she thinks when she works. 


“Red Wheelbarrow II” from Ro Lohin’s series “The Red Wheelbarrow” (after the William Carlos Williams poem)...


I am currently exhibiting at the Bowery Gallery,NYC – the show is called “Cadences.” I named my show Cadences because i find more meaning and validity  in the rhythmic relationships of words, shapes or notes then the narrative they say, what they portray or the idea the music is based on.


I was also in “Rooms with a View, 7 artists,” March 3-March 17 with a panel talk March 10. We each got our own rooms and each of us, was very different. I had the smallest room and exhibited small paintings. 

I am in three group shows with Zeuxis, a still life group at the moment:
  • The Unstilllife April 10-July 28, 2018 - University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses-                          
  • Drawing the Curtain, May 22- June 9, 2018 - First Street Gallery, NYC, NY
  • Veils, May 25- June 3, 2018 - 135 W. 26 Street, Apt.9B, NYC, NY

RO Lohin:

I've spent the last year dedicated to painting and drawing full time.

I've prepared my studio for visitors and have been entertaining artists all , curators, dealers on a regular basis. My work will be featured in Tupelo Quarterly with text following questions by poet Elaine Sexton.

Each artist offers comments about art, poetry and metaphor in their work

I think I might share with my colleagues an impulse, a kind of chemistry, to make something of the place where our consciousness meets the natural world. When I wrote, in a poem, "The prospect of paint / is the refuge of ideas," I was thinking of that place where the sea, a tree, a burgeoning in the landscape serves as a stand in for something else.

As for metaphor my flowers are beautiful but flowers change constantly. They are also a metaphor for time passing cadence and rhythmic change. As the dahlia petals on the outside wilt and grow limp, tiny petals continue to grow at its center. The yellow center where the honey is grows more prominent. 

A flower grows in a spiral movement from the center out, based on  golden mean proportions, 1, 3, 5, 8, like a chord in western music. c,e,g,c. I love to watch and record the change.  It is a meditation or mindful awareness. 

"Sometimes lines or phrases in poetry engage me unconsciously over long periods of time.  I love all the lines from Wordsworth’s poem,  "Tintern Abby," for so many reasons, but one phrase always stuck with me:

“All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things”

I thought painting had that in it.  I mean when a painting comes to completion I wanted the stuff that “rolls through all things” to be what my paintings had."

Elaine Sexton, Rita Baragona and Ro Lohin To teach workshops for Cullowhee Arts

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• Sunday, January 28, 2018 •

Judith Kruger, born 1955, is an American visual artist whose paintings, prints and mixed media works address Human-Environment connectivity and their shared vulnerabilities. She is recognized internationally for her advocacy of natural painting materials and historic, ecological processes.  

Her solo exhibition, Mingled Terrain will open in February 2018 at the new Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts Museum on the Wofford College campus in Spartanburg, SC. Recent solo exhibitions include An Alchemic View, an intimate survey spanning 10 years of her alchemic work. Cullowhee Arts is delighted to be hosting her explorative workshop Abstract Alchemy: Black, White & Warm Metallics on the Wofford campus in conjunction with this exhibit.

Please enjoy the conversation between Judith and me about her process, passion and content of her work and workshops:

Norma:  Your employ an amazing array of materials from the natural world in your art work and your workshops: pine soot, shells and earth minerals, natural metallics, cured shells, precious minerals, soils, indigo, insect secretions. When did these materials become part of your process and what opened you up to the idea of working this way?

Judith:  In 2001 during a trip to Kyoto, an artist took me to meet Saiundo Fujimoto, one of Japan’s finest pigment purveyors. It was there, at his tiny shop, where I had my very first introduction to Nihonga, traditional Japanese mineral pigment painting. The fact that I could make paint from the natural environment that had the capacity to give back visually as deeply as nature often does, was mind boggling. I had no idea then how obsessed I would become with every aspect of this ancient painting system and how much I would eventually expand its boundaries for my own practice.

Norma:  Do you see yourself as part alchemist, part artist? How did this develop in your creative work?

Judith:  Most definitely. The excitement of making my own painting materials is sort of like having a baby. One can only imagine the miracle of birth, but there is nothing like the actual experience of it. On a daily basis, I am buried deeply in alchemic potions and processes. The thrill of inventing and metamorphosing just keeps growing. 

Norma:  In your artist statement you say, “My on-going work is the byproduct of a deep engagement with environment, place and the physicality and materiality of all phenomena.” Can you think of when you first began to have this “deep engagement with the environment,” perhaps even as a child?

Judith:  Nature has always fed my soul. I had a huge rock collection as a child and lo and behold the collection continues to grow now, however, for paint’s sake. I attribute my love of wabi (beauty of the imperfect) and grit from growing up in Pittsburgh around the steel mills.  I find beauty in subway stations and rusted boiler rooms.

Norma:  You order some very specific Japanese papers for your students to work on in your workshops, can you talk about how you became acquainted with these papers and why they are an important aspect of the processes you teach?

Judith:  In (my workshop) “Nihonga: Then and Now workshop”, it is important to use the traditional hand made Japanese Kumohada paper, protected with layers of gofun (white shell gesso). We learn about sizing, how inks, dyes and minerals are used in different particle sizes, etc. In the “Abstract Alchemy” workshop, the students work on both Western and Eastern papers in order to push alchemic boundaries and invent. This course, while rooted in Nihonga, focuses more on an environmental or material aspect of the medium than the Orientalism.

Norma:  Your workshops are highly attended and generally wait-listed. Can you talk about what your students come away with after the workshop, and comments you often hear from you students?

Judith:  They learn how to size, and mount paper on canvas and wood, make hide glue size, binders, and make gessoes and paint from shells, mineral and plant material. After the paint is made they learn many different painting techniques: some that stems from ancient China and Japan and others developed by me for my environmentally focused work. I do not delineate subject matter. I welcome representational as well as non-representational painters. Some students say they really learned how to abstract from me, others say they “see” differently. Many of my students continue to work with me for years, generally meeting (again) in another workshop.


March 19 - 23, 2018
Medium: Paint, ink, mixed media 
Level: All Levels  
Tuition:  $700 
Lab Fee: $170 (includes most supplies and equipment)

A conversation with artist Nancy Gruskin: Her Path, Her Painting

• Saturday, January 27, 2018 •

Norma:  You have a very unusual route that led you to your current vocation of being a full-time painter. As a young girl, you attended museum art classes for youth, your college years steered you to a Ph.D. in art history, then you followed a familial trail to becoming a lawyer. Can you talk about how these intersections on your path have, and are, informing your current work?

Nancy:  Painting has always been in the background, since I was a kid.  It wasn’t until about four or five years ago that I decided it was time to move it to the foreground.  I think it was one of those mid-life moments where you stop and think, what is it that I truly love to do?  I also think that the twisted path I took getting to that moment shaped me as a painter.  As an art historian, I developed a pretty good eye for color and composition and my life experience definitely affected my choice of subject matter.  I’m not sure what I would have chosen to paint as a twenty-something, but having a family—and the joys and the mundane responsibilities that come with it—is a treasure trove for me as an artist.    

Norma:  Since you have a Ph.D. in art history I am certain you have a few “heroes on your shelf” -  those that you honor and whom you feel you are in conversation with when you approach your painting. I have some suspicions, but would love to know your premier influences – those you revere and whose aesthetics you honor in your own painting.

Nancy:   It’s a long list!  From a subject matter perspective, I’m definitely drawn to painters whose work tends to be autobiographical—painters like Pierre Bonnard, Fairfield Porter, Joan Brown, and Alex Katz.  Bonnard’s compositions and Porter’s palette floor me every time.  Matisse, for his color sense, love of decorative pattern, and the seeming effortlessness of his work.  I also love the work of Richard Diebenkorn, Elizabeth Blackadder and Janice Biala.  I could go on and on!   

Norma:  I love the direct, decisive brush work in your painting, combined with very intriguing compositions. Your subjects may be pushed almost out of the picture plane. I am also pulled into your world when I see common objects – the take out Chinese food box, the kitchen table strewn with the cereal box and empty bowl, your son nearby tying his shoe, part of what appears to be your husband reading the paper, and the black dog splayed out on the floor – It makes me want to be on the couch in the living room reading a book while this warm everyday drama in your home plays out. How did this autobiographic way of working come about for you?

Nancy:  I think it’s a little like when people tell writers to write what they know—this is my life and it’s what I know best.  It also has a lot to do with the fact that my studio is in my house.  I’m often dragging my easel around different rooms.

Norma:  I know you have taught on many levels – classes, workshop, university, etc. You will be teaching a 3-dayworkshop with Cullowhee Arts in Snow Hill, Maryland, starting with your slide talk the night before the workshop begins -  March 8 – 11. What can students expect to take away from their time with you?

Nancy:  I think they can expect to take away some very concrete tools—for example, how to simplify, abstract and edit form and how to mix a wide range of colors with a limited palette.  Conceptually, we’ll be exploring how to combine direct observation with painting from memory and invention.  There is a take-away for me too—my love of painting is reinvigorated by the ideas and practices of my fellow artists.  Painting can be such a solitary activity.  Being in a studio for a few days with other people who share your passion is a win-win! I think it’s going to be a really energizing weekend! 

The Workshop:

March 8 - 11, 2018
Medium:  Drawing, Painting
Tuition:  $575  | Lab Fee: $75 (includes model fee)

Nancy Gruskin lives and works in Concord, MA.  She holds B.A. in Art History and Studio Art from Connecticut College and a Ph.D. in Art History from Boston University, where she was the recipient of the Angela J. and James J. Rallis Memorial Scholarship.  After teaching art and architectural history at Harvard University, Tufts University and Connecticut College, she now devotes herself to painting full-time.  Her work is in private collections in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, and has been exhibited in numerous galleries, including Galatea Fine Art in Boston and Prince Street Gallery in New York City.  She teaches painting at the Concord Center for the Visual Arts.