In March I’ll ramp up efforts for an exhibit in July and a class next October. But for the past month I’ve processed my disappointment in and frustration with the new administration. Time will tell whether policy becomes more thoughtful, whether we are made “safer,” and whether any money is saved.

I have started writing my Senators. I designed a set of post cards and a sticker that I enclose in letters. These are for my benefit. They make writing fun. My key image is an Angry Guy.  He’s a symbol not a portrait.

He could be any Angry Guy, or he could be Trump, Stalin, Nixon, Bannon, you can take your pick. The very day we heard about the “well oiled machine” I was creating my own version of the Machine (below).


These are all attached here (angry-guy-stickers-copysay-no-talk-backwell-oiled-machine ) I copyrighted the Angry Guy, so be my guest. Print him out and send him to anyone you’d like. I’ve also put him on Redbubble. There’s even some (not-by-Ivanka) clothing to wear to rallies and so on.

Last weekend, I attended an exhibit of fifty spectacular examples of the Qu’ran on loan from Turkey to the Sackler Museum in Washington DC. I have never been in an exhibit so packed with all kinds of people, ranging from folks that looked just like me to women in full burka. I’ve attached a few pictures of the children’s events held that weekend. This was uplifting and it gave me hope.




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Wandering in 2017

In the wake of the presidential election, I plan to spend the winter and early spring NOT making new art. I have my own plan for artistic rejuvenation, and I look forward to the process.  The end result should be some new artwork by July, when I’m scheduled to exhibit again, but I’m not clear as to what it will be. Please check back in late spring for something more concrete. I’m not going away but I may fall silent for a while. Here, just for the record, is my plan of study, or rather my gut reaction as to what I need to do.

Among other things, I’m exploring the latest in board games. This is somewhat painful for me as some of them are fairly complicated.  This one, Dead of Winter – Longest Night, takes up my dining room table.  It has strong narrative, elegant graphics (even the zombies) and secret betrayers, making it an asymmetrical cooperative game.  That is just my cup or tea.



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Telling a New Tale

I took a break in November, following a class called “Every Picture Tells a Story” taught by sculptor and collage artist Melissa Stern. I’ll write more about that class later;  it was excellent.

For now, I’m posting a few pictures (from that class) because they point me in a new direction.  I’ve turned from paper cutting to collage: some torn paper and Tyvek along with hard-edged cuts, and some found imagery (Dover bugs, lizards, snakes) combined with some free-hand cut imagery (“drawn” with scissors).

Here’s a figure from “Slovenly Peter” (a 19th German book of manners for children, reissued many times) that I integrated into a class exercise based on “a memory about eating cake.” Perhaps Augustus Gloop, the little guy seated at the table (a cut out from an illustration in S-P),  ate more cake than was good for his digestion.

Lillian Trettin_artwork

Most stories in “Slovenly Peter” (as in the original “Grimms Fairytales”) do not end well.  Today’s parents might call them “politically incorrect.” But they are catchy, and the illustrations are charming.  The dissonance is  rather fascinating. Working with this material could be my next literary-art  challenge.

The dark recesses of childhood might also be responsible for this next sequence.

Lillian Trettin_artwork_collages

Run Away

Running for fun, running without aim, running to escape–maybe this work’s best understood as an exercise in interactive storytelling.  The less predetermined the visual story, the more invested the viewer will be in telling her own version.  The key is to provide clues and spark a viewer’s  storytelling process, without completely predetermining the tale.

Lillian Trettin_artwork_image

Lillian Trettin_artwork_image

These are “exercises” rather than finished art, and somewhat unlovely, but after scratching my head for a month while I looked at them, I have an idea what to do next.

It comes as something of a surprise.

But after a month, I’ve decided to try my hand at designing a board game, something  dark and swampy, with many potential paths to fruition and a few disastrous dead ends.




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Two Openings, Charleston

Here are a few pictures of the other two exhibits I participated in this fall. This is it for me for a while. My plan this year is to become more involved in community arts, and perhaps something in art education.

To that ends, I am taking a one-week class at Penland School of Craft with  Melissa Sterns on “drawing for narrative art.” Sterns is a New York-based artist who produced “The Talking Cure,” one of the Spoleto exhibits in Charleston that I wrote about last summer.

The Dark Edge: Art Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe (below) –  A solo exhibit

The Dark Edge_art work

On and Off the Page: Book Arts (below) – approximately 40 artists from multiple states

Click here for a review in the Charleston City Paper

Trettin_art work

Trettin art work

Trettin_art work_books

Trettin books


across from my work:  Kit Loney (left)  Mary Walker (right)


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Two Openings, Alexandria VA

Here are a few images of the exhibit  “Fire and Earth” representing a selection of ceramic and pottery cups from fine arts craftsmen nationwide and 2D artwork related to the exhibit title. This was the September exhibit at Del Ray Artisans in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia.  The last weekend of the exhibit  coincided with the popular event “Art on the Avenue,” also in Del Ray.


Fire and Earth exhibit – overview


Fire and Earth exhibit – opening reception

Lillian Trettin_art work

Fire and Earth marketplace – small items for sale


Washington Post “going out” guide featured the exhibit


Art on the Avenue in Del Ray, popular despite rain


The October exhibit at Del Ray Artisans is “Local Flavor.”  My work, Collectorama, was selected as the “visitors’ favorite” and  was also purchased on opening night–a nice surprise for me that I learned about later since I had already left Virginia and flown back to South Carolina just in time for Hurricane Matthew to hit.

Lillian Trettin_Collectorama_artwork



And my birdhouse is one of many on display during the month as part of a silent auction to raise money for community arts education.  It’s the only one of a political persuasion.


artists’ birdhouses

Donald Trump birdhouse_Lillian Trettin_art

Trump Birdhouse

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Local art and political afterglow

Unlike many, I chose not to watch the first presidential debate of the 2016 election season. (that was a debate?) But I have a comment, as usual, primarily visual.

Donald Trump birdhouse_Lillian Trettin_art

The impetus for this piece is a silent auction of artist-made birdhouses at the Del Ray Artisans (Alexandria VA)  in October as a fund raiser for their community art programs.  I wanted to produce a comparable Hillary birdhouse “” but unfortunately I ran out of  materials.  It’s all cuckoo to me.

Along with the birdhouses, DRA is hosting an exhibit of art inspired by the local landscape.  This will be my last submission for the year.  It gave me an excuse to develop an approach to working with a cityscape.  This business on the main street of Del Ray, an old fashioned comics shop, is rarely open.  The store windows are crowded with faded old copies of comics and seedy looking house plants.  I liked the idea of super heroes and weedy plants breaking loose and hovering beyond the roof line.

Collectorama_Lillian Trettin_paper cut



Next up: the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit at the public library, and pictures of the City Gallery exhibit, On and Off the Page.


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New exhibits and a little political play

Here’s the scoop on some upcoming exhibits I’m participating in that I hope will interest you:

On and Off the Page

The City Gallery in Charleston is hosting an exhibit of book arts with work by more than 40 artists from across the United States, primarily the Southeast.

You’ll see book structures, illustrations, and prints from both contemporary and historic sources (the latter from the Waring Collection at MUSC)

Opening Reception is Sept 16, 5-7pm.
Show runs Sept 17 – Oct 30. Gallery hours 10-6 Tuesday through Friday, 12-5 Saturday and Sunday.
The City Gallery at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Waterfront Park is located at 34 Prioleau in downtown Charleston.




The Dark Edge

The Charleston Public Library is hosting my exhibit of cut paper works inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s lesser known stories (some creepy, some not) and stories with familiar southern settings.

The exhibit is on view during regular library hours at the Main Branch from October 2 through October 30.

Lillian Trettin_Poe Wallpaper_art

Poe Wallpaper


Earth and Fire

Del Ray Artisans in Alexandria VA is hosting a show of fine art pottery and wall art for the month of September and accepted my first experiment with the scroll as a form of 2D art.
This exhibit isn’t local but I get to see my kids any time something’s accepted there, so that makes me specially happy.

The Kiln Queen_Lillian Trettin_art

The Kiln Queen


Art Series I – “Fluid”

On September 15th, 2016, Collective Coffee in Mount Pleasant will play host to a gallery experience showing several artists’ interpretation of the theme “Fluid.”

The art will be on display from September 15th until October 27th.  I’m not in this one but it is a great idea and should be an interesting exhibit.

New Work

I’m at that uncomfortable stage of experimentation in a new project when I have multiple versions of drawings and I’m playing around with different media and color combinations.

The image below shows some of my emerging characters.  Due to the presidential election hoopla  this fall, these became politicians in bipartisan agreement, though this has nothing to do with the story I’m fabricating.  They have put aside their blow torch and shears and decided to get along.  Maybe the birds are constituents, or lobbyists.  I guess the alligators have agreed temporarily not to eat the hare.

Great Bicycle Accord_art_Lillian Trettin

The Great Bicycle Accord


Mountain Storyteller_art_Trettin

Mountain Storyteller

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The Story of Two Storytellers

The framing device for my next art project is a trip taken by two travelers, one a storyteller by nature, who is not normally a person of action, and one a person of action, who learns how to tell stories.

My way of better understanding these two characters and their story together is to do portraits of them, full-front with a few props and simple backgrounds. I seem to need a time consuming element of repetitive work while I’m conjuring—so I’m doing paper cuts.

revising Jean

Cutting image

While cutting characters with a blade, I invariably change the drawing. Figures sometimes become more angular or jagged or intense, they look meaner or crazier or more tired or distraught. I may decide to add weapons. What starts out as something like a children’s book illustration gets a little nastier.





Here (below) are two versions of Legoe Matoe, the Devil’s Dressmaker, from Hell Hole Swamp (a real place in the Lowcountry of South Carolina). She starts out sort of cute and gets creepier (this is indeed part of her story)

Legoe 1

Legoe reverse


Here are versions of the other character, Janglin Jean. Unlike Legoe who progresses straight from cute to creepy, Jean just looks different in each case. Obviously I can’t decide if she looks like the Tin Man (woman) crossed with a skeleton, or Cher with plastic surgery and bioengineered parts. Actually, I’m leaning toward the latter, as this would fit her story (she’s done many things in her life and is feeling worn out and in need of a “lift”).


Mean Jean

Face Lift Jean


After finishing these exploratory paper cuts, I want to develop a strategy for reproducing sequences of images. I am thinking about cutting out black and white figures and arranging them on colored backgrounds. The paper cut helped me visualize how this might work.


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I recently read a biography of Diane Arbus and read this great review of an exhibit of her early photos by Holland Cotter:

Looking at her odd and challenging pictures reminds me that artists translate visual imagery and memories of people and places into symbols (refracted, fractured) and signs (reflections), often making choices along some continuum between the two. There is no such thing as the unvarnished view. All of us have strategies of seeing and portraying that suit us.

I go for fractured and refracted; I don’t do reflective very well. This tendency extends to my sense of place. I recently revisited a childhood summer home and recognized with fresh eyes that my black and white drawings are littered with symbolic bits and pieces from that environment. The story involving those drawings (“The Obidian Interval”) has nothing to do with that place or my family, but they are in there, as individual characters, imaginary geography, and even the overall style of my drawings.

I’m recording a few examples to help me preapare for a second graphic novel (of sorts). I’m hoping for stylistic continuity (one reason for this exercise) and some of the characters will repeat. This will be the story of a Trek across country. It’s a mash up of The Wizard of Oz (always), Thelma and Louise (loosely), and Rocky and Bulwinkle’s fractured fairytales. It fills the gap between “The Obidian Interval” and “The Grand Houkathunk” (which I introduced in an earlier post).

Around 2000 I did rubbings of interior hardware  in my family’s summer home, a shingle style house built in the 1880s,  and some time later produced an artist’s book titled: The House in my Head.”

door knob


Lillian Trettin_House in My Head_Art

The House in My Head 2002


Below are views from the house (on an island in the Great Lakes) that I will always remember. They influence the way I interpret experience and determine everything from imaginary geography to a vaguely eastern style originally derived more from Victorian “orientalism” than any true awareness of traditional Asian culture.

View from the front porch

island geog

View from the kitchen

My cover for “The Obidian Interval” is a compilation of odds and ends from my father’s second floor junk room, interior hardware, and home artifacts.

Dad's closet


Chester impBook cover.jpg The strange little girl on the right may be me in the dark corner of the house near the back steps under the phone, a place  that for some reason made me afraid (I have never figured that one out).

Hanging on the wall in the dining room, there’s a picture of a horse drawn cab on a road with a grave marker or a commemorative sculpture or a letter box or a Station of the Cross—I have never figured out what it is supposed to be, but I can only see a scary face there. I used to look at it during family meals, probably while waiting for my father to serve the plates and my mother to pick up her fork. This faces shows up in my drawings.

mystery face

face 2

I’ve drawn many dancing rubbery bodies because of the prancing figure on this lamp and occasionally a rubbery landscape (also conditioned by looking out wavy glass in old windows).

old lamp

These bits and pieces symbolize or refract or incorporate family history, but the artist need not justify or explain, and sometimes can’t.

Now, there’s more to come, just as soon as I make it all up (out of more bits and pieces). There will even be a little history (fractured) of bootlegging. Probably because I remember the dusty top row of exotic cocktail glasses from a bygone era in the pantry of the summer home, things that my family would never have considered using.


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The Pebble

pebbles 2

This short essay is the best piece I’ve read on philosophy of art in some time.  Rivka Glachen’s contribution bears reading more than once, and I reproduce it below in full.

Is the idea of ‘art for art’s sake’ the prerogative of the socially privileged?

Comment by Rivka Galchen

Because art takes time to make, its makers are often those with a luxury of time.

Of late, in part to lower my blood pressure after reading the news, I turn for bedtime reading to “The Collected Poems” of Zbigniew Herbert. The book often falls open to a poem titled “Pebble” that begins like this:

The pebble
is a perfect creature

equal to itself
mindful of its limits

filled exactly
with a pebbly meaning. . . .

its ardor and coldness
are just and full of dignity

The lines read almost like a piece of philosophy, or a fragment of a mathematical proof. Though the poet was born in Lwow, Poland, in 1924, there is very little directly visible in this poem — or in a majority of Herbert’s poems — of the Nazi or subsequent Communist rule under which he lived, or of his odd jobs, ill health, loves, meals.

“Art for art’s sake” might be a term used for something that appears simply to look inward, at its own process and material, rather than outward; it might be something in which an interest in form seems to have eclipsed interest in the larger world, or in social justice, or in content of any kind.

Since art categorizable as “art for art’s sake” is usually produced tangentially to hopes of making money, of reaching a large audience or of being immediately useful, it tends to be the darling of the many-degreed. And because art takes time to make, its makers are often those with a luxury of time — usually the wealthy, occasionally the poor. But there is a way in which art for art’s sake is the art most open to all comers, and the most (potentially) ethical.

The latter half of “Pebble” shifts perspective and sentiment:

I feel a heavy remorse
when I hold it in my hand
and its noble body
is permeated by false warmth

— Pebbles cannot be tamed
to the end they will look at us
with a calm and very clear eye

The remorse the poet feels holding the pebble first reads as counterintuitive; here the cold pebble is noble while the heat from the poet’s hand — human warmth! — is described as “false warmth.” After six stanzas of looking at the pebble, the pebble then looks at us “with a calm and very clear eye.” The pebble isn’t tamed, as an animal (including a human) might be, by what we give it.

Herbert believed the arts had a moral responsibility. How does that play out in “Pebble,” a poem that doesn’t solicit our empathy for any group of people or situation? “Pebble” feels less about pebbles than about a way of thinking. It reads more as a meditation on or model of seeing, than about what is seen. In that way, like the laws of gravity or the ratio of a circumference to a radius, it is at once specific and abstract.

A pebble can be an irritation in a shoe or something whose smoothness we might remember is the result of wave after wave after wave. While it seems morally valuable to work to increase our empathy — a much praised aspect of (some) art — that which most easily animates our sentiments will almost never be what most merits them. Art for art’s sake avoids false warmth; it is untamed, but orderly.

Art that directs our feelings about contemporary events, even when well intentioned, quickly reads as dated, corrupted, almost always wrong. Herbert offers us none of the comfort of assurances or clarities; his model is the model of not being absorbed by another model, instead working to improve vision itself. These days I find Herbert’s poems, more than any emotionally pitched images and phrases, models of ethical thinking.


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