Spring Melee

A melee is a brawl, and this fits typical March weather as well as my most recent papercuts.

Last month I joined the Del Ray Artisans, an artists’ co-op in Alexandria Virginia.  This makes some sense if you know that I go visit my son Dylan and his wife Sara there about twice a year. To be able to exhibit, you must be juried into a show and also agree to work 12 hours a year for the organization. I had two pieces of art accepted for a show for this month. Dylan kindly agreed to deliver the artwork that I’d mailed to him earlier in the week.  I will miss the opening, but  I’ll go up at the end of the month to do yard work at the building, work in the gallery, and help take the exhibit down (working off some of my required hours). I am very excited about this opportunity and hope to make regular trips up twice a year.


Here’s a link to the Del Ray Artisans, in case you are interested in their operation.


And here’s the artists’ call for the exhibit I’ll be in, “March Melee,” followed by my two submissions, which I designed specifically for this theme.

March Melee – An Art Bash is an opportunity to submit your best and brashest art — big or small. This over the top art show is all about excess, don’t be shy. Strut your stuff exuberantly. Melee implies a brawl and malarkey means nonsense, so let those terms be your guide. Be bold, aggressive, silly, wacky, wild, frivolous, funky, startling, bizarre, over the top and around the bend. Remember the prophetic words of Roald Dahl, “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest [wo]men.”

Lillian Trettin_Malevolent Brew

Malevolent Brew


Lillian Trettin_Benevolent Brew

Benevolent Brew


Lillian Trettin_ Malevolent and Benevolent Brew

Malevolent and Benevolent Brew (framed)

th          Here’s how I came up with Malevolent and Benevolent Brew.

I love my Nespresso coffee machine.   Drinking espresso instead of brewed coffee helped me beat a bad case of acid reflux, triggered by years of drinking coffee in bed (espresso has less caffeine and less acid than brewed coffee). I love knowing that I can still drink two cups in the morning. That, in a nut shell, is why I think of coffee as both malevolent and benevolent.

Both my sons also have Nespresso machines, and we’ve been known to discuss the fine points of how the spout works, how to clean it, etc. This artwork results from my interest in how the innards of that glossy, streamlined machine really work; also from having to pay attention to how MY innards work so that I don’t burn out my pipes again. Add to that a cultural mash up of Japanese demon masks and steampunk Victoriana, and here you have my cut-paper coffee machine. I think of this pair in red and black and gold as “exuberant,” which is how a great espresso makes me feel.


 Here’s my last Tyvek papercut for an Edgar Allan Poe exhibit scheduled for next Fall. This one is of Prince Prospero in the story  “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe. In my version, the prince is either a Body Hacker, or a Cyborg. In the 1830s, defying death meant partying inside and hoping cholera would stay put outside. Today, defying death means replacing parts of our bodies and hoping we discover a medical fountain of youth.

Lillian Trettin_Masque of the Red Death (drawing)

Masque of the Red Death (drawing)


You can see from the original drawing traced onto Tyvek (above) that I had to make lots of alterations. Anywhere you see black marks means I changed the image at that point while cutting with an exacto knife. Only when I reversed the original piece of white Tyvek could I see what it really looked like.

Lillian Trettin_Masque of the Red Death (reverse)

Masque of the Red Death (reverse)

Lillian Trettin_Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death (black)

The final version in black Tyvek, shown here under glass and over a sheet of India ink-dyed Tyvek,  was the second layer I cut at the same time as the white sheet. One of these two will end up appropriately red.

That’s it for EA Poe, and I promise more cheerful, if no less exuberant, projects to come.

About Lillian-Trettin

I grew up in the Appalachian "Bible Belt" of East Tennessee in the southern United States, listening to banjo music and gospel lyrics as well as the Beatles. As a kid, I was curious about religious rituals like speaking in tongues and snake handling but resistant to the fundamentalist thinking they involved. Flannery O'Connor's tales of religious fanatics, con men, bigots, and the spiritually bereft or ambivalent resonate for me. Despite having traveled widely and lived in other places, I am (as so many Southerners claim to be) permanently "South haunted." I returned to making art full time in 2011, following a career as a teacher, researcher, and consultant and after raising two sons. I’m convinced the delay enriched rather than impeded my growth as an artist.
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