Saturday, September 12, 2015

ART INSPIRED STORIES at Peninsula Art League's 13th Annual Open Show

Welcome, as the 2015 Art-Inspired Stories Project Continues!

I was excited when the Peninsula Art League contacted me about bringing the Art Inspired Stories Project to their Annual Open Show.  I was asked to create ten stories or poems based on works in the show. 

I requested a little flexibility as writing (like painting, drawing, or any other creative endeavor) does not always come out neatly to order. Twenty one works were photographed from the show, and narrowed down to twelve stories and poems. I even allowed myself a little free-verse this time as it seemed to fit some of the artwork best.

All the work submitted was excellent and merit-worthy. It’s really worth stopping by the Harbor History Museum to see the exhibition. 

The choices reflected in the pieces I have written are not qualitative. I could not possibly organize and write stories for the entire show in less than a week. So here are some of the criteria I used in making choices when I viewed the show and photographed the artworks to develop.  

I did not choose:
  • Works whose narrative is already strong - why restate something that is already clear?
  • Works whose stories could not be contained to 100 words
I tried to strike a balance the general themes of the stories (funny, sweet, contemplative, etc) and the various mediums and styles.

I am very pleased with these stories, and I hope that you enjoy them as well.

Pieces Created for the Peninsula Art League 
13th Annual Open Show
 Note: All Stories & Poems are © 2015 by Judith Cullen
Use of any of the photo images on this page without the express permission 
of the individual artists is strictly prohibited

The Philosopher
Image copyright by the artist - Sheila Anderson 
Sheila Anderson – conte

I poured another tall one into the mug.  It sat in his hand the same comfortable way that he wore his clothes - like old friends. 

“What do you think about most?” I asked.

He sipped slowly, relishing the taste before swallowing. His head tilted, considering.

“I think of life, child.”

“Really?” I was surprised.

His chuckle had a gravely antiquity.  “I’ve seen a lot of life – a whole lot, all around.”

“You don’t think of death?”

“That’s always been there too. The wishful righteousness of youth makes death cunning. It waits. It’s just one moment; while life is many.”

Kalaloch Creek Abstract
Image copyright by the artist - Robert Berg
Robert Berg – Photography

The air was sea-salt crisp as I stood there, alone and enrapt by line and motion. The progression repeated itself from the hand of an unseen sculptor. 

“This defines nature,” I thought, “This endless expansion of form, this interweaving of plane and mass.”

Did they stand back, the artist of everlastingness, checking the horizon, vanishing lines, and the angling light?  A little adjustment here, a little molding there, a shifting of pattern before the final chisel cut reverberated away? Then the final moment of satisfaction before the hand washed over it all, casually perhaps, to set it into eternal motion.

The Hug
Image copyright by the artist - Jose Caro
Jose Caro – Soft Pastel

“Boys are weird,” a sniffling sigh makes it clear that her flushed face is still wet.

Small fingers intertwining, creating linear art with beads and hair.

“I know. They all are.”

Sniff.  “That doesn’t help.”

“I know.” Scrunching up her face, she inspects her work and Megan’s face. One still needs help.

“It’ll be okay.  Forget him. He’s stupid.”

“He was mean, and it hurt.”

“I’m here. The ocean is here."

Two pairs of eyes watch translucent waves wash over and again. An arm of sisterly compassion gentles a fretful heart.

“Let’s build a fairy castle in the sand.”


Kevin Clark – Photography
Image copyright by the artist - Kevin Clark

This is the face of infinity
A luminous spiral
Stair steps from then
To this and what will be.

Follow the curve of antiquity
Amber alight with
Passion and possibility
Blue-tinged in the unknowable.

Find your place in eternity
A continual flowing
From past to future
Acknowledge your moment.

You are now.

Early Morning Colors
Michelle Hong – Photography
Image copyright by the artist - Michelle Hong

It was a quiet that was more than silence. It was a void of all sound, like nature holding its breath. 

“I’ve never seen anything so beautiful” she said, holding my hand as we glided over the mirror of paint box vibrancy. “In all my days I have never seen our little town sparkle so vividly.  I never imagined this was possible.”

“Everything looks different from the water, Mom.” I replied. “It’s a kind of magic, to see everything so still and bright.  Life takes on a fresh perspective.”

Two hands squeeze gently.

“Thank you for sharing it with me.”

Image copyright by the artist -
Xoxhi Hughes Madera
Xochi Hughes Madera – Acrylic

“What do you see?”

“What I want to see: wisdom, clarity, messages from beyond space and time.”

Ebony wings fluff with an assumed vanity, emulated admirably in its vision of itself.

“You are not that bird,” the vision replies.

“Why not?  Why can’t I be if that’s what I desire?”

Patiently illustrating, “Your wing span, the shape of your beak, and please - we both know that you can’t keep a secret.”

Bone and feathers considers this.

“What if I am transforming; changing.  What if I am shifting from this shape to that one, eh?” 

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

Pumpkin Patch
Image copyright by the artist -
Dolores McFrederick
Dolores McFrederick – Watercolor

“I don’t believe you just threw them back here!”

Norman ran appreciative hands over the cool skins. “Aren’t they amazing? Like little miracles, Iris, each one.”

“Your miracle is my mess. After all these years, how could ‘throw these away, please’ not be a clear request? What are we supposed to do with all these?”

He hadn’t considered that before.

“I love your pumpkin bread.” She always put raisins and walnuts in it.

“Too much work to boil down raw pumpkin”

“I’ll give them to the neighbors for Halloween.”

“You do that.” She huffed her way inside.

He smiled. “Miracles.”

First light at Opatia
Image copyright by the artist - George Milliken
George Milliken – Watercolor

Small, medium, and large
Near, far, and in between
Papa, mama, and baby
Adrift in a sea of reflection and light

Like ducks all in a row
Recurring strokes of oars
Mirror reflecting into mirror
What would they say, if they could?

“Hold on tight to your tender,
Life will rock and roll you.
Keep your bow straight, and
Your keel always even.

“Always mind your hull
Let go of the barnacles
They only slow your progress, and
Delay you from arrivals.

“Life’s storm and calm,
Squall and fair wind
Navigate them all, and
Your anchor will always find port.”

Small, medium, and large
Near, far, and in between
Papa, mama, and baby
Swaying in continual tides of Creation.

Canyon Fantasy
Image copyright by the artist - Larry Parker
Larry Parker – Acrylic

“Where do I go?” the trickle asked, dodging stick and stone, looking for a path that would not resist its youthful energy.

“I’m not quite sure,” answered the stream, as they joined hands and hurried together.  “There is an ending somewhere, a place of rest.  But, for right now, let’s run together and enjoy the ride!”

“Steady, now, steady,” cautioned the river. “Wander with me among the mountains and valleys.  The journey is worth savoring. Together, many things will move aside for us, and the others we’ll go around. We will get there by and by.”

“Welcome,” said the Sea.

Image copyright by the artist - Nicholas Sherbina
Nicholas Sherbina – Photography

He rubbed his arms, surprised by the chill and wishing he’d brought coffee.  The face of his watch flashed, reflecting the sunlight penetrating the haze.

“Please, don’t let her forget.”

The water was a mirror, and the play of mist and light gamboled across it in a slow tango. His feet beat a pacing tattoo against the flagstones.

“Please, let her have meant it.”

He wished he could cast for confidence, a magical endowment that would make waiting less painful.

Finally, the familiar rush of shoes on gravel; the unrestrainable embrace of arms and lips.  Then, all pain is forgotten.

Image copyright by the artist - Donna Trent
Donna Trent – Oil

“I think he’s looking at you,” she said under her breath.

“Which one?” slid quietly out the side of her mouth while she fussed with a strap.

“The one with the umbrella.”

“That’s good!” Her voice was louder now.  “Everyone brought umbrellas but us. Did you put on sun block?”

“No, did you?”

“No. Why is it we never think of these things?”

Children fidgeted, eager to run, undaunted by heat..

The voice from behind was tempered with age, “Because you are young and indestructible.  It doesn’t last.”

A resigned sigh, “Why is it we never think of these things?”

Morning Mist
Image copyright by the artist - Michelle Van Berkom
Michelle Van Berkom – Watercolor

“Are we there yet?” the car wound its way through the dawning light.

“Are you nervous?” A calming voice replied, masking its own excitement. 

“I have new shoes, and Mommy got me colored pencils this year; a big box with lots of different colors.  I didn’t know there were so many colors.”

“Look around, outside.”

A nose presses the window glass, leaving a mark that will remain in the memory of this particular first day.

“Wow, Daddy!  The world is full of lots of colors, just like my box.”

“More than you will ever be able to fit inside it.”


This was great fun and a real honor to be asked by a new exhibition to bring my project to their show.  This project appeals to me as a visual artist, which I am, and challenges me in many different ways as an author.  I love it!

A huge thank you to Kim Shuckhart Gunns and Sandy Newhouse for making this a pleasurable experience.  Also, thanks to Charles Salak whose assistance was invaluable.

Interested in more of the Art Inspired?  Check out these project posts.

Read all of the 2015 stories from Proctor AtsFest HERE
Read all of the 2014 stories from Proctor AtsFest HERE

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