Ridgway, Colorado
May 15
A sometimes artist and photographer, sometimes I write too.  


Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 26, 2009 10:16AM

enormous talent: my favorite blogs of 2009

Rate: 52 Flag


I do the New York Times crossword every day in a seemingly futile attempt to forestall Alzheimer's. I say seemingly because it appears that I live more and more in the moment, with no knowledge of the future and little remembrance of things past. Huh, that's much like Open Salon, isn't it? We are indeed "of the moment" here in our online home. It's the paradigm of the age I guess. There's precious little digital archaeology going on. Notwithstanding the postings gone viral—which is a different kettle—it's a rare thing that even the most recent of postings gets a viewing or a return visit. That's ok—it is what it is.  


A list always begs the question of what's not on the list. I apologize in advance for the people that I've not included. Those of you who know me know that I'm a devoted friend, and I often try to make a connection that includes a lot of support and affection (not always—but I think that's mostly true). This list is not about friends, necessarily, it's about me getting grabbed and smacked around by the artistic and literary gems of some amazing people here on Open Salon. There are many more than what's in this meager representation. This place is filled with enormous talent. 


There is some irony then in how I came up with my list of 2009 blogs that struck me. I went to my Favorites page and made a list of 20 very easily. That got narrowed down to 10, and then narrowed down some more. OS oozes with talent and I just can't come up with a completely inclusive list. I probably could pick out every one on that friends list and strike gold. 


With that in mind, I'd like to invite you now to come with me as I dust off the large tupperware attic storage container of a few of my favorite blogs from this past year.


First, a note: Being who I am, a photographer who tries to be an artist, I'm naturally drawn to the visual arts. Blogs and postings that have arresting images speak to me in an enhanced way. That's not to say I'm not struck dumb and numb by words alone—I just wanted to let you know of my prejudice up front and that I acknowledge it as such. However, let's start with a couple that deal with artistic wordsmithery. 






Art James


art james

Who in the world cannot love this image of Art


Goat Gouda Blueberry might not make much sense to you on your initial reading, but then, more reading is precisely what's needed. That's the original screen name for our inimitable OS poet laureate Art James. Art does most of his work on OS in the comment threads, much less so in his own blog. You can go to his blog list and read every one of his blog postings in a fairly short amount of time, but to do so would be an injustice to you, and to him.


To get the full measure of Art, you need to keep a keen eye out for his comments. His words are structural poetic masterpieces. How can a man of towering empathy and intellect confine himself to a quad right sloping line? I don't know, but it works, and works beautifully.


Interestingly, though his presence on OS if felt most intimately in the comment section, my favorite outright blog of his is one in which he didn't write the words. Sitting In Darkness is a letter from Samuel L. Clemens, but I think Art intended it to remind us all of what we do to ourselves over and over again with little regard to the lessons of history.




m. a.h



"One lucky girl"


I cannot remember the number of times I've been smacked around by m. a.h. She simply has this ability to grab me by the shirt with both of her fists, put her face right in mine, demand my attention the moment I start reading her and all the while I'm expecting to be kneed in the groin. She doesn't disappoint.


She weaves tapestries with her words, her fingers. If I saw her weft and warp words hanging on a wall, with a price next to it that was a bit more than I could afford, I would do without something to own it—yet she gives it away for free. Everyone who comes by her blog owns her stuff, art patrons whether they know it or not.


And yet, with all that enormous talent, she knows she's lucky. Come read One Last Look At Summer… and see for yourself that what I say is true.







I go back and forth wondering if these are Kelly's feet or if they are of someone else in a photo by Kelly. She does live with her cartoonist partner, and those seem to be the perfect boots for a cartoonist, so maybe they are her calves, ankles and feet after all in a shot taken by someone else.


km is underappreciated as an artist—even by herownself. I've asked her several times to take that section of her bio away—the part where she describes herself as a "hobbyist photographer" since clearly there's nothing avocational about her abilities as an artist. I think that while she and I are aware that in a world of 7 billion people a full half of them probably have cameras. As you distill that list down through proficiency to artistry, you still have a mind-boggling enormous number of photography artists who are going to be way better than anything than we who are a bit better-than-average-snap-shotters will ever be. 


Even acknowledging that, there is an amazing etherial quality to Kelly's artistry. Stop by km's blog and then look here, here and here. You'll be blown away too.


It's hard for me to pick a favorite photoblog image of hers, but one that literally had me stop breathing for a moment is this one below, found here. Of course there is the wrenching emotional impact of her cemetery and abandoned prison shots, but this one is masterfully, technically perfect—it's magical, and yet seemingly too simple to compose and frame and execute. Therein lies the artist, making something exquisite yet all the elements of the artist's hand, heart and mind are subliminal.






Chuck A. Stetson


they say the eyes, but a smile is also a window to the soul


When I first read Chuck's poetry I was reminded of this passage in a favorite book of mine, War in Heaven, by Charles Williams. The protagonist is running through the countryside in England near Fardles trying to escape the rain.


In the distance he discerned a shed by the side of the road, broke into a run, and reaching it, took shelter with a bound which landed him in a shallow puddle lying just within the dark entrance. "Oh, damn and blast!" he cried with a great voice. "Why was this bloody world created?"
"As a sewer for the stars," a voice in front of him said.

That voice was in fact the poet in the novel. 


Chuck requires you to stretch yourself, without ever demanding that you do so. It has to come from you, he is merely the vehicle. There are a number of people who post poetry on OS, and some are very good poets. Yes, that means some are not. I would never want to discourage anyone about that, but in all sincerity, it is an intuitive and a honed artistic craft—a gift received and then redelivered. Not everyone can do it, and that's ok. Poetry can run the gamut and we can enjoy what is presented. However, Chuck is a glorious artist. What I said above about Kelly's hands and heart remaining hidden is similar now for Chuck's art. He makes it seem effortless. Of course he writes beautiful prose as well, but I'm smashed by his poetry.


Look at this, his Seas of Change and let it speak to you—surrender to it. I think you'll be moved as well.




Chuck doesn't leave it there. Write an OSmail to Marcela in English and ask her about Chuck, what he did for her. He doesn't just write, doesn't just talk. He acts out empathy, it's not just latent—it's active. 


He's a beautiful man.







I miss you Kirs, and wish you were still posting on OS


I was enthralled when this post of hers hit the front page of Open Salon. If this image doesn't evoke wanderlust, there must be a world weariness in you:



"The view of our Tukuls on the Mesket Escaprment in the Northern highlands of Ethiopia"


When your first tell people you are taking your next vacation to Ethiopia the most standard reply is a scrunched up face, a disapproving, "Why?" and then a very bad joke about how we are going to eat while we travel the famine ravaged country…
When we replied with our stock answer as to "why?" most people still didn't understand:  "Why not?  Incredible food, interesting history/people, and freakin' Gelada monkeys.  What more do you need?"

This is more than a mere travelogue, it's more than a discovery about a place or a people. It's a discovery of self and the kind of connection we should all make with people—those flung far and wide and those close to home.


On a personal level, I think this post reaffirmed for me my own place in Open Salon. I strive to bring some sense of beauty—and Kirs inspired me to continue in that quest and commitment. She only has 15 posts on OS spanning about one year. Six of them had EPs. I'm sorry about the amazing talent that leaves us, but thankful the posts remain.







I'm gonna poke you

"I'm gonna poke you"  from Hooking up with Tequila


Tequilaanddonuts and I go way back—many years now. I know you're just major jealousing right now reading that, but it's true. I'm just really lucky, I guess. We met at Flickr at the confluence of a mutual friend who chronicles the ridiculousness in a social photo documentary of life in LA. People were outraged, outraged I tell you, that anyone would dare document the public weirdness in LAla land. Malingering, the Flickr friend, and a practicing psychiatrist, didn't need our help defending her rights, but Deven and I (and a host of others) had fun doing so anyway. Both of us are still very close to Malingering.


If there is one thing that I can claim as my 15 minutes of fame on Open Salon it's this: I was the one that drug Deven over here. She said right away that it was the first social/community blog site that she really "got." The ensuing rest is history. I love Deven. She likes me a lot too. That doesn't mean, however, that I have exclusive rights. She can love you too, and does. Though sometimes she's just all ::@@:: at some of the silliness here as well. 


Deven doesn't need a lot of introduction to anyone on OS. But I will say that I've known for a long time what many of us here have discovered: She's hella funny, talented, artistic, intuitive, empathic and other crap. She gets my youngest son Evan, the third of three. And at times I really need someone on the outside to get him as I pull out my hair. 


Some of you will remember my posting of a Hunter S. Thompsonesque encounter I had with the Divine Ms D in the not too distant past. It's all true, every word.


As a rule, I don't literally laugh out loud when I'm reading, even when the stuff is outrageous. That doesn't apply to Deven's OS oeuvre. I laugh out loud. Hard. The one that had me really rockin' and a rollin' was her latest Mom's Day Out post Mom Day: Mom was out mom'ed. We now have a new entry into our graphic lexicon: ::@@:: I wonder how many of us actually realize what we've gained from her presence here. There is lots of jealousing of the effortless sheer talent that oozes. 


Salon Media Group ought to become a book publisher. There's money to be made in turning the Mom's Day posts into a book. From the thousands of hits those posts get from inside OS and thousands more from around the world, success would be a slam funk.









and, last, but certainly not in the least, least


Gary Justis



Those aren't Gary's words, he'd never say Keep Out—quite the opposite


Gary is more than an artist, more than a sculptor of kinetic imagination. He's a mentor and teacher, taking acolytes into the expansive studio he occupies regardless of where he is at any moment. He does in fact teach at the University of Illinois in Bloomington, but he seems to be just outside of time and space as we know it. 


You can see his art at his website, but it paints an incomplete picture. In spite of having great success nationally as a sculptor, with works and exhibits shown and installed from San Francisco to New York City, he has a passionate desire to elicit art from those who surround him. 


I'll give you an example. If you haven't made it to one of his recent blogs that describes this passion, please see his From Mini to Mighty blog. There's no better example of what it means to give from master to student that is affirmative yet challenging, loving yet demanding with spectacular results.


This is the result of that loving challenge:




I wish I could describe my feelings when I saw that image for the first time. And, it's something I'm drawn to, one that I come back to and marvel at the amazing beauty of it. And again, the image is not the whole story—you have to read what led up to that to see the love and devotion. 


...I found there were few other images I could countenance. I felt trouble with examinations of any image after the one I had just seen.


Oh for professors who are rendered such as this from their students. I think this is the tell of Gary, that he is not afraid of being what his students need. I wonder now how Annie, the artist, has blossomed because of Gary's hand. I was stunned by the images in this post and what they represent.


It was just a month ago that I had my own gallery show—a combined book debut party with my photography art on the walls of what used to be the CityGallery in Dallas. I was on my way down to the gallery space on the day of the event, several hours early to check on the details and tie up any last minute loose threads. My phone rang. It was Gary. He called because he has been through any number of openings and exhibit shows. He knew I would be nervous at this, my first public showing of my art. He just talked to me in his normal voice—a calm, soothing metronome of encouragement and delight on my behalf. We hung up and I cried in gratitude for having such a giving person in my life.


Gary gives everything he has on Open Salon. He has many friends and fans. I wish he got more attention than what he gathers in—simply because his work is worthy of it. I am biased—he is my friend, but I think it's easy for you to see as well what kind of man, what kind of artist he is.




That's it friends—a few of my favorites from 2009. I hope you like these representative choices. It's an incomplete list to be sure. I could pick a favorite blog every day from whoever is posting—with 40,000 members there's no lack of talent—enormous talent. 





# # #










site stats

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
This is so sweet, Barry!
Thank you for doing this!

(thumbified ::@@:: - Love that Deven and her mom!)
Thanks for doing this, Barry. This is a great tribute to some really wonderful people here.
Barry. I got only so far into this, and diagnosed you as the most bonkers @ Open Salon. You use to have Maxine Hong Kingston as one of your favorites. You were once well. Maxine Hong King's Home burned down on my birthday. You looked like you dragged in:`
a dirty farmer's head-
a grey cabbage head.
You gonna go loony.
You make me sigh.
What you wrote.
You good kooky.
I'll go read slow.
Looks so kind.
My respects.
Thank you.
a heart bow.
Not a bad person in the bunch. All are great writers and great people. I haven't met any personally, but if you read someone enough, I believe you know if the are good people. And these are!
Padraig, Jodi and Frank...thank you very much for your kind words. I was so torn in how to choose and felt terrible about leaving so many people out. I hope that friends view this post in a positive way instead of what's not here. When my kids were little, one of my mantras to them, especially around Christmas time was "be happy with what you have instead of unhappy with what you don't have." This is a little bit, a little, like that. There is so much glorious talent here on OS, that I hope that others take up this end of year reflection and fill in my obvious omissions.

Thanks again.

Art, you fill me with joy...'nuff said.

scanner, you are so right!
Great choices, Barry. Thanks for this, especially for including ::@@:: Happiest of new years to you and yours.
Now I've got at least two new bloggers to go read. Thanks Barry.

I already am familiar with the wonders of Chuck Stetson.
Kathy, thanks! the ::@@:: just cracks me up...still. And thanks to you for your personal connection to me and your support throughout this past year--it means a lot.

skeletnwmn, I'm happy that's the case. please let me know what you think.
You had me at Art James.

This reminds me that the best of OS is that people like you are understanding other people on OS at this level. So wonderful to be understood. Warm wishes of the season, HB
surly, I think Art has that effect on a lot of people. He and I are not really that far apart in age, but I think I don't have enough time or talent to get to his beloved station in life.

HB, warm wishes to you as well. thanks so much for those thoughts.

kitty, they are awesome indeed. just so you know, I think you're teh awesome too.
So many talented, fabulous people here @ OS, great picks!
The problem, never enough time...
Thanx for this Barry, agreed...RRR
What a fantastic list, Barry! There are a couple of artists there that I'm unaware of, but the ones I do know, you nailed to a tee and they are also some of my favorites by far. Present company included, of course.
Thanks for the introductions! ::scurries off to go read::
A very nice thing you've done, Barry.
Your kindness is as keen as your art. I'm at a loss for words. So many talented artists: writers, photographers, cartoonists, essayists and humorists congregate here at OS. I'm proud to be a part of this wonderful community. I'm humbled that you have included me with Devon, Gary, Kirs, Kelly, m.a.h and the coolest man in the universe, Art James. Thank you....
I love that you took the time to do this, and I love YOU, man. Fantastic picks.
patrick, it's true, I know I don't have enough time to devote to the extraordinary talent here, and I do spend quite a bit of time on OS as well. thanks for coming by.

Michael, you are always so generous in your comments and support. You really make OS a great place.

mypsyche, thanks...please let me know what you think.

marcelle, thanks very much. I treasure our friendship.

Chuck, you've nailed it, thanks so much for the inspiration

Verbal, quite simply, I love you too.
Excellent selections, Barry.

I hope this will be read not just for the writers you've mentioned, but as an example of your own exquisite writing. Not only do you underplay your photographic skills, you greatly underplay your writing ability. Just as kmbearden needs to remove "hobbyist photographer" from her bio, you need to remove "sometimes I write too" from yours. Look at the fluidity of language that appears above. Clearly, your love for the written word is as powerful as your love for the visual.

Happy holidays. Hope you're surviving the weather.
Enormous talent. What's that old saw?

Takes one to know one. Yup.
Great list Barry - always nice to see what resonates with others. Thank you for doing this. I have met a few people I don't know. And, you highlighted my dear friend Art - an OS treasure.

Happy Holidays and thanks for doing something so selfless.

There are a couple of bloggers here whose work I've missed. Of those whose work I know, you are right on with your selections! Now I have to check out those others!
How generous of you, Barry, to bring praise and attention to some of our best artists on OS! If I was to create the list, I'd definitely put YOU on the list.
Barry - You have a very good eye and a huge heart.

The happiest of new years to you and yours!
Barry, I agree the task of narrowing a list would be one of the hardest tasks ever on this wonderful forum. I am very fortunate....You encouraged me from the start, and continue with a generosity I thought was no longer extant in the creative realm. I have to say this and say it publicly and loudly. You are probably the greatest positive influence for a VAST number of people on here. You have a very kind heart, along with enormous talent. I re-visit your images all the time, and the writing of this piece is of such a fine quality, informative, emotive and totally positive in its tone.

Thank you for this honor Barry...thank you for including me with these other artists, whom I admire so much, and from whom everyone, and myself continues to learn. Its my fondest wish that we can all take your fine example and nurture each other towards excellence.
Been under the weather the past three+ days but this really perked me up. And gave me something to strive for myself. Beautifully and thoughtfully done.
I absolutely will not pick favourites, but I enjoyed reading this post very much.
Awesome, awesome picks! Every one of them a gem!
I know and admire Art and Chuck, and will have to do some exploring at the other's pages.
Thanks for the list--I'm happy to be introduced to some writers that I haven't read yet.
I appreciate you for taking the time to do this.

For a girl who has been among the missing, I consider myself lucky (and quite honored) to be included in this company. Thank you for your generous heart and words --- and, most of all, for the encouragement.
Barry is still trying to get reimbursed for that dinner. Thanks Bar'. You're a fantastic friend.
You hit on a bunch of my personal favorites, which gives me a warm glow. :-D

Thanks for suggesting that this site might be of interest to me - it has been much more than that. Thanks also for introducing me to Gary, and KM as well.

Hope you had a marvelous holiday, brother. Many thanks for all you do.
A perfect gorgeous list! And the pictures. You weren't allowed to toot your own horn Barry, but OS without you would be colorless, gray and void. This is a stunning and rich list. Thank you.

thank you. thank you thank you thank you.
This is a great list--some of my favorites here.
I appreciate the care you took in describing/explaining their varied works.
I'm humbled and honored that Barry picked my post for his list. I appreciated the reminder that I kinda love OS and I should really start posting again. I let life and whatnot get in the way.

I'll probably never be prolific, but that's okay with me. :-)
Good selections and happy to see you feature who I consider OS's best artist, Gary Justis.

How he didn't make other lists is beyond me.
I'm so glad Art James got the opening slot. He's a real special guy here. What would we do without him? He's the OS muse, I believe. The OS angel. And that photo is wonderful.

Thanks for the other suggestions. I look forward to checking out some new (for me) and reviewing some overlapping faves.

Happy New Year, Barry!
bbd, where did you find that gary justis pic? youth in all its discontent too funny happy new year
Beautiful choices Barry and your comments add to the heartfeltness of your choices. And yes, the Art James pic is a classic for OS fans of Art. Thanks!
Really great list. I've got to check out some of these folks.

Getting a comment from Art James is like having Wallace Stevens stop by your blog. It's an honor.

And kmbearden is great. I've enjoyed her photography for many months now.
Truly a thing of beauty Barry. Kudos. You cannot not love Chuck and Gary, I do know that is true...Great list.
Wonderful posts; insightful commentary. You are indeed a loving soul.