2014-06-29 11.14.02Today, I’m living juxtapositions.  My day started at the Bellamy-Ferraday House, where the Connecticut Chapter of JASNA had its annual Box Hill Picnic.  First, we had a private tour of the house.  What really stood out for me are the ironies.

The land was bought from the Indians in the 1720s, and the first English families came  in the 1730s.  Well, in the winter, it was too far to go the seven miles into town for the Congregationalist Church.  So now a newly minted parish, the farming area got its own minister, a very young Yale grad named Bellamy.  This house was pretty fancy for the era and the isolated location near Bethlehem (ahem, Connecticut).

Mr. Bellamy made money from his sermons and pamphlets, but what I found so hilarious is that he wrote a best seller, True Religion Delineated, which according to our tour guide is completely unreadable today, even for ministry students.  Bellamy made enough of a splash with the book that it became popular in England, too.  Positively an 18th-century Stephen King!

His wealth came from such an unlikely source, when in the Colonies, fortunes were usually the way from trade.  Bellamy lived really well, as did his descendants.  So it took the last owner of the house to appear the most big-hearted and service-oriented.  Again defying 2014-06-29 12.13.21expectations, Caroline Ferraday ventured forward as an actress, with a glamor shot showing her to be a gorgeous lady.  She contributed to the Victorian appearance and additions to the house.  Living the good life.

But I think she’s remarkable for taking the global lead on helping the Jewish women who were experimented on at Dachau concentration camp, when literally no one else would.  The details are too graphic and disturbing to include here.  Suffice it to say, she made a difference and even became friends with some of the survivors.

The minister seemed to savor his money; the actress used hers to help others.  Ironic.

Not being too far way, I then jumped on the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council Open Your Eyes artist studio tour.  I had a wonderful conversation with Anne Delaney.  For the tour, she luscious studies for works she may paint based on the particular tour setting.  Instead of in her New York studio, this tour brought people to the Harwinton Community Hall, which also houses a jail.  Delaney Anne Delaneydid graphite works of John Brown and other more abstracted figures along this theme.

I picked up this little painting from her Family Car series, loving the back-of-the-head invitation into the painting.

She also told me about a friend who has made a documentary film on the Baroque artist Artemesia Genileschi, juxtaposing the artist’s story with her effect on women today, including the filmmaker.

Here’s the trailer from the film “A Woman Like That.”  It’s on the film festival and university circuit, so keep you eyes open for it.

Judith Bird makes these lovely mash-ups of Mexican-style retablos and the fanciful color andJudith Bird, Wild Wood Bird magic realism of an artist like Florine Stettheimer.  Bird loves using birds in her work, as they touch both heaven and earth, soar and are grounded.  I love that!

You can see the artist’s sweetness in Wild Wood Bird.”  The painting definitely has the devotional feel of the folk art retablo with her own eponymous bird symbol.

The funniest mash-ups of the day came from 84-year-old artist Salvatore Gulino.  Sal was really why I went on the tour, and we talked for almost an hour about his work and his life.  He is extremely modest about his work and that I would go ga ga over it.  But really, what art historian wouldn’t?

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Forget Modigiliani, I”m turning over in my grave.

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A classical portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni by Ghirlandaio juxtaposed on a classic screen-shot.






For my 50s modern house, I couldn’t resist this mash-up from the Art Wheels SeriesNefertiti never had it so good!

Salvatore Guilino, Nefertiti

And neither will you, when you come to visit!




Alice Paul


















Ever since volunteering at the Sewall-Belmont House in DC, I’ve been interested in the Women’s Suffrage movement.  Which in its second wave, means Alice Paul–the last living suffragette by the 1970s resurgence of the ERA that she authored fifty years earlier.

This past week, I started a two-part session on the history of feminism at the New Haven Free Public Library called “Abigail’s Revenge: How the Women’s Movement Shook Up America.”   So the timing was certainly right to head to the Hartford Public Library to hear Z.D. Zahniser talk about her new biography of Alice height.200.no_border.width.200Paul up to 1920, the year of the suffrage amendment’s passage.

I was fortunate because Bambi from the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, the sponsor of the event, invited me to join her and Jill Zahniser for dinner after the talk.  Our conversation was a rousing review of our careers, in light of the pioneers like Paul who went before us.  I know I don’t have the courage Paul had or could make the choices she did.


Paul, raised as an unassuming Quaker (not a radical like Susan B. Anthony), first became politicized through Jane Addams’ Hull House, spurring the settlement house movement that put respectable women to work in social activism.  These women realized legislative action was needed for real social change.  Paul then attended graduate school focusing on political science in the early 1900s and went to England for further study.

There she met the Fighting Pankhursts, gradually becoming involved in their demonstrations for women’s suffrage and learning tactics she would bring back for the American movement.  In 1909, she was arrested for the first time for her politics and went on a hunger strike, before being force fed in prison.  Ghandi attended meetings of this group and approved of their tactics until they turned more violent – rock throwing, arson, etc.  Interesting that Ghandi and Paul were both inspired to make change from the same group.

Upon Paul’s return to the U.S., she was a celebrity.  She thought the suffrage movement was just too nice in the U.S. and started the ‘bad girl’ National Women’s Party.  The NWP, with 50,000 members, was far more radicalized than the moderate, existing suffrage movement, numbering one million.  But NWP made waves.  In 1913, Paul organized the first successful “March on Washington,” setting a standard still in use today.  Only imagine.  Then a woman walking down the street was often confused with street walking.

An amendment to the Constitution was key, Paul believed, and her party was willing to do what it took to upset the President and Congress to make it happen.  Paul and her followers were considered traitors for picketing the White House, and she was convicted with a seven month sentence.

Prison conditions were atrocious, the food inedible, and Paul became very weak, was again force fed, and became the lynchpin in the public outcry about how these women were being treated like hardened criminals, rather than as political prisoners.  President Wilson finally called for habeas corpus to release Paul and the other suffragettes, and six weeks later, removed his opposition to women’s suffrage.

This is just the cream from the top of the story.  Read the biography to learn more.  The main lesson, in politics: don’t be nice.  Be bad girls.  They may not have more fun, but they get the job done.

Arts & Ideas

Every year, New Haven explodes with every form of art and generation of ideas for the two  week International Festival of Arts & Ideas.  I’ve not been able to jump in until now, but my menu selections range from contemporary dance to walking tours to unusual therapy to performance theater works to aesthetic acrobatics.

Arguendo,” performed by Elevator Repair Service, arguably has an audience-pleasing premise: the Supreme Court’s weighs in on whether nude dancers, as in adult entertainers, are protected by the First Amendment.  Lifted from transcripts of the actual proceedings and montaged in a quasi dance-performance piece, the structure seemed promising.  But other than a manic five minutes (in which the attorney defending the dancers’ First Amendment rights argues his points in the nude, while justices toss papers gleefully overhead, all talking at once), I found the production surprisingly dull.  There’s a reason I’m not an attorney.


Celebrating a gloriously pleasant Friday afternoon with members of the Hamden Walks meet-up group and about 100 other people, my first walking tour strolled along classy St. Ronan Street with an architectural historian from The New Haven Preservation Trust.  Built mostly during the Industrial Golden Age for New Haven between 1890 and 1920, there’s nothing cookie cutter about the grandeur.  Each house is quirkily different, gently breaking architectural style rules.  The street has a coherence though.  A repeated motif of diamond-shaped windows, regular set-backs from the street, and consistent distance between each neighbor creates a pleasing harmony and peaceable splendor.

2014-06-20 17.27.30St. Ronan refers to a well or spring in a Sir Walter Scott poem, and the Hillhouse family who developed the street from their farm and estate referenced that Romantic work with the picturesque homes.  You have your 1903 12,000 foot cottage, not so different from not so far away Newport.

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And next door is this storybook house a third the size.  The house originally belonged to the women’s rights activist Agusta Troup, who along with her wealthy husband, was also a union activist.  Ironic advocacy for the uber wealthy.



Keep walking to see this gambrel-intense home of a “traveling salesman.”  Yes, a Willy Loman 2014-06-20 17.35.04type lives here now.  Hmmm.

Notice the funny mix of window styles, the emphatic asymmetry.  Very playful and fun.


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And what street would be complete without its mid-century modern?  Here it belongs to the widow of a former Yale President.



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The houses and stories go on and on, but like me, you are probably ready to pause and refresh.  You might want to head to the festival of food trucks in Hamden town center.  I did!  Along with the throngs mobbing about 25 different food vendors in the park adjacent to the library.  Two cupcake trucks had long lines.  This menu board might explain why.




A whole new day, and more adventures with Arts & Ideas.  It’s summer, officially, and the longest day of the year!  So an eleven hour day of activity began with a hike up East Rock, 2014-06-21 10.54.31that odd geological monument that serves as a marker and icon of New Haven.  East Rock and West Rock are volcanic cliffs caused by plate shifts and molten lava that cooled on the exposed face.  Weird vertical thrusts from the gentle hills of the area.

That geological phenomena created a sheer face of trap, or basalt volcanic rock.  The trap is so hard it has served as a building block, as seen on this house on St. Ronan Street.  Unlike the also local brownstone, which is soft and subject to erosion, trap is used in asphalt for durable support for intense weights or for building for the ages.

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East Rock Park was designed from 1882 to 1895 by Donald Grant Mitchell, a 19th-century pop literature author who took up scientific farming and landscape design.  Interesting combination.  This natural arch occurs right by a manmade bridge designed by Mitchell.  He2014-06-21 11.19.36 also created the paths, walkways, trails, and planting schema.

No matter what you see here, the earliest paintings of East Rock showed bare rock with no trees, so that the sandstone strata at the base was visible.  We just don’t use as much wood as they did for 19th-century fireplaces, so now New England is forested in a way it wasn’t then.

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Diane Reeves, with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, performed on the Green, closing off a great day.  But the real highlight for me was Bibliotherapy.



Bibliotherapy (for adults) is the brainchild of Susan Elderkin, who has moved from England to Hamden, my home town.  In her book The Novel Cure and the workshop today, she explained how we can be healed by a book, instead of with drugs.  Right on, sister!

To get started, she and her best friend and co-author Ella Berthoud parked a vintage ambulance in a field in Suffolk, England and put out a blackboard with appointment times.  Then they started dispensing prescriptions of books to read.

They had developed the practice on each other, addressing wallowing and romantic problems and I-hate-men moods, etc.  Susan explained that fiction doesn’t tell us what to do, but instead shows up by example (or dis-example), leaving us to decide how to proceed on our own.  She said, we could read self-help which tells us what to do–Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway— or read To Kill a Mockingbird.  You get the idea.

You know that feeling of being transported by a book.  Well, Susan studied how the brain works, so that being transported leads to transformation.  She articulated that when we read, we hear a narrative voice that displaces our own.  We “cease to be,” we “become the story.”  Reading is similar to actually doing something about the issue.  It is an “alternative form of living” that creates a vivid, shared intimacy with the book.  The book and its world keeps us from being alone with our issue, even if the plot line is wildly different from our own.

Susan says that recommending a book is “almost as good as writing it.”  She called for us to read so we can “give the gift of recommending,” which brought tears to my eyes.  When she called for a volunteer, guess who forced her way onstage?  Yep.

Through a prescribed set of questions, Susan got to know my reading habits and preferences.  Then I stated my issue simply.  Even though I’m “following my bliss,” “doing what I love,” I’m still waiting for the “money to follow.”  Susan tenderly probed, and then she filled out a literal prescription for me to read: Stoner by John Williams and to re-read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett and Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow.  I can hardly wait to see how my world might change through this focused reading.

But first, there’s more Arts & Ideas.  Tomorrow brings a rose garden, a Split Knuckle Theatre performance piece called “Endurance” that is a mash-up of office politics and the Shackleton voyage-disaster, and a tour of a 100 year old shul.  And then there’s more and more as the week progresses…not a dull art or idea in sight!



“If Those Knishes Could Talk” is a new documentary about the history and future of New York accents.  It’s a bit diffused and wanders off the point, but it’s still a loving look at the way the New York accent developed and continues to morph.

The film raises a debate: is the accent about the boroughs or does it differ by ethnic group?  I like the arguments that went for the latter–the Irish, the Italian, the Jewish, the Puerto Rican, the German New York accent.  Some compelling evidence abounds.  The Korean man who sounds just like the Italians he grew up around on Staten Island.  The Bangladeshi girl who fits in just fine with her Latina girlfriends.  Great stuff.

My favorite insight?  The deaf sign in accents.  And the New York accents vary according to the debate above.  There are particular signs for New York slang and distinctive signs for neighborhoods.

And then there’s Twitter.  Linguistics are now studying language patterns among the Twitter feed.  Dat sux!

So look out for it.  It’s not a perfect film, but the nostalgia and stories are a lot of fun.  Plus you’ll get a kick hearing from the literary and filmmaker celebrities.  Here’s a taste for you:


Sometimes the riches are obvious, sometimes not.

In the Puritan era of Connecticut history, riches were to be made by merchants, trading down the riverways to the open ocean and world beyond.  In the 1600s, picturesque Wethersfield grew up around the Connecticut River.  Unassuming-seeming merchants amassed great fortune through the sugar and slave trades.

Over time, the family houses grew larger, yet not necessarily more ostentatious.  A Yalie Silas Deane made his fortune and built his Georgian style home in the 1760s, before he became a political star before and during the Revolution.  Yes, there are formal parlors and Portland (CT) brownstone, but as you can see here, the house isn’t over the top.

Silas Deane House Southeast Parlor

They did have a lot of chairs, over 70, I think, when most homes might not have even one.  Chairs were definitely a luxury item.  Most of us might have made do with a bench, if we were fortunate.

The oldest house on this site dates back to 1752 and Joseph Webb.  But it got a Colonial Revival makeover in the early 20th century, complete with painted murals.  Definitely not Colonial!

NE Parlor Webb House

Any wealthy Colonist would have opted for wallpaper, as you can see in the restored, rather restarined Isaac Stevens parlor.

Isaac Stevens Parlor

Together, these three houses, as guided by the wonderful docent Jay, tell a story of Colonial life among the wealthy.  You can track how kitchen technologies changed, see the kinds of toys and picture books the children had, and witness how servants lived, including slaves who bought their freedom and built separate cabins on the same property as their employers.

Together, the occupants of the houses tell the story of how Connecticut blended the New York Dutch sensibility and Massachusetts Puritanism to form a hybrid culture of tolerance and staid conservatism, liberal values and the tendency toward inbred hysteria (as with the Connecticut history of witchcraft).

Trivia tidbit: Colonists liked to paint the back of their houses red.  Why red?  While not definitive, several possibilities abound.  Red warded off the devil.  Hmmm.  Red was available from red iron oxide and when mixed with skimmed milk and lime, made a hard, durable coat.  Okay.  Red absorbs the sunshine, so makes the house warmer with the winter sun.  Plausible, and may explain why by the 1700s, the red barn became ubiquitous.  Here’s the garden view of the handsome backs of the three Colonial homes in Wethersfield.

From the rear Wethersfield, CT, 6-4-14

From the rear
Wethersfield, CT, 6-4-14

While Frances Osborne Kellogg’s Homestead is much more modest than the three houses in Wethersfield, her life was plenty rich, as was her fortune.  Her Osborne father bought the 1840 Smith farm near Oxford, CT in 1911.  His fortune was made in the manufacture of wire corsets and hoop skirts.  Let me catch my breath.

When her father passed away, Frances, now married to an architect husband Kellogg, ran the factories and subsequently sat on the boards of a bank, hospital, and church, and continued her father’s interest in funding the local library.  She was a remarkable business woman, at a time when just being a woman in business was remarkable.

She married at 43, when her husband was 49.  It was a first marriage for both, and they had no children.  They devoted creative energy according to their passions. 




Her husband became interested in breeding Holstein cows, and Ivanhoe here was one of the top bull sires, making the Osborne Homestead famous.  He was a founding father of a different variety–not of a nation, but of a breed.


So with cows on the brain, I ventured up hill and down dale and through the woods to Rich’s Ice Cream.  The ice cream is made from the milk from the dairy right there.  I had Purple Cow, a creamy raspberry with chocolate chunks.  Don’t think about it too hard.  I will say, though, it topped off my day of riches.

Rich’s Ice Cream, Oxford, CT


Elizabeth Okie Paxton

Elizabeth Okie Paxton 1877-1971

Elizabeth Okie Paxton

Since you’ve been so supportive of my research on American women artists and thesis on Elizabeth Okie Paxton, I wanted to let you know an article on Paxton has been published in Art Times.

Here’s a link to the site, and the online version of the article is at the upper left corner.

You’ll see this picture of Paxton.  Enjoy, and spread the word!  The world needs to know about her work!