The Artist to the Canvas

Last week we sent out “The Refugees.” The remarkable artist of numinous works Dawn Stafford and her daughter, Lillian, read it aloud together. It became a kind of chant/rap. Would I ever love to hear that!

Speaking of artists–

45 has heard of Vincent van Gogh! He asked the Guggenheim to send him one of van Gogh’s paintings to hang in the White House.

The curator declined and instead offered to bring over and install “America” by Maurizio Cattalen. It’s a solid gold functional toilet.

You don’t have to be Fellini to recognize the metaphorical layers in that offer.

Can’t imagine 45 would have any idea what it’s like to take part in the uncertain, vulnerable experience of attempting to create a work of any art.

We are in what has been called the age of criticism, often reduced in prestigious publications, classes, and conversations to “What did you think of . . .?”

Whereas, Vincent van Gogh offered the following:

“I want to touch people with my art.”

“What is done in love is well done.”

“The beginning is perhaps more difficult than anything else.”

The Artist to the Canvas

I see the lost
light of the dead,
the occult of morning,

the same moon
rising behind the night.

The next child is
the next child, each
chasing the disappearing

I let you in the back door,
mortician of beginnings,

sleeping in a newly mown field.

–Jack Ridl


First published in Colorado Review

Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)


Monday mornings I meet David (D.R.) James for coffee and a pastry at the Respite Cappuccino Court in Douglas. We chat and sip and chat some more. His new collection, If god were gentle, has been published by Dos Madres Press and is available from the publisher, online, and from your local independent bookstore.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

And, of course, click here to visit, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

8 thoughts on “The Artist to the Canvas

  1. Hi Jack, enjoyed your comments on creation of art, my favorite is by Michelangelo, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free…”

  2. Great post, Jack!

    I know Dawn will love the poem once she gets a chance a chance to read it!

    She, like most artists, struggles every day that she creates, and it is a process that brings her both joy, and despair. I see her work through her paintings that she views as unworthy, or the still births you so eloquently described.

    They are hardly unworthy, but she is such a perfectionist she will not settle for anything less than acceptable, at the very least.

    She has always been her own worst critic. I found that out very early. We were just friends and I would stop by her painting studio, in the barn bellow the carriage house, where she lived. I would observe her working on her paintings.

    I happened to mention I had been admiring one of her works, it was a still life of a very beautifully shaped jewelry box, on a table, with a table runner covering the table top. I asked her how it turned out?

    She said I was looking at it! It was not the painting I had been admiring, and it was instead another still life. She said she could not get it to work, so she scraped it down, and started another painting. She could have settled, but it was not her.

    I actually loved it, and had it been finished, and hung, I might have bought it, but it did not meet Dawn’s standard, and she could never display something on a wall with her name on it, if it was a stillbirth.

    I could just picture 45 sitting on his solid gold toilet, trying to get his constipated stool, out of his sh*thole, with his face all contorted and his mouth in a grimaced puckered look, as is seen in so many of his photos. It would Hilarious, as Lillian is fond of saying.

    Thanks Jack, we so look forward to getting these posts.


    • Nick,
      I am so happy to have this story, and deeply moved, and always
      heartsick at the rampage of perfectionism that has been this
      culture since, since when? The Puritans? I do understand working
      until any art comes alive and has its own presence. And yet so
      many abandon the experience of making based on the outcome.

      Great description of 45. Hilarious==as Lillian would say!!!!

      Dawn is so lucky to have you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s