Creating Belle – Part II

Belle lives!

Well almost. But this is a little overview of how her image came together. After she dries, then she will be mounted on to a chair and placed at a table. The table will have another cup and saucer and a chair for her guest.

Imagine the conversation that you might have with Belle. Imagine the things you might discuss. This is just pure imagination. This project will be part of the Chair-ish Mt. Pleasant event.

Here are a few links about Belle.

Iowa Wesleyan University hosts Belle Babb Mansfield Symposium

Starting Belle

Finally – off the ground.

Working on my Chair for the “Chair-ish” display for the Mt Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance. I decided to pursue a couple of ideas from my “Magpie” collection of memories and ideas; essentially things that entertain my brain.

What would it be like to have a conversation with someone from the past? Not a new idea but one still rich with possibilities. Since I have spent 30 amazing years at Iowa Wesleyan, I wonder about significant people from its institutional history.  What about a conversation with Belle Babb Mansfield ((May 23, 1846–August 1, 1911)? or a conversation with a young Belle Babb Mansfield, poised on possibilities.

More on Belle


Still Mari

My name is Mari Joyce.

I had a massive stroke 3 days before our wedding in 2006.

I have Aphasia and PBA*. I can read and write sometimes with help with my husband.

My stroke took away things I loved: I was confident, strong-willed, independent, intelligent and passionate.

I am still Mari and I have faith. I know in my heart that God has a plan for me. I may never know what that is, but whatever it is, I will run with what I have.

*PBA is “uncontrollable outbursts of crying or laughing in people with certain neuro conditions or brain injuries.

I am still Mari.

Mari and I signed our prints out – about 30+ images made up the run. Another story to share in the Aphasia project – Mari’s story, her image and her dog Caesar. I appreciate how patient and supportive she and Wes have been in helping this print come into being.


It’s a wrap

It has been a long time from concept to completion. From idea to a physical form. Here are a few images of that most recent work. So much thanks to Bob, Erin, Dawn, Don, Lori and Lori and so many others who have cheered this project on in spirit, in coffee, in to Erin who understands much more about the “tenacity of the Rat Terrier” analogy of doing it until it is right.

I want to note that this idea “Faces of Aphasia” will be an on-going project. Bob and I are going to “Aphasia Camp” in northern Wisconsin this week. It was at this retreat that the project was verbalized and affirmed first at the Care Partner’s mini retreat. Sometimes, things take on a life of their own –

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Aphasia – Words and Image

“I am still …… Bob.” The refrain of this sentence is profound in its declaration of self. And so it is in a larger point size than other phrases and sentences: facts and personal truths. “I am still Bob.”

The setting of the type by my hand is also a circle that I didn’t expect. I mean, yes, I understand how to set type. Yes, I have had to become voice for Bob in almost every facet of his life and, for his life. And that was a role that was reluctantly automatic in the days following his stroke. To answer for each other – never happened in our relationship. Even in all of the pre-Cana, pre-marriage  workshops – opinions were sought from each other and answers were never assumed. But the stroke has now necessitated that I answer or ask for Bob – or state his preferences. And this print has also necessitated that I work collaboratively with Bob to best express his thoughts and feelings about “Bob.”

So to set type in moveable lead type of Bernhard MT italic & Gothic Bold is also to complete a circle of words – chosen, fixed and inked and printed. To tell about Aphasia and Stroke and Bob is like a story going full circle.

I will post the finished print as it comes off the press in the next week or so.





Aphasia Island-


“Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain-most commonly from a stroke, particularly in older individuals. But brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors, or from infections.”


Dealing with Aphasia as a diagnosis, as a lifestyle, or as a defining point is not for the faint of heart. Our family has lived in Stroke World and on Aphasia Island for 14 years. Besides the professionals – the fantastic speech pathologists and retired speech paths and friends who pitched in when insurance ran out (and who are still there,) there is a strong and hearty group of people who join us at our kitchen table to break bread and enjoy some wine, who have been part of this journey. And being surrounded by educators and being one myself, I thought that I could tell in a visual way, something about Aphasia and some of the folks on Aphasia Island.


I thought that I might do this by portraiture – oil paintings of the person who drew the short straw and has Aphasia. I thought I’d ask our friends Mari and her husband Wes to participate – or the little 3 year old busy boy and his folks but I just couldn’t (at least yet.)Then I thought about the whole support group – then I thought better – I’m not geared to do portrait painting that are remotely photographic or closely representational. So – instead nothing happened. It all seemed great in my head but not on paper. The visual images are elusive. The explanation of Aphasia is scientific but the Aphasia experience is deeply personal.


So, gripped by a feeling which is how most of my work starts, I started to draw. Draw big. Draw from blurry memories and old photos of Bob and Erin. Draw from significant memories of walking the portable Chartres labyrinth in my stocking feet – and thinking how it is sort of like a brain with all of the folds. Remembering how we fell apart and came together and kept on going. Remembering how Bob’s dad and I planted 300 daffodil bulbs that fall because we knew something had to spring from all this tumult.


This is just the beginning of the story – I think I have to start with the story I know best and then maybe help others make their own story. It isn’t about the skill, or the technical wizardry of art; it is the making that matters.



– “Sentries”

Unnamed-Crow2016web copy

February – the gray month. The month of love. The month of monumental loss. A month of endurance until the spring comes.

This image has been unfinished for at least 4 years. It is reductive so there isn’t an undo button if you screw up. It began as a lino cut – and I printed it with too dark. I was in a hurry, anxious to finish, almost there – almost – and the reality hit – too, too dark a value for the image to make any sense.

Image redone – printing along, aware of the value of my inks – about half way through the edition and the layers of ink – and Bitchzilla – (the press) decided to slip. It is a Dickerson style of press. Although all of my press experience helped, it didn’t set things right and the edition died.

The printed image laid fallow – next to its stillborn twin (the one where the press slipped) in the flat file.

2 Winters came and went.

I returned. I do have the tenacity of a Terrier. This time on wood. This time on my press (Little John). This time, with time. With a resolve to honor a memory. After all, that’s a large part of the image; the memory of that which I lost, misplaced, was taken or abandoned, cared for by the crows.

So, the memories are protected by those sentries, the crows: the string “too short to save”, the missing mending, the lost and broken rosary, the gear wheel that kept things going.

And it is done and the print has been named, Sentries.

Tomorrow it heads to a national exhibit of work focusing on Fairy Tales –


 Fairy Tales, Fables and Myths,

March 24 – April 16, 2016

At The Arts Council Fayetteville/Cumberland County

Fayetteville, North Carolina