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Margaret Burroughs, Spirals

Margaret Taylor Burroughs(1915-2010): Printmaker and Community Maker

Margaret Burroughs Portrait in Mosaic by Thomas Hill via Sumi-I on Flickr
Margaret Burroughs Portrait in Mosaic by Thomas Hill via Sumi-l on Flickr

Margaret Taylor Burroughs(1915-2010), was a founder of  the DuSable Museum of African American History, as well as the South Side Community Arts Center(SSCA) in Chicago when only 23 years old.  There were no galleries in  downtown Chicago for African-Americans to exhibit their art, or gather together in the 1930’s. With the New Deal, Roosevelt’s WPA Arts Project provided funding to open the SSCA. In an echo of 2017, Burroughs writes:

As we progressed further into 1943, it became more and more evident that the art center would no longer receive WPA funds to pay for its salaries or operations. Reactionary congressmen wiped out all of the social and culture programs. Efforts were made to build a membership which would contribute annually to the center’s support. Pauline Kigh Reed organized a committee of 100 women to help to raise funds.(Chicago’s South Side Arts Center: A Personal Recollection)

Burroughs was a printmaker, and one of her color prints caught my eye.

Margaret Burroughs, Spirals
Margaret Burroughs (American, 1917-2010)
Spirals, 1985
Koehnline Museum of Art
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Harlan J. Berk, 2013.55

Her black and white linocuts have the bold power of contrast, and in Sleeping Boy, I see an echo of a spiral as well.

Sleeping Boy by Margaret Burroughs
Margaret Burroughs (American, 1917- 2010)
Sleeping Boy, 1990s
Koehnline Museum of Art.
Gift of Dr. Margaret Burroughs, 2008.15

In the serendipity that comes with researching Margarets for Margaret Mondays, I discovered a mosaic portrait of Burroughs by Thomas Miller(1920-2012), graphic designer and visual artist. The DuSable Museum commissioned Miller to do portraits of the founders, in a unique style:

The founders’ murals are Miller’s magnum opus, and beautifully demonstrate the creativity that is typical of his work. Unlike traditional mosaic that is made with earthenware or glass tile, these are made from thousands of pieces of plastic that were harvested from plastic egg crate light diffusers which were then individually colored and arranged to create the images in the series. “Anybody can do an oil painting,” he said during an interview, “but to take a face and do it with squares is hard. They have to be turned at an angle to catch the light”. (Interview with Lauren Fitzpatrick)

He was fascinated by art from a young age, and read all he could at libraries. After serving in the Army in WWII, he enrolled in a Commercial Art Program at the Ray Vogue School of Art in Chicago. Finding a graphic design firm that would hire an African-American was hard. One agency said they would offer him a job if he worked behind a screen. He declined the offer. Morton Goldsholl hired him the 1950’s, and he went on to do the logo rebrand of 7 Up in 1975.  Check it out. I like how it resembles a mosaic.


Margaret Bonds

Margaret Bonds(1913-1972): African American Composer and Pianist Living Forth Her Talent

Margaret Bonds in New York - 1956
Margaret Bonds in New York – 1956 From the Carl Van Vechten Collection

Margaret Bonds(1913-1972) was an African-American composer and pianist, well known in her time, but then vanishing from accounts shaped by the stereotypes of classical music.  Many times when I search for Margaret’s, I am introduced to women I had never heard of. Simply by searching something as random as one name, I discover whole worlds.  Margaret Bonds grew up with a church musician mother, and played piano from a young age, and devoted herself to music. She enrolled in Northwestern University in Chicago, although she was not allowed to live there or use the facilities because she was black. In an interview with James Hatch, Bonds describes discovering the poetry of Langston Hughes in 1929:

I was in this prejudiced university, this terribly prejudiced place…. I was looking in the basement of the Evanston Public Library where they had the poetry. I came in contact with this wonderful poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” and I’m sure it helped my feelings of security. Because in that poem he tells how great the black man is. And if I had any misgivings, which I would have to have – here you are in a setup where the restaurants won’t serve you and you’re going to college, you’re sacrificing, trying to get through school – and I know that poem helped save me.

Ten years later, Bonds finally met Langston Hughes and they started a musical collaboration and friendship. Take a moment to listen to Margaret Bonds’ arrangement of I, Too, sung by Icy Rene Simpson.


For a more in-depth study of Bonds’ work, check out Alethea N. Kilgore’s thesis on Life and Solo Vocal Works of Margaret Allison Bonds.

An Answer to ‘Sculptures’ and Margaret Honda’s Shifting Color Art

Margaret Honda, Film (Künstlerhaus Bremen) | 2016 | © Künstlerhaus Bremen
Margaret Honda: An Answer to ‘Sculptures’, Film (Künstlerhaus Bremen) | 2016 | © Künstlerhaus Bremen

Margaret Honda(1961-) is an experimental filmmaker and artist from Los Angeles, CA.  An Answer to ‘Sculptures’ had an immediate pull on me.  The 56 panes of glass at Künstlerhaus Bremen gallery became the exhibit itself. Honda used the E-Colour+ filters from Rosco, gel sheets that change the color of light for  film and video production.  The 323 colors are divided into 16 “reels” of 56 and rotated through 16 days. Not even the artist sees the entire work, because every day is different, and every time of day depending on the light through the windows.

It’s like Pantone color chips but for light.  As a mosaic artist,  part of what compels my love of the art form is watching how a piece changes depending on how the light illuminates. My work is usually on a opaque background, but transparency is still a factor, because I put the glass on a white surface in order to let in whatever light there is.  Stratoz creates stained glass, and some glass that seems ordinary in a mosaic becomes transformed by light being able to shine all the way through.

Interview with Margaret Honda about her films Color Correction(2015) and Spectrum Revers Spectrum(2014) based on the timing tapes used for color correction in filmmaking. These punched paper tapes control the color valves on the printer.  She describes the process of watching the film Color Correction for the first time:

I had actually written about the film before I ever saw it. And then once I saw it, my writing about it changed. I couldn’t have foreseen what happens when you’re watching these colors, and I couldn’t have imagined what happens in terms of time. Because with this film, one color is on the screen, and then it changes, and you don’t know how long the next color will be on screen before it changes again. And then there’s this odd retrospective aspect to the viewing, because when the color changes––and you know the color has changed because there was a different color before it––you’re then trying to remember what that color was before it. So you’re going back and forth between what you just saw and what you’re now seeing.

Margaret Honda
Margaret Honda. Photograph courtesy of the artist.


Margaret Honda website

Margaret Esherick House: A Louis Kahn Design for an Independent Woman


Margaret Esherick House (photo courtesy Craig Wakefield)
Margaret Esherick House Designed by Louis Kahn (photo courtesy Craig Wakefield).

I could not find a photo of Margaret Esherick(1919-1962), but I found many photos of the house she commissioned in 1959 to be designed by Louis Kahn, who had designed her Uncle Wharton Esherick’s Worskhop.  Margaret Esherick owned a bookstore in Chestnut Hill, and she was a single woman.  Appropriately, the  house had built-in book shelves and one bedroom.

Margaret Esherick House Bookshelves. Photo by Jon Reksten via Flickr.
Margaret Esherick House Bookshelves. Photo by Jon Reksten via Flickr.

The kitchen was designed by Wharton Esherick, with his fine woodworking. Look at those swooping counters and shelves!  Visiting Wharton Esherick’s home and studio in Paoli, PA, mesmerized me with the beauty of his craft: drawers that illuminated when opened, a carved spiral staircase, copper sink in the kitchen.

Margaret Esherick House Kitchen designed by Wharton Esherick. Photo by Jon Reksten via Flickr.
Margaret Esherick House Kitchen designed by Wharton Esherick. Photo by Jon Reksten via Flickr.

There are only scraps of Margaret Esherick’s story.  She had enough money to have a house built for herself.  She died of Pneumonia at age 43 before she had a chance to see the house fully completed.  The story speculated is that she was a Christian Scientist and believed the physical body is not “matter” and that traditional treatments, such as antibiotics, were to be refused.

What Life is Like in Louis Kahn’s Esherick House

Photo Essay by Todd Eberle on the Esherick House

NOTE: In the process of researching Margaret Esherick’s house, I discovered that her property is along Pastorius Park in Chestnut Hill, an endeavor of George Woodward in 1915, which involved him donating land on the condition that the City of Philadelphia condemn some 30 homes, many belonging to Italian stonemasons, who worked on many of the buildings in Chestnut Hill, and also residences of African Americans. Woodward also built the Water Tower Recreation Center that has a craft show we did for a few years.

Margaret Olley: Australian Artist with Rooms of Her Own

Portrait of Margaret Olley in her Paddington studio by John McRae, 2011
Portrait of Margaret Olley in her Paddington studio by John McRae, 2011

Margaret Olley(1923-2011) is another artist  I discovered because I was searching for Margarets.  In Australia, she is well known. I had not heard of her, and it reminds me of when I left Canada, and all the artists, writers and musicians who were invisible in the United States.

Margaret Olley / Susan with flowers 1962 / Oil on canvas / Gift of Finney Isles and Co. Ltd. 1964 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © QAG
Margaret Olley / Susan with flowers 1962 / Oil on canvas / Gift of Finney Isles and Co. Ltd. 1964 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © QAG

As one article title summed her up, Margaret Olley, last of the Bohemians, she lived in an old hat factory, with colorful walls, and a sculptural array of objects on every surface.  Her house was her “lifelong installation,” and a source of creativity and subjects for her jewel toned still life paintings.  In fact, she donated 1 million dollars to create The Margaret Olley Art Centre, where her rooms are recreated piece by piece.  Margaret Olley’s life was a mixture of being an art student, designing theatrical costumes, and an unerring sense of what Sydney properties she could buy and transform(but no beige paint) and sell at a profit.  She was frugal, didn’t own a car, didn’t marry or have children, and donated 130 artworks to the Art Gallery of NSW including Degas, Picasso and Cezanne.

Margaret Olley's Portrait wins second Archibald

Her story made me think of Albert Barnes, well known in the Philadelphia area for his Impressionist and Modernist art collection, arranged in a specific order in a mansion he had built to house the work, and from which he never wanted it parted. After his death, through much legal wrangling, the collection was moved to a brand new building  the Ben Franklin Parkway, although still arranged in Barnes order.

Olley remained herself through and through, independent and eccentric.  Still life and interiors were often dismissed by art critics, but Olley persisted in what she wanted to paint. She had no children and evades the United States narrative of “feisty grandmother.” She mentored many Australian artists, and left a legacy of philanthropy.

Margaret Monday

Margaret Mellis

Margaret Mellis(1914-2009): Hunting for Scraps of Color

MARGARET MELLIS: PAINTINGS AND RELIEFS. Published by: London: Austin / Desmond Fine Art

Margaret Mellis(1914-2009) is a kindred spirit of scraps and color.  Her work begins with painting, and moves into sculpture and driftwood collage, the latter which she began in her 60’s.  She describes her concern:

‘I wanted the colours to find the kind of strength which would simultaneously let them work at full strength and integrate with themselves and the shapes of the structure.’  (National Galleries Scotland)

Mellis eventually was acknowledged as at the beginnings of British Modernism and she had a Circle of artist friends at Cornwall. I remember taking a class as an undergraduate at Hampshire College called, “Mary Shelley and Her Circle” and being taken with the idea of the constellation of friends all being part of the story.

The driftwood constructions reminded me of the Laura Petrovich-Cheney exhibit I saw at the Michener in November 2015, of sculptures in wood from Superstorm Sandy.    Ian Collins describes Mellis’ materials as “combining beachcombed finds of vividly coloured bits of boats and beach-huts, kippering boards and medieval timbers gouged by deathwatch beetles into honeycomb.”

The Transformed Total: Margaret Mellis’s Constructions

The Oceanic (1994) by Margaret Mellis
The Oceanic (1994) by Margaret Mellis via Leo Reynolds on Flickr Material: Driftwood construction

Harbour by Margaret Mellis
Harbour by Margaret Mellis via Leo Reynolds on Flickr

Harbour by Margaret Mellis
Harbour by Margaret Mellis, detail, via Leo Reynolds on Flickr


An excerpt from Margaret Mellis: A Life in Colour

Margaret Monday

Margaret Morse Nice

Margaret Morse Nice: Telling the Life Histories of Birds

Song Sparrow by Margaret Morse Nice
Studies in the Life History of the Song Sparrow by Margaret Morse Nice

Margaret Morse Nice(1883-1974) caught my eye because of her bird passion.  My only experience as a girl in birdwatching was one week at summer camp where a counselor took us walking to look for Red-Winged Blackbirds.  That someone would be looking for birds in regular life was a surprise to me.  Margaret Morse Nice received a copy of Mabel Osgood Wright’s Birdcraft field guide as a present for her 13th birthday, and she started writing down her observations of birds around her.

I discovered that Nice grew up in Amherst, MA, where I lived when I went to Hampshire College.  Nice was born just 3 years before  Emily Dickinson died. She went to Mt. Holyoke College, which gave her a reprieve from her parent’s emphasis on getting married and housekeeping.  She graduated and returned to the stultifying role of “daughter-at-home,” rather than the world of learning and discovery.  The thread of her desire to learn persists through enrolling at Clark University graduate school in 1907, and researching Bobwhites, marrying a fellow graduate student, moving with him for his academic appointments in Norman OK, Columbus, OH and Chicago, IL, raising 5 daughters, and studying her girls’ language and behavior at the same time she observed the most common of birds in her own backyard like the Song Sparrow.

The librarian in me is fascinated by the title of her autobiography: Research Is a Passion With Me: The Autobiography of a Bird Lover.    She studied birds in their environment rather than collecting them, and took their life histories.  In my own researching this post, I came across an article, with double Margarets!  The authors describe the absence of women’s experience in comparative psychology, and write about these two Margarets who were both accomplished, one unmarried and teaching at Vassar, and Nice, who married, had children, and published papers, books and reviews, without formal academic appointment.  The article describes Nice’s frustration with the implication that her children and husband had brains, and she had none ~ “He taught, they studied. I did housework.”  To be passionate, observant, engaged in the natural world and meet her subjects on their own terms was ultimately influential in the world of ornithology, is a life history that moves me.

Placing women in the history of comparative psychology: Margaret Floy Washburn and Margaret Morse Nice. by Furumoto, L., & Scarborough, E. (1987). In E. Tobach (Ed.), Historical perspectives and the international status of comparative psychology (pp. 103-117). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

In Memoriam: Margaret Morse Nice by Milton B. Trautman

Margaret Morse Nice Made History at her Columbus Patch, Interpont.

Stratoz was a birdwatcher when I met him, and now has a veritable bird sanctuary in his studio, as he creates Ravens, Nuthatchs, and Great Blue Herons in glass.


Margaret Calvert Self Portrait

Margaret Calvert: Typography Making the World

Margaret Calvert in Wallpaper*
Margaret Calvert: Designer of Typography

If you have traveled in Britain, you have been surrounded by the work of designer and typographer Margaret Calvert(1936-). While studying illustration at Chelsea School of Art, she had to the opportunity to be the assistant to Jock Kinneir in designing signs for the new motorway, and this turned into designing for all of Britain’s roadways and they became Kinneir, Calvert and Associates, and took on the railways and many other projects.  Take a few minutes to watch the video President’s Lecture: Margaret Calvert, where she describes her feeling for the letters, the white space as important as the text itself, and her sense of play in drawing and drafting.  

Her self portrait is just perfect.  She found a Men at Work sign from her design in the street, and took it home and turned it into herself: Woman at Work.  She describes how the signs are about the people who use them: how will this look to someone driving 70 mph?  Can it be read at that speed? Calvert and Kinneir met with controversy at first because they used capitals with lowercase letters instead of the traditional all capitals.  

Typography is near to my heart because of the house numbers I create along with my husband at Nutmeg Designs.  Flowing around number forms gives me an intimate sense of each digit.  I didn’t expect to find this so rewarding.  We want our house numbers to be beautiful and visible.  I remember when my husband saw a hapless pizza delivery guy on the sidewalk looking for a house.  He pointed to our neighbor’s house, with the number we had created, and said “I can read that number,” and wished that all were that easy to make out.  


Margaret Calvert Self Portrait
Margaret Calvert Self Portrait: Woman at Work


'This Is Design' at the Design Museum: Typography from Margaret Calvert
‘This Is Design’ at the Design Museum: Typography from Margaret Calvert


Margaret Calvert: Icon of the Year 2013

Way to Go: The Woman who Invented Britains Road Signs

Margaret Monday

Margaret Fabrizio: From Harpsichord to Kawandi Quilts

Silver Eruption by Margaret Fabrizio

I have a fondness in my heart for creativity that bursts out in more than one way.  Margaret Fabrizio came to my attention by her quilts, but she is also a well known harpsichord player who played with the Grateful Dead, and had one of her collages on one of their album covers.  I also dig curiosity, and she followed her curiosity when she first saw a kawandi quilt exhibition, Soulful Stitching, at the  Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.  Kawandi are created by the African Siddi women of Karnataka, India, and Margaret Fabrizio traveled to India in 2012 in order to learn more, and  has a series of Kawandi videos on YouTube from her visit and the process of learning.

Art quilt by Margaret Fabrizio

The Siddi’s are descendants of enslaved Africans brought by the Portuguese to Goa on the West Coast of India between the 16th-19th Century, and who eventually escaped to their own diaspora communities in the mountains of Northern Karnataka. Siddi women collect worn out clothing and when they have enough for a quilt, buy a cotton sari and use it as the backing for the patchwork that they sew with a continuous running stitch. The corners are finished with Phulas, meaning flowers, a multi-layered triangle.  It reminds me of those old fashioned photo corners for affixing snapshots to albums, and also half of a Log Cabin quilt block.


Found at An Event with Margaret Fabrizio: An Adventurous Life at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.

Kawandi Adventures: Quilts by Margaret Fabrizio

Siddi Patchwork Quilts, Hand/Eye



Margaret Monday

Basket by Margaret DeCook. Mosaic Mirror by Margaret Almon.

A Place for Necessary Objects

Basket by Margaret DeCook
Basket by Margaret DeCook

I came across another Margaret at the Lansdale Arts Festival 2015.  I was looking for a basket to hold my keys and wallet and other miscellany, and of course this fabric one in orange caught my eye.  Margaret DeCook calls herself The Versaltile Artisan and hails from Allentown, PA.

I wrote a check for my purchase, and she said the only other check she received that day was from another Margaret.  We were out in force.  I believe she was the one that asked the question I usually pose: Do you go by Margaret?  She goes by the whole thing, just like I do.  Margaret is a name that has a multitude of nicknames, and people have the tendency to pick one and apply it, but I recognize myself in Marge, Peggy, or Maggie.

Basket by Margaret DeCook.  Mosaic Mirror by Margaret Almon.
Basket by Margaret DeCook. Mosaic Mirror by Margaret Almon.

I love how this fabric coils around in yellow orange from the center, and then incorporates red orange up the sides.  It’s called a Centerpiece Bowl, and I will use it to help center me, and keep important objects in one place.  I once read a book on organizing where the author said as long as you keep things moving in the right direction, point them on their way, that was good enough: the receipts on the shelf, ready to travel downstairs, the coffee cup from nightstand, to dresser and then downstairs. I still imagine the objects in my house on a journey toward their home place.

A few months ago I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, where she advocates keeping only those objects that “spark joy” ~ this orange basket has the spark.