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Textual imagery 

At the 'Mincing Words' show, pictures are worth a thousand words, plus a few extra

How dost thou intimidate me? Let me count the ways:

- TALE OF TWO ALICES:  Rushing acknowledged how cliché the whole Alice in Wonderland thing can be, but holy back story, Batman! These dual paintings of absurdity are oddly direct references to family tragedy. -  - PHOTO BY NICK POWELL
  • PHOTO BY NICK POWELL
  • TALE OF TWO ALICES: Rushing acknowledged how cliché the whole Alice in Wonderland thing can be, but holy back story, Batman! These dual paintings of absurdity are oddly direct references to family tragedy.

First, Lena Rushing, the artist and organizer behind a group show of art inspired by literature, is a certifiable cyber stalker—the nicest one you’re likely to meet, but still. She knew what I looked like, when I got married, and how old my kid was. And I’m not the only one. She looks up her kids’ teachers, new neighbors, the works. The carefree way she laughed about the compulsion reassured me that I hadn’t been lured to the Creeky Tiki to be skinned alive … until she mentioned the portrait a friend painted of her wearing a hooded sweatshirt made of skin.

“I really like hoodies,” she said as I fumbled in my pockets for a weapon.

Second, she’s way too good looking and confident. And funny. Thank god we’re both married, or the whole interview would have been me stuttering stupidly and forgetting my name.

Third, her art is really unique with a style that’s hard to pin down with words. Is “good” a style? Damn. How about surrealist collages interspersed with abstracted color patterns that are inspired by profound emotional burdens? Is that a style? It is now.

- PUPPY STYLE :  This collage by Julie Frankel celebrates the unfettered optimism of dogs. -  - BILLY COLLINS POEM ABOUT HIS DOG BY JULIE FRANKEL
  • BILLY COLLINS POEM ABOUT HIS DOG BY JULIE FRANKEL
  • PUPPY STYLE : This collage by Julie Frankel celebrates the unfettered optimism of dogs.

“These pieces are all about my mother, who died in November, the day after my birthday,” Rushing said.

Now that’s the stuff humorous art columns are made of.

“It’s OK,” she added. “Don’t feel bad for me or anything. I’ve dealt with it.”

Rushing described how she met Steve Taggard at last year’s risqué art show, “Live Fast, Die SLO.” His dad had just died, and her mom was then on her way out. They both had strained relationships with their parents and started talking online as a form of therapy. One day, Taggard told her not to “mince words” with him, and Rushing knew that would be the theme of her next show.

She wanted to invite other artists to contribute their literary pieces, so she went around to “Art After Dark” events and wrote down the names of everyone whose art she liked, eventually building a base of more than 20 contributors including Stenzskull, Ursala Black, and Nick Wilkinson.

- WOLFE IN ART’S CLOTHING :  Thanks, Thomas Wolfe, for reminding us that we can never really return to the safety and innocence of childhood. Bills and stress forever—hooray! -  - YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN BY LENA RUSHING
  • YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN BY LENA RUSHING
  • WOLFE IN ART’S CLOTHING : Thanks, Thomas Wolfe, for reminding us that we can never really return to the safety and innocence of childhood. Bills and stress forever—hooray!

“Have you ever tried to herd together 20 artists?” she asked. “You get stuff that has jack shit to do with the theme.”

Which brings me back to my exaggerated intimidation bit.

Fourth, “Mincing Words” isn’t Rushing’s first rodeo. She’s an established artist around these parts and has even been in Art Bash before.

“Glen Starkey popped my Art Bash cherry,” she said.

- PARTY OVER HERE:  More than 20 artists will show their text-inspired art at Linnaea’s Café through September in honor of Literacy Month. An opening reception is scheduled for Sept. 2 during “Art After Dark,” from 6 to 9 p.m. Call 710-4798 for details. -
  • PARTY OVER HERE: More than 20 artists will show their text-inspired art at Linnaea’s Café through September in honor of Literacy Month. An opening reception is scheduled for Sept. 2 during “Art After Dark,” from 6 to 9 p.m. Call 710-4798 for details.

She’s had the great Glen-sperience! How can I possibly follow that? I asked how I compared, and she said that she and Glen hadn’t talked as long (despite this “intimidation” thing, Rushing and I had a long and pleasant, off-the-record chat about kids and junk) and that Glen showed up kind of late to her last reception. She didn’t quite come out and say it (not at all really), but with a helpful dose of narcissism, it was pretty easy to infer that I’m the best damn art basher ever.

Deep down, Calendar Editor Nick Powell knows that Mr. Starkey is the real-deal mac daddy. Remind him at npowell@newtimesslo.com.

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