About kellymcquain

Kelly McQuain has published fiction, poetry and essays in such places as The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Pinch, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Assaracus. He's also illustrated comics and book covers. He teaches writing in Philadelphia.

Barnes Update! Top 20

#LetsConnectPhilly #Art #PhillyArtDepot

Update! Recently  I wrote about the Let’s Connect! art show at Philadelphia’s famed Barnes Collection. My hipster postman mixed-media painting, “Mind, Heart, Soul” placed among the top 20 artworks out of over 310 paintings at the show. I was especially happy to see my friend Tim Barton also make the cut with his stellar wooden folk box. As a result, this coming year the other artists and I have been asked to work with the Barnes on a series of talks and lectures geared toward the public and fellow artists. It’s a very special piece to me, and I hope it will find a good home with you. (You can read more in this former post that includes my Artist Statement., which talks about how Van Gogh’s work served as inspiration.)

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“Mind, Heart, Soul: After Vincent’s The Postman” by Kelly McQuain, 2018

On this blog I’ve mostly posted about my work as a writer, but it’s true I also do a lot of artwork, which I’m hoping to post more about in the future. Below is my current Artist’s Bio, in case you are curious. My artwork ranges from comics and cartoons to watercolors, acrylic and the occasional oil painting. I often mix media and like to embed details and back-stories within my visual work, things that a viewer has to look twice to discover and that leave a person wanting to know more. For instance, if you look close you can tell Mr. Postman is a major Eagles fan, but perhaps not the most attentive deliveryman. I take the occasional commission and book cover project, but most works start from a strong visual idea and spool out from there, with hopes they find a buyer in the future.

About the Artist

Kelly McQuain is an artist and poet who combines words and pictures in poems, essays, book covers, comics, and large-scale canvases. His collection, Velvet Rodeo, won the Bloom Poetry Prize, and his work appears in numerous journals. He has twice held Fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Recent projects include a series of Poetry Portraits that have appeared on the cover of Fjords Review. The painting series was inspired by Barnes artist Charles Demuth, whose watercolor poster portraits of famous contemporaries included the likes of Georgia O’Keeffe and William Carlos Williams. When he’s not painting, McQuain teaches creative writing, literature, and film studies at Community College of Philadelphia.

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Visit the #BarnesCollection for FREE!

#letsconnectPhilly  Now through IMG_1664June 4, 2018 get free admission to the Barnes in honor of their Let’s Connect Exhibition. I’m one of 310 Philadelphia artists who have work in the show. Participating artists chose a work in the Barnes Collection that inspired them, and then did their own 8″ x 10″ work inspired by the original. (For me, the hardest part was working that small.) The public gets to visit the Barnes for free and vote for four artists who will each get a three-month studio residency at the Barnes over the next year. Admission is free to encourage public participation in voting. If you’ve never been, the permanent collection is amazing–arguably the best assemblage of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in the county.  Barnes created the collection to educate artists about form and technique. My painting is titled Mind, Heart, Soul, which alludes to what Albert Barnes sought to cultivate in the students who studied the masterworks he painstakingly displayed for them. The museum is open 11 am – 5 pm Wednesday through Monday. For FREE admission, you must register in advance at

https://barnesfoundation.formstack.com/forms/connect_voter_registration.

If you go, please consider voting for #1295, my version of Van Gogh’s The Postman. Why did I choose The Postman? Here’s the Artist Statement I sent along with my project.

Albert C. Barnes didn’t collect work based on historical or social context; he assembled his works as a testament to the pleasure of form. Barnes’ method, however, poses a dilemma for contemporary artists: in this Age of (overwhelming) Information, is it possible to create work apart from the context from which it rises?

I’m drawn to a painting like Van Gogh’s The Postman not only because of its virtuoso brushwork but also because of its unintentional commentary on so many things: the bearded hipsters of my Philly neighborhood; the fact that few people write letters anymore; the way internet businesses have staved off the Postal Service’s obsolescence; that Philadelphia has offered massive tax incentives to lure Amazon.com’s new headquarters here—a bid that could turn life here on its head.

I like art that talks to me and keeps the conversation moving forward. The Barnes Collection does this, whether its founder intended it to or not. When Albert Barnes paired paintings with old hinges and primitive sculptures, he created a series of “eye rhymes”–visual pairings that call to each other and echo back. In doing so he created a living conversation about art, one that surmounts time. I’m inspired by the collection’s interplay of forms as well as its interplay of ideas. I believe that Barnes’ singular arrangement is a conceptual artwork itself. It teaches me to see the times I’m living through in new ways and to curate my life carefully. Barnes’ collection teaches me to honor the old, reflect my now, and imagine a future. That feels like a fragile message, but it’s one that needs delivering.

–Kelly McQuain, Artist Statement, May 2018

 

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#vangogh @the_barnes @kellymcquain

Free Writer Events in Philadelphia – March 2018

#CCP #writing #Philadelphia   #VietDinh
Writer friends! CCP peeps! Community College of Philadelphia has several cool workshops and readings open to the public this week, and I especially recommend
Viet Đinh‘s event on his Penn/Faulkner Award-finalist novel, After Disasters. (Full sched. with times and locations at https://www.myccp.online/2018-poets-writers-festivalviet-dinh-large)
 
Dinh teaches at the University of Delaware. AFTER DISASTERS is an aMAZingly well researched novel about international and domestic relief workers struggling to provide aid after a disastrous 2001 earthquake in the Indian city of Bhuj. Dinh weaves together the stories of several intriguing characters–Dev, a married Indian doctor who works with HIV patients; Piotr, a disaster relief logistics expert facing burnout; Andy, a UK fire rescue worker on his first international assignment; and much more! It’s rare to find a novel with such rich characterization and an exacting eye for the logistics of the global world. My students and I are learning a great about how international relief works as well as the competing philosophies behind providing aid. We’re learning too the painful ironies and human failings that sometimes arise amid best intentions.
 
Dinh will also discuss his story “Substitutes” in a later session. This story won an O’Henry Prize and centers on Vietnamese schoolchildren left in the lurch during the fall of Saigon. Its use of first-person plural is a masterful example of a rarely used point of view.
 
All this, and he’s a snappy dresser to boot. Come if you can!
You can read the review of After Disasters at the LA Review of Books here.

#AWP2018 Tip: Al’s Bar-B-Que

Dear Writer Friends–I’m not going to #AWP2018, but if you are, and if you’re going to Ybor City for an event, make sure to walk a couple blocks toward the train tracks and visit Al’s Bar-B-Que. It’s messy & great, and they serve big-ass beers! I went there with my dad a year or two before he passed away, and it’s such a nice memory. I try to get there when I visit my brother in Tampa. The Ybor neighborhood is worth a stroll, and has an interesting history as a hub of Cuban cigar manufacturing.

https://www.alsybor.com/photos.html

The Black Panther Boogie

 

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This is so cute. I hope it becomes a dance craze. All these kids finding out they get to go see the Black Panther movie for free! Make mine Marvel! The costumes look so good n this that I wonder if they will influence fashion this summer? The textiles and textures really take the comic look to a new level, and the armor and beaded jewelry are great, too. Plus I would watch Angela Bassett, who plays the titular hero’s mom, in just about anything. I always thought she’d make a very regal Storm. Comic cons are gonna be fun this year.  Image result for black panther movie kids singing youtube

 

Snowy-Day Winter Cider

Snowy-Day Winter Cider Recipe — Insomnia, a snowy forecast, and lemons that needed to be used caused me to experiment with this recipe at 4 am this morning. Let me know if you like it. Portions are estimated rather than precisely calculated. I cook by instinct.

Candied ginger adds a welcome zing to this winter favorite. I used Jerry’s Nuthouse crystallized ginger. If you find you prefer more or less of a particular ingredient, you can adjust the recipe accordingly. (Cinnamon, for instance, can add an additional flavor note.) The recipe’s real magic is in the sweetness of the candied ginger combining with the tartness of the lemon. Makes 4 servings.

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  • 750 -100 ml or so of apple cider, which is 3 to 4 cups.
  • lemon, preferably organic
  • 2 tablespoons of Craisins (dried cranberries can be substituted)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg (you could also use pumpkin spice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of powdered cloves*
  • a teaspoon of dried lemon peel if you have it (I like my own or Grassia’s spice shop in Philly’s Italian Market–my favorite local spice store)
  • dash of cinnamon — optional
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of candied ginger. This provides the magic.

In a Pyrex-style saucepan, warm the apple cider on Low on the stove top.
Zest the lemon with a fine zester tool. Shave only the outer layer of the lemon; avoid pieces of white pith, which can add bitterness.

Reserve the juice of the lemon.

In a small food processor or blender, such as a Magic Bullet, add 1/4 cup of the warmed cider. Then add Craisins, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Add the lemon peel and zest (if you don’t have dried lemon peel, add the zest of another lemon. The organic lemons I used were on the small side. One enormous lemon might be enough). Pulverize the ingredients until they appear almost paste-like. You want the fruit to blend into the liquid, so add more liquid if necessary. Fine bits of ginger or Craisins may still appear, but that is okay and adds a bit of pulp. If you don’t like pulpiness in your cider, blend longer. In general we are talking seconds, not minutes. A few good pulses should do. (I found a flat blade did fine in my Magic Bullet; the kind of blade I use for grinding coffee or spices. If your grinder is used for coffee, make sure it is very clean to avoid flavor-mixing!)

Add the ginger paste back to the cider on the stove top. Add the juice of your lemon. Make sure no seeds fall into the mix. Stir until blended well. Warm through. You can let it get to a low boil, but don’t overdo it. I let mine simmer for a half hour or longer. The simmer is what seems to make the ginger combine with the lemony-ness. Stir often enough that no bits of fruit cling to the bottom of the glass pot.

Serve in your favorite mugs. Add a shot of spiced rum or whisky for even more snowy-day cheer.

Tip: You can add other dried fruit if you like. Today I am adding a few chopped organic dates to the mix. You can also try apple slices, orange slices, etc. A cinnamon stick makes a fine garnish. If you like your cider sweeter, you can add a little orange juice or honey. Experiment!

*I know a lot of cider lovers float whole cloves in their brew. I don’t like their scratchy texture. If you only have whole cloves, you can grind a few in your Magic Bullet before creating your ginger paste.

–Kelly McQuain, January 2018

Conference and Reading: Kicking off Poetry Month!

Happy poetry month! I’m doing two events to kick off the celebration. the first is a panel at the Rosemont College LitLife conference. Click here for details. Tim Seibles, a wonderful Philly poet who now teaches in Virginia (where he is the poet laureate for the state!) is just one of the amazing poets at the conference. I met Tim a few years ago when he read for us at the college where I work. What a great guy! I’ll be doing a panel on creating images with the wonderful poet Dawn Manning. Look for us there on April 1st.

And, speaking of my college, Community College of Philadelphia, our Poets & Writers Festival comes to a conclusion this coming Monday with a free event below. Check it out!

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Monday, April 3, 2017

6 – 8 p.m.
Klein Cube, Room P2-03

The Community College of Philadelphia Spring Faculty Showcase of Writers

Join College’s distinguished faculty members as they read from their latest poetry and prose in what has become an annual tradition. Refreshments will be served! Click here for more info!

 

The line-up includes: Jonathan Pappas; Amy Birge; Lauren Genovesi; Julie Odell; Kelly McQuain; Brian Goedde. Hosted by Jeffrey Markovitz.