Blazing World Discussions – WARM

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Real Time Meeting Feb 8:

Group took turns sharing how the first 90 pages informed their practice or their life.
Deb: Heteronymns Pessoa…poems in different personalities
Trying to create voices that speak through her.

Madeline: Feels good about making her own choices. Feels for HArriet and the time she lived.  Jill responds about references…some she made up. Deb: Hide and seek puzzle. Karlyn responds…relief that not all refs are real. NYC references are personal for her. Lived there during the late 60s?

Karlyn: Feels different kind of pressure because of age discrimination. Lee Krasner. Had to paint small because Pollock got the studio.  Need to see Big Eyes.  Jill: Harriet does the opposite…hires the men for the face.
Came to Minnesota and worked on wolf conservation. It was a male world.
Women and wolf ate on the mezzanine. Women had to work harder. Had to take on male persona. Must be assertive.

Cohen: Popular Problems: Great new collection of new music. Book: I’m Your MAn : The Life of Leonard COhen

Layl: Why didn’t Felix launch her? HArriet takes her work in difference directions. Pushing the limits of “What is Art?” There are male artists being more accepted in polymer clay.

Attached to balls and a cock? People will take it seriously. All agree.

Jill: WARM retrospective did not acknowledge the rank and file veterans.
Must remember our own history. Must keep the ball rolling.
Perception of “collectors” that women’s work is not a good investment.
Blazing structure makes the story so well rounded. Many viewpoints of the same “person”.  Harriet may be the best of Siri. Joy of the book is the literary style. Which “world” matters? Quote: “She held court, she spoke many languages. She learned just enough to charm….pg 84.

Barbara: Time Creeps. Time Alters. Gravity Insists. Age and Power?
The first Mask: The History of Western Art. Why?
Nightwood…gender exploration. Harry was given the name by her father. Future implcations

“Art dealers have to be magicians of hunger.” Layl: Does art sales at fairs. Layl delivers “joy”.  Susan: Wildlife documentation. It is my job to deliver whimsy. Barbara: Delivers social responsibility. Marcie: More important: Sincerity. True to yourself. More important than feeding the viewers hunger. Marcie says: Color invokes emotional vibration. Madeline: Landscape . Marcie assists: Madeline conveys the truth about nature. People need to be connected to the earth. Landscape of the the South West. Karlyn: Do not care. Might not need to answer that question. Deb:

Susan: Powerful discussions. I am now motivated to read the book. We have a responsibility to share these stories in an illuminating way, not finger pointing.

Marcie: Deeper Meaning Quote: Harriet said: My mother used to talk about color….believes it is in us. The color is in us. Color is visceral.  Superficial vs. the deep.

Action Items:

1. Portfolio: Have patrons/colleagues write a description of your work for your artist statement.
2. Liz Lurhman  has a critical response model. Perhaps do a session.
3. Art Adventure style program for under represented artists in the schools.
Looking for participants. Jill reports Terry __________has developed a program. Use as a starting point.
4. Venus Challenge… make a sketch/art to portray what you think the Venus looked like.
5. Keep in mind. What if I invented an artist that was all art criticism? Are they “Fake” artists? Let’s think about this as we read.

March Meeting. Barbara will put a new doodle up. We will use Join Me for that meeting. Barbara will be out of the country and Jill may “lead”.  I should be able to call in but just in case. WE WILL DISCUSS UP TO PAGE 180.


Feb 8.  From Rebecca:

I ran across this short video on GUy DeBord on youtube. its a commentary by an author/historian who knew him and the Situationist movement. Most other things about GUy on Youtube are in french ;P

I was reading the comments on Barbara’s blog and that motivated my search.

January 15, 2015


I am excited to report that Barb Kobe, Rebecca Dudley, McDill, Layl  Susan Gainen, Debra Ripp,  Carolyn Halliday, KateRenee, Jill Waterhouse, Madeline Kamp, Rebecca Pavlenko, Marcia L. Soderman-Olson,Chris Cinque;karlyn.atkinson Berg have joined our reading group.

Proposed Timeline:

Sundays? What time would be best? Layl=Before 1:pm

Hi Group.  There will be about 90 pages per section.  Note that the first “Join Me” meeting is Feb 8.  Still no input on time for Sunday meetings

February 8 .  9 AM First “Join Me” Meeting.  I have a “Join Me” account and will open a meeting.  Join me is a lovely piece of meeting software.  I will send a code and you will call in on the phone and we will be able to share and see each others’computer screens.  Free for all of you.
March 8  Second Join Me

April 12 Third Join Me

May 3rd FAce-To_FAce Wrap up celebration in Minneapolis?  Hot dish? Inspired by Blazing? Venue to be announced.

The programming committee decided to run the discussions from my WordPress blog since no one will need to create accounts or sign in. Discussions could start now.  I propose that all of us take responsibility for posting one question to the board during each section.  When  an idea, a literary device, a situation emerges from your reading, throw up a question on the following URL.  I will go first. We can also include other resources we find.  Just send them to me and I will put them at the top of the post.

Rebecca Dudley <>; McDill, Layl <>; Susan Gainen <>; Debra Ripp <>; Halliday, Carolyn <>;katerenee <>; Jill Waterhouse<>; Madeline Kamp <>;;Marcia L. Soderman-Olson <>;Chris Cinque <>;Karlyn Berg <>;<>;


 Blazing World pic Blazing World by Minnesota’s own Siri HustvedtJoin us for a winter WARM Read, Reflect and Discuss. Three Virtual Meetings, a running discussion board and a final face-to-face celebration/meeting in MAY.
Many women artists have observed and experienced the disparity of recognition as connected to gender. Some of us may have fanaticized about hiring a man to mask our work.  What would happen? Siri Hustvedt imagines the possibilities.
The purpose of this read is not to critique Siri’s book but to relate her ideas to our experiences and perhaps use the outcomes to inform our own practice.
Simon and Schuster has provided reader guide questions: (  but we would like to invite interested participants to also send THEIR ideas for questions. 


NPR (snip)
Every now and again I come across a book that makes me wish to do violence to my learning, to tear away words like tour de force and magnificent in order to excavate something more true, more raw, more appropriate to the experience of reading it. Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World is such a book. Like fire, it feeds as it consumes: It gives off the warmth and light by which to read, understand, marvel at it — but in order to do so it absorbs the reader’s gaze, knowledge and attention and combusts them, transforms them into the brightness by which it is read.


Presented as an anthology of texts assembled by Professor I. V. Hess, The Blazing World tells the story of Harriet Burden, an installation artist who, disappointed in the lack of recognition her work receives, chooses a succession of three different men to be pseudonymous “masks” for her pieces over a five-year period, an experiment to determine whether her work is better received when attributed to men. She calls the whole project Maskings, and the story of its conception and development is told through excerpts from her private journals, written statements offered by friends and reviewers, fiction from her son, and edited transcripts of interviews with her daughter. The result is complex, astonishing, harrowing, and utterly, completely engrossing.

collaborative read and discuss.

The New York Review of Books (snip)
Not unexpectedly, Hustvedt is also a serious feminist, much praised for her thoughtful fictional renderings of women’s lives, especially as lived among the urban, college-educated, Kindle-owning, heterosexual middle classes. (The Blazing World, Katie Roiphe suggests, is “feminism in the tradition of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, or Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: richly complex, densely psychological, dazzlingly nuanced.”)

A discussion site will be launched on January 15, 2015.  The first “meeting” will be  February 1, 2015. Time to be announced. We will use  “Join Me” software to meet on our home computers. This is free for participants. Please contact Barbara Bridges if you are interested in joining this WARM activity.


  1. Barbara Bridges says:

    In the “Editor’s Introduction” the author uses the term “poetized personality”. Considering my interest in collaborative creating, I was particularly interested in this concept. What are your thoughts?

  2. I was very interested in the term also, and I looked into it. It comes from some writings by Kierkegaard and is a blending of the artist’s face and the mask, ie: a pseudonym, or living inside the work. I think that this issue is extremely relevant to this story and to the role of the artist in the Postmodern art world. Under these conditions, the artist can find a voice in a character &/or style to say things that might otherwise be risky or different than what they have said before. It is also an interesting challenge for the artists, to speak in character instead of everything attributed to the writer/artist, as if everything expressed is autobiographical.

    • Barbara Bridges says:

      I completely resonate with what you have shared here, Deb. As with many of us, I wear several different hats- living several different lives- and oftentimes they do not interface very well. I have stopped having parties where I invite everyone I know. They all look at each other and ask “These are Barbara’s friends?” They only see one of my personas!

      I have been teaching art for 40 + years and making masks is the favorite of all- young and old. I think this might be an important bit of data!!

  3. I have the book downloaded from audible and listen to it while I paint, draw, do dishes, etc.
    I had difficulty following it at first, but once I got deeper into it where the various people are giving their statements, it became more tangible for me. I am going to go back to the beginning and listen again, becuase I think it will integrate better for my brain :). I will listen for the context in which “poetized personality” is used and make a comment on it. Definately a great term. Sounds good said out loud.

  4. I went back and listened again to the beginning of the book. Then I looked up this definition of “poetry” online:

    “Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature.”

    I see Harriet Burden approaching life in just the same manner as described in the definition of poetry, that is, expressing her feelings and ideas in a distinctive style. In her case, it isnt through the english language, but through the masks she wears. Each mask, or personality, is indeed, like a poem. All of the statements that come later in the book from the individuals who knew her, definately speak to her style and uniqueness as a person. No doubt these traits came through in everything she did. She is like all of us, but some people, like Harriet Burden, are a little more emphatic and deliberate at it!

    It would be nice to know in what manner Kirkegaard used the phrase “poetic personality.” This would make the answer more interesting. Anyone read Kirkegaard and know the answer to this?

    • Barbara Bridges says:

      I am on my second read of this very dense book with many unusual literary devices! I , too, found the idea of poetry daunting. I am not a particularly strong writer and will be spending the winter creating haiku poems ( at least the brevity and economy of work appeals to me!!).

      I think that the heroine of our book is described as holding many of these insecuriries and self doubts. What do you think?

  5. Harry is a very intricate personality- “poetized” is a good word to describe her- hard to figure out, not very simple and obvious. I like the concept.
    My thought so far about her art and her rejections is: Do you think that her choice of materials- I assume she is using fabrics etc. to create these dolls- is one of the reasons she isn’t taken seriously by the art world? If what she is creating is using traditional femine materials AND she is woman the art world thinks she is a “crafter” and doesn’t fit into that “high” art concept that she is trying to acheive. Barb- I bet you have some experience in this relm.
    If a man is presenting art using the materials of the “women’s world” is he going to have an easier time calling his creations “ART” as opposed to “CRAFT”.
    (BTW- I hate the word “High Art” and have been trying to figure out a better word)

  6. Barbara Bridges says:

    Grrrr…. you have hit one of my hot buttons, Layl. if I hear the word “high art” one more time…I can not be responsible for my response!!! My recent body of work (made from water way trash) is even lower than “craft”. It is interesting to me that my most aggressive critics come from a Modernist perspective. What are they so afraid of? I thought we were supposed to be pursuing the ” Never before Seen”? Thoughts?

  7. I think Layl brings up a good discussion point. It also asks – What is the author assuming about art? And what background does the author have in the arts? I’m sure the second questions we can easily do some research on.

    I think the reason why Harriet’s work isn’t accepted is a combination of the current state of women in the arts during this time but I also think her character and relationships are major factors. I think the artist has a total lack of creative self confidence. She is a shadow artist living behind the name of her husband who is known and respected. And anyone living in the shadow of someone famous or well known is compared to them, its how society tends to operate regardless if its right or wrong. Harriet is seen in a specific role and she accepts that role. While I am not very far in this book, on page 31 she makes up things she thinks people say to her, says behind her back and publishes in a rag about her work. I believe when you convince yourself things are a way based on assumptions, you are manifesting that into a reality.

    I am interested to see how Harriet’s art work develops or if it stays consistent during the book. With art like what she is initially creating in the book, I too have made works to comment on and work through relationships/situation. But with art you are able to also move through and grow, that’s the power of art. So I’m hoping to see the art develop from what is initially described. Could it be that the art she is creating is important to make herself grow and heal from her husbands death and not actually meant to be exhibited? …I have works that will never be exhibition worthy but were so valuable to my creative path and development.

    …like I said I’m still very early in the book still and these are just my initial ponderings. I have vacation next week so I can curl up and start answering more of these questions and see the plot and character develop. Happy reading!

  8. I think the concept of high art went out with the invention of the camera.

    But it appears to be human nature to classify things, for the good and the bad of it.

    I really like Deb’s comment on Kierkegaard. Thanks for the information as well as the correct spelling of the name.

    I am intrigued with the idea of a mask. Its like being an actor. I knew of a very good off-broadway actor/singer/dancer who could knock it out of the ball park as long as he was playing a role. But when he tried to be himself as a front-man for a rock band, he couldnt do it.

    As women in the art field and making our mark in the world, none of us would do what Harriet did–hide behind a man. But what impact would it have on our work if we decided to make a body of work ON PURPOSE with a mask on? I wonder if I had to design a mask, what would its personality be, why would I choose it, what would a produce while wearing it, etc. etc. etc.

    I am taken with this idea.

    Yes, Layl, creativity is creativity, and has value no matter what.. And Barbara, why should Holbein Oils take precedence over saltwater caressed artifacts?

  9. Jill WATERHOUSE says:

    I am looking forward to our discussion; it appears that it will be rich and varied, with layers of meaning and experience. Can’t wait to “hear you” on the 8th… Jill

  10. I have to say that I am really glad that we picked this book, it’s helping so much with my Protégé program focus, the whole world of persona, pseudonym, archetypes and speaking through multiple identities is vastly interesting and important to me. And yes, Kierkegaard has been one philosopher that I have read quite a bit in that area.
    On another note: It struck me that some of the people that knew her state that she actually did have a pretty good career going earlier on. Well, I think maybe it wasn’t what she wanted/envisioned as a career, maybe then it’s more about what looks like an art career, like a stereotype of a career and that might have something to do with the masks/identity issues. so maybe it’s that deeper questions need to be asked about what an art career is supposed to be? Just want to throw that out there.

  11. I see Harriet as someone who was driven by a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction. She was restless on the inside. I am still trying to define it, but perhaps it will come as I get deeper into the book.
    I am cueing off of Deb’s comment on Harriet having a good carreer early on. FUnny how different people pick on different things.

    Because of this, i am re-listening to the first 1/4 of the book. Yes, Barbara, it is “dense.”

  12. Yes, Becky, I agree strongly with the dissatisfaction point, and I can see how some of that may shape the view leaning toward falseness &/or disillusion in the artists mind. I hear and read about so many artists saying that they feel like a fake or that whatever success they have feels unreal. Hmmmm, I am interested in discussing that idea further because I don’t want to come to any conclusions about it yet. Food for thought.

  13. Barbara Bridges says:

    The author quotes HArriet (in a footnote) “The path to truth is double, masked, ironic. This is my path, not straight, but twisted. WHY do we, as artists, as Harriet laments, keep shooting each other in the foot while we try to empower our aesthetic is the “truth”.

    I looked up Guy Deboard and I wanted to run screaming. Did the Situationaist Internationals get so far into their heads that the creative process became irrelevant? I was so disappointed because the idea of combining the actor and the spectator ( as it relates to artmaking) into one concept COULD be so positive and life affirming.

    How much time do you spend thinking about your viewer? Does it inform your process?

  14. Hi, I am excited for the discussion on Sunday, sorting through my notes, trying to get them in some sort of order.
    As I recall, the whole Guy Debord craze was going around in the 90’s back when I was in school, he was the one to read and know, but people were also reading Walter Benjamin, Proust and Adorno too. This seemed like fashion to me, if it fits, it fits, if not, throw it aside.
    I think of art, what I do in my studio and the “art world” as two very different things, of course I do dream about how the work will be viewed once it finished and also dream about the Bravo’s, ha! But then I know I’m dreaming, should I want those things? The Bravo’s?

  15. Chris cinque says:

    I wanted to comment on Layl’s thoughts about Harriet working with fabric as well as thinking about how the viewer fits into the artistic process. While I’m enjoying the book, I don’t find it credible that critics and viewers would believe that, not one, not two, but three men were interested in and capable of creating the works described in the book; that they would accept these works as coming from these men without commenting on the fact that the works are clearly so feminist-based. The other question about the viewer’s place in the artistic process: initially, I try not to think of anyone looking at my work. It gives me license to follow my impulses and to do as I like. Viewer often equals critic to me. I’m interested in figuring out how to keep the viewer in mind without feeling stifled. There must be a generosity of spirit and action that can accompany creative work when the viewer is not perceived as a hostile critic.

  16. Barbara Bridges says:

    On page 108, the author quotes Anton as claiming that “Celebrity is not what you do; it is being seen. It’s making the scene. “. How does this impact us of a certain age? How much equity do we bring to the “scene” and being “seen”. How can we impact that reality in a positive way? I would value hearing from our younger discussants.

  17. Barb this quote reminds me of a quote I recently heard about social media today- something about Social media is the stage and the things we do take place in the wings, off stage. In our social media world we start to DO things just because we know they will make a great Facebook post. Scary but becoming true I’m afraid!
    Now there is more than one type of “scene”. Here in the twin cities is there a scene like there was/is in New York City? Does it exist in reality at show openings etc. or does it exist in social media. I’m starting to feel like it exists even more strongly in the social media world. Now that I post most of my pieces while they are in process on Facebook my audience is involved even as I am creating. I personally enjoy this interaction most of the time but sometimes I will totally forget about photographing and posting and go back to the old way of creating- with no eyes on me every step of the way. It is great to see the likes coming in all the time but I’m afraid a person can get way too caught up in the numbers.
    What do the rest of you think? How does the virtual “scene” of the social media world compare to the real scene?
    Hmmm and it just occurred to me that if you wanted to put on a mask of another type of artist you could do that with social media. I wonder if it has been done before.

  18. Barbara Bridges says:

    WOW… this was timely as I just finished the Sunflower project where I did exactly as you are describing. I can’t say what would make a good post drove my choices but I DID think about what would be of interest to the people reading of my experiences. It also made me very deliberate about reflecting on my experiences. The project made me open to talking to single people in their 60’s trying to decide how to grow old.

    As you can see on my website…I kind of assign my objects “entity” status and then track their experiences and interactions with the viewers. This plays into my belief that art can change the world, of course, and sharing the creative process encourages the viewers to embrace their latent creativity which was ROBBED from them in first grade because they could not draw a pony which looked like a pony!!!!! Don’t get me going on THIS topic. I have a whole unit on it in my Critical and Creative Thinking class.
    Re: Connections to our Blazing reading …. I am struck by all the gender blurring during this section. Some of it was hard for me to read. How did the author connect this to Harriet’s art making? It certainly drove her topics. What drives your topic selection?

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