Audrey’s Ribbons

AOPHA stands for Association of Ohio Philanthropic Homes for the Aged. Every year they sponsored a state-wide art show.

These are my mother’s ribbons for awards she won for artwork she made during her last years, when she lived in a nursing home. My mother always won First Place ribbons for the Regional contest, and always placed either First, Second, Third or Fourth in the State contest.

It wasn’t a professional art show and it certainly wasn’t her high point as an artist. But the sense of community and purpose really made her happy and kept her busy at the nursing home, where she lived out her last six years. It was a reciprocal relationship by which the community and the individual benefited from each other equally.

In 2008, ten months before she died, she had a show of her golden-era movie star portraits at the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo’s Parkwood Gallery. The newspapers wrote about the show. It was pretty great. People came to the opening who she worked with fifty years earlier, like the owner of the Deluxe Frame Shop where she had the portraits framed that she made for private and public commissions back in the 50’s and 60’s.

My mother left Toledo in 1973, to live in Albuquerque, Honolulu, and Portland, Oregon, returning to Toledo in 1990.

Mom and me, and Anna and Mom, 2004

A trip through time

At the studio

Put Rebel Flag in Museum Says Vet

I don’t blame the Grays a bit for wanting to preserve their flags, and I believe in a reunion with them. But their flag should not be used in public — I am absolutely opposed to that! The rebel flag should be preserved in a museum as a relic of the old days. This is the only place for it.

Anna Friemoth in Venice, Italy

ANNA FRIEMOTH in the exhibition PERSONAL STRUCTURES at the PALAZZO MORA in the context of the 57TH VENICE BIENNALE


Anna in Venice with her future ahead of her, 1994 and 2017
MAY 13 – NOVEMBER 26, 2017
Open daily 10-6, closed Tuesday
European Cultural Centre
Strada Nova, 3659, 30121 Venezia, Italy

Anna Friemoth presents new photographs in the exhibition Personal Structures, held in the context of the 57th Venice Biennale. Anna’s series of self-portraits, titled Insight, is about the experience of piercing through the thoughts and actions of the human condition and finding an inner light. Insight was created especially for Personal Structures. The show is organized by the GAA Foundation and is on view at the Palazzo Mora in Venice, Italy until November 26, 2017.

European Cultural Centre PERSONAL STRUCTURES – open borders Exhibition page


William Pynchon, 10th Great Grandfather

Illustration from The History of Springfield in Massachusetts, for the Young (1921) by Charles H. Barrows

2,048 mathematical possibilities exist for my 10th great grandfathers, and I have the luck to have one of them be the first person in America to write a book that was banned and burned in 1651 — William Pynchon.

William Pynchon graduated from Oxford when he was 11 years old in 1596. The historian, Henry M. Burt said that “William Pynchon was undoubtedly the best reasoner and the best scholar residing in the colony during the first century.”

Pynchon’s book, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption  was a critique of the newly formed society of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Calvinism, the dominant religious doctrine of the day. Pynchon wrote that the meritorious price Jesus paid to save humankind and reconcile for Adam and Eve’s disobedience, was obedience to the will of God, and not hell, punishment, and the wrath of God.

The Calvinistic Puritans called Pynchon a heretic and put him on trial. They banned his books and burned them in the Boston Common.

Portrait of William Pynchon by master etcher Louis Orr, 1927

Mural of William Pynchon and the founding of Springfield painted by Umberto Romano in 1937 for the Springfield Main Post Office, now the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Office

Possible end use of Pynchon’s fur pelts in Europe. Etching by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1643

Pynchon was from an old English family that settled in England with William the Conqueror. He came to America in 1630 with his wife, his son and two daughters with the Winthrop Fleet. He founded Springfield on the Connecticut River. He had good relations with the Native people, with whom he negotiated the purchase of Springfield and traded beaver pelts. He is called a “Puritan entrepreneur” for his success in the fur trade.

Pynchon would not retract anything in his book. He gave all of his land to his son, John, and returned to England in 1654. He wrote more books on religion, including The Jewes Synagogue. He died in 1662.

William Pynchon is the forebear of Anna Hale, my great great great grandmother on my mother’s father’s mother’s side.

Chris and Andrew and Pierre’s bullet

I was researching my great great grandfather in Louisiana, March, 2000, So lucky to have met two very special Civil War historians, Chris Pena and Andrew Capone, who lived in the area of Pierre’s first battle, an hour up the river from New Orleans in Donaldsonville and Thibodeaux.

By day, they gave us a tour of the area, showing us where Pierre’s camp was, where his first battle was. At night, they treated us to a memorable Louisana home cooked dinner of delicious Sauce Piquant at Andrew and Judy’s house in Donaldsonville.

I told them story of my ancestor, how in 1861, Pierre initially signed up with the Louisiana Militia, but in 1862 refused to join the Confederacy. It was April, and the Colonel led the militia company to Vicksburg from Fort Livingston. Half way to Vicksburg, in the very town of Donaldsonville, Colonel Theard lined up his men and gave them a speech. He told them of his orders to go to Vicksburg, but explained that he had no right to take them outside the state without their consent. He hoped they would go, but he didn’t want to force anyone. The Colonel then offered any man an opportunity to declare if they were against the cause of the Confederacy. If any man had any scruples about it, that man was free to step out of the ranks.

Pierre wrote these words in a letter 50 years later about precisely what that moment felt like:

Then came the time for me when I had to decide at once.  My conscience and pride were struggling; one was saying you ought not accept the cause of slavery; and the shame to appear before my comrades, as if I were afraid because we would have to fight, was a struggle indeed; but I made up my mind now or never whatever happens—I stepped out the first one in my company with cries of coward from the rear.

There I stood for a few long moments until Albert Fest stepped out from the right of the company. A very tall man compared to me, he said, ‘Pierre, I am with you on this!’ Then 30 German men stepped out soon after that. As we were the butt of all insults from behind, the Colonel put a stop to that very quickly, saying ‘None of that, men, it takes more moral courage for those men to step out as they have done than to stay in the ranks’; and closing the few of us near him he spoke kindly, but sadly, saying to leave all our equipments, taking only our personal property—-that New Orleans was so many miles off, in such a direction—-we could get there the best way possible—-that we were free;  and so we left worrying whether or not some of the hot headed ones might shoot at us; but the Colonel kept them in line until we disappeared in the woods.

Andrew and Chris were very nice about it, considering that I was eating dinner at Andrew’s house, telling them how Pierre quit the Confederacy and joined up with the Union. I worried about how polite I was being to tell them that story at their dinner table. But Andrew told story after story after that, maybe to give me some needed Confederate education.

After dinner, Andrew took us into his workroom. He excavated battle grounds, including the site of Pierre’s first battle as a Union soldier. Andrew looked through the baggies of bullets, then handed me a bullet covered in white rust and dust, saying, it was Pierre’s bullet. Pierre dropped it during his first battle. The bullet never hurt anyone, Andrew pointed out, and it was mine now because Pierre wanted me to have it.

I gladly accepted the bullet for all of its poetry and brought it back up north. I arranged it in my studio along with some toy soldiers that I bought in New Orleans, one to represent each of five generations, and a broken brick Chris and Andrew gave me from the ruins of Fort Butler, and some spanish moss. The soldiers were slightly precarious on the brick, because some mornings I would come in to find that the soldiers had fallen on the floor or into the spanish moss, from the vibrations of the Six train that ran through the basement of the Lafayette St. building. But never Pierre, and never the bullet.