Tag Archives: Eleanor

Chairs Carved by Ella Bolli Van Gilder

Thanks to my husband, John Plocher*, for reassembling and restoring one of the fumed oak chairs carved by my Great-Grandmother, Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder.  We found the chair in pieces in the attic of 2125 Broderick Street, my parents’ home in San Francisco, when we were clearing out the house for sale in 2012.  I have several other pieces carved by my Great-Grandmother – including another of her chairs. I am delighted to have one more.

Ella Rachel Bolli Van Gilder was a remarkable woman who early in her life worked with Jane Addams at Hull House – a settlement house for European immigrants in Chicago.  She later returned to Knoxville, Tennessee, where she married Walter Van Gilder.  They were both were enthusiastic craft workers (in the Arts and Crafts style) and gardeners, in addition to his founding and managing Van Gilder Glass Company.  My mother, Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, grew up in their house at 1007 Circle Park Drive in Knoxville.

* with help from John Gibbs – Workshop (Campbell, CA)

This is what the chair pieces looked like when we pulled them out of the attic:

Here is the chair today, after much effort by John:

1911 portrait of Ella Bolli Van Gilder:

1007 Circle Park Drive in Knoxville: photo taken by Eleanor Creekmore when she was 10 years old, in 1941:

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Images Copyright 1941 by Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, and 2016-2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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TechWomen Kyrgyzstan Delegation

TechWomen Delegation Kyrgyzstan 2017 at US Ambassador Residence Bishkek

I was part of the TechWomen Delegation to Kyrgyzstan from 23 February – 4 March 2017 in Central Asia. We spent a week giving talks and making presentations to women, girls, technical startups and the STEM community.  35 participated in the Delegation – from the USA, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and of course Kyrgyzstan. In addition to the mentors from the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay Area and the Fellows from Central Asia, our Delegation included staff from the Institute of International Education and the US State Department.

Three of us had an accidental tour of Istanbul getting to Kyrgyzstan since our flight connections didn’t.  We hired a driver during our day of waiting for the next Bishkek flight and saw Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and other remarkable locations in that beautiful and cosmopolitan city.  Since there is a Travel Warning for Turkey, we avoided crowded areas.

Each Delegation member had the opportunity to give several professional presentations. In addition to general mentoring sessions, my presentation topics included: Successful Mentorship (at the Kyrgyz State Agrarian Academy), Crowd Funding (part of the “Silicon Valley Experts Symposium” hosted by the US Ambassador, Sheila Gwaltney and the Kyrgyzstan Information Technology State Committee), Women in Tech: Challenges and Opportunities (at StartUp Tuesday), Social Media Marketing and Professional Networking (at the Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University), and Challenges and Opportunities in STEM Careers (in the American Corner, for high school students). After the presentations were over, a small group of us rented a bus and drove to see the remarkable 9th century minaret called the Burana Tower near Tokmok.

The day I arrived in Bishkek was when my mother died.    I knew when I left that this was a possibility even though I thought (and hoped) she would be with us much longer.  I had made all of the preparations in advance and both of my brothers were with her when she died.  I saw continuing my participation in the Delegation as a tribute to the woman my mother raised me to be – but it was hard to be away from home at such a time.

Katy Dickinson at the Istanbul Blue Mosque, Feb 2017

Katy Dickinson, Nandini Ramani, Judith Fleenor at Hagia Sophia Istanbul Feb 2017

TechWomen Delegation Kyrgyzstan 2017 schedule

TechWomen Kyrgyzstan Delegation 2017 Katy Dickinson and IdaRose Sylvester with Kurmanjan Datka statue Bishkek

TechWomen Delegation Kyrgyzstan 2017 in the snow

TechWomen Delegation Kyrgyzstan 2017 at Robotics Fair, Physics and Mathematics School‐Lyceum, Bishkek

TechWomen Kyrgyzstan Delegation at Kyrgyz‐Turkish Manas University 2017

TechWomen Kyrgyzstan Delegation 2017 at Burana Tower

TechWomen Kyrgyzstan Delegation 2017 near Burana Tower

TechWomen Kyrgyzstan Delegation 2017 Katy Dickinson with Nancy Talbot and Rebecca Biswas

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Eleanor Dickinson Art – New Website Launched

Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson painting called 13 Myeongsuk, in Colored pastel 2005

My family and I just launched the new Eleanor Dickinson Art website on which you can see information about my mother, Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, and purchase some of her fine art, posters, and books.

Eleanor Dickinson Art contains selections of original creations from the archives of Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, a remarkable American artist who was actively creating, teaching, and exhibiting fine art for over 75 years. Her work has been exhibited at many dozens of galleries and museums around the world, and is collected by a wide variety of individuals, universities, museums and other major institutions, including:

Fine art is a reflection of the soul – this website includes nudes.

In addition to getting more of Eleanor Dickinson’s creations into the world to be seen and enjoyed, the new website provides photographs and information about the artist: her Statement, Resume, Obituary, and Reviews. The About page includes information about the Art, Shipping and Additional Charges, the Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson Charitable Art Trust, Paper, and other topics.

Thanks to Jessica Dickinson Goodman and John Plocher for their help in setting up the Eleanor Dickinson Art website. Thanks also to those of you who reviewed the site while it was in development.

Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson poster called Revival - The Tennessee State Museum, 1982

Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson line drawing called Revival - 2. Almost Persuaded, 1976

Images Copyright Eleanor Dickinson Art 1976-2005

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You Will Never Get it All Done

Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson ceramic life mask by Ruth Asawa

My mother, Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, passed away peacefully at the age of 86, on 25 February 2017 in San Jose, California, surrounded by family. Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson was a remarkable American artist who was actively creating, teaching, and exhibiting fine art for over 75 years. ​ ​She touched the lives of so many who were inspired by her and her work. Her personal motto was: “You Will Never Get it All Done”.

My mother will be buried with her husband, my father, Wade Dickinson in Knoxville, Tennessee, this ​weekend. I know I will see some of you there. However, many will not able to attend. We will also have a San Francisco Bay Area Memorial Service to which you are also invited – RSVP if you can join us, or if you have questions.

2 pm on Sunday, 28 May 2017
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church
13601 Saratoga Avenue, Saratoga, California 95070

I​n lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the University of Tennessee – Knoxville’s Ewing Museum.

Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson 1970 Elkmont

My Mother’s Obituary
(written by my daughter Jessica)

Eleanor Evelyn Vaughan Creekmore Dickinson
Resident of San Francisco
February 7, 1931 – February 25, 2017

Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson was a powerful artist, dedicated professor, and beloved friend and matriarch. She passed away peacefully, surrounded by family at home in California on February 25, 2017, just after her 86th birthday.

Eleanor built a successful art career on solo shows that boldly depicted those who she called “unpopular and unlikely subjects.” She reveled in transgressing the assumptions of medium, using lucite, black velvet, video, and sky-writing as fine art materials. For all her high-flying passions, Eleanor was deeply rooted. She returned to her birthplace in Knoxville, Tennessee, nearly every year of her life, and her decades-long work documenting Pentecostal revivals throughout the region is housed at the Smithsonian. Her love and effort helped ensure that the Elkmont cabins where she spent her girlhood summers were designated a National Historic District.

Eleanor’s art and life were a study in chiaroscuro, of light bringing shape to the darkness. She was a former Daughter of the Confederacy who marched for civil rights. She lived in San Francisco’s posh Pacific Heights but worked at her warehouse studio in Oakland. She striped her hair black-and-white with electric blue or pink streak to shock socialites in San Francisco but she dyed it brown again to ease her way with the worshippers she sang with at the revivals. In her early 20s, she married a West Point man who worked in the oil and arms businesses but the largest work of art in her living room was a piece she had drawn showing the torture of an Iraqi man by US soldiers stationed at Abu Ghraib prison. She’d drawn that ghastly scene on a canvas of black velvet, using the light to show the man’s pained form crucified. It was a medium she’d picked-up from those revival worshippers. She used her gifts to cast light on the darkest parts of being alive, like the 40 watt light bulbs that brought light to revival tents in the Knoxville night.

Eleanor liked light, music, crowds, noise, and trouble — causing it; getting out of it; drawing it. She loved to pick a gleeful fight. She reveled in protest. She founded organizations, served on boards, and supported groups that she believed would better the lives of women, artists, people of color, and anyone she saw being mistreated. Her sense of justice was immense and uncompromising. She did everything she could to fix our broken world.

But the most vital part of her was always dedicated to art. The quiet hours of drawing, drafting and redrafting, a cooling cup of coffee always at hand on a wobbly wooden antique stool, heaps of white gum eraser filling her lap and getting on the cats. She kept cats her whole life, along with iguanas and rabbits, tarantulas and frogs. Eleanor included her animals in whatever she was working on at the time — if they sat still long enough. Drawing was her life and she drew life out of every medium she put her hand to.

Eleanor’s work was shown most recently in the exhibits “Artists and Their Models” at the Smithsonian Archives in 2014, and “Old Lovers” that same year at the Peninsula Museum of Art. She was recognized nationally in her lifetime with public collections and archives hosted by the Smithsonian’s Archive of American Art, the Library of Congress’s Archive of Folk Culture, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Tennessee State Museum, the Oakland Museum, and the University of Tennessee Libraries, among many others.

She received a Lifetime Service Award from California Lawyers for the Arts (2016), the Lifetime Achievement Award from Women’s Caucus for Art (2003), and was named an Emerita Professor of Drawing by California College of the Arts after serving as a professor there for 30 years. Throughout her career, she was recognized by being named an Artist-in-Residence at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (2000), Arkansas State University (1993), University of Alaska (1991), and University of Tennessee (1969). She was honored with the Women’s Caucus for Art President’s Award (1995), a Distinguished Service Award from National League of American Pen Women (1989), the Distinguished Alumni Award from the San Francisco Art Institute (1984), a Distinguished Alumni Citation from her alma mater the National Cathedral School (1978), awards from the San Francisco Arts Commission (1973 and 1968), and finally an Award of Merit from the City of San Francisco (1968).

She co-authored and illustrated several books, including That Old Time Religion (1975) and Revival! (1974) with her late childhood friend and Knoxvillian writer Barbara Benziger. The above list is a brief selection of her recognitions and her impact and is just one measure of a life vibrantly lived.

Those who knew and loved Eleanor miss her terribly. We miss her creativity, her activism, her sharp wit; most of all, we miss her friendship. Go with God.

Eleanor was preceded by her mother and father, Evelyn and Robert E. Creekmore, her brothers Bobby and Richard Creekmore, and her husband, Ben Wade Oakes Dickinson III (1926-2011). She is survived by her sister Louise Creekmore Senatore of Knoxville, her three children, Peter Dickinson of La Crescenta, CA, Katy Dickinson of San Jose, and Dr. Mark Dickinson of Boston, and her six grandchildren, Daniel and Lynda, Forrest and Corey, Paul and Jessica. She will be missed by everyone around her.

Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson Obituary March 2017

Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson 1971

Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson July 2016

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Images Copyright 1971-2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Benefits of Dementia

Jessica Dickinson Goodman and Eleanor Dickinson, Dickens Fair, San Francisco 18 Dec 2016

On this, my daughter Jessica‘s birthday, I want to honor and thank her for her creativity, love, and generous heart. It is such a pleasure that she and Matthew live here in San Jose, not only because I love and want to spend time with them but also because Jessica has made time each week for my mother Eleanor (her grandmother), to help her get all that she can out of life, despite her dementia and other health challenges.

In a recent conversation, Jessica told me she keeps a mental list of what is good about dementia. After a pause during which I reoriented my thinking about this degrading and frustrating disease, I remembered that in 2008 I made a similar list of some of the benefits of having a disabled child.   Here is Jessica’s list, plus some additions:

Benefits of Dementia

  1. Good Surprises: Jessica told me about man with dementia who would order socks or books or other needed items for postal delivery. By the time the packages arrived, he had forgotten he himself had ordered them. He was sure he had a loving friend sending him surprises that were just what he wanted.
  2. Making a Statement, Again: When my mother saw Jessica in a politically provocative tshirt, she was delighted. Later that afternoon, Eleanor noticed the shirt for the first time, and was delighted again.
  3. Keeping Contact: When my father Wade died in 2011 at the age of 85, Eleanor lost her greatest fan. They had been married for 59 years, fighting and arguing all the way. Eleanor’s dementia has softened that loss. Sometimes she speaks of Wade as if he is in the next room.

What would you add to this list of the benefits of dementia?

Dickinsons at the Dickens Fair, San Francisco 18 Dec 2016

Eleanor Dickinson, Christmas 2016

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Ideas? Getting My Mother to Drink More

Coffee cups painted by Eleanor Dickinson 1995

About every six months, my 85-year-old mother Eleanor ends up in Urgent Care or the Emergency Room with extreme dehydration. On Tuesday night, she was again given two full liters of intravenous (IV) liquid. Dehydration is very dangerous and makes her dementia worse – it muddies her thinking and judgement and makes her act even more independent than usual. For the last four years, our family and caretakers have tried everything we can think of – including working our way through all of the ideas on web lists – to get her to take more fluids.  She just does not want to drink.

Early Tuesday afternoon I got a call from the MedTech at my mother’s senior residence asking for help. After breakfast, Eleanor had pushed her way into another resident’s apartment, sat on his toilet and refused to leave. By the time I got there, she had been sitting for an hour – calmly saying “no, no, no, no” to everyone. She did not seem to be in pain. My mother said she was conducting an artist’s protest and planned to write a paper about the power of saying “no”. Eleanor has been a fine artist and politically active all of her life.  She was a Professor of Art at California College of the Arts 1971-2001.  Years ago, writing a protest paper would have been a normal activity for her.

Something in her mind told her that what she was doing made sense. Several caretakers tried sweet talking her while the owner of the bathroom threatened to call the cops to get her out.  My husband John finally wrapped her in a towel, picked her up, and walked her to her own apartment while she protested loudly.  Then we drove my mother to Urgent Care.  As usual, it took over seven hours for her to get evaluated, tested, and rehydrated.  We got home just before midnight.

Eleanor’s primary caretaker said my mother was very tired the next day but that she was cooperative for the rest of the week – eating and drinking more than usual.  Intravenous fluids fix dehydration for a short while but are not a long-term solution. If you have experience in this area, new ideas are welcome!

Eleanor Dickinson 2016

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Every Day is a New Day

Eleanor Dickinson at St. Andrew's Snow Day, Dec 2016

Today I have a break from taking my 85-year-old mother Eleanor to doctors’ appointments. We saw the new Neurologist yesterday and see someone about her blood balance tomorrow. Her caretaker Ella and I go with her to provide context – what we see her doing and saying – since she does not remember. 15 months ago, we moved my mother from Independent Living to Assisted Living at the senior residence near our house in San Jose, California. This has been a difficult year of slow health and memory failures. There have been some successes (we finally sorted out my mother’s gastrointestinal problem so Eleanor smells better and has more control of her bowels), and some amusing incidents:

Eleanor took her cat Loki out of her apartment today to join a group activity in the common area. He was frightened and ran into the apartment of another resident who is scared of cats. Ella crawled under the bed to get him. Loki ran out through Eleanor’s legs. Eleanor fell hard on her butt and broke the other resident’s closet door. Eleanor and Loki are back in Eleanor’s apartment now. It sounds funny, I know. Ella had the Medtech give Eleanor some Tylenol since she is going to be sore. (from a 17 August 2016 email to my brothers)

She has good days and bad days. She loves driving around, seeing the trees and clouds and reading every road sign aloud. She loves family visits, especially from her grandchildren – of whom she is very proud.  Eleanor enjoyed watching kids play at the St. Andrew’s Snow Day last weekend.

We who love her do our best to keep Eleanor connected with the remarkable and creative person she was, before the dementia.  She has been politically active all of her life and is a passionate advocate for Hillary Clinton.  She was so excited to vote that for weeks she carried her Vote by Mail ballot with her everywhere.  She lost it.  I asked for a replacement ballot but it did not arrive by Election Day.  So, I took Eleanor to my polling place and helped her fill out a Provisional Ballot.  I hope her vote was counted.

In addition to Ella, my mother’s residence has a group of loving and dedicated caretakers available at all times. The hardest problem is that after decades as the Professor of Life Drawing at California College for the Arts, my mother loves to argue and has the habit of command. She orders people around and they often obey, even when what she wants to do makes no sense or is a very bad idea (like taking her jumpy cats out of the apartment).

When Ella is not there, we sometimes get urgent calls for backup from the staff.  A year ago, Eleanor decided she wanted to move back into her old apartment and conducted a one-woman-one-walker sit in at 10 pm outside in the cold in front of the door to her former building.  My husband and I came when the staff called.  We wheeled her back to her apartment and had a serious talk.  She did not remember any of this the next day.  Every day is a new day.

Eleanor and Katy Dickinson, Election Day, Nov 2016

Eleanor Dickinson and Family 2015
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Images Copyright 2015-2016 by Katy Dickinson

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