Seeing my Father out

My father used to call me Doug the hugger.  I would wrap my arms around him and squeeze tight. He towered over me then.  Usually I could only reach his knees, unless he was down on the floor wrestling with us.  He was quite vigorous in his prime.  He canoed and played racquetball and coached my basketball team.  The first thing that really slowed him was a skiing injury that made it painful for my dad to continue jogging. That was years ago, and even then he was busy cutting and hauling wood, and biking to work.  As decades passed, illnesses took a toll on him. He recovered from a cancer and a heart attack.  He was treated for an eye problem.  As his body got old  he took an awful lot of pills.  A damaged bladder led to him wearing a catheter and a belly bag.  When my father got cancer for the second time, I worried about him.   

I watched my father lose capacity in a way that awkwardly mirrored the way my daughter had gained capacity as she grew and matured.  With my daughter, her increasing mastery of her mind and body was a cause for celebration.  Seeing those same milestones being taken from my father was hard.  In youth we overshare about our child’s potty training, not so with incontinence.  When my dad, who represented strength in my childhood, became weaker, I resisted the change.  My reaction was painful and shared furtively, if at all.

A few months before his death, I found the man who taught me to drive struggling to get his car into gear.  I told myself, “It was a momentary lapse, don’t make a big deal about it”.  But that episode brought back memories of how my maternal grandfather had become a danger on the road in his last years of life.  Each of my grandfather’s neighbors secretively approached me about taking away his car keys.  The car represents independence to a senior citizen just as much as it does to a teenager.  For my dad, I offered rides more frequently. 

Spending time together became an objective.   I brought my parents out to our home for a birthday party.  I recorded him reading his poetry.  We gathered to eat sandwiches at a park. When dad was waiting for mom, my wife and I got chairs to sit next to him and pass the time.  I would share with him details of my projects.  On three occasions I painted his picture.  The first one was a painting of him sleeping on the couch.  He napped a lot so it was easy to catch him doing it.  Since it wasn’t a very flattering picture, I promised to do it again.  For the second pose he was playing on his phone, but since that didn’t really represent my image of him, I substituted a book for the phone.  I used the excuse of wanting a double portrait to get him to pose a third time with my mom.  Our conversations continued much as they had been for years.  

Even so I knew my father was facing an aggressive cancer.  One kidney was removed.  A mass appeared in his remaining kidney, but it was in-operable.  I contemplated taking a leave of absence to support my parents.  My father was becoming very exhausted.  After his first fall he had to crawl back up.  I didn’t hear about that fall until two days later when he was not able to get up from the second fall.  As time went on he was not able to get out of bed.  It was around this time that it became clear that doctors would not be able to cure him.  Our mindset shifted from hope for remission to wanting to make him comfortable.

The expression that I use now is to describe this time period is the last ten days of his life, but at the time there was no certainty as to what would happen.  This was new and often fearful territory.  We had no certainty of how this might end, plus there were suddenly caretaker roles thrust upon us. I had no direct experience caring for a seriously ill patient, and my mom who had was not strong enough to do some of the more strenuous caretaker duties.  Hospice provided vital support in the form of a hospital bed and visiting nurses who showed how to care for my dad.  The social worker and nurse sat down with us and described the needs of a critically ill patient and also how the body shuts down at the end of life.

The end of life is a moment when relationships change.  I could see how this was a passage for me as well.  I had seen my dad as a constant strong point on which I could rely.  Now, I needed to be the one who was strong enough to be there for him and flexible enough to evolve in how I would be with him as a caretaker rather than a nurtured son.

Near the end he was not able to turn in bed and eventually he stopped eating and drinking.  None of this sounds appealing, yet this is where I wanted to be.  It is like a tradition my wife has instilled in me.  At the end of an evening we not only see a guest to the door, but also follow them to their car and wave until they pass out of sight.  As my father was about to leave this earth, the tasks of giving medicine, keeping track of his position, and readjusting the pillows helped me to feel like I had a meaningful role.  I was doing all of the talking as dad had stopped speaking.  The snow world became smaller but also more intimate.  My desire to be an active participant in my dad’s care became clear to me when my mom began advocating for hiring home health care aids to come in and do the care.  She asked me to make the call and set up an appointment to hire these strangers.  I did as she asked, but as I did so, my heart felt pushed aside.  I don’t think I could bear to be a spectator to my father’s death.  Fortunately, their office was not open over the weekend, so that decision was delayed. In the meantime, I focused on caring for my dad.  

Saturday night we did everything we could to keep my dad comfortable.  We shifted his position and his pillows to prevent bed sores.  We carefully ground his pills and mixed them with water so the liquid mush could be administered by dropper.  When his catheter began to leak we were able to call a hospice nurse to replace it.  I recorded each detail of care with the time to make sure I was adhering to the schedule of care.  I set my alarm to wake myself every three hours so I could give medicine and reposition him as scheduled.  This continued at 6:00 pm, 9:00 pm, midnight…. from my sleeping spot on the porch I could hear my father’s heavy breathing.  When I woke up at 3:00 am a loud storm was raging.  I could not hear my father over the thunder and lightning.  When I went to my dad, I found him as before.  Breathing heavily, but not in any distress.  I gave him the medicine and repositioned him.  In that moment, with the storm raging outside, I felt the cozyness of this warm space and there was deep intimacy and unique privilege to be the only one awake in this darkened house caring for my dad.  As time passed, the storm moved on and day broke. By mid morning I was sketching out a painting of our time together from the night before.  He was no longer able to see, so I couldn’t show it to him, but the nurse said that hearing persists to the end, so I told him about it.  As the day progressed, more family members arrived until we were all gathered together.  Weeks earlier, we had planned to celebrate dad’s birthday that evening, which we did in a subdued fashion. I squeezed his hand and told him I loved him.  Later with everyone gathered around him, my father took his last breath.   The hugs of my youth could no longer reach him.  As much as I may have wished to cling to him, I had no power to keep him, and I had made peace with that.  I was grateful to have been there to say goodbye.

Local Issues, Local Art, Local Understanding and Local Economies 

Local Issues, Local Art, Local Understanding and Local Economies  by Doug E. L. HaynesThe pandemic lockdown of 2020 pulled me out of my routine and canceled my commute.  I used the extra time to make art.  I chose to focus on a central intersection located between our local university and the seat of government.  I sketched there over 30 times between November of 2020 and May of 2021.  Each time I went back, I found a new point of view.  This was an eventful time in our city.  The result of the presidential election was determined, my sketches document murals which were put up in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.  I participated in and sketched a protest to ‘Stop Asian Hate’.  It felt like composing a love letter to my hometown.  

This art was meaningful to those who knew this place well and endured this time together.  These multiple crises were challenging our community to imagine how we might emerge transformed and stronger than before.  I compiled the art into a book that could stimulate contemplation on what had happened.  I took several steps to keep this a local project.  I hired poets and writers who had connections to the place to provide texts with diverse perspectives.  I established my own publishing company.  I used a local printer and promoted the book locally.  In protest against Amazon, my slogan was: “When online booksellers launch themselves into space it is time to buy local.”  The book was well received by the local media. 

As I worked to reach audiences, I contemplated using Google and Facebook to advertise.  I had been an early adopter of their services.  I have had Gmail and Facebook accounts since the 1990’s.  The free services are seductive, and initially I gave little thought as to how they come at no charge.  Some years later I read essays describing our data as the commodity and that we are the product being sold.  It made sense but it seemed harmless.  My data was probably anonymized and it was of no particular value to me.  It seemed OK to trade that for useful services, even if the ads I was being fed seemed stalkerish.  The 2016 election caused me to reevaluate.  Facebook played a large role in spreading falsehood.  There was no transparency in terms of who was broadcasting which messages.  The fact that each media consumer lives in a separate media bubble made it difficult to see the content of these messaging campaigns.  The evidence pointed to Russian campaigns targeting American voters to influence the election.  I felt angry and helpless.  Despite these reservations, now I was in a position to purchase what Google sells.

I was torn by the idea of injecting multinational companies into my local project.  My encounter with Google did not go well.  My first contact was a video meeting with a Google representative based in Atlanta, GA.  He did not seem to understand my book well, but he urged me to advertise with Google with promises of great success.  I had a second video chat with a technical support person in Bangalore, India.  My third video conference was with a representative in the Philippines.  The main selling point was Google’s AI, which would  track down people interested in my book.  This third meeting was intended to seal the deal on an advertising contract, but did little to assuage my doubts.  Not surprisingly, this person half a world away had little understanding of what I was trying to sell or why people might be interested.  I was also turned off by the fact that 2 of the 3 meetings were located in countries with low wage economies.  Perhaps I should have been grateful that a multinational could bring me talent at low cost from around the world.  In my mind I saw money being mined from our local economy by people who have no business coming between me and my local audience.

For now, art is still not easy for AI to understand.  Perhaps at some point in the future, AI will have no trouble parsing the artist’s message.  I hope art will remain a human endeavor.  As for marketing, I will look for alternatives.  I am not sure if my method is sustainable or will make a difference in the long run, but I would like to imagine ways to do business that do not involve feeding large conglomerates.  The price of “free” can be costly.

Contributing Author: Doug Haynes

Doug Haynes published 5 essays in the anthology 여술 신앙의 정원 which came out in Spring of 2021.

The essays Haynes provided to the book were translated into Korean.   Haynes addresses topics related to how his life connects to art and justice.  The essay titles are: Seeing my Father out, Art CSA compared to Agriculture CSAApplying Scripture to Modern Context Finding Meaning in a Work of ArtJonah and the Whale an Artist’s Perspective,

Artistic Tradition: Being a Part of Something Big

This essay originally appeared in the July 2008 issue of Art in Wisconsin.  

A couple of years ago my high school ceramics teacher asked me to write a reflection on a retreat we took back when I was a student.

On a cold winter evening in the late 70’s a bunch of high school art students piled into cars and drove off for a weekend at a remote cabin in the woods of Iowa. I remember a bitterly cold ride in the back of a pickup truck, but once we arrived the cabin was warm and full of excitement. Our trip was more than just a weekend jaunt, we were going on a pilgrimage. It was a pilgrimage to meet the teacher of our teacher. Don Hunt who taught us ceramics made it clear we were not simply being taught a skill, we were heirs to a tradition. It was a tradition that traced back to the Bauhaus in Germany and even further back into the mists of time. I was thrilled to be a part of something elemental, ancient and mysterious.

the essay was to be the foreword for a chapter he was contributing to a book about Marguerite Wildenhain, a distinguished ceramic artist and teacher from Germany.  Marguerite had received a rigorous training and taught at the Bauhaus. She fled Nazi Germany and eventually arrived in this country where she taught in California. As a teacher she was renounced for demanding and receiving the highest effort from her students. over the years her students became teachers and produced talented pupils of their own. one of Marguerite’s students was Dean Schwarz who led the retreat in that remote cabin in Iowa and my teacher Don Hunt was a former student of Dean Schwarz.

For youth the importance of tradition can be easily tossed aside… and when I was in school the dominant mode of art education was the philosophy that art in the 20th century was a continual upward spiral of innovation. this fascination with the new taught that each new generation of artist would cast off the chains of the past and reinvent art. I think one of the most refreshing things about the teaching of Don Hunt was that he had us steeped in tradition and was so explicit in saying that what we were learning was something that had been passed down from teacher to student for generations.

recently I was able to purchase the finished book marguerite Wildenhain and the Bauhaus.  It is an enormous volume with 767 pages weighing about as much as an unabridged dictionary. I have not yet had the opportunity to read the entire book, but in looking through the pages I recognized the same colored slips we used for decorating. Her pots also had the same glaze that we had used in our kilns back when I was in school. I also recognized the same design of kick wheel that I had made once, but most importantly I recognized in the various essays descriptions of her passion for teaching and her student’s enthusiasm for learning. It was the same burning enthusiasm that I had experienced so many years ago in ceramics class with Don. I was also impressed by the vast reach of Marguerite’s influence. It was clear that marguerite had many students and many of them went on to teach others and pass on the legacy.

The lessons I learned from Don were some of the most formative in my life. I count myself fortunate to know the exact genealogy of this line of my artistic heritage. I know many that share that connection and I am sure that other teachers have left similar trails of talented pupils. One has to image that anytime one encounters an artist of significant talent and insight, behind that person must be a legacy of tradition that contributed to what that person has become. whether we recognize it or not, that is the way that we truly become an organic living part of something very big.

Margurite Wildenhain, 1959, Photo by Otto Hagel © 1989 courtesy of the Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundaion

Finding Meaning in a Work of Art

Disrupting audience expectations has become a staple of modern art.  As art seeks to challenge the viewer, the art world becomes an insiders club with some people in the know and some who are mystified by the museum experience.  We fear getting it wrong and revealing our ignorance. This culture of esoteric art knowledge is a barrier that shuts down our ability to perceive.  It also encourages overreliance on interpretation of works of art.   

The antidote to this insiders club is to make ones eyes the primary entry point to a work of visual art.   Look carefully and see what you notice.  Explore the composition.  Examine the elements of color, shape, line, and texture.   Does the work intrigue you?   If the answer to that question is “not much”, or “the museum tag made it sound really interesting” then perhaps the emperor has no clothes.  On the other hand if you find the work captures your eyes and bears repeated attention then you have found something of value.

As an artist presenting my work, I hesitate to tell what I intended.  Presumably my words about this work carry more weight than any other viewer of the painting.  However, I think that if you the reader of this essay rushes ahead to read my interpretation, you will have missed a chance to encounter the work free of my opinions.  You will miss the joy of making discoveries for yourself.   A written essay explaining the meaning of a work becomes a trap in that we can obtain the message of a visual work without looking for ourselves or delving deeply into what might be waiting for us.  When we rely heavily on written interpretations, the meaning becomes fixed to the words rather than the visual presence of the work.  So you have been warned! Spoiler alert! Read no further until you have taken time to look at the painting that is the subject of this essay.   Do not just give a cursory glance.  Take time and form your own opinions.  Once you have done that, read on and compare your conclusions to my own.

When I have shown people this painting without explanation, I have found that many are unable to identify the subject matter.  I am sure people feel nervous when they are put on the spot.  The inability to identify the subject may stem from unfamiliarity with biblical stories.   Some people may be unsure where to start and feel that artwork is the realm of professionals. 

I don’t think that slow recognition makes this a bad painting.  The story this painting depicts encourages the reader to question the ability of men to see God’s plan clearly, so a painting that slowly reveals itself can emphasize that point.    My painting strays from many of the conventions of Christian art.   Older traditions used halos to show the audience the subject matter is saintly.  Lately biblical illustrators signal the audience with a robe and sandal style of depiction.   My style is cartoonish, but with a little too much blood and sorrow to be a work targeted at children.  It is not really a style that is associated with biblical subject matter.  I try to show as many elements of the story as will fit in the frame.  I will often omit the facial features because I think specific facial features can put distance between the artwork and audience, while the converse allows audience inhabit the work by filling in the blank with their own specifics.  I do try to use the gesture of the figures to convey the story and feeling of the characters.

The subject of this painting is drawn from Genesis 37:17-36. The author the story of Joseph tells a story of rivalry, betrayal, lies, complicity, lust, sorrow redemption and more.  Though it all, the central message is that Joseph’s seeming misfortune is turned to blessing.  For Joseph’s brothers, the ill advised attempt to be rid of Joseph does not liberate them from his domination.  Ironically their actions put him in a position to lord over them as well as to save them.   

In my painting of Joseph being sold, I tried to paint the scene in a way that emphasized these elements of human weakness and strength.   One can see Joseph’s brothers in an impassioned conversation with their father at the top of the painting.  The brother’s word balloon is filled with an image rather than text.  The brothers are telling their father that Joseph was killed by a lion.   Joseph’s father, Israel, is grieving a river of tears that wind around the world.   The coat of many colors dominates the center of the painting.  We also see the brothers splattering the coat with the blood of a sacrificial lamb.  The coat’s central location emphasizes how Joseph has been stripped of a symbol of his father’s favor.  It also is a reminder of the lie the  brothers used to convince their father that Joseph had died in a lion attack.  On the other side of the globe, Joseph is shown in egypt being sold to his new master.   The globe is used here as a symbol of distance, not only physical but also spiritual and emotional distance.  In contrast to convention, the moon dominates the upper left and the sun illuminates the lower right.  The unconventional position of the sun and moon highlight God’s favor on Joseph and the problematic actions of the brothers.  

Having shared my perspective on this work, I would hope that rather than becoming the source of your understanding, this essay is a chance to reflect on your experience of the painting.  You have already reached your own conclusions prior to reading my opinions.  So now you might want to look back at the work again as if you are looking at it with me.  You may say to yourself, “Yeah, I noticed that!” or “Oh my gosh, I see that”.   Or perhaps you may even have other insights that go beyond the limits of the essay.  

As you encounter works in the future, I would encourage you to look deeply at the work and imagine what caused the artist to create such a work.   Then after you have had a chance to take it in and form an opinion, look at the museum tag, listen to the museum’s headphones or read the catalogue entry.

Art CSA compared to Agriculture CSA

In our area, farmers have been connecting to consumers through a system called Community Supported Agriculture or CSA.  This system cuts out the middleman and creates a direct connection between the farmer and the family dinner table.  A customer who buys a share of an agricultural CSA will receive a shipment of farm produce consisting of what is ripe on the farm that particular week.  The produce that is provided varies with what is in season and what thrived in that particular growing season.   The shipments will continue as long as the harvest lasts.  Families get a steady supply of fresh produce and the farmers get a stable source of income.  

For the consumer who is used to arriving in a grocery with a staggering amount of choices it may seem to be limiting, but behind that choice are some ecologically unfriendly facts.  If one chooses to eat produce out of season, that food will need to be trucked in from a great distance and may not be as flavorful as one locally grown.  In fact foods such as tomatoes have been hybridized to make them stronger for the long trek to market at the expense of traits that make them tasty.   To eat food that varies with the seasons puts one in touch with the earth and its cycles.  For farmers who face pressures of weather, price fluctuations, cheap imported produce, GMOs and factory farming, the CSA is a means to face these obstacles on an equal footing.  An agriculture CSA brings consumers  organic, family farmed, locally grown produce.

In an art CSA artists connect directly with art buyers.  Like the agriculture CSA there are shares that are pre sold to the customer and there is a distribution party.  The artist is given a mandate to create a body of work using all their talents similar to the way the agriculture CSA gives the farmer a mandate to plant, cultivate and harvest what the land will best produce.  There is also a similarity between art and agriculture CSA in the effort to disrupt the assumptions that are baked into the traditional means of distribution.   In the same way that CSAs enable consumers to consider altering their diet to harmonize with the seasons, the art CSA can challenge the reliance on distant arbiters of taste to indicate what is trendy and new (constant search for innovation). So much reverence for innovation (godlike) in contrast to that, craftsmanship and master of technique.   Art that is a product of one’s community can touch the heart in a unique way.  

The features of an art CSA that make it different from an agriculture CSA revolve around the differences between the products of each.   When a farmer grows 15 bags of potatoes, each bag will be virtually indistinguishable and consumer will be happy with whatever bag they recieve.  With art, the question of how to distribute work that is varied presents a challenge.  In my case I include an element of choice into the distribution process.  The CSA shareholder will have their choice depending when their name is drawn from a hat.  Since there are 30 paintings and 15 shares even the last name drawn will have a wide choice.   For those who are set on a particular work, I offer a premium share that costs more and enables reservation of a particular painting.   This process of selection is enabled by the posting of all the works on my website and facebook.   I also created a website tool that allows art buyers to click and drag artworks into their order of preference.   Other artists create uniform work.  In that case each customer receives artwork that is the same as what every other customer receives.  Print portfolios  such as the Sesquicentennial portfolio organized by Andrew Balkan is a prime example.  Another way to appeal to the varied taste of art buyers is the inclusion of multiple artists as seen in the Arts + Literature Laboratory CSA.  The differences between each CSA is a product of tailoring the process to meet the needs of the producer and customer.  

This essay was written by artist Doug Haynes on the occasion of his second art CSA titled 30 Watercolors.  Half of the paintings in this CSA were created in Korea and half were painted in Wisconsin.  The CSA distribution took place on November 10th 2019.   His first art CSA, titled 30 paintings in 30 days took place in October and November of 2013.  

Doug Haynes is an artist living in Madison Wisconsin.  His work can be found at and To contact the artist or request permission to reproduce this image contact

Chuck Bauer Breaks New Ground

In this day and age of tired remakes it is refreshing to see an artist break away from a tested and proven skill set.   The latest exhibition of Madison painter Chuck Bauer is a bold departure from his established body of work.   Chuck has for years been a regular presence in the community of  plein air painters in and around Madison, WI.   His work in plein air is fresh and lively in the way that only an accomplished painter can approach the act of direct painting.

Chuck’s work now on display at the Madison Senior Center at 330 W Mifflin St. (near Overture and the Central Library) is a new exploration of neon colors coupled with strong value contrasts and mysterious iconography.   The symmetrical compositions seem like a rebellion against the asymmetrical landscape of a plein air painter.  The imagery of these works evokes an exploration of the inner world of an artist.  They range from visual conversations with the world of art to childhood imaginings of the life of a romantic cowboy.

When the business of art eclipses creativity all efforts converge on  creating a consistently recognizable body of work.  Such a strategy can lead to marketing success, but leaves much growth and potential untapped.  The balance that feeds the artist’s soul and also puts food on the table is a unsolved zen koan on a par with “what is the sound of one hand clapping.”

Wedding Day , Watermedia on paper, 23″ x 30″
by Chuck Bauer

Brovo Chuck!

The struggle is real

I wanted to share a couple of photos which document the uphill battle to make art.   The first image is a list drawn up by my daughter and I of things to do on a day off.

On the other side of the same sheet of paper is an emphatic note from my daughter.

Now if you look closely at the bottom of the list drawing appears to be a late addition to the list.  However it is also violently scratched out.   This all happened over ten years ago when my daughter was young.

The moral of the story is artists beware! Art making is a struggle and sometimes those nearest to you will oppose you.

Chess trophies


2020 Chess Trophy

2019 Trophy

2018 Trophy

2017 trophy detail

2017 trophy detail



For the past few years I have organized a chess tournament at our school.  Each year, I create a trophy out of bits and pieces of stuff.  In 2017 the trophy features a flag that says checkmate.

The students are quite enthusiastic chess players and the trophy is something to recognize that effort.

A golden king at the top.


2016 Trophy


A knight encased in plastic.



2014 trophy

2014 trophy

2013 Trophy

2012 Chess Trophy

2011 Chess trophy

The 2011 trophy had a pawn enclosed in a clear box


There should be a 2010 and a 2009 trophy but I do not have a photo.

I think the 2010 one had bird of prey capturing a piece.  The 2009 was a clear plastic pepper grinder that looked like a giant chess piece.