South San Francisco, CA August 16, 2022 by Guest Contributor Elizabeth Nisperos
What is the chance that a 74 year old woman gets to be on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover 2022? Not a chance. If you’re Maye Musk, model for 50 years and mother of Elon Musk (world richest man), it happens. Probability can be a tiny, tiny value but is never zero according to Statistics.
What is the chance that a Chief of Police knows calligraphy and appears on a Kalligraphia exhibition? Pretty slim you might say. I’d say a 100% chance because I happen to know Georgianna Greenwood who co-founded in 1974 Friends of Calligraphy (FOC) and she has a police officer son Andrew, Berkeley Chief of Police.
Georgianna is the honoree in the 16th Triennial Kalligraphia XVI at SFPL. Her piece is ‘All Artwork is About Beauty’ – “All positive work represents it and celebrates it. All negative art protests the lack of beauty in our lives-Agnes Martin”. Georgianna studied calligraphy at Reed College under Lloyd Reynolds who established the calligraphy study in the college, followed by Fr. Robert Palladino (Steve Jobs mentor). Georgianna was backup of Fr. Palladino.
I’m happy that Georgianna aka Aunt GG was my teacher in several classes where she noticed “You’re always late” (either in class or Council meetings). But when she hosted a dinner at her Berkeley home in honor of calligrapher Ewan Clayton, MBE(Member of British Empire given by Queen Elizabeth II), she said , “Hmmm, You’re early!” I felt like Maria on The Sound of Music who’s always late for everything except in every meal. In 1999, Georgianna also created the Fort Mason Calligraphy Classes in San Francisco and the committee included Helen Fung, Susie Taylor; between the three, they have150 years of calligraphy experience, and the newbie on the committee was me in 2001.
The exhibition and demonstrations: Kalligraphia XVI, Skylight Gallery (6 th Floor) San Francisco Public Library(SFPL) , May 14 to August 30, 2022, 100 Larkin Street, near Civic Center BART, Free demos on Saturdays.
Larry Thomas designed the logo Kalligraphia XVI and his piece “Gone Bird”. Thanks to Andrea Grimes, curator at SFPL, Meredith Klein and FOC volunteers who coordinated the exhibit. Patricia Coltrin created the label for all pieces with her italic hand. Covid’s pandemic didn’t deter 88 global calligraphers to create their pieces. I only attended the demo of Anne Miller ancient Celtic Runes; her piece is Grendel from Beowolf in Literature.
We see letters and words every day, so it’s ordinary but being a “Flaneur” is to wander and explore delightfully with a new and open eye seeing an object or location as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Been there, done that. You take people or your environment for granted but a flaneur senses are never dulled; the secret of romance in a relationship, seeing a spouse, a friend, a co-worker as if you’d seen them for the first time. Romance for mystery and unknown remain fresh every day.
My Auntie Jean, an LA lawyer informed me, “The Nisperos name/label is famous in Spain”., it’s a trademark, a monument with a festival. After the cruise in Canary Islands in Spain Archipelago, where Sir Winston Churchill painted in Madeira (our tour stopped in the mansion) , our group landed in Malaga; we stayed at a resort in Marbella. It was in Malaga Province that I learned about the Dia Del Nispero festival at Sayalonga where the townsfolk celebrate with a prayerful mass, dancing, singing, art exhibitions every May when they harvest the Nisperos’ fruits. In many Spanish towns, there are festivals with the same name. The Nisperos can be eaten, cooked as jellies, pastries; the leaves have medicinal value. What does the festival mean? It’s a metaphor for “the day when the pigs fly or the impossible happens”.
My piece is an illustration on my short story “Dia Del Nisperos Festival“
With my reporter eye, I became a flaneur which glass case resonates with current news. OMG, it was the display case that has my piece. It was placed far near end towards the exit . An art piece even placed in an obscure space shines if it expresses news. The case has color scheme of yellow and blue for Ukraine’s flag were unintentionally done, Peace (Yulan Yamamoto), Erika Shore (Heart) stood for “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” , and the seeds in Edwina Shannon(Bloom) symbolized the sunflowers seeds as hope, faith, love to keep planting the seeds for future’s growth. The glass case encloses Yulan Yamamoto ‘Brush Drawn Characters’ – “Peace”; Edwina Shannon ‘Just Bloom Too’ “I love flowers. This version introduces more color but maintains a happy spirit”, Erika (Ricki) Shore ‘Valentine’s Day’, “I created this for my late husband for Valentine’s Day.“
Most fine artists (painters) don’t call formal calligraphy as fine art but more as ‘skilled draftsmanship’ because it’s usually a copy of exemplars, text, and design especially those used in
certificates, documents, envelopes, invitations. Fine art is usually bringing something new to the table, original, creates dialogue, design never been seen before.
Skilled craftsmanship can be seen in Gothic Script of Ward Dunham “Began is Half Done”, Raoul Martinez “But One Moment Still” and many others. It’s fine if one chooses to be a
craftsman. Alan Blackman and Claude Dieterich pieces on display were taken from the library collection.
Rick Paulus invitations, envelopes, certificates at the White House are examples of highly skilled craftsmanship which viewers have seen a thousand times, but Paulus “Sea Fever John Masefield” rise up to the level of fine art.
With the eyes of a painter a shoutout to calligraphers who transformed skilled craftsmanship into fine art worthy of museums and professional galleries: Joe Boissy “Kalimat”;Evelyn Elridge “Monoline Meanderings”; Dorothy Yuki “Round About”: Joanna Witzel “Abstract #5”;Mary Gow “Sugar Ages You”; Monica Dengo “A Written Language Must Live Outside the Grid” ;Jerry Lehman “Angels Are Calling”; Susan Richardson “Starry Starry Night”; Sarah Loesch Frank “In the Midst” ; Deanna Jay Chu Nim “A Fan of Shakespeare”;Ellen Bauch “Sand Strokes”.
Judy Detrick chose Math for a change “Mr. Daedelus Teaches Algebra”; Thomas Ingmire “Banned” lists banned books in his piece.
My favorite surprise is Hobbie MacQuarrie “English is Weird”- His description “A 92-year old man, writing on 205 year-old paper with 70-year-old materials.” Hobbie once sent me his
own handmade calligraphed calendar in the mail. Please come to ‘flaneur’ all the pieces at SFPL.
Starz “Becoming Elizabeth”, is a cable series on the teen aged years of the queen. Alicia von Rittberg in an interview for the role, she trained in the Princess School to learn horseback riding,
calligraphy, dance, playing the piano. So calligraphy in the old days, the royals have to learn calligraphy because they have to handwrite documents and sign them.
Is it real that being a Nisperos, the impossible happens? I’ve listed 100 Impossible things to happen in my notebook as my new normal, the supernatural. I believe though there is more legs to Luke 18:27 “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Impossible song by Nat King Cole is serenaded to calligraphers around the world and SSF residents. Just believe the impossible can happen.
Click here to listen
About Elizabeth Nisperos
Eliz Nisperos’ is a long-time resident of South San Francisco and a lover of the arts and is a regular contributor to Everything South City. A former Commissioner of our Cultural Arts Board, Nisperos’ love of beauty spans from the visual, written word, and song. She is an award-winning Calligraphist, among many other disciplined talents.