May 15, 2010

USA: 'Dancing' celebrates women of a certain age

EL PASO, Texas / El Paso Times / Living / May 15, 2010

By Dorothy Ann Leach \ Special to the Times

The French have a charming way of referring to a woman who is past her middle years. They say she is of a certain age. Not for them the words we use in the United States: old, elderly, aged, senior citizen. Instead, their phrase suggests that such a woman has had a life richly lived and filled with memory, and that she continues to experience that life fully each day.

"Yes, We Are Still Dancing" is a book conceived by such women, for such women.

The three artists who created "Dancing" -- Jacquelyn Stroud Spier, Susan Amstater and Connie Dillman -- are longtime El Pasoans. Their friendship has spanned three decades or more.

El Paso poet Jacquelyn Stroud Spier, left, and artists Susan Amstater
and Connie Dillman paste collages for their recently published poetry/art book,
"Yes, We Are Still Dancing."  
Image courtesy of Frontera Women's Foundation

Spier's poetry sings of such friendship as well as of family and of spiritual journeying. In her poem "Ocotillo Spirits" we hear the fierce voice of one not ready to let old age defeat her: "I am a woman, marching into the last phase of my life still clinging and grasping." Finally, however, she relents a bit, saying, " É I can accept my poverty and let what is soft in me flow and wear my silver crown in a wild ocotillo surrender."

Susan Amstater and Connie Dillman, artists of far-reaching acclaim, have filled each page with color in media of every kind. Their artwork brilliantly enhances the words.

Birds fly off the page. Flower petals have just fallen from the poppy or the rose. Children ride horses, climb walls, nestle in loving arms. Exquisite fabric and rare papers in the collages appear to run through the book like a unifying river.

Dillman's charcoal sketches are subtle suggestions of childhood, youth, age, joy and suffering. Her paintings of spiritual objects glow like altar candles. One can almost breathe their warmth.

Amstater's mountains spill bold color onto the desert below; her flowers are strong and voluptuous. A specific instance of her originality is the illustration for "The Gypsies Stole My Grandchildren," a symphony of pattern and intricate design, one that will intrigue the reader at each viewing.

This stunning book is an El Paso event, supported by the Frontera Women's Foundation. Simply to turn its pages convinces the reader that it was made not only with enormous talent, but with love. When you feel its beauty pulsate, you too will begin to dance, if not in body, at least in mind and heart.

Dorothy Ann Leach has taught English at the University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College. She is now involved in private tutoring and teaching. [rc]

"Yes, We are still Dancing" is available through:


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