The Amazing Dodie Hamilton: One Of Medford’s Treasures

“My art is my life, and it has been since I was very young, scribbling away at drawings on every scrap of paper I could find…”DH 2DH 1

 

Glendora “Dodie” Hamilton has been a major part of the art community in the Rogue Valley since her arrival in 1982.  I have had the privilege of working with her on a number of projects, from small town histories to the study of form and she has always embraced my work with enthusiasm and a willingness to do something new.

Her indefatigable spirit led a Missouri girl to the distant state of California where she taught English and art for many years.  During her California stay, she attended many art courses and workshops, working primarily in oils, acrylics and pen and ink drawing.  When she came to the Rogue Valley, she began to focus on watercolor.  Her favorite subjects are the flowers and landscapes of the Rogue Valley, but she has also done children’s illustrations and abstract renditions of shapes.

Dodie is now in her nineties, but she continues to paint, offer art workshops and she remains an active executive member of the Art and Soul Gallery in Ashland.  Despite her age, she loves to travel and recently held two workshops in Mexico.   She also takes workshops with other artists.  The amazing Dodie Hamilton continues to surprise with her zest for learning, her willingness to share and her desire to explore new horizons.  Dodie, who now lives in East Medford, is indeed one of Medford’s greatest treasures.  Please visit her website at:  dodieart.comDH 9ADH 8ADH 15DH 14 DH 13DH 12

Robert Brooks: The Wizard of Shape, part 1.

During my adult life, I became interested in discovering why forms were the way they were, the laws governing the formation of forms, the applicability of forms, and the inks between different forms.  I realized that for the purpose of my study I would have to come up with an appropriate definition of form.  I chose to define form as a perceived structure or concept represented by a definite pattern.  Applying my definition to the study of forms, I saw that forms would fit into three major categories:  NATURAL FORMSCREATED FORMS, and THEORETICALLY-DERIVED FORMS.  Natural forms pertain to those forms which exist in the physical world independent of human beings.  Cloud patterns and ocean waves are natural forms.  Created forms are those forms which arise from the human imagination.  These forms include poetry, architecture, and sculpture.  Theoretically-derived forms involve forms which arise through logic and reasoning.  Cycloids and lemniscate are examples of such forms.

Topology belongs to the last category.  It may be called the “aerobic” branch of mathematics, because it looks at the properties of shapes after they are twisted and stretched.  Topology is a qualitative form of mathematics, involving concrete shapes that ten-year-olds could play with.  Stephen Barr’s Experiments in Topology, offers numerous examples of topological fun.  One such, is twisting a two-sided strip so that it has one edge, resulting in the Mobius Strip.    For those that want to read about the creative, imaginative side of topology, I recommend Clifton Fadiman’s two collections of short stories and verse:  Fantasia Mathematica,  and The Mathematical Magpie.

When I started selecting interviewees for my book The Magicians of Form, The late Robert Brooks, then a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Southern California, was my first choice.  Dr. Brooks taught a course in topology, and had an ability to make the complex simple.  His warmth and enthusiasm put me at ease, and I found myself even more interested in the subject matter of topology.  What follows is an excerpt of an interview that took place in his office at USC.IMG_5961

                              “I think the thing that motivated me was the thought that ‘They’re holding something back from us’.”

RW:  Dr. Brooks, perhaps you could say something about your early interest in mathematics.

RB:  I think I wanted to be a mathematician since I was in the 4th or 5th grade.

RW:  Does that mean you had a natural aptitude in solving mathematical problems?

RB:  Well, I like to think I have a natural aptitude.  But let me tell you a story…  This was in the 1st grade, and we were doing primitive addition, and learning to add several digit numbers together.  Then we began to learn carrying, and it dawned on me that all the numbers we had been given to add up until that time, had been kind of “cooked up”, so you didn’t have to carry.  I was a little upset that no one had pointed that out to me; and I said to myself, “I wonder what else they’re holding back?”  And I must have spent about two weeks adding random numbers together.  Then I came to the conclusion that the only thing you had to know in adding two numbers together was carrying, and then you could any two numbers, no matter how many digits they contained.  But I felt I had to prove that.

This was the first problem I remember thinking seriously about.  I recall working on it for a long time, and I ended up giving up.

RW:  So you had the desire to go from the specific to a general rule, to an overall proof/

RB:  I think the thing that motivated me was the thought that “They’re holding something back from us”, and I wanted to be on top of what was going on.

RW:  You had a certain lack of trust in the whole procedure.

RB:  Absolutely!  And I think one thing that’s so appealing to me about mathematics is its real immediacy;  that you’re basically on your own with the materialand if there’s something thereyou’ve got to find it.

RW:  So you’re the pioneer?

RB:  You’re just about everyone in this business.  You’re the pioneer, you’re the explorer, you’re the critic.  In many cases, you’re the audience.

RW:  Then it’s really your world.  You’re immersed in this abstract universe that you’ve created.

RB:  That’s right….  But topologists have a certain disdain for abstraction.  Topologists want to show what’s there.

The Journey Begins…

“Grandma, when you die, will they bury you?”

“Yes.”

“Very deep.”

“Yes.”

“Then I’ll just dig you up again!”  —–Kornei Chukovskij From Two To Five

The journey, which would eventually lead to The Magicians Of Form, started in childhood.  For the book represents a synthesis of the many conversations I had with my Dad and Grandma  Lillian about forms that I encountered throughout my life.  In retrospect, I believe there was an unseen path that was guiding me to complete that book.  Little did I know it, but these apparently innocuous discussions held the seeds of a definite future purpose.

To understand the determination and courage needed to finish the volume, I have to look back to a now distant world:  a world before abstract reasoning had taken firm hold, and banished me from an all-inclusive world.  A world in which sensations, colors, sounds, and forms enticed with a vividness, excitement, and spontaneous directness that become dulled in adulthood.

To go to that special place, I need to summon memory as my guide.  Fragments of thoughts and images fly into my mind:  pine cones scattered along a path, a night sky covered with sparkling stars, the rough red of jasper, sand painting, sticker albums, wooden puzzles of a bus, and Old King Cole, a record player on the ground spinning music, farm lotto, water-colored flowers, The Golden Book of Children’s Verse, and, one verse in particular:  “When I grow up, I will carry a stick, and be very dignified.  I will have a watch that will really tick.  I will have a tall house that is built of brick.  And no one will guess that it’s just a trick, and I’m really myself inside.”, The Big Ball Of StringThe Big Jump And Other Stories, and Gillespie And The Guards( in which a child outwits adults in power), The Five Chinese Brothers(in which every brother has a special skill to keep him from harm), arithmetic problems with shiny colored dots, glasses of lemonade, scoops of chocolate ice cream, dragging a watering can to create my own river in the sandy beach,  Grandma’s Archie the Chipmunk bednight stories, making a miniature golf course out of my parents’ lawn, climbing walnut trees, listening to Walt Disney’s The Grasshopper and the Ants, dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Overture Miniature from the Nutcracker Suite and watching the falls of Lone Pine Creek…

“How high is high?”

Grandma said I asked this question when I was four-years-old.  It was the start of many questions I had about the surrounding world.  My special path was unraveling before me.  The hour glass of time was running.  The journey begins…

A Passion For Flowers

I must confess that I’ve had a lifelong passion for flowers with their assorted blooms, colors and shapes.  I think my love of flowers started when I bought petunia seeds at Armstrongs, planted them in the back corner of our lot and watched them grow.  Then I remember looking at a book of flowers with such intriguing names as zinnias, morning glories, larkspur, delphinium.  The color photos showed me a world of beauty.  Many years later, it was my privilege to walk through Mrs. Tucker’s wonderful garden at Rogue’s Roost with its fragrances and patterns.  And, it was no accident that I chose botany as one of my chapters in The Magicians of Form, and that I asked my interviewee, Dr. Frank Lang, to identify the plants and flowers in the riparian environment surrounding our home while we walked to the Rogue River.

I do have a fondness for roses and camellias and have taken hundreds of photos.  (Incidentally, my sister Nancy has won several awards for her roses.)  When it comes to landscaping, I am indebted to the helpful suggestions of the Medfords, who took the trouble to explain how to prune rhododendrons and roses.  Mr. Medford’s penchant for gardening is well-known, but Mrs. Medford possesses a fine eye for beauty and order.(I might also say that Mrs. Medford’s famous apple pies are just as good as they are reported to be.)  Also, my flowering dogwood is an inspiration to me, and azaleas are something to reflect on.  I offer you some photos of flowers that have a place in my heart.   

Congratulations, Dr. George R. Rossman!

Congratulations, Dr. George R. Rossman!  It is quite an honor to be selected as one of six lecturers on mineralogy for the Mineral Collecting Symposium 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  Dr. Rossman has been head of the mineralogy division at the California Institute of Technology for many years, and received The Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2004.  He continues a life-long interest in minerals through his research, which includes studies of the color and spectroscopic properties of minerals, poorly crystalline minerals and the effects of high level ionizing radiation on minerals.  Dr. Rossman has written or co-authored more than 100 articles in the field of mineralogy.  He has served as associate editor of the journal American Mineralogist and is on the editorial review board of Gems and Gemology.  A rare form of pink tourmaline was named for him(rossmanite) in honor of his many contributions to spectroscopy.  He has a special web site devoted to mineral spectroscopy:http://www.minerals.gps.caltech.edu

I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Rossman about twenty years ago for my book The Magicians of Form.  As an amateur mineral collector, I was excited to learn about specific minerals and their often surprising properties.  Many of the crystal forms  that Dr. Rossman described were portrayed in dramatic fashion by Southern Oregon artist, Dodie Hamilton, who, although in her nineties, is still painting, and giving art classes in her Medford studio.  Dr. Rossman’s interview is published in full without drawings by Axis, the on line journal of The Mineralogical Record.

Dr. Rossman’s lecture is on a DVD 2 disc collection, which also contains a lecture by Dr. Barbara Dutrow of Louisiana State University.  Dr. Dutrow is the co-author of a popular mineralogy textbook.  This wonderful set of six lectures may be obtained through Blue Cap Productions, which has produced many films highlighting various aspects of mineralogy.