I have not one, but two exhibits in September and October that will feature works from my WayMaking Cairn contemplative photography practice.

WayMaking Cairn in artist made frame from re-purposed pallet wood.

WayMaking Cairn in artist made frame from re-purposed pallet wood.

Beginning September 8 through October 31st seventeen of my works are on exhibit at the Hammond Public Library, 564 State Street, Hammond, Indiana. The Library is open Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday.  It closes at  9 pm Monday through Thursday, and at 5 pm on Friday and Saturday.   If you’re able to make it to the library, the works are on display on the first floor in the Community Room lobby, as well as the North and South Galleries on the 2nd floor.  I’ll be making an artist’s presentation on Saturday October 24th at 2:30 PM, discussing the works on display and this evolving practice.  I’ll be taking orders for works that day as well.   Doors open at 2:00 pm.

This exhibit allowed me the opportunity to create a body of work that is ready for exhibit at any gallery, complete with the majority of the images in custom made frames made from re-purposed pallet wood made by my brother, Al McQuade, and me.  I consider the frames as much a part of the art art as are the images themselves.

Intervention in Frame

“Intervention” image in artist-made frame on exhibit at Hammond Public Library

Pallets Pallet wood

Beginning September 25th and on through the end of October, one of my images “Beautiful Decay” will be included with fifty other works in the “Re-Picturing Photography”  exhibit at the Union Street Gallery at 1527 Otto Blvd. in Chicago Heights, Illinois. Union Street Gallery is a highly respected entity formed by and for artists in the region.  The website states it “was founded in 1995 as part of a small business incubation project, subsidized by the Chicago Southland Economic Development. In 1998, the first Gallery Director resigned and the Studio Artists stepped in and began to run the gallery as a collaborative. The artists recognized the gallery’s potential to be an important art resource both locally and on a national level, and the scope of the Gallery increased with the addition of national juried arts exhibitions and educational programming.”

Join me, the other artists and the curator at the opening reception on Friday, September 25 from 6 until 9 pm.

Re-Picturing Photography is curated by Allison Grant, assistant curator at the prestigious Museum of Contemporary Photography (MOCP)  in Chicago, on the campus of Columbia College Chicago.  MOCP is one of only two fully accredited museums of photography in the United States and serves as educational resource for all the local colleges and universities.  To be included in this exhibit is an honor, indeed.


WayMaking Cairn Sofa Surfing 1I’ve been seeing this sofa for several days in my regular drive down the alley toward my garage.  It got me to wondering about all the sofas that get tossed and whether there were options to just dropping it into the local garbage mountain.  One entry in my search engine “furniture in landfills” lead me directly to PLANETSAVE‘s website where writer Joanna writes in her 2011 entry that the EPA reports that in the United States we are putting annually 9.8 million tons of furniture into our landfills.

So I went to the EPA site, which offers a highly detailed report of our daily habits of garbage generation:  on average, every individual in the US is generating a whopping 4.4 lbs  of garbage per day!   By contrast, our EU neighbors daily production of trash is 2.9  lbs. per day. A dubious distinction that is not in our favor. In its June 2015 report, the EPA stated that

“In 2013, Americans generated about 254 million tons (U.S. short tons unless specified) of trash and recycled and composted over 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.3 percent recycling rate (see Figure 1 and Figure 2). On average, Americans recycled and composted 1.51 pounds out of our individual waste generation rate of 4.40 pounds per person per day.”

I am trying to be the change I want to see in the world by putting into my recycle bins every possible recyclable material that I can.  All my grass clippings become mulch for my gardens.  All my food scraps go into my circular composter, getting turned daily and then, each season it gets turned back into the garden soil.  I do not purchase water in bottles, as that’s the best way to cut down on that material’s re-entry into our system.  I now go to re-sale shops to purchase necessary items, and when I need a book I am purchasing used books on Amazon and Half.com.  I still think I need to do more.

WMC SOFA CU 20150808_6199What responsible practices are you following to recycle, reuse, and otherwise cut back on the amount of trash you are generating?  Looking for ideas?  Joanna’s previously credited entry above includes the following helpful ideas for dealing with furniture you no longer want or need:

Tips on how to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Rethink on household furniture


  • Measure twice, buy once! Plan and organize your space ahead of time before purchasing furniture pieces in your home. When purchasing new furniture, always research the company’s environmental policies and their initiative in reducing waste. Check out IKEA’s CSR policy.
  • Try to look for multiple-function furniture pieces like convertible sofas and futons.  Having a guest bed and a sofa built into one piece of furniture helps save on important materials such as wood and reduces deforestation.


  • There is plenty of usable “pre-owned” furniture available through Craigslist, Freecycleor even a garage sale!
  • Use slipcovers to keep your existing furniture looking fresh and new to last you for years to come.
  • Renew your chair by removing the seat and fabric — check to see if the foam is still usable (no mold) — and replace the fabric with new (preferably organic) fabric with a staple gun.
  • Donate your good-condition furniture to those in need, such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill.


  • Check with your local curbside recycling program or Earth911.com to find a recycling location.


  • Do you really need new furniture?  Could readjusting your existing furniture make your room look brand new?  Sometimes it just takes a little shifting around on your existing furniture to add a little splash in the design.  Try switching furniture pieces from different rooms.  A simple dining room table can be used as a desk, or a book shelf can be used with storage bins to store socks and clothes.

WayMaking Cairn Sofa Surfing 2



Commencing Now

On Sunday, July 26th I participated in Goddard College’s commencement exercises on the beautiful Plainfield, Vermont campus.  In my mind’s eye I see in vibrant technicolor the beautiful souls shining through the faces of the faculty, fellow graduates, other students in the program and the alumni present, physically and in spirit via Facebook posts.  The final graduation requirement, fulfilled that weekend, was a presentation to the college community, giving an overview of the research and artistic work over the course of my studies.  I attempted to provide a thumbnail sketch of my portfolio, using this website as my visual and sonic tool for introducing small bits of the work produced.

The cover of my 173 page portfolio document along with its title, (I’ve nicknamed it my magnificent obsession) is shown here.

Microsoft Word - JM VOLKMANN DRAFT 5 Inc I & C 5.28.docx

In the portfolio’s introduction I included the following parable as metaphor for my spiritual and creative pilgrimage of discovery and becoming as an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary artist within my studies at Goddard College.   This is excerpted from Sacred Rituals, Connecting with Spirit through Labyrinths, Sand Paintings & Other Traditional Arts (Fair Winds, Gloucester MA, 2004) co-authored by Eileen London and Belinda Recio.

“A poverty-stricken rabbi from Cracow had a recurring dream about a treasure buried near abridge in Prague. Because his dream was persistent, he was compelled to travel in search of the treasure. When he arrived at the bridge, he discovered that it was heavily guarded, but having traveled so far, the rabbi lingered in the area waiting for his chance to search for the treasure. After several days, a guard approached him and demanded to know the nature of his business. Discouraged, the rabbi reluctantly revealed his dream and that he was there to search for the treasure. The guard admonished him, but then told him that he, too, had a recurring dream of a treasure, only in his dream, the treasure was buried under the hearth at the house of a poor rabbi in Cracow. The guard assured the rabbi, however, that he wasn’t foolish enough to go hunting for a treasure just because it appeared in a dream. Upon hearing the guard’s tale, the rabbi became exuberant, hurried home, and sure enough, under his hearth, he discovered an immense treasure.”(175)

Authors London and Recio state “The message of this parable reminds us that the sacred we seek is already within our hearts, but sometimes, in order to recognize it, we need to travel away from the familiar. This is the essence of pilgrimage—an inner restlessness that calls us away from home, to search for what the heart holds sacred. …Real or metaphoric, a pilgrimage (historically) had, and still has, the purpose of finding something that holds profound significance to the traveler, culminating in a deepened spiritual state or personal transformation.” (176)

In the weeks ahead, I will include excerpts from my portfolio to illustrate waypoints of my own creative and spiritual pilgrimage throughout my studies in Goddard’s MFA program in Interdisciplinary Arts.

Thank you, Goddard.

MFA DIPLOMA_20140804_6139


London, Eileen, and Belinda Recio. “Seeking What the Heart Holds Sacred.” Sacred Rituals: Connecting with Spirit through Labyrinths, Sand Paintings & Other Traditional Arts. Gloucester, MA: Fair Winds, 2004. 175-85. Print.

a + b =

This post reflects upon my experiences as a witness this past weekend at the wedding of my daughter Anna to her life partner, and now wife, Bridget.  The officiant at the ceremony was my daughter, Kara, Anna’s elder sister.  Also present and participating was my daughter Eva, as well as Anna’s father, John Volkmann and his wife Kathy, Bridget’s father Jack O’Shea and her brother Brian. A few representative members of quite large extended families on both sides were present as well as a circle of friends and co-workers that have gathered round Anna and Bridget throughout their lives.  All told, perhaps 50 souls bore witness and celebrated this beautiful marriage of these two mature, wise, joyous, accomplished, talented and dedicated women who model all that love is asking of us:  A willingness to be open and touched by the love of another;  a willingness to offer the kind of love that can transform everyone and everything it touches, beginning with the lover;  a willingness to invite and welcome the support of a community in this most powerful of commitments.   Volo Restaurant on Roscoe Ave. in Chicago was the perfect setting for this unique and moving ceremony.

Anna and Bridget devised, with Shay’s willing and open-hearted participation, a variation on the Celtic HandFasting ritual.  In their ceremony, they dedicated themselves to forming a family of love, dedication, patience, forgiveness, and joyous celebration of each other’s unique gifts, held fast in the warm embrace of family.  And so the binding of all six hands was made after the promises made by each member.

In these two photos, the WayMaking Cairn continues its role as my avatar, spiritual symbol of witness and giver of mute testimony.  I offer the words of honor.  The Cairn offers visual remembrance.

The couple is now on their honeymoon.  After their return and the gifts are opened, there will be another post on the extended role of art in all aspects of this beautiful ceremony.

The rings, bearing Celtic symbols of love and promise.

The rings, bearing Celtic symbols of love and promise.

Anna's graphic design of the words she and B agreed were their

Anna’s graphic design of the words she and B agreed were their “keywords” to their lives together.


Flash of Insight Beckons Flash of InsightWhile driving to Vermont to attend commencement at Goddard College, I stopped at a rest stop along I 90.  After driving most of the day, its no longer clear to me whether I was in eastern Ohio or had just crossed into New York.  The late afternoon sun took my attention away from my road-weary body and I brought the Cairn to this site to bear witness to this ephemeral moment in time and space.  Refreshed, I continued on my trip and arrived at Goddard the next day.

Starbuck, Ever the First Mate, Ever Making the Same Decision

The WayMaking Cairn’s recent encounter with a discarded Starbuck’s coffee cup provides the grist for this post.

First, please recall where the name Starbuck originated. A quick search on Starbuck the character takes us to the Cliff Notes website. Remember Cliff Notes?  The redemptive resource for all high school English class procrastinators as they cram the night before the exam?  Cliff Notes has joined the ranks of every academic resource by establishing its own website presence.   Click here to see its full character analysis for First Mate Starbuck in the classic Moby Dick, which I’ve redacted here for brevity’s sake.

“The first mate is the only man aboard the Pequod who resists Ahab’s plan to devote the ship’s mission to hunting and killing the White Whale. …..  But he lacks Ahab’s power. The chief mate argues that the ship’s mission, as prescribed by the owners, is to harvest as much whale oil as possible and return home safely, showing a profit. He feels it is “blasphemous” to be enraged by a dumb object of nature such as a whale, and he realizes that the lives of all aboard are at serious risk….. Ultimately, however, Starbuck acquiesces. He concedes that he is no match for the enormity of the charismatic captain’s spirit. Even though he is certain that Ahab is mad, Starbuck cannot take the action necessary to stop him. At any rate, the first mate obeys orders. As a character, he changes only because he submits to Ahab”

Parallels abound here as we consider the relative weights of the moral choice vs. the expedient choice made by both Starbucks. Consider these observations by Adam Minter in his April 2014 post Why Starbucks Won’t Recycle Your Cup on Bloomberg View.  Minter reports that Starbucks produces over 4 billion disposable cups per year.  Though the company announced in 2008 its goal of instituting recycling at all its company owned stores by 2015, it admitted in 2013 it had only achieved 39% compliance and doubted that it could ever achieve its goal of 100%.  Why?  Its not cost effective to recycle the cup fibers when the plastic inner coating also has to be dealt with.  Unless the company produces much more paper waste to make the plastic removal process profitable, there is no motivation to recycle the cups.

Minter then opens the lens to consider our participation as consumers in perpetuating the use and discard of paper cups.  “Composting keeps the cups out of landfills, but it generates greenhouse gases while destroying the recycling value packed into the cup’s fibers. Reusable cups are a nice idea, but one that consumers simply don’t embrace. In 2008, for example, the company set a goal of serving 25 percent of all beverages in personal, reusable tumblers by 2015; in 2011, it served just 1.9 percent in personal tumblers, and lowered the 2015 goal to 5 percent, despite making available low-cost tumblers (which have their own recycling issues).”

So, Starbucks, like its namesake in Moby Dick, cleaves to the highest totemic values of instant profitability (closing its eyes to the other costs to our world and our health in excessive greenhouse gasses) AND closes its eyes to the blasphemous nature of its own behavior.  But, before we all jump on the bandwagon of finger pointing at the big corporations who make so much money in this array of unsustainable practices, let’s look in the mirror:  we who consume Starbucks or any food item in a disposable cup or container, are also guilty of the same unethical and lazy behavior.

WMC Strbk Cp Puddle Refl Pole 2015.6.12_5524

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The Magical Mystery Tires are Waiting ….

WMC Disc Tire Fence 2015.6.12_5544A few weeks ago I was coming home around midnight.  As I drove down the alley toward my garage, I came upon four old tires lying in seemingly random locations across the alley right in front of my garage. I stopped the car, rolled each of the tires, one by one,  to the side,  safely out of traffic’s way on the grassy aisle between my fence and the alley’s asphalt surface.

How those tires could have come to be there in the first place is probably a never-to-be-solved mystery.  Perhaps one of the many scrappers in the area lost them off the top of a too-full truck of found treasures? Was this a deliberate prank of some sort?  A “gift” from someone who heard of the Waymaking Cairn’s ongoing contemplation of our daily trash?

Whatever brought the tires to my alley will probably never be known, but I was presented the next day after an afternoon rain with an opportunity for the WayMaking Cairn to contemplate these tires where they lay since the night before when I moved them out of the way.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association says this about rubber tires: “Properly handled, scrap tires do not present any major environmental problems.

If improperly handled however, scrap tires can be a threat to the environment. Tires exposed to the elements can hold water and be a breeding space for mosquitoes that carry disease. Tire piles can be set on fire through arson or accident. These fires are difficult to put out, and produce heavy smoke and toxic run off to waterways. Tire piles can also harbor other vermin, such as rats and snakes.”

My neighbor Bev, after suggesting I might make wall-mounted planters with the tire, then called the city to take the tires away.

WMC Disc Tire Puddle Tail Light 2015.6.12_5520 WMC Discarded Tire After the Rain 2015.6.12_5521 WMC Disc Tire puddle 2015.6.12_5523 WMC Disc Tire Puddle 2015.6.12_5522