It is not really a debate, more like an on-going discussion on the Post-Modern Condition from the point of view of a rabbit and a kitty cat. They are constantly asking each other questions, and pointing out the contradictions in both the real and imagined worlds surrounding them, leading to a long list of interesting philosophical problems which often begin in The Artist’s studio.

“Maybe it comes from her imagination, so it’s not real at all.”1

“‘You don’t always want to imagine something,’ Kitty Boy answered. ‘Sometimes you just do it: it comes to you whether you want it or not.’”2

“I think I get it now, Rabbit thought. I’ve been taking this situation seriously. But the whole thing is a joke, the dancing rabbits and the pink flower and the torn-up field. It isn’t really happening. I thought it was a dream, or eating the flowers, or my imagination, or The Artist’s new painting. It’s just a joke someone is playing on me.”3

Kristy Deetz
“New Year’s Eve Pawsing”
Acrylic paint, embroidery, on digital pattern printed on silk
36” x 36” x 1.5”
Courtesy of the artist.

In the new publication “Holidays Unfolding: The Continuing Adventures of Rabbit and Kitty Boy” the main characters are of course Rabbit and Kitty Boy, along with one or two supporting characters such as Bo-Doggie. Then there are two other main characters, “The Artist” and “The Writer” who are often referred to and always seem as gods to the animal characters. Kristy Deetz and Edward S. Louis are the creators of this fictional story: the series of paintings depicting the animals and their adventures and the text that so aptly describes the world in which they exist.

The paintings are seen at first as patterns repeated across a background fabric. The animals are flattened and fitted together in order to hold that plane. However, placed just in front of this screen, are a series of small ceramic animal sculptures, coming forward in space. And finally, in front of this backdrop, the characters of Rabbit and Kitty Boy come to life. This after having discovered that they have jumped off of the picture plane and can now see themselves as separated from the patterned background. This is a startling existential recognition. This is also where the confusing discussion regarding the difference between the modern and the post-modern and the function of the imagination begins. We are seeing and experiencing three levels of plastic space, as well as three levels of literary irony and parody. The two fit perfectly together like a fine glove.

There are many questions in any discussion of the ekphrastic tradition and two of the most important ones ask: are these paintings illustrations of the stories, or are the stories true literary reactions/responses to already existing works of visual art? These same questions, regarding several other historical artists immediately come to mind: both the poems and prints of William Blake, the classic French story and the accompanying drawings for “Le Petite Prince” by Antoine St. Exupery, and the many versions and editions of “The Fables of La Fontaine.” These works of visual art and the writing are seemingly inseparable. We must add to this list the new work created by the artist Kristy Deetz and the writer Edward S. Louis.

Their work also raises new questions not just regarding the ekphrastic tradition, but also related to the post Post-Modern era. In recent years we have become lost in a jumble of images, meanings, and interpretations of every little thing, very often losing track of any original ideas. In literature, art and even architecture, certain forms and images were re-introduced into the overall content of this era that came after the Modern one. Although this was all supposed to become more enlightening, it most often led to confusion. Beginning with a sense of historical playfulness, this point of view was soon replaced with parody, irony, and even out right joking!

Kristy Deetz
“Friends Day Hiding”
Acrylic paint, embroidery, image transfer, on digital pattern printed on silk
36″ x 36″ x 1.5”
Collection of the artist.

Over the years, Deetz has been producing a series of “Veil Paintings” investigating the idea of “Nature Morte” and giving life back to certain objects and imagery. Adding to this, a new series titled “Holidays Unfolding” explores certain contradictions in the phenomenon of seeing. In painting, the process of applying the paint itself becomes a metaphor for the subjects of a still life: laying on the under-painting and the background; developing and arranging the drapery; and finally the arrangement of objects in an overall composition. Although the resulting life is still, a closer seeing of the paintings will reveal a lot of shifting movement.

Through correspondence with both Kristy Deetz and Edward S. Louis I have discovered several unique interrelationships regarding their work. Describing this process, Deetz writes: “The painted fabric, ellipses, and patterned fabric in the paintings act as limina or thresholds that, along with the accompanying images and forms, place the viewer into multiple, often conflicting, layers of space and meaning. . . . The paintings good-humoredly deconstruct imagery from my own painting history, as well as from pop and high culture to create new ‘spaces’ of meaning. The paintings also contain dark humor, visual puns, symbols and metaphors, moments of silence, art historical allusions, and spiritual conundrums.”

“Yes, our process is ekphrastic. I make the painting series and when completed Ed creates a story about the series. Rabbit and Kitty Boy evolved out of my Through the Veil series but appeared in other forms in past work. Our process is also somewhat collaborative.  We are very self-directed but give each other feedback in the middle of things, on titles, visual puns, and finished products.” 4

The author Edward S. Louis, who has often taught on the subject of ekphrastics, has offered this definition to me: “Ekphrasis in Greek literally means to ‘tell out’ or ‘recount.’ By its nature it relies on collaboration, since it incorporates or encapsulates the original to which it responds. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, too, for me in the context of what ‘literary criticism’ means. I’ve argued in critical as well as creative outlets that our tradition has often drawn too firm a line between ‘scholarly’ work and ‘creative’ work. The creative is much better if it has a scholarly base, and scholarly work is more fun to read if it has a creative edge. Ekphrasis is an excellent means/mode to do critical and creative work at once.”

“The stories ‘illustrate’ the visuals (that, I think, is our major innovation, since it’s backwards of standard expectations). There would be no stories without the visuals. In some cases the stories explicate, whereas in others they derive from or expand on the paintings. So they both ‘tell out’ and ‘recount’ what the paintings do, as well as taking some latitude to introduce narrative possibilities that the paintings imply or inspire, sometimes one at a time or sometimes through the course of several at a time.”5

Kristy Deetz
“Halloween Floating”
Acrylic paint, embroidery, image transfer, on digital pattern printed on silk
36” x 36” x 1.5”
Courtesy of the artist.

At the beginning of this adventure, these characters are speculating on many possibilities. Reflecting on all of this near the end, it is Kitty Boy who observes:

“Kitty Boy wondered. They all seem to be floating into that hole. Where does it go, and what will happen to them? That one looks a little like Rabbit, and that one: is it Bo-Doggie? And, hey! Is that one supposed to be me?”
“He was standing on the windowsill in the studio looking at The Artist’s new painting.”
“It showed many rabbits, all wearing masks—one that Kitty Boy thought looked like him—and they were all drifting up toward a large, black hole.”
“Back out of the hole came nothing but ghost rabbits, thin shadows of their former selves. But the live rabbits seemed not to care; they seemed not even to be aware of what they were doing. Ghost bats flew around the rabbits, but neither seemed to notice the other. A tablecloth that someone had been starting to sew was also drifting toward a hole, about to get tugged in. On top of the table another cloth unfolded—Kitty Boy wasn’t sure if it was a banderole or a toilet roll.”6

“Maybe imagining isn’t such a bad thing.”7

1 Deetz, Kristy, and Edward S. Louis; Holidays Unfolding: The Continuing Adventures of Rabbit and Kitty Boy; Elm Grove Publishing; San Antonio, Texas; 2021 & 2022; p. 15.

2 Deetz, Kristy, and Edward S. Louis; Holidays Unfolding: The Continuing Adventures of Rabbit and Kitty Boy; Elm Grove Publishing; San Antonio, Texas; 2021 & 2022; p. 16.

3 Deetz, Kristy, and Edward S. Louis; Holidays Unfolding: The Continuing Adventures of Rabbit and Kitty Boy; Elm Grove Publishing; San Antonio, Texas; 2021 & 2022; p. 33.

4 Deetz, Kristy; E-mail communication with this author; 10 October 2021, 5:43 PM.

5 Risden, Edward (aka Edward S. Louis); E-Mail communication with this author; 12 January 2022, 10:30 PM.

6 Deetz, Kristy, and Edward S. Louis; Holidays Unfolding: The Continuing Adventures of Rabbit and Kitty Boy; Elm Grove Publishing; San Antonio, Texas; 2021 & 2022; p. 77.

7 Deetz, Kristy, and Edward S. Louis; Holidays Unfolding: The Continuing Adventures of Rabbit and Kitty Boy; Elm Grove Publishing; San Antonio, Texas; 2021 & 2022; p. 95.


“Such was the cruelty of the stars, and perhaps to some extent of men also, that between March and the following June, what with the virulence of the plague and the abandonment and neglect of many of the sick by those who were healthy but fearful, it is firmly believed that more than one hundred thousand human beings lost their lives within the walls of Florence, when it is likely that beforehand no one would have estimated that the city had so many inhabitants.”1

C. W. Eckersberg
“The Marble Steps Leading to the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome”
Oil on canvas
32.5 cm x 36.5cm
National Gallery of Denmark
Copenhagen, Denmark

“There was a cold morning
When Santa Maria della Pace
seemed to whiten in shadows
And an afternoon when we looked up,
as if casually,

At the stone eagles of the Last Judgement
perched on Santa Crisogono in Trastevere.
I’ll never forget how the sky shimmered
like a bowl of light
That poured over our heads as we climbed

One hundred and twenty-four stairs—
The steep unforgiving gray stones
of Santa Maria d’Aracorli—
Built in gratitude
for deliverance from the Black Death.”2

“Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble,
Ancients footprints are everywhere.
You can almost think that you’re seein’ double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs.”3

From Boccaccio to Edward Hirsch to Bob Dylan, writers often echo elements of times passed. Recently I have rediscovered two of these classic themes: the “Decameron” by Giovanni Boccaccio from 1350, and the Millard Meiss essay on “Painting in Florence and Sienna After the Black Death” from 1951. These are haunting and horrifying observations from history, which have been too easily forgotten over the years. From Florence to Rome and all across Europe during those times, thousands of people were migrating to distant safe places, while even more thousands of people were dying at home.

Boccaccio made use of parables and morality tales in order to entertain and enlighten the public in the Decameron, while offering in the introduction a history and a warning for generations to come. Six hundred years later, Millard Meiss was describing the plastic process in altar pieces and frescoes of that time period. He often noted the new naturalism in certain paintings, and the movement or gesture created by these artists. Sadly however, he notes that there are no documents remaining that mention the Lorenzetti after this time, concluding that they too were victims of the Black Death.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti
“The Effects of Good Government”
7.7m x 14.4m (overall)
Palazzo Pubblica, Siena, Italy

First appearing in Florence from June to September in 1348, the Black Plague continued with resurgences in 1363 and again in 1374. During these times, the city states experienced other social, political and aesthetic developments: these included transitions from a merchant oligarchy to nobility rule, followed by revolutions against these very same nobles; business and banking failures; and painting developments with regard to looking to past classics for inspiration, or looking to the future and progress. Everything seemingly in disarray.

“…things had come to such a pass that dead human beings were treated no better than goats. It became apparent that the sheer scale of this disaster had made ignorant folk fully aware and resigned in the face of that one thing which limited and less frequent misfortunes, such as occurring the natural course of events, had not been able to teach intelligent people to endure with patience. There was not enough consecrated ground to bury the great multitude of corpses arriving at every church and almost every hour….So, when all the graves were occupied, very deep pits were dug in the churchyards, into which the new arrivals were put in their hundreds….like merchandise in the hold of a ship….”4

In the midst of all of this, the brothers Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti produced their finest works, incorporating both organic form and spatial movement. Pietro was concerned with continuing in the modes of Giotto and Duccio, whilst Ambrogio was focused on the contemporary world and his “Allegories of Good and Bad Government” in the Palazzo Pubblico in Sienna. In either case, they advanced the path of early Italian painting.

But what can we say about writing and painting in this day and age? Do we find ourselves in a new international style, or a new dark ages, continuing to be scattered in many smaller diverse city states?

There is an early painting by a contemporary artist in Philadelphia, Sidney Goodman, that has always been an enigma to me, even from the first time I saw it years ago. It was the image of some sort of tragedy, with a few survivors going about, but not from any particular time. It could easily have been an example of, or the result of “Bad Government” during the Post War Era in the 1960’s. Or did it portend to the future? In any event, it is a terrifically staged scene in which the characters act.

Sidney Goodman
“The Walk”
Oil of canvas
83 1/2” x 65 1/4”
Whitney Museum of American Art,
New York, New York

When I look at the larger more populous centers such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, I often feel like they have insulated themselves from the rest of the country. However, when I think of other areas, there are a lot of artists living in isolation, social distancing, and continuing to work. These artists and writers include: Kristy Deetz and Ed Louis in Green Bay, Wisconsin; Altoon Sultan from Groton,Vermont, to Erik Johnson in Eugene, Oregon; Christa Charles and Patrick Manning in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and in Indianapolis, Carla Knopp and Steve Paddack.

One artist in particular, Maddy Weisz, from Ft. Collins, Colorado has recently created another set of stage like images, dealing with human interactions and isolations all at once. When I asked her about these paintings, this was her response:

“My paintings are derived from the thousands of photos . . . I’ve taken over the years . . . . They are not good photos by any means, but I usually find interesting people walking, interacting . . . .”

“. . . . for example the arrangement of people and things in the ‘Tiny Dancer’ painting . . . . I happen to be watching from our Hotel room in Brussels to the plaza below, and captured the little girl dancing while all the people around her were absorbed in other things.”

“I’ve been interested in the idea of stage settings for a long time, and I’m really glad you picked up on this theme. . . . I’ve been trying different formal approaches to this idea. Sometimes I have an idea about the patterning of the ground space around the figures before painting, but most of the time I let the painting evolve intuitively.”5

Maddy Weisz
“Tiny Dancer”
Oil on canvas
20” x 16”
Collection of the artist,
Ft. Collins, Colorado

Finally, there is a novel by Albert Camus that describes and captures our own existential moment: a horrific viral pandemic.

A doctor, a journalist, and a friend find themselves in the midst of a mysterious virus that is sweeping the land. The friend suggests that he can set up a local sanitary squad or safety committee, in order to keep the local citizenry healthy, and to assist the doctor in his work. It started out as some men’s duty, but quickly turned into everyone’s concern. About half way through The Plague, Albert Camus sets these characters Rieux, Tarrou, and Rambert in a conversation discussing the idea of man and his courage, heroism, and decency.

“Rieux had been watching the journalist attentively. With his eye still on him, he said quietly: ‘Man isn’t an idea Rambert.’”

Rambert, jumping off of his bed declares: “Man is an idea, and a precious small idea, once he turns his back on love. We must face that fact, doctor. Let’s wait to acquire that capacity or, if really it’s beyond us, wait for the deliverance that will come to each of us anyway, without his playing the hero. Personally, I look no further.”

Although he was very tired, Rieux rose and responded: “You’re right, Rambert, quite right, and for nothing in the world would I try to dissuade you from what you’re going to do; it seems to me absolutely right and proper. However, there’s one thing I must tell you; there’s no question of heroism in all this. It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is — common decency.”6

Ambrogio Lorenzetti
“The Effects of Bad Government”
7.7m x 14.4m (overall)
Palazzo Pubblica, Siena, Italy

1 Boccaccio, Giovanni; Decameron, (Translated by J. G. Nichols); Everyman’s Library, Alfred A. Knopf; New York, London, Toronto; 2008; p. 13.
2 Hirsch, Edward; “Roman Fall” from Earthly Measures; Alfred A. Knopf; New York, New York; 1999; p. 39.
3 Dylan, Bob; Writings and Drawings; A Borzoi Book, Alfred A. Knopf; New York, New York; 1973; p. 299.
4 Boccaccio, Giovanni; Decameron, (Translated by J. G. Nichols); Everyman’s Library, Alfred A. Knopf; New York, London, Toronto; 2008; pp. 12-13.
5 Weisz, Maddy; “E-Mail correspondence with this writer,” 10:01 pm, 5 February 2022.
6 Camus, Albert; The Plaque; Everyman’s Library; Alfred A. Knopf; New York, London, Toronto; 2004; pp. 146-147.