Loring Cornish - Visionary Artist

Loring Cornish's mosaic glass house on Parkwood Avenue in Baltimore.
Photo © by Bonnie Schupp

Artist Loring Cornish standing on glass floor in a room inside his house. Photo © by Bonnie Schupp.

When you see Loring Cornish’s art, you can’t help but become a part of it. Stand outside his glass house studios on Parkwood Avenueand and you’ll understand why. Yes, it’s a glass house but you don’t see through.  Both you and your surroundings will be reflected in hundreds of mirrored mosaic pieces. His work captures both imagination and reflection of a different sort.

My husband and I first met Loring when he exhibited at the AVAM, the American Visionary Art Museum. He is not a trained artist but a visionary. He says in his artist statement: “I’m not a trained artist; they call me a visionary, an ‘outsider’ artist. My work comes out of my relationship with God. While I worship, I create, and while I create, I worship God.”

Cornish's fabulous glass bathroom (but with a glassless toilet seat).          Photo © by Bonnie Schupp. 

An out-of-this-world bathroom blew me away. I noticed the toilet seat was not made of glass...and that’s probably a good thing too.

Besides the sparkling mosaics, I was especially intrigued by a large piece that will be part of a one-man future exhibit at the Jewish Museum.

Justice, Respect, Liberty, Equality - Art by Loring Cornish.                    Photo © by Bonnie Schupp
I’m somewhat at a loss to describe the reflection that Loring Cornish’s work instills in me because I feel it won’t do his work justice. You can read more and see photos at the following sites but the best thing is to see his work in person.

Loring Cornish Web Site

Baltimore Brew

Urbanite Magazine

Baltimore Magazine

Friday and Heaven's Pearly Gates

Heaven ©Bonnie J. Schupp
Today? How can it be Friday already? I blinked and another week passed!

I’m in the third quarter of my life, or the fourth quarter, depending on how long I might live. Days no longer stretch out like forever long strings of taffy as they did when I was a young child. Now the days remind me of my 5-year-old self who would begin running downhill and eventually the run grew out of control and my legs couldn’t move as fast as the hill was descending. Of course, I’d eventually fall. It was inevitable.

Eventually my taffy strings will break, my “legs” won’t be able to keep up with my subjective time and I’ll fall.

At age 65, with a time perspective different from that of my childhood, and as I experience the death of family members and friends, I sometimes  think about my own departure from the life I know now.  As a child, I learned that we live a good life today and then in the next life there will be a good life in heaven—forever.  

That was comforting but very distant. Today I realize that nobody knows the “beyond” answers. And, really, I don’t care if there is a heaven or not. I  live the best life I’m capable of living—now. Afterward, as the old song says, “que sera, sera.”  

I don’t dwell on the beyond but today I read two thought-provoking discussions of heaven and death (unusual day to begin my day, right?):

One makes the case that even if there is a heaven, it might not be so great.

The other talks about how atheists might find it easier to cope with death than those who believe in an afterlife.

Interesting...but now it’s Friday and I have a lot to do...

© Bonnie J. Schupp

Professional Mohel

Created by Bonnie Schupp
My husband David found an interesting business card while taking care of his mother's things after she died. It was a card from the mohel who presided at his bris.

Always one to find a humorous side of things, David posed as a rabbi from your worst nightmare. You can see that he really got into his role.

We then brainstormed with ideas for captions. The list below is what we came up with. Maybe you can add some of your own.

  • Sharp-witted mohel, circumspect to the point.
  • Mohel with sharp knife for hire.
  • David cut short his job training.
  • David's new job was cutting edge.
  • David's new career required circumspect and forethought.
  • David cut up before every bris.
  • The bris took an unexpected turn.
  • Overly endowed baby met his match.
  • With sharply honed skills, David began.
  • David scorned new cutting edge technology.
  • David always sliced through bureaucratic details.

Perception and Reality

(Photo: Bonnie Schupp) “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. 
Scrub them off every once in a while or the light won’t come in.”
Isaac Asimov
A couple days ago, I heard Bill O’Reilly comment, “Perception is reality.” It made me think about an elephant—not a red one but one from India. His statement, although a cliché now, deserves some ontological consideration.

American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) wrote a poem based on an old Indian fable about six blind men who meet an elephant. Each one feels a different part of the elephant and defines the elephant in a different way.

The first touched the side and claimed that elephants were like a wall. The second felt the tusk and thought elephants were like spears. A third grabbed the trunk and believed that elephants were like snakes. Feeling the knee, a fourth one said that elephants were like trees. The fifth reached an ear and stated that elephants were like fans. Seizing the tail, the sixth blind man thought elephants were like a rope.

Each man was partly right but all were also wrong. They each understood one aspect of elephants but none really understood what the entire elephant looked like.

Like the blind men, O’Reilly is both right and wrong.  

The Subjective Eye

Magicians, illusionists, depend on our perceptions leading us to wrong conclusions. This is their livelihood. Even when we know that a magician cannot pull a pot of flowers out of thin air, we are prone to believe it because that’s what we have seen. Because of the perception of Fox News, it is successful. Masters of illusion use the idea that  perception is reality.

O’Reilly is right if we look at individuals. Our perceptions are our personal realities. My reality might not be your reality but yours is real for you.  Your reality is shaped by your sensory perceptions, past experiences,  beliefs and attitudes.  We are limited in our ability to perceive and can only perceive a part of any situation. We see what we expect to see. Then we fill in the blanks with assumptions and this leads to us believing that our limited perception and our assumptions are the whole truth.

Consider eye witnesses to crimes. The same event might be seen by three different people and each one will give different details about what they saw.  The reality of what happened changes depending on the subjectivity of the observer.

I once staged an argument with a fellow teacher in front of a class. Then I had my students write a report of what they saw. Stories varied depending on how students felt about the other teacher or me.

Even the same event might be experienced differently, depending on what a participant brings to the event and what he is expecting. Think about the difference between parents and children and how a particular road trip might be seen as fun by one and boring or tedious by another.

Much of our reality has to do with our attitude and expectations. Look at placebos, for example. Why do some people get better taking fake pills? Because they believe in them.

In the Classroom

Teachers who expect the best from their students often create a reality that conforms to that expectation.  We shape our reality through our attitude and what we expect from ourselves and others.  As an enrichment teacher for three years, I worked with gifted and talented students but I always kept an open mind to possibilities of special education students who had learning difficulties. I remember at the end of one year, a special ed student came into my room and said, “Thank you, Ms. Schupp.” I asked him what he was thanking me for.

“I didn’t know I could do all those things. You helped me see that I could,” he responded.  Insightful comments by someone who supposedly had learning difficulties.

One (among many) student in one of my classes had emotional problems. He was a challenge to work with. I eventually found a solution for those times when he was so disruptive that I couldn’t continue. I told him to step right outside my door and when he thought he could control himself, then he should come back in. He never abused this trust. Later in the year, before he was sent to a special school for students with behavioral problems, he sent me an e-mail thanking me for respecting him.  Once while in the middle of teaching 9th-graders,  I gave a student the keys to my car so he could retrieve a folder I’d left there. He had a history of car theft but returned to me with the car keys and the folder.

I’ll admit that regardless of expectations, things still happen. My first year teaching, while I was preparing my room the day before students started, two boys who would be in my 9th grade class showed up asking if they could help. I thought, “What nice kids to want to spend their day off helping a teacher.” Of course they were just checking me out. They assembled a bulletin board for me and when they left, my bag lunch had disappeared from my desk.  Robert Anton Wilson understood these students, “Reality is what you can get away with.” Two months into the school year, one had been arrested for torturing and murdering his sister. But these are the exceptions.

A Positive Reality--Attitude

A friend just lost his leg. His everyday reality has changed but not as much as one might expect. “I’m lucky,” he said. “I have my brains. I don’t need two legs to write at a computer.”  Besides his positive attitude, he’s also working hard at therapy to help himself as much as possible to adjust to the logistics of his new reality.

I see peace as a reality only when individuals feel peace within. This may never happen universally because of the human tendency to grab only one part of the elephant. However, I choose to bring peace and connections to my personal reality as much as possible. I choose to expect the best from people I meet. And I expect that others have something to offer me to enrich my life.

I’m a Servas member and a Couch Surfer. My husband, David, and I open our home to strangers from all over the world. We have also stayed as strangers in people’s homes in many countries.

Many people do not see why we do this. Since 1979, we’ve invited strangers into our home. Every experience has been positive, some more positive than others. These connections with people I originally perceived to be different from me have changed my personal reality. I’ve discovered they are more like me than they are different. They leave our home no longer strangers but friends. These experiences have changed the way I even perceive a map. Now many place names are no longer just names of places but places where friends live.  Life is how one perceives reality. My life is rich in connections and possibilities.

Old Question

So the proverbial question: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really fall? It depends on your definition of reality. If your definition of reality is that someone must perceive the action through the senses, then it didn’t happen. My answer is yes. It did happen. Just because I didn’t hear or see it, doesn’t deny the reality.

When I die, will life in the the world continue? Of course! I hope so.  I may not perceive what is happening but other realities will go on.

Seeing the glass as half full

A glass filled halfway with water can elicit two different responses...two opposing realities.  My glass is half full. and it has made all the difference. This is the reality I perceive.



Servas International

U.S. Servas


The Blind Men and the Elephant poem:

Kabbalah, Science and the Perception of Reality


Stanford University

Scientific American

Medical Attention ...

...might be based on who people think you are.

Me and my father in a moment captured on a cheap cell phone.

This week, within a two-day period, I visited three hospitals. For once, I didn't need medical care but my father and two of my friends did. I've discovered that there can be a difference in the attention patients receive.

My Father's Experience

Tuesday my father received the last of his radiation treatments. Various family members took turns taking him to the oncology department at GBMC and I wound up taking him for his last visit. The staff there--all of them--were always warm, friendly and encouraging.

When we walked in for the last visit, the woman at the desk recognized my father immediately, greeted us pleasantly and told us to go right back. The cancer patients in the waiting room were all talkative and friendly among themselves. I'm sure that the atmosphere that had been set by the staff had something to do with their ease too. After a short wait, a nurse came out and greeted my father with more than the normal friendly greeting.

With a huge smile and excitement in her voice, she said, "Mr. Schupp, congratulations. You've made it through your last treatment. Good for you!" Then she took him in the back for the treatment.

After no more than 10 minutes, he returned in his wheelchair and was holding something in his hand...a "diploma" with a congratulation ribbon wrapped around it.

Returning to the front to get on the elevator, we were again greeted with enthusiasm. The woman at the front desk stepped around the desk and hugged both of us. She said we both deserved hugs, my father for going through everything and me for being supportive. Then she wished us well and said she would see us in February for a check-up.

For my father, and I'm sure for the other patients too, this type of care made a huge difference.

[Note: My father is a gentle and kind Caucasian man.]

One Friend's Experience

A friend took a cab to the emergency room of another hospital. He was having severe abdominal pain. In the emergency room, he had to wait for close to six hours for attention to what turned out to be a ruptured appendix. He had emergency surgery but had to remain in the hospital for six days because the ruptured appendix had caused an infection. My friend says he received good care once he was in his hospital room. (The medical staff realized by then how serious his condition was.) The ER was another story. The staff had been standing around, socializing and laughing, while my friend was waiting--in excrutiating pain--for treatment. It's hard to understand how the ER staff could have taken hours on a week night to treat someone in pain. A ruptured appendix can be fatal. Why was he treated so casually?

[Note: My friend is a friendly middle eastern man with no family nearby. He's a naturalized American.]

Another Friend's Experience

Another friend, as a result of a series of  recent medical problems was admitted to the emergency room at yet another hospital. His treatment resulted in amputation of one leg above the knee. This medical emergency happened at a very bad time for him. He was packing up one apartment in one state and in the middle of moving to another place in a different state. The emergency happened while visiting a friend in Maryland.

With a positive attitude--"You'll never meet a happier one-legged man"--the entire time, he asked to see the hospital social worker so he could make plans to go to a rebabilitation center and eventually return to work. The social worker never showed up in spite of several requests. Finally he sent a nurse to find out what was going on. It turned out that the social worker said he couldn't go to rehab because he was homeless and indigent! He has no health insurance and no home because he was in the middle of moving. The hospital was planning to release him--with no rehabilitation.

Never mind that his situation happened during a move and he does pay his bills, including those incurred from a cardiac bypass several years ago when his then medical insurance company refused to pay because they claimed it had been a "pre-existing condition." The hospital now understands that he is not really a homeless bum. Things are all straightened out and he is in a rehab center working toward controling his new body.

 I wonder how anyone can deal with sudden loss of a limb, much less no support to return to a normal life.

[Note: This friend is not quite old enough for Medicare and is a cheerful Caucasian man with a beard.]

So the question is, why should there be a difference in care because of who you are? It shouldn't happen. Regardless of who you are and how much money you may or may not have, we all feel pain and have the same needs. Afterall, we're all part of  the same human family.


How We Perceive

I have Muslim friends and acquaintances. Their religion, their belief, has never been a factor in our connections. But I suspect it does affect some encounters they might have from day to day because of Islamophobia, because of illogical and false association. We all feel deeply 9/11 and, because we are human, our fears make bad assumptions, faulty connections. Let's not keep fear alive. We're all on the same team.


Here's the kind of logic that leads to this type of thinking:

(1) Jack is mugged by a man covered with tattoos. Since then, he wants nothing to do with anyone wearing body art.

(2) Alice had a teacher with a Polish last name. Her parents thought this teacher was unfair to their daughter. The next year she was assigned to another class with a teacher whose name ended in "ski." The parents had her transferred from this new teacher's class.

(3) The first two examples show a transference of feelings from a person who was "bad" to someone who might not be "bad," merely because of a physical characteristic or type of name. The third example shows a false assumption about an entire group of people, a gender. It really happened.

I used to own a camera shop and, until I was able to hire some part-time employees, I was the only staff in the store. One day a woman walked in with a camera in her hand. I stood at the counter, ready to wait on her. She stood on the other side, ignoring me and looking toward the back of the store. I finally asked her, "May I help you?" She replied that she was hoping "the man" was in. It seems she had a problem with her camera and had assumed that only a man could help her. (By the way, I wound up fixing her camera which required a simple adjustment.)

(4) I'm going to do a Juan Williams now. One day, while driving my car in Baltimore and waiting at a red light, I found myself automatically checking the locks on the door when a black man crossed the street in front of me. Although it was an automatic action, I was horrified at myself. In spite of the diversity of my friends, was it possible that I was prejudiced in ways I hadn't realized?  I felt terrible. Not long after that, I found myself doing the same thing automatically again. Then I looked closer and actually breathed a sigh of relief. It was not a black man crossing the street in front of my car. It was a man...white. I reacted automatically with paranoia to a man because I must have felt vulnerable as a lone female! Was I doing the same thing the woman had done to me in my camera shop?

Rally to Restore Sanity

 Last weekend at the Rally to Restore Sanity, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert presented a short skit showing how our fear causes us to make illogical assumptions. I've embedded the video and have the transcript below it. (The particular section on Islamophobia is near the end of the video.)

Transcript From Video

Colbert: What about Muslims?

Stewart: What? What about them?

Colbert: They attacked us.

Stewart: Stephen they did not. Some people who happen to be of Muslim faith attacked us. There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Most of them (throws hands up)..

Colbert: Did not? Is that what you are saying?

Stewart: That is correct.

Colbert: Oh Jon, oh . So you’re saying, you’re saying that there is no reason at all to be afraid of Osama Bin Laden?

Stewart: No. Osama Bin Laden is a specific person...a bad...

Colbert: ...a specific bad Muslim person...

Stewart: Yeah but that’s no..but there are plenty of Muslim people who are not bad and that you would like...

Colbert: Oh really? Who? Who would I like?

Stewart: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!

Colbert: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

Stewart: Yes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That is someone that you would...

[Kareem comes onto stage.]

Colbert: Watch your head! Kareem, my man!

[high 5’s]

Stewart: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is Muslim.

Colbert: Well, that’s...that’s not fair, Jon. That’s not a fair example. Kareem is cool. We’re friends.

Kareem: Well...uh...we’re acquaintances. You know a real friend understands that no matter what religious position one plays, we’re all on the same team.

(Next post will continue with a look at how perceptions of people affect how they are treated.)