Art doesn’t appear on its own, and artists don’t work in a vacuum. Life experience of all kinds affect the imagination of the artist. Sometimes inspiration comes to the artist on the wind, the taste of raspberries, the change of light, a conversation, a memory, or…
Below are the stories behind some of the images found on other pages of this site. I hope that they expand your understanding of what I’ve created.
THE INNER STORY
I’m one of those artists that likes a prompt to get my creative mind spinning. As a member of the Guild of American Papercutters, I received a call for their upcoming show. The show’s theme is The Understory. If you haven’t read the book by the same name, do. It will change how you perceive trees. I know I value them more. The life on our our planet is supported by these amazing, living beings. I’m in awe of them. And, all that life from a small seed. There is, indeed, a inner story in each one, some told across centuries.
Two years ago I made a bet with my brother about the seeds we were planting in our summer garden. Would old seeds sprout? I had my doubts. However, my brother’s optimism won out. What did I owe him? A portrait. Well, life got in the way. He patiently waited. Finally on a sunny, winter day, I took a pic and two weeks later his face appeared on my gessoed board.
Prayer To Move Beyond Racism
This year has brought us to a time of reckoning. Social media has laid bare the continuation of racism in our society. The video of the killing of George Floyd shocked us and also made us admit that we still have work to do.
With this icon I make a change in direction. Icons are used to call us into prayer. I hope this icon is experienced as a visual prayer moving us out into the blessed community we must work towards.
Wishes For Lucas As He Ponders His Future
This is a painting of my grand nephew, Lucas. He is at the age where the future is wide open. We discussed what the content of the painting would be. W agreed that it should include objects represented his interests, hence the kendama toys, a nod to Star Wars and the gecko. I’ve also add symbols for the things I hope for him; a healthy earth, peace, long life and relationships.
The upheaval of 2020 has caused so much trauma. Climate change, forest fires in the West, the killing of our black citizen by police, and of course Covid 19 are still causing stress. The residual affects of this year’s events smolder at the core of many. The arts are a coping strategy for artists and patrons. Trinity Episcopal Church and the Sparrow Gallery of Sacramento are sponsoring a juried show with the theme “I will restore your health and heal your wounds,” declares the Lord. In times like these, our focus on the bleak blinds us to the Spirit at work beneath it all. We forget that this season, too, will pass.
PRAYER: PSALM 139:8
This was also created for the Trinity show in Sacramento. I was still working with the show’s theme of Lord restoring health and healing wounds. I kept thinking about the veil that separates this world and the next. How the times we’re living through makes that veil so thin. People are scared and feeling like their hanging from a thread. Yet, when we can pull our attention away from the fray, we see so many people working to support their communities and reach out to their neighbors around the world. God is present there. So I added old time, five petal roses, a symbol for Christ used in traditional icon paintings. The roses are breaking through the veil. The dove, a symbol for the Holy Spirit that is not limited to our sense of time and space, was added too. The roses and the doves move beyond the “frame” convey a sense that this too will pass and all will be well.
A friend of mine life had an a sudden change during the Covid pandemic. Her children decided to move to another state. She has a very close relationship to them and her grandchildren. Luckily, she could telecommute her job, so she decided to move too. Through this stress of change, she radiated joy. She was moving out of an apartment and into her own home near her family. She faced leaving friends and anticipated making new ones. All in all, with the digital connections we now rely on, it’s more of a growth of friends than loss. The heart is a vast field that will nourishing the relationships we plant there.
Beyond The Garden Gate
Cutting this piece was an adventure in composition and technique. I had planned to cut a piece where the birds on the gate symbolized the yin and yang of life. Flowers, growing and dying would surround them. But, at 1:00 in the morning, I realized I had cut the opened wing with the pattern found on the tail. So I cut off the error and waited for days for my imagination to figure out what to do. Every answer and cut added a new design problem. So much brown paper! The balance was was way off. How to tie it all together? As the piece pulled me into it’s world, the answers came. First answer, broaden the concept to a larger garden held within walls. The new wing is in the shadow of the added trees so the change in color makes sense. You’re pulled into the garden by the use of perspective techniques. Now , as a friend says, it is a view from an Oakland Piedmont district home window looking out on the San Francisco bay.
My Covid Dream
As a member of the Guild of American Papercutters, I was offered the opportunity to show a paper cut at the Laurel Arts Gallery in Somerset, Pennsylvania. The prompt for the show was “building bridges.” Created during the shutdown of the covid pandemic, My Covid Dream, coveys my frustrations and blessings during this surreal time. Stuck within our island homes and using electronic devices to bridge the distance between my family and friends, I swayed between being a prisoner and wandering the world virtually. I could only “hold” my loved ones via screens. Yet, I made new connections via social media. I now connect with other artist in Japan, Croatia, and Italy just to name a few. The little shoes with wings represent our collective desire to escape and meet up. If you look closely, you’ll see a pair of shoes touching, bridging the quarantine divide.
Prayer for the Greening
This piece was on display at the San Francisco De Young Museum during 2020. It was part of their De Young Open Exhibit.
Saint Hildegarde was the muse for the piece. I had been reading about her life and was inspired by her thoughts on nature as an insight to the qualities of God. She saw His hand in all things living. While God is love, S/He is also life. It seems that life just wants to be and cannot be kept from continuing. You see this greening when the lowly weed sprouts between the cracks in the sidewalk where no care seems to come its way. I’ve just learned that living organisms can be found in the highly toxic water that is used to cool nuclear plants. In spite of human existence, life will continue on this planet whether we are here or not. We just affect what is sustained and what becomes extinct. So my piece is prayer that the force of God continues to nourish the life on our planet no matter what we humans do. That it spreads outward like the ripples in a pond, and hopefully touches all our hearts to be apart of a positive movement to sustain the earth
as we know it.
Sea Lion : Public Art Project
I’ve just finished my painting for the Bay Ecotarium’s event Seal Lions in San Francisco. It commemorates the 30th anniversary of the sea lions residency at Pier 39 . Thirty artists painted thirty 6’X5’X3′ , fiber-glass sculptures of sea lions. The sculptures are to be place around San Francisco for 2020. It is the first public art commission that I’ve won. The experience of participating with twenty-nine fabulous artists was amazing. The themes, styles and painting techniques varied among the artists. Some didn’t paint the traditional way. They pored and flicked the paint on. Some used stencils, and others used acrylic skins. One artist evoked all the gunk we pore into the San Francisco Bay and the sea life that struggles to survive in it. One artist painted the base a golden metallic ( We are the Golden State.) As your view moves up, the gold appeared to flake away revealing children on a beach playing in the surf. Some the themes were dire, playful, or thought provoking.
This is a papercut done in collaboration with composer Mary Fineman. Both of us are members of The National League of American Pen Women. It is America’s oldest, women’s professional organization. Our yearly chapter art show will in January. Mary suggested that some of our artists might use her lyrics as inspiration. I definitely was. Mary’s song Everyday Secrets is about not to following the constraints of culture. Instead it suggests you should follow your own bliss. The impetus of the change was being in nature and touching a dragonfly.
While making the piece, it got crushed and torn. It could have been a disaster. Yet, by the prayers of friends and listening to my art buddies’ suggestions, it lived on. As suggested by my friends, I listen to what the piece was trying to tell me. I ironed the paper and even tore it a little bit more. The tear adds to the dramatic change that described in the lyrics. Yes, the art does lead the designer… if she will listen.
Lenten Series 2020
As part of an adult education series presented at Holy Cross Episcopal Church, this paper cut series I created to express the theme of service. I aimed to show how the Holy Spirit moves a person to take their concerns for the world to the Eucharist altar. They leave as a disciple of Christ supported and ready to serve others. The Holy Spirit nudges us towards a calling setting our hearts on fire. We may doubt we have the skills or talents to meet the calling. The promise of the Eucharist is that we become part of the body of Christ. We leave the table with the Spirit to help us serve.
This images shows the paper cuts on display over an altar in our social hall. It’s hard to see, but in front of the altar is a bowl holding the strands of burlap pulled to make the cloth on the altar. The strands conveys the messy lives we bring to Christ. With the burlap cloth, they convey the transformation that occurs through faith.
On the night of my presentation, participants added to the altar. Specifically, they designed a bowl that asked a prayer for a person, our wider community, or the world. Sadly, the threat of the novel coronavirus closed our church the every next day.
I pray for a quick ending of the pandemic. And, I hope that my church community will be able to continue with the last part of the adult ed series. Participants are to bring an object or scripture that symbolizes a talent they could offer to someone in need. The entire installation gives congregants a chance to contemplate their own thoughts on service.
Christ The Bridegroom
I finally got a chance take an icon class from the master writer, Christine Hale, at Mt. Calvary Monastery in Santa Barbara. What a wonderful experience! While writing (Yes. Icons are written and not painted) the icon with egg tempera was challenging, the serene environment of the monastery balanced out the intensity. Christine is an excellent teacher offering historical and theological background with well paced instruction.
I thought watercolors was the toughest medium to tackle. Now I know it is egg tempera! Like watercolors, the image builds up by painting many layers of transparent color. Unlike watercolors, even dried layers are ruined with too much brush work. If not careful, I revealed the white gessoed board that is under it all.
I’m considering switching to egg tempera as it is more gentle on the environment. It is not bound by polymers or plastics. Egg yokes, vinegar, water, and pigments – that’s it. The pigments are a concern, but it doesn’t need much to make intense colors. I definitely want more instruction, though, to be able to handle them as well as Christine.
It was a pleasure to see what the other students created. Even though we were writing the same icon, everyone’s handling of brushes and paint was different. Each artist create a Christ that expressed a different mood or emotion. Some were peaceful, others bold and strong, and some evoked an ancient look as though the icon had been painted centuries ago. Through most of the process, I thought my Christ’s face had a look that said I better it this right. The pressure was on. By the time I finished the details on the face, He seemed to be contemplating who I am and the condition of my soul — very moving.
Following Saint Kevin’s Prayer
The story of Saint Kevin, who holds a nest in his hand until the eggs hatch and the fledglings fly away, influenced me. Kevin gave of himself so life could continue. So my piece is a prayer calling us to volunteer to protect and restore the life of our planet. On the back of the seal lion you’ll find a small pair of hands in work gloves holding a nest with two eggs. From the nest grows out a tree and it’s blossoms drift on wind around the entire sculpture. Think of the blossoms as prayers for the earth. The Bay Ecotarium focuses it work on habitats from the Sierras to the ocean. From the tip of the seal’s nose to the base of the sculpture, you’ll travel through those kinds of habits. I’ve included endangered animals, birds, reptiles and insects of those habitats. Around the middle of the seal is a banner with the words Volunteer, Protect, Restore. The banner looks wind blown, frayed, and worn out. I hope it suggests that if we get to work to save our planet, our current worries will fade away. Yeah, it’s a hopeful piece.
Hearts on Hartz
These designs, submitted to the Town of Danville, it hopes they will be part of its Hearts on Hartz project. If accepted, I’ll be painting it on a 52 X52″ fiber glass sculpture. The heart will be on display during 2020.
The Danville call for submission didn’t give any required themes to follow, so I went with what’s been on my mind. Treasured Jewels (the top design) reflects my thoughts on how precious are the people I love. I need to remember how easy it is to lose those I love. The winged heart is a reminder to take care incase they leave.
The Missing; is about the threat to our bird populations. Over the past half-century, according to the journal Science, North America has lost more than a quarter of its entire bird population . When I visit Danville, with all the trees along Hartz Avenue, I look for birds among the branches. Trees are such an important habitat for birds, and other creatures. Danville supports keeping nature apart of its town’s culture. In doing so, Danville supports our native and migratory bird populations.
United By Love
United By Love: Eden Interfaith Council, created for a local Poetry-Art Slam. Castro Valley Community Alliance sponsored the slam. The theme was “A time in which you have overcome hate, or spread love and unity.” That is what the Interfaith Council is all about. Through working with the council I have learned so much about the faiths that are in my community. Temples, mosques, ashrams and churches are so interesting to visit. I better understand the connections between all faiths. T
The thought is that religions are so different. That they are the cause behind so much conflict around the world. Yet, if you take the time to learn, you find it’s not the religions. Conflict is cause by people who don’t follow their own religions. You learn that all religions share the same core values. Love God. Love your neighbor. Try to do better everyday.
Plant A Tree
The image above is another paper cut. This time it’s my submission to the Sierra Club’s Green New Deal call for art. I hope the piece conveys that the simple act of planting a tree seed can have a great affect on our climate crisis. One seed becomes a tree that can reproduce again and again to create a forest. A single tree is a habitat to so many creatures and can clean the air. We all can do something to make a change. Do something.
“Pruning” The Garden
Paper cuts are such a cool thing to create. When I tell people that I drew and cut the image by hand, awe sets in. I find the process very meditative. I slow down and focus on making precise cuts and watching, that as I turn rotate and move the paper, that it doesn’t tear. Paper is tougher than you think. It is a lesson learned as you fight to cut tiny corners and paper resists the knife. I find it magical, that as I cut away the stiff paper, what remain starts to feel and move like airy, thin silk fabric.
Dia de Muertos
As November approaches it’s time to remember the holiday of Dia De Muertos, or in English, Day of the Dead. It is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and now in the Bay Area too. For several years I’ve been participating in shows that celebrate this Mexican holiday. Images of death can be off putting. But, Day of the Dead is in reality a celebration of the continuation of life after death. Mexicans have a rather healthy attitude about death. They laugh at the grim reaper. He may take them away, but he can’t take away their joy of life. Dia De Muertos is a time when souls return to visit their love ones. I take time to think about those I love who have passed on. It is my time to
remember what they bought into my life and continues to in my cherished memories of them. This year I choose to do a papel picado, a traditional Mexican craft. Working with paper and an Exacto knife is rather soothing. Concentrating on the positive and negative space eliminates so many issues. Complex color decision are gone. Yet, line, shape, form, texture, value remain for exploration.
Light Up The Season…Maybe Not
Some ideas don’t play out. Created for the Light Up The Season event for the city of Hayward in hopes to promote inclusion all faiths. The plan was to create a series of images pairing up children of different religions. The interfaith council I work with has been working with the city to meet this goal. Alas, the committee thought, that with this year’s planned decorations were enough. Hearing about their other plans, I agreed. But no loss, our new city library might be able to use this and the other images I planned. What’s the saying about one door closing and then a window opens?
The biannual Artists & Writer’s Retreat, held at Saint Dorothy’s Retreat in California, inspired this piece. This retreat has be an on going event for over eighteen years. It was the second time I participated with this group. I enjoyed their company and the scheduled sharing of our works. One of retreat’s traditions is a haiku challenge. Everyone, writers and artists, can choose to take it on, or not. Generally, there is a theme. This year it was food. My drawing is an illustration of my haiku. It’s about the participants of this year’s retreat who sat at long tables during meals. Each bottle represents something an artist or writer shared during the retreat.
our containers of amplified tastes;
which one sits next to you?
I like the schedule of the retreat. During the day, we could work on whatever projects we brought with us. At the end of meals, writers and lyricist, offered works for our enjoyment. Sometimes we sang along with the performers. In the evening, a critique brings us togehter. An artist will ask a question about his finished or in progress piece. The rest of the group will sharing their observation, insights, and suggestions. Everyone focuses on what the artist/writer was trying to achieved. I must say, it was a very respectful process. There is plenty of unscheduled time for hiking, swimming, good conversations, and relaxing.