Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Hallowe'en

The Black Rabbit Dies

The days shorten. The sunlight wanes. We turn back the clocks to get an edge on the gloom, milking the season for every last drop of light. But even as the year slips into gathering shadow, I feel a welcome dissolution. Some long pressing heaviness is losing its hold. There is a sudden lightening. The smoke is beginning to finally dissipate.

For the last five years I have felt a dark web settling over the world. A shroud of compounding density and creeping paralysis that conspires to smother and leave all dumb or numb and grappling weakly. With my own eyes I saw it take down diamond Venus the morning after the 2004 election. This fume engulfed her as she glittered on the pink edge of dawn. Like the scene in “The Silver Chair” when the Queen of the Underworld throws her green powder into the fire and the children struggle against the spell’s drowse, the atmosphere grew heavy. There came a point when it got so bad I began to implode. I contemplated relief. Getting off planet. Suicide thoughts. Grim.

That’s when the black rabbit flickered in.

He had slipped into our life and taken up residence under the shed near our door. Like a spook, he appeared out of nowhere, hovering at the edges of the yard nibbling and blinking. Silent emissary from another realm.

One afternoon as evening was coming on, he stood in a patch of white flowers and gazed intently into me. In that moment he embodied the dark thing that had settled on me. Full of a breathless whisper about soul surrender, he held it and transformed it like a magician messenger and friend. That was the beginning of my ascent out of constriction and the thinning of the haze.

My heart lightened enough that day to write a bit about him before bed that night. I eventually attached a mournful tune to the words and it became what I now joke of as my beatnik dirge of existential angst. But just recently we heard news of him. He was discovered by a neighbor, weak and ill. He was taken in and tended but he didn’t live. He always was one heartbeat away from fading into dream. Now he is one.

Black rabbit
in the shadows,
my soft and
subtle friend.
There between
the white flowers
drooping on

their stems.

No words here
to speak of
this sadness
you imply.
Standing there
at the edge

of dusk,
shape shifting
at a sigh.

One foot upon
a quick death
dark and fleet.
One heartbeat
away from
into dream.

Do you conjure magic?
Can you weave a spell?
Cast your net upon me,
my fortune for to tell.

The world’s grown
so small now,
in tangled
straining lines.
Traps the subtle
subtle softness
in a noose
of lies.

I tremble,
stand and quiver.
My heart is
small and tight.
The only light
A gleaming sliver
in your wet
black eye.

Do you conjure magic?
Can you weave a spell?
Cast your net upon me,
my fortune for to tell.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Jolie Jolie

A few years back I was selling art at the Winter Solstice Fair in Sebastopol (aka The Goddess Fair) when a young woman with auburn hair and glasses got up on stage with an old acoustic guitar and a little amp. Her presence at first was seemingly unremarkable…until she began to sing. Her voice cast a spell on me. Haunting, passionate, awkwardly graceful, startling. This timeless fragile poetry was just pouring out of her, smooth and slow, piercing the atmospheric buzz and bustle. Can you tell I was utterly captivated? When she meandered by after her set, I of course bought her CD “Catalpa” and subsequently fell in love with every track. That was my introduction to miss Jolie Holland. (www.jolieholland.com)

Her songs are at once a tonic, a shot, an antidote. A strange brew of Appalachian folk, country blues, jazz, experimental that she describes as “new time, old time, spooky American fairy tale”. Whatever it is, the sound of it woke sleeping parts, stitched together old fragments, disturbed the ground, infused the air. She breathes into old songs until they vibrate. She warbles out her own sweet stuff. I felt my own Southern roots tugged. Stirrings of my grandma’s childhood on an Arkansas farm attached to a thread of spirit and old story that began to weave through my veins. In other words, she really got into my blood.

I use the Jolie spell a lot to buoy me in the studio. Since I saw her those years ago she has produced two more CDs and I savor them. My latest addiction is her song “Mexican Blue” on “Springtime Can Kill You”. Endless high. Sigh.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Invisibility is a thing with me. Sort of like a superpower I didn't ask for. I considered it a braggable trait back when I was say ten and could remain hidden in plain sight so long that the seekers got bored and the game petered out. I thought that was terrific. I felt like an Indian or a ghost. But it's gotten old. It has something to do with needing to slip away when eyes are looking. My worst nightmare is being on stage with a hundred eyes honing in. Yikes! It's an irony since I really have a lot to show, express, share, tell but when people are looking I freeze. Drama was actually my strong suit as a young person. I was quite gifted at certain forms of "melodramatic expressionism". Hey, what teen isn't? My best friend Molly and I survived our adolescence by entertaining ourselves with various creative escapades. We were out there pushing people's buttons. Today they call it performance art. But back then it was just for kicks. Things get so serious with adulthood. Judgements loom. We get stuck in the Head. Anyway, I know I'm not alone in my affliction. So I cooked up an idea for a safe space to let loose. The Back Porch Forum. Just family, maybe some friends. An informal circle to hold anyone who wants to show their stuff. It will be pretty intimate at first but with the goal of perhaps opening out into a wider circle. I'd like it to be a space that can really be used to gain confidence in performing in front of others but with an emphasis on fun and casual. So my Dad's in. He plays awesome country blues guitar. My bro is a gifted drummer and writer. My younger daughter likes to dance and has real grace and knack. She just needs more gumption. I'm not sure what the rest of us will do but we're hatching plans. I'm a closet guitar player and writer of little songs so I will probably pluck and sing and maybe read some Neruda. Just like the good old days.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Quintessential Fool

Head in the clouds, feet off the ground. Stepping into the abyss. Feeling “cuspy” is what I call it, this sense of standing right on the edge of new development in my work. Gravity becomes involved here. Every move becomes serious, counts, informs, opens or closes circuits. I am about to step forward into new territory and I feel ungrounded. I may tip forward into something substantial and satisfying or I just might teeter into a nasty chasm with a shutdown of inspiration and subsequent period of inaction. I don’t like those plunges so I become watchful. Hyper-conscious of every move and that chills the creative juices.

Time to invoke the Fool. Play the Wild Card. Step outside the game. Start at zero. Eyes closed to the outside but open to Infinite Possibilities. Put on my naïve childlike optimism like a yellow cap. Keep the faith. Breathe.

I have so far taken an unconventional path. No formal education. Painting for myself. Focusing on universal human themes from my particular perspective. I’ve made some deep connections. I’ve had phenomenal conversations with folks about physics, shamanism, alchemy, psychedelics, creativity, Jungian psychology, magic, beauty, suffering, poetry, the nature of change….all catalyzed by a colored canvas. But the way is branching. I’m conflicted, pulled in alternate directions. Practical and profound issues are surfacing that require answers. Among them: money, service, sustainability, the future, healing, participation in old forms, creating new ones. I admit I’m lost. How does an artist integrate vision with making a living, self- expression with offering healing, staying real in a world of facades? What is the role of the Artist in the emerging culture? Can I play? Sometimes I wonder if I am just too naïve, too nice, too deep, too sincere, too scared, too careful. The old wisdom goes: the only way out is through. So I just keep feeling my way in the murk. You may not see far in a fog but sound carries well.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hope or Fear

Impeachy Keen

I also really jived with his feelgood Let's Impeach The President pic. I love the honeyed colors. Singalong, YES!


Today, after a delectable lunch at the Willow Wood café in Graton, we visited some ARTrails Open Studios. This was the work of one Tony Speirs. This painting was a big (say 9 feet tall) piece displayed on the garage at the entrance to the studio. The studio interior housed a related and larger ensemble about the Game of Life. Hope or Fear. Spin the Wheel. What's your next move?

A collaborative effort incorporating a multitude of drawings from multiple artists contributing their sketches about Fear or Hope. Exceptional. Eventhough the sketches depict so many of the faddy icons I see cross-pollinizing these days (i.e. tikes, retro commercial kitsch, cute animals, bad boy tattoo, antlered heads, zorro masks…) I like it. The overall feel was an amalgam of old carnival and high school binder doodling.(Don't know if there was a liger in there). And it has the particular distinction of being baptized by Burning Man of which this year's theme was...Hope and Fear.

I have participated in ARTrails for six of the past eight years and it feels strange to not be a part of it. But good too. I am incubating new work and need this time out of the light.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Habeas Corpus, R.I.P. (1215-2006)

October 17, 2006 Bush signs the United States Military Commissions Act of 2006

"With a smug stroke of his pen, President Bush is set to wipe out a safeguard against illegal imprisonment that has endured as a cornerstone of legal justice since the Magna Carta." -Molly Ivins

Terrorism. Violence. Invasion. War. Torture. Ignorance. Fear. Division. The language of Hatred. Deception. Corruption. Now this. Heavy. Is it not implicit that protecting the innocent is more important than punishing the guilty? Apparently not. Ugh.

The State of the World has got me pinned. For the last few years I have had a hard time metabolizing the unfolding awfulness. I find it tough to go about my business as usual. Naturally, it’s affected my work. I paint what is underneath and currently it’s pretty bleak. At a certain point I couldn’t keep painting like before. Flowers faded. Colors bled out. Pinks left. Reds and blacks took hold. Shapes broke up and lines sharpened. Dark fields, rain and fire imagery infiltrated. I’ve let myself paint awkward imagery almost as an exorcism but it has only skimmed the surface. Freedom has become an issue. I want to unbind and shake off the fears and deceptions that creep in from outside. I hold onto small honest things. Little touchstones. Loyal friends, kindnesses, family, kid joys, leafy greenness and hot baths. Looking for light.

It feels like we, the human collective, are caught in an endless loop of historic replay. The same battle of domination, clashing religions, powers plays, unfolding again and again and again. Another stage perhaps, a new set with new players but the same old stale story. So tiresome and depleting in its violent non-solutions and unimaginative scope that it has become an absolute agony. I want a new story.

"When all the broken hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer. Let it be."-Lennon/McCartney

Do we have to wait until every heart is broken? Why can’t we see each other in the context of our shared humanity? Focus on what we have in common. How we are the same. We all want pretty much the same things: to be sovereign, to be effective, to orchestrate our own lives, to raise our families free of violence and in relative prosperity, to thrive and fulfill our potentials. Why do we polarize into extremes? Why do we need to control others? Let’s inhabit the middle ground where there’s plenty of room. Cultivate a Culture of Connection. Can’t we agree to conditions that allow the most common good and concede/compromise or just agree to disagree on the finer points? Why the hell not? The alternative is unacceptable.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Thinking about ancestors a lot these days. My grandpa, who passed away four years ago, was an artist. Albert Quentin Scott. A Santa Rosa native he made his living painting signs for businesses around Sonoma County. He learned the biz from his dad, George Scott. At one point (in the 40s?) the Scott Sign Company* was a father and son operation run out of the garage behind the family home on Humboldt Street, about 6 blocks from where I live today. I walk by that house sometimes. Time warp.

He had success as a signpainter. There was a time when he kept the dome of the Empire Building downtown gold-leafed. He was an inventor, a talented cartoonist and he painted portraits and natural landscapes. His favorite subject was the giant redwoods of Northern California. There is still a large tile inlay of one of his redwood vistas installed in the courtyard in front of Roxy on the Square. Some of his paintings of the big trees hang in the Blood Bank of the Redwoods. He was prolific and most the paintings in his personal collection were dispersed among his six daughters after his death.

I feel a partcular connection to my Grandpa.We shared an artistic gift and that gave us a common language. He came to my first open studio. I think he was proud. He looked thoughtfully at my paintings which are nothing like his work and commented "You certainly have all the colors in there." I took that as both a compliment and a gentle critcism. He was a master of the restrained palette and took pride in his technical skill. I have a more intuitive approach. Since then I have played at cultivating a more tempered use of color...sometimes.

His picture now sits on our Ancestor Altar that we set out every October leading up to the Day of the Dead, November 1. He influences me now from beyond -wherever that is. Hopefully someplace with redwoods. Just like those other artistic ancestors Georgia, Pablo, Freida. They're all at hand, those who painted before.

*Today Scott Sign is Scott Architectural Graphics
www.scottag.com .

Little Tree

This Saturday past, we celebrated my grandmother’s birthday. Her six daughters (my mom and my aunties) with husbands and the grandkids all congregated. It was a hobbitish event with plenty of food, two cakes and gifts for the guests. My grandma had decided to present her grandchildren with paintings. Several pieces had recently come back into the family. So we drew numbers from a hat and went in turn. I came away with this painting that I love because it's a scene my Grandpa loved best. Sun shafting through the dark redwoods. I am calling it Little Tree.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Feijoa Offering

Yesterday was strange and windy. Went walking in the afternoon air. Wind always feels like spirits in the atmosphere to me. Especially in these waning autumnal days leading into the Days of the Dead. Veils thinning. Spied some feijoas knocked to the ground. I love this little green egg shaped fruit with it's aromatic tangy pulp. I rescued them and now they are nested in a green bowl on our ancestor altar. Here's Martha and George Sutherland smiling at them. My great grandparents. My Mom's mom's mom and pop. Their daughter, my Grandma Sylvia, just turned 86!


I am a private person, a witch in the woods type. The idea of a quiet existence somewhere remote is highly appealing because I run a bit on the sensitive side. It’s an affliction that seems to involve efficient radar scooping abilities and some pretty fragile wiring. Fine-tuned, it's easy to be engulfed by the sheer force of life’s complexities and start to go static. When I decide to face it, plunge in and ride the turbulence, I get some good stuff done. So, that’s how I tend to work. Ebbing and surging. This blog will purposely go against my low profile grain. I want it to be a stream of consciousness channel, a tune in tributary, my way to spill out into the world even when I’m suffering from inertia but especially when I’m covering ground.