Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Woman Behind the Veil, I Remember Hamda

Amazing smelling rose from my garden, blooms endlessly, smells heavenly

Driving home from the grocery store yesterday I saw a Muslim woman, dressed head to toe in black. She wore a long skirt, a long sleeved blouse and a black scarf covering every inch of her hair. I noticed that it was an expensive scarf, trimmed with silver bugle beads and bullion. It made me think of my time at Pacific American Institute as Program Director in the late 80’s.

Those years were my personal introduction to the world of the Middle East. PAI was an English prep school located on the top floor of Saint Martin’s College; the institute specialized in preparing people who spoke English as a second language for their try at entering American colleges. At that time, Japan was rich, just rolling in money, and any kids who didn’t fit into the usual Japanese mold were shipped off to go to school in America. 

We also got a smattering of South American students, like Claudia from Colombia who introduced me to South American jazz and pop which I still love. We got a few Russians who desperately wanted to assimilate, and a few Chinese kids who were watched like hawks because China expected them to defect and disappear into the USA after they completed their educations.

We were the lodestone for Middle Eastern males who wanted to go to SMC’s engineering school but couldn’t until they passed their TOEFL test. The TOEFL is the ESL (English as a second language) SAT, and a passing score was the Holy Grail.  I came as a shock to those spoiled boys, as did all our female teachers. The boys, even if they were full grown men they acted like boys, were mostly rich spoiled brats who had been coddled their entire lives by their mommies.  Those mommies lived in purdah and ruled the roost from behind the scenes with an iron hand in a silken glove.

I despise generalities so I must say there were exceptions, like the amazing kid who was Palestinian and had a head of hair like a black Brillo pad. He was so curious about everything; we took him with us on trips to Seattle several times, delighted to watch him suck up the world like a curious easy-going sponge and loving it.  But, then there were the over-perfumed spoiled brats who thought the world owed them everything. Most of them doused themselves in very expensive colognes and you could smell them coming for miles.  I could have happily hung a few of them upside down in the corner as Airwick solid air fresheners, but I digress.

One morning, into this hotbed of testosterone dropped a beautiful Muslim woman who had her husband’s permission to learn English. She wanted to go home to Qatar and teach children and she was so hungry to learn. We became friends, Nancy, Linda, Diane, and me. Taro was a guy so he was out of this particular picture as was Mike, our Director.

Her name was Hamda Al Thani.  Hamda’s husband was a member of the ruling family of Qatar, as in a bona fide prince.  I think his name was Khalid and he was an engineering student at SMC at that time. He was older than Hamda and shorter than her willowy 5’10”. He was chubby and wore glasses and he personally dropped her off and picked her up after classes on a regular basis. They owned a car and rented a modest tract home a few miles from school.

Hamda's favorite store, funny, the Qatari royal family bought it last year.

The family, including two children, went home for a few months every year. On the way home and on the way back to America they stopped in London and shopped. This was my introduction to a lifestyle that was completely fascinating and alien. Hermes head scarves, hugely expensive couturier ankle length skirts and long sleeved tops and the shoes? Oh my God, the shoes she wore! High heels to kill for modestly covered by her long skirts of course.  She brought us back small gifts one year and I still have the silver tray-, yes real silver, the upscale chocolates came on.

Hamda invited us to dinner at her home one evening and we all accepted with delight. When we got to the house, her husband had been banished somewhere else and it was all girls, with the exception of her son.  Insight number one, mama may be kept out of sight but mama is the power behind the throne which is wielded delicately because the hubs  is technically in charge.

This son, about seven, was the most spoiled rotten brat I have run into in a long time, and mama Hamda?  Completely indulged him and petted him, treating him completely unlike her adorable daughter. Insight two: someone is creating Muslim fanatic men in the Middle East, and I believe we have been not been looking in the right place. There is an old saying, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, and until Muslim mommies stop raising sons who believe they can own women, nothing is going to change.

I can’t really blame them because Muslim women know their only power is to manipulate in the background, and like cloaked spiders they desperately spin webs about those sons and tie them to mama with sticky strings of love and adoration. When the sons marry, Mom goes on the back burner unless she is tough and strong and rules the daughter-in-law too.

 In a tribal-based society, families live in groups or compounds with many generations a large part of the time, so unfortunately the only out for the daughter-in-law is to wait for Granma to croak and then step into her shoes. Of course, she could easily be sharing those shoes with several wives which makes it even harder.

Back to dinner at Hamda’s house:  we were welcomed in and shock of shocks, Hamda was a freaking peacock!  Gorgeous black hair hung down to her butt, she had on some kind of designer label house pajamas, beautiful jewelry and make up that made her look like something straight off a tomb fresco in Egypt. Breathtaking, especially after seeing her covered up like an Italian granny every day.  No wonder her husband indulged her, he lucked out with a beauty queen in this particular arranged marriage, and I’ll bet he knew it too.

I was shocked, and I still am, that she had an indentured servant who cooked dinner and served it to us. This is common, servants from other poorer countries, are brought with the family to care for children, do the housework and be a general dog’s body. Their papers are taken away from them so they cannot escape even if they are treated badly and from the way Hamda talked to her servant/slave, I’m betting this woman was no exception.  It was one of those odd situations where one doesn’t quite know what to do and it was politically fraught, so I left it alone but I have never forgotten it.

We were served sweetened mint tea in tiny cups when we arrived and chatted until dinner was served. I absolutely adore Middle Eastern food, and I still treasure the bottle of sumac Hamda gave me. Sumac was something you couldn’t find in the USA at that time, it’s a spice that is agreeably sour and sharp and it replaces lemons in some recipes. It’s not the same as our poison sumac which I assume is inedible.

My bottle of sumac

The dinner was lovely and completely authentic, we stuffed ourselves and afterwards we retired to the living room couches to talk and drink more tea or tiny cups of coffee. Hamda left the room and returned with a huge tray of perfumes. I mean PERFUMES, if you can think of a perfume which costs an arm and two legs, it was on that tray. It seems a regular after dinner ritual among the ladies is perfuming oneself. I love that idea and so did everyone else, we sniffed every single bottle and dabbed on the ones that were most appealing.  We smelt like a garden in full bloom within five minutes.

I found a nondescript little bottle and opened it. It smelled like a summer night slipped out of the bottle when I sniffed it. I think I was probably stuttering when I asked what it was.  She dabbed some on my hair just above the back of my ears, telling me that was the best place to wear perfume oils because they release their secrets and unfold slowly that way.  It was roses. If you could put a million roses in one place and distill them into the absolute pentacle of rose-ness that was the fragrance Hamda dabbed behind my ears that night.

She told me every summer when she went home she and her mother distilled their own rose oil and bottled it. Can you even imagine what that undertaking is like? I can’t but I like picturing it and imagining how it smelled. By the time I was home that evening the rose oil had taken on a life of its own, the scent just kept changing and getting richer.

I planted a new white rose two years ago and it is so beautiful, it blooms all summer and has the most haunting scent, especially right at sundown on a warm day. I call it the Hamda rose because of the scent and I wonder sometimes how she is faring? Did she get to teach children? What is her life like now?

So here’s my last thought on the subject: Our sisters on the other side of the world are so hidden from us we cannot really know them or their lives so I risk generalizing again. Still from everything I have extensively and compulsively read, until mothers understand they must teach their sons to respect women and not fear them I don’t believe anything will change in the Middle East.  Perhaps they have the key to their prisons in their arms, maybe not this generation, maybe not the next, but I want to believe it can happen simply because the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Think about it, were fanatical jihad-inclined Muslims born or made?

TBI, Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

Thie piece actually comes before the recently posted painful rant. It was really hard for Terry to read that, he has no memory of that time and there was some pretty raw pain in the last entry. Thank God, we are down the road far enough to look back and marvel at how we got here. My hope is that other TBI families will realize that nothing stays the same, its a case of tying a knot in your rope and hanging on…

October 16th, Home again
We got Terry home from the rehab center yesterday, 32 days after the Deer Incident. It is amazing how far he’s come and how far he still has to go. Thank you Darrell Alston, for being such a friend and helping drag all the contents of his room at the rehab center room home–how did we acquire that much crap in such a short time? It wasn’t all stuff we exactly set out to collect, but we figured we are being charged for all this stuff so we now have 3 pink water pitchers, a jumbo sized roll of saran wrap, enough ace bandages for a mummy, an industrial-sized box of rubber gloves, assorted band aids, ointments, powders, and a pink dish pan.

 My favorite acquisition is the industrially labeled hospital bath powder in monster-sized containers. So help me, it is called, “Fordustin.” Is that not original? I have to dig out the shampoo and see what it’s called, “Forhairin” maybe? or “Forhairinwashin”? The Deodorant should be, “Forstinkin” or “Forpittiin” or maybe “Fornosmellin,” It all reminds of the pseudo German jokes that made the rounds 20 or 30 years ago featuring Little Red Riding Hood and a bad accent.  If you remember those you are showing your age–or mine.

This is what I made and posted in the bedroom, in the kitchen, on the bathroom mirror, to help Terry remember who he was and where he was.

We have our friend Brian’s foam mattress too–thanks; it saved us all from sleeping on the hospital cot that had a mattress which felt like a sack of empty pop cans. Terry did complain about being bounced around in the car on the ride home so I know he hurts but we made it and he loved the renovations to the house. He has viewed them several times and each time they are new to him.

I had ten prescriptions to fill for him on a Sunday, that was fun–and to keep them straight I made up a little chart so I could tell when to give him what. He’s alive and doing better so I really don’t want to kill him by giving him the wrong meds after all this.

He slept most of last night, amazing after the weeks of restless wandering, its 11:30 and he’s had breakfast and he’s back asleep. I hope the pattern continues with sleeping at night because we have discovered Mr. Davis has one hell of an independent streak that could get him in trouble while the rest of us sleep the sleep of the exhausted after hours of watching over him. His short term memory is gone, he has about a five minute span before it resets. The first thing that goes with that impairment is impulse control and the ability to weigh things that might be dangerous–and not do them.

The most excitement yesterday was Torin yelling from the kitchen for help. He was cooking dinner and had rice boiling away in the rice cooker when Terry showed up fresh from a rest in his chair in the living room. He got a spoon and wanted to taste. Visions of steam burns etc. ran through my head as I sprinted from the bathroom with plaster covered paws from the shower renovation.

Terry was downright cranky and extremely nasty to Torin who was almost in tears trying to stop him from hurting himself. Lesson 1: do not let him get hungry because impulse control being gone he will wolf down anything in sight including boiling raw rice.  Lesson 2: Try not to tell him no directly.

This was borne out yesterday when he decided he HAD to get outside. I grabbed his house shoes and sprinted after him with the ring of keys to the garage. He demanded the keys, I demanded he put his shoes on and he wasn’t having any of it–emergency averted when I reached around him and unlocked the garage. He put on his house shoes like there had been no discussion and went into the garage. The bike was there and he said it looked like it needed some work. He started folding stuff up and putting it away but got distracted and went wandering back out and into the house. His attention span is so short, this is discouraging but it is getting better by inches.

We moved the television from the wall behind Terry and rearranged the entire room in an effort to make things more quiet. We could never be quiet enough for him though, he completely lost the concept of sharing personal space.

He has been far more peaceful at home although he still cannot tell me he is in Olympia–when I ask where we are I get a look like I’m an idiot and answer of somewhere between the kitchen and dining room depending on where he is physically located. Last night he was tired and crabby and about half asleep from 5 pm on. He demanded we turn the TV OFF. This was at 8:30 p.m.

I am tiling the shower and trying really hard to get it done but what a job, I’m sure the sound of breaking tile didn’t help much but I told him I had to do it and that was that. It is hard to find the balance between his life and Torin’s and mine and having a quality of life that is acceptable. I am looking forward to the professionals assessing him this week so we can get some caregivers in while I have one nerve left intact. In home rehab starts tomorrow too and that should be helpful. I want to learn what they do so I can keep stimulating his brain.

We have pretty much isolated the source of 70% of his pain as his right shoulder. I don’t think it got much attention in the fray and is now surfacing as a source of agonizing muscle spasms. I’m guessing he’s torn some stuff in there and hopefully we can get his doctor to take a look at it this week.

I am in the process of just now figuring how all this fits together—a new wireless connection in the living room means I can work here and listen for him in there. This is like living with Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There are two Terry’s in there–one I don’t know or recognize at all, and the other I get flashes of–the old Terry.  I hope we can reintegrate him so old Terry can send new Terry to stand in the corner and stay there. It’s hard to remember that he is a giant two-year-old with all of a two-year-olds curiosity and lack of fear when I am having a perfectly lucid conversation with him, until I’m not, and he won’t remember what we said in five minutes.

Nellie was allowed on the bed for the first time ever, in the history of the world. It was the truest indication that he was not Terry anymore.

I keep telling him things will get better but mostly I think I’m telling me. I’m sure they will too, but no one has a written a road map for this peculiar territory and it’s easy to get lost. I can tell things are different–the DOG is on the BED and he invited her up. Whoa….. Toto we are not in Kansas anymore because in Kansas the dog is not allowed on the bed. Dog, you’d better enjoy Oz before Terry finds his ruby slippers and clicks the heels together and you get booted back to the dog bed.

Traumatic Brain Injury Coping Rant, I Fall Apart

This is a very raw entry from my personal journal, written two weeks after Terry came home from trauma rehab in October of 2006. The house was ready, modification had been made and everything was supposed to be rosy. It’s important for you to know that in Washington State there is NO place that can help people with brain trauma or their families, funding was eliminated a few years ago and everyone is pretty much left to sink or swim on their own. These patients are sent home with hopeful families, a spouse, parents, children, who will be their caregivers. None of us has a single ounce of preparation for what we will have to face and how to cope. Insurance says that you cannot take a brain injured person to the grocery store or out of the house or you’ll lose the very small amount of nursing help provided for in the fine print. You can’t leave them alone either, not pretty from standing in the middle looking out.

My private journal was a place where I felt free to just put it out there. If you are not comfortable reading it–then please don’t. Thankfully, things have changed since this was written from my personal front step outside the door to hell.

This is the Terry I married, playing baseball with Torin and his friends at school.

OCTOBER 2006 

I think I have reached far into this unending nightmare now; I’m at that magic point where the friends who rushed to man the gates when they heard the terrible news have evaporated. They have given their all and now they are gone back to their tidy–tidier than mine–lives and I am left alone and struggling to cope. Today I was cleaning the garage and rearranging stuff to make room for more storage of  Terry’s stuff. I ran up the garage door and fired up my bike just to hear it run.

 I sat there on that bike in my pajamas, barefooted, looking out at the pouring rain and it was all I could do to get back off the bike and turn it off. I want to escape; I want his horrible nightmare to end. I have begun to hate/loathe and despise Terry and his incessant energy sucking drain on us.

 He cannot be left alone for five seconds. He will be drinking soap or falling down or pulling the clock out of the wall or putting on all the clothes in MY drawers in layers on him. He cannot comprehend wait. Today he wanted to go for a walk, I promised him as soon as I got the car unloaded we could go. He has no sense of time or decorum and he came outside in his pajamas with his sweatshirt over his rain coat and wanted to go NOW. He could see I was struggling to unload the car. I asked him to give me just a few minutes and we’d go. I even told him walk to the end of the driveway and COME BACK if you need to move. I looked up and he was gone. I jumped in the car and caught up with him two blocks away, not understanding at all why I wanted to kill him and with no idea where he was.

This is Terry and Kim, one of the therapists who came in two hours a week to help Terry with things like understanding money and reading. He doesn't look or sound like Terry, he doesn't move like Terry and he always looks sad and lost and smaller somehow.

He has been impossible today. Needy, whining, not able to comprehend anything. I could go into chapter and endless verse but it never changes. I don’t CARE if he is brain damaged. At this point, so am I and there is NO ONE in the universe who can help. I don’t like him, I don’t want to be near him or around him and yet I am forced to be kind, gentle, and nurturing nonstop. He goes to bed at 8 p.m. and gets up every three minutes all night long. Sits up, walks out of the room, puts on my clothes, complains about the television even if it is off, pees in the hall closet or the clothes hamper if I can’t catch him fast enough, you name it.

 Today he went into my studio and tried climbing the ladder into the loft. I blew, I’m ashamed of myself, but I absolutely blew sky high. I told him for the 357th time that he had to wait for usto help him because he has fallen  down three times in two days, and we want him to have his freedom, but he needs to understand he has no balance and no real comprehension. I told him to get out of my studio that it was the last place I had that was my own and that I wanted it that way for my own sanity.

I cannot even have a shower alone. I can’t leave him for that long. I eat meals by wolfing down leftovers hanging over the sink.

Corey came to help, bless his heart, but he brought Alex,and Terry cannot tolerate the stimulation of one person let alone a small child. Shayne brings Heather, Penny brings Bob. I need help, but I need ONE person at a time not two, and no one understands that. I feel so bad about trying to explain, I’m ready to lie down in the rain and just give up. I’m sure I’ll soldier on tomorrow with all the therapists and the mental health nurse and the doctor appointments and the insurance forms and Terry needing the care of a two year old. I hate my life.

I absolutely hate my life. I hate that my husband was so personally irresponsible that he got on a bike at night in the middle of deer country and rode at 70 mph into a deer. I don’t think my marriage is going to survive all this, at four years its cracking under the strain. I hate being responsible and not being able to lay down this burden for a single day or a single hour.

Rabbit is bored…

After finishing a major piece there is always an hour or day or so of letdown, a now what moment? I mean, its not like I don’t have twenty-leven other things lined up and waiting. Necklace pieces all sorted and waiting, a bracelet in pieces begging to be put together, construction of a sort of excellent display rack for the garden ornaments, two more paintings, Neptune is in pieces on the work table, and then there’s the whole other THING, the garden. Its whining at me with a rather green voice to get my ass out there and get busy.

I really should get out the chain saw and hack the kiwi vines aka northwestern kudzu, into shape before they eat the neighbors cats and all the squirrels, I really should go weed another bed or at least scrape up what I’ve already weeded. My adorable hubs is so good at trailing around and picking up my clippings and weedings. I have finally convinced him to stay the hell out of the flower beds if he wants to avoid being stabbed with pruning shears. He does however, cheerfully tidy up my leavings, bless his heart.

But here is what I am going to do. I am going to get out of my jammies and into human clothes and go to Good Will and hunt and gather for more parts. Betty Crocker still needs a body and so does Uncle Sam. Its not shopping, I hate shopping, its HUNTING. I love hunting and I love doing a victory dance and drooling over my Stuff as I organize it.

The Stopper Stash. My current obsession is glass stoppers. Somewhere there are a lot of broken bottles and I love the mystery of their tops. The Mexican animals I have been gathering for 15 years all over the country and the world.

My wonderful daughter-in-law Erica asked me if I knew everything I had and where it was. Yes. I make enormous messes when I work but I know where everything is. Okay, most of the time, 90% of the time, and if you ever see my studio you will realize that is one of God’s little miracles. The new pieces are certainly helping me reduce my Crap Stash. This is good because now I can find more Crap to replace it.

I just found a wonderful book called Artmaking, Collections and Obsessions. Its all about artists like ME, who create mixed-media work and are passionate about collecting. We do draw the line clearly between hoarding and collecting. I have family members who are hoarders and that creeps me out! I do a great job at throwing crap in the garbage, not everything has potential, people. Sometimes its just garbage and you need to lose it.

I think my next task of choice will be to photograph the irresistible trinket collection and get them up on Running Rabbit inexpensively. I’ve put in a couple of pix of my personal trinket stashes. Sometimes I find objects of true adorableness that are not meant for me and my goal is to send them back into the world to be appreciated at a killer price. I really do love repurposing and reloving and rediscovering things. If it came from China or Japan 40 years ago, cool. If it came from China through WalMart 40 days ago, I don’t want it in my life. Don’t get me started on what I think about WalMart, that’s a whole other essay…

The Cat Stash. I cannot resist a good cat statue. I do however, have an excellent cabinet to keep my tschotskes in one place. I am happy to report Torin has asked for and received the animal mask collection and big bro Joel wants the cats. I'm still adding to the stash, but these are his...eventually.

And after I go hunting and gathering and buy a new cord for my beloved Iphone so I can listen to music in both cars without dragging the connecting cord around, I will come home and mow the lawn. I promise lawn, I am coming and we will both be happier after you get a haircut.

And: I’m Listening to Elizabeth and the Catapault and Ellie Gould. Excellent choices if you are looking for new music that is upbeat and wondrous.

Rabbit and the next Lost Childhood:Anubis

Doll heads are somewhat creepy when re-employed as sculptural artifacts but I love what they do. The face is gold leafed and varnished and the headpiece was sculpted with Apoxy sculpt and painted, the eyes are turquoise chips.

I am so happy to have finished the Lost Childhood of Anubis, subtitled Death, the Grim Reaper, etc. I am loving the result. This one was interesting and difficult to approach because the topic of death makes me squeamish. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of death, I just have too much living to do to want to get to know it up close and personal. It’s sort of a verboten subject in our culture because its a door that opens one way and the unknowable is always a bit scary in my mind.

That being said, as a cultural icon, the Grim Reaper is a big one and his childhood? Where to start…every human culture has a death deity that can be a conductor to the other side or the ruler of the other side. My new favorite word is “Psychopomp”, that’s the actual word for the deity that conducts a sould to the next world. I had to incorporate it into the piece.

If you get bored with all the pictures before the end I understand completely, I wanted to document the cabinet thoroughly so its here in detail, maybe too much detail, but I hope it provokes a thought or two and a reaction or three along the way.

The black humor is evident in the copper words, “At Death’s Door”. The cabinet feet are children’s blocks that say Lost in front and Love in back. I drilled a vintage die for the knob, playing on the idea of gambling with death found in so many stories. The front is finished off with repurposed scarabs and a faux lapis grave goddess impressed from a Thai grave offering.

I love these arms, faience blue holding skulls up in homage, delightfully creepy no?

I used a lot of faience blue and lapis colors because of their ancient Egyptian significance–Anubis being my touchstone. The arms I swiped from an Ariel doll with great hands, I gave the “hands of time” two howlite dia de los muertos skulls with vintage lucite flowers planted in them. The clock face has random words we use to indicate the transition, the journey, from life to death.  I love the little key to the door without a lock, it’s beautiful, an old Master key from my key stash that is heavily engraved and for some unknown reason, it has the words Le Duc engraved in it. The aged tags on the keys say “Quit Exisitence”.

A great shot of the flowered skulls and the cool neckpiece with Psychopomp hammered into it. The three necklaces will actually come off, they are actually necklaces made for the piece.

The cabinet is painted in shades of black, brown and blue and is aged with layers of paper, gel and layers of paint. The inside is in primarily blues to signify night.

Anubis Cabinet Interior

The cabinet interior has a framed childhood photo of the Grim Reaper, the container of the Department of Death, A chain with three tags that say, “Go Little Soul” is connected to a round glass lens. Four silver milagros, Mexican prayers made manifest, hang from the top of the cabinet.

Fly Away, glass lens with a picture of a little girl with butterfly wings that say "Fly Away", connected by a chain to words that say, "Go Little Soul".

Grim Reaper, Age 4. I love this altered image. I painted a little scythe and mounted it behind a slice of mica in an amazing old light plate cover. I think the most difficult thing about this entire piece was walking the line between sad bathos and black humor. I hate the idea of children and death, and thinking about death having a childhood was an exercise in expanding my consciousness. I found the images I used deeply touching.

I couldn’t believe how many cultures were on the list of death gods I uncovered! I put them on a list and put them in the “Deparment of Death”. An old tin was repurposed by covering it with mica shifted poly clay and applied stamps. Inside it has part of a skeleton, a howlite tiny skull in turquoise, an icon of a saint and a Thai grave god.

Interior of “The Department of Death”

On the inside door of the cabinet is a black and white photo of a woman carrying a big gun and looking happy about it. Perfect, Death’s Mother Takes a Vacation. She is mounted behind a slice of mica and wrapped in copper. Above her is an”old bat” and “her little angel”. Obvious? Why not?

Death's Mom on Vacation

The top of the cabinet has “The Last Trump”–very Victorian, and a glass jar of the sands of time with the words inside, “Your time is up”. The cabinet back tells more of the story of the Grim Reaper’s Childhood and mementoes.

Back View of the Lost Childhood of Anubis

 

Death loved the Merry go Round

I like the allegory of humans going around in a circle all their lives and the idea that Death loved to ride the Merry go round as a child.

Bottom of the back of piece

 I used old Scrabble tiles for the words “he comes”, another metaphor for the games we play with death. The Egyptian icon has a clock spring mounted on it with a clock hand held in place by an 8 ball. Numbers lead to a skull and crossbones that say “smell the roses”.

The picture is actually an old ghostly house I shot in Ophir, Utah and altered. It says “Death’s Childhood Home” and has a Thai grave offering in the doorway.

Left side of Anubis

The left side of the piece has a sheet of music from “Hard Day’s Night”, the metal words “Night, End, Time, and Pray”. Underneath them is a piece from a vintage dia de losmuertos postcard wrapped in copper. At the bottom is a grave god from Thailand. Good shot of the last trump too.

Anubis full right side view.

The right side has aged metal words that go from “heaven to hell”. There is a repurposed cupid/angel at the top and a devil with the word’s “Death’s Uncle at the bottom. An essay in 7 words. Clear shot of the “Time’s up” on the shoulder in this picture.

 I used two of my favorite quotes in this piece, “Death is only the living you do not do”, is from the Laliberte and Pintauro book, “The Peace Box” which I have owned for 40 years and love dearly. The other quote is from Seneca and says, “The day we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.” How beautiful is that?

This piece gave me a lot to think about and I hope it does that for you. I am already at work on Neptune’s Lost Childhood and putting together the pieces for both Betty Crocker and Demon Rum/Jim Beam/Jack Daniels–again, a multiplicity of iconography in one.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this one, it was intense and weird and wonderful.

Art Dog Philosophy

"My Bed", classic black dog bad attitude going on here. On repurposed plywood, using collage elements and acrylic paint.

I took the two new pieces of the BAD, Bad Attitude Dog, to Jo at Matter Gallery a few days ago, and that brought up the opportunity to discuss my Dog Philosophy of Art which made me think about it more. I want to share it because it makes me smile and smiling is a good thing, I should do more of it actually. (Remember you can click on any illustration and see it BIG).

"Sleeping Dog", in a private collection, but a great illustration of the sweet positive joyful side Yellow Dog demonstrates. Oil pastel on Canson paper.

I have been painting dogs forever. Yellow dogs, actually. I started way back in college when a fellow artist who was incredibly talented painted this astonishing bad dog that was wonderful, all teeth and attitude. At that time I was in my “chair phase” and I painted red chairs incessantly and photographed chairs too. Chairs stood in for people in my paintings, but I digress.  Mark and I fell in love with each other’s work and agreed to swap muses. He started painting chairs and I made off with the dog.

"Mine", kind of says it all, the snarky bad attitude dog got the paper and its too bad for you.Repurposed plywood, an old metal printing sheet from the Olympian newspaper and acrylic paint. Privately owned.

I still have a few very early Mark-inspired yellow dogs in my flat file but that dog had a mind of his own and evolved with time. He has even been a she a few times. Most notably in two pieces I have not photographed but I will—tomorrow.  The first piece is Yellow Dog in a prom dress, a stand in for every homely girl that knew , no matter how hard she tried, ugly would be back for her.  That’s a sort of universal chick truth, we all think we are homely at that age, doesn’t matter if we are or not, it’s a rite of passage.

2001 Food and Wine Fest poster, this dog is walking the line between good and bad. Food on the table...tempting for sure.

That’s when Yellow Dog became Every Dog, as in Everyman? Yellow Dog expresses hope and comfort and all the shining parts of our lives. And yes, I can paint people and paint them well, I just don’t want to. When I put a person in a painting the painting becomes about that person and the story hits a wall right there. Enter the dog, stage right… the work is not about the dog, it’s the bigger picture. There’s room to breathe if that’s a dog in there with you.

Yellow Dog Waits is a universal dog and kid truth, sometimes my truth too. Sometimes it feels like all I do is wait. On canvas and on the wall of my living room. That's my Granma's kitchen, loosely interpreted.

Black Dog came along one night in a circus painting a few years ago. He’s sitting on a round drum and there’s a big white horse with a ballerina behind him. He’s obviously got some dog attitude and he’s having a ball. Black Dog evolved to Bad Attitude Dog, he’s not bad as in eat-the mailman bad, but he might scare the mailman just because he can. Black Dog occupies his world, he’s the center of that world and it’s his oyster and that’s it.

"My Pool" makes me laugh. I don't think I'd want to convince him to move personally. The beach ball already bit the big one, or actually, the big one bit the beach ball. At Matter Gallery, repurposed plywood and collage with acrylic paint.

Now cats are a whole other story….

Home Before Dark is enormous, on a master sheet of Canson Paper. Done in oil pastel, it has Yellow Dog headed home to a glowing warm house and running a gauntlet of evil kitties. This piece is over 4 feet wide, framed and really one of my all time favorites. I should photograph it but getting it from behind that much glass? I need to think about that one for awhile.

Rabbit Creates Lost Childhoods, a Sculpture Series

The Lost Childhood Series

My worktable with Father Time's Lost Childhood in the background. I can have several things happening at once with different drying times and assembly steps.

My current series of sculptural assemblage pieces, Lost Childhoods, is about exploring a concept I find fascinating. We have created icons that we accept as part of our culture and socially we agree (generally) on what they mean. For instance:

Jim Beam

Uncle Sam

The Grim Reaper

Betty Crocker

Mother Nature

Father Time

King Neptune

Although some icons do have described childhoods and a sturdy base in reality, e.g. Father Christmas/Saint Nicholas, who was a real person whose iconography outstripped reality, I choose not to focus on these types. This list is just a few examples, I keep adding to my list as I run into another piece of the puzzle.  The commonality of all of these is they are adults, and although we have personified them, we give them only their adult attributes. We don’t stop to think about what Betty Crocker was like as a kid.

Mother Nature's face, the head is painted with a paint that resembles earth, her earrings are birds and her hair is nest of Robin's eggs.

This facet of the concept tickles my absurdist side; I like to think that something darkly humorous is an underpinning of these pieces.  Using repurposed doll heads walks the line between absurd and creepy, a place that we don’t like to think about. As someone who loathes clowns and mimes, I think I may have traveled into a facet of that territory and I am interested in exploring it more. I think these pieces are multi-faceted and along with being curiously humorous they are somewhat sad.

Full View of Mother Nature's Lost Childhood. I love this piece so much

We spend a lot of time in our Western world re-examining our childhoods to see how they inform the adults we become, and trying to repair our own scars from that time of our lives.  These pieces skewer the child in the icon and hold it still like a butterfly on a mounting board for us to look at closely, they are meant to be opened and marveled over. They all have drawers and doors and hidden compartments. Each surface is addressed and everything on the piece has a hidden meaning for viewers to discover and decipher.

The Natural World drawer. Each drawer has a bottle with an amazing quote in it and objects that explain the drawer's meaning.The A-Z drawer actually has two little bottles of seeds that could be planted, Alyssum is A and Zinnia is Z, plus a copper pea pod with howlite peas.

Ultimately, their childhoods are a mystery much like our own.  Doors we can’t open, doors we can, things we understand and things we don’t.  I wonder why we came up with the idea of these not-human humans to express a concept.  This part doesn’t matter to me, the artist; I’m involved in the re-imagining and creation of Lost Childhoods. My goal is show them as a group when I’m finished and I am enjoying their appearance in my life one by one.

The little purse created from an old tin with a lid has a poem on metal tags inside, it hangs on one shoulder.

PS: Venus isn’t on the list because she showed up full grown. Neptune is because he has come to personify the sea in general although he’s a Greco-Roman god in particular.

The other side of the studio worktable with parts of Mother Nature in the assembly stage. Anubis/Grim Reaper is underway now and so is King Neptune.

Pakistan and Renovations

Oct 4, 2006  If its Sunday, we must be in Pakistan

 Today at the rehab center, my sons and their wives all came to visit Terry and spend some time with us. We couldn’t help but laugh when someone asked him if he knew where he was, his answer was Pakistan. At this point if we didn’t laugh we would cry, so black humor is my friend.

I am trying to start a new job, end my old job, and be in the hospital and at home too. It’s not working so well to try to be in two places at once. The next couple of weeks are really critical to our future and I’m downright scared at this point.

 
 

Where the arrow is a gnarly tree was, wonderful volunteer chopped it down, chopped it up and took it away!

 

Terry can’t be left alone for a minute and there is not enough nursing staff to stay with him nonstop. I have drafted friends and family to help watch him. Thank God for friends, Darrell and Brien are lifesavers, they come in at night to sleep in a lumpy bed with one eye open to make sure he doesn’t wander or pee on his bed-again-or eat a pillow or escape, the list of things that could happen is endless and scary. Tor struggles on manfully at home, trying to take up the slack. My heart breaks to see him growing up so fast and hard, but I’m so proud of him and I couldn’t do this without him.

 
 

The guys put in this ramp for us because Terry can't do stairs. They moved the gate in and the fence over so I can park in back and get easy access through the gate. The gorgeous pavers were gifts too. Nellie likes.

 

 Terry has no real idea that what he sees, thinks and does is not reality. He can see a laundry hamper and be absolutely sure it’s the toilet. He understands he is hurt but he thinks that he is a prisoner. This is all so strange, but he continues to heal so I have hope that I’m hanging on to like someone going down on the Titanic.

 

We had to take out the tub and put in a regular shower that you don't have to step up to get in. I always wanted a window in the bathroom and Eureka! There was once a window behind the old fiberglass wall.

  
Terry is slated to come home the 15th and he can’t come home until the renovations for his new handicapped state are done. There is just so much to do to get the house ready for him. The generosity of the people Terry works with is overwhelming, the City of Lacey and the builders and contractors have reduced me to tears several times. How do I express how I feel for these people who have stepped up to help? They have taken it on themselves to do the renovations we need to keep him safe. I am just stunned and grateful and amazed. Thank you doesn’t even start to tell them what is in my heart and it feels so inadequate saying it again and again. All of this work is going on starting now and what I need most is help at the hospital watching Terry so I can be at the house doing the prep work.

 

The siding comes off and the window goes in. yay! New shower pan and waterproof board up, hardware installed and I'm ready to tile.

 
The therapists and doctor met with us today and basically Terry has to go back to the beginning and start over. No one knows yet how far he will get–he does a lot of things that are automatic and “old programming”, but remembering to chew his food and get another spoonful are problematic. He gets tired very quickly and you can see him tune out. He doesn’t have any sort of attention span and he is in a lot of pain from is back. The funny, wise Terry is still in there somewhere but it is like he is two people now and its very odd.

 After only 21 days he is doing phenomenally and I work to stay positive and focused and help him recover the miles he lost by heartbreaking inches.

Here is the way the shower looks now. It took me two nightmare weeks with my friend Sherry to tile the bloody thing, but it worked then and its wonderful now!

Rabbit Likes Spring

Is it possible to take a bad picture of a tiny pink camellia?

I still can’t decide if I love or hate this time of year. I’m in the season of taking up the tools and scraping winter out of the flower beds and beating the weeds into submission before they take over. Its been hard to get into the yard this year because the studio is so seductive and so many projects are sprawled from pillar to post begging for attention.

These look like vertical lilies, so beautiful.

The garden won today and my reward for three back breaking hours of weeding was to discover my gorgeous and delicate early clematis in full flower. It looks like lilies from a lily pond gone vertical, even better, the amethyst flowers look amazing against the red wall in the rabbit garden. The Lenten rose, Helleborus Nigella, is beautiful now with its blackish purple flowers and tiny violets are scrambling out of their pots around its ankles.

Alas, there is more to do still. The fat green noses of the hostas are above the ground now in the front beds. I managed to eliminate all the moss from their beds and clip off last year’s hydrangea heads too. The copper beech always amuses me, it looks dead as a door nail in the corner of the hydrangea bed, all covered with brown crispy leaves. In about three weeks. BOOM! Those leaves will drop overnight and it will be covered with pinkish copper leaves. It takes my breath away in early spring and it gets prettier as the year goes by with its beautiful bronze leaves.

the variegated honeysuckle is all leafted out and looking gorgeous withs its pinky green leaves.

Te green bin is stuffed to the gunnels if a recycle bin can have gunnels, so I’m off the hook until the city comes and hauls away my bits and pieces and then it will be time to dig in again. I finished the day with my camera today, marking the turn of the year to my favorite seasons, spring and summer.

Yellow primroses popping into bloom in the borders

I love these shots, I tried to catch how I feel about spring in the photographs.

Here’s one more of  the clematis and a close shot of the hyacinth. Amazing how flowers become so other worldly up close.

hyacinth, looking amazing and smelling even better

The plants in the greenhouses and their friends are almost ready to come out too. As soon as the last frost goes away the greenhouse gets emptied!

The green house plants are waiting until the last frost is over to make their appearance in the garden.

Art Prankster Impressionists

Happy April fool’s day! Even the august art world is not immune to practical jokes. This is one of the best ever involving French impressionists and poets.

DELACROIX’S CRUSTACEAN SENSATION

Art historians have long been puzzled by the disappearance of “Still Life With Lobster,” a painting that, according to allusions in his letters and notebooks, Eugene Delacroix painted in or around 1845. It was only recently, when a batch of correspondence was unearthed from a dusty archive in the Paris’s Bibliotheque Nationale, that the full story of the missing painting came to light. At the time he created the picture, Delacroix was a member of the Paris-based Club des Hashischins, a small group of writers and artists, that, in accordance with its name, was devoted to experimentation with drugs, particularly hashish. Members of the group included the writers Theophile Gautier and Alexandre Dumas, as well as the poet Gerard de Nerval, who happened to have a pet lobster named Thibault that he had rescued from a net while on holiday in La Rochelle and that, to the consternation of some Parisians, he was given to taking on walks around the Palais Royal gardens at the end of a blue satin ribbon.

During one especially bleary meeting of the Club, Delacroix, in a fit of hash-fueled mischievousness, snatched Thibault from where the lobster was hiding (as was its wont at social gatherings) under a chaise longue, and absconded with the crustacean in full view of de Nerval, who immediately flew into pursuit. According to the recently rediscovered correspondence, however, the poet tripped over a coffee table and was temporarily incapacitated, allowing Delacroix to dash to his nearby studio with Thibault under his arm. Two hours later the painter returned, wearing a soiled bib, licking his fingers and brandishing a canvas on which he had painted a freshly boiled lobster garnished with sprigs of parsley and flanked by oysters and lemons, as was the style for still lifes in those days. De Nerval, who lay, nursing a sprained ankle, atop the chaise longue under which his cherished Thibault had so recently cowered, promptly fainted. As soon as he revived, he came at Delacroix with fists swinging, grabbed a letter opener off a nearby desk, and slashed the painting to bits. It was then that Delacroix opened the suitcase he’d held in his other hand to reveal a terror-stricken Thibault, which skittered across the room to its owner. “C’etait vraiment une reunion joyeuse!” declares the just-uncovered papers.

Supposedly, a shred of the painting still exists in the Louvre, but no one can find it….