Monthly Archives: October 2012

Boo Who?


This is the 14 year old me.

The year is 1962 and it is Halloween, my last year of trick or treating according to my horrible mother. I  am about to cross the magic line into that place where grown ups look askance at your size and give you the worst piece of candy in the bowl and ask, “Aren’t you a little old for this?” Mind you, this was back in the day when we still locked up our garbage cans and put everything away for fear of pranksters with mayhem on their minds. I longed to live in the days when kids put outhouses on the school roof and played other elaborate jokes on unsuspecting adults. The best we could ever come up with was soaping all the gas station pump windows in town, pretty puny.

Spookiness, this is in Colorado and perfect for halloween don’t you think?

Halloween 1962 was my grandparents 48th wedding anniversary. Who gets married on Halloween? They lived next door to our big white Victorian house in a brick bungalow right across the driveway. My grandad Floyd had been living in twilight for about five years after a diabetic stroke left him unable to move or communicate.

My grandad always had a cigar and my grandma always looked put upon. I think she was born wearing a hair net and sensible shoes.

My grandmother was his main caregiver and I can only imagine now how hard that must have been for her. At the age of 14, none of this even dawned on me. I used to go into the bedroom and read to him, I worried that he was lonely in a room where the only window was high up in the wall. I liked to think he could hear me as I read the Reader’s Digest aloud and carried on one-way conversations.

My grandmother was a cook who worked in her profession until she was 85. I have good cooking genes.

Before his stroke, my grandfather was a terrible grump who yelled at everyone. He had a cigar in his hand at all times, sometimes I wondered if he slept with it. I was never afraid of him, as his only granddaughter I was the princess and I remember very well how patient he was with me, teaching me to tie my shoelaces and my doll’s bonnet strings. It was probably because he was sick of tying my shoes for me but it made me happy then and it does now.

A black wreath hung on the door. This door is actually in Philly but its much cooler than my grandparents’ door.

Halloween afternoon, 1962, after 48 years of marriage, my grandfather died. I remember being sent to go call the doctor when he passed. My mother ordered a black wreath from the florist in town and when it came she hung it on the door so everyone would know not to knock and trick or treat there.

My mother decided I couldn’t go trick or treating. I had to be the responsible dragon at the gate, keeping the hordes of kids from thumping on grandma’s door. Rats. I remember being devastated because I was already facing the end of my candy-gathering years and here the last one was yanked right out from under me.

I had a set of beautiful gold angel wings but I more closely resembled a devil under that white gown.

I had my costume ready and everything. For some odd reason, I had landed the role of the angel in the Chritmas play when I was twelve and we were still living in Colorado. No one was further from angelic, but I ate that role up. My dad had made me a set of cool gold cardboard angel wings with little gold glass balls all the way around the edges. My mom had made my white wide-sleeved angel gown from old bedsheets. They were always white back then. I even had a gold halo that was cleverly mounted on a circle like a tiara. It sat on my head allowing my halo on a wire to float above me.

Yes, I was a sneaky snake that year and proud of it. Photo taken at RC Ridge in Olympia, Halloween spooky perfection.

No! They couldn’t take it away from me! Yes. They could and they did. For about five minutes. It took me that long to realize I could sew a pocket into the bottom of my wide-winged sleeve and cleverly drop it off over a kids bag of candy with some snappy patter. I figured it would take me about two seconds to scoop up a nice fat fistful of candy from every victim’s hoard bag and drop it in my giant sleeve pocket.

Angels have been inspiring me since 1962, I love taking photos of them. I wonder if Halloween is why?

I was sent out at dark to park in my grandmother’s driveway on one of her metal chairs. I still wish I had those chairs. I loved those chairs, I see chairs like them now and they bring back so many memories of granma on the porch. This night it was just me in the driveway with a flashlight and a bowl of cheap jelly beans. My mother was nothing if not frugal. We gave out the kind of candy kids throw away, orange circus peanuts and black gumdrops.  The Whitman’s Sampler she hoarded in her lingerie drawer, ‘hidden’ from us kids and we knew better than to touch her chocolate so Halloween was our chance for a chocolate fix.

My granma’s chairs were like these although I found these deep in Oklahoma. Memories.

The whole thing went off without a hitch. The whole town was trick or treating and bringing their candy to me. Bwah ha ha ha!  I had a pillowcase full of candy and I didn’t have to walk a step to get it. I felt like Donald Trump that night. I did excercise some restraint and I didn’t pillage little kids who had just started their rounds but the big kids who practically had to put wheels on their candy bags were fair game.

As Garfield put it, “Candy, candy, candy!”

Luckily for the neighborhood’s candy stash I had discovered the wonder of boys by the next Halloween and my my angelic/devilish trickery was a one time event. Still, I wonder if it would still work….hmmm….somewhere I have a witch costume…

Happy Halloween!



Is it Dark in Here or is that Just Art?

The first backyard martyr, the accidentally murdered St Squirrel

I am bemused today. The gallery that handles my work returned 3 pieces to me yesterday. I am not upset, I understand why completely. The 3 pieces were from the series “Backyard Martyrs” and they are deeply satirical and very dark, but not at first glance. I love Matter Gallery, Jo is super supportive of her artists and in a funny way, I think I just made my first real statement with my art.

The gun that threw viewers for a loop in Saint Squirrel

The series takes a look at the animals we love to hate–with a vengeance–when they come in our yards and destroy OUR gardens, OUR yards and OUR space. It was originally sparked when I accidentally killed a squirrel last year. Honest, I shot at it with a pellet gun to scare it, not commit homicidal mayhem on the squirrels that were absolutely destroying my bird feeders. Sara Jessica Parker’s character on Sex in the City summed it up, “You can’t make friends with a squirrel.Squirrels are just rats with cuter outfits”. They may be cute but they are rodents and they are not fun to have around when they are destroying flower beds and bird feeders. Yes. Its what they are programmed to do but I would prefer they did it somewhere else, along with 90% of the gardening and bird feeding population.

Yes. Rats with cuter outfits

Mea Culpa people. I started out to make an altar to honor the squirrel as he was martyred in the line of duty, but this devolved into something darker when I started really thinking about it. Backyard Martyrs.

The raccoon I love to hate

Among the martyrs: I have a raccoon visitor I loathe because it destroys our pond just for fun. We had koi once upon a time. They were eaten, but the stupid animal still thinks we’ll be repopulating the buffet real soon. I have contemplated killing it because raccoons are gnarly and truly evil but its so cute with those little hands. Have you seen their teeth? They are vermin infested burglars who are saved by their human-like hand-paws.

Imagined mayhem for the raccoon

Crows. I love crows thanks in part to my old friend Carl Cook who passed away a few years back. Carl loved crows and convinced me to slow down and take a look at them too. I do however hate them in the spring, when the whole damn family is talking to each other at the top of their lungs at 7:00 a.m. Crow babies have horrible voices. They sound like old ladies who swallowed a kazoo and a bullhorn at the same time.

The crow, another backyard martyr

Among the cast of characters are the deer who ate the neighbors raspberries and roses–in the middle of town. Go figure. There is a mole that I have been trying to murder for years. I am waiting for my house to topple into his tunnel system which is more extensive than the French Metro by now. Cats. I love cats, I just don’t love my neighbor’s cats. They are proud that their cats are bird killers–in my yard. They also poop in my flower beds indiscriminately. I don’t love them. I would like to spray paint them purple and send them home.

I love the wings on this piece

So, Backyard Martyrs is a series that takes a look at the American obsession with anthromorphizing critters we also loathe. Yin Yang. How many cute raccoons, moles, mice, cats and birds has Disney given us? We persist in saying ahhhh….cute.

The bottom of Saint Crow is hammered spoons with crow words

I myself am guilty of being a rabbit devotee although they can be yard and crop destroyers bigtime. This from the girl who shot jackrabbits in her teenage years. I should have known I would kill that squirrel because I have always been an excellent shot. What was I thinking?

Top of the raccon martyr with Froggy

I digress. It seems that people who saw these pieces were drawn to them by their bright Mexican colors and feel; and of course, the cute animals wearing crowns in the paintings mounted on tin panels. When viewers got closer feeling all warm and fuzzy, Good Heavens! A gun, squirrel poison, arrows! Folks were shocked and appalled at the potential for mayhem I laid right out there as part of the work. But I’ll bet most of them have actually tried to do harm to their own backyard martyrs. Its not all Bambi out there although for some reason we want to think it is.

Each piece has the latin name of the martyr. Crow has a bit more in English.How very Catholic of me.

The true weirdness. Here it is. Viewers were shocked and surprised at the mayhem portrayed, not even portrayed, just the potential for critter harm is depicted for the animals we love and hate. Yin Yang still going on. But, a metric F*** ton of people and the kids of these people play violent, bloody, do-as-much-harm-as-you- can video games. So why are these paintings/collage/sculptures so disturbing? Our culture provides instant access to violence and mayhem on television, in the movies, even in music. Yet the suggestion of shooting a charming squirrel who is actually, really truly doing harm is over the top? I would love to know what people think.

Or was it the poison bottle that says “Why Not?” on the squirrel piece

This culture of ours is truly odd. I make dark art that is also fabulously bright and funny at the same and it is too disturbing for people. Dance floors in clubs are crowded with people doing moves that 25 years ago would have had them arrested, seriously. There is no subject too taboo to talk about on the boob tube. Women in clothing that leaves nothing, nothing, to the imagination are all over the media. Violent porn is a mouse click away. At the same time there are at least three men running for public office in the USA who believe that there are degrees of rape and one of them had a daddy who told him some “girls are easy”. Check my favorite blog for details on this particular info.

Every Saint wears a crown as Saints should–and a halo.

So in conclusion, Americans are daft. We are the most open minded close minded, blind people on the planet. I’m satisfied. I finally made art that is too much to take for people who don’t think about more than the surface. I’d like to think that the people who were appalled are the same ones who buy art by the yard to hang over the couch.

I’m wondering how to explain these pieces to my grandchildren as they are in residence above my couch and I’m truly enjoying the work. That should be a fascinating discussion…

And by the way, this work is for sale at $200.00 per backyard martyr. $175.00 each for all three. Such a deal!