Bees keep us alive


I’ve chosen to focus on bees in the piece on transformation for my art for the Coastside Drs Without Borders Art Auction. Here’s my in-progress piece – encaustic flora seed raviolis for bees!

The below film was instrumental in me making that decision.


Creating the Deconstructed Kimono

I want to write about the process I went through to create one of my newest pieces, the Deconstructed Kimono.

Since I’ve belonged the ARTTAG group, a subset of the NCWCA (Northern California Women’s Artist Caucus), I’ve been motivated to work with different materials and to branch out and experiment. The ARTTAG process allows each artist to be the inspiration for another artist. Working with a theme, we create a piece and then mail it to an artist to be their jumping off point to create their own work to send to another artist. A game of ‘telephone’ of sorts. After three rounds the artists gather for a sharing of food and art revealing and discussion. Often it is surprising how many threads tie the works together, even though there has been no written or verbal crosstalk during the creation process.

A theme we recently explored was Presence/Absence. I received a jacket embellished with photographs of a lifetime from another artist. Each photo had writing identifying the people and sometimes some background on what was happening at the time. This art piece was a poignant and beautiful tribute to the full lives of the artist and family members and friends, and their connection to the person who once wore this garment.

As I sat with the art piece in my studio for a couple of weeks, I decided to challenge myself to still focus on a garment, but to do the opposite of embellishment for my response art piece. I wanted to see if I could remove parts of a garment as a way to express memory and connection.

I opened my cedar trunk to pull out a kimono that was given to me by a friend who got it at a used clothing store. I have received a few kimonos from people who thought maybe I could do something with them. I also have family kimonos that I treasure and want to keep intact. These other kimonos I do not have a tie to, I have no idea who wore them or what their history is. So I decided to take this very culturally symbolic garment and experiment with it.

The first cut into the kimono was a difficult one. I felt as if I was violating a sacred article of clothing. I even talked to a fellow NCWCA member who grew up in Japan and she said something like ‘no problem, do it.’ So I proceeded to cut all the embellishment out of the kimono. I cut and cut and cut the orange flowers out of the fabric for 3 days. And it felt great. It was meditative to sit with this task and only this task for hours. I got into a rhythm, not unlike when one sews or knits.

While I was deconstructing this kimono I had many thoughts. Who was this woman who wore this? Was she alive? How did she feel when she wore it?

Memories came up. I had been dressed up in a kimono for Obon Odori a few times as a child. This is a special festival to honor ancestors who have passed on. People, mostly women dance in a circle with fans and umbrellas and rhythmic hand instruments. As I found out, kimonos are not comfortable to wear. They are very restrictive for walking and breathing. I recall sucking in my breath while being bound around my waist and chest with beautiful ornate thick fabric (an obi) wound around and around me. The obis were cinched so I could only walk with very short small steps. I felt beautiful but not very pleasant in my exotic garb. At 10 years old I already knew this wasn’t something I wanted to wear daily.

So while I was cutting away the beautiful flowers from the kimono, I had nostalgic thoughts. The kimono for me was a tie to my Japanese culture that is so easily slipping away from me. I no longer live with anyone who speaks Japanese and I of course do not know the language. I rarely cook the cuisine, let alone make gohan (rice) and tofu for every meal like we used to eat as children. My family elders are passing away. This cutting ritual became an honoring of my cultural loss and memories.

I left a few orange flowers on the band that goes around the kimono neck and the rest of what was left was just the creamy ivory skeleton. It had a web like quality. I had transformed this cultural icon into something new. The removed flowers now lay at the feet of the kimono. The piece resembled a tree that had lost its leaves. The remaining kimono still held it’s simple yet strong shape – it would never lose its beauty and it’s form.

Recently the ‘Deconstructed Kimono’ was installed in the San Francisco Foundation Boardroom, curated by APICC, Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center.

Elder earth art mandalas in Half Moon Bay

I recently taught an Earth Art class at the Coastsiders Senior Center on Half Moon Bay. We had a brief talk about Andy Goldsworthy and mandala symbolisn. The elders had bunches of material to work: stones, flower petals, leaves, sticks, and more. Most of the materials were gathered during a walk and some donated by a flower shop in town.

We had an “instant art show” at the Senior luncheon for the enjoyment of the diners.

Yemaja offerings on New Year’s Eve day

Susana invited me to a Yemaja ritual today and it was lovely. Yemaja is the sea goddess and she hears your wishes. A group of us came in white and blues and purples, with white flowers and 10 shiny dimes each for offerings. We gathered on Surfer’s Beach in El Granada at 3pm, the low tide. It was a beautiful and expansive way to end the year, to bask in the incredible energy of the Sea itself, to cleanse our auras, our spirits, and to feel the impact of the Sea stretching out to the horizon.

Elders create eco mandalas

I enjoy facilitating an Elders’ art class in San Francisco every Friday. For the past 6 weeks we have been focusing on mandalas. I discussed the sacredness of the circle symbol in many cultures, in nature, and in religion. We designed rose window mandalas based on the cathedral stained glass windows of Europe. We made shield mandalas to give us strength.

For the eco mandala inspiration, my two high school aids presented a report on Andy Goldsworthy and showed how he used things found in the environment, nature ,to create installations. I scavenged materials for the mandala creating: rose petals from the flower place on highway 92, rocks left over from Carla’s landscaping job, different kinds of rocks and colors from Home Depot, and fallen ginkgo leaves in front of Judy Johnson-Williams house. The biggest score though was from Alena Jean’s Flower Shop. Her dad had just finished pruning and I grabbed beautiful plum branches, geranium leaves, lily flower petals.

The only instructions I gave the elders were to think about: balance, color, texture, placement, and the centers of their mandalas. The elders went right to it and came up with some beautiful designs. Some of them left a lot of black around their materials, so the shapes of each petal and leaf was defined. Others piled the materials on.

I found the project to be very successful for the many different issues that the elders have: hearing loss, stroke restriction, language differences, memory and cognitive variation. Everyone was able to create the mandalas and they enjoyed seeing what their fellow students had done.

Celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Half Moon Bay

I came upon the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Catholic Church grounds in Half Moon Bay. I wanted to find out more about this celebration and goggled it. Here is what I found.

On the morning of December 12 in 1531, a poor Aztec Indian man named Juan Diego rose, and made his way through the hills to Mass in Mexico City, as he did every morning.

Juan Diego was 57 years old, a humble and devout Catholic in a still largely pagan country. As he walked the familiar path, Juan thought about his family, his work; and he said a prayer for his sick uncle. Suddenly, he heard beautiful music and a woman’s voice calling “Juan, Juan”.

Read more here.



Food and flower power Sunday

What a lovely Sunday afternoon art soirée hosted by Chris Ridgeway! I had so much fun just thinking about nature’s colors and shapes. If the slideshow stops, click on the black x in the upper right corner.

Beautiful San Francisco Birthday Tour

For our dear friend Charlene’s birthday, Ander and I took her for a San Francisco whirlwind tour of some of our favorite places. We did not tell her where we were going, so each stop was a surprise.

First we had a lovely lunch at Fog City Diner on Battery and The Embarcadero. I used to go here a lot when my friends were working around the corner. The food was still great after all these years. Luckily we made reservations ahead because it was pretty hopping. I had a crispy reddened snapper sandwich which was spicy and delish, and Ander had a 1/2 pound Niman Ranch burger. Charlene had the Chicken Schnitzel with broccolini and lemon caper butter. Everything was served promptly by a very responsive waitress and was terrific. The restaurant looks a bit garish on the outside, but the inside is all dark wood and there are booths or tables  and a busy liquor and oyster bar.

After our meal we moved on to the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. I chose this because she and I both enjoy gardening and flowers. It turned out Charlene had always wanted to go here and so it was perfect!

The Conservatory is one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in San Francisco and the 12,000 square-foot greenhouse is the oldest existing glass and wood conservatory in the United States. i think it looks like the American version of the Taj Mahal!

The greenhouse is divided up into environments: lowland tropics, highland tropics, aquatic plants, potted plants, and a special exhibit area. The temperature changes as you move from one are to the next.

These tropical flowers brought a smile because they reminded me of my mother and grandmother who lived in Hawaii.

This little guy was fascinated by the fiddle heads. There were many kids there with their parents.

The special exhibit area featured info on pollinators of all kinds – bats, birds, wasps, bees, and butterflies. A few butterflies fluttered about to the delight of the many kids.

I love the aquatic area – check out the video:

Walking in this most wondrous place I really got a sense of peace and calm. Charlene’s comment was, “How can you not believe that there is a higher source after being here.”

Last on the tour was the De Young Museum. Here we stopped for coffee and shared a fruit tart and opened presents. We then went up the elevator to the 9th floor to see the view of Golden Gate Park and surrounding San Francisco area. It was a bit foggy, but that just added to the timeless, mysterious, landscape of The City.

birthday beauty

Here is the birthday beauty!

It was nice to be a tourist and have a play date with our dear friend. I recommend getting out there and enjoying our local venues to remember why you live in this terrific area.

Garden warrior makes a difference

Our garden is doing pretty well this year due to the diligent
efforts of Ander. The Gophers have been managed effectively. Here though, they put some muscle into moving some of the bricks outlining the flowerbed. I’m amazed at their strength!

Mostly we have been inundated by earwigs. Ander has been going out almost every night to pluck them from our veggies. Another route he took was to embed plastic yogurt containers with oil, soy sauce and brown sugar in them and put the id, punched with holes, back on top. The earwigs love the concoction!

We are getting an abundance of squash this year. Last summer the gophers got them because we had not secured the wire under the raised bed.

Favas are thriving also. They are a widely planted crop by the big farmers on the Coastside. Though they are labor intensive to peel to get the edible part, they are very nutritious and yummy.

Glass gardens and more at de Young Museum

(fyi, if the slideshow stops, click the “X” in the upper right corner)

We went to opening night of Chihuly at the de Young, June 14 – September 28 and it was spectacular. The de Young did not disappoint with the terrific lighting and installation that really showed of the beauty of the magical environments and pieces. I appreciated that they have timed tickets, so the place as not jammed.

Chihuly attributes growing up with his mother’s abundant flower gardens and watching sunsets with her over the years as having an influence on his work. You can really see that in his organic shades and bright colors. His color style also developed when he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to work at the Venini glass factory in Venice, Italy.

He references ikebana, a kind of Japanese flower arrangement, and picking up glass balls floating from Japan on the Puget Sound beaches in Washington. I took note of this since it is the same area my father grew up.

Two installations had a completely different more monochromatic tone and a quiet, yet powerful feel. Towering lavender spheres grew out of tree logs were stunning. Another room had a more earthy feel and here the influences were Native American woven baskets and blankets. Beautiful golden translucent glass baskets were spread out on a split redwood log which span the large room.

Something I also spent some time looking at were paintings he did before and during his creation of his glass pieces. It was interesting to me how they had a more matte quality which is so opposite of his usual translucent medium.

I think the show is very much worth going to. Even if you have seen his ceiling in Las Vegas or some of his smaller pieces, I think you still will be delighted and awestruck by the show.