SFAI140 – a challenge, a joy, a connection

SFAI140* challenged me to step up to the plate. I have done speaking about my work before, but having to distill my thoughts down to 140 seconds and convey them succinctly with timed images, took it to a whole other level. It was fun and gave me a sense of accomplishment. I appreciated the opportunity to be on the stage with some real pros and to meet the other presenters.

It was a pleasure to discover that fellow speaker and historical preservation architect Shawn Evans was acutely interested in the Santa Fe Interment Camp. He took my 1951 map of the Casa Solana neighborhood that had the internment camp placement on it and layered it over a current map. The two of us walked through the area of where the camp once was, looking at trees that may have been planted there. It was a bittersweet experience wandering around with him and discussing his feelings about living in the area with this history. If I were to come back he thought he could help me with having talks in the Casa Solana schools and community.

Many Native people spoke with me about their experiences with the camps, including a young woman who was inspired to go see the marker and go to the other NM camps, and a man who said his Native uncle was picked up and put into the Santa Fe Camp because he was mistaken for being Japanese.

After hearing me speak a Santa Fe gallery invited me to be on a panel on healing war trauma with creativity.

Speaking from the heart, expressing  your thoughts and what is important to you, is a challenge to accept and seek out. You never know where it can lead you.

*SFAI140 is an event that Santa Fe Art Institute puts on a couple times a year. They invite their residents and leaders in the community to speak for 140 seconds with 6 timed slides.

Santa Fe Internment Camp – Storytelling and Ritual Event

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During my artist residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, I learned that the history of the New Mexico internment camps was not well known, and people wanted to know more.

My focus became, how could art bring understanding and connection to the communities in Santa Fe?  I wanted to inform the public about this history that has touched my own Japanese American family and invite people of other cultures to express their stories of displacement, unjust incarceration, and immigration journeys.

I decided to create an experiential space incorporating modalities like drawing, movement, speaking, listening, and re-enactment.

Participants were invited to create a presence for those they wanted to remember. Just the simple task of striking a pose of a loved one and being outlined in red crayon, connected the collaborators, and spontaneous memories were shared. These ancestor drawings on the gallery walls created a safe and sacred place for remembering.

It was a very moving event with many voices, quiet support, some tears, and an overall powerful energy of compassion. People traveled from as far away as Taos, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque to attend. The walking meditation lead by Eliane Allegre with the music provided by Glen Neff put the participants in a contemplative space to consider stories of incarceration, immigration, and displacement. 15 storytellers came forward to share internee memories and other difficult and heartfelt experiences.

The gallery event was followed by the visit to the Santa Fe Internment Marker. It was chilly, windy and clear beautiful day. We carried symbolic suitcases, like the prisoners traveling to a place unknown. Upon arriving the cases were opened and the folded cranes and flowers inside were used to embellish the marker. Historian and writer Nancy Bartlit and Victor Yamada of the NM Japanese Citizen League, spoke about the marker history and future plans to bring more visibility to the history of the New Mexican Internment Camps.

You may ask, why is it important to share this history from 73 years ago? In the United States today, we are still imprisoning innocent families, like those from Central America. In a world of terrorist atrocities, the backlash of racial and ethnic prejudice is rampant. We must find ways to understand and connect to each other and art is a powerful way to do it.

Thank you to all of you who supported this special sharing event. It couldn’t have happened without the team of Victor Yamada, Sue Rundstrom, Nancy Bartlit, Santa Fe Art Institute, Glen Neff, Eliane Allegre, and many others.

Thank you to the Santa Fe Art Institute for selecting me for the immigration artist in residence program.



Working with deep and wounded history

seeingSometimes it gets to me – working with the deep and wounded history of my ancestors. Today I had a good breakfast conversation with a friend. She understands the work I am doing about the Japanese Internment Camps in New Mexico at the Santa Fe Art Institute. She’s lived here in New Mexico long enough to know that there is rich tapestry of different cultures and communities and that makes researching and making art about the history of the camps even more complicated. Peeling the layers back can be raw, and seeing the crisscrossing histories of: the vets who were in the Bhataan death march and experienced the brutality of the Japanese army, the injustice of the American concentration camps imprisoning innocent people of Japanese ancestry, and the Los Alamos creation of the bomb that killed so many in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m wrapping my head around it after a month of research.

My friend said, “you are a flag bearer who makes sure people know the history so things don’t happen again.” Yet I find it so discouraging to see the Central American immigrant families being imprisoned right now.

Keeping my heart open is what sustains me. I hope to bring light and witnessing to stories of injustice and imprisonment for all kinds of people. My ritual performance will invite anyone to participate. More info to come soon.

Taos – avant-garde, sacred, and clutter in paradise

Taos is such a mishmash of cultures – the sacred Taos Pueblo, the art scene, the mountains, and the crazy Mesa. I enjoy that mix that pulls my mind in different directions. We got to visit with local Derrick Manuel and have a beer at the amazing music venue, Mesa Brewery.

Continue reading “Taos – avant-garde, sacred, and clutter in paradise”

Enjoying our first day in New Mexico

Woke up to a beautiful balmy day. There is an earthy serenity that I feel I belong to every time  I’m on this land.

Madrid morning view
Java Junction coffee in Madrid a must
our breakfast must do when we are in Santa Fe – Horsemen’s Haven
super hot green chili sauce
he is in heaven with green chili smothered breakfast burrito, i got something smaller
in the land of earthy curvy architecture
finally relaxing on the plaza
love this guide’s costume

New Mexican art violins

I appreciate how the flavor of a place comes through in the art made there. Many charities have used the idea of painting an instrument to raise money, but I doubt they had the Southwestern spirit of these violins done for the Santa Fe Symphony. Check out more art violins: http://www.paintedviolinssantafe.org/index.html

Go with the beeswax

I found this wonderful beeswax candle shop in Santa Fe and brought some candles back to California. I really liked this family owned and run business and learned a lot about the benefits of beeswax. I share some info from their website http://www.santafecandle.com/ below:

Most candles: toxic leftovers.
Most commercial candles are made of poisonous chemicals. Paraffin is petroleum industry waste that is bleached (adding dioxin and other poisonous chemicals) and texturized with acrolyn. Stearic acid, a byproduct of the meatpacking slaughterhouses, is added as a hardener. Often candles are highly scented with artificial, synthetic oils and marketed to “freshen” our precious air. Of course they don’t actually freshen or deodorize anything, they just mask smells with chemicals stronger and dangerous to our health.

“Aromatherapy” candles may be some of the worst, and marketing takes advantage us using nice names like “harmony”, “rejuvenation” and “bliss”. Some companies use good quality essential oils and the focus our attention on that fact, but they are in a paraffin candle. This makes no sense to us, and we trust that intelligent people will see through all the nonsense, however poetic and “spiritual”.

According to the American EPA, paraffin candles are known to release carcinogens like benzene and toluene. When burned, they spew choking toxins and black soot as harmful to our health as second-hand tobacco smoke that coats our walls, our art and our lungs. Just try breathing directly over a lit paraffin candle and you’ll know immediately how poisonous it is.

The American Lung Association says “Refrain from burning scented or slow-burning candles that have additives. This is such a serious issue that the insurance industry is issuing stern warnings – and policies.

More and more candles are being made with vegetable waxes such as soy and palm.
This is a great improvement over chemical candles in all terms, but as an aesthetic matter, they burn at a very low temperature and give off a cold, eerie light. Also, though quite clean-burning, they do not possess the same magical qualities as beeswax.

Beeswax: made from flowers by honeybees. Solid sunlight™.
Beeswax is different: all natural, non-toxic, non-polluting, non-allergenic, and with a delicious honey-sweet aroma. A perfect, renewable resource, beeswax is made by the female worker bee for honeycomb, which safely contains their honey and the Queen’s baby bees.

To produce one pound of beeswax, the worker bees eat about ten pounds of honey (yum), fly 150,000 miles, and visit 33 million flower blossoms! Beeswax is precious stuff.

Pure beeswax is healthy
Beeswax produces negative ions that actually clean your air of odors, pollens, smoke, dust, dust mites, viruses and other allergens and hazards – the only known fuel to do so. As does a rainstorm, beeswax candles leave your air fresher and cleaner – they are a true air purifier. They are the only candle for anyone with chemical sensitivities or allergies.

Increasing negative ions in the air and on the body, such as when one bathes in water, improves mood and sense of wellbeing.

With increased negative ions, studies show:

  • Improved air quality
  • Improved sleep
  • Enhanced immune system
  • Relief from hay fever & allergies
  • Less severe asthma attacks
  • Improved concentration
  • Balancing of hormones
  • Natural detoxification
  • Sense of wellbeing

It achieves a very efficient and complete burn (mostly to carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor) and thus burns brighter, hotter, cleaner, and longer than any other wax. When properly made and burned, beeswax candles are smokeless and dripless. Measured by burn time, beeswax candles are usually a better value than boutique paraffin – even when they appear to cost more.

But beware: because of lax labeling laws and consistent lobbying by chemical candle makers, a candle may be labeled “beeswax” if it contains as little as 10% beeswax – the balance is probably paraffin. Also be suspicious of labels simply stating “natural”. If the label doesn’t say “100% beeswax” or “pure beeswax”, it almost certainly is not. Buy 100% Beeswax!

home is where the heart is

They are pretty creative in New Mexico. I really respect the beauty and energy they put into their living spaces. I wanted to share some of the interesting abodes of our friends.


Gustav lives in a converted church in Cordova. He truly is in the presence of saints and angels!

Alberto created this beautiful school bus home in the mountains.


Here is the inside that he did all the woodwork on. Each piece of wood and inlay has a specific meaning.


This beautiful teepee is put up in the traditional manner and is Alberto’s home in town during the winter. When I visited he burnt some native cedar (from his mountain home) in the fire in the center of the teepee.

Straw bale house in New Mexico

This is the beautiful straw bale house that our friends Glen and Eliane built in Madrid, NM. We were lucky to house sit this palace for the month of October. Glen designed and constructed the structure himself and even includes kitty tunnels and sunning perches for their pets. The main living space is one large room, with a separate bedroom and loft office.




Here is a nice detail, bottle light portals, outside view and inside view:

front-portals.jpg inside-portals.jpg

Sad side of Santa Fe

Driving into Santa Fe we were listening to a radio show about the homeless in this town. I did not verify these figures, but it was stated that there are 500 homeless children here and very few programs for homeless families, kids and women. Many of these hidden beings are sleeping in cars and couch surfing. This is especially alarming with winter arriving soon. Last year 25 people froze to death!

I met a woman at the Santa Fe Baking Company and she said last year she saw families living under the bridges near Canyon Road. She is very concerned about the homeless kids and has been trying to get some attention for this with the mayor and the city, but no one was really reacting. The radio show mentioned that the city has only contributed like 1/10 of the money needed to run the couple of existing shelters which are more set up for men.

What is ironic about this is Ander played a benefit on Saturday for the Animal Humane Society. Many of people attended at $60 each and also more money made on a silent auction. I have no criticism about this, but sounds as if homeless human beings need help too.