Most women will know what these are

choice tools

If you’re a woman and have ever gone in for a gynecological exam you will recognize this medical tool called a speculum. I’ve had these devices for a few years, waiting for the creative inspiration to hit me so I could include them in an art piece. Every time I took them out and showed them to my women friends, every one of them squealed and asked me to put them away. Having a cold stainless steel speculum inserted into one’s vagina is not the most pleasant activity.

Yet we women in first world countries are fortunate to have access to gynecological care. In many 3rd world countries pap smears (collecting cells for cancer testing) do not happen because there are not enough qualified technicians to do them. In the poorest countries, many women have horrible child-birth injuries called  fistulas, often due to being young mothers. Most likely these women do not have  the choice to have birth control either.

The wrapping of the speculum in silk is my way of honoring these medical tools and our ability to get reproductive care.

I am entering this assemblage into the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art upcoming exhibition http://www.4choice2013.com/artist-call.html

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The living and the dead join together

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An atmospheric space in-between worlds is glimpsed in this installation. Fragments of sound from crickets, voices of monks and Japanese instruments envelope Japanese lanterns, womanly silhouettes and floating deteriorating kimonos.  Obake Yashiki or Ghost House, is a dwelling place of spirits that continue to haunt us. They cannot find their peaceful resting place due to tragic occurrences during their lifetimes. The exhibition calls attention to women around the world whose lives have been taken due to earthly disasters and violent human interaction. We honor the spirits who are trapped between life and death in hopes they may find peace and resolution.

This was the statement for Obake Yashiki (Ghost House), A multi-media installation by Amar Chaudhary, Priscilla Otani, and Judy Shintani at Arc Gallery in San Francisco.

At our closing we were graced with the awesome Butoh dancers, Hiroko and koichi Tamano, who brought Butoh performance to the United States in the ’70s.  They performed with their student troupe Earth Child. Their amazing interpretation of our installation created a whole new way of experiencing the space. Time stood still as they took command of the gallery and we all watch, mesmerized.

I have to say it was a dream come true for me to see my kimonos dancing with the Butoh performers and to have the kimono flowers and leaves thrown in the air, releasing them from their altars. I had to smile when I saw people picking up the pieces as souvenirs.

A gift, a perfect gift.

Bees have buzzed into my life. They are in my mind, my art, my sunflowers, and now I have a piece of their creation in my studio. Sweet fresh honey is dripping and sticky on my art table.

Women friends have brought the bee in my life. Esther would only have beeswax candles in her house. I could see why – they have a wonderful scent and a beautiful glow. Now I too have these in my studio.

Susan Friedman taught me how to coat paintings and sculpture in beeswax, using the encaustic process. It is one of the most lovely smelling mediums to work with, and so fun to dip, pour and paint with the translucent hot wax.

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This week Linda Hettle introduced me to Skye Taylor – the creator of  the Temple Hive. I attended my first hive opening with these wonderful women. It was an extraordinary experience to be in the presence of the sacred buzzing beings. Skye prepared the smoker with sumac, pine needles, while Linda held a rhythm on a drum with the 6 sided hexagon shape drawn on it. Skye pulled out the top bars to reveal beautiful honeycomb. Five of us surrounded the hive and felt completely safe without protective suits.

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At the end of the hive inspection, Skye gifted me with some honeycomb. The smell of wax and honey made out of pollen, permeates my studio. The light and shadows play with the translucent perfect hexagon structure – a mini bee temple. I have no words to fully describe how much I am enjoying it.

Honoring ancestors through art

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What a beautiful offering we created on Sunday! Nine wonderful women came together to focus on an ancestor of their choice in a workshop I facilitated at JFKU, Berkeley. The class was in conjunction with the “Distillations, Meditations on the Japanese American Experience” exhibition that is at JFKU till September 18.

Everyone came in the classroom in a bit of a whirlwind – the traffic, the heat, time, just navigating life to make it there! Yet by the time the participants finished the workshop, I felt the shift that focus, creativity, and sharing can make.

We started with a tour of the Distillations exhibition, focusing on those pieces that were about ancestors. The work in the gallery is done by four Sansei Japanese American women: Reiko Fujii, Lucien Kubo, Shizue Seigel, and myself, Judy Shintani.

The workshop participants shared a bit about their intentions for the art making day. I really value the group that comes together to share the space. It was wonderful bunch of artists of different ages, ethnic backgrounds and art experience.

I led a visualization meditation to help them access some details and clarification for their process and they spent some time journaling to capture what came out of the meditation.

Then I gave a short demonstration on painting backgrounds with acrylic paints and using the glue gun. We were using bases of pizza rounds to create the ancestor mandalas, bringing in the sacred aspects of the circle – wholeness and unity.

Artists spent the next 2.5 hours working on their pieces, integrating photos, fabric, sewing, string, paint, pastels, organic materials, writing, buttons, and paper.

At the end we all shared our works that honored grandfathers, uncles, mothers, grandmothers, home, parents, sisters. I appreciated the stories and the art making, the sharing of love, tears, commonality.

A big thank you to all the participants, JFKU for providing the space and publicity, Jen for putting up great directional signs, Jane for helping me set-up and sharing her wonderful materials, and Shelley for helping me clean up.

Beauty and healing with art mandalas in India

The 16 women, all students of art therapy, have been quietly helping ease the pain of cancer patients, differently-abled children in schools, substance-abuse victims, and the homeless and mentally-challenged women of The Banyan. And they do it all with nothing more than pots of paint, and handfuls of clay. Read more by clicking here.

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.

A gift of time, March 2, 16, 30

Two hours. It doesn’t seem like much. But it is enough time to sew a curtain, restring a necklace, add a face and hair to a puppet, refine a New Year collage, sort through a bunch of photos, work on a grandmother’s needlepoint, and cut out images for a vision board. One person even did exercises from a visual thinking book. These are just some of the projects that participants brought to the “Do Your Own Thing” Women’s Night at Kitsune Community Art Studio.

With our busy schedules, it can be difficult to carve out time for ourselves. The only rule at the drop in night is that participants must NOT bring work, it has to be a project for themselves. As one woman said, “it is a real gift of time. Permission to take time for oneself.”

For $5 donation, not only do you get time and a cozy space for your project, I also provide tea and snacks. The next drop-ins are March 2, 16, 30.

After seeing the value of blocking out these 2 hours, I’m hoping the women will start to integrate more time for themselves in their everyday life.