The healing power of art and how it informs us

Ancestor Guide

It seems so simple: write an intention, make art, and journal. It may appear to be an easy practice – so easy that you wonder, “Why do it? What could I possibly get out of it?” Well a lot! Continue reading “The healing power of art and how it informs us”


Ocean inspired art creates healing environment at Alta Bates Hospital, reception 5/10


I’ve created five new sculpture pieces which will be displayed at a show called


Included in the show are:
Photographs by Jamie McHugh
Photo art by Tara Gill
Collages by Susan Adame
Sculpture by Judy Shintani

May 10 – July 10, 2008
Always open

Artists’ reception Sat. May 10, 5-7 pm

Community Art Gallery
Alta Bates Summit Medical Center
2450 Ashby Ave, Berkeley

This show offered some interesting parameters for me. 1)Fit an ocean theme – which is not too far fetched for me, as you may know if you have seen my work 2) The pieces had to fit in plexiglass cases that are 29 x 29 x 29 inches and on 43 inch pedestals 3) The work could not touch the top or sides of the cases 4) The content of the work could not be political in nature or contain nudity.

I typically do not like too many guidelines in my work. Much of my art just appears – it tends to be very intuitive. But this time, why not go with it, I thought.

I decided to let the parameters guide me. I took advantage of walking down to the beach for my materials. The searching and the gathering was very meditative and actually fun. I wanted very much to touch each piece that I would use in my work. I wanted to select each and every sea shell.

Working with the shells also became a meditative process. Very much like putting together puzzle pieces. What shapes fit? totemsNot only the contours of the shell, but also the thickness had an affect in how the total piece felt in my hands. I created these fetish pieces to represent and create a bond with the Ocean Spirit. They remind me of African and native totems and also milagro wooden crosses. I wish the pieces could be picked up and experienced. The shape and smoothness of the mosaiced driftwood has a very soothing and pleasing feel. They have a very grounded nature about them.

I thought about how each shell has been tossed and turned in the waves of the ocean, day and night. How she has nurtured the fragments for me so they could come together to form a piece of art which I think has a different sort of beauty. Art created from the broken pieces, the skeletons, the pieces of an ocean creature’s outgrown abode.

hanging shells

The hanging piece has a stillness and delicate nature to it. Each hanging strand of shells is made up of nine pieces. The strands are suspended from a wire chair that I salvaged from my friend Chip’s yard. The shells are reminiscent of the way that oysters are hung as they are growing. This is a tip of the hat to my ancestors who were oyster farmers in Washington. I enjoy the shadows cast by the shell strands intermingled with the wire structure. Shadows can be so beautiful – I often look for them in my work. A wonderful surprise happened when I took the piece outside and the wind interacted with it. A wonderful swaying and movement occurred, and with that also came a delightful tinkling of the shells. The motion
reminded me of the rhythm of the waves.

shellbellyLastly, I created a piece that I’m not sure I will get to show. This is because of the nudity issue. I created a beautiful Venus like creature. She is put together with shells I gathered in Half Moon Bay, ones Ander and I picked up on our camping trip to Deep Ravine, and mostly shells collected over the years by my friends Charlene and Joan. Their shells are from their trips to Mexico and the Caribbean. I felt honored to have received their shells for my birthday, to use in my work. They are especially precious since Joan just recently passed away. All the joy and fun and wonder with which these shells have been collected, come together to be used in a piece which incorporates the female form. The canvas is the body of a mannequin. A NUDE mannequin! So we will see if this beauty will make it into the show. If not there, I’m sure she will show up someplace else soon!

What I am really hoping is that my process comes through to the viewers at the Hospital. I hope they will ponder and fantasize about being at the beach picking up all these shells while hearing the waves as they come in, the seagulls flying overhead. I have not seen all the work of the other artists, but we will bring the healing nature of the ocean to the gallery lobby for a couple of months. May the patients and the employees enjoy it.