The Personalities of Cuba

The faces and facades of Havana are never-ending and always fascinating…every street brings a new discovery and a different jolt through the sensuality of color, the sounds of music and the aromas of exotic food. We wandered for 9-10 hours a day with no destinations in mind, allowing our senses to lead us. These photos were taken on our first day out in Havana, a city crumbling in many locations, ravaged by time, yet revealing older textures and paint colors newly uncovered.

 

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Birthday Schmirthday

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I had to have another birthday last week. I am older than I have ever been and still dazed and confused about life much of the time, but doing fine. These birthdays can kill you. There were a couple days worth of celebration; cards, calls and lovely gifts mixed in with a few dark, unpleasant surprises, but such is life. It was a real birthday – real – not quite all love and laughter every single minute all the time. But that’s ok, I am ok and life goes on. Yesterday I had a birthday lunch and movie with a dear friend, tonight I am having a late celebration with an exceedingly important person in my life, and so the birthday beat goes on….beat beat beat, just like a heart.

I ran across several quotes this week that I happen to love so much that I wanted to share them with you. The one on the cover of the black book that I was given just yesterday, in the above picture, is stunningly true, and I know that because I have lived it. I guess we all have.

Here is the second one, from one of my favorite people for wise and wonderful quotes, Maya Angelou :

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”

That can keep you thinking all day long, going over your life and remembering when you might have made that mistake. When you reach the upper birthdays you have probably, if you are getting older AND wiser, weeded some folks out of your days because they are no longer an enhancement to your life, for one reason or another. Life gets short, your days are numbered, you have a sense of urgency about how you will best spend your time remaining. If a certain someone is not ever contributing to the great good, you tend to see less of them, wanting to spend your days in positivity and appreciation for all the things that bring you to a good place, a place of comfort and joy.

Many Thanks to my brother, for sending me one of the most beautiful, original birthday greetings I have ever had. I will keep it and read it every year. Thanks to all my many friends ( including my blog friends whom I have never met) and relatives for remembering me and being the loving support that keeps me going, because it really does take a village, for your entire life. I value your words of wisdom and your ability to make me laugh. I have you in my life because you are all lights in my universe, and we all need to have light. You all influence how I paint, what I write about, what I say in conversation and what I believe in my heart to be true. We are all the sum of many parts, and I am the expression of the sum total of the people I surround myself with. So are you.

But you all probably already knew that, didn’t you?

 

 

The Wisdom of the Ages

  

Photo #1 courtesy of thevirally.com   Photo #2 courtesy of lasplash.com   Photo #3 courtesy of ntang17.blogspot.com

I taught mixed media collage for three years in Lincoln, California, and one of the things I always said to my class was that the first people to ever use the technique of adding texture and three-dimensionality to art were  cavemen and cavewomen. (I am assuming women also contributed to the ancient art on the rock walls inside caves.) Recently new evidence of those artistic mixed media roots has been found in caves.

In the introduction to my mixed media collage class I said this, “Abandon your pre-conceived notions about traditional fine art and begin a mixed media journey where improvisation, freedom from boundaries, self-discovery and originality are valued higher than any predictable destination.” Mixed media painting is a highly improvisational and innovative type of art – a “fly by the seat of your pants” (or paints) type of art. It is pretty much balls to the wall – gaining new ideas as you go and incorporating them into your fast moving composition. It is using what you have at hand and making the most of the world’s simplest gifts.

Texture, pattern and color are the dance. Any degree of sculptural relief – where the painting’s texture comes up off the background in a tactile kind of effect – is much to be desired. Collage papers are welcome; as is any other kind of found object that might add fascination and special interest to the image. There is no order of things – you can start with paint or papers or your collection of found objects. This is Art with Abandon! It is the ultimate art in recycling, using old bits and pieces of things to create fresh, new fine art suitable for framing.

This is not a new idea; people have been doing it for years – for eons of time. The very first cave artists who would now be classified as a mixed media artists were the inspired ones who first drew an image of an animal of some species and then – OMG – then glued some dried grass and other found bits of twigs and earth under the image with wet mud, creating a realistic, three-dimensional mixed media collage scene. Recently they have found just such images – more than one – to prove the extraordinary artistic vision of these very primitive people. Artists also utilized the rough surface and particular colorations of the rock wall itself by choosing to draw on specific locations that brilliantly enhanced their images in both 3-D contour and color. These people were very sophisticated in their artistic talent…very discriminating and wise in their choices.

Can you imagine the cave  mom, as she roasts a hunk of antelope over the fire while being pestered by her hungry family, saying, “Get some charcoal and go draw me a picture on the wall – dinner will be ready soon – now go!” And one person, perhaps just one at first, grabs some grass and a handful of earth and pebbles, then using wet mud left by the rain he/she pastes it under the animals, and in doing so positions his animals in a realistic landscape. Suddenly we have an entirely new artistic concept. Can you imagine how thrilled he/she must have been with that gesture? It gives me chills to think about it.

Many locations around the world have also revealed handprints – hundreds of them. Plentiful and childlike, colorful and animated and most definitely a playful way of passing leisure time and leaving your signature. Children all over the world both in and out of art class do the same today with finger paints, clay, concrete or even mud.

It seems that the more things change the more they stay the same. Art has always been universally appealing and it speaks the language of the ages. Put yourself inside a cave on a rainy day and what are you going to do? Well, paint of course! Or in the evening, by the glow of the fire, waiting for bedtime….you paint about what you saw during the day. The level of detail, the intensity of the hunting scenes – it is just fascinating to observe in the primitive cave art from all over the globe. And if you choose to zero in on the cave art that depicts extra-terrestrial art showing weird Martian-type creatures and what look like space ships, then you will be off and running in an entirely different direction! It does make one wonder, does it not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honored for the Second Time…Denver’s Painted Violin Fundraiser

 

2014VIOLIN 011   2014VIOLIN 003   2014VIOLIN 009

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I am honored and excited to announce that for the second time I have been selected to participate in the Annual Painted Violin Fundraising Event for the Denver Young Artists Orchestra of Denver, Colorado. Each year the committee selects (it is not a contest – artists are invited) about 20 artists to paint, 3-dimensionally, an actual  violin that has been put out to pasture,  all 20 of which are then displayed and available for sale  at a selection of Denver art galleries in a traveling show lasting several months, ending in a gala event. The violins are sent out to artists many months in advance of when they must be completed and delivered, all painted and transformed into a masterful work of art with a theme, back to the committee. They will then be photographed for publicity and introduced to the public at the opening gallery show in the fall of the year.

The Denver Young Artists Orchestra (DYAO) was founded in 1977 and performs at Boettcher Concert Hall in the heart of Denver’s City Center, home of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. “DYAO’s mission is to provide the finest possible youth orchestra programs, inspiring and educating young musicians through the performance of great works of music and offering valuable cultural opportunities to the community.” Excerpted from the DYAO Brochure.

My violin arrived today! It is like Christmas!

The anticipation of opening the shipping box, then the violin case, to meet my particular violin…artists are told to expect anything – including the possibility of pathetically broken pieces of an old violin screaming to be rescued and given a new life. You must be prepared to work with what you get. Some of the creations from past years are quite spectacular – you can see all previous years’ honorees by visiting http://www.paintedviolin.com and/or http://www.dyao.org.

My previous violin, titled Scheherazade, was displayed in the 8th Annual Painted Violin Fundraiser ( see “painted violin” or “Scheherazade” in my archives) several years ago. The circumstances of that occasion are unusual and have almost a fairy tale quality in the way they unfolded for me. I will fill you in on that in the near future because it is a story worth repeating.

This newly arrived violin has been requested for the 12th Annual Event of the 2015-2016 Season. Photographs of the 12th Annual violins will not be available until 2015, so it seems that I have another YEAR LONG PROJECT on my art agenda. (Read about my Year Long Canvas Project in my recent blogs).

The above photos of my BEFORE violin, delivered this afternoon by Fed X, were taken as I opened the box to see her for the first time. I found a gorgeously weathered and worn old, old violin, abundant with character, inside a beaten up black leather case that has tape holding the handle together. The case, lined with dingy, torn turquoise felt (my mother’s favorite color) and laced with cobwebs and sawdust-like material collected in the corners had long been home for my violin. It was love at first sight when I took her out and inspected her. She has been so lovingly used – obviously – proudly – she provided many years of heavenly music. She is not sad, but wears her history like a patina of honor. There is a compartment that opens with the pull of a tab on its lid, and inside is her resin box. Two people have printed their names on her interior felt – COMPTON and HERRMANN – mysterious violinists who obviously put her to rigorous use. And there were probably more that just the two…

I am not permitted, by painted violin rules, to show you my progress on this project. But I will let you all know from time to time what is going on, without revealing any secrets or photos. I feel so fortunate to have it ahead of me. Once again the Art Buddha is smiling on me and my work with this special, inspiring project. I can already feel it.

 

The Creative Epiphany – Film Review, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

 poster image courtesy of linduslist.com

This film, directed by Steve McQueen, was difficult to watch in spite of the fact that I thought I was prepared. I had heard that it was brutal. It is beyond brutal – it is periodically and consistently horrific for almost the entire two hours and fifteen minutes. The story is beautifully filmed, gorgeously depicted, stunning in its impact – but beware the  pastoral southern scenery, moss hanging low over big oak branches and humidity you can almost taste, because something shockingly wicked this way comes.

I am a person who reads, and I read and I read. So I thought I was educated about slavery in the south. I have lived in the south, traveled through the south, toured historic plantations and seen slave cabins, and I have studied the Civil War. All that and more is what took me to see this film. For me it was a question of respect, and the fact that the film is well made. But still, I learned from this film things I had never known and I was given witness to atrocities I had never imagined.

The story is simple – Pre-Civil War, a prosperous and educated gentleman named Solomon Northrup ( played by the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor ) from upstate New York, once a slave, who has a family and has risen above his own early history, is re-captured, sold and enslaved again, for 12 long years, enduring and enduring, with the excuse that the papers granting his freedom do not exist. He experiences some kindness from strangers but then is sold to a slave owner ( Michael Fassbender ) who has slipped from pure and wicked malevolence into sick depravity, and who rules a plantation where even his wife, who has learned from a master, is sadistic and cruel.

Do we really need to see all the ways that a human being can be tortured in films today, returning now to even the old and basic, tried and true methods of cruelty? Is each new film – whether it is portraying battles, war, espionage, man to man conflict – attempting to one-up the ones before in regard to guts and gore? This historically accurate film is based upon a true story – and we learn in text updates at the end what happened to Solomon Northrup after he was eventually freed. Nevertheless, for me, it was a horror story. I could not watch at times, reminding myself that it is a FILM.

The acting is spectacular, the women as well as the men; and the children too. It is a Brad Pitt film, from his company PLAN B productions, and he has a cameo appearance portraying a character who sees slavery as wrong. I read that he is choosing responsible roles these days as his children grow old enough to see his work. Do his children have to see this kind of torture, I wonder? Still, there is Oscar buzz about it and I must say that I think it is an important film – a monumental film perhaps.

I saw the Oprah Winfrey film titled The Butler, in 2013, and I would place this 12 Years a Slave film about slavery, in spite of my shock in watching it, ahead of The Butler. I understand that The Butler, also based upon a true story, was so loosely based that it took liberties and exaggerated the plot to such an extent that the story was greatly altered from the truth. I do not like that, do you?

Should you see 12 Years a Slave? If you know you are lacking in information about this most disgusting period of our American history and you are responsible enough to want to learn what happened, then by all means see it. Please do not take your children who are under the age of 16 or so…and be prepared to answer their many questions in an educated way if you do invite them to see it with you. Be knowledgeable and have books to recommend, because our public school systems are lacking in time and resources to due this subject justice.

For Your Viewing Pleasure,

JABS

The Creative Epiphany – The Historic Denver Perrenoud Building, Where Africa Came Alive for Me

   photo courtesy of  historichomesofDenver.com

        photos courtesy of uptownonthehill.com

Little did I know back in 2003-2004 that this remarkable historic private residence, built in 1810, would play such a pivotal role in my life and my art career. The Perrenoud Building, originally designed and built as a family home at 836 E. 17th Avenue, Denver, Colorado for prominent Denver pioneer John Perrenoud and his wife and three daughters, showcases an eclectic mix of classical elements over an enormous span of six separate family apartments  on four levels. The only fully functioning brass and wrought iron birdcage elevator in Denver still transports residents between floors – and originally there were individual dumb waiters ( small elevators in each private kitchen) which delivered piping hot  meals to all residents from the main kitchen located in the basement. Maids quarters were located in the top attic, and a newly restored ballroom is found in the basement, where originally a speakeasy was hidden away, with blacked out windows and ample room to dance and drink forbidden adult beverages.The main floor atrium lobby rotunda with Italian marble floors and fireplace, is a rare gem of an entry foyer – a towering ceiling, open railings and stairways to all four floors and topped by a spectacular, original stained glass window in blues, depicting angels sitting on a cloud. Can you imagine the fascinating history of this place? Do you get visual images of carriages arriving, parties in the ballroom and the grand life?

Today this glorious residence is divided into luxurious condos, each offering old world living with exotic woods and carvings and a European flare right in the heart of downtown Denver, just a short stroll away from the Capitol Building. One condo was purchased by my dear friend Christine-Mahree Fowler. I had worked for Chris, as I call her, for several years as the director of her art gallery. She told me about her experiences in traveling to South Africa – she listened to me talk about how I had inexplicably loved anything African from a very early age. I clipped photos from Nat Geo and I must have watched BORN FREE a hundred times. I knew all about the Big Five before age five. The friendship took off and we became “partners in crime”, planners of ambitious undertakings, dreamers of dreams. We began to make things happen based upon Chris’s many travels to South Africa, my love of the continent and artistic leanings, and both of our knowledges of marketing, sales and event planning.

Within a short time we had partnered in an import business we named UNBUNTU and Chris was going back and forth to South Africa importing art & artifacts from several reputable sources she already had there; I was painting with an ethnic African theme as if I were indeed channeling visions of people and places I had actually never seen, and we were hosting “invitation only” gallery shows of our collection in her circa 1810, 4th floor condo in The Perrenoud. We were a great success for several key years, attracting local African experts and others who were eager to soak up the culture and learn…. The moral of this story is that things can get done if you are creative, persistent and alive with passion for a plan.

Years have gone by and our respective business careers  have evolved, yet stayed intertwined, into new completely different things yet  they are basically, logically and appropriately the result of those earlier seeds! Chris is now working as a consultant for Africa Adventure Consultants, Inc. assisting people with custom safaris.   visit www.adventuresinafrica.com  She is also writing a blog on that very subject here with WordPress – visit www.africantraveltales by CM Fowler that I highly recommend for its content and elegant style in reporting raw news direct from the bush as well as sophisticated Cape Town, its fine art galleries and shopping, wine country and the scenic South African coastal regions..

I am of course still painting, talking to Chris nearly every day and brainstorming with her on our common cause – saving the culture, animals and people of South Africa. The thrust of our creativity is now placed in the direction of making a difference in South Africa – a continent we both feel passionately about – a cause we feel equipped to lend our energy and devotion. I will be going on my first Safari in 2014, accompanied by art students I have taught and friends I have made through the years. Chris will lead us – having carefully arranged the itinerary and chosen sights and experiences that we have particularly requested. We have both decided that importing African art and artifacts should come to an end – Africa should keep and hold those indigenous treasures dear to its heart and its people. What we will continue to do is to learn, enlighten, participate and assist those people who feel as we do – that Africa’s future is at risk and there is much to be done so that much is not lost…and forgotten.

If you have an interest in accompanying us on safari – any variation of custom safari you might imagine – contact Chris, known by most as Mahree  (a South  African name) and ask for some information. You will find no one better suited to listening to your dream and making it happen for you and your traveling companions.

Mahree Fowler

Safari Account Executive

Africa Adventure Consultants

Tel: 720-612-0802  • Fax: 303-778-0633 • Toll free: 866-778-1089 • Emergency: 720 836-6531

Email: mahree@adventuresinafrica.com Blog:http://www.africantraveltales.com

Website: http://www.adventuresinafrica.com  Find us on: Facebook

 

The Creative Epiphany – Re-opening Doors

Moroccan Door

“There is a time to let things happen and a time to make things happen.” – Hugh Prather

Last week I re-opened the door to a new, deeper friendship with an acquaintance I have had for years but seldom seen. We had lunch, for less than two hours, but it was a such a quality conversation about art, life, etc.  – time well spent in other words  – that I wished it could have continued long into the afternoon. It was a brilliant moment in time, most informative and encouraging, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I learned and how uplifted I felt as a result of that lunch. It was just what I needed and apparently my friend felt the same intellectual connection. I will be seeing more of her. Thanks for your valuable time Jane!

I have recently been concerned with how I spend my time….and I do mean SPEND. It is a commodity that is limited, precious and of great value to me – in regard to time, I am no longer wealthy. Suddenly I am on a time budget because I don’t have forever anymore. Remember when you felt that your life stretched out before you and time was plentiful? Those days are gone for me. A sense of urgency has roughly, rudely, nudged away any comfortable, mental lounging around and replaced it with a “hurry up and do it now” kind of antsy-ness. My new normal state of mind is that I am freshly agitated every single morning, at a time when a lot of people my age are picking up speed with their lack of activity….under the false assumption that they have time enough left to waste.

It is a daily challenge, feeling the urgency of life’s timeline. It is sometimes energizing and other times frightening, or even at certain junctures, downright ridiculous. It is easy to feel foolish about some of the things you find yourself doing. Should I keep my appointment to get a haircut at 1pm or do I have to start planning my trip around the world this afternoon instead? I may not have time for both…

Why don’t I have more stuff on my bucket list? I am missing about a thousand things or more – I need to look around for some other stuff to add and compiling that list will take some time. But I also must save time to paint a great body of work. People are asking me for a third book – I have one lying dormant on my PC right now that could be brought to life with a few breaths of oxygen and a slap in the face.

I haven’t seen my relatives in Ohio for the longest time but I need to see Bangkok. Guilt. What to choose.

So I begin to paint a fresh body of work, wondering how long that will take, measuring NOW against how long it took me when I was relaxed and had time for enjoying the journey. I want to enjoy the journey, I really do, but the stretch of highway I am traveling on is going off the right edge of the map. I know that painting while relaxed is so much more successful than painting in a hurry. But I am….usually….in a mental hurry. I need to smell the roses.

Not ever intending to be maudlin, at least in public conversation, I am usually able to temper my “lack of time terror” with humor and a staunch denial of the numbers of life. The birthdays. The decades. The number of summers I might have left. That’s just way too real for me. I prefer to live in the LA-LA Land part of my brain where I am convinced that the sixties are the new forties and the seventies are the new fifties. I heard that on TV and I want so badly to believe it. HUH? Laughing at that, are you? Wait until you are right there in life….you are suddenly willing to bargain with the devil, the statisticians, the medical researchers and the doubters all at once as the ever growing doom & gloom group they are. Whatever the hell works at keeping the life in my days and the optimism in my years is what I am hanging onto. I actually believe it is almost all mental, but as I say that I look over my shoulder to make sure an unannounced  train is not approaching. Luck certainly plays its part.

Anyway, finding a “new” old friend who speaks my language and lights up my life and who is wise, funny and smart is a true blessing. You are defined in large part by the company you keep and the things you think constantly about, so I am grateful to have a generous handful of quality people around me. The older I get, the more I realize that spending any of my hard-earned time dollars on people who bring me down and contribute less than a quality experience to my precious schedule are sooner or later going to become expendable. Unfortunately I just don’t have hours left in my days for the whiners. If a friend of mine needs help, or a shoulder to lean on, I am 100% in and available, as everybody in my life knows, but if I hear nothing but superficial moaning, groaning and complaining – well then I am sorry but I no longer have the time for that.

Gotta run.