Preoccupied with Concern

The pretty images above were all taken in Singapore, several years ago. Singapore is a lovely, orderly country where there is literally no crime or corruption, where people respect the laws of government and place a high value on history. Singaporeans exist peacefully with each other and their neighbors. The locale is heavenly, the food is fantastic, the architecture is stunning and the people are quite curious about America. The pictures were placed in this blog as eye-candy in hopes that you will read down to the following text.

But these days I am preoccupied with thoughts of destruction. I tried very hard to write something else today but I could not control my seething fingers. I have become so distracted, so preoccupied, almost oblivious to the memories of the way things used to be in our lives, before he was elected. All I see in my future is conflict. I am embarrassed and ashamed of my country for the poor choices we are allowing to be made for us and the new set of despicable values that have become the norm in Washington DC. We have lost our honor, America.

America, bless its ignorant heart, is killing itself. We have become suicidal.

I thought we had become better educated than this. I have become sadly preoccupied with watching America self-destruct as it unfolds in the daily news. There are not enough hours in the day for every single thing that needs our “powerless” attention and our hollow “hopes and prayers”. In a miniscule period, equal to one ten-millionth of the blink of an eye in  the universal scheme of Time, we have lost our democracy to an uninformed, poorly educated, narcissistic, sociopathic, immoral lunatic who takes sick delight in chaos and hatred.

Our fragile world is fish-tailing across time, bobbing and weaving under the pressure of the increasing number of internal negative elements whose common purpose is to take us to our knees and render us helpless to change anything. The path of destruction widens daily as new levels of insidious corruption and malfeasance reveal themselves. Things have always been dicey on this planet; no consistent certainty of which side is winning during the time of our existence. But now… these days, it seems clear that the good side is losing. Before I was preoccupied, I woke up optimistic about humanity. Now a disproportionate portion of my waking hours are spent in terror of what is unfolding right before my eyes.

I am ashamed of my government. It no longer stands for the greater good. It is infested with greed and corruption and hunger for power in epidemic proportions, destroying our foundation in methodical precision. As if by hoards of ravenous grasshoppers on a rampage, we are being chewed down and eaten alive by our elected officials, leaving a barren path of nothingness; devoured by politicians who are getting fat and sick on rage, revenge and the new Republican mantra of apathy toward the people who elected them. Do these people in Washington not have children and grandchildren? Where is their vision for the future? What sense of responsibility do they have, other than to their own egos? For all this their dark legacy will be remembered; they are the destruction-ists.

If you are a person who cannot see it, you are more than just blind; you are self-absorbed, in denial, numb to the truth, ignorant of past history or too lazy to care. You are not preoccupied enough with the current state of affairs. You must fortify your courage and read about this phenomenon. You must be informed. You need to know what we are losing on a daily basis and define just what it is that you personally believe is worth fighting for, not abstractly but in the bloody trenches. Do not remain blind, deaf and dumb to history being made in the daily decisions of ignorant fools.

Major accomplishments that have taken decades to put in place are being vaporized right before our eyes. Not only basic human rights and privileges for every human being, but environmental protections critical to our planet’s survival. Water and air are becoming more and more contaminated but clean water and fresh air are no longer considered a basic human right. Education loses and guns win. Poverty and hunger remain as ostentatious military parades are planned. Parks and national treasures are being destroyed and dismantled for the sake of more oil and minerals. Walls are built and fear is mandated. Does this sound like it could be a description of North Korea or Russia?  Germany during WW II? Hell yes it does, but it is happening here in America.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that a handful of treacherous men and women in high places have taken it upon themselves to promote, follow and enable a warped and perverted leader in the process of accomplishing his murderous agenda.

How can we allow this to happen?

What is wrong with us?

Must we allow everything to be torn down in order to see the light again?

History is always our teacher; nothing good can come from this.

 

 

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Ten Great Discoveries about Singapore & Siem Reap, Cambodia

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During our recent trip to these two enticing places we experienced a number of amazing things and had our eyes opened to sights we will never forget – the glitz and glamour of orderly, polite, uber-wealthy Singapore in stark contrast with the crumbling ruins of mysterious Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia set amid the poverty stricken, red dirt countryside  that surrounds that site.

Sometimes, however, it is the smaller discoveries on a trip that stick in your visual memories and linger in your heart and soul. My traveling companion and I are both artists and I am a writer – we cannot even comprehend how NOT to be visually oriented. We take thousands of pictures; we describe scenes, light, color, people and smells using a different vocabulary known only between the two of us…we store away ambience, mood, a fleeting happening there or a dialogue overheard here that will later fuel a painting or a paragraph in the book I am writing. We absorb everything, keeping it all in the loft of our minds for later use.

Here are ten things both large and small that impressed us, amid the hundreds of overwhelming experiences we had:

1) In the Singapore airport there is a special dimmed area of grouped reclining chairs for the purpose of giving travelers a place to sleep. Such a civilized, valuable addition…

2) In a different area there is a long table, supplied with free paper and crayons, where children and adults can do colorful rubbings of raised designs – perhaps a dozen or so  – in various Singapore-related images. It is easy, it is fun, and for weary travelers it is certainly a welcome change of pace.

3) All over Singapore on various street corners you will notice a lattice-roof area which shelters a sort of courtyard perhaps as large as your living room, with sturdy wires, arranged in a grid, hanging down about 20 inches with hooks on the end, and each hook is numbered. What could this possibly be, I ask ? Well of course these places are there for people’s caged household birds, so that they can enjoy an outdoor afternoon.

4) Do not go to Singapore without eating Chili Crab – it is messy, best eaten outdoors, perhaps at a restaurant along the water. Spend a long, leisurely amount of time for this dinner; it is an experience! Bring friends; keep ordering food.

5) Go to the Marina Bay Sands resort hotel in the city, have a cocktail on the top floor and take in the view, but sneak around to the infinity pool (that is  just for guests) – you must have a good look at it!  The pool is located on the top floor, visually losing its edge as you swim, and the top of this building, at closer glance, is the shape of a long, sleek ship balanced atop a logic-breaking skyscraper in three sections. It is the iconic image one remembers of Singapore.

6) Siem Reap is a short flight from Singapore to the sweltering interior of Cambodia.You are transported to another time and place. Hit your re-set button and dial it down a bit so that you can understand and appreciate the wonderful people there and what their brutal recent history has dealt them. Buy things – they depend upon tourism and they have lovely silver jewelry. Talk with the people – they are hungry for information from the outside world.

7)  If you are not faint of heart get yourself an authentic Cambodia massage. Lovely wafer-thin young women who cannot weight more than 70 lbs will walk on you, pull your limbs until you fear they will come off, bend and twist you like a pretzel and give your muscles a wake-up call the likes of which you have never experienced.

8) The most expensive restaurants in Siem Reap are not necessarily the best – you can have a gourmet Cambodian meal for about $12-15 per person, beautifully presented and delicious. The fruits and vegetables are delightful.

9) Do not spend less than two days touring Angkor Wat – if you do you will miss a lot and you will not be getting all the history and information you need in order to comprehend the vast importance of the ruins. It could not have been possible to construct such an enormous complex of temples and buildings were it not for the 40,000 elephants who hauled the stone.

10) Embrace the immense curiosity evident everywhere you go for the United States. People crave conversation – they want to understand you, where you live, what it is like there and why you came. You will love the people.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Museum and Temple in Singapore’s Chinatown

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http://www.btrts.org.sg/english-home

photos taken in May, 2015 on my second trip to Singapore, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott

It matters to me not what your personal religious beliefs and proclivities might me – there are places on earth made for the enjoyment of all people anywhere and any time. If you are unable to gain even some small satisfaction or comfort and appreciation from them, then read no further. But if you keep and open mind and heart, then read about this place that warms my soul.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Museum and Temple holds a special place in my heart, for reasons I may never fully understand. My second visit there happened this month and was more moving than the first.  Part of the reason is that I am a person who values deep connections with people, places and things. Familiarity is of great value to me; I build upon my visual memories, smells and tactile experiences by getting to know things better and better.

When a great Buddha dies he is cremated, leaving bone and teeth remnants (and perhaps other remains) that are considered sacred and holy. But even during his lifetime, fragments of hair, for instance, are bestowed upon people who deserve to have that remembrance of a great Buddha with the possibility that it could make a difference when needed the most. Thus there are various temples around the world which house Buddha fragments of some type or another. This relatively humble 4 story temple in Singapore’s Chinatown houses a tooth fragment, displayed in a two meter tall, solid gold stupa which is a draw for many people. The temple is always crowded with visitors and there always seems to be some fascinating ceremony or mass reading going on which adds to its energy and colorful nature. Monks in saffron robes chant, incense burns and offerings of only the most fresh and perfectly beautiful fruit line the alter.

The roof garden pagoda on the top level affords a near silent respite from the action below – and you enter its enclosed peacefulness through a door that shelters a giant red prayer wheel, one of the most beautiful I have seen, and immediately you are invited to spin it as you walk around it murmuring your most fervent hopes, thanks and wishes to the universe. A red columned hallway surrounds the inside garden where gurgling water is the only sound, flowing amid lush, multi-colored foliage and flowers. This is a place of privacy and hope. A place to bring friends who you care the most about.

Buddhism, as you probably know, is not a true religion but a way of life that, among other things, places value on every living thing no matter how humble or even how grand. No matter what you believe personally, if you can embrace just that one thought, you must be on the right path. Wars could be a thing of the past….if only….we all believed that one thing.

The Anticipation of Travel

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Malaysian Dusk  and  Bangkok Moon, mixed media by Jo Ann Brown-Scott copyright 2015

You know how I feel about creativity and stoking the fires to keep it smoldering – always awarding yourself with fresh experiences – feeding the creativity beast gourmet delights so that it will return to your work table and want to spend time with you. Travel is,  to me, one of the finest sources of creative stimulation. Travel is a luxury we can all afford if you define it as a departure from your normal routine that takes you out and away from your home headquarters. Therefore a trip down the block is travel, an excursion to a nearby city is travel, even a hike in the woods or watching a movie is a version of travel. You just need to get out of your own mind for awhile and experience new visual surroundings. I do all of that and more…..it is part of my job description as an artist and writer.

But this time I am headed to more distant horizons. I am traveling to the far regions of southeast Asia – Singapore in fact – for the second time, and my side trip during this trip will be to Siem Reap, Cambodia for three nights to visit Angkor Wat. I am traveling with a dear friend, also an artist, so I am going to experience double happiness. We will stay with my daughter and her husband who live in Singapore ( http://www.compassandcamera.com ) and therefore we will have a resident guide for every move we make, and we will be making some major moves.

I will love seeing Singapore again through my friend’s eyes – the spectacular cutting-edge architecture, the glitz and sparkle of the immaculate, well-mannered Singapore, along with its quaint and colorful shop houses in the older sections of Chinatown, Arab Street and Little India. Then on to the massive ruins of Angkor Wat , one of the ancient wonders of our world, now overgrown with gnarled tree roots and steeped in mystery. This is my favorite vacation contrast – the precious against the poor – the opulent compared to the common. It rounds everything out and gives you a conscientious balance. It jolts your senses and keeps you humble, seeing what has gone long before and what is happening now. You can’t have one without the other.

Creatively speaking, this makes for a rare and wonderful experience. The last time I traveled to Singapore I came home and painted a body of work based upon my  trip, capturing my visual, sensory, auditory and olfactory impressions of how it felt to be there. I was on such sensory overload that I could not sleep. Remembering the sights, smells, noise and food aromas of just the wild and wonderful Chatachak Market in Bangkok, for instance, fed my creativity for days on end.

Travel is the closest we can get, as human beings here in the 21st century, to time travel as it is explained by physicists and scientists  – living backwards or forward in time, almost in a parallel universe to our own and finding it remarkably exotic and foreign to your senses. Yet confined to this one planet. The big blue one. I highly recommend it for your enlightenment, your creativity and your fun.

For the Love of Art….

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Photos from my trip to Singapore, included here as a humble reference honoring my imaginary art Buddha.mantwo   photo 4 (3)

In the slaughterhouse of love they kill only the best, none of the weak or deformed. Don’t run away from this dying. Whoever’s not killed for love is dead meat. – RUMI, 12th century poet

First let me say this – HUH??? I have no idea what caused the spike in my stats yesterday and today but I like it – after 150 posts and a lot of fun, I was still not getting enough traffic. I am clueless – maybe someone else knows why I suddenly jumped the charts, but I don’t. I suspect a glitch in the record keeping of some kind….we all know that WordPress can do crazy stuff sometimes. If it is indeed a real phenomenon that increased my viewership then thanks from the bottom of my heart. I needed that. I am passionate about art – and I write for the love of my art and yours. I am so grateful for your attention.

It is almost the end of August and I am looking forward to a great Labor Day weekend. I have plans. Always flexible and always spontaneous, yes, but I do have some specific plans which can altered and enhanced along the way if need be. I do not plan to paint this weekend. I reworked 3 old paintings last week and made them sing again. I feel like that was a huge accomplishment. I totally ignored the YLC……but not really…..

I made a rogue decision about the YLC – the year long canvas. (See my archives for the whole crazy story with pictures if you have no idea what I am referring to – briefly it is an assignment from my advanced contemporary abstract painting  instructor, whom I admire very much, for me to work on one particular painting on and off for an entire year. Constantly adding new things, covering up some older things, taking it along a path of evolutionary change….and this painting of mine is just 6 months into that challenge.) As I wrote a couple blogs ago I am happy with the painting as it is right now – so happy in fact that I have decided to enter it into a large Denver gallery show. Yes I have decided to do that even though the painting is just halfway through its year and of course it will change again…. It’s a juried show, so my YLC might not be juried in, and I am gritting my teeth, putting my open self right out there with this entry and I will share the results with you – and I am not fond of rejection – so if the painting is not accepted then I will lick my wounds in front of a large audience and just take it home and continue to work on it. If it is accepted then it will be for sale, of course, and I run the risk of someone wanting to buy it. So I have to be willing to sell it and bring the entire project to a splendid, kind of fireworks-like conclusion. The price? I have not decided but it will be based upon my comparable work, in size and complexity, that I have sold before.

Why do this? Because I like to shake things up – I am an art adventurer, a risk taker, a constantly curious live-in-the-moment kind of person and I am anxious to see what happens. You know the art Buddha would be proud of this squirrely move. He would smile and nod and his eyes would twinkle with delight. He loves moves like this, but of course he makes no predictions and he is fine with whatever happens because it is all just another lesson in the life of an artist. There is no failure, there is only enlightenment. There is only the love of the doing. The enormous passion in the act of creating. And only the strong survive.

As we near the opening of the show I will keep you informed, provide some links, tell you where, etc – but I will be delivering my entries next week – yes I will be entering at least 2 pieces, maybe 3.

Wish me love and luck, OK?

 

Singapore, George Clooney, the Arctic Circle and Food

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Tomorrow is my Monday art class – advanced abstract expressionism. If you are following you know by now that I have been offered the odd assignment of working on one canvas for an entire year. Oh I do other canvases too, but I use one of them as a 365 day continuing, living breathing project that I vow to keep working on whether I want so badly to finish it or not. Yes I accepted the challenge. Yes I sometimes feel that I am nuts to have done so. You have read all of my speculation about the why’s and wherefores of this project (check my archives) – I am sure you could offer some new ideas I have not yet considered about the lessons to be learned from doing this.

What I do know for sure is that I am not a person who gives up easily or is likely to give it anything less than my best effort. I believe that when you commit to something you keep at it until it is no longer for the good of any one thing or person – it has turned sour, in other words. I don’t foresee that happening with this project – there is just so much to be learned from it.

But I do want to think about other things besides THE CANVAS. It is a big world out there and whatever I choose to fill my free time will support, inform, guide and feed my art projects – all of them. I am working on several things at once, parallel with THE CANVAS. Life goes on, all around them.

Today some of my thoughts are on Singapore, for instance, and a trip I made there last fall. I cannot get Singapore and Bangkok off my mind – in a good way. I miss them. I want to go back. I learned a lot while there. The entire journey was eye candy for me, but I also learned a lot about Asian people, Asian food, legends, Buddhism,Monks and relic tooths and Jim Thompson textiles and silk worms, temples and markets and the Asian art of foot massage. What an exotic trip. Thanks to my lovely daughter who was my tour guide, and knows the area well, my simple mind was loaded up with layers of complexity. That is what travel does.

I am also thinking about that rascal George Clooney, who is astoundingly, enthusiastically and actually voluntarily engaged to a lovely woman who is finally, I believe, a person with brains as well as beauty. For all of us (girls mostly) who have been fascinated with him from afar, this is something that has captured our attention. This will be interesting, watching the progression, from sworn, dyed-in-the-wool bachelor to husband……would love to have been a fly on the wall when gorgeous George changed his mind and had his epiphany.

One of the best meals I ever ate was at the Turkish café pictured above, located in the Arab Street section of Singapore. I am thinking about food (I am starving and ready for a meal right now) and how it unites us all in its never-ending daily preparation ritual. You are fortunate to have it and lucky be you if you can enjoy the luxury of  choice, answering your cravings and satisfying your palette. If you have a well stocked pantry, I consider you wealthy. If you ever watch the National Geograhic TV show called “Living Below Zero” about Americans who live near the Arctic and must hunt caribou, bears, fish, goats etc , for survival, you are probably as impressed as I am with their strength and courage. Their pantries are well stocked or not depending upon weather, ammunition, deadly accurate shots and absolute luck, plus their own ability to trek way out into the wild and cut up and haul back whatever they shoot. I know that I could never do that.

Back to George Clooney – he does great things in Africa. And she is a brilliant lawyer based in London who deals in Humanitarian issues. Perfect.

Aren’t you fascinated by what other people do?

 

The Creative Epiphany – Seems like a Pattern Might be Forming

stairs  If you are a junkie for the sensuality of color, the allure of textures both worn and shiny new, and the perfectly fascinating personality of various patterns, then you must take a look here. I am an artist – I paint. I am especially passionate about color, texture and pattern which are always present to a certain degree in my artwork. I just returned from a trip to Singapore and Thailand – can you imagine my delight, observing such magnificent color, such tactile and time worn textures and such intensely busy pattern?  I was on such a happy/goofy level of sensory overload the entire time I was there that the culture shock of coming home was evident to me on so many levels…I flew through Seattle back into the states…and it was raining and gray….coming home…leaves gone from the trees…winter.

In this photo gallery I hope you will notice that this much color and pattern and texture brings a joyful response from your senses, a few audible WOW’s I hope – yes it is a lot to see all at once so take it in small doses if you’d like – but please do accept these pictures as a sign that the world can still present you with visual delights that make your heart race. Surprisingly the restaurant shophouse entry with white chairs, so uninhibited in color that you might suspect it of being Mexican, is actually located on Arab Street, where some of the most fun and friendly people greeted us. The ornate temple facades, reminiscent of icing on birthday cakes (no disrespect intended!)  are of course from the Grand Palace grounds in Bangkok where the three-dimensional tiny mosaic pieces are not much larger than your thumbnail. The gorgeous mural at the top of the stairs in the first photo is in the entry foyer of the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok.

Have a look – I hope I will detect a smile of pleasure on your face. If it makes you dizzy, enjoy the ride.

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mosaic  monks   flowers  mantwo

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