covid

(imagine)Post Pandemic Revelry

It requires a sturdy imagination to soldier through these days of shelter-in-place, for those of us who have the good fortune to be able to, that is. I started out at my art table, painting water shapes of birds and adding colors to the water as I worked my way around the paper. The source material was an article in National Geographic about “Why Birds Matter” with pictures of some of the most flamboyant birdlife. By the end it seemed they was celebrating something.

fluid acrylics on w/c p

Ah! Imagine . . .

The post pandemic revelry

Of pent up desires 

To shake tail feathers

To sing and dance together

. . .TOGETHER! again!

To share unfiltered air

Kiss the warm cheek

Hug the big belly softness

Drink the unmasked radiance

. . .of a SMILE!

I like to imagine the freedom of being a bird right now, especially when I’m eating my lunch, sitting in their flight path next to the fountain/bird bath. (Of course they have their own avian viruses at times), but I’ll enjoy their unmasked flights, their social songs and raucous bathing.

It helps, until such time as I can hug my human friends again!

Meet Isabel

I first met Isabel a couple years ago when I first started volunteering at The Living Room. I was allowed to sit in on the close “knit” group of women who were knitting, crocheting and doing other fiber arts projects (back in the day when it was possible to sit close around a table inside in cold weather).

The group was composed of women who had been or were homeless or otherwise at risk. The leader was a much loved woman named Mary who came with supplies and participated equally in the free flowing conversation.

In the hour plus that I was there I sketched like mad to get as much of the action as possible, while absorbing the feeling of intimacy, comradeship and healing generated by this group.

With very little time to put color on, I splashed it on where it was most evident. The colorful woman in the middle was Isabel, and I hoped I would meet her later and be able to do a portrait story. Isabel was very private, but finally agreed to tell me something about her life for the portrait project.

Isabel’s is a story of great endurance, and one which was not easy for her to tell. It involves so much loss, discrimination and unfairness, yet she has found her way.

The knitting group has not been able to meet since the Covid outbreak, and access to zoom for these women is not generally an option.

However the Living Room continues to find new ways to engage with women and children at risk. Each time I stop by, I hear of their new efforts to adjust to the challenges of pandemic times. 

To see more of my portrait stories from The Living Room visit the This is My Story: Women and Homelessness gallery on the Santa Rosa Arts website

 

Autumn in the garden

watercolor in 8X8″ Field Watercolor Journal, hand.book paper co.

I’ve had my eye on this corner of Pat’s garden for weeks now. The lichen covered swinging bench and the backdrop of colorful trees and bird sculptures. There was almost an hour to spend gazing at it and developing a strategy, so I moved things around a bit in a rough pencil sketch and then went for it with direct watercolor.

And here’s a glimpse of the scene. . .

With more time I would have put lots more detail, but my friends were there, and you know how desperate we all are to be with each other in the 3D, or “real life” as we call it, masked and all, but in flesh and blood, talking about life with Covid and with Art. 

Doomscrolling Addictions

Where are you concentrating your doomscrolling activities these days? Fires? Other global warming environmental disasters? or Covid numbers,  and changing protocols, openings, closings, etc? Politics and the upcoming election?

Here in California we’ve become intensely focused on the colors in our skies and the effects of smoke on our health. Meanwhile I have developed a fascination with all the colorful interactive maps, particularly of fire events and Covid outbreaks, all of which are continually updating. I got to the point where I was seeing dots of red and orange everywhere. Time to do an art treatment!

All the fire dots were on the west coast and the majority of Coronavirus hot spots in colleges were in the eastern half of the country. So I decided to draw a map of the U.S. and paint black around it. Then I punched out red and orange dots and used an acetate overlay to position the Covid outbreak dots.

Putting them all together here, along with some labeling, I arrived at a crude but nevertheless satisfying result of my day’s doomscrolling.

The Map of My Country Has an Outbreak of Acne

I see spots everywhere

Red dots (and not all republican)

Outbreaks so numerous

They’re beginning to merge

The borders are closed

No one wants us any more

With no escape I wear this country

Like my body blemishes and all

I’ve moved on now to an obsession with checking the air quality index of cities and towns all over the west coast that are burdened with smoky atmospheres from unhealthy to hazardous throughout the day.

Well, that and keeping my son fed. Andrew is home now and in quarantine for a few more days after traveling from New Jersey. Not a bad deal. Kind of like a bed and breakfast plus lunch and dinner and no dishes to do. But we’re looking forward to having some good in-person family time, and then maybe I’ll drop some of the . . .you know.

Twilight Zone

If you live around here, it’s likely your mind is running those opening notes to The Twilight Zone. This is the scene that many of us in fire country woke to this morning.

8:30am

Quite lovely actually, and cool air with not a hint of smoke. .  .down here anyway. But so strange, and a bit ominous.

And a great opportunity to find a way to wrap the art around it. My Muse friends have accepted a challenge to work with black gesso and develop it into a mixed media work these two weeks. Here’s how I began:

black gessoed stencil design on white paper, finished with solid gesso

Then I pawed around in my mountains of collage materials, cut some things out, and started to feel a story coming when I found two main pictorial elements:

Orange moon at night, orange sun all day

Salmon-heavy skies turning day into almost night

How is an owl to find his way

In this strange unbalanced world

Where humans have been tampering       for so long

To make it better         they say

Better for whom?

How are you faring in this present twilight zone?

Under the Freeway

When the smoke from the fires gets bad, I stay inside with the windows closed. But what can one do when the inside is your car or a tent or nothing? And a concrete overpass doesn’t even really count as a roof.

Since The Living Room closed its day shelter portion in March, due to pandemic risks, the staff has been going out to the homeless encampments to bring necessities and to offer case services. 

There are several organizations visiting the homeless encampments in Santa Rosa with supplies and services. This sketch tells the story of Silvia, the outreach manager from The Living Room, out on the trail with her wagon of supplies, a listening ear and a lot of experience with helping people find housing. 

I can hardly believe how quickly The Living Room is adapting to the needs of the homeless community since the Covid crisis began. They have doubled or tripled the number of people served. They are helping more people find shelter while opening new transitional living houses with casework services to help women and children secure permanent housing. In addition to Monday through Friday hot meals served through the window, they will be opening a food pantry as a satellite to Redwood Empire Food Bank.

Calling All Angels!

Recently, on one of those days when it seemed that the world order is coming apart at the seams, I was going through a stack of unfinished Muse paintings, and found this. It was a demo I’d done on smoke painting.  And the words “CALLING ALL ANGELS” came to mind. I felt like doodling, and well, here’s what came of itcallingAllAngels

smoke painting, Silver Fox and Golden inks applied with nib pen on w/c paper

In despair after a breakfast spent doom-scrolling, I contemplate sending out an  all points bulletin. Calling all Angels!

What I have in mind is something like cupids shooting enchanted arrows, exploding our hearts and waking us up. A heavenly chorus of One Love, One People!  

BUT what if, in their all-knowingness, the heavenly quidditch players take a different approach, arm themselves with flame throwers, grab tear gas canisters (readily available in police stations), and proceed to annihilate the evil and ignorance we have become! (Hurricanes, floods, tornados, earthquakes and fire would do the trick too.)

On second thought, maybe don’t call the angels.

I guess that means we have to figure out how to rectify the damage we’ve done. . . the hard way. . . as bumbling humans.

If you want to try out this smoke painting technique, it’s pretty easy, and there’s lots of examples and directions on previous blog posts.

Meet Vivan

This week I invited myself over to one of The Living Room’s transitional shared living houses so that I could visit with friends I’d made while doing their portrait stories last year.  Those of us who went to the day shelter on a regular basis, participants and volunteers, have been missing the sense of community we enjoyed there while eating lunch, attending groups or sitting in the garden.

Vivan

I got to check in with Vivan and ask about her life with Covid. She spoke of her odyssey from Sloan House to Astro Motel to Sonoma State emergency housing, until finally a spot opened up for her at this shared house. Even with all the changes she’s been through, she still has the optimism and energy I remembered. She’s in line for permanent housing soon and plans to finish her books of stories and cookbooks, and eventually have her own food trucks.

Her comments about pandemic life could have been anyone’s. “I feel stuck here. I’m not out walking and am gaining weight.” And then she teared up to say that the pandemic had destroyed her chance of visiting her dad this year, which would be the first possible time since 2013.

If you haven’t seen my exhibit of the portrait stories : This is My Story: Women and Homelessness, you can view it now on the Santa Rosa Arts website.

And visit The Living Room to find out more about what they’re doing now and how you could help.

Meet Victoria

Victoria is one of the first ladies I met a year and a half ago at The Living Room. She was in the knitting group and later I would see her in the art groups. One day she told me about her connection with Homeless Action, a group of grassroots activists in Sonoma County working towards ending the suffering of people who do not have a home. She was particularly involved in the legal struggles to protect homeless people on the streets from being arrested when they had nowhere else to go.

Her story is one of the most remarkable I learned when doing this portrait project.

Victoria

Victoria would come to the art group that Ruth and I led on Fridays. Sometimes she would burst into song and others would join in. After doing some art play sometimes we would do a free write, like I do in Muse Groups. Hers always revealed a quirky sense of humor that would keep us laughing.

One day she brought some aged wooden shingles she’s picked up in a construction trash pile, and we gave her the paints she wanted so that she could paint the madonna on one. When the others saw what she’d done, they wanted to try it too. The madonna is still in my car and she asks about it. I’m happy to hold onto it and the blessings that flow from it until she has a more permanent living situation.

Victoriapandemictimes

I have lost touch with my friends who, before the pandemic I would see on my weekly visits. So you can imagine that I was relieved to see her on one of my trips to the The Living Room after the pandemic started.

I sat with her on the roadside while she ate her lunch. She’s still in the shared living situation and involved with yet another group serving homeless people: SAVE Sonoma Applied Village Services and, due to being in the high risk (virus)category, does what she can by phone. But her current housing is time limited and she fears what will happen next, when there is so little permanent housing available, a problem she knows well.