native american

In Times Like These

Sheltering in place does little to protect one from the news of a world spiraling out of control. In times like these, what’s a person to do? 

I thanked Lizard for the wisdom shared last week and moved on to see what would come next through the art oracle! 

With nothing in particular in mind, I pulled out my tower of unfinished mixed media starts looking for something that caught my eye, or rather, imagination. Some of the acrylic “skins” I’d saved brought to mind a swirling cosmos and archaic symbols. They were formed by pouring rivers of (leftover) paint (fluid acrylic paint mixed with pouring medium) onto plastic and letting them merge and dry. 

One of the skin pieces looked like a face, and when I moved it around and set it just so on another piece, it became a person! No more painting was necessary to complete the picture, just an underpainting of an ink wash and some more cut skins for feathers.

poured acrylic skins, dilute India ink, gold acrylic, white gel pen on w/c paper

And then the Indian spirit spoke, in these phrases:

In times like these . . .

I cannot shake the burden that weighs on my spirit.

My third eye opens to see across the abyss of ignorance before me and opens new pathways. . .

My feathers vibrate for peace.

I dance to the drum beats and reed flutes and chanting that vibrates with nature’s currents.  . .

. . .signaling an existence where people care for each other and live in harmony.

My Woods

Trees and skies, that is the theme my group of Muse sisters is pursuing in our art exploits now. There is a beautiful birch tree by our driveway which has been enticing me to paint it’s white bark again. So I got out some Masa paper and wet and crinkled it, and did the thing where you drag your brush along the tops of the wrinkles. . .and instant trees without all the fuss of getting it “right”.

With these mixed media pieces I always poke around til I find something to add that might tickle the imagination. And, well, you’ll see what I found. . .a bit of enchantment.

India ink, fluid acrylics, crinkled Masa paper mounted on w/c paper and collaged on

I like to imagine a walk in the woods

And I’d come upon a native

Or maybe I’d be hidden in a bramble

And he wouldn’t know I was watching

(Though that seems unlikely

It being after all more his wood than mine)

But let’s just say he didn’t see me

And I was the stealthy one

Who picked up his scent of hide skin and smoke

With some tree sap thrown in

And it was I who wondered

What bird offered up its feathers

And they looked like they belonged there

On his head

 

But I’m imagining as a white woman

Who grew up in a house with central heat

And got her clothes from stores

And saw Nature as something altogether different,

Separate and wildly mysterious

And mostly out of reach

Hence my stories about

What might have been

If I’d slept in a teepee

And danced to drumbeats and

Cooked over an open fire

And learned to heal with herbs.

 

But back to the native here

This is after all my woods he has entered

On his horse with his rifle in hand

I do not fear him

He has entered my enchantment

Meet Marsha

With so many homeless folks in our community and such exorbitant rents and low availability of housing, it’s hard to imagine any of our homeless neighbors overcoming the odds against finding long term housing. But it does happen, especially with patience, luck, and the support of programs like The Living Room (TLR) that helps people connect with and take full advantage of the resources. 

So I was delighted that soon after moving with her kitty into her own apartment in downtown Santa Rosa, Marsha was willing to tell me her story so that I could share it. 

I was struck by Marsha’s sweet countenance even when sharing experiences of homelessness and physical illness. She had made friends with the guards and ticket sellers at the transit station who understood that the benches were a safe place to sleep at night. With a chuckle she remembered, “And in the morning me and the others (homeless) would go to the nearby donut shop for coffee.”  She discovered that the solution to not getting your stuff ripped off while you slept was to tie your backpack to the bench. And although she ended up getting pneumonia, a place in TLR’s transitional housing opened up in time and she got treatment. 

You can see more portrait stories like Marsha’s, as different as the women are, in my art show titled This is My Story: Women and Homelessness, currently on virtual exhibition at the Santa Rosa Arts website. I hope you’ll take a look if you haven’t already.

The Native in Me

dakota

acrylic paints and inks, collage, image transfer on coffee baked w/c paper

I like to think I might have Native American blood, (though it’s doubtful).  Maybe then I could feel like a true American? or maybe not. My claim is shaky and based on strange preferences like feathers, drums and repetitive native chants.  Also there’s something about my high cheekbones. . .

My ancestors were settlers, Norwegians who took advantage of the fertile prairie lands of the dakotas.  Perhaps they even read this sign (which I found in an old Look magazine) that read “2,000,000 farms. . .to be had free of cost” and “simply by occupying it”.  I cringe to think of this.  Free of cost to whom? We now know that the price to nature, to human life, not to mention that next most essential staple of human life – culture and tradition – was obscenely high.

My feelings about this, my confusions come to occupy the paper, even as I demonstrate a lesson in aging paper by soaking it in coffee and baking it, using antique ephemera, sepia toned inks, and even image transfer (the native on horseback and the feather).

My Norwegian relatives, the Buskeruds and Loffswolds were “good” people as far as I remember. So I can’t help wondering if they had any Native American friends, and perhaps even a little bit of the native gene pool entered the blood line somewhere along the way?