Thursday, February 23, 2006

The hidden well

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"What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Do you know about Angel Alley?    
Located at 2518 N. Alder Street, Angel Alley was designed and painted by Lilly Yeh and mosaicked by James (Big Man) Maxton in 1991. Inspired by images from the Ethiopian Magic Scrolls, the angels function as protective figures guarding this community that faces countless challenges every day.

For more on Lilly Yeh's passionate ideas and work with community building through art please visit the Barefoot Artists and Leadership for Change.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has a wonderful on line exhibit of Art That Heals: The Image as Medicine in Ethiopia with lots of images of Talismans and Scrolls and text from the book Art that Heals: The Image As Medicine in Ethiopia by Jacques Mercier, Lilly Yeh's inspiration.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

What sustains you?

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Great Grandmother and Grandmother.
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Betty and Little Lani.

Found these old snap shots, scanned them and played in photoshop with delight and abandon. So much fun! Keri Smith asked on her February 10, 2006 blog, "what sustains you?" Something about seeing myself in this lineage is sustaining. Playing with their images, while imaging their lives in urban Chicago, embracing the stories of my grandmother, even as an adult taking delight in play, putting on her roller skates and horrifying my mother. Knowing that I came by my sense of fun and play honestly, sustains me.

"Being an artist... gives you a way of thinking where you don't need all the other things that normally people would think necessary. It's a space where the mind and the self is at the center. So in that way you can sustain yourself with very little." ~Rikrit Tiravanija

I like this idea of the mind and self being at the center, so that I can connect with my world, my dogs, my family from this place in Prospect, and I can feel the connection with my ancestry as well, and all of it sustains me.
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Me and Prospero

Cynthia Korzekwa of Art for Housewives talks about how exercising her senses sustains her. Simple things, like when she was a little girl, visiting her grandmother she’d wake up in the morning to the smell of brewing coffee and baking bisquits, she’d think:  Ah, what a wonderful day!  It's those very simple things that make life special.  

She says:
"Like readymades or found art, aesthetics are all around us just waiting to be recognized.  And their recognition comes  from our senses, or rather, from how our senses have been educated.  Our senses are like invisible threads that help us create a rapport with the world around us.  And their stimulation (or lack of) can change the quality of our daily life.  Senses are not meant to be stagnant.  They’re meant to evolve.  And their evolution is determined, in part, by personal experience…the more your senses are exercised, the more they evolve.     And how can we exercise our senses?" 

Some wonderful, new-to-me links: is a free e-zine filled with creative ideas, inspiring articles, essays, fiction, poetry and art. A place to submit your work and to share your knowledge, from Cynthia Korzekwa's article about altering everything in her life with color and paint, to the very practical column on various mind altering creative practices like drawing from a new perspective, to looking at the world through a pin hole and a magnifying glass. Wonderful stuff here.

If you like folk art, brut art, and art dolls then look at Cher Shaffer's work on Jane' She writes how she created a group of "healing" fetishes that she made to help bring her back to the land of the living after a health problem that left her "clinically dead for about 3 and a half minutes. The figures were the first things that I created after that illness, and I called them Oracles From the Fire." There were seven of them, and they represented aspects of herself that she needed to work with.

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One of Cher Shaffer's art dolls.

This link to Jane' came from eloqui, a wonderful artist and friend in the UK. To see her work and how Cher Shaffer inspired her, please see her artful blog

Saturday, February 18, 2006

14 Secrets for a Real Happy Life!

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Cover of Lani's 14 Secrets for a Real Happy Life

These 14 secrets came out of my practicing the Artist's Happiness Challenges. I will give you the secrets here but if you would like the fully illustrated, suitable-for-printing-out and decorating-your-art-making-space-with version click here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find the 'zine image.

Secret #1.
Find 3 good things every day. Use them in your art. This could be some calligraphy, an old photo, a quote, or a particular color that struck you.

Secret #2
Make everything special. Embellish your life.

Secret #3
Look for Fairy God-Mothers and Angels. You will find them if you look carefully.

Secret #4
Play more often.

Secret #5
Look for the smiling faces.

Secret #6
Wish everyone a happy life.

Secret #7
Find something to love about where you are every day.

Secret #8
Make art every day!

Secret #9
Create time. (This one is magical!)

Secret #10
Honor thy grandmothers as much as possible.

Secret #11
PLAY with the grandchildren as much as possible.

Secret #12
Create beauty with what you have on hand.

Secret #13
Join every day art round robins. Make art with friends. Make art as gifts.

Secret #14
Create a list of secrets for a real happy life and pass it on.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Headin' Down Highway 61

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First of all I love Mississippi. And next to my love for Mississippi I have a deep passion for intergenerational puppet making workshops. I find that working with a variety of generations is an amazing thing to do. You can see all kinds of art and stories flowering organically before you very eyes. So this summer I'll be going down to Mississippi to do an intergenerational puppetmaking workshop for displaced families who remain displaced in southern Mississippi. I'll be co-leading this puppet making / story telling experience for families as part of a summer camp with Susan Anand and we'll be teaching the format to therapists and volunteers as well. Because we will be teaching this workshop, the whole concept could be easily replicated. We will be able to create little seeds of art, puppetmaking, and storytelling. We will be taking time out from sorrow to build resilience with fun and creativity!

If you'd like to help or contribute to this experience, and there are a few ways, such as art or puppetmaking materials, etc. you can click on my website.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Looking for love notes

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So I got up this morning and the first thing I thought of was, "what secret love note from the universe will I find?" And here's what I found in the kitchen window, these beautiful lacey ice crystals.

Then after the morning walk with the dogs (such fun!!!) I got on the computer to do my emails where I discovered NPR's This I believe... Oh my word! A treasure trove of simple, good thoughts, amazing and sweet, heart felt ideas, kind, inspiring...
There is a list of essays here and there are down loads for educators of all kinds here.

I'll include two quotes here:

from Mel Rusnov's The Artistry in Hidden Talents
" I believe in cultivating hidden talents...
...I believe we are more than the inhabitants of our cubicles, more than engineers or even parents, husbands and wives. I believe we are transformed and connected by the power and beauty of our creativity."

Isn't that beautiful? Mel cultivated her own hidden talents, and she looks for this power and beauty it in others, and guess what? She finds it!

from Rick Moody's The Joy and Enthusiasm of Reading
I believe there is not now and never will be an authority who can tell me how to interpret, how to read, how to find the pearl of literary meaning in all cases. Nietzsche says, "Supposing truth is a woman – what then?" Supposing the truth is not hard, fast, masculine, simple, direct? You could spend a lifetime thinking about this sentence, and making it your own. In just this way, I believe in the freedom to see literature, history, truth, unfolding ahead of me like a book whose spine has just now been cracked.

Isn't this just the best? Whew, it takes my breath away.

So have you found any love notes from the universe?

Here's another:
"No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action
leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act
of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the
roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that
kindness does to others is that it makes them kind
-- Amelia Earhart, female aviator

Friday, February 10, 2006

St. Valentine's Day Challenge

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This is a collage based on a Valentine's Day challenge. Here's the challenge: Find a way to create and distribute artful secret love notes. Play with this a bit.

On my morning walk with the dogs, Edward, a neighbor and her dog, I noticed the sparkling frost, the beautiful light, the delighted dogs wrestling and chasing each other across the barrens. I wondered how artful secret love notes from the universe would look. Would they take the shape of the sparkling frost in the morning light, or would they look like Bruzzi, Prospero, and Farley playing happily together? Or maybe there's a note embedded in the small drumming sounds the water makes below the ice that covers the streams.

Now I want to go out tomorrow and find my new secret love notes. What will I find?

What will yours look like?

Monday, February 06, 2006

When a door opens...

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Continuing with earlier posts of Artist's Happiness Challenges (Sept. 2005), this collage was in response to a "happiness challenge" about doors closing and opening. Think about when doors have closed in life and then when doors opened, subsequently. After some thought create a collage on this theme. There is some anxiety about the unknown open door, but a lot of hope and strength come to mind when you actually realize that there have been many doors shutting and many new ones opening. (for a pdf of first 6 challenges, see

On an art therapy e-list, in answer to the idea of looming climate change and out of control human behavior, I suggested we help ourselves fall in love a little more with this earth, with our fellow beings, and even with ourselves. (If I were to start up my own tag game, see previous blog, I would phrase these as questions, how do we...)

Diana Milla said:
1. Lose the telescreen, I mean television. You will suddenly be blessed
with stretches of unstructured (free!) time, you will be surprised to
rediscover a sense of privacy--in your home and in your mind, which will
gradually cleanse itself of soul destroying waste matter. If you need
further encouragement read, or reread, Orwell's 1984.

2. Buy original art that you love, preferably while the artist is still
alive. Trading and creating are good, but buying art is different. Most
fine art is extremely undervalued, while most consumer goods are
outrageously overpriced besides carrying the moral burden of human
exploitation. I can't think of any purchases I've made that have brought
more deep pleasure and lasting value than paintings or other works of
art. No, not wearable art, or other utilitarian art---I mean art for pure
aesthetic enjoyment. When you buy an artwork, its value is increased. I
think that buying art is subversive because only the rich are supposed to
be able to afford it...the rest of us are expected to make do with
overpriced mass produced trash that we mostly don't need and that
diminishes rather than improves our quality of life.

And Christine Doyle of Quebec said:

I think gardening/farming is definitely a great way to "fall in love," as
Lani says, with the earth. And all the food you raise doesn't have to come
by transport truck to your door. A government pamphlet recently reported
that meals, in Canada travel an average of 2500 kms to the plate! Holy
smokes! You might be interested in the writings of U.S. agricultural
economist, John Ikerd. I've blinked his paper "Reclaiming the spiritual
roots of farming." Here's the address: He is
a prolific writer and offers many thought-provoking papers about agriculture and our relationship to land and it's cultivation. I see parallels between the way we cultivate the earth and the way we cultivate ourselves.

It also seems to me that these things are all steps towards becoming whole again. We reclaim our ability to care for ourselves directly, with our own bodies: we grow a garden and feed ourselves; we use home remedies and preventive care to maintain physical health. We devote time to creative activity to nourish our spirit, and help us in the day to day resolution of life problems.


So anyone want to play "Tag, your it!" How do YOU learn to fall in love with this earth a little more?
And with your fellow beings?
And with yourself?"

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Have you been tagged yet?

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Collage by Lani (I'm trying to learn to do that rollover thingy so that this image will eventually change when you run your mouse over it, but we aren't there yet. All advice accepted)

OK, I got tagged by my good friend, the amazing artist, Sally T.
The idea is you list four things in each of these categories and then pick
four more folks to tag. I've embellished my questions slightly because altering and embellishing are FUN things to do! And fun stuff makes me HAPPY!

4 (of the strangest) jobs I've ever had:
• grill cook in a bar in college (missionary parents, grandparents, & extended family never knew)
• teaching puppet making to grand parents and grand kids (wonderful job)
• Nanny in an orphan's home
• slinging hamburgers for Mickey D's (I'm a slow food vegetarian now, hate to admit to this job)

A few more than 4 of the places I've lived:
• Tainan, Taiwan (the best childhood place a person could wish for, dragons, open air markets and street puppet theater)
• Evanston, Illinois (suburban hell for someone raised in Taiwan)
• Greencastle, Indiana
• Seoul , Korea
• Rutherford, NJ (houses and malls as far as I could see. I thought I'd die)
• NYC (not bad, lots of street stuff, art, activity, food, consumption is an art form here)
• Hamilton, Ontario (not too fun)
• Prospect, Nova Scotia (I'm in love)
4 shows I enjoy:
Nope, got none.
If you forced me to watch TV, though, I'd go for the professional fishing shows, nice and quiet. People puttering around on lakes and speaking softly.
Or maybe that channel that burns a Yule log endlessly during the holiday season.

4 (of the strangest or most wonderful) places I've vacationed (in this amazing wonderful world):
• Once took a road trip to Amelia Island somewhere near Jacksonville, Florida, from Greencastle, Indiana, with a couple girlfriends during college. Met the underbelly of the world, camping in a state park down there. Very strange.
• Brazil (stumbled into an elevator that went up inside a rock to a monastery on top of the rock, beautiful and strange because I didn't speak Portuguese)
• Sri Lanka (one of the most wonderful places in the world)
• Rafting down the San Juan River (amazing trip, I love the South West)

4 websites I visit daily:

4 favorite foods:
• Chinese (anything Taiwanese)
• Thai
• Vietnamese
• Anything with chocolate

4 places I'd rather be right now:
• Nowhere on earth, would I rather be, than right here, on the rough Atlantic coastline of Nova Scotia.

4 questions I'd love to answer:
• What inspires your best work?
• What do you most enjoy thinking about?
• If you were completely wild and free, what would you do with the rest of your life?
• Are you deeply happy?

4 bloggers I'm tagging (feel free to alter and play with the above "questions"):
Jen Worden
Caryl Worden
Debra Schanilec
Jenny Ryan