Thursday, September 29, 2011

Creating something big

It's Latino Heritage month and that's something worth celebrating all year long. Latino artists have a great tradition of murals and it's thrilling to create something big and lasting with people you've just met. I've spent a good part of this year traveling around by plane to Arizona, Chicago and Kentucky, in a car with my map all over Minnesota, a library bus in Dubai, by bike here in California and even on foot. Visiting schools, libraries, cultural events, concerts, and neighborhoods. After all that coming and going I realize that authentic Latino spirit is central to the soul of America. We are part of the colorful threads, woven into the fabric of this great place.

I know I'm traveling under a lucky star as those threads have connected me to some very inspiring people. At a conference in Alabama I heard a powerful talk by Irene Romsa who created a unique literacy outreach project for kids called Rincon de Cuentos. Yesterday she sent this video artfully put together by Mark Grant. It celebrates the people of Fort Collins, Colorado, their enthusiasm for art and strong sense of community. Painting a mural with them was like sharing a picnic on a richly woven sarape for long hours, then enjoying a memorable meal followed by great conversation with family and friends.
Have a look at this library mural project.
There's another wall waiting in Chicago so next June I look forward to connecting with that community and creating something big.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflections on the Autumn Equinox

After a serious push on the paintings for my latest book I've returned to San Diego and am settling back in to the studio. The air is much cooler now and after a long walk on the beach with my son this afternoon I began thinking about the seasons of life. The California coastline that I ached for was covered in thick red strands of sea kelp and greedy seagulls were feasting on clusters of mussels. We decided that the sand dollars in different shapes and sizes were from Neptune's treasure chest but had washed ashore after a storm. Santiago and I climbed up to the highest rock along the jetty to watch fishing boats headed out the mouth of the bay. It was a good way to reflect on this 10 year anniversary of 9-11. Like others I will never forget that moment and all the emotions that it still brings. I wanted to remember how that moment brought people together. Together with my son, we watched a bouquet of white flowers tied with a red ribbon float out to sea.

I realized this afternoon that living and working in two locations means that when I am in one place I long for the other. Perhaps that's why I had to satisfy a serious craving for fish tacos after our walk on the beach. I realize this duality helps me stay visually stimulated and so it was time to let the colors of this new season find their way to my brushes. This past week our son headed back to school with his new pencils and binder with a-z dividers and in many ways Fall means a fresh start. Strangely enough we had a 14 hour power outage on Thursday that left Southern California, Arizona and parts of Mexico in total darkness. My nephew found his way over on his bike and we lit up lots of candles then went outside and played guitars till late that night. The stars were indescribably bright in downtown and although we lose power all the time in Mexico I can't remember enjoying a blackout quite as much. I came home from San Miguel de Allende with my suitcase full of jars of paint. This was followed by a trip to the art store for the new brushes needed to replace those that had permanently bit the dust. Then it happened, my trusty old friend the blue hairdryer finally gave out. Maybe the power surge when the electricity came back on was just too much. I was about to toss it but was moved to see it covered with the streaked colors of years of past paintings. I decided it deserved respect after all those years of service so it now rests at the top of my bookshelf.

In August I turned 50 and found that like several of my friends I experienced a sense of melancholy and reflection at the changing seasons of my own life. Autumn has always been a time to turn inward and the good news is that introspection can only be good for your work. In the meantime we can savor the lush abundance of harvest and the crazy fun of Halloween with our kids and friends. Here's a Bruja-a personal piece that I painted for an artist friend who works with found objects.

I'm a scavenger and like to play with old stuff too, so this year I started making robots to put those found objects to work.

This last one is an angel and on this day I remember.