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Biblically accurate angels, ladders, house paint, disco balls and aliens.
August first is Lughnasadh, if you follow the pagan way of things. It’s pronounced LOO-nah-sah. You can also refer to it as Lammas.
It’s all about the first harvest.
The upcoming harvest, different from how it connects with the symbolism and ceremonial aspect of witchy holidays, is something more concrete that we all notice here in the “salad bowl of the world,” where farming is big business. For me, in a way, it translates to a lot of car traffic in early autumn on a one-lane stretch of road near a power plant where artichokes, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and who knows what else I don’t notice are being speedily picked and packaged. As a teacher, I am often a part of the pre-dawn commute along with many people racing in their cars to get to the giant farm fields to work very hard and earn very little, in order for us all to benefit from the bounty.
Thankfully, this summer I finally followed through with my simple “dream” of purchasing a lot of what I eat from the many local farmer’s markets that surround me here on the central coast of California and I’m hoping that through this action I’m supporting organic farming, which means better nutrition and less pesticides for me and my loved ones as consumers, as well as less chemicals being breathed in and handled by those who maintain and harvest the farms.
This past spring I watched Michael Pollan’s Master Class and, already a fan of his work, I learned so much about ways to eat healthier and ways to consider the culture and business surrounding food production and distribution.
It’s not easy to balance it all in this world we live in today. I’m not able to eat only organic and sustainably farmed foods but as I learned so many years through my yoga practice, it’s about continuing to try and not getting halted by imperfection. Everything is imperfect.
So those are my literal thoughts on the idea of “first harvest.”
There is also the symbolic. What has this summer, so far, been about? What will I reap from my recent actions, thoughts and creative work? What will I reap from all that life threw at me, outside of my expectations?
We are now working our way to the witch’s new year, Samhain (Halloween), with Mabon (the Autumn Equinox) in-between, and it has always made sense to see this time as a new beginning, considering the new school year starts in the fall (in this hemisphere). Like many of us, since childhood, I felt this as a time to re-form, refresh or reconsider who I am evolving into. “Harvesting” all that has added to change, as time pulses forward.
It’s been twenty years since I had an art space/shop of my own.
In 2003 I moved my whole life to Hollywood, California and opened up an atelier- where I made and sold my arts and crafts. I’ve written about this before.
It was a dizzying time. A fast-paced hustle. I had a lump of money to take the first big risk that felt like my own independent choice. I had no idea how long the money I had would last, and it wasn’t easy to earn more. I had no idea how to balance anything and everything.
I thought there were definite answers. I was trying to make the correct decisions, and of course, we can only learn what those are by making mistakes.
Linked to all the pragmatic stuff I felt I had to master, was my state of mind at the time. Through a traumatic shift in my life, I felt awakened. I entered what I believe to be a spiritual realm, totally new to me. I manically battled against my fears, desires and doubts all while learning that reality is not what I thought it was- and started to create an internal framework that reached outside of myself and allowed an introduction to the elusive connection to everything, everyone and the mysteries. It was so much and so much that I will never understand, but I could feel it in a way that was more real than anything I had ever experienced up to that point. To this day, where I am no longer manically battling anything, I have to remind myself the importance of what I learned then- it’s what I rely on. It’s why I center this artist’s newsletter around the Wheel of the Year.
My “atelier,” the external spaces where these internal changes occurred (I had two in the span of about seven months), were rooms I hand-painted within and everywhere.
Because the first shop I rented had a bright orange floor (the same orange my mom had painted almost everything in our early 1970’s home), I created a scene of fire rising from it- flames covering a portion of the walls that led to green spirals, leaves, and near the ceiling- angels (round and winged happy faces with big eyes) that I’ve recently learned from my social-media-minded young students, resemble “biblically accurate angels.”
I hung my alien-portrait artworks on top of it all and it was joyful, chaotic and to be honest, overwhelming. It was unique though, and tourists and regulars told me they were inspired by my installation. It was important for me to bring many different people inside of this intuitive expression of who I was, to be reflected back at me.
I can’t tell you how valuable it was at the time, to have that freedom and social interaction.
I was recently interviewed for a local paper about my art and during our discussion I shared how that time was the start of my formal art education. Here in this newsletter I will share how that very process was intrinsically connected to the spiritual “education” I mentioned earlier.
I listened to my work. Not that I perceived literal voices shouting from the walls or bits of wood I painted on as canvases- it was more like trusting an inner voice I had previously ignored. It helped me with composition and color and connecting those formal aspects to my personal expression, which was (at least in my mind) expressing something much larger than myself, and helping me heal some deep wounds.
After I left that shop and began art school, my first art mentor, Shirley Luke Schnell (I just now found out that she passed in March of this year), had us all choose a slice of a tree trunk she had cut and piled into the back of her car. Over the span of a month or a few weeks, I don’t remember which, she required that we look at and draw our piece of wood in every possible way. My fellow students were maddened. Of course I had just come from going mad so I was super into it. In the end we had to draw something conceptual, using the experience of observing and drawing the wood patterns. I put all of what I had recently gone through, as I felt it- into this piece. I blended my depictions of the rings of the growing tree (nature) with elements that were a part of my story. It was like I finally had time to breathe. During our semester review, Shirley said that I would most likely be revisiting and unraveling all that she saw in my final pencil drawing, in different ways, for the rest of my life. She was magic.
So here I am, many years after having graduated from two art colleges and literally twenty years from that summer when I used warm-toned interior house paints to create magical spaces to share with others and showcase my art. Of all things, my partner just sealed the deal on a new place of his own (not his first), where he and I and some friends have been working hard to create a beautiful environment to share transcendent times on the dance floor.
While it’s been his vision- he and I have realized our shared aesthetic, over the years.
For instance, last year we were able to create a welcoming outdoor home-space for friends to gather. A place for us to act as hosts. It was so much more than just buying objects to artfully arrange, and we certainly did not rely on outside expertise in this area. It was a great experience to find items we intuitively responded to and I got a lot from working with his vision, life experience, and different building abilities. It was a good “give and take,” as I trusted the outcome would suit my own desires for the patio. It’s truly a collaboration, although he entered into it with a stronger sense of what he wanted.
Surfboards are repurposed and used as a fencing, to create privacy. We recreated a giant Tillie the Clown from Coney Island to not only reference my life partner Kenny’s past from the East Coast, but to connect to my own vision of a beach town and summer dreams. Our inspirations are rooted in films like Beach Blanket Bingo of the 1960’s to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk where movies like The Lost Boys were filmed. We live in a beach town- that was the mutual base of understanding for the outdoor installation.
Like the time in my ateliers, we adjusted our vision when materials determined we needed to. It was that “listening to what the art needs” that I experienced first in my shop and have gotten so much better at, over the years, that we adhered to.
In the new club, Kenny recently asked me to help create a vision of a sunset on a large blank wall that was used by the previous owners to project videos or TV shows.
As a long-time music producer for dance music, club owner, and DJ, he’s had so many experiences in places like Ibiza, where the sunset seems to set off the connection between audience and music-selector. It’s applauded as the oranges and yellows and silver shimmers on the water display like a proud atmospheric peacock as seagulls caw and people are compelled to cheer as it signals the time for all to celebrate.
When Kenny first visited the Monterey Bay, the area I was raised and where we now live, he couldn’t understand how the owners of cafes and restaurants near the water weren’t embracing the view in the ways he had overseas. This is something he wished to bring to the area and now, although the space is about a block or two away from the water, the air is salty and the sound of seagulls fill the air. He has the opportunity to make it so.
While up on the ladder a few weeks ago, spreading house paint around without a solid plan and trusting that it would be a sunset- I felt a connection to my Hollywood atelier and that’s when it dawned on me that it was almost to the day, twenty years ago, that I created my first-ever art installation in my first ever shop.
Kenny and I met in 2012 so he never saw the ateliers, but his new vision includes greenery that brings me right back to my painted green vines. There is a wonderful blue that looks like the deep sea, that was already a part of the space- embodied in velvety wallpaper and vinyl seating. Disco balls hang among it like my “angels.” Red lights glisten through dripping crystals, like the broken glass and glitter I once glued on the walls and almost everything. Retro stereo equipment is used as decoration since the club’s name is Compact Disco, referencing the compact disc players of the past.
The finishing touch was the realization that some of my latest works, made of woven, crocheted and knitted fibers were the perfect things to not only tie the space together, but to absorb sound and create a warmer audio-experience. Alien portraits, once again.
It was during a special viewing I hosted for art-folks in the community where some friends of mine shared just how good the room made them feel and how good the colors made people look within it. It’s warm and lush and colorful, and there is more to come.
Funny how time works like a spiral and you find yourself at similar “places” but further along the coil. This is different, and I don’t want the club to be mine, but everything seemed to line up in ways that felt like my inner voice telling me to trust, as I learned to do so long ago.
At the start of this summer, before the venue was a sure-thing and before painting the sunset, I wrote a prose poem inspired by a recent dream for an open mic. I titled it, Life is a Highway and I Didn’t Get in the Car.
Life is a highway and I didn’t get in the car. The other night I had this dream, and in it, I was approached by a car. It was the kind of car you see in movies, where someone powerful and sort of, you know, “anonymous” pulls up to someone minding their own business (in this case, me) and out of nowhere someone leads the person (in this case, potentially me) inside and into the back seat to propose something that will completely shift the reality of the unsuspecting person. I never got in. While standing beside the car I received a mental transmission that let me know if I entered, if I agreed to what the person in the backseat had to offer me, which is what entering would mean- I would have all of what I’ve been working so hard for, for so long. It would be there, even if I didn’t know I wanted it- and it would be mine. If I did so, though, I would only live twenty-five more years. It would only last twenty-five years. It was an immediate no. "Nope, no, no, no" I said- and then I woke up. My partner and I were having coffee in the kitchen a few minutes later and I shared the dream, as it was so vivid and so relative to conversations we often have as two artists working hard to live and working hard to create our creative things and share them in the most correct manner, with whoever might take the time to listen and look. Selling out. Staying true. Trying for both. What’s right? The act of verbally sharing the dream caused me to consider my age. In twenty-five years I’ll be seventy-six. Huh. What if I’m not so lucky to make it to then? What if I fall ill and it’s not so good after that? It’s not unheard of to be done with life by then. My partner, sitting across from me at the table, with his coffee, scrolling through his Instagram feed said, without looking up, “Well, the aliens offered it to you, Linda, and you said no. I’m pretty sure that’s how it happens. Good job.” And I said, “Shit. I didn’t think about the aliens.”
Somehow I feel like maybe I got in the car, after all. I guess that’s part of what I’ll be harvesting. Blessed be.
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