Return home to California

I tried to make it through Arizona spending as little of my $$ as possible in protest of the state’s new anti immigrant law.  It seems like it will hurt more US citizens than curb immigration. My experience is that repression just doesn’t work.  It will always backfire in the end.

Then I tippie-footed my way across the burning roads of the California desert, hoping that my tires wouldn’t melt.

What I was really looking forward to was my visit to Hiromi Paper in Santa Monica to buy Japanese paper for digital printing. I’ve always been a greedhead for fine handmade paper, and at Hiromi’s I was in heaven. So much so that I forgot to take a picture for you. It’s a compact store filled with wonderfulness with which to fill your eyes.

Anyway I ran up a largish bill for paper and bookbinder’s cloth for a new artist book in progress (one that uses the quartet of images that poured out after the Blue Mountain Center residency).

As if that weren’t enough I discovered that Hiromi Paper is located in an arts center called Bergamot Station, a complex of galleries, studios, and art related stores.

In a gallery called Latin American Masters I saw some Rufino Tamayo graphic images that grabbed the back of my neck and shook me like a puppy. They are figurative works that look like their original home was Chaco Canyon.  Highly textured, limited palette, abstracted human forms — definitely worth experiencing if you are anywhere in the area.

In the same gallery, some contemporary artists among whom I discovered

Deer People
"Deer People" by Jose Bedia, Acrylic on Canvas, 72" x 100"

Definitely worth a visit.

bronze sculpture
"Jug. Pressing & squeezing" by Andrew Lord, 1994, 29 x 25 x 19", Courtesy of the artist and Donald Young Gallery, Chicago

In the Santa Monica: Museum: of Art (also in Bergamot Station) there is a show of Andrew Lord titled “between my hands to water falling, select works from 1990 to 2010”.  Lord has used parts of his body to “transfer sensation into physical form” using clay mostly.  I was attracted to the work that revealed the physical effect of the hand on the material.  His use of glazes and gold leafing obscured that for me.  But in a bronze piece called “Jug Pressing & squeezing” I was suddenly and forcefully reminded of the handprints in mud of humans who made their homes in the cave shelters of Walnut Canyon, in  Arizona, hundreds of years ago.  This sculpture was moving and real.

If you plan on visiting Bergamot Station, allow a lot of time.  I had to move on.

Next stop: Morro Bay to pick up a mandolin for Mr. Rioso.

Things I like about Morro Bay:

Coalesce Bookstore, 845 Main Street, (805) 772 2880.  New and used books and a beautiful wedding chapel/garden.  I can always find good used art books there.  If you are in the area, see if Linna has any performances scheduled.  For example: PEPPINO D’AGOSTINO will be there August 20

Montana de Oro State Park

Morro Bay State Park

Walking on the beach at Morro Bay.  Watching life as it insists on persisting as it has for thousands of years.

Morro bay surf
Morro Bay

Still, it is time to go home.  Heading north and watching the speedometer.

Chaco Canyon

Clouds threatened but I decided to go.  Allow me to clue you in — the entrance from the south (20 miles of {really} rough road) is better suited to a 4-wheel drive than a Prius.  But Mom’s Memorial gave more than 100%.  Also it began to rain, and I feared the unknown of flash floods as much as the road. We  got through unscathed.

I set up tent as the showers lessened.  Then the big thunder rolled in with the heavy rain. Hoping that the tent would be sufficient for our comfort, I lay back on the bedroll and began observing the deficiencies of the tent’s design.  Needless to say, Oola and I spent the night in the car.

But every pilgrimage requires sacrifice for purification of the spirit, and in the morning we were rewarded with the sight of sunrise on Fajada Butte.

Fajada Butte
Fajada Butte catches the first rays

At the top of this butte is the famous Sun Dagger petroglyph, found in 1977 by artist Anna Sofaer.  In spite of controversy she has worked ever since then to uncover and demonstrate the solar and lunar implications of her discovery.

overview of Pueblo Bonito
Aerial of Pueblo Bonito

Pueblo Bonito, comprised of many circular enclosures, plazas, and hundreds of small rooms is the largest of several ceremonial complexes in the canyon. I borrow an image from Bullfrog films to give you an idea of it from the air.

Everywhere you look in Pueblo Bonito a remarkable composition looks you right back in the eyeball.  It is amazing!  The last time I was here, there was snow during the night. The site was a vision in white on black circular forms. This morning it was a study in rectangles and texture.  A few examples from among MANY.

Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo Bonito
Pueblo Bonito
Lee and Oola
Lee and Oola

We had the good fortune to meet photographer and educator, Lee Silliman, from Montana.  It was early morning; there was marvelous light; he and I had the whole place to ourselves.  He was working with some heavy equipment (in all senses of the word) and he graciously allowed Oola to look through his lense.  (Other end, Oola!)   I took about 30 shots for each one of his. He probably got more and better results than I.

Much has been written about Chaco.  I invite you to investigate it.  If you decide to visit, take the northern entrance.

Albuquerque, NM

Oola and I packed up and took leave of my friend, Lana.  We set out for Albuquerque, where there was much Saturday morning activity in Old Town.  And we were reminded of the power of the REAL people to preserve tradition.

First we found a community of musicians, La Rondalla de Albuquerque who sing and play traditional New Mexican Music  on Saturdays, 10AM to noon. Click to see a short video from their performance.

La Rondalla de Albuquerque
La Rondalla de Albuquerque

Then, around the corner were tradition savers such as Bennard Dallasvuyaoma, artist,  educator and computer coder from the “old” days.  He creates Pima/Hopi Art.  I was attracted to his jewelry — and because Bennard is such a silver talker as well as a silver worker,  I got a treat for Mr. Rioso. We all need to support living local artists, Right?!

Bennard Dallasvuyaoma
Bennard Dallasvuyaoma

By the way, Bennard is a careful listener too.  Sign of a good teacher.

Now on to an ancient teacher: Chaco Canyon.

Lana Bobele

I am staying with my friend Lana Bobele in Tome, south of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  She studied art with the great fibre artist, Neda Al-Hilali, at Scripps College in Claremont CA. When I first met Lana in our Morro Bay days she was making some wonderful “Spirit Bundles”.

spirit bundle, sedona creek walker
Sedona Creek Walker
spirit bundle, Mercurious
spirit bundle for Sarah
for Sarah

Spirit Bundles were collections of meaningful artifacts that depicted a time/space.  Using fibres, letters, found object and more Lana obsessively wrapped and stitched the components into anthropomorphic forms.

“Spirit Bundles” have morphed into “Prayer Flags” which were inspired by the Tibetan tradition.  Lana’s prayer flags are made from discarded clothing of friends and family, and other elements similar to the “Spirit Bundles”.

three prayer flags by Lana Bobele
Three Prayer Flags by Lana Bobele
detail of prayer flag
Prayer Flag, detail

Currently you can find Lana’s Prayer Flags at Crystal Source, a gallery outside of Toronto in Canada.

Recently her work has morphed once again, this time into artist/book form.  These books came out of her need to hold the artifacts of a meaningful transition.

Artist book, "Making my Way"
Artist book, "Making my Way"

artist book, "Making my Way", selected=

These books remind me of the work of another artist/friend, Sherri Lynn Wood, whom I met at a Blue Mountain Center event, and who helps people make Passage (Bereavement) Quilts

Lana is working now with Ambercare Hospice bereavement groups, helping participants to process loss.

Artist book, "Ken's Last Days"
Artist book, "Ken's Last Days"

Artist Book, "Ken's Last Days", selected=


Those of us on the road recently have found that one of the most endangered species around is the highway rest-stop.  The first one Oola and I came across was in New Mexico.

As we came out of the facilities we overheard a fragment of conversation between a traveler and a rest stop attendant.  With a tone of both frustration and resignation he was saying “We put the sign up they keep stealing the 2 zeros. On the other side we put up the same sign and they stole the 1….”   Oola and I looked in wonder at the sign and this is what we saw:

Don't deface the rocks
Stop writing on the rocks, and leave the bloody signs alone, you crooked deck-bats! Get over it and grow up!

Oola, who has a very tiny bladder, entered the message. Don’t blame me for the bad language.

Thunder storm in Flagstaff

Last night I decided to take a short cut into Nevada to try to reduce the time spent driving in excessive heat.  So I left at 3:15 AM and drove east in the dark in the general direction of Orion’s belt. The ploy was successful — except, I think, in the tiny minds of nocturnal mice in the  luminated last seconds of their little lives.  (Sorry, Mice)  Then, as the sun rose, there were the rabbits.  Then there were the signs warning about deer…and Bulls…But I digress.

Too little sleep for two nights makes for dangerous driving, so I abbreviated my plans and got off the road.  I was going to try camping again, but those ominous blue-grey clouds over the San Francisco mountains changed my mind.  One cloud like a white flag flew from the tip of the tallest, sharpest peak, as though it were caught there.  So, I found a cheap motel and began working on the blog.

Funny how a blog can change your thinking.  You begin to describe your experience to yourself instead of experiencing it.  Kind of like how your photography practice will define how you see the world.

Anyway, a rowdy thunderstorm with hail and buckets of rain clattered loose.  Luckily I was indoors in front of the flat light bulb, and glad to not be camping.  Later, when I looked up I saw this outside my window:

clouds after the storm
clouds after the storm

When I looked up again, seemingly milliseconds later, I saw this:

more clouds after the storm
Sunset clouds after the storm

Part of me wants to say, “Why did you take that picture?  Is it art?  Why not just LOOK?”  Part of me remembers reading somewhere that one should not write poetry about that which  already is poetry.

But the greatest part of me is agog with the marvel of being alive and a part of this planet.


Green, Green, Green, and granite!  It was heavenly, the leisurely drive over Ebbetts Pass.  I decided to camp and found a delightful spot at above 7,000 ft. with mountain peaks all around.  There was no moon until late, and the stars were (of course) amazing. And ME WITH NO TRIPOD!  So I braced my camera on the camp table (there was, of course, no way to compose.  I exposed for 30seconds at f/5.6 and 3200ISO.  (Using a Canon EOS T2i and Tamron 17 – 50, f/2.8 for anyone who wants to know).  And Voila! it worked.

stars and trees
starry night

During the night Oola and I worried that since the sign said “This is Bear Country” we would hear snuffing and snorting outside the tent. There was none of that.

About midnight I heard several hooved somethings running along the nearby creek.  Probaby deer, but Oola lay there hoping it was not the Four Horsemen on their way to a logistics meeting.

At about 2AM when the moon rose we heard the song and yipping of the coyote, echoing off all the surrounding granite.  It was truly magical.

But there was no magic to help my hip bones.  I don’t ever remember the ground being so hard.  Even now, Oola keeps whispering in my ear “air mattress, air mattress,  old bones need air mattress….”

We didn’t get much sleep, but after the singing of the coyote I poked my head out of the tent and saw the site flushed with moonlight.  So I had to try the camera again, this time the camp table would be the subject.  But remember, I’m sitting in the tent, trying to stay warm, and I have no tripod.  This time I set the 30second shot to f/2.8, and the camera started catching the color of the grass!  Got some wonderful ghostly shots.

night time camp table
night time camp table

We froze our feet and fingers, but it was well worth it.  At first light, a new sound –  gentle cowbells  echoing off the granite from a meadow not far away.

Time to make tracks.

Lori Johnson

I decided to take the road less traveled to New Mexico from the SF Bay Area, that is over the Sierra, down 395, then across on 40.  Ebbetts Pass is a narrow, windy road, but unspoiled and just fine for traveling lightly.

To get there, I decided to go to the south of Stockton and take Hwy 4 up through rolling orchards and fields of tomatoes.   A few miles east of Stockton I saw a site that demanded I turn around and investigate.

Lori Johnson
Lori Johnson

Seated by the side of Hwy 4 Lori Johnson holds her sign proclaiming “Jesus Saves”.  I know that for many this makes her an object of ridicule, but she and I talked and I came away with nothing but admiration for Lori.  She feels this is her calling, her ministry.  She travels from town to town and finds ways to witness for her belief.  Sometimes people  help her out, give her a place to stay.  The temperature where she sits was in the mid 90’s.  It was crisping my feet just in the short time we talked.  Yet she sits there witnessing with only some light colored clothing and a sign to protect her.


There is nothing wild-eyed about Lori.  We talked about traveling, about facing fears and doing what you need to do anyway. She talked about the people she meets, the things she sees on the road.  She is a clear-eyed woman, living  her life honestly and according to her lights.  She has Power and it pulled me off my road.

PS Lori, wherever you are, the email address you gave me doesn’t work.  Email me and I will send the picts I promised


New Mexico

Hi folks

Mom's Memorial Chihuahua
Mom's Memorial Chihuahua

Oola, Mom’s Memorial Chihuahua, and I are on our way to New Mexico to see an artist/friend of mine and maybe revisit Chaco Canyon if flash floods don’t bar the way.

It is time to get some horizons into my eyes after an intense semester of staring into a light bulb (read: computer screen).  Time to smell pine resin, sage brush, wind instead of diesel fuel.  Time to listen to Nothing.

Last night we had LOTS to listen to courtesy of “Sand by the Ton”, the Roaring Twenties at American Steel in Oakland.   To quote them, the venue included “2 one hundred foot water slides, 300 tones of sand, eight swimming pools, nine stages including live music, electronic music state.  Bluegrass and Circus arts, Giant foam wars bathtub. Carnival midway and side shows. Giant sand sculpture.  Thousands of your closest friends…”

It went on all day and well into the night.  Mr. Rioso and I had visited earlier in the week and were highly impressed by a whole lot of Big Art going on that involved heaving moving equipment, steel and fire.  We watched the development of Sand Sculpture by “the Sand Guy” Kirk.

Kirk's Castle
Kirk's Castle

Then there were the Giganomous sculptures that spout fire.

giant sculpture of standing female
Iron Woman who breaths fire
dandylion sculpture
Volunteers disguising the foundations of a 20+ ft. high dandylion sculpture that spouts fire

Mr. Rioso and I went back later that evening.  (Oola was comforting Katrin the Great, our cat, whose ears were laid back most of the evening, at least that’s what we saw when she came out from her hiding place under the etching press.)  There were probably thousands of young folk, many dressed up in 20’s fashion, heading into the giant American Steel buildings to experience Art.  I sensed a LOT of testosterone, but that has worked in a fairly satisfactory manner in the process of keeping the earth populated over eons.  (There was a Deadwood style bordello construction inside one of the halls.)  But the SOUND.  It could be heard a mile away!  So glad they stopped at 1AM.

Is it art?  Certainly art is always evolving, and to remain alive as an artist, one must be attentive to it’s new forms.  Is the Circus an art form?  It certainly can be.  Tolouse Lautrec was making a buck, but we call Jane Avril lifting her leg high to the bass player “art” now.  I am of two minds, mostly because the loudness of it annoyed me.

If the organizers of this event have any sense, they will take it on the road.

But…I digress.  It is now, and we are on our way to see Big pine trees, huge silent vistas, and maybe hear a thunderstorm.