Leaf Entities for Jonas Perkins

Leaf Entities /Sketchbook March, 2011 (dedicated to Jonas Perkins)

I am inspired by the art and spirit of Jonas Perkins. I consider him a spiritual friend, cousin, brother. He is in Texas creating a Garden of Eve, and his work is so important and full of feeling and the magic of being, I don’t even know how to put words to it, so I won’t even try. I’m doing “Leaf Entities” and dedicate all of them to Jonas and his sculptures under the stars and under the cowboy clouds.

Groom Texas, Route 66 Music

My painting of Groom 2011

Route 66 stretched out like a long, hot tar ribbon across the flat world on the edge of Groom, Texas where I was born and lived until I was about ten years old. Living way out there in the plains, I had never seen the ocean and I think of Route 66 as our ocean. It sounded like the sea with the ebb and flow of cars driving through heat haze, lapping up all kinds of surprises on our golden shores, beneath the grain elevators .  My most deeply held memory I believe is of my dad’s doctor’s bag which, as a country doctor he took everywhere (and I now have it). There were frequent car accidents on Route 66 and he’d leave with that doctor’s bag after getting a phone call, and we’d wonder if the people would survive. He told me there was only one tree out there for miles and miles, and “wouldn’t you know they’d hit that tree” driving along Route 66, on their way to California, maybe?  Route 66 brought us the outer world, and I learned how the small town community responded to it.  The women in town provided for patients in the hospital by bringing home-cooked meals, and my mother taught me something about extending ourselves to others, to unknowns, when she had me play at the hospital with an African American boy patient who survived a terrible car accident, but his aunt and uncle did not.

There are so many stories we all remember, and for years I’ve thought I should compile them all. For my family this past Christmas, I selected music from our time living in Groom.  Route 66 themed songs, early Beatles, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Trogs, The Turtles, and my favorite, the Whipped Cream album by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass.

Playful Journal: An Angel Who Was a Business Man

From my 2002 sketchbook

I like using my sketchbook journals as a playscape, a place to freely express, without pressure.  I liked the conjunction of two quick ink drawings of my then-2 year old and how these little ink drawings appear next to one of a man in a suit with a briefcase which says: “One day there was an angel, but he looked like a business man.”

The Rescuer Archetype

Some art I made based on an antique swimming manual/2008

The Rescuer Archetype is a champion. This person will dive right in and save a person from drowning in his/her own mire. There are two sides to being a rescuer, the ying-yang of it is that while being a champion of underdogs and souls in need, the rescuer may also risk self injury.  If you have this as an archetype, you recognize what that means; it means trying to save someone who doesn’t necessarily want to be saved and/or it means being entangled in problems and issues that have nothing to do with you, and being dragged down in the process. Another aspect of acting out the role of rescuer is that often the one rescuing does want to be thanked and congratulated for being a champ, and then will unconsciously seek weak people to save, keeping them weak in order to play the role of champion over and over. The key in having the rescuer archetype is becoming conscious of it. We all have our symbols and the good side of being a rescuer is that it signals strength, courage and a caring nature. We all need rescuers sometimes (think of firefighters and EMTs), but being a rescuer in relationships is worth looking at in a conscious way. For an on-line self assessment of personal archetypes, try this: http://www.capt.org/ppc/pmai/index.htm?wt.mc_id=pmnew6&wt.srch=1&gclid=CKT3ubie8acCFYhx5Qod43c3dA

Messages, Signs, Visits and Premonitions (and Butterflies)

My sketch/watercolor of a butterfly dream (originally published in 2010)

Did you know that some time after September 11th, the area around Ground Zero was filled with thousands upon thousands of butterflies? In Bonnie McEneaney’s truly inspirational book, “Messages: Signs, Visits, and Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11” this unbelievable butterfly event happened and gave many people a feeling of wonderment, spiritual connection and joy. I especially loved reading this in her book because I used to move through the WTC everyday, back and forth from graduate school at School of Visual Arts to our brownstone across the Hudson in Jersey City. One day, just exiting the Winter Garden, I saw a beautiful jeweled hummingbird on the pavement stones under the sky scraper. A gardener there working told me it must have hit the building and fell to it’s death. I wanted to pick it up; hummingbirds are so rare to me and so precious, I felt my heart sink. They symbolize joy, and I felt a foreboding at seeing it dead like that. It all connected to what my Cherokee mentor had said to me, that I should “keep a bag by the door” because at some point, I’d have to flee the area. I even dreamed one night of one of the towers sparkling as it came down, straight down, in a blip, but I never imagined anything like that would actually happen. When my first baby was born, we still lived there and I strolled him around WTC, it is a lovely area. By the time 9-11 happened, we had moved. I have never gone back since the tragedy, I cannot bring myself to. In fact, the day after 9-11 I was supposed to be a visiting author at a library in Jersey City, and we told our son “We are taking you to the place where you lived as a baby” and planned to show him where we bought his first book (in WTC), but then of course the awful thing happened and everything was cancelled. Reading that thousands of butterflies came and “filled the sky” makes me feel better about, perhaps, one day returning. If you want to feel inspired, renewed and spiritually loved, I recommend Bonnie’s book with a full heart.

The Four Questions (Passover Seder, The Last Supper and Now)

Prayer Letter #3 /Elaine Clayton 2004

I used to call my Spirit Paintings “Prayer Letters” and this one was inspired by Mah Nishtana, “The Four Questions” asked at Seder during Passover. To read more about those questions, click here.  The youngest person at the Seder table asks questions, beginning with, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” You may wonder why there is a cowboy in it, but that’s me playing with symbols (the cowboy archetype worked for me here bec it took some rough and ready courage for the slaves to flee the Egyptians, on their way to the Promised Land–and today, America in so many ways resembles the notion of a “land of milk and honey”). Likewise, it took courage for those who followed Jesus in his expressions of how to perceive G-d. I’m always seeking to make connections in art and with people, and during this season it is wonderful to me to pull together Passover, The Last Supper, Easter and where are we today in our world. My question is:  “Who is courageous today?”

Near Death Experiences and The Crowded Room

Sketchbook Dream Journal entry/March 2011

There is a phenomenon of  “the crowded room” experienced often by one close to death. The dying person may see many people in the room that others do not see. As they near their death, it is as if the portal to the other world draws near. Another way to imagine it is to see that there is a veil which separates us from the afterlife, and near death, that veil thins and the dying person is able to see spirits from the other side. Dr. Raymond Moody is the genius who originally researched all of this, and if you’re interested in learning more, you might want to read LIFE AFTER LIFE or GLIMPSES OF ETERNITY by Dr. Moody.

Modigliani: A Life by Meryle Secrest

My drawing/painting from 1990’s, inspired by Italian art

Sogno spesso di vite precedenti in Italia (I often dream of past lives in Italy).  I do wonder if I was there many times. Recently, I read a review of a new book about Modigliani, MODIGLIANI: A LIFE by Meryle Secrest and I held my breath as I read it. Modigliani was an artist who I always admired for his sensitivity in color and stylization of the human figure. I can’t explain it, but the first time I saw a Modigliani, most likely a photograph in a book about art, I felt a freely joyful, soul-flying love of being alive. I know that when my surrogate uncle takes me to The Century Club in Manhattan, there is a Modigliani there that I always whisper to, full-hearted, in it’s glow of soft light way up on the wall.  Who knows if I’ve truly had past lives in Italy, but the dreams are so real, so real!  I sogni sono così reali, così reale!

Super Moon and the Hudson River

My charcoal and water color drawing from 1996

I don’t know why I drew/painted this image. I did it when we lived across the Hudson River from the World Trade Center, in a lovely refurbished brownstone. We’d see the QEII come into port at dawn, amongst other majestic and triumphant ships and boats. We sailed our own boat all along the Hudson, too, between mid-town Manhattan and The Statue of Liberty, slashing through water under the WTC, full sail. This week with the Super Moon and the tsunami in Japan, this image captured my attention. I had it stored in the flat files for a long time, not sure what to do with it. I know I was inspired by summer nights, sitting on the stoop, but it has an eerie quality to me after what has transpired.

The War Horse Sketches

My sketches of Joey the horse and the puppeteers

We took our children to see The War Horse, a play based on a novel by Michael Morspurgo at Lincoln Center/ Vivian Beaumont Theater.  It was majestic and heart wrenching. I was spellbound by the moves of the puppeteers who were so athletic and more like dancers themselves as they moved the horse’s ears, legs, head and tail. The lighting and screen used to show animation of drawings in charcoal (horse running w/ rider, WW1 bombs going off) made it all seem like a true memory of the dramatic events of war, and I cried.  I didn’t sketch during the performance but sketched a bit by memory later. I always think a play is good if you keep thinking of it the next day, and shadows of it follow you. I have a horse friend with me even as I write this.