20 August 2017

About Heather Jo Flores

www.heatherjoflores.com

I'm an author, painter, songwriter, organic gardener, and creative mentor, with twenty-five years of experience in the sustainability movement. My mission is to inspire others to heal from trauma, unleash their deepest desires and potentials, and to make the most of this short and beautiful life. I have an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts, focused on  using yoga, gardening, and creative writing to heal from emotional abuse. 

Creative Mentorship

Together we will create an action-based plan for overcoming whatever stands between where you are now and what you want to become. We'll use yoga, phenomenology, journaling, dreamwork, gardening, land art, and a cornucopia of fun, focused interactions to tap into deep energies, blast through barriers and unleash talents and potential you didn't even know you had! I'll be sharing lots of resources on that topic here, and Patrons will get everything first!
 www.DecolonizeYourself.com 




Feminist Writing Workshops

The Heroine's Journey is a particular obsession. As a storyteller, an artist, a woman, a feminist. I see how hero-centric stories have enabled patriarchal regimes. And I see a shift. It fascinates me. I am writing, studying, and teaching the Heroine's Journey, and letting it inform all of the work I do.

E-Zines are coming!

Topics from gardening and permaculture to feminist storycraft, land art, trauma yoga, and everything in between!  Inner Circle patrons will get first and free access to all of the E-Zines I am developing.


Food Not Lawns!
In 1999, I founded the original chapter of Food Not Lawns in Eugene, Oregon, and in 2006 I wrote the book Food Not Lawns, How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community . Food Not Lawns is now a burgeoning International community, and we recently started a Patreon page to raise funds for community garden grants. 
Check it out!

Spain!

I live here now.



I'm growing a food forest, getting back into painting, and feeling
working like a hummingbird on all of these projects and more!


Thank you for being here with me, and for supporting my work.



15 February 2017

New Novel Kickstarter ends Feb 24th!!! Order now!



Launched a Kickstarter campaign to do a short run of my novel, Naked Lady Soup! All funds support my work on the memoir I have been trying to finish and this campaign is only two weeks long! Please share and support!! THANK YOU!

29 March 2016

TIGERS don't lie.
They might lie in wait.
Sometimes maybe they lie around.
But they don't tell stories.
They don't omit the truth.
They live an honest life:
either they eat you
or they don't.

Elephants remember,
or so they say.
I imagine it would be hard to forget
all of those terrible things
that happened to them.
I wonder,
do they create their own reality
with all of those negative thoughts, 
those miserable memories?

Monsters don't dance
unless nobody is watching,
and then they can be quite graceful,
those knobby scaled toes,
just as light as a leaf on the wind.


--Heather Jo Flores, Spring 2016


05 December 2015

Love, life and annihilation

My favorite poem, by Tom Clark:


Like musical instruments
Abandoned in a field
The parts of your feelings

Are starting to know a quiet
The pure conversion of your
Life into art seems destined

Never to occur

You don’t mind
You feel spiritual and alert

As the air must feel
Turning into sky aloft and blue
You feel like

You’ll never feel like touching anything or anyone
Again
And then you do


***


To experience deep romantic Love, you have to be willing to risk annihilation. It takes a hero (heroine) to truly trust somebody. No risk means no Love, ever.
And if they annihilate you, you realize that in all of those pieces, scattered around the floor, lie millions of tiny jewels that had been hidden deep inside of yourself.
You pick them up, cradle them in your hands. They are beautiful, and they are yours. 
Now go and build something with them. Something magnificent. 
Then do it all again. Risk it. Annihilate yourself. More jewels, infinite treasure for a lifetime of trying and loving and learning.
And then, eventually, death. 
I would rather die trying than die running. I would rather die building than die tearing apart somebody else's carefully constructed masterpiece. I will never give up, and my fingers in the soil, the seeds in my hand, they are the jewels I will always have, a never ending abundance for all the world to share.
Photo by Miri Stebivka


23 November 2015

Expanding and the journey continues...

Several days in the forest and I feel healed. I dreamt of barn owls and rattlesnakes, slept in the back of my truck in a grove of white oak and manzanita. So many things to think about, so many ways to grow. 
I wove a basket from willow and usnea. Made earrings from buffalo teeth, turquoise, deerskin and bone. I gathered madrone berries and strung them like a rosary to give to someone I love. 
But can I learn to love without any fear whatsoever? 
To be present instead of patient?
To say yes to all forms of love, rather than rejecting that which does not fit into my heart-shaped box?
Can I expand without breaking, stretch without giving up? 
How do you know when you are loving someone in the very best way for both of you? How do you love someone all the way through, past the judgment and expectations, past the ill-fated fantasies about who you want them to be?
Tomorrow I head South and then East, probably passing through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas on my way to Louisiana. NOLA, I'm coming for you! 


Decolonizing Permaculture: Bridging the Gap Between Privilege and Oppression

This content has been moved to https://www.patreon.com/posts/decolonizing-gap-13955748

15 November 2015

Gratitude = Survival

Been crying all day. 
For my own fragile heart. 
For Paris. 
For Beirut and Mississippi and Africa and Mexico and Portland and everyone else who keeps getting hurt by all the rage and inequality and sorrow that seems to thrive in this beautifully flawed world. 
I have been crying all day today and all day yesterday. Somebody broke my heart. 
I'll get over it. 
Somebody broke your heart too, I bet. And together brokenhearted we have to try and cry again. 
Does peace = death? Probably. I don't mind. 
Does gratitude = survival? 
Tomorrow, we will try again. 




05 February 2015

Inspirations, Preoccupations…Why I do the things I do

By Heather Jo Flores, July 2014, an excerpt from MFA Graduate Thesis:

Interdisiciplinary art can be seen as a bridge between contradictory ideas, and as a vehicle for finding unity, commonality and connection. My critical inquiries stem from a lifelong set of preoccupations around ideas associated with monstrosity, metamorphosis and transformation, and how those phenomena are connected to place, body and art making. I will elaborate briefly a few points below:

The de-vilification of women, nature and the unknown. My previous work as an organic farmer and environmental activist taught me that mainstream culture is terrified of that which it cannot understand. This fear leads to oppression and destruction, and much of my creative and intellectual inquiry has been guided by a desire to reconcile those fears, in myself and others. This was the primary inspiration for my work with the Heroine's Journey, which resulted in a 10,000-word critical essay that analyzed hero-based storytelling and presented feminist alternatives. By nature, these feminist perspectives could also be considered eco-feminist, as I found it impossible to separate the attitudes that oppress women from those that dominate and control nature.

25 January 2015

What is the practical function of art?

As always, I am struggling with the internal dialogue: why make time for art when there are so many problems in the world? Shouldn't we be working on the front lines instead of making pretty things? What are the practical applications of art?

I don't know the answers, but here are some contemplations that may spark your curiosity. Please comment and expand upon these thoughts, as you wish. I have been focusing on a few distinct kinds of art these past few weeks, and thinking about the exact purpose that type of art might have in the world.


Here are my inconclusive conclusions:

Art: Function

Surrealism: to Distort
Land Art: to Expand
EcoRevelatory Architecture: to Improve
Street Art: to Arouse
Permaculture: to Connect
Folk Music: to Reflect
Theater: to Portray
Collage: to Assemble
Ephemeral Art: to Give
Monster Art: to Deviate



16 January 2015

Seeds: Time Capsules of Life, a book Review



Kesseler, Rob, and Wolfgang Stuppy. Seeds : Time Capsules of Life. 2nd ed. ed. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2009. Print. This is a mind-boggling display of electron microscope images of seeds from around the world. This book makes me want to paint giant murals of tiny things. I love this book.  I am obsessed with this book. It is everything I want to do. It combines high art with science with subversion and ecological awareness.



15 January 2015

Taming the Beast


hungry monster, born
feast of folly and form
I write with my body
naked and warm
I sing with my face,
I scream at the the storm
terrified of pleasure
fat-nourished by shame
this beast is my burden
one and the same
a leviathan of truth
nobody to blame
my hands are the cauldron
my spirit, the flame





From 2012 thru 2014, I was in grad school, an MFA program in Interdisciplinary Arts. My primary areas of study started with creative writing and land art. But quickly I realized that the real thing I needed to learn was how to overcome the negative self-talk that was serving as a massive block to my overall creativity. I dove into a study of trauma recovery, connecting that to a daily yoga practice, and responding with my writing and artwork. This poem and painting are from the intro to my final MFA portfolio. I will be posting more excerpts and artworks from that portfolio over the next few weeks. Let me know what you think!

Food Not Lawns book excerpt: Make Time for What You Love

HEATHER JO FLORES
EXCERPT FROM “FOOD NOT LAWNS” CHAPTER 8 (Chelsea Green 2006)


MAKE TIME
The ancient Mayan calendar followed the cycles of Venus, the first and brightest star in the sky. Our modern clock and calendar system is based on the movements of the Earth and her moon. However, these heavenly bodies never return to the exact same place twice. They rotate, they orbit, they speed up and slow down, but they do not do these things the same way every time. Because of this, the tools we use to document the passage of time must fudge the truth into predictable, repeating cycles, which are programmed into machines and printed out years ahead. 

Billions of people organize their lives around this little ruse, and see the passage of time as a straight line from birth to death. Any little quiver, any bump on this long and narrow road is seen as a perversion, an unlikely superstition best reserved for mad scientists and acid heads. But nothing in nature moves in a straight line, and time is no exception. 


03 August 2014

Survey of Arts that Reveal Nature...an Ongoing Inquiry


In an effort to discover just exactly what kind of work I want to focus on for my graduate studies, I will spend the next six weeks engaged in a survey of ecorevelatory arts; that is, art that reveals nature. I am casting a wide net, and looking at everything from folk music to architecture. If you have suggestions, please send them to me!

I plan to conduct this overview in two main sections: visual and performing arts, and also to add a brief look at ecorevelatory literature.

Don't think about all those things you fearMuch of what I am looking at was not necessarily intended to be labeled as environmental art, but for some reason it has struck me as such. I am already starting to see that there is a big difference between different types of environmental or eco-revelatory art. For example, some of what I am finding is art that occurs in nature and/or is made from natural materials. Other works are not necessarily made from natural materials, but they are intended to reveal nature or draw attention to environmental issues. Still other work was developed specifically in defense of a certain aspect or area of nature, or as a means of preserving it directly. All of it interests me.

I am starting with land art and large scale projects that self-identify as being somehow "ecological," or "environmental." There is a ton of amazing work in this arena, and so I am trying to observe as much as I can and see what jumps out. So far I have assembled a list of websites to explore, and have a stack of full-color books that I have been poring over for a week.

Sadly, I am already noticing a disparity of women in this field. Hmm.

At any rate, here's what we've got so far:
Chris Jordan

The Green Museum
Though they seem to have stalled in adding new artists, this is an excellent resource.

A Catalog of Eco-Revelatory Arts:

Land Art 

I spent a couple of weeks compiling this catalog of best-known Land Artists .

Photographers who emphasize environmental dialogue (there are so many of these! I picked three favorites.)

Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams was the first ecological artist I was ever aware of. I discovered his work when I worked at a poster shop at the mall. His work with the National Parks changed the world's perception of wilderness.  I was in high school in Long Beach, California and those images blew my mind. I still find his work to be inspiring, provocative, and highly ecorevelatory.

Chris Jordan
Ugly, jarring photographs of real problems in the environment. Stunning, creative images.

His photography book about Forest Defenders said more about the forest defense movement than a decade's worth of Indymedia articles.

Murals and Street Art
Though these artists address a variety of issues aside from the environmental ones, I include them because their work is deeply subversive and has had a powerful impact on both the art world and the world in general. (I ran out of time and couldn't study this as much as I wanted to. I will circle back around to it in a month or so.)

Banksy. The primary featured artist in Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy's mysterious persona uses star-quality to embed provocative images in our minds. The aforementioned film also chronicles the work of several other amazing artists, and though the filmmaker's self-obsession makes the film feel like the Grizzly Man of street art documentaries, it is highly entertaining and educational too.

Also see this list of Best Street Art Documentaries. I haven't watched the others yet.

El Niño de las Pinturas has been decorating the walls in Granada, Spain since he was a kid, and now he has been around the world painting beautiful murals that contain faces and quotes from neighbors and famous Spaniards. It is difficult to describe the beauty and impact that this art brings to the ancient city of Granada, but el Niño's work is beloved by the people there, and by me too.

The Beehive Design Collective has been making and circulating radical art for over a decade. They operate out of a permaculture community in Maine.

Architecture
There is a TON of ecorevelatory architecture in the world! This is great news, and there is no way I could conduct a complete survey, but I did put together a post about small-scale ecorevelatory structures.

02 April 2014

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Revisited

I have always loved collage as a means of working through thoughts and ideas. We did a session at the Goddard residency a few weeks back and I think I speak for everyone in the room when I say that it helped us all to formulate our study plans for the semester.

One of the images I have always wanted to collage is the proverbial Virgin of Guadalupe that we see on everything from candles to bottles of wine.

I started by printing out a few versions of the classic image from the web. Then I piled up colorful pages from a stack of old National Geographic magazines. I sketched a basic outline on the panel, and spent the next two days high on glue.


I will probably seal it with several coats of good old-fashioned modge lodge. (later note: I shouldn't have done the modge podge, it caused some rippling and it would have been bette rot just frame the collage under glass. Live and learn!)

Here is the final result…





04 June 2012

Village Building at the Ujima Center

Stage 1 of the prep: Garden boxes have been ripped out.
When Susanna Low-Beer first asked me if I wanted to do something for the Village Building Convergence (VBC,) I said No. For the last several years I have been trying to transition out of my role as a permaculture teacher/leader and someone who goes gardening for other people. I have wanted to focus on writing and creative arts, and to keep the landwork to my own space at home. It just works better for me that way.

But when Susie suggested I take on her front yard, I couldn't resist. I have known her for years and that front yard has always been a pretty big mess. Not to say that it wasn't functional. She had rain barrels out there, catching water, and two large raised boxes for growing vegetables and strawberries. She had lovely little ceramic pots full of succulents all over the porch, and decorative things hanging above.

Work in progress. It happened fast!
The problem was aesthetics. Those blue plastic rain barrels are hideous! And the little pots on the porch were attractive enough on their own, but scattered around, they looked cluttered and made it impossible to sit anywhere. And the boxes? Ugh. I have never liked the way raised beds look. So weird to garden in a box like that when you could just garden in the ground.

I mean, this is her front door we are talking about! The portal to her life. I talked about this a bit before, when I was working on my own porch. But for Susie's house it was especially important because she is creating a permaculture education center there and frequently hosts parties and events.

20 May 2012

Placemaking at Home and Outward

Much of my work in the past, with Food not Lawns and before that, with Food not Bombs, Earth First and Greenpeace, could have been called placemaking, though we didn't use the word at the time. The first time I heard of "placemaking" was when I attended Portland City Repair's first Village Building Convergence in 2002. By then, Food Not Lawns had been actively place-making our neighborhood in Eugene for 3 years, and we were thrilled to find a group of people who were so well-organized toward the vision of natural, thriving neighborhoods where people share resources in friendship-based community.

Truly, the concept of placemaking has been in play since long before I started doing activist work. For as long as humans have existed, we have created spaces for ourselves to dwell, work, socialize, and share needs and resources. 

My current survey of ecorevelatory arts has led me into a renewed foray into the idea of placemaking, and though I haven't had time to dive too deep, the study warrants a bit of sharing.

17 May 2012

Portal to the Self


When I was living in Granada, I was always noticing the beautiful doors, and contemplating the way our front doors are portals to our lives. For ourselves, as we pass in and out of our homes, and for everyone who comes to visit, as a first impression of the way we choose to live.

I moved into my new place in Portland in mid February. It is a sweet little studio--a "mother-in-law" unit on the side of a house owned by a friend.

There is a huge yard, which was overgrown and needed care (here's the post on that project)

I have a tiny private porch, but when I moved in it was dirty and dingy, peeling paint and junk piled below.

So I decided to attempt a simplified version at home. Minus the killer tilework, marble slabs, and religious etchings! I had a box of leftover paints in a rainbow of bright colors. I tried to channel the Moorish influence, with a little Oregon circus mixed in.

16 May 2012

Renaissance Woman; an Interdisciplinary Life

When I was  teenager I heard the term "Renaissance Man," and I determined that I would be a Renaissance woman. I guess I am a cheesy romantic fool, but nowadays the more commonly used term is "interdisciplinary artist."

Recently a friend wrote to me on facebook, “I play music every day, do a painting once a week, write once a month and do activism and scholarship sporadically.”

I was like, wow that makes so much sense! I adjusted it to suit my own goals and practice:

I will write every day, make a new song once a week, paint once a month and do activism and scholarship sporadically.

I am an interdisciplinary artist. What does that mean, you ask?

15 May 2012

Photographer? Me?

I got a bunch of books from the library about photography. I was instantly overwhelmed with all of the details, the f-stops and light exposure and aperture. Sheez! The mathematical klutz side of my mind rebelled against the details. And yet I live such a photogenic life. And so I shoot zillion of photos and hope for a lucky moment. Here are a few of those lucky moments from the last few years. These are untouched, currently, but I am learning more about photoshop and may decide to play with some of these images and maybe make a coffeetable book?!?
Bulls Blood


Leucadendron

14 May 2012

Top 5 Books About Writing

The more I study, the more I work and garden and interact with people, the more I travel and learn and play music, the more it becomes clear to me that my central identity is that of a writer. If the way I am remembered is as a bringer of stories, then I will consider that a life well spent.

These are the books that I return to again and again when I need inspiration, motivation, or a new perspective on what it means to be a writer. Find these books, read them and do the exercises they recommend. And let us give voice to ourselves and each other!

Top 5 Books About Writing

1. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

2. On Writing by Stephen King

3. Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block

4. Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg

5. The Right to Write by Julia Cameron

29 April 2012

The Smallest Artists?

Biologist Eshel Ben-Jacob was trying to find cures for diseases when he realized that even pathogenic bacteria makes creative, beautiful patterns in the petrie dish.

This Science Daily article goes into more detail about Eshel's work. I would like to take some of these images and transfer them to a giant wall mural. Wouldn't that be amazing?







And this is even more amazing!

Other people have started to use bacteria as a medium for painting. I find this fascinating. I have never been in a laboratory in my life and the idea that art and science are so closely linked makes me really happy! Turns out we are not all so different, after all ;-)


This artist made an image of Ophelia Floating in a Petri Dish and asked people to call in and read poems to the art while it bubbled away there in the lab. What a bizarre and haunting piece of living artwork!


Small-Scale Ecorevelatory Architecture: Treehouses, Tiny Houses and Tipis


The first time I heard the term, "ecorevelatory," I was at an architecture conference at the University of Oregon in 2000. It made me think of Gaudi, whose work I had seen in Barcelona when I went there in 1996. Around this time I also became aware of the ecobuilding movement. Since then I have seen a wide array of buildings that I consider highly ecorevelatory. They reveal nature through their form and materials, and they also reveal the nature of the person who designed them.

These types of structures fit well into a classic problem: solution ratio. Thus, the need for shelter, for creative outlets, for a greater connection to nature and each other; these needs and others are met by the actual building we live in. As we know, the medium is the message, and a beautiful space yields beautiful ideas.

It is an ideal situation, to me.

The difference between Art and Architecture? To me, Art is primarily spectative, meant to provoke thought and incite whimsy. Architecture, on the other hand, produces something you could actually dwell in. This makes it extra special in my book, and why I didn't become an architect a decade ago, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps it was the music, knocking at the doors of my perception. Or maybe it was the seed crops, asking for water and weeding. At any rate, here is a list of my favorite examples of ecorevelatory architecture.





Treehouses

Who wouldn't want to live in such an integegrated and inspiring structure? If you don't have vertigo, a treehouse brings out the kid in all of us. Check out:

A treehouse resort in Southern Oregon

Treehouse Workshops

The Treehouse Guys



Tiny Houses
The tiny house movement has taken off, and people all over are starting to agree that less is more. You can find detailed blueprints all over the web, but here are some links to get you started.

The Tiny House Blog

Tiny House Designs

Tiny Houses for Sale





24 April 2012

Land Art


Andy Goldsworthy

“The medium (and the message) is Mother Earth herself.”
--Grace Glueck

I am learning to differentiate between art that is made in nature, art that is made out of natural materials, art that is made to represent nature, and art that directly protects or influences a natural system. A preliminary google search on Land Art yields too much information to explore in a short overview such as this, but I have done my best to conduct a thorough survey of the most prominent artists in this arena, and have highlighted several of them below.

For detailed, debatable definitions, read these wikipedia entries:
And here is an interesting article on definitions:

In his book, Land Art, author Michael Lailach presents the Land Art movement as a radical departure from the last 2000 years of art history, in that the art is made without intention toward indoor display. Of course outdoor public sculpture has always been popular, but Land Art, as labeled by Gerry Schum in his 1969 television special on the topic, is something new.

Christo and Jeanne Claude
Land Art is art that changes (and often disappears) the way life does. This is fascinating to me because I have always thought of my art as my legacy, and of the works I leave behind as the replacement for the children I have chosen not to have. The idea of making art that is designed to disappear is simultaneously terrifying and inspiring.

The primary curiosity of this kind of art (and also, perhaps, its power) is the fact that it is so difficult to show it in a gallery. Some artists seem to prefer it that way, eschewing gallery politics and making bold statements about the way humans interact with art, nature, and each other, such as Walter De Maria’s famous quote “God has given us the earth, and we have ignored it. ”  (page 15)

When De Maria was commissioned to create a show for an upscale gallery in Munich in 1978, he filled the entire gallery with dirt and barricades visitors from entering. This was a statement about the way the natural world is barricaded from our upscale gallery culture.

17 April 2012

Springtime in Portland: An Ephemeral Art Collaboration

In these early stages of my inquiry into land and ephemeral arts, I felt it necessary to get outside and make some stuff. My friend and colleague, Seattle-based photographer Audineh Asaf came to Portland for the weekend and we spent a day paying tribute to the resilient, multifunctional, and misunderstood dandelion. These are just the very beginning of a body of work that Audi and I intend to co-create.


We started with three simple pieces: The first piece was a spiral around the fire pit in my back yard. I live next door to a houseful of young, vibrant people, and we share a large urban backyard that is in much need of proactive garden energy. I was hoping the little gesture of affinity for the plants would stir up some interest and intention between us.

How to Make a Sock Cthulhu (and other fun ways to reconcile with your mortality)

I stumbled across this silly and delightful project. I mean, who doesn't need a cute little effigy to the Sleepless Dreamer?

Here's the directions for making a sock Cthulhu. But I warn you, this is a gateway doll-making project! After I finished this one I spent the weekend obsessed with turning lonely old socks into goofy little creatures.


When I make monster art, I always think about how small we are in the universe, and how inexplicable reality is.












Last night I watched the Secret Life of Plants and was reminded that every living thing has a consciousness, and responds to the consciousness of those around it.







Another relevant film is the deliciously ridiculous mockumentary, Trollhunter. I found it quite provocative in its revelation of the contrast between humanity and the unknown.

And who is to say that there aren't great beings--not gods--just creatures that are too large for us to see? I understand that millions of people believe in gods. But I am talking about mortal, breathing beings that exist in places we have yet to have explored. I enjoy the humility that comes from this type of contemplation.



16 April 2012

Life Drawing Class: Pyxie in a Halfshell

The other night I hosted a Life Drawing session at my tiny studio in Portland. My friend Pyxie was the model and four of us circled her, drawing and painting in a variety of media. We had her do four 3-minute poses, three 10-minute poses, and two half-hour poses. It was really fun! And really challenging.

The drawings here were all made by the other women at the session. Only the painting at the bottom is mine.
It has been about ten years since I tried to draw from a live nude model. I felt like I was in third grade, drawing lumpy, ugly sketches that didn't look at all like Pyxie. It was humbling but also very interesting. In the final pose I decided to go abstract, focusing on how her lines and angles made me feel, rather than trying to get it all shadowed and proportioned correctly.


I know that, for art to have the resilient qualities that bring about culture change, it usually needs to have a human figure represented in some fashion. Sure, there are plenty of examples of artwork that doesn't have any eyes, but for the most part, the art that moves me most often contains some aspect of the human form.


I enjoy trying to think of ways to use figures and silhouettes in eco-revelatory work, whether visual or performance-based, as a means of connecting more deeply with the audience.


13 April 2012

Confessions of a Sugar Addict

It has been three days since I ate sugar.

I mean, I guess there was probably sugar in the Tom Ka soup at the Thai restaurant last night, but WHATEVER! I have been seriously strung out on the stuff for decades--forever I mean, since birth. I was never breast fed. The therapist the other day said perhaps I am still trying to get that sweet mother's milk but I ain't gonna find it in a  Snickers bar or a vegan organic cookie.

So fuck it. That's right, I said F#$% YOU SUGAR! I quit. Sugar can kiss my dimply 40-year old ass. And speaking of that booty, I am getting in shape too. I feel a bit cliché being another middle-aged woman who is finally declaring that she is tired of hating her body. But don't worry, I have declared it many times before! And THIS TIME I am really working a program. I am acknowledging that being addicted to sugar is just like being addicted to tobacco, alcohol or heroin. It is a tool of the death-machine. It is nasty from every angle. There is no good excuse. And of course, it will eventually kill you. It's not that I mind dying but slow, painful suicide? Seems like a waste.

I am rereading Sugar Blues by William Duffy. You should too. I can't begin to explain how important this book is to humanity, to the sustainability movement, and at this moment, to me as an individual. I can't believe I ever put a drop of that crap in my mouth since the last time I read this amazing book about 12 years ago. It reads like a novel, but gives you the real truth about every aspect of why sugar is wicked. Politics, health, environmental issues; you name it, sugar is the Darth Vader of dietary concerns.

Sugar is everyman (and woman) 's heroin. The great catharsis. Suitable for children and adults of all ages. I was taught as a young child to be an emotional eater, that ice cream could make everything better. It doesn't. It makes everything worse.

07 April 2012

Art, Madness, Depression and Recovery


For as long as I can remember, I have seen art as a remedy for disease. Not so much for disease in the obvious sense, but more so for the feelings of dis-ease that I experienced. When I was five, my grandmother noticed my strangeness, my sensitivity to things. She took me down to her painting studio in the basement of her cluttered old house in outer SE Portland and set me up with my own easel, brushes, pallette. She arranged the jars of turpentine and admonished me with the words, “Dark to light.”

Thirty-five years later, I sat in a session at my first residency of Goddard College’s MFA Interdisciplinary Arts program and heard Michael Sakamoto talk about his work with butoh. He said that butoh starts in the darkness and brings forth the light.

Dark to light. As is all too common, my grandmother is an amazing artist but she is terrible with people. She is smart, intuitive, and talented. Yet she has turned those things into spite, condescension, and arrogance. And in her way, she has also taught me about the distance between these things, and the results that one gets from each.

Depression has been a word in my vocabulary for what seems like centuries. It is all around me. It sleeps in my bed, often, and in the beds of most of my friends and colleagues. We struggle, we recover, we struggle again. Some resort to pharmaceutical medications, others to herbs and elixirs, of varying degrees. Dark to light, and back again.

And we make art. And the art makes us feel better. We write songs and sing them at each other. We splash paint onto the walls, smash clay into vessels and likenesses and tiny imperfect treasures. It is a cycle this, a cycle that humans seem to have perpetuated forever. Art and madness, dark and light, art and madness…

31 March 2012

Hyperkulturemia and Duende

Defined as "a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to a large amount of beauty in one place," and also known as "Stendhal's Syndrome" and "Florence Syndrome," a naturopath friend told me that "hyperkulturemia" translates directly to mean "too much culture in the blood." In some writings, symptoms are extended to include depression and disenchantment that can come from returning home to an ugly place after experiencing the beauty of a place like Florence (Italy, not Oregon!)

I first experienced this when I was 17. I had partied all night with a bunch of older punks who worked at the same restaurant as me. Around 4am we decided to pile into somebody's Pontiac Firebird and drive from Long Beach out to Joshua Tree, about 3 hours away. We arrived as the sun was rising, and when we pulled into the jumbo rocks campground, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and strangeness of the giant stone formations. I kept saying "the rocks look fake!" And my friend Kirk kept saying, "No Heather, the rocks at Disneyland look real." It was a profound moment for me.

Several years later I took myself on a museum tour of Europe.  And although this "syndrome" is aptly called Florence Syndrome, my Italian experience of it was in Rome, when I first saw the Sistine Chapel. I had gotten up at dawn to get in line at the Vatican. I was about the 40th person into the museum, a massive labyrinth about 9 miles long (if you go into every salon.) I took the shortcuts and ran (as fast as the guards would let me) to the very end: The Capella Sistina.

29 March 2012

Self Portrait in 7 Levels

I have been working on the little box I got at the Goodwill, making a self portrait in seven levels. I researched the seven chakras, and in each little section of the piece, I am assembling a symbolic representation of seven aspects of myself as artist. I also like the number 7 because that's my birthday, July 7 (7-7; same day as Ringo Starr and Marc Chagall!). So it is a good number to use for a self portrait.

For each section, I am doing a short mediation on the nature of that chakra, and manifesting a background image in a different medium. Here are some photos of the work in progress, starting from the root:

1. Root Chakra, representing the earth element, my passions, and the gardener side of myself. For this section I made a lino-block print of a five-petaled flower, in tribute to the rose family which provides so much of our food. I colored in the background with colored pencil and painted over in acrylic.

2. Base Chakra, representing water, creativity, and the side of myself that loves to paint. It is curious that I did not realize this chakra existed until I began this project, and yet I am considered a very "watery" person. More on that, later. For this section I painted a tiny self portrait in oil, with a field of marigolds in the background.

3. Solar Plexus Chakra, representing fire, energy, and those more practical things that I do with my hands, such as ceramics, sculpture, mask-making, jewelry-making, sewing, etc. I used the Hand of Fatima image in this section because it is a symbol that comes up in all aspects of my life. I drew and colored it with pencils.

4. Heart Chakra, representing air, touch, trust, and the side of myself that is a dancer. For me, dancing is all about opening your heart, trusting yourself, letting go of the need to keep defenses. For this section I made a stencil of an abstract heart with wings, printed it onto the linen paper, colored it with pencil, and painted over that with acrylic.

5. Throat Chakra, representing ether, sound, communication, and the musical part of me. I sketched a graphic that implies a banjo, and will paint it in acrylic. I envision installing a tiny audio player so that people can push a button and hear a sample of my work.

6. Third Eye Chakra, representing intuition, wisdom, and my writerly nature. So many aspects of myself come out through my writing that I couldn't settle on a symbolic image other than that of the eye, with my own shape reflected in the iris an and eight-pointed lotus around it to represent the crossroads at which I so often find myself. I drew this image in ink, colored in with pencil, and added acrylic paint some sections.

7. The wooden shelf I started with only has six sections, so I needed to create a seventh level to accommodate the crown. I built a little shrine for the crown in papier-mache and painted it in acrylic. Then I made a little paper flower with seven petals, and glued it in.


I also wanted to associate each of the seven sections with a different aspect of my genetic and cultural self: Mexican, Spanish, Cree, Chihuahua, Irish, French and American. Further, I want to infuse symbols that speak of the seven virtues/vices...I haven't quite figured out how to incorporate it all just yet...