Sunday, December 19, 2010

Overdue update

Here I sit on a quiet Sunday morning a few days before Winter Solstice, witnessing the sun (yes, the sun) crest over the edge of our hollow. It is a cold, but magnificent morning. A morning when the crises of the world, the dramas of intimate friends and family members and the typical aches and pains visiting this body seem to be a few frames away. I can contemplate a walk in a bit, the wheezing noises coming out of one of my cats (poor old Shotsi) and a bowl of red quinoa cooked in hemp milk with pears, spiced with vanilla from Chiapas and cinnamon. There's a gentleness about this day that is such a blessing, and it goes without saying, that I almost never take the riches of this current life for granted. My loved ones upstairs sleeping, the heat on, the water running, food in the is really the penultimate of success, but few folks seem to notice this . The clatter and clamor of so many others, running after carrots that are apparitions, sometimes creates static in my ears and dizzies my better self.

But I digress. After my walk I am off to the studio, a process that makes me simply happy - not deliriously so. My home studio is a tiny place where one stride takes me from one working station to another (there are impossibly three places to work in so tiny a space). Still I am making do, developing projects that assemble elsewhere into larger manifestations. Working with components that grow into something more substantial (kinda like seeds) has been my style for years now. Having this new studio in Tacoma is really going to be a fascinating shift...what happens when you have a mural sized wall to draw on, and a floor space where large sculptural forms can grow, where groups can sit at tables and develop a concept and build there in the space. Imagine that!

So my installation for VALISE is growing one hand-sewn seed packet at a time. Collaged models for story hives, too big for a doll house but definitely big enough for a sand box, are lined up on every surface, as are the seedling planter trays and dozens of seedling containers, half of them with a membrane made out of a photo of an eco-calamity. The others will be filled with dirt and native plant seedlings in good time. My desktop computer is filled with dozens of digital collages of surreal versions of myco and phyto remediation. I'll post a few soon. The show's title is Reframing Eden: Phase #2 - Gathering Pollen, and I'll need two rocking chairs and a digital recorder to make the gathering of stories possible (of course some gardeners/farmers willing to spill their beans would be useful, too). I posted my need on Vashon All and received over a half dozen rocking chairs - the digital recorder should be delivered by the Generous Goddess of the Solstice...we will see.

I'll be in the Tacoma studio for a few days before the 7th, drawing proposals for the 3rd iteration of Eden Reframed. It will be an initiation of the Tacoma space as a creative one. I'm really looking forward to it. Better bring my smudging supplies, given how much toxic energy has moved through there. The 3rd version of Eden Reframed is being proposed for the Burton Skate Park on Vashon. I am hopeful that we will build a demonstration garden and sit spot that will inspire many more eco-art projects at that site. It needs a lot of work.

More soon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Next steps

The day after my disappointing news, I broadcast the "seeds" more widely, letting various key people in my island networks know that my project was at risk. I received enthusiastic responses and my heart was and is warmed. I have a meeting with one possible community partner tomorrow. More news soon, I hope.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Disappointing News

The day after returning from my whirlwind talking tour, I put together an application for the proposed orchard site. This was required by the Board who oversees the site. I submitted it with multiple photos and detailed attachments and waited. Yesterday the committee met, and tonight I received a short rejection letter. There was no chance for discussion about ways to adapt my vision to their needs. I had been told that we would meet, but that opportunity was not offered. I am deeply disappointed. I know that what I proposed was ambitious, but the funding and the community support to make it happen was all there.

I now am having to rethink again where this project will go. Maybe my dreams will offer direction.
If anyone reading this blog has suggestions of sites on Vashon Island, please get in touch. In the meantime, I am going into the studio....

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Moving Forward, One Story at a Time

The formal approval of the orchard site is still on HOLD and may be for weeks to come, but that doesn't mean that I have to be on HOLD. I put the above article in the local newspaper and it will hopefully bring in some participants as part of the community "animation" of the project. Community cultural animation is a term used to describe a particular kind of community art where the participants become self-determining creators of the project, and the artist(s) facilitate that process, bringing tools, structure and organization to assist in what unfolds. In this case, the forms (story hives) will become "envelopes" for the poetry of the community's stories. Since I have only gotten one response to my call for stories so far, I will have to do a poster campaign and some phoning around when I get back to town on the 29th of October.

I leave for the Bay Area on the 12th and will give a talk at Laney College in Oakland on the morning of the 13th, in Andree Singer Thompson's Ecoart Matters Class at 10am in the Art Center room 130. Free. All are welcome. This is on 10th St. across from the Oakland Museum & Convention Center.

I'll be moderating the
Bioneers Panel called: Teaching Art as a Subversive Activity: Eco-Art Meets Cultural Democracy in San Rafael, CA on October 17th. See this link for more information:

Finally I will also be speaking at the Gentle Actions conference in Oslo, Norway on Oct 23rd and 24th. My topic will be Stirring the Compost: Eco-art Strategies for Resistance and Resilience.

I'm waiting to hear whether I'll be speaking at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn on the 26th of October. I will post an announcement when I know for certain.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My OP-ED piece for the Vashon Beachcomber (will appear 10/6/10)

I grew up in a family that did not practice a religion, but whenever the weather allowed, my parents knelt on the earth, planting seeds, weeding or harvesting. Although I did not then understand their actions as a form of prayer, I do now.

Some of my first memories are of crawling through my parents’ vegetable garden tasting and smelling the bounty growing in their neatly kept rows. Before I learned to speak, I was digging in the dirt and tossing compost into the bin. As I grew older, I spent hours lifting up rocks to observe insect life and rarely tired of picking berries. Never did I imagine, however, that gardens would become a leitmotif of not only my life but my art practice as well.

In 2003 I was hired to create and teach interdisciplinary arts courses at the University of Washington Tacoma. My new colleagues advised me to look for a home on Vashon Island. They felt it would be a good fit, and it has been. This year I am experiencing my first paid sabbatical, after more than three decades of teaching all over the continent. While most people might imagine that professors go away to do research somewhere exotic, I’m doing my creative work right here on my own island. It is an extraordinary privilege to slow down and really feel the texture and pulse of where I live.

As part of this year’s artistic journey, I’ve developed a project that will hopefully give back to the community for years to come. UW’s Royalty Research Foundation has awarded me a grant to create a community-based, eco-art project, and I’m excited to invite the community of gardeners and farmers to be participate in this new work entitled “Eden Reframed: Gleaning Abundance.”

Inspired by the work of Vashon Island’s non-profit SEEDS (or Social Ecology Education and Demonstration School), which is currently funded by the Harris and Frances Block Foundation to do a soil remediation project on the south end of the Island, I conceived of a project that involved collecting the stories of gardeners and farmers and placing those stories in interactive sculptures surrounding a meditation garden. Although the original site for my project has changed and the future site for the eco-art is still in discussion, it is now the season to collect stories. My permaculture design consultants will assist in the restoration of the land once the site is confirmed, and we will disclose more about the project at that time.

As part of this eco-art project, we will build sculptural “story hives” to hold the stories we collect. My collaborator Shahreyar Ataie and I will collect stories like pollen, fill the “combs” with excerpts of those stories and offer up this “honey” to the visitors in the garden. Story benches with text burnt and carved onto their surfaces will be placed where visitors can rest and contemplate the garden and a video will be created so that visitors from afar can enjoy the stories and garden on the Web.

We are curious to learn what inspires the people who plant seeds and how they relate to their work as a spiritual practice. We will ask gardeners and farmers what gives them a sense of future, what mystery guides them in the garden, and what heals them about the work of growing food and plants.

During a time when many aspects of our world are undergoing dramatic change, it is important to be reminded about what gives our neighbors faith in the future. The harvest of “Eden Reframed” will be available to everyone who visits the eco-art site for years to come.

If you are interested in participating in “Eden Reframed,” contact Beverly Naidus at

Sunday, September 26, 2010

First steps, revised

We are still waiting to go through another hoop to get approval from the board of directors at the new site, and we are getting a little impatient. But I am determined to get started with aspects of the project that are not dependent on a particular site. Our story "hives" and benches require some "action/research" so I need to get the word out. If I write a short article for the local paper I can inspire some gardeners and farmers to participate. So Shahreyar and I will go out with video camera in hand, and start harvesting stories. I will also brainstorm with him re. the structure, size and dimensions of the hives. Collecting "pollen" to make "honey."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Almost there

Well, the new proposal has been approved by UW, so now I just need to hear from the folks at the new site, and we'll be on our way. Cross your sticky fingers with me and we'll be picking fruit next summer and sharing it all around.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Horizons - Restoration Rather than Remediation

Well, it's almost a month since I last posted and some of you may have thought that I'd flown the coop. Or perhaps that this project might never get off the ground. But there's been a relocation process happening and it's been in the works these many weeks. I still can't divulge where the project is going to go, because it is not yet a signed deal, but the project is definitely leaving the Beall because the owners aren't on board. In defense of their reluctance to take the project on, readers should know that they weren't the people who okay-ed the proposal at the beginning. The folks who gave me the go-ahead in 2009 moved away this past May and when the old owners of the Beall returned they were surprised by my announcement that I just received funding to do an eco-art project on THEIR land. It is not public land, although many tenants have been artists, and have had open studios, workshops and events there. So, when I realized that things were not flowing in the way that I had imagined, I started looking around for a public site that might be enthusiastic about an eco-art project. And I believe that I have found one.

I have to redesign the proposal for the new site that includes an overgrown orchard (impassable at the moment due to the blackberry vines and Scotch Broom). There is still space for the altars to seeds that will include stories of local farmers and gardeners. There will be benches for meditation, walkways, and lots of permaculture design with native plants. The orchard, once open, will be available to the community for gleaning and for cultural events in good weather. I will have to apply for more monies to create a fence and gate, and the site is huge (over 2 acres)so we may need more time as well as funding, but it is very accessible to the public, and the committee in charge of it seems very interested. AND I AM EXCITED!!!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Moving Forward and on HOLD

My contribution to the Vashon community art event, The Gravity of Kindness, is moving along full stop. Today I'm off to the Tacoma Good will to purchase material by the pound. We will wrap parts of the altars - I am looking for translucent color and hope that all the right ones will arrive in my short visit there. Margot and Barbie-Danielle will be working with me tomorrow, sewing the "shelves" into the altars.

Eden Reframed is on hold for at the moment, undisclosed reasons...and the log jam will have to pushed open soon. I am looking for alternative sites, other consultants and allies. My main collaborator, Shahreyar Ataie, returns home from his summer-long meditation retreat in a few weeks, and I'd like to be able to break soil in some way, even symbolically, before then.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Return of the Prodigal Daughter

Yes, our trip to Italy was extravagant, but worth every moment (except for the short time we were without seats in a sauna-like train). The eco-village we visited was the most amazing place, and we highly recommend it for multiple reasons - the food, the architecture, the community, the alpine swimming hole, the terraces, the labyrinthian stone staircases and the price (very reasonable). You can also do work trades for room and board. Anyone who wants to see photos of our journey just needs to log on to facebook and my profile there. I don''t want to be redundant here.

Now on to the work of building altars. My lovely studio assistant, Barbie Danielle, arrived on Monday and we have been diligently building altars for the Gravity of Kindness Performance on August 29th. We have harvested more branches from the woods, and screwed together some skeletal structures (one per day). We need to create 4, for the four directions. We'll work everyday this week and next, so that we will have something exciting to share and install by the 26th.

What I am learning from this work is that the woods are plentiful with art supplies, but I am trying to be respectful of creatures' homes and wood that is clearly married to the earth. I am also learning AGAIN to let the materials tell me what they need to become. So the images in my sketchbooks and in my head may be superfluous to what actually needs to occur in the moment or the engineering that is required.

Our soil and bio-remediator, Caleb, is supposed to visit the Beall site with me on Thursday to begin the soil testing process. I await his confirmation.

Soon I will need to begin writing some PR for the Vashon community about this project, and get an article in the local paper, but some details need to be addressed before we start seeking supplies, stories, volunteers, etc.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Physical Setback, An Assistant Needed

After days of experimenting with altar designs, sawing, drilling and collecting wood, I've sadly stirred up my old shoulder injury, and I've been advised (by my acupuncturist) to lay off any labor that involves heavy lifting or pulling for a few weeks. YIKES! I figured out that I need to hire an assistant for those tasks, but I'm concerned that handing over this work will damage my intimacy with the materials. Guess I'll have to file that concern if this shoulder will ever heal. Instead I'll be shooting more photos, writing a press release, drawing out ideas, and refining a time line. Oh, and then there's the issue of drawing up a contract with the owners who want questions answered about liability, maintenance, access, etc. All of this will be put on hold after Tuesday, the 20th, when we fly east to spend two weeks in Northern Italy (yes, I know our carbon footprint will increase exponentially) where we've never been. We will start out at the ecovillage, Torri Superiore, in the Piedmont district just north of Ventimigglia and the Italian Riviera. I hope to be inspired by their permaculture gardens, and learn more about the international ecovillage movement.

If I don't write much during that time, don't despair. I will post lots when I return. I'll have to finish 4 altars in time for the Gravity of Kindness community performance on August 29th, and to that end, I will hire an assistant for about 3 weeks. Let me know if you have any leads. Skills with power tools and a lust for scavenging materials are a big plus.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Biking heroics in a heat wave

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far, and my fellow eco-art list member, Liza, who lives in Edmunds, WA, biked all the way from her home to our island. I was very impressed. I love to bike, but in that kind of heat...whew. Wish I had photographed her arrival up our steep hill, but I was busy watering our thirsty permaculture-designed garden.

After dinner that included yummy greens with toasted hazelnuts & raspberries from our garden, we went to visit the site together, and she asked really great questions about the history of the site and our plans for the garden. What a lively mind!

Here's our proposal: Eden Reframed will be a community-based, interactive eco-art project on the site of the Beall Greenhouses on Vashon Island. Through art, permaculture design, bioremediation and community collaboration, this project will be a small part of the restoration process of a site that has been polluted by pesticides and heavy metals, and damaged by decades of dumping. The project will include sculptural elements such as remediation containers designed from used windshields and car parts and interactive altars made from other scavenged materials. We will invite the community to share stories about gardening and growing food, and the stories will be available for visitors to read on the altars. The sculptural pieces will be surrounded by a healing garden designed from native plants and trees.

Eden Reframed will offer the community a place to learn about the history of this damaged site, while it uses art to both sensually and intellectually to engage the audience with the eco-restoration process. It will be an interdisciplinary collaboration that merges cutting edge remediation techniques, community story telling, permaculture design and site-specific sculptures. It will herald the beginning of a much larger remediation project and open the door to more public art projects and community collaboration. It will have an international presence online offering the world a unique eco-art model of turning a toxic site into a flourishing and aesthetically engaging ecosystem.

Earlier in the day I spent a few more hours with the altar prototypes wrapping & wiring the armatures, drilling, screwing and sawing. Soon I'll have to collect some more art supplies in the woods. No shortage here.

I'll upload more photos tonight when I have more time.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Different views of the site

From the burn pile (heart and center of our garden site) to the skeletal remains of the greenhouses. More images from the HBG (I'll be abbreviating the Harrington-Beall Greenhouses from now on). BTW the owners of the HBG, prefer that the site be called that, rather than the Beall (as it was called by the previous caretakers). So HBG is my way of being respectful to their wishes.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First day of heat, sawing and screwing

Welcome to our blog about Eden Reframed, sometimes called Reframing Eden, an ecoart project for the Harrington-Beall Greenhouses on Vashon Island. Starting today, I will begin posting the progress of our project, and introduce visitors to the pleasures and perils of designing ecoart.

A little over a month ago, I learned that I had received the Royalty Research Foundation grant from the University of Washington. I was overjoyed, as were my consultants and collaborators. We are intending to remediate the soil of one small section of the historic site, while making a beautiful meditation garden, as well as an interactive, narrative art project about the miracle of seeds. While my main collaborator, Shahreyar Ataie, is away at a retreat this summer, I am building prototypes for interactive, sculptural altars.

Today I got hot and heavy with my new cordless drill and a bunch of branches found just off the path on our hill. My friend M came over on Monday and helped me drag a dozen or so branches out of the brush, and today I got out the jigsaw and began to sculpt these babies into altars. As dusk entered the garden, I started wrapping wire and jute twine around the joints created by crossing branches, screwed together. I'm not sure how each each part will interweave into a 3D standing structure just yet, but this is fun. What a trip I'm beginning!!!

I'm so glad that the weather has gotten warmer and I can stand outside without shivering. It's late, so I'll write more about the intentions of this project when my brain is less fried. Glad you're joining in this process by witnessing our adventure. Let me know what you think.