Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Watercolors for a Palestinian peace activist

Many years ago I sought Middle East speakers for the Education Committee of the Sonoma County Peace & Justice Center. Talking with an Iraqi professional, I was shocked to learn that my "politically correct" belief in the "two state solution" to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was not shared by Arabs. That afternoon I sat in meditation, trying again & again to picture peace between the two states. I could not. Each effort ended in a blow-up.
Then I tried picturing peace via his desired alternative: one state/equal rights. It was easy, smooth, radiant. So I painted an imaginary flag of such a country, using colors from the Israeli & Palestinian flags, symbols of their 3 religions, land & water.
A second painting showed diverse Palestinians & Israelis parading together behind that imaginary flag of a reunited, peaceful country. This painting was immediately loved by a wonderful Palestinian woman, Therese Mughannam-Walrath. She is one of the speakers I had met, just beginning at that time to tell any group who would listen about her family's experiences of oppression & exile, seeking to create the understanding from which peace can grow.
Her sisters bought this painting, which she calls Imagine, for her birthday. At first the painting simply hung where she sat everyday to eat, renewing her courage to go out into the world & tell her story. One day she took it with her. "They got what I had to say like that!" she told me, snapping her fingers. She began taking it to all her talks. She used it for her business card. She made notecards for Friends of Sabeel, a non-profit, Christian ecumenical organization seeking justice & peace in the Holy Land through non-violence & education. I am honored to contribute this image to her work & the work of this group.

This year saw new honors. First, Therese was awarded Peacemaker of the Year by the Peace & Justice Center. Besides recognizing her many years of courageous & effective work, this award also marks significant change in American perception of Palestinian people. When she began, a Palestinian receiving such an award was unthinkable. PEP (Progressive Except for Palestine) was pervasive. I'm deeply grateful for this change, a real step toward peace, as well as joyous to celebrate Therese as an invaluable activist.

Next, I received an e-mail from her son shortly before Thanksgiving, asking me to paint a childhood memory of Therese's aunt. Martha remembers serving lemonade to her father & his Jewish friend, who often played backgammon under the olive tree behind their house. Therese cherishes this memory for its antidote to the poisonous falsehood that Arabs & Jews "never got along." I was so happy to help her sons & husband surprise her with this painting for Christmas!

Today I met with Therese & Ari Siletz, an Iranian writer who is about to go to Israel. An Iranian Jewish Peace Committee is sending him on a cultural mission, looking for a helpful Iranian perspective on the tensions & opportunities there. He will be taking a copy of The Backgammon Game, & our blessings.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gulf Prayer Paintings at Sebastopol Gallery

Here are my finished canvases, Prayer for the Gulf, hanging in Sebastopol Gallery. They will be on display (unless they are sold) at 150 North Main, Sebastopol CA, until September 18. The gallery is open daily 11-6.

People have been very moved by these paintings as they have come into the gallery. My hope is two-fold. First, that people who see them will be renewed in oneness will all beings, & in commitment to living in harmony with life in the Gulf & all places. Second, in some mysterious way beyond our understanding, that the existence of these images, coming through a prayerful process, will bring strength & healing to all beings affected by the spill.

Of course, I'd also like to sell them. So they have a home of their own, & so I can pay rent on my home. Blessings....

Friday, July 30, 2010

Green Turtle

Here's the 5th & final canvas of Prayer for the Gulf. This green turtle felt like the key to the healing of the Gulf waters, so I painted her in the center, on a canvas that's deeper than the others. She's painted over an excerpt from the Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra, beloved of all the different schools of Buddhism:

Without loss without gain. Therefore in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, perception, mental reaction, consciousness, no eye ear nose tongue body mind, no color sound, smell taste touch object of thought, no seeing & so on to no thinking, no ignorance & also no ending of ignorance & so on to no old age & death & also no ending of old age & death, no suffering, cause of suffering, cessation, path, no wisdom & no attainment.

As I said, I felt the turtle was the key. The afternoon I finished painting her was July 15. As I stepped back to view her newly hung in the center of the others, I received this text message: "Yahoo is reporting the gulf leak has been tapped."

O, Great Turtle, so much healing awaits....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pelican - Gulf Prayer part 4

This Pelican is the 4th of the 12 x 12" canvases making up my Prayer for the Gulf. When I asked Armando Williams, our spiritual advisor for the Pomo Project, to write a prayer for the Gulf, he didn't know I was going to write it under a pelican. I didn't know that his nickname as a kid was "Pelican." We laughed with wonder when we learned.

Ya-wee Ya-capaty. I ask in a humble manner to open the hear of human beings to help the healing of the Earth & Water in the Gulf Coast. We are sorry, Ya-capaty, & pray you hear our cries. I pray as many do for the healing process to be quick with energy & vibration of love. Ya-capaty, bring the White Light to all nations - winged, finned, the two-legged, four-legged, cloud people, Mother Earth, Father Sky. I ask humbly & with unwavering faith. Ya-wee.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Here's the third of the five canvases of my Prayer for the Gulf, each 12 x 12"

Blue Crab is painted over a prayer by a Pastor of a Christian Church in the Niger Delta of Nigeria:

We pray to God on this holy morn that no petroleum oil will be discovered in our communities. Indeed, Lord, let the oil underneath our houses & farms drift away from us. Lord, spare us the pain & the misfortunes & diseases that petroleum oil brings to our people & to our farms & rivers. Lord, protect us from further harm in the hands of those who want our properties.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Prayer for the Gulf - 2

The second canvas in my Prayer for the Gulf is a triggerfish, painted over an excerpt from the prayer sent out by Lakota elder Arvol Looking Horse:

We ask for prayers that the oil spill, this bleeding, will stop. That the winds stay calm to assist in the work. Pray for the people to be guided in repairing this mistake & that we may also seek to live in harmony as we make the choice to change the destructive path we are on. As we pray, we will fully understand that we are all connected & that what we create can have lasting effects on all life.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Prayer for the Gulf

When Lakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, sent out his call for prayer for the wound in the Gulf of Mexico, I entered silence to find what to do.

What I found was a 5-canvas painting prayer. Each 12 x 12" canvas will have a prayer written across its surface. Over this background texture I'll paint representative Gulf animals, transparent but clear: pompano, green turtle, pelican, blue crab, & triggerfish.

This first one is the pompano. Its prayer is my thought while sketching:

How much of our way of life has to go? Will I be able to paint? Will I need to go to some northern island & hunt & fish & gather? How do so many humans agree to live in harmony & respect--gentle to the fiber of kinship--newly beloved of countless beings we no longer terrorize. What do we need stripped down to love & how much can we take with us? May every heart open to this question & accept the diminishing answer with grace & joy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Salmon Heart

Living in Northern California means living in a watershed that rightfully belongs to salmon. All up & down the coast we are witnessing the peril of 5 salmon species whose lives have literally built the forests from California to Alaska.

Last summer I painted Salmon Heart of the People to express the spiritual connection native people have always honored. This compound acrylic work is 54 x 30". I cut a hole in the center canvas & stitched over the hole a piece of suede leather painted with a healing hand. While the salmon are endangered, so are we--restoring their heart is the pathway to our own health.

Last week I watched Jack Kohler's movie, River of Renewal. He traces the conflicts on the Klamath River from the mouth to the headwaters, giving fair voice to the divergent suffering of commercial fishermen, Yurok & Karuk tribes, fish, & farmers. I especially love the scenes of Leaf Hillman & his son talking about Fixing the World.
Meanwhile, last month the Pomo at Stewart's Point lost their fishing rights. As Jack Kohler shows in his film, it's often Indians who pay for conservation measures. For more information, see Violet Wilder's Facebook page, KEEP THE NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BEACHES ACCESSIBLE FOR THE COASTAL TRIBES. When the world is falling apart, how do we find the right way to heal it?

Maybe we can hear again the Heart of the Salmon.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Standing Bear

In 1879, Standing Bear, chief of the Ponca tribe, took the United States government to trial and won. He was arrested near Fort Omaha while taking his son’s body from Oklahoma—where his tribe was forcibly relocated—to their ancestral lands along the Niobrara River between Nebraska and North Dakota. Judge Elmer Dundy defined Indians for the first time as persons under the law, and ruled that Standing Bear and his people were free to return home.

Standing Bear's story deeply inspired me. Why hadn't I heard it before reading Cowboys & Indians last summer? Why aren't kids taught about this American hero? I had to paint him.

This painting is constructed of three canvases & painted in acrylic. The upper portrait is 20 x 16", & has a lot of texture. The mid-section with the spirit bears is 10 x 30" The lower section, 11 x 14, has a copy of a treaty with the Ponca people. A hole is cut through the treaty & canvas, then woven over. It was featured at Sebastopol Gallery last fall.

His story also inspired Joe Starita. He wrote a book, I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear's Journey for Justice. I'd like to read it.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

for Wilma Mankiller

I was in the middle of this painting, Power from the Past, when I heard Wilma Mankiller had died. The spirits who led me to this image had given a tribute to her life, now diffused among all of us, like a great light. I feel the tremendous benefit of her work, insight & love. How she carries us, how she coaxes us to keep our minds clear & act for the good of all our people.

The pepperwood is an important Pomo medicine. Wilma gathered seaweed with Pomo women, using their beautiful baskets. She went to Kashia for the Strawberry Festival when Essie Parish was leading ceremony.

Pronghorn antelope once roamed Pomo land & I dream their return. This female stands in a wreath of pepperwood, lit by the sun, & surrounded by the mystery of the night sky. She calls the power of the past, as Wilma called the power of tribal tradition into modern activities & policies.

I dedicate this painting to Wilma Mankiller.