A year in the life of a beaver pond

Remember the beaver pond April 2016In September 2016 I began a three month residency with the Santa Fe Art Institute. The project focused on the riparian restoration that had taken place along the Santa Fe River in La Cieneguilla, the effluent treated water that flows west to Cochiti Pueblo where it joins the Rio Grande. In November, I presented my 3 month immersion into this complex stretch of river and the beaver ponds that altered the land and soundscape of the place I’ve called home for 27 years, an epic story, in 140 seconds. SFAI 140 is a quarterly event at SFAI turning epic into haiku? Nearly a year later, the river is back to it’s tidy channel, waiting for a 100 year flood. I continue to photograph and investigate the now dry ponds, listening for bullfrogs who’ve moved further down the canyon.

SFAI 140 November 2016

“I’m not vegan and I kill mice.I never thought about water rights until 2012 when beavers appeared in the Santa Fe River near my home in La Cieneguilla.mccloud_1

For 28 years I’ve lived on one of the earliest Spanish land grants in the United States, the site of a once thriving Keres Village. In riparian restoration terms, I’m non-native.

The beavers, who are native and reside on the upper Santa Fe River canyon and west at Cochiti Pueblo,    took down the cottonwoods and red willow planted by Wild Earth Guardians in 2008.
Beaver is a keystone species, recognized for creating habitat for other species and filtering water. I was enchanted by the slow, meandering wetlands but the farmers downriver were not- –the dams were impeding the flow for irrigation.

I was told that no beavers ever lived in this stretch of river. Rumors circulated they’d been introduced by WildEarth Guardians.beavers were here

Last March, at a county commissioners meeting, those opposing the beaver asked for extrication of what was presented as a nuisance. I imagined beaver being picked out, and, to paraphrase John Muir, I saw everything in the universe attached to them, and in jeopardy.

I questioned my water rights- Do I have a voice here? I found myself between those with traditional water rights and ‘those’ environmentalists.

As an artist who works with allegory and metaphor, I welcome the beaver as a place-holder for the wild, creative- destructive life force, clearing way for the new.

November 1 marked the end of the 7-month open season on beavers. A county investigator recently reported no signs of activity. Were they hunted out? Perhaps the endocrine disrupters in the water affected reproduction.

No bodies have been recovered – no toxicology reports exist. As mysterious as they arrived, the beaver have disappeared —at least for now.

 

 

 

indigo season

It’s June and I’ve just planted indigo seedlings into a garden patch. Blue. I’m growing sky and water blue. I first dyed with indigo cakes from Japan in the late 1980’s when I was restoring Navajo textiles, dipping handspun wool into the dye bath and watching it go from green to sky blue and deeper with each dip and aeration until it was metallic midnight. Now I grow the plants and strip the leaves in late summer to make my dye bath. Same ritual dipping and airing, only the La Cieneguilla grown indigo yields a greenish teal and occasionally a deep blue. In these collages I’m combining wax encaustic (some wax gathered from home-hives) with the dyed silk organza. FullSizeRender (5) 2FullSizeRender (7)

Am I an activist or is it normal to resist a bully?

IMG_1459I was sent home from school in 1968 for wearing culottes. I was in 7th grade and the male shop teacher grabbed me in the hallway. Girls must wear skirts, and they must not be shorter than two inches above the knee. I was sent to the principal’s office. My only regret was that I didn’t ask Mr. Shopteacher, in the presence of Mr. Principal, to prove it. It would have required an awkward moment – me, spreading my legs to reveal the stitched crotch of the herringbone wool tweed culottes, which were stylishly discrete to look like a dress. The one-piece outfit was a precursor to the efficient can-do jumpsuit, a seamless promise of crotch inaccessibility that neutralized the playing field. I too could be an astronaut; maybe even president.

A week ago I flew to Washington,D.C. where I joined my two adult daughters for the Women’s March, along with my niece and a friend, both teachers, and my hosts. I wore a fake furry pink hat with kitten ears and pink balls attached to the neckties. I’d found it while cleaning out the closet. It reminded me of an Andean cap with earflaps and the balls swinging beneath my ears were festive payback for the male incursions on style I’d endured in school and at church; I hated those chapel veils.

We wore our pink hats, we talked to strangers, we laughed, we felt good, we were mashed in crowds and unafraid, we refrained from liquids to avoid the serpentine port-a- potty lines. We imagined feeling bad by Tuesday when weren’t all together, laughing, walking, chanting, doing something and believing in the goodness of people.

We arrived at the designated ‘end’ of the march, the Ellipse (how perfect!) on the Mall with a clear view of the White House. I set my sign among the others on the grass for Trump to read knowing full well the only readers would be my fellow marchers and the DC sanitation crew. It said ‘You Tweet, I’ll roar’ ‘ on one side and “Liberty and Justice for All”’ on the other.  IMG_1435IMG_1461

Where is my roar? Can you hear me? It’s like a nightmare and I cannot scream. Last night it was about my old dog Dibby. In the dream she’d died and nobody had told me. My sorrow was swallowed up in not having been with her when she was dying. I get phone calls from distressed friends. What can we do? How do we say walls don’t work- remember Berlin, not to mention China? Who will hear that fracking disrupts the heartbeat of the earth? How can I speak to the muscle memory of fear? That’s what’s in running the government right now in the US and creepily, all over the world. Fear.FullSizeRender

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Child’s art work made during reign of Nazi Germany, on display at US Holocaust Museum Memorial

On Sunday, following the march, we went to the The US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Red Make America Great caps and Pink Pussyhats were shoulder to shoulder in the crowd. It was warm inside. I was uncomfortable. I thought it was bad design, all these people….it felt like I was in a herd of cattle, ushered in one direction, no way out. And then I got it- the perfect design for a memorial. I am here, it’s January 22, 2017 and this is the feeling of the people whose pictures I see on the walls, whose words I hear and read. I mentioned to my daughter that if I’d visited a year ago it would have been soft focus historic memory, something that happened at another time or far away. Now it feels current. I want the young girl in the red hat ahead of me to question; I want her WOKE.

January 26th. I listen to the news. Those who voted for Trump and wrote him off as a blowhard full of rhetoric who could make America rich again, I wonder if they are squirming inside. And those who didn’t vote, how do they feel? Are they scared?

In late August I was driving with friends to go mushroom hunting for porcinis. As we turned toward the mountains there was a man standing on the corner, holding a cardboard sign with big black painted letters ‘STAY POSITIVE’.  IMG_1496

That was all. Stay positive. No money requested, no story about war or gas or hard times. He was his sign, a bright presence on the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Guadalupe St. We all gave him money. Stay Positive was our slogan for the day although we found no mushrooms. It steered my perspective. I painted the words on my studio door. When I fall into the rabbit hole of worry and fear I remember stay positive, his presence. Now I’ve added his words to the contacts in my phone, along with phone numbers for Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. I’ll need them all in the coming months.

 

 

Santa Fe Art Institute Residency update

captured-by-game-pI’ve lived in La Cieneguilla for 28 years. For someone born in White Plains, NY who lived in 5 houses before she was 6 and never went west of  the Mississippi River until 15 years of age, this is remarkable. Am I  enchanted? IMG_1165In German there is a word for my condition: Fernweh. Akin to wanderlust, there is something in my soul that likes to feel like the outsider on a forever frontier. I work in the gap of detached yearning. Like a prayer.

Slowly, I’ve come to realize this place is home.

When beaver moved into the Santa Fe River they  felled the cottonwoods planted by WildEarth Guardians in 2008. A handful of farmers downriver complained the dams impeded the flow of the river for irrigation. My project, while at the Santa Fe Art Institute asked ‘can humans and beavers coexist on the stretch of river between the Santa Fe Wastewater Treatment Plant and Cochiti Pueblo, where it joins the Rio Grande? During the project, the beavers appear to have abandoned or been hunted out as the river goes through La Cieneguilla. There are lodges at the topbeavers were hereof the watershed in Santa Fe Canyon preserve and at the river’s  terminus at Cochiti Pueblo.Why are they not here? They were either hunted out as part of the long standing rancher’s stewardship of water/land management or perhaps the emerging pollutants- pharmaceuticals- in the treated effluent water weakened them.

I joined the  Santa Fe River Traditional Communities Collaborative. We are diversity in action- ranchers, artists, farmers, Cochiti Pueblo natives, Spanish land grant inheritors, newcomers, city, county, state and federal employees. I questioned if I had a voice in water rights when I first heard about the beaver controversy.

As a land owner with 3 acres and a domestic well, the project at SFAI/ Water Rights has opened into a broader story of land, land ownership, and the narratives that shape our perception of belonging and protection.

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Beaver spotting

How did I get from Hotel Central: Paris to beaver ponds in La Cieneguilla? Easy. Beaver, the vilified rodent is an unwelcome outsider along the Santa Fe River near my house. Henry Miller, who is the subject of much of the Hotel Central project, was also an outsider and his book, Tropic of Cancer, was banned for 30 years in the US. I like outsiders. I like rivers. I like beaver.

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I’m starting a project that focuses on the river- the Santa Fe River. Tropic of Cancer ends with Miller pondering and reckoning the meaning of life as he muses on the Seine. ” I feel this river flowing through”. That’s the problem with beaver, according to some of my neighbors along the river. Beaver dams are obstructing the flow downstream and the ranchers and farmers ability to irrigate crops. I love the wild ponds, the blackbirds that perch on the cattails. I’m an artist, not a farmer. But I like to eat and support local and all of that. At a county meeting I heard several farmers from the village of La Bajada, about 10 miles downstream from my house, use the word nuisance to describe the beaver, and the word extricate  as a solution. I’m seeing and hearing the word extricate a lot these days. It is the cure proposed for the Zita virus- eradicate mosquitos. Eradicate terrorism. Eradicate the beaver. Wait a second. I don’t think we can eradicate anything- they’ll go underground, go viral, get stronger and louder. No. We need to come up with a better solution.

Meta Tourist in NYC day 1

November 2, 2015– don’t sleep on the JetBlue redeye flight from Albuquerque to JFK. Land, don’t take taxi like I did, instead take the LIRR train or subway and maneuver transfers. Save money for coffee, later. Drop bag off, get hug and coffee from friend who is hosting me and ready to leave for a day of work. It’s 7:30AM. By 9AM start walking- walk through Central Park.

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Say hi to the Rabbit.Keep walking till you get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. meet the rabbit
I always get lost in the Met. It only bothers me when I think I’m missing something so my new Meta Met method is to wander. Get lost. This time, I had a loose itinerary- to view temporary exhibitions.

I was turned around, upside down in my rabbit hole, and found myself in the Asian wing. I was captivated by the animated figures of Hindu deities and monumental Buddhist shrine figures whose names were hard to pronounce. get lost in the MetThe silk road and China and then…

Sonic Blossom, an interactive performance project by Lee Mingwei. A singer from the Manhattan School of Music goes out into the galleries and invites an individual to come sit in the massive Met Asian gallery and be sung to. One to one. One singer, one receiver, seated in a chair about 30 feet away from the singer. It was magic. The Buddha figure behind the singer and another behind the listener were smiling. Love. Open hearted voice, a gift to everyone in the room who passed through or sat perched like a migrating songbird. sonic blossom

 

Meta-tourist collage workshop

Last week I hosted another workshop in my studio- the Meta-Tourist Collage as cartography gathering. As a warmup exercise I cut up magazines into miniature pies, 18 pieces to a pie. We all had 10 minutes to paste the pieces onto a 5×7 postcard. I was sure everyone would make a circle out of the pieces but NOBODY made a closed circle. They ranged from free form open composition, bebop style, to spinning open ended circles to methodical linear arrangements. We bring ourselves to whatever we do and while I was fixated on circles, rounding up my energy which have been on a giant sojourn into a variety of media and ideas, we all worked from our own center. Next time I want to do a 2 day workshop so we can really develop the layers, ideas- a weekend getaway rather than a one night stand. Know what I mean?IMG_9787

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Venus Velvet at Cornell Museum of Art/ Delray Beach, Florida

In 2009 I took down a dead apple tree on my property. I was taking a sculpture class at the Santa Fe Community College, an intro class that was 1/2 semester in the metal shop and 1/2 semester in the woodshop. I wanted to make pencils out of the apple limbs. I did. They didn’t look like much until I painted them. Once they had a coat of yellow casein paint, custom mix, and had their name carved in and then shined with beeswax (bees also from the property) they looked like cartoon pencils- or ‘puppets’ as my friend Laia Obregon, a puppeteer, referred to them.

On July 14, Venus Velvet #4, will be on exhibit at the Cornell Museum of Art/ Delray Beach, Florida, as part of the exhibition ‘Re-Imagined’http://delraycenterforthearts.org/events/reimagined/ Another pencil from the series is part of the permanent collection at Santa Fe Community College. They get around. Most popular was the pencil named Future, which former Santa Fe Poet Laureate, Joan Logghe, took with her on public speaking engagements. Kids are fascinated by the pencils- ”does it write?” Yes, but the graphite tip is very fragile!!!

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8_cutting the apple tree

Get lost workshop

workshop1 72dpi OK- it started out as ‘If I could Fly”, a workshop in my studio where a small group of people (no more than 10) would gather for automatic writing and collage play. 3 hours total.

 

 

Only problem was that I mixed my metaphors from the get go. In the email announcement I started out with flying and then invited people into my rabbit hole. Ever try flying out of a rabbit hole? workshop3 72dpiThere could be something here but why involve people in the coney island of my mind? Scary. What transpired was more spontaneous, rich and graced by synchronicity. 12 people showed up- and somehow we fit in my studio. I’d torn up an old World Atlas and people showed up with maps in hand to add to the materials. Robert, a former rare book restorer, contributed blank pages from a late 18th century publication of Captain James Cook 3rd Voyage. I’d asked attendees to reflect on what had been showing up in their life lately- the words of a song, a bird, money, lottaburger bags…whatever it was, to make note. To acknowledge. This practice of recognition is the beginning of awareness and gratitude. The more I acknowledge the connection being made the more connections are made. workshop5 300dpi5 of the 12 people showed up on time so we started late. Everyone was connecting with one another so I dropped the thought of ‘late’ in exchange for ‘ mixing’ and connecting. Relational art in action. I shared that what has been showing up in my life is the idea of being lost. I’ve had a fear of getting lost in the wilderness and I’m very cautious about staying on well marked trails. In the studio I’m lost- a lot. A quote from Anish Kapur came up while having coffee with some colleagues/friends from a life drawing group-  windmill

An artists job is to say ‘I’m lost’. “You lie on the couch and say I feel terrible about this, that and the other. And suddenly there is a whole thing in the room between you and this other person and you’ve got to work with it. And you think, ‘Oh god look what’s happened! It’s all here! Suddenly there’s a third person in the room before you even know it. And it’s not disimilar for an artist – this stuff arises and then it’s the thing that you work with. And I’m really interested in that as a process. Because it’s a process that leads you in directions you couldn’t imagine, directions you couldn’t rationally put there.” 

We got lost together, with torn maps and the safety of the rabbit hole studio, time restriction and delicious homemade muffins. I cancelled the writing- there wasn’t time. I encouraged getting off the grid, rectangle, square and walk off the edge. Amazing what can happen with a glue stick and paper. By the end of the 3 hours we’d tracked our ‘interiority complexes’, some had moved off the plane and into the 3rd dimension. We played, we exchanged, we recharged the conversation with our deepest selves. We got lost.

Next workshop will be collage only, a few paper clips and string thrown in. August. TBD.

Henry Miller transcending Henry V Miller

 

letter from Shanghai

Henry T-72ppiIn 1938 Europe was about to blow itself up again and Henry Miller was infatuated with going to Nepal, Tibet, and most of all China. “I’ve discovered a whole new China” he wrote, and I agree, he could pass for a sage from the East. Maybe it was the influence of Krishnamurti, the astrologers, Madame Anna the seer, Anais Nin and her cousin Eduardo Sanchez, Lawrence Durrell who’d lived in Nepal; maybe it was mortality creeping up with his 50th birthday. Miller fled Paris on the brink of war and made it as far east as Greece. Or maybe he did travel East. In this project, Open Letters from Hotel Central, I’m reinventing Henry Miller the myth to include a trip east, perhaps India. I’ll be his proxy. aquarius2160

Like Miller, I look to the East to make sense of the rage that flairs up in me when temples and religious art are blown up in the name of God, people murdered, books burned. We pray for peace and prepare for war. I do yoga, I chant. I meditate. I judge. I scorn. How to love in light of growing evidence that yes, we are made of the same stuff. We really are stardust wearing different clothes. This is Vishnu’s dream and here we are together, Jihadists, Fundamentalists, non-believers, living it out together. The same wars, the same fight- Jews and Christians, Muslims. It’s the war inside, churning. Mythic. Timeless.