December 2016: 'Tis the Season to be Grateful

I love and appreciate these folks. They have brightened my world with their optimism, their willingness to try new things, and their insight that comes from the wisdom that age can bring. We joined together in February of 2016, and already, this year is coming to its end. Luckily for all of us, Community Engagement has given us one of the most valuable Christmas gifts we could have hoped for--more time together. They've extended my residency for another year. This means more beautiful things to be made, more time to nurture these relationships, and more time to share our lives and the imaginative spirit that has brought us together.

Thank you, Community Engagement and the Village for a most fulfilling year…

FOR OUR GIFT EXCHANGE, MANY OF US RECEIVED ART SUPPLIES: TRAVELING ART SETS, TABLE EASELS, ASSORTMENTS OF DRAWING UTENCILS, PICTURE FRAMES, JOURNALS, SKETCHBOOKS, PAINTING KITS, AND SOFT THROWS TO WRAP OURSELVES IN WHEN WE'RE UP LATE DRAWING AT THE KITCHEN TABLE ON A COLD WINTER NIGHT. top row: claudia, joe, and la verne. middle row: maria, pedro y parer, and ron segura. bottom row: ron, sharonda, and terri.

FOR OUR GIFT EXCHANGE, MANY OF US RECEIVED ART SUPPLIES: TRAVELING ART SETS, TABLE EASELS, ASSORTMENTS OF DRAWING UTENCILS, PICTURE FRAMES, JOURNALS, SKETCHBOOKS, PAINTING KITS, AND SOFT THROWS TO WRAP OURSELVES IN WHEN WE'RE UP LATE DRAWING AT THE KITCHEN TABLE ON A COLD WINTER NIGHT. top row: claudia, joe, and la verne. middle row: maria, pedro y parer, and ron segura. bottom row: ron, sharonda, and terri.

There is something to be celebrated when people sing and come together to sing. Sometimes, it’s to start the day in tune, appreciating the acoustics of the shower before facing the day. Sometimes, it’s to help celebrate someone's life on their birthday. Sometimes it’s a form of praise. Sometimes, it's just for the sake of making pleasant sounds. Sometimes, it’s to share the gift of voice and song. And whether it’s done in rejoice or in despair, either is a necessary way to express the state of the world and the state of our hearts.

JOE THE MUSIC MAN (A.K.A "JOEY B", AS HE WAS CALLED WHILE PERFORMING BACK IN THE 1970'S AND 80'S) PLAYS FOR US A SONG THAT HE HAD JUST WRITTEN EARLIER THAT WEEK. THis SONG WAS A PLEA FOR PEACE IN A WORLD THAT IS DYING FROM VIOLENCE, DRUGS, AND LACK OF SPIRITUALITY.

JOE THE MUSIC MAN (A.K.A "JOEY B", AS HE WAS CALLED WHILE PERFORMING BACK IN THE 1970'S AND 80'S) PLAYS FOR US A SONG THAT HE HAD JUST WRITTEN EARLIER THAT WEEK. THis SONG WAS A PLEA FOR PEACE IN A WORLD THAT IS DYING FROM VIOLENCE, DRUGS, AND LACK OF SPIRITUALITY.

I grew up in a musical family. Ông Hạnh, my great uncle, was a composer in Vietnam, and to this day, his music can still be heard as hymns are sung by the choir during Vietnamese masses. In 1975, my family arrived as refugees at Fort Indianatown Gap, Pennsylvania, one of the four refugee camps in America. One year later, my grandfather helped found Spirit of Vietnam, an organization that offered social services to the newly-arriving Vietnamese population. Spirit of Vietnam also served as a news outlet. They and broadcasted the American news in Vietnamese tongue, translated by my grandfather. Spirit of Vietnam would organize community events, some of which included concerts put on by the family band. Mother and her siblings took to the stage as she and Bác Ha sang duet, Cậu Hien's agile hands on the keyboard, and Bác Hieu's nimble fingers picked at the guitar. Inspired by both Vietnamese and French music, their performances were both an expression of their new life in America, but also served as a way to share their Vietnamese culture with their new community. Bác Hỷ would set the tempo on his drums. Oh, Bác Hỷ’s drums. They were OFF LIMITS to Chị Tu and me, but we would sneak into the garage where they were stored, just to get a peek and even touch them. Those drum sticks were fun to hold in our small hands.  

From fourth to fifth grade, Mother gave me lessons on our upright piano while we lived in Fremont. Around that same time, Ba Ngoai acquired a piano, and four of my cousins took piano lessons at that Huntington Beach house. The family was determined to pass down their appreciation of music; endless hours at the piano, after school and on summer afternoons, helped develop that appreciation in us. By high school, many of our family members had converted one room of their home into a karaoke lounge. They were equipped with thumping speakers and all kinds of instruments--guitars, keyboards, congas, maracas, and an array woodwinds, just to name some. We would gather to sway, swing, and sing. For some drama, they even hung swaths of drapery from the beams above, deep reds and rich violets velvet hung over our heads to set the stage. They'd pass around the squid jerky and share with us youngsters.

The memories I have of the times that I have sung with other people are mostly fond--practicing the song "Tiny Tim" as I was learning to speak English in preschool, singing favorite songs with childhood friends, singing the school fight song alongside my classmates with fists pumping in the air during football games, singing with Cô Hoài, my youngest auntie, as she drove me around throughout my childhood, singing at church with my mother. While I was growing up, Mother and I sang together often. In kindergarten, to wake me up, she would sing, "Wake up, Little Teeeee, Wake up", to this Everly Brothers' tune. On the ride to school, we would sing in harmony (I would be in charge of the melody and she would harmonize) to The Mamas & The Papas

Singing with others evokes a sense of nostalgia for me, and here at Heninger, the sharing of memories is one thing that has surely brought us closer. So it warmed my heart to walk into an improptu karaoke session one evening. Joe sang some Christmas melodies for us before passing the mic around. I joined in and sang a very shaky “Jingle Bell Rock” (singing in front of people makes me nervous) and we swayed along to Joe and Claudia’s duet: 

 

 

BABY, IT'S COLD OUTSIDE, BUT WE'RE KEEPING WARM IN HERE. JOE AND CLAUDIA DO A SOUND CHECK BEFORE HENINGER VILLAGE'S RENOWNED ANNUAL CHRISTMAS PARTY. IT'S JOE'S SECOND YEAR LIVING AT THE VILLAGE, AND THIS YEAR HE'S TAKEN ON THE ROLES OF BOTH DJ AND MC. 

 

On a Saturday evening, I followed the eucalyptus trail to where the poppies bloom in the spring. I do miss them during the wintertime. I strolled through the gates and past the rose bushes, and I stepped into warm murmurs and humming conversation. The studio/community room/Lotería clubhouse/visiting lounge was dappled with knitted reds and woven patterns, and twinkling were the Christmas lights and the Spirit alive in their eyes. After having heard about this event all year, I had finally arrived at Heninger Village’s renowned Christmas party—a celebration of the holidays, the year, the Villagers, and togetherness.    

LA VERNE'S FRIENDS CAME TO CELEBRATE WITH US AND SERVE THE RESIDENTS CHRISTMAS DINNER. WHAT A LOVELY BUNCH!

LA VERNE'S FRIENDS CAME TO CELEBRATE WITH US AND SERVE THE RESIDENTS CHRISTMAS DINNER. WHAT A LOVELY BUNCH!

We feasted and enjoyed the festivities, including Joe’s selection of music, and the holiday raffle. I visited with residents that I’ve gotten to know and met some new residents. One of the highlights of the night was making a new artist friend.

This is Joseph Hawa whom I met as he shuffled through his mail.  Joseph is a fine art graduate of the American Academy of Art in Chicago, also having continued his education at Northwestern University.  He arrived in California in 1975, the same year as my family arrived in America. He has taught at Irvine Fine Arts Center, and employing a variety of media, he continues painting en plein air, abstract, and figurative works, practicing in his studio which is located the Santora Building, whose eyeline gazes across the Promenade at Grand Central Art Center where we are taking up residency. Joseph is also fluent in the art of Japanese calligraphy. He giggled as he shared that with the last name, Hawa, many of his collectors have been surprised to learn that he is actually not Japanese, but rather, of Lebonese descent. Here is some of Joseph's work

 

"I believe the feelings and emotions expressed in my paintings are much more important than the subject matter.
I hope that the viewer will feel my paintings as well as see them."

- Joseph Hawa

 

MR. JOSEPH HAWA IN HIS MOST FASHIONABLE HOLIDAY ATTIRE. WE DISCUSSED touring each other's STUDIOs AND JOSEPH WILL BE JOINING US FOR OUR FRIDAY NIGHT SESSIONS. MERRY AND BRIGHT, INDEED, NEIGHBOR! WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO LEARNING MORE ABOUT YOU, MR. HAWA.

MR. JOSEPH HAWA IN HIS MOST FASHIONABLE HOLIDAY ATTIRE. WE DISCUSSED touring each other's STUDIOs AND JOSEPH WILL BE JOINING US FOR OUR FRIDAY NIGHT SESSIONS. MERRY AND BRIGHT, INDEED, NEIGHBOR! WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO LEARNING MORE ABOUT YOU, MR. HAWA.


"Merry Christmas, Friends. I realize it's been a rough year of many of us, but there is indeed plenty to be thankful for.
A wish for Peace and more Love (there will always be room for more love!) for you and yours in this forthcoming year.*

 

 

November 2016: Our Village

WE HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF SPENDING LA VERNE'S BIRTHDAY WITH HER AND OUR VILLAGE.

WE HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF SPENDING LA VERNE'S BIRTHDAY WITH HER AND OUR VILLAGE.

La Verne is a beaming light that glimmers softly through the village. Her calm and steady demeanor and encouraging spirit uplifts and warms those who surround her. She is a peacemaker. A lover. A nurturer. La Verne, you are a thoughtful individual whose writings and artwork express the commitment that you have to the peace and harmony that dwells within you. Your gift to us has been in the way you spread this peace to others. 

When the project first struggled to get on its feet, my impatience had disguised itself as failure.  La Verne said confidently,

 

"Don’t worry. I’ve been asking for an art program. I manifested you. You were brought here to us."

and encourage with,

"Everything works out the way its supposed to. You’ll see. Everything comes together on its own time." 

and remind me,

"Whatever happens, and however it happens, it’s going to be great."

  

Ms. La Verne is a phenomenal force of positive energy, and is generous with her smiles and her laugh. She gives love and because of it, she receives so much of it back from those around her.  *We love you, La Verne. You are an angel whose wing span lifts up this village. *

To express our appreciation for her, we threw her a surprise birthday party, organized by her daughter, Sharonda. Many of the residents came with their family members to feast and celebrate her life. Even with a party going on, this does not stop the residents from continuing their artwork. So, they took it upon themselves to set up a side table so that they could continue working on their projects.

MARIA WORKING ON HER GROWING COLLECTION OF FRIDA kahlo PORTRAITS

MARIA WORKING ON HER GROWING COLLECTION OF FRIDA kahlo PORTRAITS

 
    A NOTE WRITTEN ON THE BACK OF ONE OF HER PAINTINGS

 

 

A NOTE WRITTEN ON THE BACK OF ONE OF HER PAINTINGS

ONE OF DOZENS OF MARIA'S FRIDA PAINTINGS

ONE OF DOZENS OF MARIA'S FRIDA PAINTINGS

Lessons the Village has taught (and continues to teach) me

It really does take a village to conspire and make things whole. It takes the coalescing of different personalities, histories, gifts, and voices to elevate us with the possibilities that abound, to help us practice kindness, to stress for us the importance of support, togetherness, and oneness. 

There is a splendor that is taking place. This is the gathering of a Souls whose desire is to contribute to the beauty in the world by expressing that which lives within them. This is essential to social practice work—recognizing the participants as important, valued, necessary, and active collaborators. 

ron's portrait of frida khalo (in progress)

ron's portrait of frida khalo (in progress)

Whether helping them pick up their medications or an order of menudo, Ron Segura is a resident who finds joy in assisting his neighbors with their daily tasks. In this portrait of Frida Kahlo with flowers in her hair (in progress), Ron experiments with different mediums here--charcoal, color pencil, graphite, and sharpie markers.

 

How has art brought a change in his life?  Ron describes,

"I notice everything differently now. Colors are brighter. I used to be able to walk past a painting without paying it any attention, but now, I have to stop and look, and try to figure out how the artist made it.

Whenever I walk by a painting, I take the time to stop and look, observe the colors, shapes, and the areas that draw me in.

I’m finding that art is a way for me to share my thoughts. Art is this thing that I’ve found. It's like a new toy. And I want to experience all of it."  

A mural at Angels Community Park in Santa Ana

A mural at Angels Community Park in Santa Ana

"I've walked past the Santa Ana murals for years, but they look different to me now. 
Now, I see that they are about the city, the people, and life."

-  Ron Segura

 

This small group allows us ample time to connect closely to each other. The discuss openly as they work their way through the ideas that have become important to them, these ideas that a year ago, might not have existed in their world.  They each move in their own direction. I've inherited the task to support them as they search through their own curiosities, help encourage the mindfulness that goes into work, and I bear witness to more ideas that are discovered during the process. They are growing deeper into the fluid language of art, and it is an utter privilege to watch it flow.

They have consistently shown me, time and time again, this important need to just let goWhen Joe comes to class eager with a new idea, we might talk about different ways to approach it. When Claudia has a lucid dream of stars bursting out of a cornucopia while she watches a conversation that the moon has with the sun, and feels compelled to document it in vivid color, we work together on bringing her vision to life. When La Verne feels compelled to spend all evening, conjuring images, words and thoughts in her sketchbook, she tucks herself away into her corner space, with ears still sensitive to the conversation that take place. When Ron wants to practice portraiture, we sit with charcoal-powdered hands and practice the rendering of Frida’s eyes. 

 

And in their sketchbooks, this inner truth continues expressing itself in earnest:

NOTES FROM LA VERNE'S SKETCHBOOK: CANDID THOUGHTS WITH AN ILLUSTRATION AND A LIST OF THEMES THAT SHE PLANS TO EXPLORE IN HER WORK

NOTES FROM LA VERNE'S SKETCHBOOK: CANDID THOUGHTS WITH AN ILLUSTRATION AND A LIST OF THEMES THAT SHE PLANS TO EXPLORE IN HER WORK

La Verne notes and themes.png
HERE IS LA VERNE WITH A FRESH TUBE OF TITANIUM WHITE IN ONE HAND AND A FRESH-BAKED CRANBERRY COOKIE IN THE OTHER. LIFE CAN BE SO GOOD.

HERE IS LA VERNE WITH A FRESH TUBE OF TITANIUM WHITE IN ONE HAND AND A FRESH-BAKED CRANBERRY COOKIE IN THE OTHER. LIFE CAN BE SO GOOD.

 

I love how the village artists incorporate text with imagery. Some of the writings are phrases. Some are glimmers of thought. Some are quotes absorbed from various sources. Some are poems written to supplement the artwork. And in some cases, the art work arises from the poetry. 

LANDSCAPE and poem BY JOE BUFFARDI

LANDSCAPE and poem BY JOE BUFFARDI

When first starting art class, I was very unsure with myself. But after a few classes, I began feeling more free with my painting. Now, everything I see, I believe that I can paint; I have so much confidence now. I’m so happy that art has come into my life. 

–Joe Buffardi

 


**Stay warm, Friends. The warmth is within you.**

 

 

October 2016: Harvest Time

Autumn is when aged leaves wither to make room for the new growth that is to come. Because of this, every fall, along with the bountiful harvest, I especially find myself deep in the hustle to prepare for the following year. I’m busy meeting deadlines, drafting reports, developing the skeletons for potential projects, and organizing the details in order to be ready for the abundance that is making its way to our table. The days flow into each other and I have difficulty keeping track of time. This sometimes means forgetting my birthday, until my husband reminds me. In my youth, like many of us, I counted down the days to my birthday, but now, it is confirmed that I am, indeed, of that age when I easily forget.

I arrived in class on the evening of my birthday, greeted by a wave of exuberant cheer and the smell of pizza and paint. Our Village had thoughtfully thrown me a surprise birthday party. 

WITH YOUNG PARKER'S HAND-PAINTED SIGN AND A DELICIOUS SPREAD, WE CELEBRATED THE LIFE THAT HAS BROUGHT US TOGETHER. THANK YOU, LIFe. Thank you, VILLAGE. 

WITH YOUNG PARKER'S HAND-PAINTED SIGN AND A DELICIOUS SPREAD, WE CELEBRATED THE LIFE THAT HAS BROUGHT US TOGETHER. THANK YOU, LIFe. Thank you, VILLAGE. 

The conversations that take place in quiet

From as early as I can remember, I was a child that depended on my hands to make sense of the world around me. I grew up building and crafting and making things. I built animals, people, and dwelling places with lego. I organized my rock collection and named each of them with an accompanying key code. But when I became conscious of how art has the power to evoke conversation, (whether it be a private conversation with oneself, or a conversation between the work of art and the viewer, or between the work of art with the creator), I fell deeply in love with it.

With the mid-autumn buzz, I thought perhaps we could slow it down a bit. I brought in some mandalas for us to color. With the set patterns, the residence could relax their minds by simply enjoying color, free of the need to consider composition, shape, or concept. While working on these meditative pieces, we turned the volume of the music down low, and quietly welcomed in the season of harvest. 

 

"Working on these mandalas have slowed me down. I’ve noticed that I am calmer in my everyday life." - Joe Buffardi

 

Joe works steadily on his mandala

Joe works steadily on his mandala