April 2017: Spring Forth

Springtime is here, and everything is alive and thriving. The earth bursts with fields of color-- the sky opens up to a brighter blue, the flowers blossom wide in brilliant hue, and the hills sprout the green carpet where flora and fauna will root and roam. These colors illuminate our eyes, and their luster surely finds its way onto our paintings. There is a pulsating energy that arrives in the spring as the sun shines stronger, coaxing blossoms out of their bulbs and us out of our dens. We’re fueled by this time of year when every living thing feels an urgency to be born, to bloom, to resurface, and to grow. And we, the Village, have spent this lively month presenting our colors to the community.

Joe has been busy at the Heninger Village Art Studio, and seemingly busier at home. He's been studying artists’ videos and has been acquiring different techniques and new approaches for his work. This month, he came into class anxious to experiment with a few of the things he’s discovered.

Joe has discovered “drip art” and demonstrates his technique for the Villagers.

Joe shares with us his own techniques for painting clouds. 

Joe is one of the most enthusiastic, high-energy people I’ve known, and his warmth and zeal for creativity is utterly contagious. His fervor spins wildly through the community, in between the bottles of paint, nudging us all to try something new. Joe is a force of nature that is eager to share the beauty and excitement of life and art. We are an excitable group, easily inspired, and of course we jumped right into his lessons.

 Sharonda dives in to experiment with her newly learned techniques.

Sharonda dives in to experiment with her newly learned techniques.

 She was so excited about how the paint moved so organically, that she worked on another piece. Beautiful work, Sharonda! Thanks for the lesson, Joe!

She was so excited about how the paint moved so organically, that she worked on another piece. Beautiful work, Sharonda! Thanks for the lesson, Joe!

 

Fall Back: Maria roots deeper into her work

Maria is a Frida fanatic. Since class began last February, she’s been painting Frida Kahlo. This month, she excavated deeper down into her Mexican American and Orange County history. She was inspired to help tell Modesta Avila’s story, a Mexican woman activist, who was imprisoned for defying Southern Pacific (formerly known as Union Pacific Railroad) by demanding that they pay her for building their railroad through her land. Maria also brought in a photo of her grandmother’s class portrait to share with the class. We are all looking forward to seeing where this history takes her work …  

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Left: Maria working on another one of her Frida portraits. Middle: Maria’s mixed media portrait of Modesta. Here, Maria uses hand-embroidery to illustrate the clothing line that Modesta hung to obstruct Southern Pacific’s path, which led to her imprisonment as Orange County’s first convicted felon. Right: From her own family archive, her grandmother's class photo. With the face that she bequeathed unto her granddaughter, Maria's grandmother sits at center.

 

SHARING OUR WORK WITH THE COMMUNITY

 

Orange County Fair Art Exhibition

My first ever public art show took place at the Alameda County Fair in 1996. The piece I had on display was of the silhouette of a young girl, perhaps a self portrait. As the sun set, she wore an áo dài and a conical straw hat while holding a red tulip. As I write this, I am just now realizing how even my earliest works paid respect to my heritage. It had been my first attempt at graphic art, so I was happy to come home with a Third Prize Award. 

This month, I was invited to judge artwork for the adult and high school categories for Imaginology, a massive visual arts exhibition presented by the Orange County Fair. After judging, I eagerly scurried through the exhibition walls, tiled with works created by children as young as the age 6, and works by high school students, amateur, established, and professional artists. Young Parker submitted to the competition for the 4th-8th grade category, and brought home not one, but two red ribbons for both of his paintings. He was also recognized for his vibrant artwork in the OC Fair newsletter. We are so proud of our budding artist. You are amazing, Parker! 

 
 Young Parker and his buddy pikachu stand proudly with his paintings that each earned red ribbons at this year's imaginology exhibition at the orange county fairgrounds. (The cherry blossom tree on the left is his favorite painting to date.)

Young Parker and his buddy pikachu stand proudly with his paintings that each earned red ribbons at this year's imaginology exhibition at the orange county fairgrounds. (The cherry blossom tree on the left is his favorite painting to date.)

 

Parker is quite the versatile artist. He is drummer and also a bassist for his band, the Space Noodles. As a student of the School of Rock, he’s performed at multiple venues around town, including Yost Theater, The Boathouse Collective, Original Mike’s, Totally 80’s Bar and Grill, and even the House of Blues. This kid is a true creative, dipping his hands in anything that brings beauty and sound and enjoyment to the world. Keep on, Young Parker. We’re excited to see what beautiful things you’ll bring into the world during your lifetime.

 

Ribba group show at Coastline Gallery in Newport Beach

In Swedish, the word ribba means “bar”, as in:  Denna ribba maste hojas. The bar must be raised.                                                                                                                                Surely, the bar has been raised as our Villagers debut new works in beautiful Newport Beach. 

 The Heninger Villagers stand together among their works on display at the beachfront Coastline gallery in Newport Beach, CA

The Heninger Villagers stand together among their works on display at the beachfront Coastline gallery in Newport Beach, CA

We caravanned over to their beach front campus in two cars. It was an intimate experience: not just because the three of us crammed into the back seat of a Nissan Sentra, while Sharonda drove shot gun, but because this was the day that Ron shared with us stories from his childhood, his young adulthood, and his adulthood until present day. He spoke of the family and friends. His experiences as a second-generation Mexican American, born and raised in our City of Santa Ana. His childhood memories. His experiences in grade school. How he was able to steer clear of drugs, gangs, and life on the streets. His beloved mother. These stories poured out of him like a spout whose nozzle was finally unkinked, watering our curiosity. From the moment we stepped passed those Heninger poppies, the stories flowed out of him until we arrived at the gallery. Sometimes that’s all it takes for someone to share their story—some time, a small space, while sitting shoulder to shoulder with those we trust, making our way toward the ocean, on a cool spring day.

With works hung salon style in the gallery, it was interesting to see how each individual work of art conversed with the ones neighboring it. We spent hours admiring each other's works, dawdling through, investigating the myriad of works that quilted the gallery walls. We patiently took notice of the span of marks, media, images, symbols, subject matter, and inspiration that resided in the gallery. With natural light spilling into the space, we studied the handwork of each individual artist, and marveled at each one's voice and vision. 

I am so proud to stand among such genuine people, whose expanding love of art has inspired them to share their dreams and hearts with the community. They consistently remind me of the strength found in togetherness. 

 Sharonda stares out of the window of her interior landscape

Sharonda stares out of the window of her interior landscape

 young parker fancied up for the show

young parker fancied up for the show

 

Life. Drawing. Life drawing. 

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Q Art Salon is a gorgeous gallery and studio space, located in the Artist Village, right across the street from Grand Central Art Center. It’s run by artist Jose Quant and his partner Shelly, one of the warmest and gentlest women I’ve met since my arrival here in Santa Ana. In addition to their regularly rotating exhibitions, they also host life drawing sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in their two-car garage that has been transformed into a cozy little painting and drawing studio. On any given session, there are 5-8 of us that dive deep into studying the nude figure. Some artists stand at their easels with brushes oiling canvas, some straddling their drawing benches with charcoal daintily grazing board with index and thumb, and some with pencil scratching excitedly upon sketchbook.  Sometimes, intermissions commence with Jose gently strumming on his Spanish guitar. Four of us Villagers began attending the Q sessions together, squeezing our way into the studio with about half a dozen other local artists, regulars of Q’s life drawing sessions. Refreshments are offered to guests, and one some days, these include chilled beers. *clink*

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Our moSt sincere gratitude to our local arts community for keeping us inspired, and for offering us ample space to practice and to share our work. This art and the togetherness that it brings is what helps us to spring forward into life.

 

 

March 2017: It is written. And spoken.

It is written that as spring arrives, the sun beams a bit brighter. The living things that roam this earth sense the warming of the air. They emerge from landscape, where they’ve been resting to prepare their bones for the longer, abundant days ahead. Saplings surface above the horizon, soaking in this warmth that will fuel them for their role in this forthcoming verdant season. It is written.

Along with the lines and colors and shades and clippings that move about the pages of the Villagers sketchbooks, rustles their reflections, hopes, and musings that take form in the written word. These introspections flow in an array of compositions: structured poems, hastily jotted down ideas, free-flowing introspections, inspired contemplations that may take shape in visual art form… or not.

Some of these musings meander through the studio in conversation, through text messages that we send to one another, but sometimes, they lie quite within the pages. Only for the owner of the words to hold. Some might be shared, some might not. But they are all important, no matter what path they choose. Perhaps they come to us as quiet reminders. And that is purpose enough for us to keep these words flowing.

To our delight, LibroMobile invited us to present for their upcoming poetry event as an opening performance for Texas-based writer Kimberly Alidio. So we spent the coming of spring developing and preparing our poetry and musical showcase, taking place at the Grand Central Art Center Theater. We convened to rehearse, again and again, until we felt comfortable with the cadence of our spoken words.

Last month during Black History Month, La Verne had sent me a video of a five-year-old little girl named Promise who read Langston Hughes’ The Negro Mother with such vigor, that it resonated with us long after we had witnessed her performance. So, we decided to include our own rendition of this poem to stand with the black community who have bled from the lacerations of injustice. We stood side by side and read in solidarity, wondering how much longer they will suffer. How much longer we will suffer. Because when one suffers, we all suffer, for we are all connected.

La Verne, Sharonda, and I took turns reading each stanza, while Joe strummed on his guitar. But he didn’t just strum. Joe had carefully composed the chords that aligned with the verses. His fingers plucked D major and accompanying chords when we read about the beautiful black skin that shone like the sun. Then, he dove into A minor when we read of the sweat, the pain, the despair. This thoughtfulness is what makes this Village so unique. They don’t just show up to read feel-good poems and make pretty paintings. They read and write the work that helps them share the stories of life—the good and the bad—and they make the paintings that help share their hopes and histories. These are the residents of Heninger Village. 

 Our second rehearsal at the Village

Our second rehearsal at the Village

 Joey B. strums on his guitar, setting the rhythm to which Trinh, Sharonda, and La Verne read Lanston Hughes’  The Negro Woman

Joey B. strums on his guitar, setting the rhythm to which Trinh, Sharonda, and La Verne read Lanston Hughes’ The Negro Woman

 Terri reads her poetry as I help her translate

Terri reads her poetry as I help her translate

These folks are a village of Thinkers, Painters, Poets, and Musicians, and I am so very privileged to be working with them to help bring their talents and passions out to the community! I am so proud to know these people. So. Very. Proud.

Our program included this reading, along with original music written and performed by Joe Buffardi (A.K.A. "Joey B."), and original poetry written and performed by Teresa Roehmer. Outside of the theater, collection of original paintings by members of Heninger Village artists were on display to compliment this creative showcase.

[Unfortunately, our youngest Heninger artist, Parker, was not available for a guitar performance at our event, since he was busy at rehearsal, preparing for his upcoming show with his band, The Space Noodles! Go, Parker!]

 

The Negro Mother                                                                        by Langston Hughes

Children, I come back today
To tell you a story of the long dark way
That I had to climb, that I had to know
In order that the race might live and grow. 
Look at my face - dark as the night - 
Yet shining like the sun with love's true light. 
I am the dark girl who crossed the red sea
Carrying in my body the seed of the free. 
I am the woman who worked in the field
Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield. 
I am the one who labored as a slave, 
Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave - 
Children sold away from me, I'm husband sold, too. 
No safety, no love, no respect was I due.

Three hundred years in the deepest South: 
But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth. 
God put a dream like steel in my soul. 
Now, through my children, I'm reaching the goal. 

Now, through my children, young and free, 
I realized the blessing deed to me. 
I couldn't read then. I couldn't write. 
I had nothing, back there in the night. 
Sometimes, the valley was filled with tears, 
But I kept trudging on through the lonely years. 
Sometimes, the road was hot with the sun, 
But I had to keep on till my work was done: 
I had to keep on! No stopping for me - 
I was the seed of the coming Free. 
I nourished the dream that nothing could smother
Deep in my breast - the Negro mother. 


I had only hope then, but now through you, 
Dark ones of today, my dreams must come true: 
All you dark children in the world out there, 
Remember my sweat, my pain, my despair. 
Remember my years, heavy with sorrow - 
And make of those years a torch for tomorrow. 
Make of my pass a road to the light
Out of the darkness, the ignorance, the night. 
Lift high my banner out of the dust. 
Stand like free men supporting my trust. 
Believe in the right, let none push you back. 
Remember the whip and the slaver's track. 
Remember how the strong in struggle and strife
Still bar you the way, and deny you life - 
But march ever forward, breaking down bars. 
Look ever upward at the sun and the stars. 
Oh, my dark children, may my dreams and my prayers
Impel you forever up the great stairs - 
For I will be with you till no white brother
Dares keep down the children of the Negro Mother.

 

 Left to right: Sarah Rafael Garcia, Founder of LibroMobile; Joe Buffardi, Artist; Kimberly Alidio, Writer; Trinh Mai, Artist; La Verne Culpepper, Artist; Teresa Rohmer, Poet; Ron Segura, Artist; Sharonda Caldwell, Artist

Left to right: Sarah Rafael Garcia, Founder of LibroMobile; Joe Buffardi, Artist; Kimberly Alidio, Writer; Trinh Mai, Artist; La Verne Culpepper, Artist; Teresa Rohmer, Poet; Ron Segura, Artist; Sharonda Caldwell, Artist

It is written that our paths crossed so that we could tread together through this journey, with our hands doused in paint and ink, powered with graphite, and our eyes to the sky. I just could not imagine not knowing these people and their hearts and their talents and their openness to new experiences, new ways of thinking, and new ways of seeing the world that was just a little less colorful before art danced her way into it. Together, we clutch onto the brushes and pencils and onto our chests they swell with the inspiration that runneth over so ferociously, that we must do something with it lest we drown. And so we do. In prose. In poetry. In swaths of color and light. In music. In words scribbled and spoken. It streams through our thoughts at such an alarming rate that our hands can’t work fast enough. But we learn to give it time. To sit with it. To commune with it in quiet and in conversation. Because we know that it will present itself in whichever form is fitting at the time. It always does.

 

 
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February 2017: The Year of the Red Rooster

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The rooster. The bird that is known to call when the sun rises to announce to us that a new dawn has arrived. He crows to proclaim that a new beginning has come and that we have been granted a fresh start. As we swing into the Year of the Red Rooster, Heninger Village Art Studio stirs with activity. Our community generous partners, the Pacific Symphony, have invited us to participate in their 2nd Annual Lantern Festival, and the students are decorating their lanterns in preparation for their upcoming display at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

With Joe’s calming “Ocean Sounds” spinning in the boom box and the coffee pot brewing, we painted our lanterns with various images and motifs as we thought about our hopes for the Lunar New Year. We then painted the Chinese symbols for those things that we wished for. Some of the calligraphic symbols that adorned their lanterns included hope, courage, faith, strength, longevity, love, energy, patience, and fortune. Yes, more of all those things, please!

 Young Parker and Peter prepare their lanterns for the  Lantern Festival , using traditional Chinese and Vietnamese images of nature. For the upcoming year, Peter hopes for  L  ongevity  and paints its Chinese character on his lantern.

Young Parker and Peter prepare their lanterns for the Lantern Festival, using traditional Chinese and Vietnamese images of nature. For the upcoming year, Peter hopes for Longevity and paints its Chinese character on his lantern.

 The Chinese character for  Longevity

The Chinese character for Longevity

 Maria, Parker, and I stand proudly under their lanterns at Segerstrom center for the arts

Maria, Parker, and I stand proudly under their lanterns at Segerstrom center for the arts

 Over 4,300 people came to celebrate the Lunar New Year with us!

Over 4,300 people came to celebrate the Lunar New Year with us!

The Rooster also has another reason to crow--to congratulate us for a very productive year as we conclude our first year in our Community Engagement + Grand Central Art Center artist-in-residence program! To celebrate a fantastic year of growth and community-building, team members gathered for dinner and an evening of art and togetherness. The room filled with chatter, laughter, and the smell of baked beans and fresh salsa. It was an exhibition opening of sorts; we proudly displayed the Villagers' works for all to appreciate. 

To continue our celebration of Vietnamese/Chinese New Year, we also decorated some beautiful white silk scarves with our own designs.  

 Beautiful ms. Rose renders a beautiful rose on her silk scarf

Beautiful ms. Rose renders a beautiful rose on her silk scarf

 Grand Central Art Center, Community Engagement, and Heninger Village Art Studio artists and team members celebrating a most successful year of community building through the arts! Salud! 

Grand Central Art Center, Community Engagement, and Heninger Village Art Studio artists and team members celebrating a most successful year of community building through the arts! Salud! 

 

A bit of interesting history about silk:

The history of silk-making dates back 6,000 years. Made from the protein fibers of the silkworm cocoon, the earliest example of silk fabric dates back to 3,630 BC and was discovered in Henan, a province in Central China’s Yellow River Valley that is widely recognized as the place where Chinese civilization originated.

By about 400 BC, silk was exported along the Silk Road routes, but soon after, various kingdoms and imperial dynasties kept the methods of silk production secret for another thousand years. Silk might have been one of the most zealously guarded secrets in history. Its production methods were so secretive, that anyone found smuggling silkworm eggs, cocoons, or mulberry seeds was put to death. 

In Ancient China, the material was so valuable that silk garments were only to be worn by royalty.

 

And here we are today, drawing on silk scarves with sharpie markers as we feast on tacos. 

 Claudia poses with a smile that glows even brighter than the blossoms drawn on her silk scarf

Claudia poses with a smile that glows even brighter than the blossoms drawn on her silk scarf

***

 

The (red) rooster crows. The early bird gets the (silk) worm. Can we keep taking about birds?

Every evening here in Orange County, around 5pm, hundreds upon hundreds of green parrots soar over our neighborhood, squawking wildly as if they’re trying to call back the sun as it sets into the Pacific. When I hear our feathered neighbors cackle overhead on Friday evenings, I know it’s time. I have about one hour to freshen up, brew some coffee, grab my cart, pack up some supplies from the studio, and pick up food for class, before walking two blocks over to the Villagers. I stride past the near-century-old brick, dart across 1st Street's busy intersection, march under the canopies of eucalyptus, and through the friendly poppy-lined sidewalks, arriving at Heninger Village Art Studio were meaningful art and lovely relationships develop. Joe will have his newest mix on repeat—perhaps his own covers of top 40 favorites, or meditative sounds of nature, or some sultry blues or jazz, or sometimes he comes with his guitar to sing us some newly written original song, or perhaps an oldie that he dug up in his files from the 1970's.

With music streaming all around us, we began our work with birds, utilizing an array of media. We began color blocking with tissue paper, and then layered with paint, ink, and whichever materials we were inspired to incorporate. It was magical to watch them come to life. First a square of periwinkle. Then some dapples of blue. Then some stokes of red. And then some lines to define form. They really enjoyed the patient process and made some exquisite pieces! 

 Parker works on color-blocking

Parker works on color-blocking

 Joe is notorious for pushing his boundaries. Here, he creates a colorful landscape for his bird who is "enjoying the sunset after a long day". 

Joe is notorious for pushing his boundaries. Here, he creates a colorful landscape for his bird who is "enjoying the sunset after a long day". 

 

And so we pay homage to the birds this month.

These creatures that symbolism of liberation, flight, movement and ascension.

 

 Terri's bird painting with accompanying haiku

Terri's bird painting with accompanying haiku

 

 

Bird approaches close

Nature knows no division

Tree greets without thought

 

 

- Haiku by Terri Rohmer

 Sometimes the parrots leave gifts behind for us.

Sometimes the parrots leave gifts behind for us.

 

**Take flight, friends. The sky has no limit for us.**

 

 

January 2017: Renewal

New year. New growth. New experiences.

There's a nostalgia that comes with wintertime. Growing up the Bay Area, winter was a slowing time. I remember wading through the fog and tread through grass fields to get to school. As the crystalized blades of grass crunched beneath my feet, I’d look back to admire the distance I had walked. Dense footprints followed behind, leaving a trail for the next traveler. I loved the crispness of the Nor Cal wintertimes.

Since I was young, the rains gave me bursts of energy and my restless feet would want to run outside and play. I remember my mother taking me shopping for my first childhood rain jacket. It was turquoise with some quilting on the upper chest and a hood that was hemmed with white fluff that encircled my face. I remember the sound it made when my arms would rub up against my body as I walked. As the neighbors took shelter inside their cozy homes, my friends and I would take advantage of the desolate streets and play under the old oaks as they shed their soggy leaves upon us. Since living in southern California, I’ve been bathing in this eternal sunshine that does not invite this same kind of winter. And how I’ve missed it. Recently, we’ve had a few weeks of healthy, reviving, pelting, abundant, flooding-the-plant-pots, muddying-the-oak-floors rain. My succulents, papaya saplings, and avocado youngster are gulping it all up as am I.

Since the showers occur so infrequently here (we had 80-degree days in the December), my feet become even more agitated when it rains, and I feel the need to douse my footsteps in these streets that are drenched with renewal. But last week, I experienced it differently.

From time to time, La Verne lets me study her sketchbook, and therein I find a plethora of inspiration, words of wisdom, and enough beauty and light to sprinkle upon the entire Heninger Community and beyond. As I strode in the rain, I kept a sliver of La Verne’s musings in mind and in heart. I ruminated on this proposal that she had jotted down into her sketchbook:

 
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I did. And we do.

As I walked hand-in-hand with my Water Warrior through Downtown Santa Ana, I closed my eyes to feel the cold sting from tiniest droplets pelting my forehead. The slight pinch when they absorbed into my eyes. The prickly sensation of flecks upon my lips. For the first time, I felt the weight build upon my eyelashes as they collected raindrops. Surely, they had been thirsty for this cleansing. I marveled at the puddles, scattered across pavement like vibrating sheets of painted glass. They were the windows through which we could observe our silvery moon should the sky let us take a peek. I witnessed one million streetlights reflecting through the droplets before they collected in our hands.

I cherished this experience, and will take note of forthcoming encounters that fall from these violet clouds. Ms. La Verne, your words have shone upon us like a warm light. Even while the sky cries with us

I’ve drawn so much inspiration from La Verne’s sketchbook through the years. She and I have had numerous conversations about life. Some of our phone conversations last several hours, one of them even lasting six, because there is so much to share, to learn. We live only live two blocks from one another, but sometimes a quick check-in call becomes a lengthy therapy session/art talk/brainstorm/life examination. These exchanges heighten our energy. We discuss hardship and hope, strife and struggle, history and home, meditation and meaning, and the patience that we sustain under the clouds that sometimes storm heavily upon us. We’ve found shelter in one another’s words when these pelting raindrops have bruised us to the marrow. And while the clouds stirred a blanket around us, I discovered this powerful song that brought me great comfort.

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Make it Rain by Foy Vance

When the sins of my father weigh down in my soul                                                        And the pain of my mother will not let me go
Well I know there can come fire from the sky to refine the purest of kings
Even though I know this fire brings me pain, even so, Lord, just the same
Make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain
Make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain
Every seed needs the water for it grows out of the ground
It just keeps on getting hard, and the hunger more profound
And I know there can't come tears from the eye, for they may as well be in vain
Even though I know these tears will bring me pain, even so, Lord just same
Oh make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain
Make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain
Well the sea is filled with water, stops by the shore
Just like the riches of grandeur, never reach the port
Let the clouds fill with thunderous applause, and the lightning be the veins
Fill the sky with all that they can draw, when it's time to make a change
Make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain                                                      Make it rain, make it rain, make it rain, make it rain

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It is an indisputable truth that students bestow as much wisdom upon their instructors as their instructors can bestow upon them. Openness and perception are the patrons that will help us absorb these truths. 

 
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                       To my teachers, past, present, and future, I thank you.                           I will continue building my relationship with Rain. She also has much to teach me. 

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      And the flow of water continued to bless us... One of the ways it flowed into our lives was through the rich watercolors that spilled from the hands of artist Joseph Hawa, an alumnus of the American School of Art in Chicago, Illinois. Joseph’s life’s work has been contained in his studio in the Santora Building of the Artist Village and in his apartment at Heninger Village that feels more like a gallery, studio, and art storage space with paintings and blank canvas stacked upon one another. He met us downstairs with his mahogany-stained portfolio, which for 20+ years has helped preserved the paintings that help tell his story. He brought a collection of prints to share with us—colorful works that were rendered in oil, pastel, acrylic, and watercolor tiled the table. We passed them around with enthusiasm, some of the students examining them more closely to try and figure out the methods and mediums he used. Then to our pleasant surprise, he generously gifted a print to each of us, complete with signature.

Joseph's trusty tools in producing his water color paintings include both a brush and a thumbnail. 

 after sharing with us only a portion of his extensive collection of work, joseph generously gifts each of us with one of his prints. 

after sharing with us only a portion of his extensive collection of work, joseph generously gifts each of us with one of his prints. 

Joseph then launched into a watercolor demonstration. He described his process as he dipped and dripped the chroma upon the paper. He commanded red paint with brush in hand, like Moses summoning the flow of the Red Sea with his staff. We watched as diligent students in astonishment. After painting for a while, he lay down his brush and began using his fingernails to introduce subtle marks into the piece.

During the lesson, Joseph remind us, 

“The most important work of a painting is to capture light.”

And in closing, he encouraged,  

“Paint what you feel, not what you think you should. ”

 

 
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To kick off the new year, we took some time to write letters to ourselves about what we hope for the year ahead, and how we will go about bringing our hopes into fruition. We decorated glass bottles in which to preserve these notes-to-self, and will open them up in 2018 to see if our aims were met. Perhaps so, perhaps not. Aspirations tend to evolve with time, and it will be interesting to see how we’ve changed, or how we’ve manage to cling on to our wishes and usher them into reality. And if we indeed haven’t loosed our grip on these ambitions, they will surely find their way to us. And even if not in one year’s time, they will arrive on their own time.

 

They always do. 

 

 

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.

   
  
 
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  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.    

   
  
 
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  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.    
  
 
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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

 
   
  
 
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           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)