Back in the 1980's I attended an exhibit at the Oakland Museum. There was a woman who painted in oil, adding words to her pieces. But you could not read her words because she scribbled them. I liked the overall paintings but wished I could read her words.
Later, I attended College of the Sequoia's to take a Calligraphy class. I did not think of myself as an artist, but I did write in journals every morning, and out of those writings came stories of my growing up. I dreamt of a quilt. At close range, I realized it was not made of cloth, but of collages, each illustrating chapters that I'd been writing. The next morning I began to make what I call Ink Quilts. I was doing art, just not thinking of myself as an artist.
At some point I re-married, and we bought a home in Three Rivers. A studio was built in what as a garage type room outside of our house. It became my home away from home. Eventually, I made friends with local artists, joined their groups, and began to show what I had done over time. I began to think of myself as a person who came to art late in life. My artist friends did art starting from when they picked up pencils. Many went to college and have degrees in art. Most became teachers of one kind or another, able to support themselves and afford to do art in their spare time because making art as a living is very hard. I know only one woman who has done it, art her only job, and raised four children by herself. An amazing feat. To compare myself with her seems wrong headed. Still, I sell the work I make. I keep my comparisons to myself. I've published a book out of the stories I began to write in the 80's, that contain the ink quilts I've made over the years. I am also published in a book of short stories. Amazon Kindle Direct published both books. Self publishing turned out to be the best way for me to see my own book on the shelf. It is not traditional publishing and secretly I am not sure it really counts, although it has been a way for even famous writers to keep control of their rights by publishing themselves. I call my self an author now.
At the beginning of 2020 I realized words were more important to me than ever. I showed up to Women's Marches, marches to protect immigrants, marches for voting rights and more. The signs I made reflect the bottom line for me: Words Matter. Truth Matters. A choice of words demonstrate good governing. Words say whether you represent all of the people. A new determination to produce art that reflects the kind of country I want to live in sent me to the studio.
Maria Gaston (my daughter) and me Shirley Keller at a march in Visalia Ca.
Words Matter 16x16 Shirley Keller
My favorite medium at this time is dot art. I use recycled items as a canvas. This is a Ford plastic hubcap found in the streets and given to me by a friend. Ford is also my grandsons name. It was the first piece of art I did this year of 2020 to combine words and dot art. The words are Truth Matters and Words Matter. I am struggling to find ways to say how I dislike the tone and direction our country has taken. So I search for the positive.
At some point, Yokohl Valley owned by a private party, was to be developed into a 29,000 person town, on a two-lane back road. This land has enough water for the existing ranches but to add thousands of people would mean they'd have to get water from some where else. The rumor was they bought a thin piece of land up to one of the rivers in Three Rivers, and would pipe water to this new location. So the 2600 plus or minus people who live up there would not have enough water to exist. It made no sense.
A bunch of artists got together to have an art show to share with the Central Valley how beautiful Yokohl is, how much wild life comes and goes all year long, especially Spring and Fall during migration events. There were others more scientific who presented papers and proof that this was not a good idea, but we artists hoped we aided their efforts.
2008 the economy crashed. Since it was clear buying houses was probably not going to happen, the project was delayed. As of today, April 2020, Yokohl Valley is the same empty space for wild life to enjoy along with the livestock that live on the various ranches. Lately, I heard the owners changed their minds and decided not to build. I have no idea if we made the difference. I suspect the economy did the trick. And now, even as the economy was fine, COVID-19 has hit us all across the globe. So the birds and critters live on. Spring flowers fill the valley in abundance. I am glad.
eyes on Yokohl Ink Quilt 2007-2020 16x26 Shirley Keller
I started eyes on Yokohl Ink Quilt over a dozen years ago. This piece is a clay mono-print, a little known medium. It is made on a tray of clay and transferred on to remay, a cloth used to line suits in the good old days. The colors are made with liquid slip (powdered clay mixed with water) and stains of various colors. It is a time consuming, labor intensive medium, to make with as many available tools as a kitchen might have. The piece had no dots in the beginning. But as it hung over the years in my studio I felt drawn to add dots. I worked on it for two more years at every art fair I attended until I felt it done this year, and I consider it an Ink Quilt. The joy I feel every drive through Yokohl Valley I hope comes through this piece to you.
A Taste of Gibran Shirley Keller 14x14 Plastic Toyota Hubcap
The third piece I did is a hubcap. I used my favorite color turquoise to create the base. The quote I used is from Little Prince: Art as you want it, not perfect. Courage. Such a gentle way to tell people like me to be brave, and just do it. Don't think about what others will think. Paint with brush or toothpick and see where they take you.
April 2020 Chapter Two: Dot Art and Covid-19
Each morning I wake up, head to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee. I use a Melita type coffee holder that I put a filter in, add freshly ground coffee that my husband generously makes for me every morning, and watch it drip, drip into my cup. The holder was made by my friend Anne Brown. She does ceramics alongside the South Fork River in this little hamlet called Three Rivers. Part of the joy of watching the dripping coffee is to see not only Anne's skill as a thrower of pots, but her love of the setting in which she throws the ceramic pieces comes through in every piece. Turquoise, black and brown glazes beautify this perfectly formed filter and before I even taste the coffee I can smell its perfection.
I head back to bed, pull out my journal, time and date it, and begin to write for as long as I have something to say. Sorting through ideas I've picked up the day before, trying to find my own mind on every issue between my husband and me, the world and it's problems, and especially now, with COVID-19 causing suffering everywhere, and yet here I am, cozy in bed, trees blowing outside, birds chirping, pond bubbling, and I am content. How do I put my life together with knowing how many are suffering in so many places around the world? The death toll in this country is now into the 40,000's in a matter of weeks.
The Studio is my next stop after doing a few chores in the house. My studio is in an outbuilding that used to be a carpentry shop. When my parents died and my siblings divided up the results of their life, one wonderful gift was that I was able to hire my son's company to transform this space into this studio. I spend from 10 to 5 pm most days. Yesterday I made gift cards. Today I will work on this blog, edit a friends chapter from a book she is writing, and maybe even have time to work on another chapter in my own novel.
Tree of Truth by Shirley Keller and Kahil Gibran: Acrylic paint, Black Ink 11x14
How do I make art that doesn't add more ugly to an already very ugly time? Start with a tree, possibly oak. Flowers are blanketing our hillsides. Poems grow into this tree. Kabril Gibran loves trees as much as I do.
Trees Trust Truth
Trees are poems
The earth writes
Above the sky
Today, April 21, 2020, 42,000 people have died in a matter of weeks. What is important now for those of us who have not become ill with COVID-19, is pretty simple. "Stay home. Keep well. Don't end up in our hospitals," said a nurse from Missouri.
COVID-19 Ink Quilt by Shirley Keller Acrylic paint, Black Ink, 11x14
One of the most notable heroes is Dr. Fauci. STAY HOME. WASH HANDS. SOCIAL DISTANCE. I heard you Doc. And that is what we are doing. Nurse Jessica said, "Do your part." Okay Nurse Jessica. I hear you. A minister in a Southern church was a wise soul: "Jesus rode an ass. Keep yours home." Thank you Sir, for your wisdom, and for the chuckle.
Patterns by Shirley Keller Acrylic and Black Ink 14x11
And then this quote appeared from G.E. Hardy, a serious mathematician who I'd never heard of. Why would I? I avoided all things called math. "A Mathematician, like a painter, or poet, is a maker of patterns." A light bulb went off. I wish I had realized this when very young and numbers were beginning to be taught to me. Patterns I get. I wrote down the quote and have saved it for what I did not know. Now you can see what I did with it, patterns of my own, done with toothpicks and paintbrush.
Character by Shirley Keller and Ralph Waldo Emerson Acrylic and Black Ink 11x14
When I was in college was the first time I met Emerson through his essay Self Reliance. Later I moved into a community, Synanon, and discovered its basic tenant was from the same essay. Once I decided to mix words with dot art, Emerson was sure to be included. "Character is nature in the highest form." In this time of COVID-19, watching the behavior from the President of the United States, who said, and I quote, "I am not responsible," in comparison to the doctors and nurses on the front line in hospitals across our land exemplify the quote perfectly. "Character is the only rank."
Septmeber 2020: Chapter Three: Art With Elders - The Pandemic Continues
Georgia's Fear by Shirley Keller and Georgia O'Keefe 2020 Acrylic, 11x14
After began to live in isolation because of the pandemic, a friend invited me to join an art class online. It is hosted by artists who work for Arts for Elders out of San Francisco. Their mission is to teach art in retirement communities, mental hospitals, and other community places that house people who might not be exposed to the art experience. When Covid-19 hit our country the artists regrouped and came up with online workshops. That opened it up to people like me that do not live in their county. The group I joined now has people from Arizona, Colorado, Three Rivers, CA (me), added to the original folks from a Vallejo retirement home that used to do these classes in person.
This piece was inspired by a class. Our teacher, Darcie O'Brien, suggested we find a favorite artist, pick a piece to copy, and use watercolors to explore our own painting. I did one. Watercolors are not familiar to me, so it really was an experience to accomplish the task. I was so pleased, I tried it again on canvas paper, in acrylics which I really like, and then couldn't help myself, turned it into a dot art piece with words to be added the the body of work with dots and words. I used Georgia's own words that expressed exactly how I feel as I explore creativity. "I've been terrified my whole life. It never stopped me." Georgia O'Keefe.
Joy by Shirley Keller and Ralph Waldo Emerson 2020 Acrylic and Decoupage and Collage, 16x16
Emerson wrote an essay entitled Nature. Living in cities for years, I began to realize I no longer wanted too. I kept hearing Emerson's point, living where nature impinged on my life daily, became extremely important. The details of how I accomplished that are many. But I did end up here on Spirt Hill where nature does impinge on us daily. Yesterday, while Bruce was meditating before dawn, emerged a huge bear, walking across our patio, alongside our pond. We have years of surprises of visits by critters, insects, birds, and more. JOY is the result. A dream come true.
This piece I decided to use photographs I have taken over the years of all whom we met because we live in Three Rivers. I even made ceramic ladybugs. Decoupage helped me attach to the recycled hubcap, and finished off with the dots I love to spend time placing, one at a time.
Little Prince on Art by Shirley Keller 2020 Acrylic, 14x14
My favorite color is turquoise. I sprayed this hubcap. I had kept a quote from Little Prince because it expresses what happens to me as I explore my creative process, no matter the medium. "Art as you want it not perfect. Courage." I start a piece. Never feel confident. Take a deep breath and take one step and then the next. Mistakes are made. But I just include, and when a piece is done I am surprised. All worked out. Not perfect, but satisfied.
The Iris and Math by Shirley Keller 2020 Photography, Acrylic, Ink, decoupage, 11x14
Photography was where I started when I finally had a studio to work in. I used the series of flowers taken over the years from all around my little town. I read a book about a man from India, Ramanujan. He was born very poor, and was a terrible student. He did have a mother who told him how smart he was. He worked on math problems on his own. And ended up a student in Oxford College. His short life in England, broke my heart, the isolation because of racism, the bigotry all around him. In the meantime his genius was being expressed in work he did for his mentor. Some of his work is being used in the space program this very day. The man whose book I read expressed how like an artist Ramanujan was, finding patterns to design his math, much like artists find patterns to express on canvas. So I created patterns with Iris', dots, and Ramanujan's words. In my heart they are linked. He died very young of disease that the poor are vulnerable too. I honors his memory.
Memory Garden by Shirley Keller 2020 Acrylic on canvas, 11x14
One medium I love to work in is clay. I attend a weekly workshop in Three Rivers. Louise Fisher is the owner, and friend. She gardens her property with beautiful flowers. One scene has captured me over the years and brought my camera to capture. It changes every year depending on the flowers she plants. I now have a series of beautiful photographs I make gift cards out of. These iris' are from that spot.
In the same week after we had stopped meeting to play with clay because of the pandemic, our friend and fellow artist, Marn Reich died. Not of Covid-19, but cancer. A week later, our friend Louise's husband committed suicide. Grief became the cloud we all lived under. Louise was devastated. Our latest assignment in the Arts for Elders was to learn how to do landscapes with acrylics. I took my photo of Louise's most beautiful spot in her garden. Of course the dots had to be applied. And then I realized the grief I felt over the loss of Marn and Mitch could be expressed, so I added them. One day Louise told me she was having a very bad day. I showed up at her place and gave her this piece. Joy filled her face.
Spirit Hill Sign by S. Keller 2020, Acrylic, Spray Paint, metal recycled DirectTV antenna 30x20
Someone gave me the DirectTV antenna. I took one half of it and made this sign for the Spirit Hill Meditation Garden & Studio.
Takes Time by Shirley Keller and Georgia O'Keefe 2020, acrylic on canvas 11x14
The Art with Elders assignment was to pick an artist and piece of art to copy in some way but this time use acrylics. I found a carnation Georgia O'Keefe painted. I wanted to try my dot art to do this project. Since the beginning of 2020 I had been working on mixing words and art, so I added Georgia's words to this piece. "...to see takes time like to have friends take time." Her words match my experience and inspires the desire to continue creativity.
September 2020 Chapter Four: Black Lives Matter as Pandemic Continues
Love and Justice by Shirley Keller 2020 Acrylic and spray paint, 14x14
Black Lives Matters enforces in me the necessity to continue keeping our eyes open that justice is not equal in our country. Every time we turn around another Black person is murdered by a police person in very questionable situations. Police are not held accountable as a rule.
Senator Cory Booker said in an interview, "What does love look like? Justice." That hit my heart where love begins and when I picked up this hubcap and I had to do something with this concept.
I am not objective. I have two Black sons, and a daughter from El Salvador background, and a White daughter of the heart. I want the law of our land to handle all my children equally. It does not at this time, nor has it in my life time. I want that to change before I die. VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.
Below are the people who I consider my best art of all.
JP Jones and Family: Skye, JP, Andrea, Ford and Levi
Son # Two Born in 1965
Richie Jones Family: Drake, Annie, Richie and Carla
First Son Born in 1962
Delia Nora Keller Born 1990
Adopted at birth
I became her stepmother in 1996
Maria Gaston, daughter of the heart - Beginning 1976.
I went to Fresno and did another podcast. The link is above to see it.
This time I talked about my artwork and how I became an artist. I mentioned newly published book, too. But mostly talked art and 1st Saturday.
Since this coming month, July 6th, we have a Fresno foodie joining 1st Saturday, and this podcast shows mostly to Fresno residence I thought talking about her made sense. Thu Duong-Pace specializes in Vietnam food taught to her by her mother. She and her daughter dedicate their food business to her: Lotus Blossom. You can see a picture of her and her daughter ready to feed anyone who shows up. She describes herself and family in poetic terms. I think you will her part on our blog. Her location and times and more images of her food can be found on our blog: www.1stsaturdaytr.com
I cannot wait to taste her food. I admit to being tired of the American and Mexican food ONLY in Three Rivers. A few of us have spent time fantasizing having more choices here and to my surprise we get a call from Thu. She drives from Fresno to offer this wonderful choice to all in Three Rivers. I sure hope people take advantage of this opportunity for a taste treat.
As a matter of fact, if you are reading this within driving distance of Three Rivers, come join us from where ever you are. Lot's of art around Three Rivers to enjoy. Follow the map you pick up at the Historical Museum in the center of Three Rivers, the building behind the Paul Bunyan statue. My studio along with others open, as well as the Art Center with many artists. And if you must, there are plenty of restaurants that will feed you hamburgers! :) Ice cream and candies at Reimer's, still delicious.
Slowing down some because of a back issue, attending physical therapy and making that a priority for now. Using time in studio to learn more about the Internet and how to use it to help sell books. Amazon has a way to make an author website called Author Central. It is fun to figure out. Biography, photos, videos, and so much more to learn about each author.
Interviewing for my book "But What About The Children?" is a new experience. One venue was a podcast which is an audio interview. The Interviewer also has an Instagram page that is linked from podcast to Instagram and linked back to podcast. I sent her photos of the book, ink quilts and other artwork I have done, and she posted those on Instagram. That forced me to join Instagram if I was to see what she did. Confusing but I did it, or at least I think I did. So many have told me Facebook is out of interest to young people. They only like Instagram. I will bet by the time I feel comfortable using Instagram, the young will find another venue to love. I can barely keep up!!! HA!
Jessica Delgado was the young woman who interviewed me. I met her at the mechanics shop of her husband, Emmanuel Delgado. They have three children, two boys and a girl, lovely kids. Emmanuel took the kids to the Children's Museum while Jessica interviewed me. What a dear heart she is. She is the future generation and when I left felt so hopeful for the future of our world. I keep meeting people in their 20-30's who think, ask questions, are open to differences, are excited to participate in their interests. They all have cell phones, and yes, look at them often. But when I am talking with them they put the cells down. She was so interesting I couldn't stop asking questions about her, her family and back ground, and her point of view about many topics. I had to remind myself, she is working on the podcast and I should focus.
The link below is to Visalia's Podcasts. You can download Visalia's Podcasts from any where you get podcasts, for free. She does a new one each week, and they are posted Friday evenings.
The second interview was done in Fresno, Tower District for Central Valley Talk: Artists & Authors section. Carol Love Forbes did the interview. When she asked me to sit down next to her I found myself staring at a very large microphone. She had one in front of her. There was a desk with computers, cameras, and more, hiding a young man who did the filming, computer work, and editing.
Carol told me something was wrong with her. She was having trouble focusing and seemed really concerned. She did me a favor. As soon as she finished talking all my nervous worry about not remembering my name let alone to do a good job about my book disappeared. I kept an eye on her, and if there was a sign that she seemed off, just continued with the book, hoping we were ok. Since seeing the clips below, I could tell the difference in her that she wasn't as sharp as her normal interviews. I watched at least 20 of them in preparation for coming to be interviewed. But nothing serious emerged. Maybe she was just tired, and has done this so much, you cannot be perfect every single time. I was grateful to have had the experience and it all worked out.
The three links below are the same interview, but at different social media sights. I recommend seeing the YouTube one unless you like the other two sights.
Celebration of Life for Eileen Marie Gavin Gates Brilliant
February 8, 1934-March 18, 2019
Spirit Hill - Home of Bruce and Shirley Keller in Three Rivers, CA
1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
The Celebration was planned by Veronika Kelley, Eileen's most wonderful daughter. Her two children Trevor and Chloe were present, as were cousins, family of the heart, and friends.
Buddy Jones Welcomed everyone, and of course, had his butt drum and played along with the bubbling pond and wind chimes, and rustling of leaves in the trees. One of the guests remarked later that the chimes stopped when Buddy played, then he'd slow and listen, and the chimes returned, then he played and they stopped, and so on.
Shirley Keller and Carol Jean James told stories of their friendships with Eileen. Carol Jean lived in the same neighborhood as Eileen, babysat for Veronika, and was Mentored and then later became an adult friend with Eileen. Shirley began friendship when their children were 3 years old and have spent a lifetime in friendship, both in and out of Synanon.
Many shared stories of friendship which must include laughter because being a friend of Eileen's it is mandatory, as well as the hikes in hills covered by wildflowers that we were all taught to revere, as she did. And life has a way of bring tears and since Eileen had more experience in that area than most, she taught many of us how to deal with tough times, and to not just survive, but thrive.
Those of us who were very close over the last few years know the care Larry gave to Eileen as her illness progressed. We express our gratitude and love for him and know he will restart and continue his life "carrying the love he learned how to express from Eileen being herself," to use his words.
Heather Edwards used her talent and love of flowers to add special touches to the celebration. She made two amazing bouquets with sunflowers, roses and more. But the bouquet that touched me the most was the small batch of Farewell to Spring she placed in a blue glass vase. She stopped along the Lake on the way to our home to pick these flowers. She knew first hand the love Eileen had of the wildflowers and on one hike described Eileen as bending down, picking one Baby blue-eyes flower and kissing it, explaining to Heather this was her favorite of all the wildflowers. Heather, when invited to this Celebration, planted baby blue-eyes with the hopes to share them with us on this day. But they refused to grow. Wildflowers do seem to want to be wildly grown. So she stopped for the Farewell to Spring along the lake and shared them instead. It was like having Eileen here with us in person.
Actually, some of us felt she was. The weatherman had for days predicted stormy weather for the entire weekend. But what we got was sun, wispy clouds blown through the blue sky by a gentle breeze. So a story started of Eileen confronting Mother Nature and making sure the weather was as we needed it to be, so all who came, 40-50 souls, would be able to enjoy the outdoor deck, to the sounds of the bubbly pond, wind chimes, and rustling leaves.
I'd say goodbye to Eileen but I know from loosing loved ones that I can play with her any time I want. That memory helps us keep friends and family with us and can be recalled, sometimes planned, but most of the time at the crazy moments of our life. She is always welcomed in my heart. So I refuse to say goodbye.
Memory Garden of Shirley Keller, Spirit Hill, Three Rivers, CA
When Veronika called to suggest the Celebration for Eileen be held at our home, it was because she and my son, JP, had a conversation about ashes and what to do with them. My mother asked to be sprinkled here, Karen Harvey is partially sprinkled here, and Anthony, my nephew, is here also. Bruce named our property Spirit Hill from the day in 2002 we landed here. So it seems the name is turning into more than just a name. We host people to meditate, to appreciate art, and now multiple Celebrations for friends who died seem to happen here.
The ashes of Eileen though have another plan. Larry and Veronika will go to a Lake in July, near Reno, that is covered in wildflowers at that time of year being higher elevation. And that is where her ashes will land, among the flowers she loved.
I had to do something for myself. Eileen has been apart of any major anything in my life since Richie was 3. Many conversations of taking care of each others children if one of us should die before they were grown took place. Veronika calls me Mom#2. This loss is big for me. So I planted a Redbud for Eileen instead of her ashes, in the Memory Garden that has been developing over time. Rocks painted with beloved people's names on them, sculpted masks to represent various people, etc. And now a Redbud we hope will bush out, grow, and flower in the Spring. With Bruce's help with his amazing green thumb, I am sure will be beautiful.
Mid-February 2019 I Finally Published with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
But What About the Children?
Diversity is Life: A Memoir
by Shirley A. Blair Keller
You may purchase this book on Amazon in Paperback or Kindle
Trying to stop my mother from marrying a black man, my grandfather asked Mother, “If you do not care about yourself, what about the children?” It didn’t stop the marriage. I lived with the question a lifetime and decided to write an answer to my grandfather.
Struggles were a plenty with parents who were social activists, in a time of segregation, anti-immigration, and religious bigotry prevalent in the majority culture of the land.
Families come in many forms: blood, by marriage, by adoptions, adding siblings that are birth, steps, halves, and relationships-of-the-heart. Secrets and lies are a part of the tapestry. Figures like Paul Robeson and Josephine Baker, heroes in the movement for equality and justice, are living characters in my story. I also was a volunteer, then lived and worked in Synanon, a rehabilitation community. Controversial and troubling, and yet, relationships developed that lasted a lifetime.
To tell you a little more about me:
Writing journals led me to doing art late in life. I was widowed, children grown, living in small circumstances and able to cover basic expenses, but, no cash for entertainment. I bought a cheap pen with black ink, a composition book, and began a process of writing morning pages. I was so entertained that I rushed home each night after work, ate a quick dinner, asleep as soon as possible, to wake at 4 am to write before work. This became my lovely life.
One night I had a dream of seeing a quilt on a wall of a museum. When I went up close, I saw it was not made of cloth, but more like collages of photos and art, each patch in white wood frames and were illustrations of the stories I had been writing. In stead of cloth stitching the quilting was done in ink. The next day I began to make what I call Ink Quilts. The Ink Quilts are in the book, in black and white, along with some family photos.
Ceramic mask making emerged from a friendship with Marn Reich, an acqaintence from Synanon. I raised kids in the Synanon School. She worked in the law office. We had little in common. We both ended up in Three Rivers living 2 minutes from one another. I pledged to go 3x’s when she invited me to join her to attend a weekly ceramic workshop. That was over ten years ago. I am in love with mask making and still excited with each new lump of clay that leads me to the next mask.
Over time I explored many art forms: photography, clay-mono-printing, black ink drawings. The art form I have fallen in love with is exploring dot art, mixed with recycling old things and turning them into art pieces. One of the favorite canvases are hubcaps found in the streets.
It has been a while since I posted. Some thoughts are becoming more important, thus I am returning.
This new trend started when I met Farheen Rizvi. She is a scientist, specializing in math and computers. I believe she is an engineer. She works at NASA JPL. She sat at the same table as my sister Nicky and I at my nieces wedding: Zarha and her husband Mohammed were getting married. Farheen described her job to us. And a feeling of astonishment descended over me. This woman is brilliant, I thought. She has a very big brain.
I recognized a difference in her from my sister and I. She displayed self confidence, knowledge and a strength we did not, nor do we now, possess. Another generation. I felt compelled to get to know her. Where did she come from? Who raised her? What gave this woman, any woman, such grace, knowledge and strength? It's not that I am not strong in some areas, nor do I not have some intelligence in some areas, too. But there was a difference and I do not know how to explain it really. But it sent me on a quest.
Farheen and I became internet buddies. We wrote through texting or email. I learned she has a brother, Adil Rizvi, and he too works at NASA JPL. He is an engineer. Every vehicle with the name rover attached to it had his hand on it. His work is sent out to the universe and explores planets, sending data back to Earth. She and her brother were encouraged by their parents to explore science. Their mother was a biologist, the father specialized in the Universe in some way, I cannot remember. He was so important in the field, that a Denver company recruited him from India, with offers of the best schools for his approaching high school ages, great job for the wife in her field, and he would be brought to the US, paid for and housed, and all legal arrangements through immigration. So Farheen and Adil went to high school in Golden, CO, then colleges, and now both work for NASA. Two generations of Indian Scientists here to benefit the United States and its exploration in science.
I discovered that in the movie Martians, the woman who manned the computer that kept track of all travel in space, that combed planets, was designed after Farheen's actual job! She was interviewed by the movie makers to be able to get as close to the truth as they could in a fictional movie. Hidden Figures, another movie about other women who loved mathematics and computers, who happened to be Black, worked in NASA during the John Glenn era of space travel. These women saved John Glenn's life with math on a black board, and computers that were so large they had whole rooms to be housed in. In spite of racism and legal segregation in the 1950's, these women did service to their country in exemplary ways and I am sure their foundations of work in NASA help Farheen, Adil and their coworkers today.
So I bought the movies, something I rarely do, but I needed to see them again and again to try to come to terms with the big brains in ways I never developed. I am not following this trail to denigrate my own brain. I have my own contributions made through out my life, in small circles, but contributions none-the-less, that better the lives my hands touched. But I question why my goals were so small. It never occurred to me that math was something I could do. I have said over and over again "I hate math." I even called the technical aspects of photography, the math of photography. I was never interested in delving deeply into the F-stops, and other numbers of photography. Essence of a scene is what I saw, and what I captured. And sometimes I was lucky and did it right. But at some point I began to feel embarrassed. My photography friends were fascinated by even the math of photography and went to great lengths to get it right. And we would be in competition at shows, and if I won the prize and they didn't I would know in my heart it was an accident. Still makes the image beautiful, but with digital the crowd of photographers was growing. I started painting dots, and realized I felt better about this work. It was truly me, not luck. So I gave my good camera away. Sometimes I will take an iPhone photo, like it and make a card from it. That's okay with me. But I no longer think of myself as a photographer.
Lately, I saw a movie, Infinity. It is about another big brain, a man named Ramanujan. He lived around the turn of the 20th Century. Born and raised in a small country village in India, he loved math. He ignored other classes because math is all he wanted to do. When he didn't have paper, he'd go to the temple and write his math equations on the ground. He kept notebooks at one point of all the equations that came to him. His family were Braham's, the highest caste in Indian's caste system, but they were poor. He concentrated on math so much that he couldn't get into college because he failed in other subjects.
He went to work in a place that exposed him to another mathematician, who then helped him write to various English Colleges to see about publishing his notebooks, by now filled with inventive math he was inspired to write, from meditations, or dreams. He was known to say, "An equation means nothing to me unless it expresses a thought of God." Just from the looks of the movie I'd guess he was Buddhist. He meditated every day. He did sand paintings, not with color, but sand alone, as part of his meditations. His God was female deity in the religion, which also caught my attention.
Ramanujan was accept at Cambridge, Trinity College, by a man named Hardy, a famous mathematician of his day. He was an odd duck. No human connections. He has a co-worker whose name I do not remember, maybe Smalls. I am sad I do not remember because he was very important in the story, another brilliant math man. The time and place Ramanujan entered was a hotbed of British racism, and snobbism. Hardy recognized this genius of a young man, so fought his colleges attempts at getting rid of Ramanujan. But Hardy was not a people person. He was neglectful in making sure Ramanujan got basics. Yes, a roof over his head, but no heat in the winter. No attempt at knowing the person, so he didn't know Ramanujan was vegetarian, which meant in the England of meat and potatoes, there was very little choice for him to eat, thus he basically starved. The war started and soldiers beat him up for being brown and not a soldier, and Hardy didn't even notice Ramanujan had bruised and sores and was a mess. So Ramanujan contracted TB and his illness was not noticed until he passed out. He was diagnosed with terminal TB, so he tried to kill himself, by jumping in front of a train. He was saved, and by now Hardy seemed to wake up. This was a human being he'd recruited who he neglected, and finally had a real conversation. Ramanujan had a wife he left to follow the math. He sacrificed in ways Hardy never realized. Hardy asked him why he does math and the quote above, "An equation means nothing to me unless it expresses a thought of God." Hardy was an atheist. "If you cannot prove it, it doesn't exist," he said proudly. But now he is faced with this young man who sacrificed, starved, became ill, and was threatened with death, because of his love of math that he credits God (a woman if I understand the story right) with his genius. Interesting.
So why do I care about this story? I woke yesterday morning in tears, sobs over the suffering that Ramanujan faced. Racism was at the heart of it. The establishment tried its best to stop him. And what if they had? It was bad enough that he died so young. He stayed at Cambridge for a total of 5 years. His last year he proved a theory called Partician. I have no idea what that means but its lots and lots of equations. And at the end of this time he went back to India and his wife. On the trip home the TB flared again. He lived one year at home, and then died. His notebooks must have been displaced, or lost, because in recent years they were found. And lo, the equations in them have been the basis of work done with black holes, with cancer research and so much more.
So why am I writing this? All the individuals above who contribute to science, all whom had and have big brains, are brown people. Our country has tried to stop people of color from developing the big brains like Kathryn Johnson, Mathematician, Dorothy Vaughn, Mathematician, Mary Jackson, Aeronautical Engineer, Ramanujan, Mathematician and yet they are remembered now. My friends Farheen and her brother Adil, work in the same fields, as Engineers, and are brown Indian (India), Americans. The doors were wide open to them. I cried yesterday mourning for Ramanujan and the cruelty he experienced. Racism has been a constant in my life too. How much more advanced we'd be in so many areas had we not put roadblocks up in front of brown people. Look at the ones who ignored the blocks, and pushed on anyway.
I am hoping the author of Infinity is true to his word, that lay people will be able to access the mathematic formulas that Ramanujan wrote. I hope I can learn something about math that doesn't chase me away, as it always has since I was a child. I do not truly understand why I am on this quest. Except, I have been doing art for years now. I have had the experience Ramanujan described in the movie of painting dots, and time and space disappearing, and when I become conscious again, I produced something that astounds me because I find it hard to believe that me, Shirley Keller, could do that. Also, I found a quote from Hardy, "A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns." Maybe the math isn't so foreign to me after all. I cannot wait until the book arrives today or tomorrow. And the adventure will begin.
October 1st, 2016, 1st Saturday in Three Rivers, 11 AM to 5 PM.
Pick up Maps at Anne Lang's Emporium, 41651 Sierra Drive, Three Rivers to find participants in the days events.
Some of the features of this month are:
THE ART CENTER, 41905 No. Fork Drive.
1) Deborah Dal Zuffo, artist, in person at the Art Center. She isn't always in Three Rivers so we are lucky to have her this month.
2) The Alta Acres Chapter of the Native Plant Society will be hosting their annual sale for the native plants they work on all year. They are located behind the Art Center, 10-3 PM. If you are CNP member, you may shop 9-10 AM.
3) New to 1st Saturday is Jerry Casey. He makes beautiful drawings.
4) Jewelry, ceramics, handmade soaps, a strumming guitar player, fabric arts, are also presented at the Art Center.
5) Open studios, Historical Museum, gift shops and restaurants with original art to enjoy, good meals and snacks are all offered through out Three Rivers.
Be sure to pick a map at Anne Lang's Emporium or the Historical Museum.
Enjoy the day.
I am amazed how upset I got after reading Trump's threat about Jennifer Flowers. So I ranted on the post I did yesterday before the debate. A little embarrassed about how fearful I became. Well, I guess we carry fears from childhood and they pop up when poked. And mine was poked to be sure, not just from childhood but also adult experiences when young.
Hillary entered stage dressed full on red. Oh my. Tempting the bull was my first thought to go after her in a rage. And she had a genuine smile and kept it almost the whole debate even laughing and poking fun when appropriate. She was truly enjoying the whole event.
Trump was in blue and I think the impression was to be Presidential. And in anyone else it might have worked. But he gets angry so easily that the look meant nothing about 10 minutes into the debate.
What a relief I felt as I realized she really is tough in a way I could never be, and purposely poked, politely and with the biggest smile never leaving her face to show the difference in what leadership really looks like. And he threatened her. He was trying so hard to be nice and she was mean with ads that lie about him. He whined. I was amazed.
She kept at facts. He tried to deflect. It didn't work. The focus group went from mostly favorable to Trump or at least open to him to 17 for Hillary and 3 for Trump at the end. The one black woman said his answers about race clinched her for Hillary.
Like one of the men in the focus group said, he was surprised at how hawkish she is and I too worry about that. She did vote for Irag war lie and I even knew just by reading papers and magazines it was a lie. But in my heart, I think if she had a way out of war she would take it. She has been a lifetime of work for women and children and in war, women and children especially suffer the most. She knows it. Seen it up close and personal. Terrorists are so needing to be stopped, and I cannot begin to think I know what paths to take. Jobs, schooling, good food, safe environments and democratic elections are what truly would prevent terrorism. But how do we get from here to that standard for the folks in Syria and elsewhere? She's been doing the work for a long time and I am betting she will find a way. She will face Global Warming and Energy through the facts and encourage the scientists to find solutions and through the bully pulpit influence the jobs sectors to jump in with inventions and technology. And education, she whole heartedly believes in education for all and that it will answer so many problems we have in so many areas.
So I hope President Obama, Michele, Elizabeth, VP Biden and Bernie hit the trail for her now heavily. One debate isn't enough but it is a start. Bruce thinks Trump will not do debate's 2 & 3. He will find a way out of them. Getting people out to vote is the goal. The more the better. This needs to be landslide, not just squeaking by. A referendum on equal rights for all, message sent through out our country and across the globe. If that happens here, why not elsewhere? Does England really have to exit from European Union after it is all said and done? It is clear it will hurt them hugely and they began to see it and the Prime Minister seems to be slowing things down to a crawl to rethink things. Maybe if we have a landslide that will help them too.
Enough. Back to painting dots where I belong. It's a good thing no one reads this blog!!! :)
I have not used this blog to talk politics, nor have I used Facebook for that topic. My vote is private and mine to decide and really isn't anyones business. I have been a lifelong Democrat. Have voted once or twice for a Republican, or rooted for one who I couldn't vote for because I was not in their district or state. But mostly I vote straight ticket.
I live in a Republican county. Lot's of close friends who are Republican. We talk and share views, but we are respectful and careful. Friendships are valuable and worth more than party affiliations. I lived in the Bay Area, liberal heaven, is how I felt. I was raised in Los Angeles, a mixed bag. My family were very Progressive. So much so the FBI followed my folks for years and years. Even though the managers of their cases wrote in their yearly reports, these folks are not threatening the US. They are showing up at marches. They do stand for Civil Rights, but we see no sign of plotting against the country. J. Edgar Hoover signed off one more year to keep following them. 42 years he signed off on them. Talk about a waste of tax payers money.
I have a lot of fear when it comes to stirring things up. Friends fathers went to jail. My folks followed, our phones tapped, they showed up at my school even and harrassed my teacher. So I know where the fear comes from. And when I see how people treat one another on the internet it feeds into that fear, so mostly I stick to posting artwork I have made. And leave it at that.
This week, though, I posted a video of Meryl Strepp speaking about Hillary Clinton at the Woman's Conference, 2012, I believe. I think it was in NY. She tells of the women around the world whose lives were changed, even saved at times, because Hillary was present. I know she was present in the Civil Rights struggle. She showed up with Caesar Chavez when he needed backing at some point. She tried to get us real health care, not the kind that insurance companies dole out and we pay through the teeth for. It didn't work, but she sure tried. She attended a woman's conference in China, the first one in spite of all the men in power in the US, including Bill, telling her she cannot go. She is the First Lady. Unbecoming. Then they tried to tell her what she could and could not say. "Women's rights are human rights," Hillary Clinton.
Back to the video. My nephew writes a comment to me. He is part India/Pakistani from his father's side, and white Russian Jewish from his mothers side, my sister. He is a practising Muslim like his father and mother (may she rest in peace) who raised him and his siblings in that religion. All the women in that family cover their heads. The men have beards. They are all devote and raise their children the same, and they attend Muslim private schools.
So my nephew writes to convince me that I should vote for Jill Stein because she is Progressive. I know I should. That is how I was raised. My parents backed Charlotta Bass way back, when she ran as a Vice President on the Progressive ticket. She was a black woman, educator, and friend of our family. But, I cannot vote for Jill. Jill may be the best person in the world. She might even be more qualified than Hillary, although that is doubtful. No one is more qualified than Hillary whether you like her or not. Jill is a thrown away vote. She won't even be on the ballot in many states.
Trump. Oh I wish I didn't have to write about him. I had to tell my nephew I cannot take a chance on this man becoming President. My Muslim Nephew will vote for Jill. One more vote for Trump in essence. He said, Shirley Auntie, lesser of two evils? That's why we are in the mess we are in? Well, nephew, I wish I could be idealistic but the stakes feel to high. I cannot allow a man in the White House who wants to threaten the lives of my Muslim family, saying they should not be allowed into the country, when my brother in law has siblings who come to visit, cousins who are coming back and forth to college, when my niece lives in London and might want to bring her family to visit us. I cannot stand watching Trump pander to African Americans while in fact really talking to undecided white people to prove he isn't racist, while he banned black people from his rentals. Part of my family is African American. My first husband and my children and my grandchildren all have African blood in their beautiful bodies. No. This man cannot be President. Or what about my hispanic family? My step daughter has birth family from El Salvador. Some legal, but maybe some not, I do not know. But the way he is talking rounding people up and deporting, I can see the grandmother in that family, who speaks little English be swept away without us knowing? The atmosphere Trump has trumped up is bringing the white racists out of the woodwork. They actually think they are main stream now!!! How did that happen?
So I told my nephew yes, I am voting for Hillary who has supported some things I don't like, the Iraq war lie, for one. Mistake. I knew it was a lie how could she not? But are we going to compound all the mistakes of the past and put a man like Trump in the White House? A vote for Jill is no vote. How is that going to help anybody?
I didn't say this part. I truly feel at the bottom of my heart that all the negatives against Hillary are really because she is a strong woman who would not break, even when her husband acted the ass, like many men do, but these two are front in center for all to see, berate, belittle. Trump felt he is free to threaten to put Jennifer Flowers in the front row of the debate tonight. I cannot even begin to express how horrible I feel about him doing that. Being a woman, one who was cheated upon in a marriage, I can easily put myself in Hillary's shoes, but at least my humiliation was only in front of family and friends, not the whole world. And for Trump to think it funny, or to try to threaten her with it, or just did it thoughtlessly until one of the women in his life told him to shut the fuck up, puts him in a catagory of folks who do not even belong at a dinner in the white house, let alone President of the United States.
The debates are in 45 minutes. My stomach is so upset. I feel so bad that this man has gotten this far and so many people are so behind him, even as he steals the money they give to his Foundation for Charity, and uses for his personal stuff, I just don't get it. I have never liked the idea of reality TV. All it seems to do is bring the worst out in people. That is not me. I like to find the good and I know it is there. George Bush for instance, didn't like his Iraq lie to start with, and the list is long, ending with his pick of Chaney as VP. But he honored Dorothy Haight, an African American woman who did a lifetime of good for lots of people and he gave her a medal. He signed the bill that made way for the building of the African American Museum on Washington Mall that opens this week. Good is in most if you look.
I am having trouble with Trump. I see the hurt he has put on so many: the folks who did work for him and he never paid them, the foundation money donated for charity and he used it to pay off law suits against him. He bribed a Prosecutor who was looking into his so called University. And all the people who gave him money in good faith for some kind of education in his University, and it turned out to be a fraud. And all the white racists organizations that are rooting for him, and he has encouraged their support. Surreal. I watched Cruz, bow his head and say he will vote for Trump. How could he? Trump lied about his father and insulted his wife. Did Trump give him money? What in the world is worth selling out your father and wife for? McCain another one. When Donald insulted McCain's service that was it for me. I am not a Republican. I think McCain's policy are harmful to women, to poor people to the middle class. And his choice of VP was laughable. But the man served his country. That should be good enough. Then he was a POW, and when given a choice to leave because his father has connections, he stayed in prison camp with his comrades and was tortured for years. Trump had the nerve to diss this man. How could he have gone on to win the nomination after that? What is wrong with this country?
The debates. I fear for Hillary. How can they even debate issues? The man doesn't care about issues. He wants attention, period. So he will turn this into a circus and then the media will blame Hillary or Mr. Holt the moderator, and Trump will announce he is the winner. He started already: Holt is from the biased media. WE all know he is a Democrat. Wrong. Lester Holt is registered to the Republican party.
I do not know if I can watch. 100 million people are scheduled to watch. My hubby just came to get me. Thank God for Solitaire on my iPhone!!!! I am sending good thoughts Hillary's way. Instead of celebrating the 1st woman, wow!
Photo: Shirley Keller at the home of Nora Valencia, teacher of cooking class, 12/2014.
Many of the items in my new Esty Store named SpiritHillArtStudio, were inspired by Oaxacan artists. Long ago I saw wood carved critters painted in dots and I never forgot them. So when I began to paint old rusty items like horse shoes, or saw blades, or shovels, I had those animals in mind. Then a daughter of the heart sent me a piece of linen with Aborigini art, and I realized that in many ways what I was doing is old as the hills of Australia. Someone reminded me that Pointilism was also used as an art form. The painting "Breakfast in the Park" is an example. All of these folks came before me and I now actively search the wonders of the Internet to learn more about them and look at their work by the hours.
I do not compare what I do to any of the above. Most of my work is done upcycling objects that might be thrown on a junk pile, and repurposing them into art. Also, I came to art late in life, so I do not have certain skills that I have learned from childhood. I am now learning how to draw as I go along. Much of my work is inspired by children who hail from Omo Valley in Niger. They paint their faces and bodies with clay stained with colors of flowers, such talents at very young ages.
My art is like my family. Over a 50 year period, we pulled in people into our family circle that hailed from around the globe. Colors, religions, cultures, marriages, birth, adoptions, and just because the heart insisted, have integrated themselves into our clan. "There is always room for one more," insisted our elders, and so we have made it so. Thus, it makes sense to me that even in my ignorance of the influences, the art process I have been on managed to install itself from around the world. Now that I realize it, it makes me smile.
In December, 2016, I return to Oaxaca, to hopefully learn from Silvia Fuentes, painter and carver. I look forward to the experience. Everyone I met in Oaxaca did art in some form or another, what ever their day job was. It was inspiring to be in such an environment. I so look forward to more.
Delia helped me begin the process of uploading items to sell. That was a five hour process just to upload 7 items. I spent another 4 hours the next day uploading the next 5 items. Today I made a banner, and added a photo of my studio. I fixed the policies of my studio, and set up links to this blog and facebook. It's a lot of work, but I have enjoyed every minute of it.
Lessons I have learned: Taking photographs of your art teaches you about quality of workmanship. Being persistent is the only way to get through the details. The first time rarely works. The third try is the charm! If it can go wrong it does, but not quiting is how you get around that. I love Delia's brain. Wish I had it. Must pack up stuff on Etsy and not try to sell elsewhere. As soon as I do someone will buy the item packed at the bottom of the box. The good thing about that is you sold it! HA!
An experience stands out and will always be for me why I was at the Arenas Gallery. Delores Witt, octogenarian artist, a person I greatly admire, admired my photo of the Great Blue Heron. She didn't just compliment me. She returned to the 16x20 image four different times. Three times we engaged in conversation that added up to the following:
1) "You have an eye."
2) "This looks like a painting."
3) "You should concentrate on photography and take it seriously."
4) "Many of us might have been in the same spot and not see what you saw and missed the light."
The fourth contact I found her close up, looking at the photo, her fingers following the lines that light made around the bird and in the reflection of the water. She studied it hard, and did not know I was there.
Why does it matter what Delores Witt thinks? She is an artist. An elder in our community who I have noticed when her painting is in a show. It almost always has a red dot on it (sold), or wins the prize if there is one. Her work stands out, the brightest of colors, not always the conventional ones picked, skillfully painted, and framed. I find myself crossing the room to her art the minute I walk into a gallery. I listen when elders will take the time to teach. She took the time, not once, but four times to engage in my art. That means something. It took away the grief I'd felt all night for loosing my sister. Delores brought me into the present moment. I needed that. I appreciate it. Maybe art had little to do with it. I don't really know. But she made the show for me, and I thank her for it.
Not long ago Delores came to my studio. She looked around at the dot art on found objects, and said, "Try this on canvas. See what happens." I took her advice and am beginning to find dot painting, on whatever the canvas is: repurposed thrown away objects; or on clay mono prints; or canvas; it is at the core of my being. Fun. :)
Tulare Impressions 2016 - Tulare Historical Museum & Gallery
The Artist's Reception will be held on Thursday January 14th, from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
at Tulare Historical Museum, 444 West Tulare Avenue, Tulare CA 93274.
Email me at email@example.com for information if you wish.
This piece has gone through quite a process. Since I spent time with Efrain Fuentes in his studio in Oaxaca, Mexico last December, I see all my artwork in a new way. Dots fill my imagination.
"Swallows" began as a clay mono print. I framed in a plain wooden frame. Then painted the frame and did a small amount of dot work on it. It has been hanging in my studio for months now, always plaguing me because it just wasn't finished. But how, I did not know.
An invite to the "Tulare Impressions Show" appeared. Swallows are big in Three Rivers. They build mud nests along our bridges. They used to fill the catfish ponds until dried out from end of Spring to end of Summer, either using Three Rivers as a resting place on northern migrations or staying until the southern migrations were necessary, having generations of babes here. The most vibrant of the swallows are the Violet-Green Swallows. An ah-ha moment brought inspiration and for a week I added acrylic dots to this piece, both on the clay mono print and the frame. Now it has the depth and richness it was missing and today I deliver it to Chris Harrell, Curator, to enter it in the show.
I must mention this as another piece in memory of Mr. Richard Burns, Park Ranger, and birding/nature mentor, to any of us who met him on our walks along Kaweah River Drive. He is remembered every time I identify a bird. I only have the skill because of his patience and inspiring lectures on birds and all that encompass our National Parks, here and around the country, on hours of walks, sharing his vast experience in his humble, but enthusiastic way, along the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River. He is missed.