Monday, June 22, 2020

Sweet and Sour

The conclusion of an exhibition always brings to the fore what we call the “sweet and sour” —  the joy of the showing/sharing (sweet) and the sad (sour) of putting everything in a box then back into the barn/studio.

The Great Wave was composed of powerful images with promise for the health of our oceans. Thanks to curator Ann Trinca there was a great line up of artist activists: Brandon Anderton, Tess Felix, Peter Hassen, Liz Hickok (and collaborators Jamie Banes and Phil Spitler), Hughen/Starkweather, Luc Janssens, Josh Keyes, Richard and Judith Lang, Courtney Mattison, Allison Watkins and Angela Willetts. Thanks to Mirka Knaster for her insightful review Art About and for the Ocean.

Unfortunately, because of the Coronavirus pandemic the City of Walnut Creek had to close all city agencies before the show’s end date so no events could take place in the gallery while the order was in place.

Now, months later, restrictions are finaly being lifted and we were able to pick up our work. When we arrived, the gallery was stacked with packing boxes, in the mess of transition with the deinstall of The Great Wave and the install of Grid Nest Nature opening on July 12 with new visitor guidelines, with timed entry.

It is has been and continues to be a fraught time but artists and galleries are learning to navigate during this turbulence. With a measure of good luck, good health and with the upwelling of interest in plastic pollution, we are grateful to continue to ride the waves.

We are struck by the rightness of Hokusai's enduring image — tiny fishermen holding fast in their small boats against the tumult of that gigantic wave, all the while Mt. Fuji forever and strong. 

Friday, June 12, 2020


These days with so many big issues vying for attention we were afraid that the Oceans might get short shrift on World Oceans Day. With beaches just beginning to open up and with programming shifted to online, we feared that audiences might be distracted and not tune in.

Route Global in Brasil, Portugal and the USA is an international NGO focused on beach clean-ups, education and ocean advocacy that uses art as an activator. To celebrate World Oceans Day, they did an awesome job of organizing 3 days, June 6-8, of panel discussions with some 24 ocean related topics. And people tuned in — they watched and commented on chat and sent emojis.

The programs were recorded and are now archived on The Ocean Day YouTube channel. 

When Rubem Miranda from Route USA and Simão Filippe Route Brasil asked if we would be on a panel themed Blue Vision we were thrilled. Our cohorts included Mauro Figueiredo,(from Brasil but zooming in from Australia) a doctor in environmental law and one of those responsible for writing the law of the sea in Brasil, Sebastian Copeland (from Munich) an adventurer and fine art photographer, Captain Charles Moore (from Long Beach) who discovered the Pacific Garbage Patch and Barbara Veiga (from Amsterdam but zooming in from London) photographer and co-founder of the League of Women Across the Oceans. We were honored to be featured with such an esteemed group of ocean experts.

During the discussion we were reminded of and introduced to many ideas that are worthy of further investigation. Here are links to just a few of the mentions: 
Fritjov Capra: PDF of The Tao of Physics  about the parallels between physics and Eastern mysticism. 
Amsterdam re-envisions its public policy based on the doughnut economy.
We have long admired Captain Moore for his pioneering work in oceanography and his commitment to environmental education but we just learned about his interest in Urban Gardening. We share this love of gardening on our RanchoD blog.  
James Lovelock author of the GAIA theory 
Surfers are establishing Surfing Reserves to protect coastlines. 
M.S. Merwin's poem Place.

Obrigado to Route Global for a job well done!

Thursday, June 4, 2020


Although we have been staying home, only going out every 10-14 days for essential supplies, when we got the news about a march in Point Reyes Station in protest against race-based violence after the killing of George Floyd and countless others, without hesitation, we painted our signs (after a consult with Amelia about messaging) and headed out.

Over the years we have attended many marches in front of the Wells Fargo Bank but this march to protest racism and police brutality, even in spite of the sheltering and distancing restrictions, had the biggest crowd ever.

We are so proud to stand together (6’ apart) with our neighbors and friends.

We were brought to tears with the chant Say Their Names then the roll call and response with the hundreds of names of people who have been killed by police. It really brought to heart that #Black Lives Matter and that each and every victim of police violence is an individual human being with a name.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Earth Day Virtual 20/20

Please join us on a virtual tour of The Secret Life of Earth: Alive! Awake! (And Possibly Really Angry!) at the American Visionary Art Museum on Wednesday morning at 11am (EST), 8 am (PST). In a dramatic and beautiful welcome to the museum, visitors are first greeted by the ceiling that is festooned with hundreds of bright, colorful pieces of our plastic from Kehoe Beach. As guide, Rebecca Hoffberger, curator and museum founder, will provide a perfect start to our 50th anniversary Earth Day celebration. For us Earth Day is our Christmas, our Yom Kipper, our Ramadan, our Dewali, too. It is the day we join with others in an international effort to do what we do on a regular basis. Our religious fervor for the planet is expressed in the Jewish concept of halakha, meaning the walk the walk or take the path, sometimes translated as law, which guides many aspects of daily life. Richard recalls the great relief at being at the first Earth Day gathering on the DC Mall, 1970—after years of anti-war protests—here was a celebration of unity and joy. How could there be a reactionary counter to Cesar Chavez’ exhortation to love? No clenched fist, no lines of cops and marshalls. It was the open hand lifted to the sky. 
This year our Earth Day plans have been scuttled. We had been anticipating a field trip redux with the San Anselmo Co-op Nursery School. But, with school closures and Covid sheltering orders, we will instead be zooming and on-lining. Last year we hosted a true field trip with kids and adults walking our field to visit the multiple activity stations we had set up.
We do so appreciate the virtual ways that the team at AVAM is keeping the exhibition alive. Along with this virtual tour and online classes, the exhibition has been extended into 2021.

Trash to Treasure

Since the COVID-19 sheltering-in-place directive and the closing of schools we have been teaching an online class to grandkids Clementine and Aloysius. We are always on the lookout for resources we can use to enrich what we have to offer. The latest newsletter from the American Visionary Art Museum prompted us to poke around on their website. We were super excited when we eventually ended up on the Visionary Activities page that is 
chock-a-block full of virtual experiences including an engaging tutorial on how to make Critter Crayons. 

Plus! plus! we discovered the fun fab Trash to Treasure activity that, to our great delight and surprise, features our beach plastic project.

What a good idea!!! We will give it a try with Clem and AO. Come on kids, it’s trash to treasure time. We have plenty of both.

So glad that the date for the The Secret Life of Earth show has been extended on in to 2021. We will get through this COVID-19 thing and will soon be down to earth and out and about again.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Clean Sweep

Judith writes: 

WEAD, (Women Eco Artists Dialog) and Yolo ARTS set my Clean Sweep into motion. For an artist, the greatest reward is to have an idea, then have the opportunity to realize it. On March 10, I was rewarded in spades brooms at the Barn Gallerylocated at the Gibson House and Property in Woodland, CA .

In Women Eco Artists Dialog: The Legacy of Jo Hanson, I join forces with my WEAD colleagues continuing the work that Jo Hanson inspired. Exhibition Guide.

For years, Jo has been an abiding inspiration for my “planetary housekeeping” efforts. The iconic image of her "clean sweep" of the sidewalk in front of her San Francisco home prompted my Clean Sweep an arrangement of brooms and a colorful mess of polypropylene, nylon, braided and twisted fishing ropes collected from Kehoe Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. 

Jo Hanson was buried March 17, 2007 at the Mary Magdelena Catholic Cemetery in Bolinas (formerly Briones Graveyard established in 1853). Old tombstones dating back to the late 1800’s grace the bucolic churchyard. In the Druid section of the historic cemetery, under the enormous stretch of a vast eucalyptus tree, in a plot she had selected, she was laid to rest.

It was a scene right out of “Crab Orchard Cemetery,” the unprecedented installation she first exhibited in 1974 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Crab Orchard Cemetary
Jo Hanson was a mother, an art mother and an earth mother. In her life she showed the way to a sustainable art practice, to a definition of eco-art.
Her daily sweep of the block outside her San Francisco home and her catalog of findings is an extraordinary accumulation of trash as art and social documentary.  In 1990 at the SF City Dump (now Recology) she established an artist-in-residency program that continues today. In 1996 with Susan Liebowitz Steinmen she was a co-founder and co-producer of WEAD that lives on as an online resource and offers exhibition opportunites.
Jo has had a simple yet profound influence on my life and my thoughts about death.
In life her daily sidewalk sweep as an example of — do something everyday — in the small accumulation of actions, one can make a difference — do it right where you are — you don’t have to boil the ocean or to go to the ends of the earth: the sidewalk, the gutter, anyplace can be a site of attention.
In her death, she showed the way to a new kind of burial: direct, in the earth. So eloquent, so effortless.
Her small body wrapped in a cotton shroud laid on a plain board. There was no casket, no elaborations. After family, friends, and fans spoke about her exemplary life and her message of love, she was gently lowered into the dirt grave. Everyone helped with the burial, adding handfuls and shovelfuls of dirt.
Jo hole

Jo Hanson — an exemplar in her death as she was in life. Thank you, Jo!


The exhibition is temporarily closed and hopes to reopen as soon as COVID restrictions are lifted. The exhibit is extended until August 22. The reception and the workshops will be rescheduled.

UPDATE MAY 13, 2020

It was an incredible honor to be asked to present a Knowledge@Noon for Yolo Arts in conjunction with the WEAD exhibit The Legacy of Jo Hanson. Preparing for the talk took me on an incredible journey: retrieving photographs of her funeral from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, visiting the Briones Graveyard in Bolinas where Jo is buried, reconnecting with Deborah Munk, director of the Recology Artist in Residence Program and getting permission from Jamil Hellu to use his photographs of Jo’s notebooks and from David Rozelle at SFMOMA to use the photograph There are Many Manshions.

PLUS, PLUS, PLUS, it gave me the opportunity to express my appreciation for Jo’s abiding influence.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Castaways: Art from the Material World

Judith writes:

Castaways: Art from the Material World  at the Bateman Foundation Centre in Victoria BC, in the historic Steamship Terminal, March 6- June 5, will cast into the forefront, issues about the fashion industry and its environmental impact on oceans and climate change. The Centre houses the definitive collection of Bateman's works, and has a dynamic program of public events to encourage dialogue about humanity's relationship to the natural world. Bateman uses the sale of his artwork and limited edtion prints to fund many naturalist and conservation causes. 

Many thanks to Vivienne Challendes for having the big vision of the concept and for curating this exhibit that features twenty women textile artists from Canada and the Americas. Many thanks to the staff and team at the Bateman who provided the gallery space and helped to facilitate the many details such a complex endeavor entails.  

It was such an honor to be invited to participate in this timely exhibition — a grand way to celebrate International Women's Day. For my Google photo album.

“Vale of Tears" is composed of hundreds of "castaways" of translucent and transparent plastic wrappers: shimmering pieces of plastic that catch the eye when tangled in the drift of seaweed are hung in the windows overlooking Victoria Harbor. The diaphanous scrim is the backdrop for my wedding dress "Forever" that is made entirely from recycled materials: white shopping bags for the dress, translucent dry cleaner bags for the shawl, pieces of white beach plastic on the trim of the skirt, tiny swirls of pink plastic bags for roses on the tiara and bouquet.​​ Mounted on a 6' pole it stands as a towering presence with my shawl spread as wings. Where the edge of the skirt circles on the floor, the 12’ diameter area has the look of seafoam that was washed ashore. My ensemble expresses the "forever" of my enduring love for my husband and the unfortunate "forever" of plastic.​

"No Room for Sand" is the title of the print of hundreds of nurdles magnified hundreds of times. Nurdles are pre-production plastic pellets. They are almost impossible to see until one learns how to differentiate them from a grain of sand or a fish egg. Once they are known, one sees numbers of them scattered across the sand. Nurdles are the raw plastic material that is shipped to manufacturers of bottles, car parts, toys, almost anything made of plastic.​​ Nurdles replace the diamonds in these two gold wedding rings along with a scatter of nurdles presented like rare jewels. Lest we forget: Like diamonds, plastic is forever.​

To celebrate the frenzy and grace of the last planetary dance Mylar balloons are scattered across the floor. Although faded and torn, the inscriptions of “congratulations” and “good wishes” are still discernible announcing “it’s party time!!!” Balloons may seem fun as they billow across the sky but when they wash ashore, they are not fun to wildlife. Hey, balloons,“the party’s really over.”​​

It was my good luck that I found my person (champion husband Richard), my place (Kehoe Beach) and this rare jewel of a planet (Earth).  

My bouquet of red and pink plastic roses is tossed to you; to everyone; with the wish that you/they find true love that includes a person, a place and this plane​​t. 



As the COVID-19 bad news has unfolded with social distancing, avoiding large groups and travel restrictions put into place, I was not surprised that, in the interest of public safety, the Bateman Centre, Victoria, BC closed. Needless to say, it was a big disappointment that just days after Castaways:Art from the Material World  opened, it had to close. But thanks to the team at the Bateman, there is now a 3-D virtual tour.

Although the 3-D virtual can never replace the value of an in-person encounter with a work of art, it offers an exciting way to enlarge the reach and influence of the exhibition and a way that Castaways can live on, long past its scheduled time in the gallery space.

At first it is a bit tricky to navigate but once you get the hang of it you will be able to walk through and find my "Forever” wedding dress installation that is in the back on the right side.