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Posts Tagged ‘giving back’

IMG02010-20110327-1219 trim auto PS YES

EarthHealer — Mandala For The Tortoise – 12/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 12, March 26th, 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Medium: Drawn by hand with a black Staedtler archival pigment ink Fineliner on Canson Mix Media XL Series 98lb drawing paper. Colored with Faber Castell 6 PITT Artist Brush Pens, DecoColor Glossy Oil Base Paint Markers, Portfolio Water Soluble Oil Pastels, Caran D’Ache NeoColor II Water Soluble Wax Crayons, Sharpie Medium Point Oil-Based Opaque Paint Markers. Photograph taken with a BlackBerry Tour.


EarthHealer is a tribute to Turtle and her grounding and healing place in the world-wide celebration of Earth Hour on March 26th (here’s my photograph from Earth Hour 2010). It is also my contribution to the collective healing energy of Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, 2011. The mandala was inspired by Hope Among The Rubble, the Week 12 BlackBerry 52 Jump-Off from Lotus, and Tortoise Highway from Seattle poet Teresa Williams. The Tortoise has long been a symbol of the Earth across many cultures, from Ancient times through current day. She is strongly related to the New Moon, the direction North, and the element Earth in Mandala For The 5th Element — The Role Of Ritual In Our Lives.

I researched the differences between turtles, tortoises, and terrapins and found a detailed article on the San Diego Zoo website: Reptiles: Turtle & Tortoise. All three are reptiles. However, turtles spend most of their lives in water and have webbed feet. Tortoises are land-dwellers with short, stumpy legs. Terrapins live on land and in water and are most often found in the brackish, swampy areas near rivers, lakes, and ponds. Some cultures use the words interchangeably. For the purposes of this piece, I consider the Turtle, the Tortoise, and the Terrapin keepers of the Earth, representative of:

  • Slowing Down: standing still, slow walking, staring out the window; nurturing ideas, holding creative seeds in the belly until the time is right to share them; all good things come in time
  • Home as Water & Earth: learning to connect to both, to be fluid, yet grounded. Turtles spend most of their lives in water; tortoises are land dwellers; terrapins live on land and in water.
  • Protecting with Turtle’s Shell: learning how to use protection; teaches good boundaries. Turtles and tortoises have hard, protective shells (part of their skeleton) that are made up of 59 to 61 bones covered by plates called scutes.
  • Motherly Compassion: the Mother Goddess, the cycle of give & take, empathy for others
  • Giving Back to the Earth: as she has given to us. Expressing gratitude for what we have.


Every day I am moved and energized by the comments, deep conversations, and collective energy of our contributors and readers from all over the world. I feel so much gratitude for community and those who give of themselves in service to help tip the world a little more upright on its positive axis. You give me hope. Deep bow.


Searching for Hope Among the Rubble ("Hope Among the Rubble")

Hope Among The Rubble by Lotus, 12/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 12, March 24th 2011, photo © 2011 by A~Lotus. All rights reserved. Medium: Word Cloud created on Wordle using 3 different articles. Text manipulated by adding HOPE. Final touch up in Adobe Photoshop CS2.


Earth Turtle (Detail)

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, March 27th, 2011. Read about ybonesy’s adventures with turtles over the years at In Praise Of Nature & Garage Sales and Novelty Pets.

-related to posts: Best Of BlackBerry 365 — First Quarter SlideShow, BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Searching For Stillness, icicle tumbleweed (haiga) — 2/52, The Mirado Black Warrior, Waning Moon (Haiga), The Void — January Mandalas, haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52, Alter-Ego Mandala: Dreaming Of The Albatross (For Bukowski), WRITING TOPIC — SLOW OR FAST?

Lotus and I will continue our call and response by posting a BlackBerry photo for the 52 weeks of 2011. Feel free to join us if you wish (learn about the project’s beginnings at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration).

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By Judith Ford
 
 

You’re Invited, lang•widge, March 27, 2010, Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, Maryland.




Poetry is a lot like music. Music evokes visual images; visual art can stimulate poems. Read that backwards and it’s true that way, too.

Last March, while visiting a friend in DC, I had the opportunity to experience all three — music, my friend’s paintings, and a spontaneous poetry happening — mixed together for one entertaining evening. The event: lang•widge. The setting: Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, Maryland.

My friend, artist Freya Grand, paints landscapes. Not your ordinary landscapes. Landscapes filtered through Freya’s vision and open to interaction with the viewer. In Freya’s words, “Painting landscape begins as an internal process. As in abstraction, forms transmit a mysterious secret life, exert a presence.”

Presence was abundant on March 27 at Gallery Neptune, even before the rest of the evening’s events unfolded.  I’ve always had my own strong responses to Freya’s work, partly because I’ve traveled with her to some of the locations she later painted. More because her work is emotional, full of motion and light. Like me, the lang•widge participants responded in their own unique ways.

So here’s how it went: A few weeks before lang•widge, Freya and gallery owner Elyse Harrison asked jazz musician Steven Rogers to preview the paintings and compose short pieces of music in response. Once everyone had had a chance to walk around and see all the paintings (munch on cheese and crackers, drink wine), we were asked to gather in front of a podium and listen to a short poetry reading by Charlie Jensen, poet and director of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, and the poet, Reb Livingston.








            



                            



                                       


Works by Freya Grand, Rock at Low Tide, 48″ x 60″, 2008, Burning Fields, 30″ x 30″, 2009, Cotopaxi, 48″ x 60″, 2006, and Fog, Benbulben, 30″ x30″, 2010, paintings © 2006-2010 by Freya Grand. All rights reserved.




Suitably warmed-up, we were each given a clipboard, a few sheets of paper, and a pencil. As Steven Rogers’ techno-jazz music played, we looked at the paintings again and quickly jotted down short lines. Whatever came to mind.

I was surprised by how much I liked the music. I am not a big jazz fan, but looking at Freya’s work and listening to this weird contemporary music, I found myself enjoying the way the visual and musical bits blended together. Whatever it was I wrote in response — I didn’t preserve any of it —  was full of the light and movement I’ve always seen in my friend’s work.  Hope, change, powerful natural forces, awe, wonder. 

When the four short pieces of music had finished, we reassembled in front of the podium. Volunteers did most of the reading, but first Charlie Jensen and Reb Livingston demonstrated the technique. They chose two from a diverse collection of colored dice. The number rolled determined the number of pieces of paper to be read together to create a spontaneous poem.

The results were surprising, to say the least. Where I had seen light and life, others had seen darkness and death, despair and violence. Sexuality. New life forms. Being lost, being found. Memories of blankets, clouds, and chaos.


 
 

During lang•widge, poets Charles Jensen and Reb Livingston explain the process, draw poem pieces, then read the resulting poetry, photos © 2010 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.



Here are some of my favorite lines:

smiley in foam, red glee

his daughter in a box, pushed out to sea

I’ve made a mistake coming here

I’ll never eat butter cream frosting again




When my husband, Chris, who loves to perform for an audience, volunteered, things got even stranger. He happened to pick a very long series of lines that were written in five different languages. Chris speaks nothing but English. His courageous attempts to pronounce Spanish, Italian, French, German, and, I think, Swedish, were sidesplitting.

Afterward Chris sought out the writer of those lines, and, yes, she did speak all those languages. She told Chris he’d done a pretty good job at guessing the pronunciations.

I sought out Freya. “Did you realize how much pain and despair was hiding in your paintings?” I asked. Freya is not prone to darkness or despair. She told me she was actually more surprised by the butter cream frosting than the pain. She said something like, “People project into my work whatever is up for them at the present moment.”

Not sure about that butter cream.



Freya Grand and Chris Ford, photo ©
2010 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.




So here’s an idea:  How about trying a little mini da-da poetry writing sans Steven Rogers’ music? Take a look at any of the Freya Grand paintings in this post (or visit her website). Pick out a piece of music you currently like a lot. While the music plays, quickly, without much thought, jot down five (or so) lines or phrases.

Email them to me at pinkeggs@gmail.com.  After two weeks or so (about August 9) I’ll randomly pick out lines, type them in the order I’ve picked, and post them here in the comments section. Let’s see what we come up with.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Here are two poems created during the lang•widge event; these are also posted on The Writer’s Center website.




1.



this is reversal

clouds coming up through earth’s crust

all my orange drizzles around in dust

I fly over this, I needn’t touch down

Earth is melting

manna comes down

my wings are lifted by

heat from the ground

Lift off!

Earth Burnt and Fractured

Evaporated Anger

Unexpressed Blindness

earth’s breath

greeny pastures of ooze

trudging uphill I see my shadow and a whale

I’m near a synthetic ocean

one that’s flat and even dry

cured epoxy cement

fake lily sky

but here’s where I swim

and here’s where I’ll die

your piano carries me anywhere

you play

standing stones

scottish shore

volcanic mist

walk to the top edge

as above, so below

coolness rising

You and me

never the same

mountain ranges between us

ocean depths……storms

air that we breathe

the only media

that unites

I lived there so long the ocean was like a person to me.

A giant meatball rolling towards its destiny.





2.



East coast sunsets

are less brilliant

but the sand between my toes

feels more like home.

Scary golf course littered laced

and smoking with traps sandy

silken tofu nowhere is there a

flag or a hole to crawl into

Dark fog charcoal wall

surrounding me give me grass

but it wriggles this grass

maybe the rocks will protect me

marshmallow antlers and steamy pea soup

There’s a smiley

in the foam

red glee

misty canyon aerie wheat

volcanic atmosphere rock strewn beach

geyser rivulets

yves tanguy

shadows

cliff hanger

steam

heat

his daughter in a box, pushed out to sea

wash of creation

thrum

pure thin air

Moses parts a red and vanillas sea

A single, persistent surfer.

I’d made a mistake coming here.

bleed





___________________________________________________________________________________________

Judith Ford is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was red Ravine’s very first guest writer, with her 25 Reasons I Write post. Judith’s other pieces on red Ravine include Mystery E.R., I Write Because, and PRACTICE – Door – 20min.

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henry

Henry, Em’s drawing of Henry the Pug, on display at the “Young in
Art” show, February, 2010, image © 2010 by Em, All rights reserved.




This is Henry. He came from my 10-year-old daughter’s imagination. Sony the Pug was inspiration for Henry. If Henry were real, perhaps he would be Sony’s boyfriend.

Em, my daughter, decided she wanted to draw a pug. So I had her look at Sony as closely as possible, to notice Sony’s little black nose, how there’s an upside-down Y from the bottom of that nose to the bottom of the face, and another upside-down Y between Sony’s eyes. I pointed out Sony’s little ears and her wrinkly face that makes her seem like she’s frowning all the time.

Noticing all these things, Em drew the pug above and then said, “I want it to be wearing a hat,” at which point Dee suggested, “How about a top hat?” So Em drew a top hat on the pug.

I thought the portrait would look nice with one of those ribbon banners at the bottom spelling out the pug’s name, but Em liked the idea of a collar and tag. Once she saw her pug’s face, she said it wasn’t Sonia after all; that it was a boy pug and his name was Henry.

I loaned Em my markers, which are about 50 different shades of just a dozen or so colors. Over three days, Em painted Henry with the markers. First she did the light colors then darker for shading.

Em slowed way down and carefully colored the picture. The quality comes through in the result.

Henry the Pug was selected by Frame-n-Art to be in the “Young in Art” show. Frame-n-Art has hosted this art show for the local elementary school for over a dozen years. It’s a way this gallery-slash-frame-shop gives back to the community and encourages young people to make art not just for fun but for others to enjoy.

Each year local artists jury the show to select 24 pieces—four from each of grades Kindergarten to Fifth. The two-dimensional pieces have all been matted courtesy of the gallery and are on display at an exhibit there. The artist reception will be in about a week, and there will be one award from each grade plus two overall awards. The first overall award is “Principal’s Choice,” in which the principal picks her favorite to hang in the school administration building. People who go to the gallery up to and during the reception can also vote, and that winning piece is proclaimed “People’s Choice.” There are cash awards for winners.

This is Em’s second year in “Young in Art.” It is an honor just to be selected for the show. Last weekend when I took Em by the gallery to see her piece hanging and to vote, she said that this year she wants to win one of the awards. Tonight, though, she said it’s OK if she doesn’t win an award, that it was enough to be in the show.

Competing for awards is a nerve-wracking thing, and I applaud my daughter for approaching it with a sportsman-like attitude. She’s a competitive kid, perhaps due to be the youngest and thus wanting to exceed her sister’s accomplishments. Or maybe the competitiveness is a natural trait, having nothing to do with siblings. In either case, I’m glad she’s game. I for one hope she wins one of the awards and will be rooting for her.

I also think it’s fabulous that Frame-n-Art sponsors this show. What they do is a big deal for a lot of young people and their biggest fans.

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Heart, Wonder(Woman), & Stained Glass Mandalas, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved


It’s that awkward time between end-of-December Holidays and the New Year. And 2009 was a hard year for many. I personally know people who were (and are) unemployed, those who have lost much of their life savings due to illness and no health insurance, a family with a loved one who died unexpectedly in her 30’s from an enlarged heart. They checked on her when she didn’t show up at the family Christmas party; the funeral was Christmas Eve.

But I also saw a heartwarming story where a man in Youngstown, Ohio named Jason Evans donated a kidney to Kimberly Smith, a 58-year-old woman who has raised 28 foster and adopted children, and a stranger to him, so that she could live. (He heard the call at a church service; she calls the kidney LJ for Little Jason.) And a segment on a woman named Jennifer Williams who gives back to women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have been raped, tortured and mutilated in the Congolese civil war, by encouraging sponsors to pledge $27 a month and write letters in an exchange that transforms both women’s lives. Lisa Shannon, founder of Run for Congo Women, has a personal mission to sponsor 1000 Congolese women.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? Was it something you really wanted as a child? Was it handmade, a piece of art or jewelry, a family recipe box, dinner with friends? Did it cost money or was it a gift from the heart? We didn’t have a lot of presents under the tree this year but life feels abundant. We and our cats Kiev and Mr. Stripeypants have our health (Chaco died mid-year); there was good food on the table, Christmas ham and Grandma Caroline’s Green Salad; the Wonder Woman stocking stuffer (made by Magnet Dude) and Mandalas Stained Glass Coloring Book brought big smiles to my face.

Liz’s sister has a tradition of sending her a rock from Heart Mountain in Wyoming each time her mother visits or another Holiday rolls around. We have bits of the Heart all over our garden and yard. Each time Liz opens a new heart, her face is filled with wonder. There are cards that line the bookcase, some with checks or gift certificates, not to mention the pajamas and slippers from a pre-Christmas sale. Life feels abundant.

Maybe the greatest Christmas gift was watching a family from up the street (who we had never met) stroll through the neighborhood with their snowblower, digging out driveways from the Holiday blizzard. How neighbors joined in and walked along with them, helping the next neighbor dig out.

Or the young sister/brother team who knocked on our door Christmas Eve and offered to snowblow the driveway for $10. They came from a blended family of 7 kids and were trying to earn a little extra money. These are the gifts that keep on giving.

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Sink Mandala, Kohler Design Center, Kohler, Wisconsin, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.







sinks, tubs, and faucets
beauty in beholder’s eye
form follows function


dazzled by bathrooms
Zen nests of relaxation
“sink into our tubs”


preconceived notions
dance and spin down spotless drains
life imitates art










We visited the Kohler Design Center after a writing retreat on Lake Michigan in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. Most fascinating to me was the history of Kohler Company, founded in 1873 when Austrian immigrant John Michael Kohler purchased a cast iron and steel  foundry in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The company made anything you can imagine out of cast iron and porcelain — from radiators to the first sink dishwasher. From farm implements to a generator for Admiral Byrd for one of his Antarctic expeditions.

Many of these vintage items are housed in the basement museum where we spent at least an hour walking around last week. The top photo is a shot of the inside of a black porcelain sink reflecting daylight through a large picture window. Sinks, tubs, and toilets never looked better. After you visit Kohler Design Center, you’ll not only want a new bathroom, you won’t be able to imagine spending time anywhere else.

Last time I was in Sheboygan County for a writing retreat, our host Jude took us to visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Same family,  in full support of the Arts. The museum’s director is artist Ruth DeYoung Kohler, granddaughter of John Michael Kohler (her portrait hangs in the Kohler Design Center). She must love her work; she’s been the director for 37 years. The museum is housed in the 19th-century Italianate mansion that once belonged to her grandfather.

An hour north of Milwaukee, the Kohler Arts Center is known for giving back and building community through the Arts. Each year, between 16 and 22 artists are selected from hundreds of applicants to spend two to six months working in Kohler Company’s Iron and Brass Foundries, Pottery, and Enamel Shop. Kohler Arts is also on the map for exhibiting Outsider or self-taught art with particular attention paid to large scale installations and architecture. You can read more about the Kohler in the New York Times article by Jori Finkel, Way Off the Beaten Path, Letting the Outsiders In.

Another thing the Kohler is famous for? Its 7 theme based bathrooms painted and designed by artists. What could be more natural? According to the website, “the washrooms were one of the few public spaces where permanently installed works of art would be considered, serving to uphold the Arts Center‘s philosophy that art can enliven, enrich, and inform every facet of our everyday lives.”

If you’re ever in Sheboygan County, add the Kohler Design Center and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center to your list of enriching experiences. And prepare to start saving for a newly designed bathroom.


The Arts Center shall continue its leadership roles of nourishing diversity and building community through the arts. In all programming, the Arts Center shall cultivate connections: between artists and audiences, between artists and communities, between emerging and established artists, between local and visiting artists, between the Arts Center and other organizations, between art forms, and between past and present.


Luxury Bath, Swirl, Black & White, Above: Wall Of Toilets, Kohler Design Center, Leave It All Behind, Everyday Art, Things That Are Round, Kohler Design Center, Kohler, Wisconsin, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, October 15th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), State Of The Arts (haiku for Kuan-Yin), Walking Your Talk (Do The Arts Matter), Martín Ramírez In Rain Taxi, Gripped By Cathy Wysocki

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Me, By Pham Luc, portrait of Roma, 26×36 inches, August 2009, image
© 2009 by Pham Luc, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
In a small travel agency that sits just around the corner from the Hanoi Cathedral, I wait as the owner, Tony Pham, fills out paperwork for my weekend tour. It is hot, unbearably hot in August in Hanoi, and in spite of the fan, I mop sweat from my neck.
 
On the wall behind Tony I see a painting of a red horse against a black background. It’s a small painting but it stands out. The horse wears a cinch around its barrel chest and sloping neck. It is regal, a dancing, prancing stallion.
 
“Who painted the horse,” I want to know.

Tony looks up from his papers. “Ah, he is a famous painter, mentor to my painting teacher.”

“You paint?” I interrupt.

“No, not really.”
 
He brushes off my question and points to the artist’s several other paintings hanging in the office. They are bold. Thick black lines contrast with deep, sometimes bright colors. Each piece moves with energy.

Tony tells me he has many more paintings in his home, that he’ll take me to meet the artist.

“Tomorrow afternoon,” he says.

“Tomorrow afternoon,” I repeat, and as I walk through the crowded streets back to my hotel, it dawns on me that Tony is an artist living as a businessman. No wonder his tours are so beautiful and magical.
 
 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
Pham Luc’s home is built in the typical Vietnamese style. Narrow and tall, like a shoebox turned on its end. The bottom floor is a one-car garage, then three floors of living space above. It is the first Vietnamese home I’ve been in that hasn’t been converted to a restaurant or shop. I have a feeling it’s a lot nicer than most Vietnamese homes, yet it’s also simple. Some furniture and a lot of art. Besides the bed and sitting area, plus a kitchen and bathroom, the rest of the house, it seems, is dedicated to Pham Luc’s paintings. Making them and storing them.
 
Pham Luc is having tea when we arrive. He is a compact man, not so much small as solid, as if he is accustomed to physical labor. His hair is black-black, just a hint of gray at the temples, and he has thick eyebrows and a thick mustache that seem to go together. I have no idea how old he is. Later, when asked to guess, I put him at about 55. I am way off.

A Vietnamese collector of his works is also there, drinking tea with Pham Luc. After introductions, Tony and I walk up the two flights of stairs to rooms filled with paintings. One small room holds nothing but works on framed canvas. Tony flips through them, occasionally pulling out ones he especially admires. A young Vietnamese woman who speaks no English appears at the door. She helps Tony move the paintings around so we can get a better look.

Another room is filled with even bigger pieces, some almost as tall and wide as the walls themselves. These are painted with lacquer on black board. They seem massive and wet, as if dripping still with layers of gold and red and black.

We spend a good amount of time upstairs, looking at the paintings, talking about themes. Pham Luc paints rural scenes, festivals, women and babies, old women, nudes reclining. There is no air-conditioning and by now I am sweating so much that I have used up the tissues I brought with me. Pham Luc’s assistant notices that my face and neck are wet; she leaves and returns with a napkin. Her skin is dry. The Vietnamese, I have concluded, do not sweat.
 
 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
I could have spent a century in those rooms, looking from one painting to the next, trying to see how they change. If not for the heat, I could have spent forever trying to guess what his emotional state was when he went from yellows, pinks, and lime greens (elated) to browns and grays and navy blue (depressed).

I gather that he paints his moods, that, yes, he has a fundamental style (in fact, the book he gave me of pieces spanning three decades of his work shows as much) but that nothing about him is static.
 
We drink green tea, strong and bitter, and I try to keep up with the men, as if the tea were bourbon. Pham Luc mentions that he does not drink beer, and I get the feeling that it was a decision he was forced to make—beer or art?, art or beer?—at some point in his career.

But hot tea comes in pot-fulls, brought out by the assistant who doesn’t sweat, always in the same small teapot that looks like it’s made of jade.
 
Somewhere along the line, Pham Luc tells me he would like to paint me. Tony translates: “He wants to paint you and give you the painting to take home.” A small photo album is produced, and in it I see images of beaming Westerners standing next to their Pham Luc portraits. It is something he sometimes does, I later learn from watching a CD he sends home with me, in order to delight his visitors.

I’m game. (Isn’t it game, after all, that got me here?) I stay where I’m sitting, still dressed in the black blouse and white linen slacks that I wore to my day’s appointments. I look away from Tony and the collector, towards a flat screen TV and more paintings leaning against walls. The assistant comes in with paints and a large canvas stapled to a wooden easel, which Pham Luc props against a chair. He squats in front of the canvas, paints by his side, and he works quietly and quickly.

I don’t look at what he’s doing, partly for the same reason I hate looking at photos of myself and partly to not break the pose. Every now and then I turn to Tony and the collector so that I can ask them questions. They speak in Vietnamese, but Tony translates.

I learn that there is a Pham Luc Collectors Club, that some collectors have thousands of Pham Luc paintings, that his works are owned by ambassadors and dignitaries and people all over the world, and that he has had exhibitions in France, Italy, The Netherlands, Canada. They tell me he will come to Boston in 2010 and, maybe could I go?

If I stay facing Tony and the collector too long, Pham Luc asks me to turn my head back the other way.
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
My lips are fuller, cheekbones higher. I look French. I look beautiful, and it makes me feel beautiful to know he saw that in me. And for that I immediately love this compact man with the black mustache, and I love Vietnam even more than before, the North especially—erudite, intellectual, lovers of art.

He completed the painting in maybe 30 minutes, although now I can’t be sure. Looking back, time passed and I lost track of time. For example, I have no recollection of him smoking, although I have a photo of his pack of Camel cigarettes, the words SMOKING KILLS in block letters on the front. He must have lit up while I was there, I am sure of it, but I don’t recall being bothered by the smoke.

I do remember that after he finished the portrait and turned the canvas for us to see, we let out a collective gasp. Then Pham Luc walked to us, pointing to his arms and gesturing excitedly. The hair on his forearms stood on end; confused, I looked to Tony for translation.

“It’s good, it’s good,” Tony assured me, “it means the painting is great.”

For the moment, Pham Luc is pure energy.
 
Later, when I ask Tony in the taxi why Pham Luc would give me a painting, even after I pleaded to purchase it instead, he says it is because of the gift that I gave to Pham Luc. “He knows that now, after his visitors are gone, he will be able to paint.”
 
 
 

Pham Luc paints at night, during daytime, when awake at night, or even if he has just recovered between sicknesses and can sit up. The motivation behind his creation is like a karma, a curse of fate. If he can’t paint he will get sick and will be like a flu-infested chicken. Many times I saw him grubby in a mess of colors and lacquer as if haunted.
 
                    ~Dr. Nguyen Si Dung, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
It takes an hour, maybe two, for the painting to dry. We continue to sit and talk. At one point I look across to Pham Luc; he is holding a large white envelope close to his face, sketching a doodle of me. When he is done, he shows it to me. Another gift to take home. 

Later still, he walks over to a dresser and picks up a small piece of art done in lacquer on wood. I admire it, hand it back, and then Tony translates. “No, it’s for you.”

Then Pham Luc goes and gets two more and asks me to choose from among the three. They are nudes done in simple black lines on gold leaf. I like them all, but Tony and the collector have a strong opinion that I take one in particular, so I choose it.
 
We talk, drink more tea. Pham Luc gets up and again rummages around the room, notices behind one of the larger paintings a small, colorful portrait of himself on canvas. In the painting, he wears no shirt and holds a cigarette between his fingers. Again, he hands me the painting. A gift.

“Please,” I tell him, “please, it’s too much.”

He says something in Vietnamese, which Tony translates. “You are my friend, and I am his friend, so now you are his friend.”
 
I glance at the beautiful Roma on the large canvas that is still drying, and I marvel at my luck. Yes, luck! Karma, good fortune, call it whatever you want, but here I am sitting, talking, laughing, drinking tea, being painted, being feted with generosity and brilliance. I am a small thing basking in the light of a huge thing. Someone ordinary touched by someone extraordinary.
 
 
 

I am disabled but crazy about Pham Luc’s paintings. Many Vietnamese and foreign friends coming to my home to see my collection were amazed at the creations of Pham Luc. Many asked me why I collected so many paintings. I replied, “Each painting is a support for me to overcome handicap and integrate into life. His paintings give me confidence in life and aspiration to rise up. In my difficult times and in pain, I come to his paintings to seek consolation, sympathy and often find in them peace amidst the storms of life.”
 
                    ~Ngo Quang Tuan, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 

* * *

 
 
 
Pham Luc was born in 1943 in the village of Hue. He was a soldier and painter in Vietnam’s People’s Army, documenting the scenes he saw. From the books and brochures I have about him, I understand he became a major in the army, but always he was a painter. He told me that the reason he is not married—he’s been divorced twice—is that his wives did not understand his need to constantly paint.
 
There is a painting upstairs in one of the rooms, of a woman with a rifle, behind her a water buffalo. The colors are muted but the overall effect is of activism. Pham Luc painted the piece in 1986, and Tony and I found it behind other, more recent works. Before I leave Pham Luc’s home, I ask the assistant to bring it down so that I might look at it again. There are many beautiful paintings here, but always my eyes go back to the woman with the rifle.

I buy the painting from Pham Luc. For a song.
 
 
 

He doesn’t need money. He spends all his money on charities, his children, and buying gold, silver, lacquer and colors. So what does he need? To build his fame? May be, but may be not. In fact, he is already very famous. Many people know him and admire him. Ambassadors in Hanoi buy his paintings and make friends with him. So the answer to his efforts lies in his passion. Because he can’t do otherwise.
 
                     ~Dr. Nguyen Si Dung, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 

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Sòn d âù, (I hope that spelling is correct), 32×24 inches, 1986, image © 1986-2009
by Pham Luc, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
I am deeply grateful to Tony Pham and to Pham Luc. The three hours I spent with the two of them that day in early August are among the best memories I have of Vietnam, of travel abroad, and of life experiences, period. In Tony, I found a kindred spirit, an artist inside his heart, and someone whose love of art infuses his daily work. In Pham Luc, I found kindness, happiness, and what it means to give of oneself.
 
 
 

He was born in a poor countryside in a deprived village in the Central region of Vietnam and used to be a soldier fighting in the wars. He lives and paints with qualities of a farmer and Uncle Ho soldier. These qualities have become his humane belongings. No wonder many people sympathize with, love, and are crazy for his art. He is so happy!
 
                    ~An Chuong, from Painter Fạm Lực

 
 
 
 

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GALLERY 

 
These are works that I photographed during my visit. They are my favorites among the many that I saw that day. I do not have names, dates, nor sizes for any of the paintings. They all appear to be oil on canvas, and almost all of them are fairly large. They are reprinted here with the artist’s permission.

 
 
 
 
     
 
 
                                     
 
 
   
 
 
                                                           


                    


                            
 
 
 

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Gone are the syringes, the pages and pages of charts we logged, the droppers, prescription foods, and red plastic “discarded needle” container with the skull and crossbones. Gone is the hook over the kitchen sink to hang the IV bag; it was made out of an old tent stake. Gone are the alcohol swipes, 15-cent 18 gauge needles, extra towels, warming bowls, and bags of IV hookup tubes.

Expensive medications crammed into limited cupboard space have disappeared. The thick blue folder of Chaco’s veterinary receipts has been filed away. Last week we made a decision to donate the 10 remaining bags of .45 saline IV fluids (from the case we had special ordered to give Chaco’s subcutaneous fluids at home) to the Humane Society. Liz said she would drop the case off after work. She came home on Thursday and handed me a copy of the following letter:


_________________________________________________________________




Chaco S. was born February 22nd, 1996, adopted from the Golden Valley Animal Humane Society in April 1996, and passed away on June 25th, 2009 after a brave battle with kidney disease.

He left a huge hole in our family and will always be remembered dearly for his big purrs and head bumps.

We are donating extra bags of saline in his name. They kept him going near the end and we know how valuable they can be.


Peace, love and purrs,

The S-H Family
Liz, D., Kiev & Mr. Stripey Pants


__________________________________________________________________


This is why I love Liz. She had typed the letter up, added Chaco’s photo, and given it to the woman at the desk of the Humane Society who thanked her profusely for our donation. The intake person was simultaneously talking on the phone to a woman who had lost her cat and advising her of organizations she could contact to help her with her search.

In the short time Liz was there, a woman came in crying because she had to give up her cat. Her husband handed the carrier with their beloved pet over to the intake coordinator. Another man was at the desk to surrender a cat he had taken from a friend because he didn’t want it to be put down; it didn’t work out. He tried to explain. There is no excuse the Humane Society hasn’t already heard.

People desperately trying to find their cats; people desperately needing to get rid of their cats; people grieving the loss of their cats. And I haven’t even gotten to the dogs yet.

The woman at the desk said she would tape Liz’s letter to the box of IV fluids so they would think about Chaco whenever they grabbed a new IV bag for an animal in need. I appreciate the work of caring individuals who volunteer their time to sanctuaries, independent animal shelters, and organizations who care for animals society has tossed aside. There are 81.7 million cats and 71.2 million dogs owned in America. We need to help out wherever we can.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 9th, 2009

-related to posts: Chaco’s Creature Comforts (10 Cat Care Tips), From The Earth, Back To The Earth , Winter Solstice — The Quiet Strength Of Bear, Life Of An American Green Tree Frog, Children Helping Children (And Animals)

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