Saturday, September 28, 2013

MOTHER'S STORY: You are not alone! Listen and hear the footsteps in the rain

ACKNOWLEDGING THE MOTHER.  When I am feeling despair, I realize that I need to summon the MOTHER IN ME. Here I have borrowed an image on a pendant that my husband brought me back from New Mexico when we were considering moving there. I love how much my husband understands my relationship with the FEMININE and selected the pewter pendant made by artist Alice Warder Seely. (art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for the GREAT MOTHER. We are not alone pilgrims! 

The idea of MOTHER is with me at this moment for several reasons. Let me share with you why I have drawn this image today and am writing about the nurturing HER in our lives.

First of all, I am struggling with something I can only call "angst." And when I have these feelings of worry, I have a regimen of behaviors that I enact. One is reaching for "totems" that bring me peace and remind me of universal truths. So, this morning when I knew that I was in need of MOTHERING, I reached for the pendant of the MOTHER, that my sweet husband, Tony Martin, brought me from New Mexico. It is made by Alice Warder Seely, who has a mixed Indian, Spanish and Anglo heritage.
MOTHER'S STORY.  Alice Warder Seely writes: "You are not alone! Listen and hear the footsteps in the rain. It is your mother and sisters coming to share your songs, and tell your mother's story." I love it that Tony picked this out for me and find it very comforting to wear as I search for my songs to sing and my sisters to sing with.
Then as I make connections with InterPlay, I am meeting different InterPlay leaders. One InterPlay leader that I have recently friended on Facebook is Sheila Collins. Having done that, I became aware of her newly published book, Warrior Mother, which is a narrative about her journey assisting her two adult children as they died with AIDS and then breast cancer. Here is a video about Warrior Mother.

I do not have children. What do I know about MOTHERING? For those of you who know me, you are familiar with my drawings the MOTHER IN ME (here is one blog and drawing). However, I keep circling around this theme of the MOTHER and NURTURANCE developing this immense universal love. I can learn  even  more from Sheila Collins and her "fierce love" and use of ritual. Read her book to see how she cultivated the GREAT MOTHER in herself in community with friends and family.

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and share your MOTHERING stories. What do you do when you need to nurture yourself? Any other book ideas?
DRAWING INSPIRATION FROM ALICE WARDER SEELY.  While reflecting on Alice's work, I did not attempt to copy her image exactly but enjoyed drawing the two connected figures in the expanding universe. We need to connect with this universal love that is a part of our nature. Within ourselves is the universe of the MOTHER. (art by Hallelujah Truth)

Friday, September 27, 2013

CREATING NEW WORK BEGINNING WITH PIGS: The genesis requires unconditional love, patience, and yes, a vision

IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS A VISION. If you imagine that you are seeing sea turtle angels, you are correct. They have not hatched from their nest. Instead, they were food stuff for pigs! (art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for creating new work. For me, this process must be pleasurable and filled with unconditional love. Oh! And did I say my beginnings need to be meaningful? How do new works begin? Can the genesis be documented?

I'm laughing as I ask this question about documentation of new works! Forgive me for being rhetorical! 

So in the beginning, there are these barrier islands off the coast of Georgia, USA. I will name them like the characters in Snow White: Tybee, Wassaw, Ossabaw, St. Catherines, Sapelo, St. Simons, Jekyll, and Cumberland (to name a few).

On these islands are invasive species! For now, I am focusing on the pig. Yes, pig. Pigs are invasive species on these coastal environments and they tromp and wallow on native plants causing a lot of habitat destruction. Worse, they prey upon native animals on the islands--for example--eating sea turtle eggs!
HUNGRY PIG FAMILY. In addition to having ravenous appetites, pigs reproduce at rapid rates and in large numbers. A litter can have as many as twelve piglets! (photo by Jenifer Hilburn)
My brilliant husband, Tony Martin, explains the pig situation on the barrier islands eloquently and thoroughly on his website, "Life Traces of the Georgia Coast." 

"Feral hogs (Sus scrofa) have a special place in the rogue’s gallery of invasive mammals on the Georgia barrier islands, and most people agree they are the worst of the lot. Hogs are on every large undeveloped island – Cumberland, Sapelo, St. Catherines, and Ossabaw – and they wreak ecological havoc wherever they roam. The widespread damage they cause is largely related to their voracious and omnivorous diet, in which they seek out and eat nearly any foodstuff, whether fungal, plant, or animal, live or dead. Their fine sense of smell is their greatest asset in this respect: every time I have tracked feral hogs, their tracks show head-down-nose-to-the-ground movement as the norm, punctuated by digging that uses a combination of their snouts and front hooves to tear up the ground in their quest for food. In other words, they generally act like, well, you know what."
FERAL PIGS EATING SEA TURTLE EGGS. (art by Hallelujah Truth)

"Most importantly from the standpoint of native animals that try to live more than one generation beyond a single hog meal, feral hogs eat eggs. Hence ground-nesting birds and turtles are among their victims, and hogs are quite keen on eating sea turtle eggs. Mothers of all three species of sea turtles that nest on the Georgia coast – loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green (Chelonia mydas), and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) – dig subsurface nests filled with 100-150 eggs full of protein and other nutrients, making tempting targets for any free-ranging feral hogs. Similarly, hogs also threaten another salt-water turtle, the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin); this turtle lays its eggs in shallow nests near the edges of salt marshes, which hogs manage to find. Conservation efforts to save diamondback terrapins from human predation have mostly succeeded (it used to be a tasty ingredient in soups), but hogs can’t read and don’t discriminate when it comes to eating eggs. Here is where feral hogs are particularly dangerous as an invasive species: unlike feral horses or cattle, which “merely” degrade parts of their ecosystems: feral hogs can contribute directly to the extinction of native species. As I often tell my students, if you want to cause a species to go extinct, stop it from reproducing."

--excerpted from "Going Hog Wild on the Georgia Barrier Islands"

So, when Jenifer Hilburn and I have been collaborating on ideas for telling a compelling environmental story in both words and images about the Georgia coast, one of the characters that emerged in addition to our lead character, the American oystercatcher, was the pig--or as my husband refers to it--the feral hog. Yes, pigs must eat. But must they eat sea turtle eggs?
CURIOUS ABOUT PIG PREDATION. In this heavily photoshopped drawing (because the image is still in process and I felt like photoshopping it), you can see the young fledging American oystercatcher asking the pig family about why they are eating the sea turtle eggs. I have included pig tracks and broken eggs. (art by Hallelujah Truth)
BABY LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLE. What a beauty! I used this iconic shape of a baby sea turtle for my drawing here. However, I made my baby sea turtles loggerheads. Do you see the difference in their shells?  (photo by Gale Bishop)
How does one begin a new project? By envisioning, collaborating, reading, and being engaged in the process. Also, incorporating past experience. I am so fortunate to have spent so much time on the Georgia coast in the last 12 years with my husband tracking animals, meeting and spending time with naturalists, taking Emory classes there, and doing research for his book, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast. I have blogged about my experience with relocating sea turtle nests on St. Catherines Island (here).
SEA TURTLES IN A RELOCATED NEST.  Two years ago, I had the opportunity to see how sea turtles are aided in their life cycle by Gale Bishop in the St. Catherines Island Sea Turtle Program. It was a memorable and meaningful experience to help relocate a sea turtle nest higher away from the surf and to protect that new site with fencing from predators such as the feral hog. (photo by Tony Martin)

Certainly, I am not making judgments about my work at its genesis. Instead, am appreciative to my collaborator, Jen, and am repeating the mantra: 

Not good. Not bad. Just is.

That's Coffee with Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me about how you begin projects. How do you make them fun and pleasurable? How do you gain momentum? Do you envision? Do you experience unconditional love?
TAO FOR PLEASURE. While I draw at my dining room table, I burn incense, listen to music, dance, and invite our two cats to join me. Tao visits me regularly for play breaks! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

ICHTHYOSAUR EYES AND AMMONITES: Fall is a time for introspection and pondering survival from mass extinctions

FALL IS FOR LOOKING WITHIN.  (Art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for FALL and for images like ICHTHYOSAURS and AMMONITES, ancient sea life that offers us metaphors for deeper understanding of our lives. 

FALL is the time when we experience a tumult of emotions. On one hand, we feel like celebrating the harvest of all things coming to fruition on the farms, our gardens, and in the trees. Hallelujah, I love eating newly harvested apples and watching acorns tumble from the trees! It is the time when a smile comes to my Korean students' faces and they think of horses getting fat and their own desire to linger outside in the cool air to read a book.

On the other hand, when the leaves change from green to a sunburst of colors and start drifting down past us, we too feel like something is changing within us--dying, perhaps, making an exit for good. The result is an inexplicable sadness--a sadness so sweet that we feel as if we are mourning for all of humanity.

It is definitely a time to LOOK WITHIN and SEE what we can find and learn as a part of our cycle of life. Thank goodness for the SEASONS! Hallelujah for the FALL!
THE ICHTHYOSAUR EYE. Think about an ancient marine animal, the Ichthyosaur, which had the largest eye of any animal on this Earth! What an inviting image to use for symbolizing SEEING WITHIN! (Art by Hallelujah Truth)
Do you want to know a little bit about this ancient marine animal? The ICHTHYOSAUR lived about 190 million years ago, and kind of resembles a dolphin but was not a mammal. Mary Anning, is credited with finding the first Ichthyosaur along the southern coast of England in 1810 when she was 11 years old. As you know, I am married to a brilliant paleontologist (Tony Martin) and, therefore, have had the good fortune to see fossil Ichthyosaurs in Australia, as well as in England (see this blog entry), and can attest to the large ringed eyes that fossilize in the preserved Ichthyosaurs. They made a deep impression on me, and now I am expressing these feelings for the Ichthyosaur Eye in my art.

SEEING AND REPEATING. There are two ammonites in this "mandala" with four Ichthyosaurs. I allow the spiral shells to symbolize "revolutions"--a repeated cycle. Hence, they represent survival to me. The seasons may "turn, turn, turn," but we keep living repeatedly through these cycles. We survive, and I would hope with some reflection (seeing within) increase our understanding and pleasure here on this BEAUTIFUL EARTH. (Art by Hallelujah Truth)
Included in this image with four Ichthyosaurs that I have drawn are two ammonites. The ammonite is described by Brad Matsen in the beautifully illustrated book by Ray Troll, Planet Ocean: Dancing to the Fossil Record, in this way: 

"The history of life is great theater, with survival getting top billing. No more luminous star than the ammonite ever hit the stage....Hundreds of species of ammonites were masters at this (survival), emerging in the mid-Paleozoic era about 400 million years ago and existing as distinct species for over 330 million years, through several mass extinctions."

So at the same time we hold the image of the Ichthyosaur Eye as a symbol for LOOKING INWARD, we can also engage the use of another image from the fossil record for SURVIVAL--the ammonite! Not only does its record for survival through out time beat most invertebrates, but the form of its shell is also the shape of a spiral! And spirals allow us to think in circles in cycles repeating--something similar to our lives!

That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and tell me what you think of my images with the ICHTHYOSAUR EYE! The Ichthyosaurs! The Ammonites! What do you think of the symbolism? Does FALL make you look within?
SAPELO FOR SCALE.  (Art and photo by Hallelujah Truth)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

LIGHTS! ACTIONS! DRAMA! JIM BITLER on Ossabaw Island, Georgia, USA, 2008: Remembering and honoring a very special person to the Georgia coast

A WALK ON THE BEACH WITH JIM. Jim Bitler (left) and my husband,Tony Martin (right) walk on an Ossabaw Island beach at low tide on a cold December day in 2008. It was Tony's and my first visit to Ossabaw, and Jim was the perfect host for introducing us to the natural wonders of the island. (Photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Note: In December of 2008, Tony Martin (aka Chiboogamoo) and I decided to spend time on several different barrier islands off the coast of Georgia in order to track wildlife and do research for Tony’s book, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast: Unseen Lives of the Georgia Barrier Islands, which was published in January 2013. One of the islands we visited was Ossabaw, and a delightful discovery there was Jim Bitler, the nature interpreter for the Ossabaw Island Foundation. Why do I say that? Read on!

Jim Bitler created excitement about being on Ossabaw Island. It was as if he were a director with the stage already prepared for lights, curtain, and action! One of the best storytellers I have ever encountered, Jim blended the information about the island’s history, its grande dame (Sandy West), and nature so well you were engaged body, mind, and soul. Best of all, you were primed to truly understand the unique Ossabaw environment.
RATTLE SNAKE PERFORMER! Neither Chiboogamoo nor I had ever seen a rattlesnake on any of the Georgia barrier islands, yet this one magically appeared on the road in front of us within just the first few hours of being in the field with Jim Bitler. It was almost if he conjured it up for us! Lights! Actors! And, of course, cameras. (Photo by Tony Martin)
ACTION! CALLING ALL ALLIGATORS! On what turned out to be the coldest day of our whirlwind tour of the Georgia barrier islands in December 2008, we were pleasantly surprised to see this large alligator out sunning itself next to a marsh on Ossabaw! This spoke to both of us about some of the wildness of the island, and how it was really owned by the plants and animals that live there. (Photo by Tony Martin.)

WHERE IS OSSABAW? Here is a map just in case you want to be certain where Ossabaw is located among our amazing Georgia barrier islands! (source)
On our first afternoon on Ossabaw, when Jim was driving us around the island orienting us to its unpaved roads and natural wonders, we participated in what was an island ritual with Jim and his guests. 

We did not know when Jim stopped our jeep and exclaimed with great joy that we had “found” a “chicken of the woods,” that he ALWAYS knew where these yellow edible fungi were growing on the island, and that he ALWAYS harvested them for a special evening appetizer for his visitors. 

It wasn’t until returning to Atlanta that we learned in a news feature written about him that finding and cooking “chicken of the woods” was one of the things he did for island guests. The great thing about Jim Bitler was that he treated US, Chiboogamoo and me, like royalty, but that is how he treated everyone!
NATURAL SPECTACLE. "Chicken of the woods," a colorful and edible fungus (Laetiporus sulphureus) that grows on trees on Ossabaw and other Georgia barrier islands, but Ossabaw is the only place where we have eaten it, thanks to Jim Bitler. (Photo by Tony Martin)
WIFE FOR SCALE. Sure, it's delicious, but I also wondered how would this fungus look as a fashion accessory. As it turned out, not bad! Ha Ha! Being the wife of scientist means posing often in a photo to provide "scale." This is a large growing fungi! (Photo by Tony Martin)
Later that night, after roving around the wilds of Ossabaw, with much to-do, Jim came to our chilly Ossabaw lodging where we had a fire roaring in the fireplace. In hand, he had an entire stick of butter and the meaty yellow fungus (chicken of the woods) he had wrestled from the tree earlier that day! Ta da!

Did he sing while he saut̩ed this chicken of the woods for us Рor did he make it such a fun experience that I remember music!? After he had cooked this exotic Georgia island delicacy, he left Chiboogamoo and me to enjoy it by ourselves next to the roaring fire! What a delightful educator Jim Bitler was! The Ossabaw forest was his theatre where he engaged his island visitors in drama and learning about nature! He educated, amused, and fed our bodies and souls!
COMFORT ON OSSABAW. A warm fire was needed at the end of each of our two days on Ossabaw. Jim made sure that we had enough wood and good books to look through in order to have a cozy evening.
One of the best things about Jim were the stories he told about his experiences with Sandy West. Now, I wish I had written them down. He had assured us that he was recording them with the idea that he might have a book some day. I sure do hope his legacy will live on but suspect that his oral stories went to the grave with him. It would be great to be proven wrong on this account.

I remember that Chiboogamoo and I held our stomachs because we were laughing so hard at the stories Jim told us of the wild adventures that he and Sandy West had engaged in with one another on Ossabaw. He had anecdotes about an Easter ritual with Sandy of dyeing new underwear in Easter egg dye instead of eggs! He spoke about the annual Ossabaw art auction and how he and Sandy made sure that every piece of art sold—even if they were the ones to buy it. How one year, a special item, a sculpture, was purchased, and  it  had a way of turning up in mysterious places on Ossabaw, in places that either Jim or Sandy were sure to find it. They took turns hiding and finding this sculpture from one another! Just picture a sculpture hidden under the fronds of a saw palmetto peering at you as you round an unpaved road in the maritime forest!

Oh, and Jim had another story about an animal trophy hanging in Sandy West’s Ossabaw home and how he could convince visitors it moved or said something. I can’t remember any details of this particular anecdote. If only Jim had written it down!
LEARNING FROM THE GREAT STORY TELLER. It now seems "mythical" me walking with Jim Bitler down one of the many gorgeous beaches on Ossabaw Island in December 2008. Little did I know then that this was a unique experience, and that we would not have a chance to do this again with him. (Photo by Tony Martin)
Time passes… Jim died unexpectedly in his sleep in April 2011 without us having a chance to see him again (you can read his obituary here). As time passes…we begin to forget…a person…the stories of that person’s life. These stories are irreplaceable. I hope I have done something here to hold one precious memory in writing for Jim. Thank you Jim Bitler! As the Ossabaw Island Foundation prepares for its annual Hog Roast and Art Auction (see here), I wonder who is planning to make sure that every piece of art is purchased!

That’s Coffee with Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me. Tell me what you think of Jim Bitler and his untimely death at 55 years old. What stories do you have to tell? Will you write them down now, today?

IN THE DISTANCE. If you could look at this photo a bit more closely you would see Jim's Boston Terrier, Kate in the distance. He let her run the beach and frolic. It was a joy to watch that little dog. (Photo by Tony Martin)
KATE'S TRACKS. My Chiboogamoo took these tracks of Kate to document her happy galloping pace on one of the Ossabaw beaches. She was running so fast that only three feet were touching the ground. We all leave tracks of our presence here on Earth. Jim certainly left a trackway of story telling about the Georgia coast he knew well and loved. (Photo by Tony Martin)
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Many thanks to my husband, who is my traveling companion in this wonderful journey we call LIFE, and who has helped me craft this memory of Jim Bitler through his photos and our discussions.

Friday, September 20, 2013

SNAPSHOT OF MY LIFE IN MY CITY: Being and loving the place where you live

MY OLD STOMPING GROUND. Three miles from Decatur, Georgia, down Ponce De Leon, a major artery of Atlanta, is my former home--Little Five Points. I visited the Sevananda Food Co-op and the feminist-lesbian bookstore, Charis Books, to promote the Intuitive Painting class that Jes Gordon is giving on Sunday, October 6th. To my surprise, I found that Little Five Points had received a bit of a face lift! The mural you see in this photo is bright and shiny as a new penny!
Hallelujah for BEING here right now. For BEING grounded in the spot where you are geographically situated! For putting down roots and digging in to the EARTH beneath your feet! Welcome to my LIFE in the Atlanta metropolitan area, where I am currently rooted! This blog entry is a brief snapshot of it!

SYCAMORE PLACE GALLERY. How I love returning to Sycamore Place Gallery, where my Chiboogamoo and I had our studio while we collaborated on our paintings for the Darwin show back in 2011. An entire new troupe of artists have moved in since we departed, among them being Jes Gordon, whose Intuitive Painting class I am promoting in exchange for a reduced tuition price so I can attend the workshop. You can see Jes' car parked in front of the gallery. Her business, Buckets of Color is wonderfully advertised with all the bubbles of color! I met her there to pick up the flyers!
JES GORDON DOING "RESEARCH". Upon entering the gallery, I found Jes "researching" or feeding her mind in preparation for painting intuitively. As an artist, who also paints intuitively, I talked with her for a while about the transition that takes place between acquiring knowledge and skills and painting from the gut. Also for me, BEING grounded geographically here in Decatur, in this vast sprawling metropolitan area of Atlanta, really helps ground me in MYSELF. To BE in one's home physically, allows one to BE in oneself! This is my city. This is my spiritual home.

ACROSS THE TRAIN TRACKS.  From where my Chiboogamoo and I live in Decatur is another amazing community--Oakhurst! When I went to a wonderful coffee shop--Karvana--to leave a flyer for Jes's Intuitive Painting class, I saw this banner for "Jazz Night." Later, after our dinner dishes were done, and Tony's class preparations were completed, we strolled over to this family friendly neighborhood to relax on a cool green lawn and listen to the live music. 
Here is a video of some of the music. Notice the darling girls dancing to the jazz! What a bright moment in my day!  
Right now, right here, I have planted myself in LIVING. ATLANTA is my home; thus, ATLANTA is my SOUL. That's Coffee with Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me and tell me if you understand what I mean by being grounded where you live and standing for this present place.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ENGAGING WITH INTERPLAY: Finding a new way being through InterPlay and facilitating Atlanta InterPlay using social media

ATLANTA INTERPLAY HOSTS SOYINKA RAHIM. On September 16, 2013, Atlanta InterPlay had the wonderful opportunity to take part in Soyinka Rahim's workshop, "Race Dance: Exploring Connections and Actions," at the Little Five Points Community Center in downtown Atlanta. This photo (taken by Stell Simonton) shows how energized our group was after engaging in the forms of InterPlay and talking about race and racism.
Hallelujah for times in our life when new avenues open up. We take the highway, the grueling interstate, the long road. We become travelers, pilgrims, sojourners. In doing so, we long to find THE way, or A new way of being. Just because LIFE is about LIVING, and that LIVING requires that we grow, ripen, flower--MANFIEST.
JENNIFER DENNING, Atlanta InterPlay Leader (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

Well, dear readers, on my interstate (interlife) journey, driving down the road, I recently took the exit ramp to go town with InterPlay!  

Here in Atlanta, we are so lucky to have two certified leaders of InterPlay, Jennifer Denning and Debra Weir, who have been conducting InterPlay workshops for the past five years.

How satisfying it was for me to meet Jennifer Denning, at a  time in both of our lives when we might learn from one another and support each others growth. 

Jennifer opened up the world of InterPlay for me here in Atlanta. I had bought, perused, and meditated on several InterPlay books (What the Body Wants, Dance, the Sacred Art, and Chasing the Dance of Life). However, there just ain't nothing like the richness that occurs when DOING or BEING in InterPlay. Thank you Jennifer, who has led these InterPlay workshops that I have participated in!

For Jennifer, and eventually for me (because I hope to train to become an InterPlay leader), I am facilitating the growth and development of Atlanta InterPlay through the use of social media, first with Facebook and then with an Atlanta InterPlay website. 
PLAYING and PLOTTING WITH JENNIFER. Collaborating with Jennifer Denning (left) is fun. We discussed InterPlay and how to use social media to promote it in the Atlanta metropolitan area while at the park with her four-year-old son Nate. Even though we attempted to get Nate to take this photo, we finally asked another park visitor to help us take this shot.

Right now, our beautiful city of Atlanta in increasing its offerings of InterPlay events. Soyinka Rahim just facilitated "The Race Dance: Exploring Connections and Actions." Then this October (2013), Cynthia Winton-Henry and Sheila Collins are offering a three-and-a-half day "untensive" called Secrets of InterPlay. And looking forward to 2014, Sheila Collins will return to Atlanta to facilitate the InterPlay Life Practice Program, which will take place on four different weekends (go here for more information).

Jennifer envisions a time for Atlanta when every night there will be a different InterPlay event going on somewhere, each with a leader who has developed his or her own "flavor" of doing InterPlay. Who knows, maybe, I will be one of those differently flavored teachers.

Life is a Journey, a highway, an interstate...where each one of us goes is up to us. For now, I am happy to be learning more about how to have fun, be in the moment, and am glad that InterPlay offers a way to do this. 

That's Coffee With Halleujah! SOUL BLOG with me and ask me questions. Give me encouragement. Tell me about your highway journey!
PLAYING MAKING SHAPES. Jennifer and I were unaware that we were synchronizing movements as my husband, Tony Martin, took this photo of us at one of Jennifer's Atlanta InterPlay playshops. Notice that my friend, Lesly Fredman, is observing us. We took turns moving and being witnessed by others--how wonderful to be seen!

Monday, September 16, 2013

IMAGINARY WORLDS: Inspiration from the living sculptures at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

IMAGINARY CREATURE IN AN IMAGINARY WORLD! As a child, I adored the unicorn and was given many trinkets, books, and mementos with a unicorn on them. Imagine my delight when I saw this "living" unicorn on the side of the path at the Atlanta Botanical Garden! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for IMAGINARY WORLDS! As a visual artist, blogger, and creative movement dancer, I remain continuously open to the miracle of each moment! Therefore, I exclaim with glee and Hallelujahs a sense of gratitude for the beauty and inspiration that I experience daily living in my amazing city of Atlanta, Georgia, USA!
SHAGGY DOG! This living sculpture of a shaggy dog is accompanied by a sign with an Ogden Nash poem: "The truth I do not stretch or shove. When I state the dog is full of love. I've also proved, by actual test, a wet dog is the lovingest." (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Since May 2013, our city of Atlanta has been the first U.S. city to exhibit living sculptures from Mosaicultures International Montreal. The process involved in making each living sculpture is quite complicated, and you can read about that process here in a number of media articles and videos.
BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID! Here my Chiboogamoo demonstrates the veracity of these sculptures! Two cobras startle visitors as they enter the grounds of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
My darling husband and I have visited these living sculptures several times now at different times of day and have found it fascinating how these sculptures in this Imaginary Worlds exhibit shape shift according to available light.
EARTH GODDESS! How magical it has been to observe the Earth Goddess in twilight and then at high noon. No matter the time of day, she is always serene and providing a sense of peace. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
IMAGINARY WORLDS MUST BE MAINTAINED. Chiboogamoo and I were satisfied that the Atlanta Botanical Garden gave us permissible activities to perform in addition the prohibited ones. Often when entering a park in the United States, the first thing a visitor is greeted by is a list of things NOT TO DO. How about these imperatives: DREAM, WONDER, and IMAGINE! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
THIS IS MY CITY, ATLANTA! One of the lovely aspects of being at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is being right in the downtown of this huge, green southern city. Many internationals have exclaimed to me about their appreciation of all the trees in Atlanta. We have such a beautiful skyline. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

LIVING SCULPTURES AT TWILIGHT! On Thursday nights, throngs of visitors swarm into the Atlanta Botanical Garden. It involves bars replete with good beer and cocktails throughout the gardens. What a great way to see the living sculptures as the sun is setting, the lights are popping on to illuminate the sculptures, and, yes, you can relax with an alcoholic beverage. Getting an annual pass to the garden makes the cost of visiting on Thursday nights more affordable. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)

OUR IMAGINARY WORLD. You see me pictured here with my darling husband, who at the moment appears to be standing at attention. Thank you honey for your patience while I document the images that inspire my creativity. Our life together is one filled with imagination! Thank you! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
That's Coffee with Hallelujah on this day of September 16th, as fall approaches us and the windows are open letting in the cool breeze of mid-morning. SOUL BLOG with me and tell me if you have visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden or if you find inspiration from these living sculptures. I do! I don't know how the inspiration will manifest in my visual work but it certainly has culminated in this blog entry! 

May you enjoy your IMAGINARY WORLD and share it with me. Here. Right now! And here is a short video I took of the Earth Goddess at twilight. Enjoy!


Sunday, September 15, 2013


JES BELKOV GORDON. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
At the end of August 2013, I met intuitive painter, Jes Belkov Gordon at a C4 Atlanta Techsmart event, “Blogging for Artists (
see my blog).” Jes’s intense energy engaged me, making me curious about her intuitive artwork and her blog, Buckets of Color. I met her at Sycamore Place Gallery in her studio full of vibrant paintings for the following interview

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Give me your personal definition of ART.

JES GORDON: I would say that it’s “expressed creativity.” Visual art is very different from “art” because when you say the word “art,” I don’t think of visual art exclusively. I call myself a born sculptor and trained painter. My husband is a musician, and my kid is a folder (origami).
BUMBLAC #4 (for sale here).  Jes gets the titles for her paintings by writing down a lot of words that relates to the current series she’s working on then inventing a work like “Bumblac.” “It comes from “bubble magic,” Jes explains. (Detail photo of painting by Hallelujah Truth.)
HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Tell me more about expressed creativity.

JES GORDON: I think I am a little different than most. I view an artist as having two qualities that are separate: skill and creativity. I see skill here (Jes flings an arm out in one direction) and creativity and talent over here (flinging the other arm in the other direction).

Most classes you take are skill development ones. There are very few that are about creativity development, which is more of a spiritual thing. A skill is centered in your head. Creativity is centered in your gut.

Picking up a specific brush, applying the brush in a certain way, and manipulating it is in the brain—that’s a skill.

Grabbing my brush, dipping it in the color that feels right, and slopping it on the canvas in a way that feels good is in my gut—that’s creativity.

I guess the most important place for you to experience “expressed creativity” is to forget the skill in your brain and let it come from your gut, almost like the skill is ingrained in you at a cellular level and woven into your being….

(Pausing for a moment and then continuing)…Skill can inspire you. You can go to a class and learn a technique, but know that when you learn the skill from the teacher, it is the teachers. You can take ownership of it in your own way.
BUMBLAC #3 (for sale here). (Detail photo of painting by Hallelujah Truth.)


JES GORDON: I’m not your typical American, my parents were hippies, and they had a guru from India. We followed this eastern path that required 2.5 hours of meditation a day.

Don’t worry I never accomplished it, but “meditation” and “spirituality” always meant the same thing to me growing up. Meditation was a specifically taught practice, sitting with a mantra. And I always battled with the question of what spiritually was when that meditative path no longer suited me.

It was only recently that painting became my meditation.

PAINTING LARGE! As you can see in this photo of Jes posing with her painting "SHIFTING," many of her images are quite big. Recently, she has considered painting big, but cutting down to small (see her blog on this topic).
SHIFTING (for sale here). (Detail photo of painting by Hallelujah Truth.)
HALLELUJAH TRUTH: When and how did that happen—that painting became your meditation?

JES GORDON: I would say in spurts, here and there, about six years ago (2007) but in a committed way, about a year ago (2012). I’ve created a pretty large body of work in just a year. Painting on paper was key.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Could you elaborate?

JES GORDON: I think before that I was too caught up in the preciousness of the outcome.


JES GORDON: Yes, when using canvas or expensive materials. Then as soon as I started using whatever painting substrates were around, a freedom opened up to me.
UNTITLED (for sale here). (Photo of painting by Hallelujah Truth.)

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: What is the connection between the ART you make and your spirituality?

JES GORDON: They are inseparable. If  “spirit” is what moves on when this life is over, then “spirit” has a lot to say.

I think that part of spirituality for me is delving into what it means to be human. This will sound really weird, but I remember realizing I was “here again” when I was about three years old. And looking at my mother and saying, “You’re the mom this time.” If we can have a human experience, it does wonders for our soul.
HANGING CONTRAPTIONS. For Jes's smaller paintings, she has devised an efficient way to display them in her studio at Sycamore Place Gallery. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
HALLELUJAH TRUTH: In what way does your ART enhance your SPIRITUALITY?

JES GORDON: They are not separate. Art is my spirituality.

HALLELUJAH TRUTH: Would you say your art is your practice?

JES GORDON: I am working through not getting too caught up in what’s going on in the art world. Some times, it is easy to get derailed and believe that being involved is necessary.

But as a practice, I need to do intuitive painting exercises. So I always have a body of work going on that is nothing but fun. I don’t care if it comes out good or if it goes into the trash. I don’t care what happens to it. Right now, I am addicted to circles. I can’t stop painting circles.
JES IN SITU. The light streams in Jes's painting space at Sycamore Place Gallery. Her bubbly paintings seem to drift and rise in the sunbeams! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
HALLELUJAH TRUTH:  Has SPIRITUALITY always been a source of your ARTMAKING?  Why? If not, when did the SPIRITUALITY emerge?

JES GORDON: No. I think originally it was beauty. I’m as Libra as you get, so it was all about beauty. Then it was about pain. And believe it or not after my parents died, it became about spirituality.

When my father was dying from cancer, he was told that there was nothing else that they could do for him and that he should paint. He never did. But it made me look at art and creating art in a different way.

The beginning of my painting becoming a spiritual practice is based on both of my parents at the end of their lives (Jes’ father died in 2005 and her mother in 2009). They both had stories about what they were going to do when they retired. They died before they retired. So “cuss” that! Live life now!

HALLELUJAH TRUTH:  Who (artists, authors, friends, etc.) do you consider influential in the way you think, act, and make ART?

JES GORDON: Right now, a contemporary who is influencing me is Connie Hozvicka. Not so much what she paints but her approach. I took an online class from her, and she is the messenger that changed my life.

Other current influences are Lissa Rankin, Brene Brown, always Judy Chicago, and Don Cooper.
SELF-PORTRAIT (not for sale)
HALLELUJAH TRUTH:  What is your purpose for making ART?

JES GORDON: Living a long life joyfully.

Jes is offering an intuitive painting workshop at Sycamore Place Gallery in Decatur, Georgia, on Sunday, October 6, 2013, from 11:00-6:00. Go here or contact Jes for more information.

HALLELUJAH WITH JES. I love having the opportunity to visit artists in situ. These Spiritual Art Pilgrim interviews give me the chance to get to know amazing artists like Jes and to go deeper into their process. I learn so much and in the process, making friends with the artist and clarifying my own artistic process. Thank you Jes for your bubbles, buckets of color, and way of being in this world. You are such an inspiration.

If you liked this interview, here are links to my other Spiritual Art Pilgrim Interviews:

1. Cecelia Kane (painter, drawer, performance art)

2. Robey Tapp (book sculptor, collagist, painter)

3. Karen Phillips (painter)

4. Carol Ruckdeschel (naturalist, painter, drawer)

5. Flora Rosefsky (drawer, painter, collagist)

6. Jesse Bathrick (collagist, painter, drawer)

7. Kenny Whitfield (Bahamian Wood Carver)

8. Ty Butler (photographer)

9. Tazwell Morton (drawer, painter, ceramicist)
10. Callahan Pope McDonough (painter)