Miss Ruby

Going through twenty years of sketchbooks recently, I was amazed at how many cats appeared.  What I love about drawing is the relationship between me and what I’m drawing. It’s as though a stream of energy connects us.  Like the drawing is doing us. That connection and intimacy feels sacred.

I especially like the relationship of the ink brush line and empty space of the paper in this drawing of Miss Ruby.  To me there is both sound and silence, form and emptiness.


The World of Lady M

The World of Lady M

I say I have an active imagination.  Which is true. I do. I say I’m obsessed with the Heian Period of Japanese history. Which is true. I am and have been. I’ve read The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu countless times in six different translations. I’ve traveled through Japan looking for displays of early Yamato-e, the style of indigenous Japanese painting on paper that depicts the life and aesthetics of Heian life with unique compositional devices and color.

It’s like a parallel reality existing just beyond the rays of daylight.

But that’s not the whole story.  The whole story involves a shadow world that I have difficulty talking or writing about. It’s like a parallel reality existing just beyond the rays of daylight. That shadowy world of patterns, textures, smells, sussurating sounds and elusive light patterns the words of poetry, shapes and forms, flow and dance. If I am lucky and quiet and watchful enough, I can catch something whole and it will flicker into the full light of my consciousness.  If I am attentive and quick, I can capture it with pencil or brush or pen in an image.  If I am attentive and devoted, a fully formed work from The World of Lady M emerges, step by step.

That’s how it really works.  Attention and lots of magic.



Me and Lady M

If you’ve ever longed for more clout in your world, wished you had the face that everyone else coveted and used makeup to have. If you’ve ever longed for the confidence of Royalty, wanted to see yourself and your loved ones as the dominant image around you, I think you’ll relate to my story about me and Lady M.

Growing up on a farm on the Central California Coast, my imagination conjured a world of elegance, color, and refinement. I imagined long trailing gowns which I created out of weeping willow branches tucked into the belt of my jeans. I delighted in the weight and sound as they dragged after me in  the dirt pathways of the family vegetable garden.

When I discovered the Heian Period (900-1100 AD) of Japanese history, I found that world made real.  Not only did the aesthetic I imagined spring to life, there was a heroine who called to my heart: Lady Murasaki Shikibu (my Lady M), who wrote the world’s first novel, Tale of Genji. Who was a habitue of the Empress Suiko’s court, a poet, literate in both vernacular Japanese and Chinese which women were not supposed to know, and a keen observer of  her surroundings and the people in it.

The world’s first novel, “Tale of Genji”

In her, I came face to face with Female Empowerment embodied in the classical Japanese face.  Not only that, her face was the face of my family, our family friends and a way to bring those faces I love into our Western European based culture. Her face, her world, her aesthetic gave form to a sense of Royalty, of dominion. A sense sadly lacking to us Japanese Americans in a dominant culture that saw us as gardeners, dormitory cleaning women, prostitutes and evil, scheming men.

So my World of Lady M came to be.

What kind of world are you conjuring? Please share in the comment section.


Healing Process

Last week I was honored to speak about my #MeToo art and the story behind it to the Soroptimist International of St.Helena. To this group of open, compassionate women, for the first time, I told my entire story of childhood sexual abuse at age 3, the abandonment, denial and  betrayal by my family and the years of growing up with recurrent nightmares, anxiety, fear and distrust I shared some of my #MeToo art. Also, for the first time, I introduced my #MeToo Journey, a five-step process of Healing and Transformation that grew out of my need to move beyond the terror and trauma of that long ago experience.  Creating the #MeToo art as an adult is Step 1 of that process leading towards Transformation. It is Truth Telling, the first step. Read on for my complete #MeToo Journey. It is a challenging and beautiful journey. Would you care to join me? The destination is Transformation.

My #MeToo art marks the first step towards that end.  It holds the emotional, psychic truth of my experience of childhood sexual abuse. Abuse that my family denied. Abuse that left me isolated and alone, guilty, shamed and hurting from age three. Abuse that left me silenced, invisible, terrified and determined to protect myself as the adults would not. 

Step one is telling the truth. Standing up and facing down the forces to stay silent, invisible.
The forces that demand we keep the boat steady , the water of everyone else’s feelings even and undisturbed. Currently there is a tsunami of truth telling from women. I’m honored to be a drop in this huge ocean.

On the journey to wholeness, healing and transformation after sexual harm, the first step is Truth Telling

Step two is Witnessing. Truth needs to be heard, received and acknowledged. It needs to be included in the consciousness of others who care enough to bear witness. The circle of inclusion that true Witnessing provides, draws the shattered soul out of isolation, abandonment and fear into community, safety and protection. 
Witnessing requires love, courage, an open heart and the willingness to experience discomfort.
Both Truth-Telling and Witnessing requires courage.
I’m deeply grateful to all those brave people who gave witness to my experience; who stand before my art and see, not just the pain, but also, the beauty of creativity and the way that play and visual inventiveness can infuse the most distressing subjects. This is a form of communion.
It is a form of liberation for healing for both creator and viewer. It is its own kind of Beauty.

Step three is Liberation. Moving from the darkness of secrecy, hiding and isolation into the heart-expanding light and warmth of being heard and being seen by compassionate, empathetic, receptive others.It is Liberation from the prison of self concealment into the warmth, light and love of caring community. How did you "liberate " yourself from darkness?

Moving from the darkness of secrecy is liberation

Moving from the darkness of secrecy, hiding and isolation into the heart-expanding light and warmth of being heard and being seen by compassionate, empathetic, receptive others. is Liberation from the prison of self concealment into the warmth, light and love of caring community.

Step four. In this step of the #MeToo journey, we experience the Restoration and Belonging that comes from having ones true story and authentic experience received and integrated into the conscious life and story of the community. We are no longer wounded beings hiding in the underbrush and brambles. We are valued members of the tribe being brought into the circle of light and warmth of belonging and nurture.  We are restored as individuals and as full, treasured members of the collective.  And as the separating wall of secrecy dissolves, the community itself is expanded, enlivened and enriched.

Step five. Transformation. It is real. It can happen. It happens when the restoration to a caring community and the belonging that restoration generates heals the wounds of sexual harm and trauma. The community. The warm and tender place where the embrace of loving hearts heals the cracks and fissures. Community calls  the broken pieces of Self  into Wholeness. The Wholeness is the chrysalis with all the codes, all the information necessary for total Transformation:  from wounded to healed, from victim to Victor, from excluded to Included, from caterpillar to Butterfly, from invisibility to Visibility.  From disempowered to fully Empowered. Magnificence. Transformation. It’s real. For individuals, for every single person in community who cares enough to hear Truth, bear Witness, give Caring and Loving, embrace Transformation. It's there for us all.

#MeToo16 artwork

#MeToo16 artwork