Resume’ 2021 LORENA L BOWSER – Language Instructor and Consultant

              

5721 Lake Murray Boulevard, Apt. 24, La Mesa CA 91942 lorena@fineartstudio111.com,   530-355-6193

PROFILE

  • Experienced language instructor, recognized by students and colleagues for my passion for teaching
  • Native fluent in English, Spanish and French, 3 years residence in France, 20 years in Mexico
  • Visionary, adept at simplifying language concepts for easier access and comprehension
  • Personal Integrity, respectful and supportive of students of all ages and backgrounds
  • Sense of humor, ability to make students feel comfortable as they approach the daunting task of learning a new language
  • Artistic/creative, maintaining students’ attention by designing original materials and finding new approaches to learning
  • Goal-oriented, guiding students to set and meet optimum goals in accordance with each student’s individual skills and approach to learning

TEACHING EXPERIENCE – ACHIEVEMENTS

Current: Substitute teacher for English, Spanish, French and Art – all levels, kindergarten to 8th grade.  San Diego French American School, La Jolla California (work unavailable since January 2020 – Covid regulations)

Private Language Instructor, Spanish, French, English 30 years. Helping students acquire and perfect their language skills for work, school and travel, including preparation in vocabulary-specific disciplines, and English as a foreign language for students from foreign countries living in the U.S.

Previous:

English Instructor – JEI School, Korean, Chula Vista, 2 years.

Directed the after school English Language program for 30 students, continuous, and occasional. Developed and conducted a 4-week summer creative language course for six students.  Taught English grammar, creative writing and independent study for optimum acquisition of English concepts to students  from 1st grade through Jr. High and High School, supplemented by workbooks provided by the school. Personally developed the English Language lessons for three Jr/high school students and one adult.  

Spanish II  Instructor, Shasta College, Redding, California, Adjunct, 7 years

  • While tutoring Spanish, French and English in the Language Lab, I was recommended and hired for the newly-vacated Spanish II Adjunct position.
  • Compiled, wrote and illustrated the text, based on the course requirements. Text was subsequently printed for the Language Department.
  • Taught Spanish I and II for seven years, conducting classes entirely in Spanish. Students completed the course with a high level of fluency, meeting their language goals with confidence. 
  • Designed and taught a Spanish for Travelers, 2-week intensive course for the Shasta College Adult Education Program.

Spanish Teacher, Bishop Quinn High School, Palo Cedro, California, full time, I year

  • Taught 2nd level Spanish to a class with anticipated 1st level insufficient preparation, and brought the students up to level to successfully complete their second years Spanish.
  • All but two of the 20 students earned a final grade of B or above.

Spanish and French Instructor, Language Door, San Diego, California, 4 years

  • Small group, private, immersion, and intensive courses.
  • Designed all course content and materials for my advanced classes.
  • For KPBS, gave a 2-hour Spanish Flash Course for interviewing native Spanish speakers, to 15 journalists and reporters.

French/Spanish Teacher, Cascade College Preparatory School for At-risk Youth, Whitmore, CA Full time, 3 years Head of Language Department

As Head of the Language Department, specializing in French, I worked to instill a spirit of excellence and self-respect in the students, while maintaining high standards of conduct, and a respectful, understanding rapport between teacher and students.

  • Developed a new workshop approach to teaching, designed to facilitate language acquisition and build confidence in students with serious disciplinary problems resulting from extremely difficult family backgrounds
  • Designed and requisitioned a new library of materials to support the workshop approach.
  • Taught French levels I through IV, 8 – 12 students per class.
  • Taught Spanish levels I and II, 8 – 12 students per class.
  • Gave additional art classes in the evenings and during the summer.

French Teacher, Alliance Française, Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, Full time, 5 years

  • Taught French I and II

Interim Director, Alliance Française, Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, 6 months 

  • Served as Interim Director, and as diplomatic liaison between the Jalapa and Paris Alliance Française’s
  • Taught French  Beginning to Advanced while acting Director.

French Teacher, University of Veracruz, Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, 2 years

  • Taught French I and II, part time, while working part time at The Mexican National Institute for Research on Biotic Resources (INIREB), until I was hired full time by  the latter institute.

English Teacher, INIREB, Masters School of Botany, Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, 2 years

  • Taught English part time to Spanish speaking students studying for the Master’s Degree in Botany while employed full time in other capacities at the Institute.*

ADDITIONAL LANGUAGE RELATED EMPLOYMENT:

Translator, Spanish-French-English, One Hour Translation, Internet Translation Service, 6 years

  • Classification: Expert Translator and Preferred Translator
  • Artist: Closing art on commission for real estate clients, Souvenart, San Diego, CA

Translator, interpreter, graphic/scientific illustrator, communications liaison: INIREB, Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, Full time, 7  years

  • Illustrations and translations were published in Mexican and International Revues, and several Master’s Theses

Spanish/English Distance Phone Interpreter, OMNI Lingual Services, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California, Full time, 3 years

Quality Control and, Voice-over, Semi-Logic Entertainment, Palo Cedro, California, Contract, as needed

  • Provided revisions for Fisher Price/Mattel children’s instructional videos in Spanish, 2 years Contract, as needed
  • Did the Spanish voice-over for the female character in a video for teaching  Spanish to adults

Independent Contractor, Spanish Interpreter,  10 years, as needed

  • Shasta County Department of Social Services, Redding, California
  • Bay Area Translations, San Francisco, California
  • H & B Law Offices, Redding, California
  • Shasta County Court, lawyer depositions, Redding, California,
  • Chiropractor/Physician/Patient support, various clients, Redding California
  • Oxford Suites Hotel, janitorial staff training, Redding, California

Supervising Community Health Advocate, Shasta County Public Health Department, Redding California, Full time, 1 year

  • Supervised 5 Community Health Advocates helping the under-served populations of the Hispanic, Mien, Black and Homeless communities of Shasta County with their special health and economic needs.

Migrant Child Advocate, U.S Migrant Child Education, Redding, California, Full time, 3 years

Freelance Reporter, Writer, Shasta Lake Bulletin, Shasta Lake City, California, Part time Contract, 2 years, By-lines publishedee

Column Writer, The Screaming Penny Column, Artazine.org, Internet art teaching and networking resource, part time 3 years

EDUCATION

Degree in French Didactics, Language and Civilization – U.S. master’s equivalent: University of

Paris,  Sorbonne (l’ESPPPFE), Paris, France

Certification in Universal Phonetics: Institut de Phonétique, University of Paris, Paris, France

Advanced Achievement Diploma (post graduate) French Language: Alliance Française, Jalapa,  Veracruz, Mexico

  • Awarded certificate of Honor from the Paris Alliance Française, for outstanding achievement

Associate of Arts Modern Language: Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut, California

  • Selected for exclusive Honors Sociology Class
  • Member of the delegation to the Junior United Nations in San Francisco
  • President of the International Students Club

Associate of Arts, Fine Art: Shasta College, Redding, California

  • Dean’s List all semesters
  • Received the Marty Brandum scholarship for returning students, two years in succession

 Music Theory, Voice, Beginning Piano, Computer Graphics: Shasta College, Redding, California

  • Courses for personal enrichment  while studying for my Associate Degree, and teaching adjunct at the college
  • Performing Member of the Community Choral
  • ADDITIONAL TRAINING

Supervisor Advancement Training: Shasta County Manager/Supervisor Institute, Redding,     California

Pandemic Awareness: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Training, Redding, California

HIV Awareness and Sensitivity Training: Shasta County Public Health Department, Redding, California

Health and Education Advocacy: Migrant Child Education, Redding, California

Life! The miracle

  • And it began… A home where I lived and remember fondly when I was 7 cannot be found. The town it was in, Otterbein, is no longer on the map.
  • My favorite home when a child was far out in the hills of Southern California, a rambling ranch house with no neighbors for miles around. It is now a metropolis of concrete and high-end real estate! The house is gone!
  • Where I spent my teen years was a middle class white family neighborhood. It is now a Black-Chicano ghetto.
  • My high school burned down in my junior year.
  • The Institute for Biotic Resource Research where I worked and taught for seven years in Mexico no longer exists. It closed upon the election of the new president, who closed the previous president’s institutions, and established new ones of his own. The heads of the departments and colleagues with whom I worked are all gone to places unknown.
  • my best friend whom I worked with at the above Institute, died the year after I returned to the States.
  • The man who made our wedding rings, a long-time friend of my husband’s, died in an auto accident.
  • The doctor who delivered my first child died with all of his family in an auto accident.
  • The Alliance Française in Xalapa, Veracruz, with its combination large home and classrooms, where I got my first job as a language teacher, and where I lived with my family for 6 months as interim director, was torn down to widen an intersection. It’s gone.
  • My first “boss,” the director of the Alliance Française just mentioned, died years ago during an operation procedure.
  • The new large home and Alliance Française school later purchased by the director, where I worked afterward, is no longer a school. It was for many years after the director’s death, an inn and an art gallery. The art gallery is gone. The inn remains. The school no longer exists.
  • In the course of my married life, three wedding rings were stolen after my husband purchased a new one each time. I have not had one since.
  • The marriage that I intended to last forever, turned out to be never, husband unfaithful from the first month, and for the first ten years of our marriage.
  • The Cascade School for At-risk Youth where I taught In the Cascades, California for three years, closed shortly after I left. It doesn’t exist anymore.
  • The Catholic High School where I taught Spanish closed a few years after I left. It doesn’t exist anymore.
  • The Department Head and my manager when I was Supervising Health Advocate at the Shasta County Public Health Department were dismissed the year after I left because of inside corruption. I was a victim of their politics and fired by them just a few months before their bad policies came to light. Postscript: I was the one who brought it to light with our local Representative.
  • I’ve tried unsuccessfully three times, over a period of several years, to obtain transcripts or validation of the course of studies from the Sorbonne where I received my diploma (transcripts not given in my time), and  have never received an answer from them, not even a “no can do” response. I have not been able to obtain a teaching job, or even an interview! in San Diego without this, nor can I supply the appropriate documentation for eligibility to return for a masters.
  • The property we purchased in Mexico many years ago, with the intention of building our home there, was left to fate when I came back to the U.S. with my sons after my separation, and we have not been able to sell it to anyone. It has literally returned to the jungle, completely overgrown!
  • The closest people to me in my life, my eldest brother, and a dear friend and soul mate, with both of whom I shared all the joys and pains of life, have passed away, and my family now rarely communicates.
  • The France, so dear to me, where I found myself and where life began for me at the age of 18, is on the verge of disappearing under the return of the Muslim hordes.

Every home and place of importance once in my life has disappeared.  That’s called burning your bridges. God has led me all the away, eventually…..to His Home.  My heart is overwhelmed with the joy of finding all sacrifices turned to the precious gold of Faith unbroken. My past erased, has coincided with the moment in time when the past of the world, now discovered to be false and wicked, is to be erased as well. I am just in time to see the grace of a new world coming. I have no problem moving into this world. I’ve known the sacrifice; I’ve left the past. I am ready!  Dear Heavenly Father …bring it on! 

To God be the glory!

I paint. Therefore I am!

Art stinks!  Today it does, and artists are showing a great deal of pride over a lot of junk they are creating. The public is awestruck by the ones I have in mind, and they are among the heroes of our time. The media is a magician. It makes heroes every day out of immoral, tasteless, even ugly, issues.

One of my favorite artists has bored me!  Except for a few of the most interesting compositions, this artist is doing the same type of painting every time – same colors, same foreground with a variety of places pictured – in the same colors too – same “look” overall.  But she is traveling the world, giving dozens of workshops in different countries supported by the workshop fees and her name, and selling her art consistently. Don’t get me wrong. She’s an excellent artist! But she is doing pretty much the same thing she has been for years. With few, remarkable, exceptions, I feel like I’m looking at the “same painting” every time she posts something new.

Another artist I know is very good, but all her works look the same too. Colors, mood, and nature scenes with no variety in any of them, except for the positions of the trees, rivers that are her subjects “par excellence”.  Hundreds of versions of the “same painting.” Also boring.

Picasso did some interesting work, some great work, and a lot of junk.  But he is famous and his art sells for millions.

The same extraordinary prices are paid for the works  of Warhol and                Anyone who can wield a paintbrush with some skill, can easily reproduce their work!

Just saw each artist’s art at a recent artist group get-together (posted on Facebook), roughly 15 people, and not one single one of the artworks they proudly displayed and oohed and awed over was good! Not one! The work was ridiculous, amateurish, garish, ugly, and/or boring with no talent shown.  These people are just throwing paint on a canvas trying to look different (therefore avant guard and great?) and every one of them has had consistent shows, sold art, and are classified among the best artists in their area.

No artist without a penny to his or her name can get his or her art “out there” to be seen. And if the artist is an unknown, being seen is still like being invisible.

The art buying public is crazy! They will buy plastic whirligigs for their garden and cheap poster reproductions of well-known artists (great and not), and pass up a lovely original work of art for their home, if the venue, the artist, the hype, are not “in the news.”

Connoisseurs of good art are among the most rich and the most poor.  The former are not within my acquaintance or reach. The latter cannot afford my art, even the less expensive works. Hence, I have little trouble gifting an artwork to someone who really cares and will treasure the gift.  I have made a few exceptions: some  artworks, because of size, presentation, or, most importantly, the special time, love and skill that went into them, and still hope to sell them at a fair price.  The result? I have been sitting on a small horde or “good” works that have never moved out of my closet.

I am perplexed.  I am also needful of an income.  Selling some artwork would be a fair return on the time and creativity that produced them.  I am also slowly giving in to the fact that these artworks “will never sell!”  What good are they to anyone in the closet? Shall I donate them to charity? I have done so several times in the past and the donated works have brought in a healthy amount for the charities involved. The natural conclusion, if I could not sell them, is that they are not worth anything. But if they sell for charity at a good price, then they are worth something.  People don’t bid – even for a great cause – on something they don’t want! 

Let’s use some logic:  artists “in the news” – skillful or not – sell. Donated art is in the news, hence it sells.  I am not in the news. I don’t sell.  The charity sells.  Should I become a charity case, I would have it made. Now I laugh.  No, I will be me. I will put my loving message in my art, and as with everything else in life…I will leave it to God.  Who knows, If He made me an artist, time may change everything …. and I will speak again.  

What if …

A fascinating thought came to me yesterday, on my way home from Church: what if the Antichrist of prophesy is not a person at all, but the Internet, and the AI technology that has taken over the world: “…and all the World followed the Beast in wonder!”

From the time I became aware of the prophesies,  as the world has tumbled further and further into error and we are seeing the latter times played out before our eyes, I have wondered what  manner of “person” the Antichrist could be when  he becomes clear.  How could any man that we now know to be alive, in the enemy camp of world leaders, civil and religious, actually perform “miracles” that would be believed by everyone, save a few blessed by God with eyes that see clearly. We are indeed, so close to all aspects of the prophesies being fulfilled that it seems fair to ask if he is already present. Anyone who knows the prophesies knows that Christ’s second coming will be known by every living creature on Earth: “as lightening comes out from East to West, in an instant” will be His coming…and moreover,  innumerable  prophesies clearly state an order of events – a chastisement by God, in the form of great natural catastrophes, widespread civil strife, plague and epidemics, a great war, then the  banishment of the devil forever to hell  in the midst of an unprecedented upheaval that will change the face of Earth, followed by a time of peace all before Christ comes for the final judgement.  So any “one” in the guise of Christ in our times, who is not everywhere at once, must surely stand out as false. So who or what is this beast that all the world will follow in wonder?

The only entity that I see the whole world following in wonder is the Internet.  As a civilization, we are dependent upon the Internet for everything we do, type letters or write a book, self-publish, submit art to an exhibition, communicate with our family, friends, work, students, or colleagues, take photos of ourselves, watch TV or a movie, listen to music, go to a “live” concert, research any subject imaginable, shop and purchase anything online, pay our bills, do our banking, order services, consult a doctor,  nurse , interior decorator, mechanic or technician,  read a book, peruse art galleries, join associations, apply for a job, advertise what we sell, do business, pay taxes, teach or  take classes, purchase stamps, repair, enhance, store and share  photos … and find a  never ending number of things we need, or need to learn about, including spiritual advice, or searching out sinful “pleasures.”  We can find out about the weather, get current news. Real and false, from every country on Earth, convert measurements and world currencies, translate documents,  find recipes for anything we want from any culture anywhere, look up someone’s address and phone number (and find more information on them than we should have), see an aerial or street view of their house …. and store files and files of all of this on our computer instead of in a file cabinet, to access and use at will.   We are addicted, yes, but worse  still, we cannot function without the Internet even if we want to.  If we use the computer at all, Everything is there, and accessible sometimes exclusively there.

Even if I wanted to, I could not carry out my daily activities without the internet.   I cannot get a job unless I apply online and submit State certification. Your diploma is from another country?  The Internet is the only door to a job interview and your application is not even read until you provide a state diploma – first.

Family and friends do not telephone or write. Everyone messages you on Facebook, and now extremely rarely, will email. If I write a letter…no replies.  I receive dozens on dozens of emails daily, none of them from people dear to me, all information and school-related, plus a slurry of ads on subjects that “Big Brother Social Media” has discovered about me, selling me what I don’t want, and taking precious time from my life as I send them, one by one, to “junk mail.”  Facebook is “it” if you want to say hello or share photos, etc. with loved ones.  I do every single thing in the list above of necessity (except for the illicit/sinful entry).

I wish to wean myself from the Internet. Not doable!  And when I decide to spend a day with the computer turned off, I don’t know what to do with myself anymore!  Painting and writing, two of my life-long pursuits are on the back burner. I need people – real, not virtual, people, a major source of inspiration, and support for my art and writing.  I don’t function in a vacuum: the people I love most are too far away, or too engrossed in life’s exigencies to be available just to sit and chat an evening.  So I go to the store, make bouquets for my apartment, water my balcony plants, watch a bit of TV in the evening while eating dinner, read more and say my prayers.  I eat, sleep, and do not be merry.   That is my life.  I spend just a few minutes  of time on Facebook each day to see if there’s news of interest from a friend or two.  That’s my only contact with the people who are important to me.  All efforts to leave Facebook, result in leaving dear friends who are literally in servitude to Facebook.  That’s not what I want.  Is there no life beyond Facebook?  Life  was so full during the major part of my life, and now it becomes empty because the Internet has become our virtual reality.

Sunday is my life-saver, literally!  For a few hours each week at church I am completely happy, as the Traditional Mass that I attend  is not a social event, but true worship, even though I feel the presence of my Church family around me, the moment is God’s, then  hugs punctuate our good-byes.  Arranging the altar flowers, singing in choir, spending that hour with Our Lord, is sheer bliss!   Then, home by 11:00, and the world engulfs me again. It is palpable. I cannot avoid its presence even though I have just come from sublime places. I don’t know even what to do the rest of Sunday.  I sit alone, read a bit, bake if I’m in the mood, walk around the apartment trying to figure out a way to return to the daily activities that filled my life in years past.  Time spent with family is rare and my students fill the week with the  teaching that I love, but the hours are few … so the Internet fills the spaces!  A quick visit to social media to say hello, some research for my classes, some music streaming and a program or two from local TV,   provided by …the internet.

Of course this is only conjecture. Perhaps there will be a “person” called Antichrist. We don’t know. We do know (anyone with eyes can see) that the disciple of Antichrist exists in Francis the no-pope.  Perhaps the two will work together. He is certainly not universally known as the miracle worker.  Of the four books of prophesies I’ve read, they all say the same things, but differ somewhat in the order of events.  What is certain is that we are seeing the prophesies played out before our very eyes and it warrants attention.  What is next …  ?    Whatever it is, I see only one safe place – It’s not with the Internet, that all-invasive false reality.  It is with God!

Fiat!

A simple “Fiat” is the key.

I am a frugal artist. If something is useful, it should be used.  If art is worth creating, it should be on someone’s wall.  Sell it or give it away, but “use it.”  I simply cannot come to grips with the idea of creating anything at all unless it is for a purpose.  My left brain and right brain are equally vociferous! Some will say that art is not practical.  But who said that to be “purposeful” a thing must be practical?  Isn’t the joy one derives from seeing something beautiful practical enough?  So for years, I made art, exhibited it proudly in a large number of juried shows, then put it away in my closet. I was told that to get my art into someone else’s hands, I have to market it. Well that makes sense.  So I initiated my marketing plan.  I gathered up all the free advice I could find from the specialists in the “business of art.”

The first thing they all said was: “To be successful, an artist must spend at least 60% of his/her time on business and 40% on creating art.”  What?  When I broke my week down into these proportions, I found that I had an ever-evasive 20% of my time left for art, since cooking, cleaning  house, errands, showering, eating, paying bills, watching the news… etc. etc. – and my part-time teaching job took a big piece out of that 40%.

But the experts were experts for a reason, so I persisted with that carrot on a stick (future fame) always one step ahead of me. I researched and put into practice as much of the marketing advice I could glean from friends, conferences and websites.  It was taking a lot more than 60% of my time to get rolling, because it was all new, and I couldn’t afford to hire these experts.  I had to go it alone.  I kept telling myself that as soon as I sold a painting or two from my stored artwork, I could afford the materials to paint something new:  even a small amount of “fame” would ease the pressure and let the creative juices flow again.  For you see, they were not flowing any more.  I was discovering that artistic creativity and business savvy are like oil and water. Any artist who can pull off the two of them successfully must be a saint. I couldn’t. I stopped painting!

The end result of my extensive attempts to market my art resulted in more than ten pages of “Lorena Bowser, Artist” on Google, numerous personal and subscribed-to websites, an ever-growing number of excellent testimonials to my work, closets full of previously exhibited art sinking fast into obscurity  – and no sales!  Well, OK, that‘s not entirely true.  Family and friends, and a few anonymous purchases through a friend’s frame shop, represent actual art placed – on average about one artwork a year.  But I had heard the “experts” say many times: “You can make a living from what you love.”  Where had I gone wrong?  Where was the fine line between failure and success?  Was success measured by a few people loving your work and taking it home, or by making a living from what you love?

Fortunately for me, I love other things too. I threw in the towel on art and returned to my language teaching.  Was I giving up or just being practical?  My creative juices were dried up, and my stored art had nowhere to go.  Why continue to produce something that will end up in a dark closet forever.  I couldn’t even give this art to my appreciated admirers.  When I offered, I would hear: “I would feel bad taking your work without paying you for it,” or “Hold on to it.  It will sell one  day.”   Would that be posthumously?   It was time to put into practice my favorite saying:  “Happiness is not getting what you want but wanting what you get!”  After years of wearing myself out to be recognized as an artist, I changed my priorities and said “Fiat!”

Have you ever forgotten a word and tried every way possible to pull it out of your brain with no success, then when you are relaxed and no longer thinking about it, it just pops back in?  Sometimes I think that everything that we experience in life is related in thousands of ways to other experiences yet to be discovered.  Here’s the connection: I forgot art. Art then found me!

I had returned to my language teaching, Art was the furthest thing from my mind, and within a year, on inspiration from a friend from the language school, the art door opened wide and I walked back through. I was creating again, my art was “getting around,” and numerous artworks never saw the inside of my closet.

Where are they?  New artworks are on my language colleague’s wall, plus three old ones that came out of hiding – and I finished two more for him on request. He purchased another from my closet for his mother. One of my students from Germany took a number of my paintings and monotypes home with her and she commissioned two more for her parents’ home – in a little town on the Danube. Hey, I’m international!  Some artworks from my “stash” are now in my Redding friends’ homes, and, on inspiration from my Finnish class connection, I “Finn”ished a sizeable series of artworks on Finland for the Tori Market at FinnFest 2011, several of which sold.  I became a bona fide artist when I returned to my language. I now have art in Paris, Germany, Finland, Japan, Mexico and residing happily on some walls in the U.S.

Is there a moral to this story?  Perhaps it’s time we seriously considered that running circles around ourselves to accomplish lofty goals is not the way to achieve them.  If we do our best at whatever life gives us, what is meant to be, well….it will just happen!

But first, we have to say “FIAT!”

Fiat

 

Follow up article next week: The mercurial wiles of  “Fiat”

Wherefore “Art” Thou?

When I view artwork in a Gallery or through a social media connection, I usually leave well enough alone and only occasionally comment on something that I like, but when I find an artist that breaks out of the mediocre and creates either masterpieces or junk, I want to say:  “People, wake up!   Get your priorities straight! Don’t you know the difference?”
In the world of art today, anything goes.  I respect that. What I do not appreciate is the number of artists who are gaining recognition on the basis of art that is unpleasant to look at, can be copied by other artists, or shows no artistic talent at all!  When such an artist explains his or her work, the words end up as meaningless as their art.  A case in point … and I quote:
cantwell art ex
“My paintings are the result of a ritualistic process. This process includes a series of combative encounters between the artist, the subject and the canvas; where the mood of the artist, degree of vagueness of the subject, and chance of the materials, can create an infinite number of outcomes. […]   The movements of direction and perspective, in my paintings, act in a distortion of harmonious interactions and playful moments. The work presents a oneness of almost congested thickness, hints of depths, and constant shifting of weight. There is a musical aspect in the way things repeat, move forward, move in reverse, mutating and pushing matter as the flow pleases. The matter is usually suggested towards the natural world in the form of weathering landscapes, atmospheric energies or systems. Some present time and change within a geological melody.”     –Jordan Cantwell’s artist statement
What did he say?
Jordan Cantwell can’t well define his art!  I’m not sure that he can even paint!  He is a Pollock who has advanced to kindergarten, inasmuch as he intends to paint something by himself.  Contrary to traditional rules of landscape painting (not  yet learned in kindergarten), here he paints the sun into his skies, red and furry.  It shines down on vague city structures that seem to be coming and going in various stages of “tipsy.” They hover over flowing pieces of blue emanating from the city like over-crowded freeways, eventually intermingling haphazardly and spreading out into a vast blue “ocean” on which sails a tiny red boat like the home-made one my kids used to play with in the bathtub. In the final observation, the sun is the only part of this work that I find “good.”  Within his [quote] “combative encounters between the subject, the artist and the canvas” the artist appears to have lost the fight.                    —-My critique
Even if you don’t agree, indulge me here. It’s my blog, so I say what I think.  In the world of modernism the process of creating art often seems to be synonymous with “it doesn’t matter.”  Yet, I think “it matters.”  One earns the name “artist”  through exceptional skill and creativity, and by managing and improving on these over time – not by letting the paintbrush go where it will, as if it were doing the thinking and not the artist.
Among contemporary artists today, there are two who have earned my respect because their work epitomizes the word “fine” in fine art:   Lorena Kloosterboer paints trompe l’oeil and realistic art with a skill and aestheticism that few others can equate!
 Lorena K art ex
Artist’s statement:This trompe l’oeil depicts a small niche holding an array of translucent glass bottles & jars.  
The niche symbolizes a safe haven which holds the spirit of divinity. Glass objects, due to their transparency, represent an inner plane. They reflect purity, spiritual perfection & knowledge. The niche & the jars embrace all the essential traits we seek in life.
“Clarity No. 2” Acrylic on Canvas, 15 ¾ x 12 inches
Keiko Tanabe is a master water-colorist who gives new meaning to mastering watercolor.  Her work is magnificent. I wish for all the world that I could render a watercolor painting with as much beauty and sensitivity as she does.  She has the ability to change every day ordinary landscapes, that we rarely “see” as we go about our daily activities,  into works of beauty.  I mean, who ever thought that cars on the freeway or telephone lines dangling askew were art-worthy!  This is one artist who is changing the world through the magic of her paintbrush.
Keiko SCal freeway view
 

 

Pine Trees for Curtains and a “lion”on the Fridge

The man on the phone was telling me: “A woman living alone in the mountains? I would never rent to you. These mountain people would eat you alive!” My first thought:  Isn’t proving that “you can” when they say “you can’t” a true test of character? I moved to the mountains.

Half an hour East of Redding, California, is the mountain town of Oak Run where my youngest son and I lived for a few years. The population of Oak Run was, for the most part, a mixture of friendly hard-working nature lovers who commuted to work in town each day, and drug pushers with their entourage of seamy friends who lived somewhere “back in the woods.” My wish to move from town to the mountains was two-fold: I hoped to provide my son a healthful home anchor during his increasingly infrequent stays at home, and my long-standing love affair with Nature. No matter that the place I chose had no running water or electricity, and that the warning of one landlord was still ringing in my ears. I found a spacious cabin with a loft, two skylights, and a wood stove for heat, with large windows that looked out at nothing but pine trees, and the nearest neighbors were close enough for lasting friendships to be made, but far enough away to afford us each a private niche of our own. This place was great! The hillside that dug deeply into the valley a few yards behind the house became a favorite place for me, where I would often sit on the moss-covered rocks in the fog and breathe in the lush green solitude, listening to the wind singing through the pines and quietly reaching inward to great places that only nature can reveal in the soul.

The cold winters were kept warm by frequent trips to the wood pile to keep the stove burning. I felt like a child flying his first kite, each time I learned something new, like banking the fire each night so that the quiet embers would come to life again with a breath of air and a morning supply of logs. For water, I had acquired six 5-gallon water jugs and I would pile them in my car and drive down the road to where the locals had strung a hose out from a stream back in the woods. There I would fill my water bottles each week and heft them back into the car, occasionally helped by some unkempt, tough-looking bearded mountain guy, filling his own bottles. This respect often shown to me shed all thought of being “eaten alive” from my mind and reconfirmed my lifelong belief that there is good in everyone. Back home, I would lever the heavy bottles up the steps one by one and roll them across the deck and into the kitchen for my weekly store of water. I purchased my drinking water and used the stream water for cooking, household duties, and bathing. I heated water on the wood stove in large enamel pots, and carried them to the sink to wash dishes, or to the bathtub for my bath each morning. I would mix the boiling hot water with cold water from buckets, and ladle it over me to soap up and rinse, recalling my earlier experience of bucket bathing at the ranch house in Veracruz years before.  Practice makes perfect.

A small propane bottle with a radiating cone at the top would be lit to warm the bathroom while I showered and dressed. As for washing the car, I find it rather ironic that it was by far more doable to man the stream-fed hose down the road each week, than it is to wash my car now in the city, with street parking and no hose permission from my landlord!  That was life in a house with no running water! I did the running. I had the water.

The house had no electricity.  Again drawing on my rustic ranch experience, I hung a series of oil lamps on the walls, and lit them each night to read or work by. I had already learned how to trim the wicks so that the lamps would burn clean and not smell like kerosene. That had been our only lighting on the ranch. The lamps created a welcoming, gentle ambiance as I curled up in front of the wood stove in the evenings to read and listen to the changing moods of weather and local fauna outside. When I moved back to the city with its distracting daily obligations, this precious reading time all but disappeared.

No water, no lights. Those were familiar challenges that were bravely dealt with. What other pioneer skills I would need for this little mountain hideaway would be discovered. No electricity meant no refrigeration. I had propane for the kitchen stove so it was easy to segue to the propane refrigerator once I was introduced to this efficient technological jewel from the turn of the century. A refrigerator that runs on fire?  Unbelievable, I thought. But so it does, through the intriguing process of, not adding cold to the box, but absorbing heat from it, through a chemical process that begins with a flame – hence the propane. Ha! My refrigerator had a pilot light.  I call these “jewels” because they are not only highly efficient, they are extremely economical, and the first ones were built with the clean, sophisticated lines of 30’s style. I found one at a used appliance store and missed not a step in storing and preparing food as I moved in. This was one very “cool” refrigerator! So neat to look at, in fact, that my good friends and neighbors across the way invited me along with family and friends to paint their own gas refrigerator with an underwater theme! Art deco a la eccentric. I accomplished my first (and last) oil painting – a lion fish – on one side. This was a medium I had never used before, so my contribution was mostly one of learning as I slowly brought the fish to life, while the other artists and artist wannabe’s deftly painted orcas, schools of fish, and under-sea critters over the rest of the fridge, but I am pleased to say, my lion fish is still looking good after more than 10 years, as is the friendship of my former neighbors!

lion-fish

Why on earth would I want to live in a place that required so many difficult, time-consuming back woods skills! Where a place to live is concerned, one thing alone has always drawn me and occupied my mind through the years that I have lived in cities, only rarely realized – a home somewhere out in nature! Who needs walls if you have woods to surround you or windows if you have never-ending vistas of grass or sea to inspire the imagination! Who needs a ceiling if you have the great expanse of sky overhead, with sunlight to read by and a blanket of stars to cover you at night! I was happy in this home. When, in time, friends helped me upgrade to a generator for lights and TV, and my generous neighbors’ strung a hose across the street to pump water from their well for a few hours each week to fill my water tank, already attached to a fully-plumbed house that had never had a well to draw from, life was indeed easier, but it was never again quite as good.

The trade-off of this rustic life was the quiet that only a pine forest can give you, as anyone who has heard the wind singing through pine needles knows; the dark nights closing up the house before bedtime instead of curtains; the feeling of being “alive” that overcoming new challenges gives you; the frequent visit of a big raccoon that would come up to the glass window in the living room and sit and stare at me, the awesome silence after a snowfall when even the proverbial dropped pin can’t be heard; standing outside at midnight under falling snow, catching snowflakes on your tongue as you watch them streak toward you out of nowhere from an indigo sky; and a once in a lifetime memory that I will never forget!

It was at the time when the news was full of the anticipated arrival of the Hale-Bopp Comet over northern California and I was waiting for nightfall to see if I could get a glimpse of it. If it passed by low, I would miss it because I was surrounded by woods. The only open sky was right above the house. I stayed up late, going outside every half hour and scanning the sky to see if I could catch the comet on its path. Sleep finally got the better of me, and disappointed, I climbed the stairs to the loft and went to bed. I normally don’t wake up during the night, so I was surprised to find myself suddenly wide awake a few hours later. I turned over to stretch, opened my eyes, and there, filling the skylight above my bed from edge to edge, was Hale-Bopp in all its glory, big and bold, with its tail stretching out behind it! I laid there staring at it until it travelled out of view, transported by the moment to some magical place beyond the earth where dreams come true! Who, or what, woke me up? My guardian angel? Those elusive wood sprites of legend? I like think it was intuition, that sensitivity to the unseen that has led me well throughout my life. It is never sharper than when it draws on nature.  Difficulties? What difficulties! I never “saw” them in my house in the woods.

 

Sibeliuskirkko

Lahti, Finland, has Sibeliustalo, Sibelius Hall, that the Lahti Symphony Orchestra calls home. There each September, a celebration of music by Finland’s national composer, Jean Sibelius, takes place, with a select venue of concerts, followed by the customary visits to his birthplace, home and points of importance in his life by those who make the trip to Lahti. In this commemorative year, Finland, and the world at large, celebrates the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius’ birth. Lahti was to see not the usual long weekend of concerts, but an entire week! All of his symphonies would be performed and a large selection of his most significant works, plus daily recitals and chamber works! It was an event that no one devoted to the life and music of Sibelius could miss. But I did! Finland is a long way off for me, so when we got news of a concert commemorating the 150th anniversary year of our beloved composer right here in San Diego, a dear friend and I, fellow devotees of the finer arts where Sibelius holds a particular place of honor, were excited.

les trois apres concert
Russamari Teppo, great great granddaughter of Jean Sibelius, with Erik Homenick and the author.

The flyer said “Sibelius Concert Service,” to be held at a local Lutheran Church. Of particular note was that one of the artists to perform was great great granddaughter of Sibelius, Ruusamari Teppo, an accomplished concert pianist. The word “service,” gave me hesitation: was I going to hear a concert or going to a religious service? The latter was not what I wished to attend. I spoke to my friend of my doubts as to what this concert-service involved, but he could not fathom the idea that I would miss the event honoring Sibelius, and particularly the opportunity to meet Mrs. Teppo, the closest to Sibelius “in person” we may ever come! He kept saying: “This will be our very own 150th anniversary celebration. Unthinkable to miss it!” I couldn’t resist the import of the argument or the forlorn look in his eyes as he considered the possibility that I might miss this event celebrating the master composer for whom we shared such a great love. I would go!

As we arrived among the gathering guests in the foyer, we were immediately engulfed in the arms of a Finnish friend who was instrumental in organizing the concert. She broke through the gathering guests, opened her chiffon draped arms like a mother swan gathering in her brood, and swept us both up together in a warm Finnish welcoming hug. I felt as if I had just been transported to Finland and from there on, everything had to go well. And so it did. The next couple of hours were full of music, but we were in church all right  -Sibeliuskirkko!  With the music of Sibelius, it is easy to touch the eternal.

There were a couple of spiritual songs in Finnish, sung by the small, but excellent choir, and one sing-along. The rest of the evening was pure Sibelius. Performing were, Ruusamari Teppo, piano, Jussi Makkonen, cello, Jari Suomalainen, violin, and Irene Marie Patton, vocal. The program was a full evening of delight, one work after another worthy of the Lahti concert venue, and the musicians could not have played more beautifully!

The evening’s program: Kuusi, Impromptu, Souvenir, Trio in A minor for piano, violin and cello, “Havträsk(unpublished, 1886), The Tempest: (Jussi Jalas arrangement, unpublished), Arioso, Masurkka, Valse Triste, and of course ….Finlandia!

Each work was an intimate visit with our beloved Sibelius, but the two that touched me most deeply were Valse Triste, and Finlandia, both played exquisitely by Jussi and Ruusamari. Valse Triste, so often heard before, found me unexpectedly a captive of the deeper thoughts that Sibelius’ life and music have so often inspired in me, and I sat motionless, alone with my thoughts, not wanting the moment to end.

But as the best things in life are often fleeting, as if to confirm their definition of extraordinary, the concert must end. But Sibelius, master of the “final note,” had one last grand statement to make. Finishing the program in the honored tradition of Sibelius concerts with the work so much a part of the Finnish soul, here was the great great granddaughter of Sibelius playing his Finlandia with passion and sensitivity,. This was no less than an historic moment! The acute disappointment that I had been feeling for months at being unable to attend the Lahti Festival, or meeting Jean Sibelius on his home ground, were no longer relevant. Like the good friend that he has always been, here was Sibelius come to us!

The Hidden Years

As I look back at my childhood, I can see now that I was living a life that was in large part passive. Most of my growing up was going on “inside”. I can recall few distinct memories of when I was actually, aggressively pursuing anything other than playing with my neighborhood friends and watching the world go by. Thinking? – yes. Acutely aware of all that was going on around me? – not a doubt. But actively, purposefully controlling my daily activities – no.

Mom loved me a little too much. and as a result, she was overly controlling where I was concerned. This certainly contributed in part to my passive nature then. Can we debate whether one can really “love too much?” Love is expressed in many ways, but some are healthier than others. When love says: “this is mine and I love it to death, that is exactly what happens” – The object of this love dies. Too much water and sun can kill a growing plant. If this plant did not die, it was because a greater power was already at work and had the situation well in hand.  And I think I sensed even then that I was not to lead, but to follow….that Someone Greater would lead my life. And that was good.

I didn’t talk much. I listened. For this, I must give thanks to my mother, who talked a lot. She had so much to say and it was so interesting, that I had no reason to say much as a child. People said I was too shy, hinted that I might even be “backward”. They said I shouldn’t hide behind the couch when family and friends gathered to talk in the living room. I wasn’t hiding. I was observing the comedy of life at its richest. I would lay back there on the floor with my pillow, nice and comfy, and listen to every word that was being said, undisturbed, and fascinated! I was enjoying it too much to come out and be a part of what was already becoming apparent to me: It’s wiser to speak little and listen much. That’s where I learned the most. They didn’t understand that this was my strength, not my weakness. The truth is that those were some of my wisest years as a child. I was acutely aware of all that was going on, and learning.

I was not afraid to interact socially. It never occurred to me that it was necessary to make special efforts to that end. My world was complete. This “only girl” in the family received more loving affection from Mom’s large traditional French family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second and third cousins, and all their friends, in the first years of my life than some people receive in a lifetime. Daddy had no family: he had been an orphan, but I was “his little sunflower” and his love alone was a worthy match for my mother’s family’s. That’s a source of security. I heard so many fascinating stories over the dinner table and at family gatherings that my mind was full of things to think about. I watched attentively as those around me went through the usual and the unexpected joys and pitfalls of life, dealing with each one in turn. I didn’t have to make decisions about what to wear, how to comb my hair, what time to get up and go to bed, when to eat. Mom did that. Amazingly, I never perceived my mother’s control as a problem. It only became so when I grew up and Mom’s strong spirit would reach beyond the limits allowed. Never was it a problem for the child. Others did the necessary daily chores of raising me. Where I was able to roam at will was within. That was when I learned that no one can touch you, harm you, control you “inside”. That’s the one place over which we have sole proprietorship. Many will argue this fact, but it’s the truth: the actions of others can only really affect us if we let them

This was a big lesson for a small child to learn. If I appeared all too passive on the outside, an activity of a grander nature was nevertheless continuously going on inside. I quietly observed the active pursuits of everyone else, and learned from their mistakes, from their occasional petty or hurtful words, from the consequences of their unfortunate decisions, from their good actions that ended in happy results. By the time I was nine, I had learned much about what to do and what not to do in order to live life well.

Why I write the book – My Memoirs

The Circle is Drawn They called me the “Blitz Krieg” baby. At 7:30 in the evening, Mom and Dad were enjoying a night out at the movies, with a week to go before the anticipated blessed event. At 8:00 PM, Mom and Dad were at the hospital, and the “blessing” was about to arrive. I was not officially due yet and no one was ready for me. However incredible it may seem, a nurse was frantically trying to hold me in until the doctor arrived. Hospital rules “did not allow a baby to be born without the doctor present.” The laws of Nature were not considered. Apparently the doctor and I arrived at the same time. I have a picture in my mind of a fast scrub, a quick entrance, and a marvelous catch just as the ball…er, baby, was passed straight into the hands of the star “quarterback”. A touchdown at this point would have been anticlimatic. I’ve never been a fan of football. I wasn’t paying attention. But Dad was. He had refused to leave Mom’s side for the birth, made a scene when they told him he was not allowed in the operating room, and the nurses finally gave up and made him scrub and gown up. I arrived, the doctor exclaimed to all present that “here’s a fine pair of football shoulders”, then quickly corrected himself: “No, these shoulders won’t play football.” My dad let out a whoop, and that’s the last Mom saw of him until the following afternoon. The story goes that my Dad made some kind of marvelous spectacle of himself upon learning that “it was a girl”. I was born into a large extended family of eighteen cousins and two siblings – all boys! Mom had a bit of a rough time – not surprising when you think of the persistent efforts of that nurse to go against long-established norms of nature. It wasn’t until a few days later that Mom and I left together accompanied by one very proud, smiling father. On the way out, as Mom told it later, one nurse after another went up to her, with eyes rolling, and said excitedly: “You should have seen your husband when the baby was born! We’ve never seen anyone do that before!” Mom’s inquiries as to the exact nature of what Daddy did that day went no where. No one would tell her. Shaking their heads and laughing, they just kept repeating: “You should have seen what your husband did!” And so I was born. ~~~ The Old Testament speaks of “types” – occurrences that precede and testify to the important events of the New Testament. You might say that they complete the circle. For those with an insight into life’s mysteries, these types are taken quite seriously and serve as wonderful prophesies of future events, only truly understood once the events have occured. I can’t help thinking that the year of my birth, and the beginning events of my existence, were types of where my life was to lead me and how it may one day end. I was born in 1941, the year of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II. The Germans were making rapid, un-anticipated bombing attacks on England at that time that were known as “blitz kriegs”. My insistence upon arriving unexpected and quickly into this world earned me that first title. I have no doubt that there was an agenda in place and it had to be met sooner than later. The type was set. It would be up to me to discover it one day. My first conscious memory is of a warm summer night, dark curtains moving softly in the breeze from the open window over my crib – and the sudden, terrible ululating sound of air-raid sirens. Mom says I couldn’t possibly remember: I was only a few months old! But I do. The memory is so clear to me that I can recall everything about it sixty-seven years later. And what I remember most is my world changing in an instant from a peaceful and secure state, with the sweet cooling breeze lulling me to sleep – to one of absolute, soul-shaking fear! Of course I didn’t know what those wailing noises were or meant, but I knew beyond a shadow of doubt what they represented. I have known such fear only a few times in my life and it was unmistakably the fear of Evil! I believe that when we are born, we are “whole”. The spirit that gives us life is already formed and if the child is limited in his or her abilities to interact with others, the intellect* is nevertheless as habile as it ever will be – perhaps even more so. By the very fact that we are unhindered by the as yet un-learned management of our physical world, we may be even more aware of the spiritual. California was in blackout and sirens were wailing to warn of possible attacks from Japanese war planes, which had already approached our coast. My parents had turned off the lights, pulled dark curtains across the windows and were probably reading stories to my brothers by candlelight to keep some semblance of calm, while fear lurked outside. Mom and Dad were attending to the necessary practical matters warranted by the occasion. My brothers, in the arms of my parents, were perhaps oblivious to danger. I can understand my parents being less concerned about me. Noise was noise, and I had been quite happy up until then to sleep or babble my way happily though all the noises of my surroundings, however loud or unexpected. And besides, what could a baby know about current events. My older brothers, on the other hand, perhaps sensing my parents concern, would need to be reassured. But I was the only one who sensed the nature of what really happening. This was my second “type”. I was, in effect, holding down the fort for my whole family, carrying a spiritual load full of comprehension of things eternal, to which I was still wide open. This tiny baby who had been created “in the spirit” of peace and light, and had known nothing but love from all who had come to welcome me, in one brief moment had perceived the face of Evil. I wonder if anyone can look the devil in the face and not be shaken to the core. We are of course speaking here of what the eyes cannot see. The connection between that event and my present direction in life makes it clear now that the type was set for my place in this world. I have lived more than one lifetime since then and have come nearly full circle to that blessed comprehension of things eternal, shedding, one by one, the material shackles by which I became bound over the years to the world, in the name of “practicality”. I could say here that this is my story. But that’s not entirely true. The story belongs to Another, and I am going to tell it. * To clarify the exact nature of “intellect” – Most of us have come to define it in terms of our “intellectual”, or mental capabilities. In reality, it refers to the highest part of our spiritual nature and is much more difficult to define, as it proceeds from the Creator, whose “reality” is of a higher nature, beyond our limited comprehension.