Saturday, April 12, 2008


I have been once again distracted by an image, a thought, that must take form. The mountain is beautiful and terrible all at the same time. The fires that savage the living 'skin' of the San Gabriels leave behind extra ordinary forms of death and yet, without fire, nutrients would be locked up in the soils and water would run off and not soak through to the roots.

After the fires, non native grasses burst through making the blackness of the burned trees more stark and scary.

My little stilt painting is growing the salt filled plants, Salicornia sp. which we can eaten. In fact, the first time I ate the "pickle weed" was in Canada on a trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands or the Haida Gwaii. We had sailed from Vancouver with friends from the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, trekked about the forest and needed to start thinking of dinner. We gathered the pickle weed at the splash zone on the lee side of the Charlottes, and sprinkled them on our salads, raw. YUM!

I have been asked many times whether I paint or draw from photos. Many times I do, but from my own. And many times I take images and put them together. And sometimes the paintings come from the dark recesses of my dreams. My paintings seem to follow my views, internally and externally.

Moments when life seems bleak...

Tall trees at sunset have shadows that look like silhouettes of faces. And in the darkest of personal storms, the natural world has metaphors for our lives...

Since 2000, I have been studying California water systems, ecology, and policy. And I have been documenting the changing landscape of the mountains behind my house, the rivers that flow near by, and the policies that alter the ecology.

In 2005, the region had a hundred year storm event, mostly felt in the foothills and mountains. Trees in the upper watershed were ripped out by the roots and shunted towards the valley below. Most of the debris was caught by the first dam, San Gabriel Dam, and left to float to the sides of the reservoir. Now, after three years, the trees are visibly deteriorated.

In 2005, just after the heavy rains, Public Works and the Fire Department thought they could rid the dam of the mess by cutting the individual trees and burning them.... I, and so many others, are glad they understood (finally) the magnitude of that decision.... They decided, after trying to cut and burn the thousands of mature trees floating in the dam, to let them float... and pile up along the edges of the water like a bathtub ring. When the dam fills with water from the winter storms, the disintegrating trees, now lighter, float to the center taking the tree-chunks along with them. is a closer look at the tree slime.... in our drinking water. It's okay. The water is let to fill the percolating ponds in the City of Irwindale, and then pumped up and filtered again. About 2 million people drink this water.

My earlier studies of the mountains...

The mountains have lungs, you know, besides the trees. It is ocean that regulates the temperatures and the direction of the winds.

The sky above and what we humans do to our land, water and air determines our climate, the amount of water we have available, and how well we will live. Ecology and Public Policy are co-joined guiding how we do economically.

Here is the Rockface close up...

Finally, when I was a kid, I loved to hike the wild hillsides of the Hollywood Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains. I collected insects of all sorts and spent hours alone exploring. One time, I walked up the mountain barefoot for some reason. After hours of walking on stones my feet became quite tough.

Here is a painting of what it would be like if you, like I used to do, plopped into the grass on your back looking up into the sky. Everywhere around you the bugs would wonder, "Who invaded our territory?" and buzz and hummmmm..... Hold still and listen.

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