The Mask and the Mirror

2nd relief in the series

When I first saw this extraordinary clay round last spring (see above) I was immediately captured by the story being told. As I recall it was the second, and to me, the central image in a series of three that Debra created. To paraphrase Debra’s words these forms were hand built from Stoneware clay and underwent multiple firings with layers of oxides, under-glazes, and glazes during the spring of 2020. They expressed her daily thoughts and experiences. When I asked her about the order in which the pieces came into being she told me that it was hard to say because she built all three forms at the same time and then added the relief. 

Debra is an incredibly gifted artist who lives in Abiquiu, New Mexico. She seems to have a pulse on Western Culture especially from a feminine standpoint that penetrates the hearts of many women and men. It is no wonder that she has become so well known and loved.

What follows is a personal exploratory analysis of this particular relief, a technique I learned many years ago from an art teacher I had in graduate school that helped me to articulate what I saw and felt when I gazed at a piece of work that I loved.

The focus of this exploration will be on this central piece. However, towards the end of this analysis I will briefly attempt to situate this relief in the storied frame of the series as a whole. 

It is important to add that I am working from photographs and this severely limits my ability to portray what I am seeing accurately. Clay is a living breathing entity that erupts/materializes in three dimensions; any photograph removes this quality of depth or breadth. For this reason I have asked Debra to clarify details of a couple of images; others I have left to my imagination.

Art moves us from within. Sometimes a piece will call to us on a purely personal level because it taps into some aspect of our own experience. However, if a sculpture has an archetypal aspect to it, and by this I mean that the subject portrayed taps into a universal form or idea, one that carries both energy and information, then that artist becomes a vehicle for collective energy and information that transcends the personal. When this happens many people within a particular culture and/or across cultures are drawn into relationship with the art-work. Archetypes can be understood as universal patterns that are personal, cultural, and transcultural – these are empty forms that must be filled by human creativity/activity.

I believe that an archetypal aspect informs most if not all of Debra’s work. It’s not that her personal story isn’t being told or is lacking in importance, it’s that this gifted artist has access to both – her story and that belonging to the culture at large. Debra acts as a vehicle for the transpersonal to come through; there is a mystical aspect to her work that must be included in the whole. This ‘both and’ quality expresses a reality few artists are able to attain and embody through their art.

As I recall I first saw a photograph of this sculpture last spring not long after the Corona virus pandemic erupted. Immediately I was struck by the realization that this one image expressed both the problem and pointed to a way of dealing with the pandemic. When I looked at all three images together I saw the central story in relationship to women. The phrase “the mask and the mirror” came to me almost immediately.

 Dark tones permeate most of the round but are most intense overhead. At the top left, almost obscured by dark browns with a hint of slate blue is an image of a “wish bone” – a very curious symbol. Immediately I think of children. As a child my brother and I would each take hold of the wishbone of either a turkey or chicken, and make a wish. Whoever broke off the largest piece had his/her wish come true…but this bone is upside down suggesting that something is very wrong. A reversal. To strip something to its bones is to express underlying truth. Bones, of course, are also symbolic of death. There is an unmistakable poignancy here, blurred, almost hidden in darkness. An absence or loss of children or a child aspect of self is imaged here?

Below, on the left, a gauzy mask barely obscures the upper half of the anonymous woman’s face. Literally, the mask speaks to the Powers of Air and the threat that the Corona virus poses as an airborne disease that spreads rapidly through the air we breathe; movement of the wind increases the chance of outdoor exposure; stagnant indoor air is worse. However, this mask covers neither nose or mouth so it has nothing to do with protection from the virus. However, to see through the mask is to penetrate illusion. In this way of thinking, the mask is a symbol of woman’s ability to access truth.

 Debra uses the same face in all of her female sculptures. I think of her as ‘Everywoman’ and here the woman seems almost numb. The suggestion that she has no physical protection may also be highlighted by a ‘see through’ mask. The streaked aspect of the mask speaks to rapid movement. Covid is a dire threat and women are being separated from loved ones as a result of the need to isolate… Think too of the opposite problem – many women will become caregivers who are on the frontlines living unprotected lives in order to save the lives of others during this pandemic. Nurses, doctors, teachers, food service attendants, waitresses, housekeepers, child providers, mothers of all kinds, dedicated to serving humanity. Women represent those who are most at risk because so many are in caregiving positions. In addition to numbness I think courage, compassion, endurance, and grief are mirrored by the expression on this ‘Everywoman’s’ face …

The woman’s eyes are open but unfocused suggesting that she sees in a softer way. To soften our vision often allows us to see differently. The right eye (the left in reality) is encircled by a circle, a monocle? Glasses of any kind improve sight and the left eye speaks to the unconscious, intuitive side of ourselves, the part of us that is able to see through illusion/delusion and can gain insight from within. A woman with the gift of Second Sight can read the future.

Part 2

When I asked Debra about this circle she said “ the circle around the eye is symbolic of the moon, a nightly ritual of seeing the moon.”  Curiously, women as ‘seers’ have an intimate relationship with the moon. Both eyes seem to be able to stare directly through the mask. The woman’s lips are parted; she is breathing but there is no sense that she is about to speak.

 The length of the woman’s neck is accentuated by its distinct slate blue tones. This neck seems especially vulnerable – stretched perhaps to endurance. Suddenly it occurs to me that it is also a neck, like a chicken’s neck, that is ready for the chopping block. Has this woman lost her voice? Her ability to breathe? Is there a threat of being separated from her body? The suggestion of a body ends at the woman’s shoulders so we are left wondering…

 Since our feelings and emotions reside in our bodies the suggestion here is that this woman may be without access to her body on an instinctual level. If so she is unable to protect herself. Blue is a color that is sometimes associated with death. In some Native traditions, like that of the Zuni and the Lakota Sioux blue is the color of the Underworld. Particularly touching is the pale four petaled flower to the lower right of the left half of the relief, a flower without a stem or root, or is this a wheel of some kind, one that is in motion – whirling – chaos? To my mind a number of aspects of this portrayal speak to the presence of death.

And yet below the flower the somber tones lighten to cream and ivory and a pale yellow round emerges at the bottom center of the relief. With the blurring of boundaries the upper split vanishes as light begins to permeate both sides of the bottom of the piece. Also missing is the suggestion of separation between the two halves that ends at the bottom of the woman’s blue neck. In this lower half we see an opening into the right side of the relief. Light is penetrating the darkness. 

One way to read this shift is to see this opening occurring unconsciously; in the realm of the unconscious there are no ego boundaries to separate parts of the self. Everything is interconnected. Just above the ivory light is a small white moon – like circle, still caught in the dark, symbolizing the presence of the moon/unconscious contents; and then almost instantly we are drawn into the image of a huge brown standing bear who contains not just the head but the torso of the anonymous woman, a woman without either arms or legs. The details of this magnificent animal are well defined; and the giant bear is holding the woman lovingly in his embrace. That he is a male bear seems to be suggested by the presence of genitalia.

This is a Brown bear; and these bears weigh up to about 1000 lbs. Brown bears or grizzlies are reputed to be fearsome and destructive animals, but anyone that has ever studied them from a naturalist’s, bear biologist’s, or ethological standpoint knows that these astonishingly intelligent animals are not vicious animals. They are however, fear driven and terrified of humans because they have been hunted almost to extinction by man. In their terror they may moan piteously or huff, snort, and slap the ground in what seems to be a threatening way when encountering a human. If approached, most will run. If bears are treated with respect and given adequate space the majority of these animals leave people alone (see Bradshaw’s compelling narrative about Charlie Russell’s life with grizzlies that reads like a novel – Talking with Bears).

From an Indigenous perspective bears were and remain the most powerful animal healers of body, mind, soul and spirit. They are repeatedly invoked through complex rituals like the Navajo Mountainway Chant. To have a grizzly bear as a protector is the most powerful medicine of all.

Bears are also associated with the unconscious instinctual, untamed side of being human according to most Jungian scholars, although Brown bears are considered to be dangerous instincts by these same psychologists (European in origin). 

 I would posit that Debra knows the truth about Brown bears. 

Now let’s return to the woman in the left side of the relief; the woman with only a suggestion of a body. This woman has lost contact with her instincts, but only temporarily as it turns out. 

When ‘Everywoman’ re-emerges from the unconscious on the right side of the round she is held in the arms of the bear, ‘Our Great Protector’, a part of ourselves that is the author of our feelings and emotions, our instincts and inner truth, all of which are stored in our bodies. Under the bear’s protection we can return to our whole selves and mediate our fears. 

The woman’s face and torso are lacking both arms and legs, appendages that help us to take action to change the direction our lives are taking – reiterating the lack of power women have to deal with this virus – or to change or control other outcomes. We may not be able to shift the outcome of a virus that humans created and must begin to take responsibility for, but we can help ourselves and those we love by listening carefully to our bodies, and allowing our instincts to guide us.

Part 3

One concrete way of accomplishing this change is to submerge ourselves in the rest of Nature and stay open to the appearance of animals, birds, plants etc., and by paying close attention to images and words, nudges, synchronicities, dreams and fantasies. Especially while caregiving, perhaps the most exhausting job of all. S/he provides us with a means to deal with the crisis of Covid 19 by staying in the present moment as much as we possibly can. Debra’s flowers/ four leaf clovers, owls, stars, all speak to the importance of the presence of nature in different ways.

 It is hard to miss the change of expression in Everywoman’s face. Held by the bear, her eyes are focused and there is a sense of peace that permeates the woman’s countenance. Clearly, Everywoman is able to be present to what is. This woman has once again found home.

To the right and below the moon there is a small leaf- like image that seems to be drifting. When I asked Debra what the image was she responded that the leaf was a simplified four – leaf clover. It symbolized the role that  luck plays in the spread of an impersonal virus, but memories of being with her grandfather on Sunday afternoons searching for four leaf clovers, and the way the two were connected with nature were also part of the reason she included this image. Once again we see the archetypal and the personal intersecting in Debra’s work. On an archetypal level the impersonal presence of luck/trickster/fool determines viral outcomes, on a personal level this symbol attaches Debra to nature and her love for family.

 The clover-leaf, like the flower isn’t attached to anything, and it is not green which might suggest something about outcomes. In fact the color green is totally absent from the entire series, a sobering thought if one attaches the color green, as I do, to the greening of all life. However, Debra has made the desert her permanent home and the color green when present is muted in this environment so the lack of this color may have more to do with the artist’s context than anything else.

Notice how the first round of yellow ‘blossoms’ into a larger sun in the west as more light penetrates the relief. This sun is also a star and indeed these two yellow objects might be other stars. If the star is our sun it appears to be rising from below (possibly from the realm of the unconscious) and it is moving west not east. Here we see other reversals akin to the upside down wishbone. The area of golden light has reached the woman’s torso and seems to be moving upwards towards a still very somber multilayered charcoaled sky…

Night is still with us. But so is the power of the Great Bear.


first in the series

second in the series

third in the series

 Now, as promised, I will attempt to briefly situate this relief in the storied frame of the series as a whole. When I first saw the other two pieces I wasn’t sure that they  were all crafted at the same time but I had the sense  that all three were intimately connected. I saw parts of a story unfolding that were specifically related to all women, expressing an immediate problem as well as pointing to shifts that might help women as a whole.

In the first relief my eye is immediately drawn to the deep blue -black sky and the Great Horned Owl’s penetrating yellow eyes, its direct flight towards the viewer. The details of this owl are exquisite and stand out against a threatening sky. Below, in ivory and cream we see two women’s heads facing each other and these figures complete the round. The woman on the left has eyes that are open; the other woman’s expression is unfocused but both faces turn skyward gazing towards the owl, which is a Great Horned owl. One way of interpreting this image is to say that woman ‘s unconscious intuitive eye remains open, she sees/comprehends the message, while the ‘conscious’ woman’s eyes remain blurred. I think of the two anonymous women as depicting both conscious and unconscious sides of one female figure who is also ‘Everywoman’.

 The owl – the Great Horned owl in particular – is a bird of Omens, and often associated with Second Sight. S/he is also a Messenger.  Furthermore, the owl is also specifically related to woman’s power. For example, the Greek goddess Athena had a small owl that sat on her shoulder. All owls are associated with the Powers of Night but throughout the Southwest and Mexico the Great Horned owl is called Tecolote and is associated with death by Indigenous peoples. To hear the call of the Great Horned owl for many peoples is a premonition of death or some other kind of disaster. In this country, the Lakota Sioux are terrified of women and men who have “owl medicine” because these people are believed to harness the powers of death for their own means. 

The moment I saw the first relief I felt the presence of death, the fear that accompanies it. The pandemic struck suddenly apparently out of thin air (at least for many – impeccable scientific research had predicted such an outcome that had been ignored by the public). That this fear was related to the pandemic’s sudden explosion seemed quite obvious. Here the two parts of the anonymous woman are dealing with the threat in opposite ways. The intuitive woman on the left can face the threat; the woman on the right cannot… Consequently we are dealing with an inner female split. There is another image of the flower or four-leafed clover in the center between the two women.

When I turned to the second relief I ‘saw’ how the specter of fear/death threatens to separate woman from her body and instincts, but happily she recovers them by uniting herself with the bear; she is given the power she needs to deal with the crisis that is building.

In the third relief we see the two women again only this time the woman on the right is breathing three flowers/four leaf clovers into the air that are attached by almost invisible threads to her mouth. This woman’s head is thrown back, while the woman on the left is the smaller of the two ivory/cream images, and she peers sideway at the other woman with a quizzical look. The sense I have is that she is not taking a position on what she observes. This woman’s mouth is closed, while the other woman is exhaling, filling the air with flowers. Is this wishful thinking or does the image refer to the regenerative powers of nature? Both? It may also be that the unconscious is receding but we don’t know why. 

The woman on the right breathes flowers/four leaf clovers into the air suggesting to me that the use of breath is also critically important to healing during this time. We won’t be able to breathe deeply until we recover our instincts. These two critical components help woman to deal with the pandemic and any other threats that might come her way.

 Recovering our instincts and breathing through our fears also allows us to stay emotionally present to ourselves, and to others in a meaningful way. To put ourselves in the arms of nature helps us do all of the above.In this series I do not see an answer to our present dilemma; the Corona virus continues to spread, but I am heartened because women are being offered priceless  ‘gifts’ through Debra’s work.

Art as Healer



A number of weeks ago the man who owns this property hacked off the limbs of some graceful arching cottonwoods, destroying forever the cathedral –like arches that I walked under every day as I gave thanks for these Matriarchs of the Bosque, while carrying the knowledge that there will not be a new generation of these trees to replace the old ones that die. The high desert is drying up and young cottonwood saplings must have adequate water to live long enough to produce the deep taproots that will nourish the trees from below.


Being with/under and feeling the benign presence of these gracious cottonwoods for the past three years has taught me more about how important it is to focus on feeling gratitude for now than any other feature in this high desert.


Witnessing the destruction of the arches while walking under the weeping chopped up arms initially unhinged me.


At first I made up a little song to sing to the broken trees when I walked under them, knowing of course it was too late. Nothing could restore those dead arms.


Gradually, I came to the understanding that the cottonwood cathedral, a prayer place so sacred to me, also reminded me daily that being emotionally present for these trees helped me to balance the destruction of the natural world that I saw occurring all around me.


When I dreamed that in the distance I could see a magnificent cottonwood with her graceful bare canopy whole, and opening like like a flower, it seemed to me that the soul of the cottonwoods was trying to comfort me.


I had no idea what I was doing the day I picked up a bare limb and brought it back to the house, positioning the cottonwood right next to my steps so I could see it every time I walked in or out of the house.


Next I gathered boulders to ring the base of the dead tree. The slim trunk sitting on its bed of stone felt just right…


When the seasonal wheel turned into November I retrieved tiny clear crystals from my closet and placed them on my Norfolk Pine inside the house. Rainbows danced over the adobe walls. I also ringed the base of the pine with white lights. This is the time of the year I honor the life of all trees as part of my spiritual practice.


The very next day while coming up the steps I had a strange insight about the dead cottonwood limb. Honoring the life of all trees was no longer enough. Now I needed to honor trees in death.


That afternoon I wrapped white lights around the severed trunk and lit up ‘the tree’ at dusk.


Over the next few days I placed scalloped heart shaped cottonwood leaves around the trunk attaching them to the wires that held the lights… Just yesterday I realized what was missing. I needed an empty nest to grace the amputated limb.


A trip into the Bosque provided me with the latter. The cup was nestled in a few branches of desert scrub. When I attached the nest to the sawed off limb obscuring the work of the deadly chainsaw it finally occurred to me that I was creating art.


I dug through layers of dead cottonwood leaves until I found their flower –like shells – the seed casings that once held cottony balls of fleece – those seeds of the future that could no longer take root.


When I placed the petals in the nest I added four more stones, not just to anchor the empty pods down, but rather to reinforce the reality that stone ‘eggs’ cannot give birth to new life. A base made of Boulders made the same point.


Last night when I lit the ‘tree’ with lights that shivered like cracked stars I felt like I had unintentionally created a new sacred space with my sculpture.


And for the first time since the severing, a sense of peace permeated my once bereft body, soul, and spirit.


Art not only bridges the ordinary world helping us to access the sacred; it heals in life and death.IMG_3228.JPG

A little bear story


Yesterday a bunch of us attended a community art – making project. An artist we know is creating a giant nine – foot corn mosaic made out of clay tiles that will adorn an outdoor wall on a building in Espanola New Mexico. There are over 400 pieces that comprise this mandala and Sabra invited those who are interested to join her to draw and paint as many corn kernel tiles and/or circles with images of their own choosing for this collective mosaic.


Celebrating corn is celebrating the Indigenous “Summer People” and the food the people of New Mexico thrive on. Corn is the Mother of all other plants.


There is something about individuals collaborating to create art, writing, or to sell local produce that feels very satisfying to me probably because any of these activities seem to enliven the ideal of community in a very concrete way.


It was also fun! What the little girl liked the best was being able to participate in this gathering without any artistic pressure.


Because it was “Bear’s Day” I already knew that I would be drawing bear paws… What I didn’t know was that I was going to create a third tile, one in which a little girl’s story would come to light.


In this tile the little girl drew a bear created out of an indigenous bear fetish heart-line that was also the bear itself. When she drew cave walls around her bear, rather than the sun (that I imagined would represent the warming spring light), I was surprised. She painted the cave around the bear black; a womb-like cave. In the top center she drew a very small yellow spiral to represent a sun that barely radiated warmth and then she surrounded the sun in deep cobalt blue – a blue she wished was even darker – as if it was still night. Beneath the bear cave, water flowed by in verdant greens…


No doubt about it. This was my favorite tile of the day. I was intrigued by the story that emerged out of the images the child had drawn. Bear’s Day occurs at the time of “first light,” a time when cultures throughout the world acknowledge the powers of the intensifying light and warmth of the sun, just as bears emerge from their dens if days are mild.


But this bear had another agenda. Instead of choosing emergence, this little fellow (even the little girl seemed surprised that he was a boy – she thought maybe he might be her little brother or some other child) retreated to his lair in the hopes that the seasonal change would take its time coming, giving the little bear more time to adjust to the changes that would also be coming for him personally. The bear knew that an early spring would mean that he soon would be floundering in fierce heat that would spike the temperature of his shiny black fur coat up to 180 degrees F. He would have to migrate north in order to survive. The little bear was resisting change because he loved where he was, living under a miraculous dome of starlit skies, complete with sky stories like those of his relative, Night Sky Bear, long still nights and best of all cool temperatures. This little bear loved his present desert home fiercely and wanted to stay put within its inviting mud walls. He needed more time to dream his dreams.


He also hoped the water would come to his desert to nourish the plants that withered so pitifully last year driving him down from the mountains to seek food at the river’s edge. One of his relatives had just visited the river three days ago leaving deep claw marks sunk in wet mud… Bears love water even when their dens get flooded. Perhaps a spring flood would eventually drive little bear from his cave, the little girl wondered, though she couldn’t quite imagine flooding waters…. The desert had been parched for a long long time. She also hoped that he would emerge on his own if given more time.


After listening to the story the little girl told me I promised both children that I would give the little cave bear the time he needed, while the rest of us entered the spring season with gratitude for the waxing light reminding ourselves that without summer heat the corn will not grow.

Crow and the Pornographic Gaze


The Old Art Masters indulging in their pornographic gaze….

Once she believed that

it was her fault

they came on to her,

that she owed them


They owned her?

Secretly the

girl was pleased

because any kind of attention

was better than none,

or being so “different” –

stitched into an Indian skin.

She was a pretty shell,

an abandoned spiral

worn down by waves –

assaulted from within

by the pornographic gaze.

How she hated being young.

Walking down the streets

of New York

They leered at her from rooftops –

Whistling and yelling,

“Here comes the Madonna…”

She tried to make herself invisible.

How she hated being young.

When she sewed on her woman coat

she discarded tight jeens,

began to weave her hair in braids,

became a scholar and writer,

turned to the animals

and plants that loved her

to find acceptance and trust.

Unconditional love

assuaged the isolation

the void in psyche and body

where once no one breathed.

How could she have known

that Nature would save her?

Learning self respect

is a life-time process.

As an elder,

she has broken

the spell –

toppled the edifice of


pornographic gaze.

She knows its

an ‘old boy’ problem –

a result of male privilege

bullying, a need to objectify,

chop women

into parts

behind closed doors.

Dirty old men

who stare at standing nipples,

hidden beneath a feathery cloak

leave only night chills

and a hoarse croak.

Revolted, she discards them,

and picks the bones clean.

She has the power

to render her tormentors


Inadequate, and knows it.

She leans

towards males

who are emotional adults,

men who are accountable,

men capable of honest relationship,

men whose deep humility

has rendered them human.

Their friendship,

respect for her integrity,

ideas, honesty, and empathy,

are the lenses through

which she has learned to see herself.

She is healing from sexual assault.

She is a tree with a star at her center.

By living a self directed life,

She has become the partner

she once longed for –

a birdwoman with tree roots

sunk deep in sweet Earth.

November 11 2020 Postscript:

I feel as if I am emerging from a deadly trance brought on by the monster who took over the White House and made it his own for four intolerable years. It seems to me that every aspect of this man reflects the pornographic gaze that has stolen our woman souls and bodies. Only now with 71 days left of his reign of terror is he being rendered impotent.

Last night I laughed when I heard Joe Biden’s response to t’s tantrums. He said something to the effect that t’s behavior was an embarrassment – not a positive legacy for him to leave behind.

Joe Biden’s attitude towards Trump helps break “ the spell.” He reduces t to an annoyance and refuses to give the man credence, attention, or the power the man so craves. Impotence!!! This return to normalcy is heartening. Maybe we have a chance.

Israel Francisco Haro Lopez : we come from the stars

Artist and Poet


Build That Wall We Come From The Stars Part 5

Do you know where you come from
do you know all the parts
of where you were born
do you know all the lines
that make your breath

all the oceans
all the trees
all the branches

of your migration
to here
to now

from the tip of the womb
of queztalcoatl
to the tip of alaska

across the deserts
of africa
between the stones
of machu picchu
and teotihuacan
between the walls
of china and berlin
between sand dunes
and druid songs
irish mexican blood
swaying with the lines
of a sufi prophecy
bending inside
a european pagan
dance step
and waiting
to the memory
of the feet
of your ancestors


Commentary: I have written about Israel’s work previously on this blog, so I allow the power of this poem to speak for itself. This man knows that the personal is political, a phrase that goes back to the 70’s and to feminism… Unlike some he chooses not to separate the two artificially.

Israel Francisco Haros Lopez

Above: Isreal’s art: La Llorona

Borderless Haiku: (IFHL)

We have forgotten the names of each other underneath the shedding skin those names written in our blood that have danced to tonantzin tonatiuh before they knew they were lovers. 

Last week I was fortunate to have attended a poetic reading and performance by a remarkably gifted young Mexican man named Israel Francisco Haros Lopez who was born to immigrant parents in Los Angelos. He is both a visual and performance artist, and his work transcends borderlands of all kinds. Israel believes that it is critical to honor and remember the ancestors so that we may once again become one with the winged ones, all those who crawl or walk on this earth, the Four Directions, Earth Air Fire and Water, Tonanztin and Tonatiuh – the Aztec Earth Goddess and the Sun God – Israel’s expression of unity in divinity, and the universe as a whole. His visual motifs are drawn from Pre – Columbian America and his work is an attempt to search for personal truths within the context of today’s world incorporating Mexican/Indigenous stories into the whole.

Israel believes written work or visual work cannot occur without sound or vibration, because all things on this earth embody and express themselves through vibrations. As such his written and oral work is constantly shifting as it is performed or recorded.

Israel’s current body of work explores Mexican, Indigenous and Urban Street Art Identity. He is inviting the viewer to consider their own ancient script and ancestral memory in order to mend racial, geographical divides. The work is also a healing practice, which through his art workshops he invites participants to become contemporary ancient scribes exploring their own writing practices both literal and figurative.

He brings his firsthand knowledge of the realities of migration, U.S. border policies, and life as a Mexican American to his work with families and youth as a mentor, educator, art instructor, ally, workshop facilitator and activist. Even with a 1.59 High school G.P.A., Israel managed to go back to the community college and raise his grades to get accepted into U.C. Berkeley and receive a degree in English Literature and Chicano Studies followed by an M.F.A in Creative Writing. At formal and informal visual art spaces, Israel creates and collaborates with others in an interdisciplinary way that includes poetry, performance, music, visual art, and video making and curriculum creation. His work addresses a multitude of historical and spiritual layered realities of border politics, identity politics, and the re-interpretation of histories.


What follows are two of my favorite pieces:


  • mexican jazz part 50


build that wall we come from the stars

we are the echo of grandmothers

migrating this America when it was just

and always a turtle


on mothers backs

more mothers backs

more mothers backs


this wall cannot stop the wave

of time immemorial


our grandmothers bones are scattered

across this rock

all rocks

along the feathered serpent

dancing with your minimal



of what you think

you can stop with a wall


build that wall

you cannot stop our d.n.a.


  • white liberal antics part 44


White supremacy gets tricky when you add white hispanic and spaniard

and spaniard blood is white European blood

where do you think hitler learned genoicide

through the skilled native holocaust

orchestrated by cortez and the sword

and the bible that drives the blood

underneath the asphault

runs through the veins of a city

wanting to continue its legacy

of spanish conquistador

and la virgin de la conquista

running through the rivers

of la llorona

mourning for all her children

red black yellow white brown green blue purple pink


how do you interrupt this white supremacy

running through the city


running through the rivers

of la llorona mourning

screaming for the memories

of the whiteness of the moon

screaming for the memories

of the whiteness running through

her raped indigenous body

praying for the memory

of her children that were birthed

from this

red black yellow white

brown green blue purple pink


begging for the songs

stuck in our throats



Blossoming Owl

I first met Sam at the Abiquiu Artist’s Tour a couple of years ago. At the time I was struck by the beauty and complexity of his images, especially the spirals he painted.

Since then, Sam and I have become good friends.

We have also discovered that we both think of owls as being personal guides.

Fortunately, I have been present while he has been painting “Owl Blossom” which for me has been very exciting.

Recently I wrote a piece for this blog on what I call “Deep Time” and last week while visiting Sam I realized that his paintings articulate better than I ever could with words, just what I mean by “Deep Time.”

Please visit Sam to see more extraordinary paintings at:


“Plant Your Gun”


Working Notes:

When I first saw this powerful image I thought “That’s exactly what we have to do.” There is something about containing a lethal weapon under glass and earthing it that speaks to the need to bury these guns once and for all before they destroy  us.

A deeply moving memorial to the death of gun violence and war.

My companion Bruce notes that bullets are made of lead and even if the gun is discharged, lead is being returned to its source.

Thank you Iren for creating images that speak to us from the depths of our hopeful hearts.