Oil on Canvas - First Works

March 18, 2024

(note to self: flow forward, but come back and edit this journal entry in the next round)

Post graduate school, which was primarily focused on dance making, dance technique, and projects with artists in other disciplines, an aspect of my totality declared it was "his" turn (in the then gender creative and identity creative phase of coming to a state of wellness/wholeness) and began to enroll in classes at the local community college, where I had taken a handful of art classes post High School. 

The art teacher there, with a strong shadow subtext in my life, who had also been my teacher in High School thought he was doing me a favor by telling me I had no talent as an artist, but that, I might consider design. I have since long gotten over this, thanks to the generosity of spirit of subsequent life drawing lab facilitators through this colleges continuing education courses, free to the community. 

In these settings, others also tell their stories and there is discovery of mutual support in taking respective power back, and engaging once again in things that were shut down by ignorant facilitators, or people who were simply cruel in situations where they were what one would call "power up."

It was in this facilitatorʻs watercolor class, that a painting I did from my imagination, wound up being stolen from the stack of student paintings left out, and I thought to myself at that time, crestfallen, if I have no talent, why did my painting disappear from the stack. It was a little thought that was a toehold to the possibility of returning to the arts.

There remain, with the negative experiences, also some very positive memories with this first jaunt in college setting art courses, and the awareness that the human brain naturally tilts towards the negative, and I celebrate it all as a part of the learning and self-discovery journey.

I do remember connecting with the photography class, which was old school, black and white film, learning to develop film, learning how to print from negatives, and the joy of learning about composition from this perspective. 

 I remember (without realizing an artist had painted a painting of heads made with veggies until I visited the Gustav Klimt museum many years later) for an assignment in color and composition that I crafted a bust of a person out of veggies, that I was greatly amused by and observed that my approach to assignments seemed to be very creative with a tendency to understand the rules and guidelines taught, but choosing to flow with where the expression wanted to go becoming a color outside of the lines sort of maker with a flare for authentic fires.

At any rate, the visual artist became quite, and the trajectory shifted which more likely than not had to do with more than the words of one individual, that hurt, and more about this process of remaking the mind, remaking the body, healing the fragmented and fractured psyche, a coming home, integrating, awakening and mending the splintered bits of soul. 

There was the practicality of supporting myself, when a strong boundary was drawn by my mother, to go to church in the morning, or keep my performing commitment to a pantomime troupe I was a part of. I thought of the developmentally challenged kids at Oak Park, waiting, and I thought, commitment to the craft and to these people, or church. I chose the creative process rather than religion and packed my bags, staying with a friend for two weeks,  until I could land a job, and find a place close to the job in that I had no car, and life happened.

It took me to Paris to work for a year, and receive an arts education from the masters from the great museums there, and it brought me back again to educational systems and majoring in something practical, Business Economics, which then evolved into a double major tacking on Dance.

I chose to go back to College due to the kindness of two fellow students in an Engineering Graphics course I had taken thinking to attempt to return to school while working full-time as a waitress.  It felt too overwhelming, working full-time, in an abusive first relationship, and trying to negotiate school, and after this class I told my classmates it was too tough, and I was throwing in the educational towel (is what I imagine happened.)

 After the class was finished two of my classmates tracked me down at the restaurant, a small Mexican restaurant, and expressed, the teacher told us you should be in school. It was his observation that I was the most talented student he ever had.  

Somehow, this initiated a shift, along with other factors a part of a different story, and I figured it out. There were both scholarships and Pell Grants available, and I could work part-time during school, and multiple jobs during summer. 

My learning process was really different, not realizing I had what would be classified as learning disabilities, and I sorted out how to go to school, and feed this hunger for knowledge and understanding.

It was when I was only given one option to a required anatomy class at University, for opting out of carving into a cadaver, that I found myself in an art studio again. I had received an A+ in the first anatomy class, and when I went to the first day of the second anatomy class, and was taken to the back room, and shown the cadaver, I began to panic and knew, I couldnʻt do this class. 

The class I was offered as an option to the Anatomy class, was to take a life drawing class at a community college, and this constituted the return to the visual arts, and became a tandem dance with the performing arts throughout my career, working in multiple disciplines.

The education journey took me to graduate school in the arts, where the primary focus was on dancemaking with opportunity to collaborate with others in different fields.

After graduation, I decided to return to painting, and bought a canvas, and just let what wanted to come through come through.  Below is half of that first painting scrawled in crayon type marks.

I continued painting from the gut, and as a part of the recovery journey from what I now coin "Genocide Illness", which is a cultural wounding that goes back to one lineage, and perhaps my mother's wounds, what I might call "Immigration  Illness".   

Transgenerational wounds that roll forward until someone says stop, and sets the intention, to heal. I chose not to have children, so I have no children with wounds, but I see my nieces and nephews, who were born to siblings, and they have wounds, and they are self-aware, that their wounds are the result of their challenged childhoods with parents suffering from the impact of the nature of transgenerational trauma wheels rolling forward and also impacting a body on an epi-genetic level. My overarching intention in life, was to not repeat the process, but to do the work, to heal. A tremendous odyssey harnessing what came naturally and brought me joy, creativity, intutition, the beauty of nature, and as my sister Leilani puts it in her own process. 

Art is My Medicine.

Painting left: private collection of a friend    Painting center: in home somewhere?    Painting right:  Destroyed, to make space

Correspondence with a friend.

A small tip, when you are going through shadow alchemy type work, sending images of the work as you go along, and memories, is extremely supportive, and grounding, and I include here the exchange.

Sent: I am finding processing these images, and looking at their stories very heavy, and wonder what work might remain. For ease, I go to a dialog via text, with a good friend in Brooklyn who never fails to offer perspective, encouragement, and support.

I decided I would take an oil painting class, and took a fundamental of painting class with Rafael Perea at SBCC. 

I was at that time having difficulty finishing a painting because the different aspects of the self would fight over who would get a turn at the canvas, and as a consequence, one painting over another. Rafael, when I expressed my frustration, looked at one small 8x10 canvas, and said, give each part of you their on canvas, paint from this painting, and paint it in the voice of that part. It was from cover of a book about Beatrice Wood, not knowing at that time, I had a ceramicist inside. Summer of 1997. This was post Cal Arts, 1996 graduation. The Dylan aspect of who I was then went to the college and enrolled, and said, my turn now, we have been focusing on dance, now it is time for the visual art to also have space. I displayed the series in a group show at the Womenʻs center in 2000. Each painting was suspended from a hanger using different attachments, ties, panty hose etc. It was titled Closet M.

 It was first exhibited in an installation a part of my first theatrical production post-CalArts, in 1997, that had art installed on both sides of the entryway, and outside, with two performance artists. One was clad in a red speedo, and his entire body was covered in small circular band-aides, with wooden matches glued to them, and he was playing tablas if I remember correctly. The second artist was in an outdoor installation comprised of Weber's bread, prints on acetate, and framed prints, with shoes dipped in reason. She was in a white nightdress burning toast and adding it to the installation, so it had this. There was a sculptural chair I created in a beginning sculpture class that I got a C in because I didnʻt do any of the assignments, but used the space as a studio to create the chair and the shoes. It was my ode to Lady Diana, her passing, and see her as metaphorically crucifying the Princess Myth of liberating women. I seem to remember another sculpture a part of it, a red cheese grater, on it, tampons dipped in beeswax. I am seeing also in 2000, a group show at the contemporary arts show. It was a protest of peace in relation to the Iraq War called Portents of War. The pieces were ink on gessoed drywall rubble. 

When I installed the work, I took a hammer, and got away with punching holes in the gallery walls. It was my belief that the walls of the religion of art, that these needed to come down, and for the sacredness of art, for this to be accessible to all humans, not just a dance in the stratification of art, and commodification and marketing of art. As I write this, I realize, this space closed last year. It no longer exists. In its last exhibit, it became a part of the Van Gogh Project, and I danced with this painting and the ones that follow.

Reply: Good advice, to give each self their own canvas 


In 2000 I enrolled in a figure painting class and also a creative drawing class with B.B. who did not seem to have the capacity to process the nature of the work and I am glad to have moved on from the public displays of exasperation of my work in front of the entire class. At some point I quietly took her aside and explained what was going on, and I ended up with As in both classes.  She began to leave me alone, and let me do what I hoped to do, just play, explore, express and continue to let the process be a part of my personal complex-PTSD deep trauma medicine.  


in general you should stop listening to "teachers" 


Yes, I did, with your last prompt.

It took getting at the root of poor self-esteem. It is a Hawaiian genocide wound.

The root of you are brown, you are lazy, you are stupid, you are indigenous.


Teachers can be helpful when you are a beginner just learning the ropes. Once you are doing depth work there are very few teachers who will be able to understand or help.

The work from one of these labs is filed with the "single sheet" files.  Below are paintings from the life painting lab. There is one large painting that she approved of, in that, it did not have any trauma tones to it, and it is presently the top of a large art storage container I built.

As I look at these, I am so incredibly grateful that I colored outside of the lines.

They give voice to something that sought to be expressed, and witnessed, and stand as a beautiful testament to the creative process being a wonderful river to ride in ending cycles of harm that date back eons.

The above work, was then integrated many years later, as my last performance project. A collaboration with a sibling, who at that time wanted to raise awareness about what it is was like in the Los Angeles County mental health system. It was a part of the advocacy portion of the journey. She no longer lives in a closed facility, and while she presently isnʻt receiving specialized trauma treatment, it appears that things are moving in a more positive direction. The title of the project was the Van Gogh Project which premiered in Brooklyn.

Podcast: NYC Radio Live

I was asked to be interviewed about this project, and in that I find things do go away on the internet, uploaded this to the Internet Archive. Below are images from the performance in Los Angeles. Images by Kathee Miller.


Podcast of the project: NYC Radio Live, uploaded to the internet archive.


In this process, intense emotions arise, and this I am treating with lots of time in nature, making sure I get enough exercise and am eating well, and feeling the support of friends and circles I engage in of like hearted people. I observe, the clay, working with clay, is extremely good medicine for this, and hope, the coming return to stone carving, will be as beneficial.