Monday, November 25, 2013

A Visit to Pasado's Safe Haven

Nestled in the green foothills about an hour's drive north of Seattle, Pasado's Safe Haven is home to a lucky menagerie of animals who've been saved from a life of neglect and abuse. Pasado's mission is to not only care for these critters but also to find them "forever homes" where they can live out their days.

I remember learning about Pasado's not long after I moved to Seattle- it was founded in memory of a petting zoo donkey who was killed by some teenage boys.

Animal sanctuaries not only care for animals but also educate the public to take better care of them. For instance, these 3 white chickens are survivors of the Turlock egg farm, where farmers left 50,000 chickens to starve to death in 2012 when they couldn't afford to keep the farm going. The fraction of those birds who were able to be nursed back to health after the 2 weeks of starvation that they endured were taken in by animal sanctuaries around the nation. These three gals seemed to be doing quite well.
Cases like Turlock are the exception rather than the rule, but it's shocking to learn that there are actually no laws to protect farmed animals in the USA. The only "humane treatment" laws we have regulate how they are treated during transport and slaughter (and poor chickens and rabbits do not even have those protections and are often killed in horrible ways that cause great suffering.) During every moment of a farm animal's life up until that moment of death, the law allows any kind of treatment that is considered "standard industry practice."  That means that if enough farms are doing it then it is legal. 

This includes the standard practice of killing male baby chicks by grinding them alive in a meat grinder or suffocating them in a plastic garbage bag. Many well meaning folks are dismayed to learn that even their best efforts, buying "organic" eggs or raising "backyard chickens" are still just a cog in the egg industry machine where this is done as standard practice. While it's hard to hear these stories, it's good to know that the animals here will live a good life.

The most joyful animals that we met were the young pigs! It was so cool that we were allowed to walk among them in their yard. We loved petting them, watching them running around and chowing down on chards of fresh pumpkin.
I love the little guy in this photo- just look at his back legs- the very definition of skipping! I also was amazed at making eye contact with the pigs. You can tell how very intelligent and aware they are. I've heard that they are smarter than dogs and even human toddlers, and I believe it. Many of the pigs wore bandanas that said "Adopt Me!" and if I lived out in the country, I would seriously consider it. Pigs are so cool!

Not all pigs are little, though, like the ones that we got to walk with. Splash here is a very big pig, over 450 pounds (!) and she has quite a story to tell. It was not far from here in Washington state where one day a woman found Splash standing at the gate to her property. It turned out that Splash had escaped from a farm where her babies had just been taken away from her and she had seen her brother and sister slaughtered right before her eyes. Good old Splash managed to break out of that farm and swim across the river looking for help. Thankfully the woman who found her saved her life by bringing her to Pasado's Safe Haven. She'll be kept here until they can find her a home where she won't be used as a breeding pig or turned into bacon.

One of the other things that I really enjoyed about the Pasado's tour is that they gave us a lot of treats- all plant based meat alternatives like Field Roast grain meat and tofu dogs. Although my husband and I have already adopted a vegan diet, it seemed like some of the people on the tour may still have been omnivores, and I'm sure that getting to know the animals and learning more about their lives must have made an impact towards getting them to reconsider their food choices.

Here's my partner in marriage and animal friendship, Paul Klein, having a special moment with Baby. Baby is an anomaly in the dairy industry: an adult male cow. Just like the male baby chicks, the dairy industry has no need for baby boys and he would normally have been slaughtered by this age. Within his first day of his life Baby was, like all calves, taken away from his mother so that her milk can be taken for the dairy industry. His mother would have mourned the loss of her baby, like any mother. I read a news story last month about some people who lived near a dairy farm who were worried about the 'unearthly cries' that they kept hearing. It turned out that the farmers had just taken away their babies and all the mother cows were calling out for them. The mothers will call out for days, sometimes weeks and become understandably depressed. This, too, is a "standard practice."

There were so many other animals that we met at Pasado's Safe Haven that I haven't mentioned: the llamas, the cats and dogs, the sheep, horses and donkeys. They were all so delightful that I'll need to go back. Since it's now Thanksgiving week as I write this post, I'll sign off with a photo of  this lovely turkey couple. What interesting birds they are!

I'd really like to visit Pasado's again soon and would love to volunteer to help out with the animals. For now, I do donate a percentage of my art sales to help support Pasado's but it would be so cool to be able to hang out and spend more time with the animals. 

If you are interested in donating (and becoming eligible for a visit too!) please do so online at:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Art in the Park

This is the spot where they built the very first Seattle Art Museum. Just a few years before, it was a cemetery! But the citizens of Seattle decided that they'd rather have a park here, so they dutifully moved the bodies over a block and thus  "City Park" was created in the late 1800's. (You can read more about the migratory nature of Seattle's graveyards here.) 

The centerpiece of City Park was the Pavilion, featuring the Bandshell, no doubt the birthplace of the Seattle music scene. Other original park features, such as the castle-like Water Tower and the Reservoir are still around, but the Pavilion was torn down just a few decades later to make way for the Seattle Art Museum.

The Seattle Art Museum was founded by Dr. Richard Fuller and his mother heiress Margaret MacTavish Fuller. The Fullers moved to Seattle from New York in the 1920's. Related to both feminist pioneer author Margaret Fuller and genius futurist Buckminster Fuller, the Fullers loved to travel and collect artwork. 

Having amassed an impressive collection of Asian artwork, the Fullers decided to create a museum to house it. The city of Seattle agreed to let them build their museum in the park on the site of the Pavilion. By this time the park had been renamed "Volunteer Park", to honor the volunteers of the Spanish American War. 

Noted northwest architect Carl Gould was chosen to design the new museum. Taking  advantage of the very latest in building materials, Gould used terrazzo in the interior lobby floor and sleek aluminum trim and fixtures. It opened to the public in 1933. The centerpiece of the building, still sometimes referred to as the "Garden Court" originally housed tropical plants as well as statuary. The floor in this room is Cotswold Slate.

Dr. Richard Fuller was a geologist and loved all kinds of stonework including statues and ceramics. He acquired a series of sets of statues from the Spirit Path of a Chinese tomb and installed them along the lawn and walkways leading into the museum.

These statues are now protected indoors at the downtown Seattle Art Museum, but thanks to the Seattle Foundation, there are cement replicas of the camel statues which have given rides to many generations of Seattle children. 

This lovely Art Deco building was home to the Seattle Art Museum for almost 60 years.  
In 1991 a new, bigger building was built for the Museum in downtown Seattle. The building in the park was then rechristened as the Seattle Asian Art Museum. It continues to display the Fuller's original Asian art collection and well as new works by contemporary Asian artists.

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Take on Art

I once did an art project about vertibrae. They look like little pterodactyls.
I'm an artist. 
"Everyone is an artist." 
What other profession is so inclusive?
Do people say "Everyone is a doctor"?
(Well, actually, in a way we often do act as our own doctors, but that's a whole 'nother blog post!)

     I've been drawing since the age of 1, according to my mother, and according to an evolutionary astrologer who looked at my horoscope chart, I have been an artist in many past lives. She even said that I've died as a result of being an artist, whether through persecution for my art, or as the result of the backbreaking labor involved, such as being a stone mason.
 Being an artist in any lifetime is not easy but it seems to be especially confusing nowadays. An artist is not guaranteed a steady income, so I pay my rent by working at my "day job," as a security guard in an art museum. I enjoy being around the art and interacting with visitors. Inevitably, though, I hear disparaging comments, such as ever popular, "my child could do that." 
     The thing is, it's entirely possible that their child could have created something similar to some of the art that is on display in our modern and contemporary collections. Art stopped being concerned with technical accomplishment somewhere during the industrial revolution about 100 years ago when it became apparent that cameras and other machines could do the work as well or better than we mere mortals. 
     To appreciate today's conceptual art usually requires that the viewer read something about the artist's intent to fully appreciate it. Unfortunately many people consider art that requires reading and thinking to some sort of elitist scam. The same people would not question having to read an instruction manual to understand their latest gadget, so I can only assume that it's the ultimate result of living in a society that still holds technology and technique over humanity. Maybe we need to refund arts education.

Yesterday I visited an art show where the exhibition design itself was the medium. The name of the exhibit was "horizon" and it was put together by curator Scott Lawrimore, who simply took about 20 of the museum's landscape paintings and lined them up the length of the gallery so that the horizons were at the same height, roughly at eye level. On the opposite wall was projected a video of the fiery ball of the sun dropping into the sea. While in that room, you could either face one wall or the other, peering into the "windows" of landscape paintings or the looking at the electric video sunset.

 The premise of the exhibit, as stated in the wall text, included this concept:
Recent psychological studies suggest that the absence of a literal horizon, or “long view,” in our increasingly dense urban landscape, as well as our fixation on computer screens and smart phones as means to acquire and share knowledge, is contributing to new pathologies of depression. The future health of our landscape is likewise threatened by the lack of a metaphorical long view of our relationship with the environment."

    This struck me since I often wonder how modern civilization's hell bent hurry to grasp the next dollar has left us blinded to our destruction of the natural world and even our own souls. What will be the result from this disconnect, as we willingly prefer to stare at a glowing screen instead of into each other's eyes? I doubt that I would have pondered these ideas if I hadn't read that text panel. but there was definitely something about physically being in this gallery that gave me an overarching desire for the space for new ideas and a need to feel open to new horizons.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Mother Will Cry

One of the most haunting stories that I've encountered on my vegan journey is the how mother cows grieve the loss of their babies. Every year of her short life, a cow will gives birth to a calf who will immediately be taken away. This act of kidnapping is the cornerstone the milk and cheese "business".  Dairy farmers impregnate a cow over and over again to keep her lactating, and then immediately take away her baby so that we can take all her milk. Witnesses say that the mother and baby loudly cry out for each other when they are separated- and that the mother will search and mourn for her lost baby for weeks afterwards. 

Farmers make themselves feel better by saying that animals have no feelings but frankly, they have to buy into that kind of denial or else they wouldn't be able to sleep at night. Anyone who has lost a member of their family, especially a child, knows that it's the worst thing that can happen.

If you'd like be part of building a new world that doesn't include contribute to this kind of animal cruelty, the good news is that there are more non dairy milks and cheeses available now than ever before. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A little look at Seattle's "new" History Museum

Seattle's Museum of History and Industry has a new home and a bit of a fresh take on our city's history, and, well, industries.
The museum is located at 860 N. Terry Ave. in the old Naval Reserve Armory building, next to the Center for Wooden Boats on South Lake Union. Inside you'll find a large central lobby with most of the exhibits hidden away upstairs around a second story walkway.

The central lobby is large enough to display vehicles including one of the original hydroplane boats that famously tear up Lake Washington during the Seafair festivities and the popular Lincoln "Toe Truck."

Here's a detail from the wooden floor in the lobby that really caught my eye. What an interesting pattern- I wonder if this is timber from the original old growth forest? 

My husband Paul, an aviation buff, looks out from a second floor gallery window at the very first Boeing airplane. A wooden floatplane, it served as a mail carrier and was operated from a base right here on Lake Union. I wish I could take a closer look at this display case, but it is hung too high to see very well. I really need to take a closer look at the original sign from behind the bar at the Dog House: "All Roads lead to the Dog House," indeed!  

The stained glass mural that was behind the bar at the "Arctic Club" thankfully is displayed at eye level.  It was taken from The Arctic Building, which is still located in Seattle's Pioneer Square and is known for the fabulous walrus heads in it's decorative masonry. 

My favorite exhibit at MOHAI was a lighthearted musical retelling of the Great Seattle Fire. An animated film sings the tale while real relics from the disaster are selectively illuminated during parts of the story. (It features a singing glue pot! I watched it twice!)  

MOHAI has a couple of exhibits that address racism. The salmon gutting machine named the "Iron Chink" was a local invention created to replace Chinese workers in the local canning industry. At right is a copy of the order that sent US citizens of Japanese descent into concentration camps during WWII.  

The "Lusty Lady" was a woman owned adult entertainment establishment known for the double entendres on its marquee and for treating it's employees fairly. "Shelly's Leg" was Seattle's first gay bar. Founder Shelly Bauman used the settlement money received after losing her leg to open the club in 1973. 

Seattle's more recent past is represented by an exhibit of artifacts from the 90's Grunge music era and the demonstrations that occurred when the WTO conference was held here in 1999. 

Photographs pay homage to the many social rights movements that have emerged from or taken hold in this area over the years, including women's rights, gay rights and environmental activism. 

Film fans should make sure to visit before September 8th, 2013 in order to catch the special exhibit, "Celluloid Seattle," about movie palaces from days gone by and film and TV shows that were shot in this area. I thought I'd seen most of the films that use Seattle and the Northwest as a setting, but I now have a new list of films that I need to check out. 

It's really great to see MOHAI relocated closer to the city center at the edge of the Seattle's fastest growing (Amazon) neighborhood. It's sure to be a popular destination for locals and visitors for many years to come.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Untangling the Story Behind Charlotte's Web

Wilbur burst into tears.  "I don't want to die," he moaned.  "I want to stay alive, right here in my comfortable manure pile with all my friends. I want to breathe the beautiful air and lie in the morning sun."     
That, of course, is the voice of Wilbur the pig from "Charlotte's Web." Charlotte, the spider, with her ability to write words in her web, does indeed save Wilbur from ending up on the dinner table.  Having recently become vegan, I eagerly reread the book but was surprised to learn that the book's author, E.B. White, far from being a vegetarian or animal rights activist himself, was actually a gentleman farmer who raised pigs for food.

How did someone who raised animals for food come to write one of the most compassionate farm animal tales of all time? E.B. White said that the original idea for the book popped into his head as he passed by his pig pen one day:  "I began feeling sorry for the pig because, like most pigs, he was doomed to die." Later that season, an unexpected event deepened his empathy for the animal and laid the groundwork for the story of Charlotte. 1
E.B. White's pig fell deathly ill and the author threw himself into trying to nurse the animal back to health. White so felt horrible when his efforts failed that he wrote an essay about the experience for the Atlantic Monthly magazine. 2  E. B. White must've still been haunted by the experience, though, because a few years later he created "Charlotte's Web," which as one of his close friends commented, must have served as a way for him to finally be able save the life of his pig. 

 "But it's unfair," cried Fern. "The pig couldn't help being born small, could it? If I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?"      Mr. Arable smiled. "Certainly not," he said, looking down at his daughter with love.  "But this is different. A little girl is one thing, a little runty pig is another."      "I see no difference," replied Fern, still handing on to the ax. "This is the most terrible case of injustice I ever heard of."A queer look came over John Arable's face.  He seemed almost ready to cry himself.
Have you seen the popular online video, of Luiz Antonio, the toddler who tells his mother that he doesn't want to eat animals any more?  (Check it out if you haven't, it's amazing! 3 ) At the end of the video Luiz' mother begins to cry, not unlike response of the "queer look" that comes over the face of Fern's father in "Charlotte's Web."  I wonder if both parents are remembering a time when they themselves were children and were allowed to feel compassion for these "food animals".  
E.B. White, John Arable, Luiz' mother and most of us live in a culture that has convinced us that it is part of the "cycle of life" for humans to consume animal flesh.  In my recent research after having given up eating animal products, I have learned there is no nutritional reason why humans need to consume animal based food (other than for vitamin B12, which we used to get from eating more dirt, but which can be gotten by taking a supplement.) In fact studies now show that a vegetarian or vegan diet can lead to a longer, healthier life than one based on animal products 4  so there is hope that many animal lives might be saved if only more people would be willing to learn to eat differently.

I hold out hope because, after all, "Charlotte's Web" went on to become the best selling children's paperback book of all time. It has certainly touched the hearts of more than few generations of book and animal lovers. Even though E.B. White might not have been able to save the life of that one pig on his farm, his story might help to save the lives of many, many more. 
"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both." 
All quotations from "Charlotte's Web", copyright renewed © 1980 by E.B. White. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Blogger's Summer Camp

I got to go to summer camp yesterday- Bloggers Summer Camp, that is! (*Geek Alert!*) A couple months ago I wrote here about my intention to blog more often. And while I have posted a *bit* more than before, I felt uninspired and in need of more direction. Then my friend Michelle Templeton posted on Facebook that she was signing up for a Blogger's Summer Camp and I decided to jump on board and check it out too.
The Camp was actually a one day workshop organized by School House Craft in the rustic Mount Baker Community Center (it really did remind me of summer camp!)
There was one morning and one afternoon panel discussions with a break for lunch/roundtables in the middle. I really enjoyed the roundtables because it gave us the chance to talk in person with the presenters and each other.
The morning panel topic was "Creating a Life/Blog Balance" and the members were Arianne Foulks, founder of a small web design business Aeolidia, Megan Reardon, of the crafter blog "Not Martha," Blair Stocker of "Wisecraft" and Andie Powers, entrepreneur and writer. Our afternoon theme was "The Myths and Realities of Monetizing Your Blog" with fashion blogger Moorea Seal, Melanie Biehl of Inward Facing Girl, and crafter Marie LeBaron of Make and Takes.
What impressed me the most was the realization that what these women were making their money from was primarily writing. The content of their blogs, in most cases, are "how to" instructions for crafts. Some of them had even worked as writers for other websites or published books that had grown  out of the material that they had written on their blogs. 
As artist with a website, I have always considered my website as sort of an online "studio visit" for anyone interested in taking a look at some of my artwork. The blog part of it has been a little less focused, ranging between diary and shop talk. I can see now that I might want to consider offering my readers more information, such as "how to" tips for the aspiring artist. That would be fun, wouldn't it?
It was great to hear the panelists share their personal blogging stories, their insights into the business, and specific tips and tricks. I enjoyed meeting my fellow bloggers and look forward to keeping in touch. 
Writing a blog, like painting in a studio, can seem like an isolating experience. How nice it was it to gather together in a big cabin-y room for a whole day with a group of other people who were all talking about and doing the same thing! I feel energized and refocused to go forward with my blogging.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Plant Pig

Once upon a time the city of Seattle had one of those "let's put decorated animals all over the place" fundraising events.  The time was the summer of 2001 and the animals were pigs. Pigs were chosen because the pig statues would be auctioned off to raise money for the Pike Place Market clinic and there is a famous pig statue in the middle of the market.  In order to be chosen to decorate a pig, each artist had to propose a theme.

Rachel, the original Pike Place Market Pig
I thought: How would a pig feel, finding itself in the middle of a city, standing on a hard cement sidewalk, surrounded by honking cars and exhaust fumes, stuck between endless rows of buildings that shut out the sunshine? Wouldn't it dream of being back in the country?

That was my idea for "The Plant Pig." I decorated her with elements of a landscape, representing her dream of being free in the countryside.

"The Plant Pig", painting in progress, on my back porch.
 I painted lush green leaves that came up from the ground, hugging her sides. Behind that I made a beautifu blue sky dotted with white fluffy clouds and topped it off with a bright orange sun shining down on her forehead. 

"The Plant Pig" was placed on the boardwalk at the Seattle waterfront where she entertained children and kept street vendors company all summer long.

When the auction came, at the end of summer, "The Plant Pig" was bought by a man who lived outside the city. He took her home and placed her in his garden. Her dream of escaping the city and being out in nature came true.

"The Plant Pig" on the Seattle waterfront with admirers, Summer 2001. Photo by Paul Klein.

Rebecca with "The Plant Pig" Summer 2001, photo by Michelle Templeton

Saturday, April 27, 2013

always becoming

My critique group and I visited the Nicolai Fechin exhibition at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle this week. Fechin was a Russian American artist active from the late 19th to mid 20th Century whose style combined impressionism, expressionism and realism. 
My friend Tara asked about the meaning of the term "grotesque" which was used several times in the text panels to describe Fechin's paintings. We usually associate grotesque with Halloween imagery or just "ew..gross!" and these pictures were neither, so I spent a little time reseraching it as an art term. In visual art, "grotesque" was originally used as a noun to describe the little decorative characters found in the margins of medieval manuscripts or the gargolye figures adorning gothic buildings. 
 "Grotesque" is also used to describe the atmosphere of dark fantasy, especially evident in much early 20th Century German art.

I love this quote from Russian philospher Mikhail Bakhtin, who describes the grotesque as:

 "a body in the act of becoming...never finished, never completed; it is continually built, created, and builds and creates another body."

This metamorphosis is the thing that I love most about Nicolia Fechin's best work. Out of an abstracted field of texture and color, the delicate elements of the face emerge. Backgrounds that are almost completely abstract piles of impasto paint or bare canvas resolve into clothing and hair that is loosely woven in wild wooly brushstrokes. Floating above and out of all is the heavenly face, the eyes lips and nostrils, moist, living and immediate.

I hope that you get a chance to see the artwork of Nicholai Fechin for yourself, in person - these reproductions don't capture the crusty texture and dreamy detail of his canvases. 
Nicholai Fechin: On display at the Frye Art Museum through May 19th, 2013.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Are you still making art?

My studio February 27th, 2013

"Are you still making art?"

A curator with whom I hadn't worked in a dozen years emailed this question to me last month. I was glad to be able to truthfully respond, "Yes!" as I had recently quit several other endeavors that were keeping me away from the studio and actually had a fresh body of work.
Our conversation resulted in the award of a rather large series of commissioned paintings!
As much as it might seem like a huge coincidence for her to contact me exactly when I was clearing my schedule to do more artwork, I have to claim some responsibility for planting a seed for this stroke of "luck" to happen a few months earlier.
While putting together images for a FaceBook page of my artwork, I had wanted to include a photo of this commissioned artwork that from 12 years ago for a local hospital. I dropped by the hospital to take a photo, only to find that the entire clinic had been relocated and nobody knew where my paintings were now. Since I'd connected with the curator earlier in the year on Linkedin, it was easy enough to send her an email asking where they were (thankfully the paintings were reinstalled in a new area, not in storage somewhere) and so I had made myself fresh in her mind as an artist when this new job opportunity came up.
So even though it's not a case of "think it and it shall be so" I am very grateful and delighted to see such immediate results from my decision to rededicate myself to the studio.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Years Resolutions

A late year bout of ill health lead me to reflect on how little a few freelance and volunteer commitments were actually benefitting what really matters to me: Doing my art. And so- back to the studio!
The first painting I created this year was in response to a request from my cousin, Shawn, for a picture for her granddaughter's nursery. "Runaway Cat" is a variation on a favorite theme of mine: Escape! This painting was done in acrylic on stretched canvas and measures 13" square.
The second painting I made this last week is a portrait of Fina, the cat with whom we share our home. This one was done in watercolor on paper, an unusual medium for me, and measures 11" x 15". 
(Fina would probably like to run away, at least for a little while!)

My next project is to create images of the White Buffalo and the White Lions, a continuation of my Spirit Bears series. I am also developing my first children's picture storybook. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens this year.