Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Work of James Hubble  

I am in love with Jame Hubble's work. He is an artist and a cultural icon here in San Diego. Building his home by hand  with his family using rocks and trees on his land in Julian he has created a beautiful space of hope and inspiration. 

He is the founder of Ilan Lael foundation. He hosts Conversations of Beauty at the Mengei Museum in SD Balboa park every month. He is also the designer of a beautiful school, La Esperanza , built in the middle of an incredibly poor part of TJ.

He is soft spoken but when he does speak  he evokes an intent concentration from everyone around him. You listen absorbing every word of simple wisdom he has to share and you feel better for it. I have learned from him that beauty and art make people fall in love with a space, with the land, with cultural institutions, schools, playgrounds  and places that give purpose and hope and make us want to cherish and preserve our culture. I encourage everyone in SD to come visit his home or listen to him speak at the Mengei.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Art Fundraiser for Natives in Peru

A new oneBebe Peruano

Thanks to everyone who bought the natural art art and helped contribute 15% to Nawpa Runa. Even a little bit of money helps put them closer to publishing the traditional medicinal book which will cost around $700-1000 but help bring in a lot of money to preserve the traditional arts and knowledge of the native community in Chazuta here in Northern Peru.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Art from the Amazon

Art made from natural mineral pigments hand made on banana paper and canvas.
The art is for sale and 10% goes to the NGO Nawpa Runa (facebook) (blog) to create a medicinal plant book.

Click painting for larger viewWarmista Bonita
on canvas
50.5 x 70 cm
Abuela en el Castillo de Lamas
25 x 35 cm

Polilla de la Noche
23 x 14 cm
via Trueque in exchange for some
handmade pottery and donation to Nawpa Runa

Niño Curioso, Chazuta
14 x 23 cm

Maribelle y su Hermano de Comunidad Nativa Chunchihui
50.5 x 70 cm

Niños en el Rio Huallaga, Chazuta
47 x 32 cm

Sabiduria Lamista on canvas
28.5 x 36 cm

*prices don't include shipping from CA

Art in progress and details shots

The Natural Pigments

I collected the rocks from a local river. The rocks are hand crushed and added to a binder to make paint. They are minerals and won't biodegrade or fade like plant colors. The banana paper is made by local women and this too will last just like any other paper. Of course, like any piece of art, be careful to keep out of direct sunlight.

As a new medium, there was a definate learning curve for me. Especially because some paint on very light or clear then dry much darker. I had to use many layers and wait for them to dry to see the results. The paint encouraged me to learn to paint in a new way.

The images of the paintings are done from photos that I took in the area and some are from a local professional photographer, Javier Quintana.

Trina, the founder of Sachaqa Centro de Arte, taught herself this technique of paint making and is now selling her natural pigment paints here

Some Thoughts

My airy loft/studio where the occasional giant deadly tarantula fell from the big deal.

One of the things my painting teacher, Lela Harty, told me when I picked up my first oil paints was that you can make art with a stick and mud if you know what you are doing. Well almost ten years later perhaps I can see it as a right of passage that I have literally accomplished this feat. Below is a series of paintings created out of natural paints made from clay rocks, picked from the waters of the Huallaga River in Northern Highland Amazon Jungle of Peru. They are hand crushed and applied to local handmade banana paper. A local artist, Trina Brammah, showed me where to find and create these paints myself. Trina also founded the sustainable Art Center Sachaqa that I have been working in.

My travels to get where I am now have been a journey of self discovery and revelation that will carry me to my future to come. For almost a year now I have been trekking sola from Colombia, through Ecuador to Peru, searching out alternative ways of living, building, thinking, being. I see the town I am in now, San Roque, as a wonderful rest point that has brought together my thoughts and skills attained on this search. Here I have been working full time to help build two houses using the local indigenous method of dried mud called Quincha. I also traveled to local farms to help with coffee harvesting.

In my spare time I have been experimenting with the local natural paints. My residence is a bamboo and leaf house at a spiritual center called Hunab-Ku. Here there is ample time to realize my ideals of acceptance, non-attachment, intuition, being, curiosity and excitment about life. A mix of strong community, connection to the land, and respect for nature makes this a fufilling environment. My days are full but I have never felt rushed through my tasks. I feel I have time, cook healthy meals, read, paint, sleep, hike and all the while ot seems as if I am just hanging out with friends and together we are helping each other manifest the life we envision. Returning to this mindset has reminded me of a natural flow and continuity in life can be achieved no matter where I am. Wise friends have told me, when you are in the right place, reaching your potential just flows and your goals are manifested, not perhaps without effort but without struggle. Everyday I feel I get closer to being in this right place.

The paintings themselves are a manifestation of my desire to create beauty that is derived more directly from nature. To see where all the materials come from and know they will go back someday not harming but enriching the earth. The colors of the river match the skin tones of the people here a reminder to me that we are all made of the same thing, we are all the same.

I am mailing my paintings home and selling my painting to help donate a portion to the Ñawpa Runa Foundation who supports the continuation of local art traditions such as pottery and paper making. Nawpa Runa has just started a project to create a book to share ancient medicinal plant knowledge. A medical student I met agreed to study under a woman in the region to learn and translate her knowledge into a book. I hope to help do the design and the proceeds made from the art will go to help publish the book.. If one piece speaks to you and you cannot pay I am open to Trueque (an exchange of goods, services or knowledge).

I hope you enjoy them and everyday find that space to match mind, body, and lifestyle.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Art Exhibition in Peru

Through Sachaqa Art Center I had the great opportunity to show my work in a gallery exhibition here in Lamas, Peru this weekend during the celebration of Corpus Christi. A big festival was held in this cultural town with many of the native people coming to share traditional foods and crafts. I exhibited next to a very well respected local artist Yolanda Racceto. We both had impressionistic paintings of the local people so it was a good combination. I felt that my portraits of the local natives made from natural paints on handmade banana paper was very well received by the people and I was happy with the show.

The posters

With the paintingsDaniel who helped me set up the show with his wife Trina, the founder of Sachaqa Art Center on the Left and my friend Jesulyn on the right.
Yolanda and I. She has lived all over including New York and exhibited in many countries.The little gringa painting in the street
It was a little difficult painting with the crowd but the people really seemed to enjoy watching and it was great to the kids so interested in the art.

Another artist Juan who did some chainsaw sculpting...a little more exciting than me!

I made some great contacts and have some more potential exhibits ligned up and may paint some murals in the town of Lamas as well.

Photos by Freddy Guillen Villacorta of Lamas

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sticks and Mud in San Roque, Peru

San Roque de Cumbaza, San Martin, Peru.
A view here in San Roque.

A pleasant river wraps between small mud houses covered in grey Shapaja palm leaves surrounded by the misty mountains of the high jungle. It´s not to hard to like San Roque at first site. Each day, however, reveals more secrets tucked in to the hidden corners of the land: pottery of the Lamistas, Cacoa and coffee chacras, mystical medicinal plants, high waterfalls, fireflies, monkeys, and of course the beautiful people who greet you with an hola and a warm smile always. I have been here going on 3 months now and below are some of the projects I have been involved or learned about here.

San Roque bridge
Mishkiyacu eco community here in San Roque
6 hour hike to insane waterfalls here.

Sachaqa Centro de Arte.

Sachaqa website

I first heard about this area through Trina´s art center. A sustainable artist’s retreat in the amazon, you say? Heck yeah I am going there. Trina, from England, has run the center for over 4 years bringing people from all over to have a beautiful and therapeutic place to practice art. Trina showed me how to make natural paints out of the river rocks, something that has been a dream of mine for a long time.

A new art center was being built as a part of a larger sustainable community. I happened to be very fortunate that they were just beginning to build this and another house out of the traditional local method called Quincha. The exact type of project I had been hoping to get my hands dirty in on my trip.

The Sustainable Community

Ana, a mother of three, is helping Trina add her art studio to a growing sustainable community on her land.

Joey, another volunteer, helps Luna go to the river to collects rocks to build.

Sachaqa Art Center
Just the frame of Trina's art center.

Almost finished!

The view isn't bad.


Quincha is a traditional method of using caña brave to make an earthquake-proof frame covered in mud to build a light airy house perfect for the warm humid climate here.

Quincha Recipe:

  • A pile of Dirt
  • 1/3 water
  • rice leaves
  • banana palm stems shredded
  • Directions: mix all together and mash well with feet.

Long soft bricks can then be made by slapping globs of it into the mud until they are nice and thick. The long bricks are then hung over the caña brava and smoothed into a wall. Once dry another layer of mud and rice leaves is smoothed over. And there your have your eco house. Trina and Daniel hope to have the art center done soon to invite artists to this new site within the community.

Mashing mud

Wood secured with strips of bark
The caña brava frame is earth-quake proof
windows help lighten the monolithic structure
Glass bottle windows are a cheap upcycled way to get some light in too
Securing glass bottle windows in between the caña brava

Chirapa Manta

Javier and Claudia´s eco center, Chirapa Manta, is the other house we have been building out of mud. Even though it is out of mud, this is pretty luxurious eco-housing. There is a group of people here who are all friends and are striving to start green enterprises like this one to keep San Roque clean and sustainable and also help educate the people of Peru about the importance of our earth.

Javier says: “Here we all are teachers and we learn from everybody, even from the animals and plants... here there is no master, we are all together going through this beautiful adventure…”

The large structure is also caña brava

Artistic Details
Designs in the mud give it some glamour :)

Glass designs in the doorway.

Ñawpa Runa Non-Profit Project

Ñawpa Runa Facebook

Trina´s husband Daniel is very involved in the arts, music, dance and traditions of the area. His Non-profit, Ñawpa Runa aims at preserving the indigenous traditions in ceramic works, handicraft such as: basket weaving, embroidery, knitting and folk dances, as well as the need to preserve the Quechua language. There is a women here with knowledge of local medicinal plants, healing ailments such as, arthritis, rheumatism, infections, intestinal worms, diarrhea, cancer, diabetes etc. She would like to teach people and have help documenting her knowledge. He also strives to teach practical topics in the production of Cacao, Honey, Coffee, Cotton, Beans, Riceon the local farms.

In the culture of these indigeneous people the basic element consists not in “development” but living in “equilibrium” within the numerous ecosystems and the order that exists between species of the great biodiversity that exist in the Amazon region.

Chazuta at susnset

A woman of 90 years works on the pottery in Chazuta, which is some of the most well made in the San Martin area.


The medicinal plants around Hunab-ku

The roomy bamboo and thatched roof loft I have been living in is a part of Hunab-Ku, a spiritual center surrounded by a botanical garden with Amazonian medicinal plants. The construction of the center was realized according to the laws of sacred geometry using local and natural materials. I was told also that the elements of construction were meant to bring forth your path and especially for women your intuition. I have to say that I had a lot of vivid dreams here and everyone who slept here said the same .

Activies at Hunab-Ku

Bake day with the orno at Huab-Ku.

Shamanism, Ancient wisdom and the Origins of Life

San Roque is known for it’s traditional ayahuasca ceremonies. People from many countries fly here for a weekend just to have a ceremony. " Ayahuasca " is Quechua for "spirit vine" or "vine of the souls". It is a brew of the giant forest plant banisteriopis caapi mixed with psychotria virdis. Brewed for hours together, they have strong hallucinogenic properties that have been historically consumed by the western half of the Amazon valley and isolated tribes on the pacific slopes of the Ecuadorian and Colombian Andes. Unlike San Pedro, which deals more with the outer world of nature, ayahuasca is done at night and taps into cleansing your inner self which can be a terrifying experience revealing and releasing bad energy people hold inside. I have heard many things about the different experiences and revelations of those using ayahuasca as a therapy.

Most are struck immediately by vived hallucinations, some see images of the universe, the earth before life, the veins in their hand as the same as the veins in a leaf, a feeling of connection to all things, a clear vision of who they are, and almost all see terrifuing twisting snakes. They say that the snake is the mother of the ayahuasca .

Much of indigenous mythology claim to have come from auywaska visions as well as their unbelievably complex medicines created without access to modern science. The indiginous say the auywaska revealed many secrets of medicine to them.

A current belief is that somehow the plant allowed shamans to gain acess to biomelecular information. Most the images that appear over an over in indigenous mythology, which comes from ayahuasca visions, can be connected to the discoveries of modern science. According to Jeremy Narby´s book, The cosmic serpent: DNA and the origins of knowedge, imagery of twisting snakes occures over and over in visons and mythology as a symbol of the vital life force that the indiginous believe permeates every living thing. Narby sees this as metaphorical imagery of the double helix of DNA. Often this vital life force is seen as arrivng to earth from another place. An account from anthropologist in Peru during auywaska vision said they saw the world before life and how life came from cosmic origin of twin snakes landing on earth and mutating into many forms. The widley held belief that life spontanelously created itself on earth is also challenged by Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA. He wrote in Life Itself: Its origin and nature: That probability of change emergence of a single protein need to create DNA are in the odds of one in 20 to the 200th, this is enormously greater than the number of atoms in the observable universe (estimated at 10to the 80th)- Crick resolves that life “cannot have arisen by pure chance”. This evidence of life emerging from out side of earth struck me as very interesting. Whether or not the twisitng serpants truly represnt an ancient knowledge of DNA and that life came from another place is anybodys guess. However, it is undeniable that the indiginous have a deep understaning that there is a vital life force that connects us all and an incredible knowledge of the medicinal power of plants that cannot be lost.

A section of Auywaska growing in Hunab-Ku like twisitng snakes.

After learning a lot about shamanism and ayahuasca ceremonies I came to realize that most of it I had already learned in a few seconds from viewing one of Trinas paintings.

I talked with many people who have tried these cleanses and all said they found answers to something. It was reveled to a mother who had little time to play with her kids to look in their eyes deeply to make that connection with them. Others todl me stories that they were shown who they were and who they would be which helped greatly on there path of life.

OK mom and dad, before you get scared and think that I am wigging out on strange halluanagenic drugs in the jungle, don’t worry. I haven’t taken any. I feel that my path of enlightenment doesn’t include external medicines at this point in my life but other practices internal in myself. I believe that everyone has their own way and the ancient medicinal plants of the jungle are a fascinating history to learn about.

Indiginous of San Martin area

I have had some really great opportunities to work on some of the local farms and spend time with some indiginous families here. They still speak Quechua, the native dialect, and still tend the land like they have been for centuries. Below is Pantronilla, a Lamista who showed me the traditional technique of making pottery.

Here they don't have fancy wheels, they make rools and pinch each layer of clay together.
After the pot is done it is fired for a week.
Patronilla and I.

Patronilla with Marybelle in her traditional clothes.

Patronilla is 63 and still a hard worker.

The family invited me to stay for lunch.
The menu: farm fresh chicken soup, beans and plantains
Abuela linda

Selling pottery in the castle in Lamas

Really so much to see and do in San Roque though at first glance a sleepy little town tucked in the jungle. I will have more info on my art with natural paints soon!