we’re packing. off to South America tomorrow! wheeeee! I’m excited. Another chance to practice my speak-like-four-year-old Spanish, visit another exotic place on this planet i’ve not been to, and learn more from others. New culture, new food, new music–everything will be new, except for the similarity found around the world–we’re all in the family of man.
when i wanted to be an artist, back in the Dark Ages of my discovering i wanted to become one, I decided to apply to THE most prestigeous art school at that time, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston (believe it or not, that is its formal name: quite a mouthful, eh?). I had already fallen in love with art. Like some people fall in love with a person, or a style, or anything else, I was totally consumed by what art meant. So to prepare a compulsary admissions portfolio for the Musum School, I set about copying the photographs contained in the marvelous collection put out by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, also called “The Family of Man.” All I knew how to do, in those days, was copy. When it came time for me to try my hand at something truly original, as I thought what kind of art-school applicant was I, to not have anything but copies–it turned out to be the MOST difficult thing I’d ever done in my life, up to that 18-year old’s juncture in time.
When I discovered it, Art, was about all of humankind, since the earliest cave paintings right up to the most incongruous modern rip-off contemporary art (Damien Hirst, anyone?). Making and looking and feeling art–mostly, the feeling part–made me imagine i was connected to the rest of humanity more than anything I’d ever discovered.
by the way, i was accepted at the Museum School, and had never had an art lesson either.
Here, from my archives is the oldest piece of my art I have to share with you (that is, scanned; and believe me, you don’t want to see the learning-how attempts at my early art-making, except to see how, with this artist, everything came from repetition, not an innate talent). You can see for yourself how I’ve always been on this track–praising Nature–and thereby Spirit also–through art, including the art of word-smithing.
Right from the start i’ve been a devotee of all things natural. A friend of mine at the time, Tim Plowman, was working on his Ph.D. at Harvard, asked me to be his illustrator. The drawing above was my “test”…to see if I could handle the subtleties of being a portrait artist of such delicate, nuanced creatures as our green growing friends. And i guess i passed, because Tim asked me to illustrate his doctorate thesis on brunfelsia; plus another botanist did as well, Tom E. Lockwood, for the species brugmansia, whose common name is “angel’s trumpet,” and is the tree form of the datura bush, which ironically, is commonly called “devil’s weed.” Life, ain’t it weird. Names, aren’t they strange?
Don’t forget…lord flea, in case you never clicked on my “who is lord flea?” on this blog, or googled Lord Flea. This is the name of a now-passed-over calypso singer, which i’ve taken to honor and signify how we can all, together, sing the song of Oneness. If we do, the world will become a better place little by little. And getting better is something that gives each and every one of us an “itch”…(as in “flea” ha ha!) to raise ourselves up Up UP!!
why am I reminiscing about my past, my “other life” as a botanical illustrator, when, at the culmination of that career, I was honored to have been given the task of illustrating the coca bush, the very plant that has caused such havoc among modern culture, from poverty-stricken farmers who rely upon it as a cash-crop, to armed cartels that kill to keep their profits, to squads of government agencies determined to stop the flow of its processed product, cocaine? Why am I thinking so much of this plant, coca erthyroxulum, here, on the eve of my journey to South America?
Because—to me South America is the land of magic realism (Gabriel Garcia Marquez-land!). What starts off as something “real” can easily twist and turn, and … end up being a thing of myth, of magic, of surreal interractions with our own lives. I love putting myself into situations that challenge my sense of “what is.” What really IS life about anyway? We think we’re looking at a plant…but really, to someone else’s perceptions–we’re looking at a goddess.
i try to live each moment as if it’s my last…but i plan as if i’ll live forever. and I hope to catch a lot of magical moments in between.
Friends, live and laugh and sing the song of Oneness. Please! DANCE, enjoy! It’s much more fun living this way, thinking how joyously interconnected we all are. I will blog wherever I can from internet cafes along our route…going to Argentina and Chile, high in the Andes, besides the ocean and rivers, in cities, mountains, villages, footpaths–in others’ homes. Maybe we’ll discover some good trails for mountain biking, or just plain hiking. Lots of looking, talking and editing my book at sidewalk cafes, watching people pass by. Sigh. The world turns…right here! before us! I know i’ll be able to catch a little magic along the way to share with you, my friends.
in the Light, lordflea