Falling to Heaven, 2015

“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.” – Milan Kundara, The Unbearable Lightness of Being


Falling to Heaven, from above

Bird handbuilt from ceramic, surfaced with flocking and graphite, hung with leather cord.
Bird handbuilt from ceramic, surfaced with flocking and graphite, hung with leather cord.

Falling to Heaven Close-up

Salem Identity Mask Project

I worked with the residents at Salem Lutheran Home, an Eden Alternative Care property in Oakland, on a project about identity and community. For the first stage of the project I made mask forms out of clay in conversation with the residents, and then I made plaster molds from those forms. I cast a several of each style of mask.

In the second stage, we did workshops in which residents chose a mask and then used underglaze and transfer decals to illustrate their exterior and interior identities on the mask forms.

In the final creation stage, we had a conversation in which each resident chose some themes that defined their lives: leadership, spirit, family, adventure, etc.

I installed the masks in a tree on the property. All the adventure masks were joined by an adventure ribbon, the spirit by a spirit ribbon, etc. Finally, all the masks were joined by one long ribbon for the community at Salem.

The piece was unveiled at an afternoon community celebration of art and jazz open to both Salem residents and their surrounding community.

Installed Masks at Salem Lutheran Home, Oakland
Installed Masks at Salem Lutheran Home, Oakland
Installed Masks at Salem Lutheran Home, Oakland
Installed Masks at Salem Lutheran Home, Oakland
Setting up for the Art and Jazz celebration at Salem Lutheran Home
Setting up for the Art and Jazz celebration at Salem Lutheran Home

Djinnaya at the Salem Mask Installation


The experience was intense and rewarding. As the guide for the project, I became intensely aware of the fragility of our identities and stories.  Just like these masks, they have to be held gently; but also just like these masks, they have to risk a little damage in order to be seen in all their glory.

I am very grateful to the Center for Art and Public Life for the Kinetic Grant that funded the project.  I also owe endless thanks to Erin Partridge for her expert guidance and support.  I could not have done it without her assistance and encouragement.  Finally, I cannot send enough thanks to the residents of Salem Lutheran Home who trusted me with their stories and their images.  You enriched my life and my work every day we got to work together.

Installation: Baker Beach Cave Flowers

Cave Flowers is a series of ceramic pieces, created as public art installations in hidden places. They are intended to create a moment of magic for the viewer, as he or she comes across the unexpected flowers in his or her environment. They can be either fired ceramics, left there to either be broken or taken or left for other; or they can be greenware/unfired ceramics, left with the intention that the environment will wash away the flowers.

These flowers were installed at low tide on Baker Beach in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. They were buried in the sand just above the tide level. During their installation, I answered questions of anyone who approached me, but I did not approach anyone until they approached me. I intentionally did  not do anything to interact with the environment in which the flowers were placed, letting the entire environment (e.g. birds, people, dogs, waves) do what they would with the flowers.

Journal Notes:

7:51am – finally set up.  Surprisingly many people here.   I’d like to have the camera closer, but don’t want to move it.  I’ll have a better idea of how high the tides actually go next time. 

7:55 – First shot.  Water just came over.  Rocks clicking together in the surf are awesome sounding. 

8:00 – 2nd photo.  Lady with 2 dogs came by and admired them.  One of the dogs licked the solitary flower and made a sad face.  Apparently, art is pretty but not tasty.

8:05 – 3rd pic. Water starting to hit every 5th wave or so

8:10 – 4th pic.  Couple on walk looked at them but seemed kind of irritated by them.  Found the vid setting on the other camera.  Took 30 sec video.

8:15 – 5th pic

8:20 – 6th pic.  Fisherman nearby almost got in the shot.  Rocks are washing up through the flowers.

8:23 – Big wave knocked some over.

8:25 – 7th pic. Petals washing father up shore.

8:30 – 8th pic. Flowers being pulled out to sea.

8:35 – 9th pic.  Flowers full of water and sand.  When I walk over to take close ups, it’s hard not to fix them.

8:40 – 10th pic.  Almost got a fisherman again.  Odd conflicting feelings about wanting this to go fast and slow.  “Hurry up & show me what comes next!” mixed with sadness at seeing them go.

8:42 – 30 sec vid

8:45 – 11th pic.  More dogs, but these liked my blanket more than the flowers

8:47 – Guy throwing ball for his dog keeps tossing it about 6” away from the flowers

8:50 – 12th pic . Waves pulling more away.  Only two left standing.  Clay looks soft.

8:55 – Guy stopped to ask if this was for a photo class.  13th pic.  1 hour.

9:00 – 14th pic. Guy came back to tell me about ceramic classes inDaly City.

9:03 – took lame vid trying to capture the flower bodies rolling away in the surf

9:05 – 15th pic. Battery warning… uh-oh

9:10 – 16th pic.  Almost unrecognizable now.  Fav comment today  “So it’s like an Andrew Goldsmith kind of thing?”

9:15 – 17th pic. Can tell color changes in rocks from light.  No longer dawn.

9:20 – found some clay that fell next to the camera.  It is fully softened.  18th pic.

9:25 – Wave bent the flower over 19th pic.

9:30 20th picture.  Can hear rocks in the surf again.

9:35 – 21st pic.  Some pieces rolled back up.

9:40 – 22nd pic.  Jusst little nubs left.  Some tubes left, washed way to the right of the frame.

9:45 – 23rd pic.  Concerned about zoom.  Did I rezoom all the shots?

9:50 – 24th and 25th pic.  Felt like a 2nd… Tube washed up and washed away again.

9:54 – Wave finally caught me on a close-up.

9:55 – 26th picture

10:00 – 27th picture

10:05 – 28th picture

10:10 – 29th picture