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187 Steps: SAR and the Journey Within



I just found this post that I failed to publish, so here it is... finally! Arriving home stalled working on the Gnarly Root. Getting things in order after being gone for 3 months, and plans for my return shifted, so I have been focused on getting new directions established. Don't worry, I will be back at it soon! Until then, here is last months update on the Gnarly Root.

Throughout life, very few of my adventures could be defined as predictable, routine or without danger. In fact, most of the time, the thought “silence is golden” hit me as I returned home from another excursion. Such was NOT the case with my experience at the School for Advanced Research (SAR). Almost daily, as I embarked on my walk from my temporary home, the Kings Residence, to the Dubin Studio – exactly 187 steps away, my journey was filled with messages that directed my creative flow in the sculpting of the Gnarly Root. It felt like the twisted fusion of various sized roots from an ancient Cottonwood tree spoke to me every morning as I walked to the studio, directing me, and changing up my vision to become more of a creation truly from nature.

I had a tough year in 2017 where I felt like I lost my creative juices. I became so depressed that I felt “rock bottom” was the only phrase to define myself emotionally. Reality hit me in many ways, and if it wasn’t for the support of a dear friend who picked me up and put me back on my feet, along with the direction (sometimes scolding) from my gardening partner as we built the Heritage Garden for the Verde Valley Archaeology Center, I think “rock bottom” would have been the end result. But there was a “light at the end of the tunnel” with an upcoming artist residency, the Ella and Rollin King Fellowship at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe. It was a journey I will never forget.

In September this year, I departed for Santa Fe and stepped in the door of Kings Residence, then took a tour of the Indian Arts Research Center’s 16 acre complex. I could feel that something was going to be different about this experience. I realized that a “rehab” opportunity was in my wake. My comment when we entered the house was, “I’m never leaving this house”… until I saw the studio. It felt like it was a dream, and that soon, I would wake up. However, Mother Nature and my spirit guides had different plans.


The first half of the Residency was spent finishing up several works in progress and reconnecting with my creative self. I discovered that I had lost the inner voice that guides me, so the start was more about restoring my SELF - recharging and just allowing nature to speak to me. I started tracking the wildlife on the property, and discovered deer, rabbit and roadrunner tracks, along with a coyote that proved to be a good tracker/hunter. There were also several varieties of birds including Red Tail Hawks and Flickers, which are important to me. I never took photos of the birds as they are my ancestors. Supposedly, there was also a bobcat on the property, but I never found tracks proving thus. I did see some cloven hoof tracks that seemed too big for deer and was thinking javelina, but heard they were not in the area. Later on, an article in the local newspaper dispelled that thought. Apparently one was spotted somewhere in the neighborhood.

Finally, I started working on the Gnarly Root and it took right off. The passion kicked in and on several occasions, with the clock approaching 2 or 3 in the morning, I had to force myself to stop, but the progress was moving fast. My work tends to be more detailed than most, and I go through several phases to complete a project. In fact, I usually touch every part of the surface at least 12 times before it’s ready to paint. Once I finish painting the piece, I set it aside, wait a few days, and do a final inspection, touching up any overlooked details. It takes a lot to finish, but even then, I still don’t understand the full message until the detail work is done and I can stand back and see what the story is all about. Then, and only then do I fully understand my creations. In the case of the Gnarly Root, all of this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t spent the first 90 days taking that journey, those sacred 187 steps, every morning from the house to the studio at the School For Advanced Research.

Some of the things that I did during residency were two presentations, one at SAR and the other at the Millicent Rogers Museum. I also arranged for several exhibits at museums, of which the details are still to be worked out and then a couple of speaking engagements, so my experience more than met my goals. As I am, even my presentations can be unconventional as shown here in a photo I took at the start of my speach. My comment was "As a business person, one should never miss a marketing opportunity, so please smile everyone." What a great response!


At the moment, I am roughly 70% completed with the roughing in phase, and will be working on the Gnarly Root at my public studio in Sedona. I haven’t established a daily routine in the studio yet, but if you are interested in visiting and actually following the piece while I work on it, please like my (https://www.facebook.com/hopiartisan). I will post on there when I am hanging out in the studio, or you can follow the progress with this blog. Incidentally, I am going to privatize the reports of my project now, so a password will be required to see any further posts. Please sign up for my blog, and I will share the password at the time of the next posting.


I would like to thank this group of people who were my on campus family.

I would like to share a deep expression of gratitude to Elysia Poon, Curator of Education, and to Daniel Kurnit, and Diego Medina for keeping my daily life in order and allowing me to lose myself in this adventure. Also, to the staff and scholars, thank you for your friendship that kept me from wandering too far from campus as I traveled through a journey that was rewarding in many ways other than just career pursuits. Thank you everyone.

#GnarlyRoot

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