The following is the introduction I read on the opening evening of an event at The Art Bar in Santa Ana, CA, held from June 23-26, 2005, a weekend of workshops with "True Colors" artists.
If the beginning of the True Colors collaboration matched all the excitement, surprise, delight and pure wonder of everything it has become, it would have needed to go something like this:
I would have been doing something ordinary like watering the lawn. Over the hiss of the water I could hear faint music, the tinkling sound like an ice cream truck, but the song would be “Chariots of Fire.” Our ice cream man plays “Send In The Clowns.” Then along with the music I could hear women’s voices and laughter. Soon I could see the bus, a rolling Peter-Max-Ken-Kesey Easter egg of a bus, trailing flowers and ribbons and banners, graceful arms tossing confetti from the windows. This Queen Of All Buses stops at my driveway and in chorus the women shout, “Get in!” Cars pass with great honking and waving. I step aboard and I can tell you, the ride hasn’t stopped yet.
But the real beginning was a quiet email invitation to be part of a journal exchange based on color. The chance to share our art, to exchange freely our imaginations, to expand, to join. The joy of creating and giving was the intention, nothing else was needed. So we began – some of us puzzled novices, tackling such a project for the first time, others veterans with art careers that reached back decades.
The books set out on their journeys from hand to hand. As one of the newcomers, I was struck by the level of generosity – generosity so great as to be nearly absurd – that I had never witnessed nor imagined. The books started to fill – even in the early days some had to be tied shut – and the sense of being connected to pure magic could not be ignored. Word of the magic reached the outside world and it was suggested we share the books, perhaps through a magazine article. Instead, our once quiet, no-fanfare exchange became the book, True Colors, and continues to widen with this weekend of bringing artists and journals together. Each segment of the journey has come as a gift – not anything expected or sought but more a blessing equal to the spirit of giving that marked the entire collaboration.
The real world rewards from True Colors continue to arrive, but so do the less quantifiable ones – the mind and heart and spirit connections. Somewhere in the process we separate souls became an entity, joined in the way that can only come from sharing a profound experience. I have found, in addition to that absurd generosity, such impossible kindness, a kinship that usually develops over years of friendship and trust. Before this weekend, many of us had never met. These beautiful sisters, known only at a distance over the past four years, were suddenly here.
We can and will talk about the actual books tonight, all weekend, and into the future. As remarkable as they are, the way in which they have woven our lives together is even more rare. That is one of the untold stories.
My magical mystery tour feelings about the TRUE COLORS collaboration, as expressed in 2005, have mellowed, growing richer and more enduring. To have been part of this project brings up emotions that I imagine are shared by players on any championship team, acknowledging that all the joy is real and will not tarnish nor become less than it is. I wore the jersey, I got to play, my name is on the trophy, I have the ring.
As I consider what I would list as the greatest gifts this project gave me, the women, their friendship and support, come first. Even though we had e-mailed each other and talked on the phone for years, Lynne Perrella and I did not meet until the Art Bar weekend. There I also met Lisa Hoffman, Michelle Ward, Judi Riesch and Karen Michel, in the lobby of our hotel, a certifiable frenzy of squealing, laughing, hugging, and however much of our separate stories could be told simultaneously. I arrived home three days later, missing the others so much it felt as though I had been banished from my only-just-found tribe.
Their tribal protectiveness flew into action three years ago when my son was hospitalized with a near-fatal illness. They widened the circle beyond the TC group and drew in other artists whose prayers, encouragement, gifts and energy sustained me for the weeks, then months, of his recovery. That this happened over Christmas was eased by their continual messages and mail and the knowledge that I had an army behind me. I am relieved that I don't have to imagine how I would have gotten through those days without them and the way they linked with my family and old friends, sending love, love and more love. Theirs will always be the hands upon the oars in my lifeboat.
It is through friendship with these sisters that I decided to begin blogging, not about art but as a writing exercise. Though I have recently managed to add a few photos and videos, I recognize the need to keep it about the writing, allowing the words to be enough. A recent commitment to myself put writing before pretty much everything else and while I have no clear direction other than just to keep doing it, I know it is carrying me forward on my path. Since TC was published, I have done additional stamp designs, both for my original manufacturer, Rubbermoon, and for Stampington and Co. My heart will always belong to mail art, moving from stamping to original illustrations on envelopes. Often the figures which debut there go on the become stamps. Over the past 10 years, there have been smaller group projects for various publications, each one expanding my boundaries and giving me another form to which I can return, something new for my bag of tricks.
TRUE COLORS is part of the continuum of my life. Membership in that club will cast its light across my time line forever. It may compare, for someone of my vintage, to having been at Woodstock or at the Senate Office Building the morning Bobby Kennedy announced he was running for President. In our creative world, I believe it is a piece of history and, as with other events whose significance is only recognized in hindsight, I know how fortunate I am to have been there.