Sue Roberts at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center

February 28, 2015

Didn’t Mom tell you not to judge a book by its cover?  Did your teacher say that art is about revealing inner reality?  Artist Sue Roberts upholds both these maxims in her pointed and funny show “Family of Sorts” currently at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center. (You can click on any image to see an enlargement.)

The Gun Family by Sue Roberts

“The Gun Family” by Sue Roberts

Attracted to “story” as I am, I was immediately drawn to this show (and gratified to see that artist has just ignored the vilifications which were heaped on visual narrative in my art school days).  Beyond the story, though, I was attracted to the painterly excellence applied to the ceramic work.  The artist doubles the intent of the work by skillfully adding semi-opaque 2-D layers which amplify the normal 3-D features of the work.  In the case of “The Gun Family”, the underpainting and overpainting on the surface gives a subtle and most appropriate grit-and-glitter result to this social commentary on interpretations of the Second Amendment.

The artist uses another technique which adds meaning to her stories:  Some of the work has a homespun look.

"The Pleaser" by Sue Roberts

“The Pleaser” by Sue Roberts

In “The Pleaser”  the costume conveys this meaning. But also, the dry and unsophisticated feel of the surface emphasizes by calling into question the complex maneuvering required for being a successful “pleaser”.

Compare that to

"Talons" by Sue Roberts

“Talons” by Sue Roberts

“Talons” which for the most part is polished with a coat of encaustic (a beeswax and resin concoction applied with heat).  The resulting seductive surface adds another layer of meaning to the “story”, especially where it contrasts with the unpolished “skin” of the talons.

"Oblivion" by Sue Roberts

“Oblivion” by Sue Roberts

In “Oblivion” the artist treats the ceramic surface with what appears to be more established glazing techniques.  The colors and surfaces are less subtle, the story more specific.  What contemporary person does not recognize this chap who is oblivious to his world and to the oblivion in the falls ahead?

If you are in the area, go see the show.  It is up until March 15, 2015. There is a master class with the artist on March 14.  Find out all about it at

1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd.
Port Angeles, WA 98362


Leave time to see the sculpture garden!  More about that to come

Trip to Hurricane Ridge

February 16, 2015

Oola has been a bit down in the mouth with all the overcast skies and rain since we arrived.  So when we woke her with the news of a brilliant day, she rolled over and went back to sleep.


The weather can change here seemingly in an instant, so that when Oola decided to get up, the sky was gloomy again.

Still, the radio prognosticators had promised a great day, so we piled into Mom’s memorial Prius and began the 20 mile drive to Hurricane Ridge — the mountains we saw from across the harbor in the last post.

We climbed up and up until the clouds that were covering Port Angeles were beneath us.  At about 5200+ feet we came to a ski-bunny area.  And — WHAAAAT? — no snow.  Our Sequim friend and long time area resident had said that this is very early for the snow melt.

But the air was intense, and the light was dazzling.  It was not hard to make the best of the situation.

Oola soaked up sun for a while.

Oola sunning on Hurricane Ridge

Oola sunning on Hurricane Ridge

I shamelessly snapped tourist/calendar pictures one after another. (Click for image enlargement even though no imagery could do justice to what was in front of our eyes.)

The deep, steep valleys were carved over millennia by water and glacier.  Gazing on them brought to mind “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert which I have been reading.  I highly recommend it to you.

Oola soon had her sunny disposition back and began to play in the ski area.  Here is a picture of when she tried out her tight-rope walking skills on the ski lift.

Oola plays on the ski lift.

Oola plays on the ski lift.

Meanwhile I brooded on the absurdity of trying to make poetry of that which is already poetry.  On the way home I saw this,

cherry blossom and reflection

cherry blossom and reflection

and thought it stood a better chance of becoming a poem than all the picts I took at the top of the mountain.


On Ediz Hook Road

February 10, 2015

After a week of unpacking and of dealing with pass-the-buck bureaucracy worthy of a Russian novel, the Mysterious One and I made a quick decision to investigate that spit of land north of us called the Ediz Hook Reservation for Native Birds.  Didn’t see a whole lot of birds but we did see this looking south over the harbor to the mainland and our neighbor, Olympic National Park.

Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge

Looking north, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Canada IS there.

Canada across the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Canada across the Strait of Juan de Fuca

And there were a few hardy people with their boats.  Cheryl didn’t have a boat with her, but she had a delightful pet ferret on a leash.  She made me think about what Cecilia Gallerani might do with her time when she wasn’t posing for da Vinci or waiting on Ludivico.

Cheryl and her ferret

Cheryl and her ferret

Lady with Ermine

Lady with Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci


Oakland to Port Angeles

February 9, 2015

Sometimes a Road Trip is a journey of necessity.  I took such a trip last week when I left my lifelong home in the SF Bay Area to take up new (and more affordable) digs on the northern Olympic Peninsula.  On such a trip one usually does not do a lot of sight seeing due to the pile of the odds and ends of one’s life in the back seat of the car.

Still there is beauty and surprise to be encountered along the way.

evening colors

evening colors

I wonder about this rest stop.  Presumably it is advisable to let one’s pet get thoroughly wet before getting back in the car!

pet rest stop

pet rest stop

Morning frost

morning frost

morning frost

afternoon mist

misty day

misty day

and incongruity in a glimpse.

dog's best friend

dog’s best friend

There are fears to be confronted.  (This is a biggie for me.)



There are social issues to be mulled

rest stop beggar


and marital concerns to be pondered.

two-way road sign

two-way road

There is beauty such as is found on calendars.

Mt. Shasta in the morning

Mt. Shasta in the morning

And there is beauty to spite the real world.

view of Mt. Shasta

Another view of Mt. Shasta

There is that heady sensation called ALMOST THERE .

Quinault River bridge

Quinault River bridge

Finally, after three days, my new home.  We’re supposed to be able to see Canada from the front windows.

evening colors

view from the WildCard’s window

More to follow.




Heading South on Amtrak

December 17, 2014


You are looking at some lovingly restored, turn of the (19th) century corbels spaced on the corners of the Olympia-Lacey Amtrak station. How do I know they are “corbels”? Because the sign says they are “corbels”. Actually the word jangled a hardly-ever-used synapse formed in my art history days. So dusty was the memory that I had to look it up. According to the Apple dictionary a corbel is a projection jutting out from a wall to support a structure above it. — Makes sense. Another useless bit of information revitalized.

Two things about this little gem of a railroad station: It is run by volunteers, people who really love trains. They seem to love helping clueless travelers like me. And they seem to love things like cheering, describing to each other, and counting aloud how many cars on a freight train from Canada.

Two things I have noticed in my short stay in Washington: Maybe it is the influence of the neighboring Canadians, but the people we have met have been kind and generous.

For example, the Mysterious One – who is a little short of his sell-by date — and a friend of similar vintage were unloading some heavy particle board sheets in the alley by our back door and causing a blockage in the thoroughfare. A “youngster” drove up in a pickup truck. Now, where we come from there would have been some honking, maybe a rude finger or two, and scornful disapproval. But this young man got out of his truck and asked to help load the wood. He made himself useful, then he drove on.

I had similar experiences. And while shopping for our supplies, we received info and assistance from all ages and colors of knowledgeable sales clerks. Nary a surly one among them. We were amazed!

We have heard funny turns of phrases. One that stuck was by a man who disapproved of the design of a car. “It looks like an upside-down up”, he said.

So, the people, while generally conservative in this area, seem to be people we will like and want to work with. But all is not choruses of angels, even in Port Angeles. There is homelessness and heroin addiction in my new neighborhood. And the seagulls aim with devastating accuracy.

pigeons on a roof

pigeons on a roof

I climb aboard and begin the trek home, with plenty of time to ponder the imponderables, like why do all the pigeons sit atop one house and avoid all other roofs in the neighborhood on this rainy day?

PS  At the moment of this posting the train is stopped. I hear the conductor announcing “we have the situation under control”. That is comforting, I guess. There are people with walkie-talkies. HMMMMM.

The Blue Hole

December 16, 2014

This morning we drove a rented car from Olympia up to the north of the peninsula. The land was green and magnificent along the Hood Canal, the waters and the cottages wouldn’t let the eyes go. We spotted our first Bald Eagle. (Sorry, we were too slack jawed to grab a picture.)

But the sky was grey and the road was wet.

All us Californians have heard about the rain quantities in this part of the world. But the Mysterious One and I had been told about the micro-climates here. In particular we were told of the “Blue Hole” over Sequim and Port Angeles. We learned, but did not really believe, that the mountains of Olympic National Park cast a rain shadow.

We’ll we came around the curve toward Sequim and there was the Blue Hole!

Outside Sequim, the Blue Hole

Outside Sequim, the Blue Hole

I was flabbergasted by the snow on the mountains, which seemed to be right in the back yard, because the air is so clear. The land flows gently down to the sea from those mountains, and has been use for dairy land for a few many years now. Hence the picture of a dairy farm with Hurricane Ridge in the background and the Blue Hole overhead.

I don’t know enough to write about the native peoples here. But some have casino enterprises on tribal land. Oola and I probably won’t become involved in that activity. I read in the local paper that the Clallam County tribe is looking into pot (which is legal here in WA, but — we have found — not always welcome.) “The U.S. Dept of Justice said that Native American tribes can grow and sell marijuana on tribal lands”, says the local paper. There is controversy, and much discussion.

totemWe did, however, stop for brunch at the Longhouse’s Market and Deli outside Sequim. There we found this beautiful totem sculpture named “The Salmon Bringer”. Designed by Dale Faulstich, and carved by him along with Nathan Gilles, Harry Bulingame and Bud Turner in 2007.  What a beautiful statement, especially in this world where some people are trying to capitalize on Frankensalmon, and the native rivers of the West Coast are dammed, drained, polluted and overused.

Amtrak to Olympia

December 15, 2014
Amtrak station, Emeryville

Amtrak station, Emeryville

We are traveling on the Coast Starlight, but won’t see much of the coast since we are getting aboard in the Bay Area instead of LA.  This is not a good way to travel if time is your major consideration.  But if you want to experience the old days, with sleeper cars and full service, this is one of the last.

Our trip would take 20 hours and there was much to see.

Bridge and Reflections

Bridge and Reflections

So much that at first I didn’t notice that Oola was missing.

Getting into the upper bunk requires the skills of a contortionist but we finally fell asleep to alpha waves produced by the rhythm of the train climbing into Mt Shasta territory.  The shadows of trees pointing to a misty moon were mesmerizing.

I awoke to a stunning sunrise.


sunrise and irrigation canals somewhere in Oregon

And when I could finally start putting one thought after another, I realized that we had forgotten to bring Oola.  I think she overheard the Mysterious One’s comments concerning the pillow, crawled into one of the packed boxes of art supplies in the Oakland studio, and will not be found again until we are all safely in Port Angeles — permanently.

Snow in the Cascades

Snow in the Cascades

The scenery was stunning.  Too bad on her for missing it.

Mount Hood

Mount Hood

The other passengers pleasant to talk with.  But Oola didn’t think the joke was funny.

Tomorrow we will rent a car and drive the rest of the way to Port Angeles.  Meanwhile, I have to think of a way to make it up to Oola.

The Mysterious One says he will get her a corn dog.




Coast Starlight to Washington

December 14, 2014

Oola, the Mysterious One and I are about to embark on a trip to the northern Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.  Oola still thinks we are going in Mom’s Memorial Prius.

Oola, unPhotoshopped

Oola, unPhotoshopped

But really we are going on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight.  We have reserved a roomette.  I’m wondering how all three of us will fit in there. The Mysterious One says “We will put her under the pillow.  Nobody will hear her screams.”

Have to call the taxi soon.  I’ll keep you posted.


What the Hay-L is That?

November 9, 2014

This mysterious collection of guitar pieces limped through the door begging for help.  Wildcard of Wildcard Guitars checked it out and was asked “What the Hayl is that?”  “Should we just turn this into a 6-string guitar”? But the Wildcard noticed that the neck was off center and tipped. The instrument was well-made of Brazilian Rosewood (a rare commodity now) with good materials all around.  It deserved respect.

broken guitar

Stringed instrument with broken back on the driver’s side.

neck You see a white wired LED light that Oola gave to Wildcard so he could see what’s going on inside. He could see that there were broken braces inside. At this stage Wildcard was involved with detective work:  “How did this happen and how can I reverse the process?”  “What are the weaknesses of the design and how much modification/reinforcement can I ethically do and still represent this as an antique?” So Wildcard sent some photos off to Gregg Miner of the Harpguitar Foundation.  Gregg is a collector, player, promoter, scholar, and maven of Harp guitar — The guy to ask.  And he said “It’s a Dahlman theorbo guitar,  and it will be worth it.” The Wildcard explained to Oola that Theorbo means there are extra bass strings on the guitar. Wildcard didn’t know what would support the extra strings.  He thought the brace might be made out of wood, but Gregg showed him that in reality a stainless steel tube was the historically correct replacement.

Two head stocks

Two head stocks? Uncentered, tilted to driver’s side, Chewed up inlay, broken binding.  What the hayl IS that?

In the middle of this repair, the Wildcard was called away to Port Angeles, Washington, to find a place for his new workshop.  He found this space, a couple of blocks from the ferry to Victoria BC.111oak The bottom three lower windows on the left will be the new Wildcard Guitar pickin’ parlour.  The three window cluster next to the center door will be Dove Studio. Once back in West Oakland, the Wildcard resumed his repair. Body-back repaired Here the broken pieces are replaced and glued, and the binding restored and replaced. stainless steel tube Here it is with its stainless steel reinforcing tube. with strings, ready to go Here it is finished with strings, ready to play.  Its sound has a shimmering quality because of the sympathetic bass strings. This is a guitar from the time of Debussy and the sound is reminiscent of the music of that period. This instrument was used as the bass in the mandolin orchestras which were popular at the turn of the 20th century. Classical music was played on this type of instrument.  Segovia played and recorded the same music on 6-string guitars.  Segovia became famous because of the recordings.  And today, Oola notes, most guitars are of the 6-string variety.

Mickie Zekley

Mickie Zekley

Here’s Mickie Zekley, owner of Lark in the Morning.  (The WildCard and I used to love visiting his shop of odd musical instruments in San Francisco.)  Here he is in the WildCard shop with his newly restored theorbo guitar.  You can hear  him playing 30 seconds of his own composition at  The clip gives a good idea of what this instrument sounds like.

Mocking Bird Muse

October 8, 2014

You can click on the small images to see  larger versions.

Mom’s Memorial Prius now bears the dimples bestowed by “quarter-size hail” from a sudden thunderstorm that enveloped our climb into the Sierras during the last homeward trek.  Luckily nobody skidded off the road, and no glass was broken.  Scary though, when the windshield goes opaque with rain and hail.  Oola couldn’t see that part; she had her hands over her eyes for fear of the trucks.

It has been several weeks since the trip to Tennessee, several very busy weeks.  Among the results of all that activity is my newest artist book, Mocking Bird Muse.

Mocking Bird Muse - cover

Mocking Bird Muse – cover

Sometimes it takes a long time for a poem to ripen.  Mocking Bird Muse started as a poem about a prisoner/poet I knew when I worked as an artist at California Medical Facility in Vacaville in the ’80s. It grew into 2 books (each consisting of 4 one-paper books containing one line of the poem with photo collage) and a small one-paper book.  And it is no longer about a specific prisoner, or even about any prisoner in the conventional sense.

More pictures:

Mocking Bird Muse - drawer opened to reveal Part 3

Mocking Bird Muse – drawer opened to reveal Part 3

Opened up it looks something like this:

The text of the finished writing is stretched by the images and constrained by the necessities of the origami-like construction.  The text of these books reads:

Part one

This Jesus is a GONE poet
who combs his hair in precise exclamations!!
This poet has been known to steal crazy time.
He flies a mocking bird muse.
He stares into the sun.

Part two

He drives a yellow bus.
His hunger is insatiable.
He eats flames.

I wanted to tell my father.

Part three

Mr. Funnywalk is not afraid of anything
(except what he can find in his own head.)
His own hands are tearing him apart.
Do you have any money?
What does this mean?
They say that somewhere along the way he lost his soul.

More pictures:

Mocking Bird Muse - Mr. Funnywalk and plastic hand

Mocking Bird Muse – Mr. Funnywalk and plastic hand

Mocking Bird Muse - selected page

Mocking Bird Muse – selected page

Mocking Bird Muse - Books one and two

Mocking Bird Muse – books one and two

Mocking Bird Muse - opened

Mocking Bird Muse – opened to 2 books and window

Mocking Bird Muse - Overview close up

Mocking Bird Muse – Overview close up

The construction of this book reveals a delicious geometry which I only dimly planned, but which gives me much pleasure.

In case you are wondering, the amulet behind the window consists of a jute-wrapped harmonica, a bottle of poppy seeds, a frying pan, and a red unexplained object which just looked right.

Mocking Bird Muse is digitally (and archivally)  printed on Asuka and hand bound.  Technically this book cannot be editioned because the amulet behind the little window is not repeatable, But I would be happy to entertain proposals for an EV.

You can see more of my artist books at


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