The Language of Art


Big thanks to YOU the students who made our class possible. Kudos for showing up and working hard on the assignments.

In our busy lives it is so hard to find the time to even eke out a few brush strokes. But by making a commitment to this class you made an important commitment to yourselves and to keeping art alive.

Natalie Goldberg has written many books about how to write. In her best seller  Writing Down the Bones  she suggests that you schedule an appointment with yourself like you would a hair cut or a doctor visit. Put it on your calendar. Then make sure to organize your time so you won’t be late. It’s easy to let this slide because the only appointment you have is with yourself. If you’re late to an appointment with yourself, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Well, yes it does.

Pull-tab IMG_4747When I was a child, milk came in clear glass bottles delivered early morning on our doorstep. Later, at the store, we purchased the boxy wax carton that served well. Now, in the name of sanitation and convenience, milk cartons have been “improved” with plastic safety milk pull-tabs. Now, thousands of these ubiquitous tabs are making their way to the landfill and will take thousand of years to go away.


To draw attention to this blight, I created a bracelet “fashion statement” that really says something.  People always take note of my unique jewelry, which gives me the opportunity to talk about plastic and to encourage action about everything, even about milk cartons.

During a recent trip to Tanzania, I visited a Masai village where the curious fingers of an elder Masai woman touched my bright white bracelet trying to figure out what could be the source and the material of my unusual adornment. I asked our guide to explain that I had made the bracelet out of milk pull-tabs; that they were something that would otherwise be thrown away; that I am an artist who uses recycled plastic in my creations. I was babbling so fast that probably neither she nor my translator understood a word of what I was saying. And, although the Masai subsist on cow’s milk and blood, I am sure that she had no idea about milk cartons or pull-tabs.

I was thrilled that she was interested and was happy that she accepted my bracelet as a gift. It was truly a reach across space and time. She is an expert crafts person who makes elaborate bracelets and neck collars. With mutual respect as artisans, we made an exchange. I now wear one of her fine beaded bracelets and she now wears my milk-tab bracelet. In a gesture of appreciation of art and adornment, the Masai woman and I connected. ART held the moment — through beauty we were able to speak when language just wouldn’t do.


Yesterday, thanks to Barrie and her months of collecting hundreds of tabs, ART held the moment as we circled our hands and celebrated the language of art.

many hands

Wishing you all the best in the new year and beyond.

Keep painting. Stay true.