I come from a family with roots in the Arts. As a child growing up in San Francisco, hearing about my great grandmother Jane Gallatin Powers’ painting studio nestled above the sand dunes in the eucalyptus groves on Carmel Beach, planted a seed in my mind. My mother told me about her own little Arabian horse Canary who she rode through those white sands and dark cypresses. She described family picnics and gatherings on old family lands.
I have been told I have a 'story-eye'.
My great grandmother Jane, Grace’s sister, grew up in the Governor’s mansion, the house their father built in 1877 in Sacramento. Jane, an early Modernist painter, married Frank Powers and together they created an artists haven that became Carmel by the Sea. They built their home called ‘The Dunes’ above Carmel Beach. Jane built her painting studio there. She had many renowned poets and writers visit her there often such as George Sterling, Mary Austin, Jack London, and Robinson Jeffers.
My great aunt Polly ran off to Italy to marry into Italian Royalty. Her husband’s father was the Duke of Naples. Her husband Marino was Podesta of Capri. I sailed from Naples to Villa Paradiso in Capri, their home, as a young girl. Great aunt Polly was forced to evacuate their home in Rome when the Nazis occupied the city during the war. She was sent to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and I, much later, was given her diary.
I think my mother thought she owned me. She believed she should be able to control me and sometimes I felt like a 5 gated horse in hobbles. Other times I was a herd of wild mustang horses longing to be free and dreaming of flight. I was hungry for life and truth. I felt cooped up in structure and manners and fancy dresses and pretty shoes. I needed to fly to survive and by doing so, I had to leave those I loved behind. I needed to taste life. I was bursting.
I ran away one day after being released from Children's Hospital where I had been recuperating from hepatitis. I returned suddenly from a long trip around South America, very ill. My mother’s world suffocated me and I knew I had to leave. The hardest part was leaving my father, my sister Flicka, and my springer spaniels Strawberry and So Dear To My Heart.
I went to Big Sur to find my Aunt Madeleine 'Lolly'’ Fassett, and her son Kaffe. Lolly and her family built Nepenthe (No Sorrow) and I needed to be there. My cousin Kaffe had always been one of my favorite cousins and my artist mentor since I first knew him. We exchanged letters and drawings and paintings. When I was studying at the California School of Fine Arts, Kaffe and Lolly and Hayward King would take me to laugh in Chinatown in an underground restaurant somewhere and I loved those times. I learned about another side of life from Lolly and Kaffe, and one day I left for Big Sur and lived in an old house in Anderson Canyon by the sea that Henry Miller had lived in, and my cousin Kaffe too, in years after. There, I learned to get in touch with my feelings...about babies being born and raised, about sunsets and stars, about driving the Coast road during the full moon with the car lights out...about the smells of newborn puppies squealing under the bed...about hot baths with friends and families, next to the roaring surf. About knitting together and being together around warm fires and long tables. About books and poems, color, painting and piano playing....Singing and dancing on the terrace under the stars. Old spirit souls gathered in Big Sur. Lolly’s fire brought kindred souls from all over the earth to gather and share and nourish themselves. I was one of them. For a second time , I returned with my young children to Big Sur and built my home in Sycamore Canyon, near the sea, and Nepenthe.
I raised my three beautiful children with freedom, art, music, vegetable gardens , animals and many Artist friends and memories.Since then, I have had many other eye opening worldly experiences, and I have tried to share them in my Art.
a friend..... an art teacher
“many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” written by Eleanor Roosevelt.
My Art is my story telling. The raw beauty and reality of the days in my life as I have walked through them.
I encourage curiosity exploration discovery and caring.....following one’s curiosity, imagination....your vision you will discover by asking questions and learning new techniques.
a playful spirit. making a garden, planting trees and flowers, reusing and recycling to heal the heart. Celebration of stories, songs, special meals.... celebrating holidays. Giving to the earth. Caring for injured plants and animals. Talking about these things with my students.
Teaching students Poetry and Art to me is about stimulating feelings with a spirit of adventure learning to feel and see by expressing one’s self with photography and artists materials painting and drawing. Writing down each child’s life stories, making god’s eyes, and experimenting with various mediums. Honoring their feelings and painting their thoughts about them, and photographing digitally if possible. Learning to trust one’s eyes, and use them carefully. Talking about kindness with each other. Thinking about one’s eyes as an instrument... to share your heart through imagery. Looking through your eye as a lense. Getting in touch with a place deep inside and make photographs. Writing for about minutes at the beginning of my classes. Separating the students in a thoughtful way so they can think for themselves. Anything they are feeling. Unwinding....Writing the story of their history, putting their visions and feelings into poetry.Telling personal stories to one another, reading to each other, writing life stories about what they love to do, where they like to go, what they feel about their lives, what they hope for.
Another piece of my Story.......
A story about my roots and myself.
I grew up in San Francisco. My father Howard McGurrin was a Partner with Colbert Coldwell and Bill Banker of Coldwell Banker Real Estate in San Francisco. In 1962 my father was President of the San Francisco Real Estate Board. I was a high society girl, a debutante who grew up in one world, dreaming of another. As a child growing up in San Francisco, my great aunt Jane Gallatin Powers painting studio nestled above the sand dunes in the eucalyptus groves on Carmel Beach, planted a seed in my mind. My mother told me about her own little Arabian horse Canary who she rode through those white sands and dark cypresses. She described family picnics and gatherings on old family lands.
My mother’s family grew up in San Francisco and Carmel by the Sea. I bring with me a career rich in the arts including music, photography, writing and painting. My great grandmother was Jane Gallatin Powers, an early Carmel California painter who, along with her husband Frank, co-founded the artist’s colony which is today Carmel-by-the-Sea. Kaffe Fassett, my first cousin, has been an inspiration to me since I was a child. My painting and knitting, my sense of color and design and the natural beauty from nature were greatly influenced from my friendship with Kaffe. My aunt Madeleine ‘Lolly’ built Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur, a well known special getaway for artists, poets, writers and musicians. I took my children to Big Sur and Carmel to be close to those roots. My family history has been favored with incredible concert musicians, artists and writers. Three favorite family writers were...Ernest Thompson Seton of 'Wild Animals I have known' and 'Tales of a Grizzly', and many others, along his wife Grace Thompson Seton, whose book ‘Poison Arrows’ and many other stories about exotic unknown lands, deeply moved her. Their daughter Anya Seton wrote ‘Winthrop Woman’, ‘Foxfire’ and ‘Katherine’ and many others, some were made into movies. I loved my years at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. I always longed to continue my family heritage in the fine art world.
There was a long period living in the Jazz world, in New York and San Francisco, learning about Jazz and musicians, about Soulville and Shrimp Shacks, eating soulfood. Times passed meeting amazing musicians. I met Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Jimmy Garrison, John Coltrane and many amazing people. Jon Hendricks and his wife and family. Charles Lloyd is a family friend going way back, and lived in Big Sur when we lived there. For Jon Hendricks and Company, whose family were close to mine, I photographed his album cover, “Love”. My children are from the Jazz world. Arthur Lewis, jazz drummer, and Arthur Monroe, Painter.
I returned with my young children to Big Sur and built my home in Sycamore Canyon, near the sea, and Nepenthe. I needed some time out.
I raised my beautiful children with freedom, and vegetable gardens and animals and many Artist friends and memories.
Since then, I have had many other eye opening worldly experiences, and I have tried to share them in my Art.
My family is fascinating to me and a way to get an understanding might be to look at www.kaffeincalifornia.com/family.htm to feel my family roots in the arts.
My cousin Romney has two beautiful new books ‘My Nepenthe’, and ‘Plum Gorgeous’.They are full of love, food recipes, family and Big Sur memories. http://mynepenthebook.com/
My cousin Erin Lee Gafill is an amazing painter and chronicler of our family history. She has a new book, ‘Drinking From a Cold Spring’. www.eringafill.com
I listened to tales about my great uncle Ernest Thompson Seton AKA ‘Black Wolf’ renowned wildlife illustrator, naturalist, painter, writer, and spellbinding storyteller. He wrote stories I loved...’Wild Animals I have known’, ‘Tales of a Grizzly’, ‘Lobo’, and so many others. He was the cofounder of the Boy Scouts of America. He was expert in native american sign language and an early supporter of the political cultural and spiritual rights of the ‘First Peoples’. He was a friend of Mark Twain.
He married my great aunt Grace Gallatin Powers. She fascinated me. She was the first white woman to travel on elephant into the jungles of Indochina in search of wild orchids and matriarchal societies. She wrote ‘Poison Arrows’, a strange Journey with an opium dreamer through Annam, Cambodia, Siam, and the Lotus Isle of Bali. She wrote ‘Magic Waters’, the ‘Log of the Look-See’, ‘Yes, Lady Sahib’, ‘Chinese Lanterns’, ‘A Woman Tenderfoot in Egypt’, ‘Nimrod’s Wife’, and ‘A Woman Tenderfoot in the Rockies’. So many stories into exotic unknown worlds. My mother took me often to visit Grace Seton and their daughter Anya Seton who wrote historical romance novels some of which were made into movies. I remember ‘Katherine’, Winthrop Woman’, ‘Foxfire’, and Green Darkness. I remember sleeping on Grace’s hard horsehair mattress surrounded by curious artifacts and having haunting dreams. Her world fascinated me.
to be continued....