Wednesday, October 30, 2013


While swiping at webs along garden paths, I come again to appreciation for this creepy season.

Mourning the shortening light of these days... while marveling that one species gathers crop in this brevity of late autumn... building substantial dreams held in elastically ephemeral architecture.

Such caught the mist in my camera's eye recently:

Even as I must walk though numerous others built over garden pathways, our THIS IS IT deck seems perfect in aspect for these web structures, One one recent foggy morning I was gifted these shots...

 This capture surprises me still...

 Again... in higher resolution for those who join me in love of the macro...

My wish for our constructive ride through these instructive webs is to celebrate being captured.. reminded...


Saturday, October 26, 2013


Stephen is now in Wroclaw, Poland for the European Premiere of BIG JOY. I am settling into Soundcliff for this period until Thanksgiving while he will continue his rather constant traveling this year… attending some 15 film festivals around the globe since March's world premiere in Austin.

We return from a week visiting his family in Edina, MN… after attending together the Port Townsend Film Festival the next weekend… both after the week in we'd planned for mid-September around the DocuWest film festival in Boulder & Golden, Colorado… thus as well the opportunity for a long awaited visit with my mother, who lives in Fort Morgan.

So… I've been traveling too!

We flew on September 10th to Colorado... not knowing this would become the "week of Noah".

We drove in rain from the airport into Denver to be hosted our first night by my deep friend Dwight. As always he is doing fascinating creative work, even in his new smaller studio.

The next day's drive was wetter yet, arriving Patti & Rob's home on the creek in Four Mile Canyon above Boulder for snacks & cocktails before driving back down to Golden for the opening event of the film fest... seeing Good Ol' Freda, a documentary about the Beatles' rather quietly retiring fan club secretary... Quite fun!

Another drive back up to Black Swan Cottage in a deluge... fairly skiing over water beginning to collect in low spots. After a bowl of fab-cook Patti's home-made wild-mushroom soup, but our evening was interrupted within the hour by an order to evacuate!

We packed-up & went across the road to their long time friend's house, higher & safe enough, but rented for the winter to folk we did not know… we expected them back at any time, not knowing that conditions prevented any after us to drive up the canyon... We did not use their beds, but instead fitfully slept on couch cushions with small throws. Next day we again settled in for some duration, but when we were out on the road surveying damage, the sheriff drove by & suggested we leave ASAP since the road was compromised & expected to fail...

After that evening's opening festival event in Golden [some 30 miles south of Boulder] we drove back on roads flooded in low areas… fairly skiing in some places! We arrived to be welcomed home with a fine late supper of wild, farmer's market, mushroom soup, only to be warned within the hour by the phone call to evacuate that earthy mood… the creek in their back yard was rising toward flood stage, with prediction of a much larger surge coming down from the higher drainages!

They have, of course, made contingency plans for such event, having long ago prepared by moving all their important items of furniture, collections of memorabilia & art, plus essential paper files, into storage. They continued inside such straights to create a rich life… what with Patti's amazing kitchen, paired with Rob's wine cellar & his collection of fine gins… however… living for so long in "camping-out" mode is certainly not the preferred style for this lively couple!

Patti had polished her collection of my bells, displaying them on the mantle so we could finally accomplish our plan to photograph & catalogue them. Rob has been gifting them to her since the beginning. He & I regularly struggle to remember which ones she already has when he wants to add a new one. In the hurried process of vacating the house she tossed their bag to me. I got only a cursory count of 41 as I gathered them up without accomplishing any proper documentary inventory.

Patti made certain to pack food from the kitchen so we would be well fed for the duration, including a pork roast she'd planned for the next dinner.

The new renters of the house belonging to their old friends, who had given such permission to take refuge, were not home & we did not yet realize they were stuck down in Boulder by the storm for the night. We made paletts of questionable comfort out of bulbous sofa cushions & small thin throws, not wishing to disturb their beds.

Next morning we woke to the aroma of coffee… plus roasting pork. We were happily resigned to spending the day of exile in creative ways. After mugs of java we prepped ourselves for a foray out to survey the terrain. I'd already made photos of a new active creek running through a second driveway to this house built next to what was usually a dry wash… fortunately there was another, on which our cars were parked.

While we were marveling at the result of water running off barren slopes, moving rock walls built to restrain such force, a sheriff's car came driving cautiously over the rubble washed onto the road. He strongly advised we get out of the canyon because the road would probably be washed-out in the surge expected later that day. We were encouraged to pack-up & get out…

The road was indeed soon narrowed to one lane in a spot where we could only drive in the left lane… giving me views, out my rider's side window, of the creek roiling where the right lane previously had been…

We refugees were welcomed at the home of a friend of theirs, where we made a rather fine party inside adversity… our dinner: a well weathered pork roast!

At the time we'd scheduled driving to visit Momma was when the flooding made any travel ill-advised. We four had gratefully accepted hospitality at another couple's home for the next two nights, happily allowing us to be easily present for BIG JOY's screening at a venue which had been closed for two days due to high water, canceling a slice of the festivals schedule.

However, there was an unexpected showing of Big Joy on Friday evening at the venue in Golden to fill a cancellation... back we went, fortunately on a more benign evening... so Stephen could be present. We had a rather fine dinner at a place called Sherpa... where I enjoyed eating my first yak meat! It was one of several "dates" for us, which have been quite rare this year!

We brought along the couple with whom we'd chatted at a nearby table... adding to the sparse audience. The entire area was in a bit of shock & confusion due to the flooding… creating understandable lack of impetus for getting out to see a film!

Saturday evening was the scheduled Colorado premiere at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder... a good crowd.... many friends of our hosts! I got to meet people I'd long heard about, or had correspondence with over the years as they became bell clients… Something like a Boulder "bell diaspora".

A comfortable theater with a good system made for a technically fine screening. There was a lively Q&A, with much general appreciation. This was the evening we'd traveled for... all finally seemed good!

Everyone had been affected somehow by the floods… I found it curiously comfortable to be a tourist inside so many tales of diversity. This was indeed an epic storm… we often found ourselves quoting James BIG JOY Broughton:

Adventure!  … not predicament.

Not quite knowing… from the various sources we'd been monitoring, we began driving toward Fort Morgan several days later than we'd planned. Out onto the plains, where all that water we'd witnessed was moving down, flooding into the Platte River, closing only the last of several exits to our designation… Momma was unaware of such events.

We immersed & subsumed ourselves into her world's bubble. Stephen expanded that by showing her his film… which she seemed to like & to appreciate, marveling, as she often does, at the media of this age… obviously mostly incomprehensible to her. She is so sweetly here & now… seeming to me like some sort of Biblical Zen.

Stephen made this insightful duo-portrait of Momma with my youngest brother Terry.

We left from her to make a rather sunny drive to the airport. We flew home into NW wet, which accompanied us next weekend to the Port Townsend Film Festival, the opening event of which we led the parade riding in the back of a vintage pick-up. Being part of a staged event for a disparate crowd postures the various realities of romantic notions about such events.

Stephen with Ian [BIG JOY cameraman] & Molly Hinkle, posing for me on the straw bale seats of our carriage…

Then standing after our arrival & introduction... the colorful cape was a prop in James' film

Ian made this shot of Stephen & me… capturing our satisfaction in the moment.

Such moments of connection inside all the current flurry of our life hold our center...

Taking that energetic to Minnesota, we flew together again to spend a week with his family.            
Staying in Helen's guest room displaces brother Mark, who cheerfully moves to a couch-bed for          the Friday & Saturday nights he regularly spends with his mother as her "weekend buddy".

The Silha schedule is always full: supper at the Minnetonka; dinner at a good pub before a great        new musical, well staged in a deliciously barren industrial theatre space; one lunch with Stephen's       HS friend; another with a mutual friend of ours; family meetings, including Mark's annual review; a    hike on Merrywood; an excursion to the unique Russian Museum; then culminating with the             annual lecture at the Silha Center at the University of Minnesota Humphrey Center… the main            event for our visit. James C. Goodale, [a counsel for the New York Times, & author of the new book, Fighting for the Press: the Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles.] delivered

 it in eloquently with references.

Here we are after the our walk…

Now home to a week of foggy cold weather...

Thursday, August 29, 2013


I've recently been tugged again into my past... receiving an email which began:
"I have a white panel that I think was made by you in 1970".........

He described only briefly such qualities as to make it certainly one of the FoamCore relief paintings that I was making at that time in the Downing Street Studio, in Denver.

Quickly I was in Denver, clambering down steep steps into an unlivable basement space at low rent in which I  made my creative mess without tidy inhibitions. Living just up the block, my decorator had a proper playground so he rarely entered those rooms which hosted a variety of spaces. To the right was a paper room with storage, used for drawing. Beyond was a tidier  space with the sofa-bed-collection of cushions de rigueur to free spirits then. To the left, an antique kitchen functioned mostly for clean-up... since the room back of that functioned as a wood shop & the spray booth so necessary to finish these paintings...  I was again wearing & breathing that process... Oh! The MESS!
Well... you see how immediately I slid into that other past...

My sleuth put clues & poor memory into slow realization that the painting he had was recently sold by a friend who has been collecting my work for years... she was the first to commission a piece from me... my first client, now a deep friend... she had mentioned in one of our phone conversations that she was considering letting it go during a downsizing last year. The writer lives in Oakland, as does she. I phoned her & was reminded that it was a quilted "sampler" of techniques I was exploring with the medium.

He further explained that he teaches sculpting & math... 'wants to show it to his students. He is curious how it was made. Nice compliment!  First, that he chose to acquire it. Further, that he wants to share it as a possible teaching tool... my past moves forward quickly, putting my archivist to work... scanning the only photographs I have of that early work.

This is his painting:

I added the scan to the response I was writing, which I have re-written to accompany the following gallery of of work now digitized. I'm pleased to have been nudged to further secure them in a second format. I can now happily share them without bringing your hands to the actual leather binder in which they have lived for the intervening years.

I made a series of these "paintings" which are really more bas-relief sculpture using a material called "FoamCor", which I discovered when I was just out of college & working in Larimer Square as a sometime display artist. One store had acquired full 4X8 foot panels of the material on which had been painted enlargements of the drawings of Aubrey Beardsley which had been made for some elaborate society ball.  Beardsly was a favorite of mine then... & still amazes me.

The material is costructed of two layers of paperboard sandwiching a layer of plastic foam. It is often used in displays for signs or support. It is used as well for mounting flat work in framing.

Somehow I discovered that this material could be manipulated by cutting the paper surface & working to gradually compress the foam layer into lower levels, making a relief of light & shadow. I generally accomplished that using boxwood clay modeling tools.

The completed surface had rough edges from cutting the top paper layer & manipulating the crushed foam layer, all supported by the back layer of paper. They could become rather fragile & flexible, so I glued them into frames I made of unfinished stock for further support. That integral assembly was then brushed with numerous coats of heavy latex exterior house paint, nearly "puttied" to fill into those flaws, smoothing the effect, stabilizing & strengthening the surfaces. Finally, several more coats of the heavy house paint were sprayed on to further develop the surface. Still, even though I was using an "airless" sprayer, there was lots of atomized paint splattering about!

I would buy 4X8 foot panels in the 3/8ths inch thickness at a lumberyard, haul them in my van, negotiate them down those steps to cut them into smaller sizes. Most of these were 24 inches square, but I worked others up to 48 inches square.

I discovered "FoamCor" in thicknesses up to 1" thick, but I discovered, unfortunately rather too late in one design's construction, that the foam was too resilient to crush into relief.  I'm aware of a variety which can when wet be molded into curved surfaces... but I never experimented with that. I've used it as-is for inked calligraphic work. I've used gesso to prepare it as a sturdy painting surface. I have constructed three dimensional boxes or objects... I still keep a supply for projects in my current studio.

One early, rather elaborate project was a sign-board built of numerous layers, cut to mimic fancy molding, with lettering... both "carved" & painted, even gold-leafed to mimic antique woodcarving.

I first celebrated the purity of the sculpted white surface, As I explored the material, experimenting with possibilities, I added various drawing techniques or color to others.

The first two have weathered much travel with me... hanging now in my studio:

Woven lattice patterns occur in my bells much later than this exploration,  portending the Celtic designs I would explore later. Call it simply LATTICE RAVEL.

Several use arrows suggesting direction inside complex patterns...


Color with ink... perhaps an X-RAY OF A WAVE...

In the current moment I title this ROOTS OF LEO TOYE to note the history of my calligraphic doppleganger about whom I've written here...

TWIST might be a useful title for this one... reminding me of my mother's braided rugs.

The egg symbol has long been important for me. In VOYAGE NATAL the egg of a birth seems to be involved with wind & waves.This is a large panel [close to 4 feet in my memory] has several layers of the material cut & stacked in a collage making deeper effects.

Ah... ego... I must now title this IT'S ALL ABOUT ME!

This GILDED LEO also observes that this must have been my gilded age...

This BUTTONED MEDIEVAL HOMAGE is acrylic on a flat panel of FoamCore.

Another flat panel... HONORING A RELATIONSHIP... is a veritable cabinet of symbolism painted specifically to gift my long-time [most of a decade from early college years] part-time employers. Martin's Jewelry was my introduction to the allure of jewelry design.

Such  paintings as these, technically already dancing on the edge of sculpture, would eventually be abandoned as I began working more fully three-dimensional metal & gemstones. Although my BFA is in painting, I've played most of my life as a sculptor.

Carmen & Francis Martin deserve their own posting. This collection of symbols would be a good springboard for such reminiscence. Ummm... I sense the approach of another trip into my past...

I'd not splashed in this particular puddle of my history for a too-long time. I celebrate the transfer of one of these paintings & his contacting me... reminding me to make this excursion, moving me to accomplish more of the archival preservation I want & need. Most of all, I'm pleased to feel complimented about this part of my life's work. Thanks, Matt!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fiftieth Anniversary Of My High School Graduation...

I have been noting that my Colby Community High School classmates had the class of 1963 fiftieth reunion in the cool Rocky Mountains rather than the hot, dry plains of western Kansas where we went to school... thus confirming at least part of my residual prejudice for the predominately flat experience of childhood & youth.

I did not attend, for any number of reasons, but now a small part of me regrets I did not expose myself to the possible soothing of those old abrasions. I was never actually wounded by classmates, nor do I have any particular scars... I simply never felt like I fit-in, or connected well with high school & have found many better life experiences over a half-century!

It was a great joy to have Catie & her partner Jacgues, travel here to visit Soundcliff after the reunion. She was the exchange student from France & was my senior prom date! We have been writing letters & have visited each other several times over the years... meeting Jacques when Stephen & I twice traveled to their village. The three of us [Stephen was in San Francisco with the film] had sweet quiet hang-time, celebrating her birthday. She conveyed news to me about the reunion.

Fifty Years Since CCHS...
[Open Letter to classmates.]

Congratulations to us! None... perhaps least of all myself... could have imagined our journeys to this significant time. That I write too late for this assignment demonstrates my perpetual propensity for procrastination. That is not my best choice to reintroduce myself, yet the intricate weave of my own knotty path to now has seemed too daunting to contemplate sharing, even as I’ve been writing it in my journals since turning 30. To address myself at 18 or 20... 30, 50 or 60 means opening so much which would be difficult to tell, much less explain.

All of you must experience similar conundrum.

Long Story Short:

Graduated with a BFA in painting from the University of Denver 1967.

Lived in Denver, painting & designing custom jewelry & gardening until 1974 when I moved to Sedona, Arizona, where I did not do much gardening...

I began a production line of small silver bells in 1983, which beings still keep me in their thrall.

Occidental [west Sonoma County], California, became home in 1989. Bells & a more serious coastal garden.

Following the bells & a great love I moved to Seattle in 1989, then to nearby Vashon Island, where I perch with my partner, Stephen Silha, celebrating 18 years together.

Cooking, gardening & entertaining, working with the bells, jewelry & calligraphy are my continuing passions. I’m recently playing with digital drawing/painting on my iPad’s touch-screen.

I have no children or grandchildren of which to boast or show photos... unless you consider the bells.

Now, if you wish more, I’ve written a much gabbier version:

Thursday, January 24, 2013


[ This is the fourth of several posts about this trip... to start at the beginning click here: ]

The quintessence of Bali's innumerable charms might be the beauty of the landscape, long cultured into the picturesque --  often arabesque --  rice paddy fields.

Although they have been photographed millions of times they begged being captured yet again inside our lenses... they are indeed improbable & fantastic! These terraces of heavenly reflections which feed so many people seem to form the best working symbol helping to explain this gentle culture carved from the residual bones of volcanic violence...

Our photos are intimate to our own eyes... beginning with this shot I made, on one of our walks along the road, showing my fascination with the light playing inside the rich tropical vegetation of the reflections of the sky... omnipresent connections between the upper & lower worlds. Water is the medium of this conversation. We humans live in a mystical layer of mythical mud celebrating these photographically visible entities.

We humans live in dialogue by eating plants who thrive [or not]...
...sharing with the animals who live with us... 
inside this very thin Æconomie of ecology.

How do we find ourselves indulging in the "progression"... more like "procession" perhaps... holding a genuine appreciation inside our continuing  explorations.

Travel must confront itself.

We were blessed being welcomed by our friends Joel & Nirgrantha... then introduced into their community of American Ex-Pats... including a number of men we already know from the States who now live in Bali. Small world!

Joel was partnered with James Broughton [about whom Stephen has made his film: BIG JOY] for 24 years, until James' death. He met Nirgrantha, a retired psychiatrist, when they were both living in New York City.

We sojourned inside compounds built on the memories of what had earlier been Subak paddy fields, surrounded by their now possibly endangered sibling pad`dys. The Æconomie of the neighboring farmers is now based less on the historic community, or the water temple's decisions, than on the possibility of selling to who would own for ourselves rather than join that older culture we aspire to honor... even as we are obviously destroying it with our appreciation.

However well artists know that in order to create one must destroy... be it pristine paper or virgin stone... must still then accept the responsibility for the burden of that act in re-creation. This  often brings nostalgia for some improbable return to some imagined original state.

Æconomie plays similarly here in our own country... just as where huge corporate farms buy-out the small family farms in Kansas, leaving nothing supporting any possible fantasy containing Little House On The Prairie...

I can only imagine the correlate in Bali... I know that money makes the world go 'round... implying returning cycles.... perhaps measured in centuries. Travelers enjoy the deconstructed layers of many beautifully resurrected European cities... of sites further east more ancient yet. Nostalgia, part of travel's romance, is of course, both blessing & bane...

Along the route of our flights we briefly stopped in Asian cities like Singapore & Bangkok which are as immense as any, presenting faces enviably more modern than most in the US. Be it nostalgic procession or dynamic progress, one can only travel inside that larger flow...

The world is still big.
We are here...

A nursery of rice seedlings
planted densely inside a temporary paddy field,
 dammed with black plastic sheeting
held in place with bamboo stakes...
ready to be planted
by patient hand
into the nearby paddy field
newly groomed
sanctioned to be saturated

The terraces are literally a topographical map of any local terrain...
designed to hold the water in place
on any particular farmer's land
for the allowed period of time
required for planting in
some really proper muck.


All through the paddy landscape are to be seen shelters & shrines of various kind...
farmers inviting Spirit, needing to become integral with their land.

On one afternoon stroll along the road we interacted with several boys on bikes who, after making casually playful & humorous connection with us, veered off onto a local path, out of sight...

Reappearing later... dancing their distant greeting!

Sunset came on rapidly, in tropic manner...

Just before I caught this woman winnowing the day's rice

To which I add the observance from our courtyard of a man collecting fuel... or fiber...

 One last view of paddy farms seen lower, carved in the riparian flats down close to the river,
seen from the construction site of the home of a new acquaintance.

A pavilion perches there... recently re-positioned, overlooking that vista...

With prayers of rice at its footing...

Blessed with rice!

Atmospheric bell sound floating atop 
 those foundational rice offerings... 

This is my muse seeing Bali... 
improbably lively expressions of creativity
 in every moment...
certainly completely romantic
yet also palpable.