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S O C I A L    S C U L P T U R E
"how we mold and shape the world in which we live"

Hand Talismans

Inspired by Phil Cousineau's book, The Art of Pilgrimage, I did a number of prepatoray actions prior to going on a pilgrimage with a group of women to visit the prehistoric ruins of the Temple Culture in Malta. Enlivened by the visual cutlure of this period, I decided to create small hand talismans to take on my journey. Initially I intended them as offerings that I would leave at each temple. This is, however, frowned upon at archeological sites. So, as an alternate plan, I decided to place them on each temple site to absorb the spirit of the history embodied in the stones. After returning with my "energized" talismans, I have been slowly giving them to mentors and friends. The only thing I have asked is that they tell me the names that the talismans speak to them. So far I have given three away, Fidelma, Memory, and Sophie.

Tea for GOC

In early 2011, I participated in a workshop organized by Bill Plotkins and Geneen Marie Haugen called Seduced by Earth; Deep Imagination, Soulcraft, and the Dreaming of Nature. The setting was a dramatic sliver of land wedged between mountain and sea on fertile grounds near a magical redwood forrest. We explored and connected with this natural environment on many levels.

I created a ritual for a rather grumpy redwood tree I called GOC (grumpy old crone). She overlooked the inlet where the creek met the sea. I had been having some rather unexpected conversations with her throughout the week. We met when I hung a bit of kelp root found on the beach that I had woven on her bark. She was not impressed and in fact told me just because I thought something was beautiful did not mean she agreed. She then went on to complain about "we humans being so self centered". I couldn't refute any of it. I listened and learned.

Instead of adorning her, I created a tea ceremony and served her. First, I made a tea tray by winding kelp with bark, and fashioned five small tea cups with some found clay adorned with eucalyptus pod buttons. Turned upside down they oddly looked like owl eyes. Then I brought these to her and spoke with her, sitting in each direction around her perimeter, leaving one cup in the East, North, West, and South, to return to the soil. The fifth I kept as a reminder of her wisdom, the lesson in reciprocity, and our combined wisdom united within the same ecosystem.

Birds of a Feather

Over the last twelve years, I've been exploring the terrain of Europe, Australia, Japan, and the western United States. From these travels, I have collected quite a bit of debris with the express intent to eventually synthesize the materials or "upcycle" them, creating something new. The annual exhibition Arte de Descartes in Taos, New Mexico, provided the motivation for continuing to work in this mode.

Birds of a Feather is my second upcycled work from travel related debris. It is made of collected hotel soap, shredded and reformed, and dots made from airport baggage handling tags mounted on recycled wood. It is an homage to my traveling partner, fellow explorer, and life partner, Michael.

2009, Spiritus Mundi

Spiritus Mundi

Spiritus Mundi, my first upcycled work. is made from a collection of travel maps, layered and shaped into small organic pieces. The individual pieces were joined together to create a wall drawing, approximately five feet wide by five feet tall, filled with universal symbols alluding to soul, journey, and life. As I perused my journal for an idea for an appropriate title, I came across this entry "Spiritus Mundi - Latin for 'Spirit of the World' - a reference to Yeat's belief that each human mind is linked to a single vast intelligence and that this intelligence causes certain universal symbols to appear in individual minds". Needless to say, Yeats and Jung were contemporaries.

The artwork was first exhibited in 2009 at Arte de Descartes IX, a juried exhibition in Taos, New Mexico.

Spiritus Mundi detail


After moving to San Francisco, Michael and I found we had much less time for play due to his horrendous commute. As a way to stay connected creatively, we embarked on a project, a game called CONVERSATION in 2009.

The instruction score was very simple: send an image of what we saw, something we experienced during the day while we were apart, and assign a name to it. The one photo rule quickly became exaggerated and typically resulted in at least three images. Also the game was woefully lopsided because of my luddite tendencies and failure to upload images in a timely manner. To compensate, I decided to bend the rules and change my role and participate in a different way. Instead of documenting, I became the editor and archivist.

At the end of 2009, I selected a series of compelling "trainscapes" from the archive and created a small book. The overall mood of the images capture and portray the silent pause before and after the chaos of Michael's day.

2008, Lincoln Child Center
Oakland, California
Healing Huts

I like to create transformatinal environments for healing and contemplation.  Often I will use embedding or imprinting rituals as I create the space.  Once it has been established, people are invited to paritcipate in ceremonies or reflective activities.

This particular healing hut was created for the Lincoln Child Center in Oakland as part of an Eco-Art trail event. My objective was to create a porous, soft environment where the children could feel held by nature, yet not fully exposed. The children were from a predominantly urban environment and had limited experience in the outdoors. Within the vessel, I led a relaxation meditation, guided imagery, and art making session.

This same healing hut was also used as a meditative environment for an Eco Art Exhibition. I created an altar that resided inside the healing hut with a recording of a blessing acknowledging and honoring all Earth Healers.

2008, Eco Art Exhibition
Emeryville, California

Loca Lifestyle Experiment ~ collaboration with Paul Ferguson
According to the Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture, it is estimated that the average American meal travels about 1500 miles from farm to plate.

In California we export as many strawberries as we import.

These two facts in particular invigorated Paul and I to investigate the real costs of our current food system by conducting an experiment that explored the 100 Mile Diet, an alternative sustainable food distribution model. The basic premise behind this model was to find every food ingredient within a 100 mile radius of our home. By eating food that is grown organic and local, we can help preserve dwindling fossil fuels, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, keep our food supply secure, while supporting local farmers, economy, and community.

The 100 Mile Diet recommends starting small, to begin with one event. We selected to transform the ritual of food within the art opening to bring awareness to the insane distance our food usually travels. There were two distinct components to the project, an installed environment in the exhibition space and a virtual presence at loca-lifestyle.blogspot.com. Prior to the reception we identified appropriate recipes based on a set of criteria, found sources for the ingredients within our radius, and conducted a test run of the reception food preparation, aka the kitchen test. The blog became a repository for the journey, i.e. the pre-planning and research necessary to arrive at the destination, the locavore banquet at the opening. Strawberry starts were also given away to promote urban farming, as well as a card with the locavore pledge to help make the most optimal environmental food buying choices.

Community Mural with Precitas Eyes in San Francisco

When I first moved to San Francisco, one of the largest challenges I faced was finding an affordable studio workspace. In fact, it took six months. My new studio was in the Mission district, a very colorful ethnic community in the middle of the city. The studio was part of what the locals affectionately referred to as The Farm, which had been a community art project by Bonnie Sherk in the 1970s.

The space itself had its charms including dampness, mold, a lack of heat, a freeway overhead, a homeless encampment in the garden, and a communal bathroom shared with about twenty students, average age eight. I spent the first month pondering what was so mesmerizing in the bathroom that kept them occupied and me waiting for an eternity. My only clue was that it was related to multiple flushes. I was extremely thankful though for space, blessed space, somewhere to finally unpack my supplies and get back to work.

Each morning I would walk to the studio from the Bart station and pass several wonderful murals. As I learned more about their origins, I found that most lead back to an organization called Precitas Eyes Murals headed by master muralist Susan Cervantes. During my tenure in the Mission, as a way of giving back to the community, I had the great fortune to collaborate on a mural with Susan and a team of other artists. The mural we created is at the intersection of 25th and Bryant and is called "Be the Change You Wish to See in the World."

2005, Rock Labyrinth
Phoenix, Arizona

Labyrinths ~ a path inviting exploration and discovery
2004 - 2005

Labyrinths are considered an ancient symbolic archetype of a journey taken to our own center and back out into the world again. On a visit to San Francisco in 2001, I found the labyrinth at Trinity Cathedral (or it found me). I wasn't sure what it was, but felt it reach inside and leave its mark. While there, I purchased a book by Dr. Lauren Artress to learn more about the symbol.

In 2002 after moving to a rather rustic home surrounded by an acre of cactus, rock, and desert with a view of the mountains, I realized it was my opportunity to create a labyrinth. Oddly, there was already a perfect circular area demarcated, if a bit overgrown, where there had once been a turnaround, jokingly referred to as "the circular drive". One hot and dusty week, my husband and I cleared the area and built a beautiful rock labyrinth.

Not long after building our labyrinth, I was invited to do a year long artist-in-residency with the Valley View School in Phoenix. During that time, I had the chance to build another labyrinth with all of the fourth and fifth grade classrooms. After drawing the initial outline in anticipation of the more permanent perimeters, I was fascinated to see this ancient symbol call to the children. They seemed to be instinctinvely drawn to it and intuitively proceeded along its path without guidance. We completed the labyrinth with what felt like a large percentage of the schools involvement, including many teachers, the principle, the maintenance and the gardening staff. To initiate our creation, we stood around the outside circular edge, sang to the labyrinth, planted a wishing trellis in the center, then ritually walked the labyrinth taking our "ribbon wishes" to the center to adorn the trellis.

2005, Brick Labyrinth and Intention Tree,
Valley View Elementary

Mute Kit

You can now wear your baggage and mute your voice anywhere, anytime, anyplace in just three easy steps!

As part of a writing workshop, we were asked to flex our visual muscle in an exercise, as a way of bending creatively in a direction that was not typical for us. The assumption was made that we were all writers. Ironically, I was in the writing workshop for exactly that reason, to bend in a direction of unfamiliarity. Although our plans don't always coincinde with reality, fun eventualities do sometimes result.

I had a blast creating The Mute Kit, a fictional kit associated with writers block (i.e. creativity block). As the English would say, I "took the mickey out of" how ridiculous and unproductive blockages can be.

The Mute Kit, with the express intention "to suppress all forms of potential communication and completely mute your voice", was accompanied with an infomercial as well as a corresponding internet instructional unit. It came with a guarantee "with the use of our kit you will be safe from expressing anything that may put you at risk" and a warning "Baggage can be addictive and may adhere to your personality forever. Limited wearing of baggage is recommended. Prolonged usage may cause hazardous side effects, including but not limited to artistic death."

Random Acts

Extensive travel over the last ten years has been simulataneously a muse, blessing, and a disruption to my normal working method. Since creativity is at the heart of who I am and what I do, I needed to invent other ways of working while "on the road".

In 2002, I began a series called Random Acts where I left journals in public spaces to be discovered. Inside the journal I wrote an initial entry that was a reflection on being in the space where I left the journal. After this, I asked that whoever found the journal find a different public space and make the next entry, leaving it for someone else to find. If you were the last entry, I asked that the journal be sent back to me. I bought a stack of beautiful little red velvet journals and left them all over the world. It was all hopelessly romantic and sad because I never had one come back, but I still like to imagine that they were found and took on an interesting life of their own.

During this timeframe, I so believed in this notion of anonymous art,, that I tried it in a gallery where I had been invited to create a small piece. I left the work with the instruction to give the work to the first person who showed an interest in buying the piece. I thought it would be an unanticipated gesture to recieve a gift of art in this way when there is normally an anticipation of a commercial exchange. I asked for an email confirmation from the person telling me they had received the piece. Beyond that, I did not expect anything. The piece was given away, but the person (who ironically I discovered later was a local art critic) never contacted me.


In 2003 I visited the Brooklyn Museum of Art to see Judy Chicago's seminal work, The Dinner Party. In the dim light, I circumambulated the massive triangular shaped banquet table. I felt like I was on a mystical pilgrimage accompanied by the spirits of my matriarichal ancestors. Experiencing The Dinner Party at a time when the political climate was threatening womens rights inspired me to create this piece, Unraveled.

The names of each of the 1038 women honored in The Dinner Party were written on a sheer cloth, approximately 80 yards in length and wound around a wooden sewing spool, left to unravel and pool to the floor. The base of the sewing machine was painted in a motif that directly referenced the U.S. flag, symbolic of the Bush administration whose actions were threatening to undermine womens rights. The cloth, unraveling on one end was offset by a poem placed in the "stitching area" written by Judy Chicago that described the possibility of a new vision, a new Eden based on traits more commonly associated with the matriarchal view. The sewing machine was covered in wax, a material commonly used as a preservative. Red thread, broken in places, was intended as a reminder of the connection that needs to be maintained to the lifeline of women from the past who have enabled us to move forward. The entire piece was mounted on the wall as if it were levitating, symbolic of the power of the legacy we as women of the 21st century have inherited -- a legacy of collective accomplishment that I feel is our duty to honor and protect.

Petition for Peace
In Memory of Jeffrey Combes

"War is not heroic, there is fear and failure and a flatness at the end." - Susan Griffin

In the aftermath of 9/11, the enormity of the tragedy was somehow surreal. It felt as if we were all in collective shock. And as time moved forward, the massive cries for revenge were drowning out the pleas for peace. In the face of such strong emotions, I felt I had to do something to stress an alternative perspective. Ghandi stated that "an eye for an eye and the world will go blind". To make this sentiment visible and felt, I signed a petition on behalf of the people (approximately 3,700) who were lost or missing on 9/11/01. It took days to acknowledge and record the names, occupations, ages, and status of each individual. When complete, the length of the list was staggering. I stitched the piece as one does a wound, to help close it and to allow it to heal. The indentation on my table (and soul) still bears witness.

The petition was handwritten on a delicate paper scroll and hung high on a gallery wall as part of my exhibition "Bitter Babylon". It was partially unfurled across several plaster and wax cast torsos. Next to it, affixed to the wall was a headset and through it could be heard the John Lennon song "Give Peace a Chance".

2000, La Luz de los Artistas Forever
Dia de los Muertos Altar, collaboration with Marcella Harvey

While living in the Southwest, I came to know Marcella Harvey, a very passionate and talented artist, who had moved to Arizona from Los Angeles Within months of collaborating with Marcella on this altar, she very sadly lost a long battle with cancer. In honor of her words and intent, I have left the poetry of the following artist statement she wrote for our altar intact:

This shrine seeks to pay homage to the Dia de los Muertos on several levels. First, is the coming together of two voices, a Latino one (artist Marcella Harvey from Uruguay) and an Anglo one (artist Kelly Barret, from the U.S.). In this collaboration the objective of the experiment was to die to our egos and let the most spiritual less competitive aspects of our beings rejoice in bringing something to life that was neither of ours. A second important level of this shrine, and one in which it metaphorically evokes the more traditional Mexican altars, is the intent to conjure and pay our respects to those spirits and dead ones who guide us in our art as well as in our lives. El dia de los muertos seems like the right time to thank our ancestors and the spirits living within and among us for the inspiration they bring, making the cycle of life and death more meaningful. Finally, a crucial level in which death is touching us, is that I have been dealing with a life-threatening disease, as well as spirit threatening treatments for it. As a close friend, Kelly has supported and nourished me and my artist within throughout this long process of illness. Death is very real to us. and this shrine is but one of the ways to court it and to face it, as an inevitable part of life that can enhance every moment we live.

The structure of this altar is two panels, where mixed media has been used to reflect and describe a deep process of two artists in collaboration. The figures that appear part in shade and part in light, offer a view of the artists' individuality and complex coming together covering and dis-covering in turn, symbols and shapes that speak of conscious and unconscious urges, dreams, fears and desires.

The hands that are situated on these panels wish to make clear that the intent of the artists is to offer. The candles offer the flicker of spirit while the other material offerings (which are to be assembled on site), speak to the more "traditional" offerings in altars, such as fruit, flowers, pieces of cloth, books, and other elements that relate to the ancestors. In this case, however, the ancestors are not just real people who have passed on in our lives, but artists we have revered and who have influenced us (whose photographs we will place alongside the offerings).

Viewers are also invited to collaborate with us in the creation of this shrine by recording the names of those who have personally provided them with inspiration to pursue their own brand of passion. The back side of the panels have intentionally been left blank as an area for this.

in memory
Marcella Harvery