Ave Alegre studios had their Feast in the Forest fundraiser this past weekend, and we had an amazing time. Several different artists came together to create a forest full of beautiful artwork. There was live music serenading us through the night and delicious, romantic treats for all to enjoy, and under the lights you could feel a community of people coming together to support the vision the wonderful people behind Ave Alegre have for their land.
Ave Alegre is more than an event space and gallery, it is a place to come together and learn more about how to live in harmony; with our environment and with each other. Classes are offered in everything from working with indigenous clays for pottery to growing and using native and organic plants to cook delectable dishes and therapeutic concoctions. I’ve led foraging classes with them and they are always interested in the new wild dishes we come up with. Classes are taught in both English and Spanish and the whole place is an educational space on how different and beautiful life can be.
They are available for most event types and all of their upcoming classes and opportunities can be found on through their website or on their official Facebook page.
I’ve been working on finishing this portfolio for what feels like an eternity. At last I am nearing the end; the final five paintings I’m working on are almost complete.
River of Life
a Tree, lacking butterflies
Once they’re finished, we’ll take them to a local professional to have them scanned. After that, print copies of them available here on the website.
Once these paintings are all finished, I’m looking forward to taking some time off. Time to relax and enjoy the coming Spring.
But also to begin some extraordinary projects I’ve been dreaming about for some time….
In addition to my paintings, I’ve been working with a lot of locally sourced materials to develop some unique 3-dimensional pieces. I’ve also been experimenting with developing paints out of natural pigments found here in the Brazos valley.
Spending more time in these pursuits, I think, will be more tactile and kinesthetic, and perhaps therapeutic, after the focused precision of painting.
Lacie and I are also looking to work more in our Wild Garden this Spring and Summer, as well as develop (and eat!) more Wild Food recipes, and maybe one or two other outdoor projects….
Like a portable Cob oven. But I’ll keep y’all updated on that.
So it has been entirely too long since I have posted on here, and I can’t exactly say it’s been because I’ve been working so hard on any particular project. I’m still trudging along with the two paintings I’ve currently got in the works, and I’ve also got two carvings that I’m now committed to doing for people. But I can’t shake the feeling that, in the main, I have been woefully lax in my efforts to be creatively productive these past months. I’ve been in a funk, been distracted, been too busy wasting time thinking and worrying and not enough time forcing myself into action. I’ve been suffering a lack of impetus. But not a lack of motivation, I think.
For anyone who lives in Texas, the past week has, timidly, been the first time in a while we’ve seen sunlight. There have still been wild days of crashing storms and floods, but this day, at least, seems to be a beautiful break in the rains. Perhaps that’s all I needed. I love the rain storms, but you really can’t get anything done during them. Even indoors, you’re compelled to just sit and watch and wait it out.
Back before the floods started, Lacie, Luna and I had made an effort of gathering as much of the young cattail flowers and then the wonderful, magical cattail pollen as we possibly could. This stuff has got be some kind of sacred manna; if you’ve never tried cattail pollen, you are missing out. I’ve been making a habit of taking different things Lacie and I make at home to share with our friends at my work, and it’s been really inspiring to see and hear their responses. Last night we made acorn flatbread sandwiches, with black forest ham and cattail flowers, slathered in mesquite-jalapeno jelly. I could not tell you how amazing they were; they only thing that would make them better, would be using thick cut bacon instead of the deli ham.
The past month has seen a lot of plants and seeds ripening and now that the sun is starting to break through the clouds, all the wild grapes will start ripening quickly in the lead up to Midsummer. Amazingly, I even saw a couple passion flowers blooming around the woods the other day! I could have also sworn I saw fireflies out in the garden the other night, and as we’re in this transitional period of tons of water lying around and warmer, sunlit days, we’ll probably see more of them during this happy time of year.
I am actually looking forward to getting down to the waters myself now that the floods are giving us a break. I’ve got a new, smaller cast net and long pole, and my favorite fishing spots are calling to me in my dreams. We’ll actually be going down to the coast before too long, and I’m hoping to catch the blue crabs down there when the moon is full and they are wont to dance in the moonlight. Last year we timed it perfectly and ended up with more than we expected! I also still have buckets of wave polished shells of almost every color that I haven’t gotten around to playing with yet. That’s another thing I’m hoping to get around to soon; so many sculpture projects that I’ve kept on hiatus while I finished this past slew of paintings.
Speaking of which, I do have a giant debt of gratitude to repay to someone I’ve met in these past months. A strange form of luck allowed me to meet Cyd Cassone at work one day several months ago, and it was clear we had a lot of the same passions. Cyd is a musician and currently works at the Creekside Wellness Center in Bryan. They focus on holistic approaches to medicine and naturopathy. After spending some time talking about some of our shared ideas, they offered to host some of my paintings in their office! I couldn’t think of a better place to show these pieces since so many of the messages in them are reflected in the work Cyd and her partners are doing.
I’m really so glad to have met them and many others this past Spring, and Nature willing, I’m hoping the clearer days are a sign leading to more great things happening in the near future and an end to inertia.
Jeez, I am starting to feel it now. A deep-seated fatigue, most likely due to the notion of what I still have to finish.
I’ve taken a lot on in recent months. To be clear, I’ve no intention of giving myself any slack; I’m just finally coming to terms with what I have committed to.
I’m very close to finishing the portfolio that I started at the beginning of last year, and by close I mean I still have four more paintings to finish. I am currently working on three of them though, so we’ll see how that goes….
In addition to this, I’m still working with an area non-profit, providing environmental education to area schools. I love this and can’t express how thankful I am to be a part of it. Educating kids about the wonderful environment all around them, I really feel like I’m helping to connect them to the world they’re a part of. And that makes me feel great.
That’s why I’m really excited about the new programs we’re (hopefully) going to offer this year. Starting this Spring, I’ll be teaching classes on wild edible plants of the Brazos valley. The amazing plants we’ll see can be found right here in Bryan/College Station, so you can interact with them everyday.
The hope I have for this workshop is to show people that wild foods aren’t just something for “survival scenarios”; that they’re capable of enriching our lives on a daily basis. It’ll be about Thriving, not just Surviving. Because there is a positively reinforcing relationship that we can have with our environment, because we’re meant to be right there.
It’s been one year since I’ve started this site. That’s one year since I’ve become serious about what I want to try to do with myself.
It was just after Halloween last year that I posted the first entry on this website, detailing my perspective on wild foods and the impact this resource can have in our lives.
Additionally, one year ago I began developing a new artistic portfolio to try and illustrate the positive relationship humans, and indeed all life, have with their environment. Amazingly, I have almost finished this.
I can honestly say that I have not worked so hard nor turned out so many pieces since art school, and even then, nothing this authentic. I’m not tooting my horn here, knocking out these paintings has been a slug-fest at times. Trying to keep true to the vision while also just completing the work is a ceaseless balancing act between the clarity of mind and the strain of your back.
Despite all this, over the last several months, I have had the real pleasure of working with an organization that shares this passion for reconnecting people with Nature. The Urban Interface is a local non-profit here is the Brazos valley that focuses on educating and introducing kids to the amazing wildlife species which share our home with us.
We do interactive, educational programs free of charge at schools in both Bryan and College Station (and occasionally elsewhere!) that bring kids face-to-face with local wildlife. Many of the people we talk to are always amazed to learn just how many different species of wildlife live here. Our goal is to both teach and inspire kids to connect with their environment in a way they may have never thought possible before.
It’s been through working with this organization that I’ve started to see real hope for change. There is a better way to live, an easier, more healthful way to live together. I’m a romantic, but this isn’t really about aesthetics, it’s about efficiency and what works best. Nature works. It just also happens to be breath-taking.
Over the next year, hopefully, I’ll see these pieces I’ve been working so hard on allowed in some galleries here and, hopefully, they’ll inspire people. I do also intend to get them photographed and to sell prints, either directly from this website or from the Facebook page. Believe it or not, I am looking forward to getting these done with because there is a bunch more that I have in mind to work on….
I recently finished this painting and at the request of some, I’ve decided to upload it. I had planned on waiting until I’d finished the other paintings I am working on, but I’ve been really busy (we all have, honestly) and I figured there’d be no harm in showing this one off.
The most beautiful thing about Nature is that it has everything we need. When we go out picking wild grapes or passionfruit or mesquite beans, the impulse is to try and pick everything, to try and grab it all. Of course you can’t, and you don’t need to.
Our society today drives people to feel like if they’re not constantly pushing for more, they’ll be seen as lazy or unsuccessful. We’re very competitive in how we deal with each other and our own lives in our culture. Nature is not like that; in Nature, life is not about competing to be the best, it’s about being just good enough.
That’s a hard reality to accept, for a lot of people, myself included. We’ve been conditioned by the circumstances we all live in to believe that life is a struggle: “Cursed is the ground because of you, through painful toil will you eat of it all the days of your life…. By the sweat of your brow will you eat your food”. Incredulity is a common reaction I see; either wild foods don’t exist, or exist in such paltry conditions to make their usage akin to famine and starvation.
So when you see a smorgasbord of food, free for the taking, your impulse is to jump on it and devour it all. Who knows when you’ll get another break like this? Truthfully, this is how we assume “wild savages” (hunter-gatherers) think and live. What we’re feeling is a lack of trust, of faith in the world we live in. Such a loss engenders a sense of desperation in people. We become, not like animals (for most animals actually avoid competition and conflict like a plague), but like crazy people; like animals caught in a trap.
At it’s core it’s a lack of hope, a lack of heart. But there is hope, there is a reason to have heart.
You belong here.
You belong here in the same way everything else does: the grass out in your front lawn, the birds in your bushes, the possum sleeping in the tree in your backyard. You are just as much a part of this world as they are, as we all are. And you have every reason to have faith in that.
You belong here. Everything you need is right here. There is a place for you at this table and you don’t need to be afraid.