Thursday, June 21, 2018


This past Spring I've caught my face and Bill's on camera at the Rauschenberg and Magritte exhibits at the MOMA in San Francisco. What fun it is to visualize a different reality.

Do you see Bill in my iPhone?

Inspired by what I saw at the MOMA, I decided to to paint a series of faces using mixed media.

Watercolor done in my watercolor class

Acrylic paints, stamps, stencils, paper scraps, and gesso

created with found pieces of paper, acrylic paints, General's Sketch & Wash pencil, gesso and a stick

Can you find all the symbols in this mixed media piece?

"Shadows" by M Slavin

Just as I was collecting my faces to publish here, we watched a documentary called Faces, Places (Visages, Villages) which is a gentle, humorous movie about JR, a photographer in his 30s, and his relationship with New Wave director, Agnes Varda, an 89-year old woman with white hair fringed with a band of red. The movie follows them as they travel the French countryside, take pictures of people they encounter and plaster the enormous photos on the walls of buildings, water towers, and shipping containers. The story is at once sweet and heart-felt as it follows the path of a younger Agnes from her earlier movie-making career. The movie will restore your spirit.

Please visit three exhibits this summer. I have a piece in each one. Click on my Gallery button for a sneak preview

Kalligraphica at the Main Library on Larkin St. in San Francisco, June 16 through Aug. 27

The 2nd Half -- 50 and Older Show, Las Laguna Gallery, 577 S. Coast Highway, A-1 Laguna Beach, CA, June 9 through the 30th

Mix It Up, Danville Village Theater Art Gallery, 233 Front St, Danville, CA, June 29 to August 28

Friday, June 15, 2018


A lovely day around a pool in a shady backyard.

A group of women, including a great aunt in her late 80's still full of vim and vigor and a squirmy 3-year old toddler, sat together around tables as a friend's daughter opened wedding shower presents. A gentle breeze wafted the ribbons on the packages. I hadn't been to a wedding shower in a long time, but two wedding invitations arrived in the mail for friends' grown-up children.

The couples are in their early thirties, they work at labor-intensive jobs, and have already set up a households together. The invitations took me back to my own wedding preparations. I made my dress, my mother sewed the beads on the bodice, I silk screened the wedding invitations, and the two of us spent the morning of the wedding making bite-sized sandwiches for wedding guests. Like the young couple today, Bill and I knew each other since college days. We waited to marry till we settled into our careers: Bill as a management consultant and I as a teacher. We had a simple ceremony with a reception in my parents' backyard.

I sat watching the young women around the tables and listened to their own wedding preparation experiences as they sipped glasses of champagne. I was glad to hear how much hands-on work young brides-to-be still do to make their day special. One talked of spending a day with friends making paper flowers, which became her bouquet as well as table decorations. Another explained how she designed and printed her wedding invitations. On her lap sat her 7-month old daughter. Another child played with her mother on the grass.

Towards the end of the shower, several young men arrived to pick up their wives and young children. The gifts were collected and loaded into the car. The group of women, young and old, slowly dispersed after a lovely day in a shady backyard.

After I came home from the shower, I searched for our wedding album because I was curious how many gifts from our wedding we still had. I was surprised to find that there were several that I still used: a large wooden salad bowl to serve family and friends, a small set of Pyrex cookware, and a set of salad tongs that many people admire because of the hinge that connects both utensils.  I thought of the gifts from the shower and realized that they also included a salad bowl, a set of Pyrex with colorful lids, and salad tongs that are connected together. I thought of the invitations that I silk screened and my mother's help with wedding preparations. As I looked back on the day I thought some things never go out of style.

Friday, June 8, 2018


Walking along the Iron Horse Trail, I never know what I will find. 
A bird nest, which had fallen from a tree. 
The bird had found a stash of blue stuffing paper
 and decorated the outside of its nest. 

I always see leaves, twigs, rocks, and other natural objects.

Today, the last day of school, I was surprised by a rock nestled in the straw. Someone (a last project from the art class?) had placed painted rocks along the trail, to be discovered only if I looked down. The rocks couldn't help but bring a smile to my face.


And then back to the natural things along the trail.

Have a good summer full of surprises and pleasures. Look down as well as up! See you next week.

Friday, June 1, 2018


The word adventure conjures up climbing the Himalayas, slogging through the rain forests, or hiking across a desert. I'm all for small adventures around the area I live. During the school year, I drive to a middle school in Berkeley to participate with Writer Coach Connection as a coach for students.  My drive starts in Danville, a suburban town with soccer and baseball fields, goes through the Berkeley Hills tunnel to arrive in a different place altogether. The temperature can be 10 degrees different, and Berkeley/Oakland are big cities, diverse and always changing. Some areas of the cities look pretty grim like all cities can. I get off the freeway at Telegraph Avenue and find myself on a route that is filled with colorful murals instead.

all photos by Bill Slavin

Last week Bill and I traced my route with his camera. Our first stop was Radasheen Ethiopian Market run by two brothers. Graffiti that proliferates in any big city covers a side door. Step back and the walls are covered with vibrant murals.

Martha talking with the market owner

The two brothers worked outside as Bill took pictures. They invited us inside to see their market. We saw stacks of large bags of teff, a gluten-free flour, the main ingredient of Injera, the traditional Ethiopian flatbread, which they sell to restaurants in the area. Injera is often served with Doro Wat, a spicy chicken stew.* The brothers also sell bags of lentils and the spices that are added to Ethiopian dishes. They hope to turn part of the market into an Ethiopian restaurant.

Teff ready to eat

Across the street from Radasheen, we saw another set of murals on a liquor store.

Back in the car, we turned left on to Alcatraz Avenue. Just before the Shattuck Avenue interchange, we passed a fierce cat guarding a utility box in front of the Korean Souel (sic) BBQ.

At the corner of Alcatraz and Adeline, another mural competes with a billboard for the salon and beauty supply store inside.

In the same block, a community art center has covered its building's walls with monumental paintings promoting healthy eating.

Directly across the street, we found a tribute to music and music makers.

We drove by the Alcatraz Market.

Even trucks are colorful.

We turned on to Sacramento Street, almost to our destination. Again, buildings are covered with imaginative murals along the way.

As we turned back towards home, the last mural we saw was a faded one at the entrance to the freeway on Telegraph Avenue.

We had had an adventure, an art adventure on city streets.

Back home as I looked at the photos that Bill had taken, I noticed that one of the murals had a small decal at the bottom announcing the Bay Area Mural Festival. I shook my head in disbelieve that I didn't know about the festival. We had missed it by a few days. Next year in May, we will go to the annual festival to watch the muralists paint their images on buildings.

Check out the festival at bay area mural festival and put it on your calendar for next year.

Thanks to Tena G. for information about Walldogs, a group of artists who come to towns to paint murals. They have some extraordinary samples on their website.
Check it out!

There are other street art festivals in the Bay Area in the summer. Don't miss out on an art adventure.

San Francisco North Beach Festival:  June 16-17

San Rafael Street Painting Festival:  June 23-24

Redwood City Chalk Full of Fun:  July 3-4

Palo Alto Festival of the Arts:  August 25-26

Sacramento Chalk It Up Festival:  September 1-3

San Jose Luna Park Chalk Festival:  September 15

*Link to recipe for Doro Wat:

Friday, May 25, 2018


Pathways to Life by Martha Slavin

I have become a rabid Warriors basketball fan. A surprise to me since I've never like watching basketball until the last four seasons. Before the Warriors became champions, we shared tickets with friends. I hated going to the games because to me they were no longer an athletic event. They were a show, they were extremely loud and expensive, spectators strutted around covered in Bling, and the cheerleaders, like most modern cheer squads, sashayed and pranced like Vegas showgirls. People seem to be at the game just to watch each other. We gave up our share of the tickets.

The Warriors with their joyous, winning ways have put the fun back into the game (though they still persist with a sexy cheer squad). As I watch a game on TV, I realize how quickly I turn against the players of the opposing team. I think of James Harden in particular, who I grew to dislike during the first 3 seasons of playoffs. He seemed to cheat when his team was behind by looking to create fouls to increase his team's score. He bad-mouthed other players. He strutted around with a chip on his shoulder. This year with the addition of some better players on the Rockets, Harden doesn't carry such a heavy load, has learned to share the ball with the likes of Chris Paul, and with the help of his team members is really pressing the Warriors, without as many fouls as he used to accumulate.

I let go of my dislike of him because he is showing me a different side of himself. Though he still spends too much time dribbling, I can see how he thinks through the plays and is more aware of other players on the court who can help his team win. He is an example of how character, working together, and maturity count. Isolation doesn't win.

The other side of the coin is my reaction to an opposing team. How quickly I rant and cheer against them even when they may be perfectly reasonable, likable people off the court. They say that playing sports is a good way to learn personal skills, character development, and teamwork.  Maybe the same could be said for spectators. I can see that it is easy to learn the wrong lesson. I've watched people shout at each other and get into altercations at leisurely baseball games. I can feel my own emotions surge as my team goes ahead or goes down to defeat. I could ask myself what does this game mean to me? Maybe I need to step back, slow down, and remember it is just a game. I need to remember that though character counts in athletics, it matters even more in real life.

Go Warriors!

Sunshine in Flowers by Martha Slavin

Friday, May 18, 2018


Finding Faces in Unexpected Places

"I have three voice-activated devices in my apartment. I use them all the time. They're quick and convenient. Even the Robo-vac answers my calls."

The 20-something son of friends sat among a table full of skeptical elders as he explained why he liked using the devices he has spread around his apartment. I wanted to ask him about what he saw as the downside of these devices, but I thought of my father-in-law's frequent criticism of my generation's values while I was in my 20s. I kept my mouth shut. The son shared his interest in new ideas with confidence. He saw the positive attributes of the new products he was using.

I wish I had asked him about the downsides.

I recently listened to a young woman on the radio who advocated for artificial intelligence and the benefits we would receive. When asked about hacking, computer crashes, and other potential problems, she breezed through them, claiming that those types of problems would be solved. She offered the automatic pilot on planes as an example of how we depend on the safety of these digital means.

But I still thought of the various social media and their lack of understanding of the shortcomings of their products, our own high expectations of digital devices, and their often erratic behavior. Bill (husband) has new hearing aids that allow him to receive phone calls through the instruments, which is why he enthusiastically adopted the equipment. He hasn't solved one problem with them. Though he turns off the phone's volume on his phone while he is teaching, he forgets to do the same with the hearing aids. On numerous occasions, a phone call will ring loudly as he is in the middle of class and then he can't figure out how to turn off the audible ringing in his ears.

When the power went off in our house recently, the lack of connection canceled the printer and scanner link to my computer. I still haven't gotten the scanner back. The light in our pantry is set to come on when we walk in. It is programmed to stay on for several minutes and then go off. Since the power outage, it goes on and off at odd times of the day and may stay on unless we turn it off by hand.

We expect these devices to work continuously. We forget how to fix them between occurrences. We usually have to call for professional help. Before their installation, all we had to do was flip a switch on or off.

Our 89-year-old neighbor is still energetic and full of good humor. He grew up on a farm in the Midwest and learned how to fix things. Though he has digital devices such as TV and his phone, he uses them because he needs them, not because they are the latest gadgets. He doesn't have any interest in acquiring voice-activated ones, though I am sure he would if he found a good use for one.

Bill, our neighbor and the 20-something son of a friend represent three points on a spectrum:  Millennials with bright ideas, intensity and confidence, an early adopter to new ideas though sometimes flummoxed by digital behavior, and a Korean War vet, who has lived through the ups and downsides of life and has learned to make-do with what he has. All three exhibit similar values, kindness, enthusiasm for life and a caring nature, but all three live in different worlds.

Where do you fit on this spectrum?