“What are Improvements”
Bocas new jetty, and bath house

View of the retaining wall/ramp and parking lot, Malecone, (complete with benches and palm trees), and bath house  

Looking at life and art, (I see them as intrinsicley linked), I find myself at different times asking, “What are improvements?”. If we look toward the dictionary for definitions of the word improve we find: “ORIGIN early 16th cent. (as emprowe or improwe): from Anglo-Norman French emprower (based on Old French prou ‘profit,’ ultimately from Latin prodest ‘is of advantage’); -owe was changed to -ove under the influence of prove. The original sense was ‘make a profit, increase the value of’; subsequently ‘make greater in amount or degree.’ And the word improvement coming from: “late Middle English emprowement (in the sense ‘profitable management or use; profit’), from Anglo-Norman French “.

Easy access stairs and ramp to the boats from the parking lot

So the idea of improvement, particularly in the west, has been, not always, but often, linked to that of profit, something that is quantitatively measured. And perhaps by focusing our lens narrowly just on profitability, we loose something in the realm of quality in the process. We can certainly see this through history and in our current affairs where the improvement of profit for a select few is at the expense of the quality of life of so many. We simply need to shift to a different lens of perception around improvement, (something that art often affords us; the ability to step back, gain perspective and think outside the box – or is it perhaps to see “The Whole Box” more clearly). As in art, it is all about intention. Our intention shapes and informs our process, (and product). To shift from profit consciousness to quality consciousness, (quality of life consciousness). In art (and life), this is focusing on the process not the product – the excitement and joy of doing and being, learning, growing, expanding, experimenting, discovering, creating, rejoicing – improving. In art, when we focus on product and profit the work runs the danger of stagnation, becoming shallow and eventually lacking the connection to life force that perhaps we experienced when we were originally creating. As an artist making a living from doing and being art, there is always that balance of continually striving to improve quality, (be in the process as described above) and at the same time, aware that you are creating a product, a “Brand” – that Galleries and collectors, etc. want to “Brand” you for marketing – profitability, (this subject in itself is deserving of a whole other essay).

In the world, this separation of intention, profit vs quality, though rampant throughout society in many forms, is easily apparent in the example of environmental degradation that we are currently a witness to, i.e.: While there are certainly technological advances that would improve the creation and delivery of clean, affordable energy that would benefit the environment and quality of life for all concerned, (as well as in the long term being quite profitable for all concerned), it is being for the most part ignored because it is viewed with the small, distorted lens of profit through greed of short term gain for a few.

So why do I bring all this up when sharing with you the few “minor improvements in Boca”. It has to do with our awareness of striking a balance. Although, with few exceptions, all major cultures have had their hand in colonization, (which boils down to the so-called “improvement” of “others” culture through the imposition of values, etc. of the colonizer, with the intention of profit), the greatest reach in global history falls to the relatively short history of the U.S. This is   perhaps due to technology playing a role as one of the major factors, (along with a generous portion of self serving belief in, white male supremacy,  Manifest Destiny and all that carries, etc., etc.). This is why, as a guest resident in a small fishing village in Mexico, we always encourage our guests to try to leave their cultural preferences and conditioning “at the door” so to speak, so that they can fully appreciate and benefit from a different world view and experience a fresh perspective, (this actually creates the ideal environment for a learning/workshop experience). One of the things that makes this easy is the warm and welcoming hospitality that is part of Mexican culture and is often easily felt in the Boca. We also take great consideration in contributing “improvements” to the village. What are all of our motives and the implications of our desires in consideration of our host community and their values as best we understand them. That is not to say that all our motives are altruistic, we are a business and therefor seek to make a profit, but we also see through the eyes of art. Art recognizes that all things are connected, that we are a part of nature, not separate from her and one global family – so we seek balance. Our kids remind us all to often how Mexican culture has seen the results and changes of colonization, with out benefiting largely from the advances of society sharing in the profits, (and this goes way back in history, not just the U.S but to the Spanish invasion as well).

Construction of the new ramp on the Boca foot bridge, organized by our friend and Casa architect Douglas.

So the building of a large Medical Clinic to a simple walkway, or smoothing of a jungle path or railings by an overhang or bridge, can’t just come from our desire to “improve” the conditions for the safety of ourselves, our guests, and residents, but must be met with a consensus from the locals that this is in fact in everyones’ best interest. Not just because we, the guest, thought it would be safer or even “look better” or whatever. Their society, (like ours), has been changing and shifting quickly under the influence of technology with the added edge, (and one could argue, damage), of the influence of cultural colonization. It is no wonder that some changes take time, people are leery of change, particularly from the outside, for good reason.


New railings on walkway
Many thanks go out to Casa workshop instructor and watercolor master
Lian Quan Zhen for his contribution to the construction projects for the safety of Boca residents and guests!
Join Lian when he returns to the Casa in 2020

One of the special attractions of Boca is that it is a quaint and simple fishing village, with a rural charm with rugged simplicity – a vital, traditional Mexican village with friendly welcoming residents. We hope and pray it doesn’t loose this unique niche in the world for many, many years to come. It not only privileges us of the opportunity to experience life at a different pace and perspective, but to hopefully bring that expanded world view home with us to share.

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Awesome-with-Brahm-at-Kaaterskill-Falls-60x48-2Robert Masla, “Awesome, (with Brahm at Kaaterskill Falls)”, 60″x48″, Rembrandt oil on Fredrix linen canvas

The following is the Artists’ Statement from the Exhibition: “Robert Masla – Around the Corner & Beyond” opening with a reception for the artist at the R. Michelson Galleries, Northampton, MA. December 8, 2017 from 6 -8pm. You can preview the exhibition on the galleries website through that link.

“Seeing the Beauty” was the title of my last exhibition here at the R. Michelson Galleries. The declaration and supplication is perhaps even more important today than ever before. During these “interesting times”, it is easy to see only the darkness, the ugliness and lies, corruption and selfishness that spout at us through the media, through twitter. It is easy to say that there is “a fading light” from our feeble attempt at a Democracy. If a light ever existed, it was in words, ideas and the hearts of people. Certainly this country has enshrined in words, noble ideas and ideals that all civilized and humane persons would honor. But let us not fool ourselves, (or be fooled by those that would con us, again and again), though perhaps one of the most advanced in concept, our country has rarely lived up to those words and ideals in action. Founded on enslavement and the Native American genocide, (and continued through invasions, assassinations, coercions, coups, lies, more war, more genocide…, our nations history is a liturgy of shameful actions), the leaders of this great nation have continually placed profit before people, doing so at every opportunity. Yet, I see from watching natures rhythm… with every setting sun, there is a new day, with each fading light, a new dawn. I am forever the optimist, because I believe in the Beauty of the human spirit.

Let me explain:

Progressively for more than 2 thousand years and particular at this point in history, humankind in general has become increasingly separated from the natural world. This is not simply an evolutionary development, the result of “taming of a harsh environment”, but a design created by the continued influence and abuse of a male dominated , society. Rather than progressing towards “civilization”, humanity continues to cultivate it’s less than civilized traits, through a design that has sought to separate humans from our natural environment, -ultimately from ourselves. A design to separate us from our connection to our Mother Earth and one another.   This is because in creating this illusion of separation, (because we can never actually be separated from nature, -from ourselves), we fall under the illusion that we can be independent of IT – our very Self. and we seek satisfaction in a myriad of illusions funneled to us in an artificial consumer society. More importantly, with the illusion of separation driven by male dominance permeating our consciousness, humans can more easily choose to subjugate, abuse and exploit ”the other” – humans, animals, the environment, nature as a whole. This is the manifestation of globalized colonization, the hegemony of “white male values” to the far reaches of the planet. Monica and I experienced this in our recent travels to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The  qualities and behavior we end up developing in this society separated from it’s connection to nature are ones of predatory antagonism, bullying, selfishness, prejudice, racism, sexism, actions diminished in compassion and self awareness and inflated with a sense of privilege, self-importance, deception and conceit. Our current so-called leaders embody these negative qualities, and even wear them proudly, (certainly not great role models for children or society) and they are bold enough, (or greedy and ignorant enough) to declare that our actions as individuals and as a world community, do not have an impact on our environment. They continuously act in such a way as to place profit before the endangerment of the earths delicate balance and the survival of future generations.

Those controlling the flow of finance and resources, holding power and greed above human decency, creating and profiting from the wars and the gulf of ever widening separation between haves and have nots, are also responsible for the continued rape of the earth and its resources. They continue, through the ever tightening grasp and control on media and information to weave the web of illusions of separateness, of “Us” & “Them” the dream that “Our Self”  is separate from “Nature”. But there is an awakening slowly happening. -We must realize we are asleep in order to wake up. I believe everyone seeks Beauty, but they have forgotten how to see, (I believe this is the power and role of art – to SEE). I do not believe the majority of people are greedy, that is not my experience in traveling the world. In fact, the words that resound in me from the people we met in our recent travels, areas devastated by wars and violence, are “resilience”, “kindness”, “forgiveness”. The Rabbi that married Monica and I, Reb. Carlbach said to us, “When you see a spark of light in someone, you should fan it into a flame”. I believe in the Beauty of the human spirit. There is kindness and Beauty that exists in every human being, certainly there is cruelty and ugliness in each as well, but if we focus on the beauty, we help draw the beauty out.

I believe my role painting the landscape serves as a bridge to reconnect individuals and in a broader sense, society, to Beauty and our endangered landscape. I wish to draw attention to the Beauty that surrounds us, and flows through us and to identify our place and interdependence in nature, to communicate and find balance.

Throughout my career as an artist, I have worked in many styles and genres in my continued exploration of creativity. During these many years I have always been drawn back to painting the landscape, and find it particularly gratifying to do so “en plein air”, painting while immersed in nature. From my first plein air landscape with my mentor at around age 12 I felt an affirmation of an already experienced connection to nature. I see my painting as a spiritual practice, not in any religious dogmatic sense, but my sense of spirituality is a sense of connectedness. To feel my presence as a part of nature, as both a witness and a participant in creation as it unfolds. For me, painting outdoors is a meditation, an opportunity to be in nature with focused and expanded awareness. I often experience a sense of expansion and awe, a humbling and an ecstatic joy. In many of my landscape paintings I represent this feeling by pitting the finite against the infinite expanse. My painting is a celebration of life energy, connection and the beauty of creation. If I am successful, I am able to convey this to those that experience my artwork. – That satisfaction we all seek, real happiness comes when we contact Beauty. The place within where we are connected to Nature, to each-other, to our Selves. It is here & now, right in front of us, Around the Corner & Beyond.

 

Salt in the Air,(San Pancho)8x72dpi

Masla, Salt in the Air, Cobra water mixable oil on Fredrix all media paint board, 8″ x 16″

The post for this issue has to do with Critique and Criticism… and how to tell the difference in these voices, as well as an added spiritual perspective. Being a full time artist for 40 years and art instructor for nearly as long, (not to mention the 12 years running the Casa and experiencing a large variety of guest artist facilitators and their methods), I have over the years run into and contemplated the subject repeatedly. The article is excerpted from 2 sources, talks I have had with my colleagues and students and a letter/text, (slightly edited) sent to my kids when they where in creative crisis. It applies, not just to all creative endeavors, regardless of your media or practice, but to life in general. The letter was originally shared with our son Brahm, a jazz drummer, during his first semester at University, but was equally important for our daughters Narieka and Aiyana, (dancers/performers/teachers), in there lives. I hope you find it helpful and enlightening. Part 2, The Letter, is perhaps not relevant for everyone, realize that it is within a personal context and I share it as I think it will perhaps ring true for some. As I have said in art as in life, intention, love and actions are always my barometer, take what is helpful, (and opens your heart), and leave the rest behind. Please send us your feed back if you like.
Due to the vast confusion/blending of these terms and the often negative associations attributed to the word critique I have often preferred to use the word sharing. Someone wants to share with me there work and process, and I in turn share my reaction formed from my experience and insight, hopefully it is helpful. Here in lies some key words. Throughout our lives, many of us have experienced feed back that is less than helpful, whether it is presented as a harsh “reality” that “destroys our motivation” or is obsequiously kind to the point of our disbelief and disillusion. And worse is when we levy such “critiques” on ourselves, for these are not really critiques, but internal criticism (as I will explain). These criticisms, which have accumulated since childhood, by even persons with loving intentions, form voices in our heads. As we grow older, we often identify with these voices, not realizing the origin of the various voices, we often limit ourselves by them. They become blocks on our creativity, courage, exploration and self confidence and ultimately our sense of self-worth and identity.

A few typical example of common early childhood criticisms might be: “Bobby, try and color within the lines”, (reel it in, conform) or ” The sky is not green – it is blue”, (don’t be expressive, curb your imagination). I remember a music teacher in our “choir class”, coming up to me and whispering in my ear, “Bobby, just mouth the words, you really don’t have a voice” (- wow, no voice, that’s deep). And it is not just within the realm of the arts. Out of concern parents often say, (I know I have), “Don’t run to fast, you’ll fall and hurt yourself”, (don’t trust your own body sense). As children we have all experienced a variety of these, (perhaps you can identify some of your voices, I do a drawing exercise with students to identify some of the voices blocking creativity). As a parent, I cringe at the thought of the ways I have perpetuated this on my children, but it is all grist for the mill.The underlying message that these accumulated voices give us, and are often reinforced by the structures of our society, can be paralyzing if not underscored with a supportive loving environment and/or strong internal constitution. The message is not just “Don’t step outside the box”, but “being creative, expressing yourself – being yourself – is wrong, is even dangerous!”

It is no wonder that when I had entered my kids class when they where in preschool and asked “who here can draw?” every hand went up. But when I address a group of adults, perhaps 1 or 2 in 20 will affirm it. I often hear, I can’t draw, I have no talent, I can’t even draw a stick figure. My response is, “Thank god talent and stick figures really have very little to do with drawing” and “if you can sign your name I can teach you to draw.”
A defining difference between critique and criticism is understanding the premise from which the critique must unfold. For a number of years now when asked to critique someones work I first ask a question, which is the premise: What is your Intention. If I do not know your intention, it is impossible for me to evaluate your work or process. It is not my business to judge your intention, is it “good or bad”, “right or wrong” – It is yours, and if you claim it, it is always right. I have my own personal preferences and those should be put aside in regards to your intention, (and shared if you are interested, in terms of critique). To define our intention as artists is not always easy and may take some time and certainly some thought. As artists we must ask ourselves, what do we feel and what do we wish to communicate with this piece, (or with our art in general). Will it be intentional, perhaps with a subject and a narrative, or will it be abstract or even amorphous? Will it be clearly defined or ambiguous? Is it symbolic, with intellectual interpretation as well? What attracted you to this subject, what is it’s raison d’etre, (reason for being). Does it have an intention or is the intention to be discovered in the process of creation, or is the process of creation it’s own intention?
Again, If you do not know at least some of your intention, it is impossible to evaluate your work.

For example: If your intention is to create a photo realistic depiction of something you are observing in nature, that takes a whole skill set and use of craft, (dissolving all brush strokes and “the hand of the artist”, perhaps with a fan brush or other tool or technique), etc. This is very different than say if you wanted to create an expressive painting or abstract painting of the same observed phenomenon. If your intention is to create something that is flat and decorative, it is a different evaluation than if you wanted to create a naturalistic three dimensional feel. Neither is right or wrong, just different intentions and when you understand the intention, than you can evaluate, without a value judgement, whether the work achieves the desired effect or what elements need to be
developed, skills and techniques mastered and practiced, formulas studied, etc to achieve the desired result. – It is not an evaluation of your worth as an artist or a human being – simply an evaluation of what is between you and your desired intention. Therefore there is really no such thing as a “failed painting”, but rather a painting that did not reach your intention, – but with insight it will reveal to you simply an opportunity for change, learning and growth.  Not failures, but gifts, revealing insights, each piece being a stepping stone in the process of creating your intention. Art, creativity, is always a process, it is never “finished”, (till we say so) – it is only a product when we market it or sell it, and that can be it’s own intention, and is unfortunately often governed with a whole different criteria.
The Letter:
Dear Brahmaji
Remember : What is important is to feel good, to feel your groove, to be in the Passion, the Flow and the Love – The Flow of Music – of your Art.

Technique is simply craft that comes from Practice, Patience & Persistence – Music – Art – comes from your soul – the Place of Love, the place of Connection – Your Passion.

Don’t listen to the rational mind of duality – us and them, good and bad, right and wrong – judgement & criticism – it is all false ego, creativity exists beyond boundaries.

Criticism and Critique are very different. Criticism and Self criticism is the ego and mind grasping not to die when you are merging with the ONE. Trying to sneak in the back door. Critique, Real Critique – is an evaluation – WITHOUT JUDGEMENT – of what needs to be done to achieve a particular goal – to reach your intention, don’t get confused.

A Real Teacher gives critique with love and support, without a value judgement or ego – under-standing to the TRUTH to support learning, growth & change. – A false teacher tries to tear down creativity – pretending to critique – critique is not, nor is ever, a judgement of your value as a human being, artist or musician – it is an assessment of what needs to be practiced or learned for change and growth, to move towards your intention – and nothing more – critique is not, nor should ever be criticism.

The Spiritual – Art – is connecting to the place within – Beyond Duality – In The Pocket – In The Groove – making all the connections – Feeling Connected. Listen to the beat, Follow the Rhythm – Follow Your Breath – The Flow of the brush, The Mantra- etc. Into your heART where you are The Music. There are many names humans use for the Oneness of Connection that Pervades All Things. – Brahman, The Spirit, the Tao,  Wakan Tanka, The Great Mystery, Elohim, Energy, Cosmos, Krsna – the All Attractive Reservoir of Pleasure, etc. etc. – It is in each and everyone of us – is our Essence. I, nor anyone else, has a monopoly on this name, experience or concept and hopefully you and each person discovers our own unique relationship and way of being that comes from connecting. The idea that we are separate from the creation, (“creator” and creative process) is a fabrication of our minds. How can we be separate from what we are. Use the Music to connect to that place within where you are – and be The One – The Light that shines and connects with all of the infinite Sparks of the Universe creating the Blazing Light of Brahman – more powerful than 10,000 Suns.
You are the Light, the Music – you are Art, even in the present -Wabi-sabi – perfect as you are in the Now – and nothing can diminish that. Art is Process – Not Product, (until it is marketed and sold). We are all coming into being in the Eternal Present.
Just breath deep, follow the Inner Rhythm & BE. – Love AllWays

On Wabi Sabi
I was first introduced to this concept back in undergraduate school at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts when studying calligraphy and watercolor with master Japanese painter Kaji Aso. In it’s simplest form I interpret it as the perfection within imperfection, but it is an aesthetic that has deep roots in Japanese philosophy.
Wikopedia: In traditional Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-sabi () is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.[2] The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.
InTheWindowRMGallerySummitExhibit
Masla, “Summit, View West”, oil on canvas, displayed the month of May in the window of the R. Michelson Gallery announcing the exhibition “Views of the Mount Holyoke Range with the Kestrel Land Trust” – to see the various artist/images on exhibit, click here

Throughout my career as an artist, I have worked in many styles and genres in my continued exploration of creativity. During these many years I have always been drawn back to painting the landscape, and find it particularly gratifying to do so “en plein air”, painting while immersed in nature. From my first plein air landscape with my mentor at around age 12 I felt an affirmation of an already experienced connection to nature. I see my painting as a spiritual practice, not in any religious dogmatic sense, but my sense of spirituality is a sense of connectedness. To feel my presence as a part of nature, as both a witness and a participant in creation as it unfolds. For me, painting outdoors is a meditation, an opportunity to be in nature with focused and expanded awareness. Often times, as in the case of painting at the Summit, I often experience a sense of expansion and awe, a humbling and an ecstatic joy. In many of my landscape paintings I represent this feeling by pitting the finite against the infinite expanse. My painting is a celebration of life energy, connection and the beauty of creation. If I am successful, I am able to convey this to those that experience my artwork.
Summit View West
Masla, “Summit, View West”, oil on canvas, 18″ x 24

 

Summit View Rvisited:StatementGallery
Masla, Summit View Revisited, oil, 30″x40″, displayed with artists statement at R. Michelson Galleries
Progressively for more than 2 thousand years and particular at this point in history, humankind in general has become increasingly separated from the natural world. This is not simply an evolutionary development, the result of “taming of a harsh environment”, but a design created by the continued influence and abuse of a male dominated society. Rather than progressing towards “civilization”, humanity continues to cultivate it’s less than civilized traits, through a design that has sought to separate humans from our natural environment, -ultimately from ourselves. A design to separate us from our connection to our Mother Earth and one another. This is because in creating this illusion of separation, (because we can never actually be separated from nature, -from ourselves), we fall under the illusion that we can be independent of IT – our very Self, and we seek satisfaction in a myriad of illusions funneled to us in an artificial consumer society. More importantly, with the illusion of separation driven by male dominance permeating our consciousness, humans can more easily choose to subjugate, abuse and exploit “the other” – humans, animals, the environment, nature as a whole. The qualities and behavior we end up developing in this society separated from it’s connection to nature are ones of predatory antagonism, bullying, selfishness, prejudice, sexism, actions diminished in compassion and self awareness and inflated with a sense of privilege, self-importance, deception and conceit.
VIEW_FROM_THE SUMMIT, Homage to T. Cole 9x72dpiMasla, “View From the Summit – Homage to Thomas Cole” oil & alkyds on linen, 52″ x 76″, not in the current exhibition. Exhibited in the lobby of the Mt. Holyoke College Museum of Art for the opening of the exhibit, “Changing Prospects, The View from Mt. Holyoke”, Color reproduction pp 70 of Museum Exhibition catalogue.
Our current, so-called leaders, embody these negative qualities, (certainly not great role models for children or society), and they are bold enough, (or greedy and ignorant enough), to declare that our actions as individuals and as a world community, do not have an impact on our environment. They continuously act in such a way as to place profit before the endangerment of the earths delicate balance and the survival of future generations. I believe my role painting the landscape serves as a bridge to reconnect individuals and in a broader sense, society to our endangered landscape, to draw attention to the beauty that surrounds us, to identify our place and interdependence in nature, communicate and find balance. For artists to paint in nature today….
 Summit -View South 8X72dpi
Masla, “Summit, View South”, plein air/studio, oil on canvas, 20″x 30″. Not in the current exhibition. Private collection in Florence, MA

 
… though perhaps seen as “traditional” or “retro”, is actually an avant-garde act that is rapidly growing in a resurgent movement. It is a bold statement that flies in the face of pop culture and our societies conditioning of instant gratification and the illusion of separation from nature. By emphasizing the Sacred Landscape in art, we acknowledge our connection to and dependence on Nature and the precarious position of our relationship with Her and perhaps, point a way back to honoring Her.

SummitViewRevisitedMasla, “Summit View Revisited”, oil on linen, 30″x40″

http://www.MaslaFineArt.com

http://www.ArtWorkshopVacations.com

Chiles N’ Nogada

preparing the chilies for Chili RellenosRoasting the Chiles on open flame

If you have ever been to the Casa then you know that one of the many highlights of the experience is having the privilege to indulge yourself in chef Rubys’ cuisine. A true artist of the palate, she daily creates a traditional Mexican Cuisine with a twist. She transforms fresh ingredients, vegetables, and fruits along with fresh farmer cheeses and cacoeque(sp?), (a delicious sweet, home made sour cream, similar to creme fresh, that she brings with her  from her home in the Mountains 40 minutes from the Casa), into delectable lacto/ovo vegetarian Mexican meals.

Ruby teaching a cooking class

Ruby teaching a cooking class at the Casa

Another highlight is on Fridays, Ruby graciously the Casa kitchen to all our guests that want to take advantage of her knowledge and experience her charm, with a cooking class. Gathering around the kitchen “cooking island” with a glass of wine, a cold beer, or the days aquas fruitas, (fruit juice), guests learn to make various salsas, guacamole, (everyone has their own recipe), how to make and “throw” a tortilla and then a different main entree. Often times it is the special Mexican Independence Day fiesta dish, (red, white and green, like the flag) – Chiles n’ Nogada. This is typically a dish that comes out in the fall, for the celebration, so all the traditional ingredients are not always available at the Casa workshops, (Dec. though March). Ruby being the true artist of the kitchen that she is, makes do with improvisation and substitution, so although her recipe here may not be totally “traditional” – it is always delicious! It is rumored that Chiles n Nogada was a favorite dish of Diego Rivera that Frida Kahlo would prepare for him. There are lots of smiles and laughter in Rubys’ kitchen, (even when there is not a cooking class), and the best part of cooking class is – we all get to eat the results for lunch! 

Participant with Ruby in cooking class

Chiles n’ Nogada – This Recipe Feeds 12, (modify accordingly) :

To begin, roast 12 Poblano peppers on an open flame of a stove, (you could presumably broil them in the oven), remembering to flip and turn them regularly. you want to get the skins charred black so that after the next step, you can easily… remove the charred skins, scraping them with a spoon, (see photo above).

As each is roasted you place them into a plastic bag, this is to “sweat” the peppers so that you can easily rub the charred skins off.

Prepare the Stuffing:

Fry textured soy protein, (250 grams) in about 3 tablespoons of oil or butter, (you can also use the more traditional chopped meat, pork or chicken).
Chop into small cubes: 2 Apples, 1 and 1/2 peaches, 1/4 cup cubed dried candied aqave, (you could also use candied pineapple or mango).  Add to cooked soy along with 100 grams of chopped almonds and 100 grams of raisins and mix well.

Stuff the chiles with the mixture, place on a tray in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Nogada Sauce: In a blender place 1/4 onion, 1 large clove garlic, 1 can medium cream, 2 cans of evaporated milk, 1/4 cup of almonds, 1/2 cup of shelled walnuts, 1/2 block of cream cheese – blend. In a sauce pan put three tablespoons of butter and brown 1/2 kilo of maseca, (corn), flour and then add the sauce from the blender.

Remove Chiles from the oven, place each one on a plate, pour a healthy dose of the Nogada sauce on the chile, garnish with chopped walnuts or pecans, pomegranate seeds, and a sprinkle of minced cilantro. – Enjoy!

-excerpts from an October press release:

International Peace Garden Foundation announced that Puerto Vallarta, Mexico has been selected and honored, as the site of the 2017 International Peace Garden.

The Peace Garden will be located at the Vallarta Botanical Garden along the approach to a new multi-faith chapel. “Puerto Vallarta is a leader in Mexico for respecting diversity of cultures and human rights, along with overlapping many of the priorities of the International Peace Garden Foundation” said Paula Savage, Foundation President.

tony-demos-a-watercolor-at-the-botanical-gardens

Tony van Hasselt does a plein air watercolor demo while at the P.V. Botanical Gardens during his “Tropical Escapaint” week at the Casa.

Canada presented the first Peace Garden to the United States in 1990 in recognition of their long lasting friendship as they share the longest undefended border in the world for over 200 years. This began the tradition of naming recipient countries. The tulip became the official flower of the International Peace Garden because of its significance in Canada, tied to World War II and the Dutch Royal Family.
The International Peace Garden Foundation is a non profit organization established in 1990 traveling the world to advance global friendship and international understanding through the creation of Peace Gardens.
Presently there are twenty-two International Peace Gardens spanning five continents. Mexico is the second country in Central America to receive this honor. San Jose, Costa Rica was honored in 1999.
Plans are underway to complete the project by February for the planned dedication on February 16th, 2017. “The design includes ornamental terracing and access ramps for persons with disabilities. Plantings will focus on a geographical region that gave birth to several of the leading world religions through plants that grow together in harmony with each other and with our native plants as well,” said Vallarta Botanical Garden Executive Director, Neil Gerlowski.
Like never before, the future of our world and its inhabitants depends on people coming together to work out peaceful solutions for our collective challenges. We can all play a part in this and shape the world we live in. One way towards accomplishing this  is to set aside places dedicated for such actions. Outdoor spaces filled with natural beauty are especially appropriate as these landscapes restore the soul and create the perfect settings for purposeful reflection towards positive change.

While this designation is certain to bring great notoriety to the Vallarta Botanical Garden, the city of Puerto Vallarta, and the Banderas Bay region as a welcoming destination dedicated to international peace and friendship, it brings no direct funding. The Vallarta Botanical Gardens is accepting tax-deductible donations (Mexico, Canada and the US) for this project. Please visit vbgardens.org for more information.

For the past three years now our family has celebrated the traditional Thanksgiving day a little differently than most of the nation. We are gathering to give special thanks and feasting as a family today, Friday, the day after the traditional holiday. Monica and I along with Narieka and Brahm, (who are home from college), will gather late this afternoon to give thanks and celebrate. We will facetime with our oldest daughter Aiyana, who is with friends in California at the moment. Though we are sad that she is not with us to feast, we are incredibly proud of her and her vision, which is connected to this story… Before Aiyana left to drive out west, she gathered donations of clothing and camping gear that she dropped on route to warriors for the Earth, “The Guardians of the Water”, that are staging protest & resistance at Standing Rock . She spent a few days at Standing Rock, helping cook food and tending to children. She said it was one of the most incredible experiences of her life.

As an artist and an art educator my whole life, I have always taught that the basics of all art, (and life), is about relationships and connections, seeing the connections, and communication – and that the greatest of all works of art that we can create, is how we choose to paint our life. One of my greatest teachers in this regard, one of the greatest artists I know, though she is not a painter, is my wife Monica. She has always regarded relationship, connection, truth and kindness as the highest priority. To that end throughout our life together, she has always brought me and our children into connection with teachers, artists and situations, etc. that foster that reality. It was Monica that had brought our kids that first time, (I was in Mexico), to Plymouth, MA to show support for the National Day of Morning, (it was her sister Maura, that shared with her the event). Please don’t misinterpret me, we have nothing against the fundamental idea of a day of thanks being set aside for family and friends to gather together and celebrate life’s blessings, (we try to do this daily), In fact we think it is great and celebrate everyone doing so! But in light of our awareness and in trying to educate ourselves and our children in social justice and living in respect for the earth and all its’ creatures, we felt impelled to join the Indigenous American People, (and those throughout the world) in solidarity of protesting a myth that has been perpetuated by American culture at their expense and ultimately the expense of all people and the Earth. And certainly, with the current situation taking place at Standing Rock and what we experienced here in MA these past years fighting corporate greed trying to lay pipeline HERE In ASHFIELD and other areas of MA, (Yes folks, it can happen in your backyard as well! – see more on this below and the video of me speaking out at the hearing in Greenfield, MA this past March), we felt it even more important to attend this year.

As I am sure you are aware, as an artist, you cannot make a mark, change a color or shape on the canvas, without it effecting the whole canvas. And similarly, we cannot create an action or belief system in the world without it effecting the world around us. One of the biggest myths of western civilization is that we are all independent of and separate, from one another and as human beings – separate from the Earth, creation-environment around us. Of course this fundamental spin on reality has been perpetuated throughout history for a definite selfish purpose – if we are lulled into the belief that we are separate from the earth and all that is dependent on it, (including various races of peoples, etc), then it is very easy to justify domination and exploitation, and ultimately destruction, (thus you can pretend that science does not exist, there is no climate change and people that are “different” from you have less rights).

The gathering in Plymouth MA, that this year had approximately 1,000 attendees, began near Coles Hill, where in 1970 Frank James, a Wampanoag leader was barred from delivering a speech about the truth of his people and left in protest a ceremony celebrating the 350th anniversary of the pilgrims arrival.

A plaque at Coles Hill now reads: “Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the US Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture. Participants in a National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.”  

In the midst of this gathering were great speeches on truth, unity and consciousness and a march with chants to petition President Obama to pardon Native American Activist Leonard Peltier as well as chants that though seem to be effecting only those far away, (Standing Rock Reservation) effect all of us. People reverberated -“You can’t drink oil!” and “WATER IS LIFE!”.  The message is very close to home, where we had been fighting corporate greed wanting to bring a pipeline through MA for fracked gas. Though we had succeeded in cutting off it’s head here in MA, much like the many headed mythical Hydra, the serpent of corporate greed, sprouts its’ head elsewhere.
But unlike Standing Rock, I believe one of the reasons we were successful, (at least for the time being), is that the majority of those opposed to the pipeline in MA are white, middle class land owners, activists and farmers and Standing Rock is meeting even heavier attack is it is a Lakota Sioux Indian Reservation and the U.S. has a notorious 400+ year history of abuse and destruction, not only of Native American rights, (breaking every treaty ever signed with native peoples), but a systematic obliteration of their culture as well. The use of Extreme Force by the U.S. government against Native peoples perpetuates from the past to the present. In this fight at Standing Rock, it also appears that the “President Elect”,
Mr. Trump has a personal investment in Energy Transfer Systems – the folks behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, (a bit of a conflict of interest for a President?!).    

As many of the native speakers mentioned at the gathering, it is up to each of us -We The People – to fight –  not for a particular race or ethnic group, not for a particular religion, not for a political party, Democrat, Republican, whatever, not for a nation or any other made up category of words and divisions supporting the illusion of separateness – but it is all of our duty to fight for the Earth!       

Watch the video of Artist Robert Masla raising his voice among dozens of concerned citizens at DPU Hearings, in March of this year in Greenfield, MA, to Stop the Pipeline,
“We Are All Connected”

Read this from NPR on  Standing Rock