Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

18 October

The Soul Of Maria. Tomorrow, Collage Lessons For Me Here At The Farm With Emily Gold

by Jon Katz

I am permitted to begin walking around a bit before Thursday when my stitches come out. I set out with my camera to explore the outside and the backyard and found myself at Maria’s studio. I had my Leica in hand.

People reveal the souls in the paintings and trinkets and art they surround themselves with.

I asked Maria’s permission to go into her studio and look out for her soul, and she didn’t blink, of course.  She never says no to anything having to do with art.

That sort of thing is what she does all the time. She talks to trees, fungus, plants of all kinds, and spiders.

She was out checking on the animals, and so I went into her studio with Zinnia.

They say if you want to capture the soul of someone, take their portrait in black and white. I found the soul of Maria, but it was actually in somebody else’s portrait – the fiercely independent and gifted Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.

Maria even named her beloved dog Frida after Kahlo.

I found what I wanted right away.

It was a self-portrait of Frida Kahlo, inspiration and spiritual comrade of Maria. They are not alike, yet they are very much alike. Maria is passionately committed to her art; she is never as happy as she is in her studio making her art.

And her eyes shine in this very way when she talked about her work. Frida Kahlo is the perfect path to Maria’s soul.

Kahlo was much the same way. No matter what happened to her, and very much happened to her, she never gave up on her art or stopped loving her life as an artist.

Maria Kahlo’s portrait hangs right above Maria’s desk next to the door when you come into her studio. It is a place of honor.

When I looked into the woman’s eyes in this portrait, I saw the same fierce gleam I see in Maria, the artist’s eyes, which are at the center of her being.

So this is a portrait of her soul, even though I found it in another body.

Speaking of art, our friend the artist Emily Gold is coming to the farmhouse tomorrow morning to give me a lesson in collage making. She’s bringing her collage starter kit and will show me how to make some Appreciation Cards, the wonderful cards she has been making for me. I send as many as I can to donors to the Army Of Good. I appreciate them.

I’m paying Emily, who is also a baker,  the $60 she charges for her virtual collage lessons which are gaining rapidly in popularity. I hope I can write these cards myself, but Emily is a very tough person to follow, but I couldn’t have a better teacher. We’ll see just what I’m made of.

Maria’s going to join the class as well, the two are close friends.

18 October

The Last Flower. Here Comes The November Sky

by Jon Katz

I’ve chosen this dying marigold to be the last flower of summer in our back porch garden. My zinnia bush is just about shot, I might get one or two more flowers out of it, but I also need to re-soil and clean the bed out for next Spring – some donkey manure and topsoil.

I gave thanks to the garden for all of the beauty and pleasure it gave us this summer; Maria has become a champion gardener. Her beautiful flowers surround the farmhouse all summer, and her succulents line the windowsills inside for the winter.

She brought her cactuses in this weekend. Also, she’s had one of them for 40 years. And it comes up to my chest. I pick one flower towards the end of October and single it out for thanks on behalf of all of them. Maria and I are creatures of color and light; the dark days bring us down a bit.

I’m counting on my Leica to help keep me bright and creative over the winter. I have a lot of plans for my health and my body this winter. In the Spring, I intend to be a bright flower all of my own.

Flowers remind me that we can die beautifully; it doesn’t have to be all gloomy. Flowers and trees, and leaves know how to die. I learn from them every day.

18 October

Bishop Maginn Art Class: “Action Art:” Our Thanksgiving Wish List Plan For The New Refugee Families

by Jon Katz

At Bishop Maginn High School, Sue Silverstein’s Art Class was assigned “action art,” inspired by the great painter Jackson Pollack – free form, impulsive and spontaneous art.

The kids love it. So many of the refugee children saw themselves as artists and were deeply engaged in making art in their native countries.

Sue and I talked about it, and she asked if I could help get her Crayola washable paint spray for some outside “Action Art.”

More than $70 worth out outdoor spray paint, glitter, and regular are going to Sue at Bishop Maginn in Albany.

They’ll be there by the end of the week, courtesy of the Army of Good. I’ll get the photos or be there to take them.

Sue’s class stays well after the school’s out every day; they love to make art with her, the refugee kids find it healing and uplifting. After five p.m., she has to kick them out and send them home.


Sue and I have been talking about Thanksgiving, and we have agreed on a lovely plan.

Sue and I will put together an Amazon Bishop Maginn High School Thanksgiving Wish List listing all the different foods the refugee families need for a Thanksgiving feast.

That would include -chicken and turkey, soup and potatoes,  stuffing and cranberry source, cards,  crackers, cookies, and coupons.

We’re still working out the details.

We know many of these families are not food secure, and this kind of celebration could be essential to them. Sue and the staff are very close to the families; they talk to them about what they would most like to get for Thanksgiving, for many their first in the country.

Maria, Zinnia, Sue, and the BMHS staff will all gather and put the food and soups and anything else people want to choose off of the Wish List together for Thanksgiving baskets for these families.

Sue and the social workers and staff will determine where the baskets need to go and distribute them. We might ask for cash donations to buy turkeys.

Some foods will not travel and can’t be shipped. We’ll figure out a way around that – maybe coupons for turkeys and desserts – gift cards for Wal-Mart and local supermarkets. Gift cards will be on the Wish List for things that can’t be shipped to the school. And because of all the shipping problems, we want to get the Wish List up soon.

Watch out for it. I’ll make a lot of noise about it on the blog, as usual.

People who wish to contribute can do so one coupon or soup at a time; you can buy only what you want and spend as much or as little money as you wish.

Everything purchased on the Wish List will be sent directly to the school to collect, store, and organize.

Money is pretty tight for these families this year; some are just arriving. This could be a lovely introduction to the warmest and most American of holidays. Thanksgiving is a good theme for these families.

In the meantime, I can’t wait to go to Albany and see the “Action Painting” Sue is planning for the sidewalks outside. And thanks, AOG, for making it possible.

More details will be on the blog as we figure them out.

Photos be Sue Gilligan-Silverstein.

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