My Hair Trip Salon

I think a number of you can relate, November 2017 was the beginning of some intense times!  A number of us took some big losses and now that it is Sept 2018, we are realizing those losses, as painful as they were, needed to happen.  We are freer and more expansive so long as we survived the transition.

In November 2017, I was living at the Denver Art Society working as the Interim Executive director and building my reputation as an artist. I had a successful night at Pancakes and Booze and was applying for more showcases and exhibition spaces. I hadn’t been in a salon for nearly 15 years, I figured I’d cut my own hair to save money and since swimming was my main sport throughout high school and college there was no reason to dye my hair.  However, during the summer of 2017, I began getting my eyebrows waxed for the first time; I figured I was a professional and needed to look more the part.  My Hair Trip Salon has been across the street as long as I have been at the Denver Art Society.  It is an all organic and waste conscious salon, my kind of place.  The stylists, artists, and body workers who create there are so positive, supportive, and uplifting, it’s a true gem of the Art District on Santa Fe Drive.

In December, I made it into the salon to keep up with my eyebrow shaping treatments and inquired about exhibition times.  They display artwork for three months at a time.  I inquired about availability and Kyle signed me up for March-June 2018.  I was excited and felt there was something special to the space.

As the year came to a close, the Denver Art Society Board of Directors demoted me, slandered me, and harassed me well into March 2018.  Heartbroken and devastated, I tried to fix the situation the best I could filing an incident report against the President of the Board and the coop members who were attacking me.  Denver Art Society was my home, my reputation, my work place.  I knew all our neighbors and LOVED living there.  Others members were being treated unfairly like I was so we all did our best to hold our ground.  Ultimately, it was one of those situations where I knew I was fighting a losing battle.  Once I realized this, I gave it all up, resigned and moved out.  I almost relocated my studio during this time but my reputation preceded me and I didn’t want to lose touch with my studio, its location, and reputation.  I had seen these political melt downs happen before at Denver Art Society and rarely saw the members who were effected by it afterwards.  While I was holding onto my studio and dealing with persistent harassment from the admin of the Denver Art Society, I was even more energized to look for new exhibition spaces.  My Hair Trip Salon was one of these spaces; I was able to be in a positive environment and regain the confidence that had been harassed and slandered out of me. 

Thankfully, when my show went up in March, it was well received, I sold a piece the first week!  I received such a warm welcome and lots of compliments.  The owner, Nichol Zamora, really liked a painting that I hung in her studio.  We cherished the painting, Space Whales, together adoring the little doggies with scuba gear, a kind of hidden detail.  During such a challenging time, the positive environment of My Hair Trip Salon and everyone’s admiration for my art, put wind in my sails to continue making art and promoting myself in Denver. 

Over the three months my artwork rotated through the salon, I continued to build a relationship with the stylists there.  I decided to get my hair cut for the first time in 15 years!  Melissa did a great job honing in on my hair style, providing me an edge I never would have tried on my own.  By June and the end of my exhibition, Nicole offered me to be her model for the salon photo shoot in June.  Humbled and honored, I accepted without question.  She also offered me the option to trade the painting Space Whales for hair styling.   Again, I was humbled and honored, and accepted without question.

I have found such support in the Art District on Santa Fe.  During those traumatic times, the Art District offered me a seat on their Board of Directors regardless of the slander and harassment that made its way around.  My Hair Trip Salon is a beacon of light and a place to learn professionalism and healthy working relationships.  My art aligns well with Nicole’s personal and business mission statements.  Throughout the time I have been going to My Hair Trip Salon, I have found the value in supportive friends and how to build a community with those who share a similar vision.  My Hair Trip supports so many local artist and artisans with love and positivity.  Please consider their services next time you are treating yourself and your friends. You wont be disappointed!

In Loving Memory of Sage Ponderosa Noel

Its nearly been six months without my dear Sage and I adore every Catahoula Leopard Hound I see, plus she is still the wall paper on the lock screen of my phone. I adopted Sage in the summer of 2010. I found her on pet finder while visiting my family in Boulder. I had resisted getting a dog during my early 20s because I was in college and renting rooms, but I after 4 years of feeling that way and my boyfriend getting a dog, I wanted one of my own.

I went to visit Sage at the Boulder Humane Society and regardless of my second and third choice picks, Sage was the one. She was off-standish and obviously heartbroken, pining for her family to come back and take her home. One of the volunteers saw my reluctance and explained he had taken her for hikes and she was a totally different dog outside of the Humane Society. I took her for a walk and he was right. She won my heart when I threw a rock into the creek behind the Humane Society, and like a dork, she dove head first to find it. I took her home for 50% off her adoption fee, coupons for Avoderm dog food, collar, leash, and bowls all for $100. The next day, Dad, Dave, Pete, and I took our dog pack: Loki, Blue, Hank, and Sage, for a high alpine hike up James Peak, just outside Rollinsville. Sage did so well off leash, she and I were bonded the second we left the Humane Society the day before.

Mid August rolled around and it was time to drive home to Corvallis, Oregon to start school in the end of September 2010. My boyfriend at the time, Dave, had a dog named Loki he rescued from a craigslist ad. Loki was the bravest dog ever, kinda. She had never been socialized and was afraid of everything, like bridges! She just couldn’t cross them without being picked up and carried. Loki also had Thrombocytopenia, an autoimmune disease that would not allow her blood to clot. On our way home to Corvallis, Loki became super sick. We had taken her up a 14,000’ ft mountain, Castle Peak, with my Dad on our way out of Colorado. The whole trip to Corvallis, Loki was bleeding out of every opening in her body. We arrived in Oregon to our veterinarian at Albany Animal Hospital only to receive the bad news that Loki was dying.

Dave was experimenting with a “money free” lifestyle and had been exchanging veternary care for labor on the farm the owner and head veterinarian, Ken Fletcher DVM, owned. Dr. Fletcher advised us we had two options: to put Loki down or provide her a blood transfusion and giver her more medicine to hopefully save her life. Dave and I decided on the latter option and Sage was the blood donor for Loki. We left our two girls at the vet that night and returned the next day. Loki was so weak, while Sage was lively and curious about her new home. I was so proud of Sagie that I bought and cooked her the nicest stake I could afford and despite being a vegetarian for 15 years. Having been fed well at the vet, Sage was not hungry but I forced the food on her anyways. She finally took a piece of stake and walked off with it. Promptly there after, Dave yelled down to me from our bedroom, “Grace! Your dog is the BEST dog ever!” I ran upstairs and Sage had taken the piece of stake and dropped it in front of Loki, hoping to help her recover. Just incredible! Sage was always like this – thoughtful, protective, and nurturing of all the animals she came to live with and raise. Unfortunately, Loki died that night. We buried her in a plot of land we would often take her on walks to. As time passed, her grave grows the darkest, richest, emerald green grass with an amazing view.

Sage has so many stories, I could write endless blog posts about her and she will always resurface. As a rescue, she needed my constant attention and another dog to be present with her at all times, so we did everything together. When Dave and I split up and he took his dog Hank (Hank was Dave’s Dad’s dog who needed a home) Sage couldn’t be left alone, so I took her everywhere I went or found a suitable sitter if I absolutely couldn’t bring her with me. Working in Boulder, I could leave Sage with my family. Sage loved my folks new dog Dakota and Blue until he died at the sage of 14 in March 2013. I could leave her with my folks while I worked cleaning houses or landscaping for clients who wouldn’t let me bring her to the job site.

Sage dictated so many details of my life, was my rock, and constant companion. I trusted her to keep the peace and she did just that. She raised countless puppies and kittens of my family and various roommates at all the houses we lived in over the 8 years I cared for her. All Sage really wanted was one solid home to protect and live in, but I ended up being the only consistent home base fore her. Since the day I got her, we were always on the move and in constant state of adventure. This is where the inspiration for my artwork came from. My paintings were the, “Magical adventure side of reality. Come along a magical adventure with me and my dogs as we travel through space and time!”

Sage and Dakota (our second family dog and inspiration for the Dakota painting and leggings) went on countless hikes with Dad, Pete, and I. So many paintings and the foundation of my color pallet were discovered and inspired by these high alpine hikes. Sage made it to openings, First Fridays, gallery shifts, and helped me run the Denver Art Society as the Interim Executive Director. I met all the neighbors wherever we lived thanks to the daily walks Sage demanded to keep her territory dialed in. We started two small businesses: Everything Under the Sun Odd Jobs Service and Grace Noel Art, LLC.

This date Jan 13, 2018, Sage turned 11 years young. Leading up to my birthday, March 19, Sage had some mild stomach problems of which I had taken her to the veternarian for. No one really knew what was up with her and figured it was from eating alley food behind the Denver Art Society or a soured bone from Mom and Dad’s back yard. Sage’s acupuncturist of 6 years had no idea either; Sage had received acupuncture per recommendation from Dr. Ken Fletcher to treat her urinary incontinence. Sage and I had been living in Boulder after moving out of the Denver Art Society in Jan 2018. Mom and Dad would take her for Sunday hikes and meet me for breakfast afterwards; I usually wanted to sleep in Sunday mornings since I usually had worked events Saturday nights and had been out late.

The morning of Mar 24, 2018 I was meditating and planning to meet my parents for breakfast after their morning hike. Midway through my morning meditation, mom called me. I ignored the call and kept meditating, since my folks don’t always respect my “no-interruption rule” while meditating. By the third call I answered and mom was frantic, screaming: “Sage is dead! She died on the trail!” She was crying and apologizing, “I am so sorry Grace,” and just kept crying. Mom and Dad brought Sage home and I gave her all my love. I held her one last time and wrapped her body in a shroud with Shiva mantras all over it. I burned cleansing herbs, incense, and rang my meditation bowl saying mantra as tears rolled off my cheeks onto her deceased body. I put flowers all around her and drove her to the Gunbarrel Veterinarian to be cremated.

No one knows what happened to Sage. That morning, my parents described her as running and chasing prairie dogs. She made it to the bottom of the mesa and seemed tired. Mom and Dad coached her to the top of the hill and when she crested, the view took her breath away and she died right there on the trail. I could not have asked for a better exit of my beloved, and that’s who Sage was. She was so nurturing and thoughtful, always staying focused on the big picture and leaving the details to figure themselves out. I am so grateful that I did not go through extreme life saving measures that would only end in pumping her body with enough poison to end her life. She died the way I would want any loved one to go, doing what they love.

Coincidentally, Klondike, Leigh the Llama Lady’s dog, died the next day. Sage and Klondike had been friends 6 years and saw each other every week. Leigh and I had the fortune of grieving together. I have experienced many doggies transition from their bodies. As Sage was carried off to be cremated, her tail fell out of the cloth I had wrapped her in. I realized at that moment, who I loved was no longer in that body and that I was not attached to her at all. The experience was disorienting for both Sage and I. After a few days of grieving, I remembered my baba’s advice when dealing with death, “channel loved ones through the heart.” Every time I thought of Sage, I did just that and instantly felt reunited with her. The experience was so extraordinary, I gained a new appreciation for the light that is behind every living being’s eyes. I know now, “these bodies are like the cars we drive,” something baba always says. The part of us that truly matters, the spirit, the soul, the self, brings life to the body. The spirit occupies a body until it is time to transition to another reality. This is one of my big learning experiences of 2018 and Sage’s parting gift is a renewed appreciation for the spirit, the soul, the self.

This lesson has evolved the theme of my artwork. I created the perfect poem while reflecting on it all in Brooklyn, NYC. As my art is the, “magical adventure of me and my dogs as we travel through space and time,” it is now:

We are all made of sunshine. Sunshine makes the plants grow, the water flow, and the wind blow. So now it is time to go, on a magical journey through the rainbow.

My Journey as an Artist

My journey as an artist has been nothing short of amazing, my name wouldn’t be Grace otherwise.  Trusting myself to pursue art regardless of the resistance has been a self evolution. Upon graduating High School I had received first and second place awards annually for my artwork.  Having heard that pursing an artist life was hard and not lucrative, I started as a pre-med student on a trajectory to be a medical doctor with art as a hobby for my first year of college.  After two years of study as a Biology major, I was burnt out and found respite and rebuilding in art. I have always been an artist, won competitions as a child, and found its healing and inspiring powers through a dramatic childhood.  I changed majors and completed a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in Painting, Printmaking, and Drawing by Dec 2011. 

Upon graduation, the same notion of being an artist is a very difficult means of making a living, and it’s a hard life - encouraged me to pursue high paying part time work.  I began a massage therapy certification program through the Colorado School of Healing Arts.  I learned so much about the body and importance of self care through massage.  Ultimately, I burnt out before completing the program.  I also realized, being a massage therapist was as difficult a path as being an artist, so why would I pursue two challenging careers?  I might as well dive into the arts!  I had maintained my art as a hobby and dazzled my classmates and friends with my creations. 

 

I began showing in the Art District on Santa Fe at the Denver Art Society Feb 2013.  The Denver Art Society is a rare and valuable gem.  I joined at $50 a month with weekly volunteer shifts on Mondays and Tuesdays.  I enjoyed the space and its radical self reliance principles.  I helped to build the Underground studios starting in Feb 2014.  As a collective we agreed to bring the basement up to code and parcel it out as studio rentals to help pay the rent and bills of the Denver Art Society.  The collective is an all volunteer team of artists of all kinds.  Winter and Spring of 2014, I helped haul ruble and hang drywall to build the Underground that houses my studio and hosts patrons who visit everyday DAS is open. 

 

April 2014, my dear friend Sara Visvader and I completed a backpacking trip to Waipio Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii.  We also completed a month long yoga teacher training in Kona, Hawaii through Konalani Ashram, part of Shambhava Kundalini Yoga, where I currently practice.  I found the training to be first of all: life changing; one of the most insightful, inspiring, and eye opening experiences of my life. We finished our journey on the “family island” Kauai, getting tattoos at Kulture Tattoo from Samual Shaw.  Samual designed and crafted the tibal piece encompassing one quarter of my body. This piece is an expression and appreciation for my native ancestry and growth in Colorado and Hawaii.  From ages 5 to 27, my family went to Hawaii for Christmas and New Years with my Japanese Hawaiian Aunty who would go home during the holidays to see her family.  The images of my tattoo speak towards my ancestral Puebloan and Spanish roots dating back to the 1700s when Colorado was part of Mexico.  The Hawk, is one of my spirit animals; being of both the land and heavans, the Hawk’s vision and power bridge the gap between the physical and metaphysical, just like me.

 
After completing my Yoga Teacher Training, I returned to Boulder and Denver for the summer.  Upon arriving home, my boyfriend, David Kieres, of 5 years ended our relationship. This was devastating to me, we were practically married and the break up felt like a divorce.  Soon everything else was to crumble in the span of 6 weeks, mid-May through end of June 2014.  Both of my brothers were dealing with violent and terrible drug addictions and manic from their mental illness. My third friend in 18 months committed suicide; I was working full time landscaping; the lease of the house Dave and I rented was up at the end of June; Dave was graduating from massage school with family visiting and then a family vacation at the end of June. 

 

Dave helped me move into my new studio I had just started renting at the Denver Art Society.  My studio was in the Underground that I helped build earlier that spring.  It did not have any electricity or lights, all were installed in July 2014.  My first First Friday in my studio was lit with shop lights with my art on Mexican blankets on the floor while I painted the walls.

 

My schedule was so packed with hosting, moving, helping my family, working full time, and starting my new studio.  I channeled all the loss and grief through the meditation practice I gained the month before in the yoga teacher training. I was meditating 2 hours and doing an hour of yoga every day to stay focused and not drown in sorrow and exhaustion.  By the end of June, I still didn’t have a place to live or move to.  Dave was gone on a family vacation and it was up to me and my brother Ned to move everything out and clean the house.  Ned was dealing with felony charges and was so emaciated from drug addiction, he was 24 years old and going bald from malnutrition.  Both of my brothers were in a similar state and moving into my parents house in Boulder.  There was no room for me and my things so I needed to find a place to go. Thankfully, my friends Mark and Eric Ciccone let me store my belongings in their garage and stay with them until I found a place to live.  I couldn’t be more grateful, I truly needed their help!    

Summer of 2014, was spent working, taking care of my brothers, mom, and dad. This summer was heartbreaking as more bad news and traumatizing events unfolded.  As my foundation crumbled, I surrendered my life and everything to god and myself.  I realized that the rubble that was my broken reality had all been assembled by no other designer than your’s truly.  All this instability and heartbreak had manifested in one way or another by my own doing, I accepted my responsibility in it all.  To this realization, I gave everything up to god and universe.  I had nothing left and no direction except to practice kundalini yoga at the local Shoshoni Ashram, the sister Ashram to Konalani.  I continued my yoga teacher trainings, gaining certificates in Ayurvedic lifestyle therapies, and level 1 meditation teacher training.  I did a lot of mantra and meditation, I opened up to all possibilities and learned how to be present with each moment.  Upon my surrender to god and forces I perceived larger than me I was intuitively guided to revisit my astrological chart.  Now that I was free of attachment, I could begin working on the guidebook drafted the day I was born.  In my chart, the stars all align to be an artist, its all right there, plane and simple.  That is my karmaic role on this earth and for this life time as Grace Noel.  Empowered by this realization, I began the long journey through the jungle of my consciousness and karma.  After trying so many different paths, the toa of the artist began to unfold. 

 

By the end of the summer, I went to Taos, NM to the Earthship Academy.  This was a month long course, living in an Earth Ship and learning how to build one.  Earth Ships are super cool, I highly recommend looking them up!  They are self sustaining homes made from recycled materials.  They can withstand fires, winds, and floods, keeping the inhabitants comfortably alive inside by generating power, growing food, storing and processing water.  These homes are low emission homes with utilities up to $300 annually.  I learned about them while I was taking a Permaculture class at Oregon State University (I completed the course with a permaculture certificate, yay!).

 

While I was building Earth Ships, my team and I were all so inspired and created a supportive fun community together; some of these friendships will be rekindled upon my Australia Tour in Nov 2018.  Everyone was pining for a job with Earth Ships, and amongst all the excitement, opportunities were presented to me for any number of adventures and collaborations.  I remembered my mission and karma in life is to be an artist.  Ultimately, my spirit, my studio, and everything I had begun to build in Denver helped me to realize, I needed to focus on my art. 

 

I have been focused on the tao of the artist ever since.  Each event that unfolded, I approached from the perspective of a yogi: “a yogi neither accepts nor rejects;” I still live my life this way.  All things that come my way are blessings and I will live long enough to do the work I came to this Earth to do.  As the years have passed, my focus has been rewarded with less day jobs and distractions so I can work full time as an artist.  I have taken significant blows, been through the densest and darkest times, to arrive at Happy Dragon, the mural I created for the Englewood Block Party Sept 8, 2018.  As 2018 has unfolded, I have gained so much of what I lost.  I am grateful for my journey and will continue it, so long as there is work to do.  Thank you to my Guru and Sangha for being a consistent place of inner peace, reflection, healing, and direction forward.

Englewood Block Party

Englewood Chalk Mural

 

Titled, Happy Dragon. This mural was commissioned by the Arts and Culture department of the city of Englewood for the 2nd Annual Block Party on Sept 8. I enjoyed every moment of creating it regardless of the being fairly new to chalk murals.  When I arrived at the sight and opened the boxes of chalk, something from my youth welled up to the surface and I remembered the excitement that has always motivated me to create art.  I knew then and there, I was on the right track, doing great work that will sustain me and bring art to many people. 

 

I had four hours to create this mural and upon arriving, David Carroll the director and commissioner, gave me a large outdoor common area to work in near 3400 S Broadway.  I approached the project understanding I had a 10’x10’ space to work in and once I was given more space, I couldn’t resist drawing a dragon like a river, directing the imagination of viewers.

 

About 2 hours into the event, the crowd doubled and all the children wanted to collaborate.  They were welcomed to so long as they kept the chalk colors collated and didn’t step all over my Happy Dragon. Children drew dragons, rainbows, flowers, friends were all drawn around the dragon.  I was so impressed with the inspiration my Happy Dragon provided everyone of the Englewood Block Party.  Despite being told not to, the dragon was danced and stepped on.  Dragons are such a phenomenal energy, everyone wants a piece I guess. 

How did I decide on a dragon?  Dragons are powerful, mystical, and magical.  They inspire all others to achieve such a fantastic state.  Dragons have treasure and a vast network, they even exist in all cultural heritages!  They symbolize vision and powerful self expression, so much that others desire to have even a piece of a dragon scale or feather. Of course dragons breath fire that strikes fear and intensity.  What a dragon’s fire burns down, clears way for new beginnings and a better rebuild for the future. One final detail is the dragon’s pearl of wisdom, which they guard the pearl with great responsibility.    

 

I was born year of the Dragon, Earth Dragon to be precise.  Being such an intense energy to work with, most people born under the Dragon sign slowly grow into their role later in life.  As I have matured to the age of 30, I realize my dragon nature.  I no longer wish to resist the responsibilities and reputation such a sign possesses.  Since March 19, 2018, my birthday, I have been creating a dragon series and honing my dragon powers.  This has brought me so much happiness and gratitude for the dragon spirit.  Once I opened the box of chalk and realized I was paid to create the chalk mural for the Englewood Mural, my happiness could not be contained.  The mural is called Happy Dragon as an expression of my gratitude for such a magnificent and magical energy.  That day taught me success comes from happiness, and that:

 A great work of art inspires us. A great artist takes the risk to express what is inside of all of us.

    

Mitchel Park Mural Aug 20-25

Maria Lopez and I have been collaborating to create a mural on a retaining wall in Mitchel Park, east side Pueblo. I went down to Pueblo on Aug 20 and Maria and I work Aug 21- Aug 25.  Southern Colorado Paint Recycling provided us with a 25 gal paint donation once they heard we were doing a community mural commissioned by Eva Montoya.  Eva is an elder of Pueblo.  She taught many children over her 20 years as a grade school teacher. She sat on city council and has done countless volunteer hours of service towards the growth and betterment of Pueblo. My auntie Avalina lives six blocks from the park, and when I asked her if she knows Eva she replied “everyone knows Eva,” just like anyone else you might ask in Pueblo. The while the rest of my family live in Rocky Ford and my Auntie Sally and Uncle Sam came to visit day three of painting the mural. They treated me to a delicious meal at Red Lobster, I am still so grateful for!  

 

The mural called: “Our East Side Story of Community Unity,” was inspired by the retaining wall at Mitchel Park often tagged by youth finding refuge with different gangs locally and nationally.  The park is in the “rough side of town” according to the locals.  East Side Pueblo is rich with the native population and heritage however.  The neighborhood would all visit us as we were working, most everyone friendly and grateful for us “to take the time to care” and do something that would clean up the neighborhood.

 

I struggled with this though.  If people wanted to express themselves and create art, how was that different from what Maria and I were doing?  I asked Sancho, the owner of the barber shop where I used the restroom.  He explained the “taggers make the neighborhood look dirty,”  and the mural that Maria and I were doing, “was art, and set a positive example.”  I felt better after consulting Sancho, his shop is on 8th and Monunment, the park is on 12th and Monument.

 

The week of painting were successfull and we have another couple of days scheduled for the end of September.  The section we did in August was the universe with swirling tribal designs and celestial constellations.  A scene of children making tortillas with a mountain backdrop precedes the universe of creativity.  Preceding that, is more to come.  We decided to start at the end of the story and move our way backwards to create: “Our East Side Story of Community Unity.”

Maria and I are volunteering our time in hopes we can make a difference in the community and we have our partners Eva Montoya, Pueblo Parks and Recreation, Southern Paint Supply, and the East Side community to help us! 

Frida's Birthday weekend

Frida's Birthday weekend was a blast! It began with First Friday, getting to seeing all my friends and making new ones.  Denver is so supportive of the arts, and for Denver, the Arts are collaborative.  We are stronger united then divided.  Perhaps that is why we all live here or so many wish to live here.  I am reminded of Frida as I write this post, she was a strong believer in the chicano spirit of collaboration and a united people.

Of course, there were multiple galleries and museos to celebrate Frida.  For First Friday, Museo De Las Americas had a beautiful display of Chicano Culture with the icon of proud and strong female artists to lead the way.  The next day was my first Demo Day at the Denver Art Museum.  I had also signed up for the Frida Kahlo Look Alike contest at the Celebration of the Life of Frida Kahlo event July 8 and had one of my nichos hung in the art show.  I really was looking forward to dressing like Frida,  I knew I would look good.

Looking ahead for the day, the model sign in was at 3:30 at the Westwood Food Coop off Morrison road between Federal and Sheridan.  I was done at the Art Museum by 3 pm.  With timing looking the way it did, I decided to go partially dressed as Frida to the Denver Art Museum.  Everyone loved my flower crown and Maria Lopez said it invited people over to see me.  Maria Lopez was such a huge help that day.  We visited with many art viewers, being First Saturday: the Denver Art Museum Free Admission Day.  

Once 3 pm rolled around, Maria and I headed over the Westwood Creative District.  I ate lunch while Maria drove and bumped the Mexican Polka music.  Between the music and my bad directions, our drive was something straight out of a comedy!  We arrived at the Westwood Co-op to a full crowd and the most incredible music.  The Westwood Co-op is super cool and radically self-sustaining.  The gardens in the back make up a large urban farm, classes for little kids and adults, art gallery, grocery store, and a warehouse scheduled to be artist studios in several months.

The Life and Celebration of Frida Khalo Festival was a fantastic event.  Many vendors and activities, music and food. By 4:30 pm, model sign in officially began!  I filled out the questionaire asking to explain my connection to Mrs. Khalo.  Frida has always been a part of my life.  Her iconic portraits stood proud in the library of Whittier Elementary in Boulder.   We studied her art at Casey Middle School and learned who she was and her name.  By high school I had several Tuscan books of her art, to study her story and technique.  Of course, I owned the DVD once the movie Frida came out.  Frida, like myself, was a such a strong individual, she had patience, creativity, and courage.  Her struggles were not unlike ours, though ours may not be identical, she is a beacon of love and creativity to heal the most incredible pain.  This is universal and she is a pillar of that understanding.  

The judges called us all up, one at a time.  Based on last year's winner, I didn't realize ANYONE could enter into the contest!!! The competition got tougher with each little Frida, some young as 3 years, were explaining to a hot and crowded room of viewers why they were inspired by Frida.  Yes, Frida is that inspiring, the power of Frida Khalo!  By some miracle, as the judges began to call the winners, I took second place! I really looked so much like Frida!

All in all, it was a great day.  I am so blessed to be on the path of the artist.  This is my life, this is my karma.  I am an artist, a strong woman, and an icon of creativity, just like my heroine, Frida Khalo. 

        

Nichos at the Denver Art Museum

Sacred Spaces July 3-July 17 Denver Art Museum, Demo weekends July 7, 8 and 14, 15.  

Nichos are spirit homes for your home.  They are a folk art of new and old Mexico and provide a niche at home for spirits to live, protect, and bring fortune.  My nichos change up this folk art form which traditionally houses Catholic saints.  I create my nichos to house the astrological signs of Chinese zodiac and Buddhist and Hindu deities.  East meets West. 

How did I come by this art form?  Growing up in the southwest, I have seen these little tin boxes my whole life. November 2012, I was attending first Friday in the Art District on Santa Fe, Denver.  I went into Chac Gallery at 8th and Santa Fe Dr and noticed the nichos in the gift shop.  I was so inspired that I went home and googled "tin Mexican boxes."  As the search results poured in, I learned about the folk art.  I even found a place to buy the nichos: https://www.etsy.com/listing/492407474/10-large-nichos-and-10-medium-nichos; I placed an order and pondered how I would make them.  Once I received the shipment, I began creating.  I had done some shopping at Yeti Arts in Boulder CO and found wonderful post cards with different Buddhist and Hindu deities.  Wanting to know more about the deities, I used them in place of the traditional Catholic saints.  I have been making nichos this way ever since.  Creating a home for a spiritual energy takes reverence and consideration for these special energies.  They need the perfect home to feel comfortable to do their work.    

May 2014, I received my 200 hr yoga certification from Shambhava yoga at the Konalani Ashram in Kona, HI.  This 21 day intensive changed my life.  I fell in love with the practice of Kundalini yoga, Babaji, the ashram, and Sangha, finally I found what I had been looking for.  I was introduced to the practices and teachings of the deities I had researched for the nichos.   

I was drawn to nichos, not only for their uniqueness and beauty, but their connection to my own native ancestry.  My mother's family is native to Colorado from when it was Mexico.  Our family came from Spain in the 1700s and settled around Taos, NM.  We then migrated to San Luis, CO.  As the Spanish and American boarders shifted, we became American citizens.  Today, our family lives all over Colorado, and mom grew up in Rocky Ford, CO with 12 brothers and sisters.  We have always been farmers and artists, with a close connection to the spirits of the Earth and cosmos.  Even though Mom grew up working the fields, she raised my brothers and I in Boulder CO.  She rose out of intense poverty to become a Social Security Disability lawyer and appellate counsel for my Dad, James Noel, who is also Social Security Disability Lawyer.  Mom works with the Federal courts and Dad does cases at the state level.  

Back to the museum, I had such a great time making these treasures in the 3D studio of the Denver Art Museum.  Everything from painting nichos, telling the story of my family and the folk art, to putting glitter on 50 plus little kids made the two weeks unbelievably magical. 

Thank you to the Denver Art Museum for hosting me and my nichos!

Thank you to everyone who came to visit, you are a true blessing in my life.  

   

Visiting Family

I’ve done these drives my whole life.  This Memorial Day weekend, Dad and I went down to Colorado Springs from Denver, then turned on Platte Drive and onto Hwy 24.  With Desert Dwellers as the soundtrack, the expansive Colorado skies and open planes.  A place of my family: half land, half sky brought  me deep within myself.  I remembered being a 4 year old Dragon child, co-piloting the car with my mom, observing my surroundings. Oddly enough, HWY 24 hasn’t changed much, but I sure have. 

We arrived at the family plots in the cemetery at Punkin Center.  The family plot full of Montoyas with my Grandmother’s plaque on the wrought iron fence my mom and uncles put up a few years ago.  Dressed with white rock, the family plot stands proud.

We continued into Rocky Ford and had lunch with my Auntie Sally.  Born year of the Fire monkey, her house and food brought comfort, and so many cousins to play with, I was never bored. We enjoyed lunch and went to get coffee at the Coffea Shop, owned by my cousin Evan Bacca, sally’s son.  The Coffea Shop is the hippest spot in town: art, music lessons, organic coffee and treats.  Uncle Randy and I got iced mocha’s with cayenne and cinnamon; iced black tea for Sally.  Sitting in the coffee shop, the locals told stories of the business that had come and gone through downtown.  Across the street, the boarded up apartment windows caught my imagination: artist collective.  Rocky Ford has so much creative potential! Leaving the Coffea Shop, we played outside with all the little cousins, Evan’s kids.

That night, mom and I stayed in La Junta, like we used to when I was a little girl, co-pilot on our monthly road trips to visit mom’s family.  We stayed at the Midtown Motel and I got dinner at Mauricio’s while Mom slept off a day of activity.

Next morning, wake up.  The kids upstairs are bouncing a ball like they were the night before.  Mom’s been up for a while and I was making up for the hours I stayed up the night before.  Meditation then street cloths, we need to be at Uncle Greg’s by 11 am.  Mom hadn’t eaten dinner the night before and I needed breakfast.  Small breakfast at Lucy’s Taco stand and an errand to Safeway for cold medicine, I had the sniffles, and we took off for Uncle Greg’s house in Rocky Ford. 

Uncle Greg lives in my grandma’s old house, thank goodness! I would miss it too much otherwise.  Memories of eating Mission Deli and watching westerns on Grandma’s couch.  Her terrarium of a front room with plants and folk art.  Uncle’s house is more open now, the energy can pass through and it’s comfortable.  The kitchen is still the same though.  Lunch starting with Mexican wedding cookies, pork chops, hot dogs, Italian sausage, potato salad, beans, and I made squash succotash with guacamole. Auntie Maxine, a water tiger like my Uncle, brought her parents when they all finished at church.  Oreo, the puppy who’s feet looked like crushed up cookies, joined us for lunch showing off his intellect and good manners for 4 months old.  Raindrops and wind, but no big storms. 

It was time to see Maria Lopez, she’s and Artist and friend from the Denver Art Society and lives in Pueblo.  Since I don’t have a car, I like to visit when I am in the area.  On our way to see Maria, mom and I drove to the cemetery to place flowers and I read astrological signs of the relatives: many born year of the pig, snake, rabbit.  My great uncle Saqueo Montoya, buried with his brother – Maxine pointed out “Saqueo” is an Indian name.  Thinking that if I ever have a son or another doggy, Saqueo would be the name.

Off to see Maria in Pueblo.  Once we arrived, her house and family were warm and inviting.  Maria has been commissioned by Eva Montoya to do a mural on the East Side of Pueblo called the East Side Story.  She offered to collaborate with me so we talked details of the project. We decided to meet again in June to discuss our plans. 

Mom and I stayed for an hour or so with Maria then one last stop to see Auntie Abby.  She had been in the hospital due to a bad pneumonia infection.  Abby was resting and happy to have the company, no one likes being that sick!  We then began our drive home to Boulder for mom, and Denver for me.  I am so grateful to live close to my family.  Their support makes my dreams of being an artist come true.  

Sparks for healthy eating

My friend Sparks asked to write you a letter about healthy eating habits for Pehi, a movement towards bettering ourselves and others through happiness *PehiMVMNT*.  In this letter, I will let you in on my daily habits and how they have formed over decades.  Did I tell you that I kinda geek out on nutritional knowledge? Well I gained it over the passed 20 year being a vegetarian.  Yeah... I'm 30 now April 2018, so how did a 10 year old decide to go vegetarian around a family of meat eaters?  Well, growing up in Boulder, Colorado is the answer, all my friends and their mom's were doing it, literally!  10 year old Gracie thought, "I don't want to kill aminals to eat them!"  I also agreed that testing on them wasn't nice either.  So there you have it! My activism days start in fifth grade, primary target: cruelty towards animals, then later people and the planet. 

It did take me a while to figure out how to eat right though.  I usually ate the same thing, just, "without the meat please."  One time my dad made fun of me, "you sure you don't want to leave off the salad too?"  Well that's just it? What do I eat now and how DO I stay healthy?  This brings us to the rainbow, don't ya know?!      

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To begin, follow the Ayurvedic Diet, which I learned from my yoga teacher trainings of 2014 at Konalani and Shononi Ashrams.  First start with the sweetness of fruit red delicious, oranges, bananas.  The fruit will inspire the digestive enzyme Amylase.  Amylase will be so hopped up on sugar, she will go and tell the stomach and intestines, "nourishment is on the way!" 

The stomach will then prepare an acid bath to take on the beets, meats, grains, and fats.  The small intestine will take on breaking down food to tiny molecules over miles of digestive tissue.  Leafy greens, blue berries, and leafy purple kale get the gall bladder going signaling the end of digestion and time to soak up some vitamins. 

Of course, variety is key and a routine of desert first, delicious home made meal with sweet ginger tea, and salad will make the belly happy.  Limit the dairy and carbs, they make it too easy.  Probiotics: Kimchi, Kombucha, yogurt, supplements! 

Finally, be mindful of the how everyone: the plants, animals, people, and mama Earth, all contributed to your meal and were their treated lovingly?  Give thanks and give it often, it makes your inner light glow.

       

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eARTh Day!

Aloha!

I am running an eARTh Day promotion!  The first 3 prints of Expect Resistance of Expect Resistance sold by May 5 will be discounted to $50!  The funds raised will then be donated to The Arts District on Santa Fe Nonprofit to help match the recent $10,000 grant from the Denver Arts and Venues, woo hoo!  Thank you for your love and light!  

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Always go to Jiu Jitsu

Went to Randoori yesterday at Easton's Boulder Gym.  I kinked my neck somehow, seems to be the trend amongst fam and friend.  When I got to the family brunch, my Auntie and Uncle were visiting from Denver, Auntie Vi just could not stop complaining about her neck and headache from being sick with a cold the last 3 weeks.  Seems Chiron's last visit through Pisces brought out some deep wounds.  I think my cousin Chris has felt it too - a neck ache so bad he bought a new bed, lol.  Granted he was sleeping on my old futon mattress with a crater that could kill dinosaurs.  Its time to get our heads on straight, do whats right for us I guess.

This brings me back to Jiu Jitsu Sunday Apr 15.  Ouch, me neck hurt from rolling.  Still does today, Monday.  However, the trade off is better posture, reinforcing my joints and activating under resourced muscles.  How?  using all those resources makes the neck ache duller!  Oh yes the pain is still there, and Pneuma Chiropractic will happen 1:40 pm Earth Day, followed by massage Apr 27 1:30 pm with Zap Zing Body Works.  Daily icing, topical analgesic, and restorative yoga as maintenance. 

Brass tax: these injuries make us stronger.  The wounds heal so long as they are treated with love, and always go to jiu jitsu.  I've been training since Jan 3, 2017 and it has done wonders for me.  I showed up to the Boulder Easton Academy after celebrating the New Year with my cousin Chris and three hours of sleep, not to mention terrified.  I knew I had to learn how to defend myself though, especially due to the current culture and political climate towards women.  When Trump was elected, I decided to start taking self defense lessons.  I asked around and the answer was one I definitely didn't want to hear: Jiu Jitsu.  Why not ninjitsu or karate, aikido or judo?  My chiropractor Dr. Adam Thom, of Thom Body Theory, put it simply, grappling skills are best for women in times of sexual assault.  Alright, time to sign up since my goal was so clearly outlined by Dr Thom's reasoning, oh and did I mention he's a brown belt in Jiu Jitsu... Yeah...

Jan 3, 2017 was a game changer though, I loved my first class so much, I kept training.  Yes, I still have that resistance to attending class, its a scary and strange activity to voluntarily go do with people. The benefits out way the anxiety and I've built a community who cares about me and my training.

Since I began training, I am a calmer, more relaxed person and have come to grips with my sense of fear.  My consciousness has expanded by way of better reflexes, clear mind, and patience.  In some ways I am more bold and feel like a super hero even though I am just a four stripe white belt. Ultimately my training has taught something most would find counter intuitive: aggression and will power will only get you in trouble.  Jiu Jitsu is a matter of strategy and a dance between two opposing energies.  The art? Go with the flow, slow is smooth, smooth is fast.  

I look forward to training with you some day, since I am not just an artist, but also a martial artist. Always go to jiu jitsu.

Back from NYC

There's a terrible longing in my daily actions for NYC.  Living in Brooklyn, training at the Renzo Gracie Academy,  all the Unicorns?  Its just that, all the Unicorns.  Denver is full of them for sure, just NYC has more of them!  I liked the crowds, bold speech, and fast pace from one thing to the next.  See, that's just it... Where is everybody in NYC going?  And why so fast?? All these unicorns are galloping too and fro, on their own time? I don't know...  We're all working for ourselves, so watch how our light surfaces and glows.  No one's there to drag us down, so its time to go, I guess.  This is mostly insight for myself, since many of you were right, "you're going to NYC? You'll fit right in!"  

On the airplane ride home, I read Faith Stone's Rudi and the Green Apple, cover to cover, surprisingly for this slow reader! The story had all my favorite characters, descriptions of incredible Hindu and Buddhist art, and took place in Manhattan and Rudi grew up in Brooklyn.  The book was a perfect ending for my recent trip to NYC.

Why though?  Well a theme powerful for me was loving the self amongst all the energies that distract us and dampen our light.  Persuading a horizontal exchange of energy, rather than vertical can leave one depleted, constantly reaching for more light externally, instead of internally.  Faith suggested (paraphrasing) to imagine a delicious fruit in your chest, where your heart is.  Every time you think of that fruit, a ripe papaya with lime after surfing in Kauai is what I chose, it reminds you life is to be enjoyed and your juicy sweetness comes from inside.  What is inside becomes outside and without it, the body dies. So when I look into your eyes, I see the light that resides.

Its good to be home, NYC can't resist me and all I have to offer so I know I will be back to Brooklyn soon.  Meanwhile, I am supported and loved by my colleagues in Denver and Boulder.  There is much to do busy with the Art District on Santa Fe Dr, a demo at the Denver Art Museum first two weeks in July 2018.  Spectra's 420 show install... pause... one shout out to Spectra: I have the best experiences there!  Such a great vibe, crew, and they have great taste in art!  Oh and Pancakes and Booze was wonderful to see familiar faces and meet new ones.  

As you can see, I'm a very busy Unicorn galloping from one place to the next.  Thanks for reading and being part of my adventures through the Rainbow.

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Pancakes and Booze tonight

Back to Denver after two weeks of adventures through the NYC art scene.  My art stimuli are blown open wide and my vision much broader and slightly exclusive after NY.  Definitely savoring the experience and hungry for more.  Denver and Boulder are home however, and tonight is Pancakes and Booze Denver, 8 pm - 2 am, Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom.  See you there right?!  Waiting in the April sunshine made me glow like a gnome happy to be home.  P&B brings together so many artists from not just Colorado, but I've met Unicorns from Utah, Kansas, Nebraska, and Montana.  Its going to be a wonderful spring evening with free pancakes and toppings washed down with drinks and an affordable door price of $10!  

After install I had a lovely brunch at the Mercury Cafe, a Denver Institution!  My craving for Eggs Benedict had carried over from Thursday morning in Williamsburg.  Thankfully, the Mercury cafe's delicious hollandaise sauce quenched my craving.  Creamy and thick with homemade hot sauce.  On my way out, the door had my favorite poster about How to Build Community surrounded by the vibrant souls who have passed through the cafe.  Next to it was another poster I hadn't seen before: How to Build a Global Community.  Just so beautiful to have the two posters side by side met by barrels of spring flowers as the door opened to the sidewalk.

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Supporting Unicorns and their Adventures: The Wealth of NYC

Been enjoying Williamsburg, Brooklyn for two weeks now.  The mission?  Set up an international networking and exhibition space for artists through the Artifications Studio at 63 N 3 St, basement. 

Something that struck me, as I commute around the city, is the incredible sense of wealth of resources.  This wealth feeds a fantastic culture of supporting fellow Unicorns and their magical adventures.  Anything in this city can be acquired for free given time, creativity, and resource-fullness.  Here's a story... We had our Artifications Digable Weekend exhibition Apr 5 - 7.  As the exhibit concluded, we needed packing material to return artwork home. I was walking back from jiu jitsu at the Renzo Gracie Academy, the best training yet, and found some thin packing foam, rolled up and ready for trash pick up.  Seeing as the foam had rolled into the walk way, I decided to pick it up and move it.  Recognizing its usefulness, I carried half of the bounty back to the gallery, yay!  To complete my goal of mailing artwork to our lovely artists, I selected the appropriate sized cardboard from the stacks outside nearly every business.  My urban foraging trip saved the gallery money and tidied the streets. 

Thanks NYC, you make dreams come true in the spirit of supporting fellow unicorns!  

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Denver Art Society

The Denver Art Society is an entirely volunteer run Arts Education Nonprofit that was established in 2009 in the La Alma neighborhood. The La Alma Neighborhood includes Denver's culturally most diverse area for many decades with a large immigrant population.  The Denver Art Society (DAS) brings together a multitude of membership from all economic, social, and political backgrounds.  We provide a venue for a diverse group of artists to use as performance, teaching, and display space while volunteering in the Denver Community.  An influential project of the Denver Art Society has been the monthly Alley Rallies, which turns cleaning up the alley and gallery into a community event.  Alley Rallies are all day events one Saturday per month where local visual and performance artists attend to paint murals, perform music, and collaborate on beautifying the alley behind the Denver Art Society.  All artists and residents of the neighborhood help pay for the cost of trash removal and volunteer their labor for clean up.

As a member of the Denver Art Society for four years, Grace has been on the Steering Committee from 2014-2017 and was recently appointed to the interim Board of Directors Jan 2017.  She has been an activist in Colorado and Oregon for mental health, sustainable/affordable food and housing, and art for over a decade.  Equal representation and access to the arts is Grace's passion and she spends nearly every day working towards building community through art.

Drawing 101 Class

ANNOUNCEMENT! I will be teaching Drawing at Denver Art Society, Sundays 5-7 pm through the month of March. 

 What we'll do
Beginning Drawing Class

Goal: learn how to draw, make drawing fun and accessible.
Session 1

Gesture Drawing
Blind contour
Expressive line
Weight of line and shape

Session 1 is the first in a 4 week class providing a comprehensive overview of drawing. This class will hone anyone's drawing skills no matter your experience level and supplies will be provided as part of session tuition.

• What to bring
Supplies included: full pencil set 4H through 6B hardness, newsprint sketchbook, vine charcoal

• Important to know
Everyone can draw and I am excited to meet you!

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Surrender the limitations

The magical side of reality is being brought to Boulder.  I just broke into the scene yesterday at Umba (https://umbalove.com/password) and Old Tibet http://oldtibetboulder.com/, wow, SO grateful and honored.  

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