Children and Art

  Anne’s Special Needs Classroom with Children’s Art

I love special needs children. And I love art, so I have tried to infuse my classes with art through the many years I did this work. This particular project was a call for art to cover a gas station in New York used specifically for that purpose one time. The project was a fiber arts project, 3′ x 3′ square from each group that contributed one. The project, chosen by the children, was a world with lots of hand prints on it. The world was painted onto quilt batting painted blue, and the children’s hands were hand prints they all made. The hand prints were cut out and stitched onto and around the world and each child wrote his or name on the hands. They also helped put the name of their school on the piece.

The children learned much beyond just creating art. They learned how to do a project together with minimum guidance. And they learned what it was like to have something they created go across the U.S. and got to see it online up with all the other projects. They got to have a sense of pride in doing something so much larger than their own little world. I am so glad I got to help them do this project.

All children should get to experience art, just as reading out loud to them is good for their growth too. They need to learn to be ok if they make mistakes, and to accept and appreciate the miracle of what they have made, even if it is not perfect in adult eyes. How many art projects have any of us who create art made with imperfections? Imperfections are what makes art that is truly unique and fantastic. In the same sense, special needs children are unique and amazing people with so much to offer the world. Thank you one and all, and bless each of you for the New Year and all the years that follow.

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The Pumpkins are Here . . .

Kathy Burns had the pumpkin

Photo by Kathy Burns

The sun peaked from behind the clouds.

Autumn was in the air.

The crows sat in the barren trees

Something surely waiting there.

Leaves danced o’r the ground

As the wind began to blow.

Children sensed it coming

From where no one could know.

They sniffed the air with childhood hopes

And pulled their sweaters tight.

Whatever it could possibly be,

They dreamed as children might.

A wagon rumbled down the road

Pulled by an old gray mare

An old man managing the load,

There was magic in the air.

Children jumped happily up and down

The day had come at last.

When the pumpkins came to town.

Happy Halloween!

 

Ravioli, Ravioli . . .

 

Baby Annie reading a book

This photo is a baby girl named Anne, and it is some 76 years old approximately. Oh how she loved to be read to aloud, or how she loved to “read” her own little books.  There were never enough books, and her favorite person to read to her was her Grandma.  She was still sitting on the floor next to her Grandma in her rocking chair.  And Grandma would tell little Anne stories to capture her memory and to make her days memorable.

I dedicate this story to my friend Jennie, who teaches preschoolers at a private school back East.  Her favorite way of teaching is reading aloud to the students, something they all love so much.  She combines it with so much creativity.  One day, she was asking the children if they wanted to have a new story, and instead of telling one child who was talking a lot, she told the children if they wanted a story to say “Ravioli, Ravioli.”  It changed the climate immediately and all the children began to say that.

I am so glad I grew up loving to read.  To this day, it is perhaps one of my most wonderful adventures in life.  I hope any of you who have children will take the time to read to them as much as possible.  Let them pick out books from the library.  And teach them to ask in funny ways such as “Ravioli, Ravioli!”

Accidental Art

 

Just what IS accidental art?  Doesn’t everyone who paints or does mixed media or art quilts or other art forms have to plan everything out ahead? How can it be art if it is not “designed?”

Have you ever watched a child creating art?  Children don’t plan their art.  They just start making lines and marks and coloring all over the page and generally using their full imagination.  There is a freedom and spontaneity that you cannot help but enjoy, even if you are a professional artist or person who doesn’t care for art.  It reminds you of some part of yourself that many people lose as we grow older and have to deal with the everyday issues of life.

This is my favorite form of art.  All of these pieces were created in a matter of minutes, often pulling scraps from my friend Jamie Fingal’s fabric scrap can or my own, and using a glue stick or pins initially to put down whatever pieces I found.  Honestly, none of these are planned.  They just came to be born as I allowed myself to go into my childlife, just playing and having fun.  They are all in various stages as I was making them. The flowers with the frog were from my boob prints, and so much fun to play with.  I don’t think any of these took me longer than 15 – 20 minutes to create in whatever forms they are here. There is no attempt to “match” anything, to be precise, and even the stitching that comes later on to finish them is just wherever my hand feels like guiding the machine.  I don’t need to put colors in the “right places,” or worry about whether it looks like it is “supposed to look.” The striped “cat” below was just a scrap of fabric I found in exactly the shape it was.  We used to give little blocks like this to friends who perhaps hurt themselves in a fall, or maybe had surgery.  They just become something as we go along, but there is no thought given to trying to create any particular thing.

Tiger Kittykit kat and the catepillar 1 (2016_09_03 07_58_44 UTC)Annies boob quilt for autism charity - My garden of Earthly Delights

 

19995 (2016_10_30 18_27_53 UTC)

Annie's 15-minute bird 2 better (2016_09_03 07_58_44 UTC)

An Angel Among Us

pexels-newborn baby 2

Photo Courtesy Pexels

When I first moved to Calimesa in Southern California, I noted that the Garden of Angels in Desert Lawn Cemetery was located in my city.  I had read about the cemetery in 1996 when a wonderful lady, Debi Faris, living in Yucaipa (next to Calimesa) heard a newscast about a newborn baby found dead in a duffle bag that had been tossed out on the San Pedro freeway.

Garden of Angels Cemetery at Desert Lawn in Calimesa

Faris explained how that newscast impacted her life. “He was placed, I assume by his mother, in a pink duffle bag with the word ‘lifesaver’ written on the outside of it. This little child would change the course of my life,” she said.

“When I heard the news report about that newborn baby in the duffel bag … it touched me so deeply that I could not turn and walk away. He was a human being, so innocent and vulnerable. It tore at my heart that his mother could not see the ‘gift’ she had been given.”

Thus Faris began her life-long quest to make sure there would be a place to bury these abandoned or murdered children and she made education of teens and young people her priorities.

Soon thereafter, she contacted Senator Jim Brulte to get the laws of child abandonment changed. The abandonment law passed after some time and in 2001 the Safe Surrender for Newborns law became part of her legacy.

“On August 26, 1996, we buried the first three children in the Garden of Angels. Two abandoned newborn baby boys and a little girl about the age of two, apparently murdered, who had been found floating in a river. I gave them their names, Matthew, Nathan and Dora. Their names all have the same meaning … a gift from God.” She said her dad made wooden crosses and sent them to her from Oregon.

The names were important she said because, “These children had a name now … they would not be just a Coroner’s number.”

There is even one adult buried in the Garden. Grandpa John’s stone cross sits on the edge of the garden amidst the forest of monuments dedicated to the tiny children.

In 2002, Faris had received a call from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office asking if she knew anyone or group who would take the body of an adult and give him a proper burial. “I said I didn’t and asked why,” she said.

The person on the other line proceeded to tell Faris they had a man who had died and as they were trying to find family to notify them of his death, they learned that as a baby, he had been found discarded in a trash can in July 1936.

The man, legally named John Doe Jr., had suffered brain damage, possibly from being thrown into the trash can and had apparently lived his life in institutions, she said.

“I told them I would take him,” she smiled. “Now he’s surrounded by all these children and he won’t ever be alone again.”

Forsale

Debi Faris in the Garden of Angels

I attended several of the funerals at the Garden of Angels since I lived in the general area then.  The first one I attended was for three babies, all in tiny caskets, and all wrapped in receiving blankets.  Two of the caskets were no bigger than large boxes that might contain boots.

Debi Faris would drive from Yucaipa, CA all the way to Los Angeles, where the bodies of babies would be kept, along with every other person who was unidentified and/or unclaimed, and all the bodies would be cremated as one might burn trash.  She would get the babies, clean their tiny bodies and wrap them in clean receiving blankets.  Then she would sit with the babies for a short time, rocking them in a sort of loving action that a mother would make.  And then she would bring them back to Calimesa, CA, to the Garden of Angels, and they would be put in their tiny caskets for the funerals.

The funerals I attended back around 2014 were beautiful ways to acknowledge a life that otherwise might have passed into the netherworld without their lives having been acknowledged.  All the babies are given a first and sometimes middle name.  They cannot get a last name because of legal issues, I imagine lest someone comes to claim any of them, which has never happened.  There is singing.  The song I heard was “I’ll Fly Away Home,” and it was truly touching.  I know I shed some tears.  When the little caskets are taken outside to the burial site, people stand over them and pray for them and white doves are released.  They circle higher and higher in the sky over the site, and eventually begin to fly back home.  At every holiday, the little graves are decorated with flowers and other gifts brought by different people who visit the cemetery.  The Garden of Angels is a special part of the cemetery all of its own right near the front of the mortuary.  There is a little pool nearby and birds and ducks come there frequently to visit the pond.  It is a beautiful ceremony, and though sad, I think the fact that the babies are honored instead of being thrown away in trash cans, dumped in rivers, left out in the desert, or otherwise thrown away as a life without any value other than perhaps a 20-minute sex act (if that).

I have always been so touched by what this one woman did, a woman who was not wealthy, and who sold her family car to have money to bury the first three babies, that I too decided to do something as well in their honor.  So I began collecting blue and white quilt blocks that various women have donated.  I will ultimately bind each block individually and put them together horizontally so that the quilt can continue to grow.  I had made a list of the babies and their names, and some people have chosen to embroider a child’s name on a block.  I think when someone is talking to the young people at the high schools, it is a good visual aid to help them understand the reality of the issue.

Prior to the passing of the Safe Surrender for Newborns law, it is estimated that there were some 500 babies abandoned and/or murdered outright.  Today as it stands, there are more than 100 babies in the cemetery. I have not been there lately so I am not sure of the exact number, but one baby is too many. For information on California’s Safely Surrendered Baby Law, go to babysafe.ca.gov.

Footnote:  Debi Faris, after working so hard on this issue, actually won the lottery and her payout out of $26,000,000,000 was $9,000,000,000.  She contributed some of it to the nonprofit organization that I believe now exists.

More of Who Will I Be Today

lady in funky clothes like Anne

I am not a fashion maven.  I do not care for new clothes.  New clothes are tabula raza; they have no life story, and for me, that is the most important thing I look for in life.  Everything has a story, and if it doesn’t I will make one, but how can you make a story from something that is brand new and has not lived anywhere except on a clothes rack.

I have always loved thrift stores, garage sales, and swap meets of all kinds. There is such a sense of adventure, and what I like especially is that when you go to these types of places, all racial, all political, religious or spiritual or cultural differences seem to disappear.  Everyone seems to blend into a wonderful mixture that looks like the clothes in this photo; there is a little of everything.  And people sit down at the tables to eat their preferred foods – sometimes things from their own cultures, and sometimes people are just plain adventuresome with what they eat.  But the key thing is that they all sit together at the tables, talking often in their native languages, and people doing their best to communicate with others who don’t speak the languages, everyone laughing at the antics of children, or pointing excitedly to a booth that might have extra good items.

And there we all are.  One could not paint a more beautiful and sacred photo I believe.  there is such a great feeling at the end of our time at these magical events.  People are quick to show you their “treasures,” be they the find of heirloom tomatoes, or perhaps a new variety of plant, or a huge watermelon that is going to bring a treat to a big family and friends.

I often use my background in archaeology/anthropology to do a study of a thrift store if I go into a new area, and I can tell so much about the people who live in the area by their “living” artifacts with the stories I mentioned.  I can tell if they are primarily seniors who live in the area, business people, or if they are a poor area or an ultra-wealthy one, and I can tell about the children too by the clothes, as well as the cultures represented.  And the books and other living artifacts are great clues too.  This is such a fun way to spend time discovering history’s mysteries!

I will never be “old” as long as I can find things to have fun with such as these things.  I will always be a hippy sort of person in the way I love to think of other people and our society as a whole.  The way I choose to dress is sort of a statement about all of that, and I am glad to be who I am because, as the photo says, I have never been this age before, and in one second, I will never be this age again.

 

 

 

 

 

Art Exhibit – Part II

So now you have seen Part I, and I want to let you know that I am quite prolific with speaking what is in my heart and the compass of my soul.  So Part II will show you some more things I have created, and you might question their designation as “art.”  I want you to know that as an artist, I define what is MY art and what it will chose to be at any given time in my life according to how I am envisioning life at that particular time.  I like the freedom to celebrate life in the many ways I choose to celebrate it.  When I turned 65, I decided to do something different for my special day.  I had put on some African music which I liked very much, and I was thinking of how the people paint their bodies to signify something that is very meaningful to them, so I got out some black cloth, and being all alone, stripped and painted my breasts white.  I pressed them to the cloth.  We know ourselves in one way, or perhaps two, but there are things and ways of ourselves that we have never observed.  So when I looked at the cloth I had created, I was, to say the least, surprised, for whoever would ever know that this was what a breast looked like on cloth.  Here are a couple of pieces that came from this wonderful experiment in which I learned to see myself in a whole new way.  This process never ends, for there is always something new to learn, and as we change over the many years, so do our bodies and minds.  Each part becomes a special art exhibit all of its own.

Boobalala

Boobalala by Anne Copeland – Paint and Fiber

 

Annies boob quilt for autism charity - My garden of Earthly Delights

My Garden of Earthly Delights” by Anne – Paint and Fiber

This quilt is about 18″ x 20″ and it features the breast prints in multicolors, which was a lot more fun and challenging than just doing white.  And to think, I still have more body parts to color and experiment with.  Who knows what this will ultimately lead to.  I am certainly not the first person to experiment with painting body parts, but I did this my way and without any lessons either.  The frog is painted separately.

Oh, and this was a charity quilt I decided to make for Art for Autism, since I have been very involved for many years with autistic and other special needs children. For those of you who might recoil in horror, there is nothing ugly or wierd about our breasts.  I fed all my children with mine, lived through breast cancer, and now that I have passed three quarters of a life (age 77), I am glad to be able to still have those breasts.  For me, they are no different than having teeth, hair, armpits, or feet or a backside. Does a tree hide its branches in shame?

So this is Art Exhibit Part II.  We will look at some other ideas in different “exhibits” I get to curate and write about.  It’s my show.  See you at the next one.