Milton Bowens
My mother, Mary Marshall, gave me many blessings during her lifetime:  the ability to set goals, to plan, to organize, to complete goals, to DO, to contribute in some small way to the community, to be a caring person, to be physically fit, and to love life.  So while the great Langston Hughes wrote about a "Dream Deferred" my mother taught me to wish upon a star and gave me the tools to make my dreams come true.  Last night was the realization of two of my dreams:  to have my artwork published in a book and to have my artwork featured in a show with Milton Bowens.

If you have read any of my blogs, you may realize that I am an Ultra Type A personality, constantly striving to name and accomplish goals in all aspects of my very full life.  I love to solve problems, meet challenges and succeed at whatever I put my mind to.  These are characteristics from my mother, who pulled herself up out of a small little town in Ohio where her only avenues were to have a lot of babies and become a cook or domestic, to becoming a Principal at many schools in Sacramento, an award-winning watercolor artist, a Silver master bridge player, active contributor to the AKA sorority, fiendish tennis player and golfer, fun grandmother, and ... my Hero.  Even after mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, she continued living her life to the fullest for another decade.  With an act like that to follow, how could I and my sister and brother be any different?

Every year, I set goals and dreams for the next year after reviewing my accomplishments for the current year.  One of my MANY goals that has been on my list since 1993, when I started my Kanika African Sculptures business, is to have my artwork in a book that I did not pay to publish.  So when Master Barbershop and Beauty Salon issued a Call for Artists a couple of months ago, I really tried to create a work that could be accepted into "The Night that Harlem Came to Stockton Boulevard" show.  I had been wanting to show my art there for ages but the timing never seemed to work out, so this was a great opportunity.  And lo and behold they had planned to publish a book catalog that contained all of the artworks!  So I really had to get to steppin' and refresh my memory about the Harlem Renaissance period, which was the subject of the show, to create apiece worthy of the show.  See my Spirituality Through Art blog for all the details.

Last night was the Opening Night for  "The Night that Harlem Came to Stockton Boulevard" show and it was fantastic!  Not only was there stimulating visual art by eight local artists whom I revere - Milton "510" Bowens, Gerry "GOS" Simpson, John King, Professor Allan Gordon, Daphne Burgess, Charles Curtis Blackwell, and David Alexander (and me) - but also live music by Annie Jay/___ and poetry by Malik Saunders and Lil RoRo Brown.  And the Master of Ceremonies was one of my all-time favorite people: Dr. Tchaka Muhammed, Edu-tainer, Storyteller, Poet, Motivational speaker, and keeper of the essence.  Marichal and Rodney Brown and their mom, co-owners of Master Barbershop, are true activists who are keeping hope alive and exposing the Sacramento community to Black artists of all genres.  Master Barbershop is selling the catalog for $20, so please support their business by buying a copy of the catalog for your collection.  It not only contains fine images of the artwork, but the poems spoken at last night's show, a Foreword by the eminent James Sweeney, and Publisher's Statement by Marichal Brown.  The show continues until the end of the year.
Kanika Marshall's entries in the "Night Harlem Came to Stockton Boulevard" art catalog produced and available for sale at Master Barber and Beauty Shop (916.457.8708)

My second goal was to be in a show with Milton Bowens who is a passionate and inspirational artist, educator, activist, lecturer, and powerhouse who came onto my radar about 10 years ago.  Milton Bowens' mixed-media collages about Black life are meant to "educate not just decorate" and are thought-provoking exhibitions that will help restore a level of hope in communities desperately in need of inspiration.  His artwork was the first show at the then-new 40 Acres Gallery - one of the first galleries in Sacramento that particularly featured African American artists from around the country.  40 Acres was part of an amazing redevelopment project in the Oak Park area that was spearheaded by now-mayor, Kevin Johnson.   The gallery is part of a connected-building complex near Broadway on 3rd Avenue, consisting of Underground Books, the Guild Theater, a coffee shop, and a barber shop.    I have had the opportunity to watch his ascent over the years to become an integral part of Kevin Johnson's For Art's Sake project, imparting an important historical perspective of the crucial role that Blacks have played in the building of America to kids and adults from all racial and ethnic backgrounds.  So to have a chance to be in an art show with the impressive Milton Bowens had been on my Kanika African Sculptures Goal Sheet for quite some time.




October is always a tough month for it reminds me of the many loved ones we have lost to breast cancer, especially my mother.  I am particularly sensitive and weepy during this time. 

The flip side, though, is very positive.  October brings many fine efforts to make people aware of how to take good care of ourselves with breast self-exams and mammograms.  And there are lots of fundraising efforts for breast cancer research.  October celebrates life.

In Sacramento, California, the Women's Wisdom Project, part of the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, works with the Albie Aware Breast Cancer Foundation to sponsor the Art Bra Show every year.  Local artists create wonderful works of art with a bra as the main theme and they are auctioned off and the monies raised to fund free mammograms to people who could not otherwise afford them. 

A fine art photographer friend of mine, Monica Neumann Lunardi, is exhibiting her amazing "Boobie Show III" at the J27 Gallery in Sacramento until October 31, 2011.  Monica reminds us that "Over the course of her life time 1 in every 8 women will develop breast cancer.  The mission of the BOOBIE SHOW is: Striving to eliminate the fear of the mammogram and the unknown of the self-exam...a few minutes could save your life and save your boobies. You need your life. Your family needs you, the universe needs you.  Just get it done! Breast cancer is NOT a death sentence… if detected early."

 Whatever you call em,  join the movement to save em!                                                
Monica says: "We savor them with our eyes - enjoy their shapes, sizes, and curves...see them jiggle and bounce.  We touch them, embrace them...feel them!   Some are gorgeous and some... not so attractive.  Bottom line, they are ours and we should be able to keep them  - but we have to play an active part in the wellness process.  BREAST CANCER AWARENESS is all we ask!    Self-exams, regular check-ups and mammograms …just make it happen!"

I was proud to have been asked to sell my breast cancer survivor pendants at the month-long show, along with other local artists who had breast-themed works.  We all gave 20% of all sales to the Albie Aware Foundation to continue their good works.  Every year, I give 10-20% of all breast cancer sales from my website and art shows to the Komen Foundation or Albie Aware.

Awareness of breast cancer is a good thing for it will result in more women finding out about, and hopefully avoiding, being touched by cancer.



Conquering Your Fears


I just did two things that I never thought I would do, two things that were so scary I wondered if I would survive them.  It all started on a long-planned, five-day camping and hiking vacation in Lassen Volcanic National Park in north-eastern California during the last week in August 2011.

My boyfriend, Michael, has more camping experience than I and has a winning methodology for what to pack, what to eat, etc.  By him volunteering to take on the planning, packing and driving responsibility, it meant that this would really be a restful vacation for me (he's a keeper to be sure!).

So after dropping my vacationing grandkids off at their mom's house Saturday morning, we finished packing up the car and started the three-hour road trip.  What ever did we do before GPS?  Thankfully, Michael has a great GPS program on his phone which guided us flawlessly through North Natomas, Nicklaus, Chico's Butte mountains, and several other small towns until we reached the south portal to Lassen Volcanic National Park.

WOW!  This place was so different from the usual camping and hiking trips we take along the coast or Sacramento valley.  Everything was still green and there were fields of wildflowers among the green trees and verdant mountains.  The park extends from about 6,000 to 10,000 feet in altitude.

Lassen Visitor's Center at south end of park
Wild flowers abound everywhere
After stopping at the Visitor's center for a fabulous sandwich and big chocolate/vanilla soft serve ice cream cone, and 20-minute movie about the remarkable geologic formation of four different types of still-active volcanoes at the park, we began exploring the visitor center grounds on our own.
Incredible rock formations are everywhere
There was snow everywhere too, even though the weather was a perfect, in the low 80s.

OK, now back in the car to start driving up a 30-mile road to our campsite.  The coolest thing about Lassen is that the powers at be constructed the main road through most of the interesting natural wonders that people want to see.  From you car you can see mud pots (below) belching their acrid and rotten-egg stinky sulfuric odors.

The terrain is very different from Yosemite, although there are some granite-like formations.  But there is much more lush greenery, which energize those us of who love living green.

There are also waterfalls, flowerful meadows, trees, trees, and more trees, mountains, streams and rivers and little lakes along the northerly main road up to nearly the northern end of the park, where we camped at Manzanita Lake.  But it took us about three hours to get there, mostly because we had to stop at every vista point and take pictures and marvel at the sheer beauty of the place!  It only took about 30 minutes to get the campsite totally set up.  All foodstuffs and anything with a scent (e.g., toothpaste, lotion) had to be locked up in a bear locker at one end of our campsite.  I said bears. Remember that ...
Home sweet home for the next five days
By then, it was about 5 PM and time to eat.  Small campfire then franks and beans rolled in a tortilla for dinner.

As night began to fall, we decided to walk 5-10 minutes to the lake to catch the sunset.

We had very noisy neighbors that night and neither one of us got much sleep.  Even though it was only about 42 degrees at the coldest and we had a queen-sized air mattress and thick sleeping bags, we were pretty darn cold at night.  And, of course, the thought of bears prowling at night ... especially when we had to exit our "safe" haven for a bathroom run in the middle of the night.  Needless to say, we were tired in the morning when the crows began their LOUD (did I say LOUD?) squawking at 7 AM ... We were cold until the sun began peeking over the tall tree tops at our campsite.  As Mr. fixed breakfast by 8:30 or so, though, it was quite pleasant and I had shed some of my layers of clothes.  

Sunday, we decided to explore Manzanita Lake and take pictures.  The one-hour route took us about three hours because we were so engrossed in every little nook and cranny.

Lassen Mountain in the background

It was HOT that day, so we stopped by the little camp store and bought more ice cream on our way back to the campsite.  After rest that afternoon and dinner, we decided that it would be cool to go back to the far side of the lake and wait for night fall to catch the Milky Way over Mt. Lassen using Michael's super duper new camera.  We caught exquisite pictures as the sun fell (his are better than my iphone pix below).

By 8:30, the first stars were visible, but I started getting really worried about the fact that there are NO LIGHTS except moonlight on the 3/4 mile back to the other side of the lake. We were the only ones out there (well, the only people) and it was getting darker and darker, but there still were only a few stars.  Certainly not enough to make it worth our while to stay ... alone ... in the dark ... where bears had been spotted that day ... Finally, we packed up and turned on our headlamps, but mine hardly produced any light.  So Michael had to lead the way, most of the way.  I am not afraid of the dark, per se, but we did not really know our way out there and it was tough to follow the dirt/sand path back in the dark.  We tried to be noisy to let the night critters know we were there, but it's amazing how timid one's voice can sound when there's a bit of fear mixed in.  Thankfully, Michael has a good sense of direction and was able to get us back to the campsite - had it been up to me alone, it would have taken a lot of longer to get there (even though I remembered I had a cool flashlight app on my iphone that did a great job of lighting the way back)!
It was DARK when we started making our way back along the 3/4 mile trek to the campsite.

I needed a LOT of chocolate and a little port wine when we got back to the tent!  I kept saying, "I cannot believe we did that!"  An hour later, we were looking up through the treetops at the most amazing Milky Way.  I cajoled Michael into getting out his camera and tripod to take pictures of that amazing celestial site.  We wanted some star shots after that harrowing hike back from the wilderness!

That was the first of the two events that I wasn't sure I would survive.

Thankfully, there were no noisy neighbors Sunday night, so we were well-rested and ready for Monday's trek to King's Creek.  As soon as we parked our car along the main route, halfway to the south-end Visitor Center, I knew this would be special.  We heard water flowing and could see a delightful creek from the road and a meadow of wild flowers.  The following are pictures from this moderately difficult hike.
View from the road

Gorgeous flowers all along the waterways

We tried to find another hike along the route back to the campsite

Clam chowder, french bread and a salad for dinner. S'mores for dessert.

Even though we were really tired after the Kings Creek trip, we decided to hike up the Cinder Cone Volcano on Tuesday.  Neither of us had done anything like that before and thought we probably could get some interesting pictures.  We packed everything we could in the car that night so we could hit it by 7 AM the next morning and hopefully get some great sunrise pix.  We did not realize that there would be road construction that would slow us down, nor an exceedingly BUMPY 8 mile "path" (30 minute ride) to Butte Lake, which was the entry point for the Cinder Cone hike.  What that means is that the sun was already kind of high when we started the hike.  Photographers like Michael know that means the pictures might be a bit overexposed if you don't have a polarizing lens, which we did not.  

We were intrigued by the 20-30' high "Fantastic Lava Beds" that surrounded one side of the path up to, an all around the actual volcano.  Mounds and mounds of rock.
Lava beds
Here's a view of the mountains as we walked up to the Cinder Cone volcano.

Here's our first complete view of the 600' high volcano (6300 to 6900 feet above sea level)

You cannot believe how steep this sandy/cinder trail is! It averages 30 degrees, but there are portions that are much steeper, as you can see.
I found two sturdy sticks that I could use as walking sticks. Michael used the legs of his tripod.  It seemed like it took an hour to get up to the top because we had to stop every 20 steps or so to breathe and get more water.  I am NOT fond of heights and really had not intended to go all the way up, but we kept putting one foot in front of the other, hoping we would finally reach the never-ending top.  Finally, success was ours!

And the view was breathtaking! That's Mt. Lasson Volcano which is about 4000 feet higher than the top of the cinder cone volcano.

Further around the base of the Cinder Cone Volcano are brightly-colored cinder beds.  While there is a route to those beds at the base of the volcano, I cannot imagine that walkers could get the phenomenal view that we did on the top of the mountain!

Here are the cylindrical spirals of the center of the Cinder Cone volcano.  People can walk all around the top and down into the bowels of the cone, if they like.

Looking down into the center of the volcano.

Lots of red iron oxide-colored lava rock and cinders all around.  Depending on how the light hits, you can also see purple hues, oranges, reds, and yellows.  The palate changes continuously.  The colors in this picture are not enhanced.

On the far side of the top is Butte Lake, with lava beds in the foreground. Colors are enhanced for the lava and trees, but the water is that blue-green.

We took tons of pictures, had lunch, drank lots of water from our backpacks, chatted with other brave souls, most of whom were visiting from other countries.  It was exciting for all of us to make a world connection and we all contemplated a successful descent.  Going up a hill is difficult, but it's the coming down of a steep mountain that I agonized over.  Vertigo. I was SO HAPPY to have my walking sticks, but I was nervous, nervous, nervous.  I heard my (deceased) mom's voice in my head telling me she didn't want me to join her this soon and to be very careful going down.  My brain saw lots of people who had made it up the volcano with NO walking sticks, many in seemingly worse physical shape than I.  From the tippy top of the cone I could see some of those people who made it down the steep hill.  So I knew we "should" be able to make it without broken necks.  But it took a LOT to conquer my fear of starting down.  I practiced by walking up and down the contours of the center cone area.  It was time to start.  Sticks don't fail me now.  I was SO JITTERY! You could not see the start of the path from the top. Michael took video of my tentative, disjointed, steps. One stick followed by my foot, then the other stick followed by the other foot.  It seemed interminable.  My left knee started to ache and I knew I would not make it using that technique. Then I remembered that as a big-footed gal, I often walk down stairs horizontally instead of vertically, so I turned my feet sideways and started again. Much better, faster, smoother.  Going down, we gave comfort to those we met coming up: "It's worth it.  You're almost there. You can do it."  Then WE WERE DOWN!

Never have I ever been so glad to make it successfully down a hill!  

Our reward was to bathe our sore feet in lovely, cool Butte Lake.

We couldn't believe we made it! This was the second time that I thought I wouldn't make it back home, but we persevered and conquered our fear!

We took a nice shower, then a well-deserved nap in the afternoon.  Dinner was delicious quesadillas and broccoli and roasted marshmallows for dessert.

The next day was our last but we wanted to see a couple of additional sites on our way out after another great breakfast, this time french toast and eggs scrambled with veggies.

After packing up the car and driving about 10 miles, we hiked a mile or so to the Magical Boiling Lake.  The bubbles do not come from an underground hot springs, but carbon dioxide.  So we were excited to see such a thing, but, well ... you can see what we saw.  Not much.

This whole trip was a marvel.  I didn't originally think Lassen Park would be anything special but it went waaaaay beyond anything we could have imagined.

We tested ourselves on many levels and we persevered. We survived!  This new-found strength will help us in all future endeavors and renew our appreciation for this world and everything in it!



Mama's Still Got It Going On!

My mom was, and still is, awesome!  April 1st would have been her 77th birthday.

Last weekend, at a show in her honor at the Kuumba Collective Art Gallery, we sold one of her biggest pieces to an art patron who had been admiring it the previous month.

"Festival of Life" resonated with this new administrator of a school in Sacramento, CA.  Mom had been a principal at several elementary schools during her pre-watercolorist career, so that really touched the patron.

I just happened to be at the gallery last weekend, during the second Sacramento African American Art Collective (SAAAC) Art Walk, and this patron was there looking at the artwork for the third time.

Serendipity? Perhaps it was mom working her magic from her current plane of existence!

I so enjoyed telling the patron about mom and why this piece, in particular, was so important.  It was the first time mom had tried painting a large watercolor.  She was so proud of it that she kept it in her bedroom as a reminder that she was, indeed, a professional artist.

I am so proud that mama still got it going on and made this new patron a very happy owner of her work!



During the month of January, I always grieve the loss of my mother, gone four years now after a courageous 10-year battle with breast cancer.  
But this year a wonderful thing happened to bring me out of my annual funk.  The Kuumba Collective Art Gallery in Sacramento, CA, requested to honor my mom as the featured artist for Women's History Month in March 2011.  POR SUPUESTO! (Of course!)



Dear mom,

On January 27th, it will be four years since you joined your deceased relatives.  Four years! How can that be, when you are with me everyday?  Just looking at these blogs, in the four years the following has happened in our lives:

America voted in a democratic Black president!

Thanks to the former president (your favorite - $%^#@!!!), the country has been in the worst recession since the great depression in which you spent your childhood and modeled your life of living within your means.

In 2007, I turned 50 years of age and went to Las Vegas for the first time.

You got your first great granddaughter, Jazmine, in December 2008, and your second great grandson, Isaiah in February 2010.  They are exactly the type of kids that you would love:  intelligent, active, interested in everything, generally well-mannered, and very cute.  I might use Photoshop to make a four-generation picture with you in it, like we were able to do with dad in real life.

Your grandson "reupped" for another tour in the Marines and is being sent to Japan for three years next month.  They packed up their house and are waiting for those orders to come through so they may visit Sacramento one last time before the new tour.

In 2009 and early 2010, I remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms, at your spirited urging.

Dad, THANKFULLY, entered a Memory Care facility in August 2009.  He has mellowed some, thanks to medications and the progression of his illness.  I enjoy being with him, especially when his fun-loving personality comes to the surface.  His wife is certainly the angel who is there with him everyday, making sure he is well-cared for.  Yes, your ex-husband is the luckiest man alive. You were his first caretaker who made it possible for him to be the great Ob/Gyn that he became. You were there with him at Ohio State encouraging him to study for his medical degree.  You were there with him when he traveled with me to Washington State to do his residency, then my sister was born.  You were there with him when he traveled to Stockton to do his internship, then my brother was born. You were there with him when he started his first medical practice on Florin Road near Franklin Blvd and you worked in his office making sure he got paid.  You were there with him when he bought his first house in Larchmont Riviera.  And you were there with him when he gave us all the news that he was leaving us to be with someone else.  And you were there with me, my sister, and brother to ensure that we did not falter, that we became excellent, productive citizens in this great country of ours.

In 2009, I got my first lump and, like your first, it was drained and has not yet returned.  But I have already vowed that if I get breast cancer down the road, I am opting for a double mastectomy with reconstruction to get a full size B cup . . . with some cleavage!

In Feb 2010, while watching the Olympics, I finally figured out how to make the African Warriors that I've dreamed of for 20 years:  the Warrior Divas were born and shown at the Kuumba Collective Art Gallery for the first time.

In early 2010, I became a metal maniac, learning from my friend Kristen how to weld recycled steel.  I made some huge outdoor sculptures! Looking forward to my first welding class of 2011 next weekend. It is possible that my first Kinetic Diva may be sold very soon; I shall miss her so much!

In July 2010, Kanika African Sculptures had a "Legacy" art show featuring your watercolors and my sculptures at the Blue Moon Gallery.  We worked hard to display work that was representative of your amazing watercolor style and it was very successful.  I put together a video slideshow of your work and you for the patrons to see.  Many of your friends and admirers came to honor you.

After being totally run-down because of all the work from earlier in the year, we went on several vacations during the summer of 2010.  I thought about you when I found the Nature Cure.

Late in 2010, a gallery approached me about making some breast cancer survivor busts, but of the real women themselves. So I learned how to do bodycasting. Now I need more volunteers to be wrapped!

So a lot has happened since you passed, but you are never forgotten, be sure of that.