Following are notes I took the first few sessions of working on the wall. They may or may not be interesting; I don't know. I thought I'd leave them here for anyone who wants to know more of the story. The story is so big, even just my version. This is only the tip of the iceberg ...
the phoenix project is in full swing. first a neighborhood/art friend party at my house last week. Tiana, Jimmy, Allison, Maime, Felipe, David Meeker and his new girlfriend who's name i can't remember right now, david elliott and diana. tucker, darshan, kristina and her probably not boyfriend anymore gosh, who's name has also escaped me. marko, aris and orion - on the day he made yellow belt in karate and was walking beautifully. david garrison, dj and myself doing the late night stuff. we all painted tiles for the wall. each one is awesomely unique and so clearly made by the person who painted it. amazing how everyone's art looks exactly like it ought to look. people were pretty enthusiastic about the project and it was great juice for me to get going.
i've been glazing the tiles for a good month now, maybe two. i was given a couple of truckloads of tiles, old floor tiles. i've been working on glaze recipes - trying to figure that whole thing out. most of this glazing has occurred with test glazes and old bottles of store-bought glazes - some of which i've mixed odds and ends into changing colors or textures. so all-in-all it's a crapshoot to figure out what your piece will really look like. not to mention glazing on old floor tiles is it's own experience, they bubble up and even burst in the kiln. it's very freeing to glaze like this, i get it why painters paint. the blank little canvasses of the tiles are all the better because there's an endless of amount of them to be done for a wall this size. not that they entire thing will be glazed, but more is better. :) right mom?
so i've done a bunch and dj has done a bunch. his are intense. and light. i keep thinking about him lately and what an artist he is. it's really changed my life dating him because he sees beauty in just everything. life is artful with him and that is such a pleasant thing. so i love the phoenix he draws and i want her on the wall; it's the cave painting simple one.
the wall is going to have a series of single words taken from the legend of the phoenix and some drawings depicting the different looks of the phoenix. like the thunderbird. or the classic swooping winged firebird. even the flamingo, my totem, takes it's roots with the phoenix. it's name is derived from the egyptian root for phoeni -winged. awesome. maybe RISE PHOENIX FIRE BIRD REBORN. something like that.
last night we went to the phoenix and had a tile painting session with some of the students up there. there are 6 who have signed releases and can be on the film sj is making. so it was those folks, leslie - their staff guy, the director laurie and her son jonathon. particularly cool cause she only came because she wanted to. she was on vacation and obviously just thought it would be something they'd enjoy. chelsea, ally, dallas, james, felicia. maime, her friend lynn, sj, dj and myself. it was an electric environment. i can't even beleive that behind those drab walls and that dirt filled yard there is that much joy and positive energy. those kids were alive. they were enthusiastic, friendly, interested, fun, connected to their school and each other, respectful of everything and totally unafraid to just grab a paintbrush and start painting. laughing and talking and being teenagers in the best imaginable way. it was really beautiful. and, obviously, great looking tiles were created. i can't wait to see them come out of the kiln. and i can hardly wait to create the wall and work with these guys. this feels so good.
second tiling session with the students last night here at the ranch. they were so excited about my place and the mosaics and the kitchen it was thrilling. they are the most free and happy group of people i've been around for a long time. absolutely sweet and delightful. last night's tiles were gorgeous, each one a perfect little piece of art. they chalked all over my kitchen cabinets and it's really awesome this morning. can't wait to fire the tiles and see them come out. can't wait to start the project. they are all really excited to start the project, too, which is so fun. this feels like energy ramping up.
okay, first day down. the wall has the black line outlined with mirror about 75% done. yesterday dj, josh center, sj and i were up there pretty much all day. i think we were all more than exhausted. sj and i never had lunch, never had the time (or place) to pee ... it was wild. and very exciting. the kids were able to start helping early, when leslie got there and realized we were there he was willing to let them out. so we were on! dj cut glass. for 5 hours straight. he and dallas. we got two new folks, ray and laurence. shelby is getting a release, so she's almost official now. and then chelsea, felicia, ally and another new kid, dylan. all of them are amazing. they are really into the project and they get it. they are excited and hard workers. hardly any of them do what i say. they all have to find their own way, but, whatever, it's working. laurie and jonathon helped out for the most of the day and two neighbor ladies joined in as well. the therapy sisters came out and played - delightful, funny and political - the kids seemed to really enjoy that. shelby sang, too. the wall, like the experience is going to be really dramatic. it lacks a little one voice connectedness, but i think its' energy will keep it beautiful. we meet again at 9a this morning. boys session - the girls are swimming. i'm so thankful to everyone for being into this project. sj and dj are heaven-sent.
okay, haha, this is as far as i took notes. we worked 14 hour days for 10 days in a row. and i most definitely did not have the energy to write notes when i got home. and now 3 months have passed. what i'll say is that it was the most powerful and uplifting project i've ever been involved in. we were all alive, truly alive and together. there aren't words to describe what happened to us. but it changed me, it changed what i want to do with myself, it changed how i want to work with people. i love that wall, i feel pride and i feel something bigger than myself when i walk it.
Stefanie's Wall (the phoenix)
by David Jewell
She takes a boring wall along a sidewalk; it's about an eighth of a mile long and starts out around two feet tall and rises gradually to around five feet then down again and she turns it into a canvas for a mosaic masterpiece and brings people together to work on it and decorate it˝˝ people who would never talk to each other or even notice each other if it weren't for this wall. This wall along a not too busy street in front of a school for kids trying to get off drugs˝˝ teenagers, already trying to kick it and start anew. The Phoenix Academy. For the ones who've already gone up in flames and are trying to rise again from the ashes˝˝ and the wall in front of this school, that you wouldn't recognize as a school, or really notice or know what it was at all, is becoming a landmark, an art parade, a conversation piece, a neighborhood treasure, urging all passers by to pull up, to rise again, to have new hope, to love each other, to feel they are not alone˝˝ and it all happened because she walked by and thought that wall was missing something, and had this idea, and asked the school director, who had the courage to say o.k., and it was done.