As everything starts to open up and the weather gets a bit warmer, I've been able to get out of Oxfordshire to do a few murals by the coast in Weston Super Mare. One of them was a mural of the frog used in Kambo medicine, the Giant Leaf Frog which is found in the Amazon for my friend Sid who is a qualified Kambo practitioner. More info on this and other plant medicines can be found at her page at Healing Space.
Oxford's artweeks are coming up very soon on 8th May, so we've been busy at the Westbury People's Gallery getting the space ready to display the work of a number of local artists. The event is the largest pop-up exhibition and open studios in the Uk. I'm excited to have some canvases on display for the first time in a long while, since my work is usually in the form of murals. I've been continuing to work on the displays and covered areas too.
As all in England will be aware we are in national lockdown as the new variant of covid has been spreading across the south, so international travel is not currently permitted. Uk residents are also temporarily not permitted to enter Panama for this reason. I'm still hoping to get back to Central America and California for a short trip before Spring.
Saturday 14th November - Locked down again in England, but art carries on at Westbury People's Gallery, Oxford
Since leaving quarantine at the end of August, I've been busy catching up on the work I had booked over the summer, mostly outdoor painting in and around Oxford. The weather is much colder than I'm used to in Panama but I've still been able to work outside. I'd usually be back in Isla Bastimentos sometime in October but have decided to stay in England at least until January before going back.
Tourism has opened up in Bocas del Toro and the beaches, restaurants and hostels are now open, with covid cases in decline. It seems that for now the strict lockdown over there has paid off. Lockdown is much more relaxed in England, with open schools and universities and many continuing to go to work so hopefully it'll be enough to bring down the spread.
I'm currently working at the Westbury People's Gallery which is situated in the front garden of a suburban house in Rose Hill, Oxford. Sculpture, paintings and prints of local artists are exhibited here, while the noticeboards facing the street display poems and posters. There is also a book and plant exchange which is popular and it will be a performance space in future as well.
My work here has involved building weatherproof display cases for the artwork and maintaining the structures around the gallery. I've really enjoyed working on the various projects here and can see the effect the artwork has had in raising the spirits of the local passers by. Much of the artwork is of a satirical nature, anti-Trump and anti-Brexit, and it really strikes a chord with people in these difficult, uncertain times. The social commentary with a dash of humour on display here seems much appreciated. I'm hoping to add some of my own artwork soon.
Visit the gallery online at www.facebook.com/Westbury-Community-Gallery-and-Performing-Arts-Space-112979206936951
I'm back in England now and have a week left to go of my 14 day quarantine. It's been a long time since my last blog post as my laptop had to be repaired and was gone for 6 weeks. We were out of lockdown by then thankfully, but it did make travel plans very difficult. I was waiting for US flights to open to non-US citizens so that I could use my return tickets but ended up having to book a humanitarian flight via Amsterdam.
However, I found out just a few days later that I would have been able to use my original returns! Very frustrating, however the journey back went very smoothly without any problems. I had to get a special travel document from the British Embassy to be allowed to travel across the regions of Panama to the city for the flight and arrange a boat to take me to the mainland, since normal passenger services are not running at the moment. I stayed for a few days at a hotel in Panama City in case a Covid 19 test was required as with some European flights, but this was not necessary to enter Holland. The city is still in lockdown with men and women allowed out at specific hours on alternate days, as it had been for the whole country many weeks ago.
There were few passengers at the airport with few flights leaving the country and on the flight each passenger was separated by an empty seat to maintain social distancing. I brought only hand luggage to allow for quick transfers which worked well. Quite a few passengers wore full body coverings as well as a mask and a face shield which made for a rather surreal journey. Only masks were actually required by the airlines though, and I was relieved to find that food and drink was served as normal.
After a week of rain the sun is finally out, and I've been getting ready to start painting again. So as not to put my family at risk, I'm quarantined in the studio above the garage and sleeping in my converted van just as I do when working at festivals. I've been missing the islands and the tropical temperatures but hopefully the good weather will hold out for a while now!
On Monday the lockdown ended, so we are now able to go out in the daytime between 5am and 7pm every day. Beaches are still off limits for swimming, but it's amazing to have more freedom at last. I've been making the most of it, taking some forest walks and going into town to get art materials. Many shops are now open, in Bocas including department stores.
Being able to get out of the house during the day has been amazing in the hot weather, thankfully some thunderstorms have topped up the water tanks too. There was a fantastic lightning show across the bay a few nights ago. A party vibe has been in the air all day, since it's the first Sunday people have all been allowed to be out at once.
I've been working on a wooden sign made of nispero, or 'iron wood' as it is often referred to here. It's a challenge to work with as it is extremely hard, but this is also one of it's good points. Although it takes a lot of time to sand, the beautiful grain is a orangey-red in colour. After planing and sanding, I have used a soldering iron to burn the design into the wood, a technique called pyrography. After the varnish dries I will add some colourful tints, then add a final coat of laquer. The piece is for some friends at Old Bank Tea Garden and Coffeehouse, which will also be a live music/spoken word performance venue.
Just as we came out of lockdown a few cases of coronavirus were found in Bocas Town. One of the barillos has been quarantined for 2 weeks and those who are ill are to be housed in rooms at the old hospital. Numbers are quite low at the moment, and none have yet been found in Isla Bastimentos. It's been an uncertain time, as we are not sure if lockdown will return or if it will continue to be lifted under these circumstances.