Selfish Gene Series: Karen Gray’s Evolution-Inspired Monoprints


Karen Hansen Gray                                                                                               



Artist Statement


Evolution is a prevalent  theme in my current work.  I am intrigued by how and why living organisms adapt and survive,  re-examining  evolution in light of genetic discoveries,  and ultimately questioning  my own reality in the web of life.  I attempt to explore this theme through images; sometimes layered and complex, and at other times, symbolic and simple.


The Genera Series are monoprints* motivated by the two-hundredth anniversary in 2009 of Charles Darwin’s birth.  The series is a rumination on the theory of evolution; overlaying a chimpanzee skeleton with an inclining human body, showing a finch donning the mask of its altered brother,  and revealing Darwin’s reflection on this special occasion.


*A monoprint is one made from a plate with a reproducible image, but inked to produce a unique print.


I  examine three evolutionary paths in my work:


The first path explores the hypothesis that human evolution is something  we can control through our chosen behavior.  If we mate with an intelligent partner, our offspring will be smarter, or taller, or faster, as the case may be.  Evolution is treated as if each generation was a blueprint to be reworked by us,  regardless of the consequences.  The Iso Series are monoprints in which a bowing human form composed of contour lines  is repeated like a cookie cutter.  Iso means equal,  although in this series,  the original  lines were drawn freehand and thus flawed,  leading  to unpredictable outcomes in reproduction.


 The next  path suggests evolution is manipulated both by nature and the environment.  The influential entity could be as grand as the sky, the stars, the moon, and the earth, or as intimate as culture, language, religion, and spirituality.  The Shiva Series are monoprints  inspired by  auspicious Shiva who always adorns his coiled hair with a crescent moon.  Lunar phases are transformative and mark the cycle of time.  Also, Shiva represents a Supreme God whose influence has the power to convert our character, form, and function in this world.


The third path negates our evolution as whole beings, or rather proposes that it is our DNA which evolves independently and explicitly for the purpose of its own propagation and survival.  In The Selfish Gene Series of gouache paintings, the primordial struggle is happening but at the cellular level, completely out of our hands, and we are just along for the ride as a vessel.   


Artist Bio

Karen Hansen Gray is an artist exploring the theme of evolution through printmaking, painting, and sculpture.  She has studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and the California College of the Arts.  Karen has resided and traveled in many countries,  from Afghanistan to Vietnam, but always returns to San Francisco to live and create art.  Her work has been shown at the Mendocino Art Center Gallery, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, City Art Gallery in S.F., Diego Rivera Gallery in S.F., and Espacio Palleros in Buenos Aires.

Karen attends northern California’s Burning Man festival and is a huge fan of the Cubitron 😉  You may contact her or find more of her work online at


Cynthia Lamanna: In Memory of Miss Nancy


Her stories about her dogs will always endure. Miss Nancy, “Happy Days” Teacher

of teachers, was tough as nails, with a tender heart. Her innovations, signature style, and new takes on old traditional games, holiday fun, and classical art projects with young children set precedents in the little red and yellow school, set back and nestled in a cluster of trees.


When she first came three decades earlier, it was not uncommon to witness more rural sights, horses and their owners sauntering in the open green, and over golden hillsides. Through the generations, she made the “blarney stone”, the Rainbow Bridge and the Lone Ranger come alive, as well as “save the earth” day. Each year she hid magical dinosaur eggs for the children to find, crack open, and to their delight discover a tiny toy dinosaur hidden inside. She called plastic bags “the scourge of the earth.”


Music time with her was amazing as she held captive a group of children as young as two years old with her spontaneous singing, expressive dialogue, in-between songs, and authenticity. Her charisma won over the shyest and newest students. Also, not to be forgotten, her black and white movies from the fifties about horses, cowboys, and an Indian named, “Tonto.” She had the gift of narration, and a way with the remote that added to the fun; with the expertise and zeal of a tour guide on a colorful safari, she transitioned her young audience from one scene to another, keeping the spark of their interest alive; not an easy feat with 2-4 year old viewers.


A hands-on teacher, witty, passionate, and descriptive, she taught the children life lessons about accountability, the treasures of the rain forests, and compassion toward the smallest of creatures, along with their “A, B, and C’s.” Hers was the first face parents saw, and the first voice they heard greeting them, as they dropped off their little ones in the early morning hours. When a child came in downcast, or tearful, she cheered or silenced them with an interesting fact, authentic joke, or anecdote that would put Mom or Dad at ease, as well, and smiles on everyone’s faces.


With her wide range in music, and appreciation for the classics, we were all treated to oldies, bagpipes, cowboy favorites, and hauntingly beautiful music, such

as the theme to “Dancing with Wolves,” and new sounds from old cultural icons, such as Paul McCartney during his special tour of London.


Miss Nancy stunned, educated, and fascinated parents and staff along with the students, as she was clued in about the latest in animal stories, stranger than life tales gathered from her own personal life, and international news. Everyone remembers her openness, memory and eclectic knowledge of even the smallest details.


All of us will grieve for Miss Nancy, and remember her with tears, special stories, and humor. I share my condolences with her family, and stand in unity with the community of parents and generations of children who have loved her.  


We, her friends and fellow teachers, will cherish her, admire her contributions, and celebrate her pioneer spirit. As both a friend and co-teacher, I personally enjoyed working with her, gleaning new ideas, sharing laughs, and learning something new from her each and every day. We love you Miss Nancy!


                                                                                              Cynthia Lamanna


Cynthia Lamanna honors the memory of all dedicated, creative, hardworking teachers. She may be reached at


Charlotte Severin – Painting a Celebration of Life

From Charlotte Severin:

Working mostly in Plein Air (on location outdoors) in watercolor and traveling all over the world, I also enjoy experimenting with different types of paper, such as YUPO or rice paper. But I also use a collage of several varieties of textured paper in some of my paintings.

Painting is for me a celebration of life, an opportunity to express my joy and awareness of the beauty and fascination of life all around us. Nature abounds with color and form. It fills my palette with warm earth tones. It flows on the paper in fields of bright flowers, dark mountains and blue green oceans. When I paint old buildings full of history, I feel a part of that time.

Painting also opens a world of people to me. When I paint the vibrant colors of a native marketplace I share again the excitement of that scene. My paintings are Impressionist Realism in the California Style tradition. They are a reflection of my soul and an embodiment of my feelings about all of life.

Charlotte has been honored with more than 30 single-person watercolor shows and serves as a signature member of the California Watercolor Association.

An inspired teacher, Charlotte has taught classical watercolor, Oriental brush painting and drawing in San Francisco Bay Area schools, both public and private, for over thirty years. Also serving as Artist in Residence in many schools, she has enjoyed lighting the spark of creativity in thousands of children and adults, teaching four weekly classes in watercolor for the City of Pleasanton’s Civic Arts program, creating a new vision for all of life.

Enthusiastic to share her joy of painting, Charlotte speaks for state conventions and conferences, teaching on topics such as “Art Made Easy” and “Art for Relaxation and Stress Management.” She calls her approach to art “Refilling Your Cup” and “A Celebration of Life.”

Charlotte Severin welcomes feedback on her artwork and requests for speaking engagements. You may reach her at 4513 Mirador Drive, Pleasanton, CA 94566 or call 925-846-6382.

Confessions of a possessed woman living in a sane, sane world (Jaylan Salah’s new poem)


If there’s a life and a death
If pain is avoidable in another body
I’d rather be possessed by this catatonic demon
than get dressed, work my lips and pluck my breasts
to be your slave
Your highness, I’m just a girl who chose wood over pearls
and walked on burning sand
to join the pilgrims in Neverland
where eagles cry and ants dream
where bubbling steam shoots from dusty craters, full of candies and white beet
Trick or Treat
it’s either this or a thousand splendid suns under my feet
I go for a bun and a cup of tea on a crooked table with some lunatic unable
to pay yesterday’s rent
than kiss your feet and scoop diamonds with cherry on top
I wait for a date on this decaying planet
I wait for a long walk on a beach, covered with peaches and cocktails
where pines are bleached and caterpillars fly away
I choose to stay in a body made of flesh and blood
than fit your shining armor
where heart is steel, legs are wheels and an egg stands for a nose
and drums for teeth
Jaylan Salah is an emerging Egyptian author and artist who loves Supernatural, her faith, family, and friends, and novels of all types. She would love feedback and publication suggestions for her work – you may contact her at

Happy Armageddon and Margaritaville – Lisa Demb of San Francisco

San Francisco sketch artist Lisa Demb wishes to share the latest from her new series “Happy Armageddon.” The drawings depict biblical apocalyptic imagery, such as a blood-red moon and vanishing sun, yet present the scenes as interesting, positive, even playful. To Demb, perhaps one can approach impending, even cataclysmic changes with curiosity and optimism.

Demb lives with some health conditions, and the work “Margaritaville” pays tribute to her caregiver Margarita, whom Demb credits with changing her life.

Lisa Demb welcomes comments, questions, requests, and any feedback regarding her artwork. She also produces custom-designed stationery, which you may order directly from her. You may write to Ms. Demb at 140 Jones Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 or call 415-776-2115 and ask for her by name.

Making Halloween Less Scary for Small Farmers: Families Celebrating with Fair Trade Chocolate


Making Halloween Less Scary for Small Farmers: Families Celebrating with Fair Trade Chocolate

In conversation with Adrienne Fitch-Frankel of Global Exchange

This Halloween, Synchronized Chaos Magazine encountered an intriguing advertisement for Reverse Trick-Or-Treating, where children gave out free candy along with flyers concerning the values of Global Exchange’s fair-trade chocolate. Here we discuss the ins and outs of the campaign, along with broader economic and ecological and cultural issues, with Global Exchange’s Adrienne Fitch-Frankel.

For our readers – Global Exchange offers free fair-trade Reverse Trick-Or-Treating kits available for kids and families who wish to participate…more information and the signup form available here: Deadline for church/temple/mosque/school etc group signups is the end of September, deadline for individual trick or treaters is October 13th. So you know, they can and do run out of chocolate!

Synchronized Chaos: Many of us in the Western world hear the phrase ‘fair-trade’ frequently, even at Starbucks and Peet’s. What does that label usually represent, and how does Global Exchange incorporate fair trade practices?

Adrienne Fitch-Frankel (paraphrased): Fair trade involves a commitment to building a business relationship with farmers where those who work the land may earn a decent standard of living. This can happen through practices such as guaranteeing a minimum price every year so one poor harvest does not bankrupt farm workers. Or by facilitating farm cooperatives so farmers may pool their capital and invest in education, healthcare, or sustainable environmental practices such as relatively inexpensive, nontoxic ways to fight fungi and improve crop yields.

Synchronized Chaos: Great humanitarian ideas, and decent business model, too – surely bankrupting one’s suppliers would not be to a company’s economic advantage. But, could ordinary people (in the Western world) still afford coffee or cocoa produced this way?

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Oakland’s Rock Paper Scissors Collective Gallery – open call for submissions to the fall exhibition “Social Structures”


Rock Paper Scissors Collective (community based gallery in downtown Oakland) seeks submissions for the upcoming exhibition “Social Structures.” Interesting little gallery space – hosts serious professional talent and also works with and provides educational and social support for emerging artists (including young people and zinesters!)

Background on the show’s concept, and contact information:

A social structure is constructed to enhance the relationship between people through design. Designers of these structures feel they are solving social problems through their projects, which affects communities and individuals on a personal level. Projects are related to addressing some basic needs such as shelter, communication, food security, safety, and intimacy.

Submissions can consist of proposals, prototypes, photo documentation, scale models, or drawings. RPSC accepts electronic submissions only, which can be emailed to Submissions are due on October 1st, 2009. For more information visit