Stephen Mead: Outsider Folk Artist on a spiritual journey

From Stephen Mead:


As far back as I can remember I have been doing artwork.  In my later teen years it began to dawn on me that this visceral process was most likely going to be life long.  During my late thirties I started to realize and define doing art as some sort of vocation as opposed to a mental aberration.  In the interim, however, despite my dubious relation with the craft, I did attempt getting some schooling for art, and also underwent sporadic attempts of having the artwork shown.  Underwent is the key word, for I wasn’t the least bit comfortable either with contacting dealers let alone being in the same room with anyone while my work was being scrutinized.  Now that I have actually reached my mid-forties, (a surprise to me), I have become less intense about both making and showing art, a little less of a fool to my own hypersensitivity, but not entirely.  Still, I have come to recognize that the fever chart of my own interior landscape is a barometer for how art uses me as a vessel, a conduit.  There is abundance to the universe which simply demands to be expressed.


My early artworks were that of any other child able to make use of opposable thumbs.  Crayons, pencils, (colored or not), ink, chalk, markers, glue:  all were tools or, to be more precise, instruments of unconsciousness becoming defined.  When I began making choices as to what medium I’d use, I was very drawn to, and quite comfortable with pastels.  I went through a long phase, with these as my friends.  At one point, however, I was given a garage sale box of art supplies.  Contained within this treasure chest was a tin of watercolor pencils, circa 1950, that I eventually began putting to use as well. It wasn’t until after my brief stint in college, where I did not find myself happy using oils, (having allergies did not help), or sticking to a black ‘n white regimen, (having worked in color and using other mediums for years by then), that I found myself, upon dropping out, really delving into a world of mixing mediums more and more.  Still, feeling as if I had something to prove about oils, these went into the mix as well.


Looking back at over two decades of doing art, I realize how much experimentation was rooted into me at a young age, and how mixing media was part of a natural progression.  These mixed media pieces usually start with a water-soluble oil pastel base and then branch out from there.  Acrylics, glazes, glues, glitter, jewelry, spices, earth, collage material…  I try to keep the wonder of a child going back into that garage sale treasure chest to explore what these mediums can do when set free to roam.


All of my work must have emotional resonance for me and is part of life-long spiritual exploration.  Seeing myself as an outsider Folk Artist, I’ve also gravitated to using the today’s technology both as a way of connecting more with others, but also as a way of simply seeing what happens when the ages-old process of painting (and the not so ages-old) process of photography meets video and sound. 


Two of the pieces shown here, “Great Wall Submerged” and “Stonehenge Submerged”, are two examples of this form of Folk Creativity in-process, photomontages used as film stills in a piece entitled “Underwater Trilogy”.  Of course, also being a writer, I am challenged by what words are strummed up by images and their interplay, and still love making narratives in book-form.  “Our Book of Common Faith”, an exploration of world religions/cultures in hopes of finding what bonds humanity as opposed to divides, is my latest effort in combining images with text.  The piece “The Temple of my Familiar” pays homage to animals in all of our lives no matter what belief systems we may or may not ascribe to.




Great Wall Submerged, photomontage from the film “Underwater Trilogy”

Stonehenge Submerged, photomontage from the film “Underwater Trilogy”

Threshold, 35 MM

Visions of Johanna, mixed media on paper, part of the series “Not Stopping for Death”, incorporated into the DVD “Captioned Closeness”,

Temple of My Familiar , mixed media on canvas, part of the series “Our Book of Common Faith”,

Stephen Mead is a published artist, writer, and maker of short collage-films living in NY.  He would love to talk and network with and mentor other artists, and would enjoy the opportunity to provide advice and feedback on others’ work! He may be reached through his Amazon page: or at

Patsy Ledbetter – Teacher’s Vignette

If you ever feel forgotten, unimportant or just down in the dumps, hear this…

Today I subbed for a third grade girl. All of a sudden, she blurted out…”You were my substitute on January 14 for Art.”  I said….”How on earth did you remember the exact day I subbed for you?”  “I remember the day because it is my birthday!”  “Oh, yes of course you would,” I replied.  I had had an exceptionally hard day in that Art class, but one person remembered I was there and I taught her on her Birthday. Nothing is wasted in God’s kingdom!  Love, Patsy

Patsy Ledbetter sings and serves in local orchestras as a classically trained violinist in addition to teaching art, and wished to share this thought with our readers. She may be reached at

Reuben Rutledge on the kingdom of Champa


Champa (Indianized South Vietnam)

      During the Second Century CE Champa enters into history. This space was carved out of the weakened Han dynasty of China.  This took place in Southern Vietnam. The country was divided into a certain number of provinces that corresponded to the coastal plains. Little is known of the Indianization of early Champa. The Chinese sources were very quiet about this.

      Bhadyavarman, an early ruler of Champa, constructed the earliest temple created in honor of Shiva.  The origins of the Indian state are unknown. The Chams (indigenous people of South Vietnam) readily accepted the Hindu culture. The religion of the court was centered on Shiva/Uma (Parvati), but the rest of the Trimurti was also recognized. The Linga of Shiva was an accepted symbol.  


      With the fall of the Chin dynasty in China, Champa renewed its incursions, but the invaders were disrupted by a storm and had to abandon the siege. The Cham strengthened their incursions into China.  The Chinese set up another siege at Ch’u-su, and succeeded in conquering it. This was followed by an attack on the Cham capital where 100.000 pounds of gold were seized. The Cham king was left to die brokenhearted. His successor sent embassies to China during the years 456, 458, and 472 CE.

      In the year 529 CE a new dynasty began in Champa. The son of a Brahman now occupied the throne. He chose the name Rudravarman. In 543 he raided the north in a manner similar to his predecessors.  He was defeated by a break away group from China. The cause of his death is unknown but may have been due to the Chinese embassies. King Sambhuvarman took his place. He took advantage at the weakened Chinese dynasty to liberate Champa from vassalage. When the new Chinese king, Yang Chien, took control he sought to establish relations. Ten years later the Empire decided to launch a campaign against Champa.  Resistance was futile and the Chinese soon occupied Champa. Sambhuvarman assumed control of Champa and settled relations with China. After a succession of kings, Champa found itself run by a princess. In 653 CE King Vikrantavarman took the throne. Religious structures multiplied during his peaceful reign.

Reuben may be reached at and welcomes thoughts from readers. 

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Transcendent images from Reuben Rutledge



“You can never step into the same river twice”




     The Dreamer dreams. The Dreamer is the dream. The dream is that of the Transcendant. This cannot be known by mundane reason. It can only be known by a leap into the Transcendant. They can only be known from the ciphers of existenz. Art, these photographs, are ciphers of the Transcendant. They speak in the deepest of metaphysical terms. To create a work of Art is to leap into the Transcendant.  This transcendant is called by various names in the Languages of mundane existence: God, the Buddha Nature, the One, the Brahman, yet its true nature cannot be known except through the ciphers. These are hence interpreted by Language, which calls out the Transcendant into Truth. This Truth is subjective to culture. Yet the Languages of culture can never know it.  These photographs, altered as they are, express their unknowability.  They are metaphysical studies of the subjects chosen. Various techniques have been used to express this unknowability. They are but a dream that the Dreamer dreams. They are ciphers of Ultimate Reality.


Reuben L. Rutledge


Reuben may be reached at and welcomes thoughts and comments.


Mothers from the stadiums of earth and heaven – from Cynthia Lamanna


To all Mothers, and Grandmothers, waving from the stadiums of Heaven, to those currently on earth, and to those in future realms who will advocate for children everywhere, administering cheer and chicken soup, attending sports events, and showering love upon all-from successful freckled fresh scrubbed future vice presidents to the dismal trouble makers-her arms reach far and wide enough to include all. To daughters who dream, who take the time and self discipline to master subjects and grow in confidence to know what they can do well and how they can contribute to the world-at different places on our journey we recognize those budding scientists and doctors- girls who nurture speckled diseased plants, and bring gifts of healing to the garden of  thriving flowers-blessings to those who connive to adopt the runt of the litter; to those who sweetly follow instruction, and do not turn to the right or the left; may we all know in deeper ways, the sacrifice of a Mothers love; prayers and admiration to the rebels- those who learn the best lessons-(some even later rather than sooner), though in the hardest ways they stick at a certain juncture; for those who march to their own drum, inspire others, turning up the volume of their own music that comes from somewhere deep within-God bless those who have learned that the spirit of Jesus goes against the grain of high minded Society, political correctness, or a “religious spirit.”
Applause and tough love for those bleeding hearts who plead their cause and root for all the underdogs and friends with strange colored hair, and wayward hearts; forgiveness and second chances  to Mothers who did not know a Mothers love and have sacrificed a child for a crack pipe or a sweet talking boy; paralyzed in captivity, and broken in spirit, they spend the rest of their lives trying to fill the void; in lamentation we as Mothers grieve for the plight of the unwanted yet invaluable unborn; not all were conceived in love, but are Gods creation and vision none the less- May those who have found a way to reunite with lost family find warmth and connection in a cold world-may we all remember the alien, be generous with our time and resources to the orphans, Fatherless and cherish the concept of kindness to strangers as God reminded the Israelites, that they were once strangers in a strange land-.we celebrate in spirit with you and remember the
balding dolls retrieved from those “good will” baskets, the very same forsaken for pretty or newer looking dolls. As an act of penance, we redeemed them and washed their dirt smudged vinyl faces. For those who deny or admit they emulate their own Mothers-who have their guilty chocolate pleasures like she or show a  vulnerable side; than there are those who wish they had her patience, or ease around the kitchen-and who can’t hem a dress let alone do cross stitching religiously in the late hours of the night; may you too show interest in people, and keep your lamp burning at night like the proverbial Grandmother, nurturing with warm soup, clean bedding and a cheerful heart, covering over another’s offence or annoying habit that someday after all, you might shrug off or find hilarious with some wisdom and understanding. May you too bring the beauty and final touches to a homemade card for a sick relative.

How many times as a toddler did you watch the ladies of the household and imitate acts of kindness, rocking bedraggled teddy bears to sleep and reciting poems in half sentences-none the less a great comfort to yourself as you rocked yourself to sleep when Mama had already gotten up numerous times in the night with the binky and the hot water bottle?-we learn what to do, or in some case what not to do, from our own Mothers.  To all who yearn to love and be loved and carry on a legacy for years to come, Happy Mothers Day-bless all of you whoever or wherever you are, who carry a Mothers song though you might not ever harbor a child in your womb. For Mothers who have heard and answered an inner call to adopt a child in his/her infancy, childhood, or beyond and for those who follow that calling, we salute you.

I think of Sandra Bullock– not only an Oscar winner and respectable seasoned actress, but an emerging leader and inspiration among women with her bravery, and eyes to see beyond and separate the ugly part of a cheating spouse from the goodness of his heart-no doubt, she will take and utilize the lessons of the love she saw in his parenting and devotion to her on different levels; not an easy feat for many-couldn’t we more learn from her show of respect, stoicism, faith, and “equality for all” philosophy that she appears to live by as well as pledge allegiance to. She admits she is sad and frightened about her life and what lies ahead, but she is stronger than she thinks as she relies on her faith in God and willingness to start anew focused on the important and precious resources of our world-children. Her love for little Louis is evident from not only the beautiful black and white pages captured in People magazine, but from a inner light-hers is a spirit, which radiates a calming mind, and beauty that cant be hidden from the public or fully captured by the lens of a camera.

Cynthia Lamanna may be reached at and welcomes thoughts and reactions from others.

Kit Fox’s comic strip, Snap, Crackle, Pop!


My name is Kit, and I draw a comic strip about my life, in which I am aided and hindered by a host of demons, dragons, monsters, Buddhist goldfish and tyrannical cacti.  I live in Hawaii where I teach art for toddlers and draw this comic strip.  For more comics and some other interesting hodgepodge, jam on over to and follow my work!