January of 1998, I leased out my home in the great Central San Joaquin Valley of California and rented a small studio in Carmel Valley. I'd work in farm machinery business for three of four days and in the evenings stay with my maternal Calvinist Grandmother in my hometown. Then I'd drive the three hour path to Carmel and spend three of four days in my little hideaway. It was on one of these long weekend retreats that I painted 'The Unlived Lives of My Ancestors.'
I don't recall the dream that inspired this painting, but it has to do with lost life, or un-lived life. The headstone on the bottom right corner is that of my paternal grandparents. I had been raised a bit lopsided you might say. Since birth, my maternal Dutch Calvinist heritage had been venerated and my Oklahoma American Indian lineage, and all the spiritual wisdom that is rooted deep within this land and ancestry that goes back far beyond the European Invasion, had been abandoned and left for dead. Ten years ago is when I finally began to honor this side of my being. And as I write these words, I'm a bit sad to admit this, that as a child I fell prey to a rigid religious fundamentalism that in so many ways crushed my spirit and still to this day tortures my soul.
My dutch grandmother, she used to keep her yard so nicely manicured, but here in this painting, the trashcan is tipped over and a new or renewed spirit is rustling up what's left of the prior years' leaves. Then there are the little sperm or embryos floating up above the headstone, new life has risen from the grave. New growth, the tree, perhaps the tree of life, is rooted in the ground where my American Indian ancestry is buried. There are other images, too, but now they are calling:
"Time to turn inward, Mel, time to put your ear to the ground, listen, to the earth, the many generations that have come and gone before you. Turn away now, from all that heady fanatical fundamentalism, all those insane creeds and false interpretations. Time to listen to the Great Spirit that comes to you in the sleeping and waking dreams. The wind, a dark cloud, a kite, a stone, a blackbird, a fox, a bobcat, a coyote, and sometimes even a squirrel, or the wisdom that comes from a child whose youthful innocence and wonder hasn't been blighted by the white man's so-called mechanical scientific maturity and chemical wisdom."