southwestI'm originally from North Florida and have been an Atlantan since 1976. Nothing prepared me for my experience in the Southwest starting in 1995 after an artist told me "It will change your mind about color."

I just returned from my third visit to NM/AZ this October (08). I've been to Greece, Portugal, Spain and South Africa. With the exception of one Santorini balcony painting from the Greek Island trip, I find it difficult leave the SW for subject matter.

Native American Culture
Recently I ordered the third PBS-produced Navajo mystery DVD based on the books of Tony Hillerman. (A Thief of Time) He writes about that culture and the land in a way that inspires me and helps me relive those visits. I'm getting a late start with learning about native culture here, and I'm hungry for it. Hollywood hasn't done a good job of teaching me. About 23 years ago, just before my mother passed, she told me that my great grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee. Angeline Creed. This one-time family secret filled my heart with pride and a sense of belonging that surpassed the Irish and German family background. I go to powwows here around Atlanta and am deeply moved at the spledor of the processional dances of tribes from all over in their magnificent regalia.

I was lucky to see Robert Mirabel's "Spirit" performed live here in Atlanta. This performance, which was also seen on PBS, addressed "old memories" held by certain people in their fast-paced city lives. In the first scene, bustling men and women in business suits, carrying briefcases and checking their watches. Several of them are stopped mid-stride by a drumbeat heard only faintly in the beginning of the scene. All else fades away but that drumbeat, and they alone are left on the stage to remove their suits, toss their briefcases and remember their native roots. It was the first of many scenes that moved me. Was it recognition? I don't know. But there's something there. And I'm even more saddened by what the European white culture took from them. Because of this, I’m careful to give credit when I depict anything honoring these cultures. I don’t consciously appropriate in a disrespectful manner.

The Cowboys
The first time I saw boulders on the hillsides I shouted "Cowboy Rocks" and could instantly hear the sound of the ricocheting bullets in the soundtracks of every western TV show that I grew up watching. Hopalong Cassidy, The Cisco Kid, Roy Rogers, and the Lone Ranger (who forever ruined part of the William Tell Overture for representing anything else but "HIYO SILVER, AWAYYYYYY!") Buffalo Bill Junior, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, on and on.

Country Western Music? Hasn’t been at the top of my list, but I’m liking it more and more, and after two beers I'm ready to be a star. After three beers, I'll either start singing or I'm ready for bed. Maybe I'll dream about cowboys.

Hispanic Culture
Little excites me more than the vivid colors in so much Hispanic art. Hotter than a red chili pepper, cooler than a pale green margarita and richer than the royal blue skies of the desert. Stir it all up with the religious imagery from the pueblo churches, and it’s delicious. If “palette” is another word for “plate,” then be careful the plate is hot.