2010 Art Collaborations in Japan

Lakshmi for Pre Organic Cotton-cleaned
I did a lot of art collaborating in Japan via internet in 2010, thanks in great part to my art agent, Keisuke Era, who is also the director of Kurkku, an arts and environmental action center in the Harajuku district of Tokyo. Kurkku is funded by Artist Power Bank, a not-for-profit with impressive environmental protection projects like Pre Organic Cotton.

Pre Organic Cotton is an non-governmental organization that approaches cotton farmers in India and offers to support them for the three years it takes to transition from petro-chemical agriculture to organic agriculture, inspect their farms to be sure the soil and plants are chemical-free and healthy, and then buy all the cotton they grow from that time onward. (Major advantage: some villages in India no longer have carcinogens in their water supply and in the air surrounding their cotton fields.)  I was inspired when I first read about this much needed work to draw the Hindu goddess Lakshmi blessing the farmers, the organic cotton, and the people working for Pre Organic Cotton.

Pre Organic Cotton also approaches major clothing manufacturers and sells them organic cotton. Lee Jeans Japan made a line of women’s jeans from Pre Organic Cotton’s cotton this past year, and when they did, I was hired to illustrate a booklet that was attached to each pair of jeans, which explained the work of Pre Organic Cotton, and its value to the planet and the people. Here’s the cover of the booklet:

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When Artist Power Bank (aka ap bank) held their annual summer rock festival in 2010, I was hired to design a jacquard towel and a t-shirt drawing as festival merchandise, and, of course, both were made of organic cotton.

Here is the illustration I made for the front of the ap bank 2010 music festival t-shirt.
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Here is the “label” I made for the t-shirt, which was printed on the outside of the back of the shirt, close to the neck:

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Here is the 2010 festival towel, designed by Aiko Shiratori of Artist Power Bank, using a drawing she requested from me of a large flower (I made an echinacea blossom).  Keisuke said the festival looked like a field of yellow and blue flowers, so many of the attendees had them wrapped around their shoulders.

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Kurkku’s merchandise designers, Miyumi Ichikawa and Yoshiko Takeuchi decided to have a traditional tenugui maker in Kyoto print some tenugui for them on Pre Organic Cotton’s fabric, and commissioned a design from me for it. They requested an image of a little girl playing in the woods. Here it is:

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Here are my collaborators. The gentleman on the right is Keisuke Era. On the left side, in the red shawl is Kurkku’s Miyumi Ichikawa and, to her right, Yoshiko Takeuchi. Next to them, in very dark blue, is Aiko Shiratori, who designed the merchandise for Artist Power Bank’s festival this year.

This is an information sheet on the tenugui. It explains that the image was printed in four different traditional colors: pine green, the brown of bamboo shoot, the yellow of “silver grass” and pink of a flower called “Sakichiku.”

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Alicia Bay Laurel Patchwork on Display in San Francisco

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The autobiographical patchwork crazy quilt that I made between 1967 and 1974 was on display in the lobby of the historic Mills Building in downtown San Francisco from October 18, 2010 to January 15, 2011 as part of a show called “Still Crazy,” which included Victorian and 20th century crazy quilts, loaned by the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. Deborah Corsini, curator at SJMQT, created the show.

The piece is 8 feet high and 5 feet wide, and contains “guest embroideries” by my dear friends, author Ray Mungo and composer/author Ramón Sender Barayón, as well as a small piece by quilter Charlotte Lyons, who befriended me at Wheeler Ranch commune while I was writing and illustrating Living on the Earth.

Curator Deborah Corsini wrote:

“Alicia Bay Laurel’s crazy quilt is an excellent example of a 20th century crazy quilt from the decades of the 1960s – 1970s.  It is composed of a multitude of irregularly shaped fabrics, many typical of the time period.  There are large scale printed florals and smaller ditsy prints as well as embroidered and woven lace.  Many of the blocks contain unique and personal appliqued and embroidered scenes.  Some examples that clearly reflect on the universal (and astrological) themes that were of interest at the time are a God’s eye and embroidered solar system, a bull (her sun sign), and a flying lion (for Leo rising in her natal chart.)  Other blocks charmingly depict the Sausalito houseboat where she lived in 1967 and her guitar with “real” strings.  Like the crazy quilts of the 19th century, the one is filled with symbolic and personal references, and clearly references the cultural influences that were surrounding her.  Most importantly, this quilt has an embroidered date, 1967 – 1974, and an embroidered signature, Alicia bay laurel, which gives it true authenticity.

“…it is especially compelling because it is the authentic handiwork of a well-known woman, artist, author and creative spirit from that extraordinary ‘hippie’ time.  Alicia Bay Laurel’s crazy quilt is an excellent example of the continuum of the crazy quilt’s evolution and is a singular artifact by a multi-talented artist as a part of her early creative output and rich legacy.”

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Here I am on the last day of the show, January 14, 2011 with my quilt.  You might notice a few minor differences between this one and the one at the photo at the top, which was taken in 2002.  That’s because the quilt suffered some damage in 2008 and was expertly restored by Karen Stern at her quilt and textile restoration studio in Berkeley.

2010 Japan Tour Schedule

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What an amazing 11 weeks that was!  I am resting up and contemplating the joy and wonder of it all.

September 28  8:30 AM Teach art workshop for Fujino Steiner (Waldorf) High School.  (Alas, this workshop was cancelled due to flash flood warnings closing the school system for the day.)

October 3 – 4 PM Concert at Studio M
5-5-14 Maehara-cho,
Koganei, Tokyo 184-0013
Tel.042-381-0176

The closest train station is Musashi Koganei on the Chuo line.

The house concert was a great success – standing room only!  77 happy attendees.  Here’s how it looked:

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October 15 Concert at Nanso Bunka Hall in Tateyama
With tribal stomp and trance band RabiRabi x Piko, and local percussion band Awa Lion.

It was a fabulous and eclectic offering.  At one point there was a taiko drum troupe, a belly dancer and an African dancer all performing together.  Here’s the finale piece in RabiRabi x Piko’s set, with the belly dancer and the African dancer on stage with them:

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October 22 and 23 Concerts at Yukotopia Deadheadsland
Yukotopia is a block from the Umejima train station, which you can reach via the Hibiya line from central Tokyo.  Turn right when you exit the station. It’s right across the street from the Star King Pachinko. The address is:

3-2-18 Umejima
Adachi-ku, Tokyo 120-0816
Tel. 033-886-2996

There will be 4 other acts on before me (I go on last). Yukotopia is a cosy room with lots of psychedelic ambiance and welcoming friendliness.  It has a full bar and offers some inexpensive entrees and snacks. People bring their kids sometimes.  It hosts poetry readings on Saturday afternoons.

Here’s the schedule for Friday, October 22 (5 solo artists):

19:00~19:40 Hiroshi Sawada(Pop music)
19:40~20:20 So Terui (Acoustic)
20:20~20:50 Huga Matsuyama(Acoustic)
20:50~21:30 Roku
21:30~22:30(or longer) Alicia Bay Laurel

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Here I am on October 22, 2010, singing Floozy Tune at Yukotopia.

Here’s the schedule for Saturday, October 23:

19:00~19:50 Tsumugine(Improvisational vocal performance)
19:50~20:50 Shinokuni(Pop music)
20:50~21:50 Howdy Moonshine (former members of Electric Building band)
21:50~22:50 (or longer) Alicia Bay Laurel

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Roku, the manager of Yukotopia, and I play “Ripple in Still Water” by the Grateful Dead to close my set.

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October 29-31 “Happy Flower Seed Party” (spiritual retreat) at Donto-in, Tamagusuku, Okinawa hosted and lead by Sachiho Kojima. Unplugged Concert with RabiRabi x Piko, Lakita Kudomi, Sachiho Kojima and me on 10/29. I teach an art workshop on 10/31.  Please contact me if you’d like to join us!

A typhoon postponed the outdoor concert at Hamabe No Chaya from 10/29 to 10/31, so we had an unplugged indoor candle light concert at Donto-in on the 29th in addition to the outdoor show on the 31st.  Hamabe No Chaya is a tea house with windows looking out over a calm bay enclosed by a coral reef.  The stage was actually erected on the sand below the high water line, at low tide.  The first act was a wonderful Okinawan traditional singer, next Sachiho played her lyre and sang spiritual songs, then I played guitar and sang original songs, and last RabiRabi played and everyone else danced.

The workshop included Sachiho’s sacred sites of Tamagusuku tour, this time augmented by the presence of Professor Hiroshi Nago, who has researched and written extensively about the Tamagusuku castle ruins, which appears to have been a temple rather than a castle.  He brought a slice of a rare seashell that is found on the outside of the coral reefs in Okinawa, and showed us that the entire structure of the castle is based on the structure of this shell. This shell became a icon for a philosophy of peaceful relations, and bracelets made from it have been found in the tombs of emperors.

I lead the workshop participants in making visualization altars from found objects, including shells we picked at the beach.  I was astonished, when each person shared after building his or her altar, how deeply we were all thinking and feeling after visiting the sacred sites of Tamagusuku.

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November 3 Concert at Cafe Unizon in Ginowan, Okinawa, on the closing date of a one-month art show of original drawings from Living on the Earth. Alicia Bay Laurel plus all-woman trance band Amana.

Cafe Unizon’s sophisticated and comfortable room has a big view of Ginowan city, with the ocean in the distance.  They always have an art show installed, lots of great books for sale and excellent food.  Sachiho (on electric bass), Yoko Nema (on harmonium) and I had a great time playing original songs together.  Mingo Kazumi did an improvisational modern dance to my autobiographical song 1966.  Yoko lead a yoga breathing session between the session in which I talked about my art and the session inwhich she and I and Sachiho performed. Mieda-san, the owner, invited me back for next year!

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November 28 3 PM Concert at Alishan Organic Center

Komahongo 185-2 , Hidaka-shi,
Saitama-ken, Japan 350-1251
office phone +81-(0)429-82-4811

Alishan Organic Center is a beautiful building overlooking a river.  It houses an organic food wholesale and retail company owned by Jack Bayles and his wife, Fay, and a cafe and event space, where art classes, healing classes, and other community events are held.  If you shop for organic foods anywhere in Japan, you are likely to find their products.  Alishan is named after a mountainous area in Taiwan, the birthplace of Jack’s wife.

At 11 AM, Liane Wakabayashi will present her fascinating Genesis art workshop at Alishan, and at 3 PM I’ll sing my songs about the natural, organic life that Alishan Organic Center is all about.  For my concert, admission is 1500 yen, and includes a beverage.  Liane’s workshop also has an admission fee of 1500 yen and includes tea service.

Liane and I had a wonderful day together riding to remote Hidaka village on the train and doing our respective events.  I had a standing room only audience, and Mingo Kazumi came all the way from Tokyo to dance for me on the song 1966 again. Jack invited me to come back and perform next year!

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December 1 Opening at Gallery Le Deco, in Shibuya, Tokyo, of a new fashion line by Kaorico Ago owner/designer of Little Eagle and Lotus Heart fashion labels, some printed with drawings from Living on the Earth by Alicia Bay Laurel. The garments are manufactured from organically grown cotton and linen and hand sewn in a fair trade factory in India. The show will also feature framed original drawings from Living on the Earth.  There will be no music on December 1, but the next three nights there will be plenty!

Gallery Le Deco is on Meijidori, about one minute walk from the new south entrance to the JR Shibuya Station, or a five minute walk from the east entrance.  Phone 03 5485 5188.

December 2 show begins at 6:30 PM (18:30) with a hula kahiko halau (group) in performance, followed by a musical performance by Peace-K and Han-chan, and after that, an hour of Hawaiian songs and slack key guitar by Alicia Bay Laurel. Admission is 1200 yen in advance or 1500 yen at the door.

December 3 show begins at 6:30 PM (18:30) with the band Monk Beat, then Peace-K and Han-chan, and then Yammie, the creator of the Yappooo television series for children, will show a video of her latest work.  At the end, an hour of songs about the natural organic life by Alicia Bay Laurel.  Admission is 1200 yen in advance and 1500 yen at the door.

December 4 show begins at 6:30 PM with a modern dance by Shizuno, a dancer based in New York and Hawaii. Next, the wonderful singer/songwriter Yoshie Ebihara will perform.  After Yoshie, Alicia will perform 45 minutes of original music, and finally, the great traditional Japanese vocalist Ikue Asazaki will thrill us with her songs.  Admission is 1500 yen in advance and 1800 yen at the door.

Advance tickets may be purchased at Le Deco Gallery.

This had to have been the most astonishing three days of my life.  Each night the place was packed, and on the last night there were lines in the street of people waiting to come in, including many of my dearest friends.  The staff had to take the potted plants out of the gallery to make room for everyone who wanted to stand.  I can’t take credit for this; the line-up on that night was stellar, and three very famous singers, Ua, Ikuko and Sandii Manumele came and performed in addition to those already on the schedule.

The reason so many great performers came to sing on behalf of Kaorico and her clothing is because Kaorico’s clothes are not just fashion.  They express a philosophy that reveres Native American spirituality, Hawaiian spirituality, the works of Mother Teresa and Gandhi, and my book, Living on the Earth.  All of these are about naturalness and simplicity, loving the earth as our common mother, and seeing all beings as family. Kaorico’s newest line of clothing is called “Loving and Sharing.”

Music Bio

I sing at the opening party of “Dancing with Nature,” my multi-decade retrospective solo art exhibition at Sison Gallery in Shibuya, Tokyo on September 1, 2018. The event was filmed as part of a television documentary about my life and work for Asahi Television.

I am wearing a wool jersey dress printed with the pages of my book, Living on the Earth. Both the dress and the fabric were designed in 2007 by fashion designer Aya Noguchi, the owner of Sison Gallery



Marinated from birth in the world music, political folk music, classical music, jazz and Broadway tunes my parents played on the hi-fi, I succeeded (after two years of begging) in starting piano lessons at age seven, played a credible version of the Bumble Bee Boogie by age twelve, and was levitated into learning folk guitar and writing songs after seeing Bob Dylan play his powerful protest songs, shortly before I turned fourteen. A couple of years later, my cousin Jan Lebow married John Fahey, and one day I cornered him when he was bored at a family party and got him to teach me the basics of open tunings in the next two hours.  I practiced like crazy, and that became my sound.

Most of my musician friends played rock and roll, so I was overjoyed when I first visited Hawaii in 1969 and discovered that open-tuned guitar finger-picking was part of the national music.

In 1974, I moved to Maui. There I learned to play slack key guitar and sing Hawaiian songs in Hawaiian from the family of recording artist G-girl Keli’iho’omalu, especially her mother, legendary singer and hula teacher and choreographer, Auntie Clara Kalalau Tolentino. I learned slack key guitar from Clara’s son-in-law Jerome Smith in Hana, and from Uncle Sol Kawaihoa in Wailuku. In the early ‘80’s, I began playing in restaurants and bars for the tourists. Over a period of twenty-eight years I studied vocal technique with seven teachers, including pop singer/songwriter Pamela Polland.  I also took lessons, at least one, and sometimes many, from an uncountable number of guitarists – including a couple of years of weekly lessons from renowned Hawaiian jazz singer/guitarist Sam Ahia.

My lifelong love of slightly sardonic vocal jazz (the first LP I bought at age 13 was “Local Color” by Mose Allison) led me to learn a repertoire of jazz standards and the jazz chords I needed to accompany myself. In the late ‘80’s I started playing at weddings and learned love songs of many genres. From 1988 to 1999 I owned a wedding business on Maui that put on 3000 weddings, and I sang at hundreds of them, sometimes accompanying a troop of hula dancers.

Pamela Smit DePalma's Maui wedding in the 1990s, with ABL serenading

In 2000, Random House released the thirtieth anniversary edition of Living on the Earth. I sold the wedding business and took myself on a twice-cross-country road tour for eight months, delivering 75 performances of Living on the Earth: The Musical, an original one-woman, two-act show of quirky, edgy stories about the birth and aftermath of my book, and some of the songs I wrote during these times.  I self-produced Music From Living on the Earth, a solo CD of these songs, to sell from the bandstand, and, to my astonishment, it was not only reviewed but selected as an album pick on All Music Guide. Then Gerald van Waes’ psychedelic folk radio show in Antwerp, Belgium, “Psyche Van Het Folk,” started playing it. Then EM Record in Osaka, Japan released it, as a CD in 2005 and as a vinyl LP in 2015.

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When I returned to Hawaii from the tour, I self-produced Living in Hawaii Style, a CD of original and historic Hawaiian songs, mostly slack key guitar and tropical jazz. The CD features my former teacher, Sam Ahia, arguably the best jazz guitarist/vocalist in the islands, and Lei’ohu Ryder, a reknowned spiritualist and chanter with a string of fantastic CDs of her own. This CD got airplay both in Hawaii and on the legendary Ports of Paradise radio show in California, was released by EM Records in Japan, and, in July 2002, I was the only woman headlining at the Big Island Slack Key Guitar Festival in Hilo, Hawaii.

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Two of my music mentors are avant-garde improvisational musicians. Ramón Sender Barayón, one of the founding composers of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the early ‘60’s, and co-designer of the Buchla Box, the first synthesizer built on the west coast, co-authored a book with me, Being of the Sun, containing his wealth of knowledge about drones, modes and tunings, plus songs and chants we composed together and separately, celebrating the cycles of nature.  In 2013, I had the 1973 reel-to-reel recording Ramón had made of us performing music from our book digitized and remastered, and released it as a CD, Songs from Being of the Sun.

In the late ‘90’s, I began partnering with Joe Gallivan, a stalwart of the free-jazz world in New York and in Europe.  He developed a sound vocabulary for the MiniMoog synthesizer, worked with Robert Moog as the test driver of the Moog drum, and was among the first to play these instruments in a jazz setting, including in the Gil Evans Orchestra for two years and in a trio with legendary organist Larry Young for three years. Joe lead bands full of extraordinary players throughout his adult life.  An entire section was devoted to him in the 4th edition (1998) of the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD.

While my first CD, Music from Living on the Earth, contains a choral arrangement of my song “In the Morning” by Ramón, and my sixth CD, Songs from Being of the Sun, is entirely a collaboration with him,  Joe’s influence is most evident in my 4th release, What Living’s All About, recorded by Scott Fraser (audio engineer and producer for the Kronos Quartet) and a fabulous line-up of session players, notably avant-garde guitar legend Nels Cline (best known as the guitarist with Wilco, and who I met when his band opened for Joe Gallivan’s band at the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival in New York City in June 2000), and John B. Williams, bassist for Nancy Wilson, the Manhattan Transfer, the Tonight Show Big Band and the Arsenio Hall Show Band. I co-produced the CD with Ron Grant, an Academy Award winning film composer, who arranged and conducted some of the material, but I also relied heavily upon the improvisational skills of these great players, and they surpassed my expectations.

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From 2006 through 2019, I performed twelve concert tours in Japan, and produced/recorded/toured more albums, bringing the total to eight (as of 2021).   Two of the albums, Beyond Living and Alicia Bay Laurel – Live in Japan, included tracks recorded in Japan with Japanese musicians and recording engineers.  Joe and I began living part time in Spain, and one of the albums, More Songs From Living on the Earth, included tracks recorded in Spain, with Spanish and British musicians.

In 2021, I am collaborating with Spanish filmmaker Luis Olano on the movie version of Living on the Earth: The Musical, which he filmed in November 2016 while gathering material for Sender Barayón: Viaje Hacia la Luz his documentary about the life and work of Ramón Sender Barayón, who makes a guest appearance in my show, singing with me for the first time in 43 years.  

Joe Gallivan and I are both eager to begin traveling and performing again – as soon as the danger imposed by the pandemic dies down.



Artists Who Influenced My Style

When I was growing up in the ‘fifties in Los Angeles, my family had lots of art, books, and art books. I pored over them, studying in particular ink line drawings of that were both naive and sophisticated, both organic and surreal. Here are seven artists whose art influenced my drawing style:

Henri Matisse showed me how to love color, women, plants, animals, and objects in a bebop sort of way.

 

Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince was probably the first spiritual book in my personal library.

 

Hokusai taught me to worship volcanoes and yearn to experience life in Japan. He mingled ordinary and extraordinary visions, flat planes and depth of field.

 

Sister Mary Corita Kent showed me the beauty of cursive script as a graphic element. My mother took art classes from her at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles.

 

James Thurber’s work appeared monthly in our home in the New Yorker.

 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec showed me that distorted figures are far more evocative than photographic-perfect ones. He loved the night, and who wouldn’t in fin de siècle Paris?

 

I’ve long loved the cartoons, illustrations, wit and political views of Jules Feiffer, especially his famous interpretive dancer.

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