New Work

What If? 16X20
Acrylic on canvas
Birch Rave 22X22X2
Acrylic on canvas
Waterlilies 2 22X26
Acrylic on canvas

When I asked among my language arts-oriented friends (writers, teachers of English/ESL and public speakers) to describe their feelings about punctuation marks, how they related to language, and to choose their most and least favorites, I got strong opinions and good stories.

This series incorporates selected text from various contributors, categorized by favorites.  Their comments inspired me to interpret the importance of punctuation which, said one, “supports the words and syntax used to convey a person’s thoughts and feelings.” 

“Words without punctuation are like soup, all tumbling, swirling, and some settling to the bottom.  Punctuation holds up some words.  Makes them pop.  Brings order.  Cadence.” 


Another said that punctuation makes sense of words as a whole, much like cosmic principles make sense of the universe.

Punctuation Parse: A Polyptych* 36X36
Acrylic and colored pencil on canvas

Text on Panels


#1 The Period

A dot ends the sentence.  The period is an ending that allows for new beginnings.  It’s a good thing someone invented the symbol, period.  It gives us the courage to walk away when the message has concluded.  It equals a full stop.  Certainty.  Period.


#2 The  Comma

I do love the comma.  It is like a little gift to the reader.  A comma is the shortest pause.  It is a yield sign.  When in doubt, leave it out.  (Or when in double leave it out?)  The comma saves lives:  “Eat, Grandma.”  “Eat Grandma.”  A comma takes a breath and brings order.


#3 The Semicolon

A teacher I know assigned students to be experts on various punctuation marks and when a question arose about it, the expert was consulted.  One student was so thrilled to be able to be the semicolon expert that months later when the teacher saw the student on campus, he showed her the semicolon he had tattooed on his arm.**


#4 The Question Mark

If I had to choose one punctuation mark, it would be the question mark.  Although not necessary, really, because words and the order of words used usually make it obvious it is a question: “How are you doing.”  Asking questions tells the other person you care about her/him.  I really like the look of the question mark.

*A diptych consists of two painted panels, a triptych has three panels, and a polyptych has four or more panels.

**Subsequent to painting this piece, I learned the semicolon tattoo signifies also the hope to move beyond struggles with severe depression and suicidal thoughts.  Project Semicolon, founded in 2013 (after this student's story) exists to both educate and to raise awareness about suicide and its prevention by encouraging a tattoo of a semicolon to indicate solidarity among those who struggle with suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide.

Saguaro Sunrise 12X36
Acrylic on canvas

Voting is a fundamental tenet in the United States, as both a simple decision-making tool and a manifestation of democracy.  This ballot box could be for an early frontier Congressional race, 7th-grade class officers, or a neighborhood street light project.  As a symbol of an American narrative, the box shows signs of wear over long use but is now framed by danger.

Although voting rights of free white males are contained in the U.S. Constitution, Black men did not gain suffrage until the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, which was later undermined during Jim Crow Era poll taxes, unfair literacy tests, and property ownership to prevent Blacks from voting.  Women did not win the right to vote until 1920 with the Nineteenth Amendment, the fight for which had begun in the mid-1800s. Native Americans, not considered citizens until 1924, sought voting rights state by state through 1962, when all states conceded. 


Full enfranchisement provisions were enshrined in the 1965 Voting Rights Act which prohibited “discrimination on account of race, color or language minority” and prevented any jurisdiction from abridging the right to vote -- but was later weakened by a Supreme Court decision in 2013.  Even after the 1965 Voting Rights Act, people of color – both men and women – often were actively discouraged from voting.

Foreign interference has sought to undermine the integrity of our election process -- an attack on democracy.  With recent postal restrictions and given efforts at voter suppression in some states, the universal right to vote is at risk.  It is for Congress to restore voting rights and protections.  Every vote is a voice heard.

The City of San Jose's Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Commission selected this painting for their Holding the Moment project -- part of a display at the SJ Airport.

VOTE 14.5X13, framed
Acrylic on canvas and frame (S)
Looking Out 18X24 Acrylic on canvas (S)

While living through this grim and grueling time of pandemic, I am looking out the window a lot.  The stay-at-home order for nonessential (dreadful word) workers and seniors and health-compromised who can make only necessary forays outside now grieve normalcy and endure the lassitude of looking out.

Those who do/must go to work risk danger every day.  For them, “looking out,” means something entirely different, as they are looking out for and taking care of the rest of us, even while looking out less for themselves.

I look out in remembrance of those who have died of this virus and am heartbroken for the bereaved who were unable to spend last moments with their loved one.  I look out in sorrow for those who have no window from which to look out.

There are, for fortunate me, books to read, friends to call, art to make, seeds to plant, closets and cabinets and cupboards to re-organize, but I come back to looking out.

For 30 straight days, mostly in August, my home in San Jose had Bay Area Air Quality Management District Spare-the-Air days, indicating poor and sometimes very poor air quality.  While the house was safe, in contrast to so many others, our lungs were not.  Smokestorms, as they are now being called, contain smoke and soot, among the most dangerous types of air pollution.  A Stanford University study concluded at least 1,200 “excess deaths” so far this year among Californians over 65 could be attributed to air pollution.  Many have experienced the cumulative effect of smoke, reporting a flare-up in asthma and emphysema. 

In the grip of very smoky days, most people I know stayed indoors with the windows closed.  On a particular day in late August, it was like dusk at noon and nearly dark by 6:00 when the sun was to set around 7:30.  The yard was covered in soot and ash, casting a gray pall on the plants and outdoor furniture.  It resembled a horror film.

Of course, we were lucky.  I know many who were evacuated because of fire danger, a friend who now lives in a scorched moonscape, and a friend whose home burned to the ground.  Friends in the Midwest and East Coast complained of haze from the distant Western states smoke.  Altogether, as of this date, over 5 million acres of the state have burned.

This painting is a distillation of the days in August when one could see, smell, and literally feel the air.                                          (September 2020)

Not August Air 24X24
Acrylic on canvas
Fragments 8X10
Acrylic, copper and
mixed media on canvas
Crux 18X24
Acrylic on canvas
Have We a Spare?12X16
Acrylic on canvas, framed
Selected for Art Fluent online exhibit, Boundless

There are many connections among living things: a commonality of both needs and satisfactions, a dependence upon self and others, and loss in the face of disaster and disease.  No Borders represents a desire to be aware of self-imposed restrictions in the world.

No Borders 16X20
Acrylic and graphite on canvas, framed
City Limits 8X10
Mixed media on canvas
Celadon Vase 14X18
Mixed media on canvas, framed
Shadow Vase 16X20,
Mixed media on canvas, framed
Magenta Flowers 18X24 Acrylic on canvas
Urban Flowers 16X20
Mixed media on canvas (S)

During the stay-at-home time, I took an online course emphasizing mark-making made in layers to discover an emerging subject or image.

Follow the Birds 24X24 Acrylic on canvas
BirdWoman6 15X22
Mixed media on paper
Morning Already? 12X20
Mixed media on paper
Stars 24X24
Acrylic on canvas
BirdWoman5 12X24
Acrylic on canvas
Windy Sea 12X24
Acrylic on canvas
Shaded Path 24X24
Acrylic on canvas
Flowing 18X24 Acrylic on canvas

This piece was inspired by a friend who disclosed an assault and the continuing emotional and physical violence in her youth.  It symbolizes the potential for all women to be subject to verbal, emotional and physical assault.  Victims, usually but not always women, can be any ethnicity, age, religion, appearance, stance, sexual orientation, body type or economic status.  The feeling of protection by virtue of class, race, or age is false.


According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center,

1 in 6 U.S. women has been victims of rape or attempted rape.  And it is estimated that only ¼ of those crimes are reported.  Based on Department of Justice statistics, RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) projects that every 92 seconds an American woman (or man or transgender individual) is sexually assaulted, with those aged 12 – 34 being most at risk.


Some believe women invite assault by being provocative, uppity, or rule-breakers.  The #MeToo phenomenon has mitigated that belief somewhat -- merely by the sheer numbers of those proclaiming -- but many, often including the victims themselves, are sure that some certain behavior or attitude encourages assault.  Victims can feel they are somehow responsible and may feel guilt and shame.  Hopefully, loved ones are supportive -- but can also project shame and responsibility, despite believing in the independence and competence of the victim.


Those who assault do so, I believe, as a means of humiliation, subjugation, and domination of their victim -- with varying degrees of accompanying violence.  Perpetrators seldom face justice, as this crime is difficult to prove and victims may be unwilling to endure the trauma of a trial. 


For those who are assaulted, this horrifying memory never leaves, and it influences, directly or indirectly, future actions.


National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.4673

Everyday Danger 15X30 Mixed Media on canvas

This depicts the appalling treatment of asylum-seekers and immigrants at the U.S. Southern border. 


The lyrics from South of the Border came from 1939 sheet music found at two different yard sales and propelled the piece with the theme of broken promises.

South of the... 12X36 Mixed Media on canvas
(c) Judy Rookstool 2019