Yikes, what downsizing will turn up! My friend Tony (have known him since art school in the early ’70s) sent some pics of me in front of the Escada store on E. 57th Street, just off Fifth Avenue, circa 1995. Some memories were certainly stirred up. Like the fact I am wearing total thrift-shop attire in front of a luxury-brand store. (Tuxedo jacket from my dry cleaner’s sale of unretrieved items, man’s red sweater vest, maybe from Canal Jeans?)

I had segued out of the cut-paper thing that I did in the 1980s, and was now working in loose brush (Keep moving!) Anything that could conceivably have eyelashes got them! (I think I was influenced by Lamb Chop. Or Brenda Starr. Or both.)

My recent obsession with octopuses reminded me of this:

I was hired to paint the entire storefront window murals, and my strongest memory is that I only had a depth of about 4 feet to stand and paint, between the window and the wall. Talk about being “on it!” I couldn’t step back to get any perspective, so I constantly ran up and down the stairs to the street and crossed over to Tiffany’s to see what I had done. I am not one who enlarges by a grid system—I just “eyeball it” and hope for the best. Occasionally I’d get a honk from a truck driver who’d give a thumbs up—equal to any art director’s approval!

Facing the right of Escada is Burberry. In 2001 they would take over the Escada space and I’d soon be doing murals there, only in the fire staircase that few saw. But that was OK. By then, the fire captain who used to detour his truck down from Harlem to wave at me working in the Escada windows had perished in the World Trade Center. It seemed fitting that I would be embellishing the fire staircase. His last recorded words would be in the staircase at the North Tower.

“3 Truck . . . and we’re still heading up.”

But in 1995, he met me at Escada and we went next door where he treated himself to something he always wanted: a Burberry trench coat. He wore it better than any guy I’d ever seen.

My octopus obsession had become a carrot at the end of the stick during the winter of 2020. After the pandemic lessened a bit, the NY Aquarium was again open! I made a beeline to the lone octopus, who was lethargic in the corner of her tank. I guess even octopuses get the blues.

Burberry visual display art for the NYC grand opening on 57th Street 2001

art and words copyright Sharon Watts

The Art of Scavenging

robin nest

Nearly a full summer has gone by, and my creative outlet of choice has become fixing up my nest. I am not trying to resume “American-normal” summer activities as if they are my god-given right—look at where that’s gotten us. (Though I do yearn to walk along the surf’s edge of the Atlantic.) And I have dramatically dialed back my consumerism. (But I’ve been doing that for decades.)

Normally I brake for yard sales, free curbside trash/treasures, and dumpster-diving. I’ve never outgrown the thrill of the discovery, and many of my assemblages rely on lost trinkets found on the pavement.

I decided to visit my favorite haunt of the last nearly twenty years—The Bottle Shop, about 45 minutes up the Taconic Parkway. (I love that this exit with a junk shop is the entrance to tony Millbrook, captured by Rufus Wainwright.) I did have a mission: an outdoor table top had rotted away. The bottom is an old industrial base, and when functional I use for my occasional social-distanced gatherings. (I can fit four comfortably, seated along my brick pathway that makes a circle around a giant elderberry bush which hovers over a bird bath and my cat Rufus’ bones. Not named for Rufus Wainwright. Just a coincidence.)

As always, I do a sort of walking meditation, absorbing the history, the accumulation, the beauty of decay and juxtaposition that always rewards me. So join me on my walkabout. (Watch out for puddles!)

goonie mask

bottle shop backyard

backyard panorama

boards descending a yard


still life w: madonna porcelain

still life w:pearls

bottle shelves

After an hour of circling and poking, I noticed the perfect table top. Made of cement, with a little ding for accent, it now rests solidly in my yard. And who can resist a vintage bottle or two from The Bottle Shop? Certainly not me!

cement prize


Oh, and here’s Rufus (hugging Tizzy). Both sort of scavenged: Rufus was found in my Brooklyn basement pipes and Tizzy was under a car in Beacon. Both treasures!

Rufy & Tizzy

photos Sharon Watts

(oh) My Corona!


I hardly know where to start. Creativity in the time of Coronavirus—when all this human brain wants to do is create order in a world chockfull of chaos? Now, under New York state lock-down, I have the perfect opportunity. All my piles, all my files, all my styles—and all my guiles (procrastination being the prime suspect)—are staring me in the face. No mask can protect me from what’s right in front of me. I am going to toss into the mix, in no particular order, some of what I have been dabbling in. Au courant, and going back my entire life.

The original art (above) is from several years ago. It was just sitting here in a “to file” pile. Pretty apt, right? What I couldn’t find was the photoshopped original scan. So here are cut marks, scars, the whole tactile mess. I keep clearing my computer desktop, hoping the “prettier” one will turn up. Meanwhile, I kind of like this, just the way it is. Validation from a mental health professional:  Brain Fog is NORMAL!

I began several series of collages years ago, only to hit an impasse. This one was half-finished until last week, when I added a pocket, a picket fence, and a protective pad (from a raspberry container). “Ring Around the Rosie” entered my head at the time I started it, a nursery rhyme supposedly written in the time of the bubonic plague. (And yes, this is me.)

we all fall down

Sometimes a poem wants to come out.

NAVIGATING A DREAM (based on a dream from 2017)

I look at a map.

The paper kind, with folds and

bends you can never find again.

I am determined that I can get to

where I’m going.

Relief trickles in.

I could walk, from here to

there though it may take weeks,

even months. They say it’s the journey

not the destination.

There’s no panic in me.

No need to refold the map as

precisely as I found it.

I won’t be using it



Mi-ro 4-20

I am having a hard time committing to a sketchbook. I only have cats around me. Still life and room interiors don’t interest me. They have been done far better by Vuillard.


And yes, I am also going through paper ephemera that includes things that have hung on my bulletin boards decades ago. Like that. Like this:

Eyes w:o a Face

And yes, I jumped on the sewing wagon early, once it became clear that the Defense Production Act was not going to be called into desperately needed service, contracting professionals to manufacture masks during this pandemic. Oh, no—let the burden and privilege fall on average people who want to do something, however inadequately. I started with this:

kitty mask


and it evolved into this:

Reid mask

So, to end this post, I will return to something I received in the mail back in October. A huge carton of anti-viral Kleenex (that I never ordered, never would have ordered, and never knew who sent it), arrived on my doorstep. I was never billed.

Kleenex box

I often wonder about prophesy and fate, and serendipity and signs. I am getting used to the “not knowing” in this life. And hindsight always provides tantalizing clues.



My Summer of Woodstock

If you had asked me two years ago what I would be doing in August 2019, I never could have remotely conceived of this tie-dyed detour in my life, this retro-tinged scenic route that had me fully in the present moment at every milepost. This past summer I was a part of Woodstock’s 50th anniversary. 

At the end of May, my illustrated memoir, By the Time I Got to Woodstock, was stacked in boxes in my hallway, my AmEx card bearing the full brunt of a self-published labor of love. I had actually met all of my self-imposed deadlines as the anniversary loomed. In some respects I felt like a kindred spirit to the original co-creators of Woodstock, Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld—reveling in the experience and not too concerned whether or not I was “taking a bit of a bath.” 

While planning my “marketing strategy,” I recalled that I couldn’t even successfully sell Girl Scout cookies when I was a kid; each march up the sidewalk and front porch steps to make my pitch to whoever answered the door was excruciating to a shy ten-year-old. Fifty-plus years later, I had two rules. Keep it fun. Keep it manageable. Somehow that worked.

I had books for sale on consignment throughout the Hudson Valley, and also arranged a few events that I thought would be—yep—“fun” and “manageable.” I returned to the hometown I left when I was eighteen and had a book event at the retro-themed Hanna’s Ice Cream Shoppe, the very same place we used to hang out before going to see films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the West Shore Theater right next door. Back then, it was known as Brunhouse Drugstore, with a classic soda fountain. Fifty years later, I had a perfect summer day teeming with old friends, classmates, and family members who showed up to support me and buy my book . . . and ice cream! It was fun. Manageable. And absolutely wonderful. Maybe I could get the hang of this! 

The following month, my local library in Beacon, New York hosted an author’s talk, warning me that the turnout typically is not that large. The room was packed, and so I stood at the dreaded podium and just winged it. I have no idea what I said, but the hour flew by. 

Meanwhile, I’d had the recent good fortune in becoming friends with Ira and Maxine Stone, who were on the original Woodstock stage back in 1969. We teamed together to share our creative output and our love of Bert Sommer, the “lost bard of Woodstock.” They performed at the Dancing Cat Saloon, in Bethel, while I sat with my books and enjoyed the audience that included some hard-working and passionate tour guides for the nearby Museum at Bethel Woods (aka the “Woodstock Museum.”) Everyone had a groovy time!

Then came the big August event—the three-day celebration on the original site of Woodstock. I was in a tent called the Writer’s Den with other authors, photographers, and filmmakers, selling product we had all created, inspired by the original phenomenon. The whole experience was naturally very different from the first time around. I watched Lisa Law, the original Hog Farm organizer who commandeered the free kitchen that fed the multitudes in 1969, approach the bar inside the “Green Room” (a V.I.P. tent that we were all ushered into when the skies opened to a torrential downpour, right on cue). I am sure the twenty-something bartender had no idea who this “old hippie” with her walking stick (“Wavy Gravy”) was, nor the irony invoked as she denied Lisa a free glass of water.  Most likely she was following instructions from the manager, as well as hopping with the suddenly desirable demands of us who were not allowed in before the rains came (and who happened to now keep the tip jar overflowing).

Still, the 50th anniversary event was not without its own magic. A rainbow appeared. Jimi and Janis and so many others might have been smiling down on us all. 

People ask me—how did I do? Meaning, how many books did I sell? To tell you the truth, I have never crunched the numbers. Maybe I am still that underachieving Girl Scout cookie salesgirl, or maybe that really wasn’t the takeaway I wanted to remember. I just know that my Woodstock experience was exactly what the doctor ordered. And it’s also time to pass the wand.

Molly, Charlie & Sammi

Molly points her earlier self out to Sammi in 1969 LIFE: “And this is me!”


Words & photos copyright Sharon Watts 2019

What I Did on My Sommer Vacation

Bert copy

I won’t kid myself, I couldn’t have hacked* Woodstock. I am referring to the one and only original “3 days of peace & music,” August of 1969. I don’t like being outside my own little universe when it’s warm, muggy, muddy, and rainy. What would I have done in a crowd of half-a-million? I’d be in the freak-out tent without even doing any drugs.

My counterculture activities consisted of hanging an Easy Rider poster on the wall of my pink bedroom and protesting in favor of long hair on our boys at Cedar Cliff High School. Of course, I was horrified by the war in Vietnam, and I cried myself to sleep after Bobby Kennedy was shot. Martin Luther King’s assassination, race riots, man on the moon, the Manson murders, hippies, Yippies, Life and Time magazine coverage of LSD—all were wallpapering my suburban life. But I wasn’t really fully engaged. I missed something important, I know.

Dilemma du jour copy

This summer has been warm, muggy, muddy, and rainy. I am in my own little universe, revisiting Woodstock as an anthropologist of my teenage self, an archivist of the era that I lived through but did not fully absorb.

Now I race the clock to complete an illustrated memoir—By The Time I Got To Woodstock—by next year’s 50th anniversary.

Bert Sommer played Woodstock as his very first gig, and got the first standing ovation of the concert. What followed is a story unto itself, and I bet you never heard of him. Neither did I, and I want to change that. I wrote an original essay about him that got picked up by Boom Underground, and I am hoping to flesh it out into a larger article by next year. Hello, New Yorker? Rolling Stone? New York Times? (High Times?)

Meanwhile, today is the 49th anniversary of Day 2, Bert has already played his 10-song set, and he is golden. Until he fell thorough the cracks.


* 1969 slang for “handled,” “endured.”

copyright sharon watts

video courtesy youtube

Light My Fire

The 50th anniversary of Woodstock is a year away. That will be a milestone for “My Generation.” Who was I back then? A “good girl” from suburbia who had just gotten her driver’s license two days before the unprecedented cultural explosion we did not yet know would define our generation. Now I am an artist (who qualifies for senior discounts) revisiting my own long and winding road to Woodstock, armed with a sketchbook, a scrapbook, and always tuned in to quirky facts that amplify what was simply billed as “three days of peace and music.” As we now all know, it was so much more.

I live just 60 miles, or one hour, from this hallowed hippie ground, yet I had never even done a drive-by. Last December I visited the museum dedicated to all things Woodstock, and down the rabbit hole I went. I wandered the exhibits and started to think about who, and where, I was when Woodstock took control of the zeitgeist of a troubled, yet hopeful America.

By The Time I Got To Woodstock is the illustrated memoir I am immersed in, determined to finish in time for the 50th anniversary.

Rock icons Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison died, all at age 27 (all drug-related), soon after Woodstock. According to Michael Lang’s The Road to Woodstock: “The Doors were at the top of our list, but since Jim Morrison’s arrest in Miami in March, he’d become really paranoid. He told his booking agent he didn’t want to play Woodstock for fear of being assassinated onstage.”

Today is the anniversary of Morrison’s death—July 3, 1971. He was in a bathtub in Paris, and I was in the ocean at Stone Harbor, NJ. It was the summer before I moved to New York City to go to art school and (I thought) become a fashion designer.

What I didn’t know then was that what I really wanted to do was draw. And eventually, archive memories.

This summer I get to do both.

Jim Morrison copy


art & text copyright Sharon Watts 2018

Cabinet of Childhood Curiosity

I recently submitted a proposal and was accepted into a curated group exhibit for Women’s History Month at the Howland Cultural Center, here in Beacon, NY. The topic was enticing: Girlhood. Oh boy, was this ever custom-meant for me and my kind of personal art! One foot is always in my girlhood.

Girlhood overview

Looking back all these years, I assume that I asked questions from the time I learned to talk—what child is not curious? My nuclear family really was perfect, so I know when the answers stopped coming. My father simply disappeared from my life, in 1957, and my big question was Where’s Daddy? What I remember first was being in our linoleum-floored kitchen with my grandparents and asking Why is Mommy crying?  I have no memory of having his death (electrocution on the job as utility pole lineman) explained to me, or going to a funeral, or ever being comfortable asking questions or talking about any of it with my mother. Not until lately.

With the recent escalation of a nuclear pissing contest between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, I found myself having a bit of PTSD. Childhood fears are being resurrected from the Cold War. I grew up in the era of “Duck and Cover,” and here we are again. Of course, ducking and covering was a joke, but the threat itself was very real, and still is. The idea that we could simply hide under our desks to avoid the blast—who knew how ludicrous that was back then? Answer: A lot of people in high governmental positions. But that’s the propaganda pablum they fed us. And I was very frightened, especially when Nikita Krushchev thundered on our black-and-white television sets: WE WILL BURY YOU!

GH 2

Old electrical manuals and my civil defense booklets from the 1960s, a charm bracelet with the ten commandments, glitter, some toys, and my childhood art

Where did I find solace and a sense of safety? That is what makes up this installation. Sifting through a lifetime of personal archival material, as well as trinkets I’ve collected for my assemblage art (that connected me nostalgically to my childhood), I address my unanswered questions, my fears, and how I navigated my girlhood—steeped in family love, but also loss.

GH 3

More vestiges of growing up in the 1950s & 60s along with a very early book of poems

GH 4

Prayers weren’t working for me, so I switched to Mighty Mouse. “Here I come to save the day!” Gauges and gee-gaws. My childhood bank. A buddhist prayer flag with my questions.

At the center of the installation is my first assemblage art done in 1996. That was when I began to seriously address my past and how I became who I am today. No longer afraid to ask questions. Now I also write poetry to make peace with what I may never find out.

Insulating Materials



I ask now what you remember.

For me:

Air raid sirens pierce arithmetic lessons as we

practice for nuclear war.

My classmates and I scramble

under wooden desks:

girls’ plaid skirts tenting pale knees scabbed at recess and

even the boys are quiet.

Spitballs at a cease fire.


You say you don’t remember much.

A hint:

Did you ask me what I learned in school that day and did

I already know not to

disturb you with my fears?

I almost forgot:

Got a hundred per cent on a spelling test and

Mike Clark ate a red crayon.

And I can’t sleep at night.


Copyright Sharon Watts 2018

Reclaiming My Studio (& Pappaw DeWalt’s Dirt)

Halo-lit by the setting sun, a hulking cumulus cloud looms in the sky like a bulbous atomizer for the Fishkill Creek. The funky summertime fragrance fills my nostrils as I soar down Tioronda Avenue on my bicycle. Along dormant railroad tracks, encroaching development in the form of luxury housing spreads over the abandoned industrial landscape like a modern pestilence. The lambs ear and sumac and occasional dumped sofa are standing their ground for now—and I am rooting for them. (Well, not the sofa.) A whip of wind and gnats and honeysuckle helps to create a miracle: my sixty-four-year-old body is still able to reclaim that giddy feeling of endless summer.

I have been reacquainting myself with my art studio for the last week—a 1920s brick garage that was a large part of the reason I moved upstate from New York City nearly seventeen years ago. It’s been a constant battle with the carpenter ants who have had squatters’ rights since time began. A recent tar-and-patch on the roof’s perimeter has given me the (most likely false) hope that maybe this time I can get the upper hand.

squirrel & tar

So, I am back to assemblage art. I wanted to start small, both in scale and concept. While the setup was initially an homage to my paternal grandfather and the workshop he kept in his basement, this summer I am feeling the spirit of Pappaw DeWalt, my mother’s father. He had built a small, seasonal cabin (known as “the cottage” for some reason, but let’s not envision cobblestones and roses!) out of scavenged Stroehmann’s bread billboards. My dad and uncles would cart the building materials to the island in the Susquehanna from the tiny hamlet of Cly before my memories of summer even began. By the time I was nicknamed “Peapicker” by Pappaw, matching his motorboat, I was happily ensconced in that simple, idyllic setting.

Cottage - me on boat

It was less than a half-hour drive, and yet a world away from our suburban backyard and asphalt playgrounds (where we could easily crack our heads open with one faulty swing on the monkey bars). The cottage was at the very end of the island, which felt like the tip of my entire world, as I spread out on a doll blanket and memorized picture flash cards with all the butterflies and birds, or read the latest Nancy Drew. There was a small dock for the boat and jumping off into the chilly, murky river. Wooden steps led up to a screened-in porch where I loved to sleep on a metal cot, but the rustic interior I barely remember at all. Maybe an enamel-top table, an arm chair—but who wanted to be inside during summer?


Me at the cottage


Nana & Pappaw picnicing.jpg

Pappaw and Nana DeWalt had traveled—camped!—across some of the United States, and he always brought back a souvenir for me. A fossil, some fool’s gold, and from one trip in 1957, samples of dirt. Sixty years later they are lined up in my studio, their masking tape labels still legible: Wyoming, Cedar Rapids Iowa, Hinkley [sic] Illinois, and “50 MI west of Omaha Lincoln NEB.” To christen the rebirth of my creative workspace, I decided to give them a little more of a presentation, using materials that evoked feelings of the cabin on the river, and of a time when feeling dirt underfoot and memorizing Latin names for butterflies was really all a girl needed to pass a long, summer’s day.

Dirt on shelves

3 removed and mounted, 4 to go

Samples in progress

experimenting with backgrounds to mount the dirt samples

Linoleum in driveway

a nice sheet of aging linoleum that evokes the cottage, warming up in the driveway

Linoleum on masonite

cut down to the size of pre-cut masonite (done years ago by Pappaw Watts . . .for what?)

Dirt__Lincoln Nebraska

One sample assemblage ready


This one goes to Pappaw DeWalt’s great-grandson, Mike, and his wife Charlotte, who live in Wyoming. Passing the dirt!

An Icelandic Walkabout


He said, “Girl, you’re a beauty like I’ve never witnessed
And I’ve seen the Northern Lights dance in the air
But I’ve felt the cold that can follow the first kiss
And there’s not enough heat in the fires burning there.”

—John Hiatt, Icy Blue Heart

The Land of Fire and Ice was one of those destinations that was never really on my radar. Not until Yoko Ono set up her Imagine Peace Tower. Not until Larry toured and touted its wonders. Not until I decided I must see the Aurora Borealis before I die. I tucked Iceland into that folder that was fading : “Adventuress (of sorts).”  Was I ever? Was I still?

I was given the chance to find out. A stopover from London (on a mission to distribute my friend’s ashes into the Thames). An affordable flight. Three nights at an airbnb lodging. My Flybus deposited me onto a terrain with volcanic peaks and street names jumbled up like a very bad Scrabble hand. In the fog, no less. I was in Reykjavik with no immediate plan except to explore. And to soak in the Blue Lagoon.

Kind of in chronological order—but because Iceland is randomly cute and majestic and only a View-Master could possibly do it justice—my photos:

street sign in Reykjavik

I’m walkin’ here! I am a street sign connoisseur. A little googly eye pasted on by a kindred  spirit.

fog & duck

A “pea souper” my first evening in Reykjavik. But actual nightfall was 11pm.


I climbed up and back in the allotted 20 minutes before the bus would have left without me.

double rainbow

It was worth it.

tiny pants

Uh-oh. Black lava sand beach at Reynisfjara. (Actually, just folded paper that caught my eye.)

Caution - Groyne!

Fun with homophones!

Black sand beach

Reynisfjara shore, near the village of Vik. Near the groynes.

me & basalt

Basalt backdrop near the cave. A rare photo of me on this trip.

moss & basalt

Detail that does not do justice to this area.


A receding glacier. On the right are tiny specks—hikers who are coming off the glacier.

waterfall with people

Another waterfall, another rainbow. This one I went behind. Got wet. Worth it.

OK, after that 9-hour bus tour, my next day was spent roaming the city . . .



Babalu wall

Prikid window

Their corrugated metal buildings are everywhere and in all colors.

Prikid sign

Oldest cafe in Reykjavik (!) Beats me by 2 years! Had a veggie burger and glass of wine for $30. Yup.


Hallsgrimskirkja – visible from everywhere

Einar Jonsson Museum

the fabulous Einar Jonsson Museum

Reykjavik coffee litter

Reykjavik kitty

Getting homesick!

the force is with me

May the Reykjavik force be with you.

Oh, last but not least! Right before I boarded my plane.

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon. Want to do it every week.

all photos copyright Sharon Watts 2017

Activist, No Longer “Act(ing) As If”


what I made for the Women’s March on NY

A roaring tsunami of peacefully protesting pink pussy-hatted women (and men! and kids!) washed over the planet last Saturday. I was one drop in that ocean, finally finding my voice after forty-five years of legal adulthood, where I was (mostly) not rocking the boat / being seen but not heard / being a “good girl” instead of a “nasty woman.” I now intend on being an active, not passive, voice in what is a truly terrifying time in our nation’s history.

Here is one tributary of that pink wave, the one I was a part of in the Women’s March On NY.



I had already been commissioned in the past year to do some activist art for YogaCityNYC. The first was to address sexual harassment in the yoga world, a symbolic illustrative logo to accompany several articles and a community discussion.


Then came an illustration for a Vagina Scrum)


and finally, now that the election is over (and the P****Grabber-In-Chief is still whining and tweeting and in denial about his 3 million + loss in the popular vote), this:


Every week, YogaCityNYC will suggest ways to not go quietly into that abyss,

with “Do This Now!

I was going through some of my art from the early 1970s, tucked in my attic, and discovered a student book published by Parson’s School of Design right at the time I was graduating. Just a few months ago it seemed as quaint as my Beatle scrapbooks. How far we had come! Now, it is au courant, all over again. Take a look.








That’s nearly one half of a century. We had come so far. We can’t give up that ground.

copyright sharon watts

Parsons School of Design credits:

1/Angelo Foccacio, 2/Bruce Handler, 3/unknown student poster, 4/Tory Ettlinger, 5/Sheryl Saks, 6/Alan Wood, 7/Melissa Schreiber