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Daily Inspiration: Meet Caroline P M Jones
June 16, 2021
Hi Caroline, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I was born in a military hospital in England weighing in at a hefty 9 lbs. Within six months, we were posted to HongKong where I spent the next three years of my life barefoot and at the heels of my Amah, in and out of Daoist and Buddhist temples and usually carrying my cat “Nameless” around under my arm. I was sent away like many British children to boarding school in the English countryside at seven. At such an early age, in a state of what must have been sorrow at being abandoned, I found great solace and communion with nature and love of creatures great and small. On my life went with some very harsh lessons as well as exposure to amazing beauty and wonders of the natural world. I began to draw and spend vast amounts of time outside being passionate, sporty and artistic. It was a world that I recognized as the only real constant in my life.
I wanted to go to art school but my parents refused to support that, so I sat in the streets of Gibraltar and sketched and sold my work until I had enough money to buy a crappy car and drove across the border to Spain. I have been making a living as an artist ever since.
Shortly after, I met and fell in love with a young man named Philip. It was his sudden death in a terrible and confusing motorbike accident that threw my world into an even greater disrupted state, and from one I wasn’t sure I could survive. I wasn’t sure I knew how to be if it wasn’t courageous and hopeful and optimistic even in the face of adversity.
I met a medium who gave me a book by Edgar Casey a psychic, called “Many Mansions”. I remember reading it and finding it made sense about how we were all connected, in this life and the next and that there were people and belief structures that adhered to those principals.
I bought a one way ticket to Hong Kong, and after a year of crying every time someone asked me, “So what brought you to Hong Kong?” and constantly finding myself in awful vulnerable situations, I finally got a fantastic commission to paint what I wanted, and it opened the door to moving to a wonderful village on the South China sea and honestly the path to the rest of my life.
“Hope is life’s greatest treasure. If you have no hope, create some!” – Daisaku Ikeda
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
“Reality is harsh, it can be cruel and ugly. Yet, no matter how much we grieve over our environment and circumstances nothing will change. What is important is not to be defeated, to forge ahead bravely. If we do this, our path will open up before us” Daisaku Ikeda The life of an artist is never easy! But I think honestly, most of my struggles and challenges were of my own making or with myself. Having started my young adulthood like a widow when all of my peers were in college whooping it up, and from being raised in a military family of three daughters who really just had to “get on with it”, I was completely unaware of my presence as a woman. This got me into a lot of trouble but also allowed me a blind freedom and seeming courage to go ahead and explore countries and places and people and my vocation in a way that was exceptionally unconventional and totally independent of what other people said I could or could not do.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am an artist! Such a bold statement – but I really am, I’m 50, and I have been painting, sculpting and making memorials my entire adult life, and probably most of my childhood too, I have never earned a living from anything else. Except one time in early Hong Kong days when I was struggling to pay for my mattress on a floor in some ghastly bedsit, I got offered $5,000 for a days modeling – I think to my shame it was fur coats. Let me just say – I never did that again! I remember feeling such trepidation about saying, “I am an artist” it seemed so arrogant. When I first came to LA (whilst practicing karate and fresh off a sketching trip on the Tibetan Plateau), when people asked me with fake interest “what do you do?” My mouth would form the word “artist” and they would glaze over and fade out or look at me like “Yeah honey, we are all artists!” – I sometimes feel like I receive that same response today-, hahaha, maybe it’s because of the way I look? Or maybe they think I’m saying I’m great – but I’m not, I’m just saying, “I am an artist, I paint I sculpt and most recently I make memorials to connect the souls of the living and the dead”
My paintings have ranged from Dancing monks in Bhutan to Backstage Chinese Opera Performers, all my work has been drawn from epic journeys and plein air sketching and painting. I started sculpting when I got pregnant with my son in my 30’s, no longer able to journey across lands I began to journey across surfaces and found the subjects within the stone. I studied ornamental and architectural stone carving at the City and Guilds art school in London whilst pregnant with both my children and finished the degree with two kids as well as a body of work. I moved to LA and my works became based around my children and the disruption of motherhood. Large scale paintings of incandescent blue light –“the pool series” and the disintegration of form in water showed up in both canvas and in stone. As my kids got a bit older, I was able to travel again and worked on a large series of landscapes based on the rock formations of Joshua Tree. My most recent work is monolithic ceramic sculptures “Landscapes of the mind Dreamscapes and scholar stones”.
About six years ago, I got my first monument commission a beautiful Pink Marble tree of life. I have continued making memorials, headstones, totems, statues and busts to help loved ones with a grounding place and creative manifestation of their love and memories. My most recent commission is a bust of Burt Reynolds which will be unveiled at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in due course.
What am I most proud of? – That is such a big question, one that perhaps you ask at the end of your life?
Of course, I’m proud of my beautiful children, I think every parent is, but they are not all my creation!
I guess I think I am most proud of the life I have led and as my boyfriend says, my “Pioneering spirit” doing what I’ve wanted to do, turning the trauma I experienced from sudden death and loss into courage to take these epic journeys across lands that even now people are barely getting to – and all in the days before internet and cell phones or even landlines in most places. I would be gone for three months on my own, completely unplanned journeys with just my backpack some travelers checks stuffed into my shoes, my sketch pads and pastels and usually an old lonely planet guide to the area, and sometimes a rather redundant dictionary. I would work from the sketches and create big rich oil paintings of the people and places I had seen and would show them year after year in Asia and in Europe. Each series would fund the next. I never was a linguist but have always been a communicator, and I’ve found that this skill of telling people’s stories across land, across canvas and surfaces has begun to translate so perfectly into a much more profound and meaningful art form for the world we live in now.
I have created a company called Digital & Stone and we are building the foundation and Saas to provide Fine Art Memorials, Digital Immortality and land conservation. We will serve as a center of influence in an environmentally sustainable, socially conscious manner and as an emotionally guided artistic alternative to conventional industry practices related to death and dying. The Fine Art Memorials connect artists and artistic and historic principals to our ancestors and to those we love. I’ve recently been reading and looking at Carl Jung’s writings and artwork, and to him all art was religious expression. The word religion comes from the Latin Religaris – to reconnect. It is my intention that through artistic memorials, we can help the community and our fellow man through grief and misunderstanding by connecting to the continuity of life beyond birth and death. As Buckminster Fuller says, ” You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”. The time for preserving the land is now, the time for environmentally friendly and sustainable practices is now. By changing the burial model that exists today and promoting and offering a green alternative, we hope to link sustainable practice, regeneration of the land and artistic eternal legacy.
I still have my own art practice and have two solo shows coming up – one in my local Topanga Canyon Gallery – July 27th – August 15th “Formations” based on the Rock formations of Joshua Tree and the Mojave desert.
And one at LAAA Gallery 825 on La Cienega Sept 22nd – October 22nd “Landscapes of the mind Dreamscapes and Scholar stones.”
We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
I’m not sure I have favorites. Nichiren Buddhism believes that there are ten worlds we live in each day from the hell realm to enlightenment. So it is when I think back to favorite memories – they all were amazing until they weren’t. For example, a great one I can think of was at my prep school when I was about eight, I tied lengths of skipping ropes together then looped it around an old willow tree that hung over the banks of the River Avon at the bottom of the school grounds. I thought nothing could be more fun than tying the rope around my waist and hurling myself into the fast-flowing river. And there really wasn’t anything more fun until Joanna Hamilton told on me, and I was sent to coventary (a virtual place where no one talks to you) and made to sleep alone in a haunted old classroom as punishment. Bliss and hell all in a day!