A Vampire's Environmentalism, Licsko's 'Wake Up' Landscapes, and a Fire Horse

This little vignette features an activist "vampire," painter Adam Licsko and his ecological landscape art and a teen with Auburn, her acoustic guitar. But first my recent interview with the vampire -- albeit a TV version.

Ian Somerhalder plays the charismatic yet dangerous Damon on The Vampire Diaries, which premiered its fourth TV season in October. Louisiana-born Somerhalder is as passionate about his acting as he is about his environmental organization, Ian Somerhalder Foundation. His environmental projects include building a sustainable animal sanctuary in his home state.

"A TV show is a living breathing organism. Over several seasons, it takes on an entire life of its own. Similarly, my parents and my close friend Deepak Chopra helped me understand that there is no separation between us and our environment. We are the same biological process -- one big living, breathing, interconnected organism. The Amazon River system and other waterways replicate the human cardiovascular system. They carry nutrients around the organism that is our planet. If we pollute our waterways and their ability to get nutrients to this bigger bio-organism, the whole body starts breaking down. It's mind-boggling how careless we are about our planet and thus about ourselves."

Unlike George Bernard Shaw, Sommerhalder doesn't believe that youth is wasted on the young. "The Vampire Diaries has a younger audience, and we at ISF see youth as undervalued. If we aim our sights high, and make our youth aware of environmental issues and information, we are going to see a much better world than what we're living in now. A much more efficient, sustainable, passionate place to live."

I'm looking up at a preternaturally blue California sky outside Trader Joe's in Silverlake, then glancing at a teen playing her guitar near a pumpkin patch, when painter Adam Licsko phones to tell me about his new exhibit at The Vault Gallery in Cambria. Like Sommerhalder, Licsko similarly sees the value of rousing our young people. He creates stunning landscapes depicting various terrains that allow him to explore vivid colors that are juxtaposed from reality for effect -- skies are green or red not blue, and the ground is purple or blue not green. These seductive landscapes also ask us to wake up and pay attention to that living, breathing organism around us.

With his striking 5' x 4' oil on canvas "Looking Up," he suggests we look up from our handhelds to make an emotional connection with the world we live in. His 6' x 5' "Reflections," which is also exhibiting at The Vault, shows our beautiful natural world reflected in the modern world, in the glass of a shimmering skyscraper.

"It's hard for city people to connect with the land as they don't get out much into Nature. My landscapes help get people out of that urban state of mind and find a place within themselves to reconnect with the beauty around us."

Look up to make an emotional connection with the world around us

Our beautiful natural world reflected in the glass of a shimmering skyscraper

While Licsko sent me images of his exhibit, I noted that the guitar strumming teen was wearing a cool Jimi Hendrix t-shirt, and her hippie chick look made her appear as if she'd just stepped right out of Woodstock. When I asked her about Hendrix and what she knew about that watershed 1969 concert, this high schooler called Lorelei lit up like Roman candle. She was a huge Hendrix fan, and did a little "Purple Haze" riff before explaining how she played with local bands (Dreamtime, Midnight Rose), that her fave music was from 60s & 70s including the prog rock of guitarist Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. The girl had taste.

When I told her that I'd recently interviewed Jennifer Lawrence (for Celebrated Living), about The Hunger Games movie franchise and that I had a young adult novel I was working on, Lorelei said she'd read Suzanne Collins' novels and wanted to know about mine. I explained it was set in a dystopian, not-too-distant future where unbridled scientific progress had made the populus beasts of burden, that it had resulted in evolution turning into a kind of devolution. And now the "android" chickens were indeed coming home to roost.

Is there anything like a bright young mind on fire? She got it and her unbridled energy could not be contained as she continued.

"We have stopped evolving, according to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. He says that we've stopped evolving as a result of the advancement of technology, because we've conquered and therefore vanquished all the stimuli that required fast evolutionary growth -- like predators, unpredictable natural disasters, famine, all those kinds of things. I believe he's right that Homo Sapiens has stopped evolving, and so now we've started devolving."

Out of the mouth of babes! I stood there marveling as she played a few more chords. Then she pointed to the pumpkin patch and said she'd carved a "fire horse" in one. She later EM'd me the accompanying image of that horse aflame, and from that serendipitous meeting, my Fire Horse novel is well underway.

Pumpkin carving... bringing light into a darkness of our own making

Later that day, when I later caught up with my painter-pal Licsko, who's a big fan of fantasy videogames like Skyrim, I explained my chance meeting with the young musician. He told me to keep all my notes on Fire Horse, and being the artist he is, he started sketching some maps for the videogame he said we should work on. He cracked up at the irony of it all: "Creating a video game about a dystopian novel as a way to use technology more properly. Harnassing the very technology of video game entertainment -- the techno sleeping pill -- as a digital bucket of water to the face. Noting the sad ironic fact that in order to wake people up from all these sleep-inducing 'communications' devices we may have to fight fire with fire, so to speak."

Adam Licsko is the featured artist at The Vault Gallery in Cambria.

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