I am a self taught artist and have experienced living in poor, middle, and upper class neighborhoods for long periods of time. Much of my work has involved counseling for drug and alcohol problems in all walks of life in NYC in conjunction with Dr. Elizabeth Frischauf helping family members to communicate productively through an artistic project created in the home. Mixed media work has taken me to Japan, Canada, Greece, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Puerto Rico, Mexico and many small islands around the world as well as cities in the United States. Why teach Communication Art through nature? Bed of Trees is much like music-it opens the heart to begin the teaching process. The hard part is to keep the heart open when the vision gets foggy. . . to keep the learning process going when life is tough. The challenge is to get those tender roots deep into the ground and help produce healthy life. I ask you which is better: experiencing the surprise of a bed planting or a bomb planting? Both images collect in our unconscious whether we realize it or not."


Received his B.P.A. in Fine Arts from University of the Arts- background includes furniture making, architectural woodworking, instrument making and boat building. He started working with Penny in Spring of 1992 and has just completed second "Bed of Trees."


"I am a psychiatrist with an active practice in New YorkCity. My two sub-specialties cover the entire life span: from children and adolescents through the geriatric population. Many of my patients have been helped to learn new and healthy ways of communicating by working on art work projects which emerge from personal family love and creativity. I met Penny James in 1988 and our common interest in healing family communication through artistic work began a delightfully intense and fruitful collaboration. What has unfailingly emerged is an untapped core of love unleashed by her art project "Bed of Trees." Since its inception, it has demonstrated the process of involving ever widening circles of people working together to contribute a beautiful and meaningful structure to our world. Thank you for this opportunity to further this work.


"Over the past sixteen years, I have been the curator of close to one hundred shows and have introduced over five hundred artists to thousands of visitors to tfie Delaware National Recreational Park in northern New Jersey. Nothing has evoked as much attention, spread such sheer joy or deserves more exposure, as this 1994 show by artist Penny James. The work gathered a large audience daily, young and old delighted to find hidden surprises in the headboard and mattress of moss and wildflowers. The power of the piece seems to be in its incredible ability to encourage people to discover themselves through Mother Nature. It is a unique and delightful way to educate the masses in a very personal and intimate way. I would encourage you to partake and help spread the beauty to as many people as possible.


"I met Penny James while I was working at the Pentagon for Strategic Defense Organization or 'StarWars' as it was known in the popular press. She asked for some technical assistance with a screenplay she was writing and I agreed to work with her. It was quite an experience. Her background, determination and diverse experience provide her an ability to turn an idea or visualization into reality. It far surpasses anything I could hope to do.

I can not approach the artistic qualifications of Penny James or her distinguished associates; my education is in aeronautical engineering and structural design (B.S., M.S.A.E, A.Eng). I have spent my career studying and applying the strength and characteristics of materials to find the optimum form for some rather exotic tasks.

Penny James' imaginative use of materials actually contorts our perception and leaves each of us changed after experiencing "Bed of Trees." She selected and shaped natural materials into the initially deceptive form of a piece of everyday furniture. At a distance the bed is recognizable for what it seems to be. As we draw closer, however, the differences from our expectations form in consciousness and challenge both our conventions and reality. As the distance diminishes, the magical and mystical experience grows. I have known Penny James for several years and find her an extraordinary and highly original talent. Her work is selflesss, concise, and both original and anachronistic. It has the qualities of both recalling ancient wellsprings and appearing ahead of its time. I can think of no one who is more focused to serve the purpose of humanity through art and the purpose of art through humanity.


All I could say was "Oh my God .. Oh my God" as I stood open-mouthed at the entrance of Penny James' Family Trees Homestead Studio on Friday afternoon. I had experienced "God Calling."

There in the middle of the studio, with ethereal light dancing around it, sat the most overpowering, breath-taking combination of man's art and God's art that I had ever seen. It is difficult to even know how to begin describing God Calling, the Bed of Trees, since it is appreciated much more as an overall experience rather than as a singular sight that can be recounted, even with the aid of photographs. Therefore I am not going to tell you what I saw in that studio .. but rather what I felt.

I was in a secret garden, a retreat from the technology and terrors of a world that is too busy to relish nature and too skeptical to allow it to heal our physical and emotional cuts. As I looked up through the symbolic "third eye" pane of glass in the center of the canopy and ran my fingers across the pieces of moss that comprise the "mattress" of the bed, I knew I belonged there then - with God, with the six deer peacefully eating outside of the studio picture window, and with Penny. That's what Bed of Trees is all about communication, healing, and connection.

A long planned-for project, the bed began in a little girl's imagination. Growing up in Colorado with her grandmother, a cattle rancher, James says "while watching a shooting star, .. I made a wish for a 'Bed of Trees' to sleep in."

Years later, that little girl's imagined Bed of Trees was finally a reality. In 1990 it was put in the form of a drawing, and then in 1992-93, a grown-up James set some new goals for Bed of Trees. She wanted the bed to serve as "a vehicle to process the communication involving all who participate," whether that communication be with the self, with God, or with other family members who also experience the project. Although this magical bed's purpose and methods are hard to grasp, know that it does do what James planned for it to do. Looking at that bed, that most perfect place to be with God or with your loved ones, I felt connected and wished that I could share it - the bed and the feeling - with my mom and sisters. With the preliminary plans complete, James then utilized other artisans in constructing Bed of Trees. The four maple trees that are now the posts and the master root that is now the headboard were all removed by Punky, a friend of James', off of the 600 acres belonging to Dr. Ron Parker in Milford. Lyn Merusi did glass work for the bed canopy and also helped to move the bed to all the different places it has been located.

Then in 1994, Bed of Trees was featured under the name of "Bed Spring" at Peter's Valley in Layton, NJ, where it began to work its "magic" on the young and old alike. In 1995, the Family Trees Homestead Studio was constructed in order to facilitate James' decision to have two beds - God Calling in the studio in the country, and another in New York City, where she resides on occasion.

Last year, James began implementing a teaching program through God Calling. Through this art, James continues today to teach children, adults and the elderly "the importance of our own originality in society through our family roots;" and that non-monetary resources "can be developed and used for the good of everyone's family tree." Quiet and slowing down, she says, creates a "Life Balance," that really keeps us peaceful and gratified. As she herself is an example of, James teaches that a dream can become a reality if "completed through development of family patterns." She stresses that, like a tree, the "root imperfections" of humans need love and care too. Lastly, James' program attempts to show how we can receive "unexpected joy from the magic in collecting honor for ourselves and others."

As for her students, James says that God sends them to her: "Up to now, most of the work dealing with 'family' has been quiet and kept confidential. It is the sacred part of the program. God sends unique individuals to me and I plant the seeds He has given."

So God Calling is much more than a masterful combination of human imagination and art with nature. It is an ambitious project aimed at saving and healing humanity through "communication art," getting people to slow down and listen - to God, to nature, to their families and to themselves.

And Penny James is much more than an artist. She has devoted her life to this project, vowing to help whoever God "sends" to her, whether they be disabled children visiting from the city, local children learning a lesson about littering, broken families needing to bond, or the elderly looking for nature to heal them. James is also a writer, having worked with William Kelly, the Academy Award winning writer of the screenplay for "Witness," who critiqued James' screenplay "Kisses." Currently, James is joining with Will Hoppey, a musician from Port Jervis, to produce two songs for the Bed of Trees project, "I Promise I Will Listen" and "Cheaper Beeper," a children's song. Hoppey is helping to compose music to thc lyrics written bY James for these two songs.

"Bed of Trees is much like music," James says, "-it opens the heart to begin the teaching process. The hard part is to keep the heart open when the vision gets foggy... to keep the learning process going when life is tough."

James' future plans for the Bcd of Trees project include selecting forms of communication art to fill a time capsule which will he inserted into the bed, in a "root recess," to be opened again in the year 2100. In the year 2000, James will begin selling the beds, which will be commissioned and made to order, some reaching prices as high as $50,000. For a small fee, though, James says she will sell the bed plans to people who wish to make the beds themselves. After all, Bed of Trees was made to "keep families together."

I drove away from the Family Trees Homestead Studio that evening feeling so inspired and so much a part of the natural world. I knew that experiencing Penny James and her Bed of Trees project was a gift to me, like a "call from God." If only every child was blessed with being "sent" to Penny James and her Bed of Trees "school" to learn the lessons that nature teaches - the lessons that can never he learned from a cold computer screen inside of a metal detector-protected elementary school.