When Ventura resident Keith Richardson decided to write "Andy Lakey's Psychomanteum: Spiritual Journeys Guided by Art, Angels and Miracles," he launched into a life-changing venture.
Andy Lakey himself was also traveling an unfamiliar path when, as an untrained artist, he began to paint angels that can be both looked at and touched.
Richardson will discuss his book and three of Lakey's textured paintings at Barnes & Noble in Thousand Oaks on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Richardson is a born skeptic and trained scientist. His previous publishing efforts consisted mostly of contributions to scholarly journals.
In the late '70s, he conducted anthropological research in Nicaragua on the psychological relationship between religion and culture. Until his own spiritual encounter and the inexplicable dreams of his wife, Francesca, he remained a skeptic.
Now he owns Things From Heaven, an art gallery in downtown Ventura that features Lakey's paintings, many of angels and a makeshift shrine pinned with thousands of notes handwritten by visitors.
Lakey's own journey as an artist began after a near-death experience--the result of free-basing cocaine at a New Year's Eve party in New York in 1986. As a result, he embarked on an ethereal mission to produce 2,000 individual angel paintings by the year 2000--the final painting to be unveiled in San Francisco late this year.
Lakey's paintings now hang in galleries worldwide, including the Vatican. They are also in the homes of celebrities.
Richardson and Lakey became friends and business associates through a series of coincidences, though Richardson insists there are no coincidences. Once they made the connection, Lakey agreed to allow three of his paintings to hang in Richardson's gallery.
While he was thrilled to have the paintings, Richard never planned to open a grief center in his gallery. Now he writes that he is "the keeper of the psychomanteum."
Psychomanteums were established in ancient Greece to help people deal with grief after losing a loved one. They are pools of clear water into which the grief-stricken are compelled to stare with the hope of receiving messages from the loved one.
Jennifer Clark is among those who have reported similar experiences after an encounter with Lakey's paintings.
Clark visited Richardson's Ventura gallery in 1996, the year after her husband, Simi Valley Police Officer Michael Clark, was killed in the line of duty.
Upon viewing one of the paintings, she said, she had a mystical encounter with her slain husband, which in Richardson's book she describes as being comforting and reassuring. Others have reported sensations of warmth and tingling. Richardson is working on a sequel to his book to document some of these happenings.
Meanwhile, you can catch him at Barnes & Noble for the book signing, discussion and a look at the paintings. Asked if people can touch the paintings, Richardson said, "Of course."
Who could doubt it?
Today: 11 a.m. Mystery author Richard Barre ("Blackheart Highway") will sign the latest in his Will Hardesty series. Lunch, drinks and books available. Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 374-0084, or http://www.mysteriestodiefor.com.
Today: 1 p.m., Gold Coast Fiction Writers, the Ventura/Santa Barbara County Chapter of Romance Writers of America presents "How to Catch an Editor's Eye." Lion's Room, Nona's Courtyard Cafe, 67 S. California St., Ventura. Meeting free to members and nonmembers--just buy your own brunch off the menu. Call Cara King at (818) 710-8977 or send her an e-mail at KING9089@aol.com.
Today: 2:30 p.m., Los Angeles author Robin Maxwell will read and sign "The Queen's Bastard," her sequel to "The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn." Barnes & Noble, 4735 Commons Way, Calabasas, (818) 222-0542.
Today: 2-4:30 p.m., John Hart will discuss and sign the first book in his Joseph trilogy, "Becoming a Father: The Real Work of a Man's Soul." Local Hero Bookshop, 254 E. Ojai Avenue, Ojai, 646-3165.
Today: 4:30 p.m., Diane Leslie will discuss and sign her Hollywood memoir, "Fleur de Leigh's Life of Crime." Local Hero Bookshop, Ojai, 646-3165.
Monday: 7:30 p.m., Open mike night. Barnes & Noble, 160 S. Westlake Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 446-2820.
Tuesday: 7:30 p.m. Al Secunda discusses his motivational business book, "The Fifteen Second Principle." Barnes & Noble, Calabasas, (818) 222-0542.
Wednesday: 9:30 a.m. Favorite Nursery Rhymes for preschoolers, Barnes & Noble, 4360 E. Main St., Ventura, 339-9170.
Wednesday: 7 p.m. West County Chapter Small Publishers, Artists & Writers Network will feature author Fran Halpern, host of "Connections," a radio interview and commentary show covering the literary scene. She will speak to members and guests about the basics and realities of getting published. The Book Mall, 105 S. Oak St., Ventura. For more information, call Patricia Fry at 646-3045 or e-mail her at PLFry@aol.com.
Saturday: 11 a.m. William Kent Kreuger, author of "Boundary Waters," will appear at 11 a.m., and Robert K. Tanenbaum, author of "Act of Revenge" will appear at 1 p.m. Mysteries to Die For, 373-0084.
Saturday: 3 p.m. Bring your favorite doll to the "Little Women Tea Party" with treats, stories and prizes. Enter to win a signed "Little Women Journal." Grand prize is a new Madame Alexander "Little Women" doll. Borders, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.
Saturday: 7 p.m., Delta's Corner for Kids, a special story time celebrating the best in African American children's literature. Borders, Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.
Saturday: 7:30 p.m., Keith Richardson will sign his book, "Andy Lakey's Psychomanteum: Spiritual Journeys Guided by Art, Angels and Miracles." Barnes & Noble, Thousand Oaks, 446-2820.
Catch you next week.
* Information about book signings, writers groups or publishing events can be faxed to Ann Shields at 647-5649 or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.