Artist makes shrine to love near Lithia Park

Visitors strolling through Lithia Park are stumbling upon a curious exhibit on the grass. A low table holds 25 carved stones, some embedded in sculptural heartwood, some formed into flower vases. Fluttering around the display are pieces of paper scribbled with words of peace, love and forgiveness.

Nearby is artist Mark Dobkin, who has spent the past 10 weekends asking passers-by to contribute to his artistic arrangement.

"I'm inviting people to write prayers, messages and inspirational notes to connect to others in a simple, nonthreatening way," says Dobkin, 54, who has erected the exhibit as a way of saying goodbye to Ashland, his home of 10 months.

He says he's ready to travel wherever the wind blows him to help express peace.

"The United States is 236 years old and all but 20 of these years we have been at war," he says, standing next to a translucent red-orange alabaster stone he shaped into a heart and wedged into a section of a salvaged madrone tree. "I'm trying to listen to where I'm led, and pay attention and act accurately."

Although the display holds the last remaining pieces of his art, Dobkin, who has a virtual studio at, says he is not selling them in the park.

"It's an opportunity to show my work and share these messages with hopefully millions of others," he says. "This is what wants to happen. Love wants to happen, and it's time to be unabashed about it."

The display has taken on another purpose. Part meditation, part confessional, people are writing down thoughts perhaps never spoken.

In addition to the dozens of new notes pegged into the grass on a recent Saturday, Dobkin has saved notes from past weekends. The stack is about 5 inches tall, and he flips through it like one of those flick books that animate a series of pictures. But instead of images, this is a series of words, written in loopy handwriting or precise printing.

The messages are equally varied.

One of them states, "Grateful for positive energy and being able to enjoy each moment with my boys and friends and family on this special journey." Reveals another, "Mother, creator for love, I wish you'd tell me why love is painful." Scrawled another stranger, "Everyone needs abundance no matter how crazy you are."

Encircling Dobkin and his display are chips of wood, which he uses "to create a space with intention," he says.

One morning when he was setting up — it takes about an hour — he says a man crawled out of the bushes, looked at the display, then wrote a message. After he left, Dobkin read the note. "It was all about others," he says. "I cried."

Six hours later, the man returned with a seed cluster that he had wrapped in vines and flowers. "He placed it near the shrine with such devotion and then walked away," says Dobkin. "That brought me to tears again."

On this recent Saturday, a couple, a family of four and a single man wandered up to the display, which is a few steps from the entrance to Lithia Park closest to the Plaza.

Dobkin was quiet as they looked it over, then he asked them to express their desires on the small sheets of paper he handed them. He is noticing that some people return to the site.

L Citizen is one of them. She happened upon the display a few weekends ago and comes back often to watch its evolution.

"The first time I saw it, I was so moved I stood there for a few minutes, then did a meditation to ground myself in the place because it affected me so powerfully," says the Ashland resident. "It has a high vibration, and the art is very beautiful. New contributions from people build on that strength."

Citizen, a hobby artist, recalls a teenage boy who slowly walked around the display, knelt in front of it, took a pencil and wrote a note: "Hey, mom. I am sorry. I love you."

During the week when the shrine is not there, Citizen sees people meditating inside the circle of bark.

"There is something powerful about that spot," she says. "Whether Mark chose it because it is powerful or that it has become powerful because of people's intentions doesn't matter."

Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or

Share This Story