DENPASAR, BALI, Indonesia – Linda Jean Bennett, artist, queen of marigolds and calla lilies, died Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. She was 64.
Linda was a jewelry designer, fierce sister, smuggler, stubborn cowgirl, mom and addict. She was a belly dancer, a shotgun buddy of William Burroughs, and a coke buddy of Timothy Leary. She crashed and burned, and resurrected herself in Bali to become a sober sage, embrace her life and learn her purpose.
Linda was born at Thornton Hospital in Missoula. Linda and her nine siblings lived where her father’s railroading job led him, including a long stint in Somers. Raised in Catholicism, her faith and fortune led her on many adventures.
Linda’s grade school friend and fellow flower child, Shemia Brewer, remembers skipping school, drinking Romilar cough syrup and nutmeg tea, trying Morning Glory seeds, and roaming Higgins Avenue wrapped in Indian blankets. Shemia introduced Linda to John P. Anderson and Doug Bieri, who became her lifelong friends.
Linda partnered with John and Doug in Rishashay, the 1970s Missoula clothing and import store. Called the “House that Hash Built” by John’s mother, the store was a magnet for the young and enchanted.
Linda later moved to Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico, along with John and began her professional career as a silver jewelry artist. Her work was inspired by Frida Kahlo, the Virgin de Guadalupe, and Hopalong Cassidy. Linda and John were mentored by Margo de Taxco, the legendary jewelry designer. Linda learned to speak fluent Spanish, and became immersed in the culture of Mexico. They worked with several silversmith families in Taxco, including the studios of the great Augustine and Tomas Sotelo.
John said he once sent Linda to Taxco on a buying trip with all of their funds. During a stopover in Guatemala, there was an earthquake. Linda promptly used all of the money for food and supplies, and then spent the month setting up and supplying village kitchens. John said “We had to start over again. True story.”
Linda and Robert Feld were married by Father George Ferguson in the early 1980s. They spent the next two decades together. Linda became a parent to Robert’s children, Mariah and Che. Together, along with Linda’s beloved Scottie dog, Max, they made their home in San Anselmo, California. While the home was a backdrop for many a raucous gathering, more than anything the doors were always open and welcoming. Linda and Robert’s jewelry line, made in Taxco by master silversmith Jose Fuentes, was licensed by major museums, including the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art. While Robert and Linda’s relationship ended, her commitment to her stepchildren never did. Mariah said of Linda, “she had a magical ability to engage children with her energy and storytelling ability. She has godchildren all around the world.”
Linda re-united with John in Bali, and became director and muse of the Folk Art Gallery (FAG) that features collectible folk art and textiles. All that Linda had learned in her life found a home at the gallery.
Linda was a prodigious reader and critic of literature. She became an expert in the village arts of Asia, obscure primitive items, and cult figures like the Nat statues of Burma. The Catholic faith of her childhood now encompassed and bonded her to all faiths. Anyone interested in folk art would make the pilgrimage to the gallery to consult with her. She said this sober decade building the gallery with John was the happiest and most fulfilling time of her life.
Linda’s friend, Judy Bruder, wrote of her: “welcome back to another home ... deer cows ... sacred as willy chasing rocks in the cold pond with marty ... the priestess ... holy women on their way to the temple ... in Montana a most charming wise woman ... brave daughter fierce mother ... horse whisperer ... sees all that is great and good in all that is small ... broken birds ... a rock ... here you are in your own home ... sweet dreams.”
Linda was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, the antithetically named Wine Club, in Canggu, Bali. She was also involved with the AIDS education project in Bali, working with exploited women in local villages.
Linda is survived by siblings Robert, Gerald, Jim, Margaret, Kathleen, Dennis, and Julie; stepdaughter, Mariah; stepson, Che; grandson, Ripley; and Linda’s special cousin, Marty. Linda was preceded in death by her parents, Patricia and Robert, and her brother, Greg.
Linda was cremated in Bali, and her ashes were spread in the Indian Ocean in a traditional Balinese ceremony.