Why Taos?

It was 1993 when I first saw the ads in the back of Fine Art Magazine that read “Artist Communities in the mountains of New Mexico. Artists wanted in Taos, NM – Come experience the desert!” I thought about these ads all the time. I dreamt at night about what this place looked like, what my life could be like there.

It was Junior year of high school in a Quaker boarding school, and I constantly went over the plan. I was going to drop out of school and run to those mountains. I remember clearly the conversation in the school’s phone booth when my older brother convinced me to stay, to graduate, and then I could go. …but a year later it was my parents who begged me to go to college and not “throw my life away”.

I begrudgingly went to college and proceeded to survive in the darkroom and painting studio, all the while planning my escape to Taos. I *almost* dropped out again sophomore year  of college, but was threatened with a financial disownment by my parents…and I was not brave enough at the time to cut the chord. I was, after all, an artist with an art identity crisis and money didn’t come easily.

Finally I graduated from college in 1998 and was gifted $500 by my parents to take my journey to Taos. I convinced a friend, who was on summer break from Warren Wilson to get on the bus with me and we took a Greyhound across southern Texas, Arizona and up through Albuquerque to Las Vegas, NM. There we would find a couple who graduated from my small Quaker college, Earlham College, and they took us in for a few days. The man kept a blind pet raven and the woman, who was an anthropologist, worked in a small museum in this sleepy southwestern town.

After a few days we could no longer resist the lure of Taos so we hitchhiked with a cable guy, in his cable van, through the mountains to Taos. When we arrived we headed to the organic grocery where we found a ‘roommate wanted’ sign on the bulletin board.

The next day we were renting half of beautiful large adobe homestead with courtyard and adobe walled yard. We shared the house with a newly single, 6th month pregnant woman, and the plan was to live there until the baby came to keep her company.

In our bedroom we discovered a false bookshelf that turned, it was a doorway. Behind it was an abandoned artist’s studio…paintbrushes, paint, and cartoon sketches. This originally was the home of  Emery Hawkins and we were in his studio!!! He was a top animator and director who was established at Walt Disney and Warner Brothers…he was a key animator in Daffy Duck, Goofy, Tweety Bird and Sylvester etc…His home studio felt quite abandoned and we were to learn that he slipped away into the watery darkness of alzheimer’s and never packed up his studio. He had died in 1989 leaving his studio to sit there frozen in time.

We didn’t touch a thing. I was tempted, no doubt. Beautiful expensive brushes everywhere, tiny tins and containers from the 40’s…but the only rule we were given when we moved in was that if we came upon things left in the house from the original owners we were not to touch them. Plus, it felt like an artist’s code of honor that could not be broken. His remaining family was in CA and they were our landlords.

The next day I went to an art gallery and began to inquire about job opportunities. I bet you can guess what happened? I was laughed at, scoffed at. Who was I to think??!!! This was not the welcoming artist community in the back of the magazine. This was just another exclusive, elitist art scene like every other I’d encountered, but it turned out I didn’t like this southwestern style of art they were representing anyway. I promptly got a hostess and barista job at the notorious Bent Street Deli and soon learned that art was not the reason I’d been needing to get to Taos anyway.

The friend I’d come to Taos with got a job at a spiritual/new age bookstore where a Jewish guy named Ophir also worked. Just one month after we’d been in Taos it was time for a Shabbat dinner and my traveling companion, Sarah – also Jewish- was invited. Ophir happened to also have invited Chris Cosby. Around 1am that night I woke up to the sound of Sarah coming home. She said she had a guest who would be sleeping on our floor that night because he was in-between living situations. His name is Chris. I couldn’t see a thing because the room was dark, but I greeted him and tossed him a pillow. He slept on the floor at the foot of my bed…and everything  between us that followed is a very a long and beautiful tale.

In the morning I recognized him immediately, but resisted because at that time I was convinced that I was still in love (and pining over) a guy from college. Within two weeks I would call my mom and tell her I’d met the person I would spend the rest of my life with, and with whom I would start a family with. She wasn’t too thrilled about this plan. Much to her dismay I cared more about this than actually getting a secure job, but obviously nothing about my journey with Chris has ever been linear, logical or conventionally safe.

Chris isn’t from Taos and his story of how he mysteriously ended up there at the same time that I did is just as magical— for lack of a better word. After living there together  for five months we finally left. We were having a hard time finding a permanent place to live after our roommate’s baby was born, and we were tired of working in restaurants.

I’ve been dreaming of returning to Taos for 18 years. Taos was the sipapu for our family—our chosen family. A sipapu is an opening symbolizing the place where the Tewa tribal ancestors first emerged from the primordial underworld into the earthly realm. It’s an origin story, and Taos is the our origin story. I’ve built a garden to keep that landscape’s energy close while I’ve  lived out my life in Memphis, TN. Our children have literally grown up knowing that Taos, NM is the place where it all began and today we’ve returned. June, 2017

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M U L L E I N – ally from the plant realm

Mullein (and Chris)

In the summer he doesn’t wear a shirt at home

I’ve been waiting to post this—waiting to find out a name from my mother, what the priestesses called themselves. When I was a baby I almost died. I stopped eating, thriving, and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. My mother became desperate and so took me to a miracle church on a mountain top where crutches covered the walls. She prayed and begged for a miracle but I got weaker still. She had a friend who lived in her building who wore huge caftans and wrapped her head in a white scarf. She was a priestess. My Mother asked if she and her priestess sisters would perform a ceremony to find out what sickness I had. My mother describes this event as the most supernatural thing she’s ever seen. They made a brew, they drank it, they sang and chanted and danced and convulsed and soon their faces changed and they looked so different, like different people, more ancient, completely different – hard to put into words she says. When the ceremony was finished they told my mother that I had ‘espina falda’ (portuguese) = fallen spine (english) . My mother didn’t know how to use this information and she didn’t ask the priestesses for a remedy. She went back to the Dr’s., in desperation, begging for them to do something, anything. They gave me a heavy dose of the strongest antibiotic, tetracycline, and I began to eat again.

                                                             ***

Years later I met a psychic who had unlocked her ability to speak to guides and guardian angels. She
told me that when I was newly born I had lost courage to be in this world full of pain and had almost turned back. My ‘fallen spine’ was a loss of courage, loss of “backone”.  Even as a newborn I knew that I had a rough road of parental loss ahead and a mother to whom I was *almost* an alien, the blackest of sheep…but in those months my mother fought for me, found her love for me and fiercely protected me from death.

                                                            ***

Fast forward to 18 years ago when I rode a Greyhound bus to explore Las Vegas, New Mexico, where a lady I knew was keeping a blind raven for a pet. After exploring that town lost in time, I hitchhiked to Taos, New Mexico where I would meet the love of my life, my husband. …but first I met mullein, another love. It was everywhere and anywhere—even growing in the middle of abandoned, blazing-hot, concrete-covered lots. I immediately knew that I would always want mullein near me. It’s presence soothed me. I felt that I understood it and it understood me and that its beauty was unparalleled. I happened to feel exactly that way about this person I’d just met, and so we left Taos searching for a nest to start a family and a garden. I would have mullein close by, always.

                                                           ***

We never really used the mullein much because we weren’t prone to upper respiratory problems but three years ago, in the midst of a transformation in my marriage, I began to have a lot of pain at the bottom of my spine. At first, I thought maybe I had fallen on my tailbone and didn’t recognize it as injury at the time, but that seemed unlikely. I went to a chiropractor who told me my hip was chronically out of place from childbearing and that consequently other things were out of place and pushing on nerves…so I did exercises, took long baths, and the pain began to subside as I became stronger. At the same time my marriage morphed into its new, even more beautiful incarnation and I became drawn to  M U L L E I N  F L O W E R S . Before, it was the texture of the leaves and the blue/green/white color that held my attention, but suddenly I wanted to capture the essence of the flowers. I picked them, dried them, dropped them into a jar of oil and waited. A week later when I opened the bottle and sniffed I couldn’t believe my excitement. It smelled exactly like the large green olives I love and eat (in place of ice cream, or cake). I definitely wanted to use this oil so I looked up what mullein’s medicinal uses are and found this:

Musco-Skeletal System – Mullein reduces inflammation and pain, making it a perfect herb for use where delicate, complex bones such as in the hand or feet have been broken and cannot be set, or where there are complicated alignment issues in the spine (even in the lower spine and hips). click here for info credit.

At 40 years old I don’t have many endings to my stories. Most of them are still unfolding, as this one is. I’m using mullein oil on my spine and the ghost-pain is kept at bay. I wonder if this is the future the priestesses saw or if this is a body signal that shows up when I begin to lose my courage, confidence in my own strengths.

 

 

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Latino and Art


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Piece by Maritza Davila, “Jackie en el Jardin Secreto”  – Mi Sur / My South

 

Recently I’ve been honored to participate in a group show of Latina/o artists working in Memphis titled Mi Sur/My South. Earlier this year I was invited to have a solo exhibition in a summer series showcasing Latino artists at the Centro Cultural Latino Cultural Community Center at Caritas in Memphis, TN, again invited by my friend Richard Lou, the Director of Fine Arts at the University of Memphis.

When Richard first invited me I accepted graciously then immediately googled whether Brazilians are considered to be Latino. They are, as Brasil is a Latino Country, although the spoken language is Portuguese not Spanish. Still, I felt as if I had a lot of explaining to do as I don’t openly identify as a minority, or person of color, or as a Latina. All my life I have checked the ✓other box. I am biologically Brazilian-American. Not a color (white), or Latino, or African-American, or American Indian…just “other”, but actually a little bit of all of those. (I’m sure we all agree the options are grossly limited in the statistical realm.) “Brazilian”, by the way, is not an ethnicity instead it describes a nationality that consists of mixed ethnicities like “American” does, so I’m pure mutt.

My Brazilian part comes from my father’s side: I have a grandfather who was a 3-way mix of African, South American Indian – Tupi/Tupiniquim and Portuguese – and a grandmother who was 100% Italian. My American mother received her French, English and German from her parents. I was born in Brasil – my first language was Portuguese – my family became broken.

Then, I was raised in the Midwest where I always stuck-out…I was obviously different. I looked like “the one who must be from somewhere else,” I had a foreign last name that was hard to pronounce. Then I got a normal last name but it didn’t match how I looked. I’ll turn 40 this month and no matter where I’ve lived (I’ve lived 6 places in the US) people ask me, where are you from? You don’t look like you’re from here. I tell them where I grew up and they say…you knowww, I mean where are you froooommm? They feel relieved when I put them at ease and say, I was born in Brasil.

At (almost) 40 I think I’m from the stars, the cosmos, and why not? The more I get to know all that’s in my mind and heart I know that I’m much more than this person called Stephanie with this attached timeline and map. There’s more going on in here and that’s where I’m from. The unnamed place. I know that sounds ridiculous, I mean, come. on. but seriously, I don’t like to identify with made-up things – things that man made up, like: nation, race, status, profession etc…and if you don’t identify with all the things then you are an outsider. It’s not on principle that I don’t identify, I guess I’m just naturally adverse to these confinements…and I do pay a price! It’s never easy to feel like an outsider, as we all have the need-to-belong written into our DNA—as a survival mechanism, but it’s in this act of “going the other way” that I’ve felt most like an outsider, more-so than because of my ethnicity. I never really identified with either of the countries I straddled growing up. I have dual-citizenship so I never felt legally in danger and I was raised a fluent English speaker which made all the difference in how I was treated, comparatively.

Still, I can fully appreciate the reason for having these Latino-identified art happenings. (In case you weren’t sure) it’s to help elevate this group of persons that have felt invisible in American culture. This group of folks who have been treated as less than an American citizen because they identify so strongly with the home they come from. (Oh The hypocrisy, Europeans-turned American!) I won’t get into a history lesson but the main point is the inhumanity of Colonialism. How gunpowder and steel decided who would get to be “in” and who would be cast out. It being fairly recent (as in, still happening I dare-say), we can easily find people who believe the benefits of Colonialism outweighed the costs…that attitude is still prevalent. (ummm, were there any benefits?) A majority of the Latino community could possibly be in danger at any moment under American law if it were to change. So, any effort to illustrate the humanity of Latino/a persons is a beautiful effort that I will graciously stand with! and I do.

 

 

PS. …and although I don’t usually write or talk about how my personal map figures into my work, it most obviously does, and how could it not.

 

 

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A Circular Reflection

Hi friends, so I took the installation down and hauled most of it to the compost. In case you missed it in it’s green glory you can see it here.

A Circular Reflection was my first solo installation and my first time relying on living plants to perform for the public, under my name. Working with live plants certainly provoked a particular set of anxieties, but I decided that if the plants started to die  it could work with the concept of my piece anyway. However, I’m way too aesthetically driven to have let it fall into visual ruin, so I thought maybe I would add to the piece as it started to change—a constant installation-in-progress. Luckily, I didn’t need to.

The odds were against me by using pansies and violas in spring – INSIDE in pots, sitting in water. Pansies and violas are full sun, winter plants and notoriously don’t like to have wet feet.  So, I tended them once a week. I went to water them and pick off any dead foliage. I worked to keep the installation in a moment of stasis where it barely changed…so it would look just how I initially intended it to look…FOREVER. Ha. Not really, I’m just kidding, maybe.

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Really, in those first days I was tense and worried while I groomed the installation…I even had a watering fiasco because the floor was slanted and I was watering one end of the tray and it overflowed out the other end under my painted star paper. I had to take it apart and try to dry the floor under the installation to keep everything from molding. This was the first week and it had to be up for two months.

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If it stayed wrinkled the starry sky could also be interpreted as water? ….or a wrinkle in time? The question became “Am I really ok with the installation having a life of its own?” Miraculously, it dried flat. Miraculously, the (star) flowers kept blooming. In fact, the flowers all turned their little faces to the window (sun) in unison and far exceeded my visual expectations.

When I built this space I had not considered that I would be taking off my shoes to climb around in the installation and tend it. It’s difficult to be worried and anxious in bare feet. Slowly, week-after-week the mental chatter stopped, the “Wow, tending this is a lot of work!” complaining, stopped. I was brought into this meditative space….maybe like the monks who rake sand or moss?

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If you know me well, you know that I’m not a ritualistic person. Routine nearly kills me. I’m a very head-in-the-clouds type who is usually soaring way-up high looking around to see how it all connects. I always have a lot of different projects going at once and this works well for me.

At one point in this installation-tending, which was EVERY SEVEN DAYS, I thought I might suffocate from the routine. I already have as much routine as I can stand as a mother who home schools, cooks regular meals and tends a home…but then, the installation was thriving in my care. Possibly I could draw on this time spent, like water from a well, and use that steadfast discipline to stick with one body of work for a longer period of time. Really dig in and see what happens.

Ultimately, I am continually amazed at how plants themselves in all forms ( gardens, forests, houseplants, wild landscapes ) continue to show me the way. That was the concept that informed the design of the installation and at the end, still the reigning lesson.

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I Photograph Because I Can See!

My friend Melissa Dunn is one of those wonderful human beings who actually listens. I’ve only known her a short while, so I’m not sure if she’s always been like this or if its a trait that’s grown from a beautiful marriage to her James. A man that is very comfortable with silence. Just speaking with him will set you to squirming and fumbling for words if you are not acquainted with silence. Anyway, I do love silence and I adore Melissa and James. I also really appreciate this video she sent my way a couple of days ago. It really opened up a floodgate of things I’ve kept locked away as insignificant archaic facts about myself. Really, these things have always been driving the core of my creative life. She said some of the images in the short video reminded her of my photography, so I watched…and wept. Here was my message to her afterward:

“I watched this, this morning and wept. I’ve only ever told Chris this, but my greatest fear that began around age 14/15 was always blindness. There was a table with a long wire on it in my high school ceramics studio where I spent a lot of time, but I eventually couldn’t stand to be in there because I began to have strong waking images of that wire slicing through my eyes, and I finally couldn’t be near it. It was then that I drifted into the darkroom; which was upstairs in the art building. A much safer feeling in there. At 20, when I got frustrated with photography, I kept trying to find something that I wanted to see. I kept searching books, magazines, movies and MTV, but I couldn’t find it anywhere and it was a suffocating feeling. Finally, it occurred to me to try and make it, so I got out my stash of oils and painted my first oil painting. It was a smoosh of colors: black with red, magenta, ochre, yellow medium hue and pthalo blue+white. It looked like planets and nebulae in space and it satiated that feeling.

I realized that I was craving color. I had only been working in black and white film. I switched to color slides, but couldn’t process them myself, so I gave up and switched to painting for the next 16 years. (!) There’s not much to show for it, except that the imprint of my time with color pigment is irreversible. Color is in me now and watching this video about going blind revived that poignant fear. I remembered that I’ve always strived for a sense of something more, all the things that could be sensed and heard without sight. I had trouble teaching painting because what I have to share, my painting technique,  is to feel the subject matter with my mind as if I was running ‘my touch’ my fingers along every surface and contour, and the colors I taste and smell them in my mind’s eye…and not everyone is willing to do that. That was what painting did for me though-awakened all my other senses beyond sight. Now, that I’m back to photography but with color this time, I love to make photographs like I’m painting. I also make photographs with extreme nostalgia and sentimentality, as if time is running out.

This movie makes me realize that MY answer to Roland Barthes question is that I make photographs because I CAN SEE! It really is that simple. Sure, it’s an act that helps me remember, but it is also because there is such a wealth of food in the visible that I hunger for. Making images feeds me. When I can bring into sight something that I hunger to see, something shifts in me internally and I feel right again. I’ve stopped thinking about my fear of blindness for awhile now since I got my first migraine at 23. I thought I was going blind, but I didn’t.

This video also reminds me of the many, many, repetitive dreams of not being able to see clearly, usually while driving a car. Of course, that’s another topic for another day, but the feeling in those dreams is akin to looking through the small viewfinder on a camera body and working to see something that comes alive. It’s hard to describe. Here is the fantastic video (click on photo):

 

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On Teaching Art

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I sometimes speak about being a mother and an artist, but I often don’t speak about homeschooling my two daughters. I’m not going to now either, except to say that before I had kids I taught community art classes, and various kinds of art classes to other homeschooling children in my neighborhood. Now that I’ve tasked myself with guiding my two children through their studies e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y I have quite burned the urge to teach clean out of me. I have a 2nd and 7th grader which means I still have much to do. This past year, in 2013, I fretted about this a lot. I felt torn, a lot.

In 2014, I’ve decided I’m not going to be too hard on myself. I’m going to set aside all notions of teaching my craft to others in my community, for now. I previously created a tumblr space to use as a photography teaching tool, but I’m going to repurpose it for the time being. When I created it I had written a little essay about why I would even want to teach art. It ends with me clarifying that question for myself and realizing that I just want to ‘spread the love’.  Well, for now I’ll just have to spread it when I’m making my own work and trust that it will ripple out into the world in its own quiet way…and lord knows I’m spreading so much love to and through my girls.

ON TEACHING ART

For a long time I rejected the notion of teaching art simply because, miraculously without instruction, I could see amazing compositions everywhere I looked. The same structures of an image that I found in art history books. I understood color and the way it interacted with itself.I couldn’t fathom teaching something that was inherent in me. I kinda looked at it as an “either you’ve got it, or you don’t” situation. It felt like a special super power—that I could see beauty because I framed it that way.

So, why did I even take art classes???

In college I gravitated to the discipline and practice of fine art because it involved a language that I intuitively understood and felt normal and familiar conversing in. I took as many fine art classes as possible because it was the only way I could bear to finish college, a parental requirement. Even so, beyond the technical aspects of how to manipulate a medium I didn’t learn much. I was lucky. I didn’t go to an actual ‘art school’, but a liberal arts college with an underfunded fine arts department. I was able to experiment and explore, and no one taught me what they considered to be good -vs- bad art. There was zero competition. While this was freeing it was also depressing. I wondered if I was actually any good and would my work stand up anywhere else in the world.

Eventually, because I had no idea how to play the fine art gallery / business part of being an artist I resigned to teaching. I continued post undergrad schooling to get a license to teach k-12 art. That’s when I was formally introduced to the elements and principles of design as thing. I felt very disappointed that these secrets I knew intuitively, about what made an image ‘sing’, were being taught. If anybody could learn it what would separate an artist with real natural-born talent, from just a regular person who decided to be an artist?

I didn’t want that second category of artists to exist. I was worried there wasn’t enough room in the world for too many people to play the artist/career game. There aren’t, after all, that many people who buy art (I thought).

I’ve felt a little guilty that it wasn’t my desire to fill the world with artists that led me to want to teach it. (I’m still working on being a more generous person!) It’s two things:

The first is, the very fact that I have a process with which I can reflect and understand my environment, my place in this world, my inner world and relationships, has made living more than bearable. It’s made it exciting and wonderful. I can greet each day with enthusiasm because of my artistic practice. If I can guide another person to that by teaching a class, it would be the icing on the cake for me.

Secondly, I wasn’t raised in a family that supported my artistic drive. I don’t think they were being evil, I just think they felt very afraid of a life pursuing art. It didn’t equate to safety or security for them. My blood father admitted that he liked my work, but was not able to understand it because he wasn’t proficient in the language of Art (his words).  He’s a retired Doctor of Sociology, he’s fluent in the ideas brought forth by Carl Jung, but he felt inadeqaute when looking at visual art. There is benefit in helping others read this visual language. This language is not only an essential item in the artist’s toolbox, it’s also useful for the viewer, the appreciator of fine art, to have in their toolbox too—so they don’t feel illiterate and alienated in the presence of art.

I guess you could say, the urge to teach art is just my version of wanting to spread the love.
*** I wrote that a year ago and I still feel the same way. I’m not sure where those feelings, those facts, will lead me in my lifetime. We’ll just have to see…***

 

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The Reset Button – 2014

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Before The Storm

I LOVE the beginning of a new year. I love the opportunity coming from the outside to make a change…writing 2014 here and there and everywhere. Certainly we can start – a -new anytime, but I particularly feel inspired at the start of a new year. Throughout the year I check-in on my personal path so that by this time each year I have a pretty clear vision of my journey thus far and see where I’d like to be heading and what are reasonable tasks to give myself. Not because I’m some righteous person, but because life is toooo short to be complacent. I’m a grab life by the horns kind of girl in my own shy, private way.

More than anything I like the notion of pressing the RESET button. Wiping the slate clean and allowing myself a FRESH START.

As far as my art practice goes, I’ve already begun some things that I intend to see through. One of them is these photomontages made in InDesign with photographs I’ve taken. These were the first five made one-a-day, in one work week. They are an evolution out of my Nurtured By Nature documentary series documenting my two daughters and their relationship to ‘place’. I’m ready to set-up scenes to photograph that explore this concept more, but I’m not ready for that yet. I don’t have the equipment/materials I need to make that happen, yet.

In the meantime I’m playing around with combining photos that never see the light of day. My daughters also have started to want to pose for me, so that is an interesting turn. I still feel that I need to respect the parent/child relationship and don’t want to be too artistically directive. This is them playing around and I just happen to be there with my camera, but they are directing themselves and coming up with neat ideas.

It’s great fun experimenting with my way of working and I’m liking the results so far. I look forward to more of it in 2014. Let me know what you think, if you feel like it of course.

Here are all five. Last one is the first one attempted.

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Lady Banks

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Treasure Chest

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Turning

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Beauty Berry

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I’ve Only Been Sketching

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If you have something to say and you don’t say it you get sick. This is what I’m thinking as I stay in bed all day today nursing a headache and exhaustion. I’ve been so busy being a mother, teacher, wife (and moonlighting as an artist) these past few weeks that I’m exhausted. My lovely eight year old never stops talking and requesting. My lovely thirteen year old never stops brooding and watching/judging me.  I continue to chug through the intense amount of daily tasks set before me.

I squeeze in a few Instagram shots of something I see, that I deem beautiful. I write blog posts in my mind, I ponder and puzzle out ideas about aesthetics, the creative process and the game of living here…all in my mind. I think I’ll write it down at 10:30 pm when I lie down with my laptop after the last child has been tucked in, yet the screen blurs before me. I do secretly relish that (how long?) moment when I think I’m thinking and I’m about to produce the next thought but everything is suspended in white and I hear nothing and everything stops. **** I jolt ‘awake’ realizing I have fallen asleep, and open my eyes just enough to close the laptop, set it carefully down on the floor, and try again to drift so perfectly. The second time however, is more of a forced entry into sleep b.c sadly morning will come so soon…when I am being called awake to help feed my children.

The great blog post I wrote several times last week, in my head – between conversations with the 8 and 13 yr old, has now vacated. I suppose it’s in there somewhere ready for another day…but really who cares! Aren’t most people just listening to themselves and those they have chosen to be their favorite geniuses, anyway?

 

I just so desperately want to make more work, experiment, experiment, experiment…spend hhhhooooooouuuuuuurrrrrrrsssssss doing it…with lots of time to reflect. Will I survive this path I’ve chosen, the one where I educate my own children? I dream of the perfect tutor who comes in a beam of light, who will sit with my kids 3 hours a day and do work/practice academics with them. I certainly don’t have the money to pay one, so it’ll have to be a miracle. As far as I can tell though, there are many, many, many who have a much more difficult and less-delicious life. So, please send them the miracles first. I did choose this after all.

This is the moment in the progression of things when I feel that all my work previous to this moment has just been me sketching—leading me to this spot of massive change. A new way of working. I’m gathering my energy and trying very hard to get ducks-in-a-row so that I can take the time needed each week. The ducks are revolting! They sense the change, I suppose?

It’s a peculiar thing hindsight is, and the fictional passage of time. Most of us who engage in the creative process experience the uncomfortable sensation of nakedness—our process on display. We’re asked to claim our work confidently whilst knowing we aren’t as good as we want to be yet. We’re asked to make statements and wrap-up our experiments in a neat package so that they become official. So, as gracefully as I can, I will proclaim: I’VE ONLY BEEN SKETCHING.

PS. Let that be the last complaint and apology for awhile!

PPS. Society’s delight with branding, and the robotic-static ‘feeds’ of the same content over and over again in social media has really been bothering me lately too. I just can’t keep up with that. I’m way too messy, I guess.

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A Step Back Is A Step Forward

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Nothing too profound here, just that I forgot to post about the Material Anthology show I was honored to participate in. So here’s the story of how that came to be:

This really sweet little gallery, Material Art Space, that was founded and run by a Memphian with a huge, sweet heart…one of those great places that as soon as I stepped within its walls I knew I wanted to see my photography in there, but no printing money I shelved the idea for later.

Then, I heard through the grapevine last Winter (2012) that Hamlett Dobbins was going to close the doors of Material Art Space to pursue the next phase of his life. I scurried to secure a show…I couldn’t let that dream go unfulfilled or I feared I would never go forward with the showing part of my personal art practice. There were only two shows left…and it was to fall after tax season, yes! IRS money was late…cutting it close a dear friend lent me the money… it was a great show…hung 9 pieces, sold 9 pieces. It was my first solo exhibition and my best girlfriend of 26 years spontaneously showed up in my driveway to usher in the great moment with me. SO MUCH LOVE.

…AND because I had a show there I was able to be in Material’s Anthology show this summer at Crosstown Arts…Memphis’s new Fine Art Tour de Force.

So fun to be amidst other local names and all that. Here’s a photo of the wall my photograph The Next Chapter was hanging on.

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RIP Material Arts space. Bon Voyage Hamlett Dobbins! (He’s going off to claim the Rome Prize and make art in Italy for a year. Memphis will miss you!)

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Moving Onward

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It feels good to finally finish something that has been hanging on the wall for a year now taunting me in its unfinished state. I was inspired to finish it via the technique of collage after seeing Romare Bearden‘s Odyssey exhibit. He was a collage master and I finally was able to revere the medium. I used to collage like every other teenager/ 20 something playing around with different ways to express herself visually, but I never was able to see it anything other than unrefined, punk-rock play. Certainly, I could never imagine it as something someone would want to purchase for the walls of their home. (Starting to lose that art qualifier). I’d seen some cute collages with a more sentimental bent, but never something that went beyond a ransom note vibe. In this last year, I was also introduced to the collage work of two other artist that I like. The local Lester Merriweather and Colette Saint Yves. (What’s up with no website Lester?)

Anyway, it took me awhile after being inspired by R.B. to actually get the print made of Violet’s 3 year old face to then varnish it to the canvas. Now, this image of Penelope Violet riding an owl, soaring out of the Rainforest (her choice), and into a slightly stormy sky is finished. She’s been terrified of storms ever since she was caught on the interstate with a tornado chasing her, her sister and her Papa in his lightweight pick-up truck. They beat the storm, but the impression was left. She doesn’t even like to be outside when it’s cloudy. It’a a real bummer, as the rest of us-three LOVE to greet a storm and be out in the windy, electric beginnings. So, I have painted her smiling and bravely entering a sky that is less-than-clear. It feels so good to finish something and be satisfied with it! Now, every night when I lie next to my seven year old to read her a bedtime book, I look up at the painting on her wall and finish the day with a great satisfaction.

 

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When I Was Seventeen

I learned today that scanning old prints that were archived on slides, is awful! What a waste. If I cannot use a darkroom to personally manipulate old negatives to get the prints I want…forget about it. These were the first of a small set of negatives I kept from my early photography years that I just paid $ to have them made into jpegs. I repeat, what a waste.

However, now I can close that chapter of my life. I can move forward confidently with digital and be completely committed to it as a simple and efficient technology. I don’t handle or breathe in wet chemicals (bonus!), but with my RAW images I can perform the minor darkroom exposure manipulating I always did: contrast, sharpness, and white balance/exposure. I can do it in the digital darkroom with my camera software (no need for photoshop) and I’m done. I can still have prints made. I can have perfect representations of those prints archived in a myriad of file types and I can share them with you much more easily with almost complete visual honesty as to how the image translates from paper to screen.

The only downside is the new galaxy of visual vernacular photography taken by the everyday shooter. It really saturates the field of photographic exploration quickly and makes once-beautiful imagery a bit tired and overused. Like the word, God and Love…sometimes the perfect words…but often overused and therefore empty of sacred meaning. That is my only beef with digital technology.

Anyway….The images were taken purely instinctually, no real thought or planning. Just hanging out in the woods with a friend.

The other two are of a best friend in my dorm room (Quaker boarding high school).

…and the final shot is of this boy who I secretly worshipped. He was a quiet nerd and English was his foreign language. He wore this headband around all the time. I’m not even sure where he was an exchange student from…but I finally got up the courage to ask him to take this portrait and he said yes, but nothing else. I’m not sure he understood anything else I babbled at him. I was really into Richard Avedon’s Wild West series at the time…so this was my attempt at portraiture like that. I shied away from chasing down peculiar looking characters and photographing them after this, but I sooo desired it.

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The Icing On The Cake

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The icing on the cake was when I was setting up snacks for the show and a guy (a friend of the gallery owner) asked if he could take a quick look at the show before it started. He did, and when he was finished giving each photograph about a minute (sweet guy) he asked me if, by chance do I listen to Bonobo? HOLY SMOKES. How rad is that!?! Why, yes, of course I do and apparently it goes into the photographs.

He connected my images to the music that’s weaving through my brain everyday. It certainly wasn’t intentional, but an honor to have my work relating to the work of musicians I adore. THE ICING ON THE CAKE, I tell you!

One of my best friends has her Phd in classical music composition and is a pianist, so I try to relate my process her to hers when we talk art. When she was viewing my images she talked about liking the layers in them. I made up an analogy: You know how jazz music is a combination of separate notes all interwoven ( I greatly dislike jazz), but in contrast classical music is a group of notes that when played together create a whole ‘nother bigger sound that vibrates? This bigger, ambient sound is vibrating off of a particular set of notes being played at the same time. Simply, it’s when smaller parts create a new bigger entity, and you can sense them both at once. I LOVE THAT. My images are like that, like that classical orchestral thing. I love it in music, I love it in the crickets and frogs (peepers) at night, I love it in the trees when they swish in the wind, and I love it in the imagery I make. I guess my work is musical, not on purpose, but just because I can’t help it.

Thank you random guy for giving me that perfect start to the opening night.

Above is the image he last looked at before he turned to ask me that. It’s called The Beginning Of Forms.

Click play below to hear Cirrus by Bonobo from their 2013 release: The North Borders

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