a blog about poetic creativity


MCP501 Proposal Year 1

Living Symbols Series, Volume 1: The Eternal Flame Elegy

Student and collaborator roles – Stephanie Reid: Production, Videography, Animation, Editing; Jeff Johnson (DaShade Moonbeam): Sound recording; Enrique Cabrera: Poetry and Recitation; Laura Yohualtlahuiz Rios-Ramirez: Poetry and Recitation, Dance; Orion Garcia: Soundtrack remix; Atlas Maior (Charlie Lockwood – oud, Joshua Thompson – saxophone; Theodore Camat – drum kit and percussion); The Ravaan Persian Dance Company (Geeti Shirazi Mahajan, Ashi Damvar, Azadeh Poursepanj; Bia Ali)

Lynn Book – Studio advisor; Victoria Hindley or Caroline Koebel – Research advisor

Description of proposed project:

My plan for the first year at Transart Institute will be a set of motion graphics short films that I will complete during my second year of the MFA program. My goal is to tailor the degree to Photography and Media Arts, as my previous practice has been.

The films will seek to be informative about world cultures and illustrate a commonality amongst them. Some of my influences here are the film “Baraka” and the photography book and exhibit “The Family of Man”.

Many visual artists, poets, dancers and musicians live in my home, Austin, Texas. We are supportive of each other, but don’t often collaborate. I wish to create interdisciplinary work that allows this community to connect in a meaningful way. My last photography series was very solitary and required a great deal of precision and control. I need a break from that. Therefore, another reason for collaborating is to relinquish some control over the end results.

In that last series, I explored ideas in the works of Carl Jung, symbolism, synchronicity, and collective unconscious. To continue working with those ideas in motion, the name of the series “Living Symbols” while the name of the first volume is ‘The Eternal Flame Elegy’ – the eternal flame references the artist’s passionate quest to immortalize their spirit through creation and inspire the next generation of artists. Most of the artist’s I will be working with also work with youth in some form. The symbol running through the veins of this volume will be the phoenix, known by many names around the world.

The phoenix is of particular importance to me personally because of a metaphysical experience I had with that entity. In addition, it is a protective symbol for Cherokee people. Our ancestor, Sequoyah, invented a syllabary that was later used in the first newspaper published by Native Americans, called The Phoenix. Cherokee is one of the few Native American languages that has increasing numbers of speakers, and has avoided extinction because it was written and disseminated in that way. More universally it represents the sun, purification, and rebirth. Flight is a metaphor for freedom and imagination, so the mythological bird embodies the arts.

To add depth, it will be necessary to touch on the stages that we must go through to reach enlightened states from their opposites – consumerism, spiritual crisis, and death. The elegy here is authored by the flame, a sentient being which mourns its part in the destruction of each mortal incarnation of itself as a phoenix, but whose solace is giving birth to another.

As with much of my work, homage will be paid to tradition, but with a contemporary spin. The sacred bird will be explored in the context of various world cultures with each one reincarnating into the next. Technology, the evolutionary path of the raw element fire, will weave its way through the tapestry of this journey.

For example, the film I have begun already will compliment the poetry of my friend, the poet Enriqué Cabrera, who is of Navajo and Mexican descent. His poems speak poignantly of sacrifices immigrant families make when leaving behind their homelands. They are somewhat heavy poems, so I would like the visuals and some of the music to counterweight that. A well-know Austin DJ will remix songs all of the people involved in the film have selected.

The “firebird here” will be Quetzalcoetl, the Aztec serpent / bird sun god of the underworld who in legend self emolates and is known as the morning star and the evening star. I have filmed a traditional Aztec dancer in feathered headdress to represent Quetzalcoatl, as the morning star, Venus. The dancer, Laura, is eight months pregnant here and the song is about Tonantzin, the mother goddess. Later, I will film her when she is more athletic and layer the two images so the dance together. One example of how I plan to express the idea of the otherworldly, will be to transform her into dancing lines that form Native North American patterns, which dance and flow, then morph into a whirling rainbow (rainbow around the sun). I will achieve this by using After Effects to make the bright colors of her clothing remain on the screen while the rest of the scene will fade to black, then those bright shapes will be animated to create the playful movement of the ancient patterns.

For the next film I will complete a video with a Middle Eastern flavor. A short interpretation of the classic, “The Conference of Birds” will be the backbone of this film. The band Atlas Maior, which consists of has an oud player, saxophonist, and a kit drummer, agreed to provide the soundtrack and the Ravaan Persian Dance Company will provide a performance of flowing movement much like birds gliding on the currents. Papercut and 3D animations will be prevalent here.

I would also like to do one of Asia and either Europe or Africa. The journey will end with meeting a contemporary interpretation of the icon in “neo-Pangaea”, the world that exists through blending cultures via the worldwide web, travel, and immigration.

Description of project report or thesis: My research paper will compliment the studio work by focusing on universal experiences of archetypal symbols, how that symbolism has been used in descriptions of alchemical psychology and synchronous experiences that when approached consciously can have a positive effect on the symbolic interactionism in society. (AKA how creative communities thrive when they value individuality and progressive thinking)

Anticipated results: Short films to be posted on the Internet, film festivals, events such as Art Outside near Austin, the Fusebox Festival, the Austin Film Festival, at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard in Austin, and projected onto public buildings such as the Mexican American Cultural Center. Installation elements may be included at some sites.

Initial bibliography:

Jung, Carl G. Man and His Symbols. Dell Publishing: United States of America and Canada, 1968.

Laughlin, Kiley Quincy. “Phoenix Rising: A Comparative Study of the Phoenix Symbol as a Goal of the Alchemical Work and the Individuation Process”. Rebirth & Renewal; Rebirth and Renewal – IAJS Conference (2014). Peer-reviewed paper

Díaz, Gisele, Alan Rodgers, and Bruce E. Byland. The Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Mexican Manuscript. New York: Dover Publications, 1993.

Blumer, Herbert. Symbolic Interactionism. University of California Press: United States of America, 1986.

Nicholson, H.B. Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl: The Once and Future Lord of the Toltecs (Mesoamerican Worlds). University Press of Colorado, 2001.

Attar, Farid. The Conference of the Birds. Penguin Group: London, England, 1984.

Hypothesis or question you pose? Why do certain symbols reappear in throughout cultures and history? How can these ancient archetypal images, specifically the phoenix, be utilized in contemporary art to engage a new generation of viewers so that its essential messages can be absorbed?

Formulate entire project in 2-3 meaningful sentences. Using animation and experiment film techniques, I will use the symbol of the phoenix to illustrate the universal story of the eternal challenge to purify the mind. The result being a more harmonious community, which is beneficial both for the individual and the group. For this project, I will collaborate with dancers, poets, and musicians in my own community to demonstrate this ideal and the issues caused by its opposition, apathy towards or ignorance of it.

Choose three artists works to compare and contrast. Seyed Alevi’s installations, Canticles, Remembrance, and Renunciation; Camille Rose Garcia’s 2D series, Subterranean Death Clash and Tragic Kingdom; and James Roper’s paintings from the two series, Paroxysm & Into the Fold and Exvoluta

Provide one to three themes, questions, topics, issues, etc. to discuss, compare and contrast which are relevant to your work. Usage of symbolism to convey ideas concerning elevation of the mind and the forces working as an antithesis of that state.

Formulate in a paragraph. I will study, compare and contrast, the methods in which three visual artists utilize symbolism to convey ideas concerning elevation of the mind and the forces working as an antithesis of that state. I will describe the different approaches that Seyed Alevi uses in his three installations, Canticles, Remembrance, and Renunciation from that of which Camille Rose Garcia uses in her two series, Subterranean Death Clash and Tragic Kingdom or James Roper uses in his paintings from the two series, Paroxysm & Into the Fold and Exvoluta.

How do these artists able to draw their audience into various states of mind ranging from peaceful to disturbed through their choice of symbols and technical choices? How do those artists use symbols to express an idea without the need for further explanation via titles or descriptive text?

How will this research support your creative project or practice in general? I chose these three artists because I tend to work in a fairly linear and representational fashion. However, they use very different styles from myself and each other. Studying how they work in relation to their usage of symbolism will broaden my knowledge base for other ways to express my ideas both conceptually and stylistically.


The Last Enchanted Forest Easter


In my mind, the Enchanted Forest will forever be the heart and soul of Austin, a secret landscape in the middle of South Austin where artists, musicians, dancers, teachers, and mind explorers from all over the world have come to commune for over a decade. I remembered entering the forest in the fall of 2005, in response to their spray-painted-sign-on-a-sheet calling for help with the annual Haunted Trail event. Halloween is my favorite holiday and I’d been itching to be an actor in a haunted house for years. I’m always the one in the front of my line, blocking and dodging demons so my screaming friends can get by, so I figured I’d be good at scaring people, too.

I’d just moved to South Lamar and the Enchanted Forest, Zilker, Flipnotics, and my workplace, the Dougherty Art School were all within an easy bike ride away. My rent was $399 including giant community gardens in the courtyards. So, I rolled over there on my imitation BMX from the junkyard and took them up on their friendly invitation. The volunteers had convened inside a patio and I recognized some people I knew. Baruzula, a legendary Austin fire spinner, textile, and body artist and Johnny Slug, another well known character in town, who was a DJ at my favorite early 90’s industrial and electronic music club, Ohms. Hurricane Katrina had just brought many refugees to Austin and several street performers and musicians from New Orleans were staying at the forest in tents. I imagine this made the environment even more circus-like and stimulating than it already was. Plus, a Cajun cook was ready and willing to prepare delicious food for everyone!

For the next few weeks we prepared to freak people out. The event ran for a few weekends and I got to be four different characters. Some of the highlights were as follows. Imagine walking through a pitch black tunnel in the Forest at night, someone may or may not jump out at you, but either way you rush to get back into the moonlight. When you emerge, a path leads you to stepping stones over the stream towards a shack where a country woman is rocking herself on the porch. As you get closer, you see shelves of apothecary jars containing formaldehyde and creepy looking things, bones, claws, and innards. She stands up and you can see it is a man disguised in a straw bonnet and dress, sharpening two large knife blades together, beckoning you, blood curdling wailing and pleas for help come from behind the shack. As he/she walks towards you with the knives and you scurry down the path, from the direction you are heading, a shirtless man with piercings and scarification covering his chest and a white haired, twisted faced mask starts his chainsaw chases you shrieking down the path…You stroll along and catch your breath as you walk upon an alter attached to a tree in the middle of the path. A shelf is nailed to the tree to hold voodoo baby dolls, dead roses, and other manner of eerie accoutréments. The two trees flanking the alter tree hold two scarecrows. Beyond the trees is another wooden shack. Reluctantly you creep towards the building as the path goes through the entrance door and out the exit door, which you can see from where you stand. Suddenly a deep growling voice calls you by name and demands to know, “What are you doing here?!!!” You hear, “Get off of my property!” as one of the scarecrows leaps from the tree and continues to angrily berate you as it edges you into the dark tiny house. A bathtub full of blood awaits and a reanimated corpse of a girl emerges. You jump to the other side of the room and slink towards the exit as she beseeches you with outstretched dripping bloody arms and hands to come closer and bring her favorite toy with you. She cries like a dead-eyed doll as you leave without appeasing her. You soon encounter a John Wayne Gacy look-alike in a black light illuminated tent spray painted with fluorescent obscenities. You block out what happens inside and emerge feeling as if your consciousness has just blacked out temporarily. You almost forget you are on a haunted trail until you come upon a skeletal witch doctor with shrunken heads, toadstools, and a steamy cauldron that she wants you to stir. She seems harmless enough so you allow her to coax you into assisting her. She tells you story but never finishes because in mid-sentence the cauldron tips over to reveal a heathen man grabbing at your ankles to pull you into his pit of despair. They both cackle and curse as you get away by running across a metal bridge passing over the creek. When you are halfway across, a troll bangs on the underside of it with a hammer, which almost give you a heart attack! Just as you cross over, a human sized raven jumps out from behind a tree, croaking menacingly at you for waking it up. It practically pushed you out of it’s territory and you see the exit is near, but one last dreamy surprise awaits you before you make it to the end…A stilt-walker in large billed bird mask tries to envelop you in its shroud so you can never leave.

It was the best haunted production I’ve ever seen and it was a total blast. I never knew I could do those things with my voice. I scared myself a little as I played a tortured girl behind the shack, the scarecrow, undead girl in the tub, and raven.

Halloween parties were hosted for days. Shows consisted of fire, hula hoop, and Butoh style dancing. A suspension ritual from a high tree was undertaken by the Cajun cook. Vaudeville musicians and jugglers in black and white stripes made us laugh. DJs spun as we danced under the stars in our costumes…til the next event…

Art Outside, the festival now held in Apache Pass, Texas was started right there at the Enchanted Forest on Oltorf. In the spring, the spooky took a backseat the fresh ideas and collaborative efforts of artists all over town. Installations, bands, and food sampling were sprinkled throughout the woods for guests to enjoy in the dappled sunlight. At night, mysterious Baruzaland shadow puppet shows were presented on a giant screen with live instrumental accompaniment. Afterwards a lively dance party broke out as, The Emeralds, a rambunctious surf punk outfit who were visiting from Japan, rocked the stage.

I only experienced the Forest for a short while, but those were my favorite months in Austin. The Enchanted Forest was the last bastion of free spirits in our beloved town before it became what I see it as now, a pretty big city. Shortly after my time in the Forest, I ran off to Paris with one of the French NOLA refugees and then to live in Asia for three years. When I returned to Austin, it was shockingly different than it had been in the past 15 years I had lived here. It took me a very long time to find a full time job, despite knowing people all over town, and rent prices were unfathomable to me. I considered going back overseas, but my family of friends are here and I didn’t want to lose touch with my home for any longer than I already had. I made the decision to tough it out because although it’s getting more crowded and expensive, the arts are still alive here. Culture and nature are still valued. It just doesn’t feel as loose and free-spirited…especially now that the Enchanted Forest must close its gates. We fear for the trees and the water there. We are sad that the wildflowers will lose yet another patch of soil to grow as it wills. The birds will still be able to perch in the heritage oaks though. It would be illegal for the new owners to cut down hundreds of years old trees in Austin. (See https://www.austintreeexperts.com/blog/austin-heritage-tree-ordinanace/)

Since I returned from my sojourn, friends of the Forest, including myself, met with city officials, trade members, and community spokespeople, to try to come up with a plan to continue hosting events without getting fined by the city for code violations of this or that sort. The expense of readying it was too much and the property taxes got too high. The most generous proprietor, Albert tried to find a non-profit or community organization to purchase the land, but none could pay a price to sustain him and his family. He has grandchildren now and is planning to start a small farm just a short drive out of town. Eventually he agreed to sell it to developers, who could afford to pay the price he needed for his next chapter. So despite the loss, we are happy that his lovely family’s future is still bright.

And so it goes…I spent the evening of the last Enchanted Forest Easter in this gem of a green space. To allow the forest creatures to convene in the forest one last time, the Forest family threw a big Easter party. I didn’t arrive until nearly sundown, as bunnies are wont to do, but I could tell from the crushed cascarones and confetti strewn about everywhere, that it had been a huge success. Rowdy children wanted to smash watermelon rabbits as if they were pumpkins. Adults lolled around on a bright AstroTurf blanket pleased with the perfect temperature and absence of mosquitoes. I said goodbye to old friend wishing it a positive future as I wandered through with Himalayan protection incense, ring

Now the hardest part comes. Even those who don’t live in the Forest, but are sensitive to its presence, will have a grieving period as bulldozers and concrete take it over. For those who do live there, it must be agonizing. I see in their eyes that they are still trying to release it, some with more ease than others. We have to get used to the fact that Austin will never be the same as it was pre-2006. Many of the people, such as artists, craftspeople, restaurant workers, and gardeners, who made this city appealing to the people who moved here in the past 1-5 years, are getting pushed further and further away from the center. Rents are just too high now. Wages are not getting higher congruently. Many jobs for artists are now being done with free labor known as the unpaid internship. We are not able to make a living in our fields as easily as we were able to before. However, there is a lot of talk lately by the city and grassroots organizations about getting more affordable housing for artists and musicians, initiating rent control, and putting regulations on unpaid internships because what will Austin become if we can’t live here anymore?

This is a call to all who value community, culture, art, music, poetry, nature, health, and good food to be sure you are nurturing those treasures as often as possible. Teach people, who are not familiar with their value, to open themselves up. Welcome them. Show them there is a way to be free. Let the spirit of the Enchanted Forest infiltrate the city, so that the healing powers of creativity and authenticity rule the great city of Austin, Texas y’all!






Click thumbnails to enlarge. All images copyright!

Floral Art

These floral art pieces were created from plants I grew myself in my garden. They were meant to accompany the photo scrolls I created earlier this year, but nature has it’s own timing, no matter how well we try to schedule things.

They are inspired by amazing floral artists around the world, who showcase their work

in the compilation http://www.floralannual.com/

Panda Face Ginger AKA Asarum maximum 'Ling Ling' (Hexastylis) for the horticulture experts out there, under a shoot of maidenhair fern, flanked by black mondo grass. Ceramic vases by Lucy Lenoir.

Panda Resting Under a Gingko Tree…Panda Face Ginger AKA Asarum maximum ‘Ling Ling’ (Hexastylis) for the horticulture experts out there, under a shoot of maidenhair fern, flanked by black mondo grass. Ceramic vases by Lucy Lenoir.

I built an Ikoso globe, disassembled part of it, then partially buried it in dirt. After five morning glory seedlings sprouted, I transplanted them in this bowl shaped pot with the globe. In the center of the pot, I embedded three test tubes with caps. When the vine displayed the amazing flowers here, I uncapped the tubes poured in water and placed a chrysanthemum from an ikebana class and some baby’s breath from the florist down the road.

Egrets Soaring Over Snowy Clifftop Under a Full Moon….Sagisou, egret grass, is the Japanese name for these bog orchids which grow in the wild there. Here, I placed the long stem near a black lava rock covered with Euphorbia ‘diamond frost’ petals.

Halloween Pumpkin Toads…These tiny Toad Lily ‘Raspberry Mousse’ blooms began appearing in October. The only fitting companion for them was an pumpkin orange Gerbera Daisy. I digitally embedded them with the platter they were resting on, which I shot from a different angle and rim lighting to look like a portal opening inside of a dark moon. Happy Halloween Everyone!

Dead Can Dance Meets Austin

Full Moody Theater. Photo by Vicki Segna.

DCD Dragonfly. Photo by Stephanie Reid.

The Mysterious Lisa Gerrard. Photo by Vicki Segna.


Four Corners. Photo by Vicki Segna.

Jules Maxwell, Brendan Perry, & Lisa Gerrard. Photo by Vicki Segna.

Golden Ray Epiphany. Photo by Vicki Segna.

Friday, 07Sept2012

Moody Theater, Austin, Texas, USA

8:00 PM – A strange metal device reminiscent of a U.F.O. is resting on a man’s lap. He plays it with his fingertips. It emanates an uncanny mixture of sounds. At times I hear a stringed instrument, at times percussion, but rich full tones are always resonating within it. The man’s hands appear to be very gently tapping this instrument, which lends to the potency of the powerful music. The mood transports me to the Arabic world.

The song ends and the artist introduces himself as David Kuckherman. He introduces his instrument the ‘Hang’, pronounced with a short ‘a’. Another name for it is ‘handpan’. It was invented only 12 years ago in Switzerland. Yes, it definitely sounds like space age music. The first generation handpans were tuned to Greek, Arabic, and East Asian scales.

To hear Kuckherman’s new solo CD, Path of the Metal Turtle, visit:


He takes a break from the handpan to play a Turkish frame drum, or tambourine, with various names such as def and riq. His fingers move so quickly and with such control, it’s amazing that the cymbals only make sound when he warrants it.

His next percussive performance on the Hang is inspired by a Thai island spirit. Although, it does not sound like Thai music, it has the airiness of being on a relaxing exotic beach. He concludes his set with a rockin’ Arabesque piece.

9:00 PM – The net behind the stage begins to twinkle upon a glowing blue scrim. Members of the band emerge, saving the star, Lisa Gerrard, for last. She graces the stage in a black velvet gown with long gold brocade scarf draped around her neck and flowing down her back. The band opens up with the first track off of their new album, Anastasis, which was released last month. “Children of the Sun”, the intro song, is sung by Brendan Perry, the performer in the group who adds concrete to the ethereal sculptures spun by the glossolalia goddess, Gerrard. He shares philosophical poetry with his lyrics and delivers them with sincerity. As the concert unfolds, I realize that although his voice sounds the same as it always has in concert, in his maturity, he exudes more confidence.

Several other recent songs are woven into the soundscape of the evening. The earliest work threaded in was from their 1988 release, The Serpent’s Egg. Another first track, “The Host of Seraphim”, is a cinematic revelation into the sorrow of the innocent. It has been repopularized by it’s inclusion into the soundtrack of the film, Baraka, directed by Ron Fricke, the cinematographer of Koyaanisqatsi. As a side note, Baraka is showing on screen at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on September 10th and 12th. The next Fricke tour de force, Samsara, opens in Austin on September 14th. Again, music by Lisa Gerrard will be included in the film.

The tendency for Dead Can Dance albums is to have an underlying ethnographic foundation to each. There have been LPs with medieval European, African, and Caribbean influence. Anastasis, meaning‘resurrection’ in Greek, has a decidedly Middle Eastern and Mediterranean backbone. The title is perhaps a reference to the group’s return to music making together. It has been 16 years since they recorded new music. Perry presents a Greek song, about Greece, explaining that its lyrics roughly translate to, “The beautiful lady lost her leg in a dice game”. He strums a stringed instrument that looks to be a bouzouki and croons in the tongue of the original.

As the show winds down, Perry gives a solo performance of “Song to the Siren”, lending a sailor’s voice to a composition inspired by mythology.

Gerrard, backlit by beams of golden light, appears to have descended from Olympus and continues to awe listeners with otherworldly opera. Three encores later, the sun begins to fade. She leaves us as elegantly as she entered, with a voice gliding on a wave, “Austin, you are fantastic.”

Dead Can Dance * World Tour Dates, Music, and More: http://www.deadcandance.com/main/

It said “bzzt” “bzzt” “bzzt” and glided clunkily around on the ground like a cute little toy…

Trying to break free

Chicharra braces itself

Fence and a hard place

Chicharra’s third eye

Glows in the afternoon sun

Rebirth of summer

A Labyrinth of Light

For about one week, The Architects of Air – Luminaria, a traveling chapel of sorts touched ground in Austin, Texas. On the outside it looks like a futuristic fun house. On the inside, another world where tunnels of color bathe the senses in a variety of vibrations. Upon entering, visitors waited under a dome primarily of red. Pulse rates increased, faces softened, eyes darkened. We began to feel the heat of the sunlight trapped inside the PVC structure. The excitement was beginning. After a brief orientation, we entered a room filled with green. The transition took us aback. We all stumbled a bit and felt like we were suddenly underwater. A boy whispered in awe, “I feel like I’m dreaming.” Indeed, from that point on, we felt like we were transported into a fantasy. Visitors lay inside of it’s sloping walls meditating on the striped ceilings and hues blending as they draped the corridors. We all swayed as the wind outside and walkers within rocked the walls to and fro. As a photographer, I felt that the straightforward images were amazing documentation of this genius work of art, but didn’t quite capture the disorienting feeling of being there. Spinning, twisting, and panning finally told the story I was experiencing – being inside the heart of a flower.


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Grackle vs. Parrot and other fun…

…at Butler Park and the Dougherty Art School.

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To see the student’s shadow puppet shows, visit:




Disaster Benefit Books by HaikuFlash


 If you haven’t donated to the Bastrop State Park fund yet and are still interested in doing so,

I have just finished a photo book of images taken this spring and summer. 50% of the profits will go to benefit the park.

There are two sizes – 10×8 and 13×11. The prices range from about $55-$110

  In addition, I have completed a book to benefit the flood victims in Thailand.

       To preview all of my books, visit: http://www.blurb.com/search/site_search?search=Stephanie+Reid

         2012 Calendars can be viewed at: http://haikuflash.photoshelter.com/gallery/Calendars/G0000F7ElBrHzGdY/

          To purchase a calendar, click on its cover image (the one with a spiral binding in the photo).

Thank you for your interest.


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