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The NW Notes

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We were so fortunate to experience the NW with two weeks (Aug. 8th-22nd) of gorgeous weather and rain only happening at night. So many flowers were in bloom still and I was able to identify online, all of them but one. I met up with the Rycheners in Seattle, had a day there, we flew to Anchorage, rented an RV and rolled around Alaska. I went back to Washington to meet up with my dad for camping and the art opening where my latest studio work was being shown.

SEATTLE

Airplane view
  Darkness in the east. Orange sliver peeks through the gray blanket in the west, then suddenly disappears as the clouds close over it like an eyelid.

Alki Beach
  Seagulls and a bald eagle. Sourdough bread and chowder sampler bread at Duke’s – seafood, clam, and lobster. A-Frame duplex covered in vibrant flowers. Monkey Puzzle TreeBarnacle and black seaweed covered steps. Massive freight barge, heavy with train cars, floats slowly down the Puget Sound. Maple’s red seedpods. Salty air.

Museum of Pop Culture
  I think this is going to be a museum about Jimi Hendrix. It definitely looks trippy on the outside. The music playing in the lobby is standard auto-tuned pop of the 2010’s. Nothing calls to me visually or sonically. We are pressed for time anyways, so $30 a ticket isn’t a price we are willing to pay to explore and see if anything else of interest is beyond the entryway.

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Pike’s Place Market
Creamy yellow Golden Trout with pink lips and middle stripe; Three and a half to four ft. long chrome King Salmon; Two inch round, two ft. long king crab legs on ice; Bouquets galore – white lilies with lavender edging, silver painted branches, poppy seedpods, dahlias

 

Airplane Window

snowy mountain tops

melting into river trails

heading into bays

 

ALASKA

  Glenn Hwy. overpass overlooking pale ice blue stream frothing on the edges; Spruce broom rust in the tree tops kept tricking me into thinking there was a baby bear up there;  After watching the roadside for hours, in hopes of spotting an animal, I say, “It’s time to see a moose! That’s my declaration.” A few minutes later, while getting something out of my backpack, Todd yells, “A moose!” By the time I jump over to the window, it is already far in the distance. All I can see through the screen obscuring my view is a flash of a fuzzy moose and horns silhouette. Rocks arranged on bare dirt hillsides with names and animal shapes. We stay the night at a small RV park next to a glacial mountainside. I realize a glacier and iceberg are not the same thing. The cliffs across the street are speckled white in a couple of places. Through binoculars we can see they are dall sheep.

 

Tanana River whirlpools

 

Tok River
  We hear strange insect / birdlike sounds from the trees then realize it was these tiny red squirrels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFQKzsz1j7s  Two tasty local beers: Kodiak Brown Ale with ballistic Grizzly Bear on the can + Moose Drool light ale. Long-lasting jewel toned sunsetPattering of drizzle on leaves sounds like a rain stick.

sunset collage web

Hidden Lake
  Surprise “use-at-your-own-risk” canoes; Snowball flowers (Cotton grass); Boggy, mosquito ridden landscape. Deliciously mild low bush cranberries for days. I can’t get enough of them.; We see some birds fly in and out of the trees. Mr. and Mrs. Rychener say they are gray jays, but I don’t get a good look. ; Fisherman’s catch of silver with purple striped trout

Cotton Grass collage

Reindeer (caribou) dogs roasted over an open fire; Misty morning on Moon Lake; Raven honking on top of a tree sounded like geese

 

On the road near Eielson AFB
  Cliff side’s jagged edges make easy climbing ledges for spray painting who loves who and favorite sports teams. A pipeline, suspended up high, stretched alongside the pavement.

 

Fairbanks
  Flocks of Canadian Geese fly over the RV park; In hope of bread, ducks swim towards a girl and her brother fishing in the pond. A young one gets entangled in the fishing line. The boy goes for scissors while Todd helps unstring its wing. My good buddy / neighbor / coworker on Jeju Island, S. Korea, Dave picks us up and takes us to local hangout, The Golden Eagle Saloon, for a mini party with him and a musician friend, Isaac, who I also knew on the island.

  Afterwards, we pick up some of his fellow Shakespearean actors living in an artists’ camp in a birch forest. They are both from Wisconsin, where I was born, and one happened to be from the graduating high school class of my dad! Those trees are known to be home to flying squirrels. A prop rests at the base of the trees – a wooden cutout of a ship with a red wig hanging over the bow.

Dave drives us out about an hour away under a lovely sunset. We carefully watch for moose while singing 70’s and 80’s rock songs or listening to jazz and electronic music playing on the radio. Finally we arrive at Chena Hot Springs. I can’t say enough good things about the place. I would go there every day if I could. The springs are enclosed in boulders that you can stretch, sit, or climb on. There is a fountain you can sit under. A strong sprayer to pound your shoulders with. The water ranges from warm to as hot as it can get before scalding you. We would have stayed much longer had they not been closing for the night.

  The next morning, another dear friend I met in S.Korea, Carey, picked me up and then we swung around to get Dave for breakfast at The Oasis. Crab meat eggs benedict and good company. If you ever need some good reading about Alaska before your trip, visit the site Carey writes for, http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/

 

On the road again
  Abandoned four-story, igloo shaped hotel. Beverage business yard sign announcing, “Yes. We have Red Bull smoothies!” *BLECH* Yellow and blue painted metal sign for True Value Hardware on A-frame cabin with wooden sun and rays above its garage door and windows.

 

Denali National Park and Preserve
  One night is spent in an RV spot in the park, and the other at one, called the Grizzly Bear, down the road a bit. We hear from a gift shop cashier that she saw a mother moose and calf around 9:30PM. We decide to take a night drive in hopes of having the same luck. I spot a young one cross the road so Todd stops the RV to watch. Several other cars stop as well. People are getting out and taking photos, but we can’t see from where we are so we get out too. We move into a fairly close vantage point but with plenty of shrubbery between us and the mother moose there. We are growing uncomfortable though because one of the people is clearly getting too close and making the cow nervous. We tell her so, but she didn’t seem to either understand or care. A tour bus driver tells us that we should back away, so we leave.

  Moose (and willow) facts: Although moose are in the deer family they are given bovine names (bull, cow, and calf). People who use all of the parts of a dead moose use the brain to tan its hides. Females have 24 hrs. to breed. If male smells the mating hormone, he will slowly approach female and rest his head on her rump. If she is receptive, they will proceed.

  Several types of willow, which contains vitamin c and the pain relieving acid used in aspirin, grow in Alaska, but I never saw a weeping willow. Most likely because many animals, including the moose, like to eat it in abundance, so it never gets a chance to grow large. They eat 7-10 times a day because they require 50-60 lbs. of food per day. In order to be able to recover from the feasting, part of the year willow puts out a chemical that animals cannot digest. That is when they begin eating other things.

  A dewlap is a flap of skin under the chin of a moose. Experts are uncertain what the purpose is, but our shuttle driver, Bard makes us laugh when he says, “Let’s get our dewlap pierced!” Bard said that more deaths happen per year by female moose attacks than by any other cause. Be careful not to get too close, especially to a baby moose because it’s mother is nearby. According to my dad, if their ears go back, they are likely to charge you.

  Horseshoe Lake, a gorgeous emerald body of water in a valley. Although we haven’t had luck spotting a moose, we discover moose tracks. There are impressively cut beaver dams and gnawed fallen trees. Female mallards and ducklings splash about and fish. We see a lone fish that Todd recognizes as a Arctic grayling because of its large dorsal fin. We stop to take a photo together against the lush colors and a gray jay lands on a tree near where we are sitting, so we get a good look at it. It’s really cute!

Beaver collage

  6,000,000 acres; Denali Mountain means “the high, big, or great one” in Athabascan. It was named Mount McKinley because a Republican explorer and gold prospector wanted to celebrate the presidential nomination of William McKinley, who had never even been to the state. President Obama officially renamed the mountain in efforts to restore respect back to Native Americans. It was too cloudy to get a glimpse of its peak while we are there because it is the tallest one in North America, so this opportunity is rare. We see so many other gorgeous ranges on our shuttle tour though such as the impressive Sable pass, Polychrome Mountains, Geode Mtn

  Other things we see on the shuttle are: Homosapiens in brightly colored rain gear. Although I had seen one before, I learn the name of this low tide water is a braided river. Weird “fairy portal” made of birch in the middle of a field. When I try to pick up one moose horn I can’t. I start cracking up over how heavy it is. Needless to say, they are massive animals. Despite all the bear activity warning signs at the trail heads, luckily we never see one close up on our walks. Fortunately, we see several from a distance. There is a grizzly that appears to be frolicking, but we are told it is injured. Blond grizzly mamas and cub twins foraging for berries on the hillsides. When salmon season is over, they change their food source. It’s hard to imagine they can get enough berries for those big bodies. Random ring of red leaved plants in the middle of a field. Male moose bones scattered in a field from wolf pack attack. A lone female moose far in the distanceCaribou (reindeer), which I am uncertain as to the sex of because both females and males grow antlers. Shuttle bus stops for us to see a few willow ptarmigan, the state bird of Alaska. They are ground birds from the grouse family and are hunted as a food source by humans. The consensus online is that they taste like quail and/or chicken.

  Mice with a red stripe down back running around the park’s Wilderness and Visitor Centers. One hangs out under a hanging planter, as it’s being watered by someone on a ladder, so it can lap up the liquid draining onto the ground below. They scurry too fast for me to catch a photo and I can’t find one on the internet.

  While hiking along Savage Creek, we hear a sharp squeaking sound, almost like a dog toy, but can’t find its source. Camouflaged with the rocks are these little chinchilla looking rodents, which someone correctly guess it is a pika. Pika facts: In order to warn its neighbors under the rocks, pika scouts looking out from above will give off a sharp squeaking sound when predators, including humans are nearby. It’s a prairie dog! No, it’s a ground hog! No, it’s an Arctic ground squirrel. This large rodent is digging away and pulling out plant roots, chewing them up like pretzel sticks.

pika meep web

 

ground squirrel pretzel web

Driving back towards Anchorage
  Vegetables get enormous because there is so many hours of sunlight. Supposedly it went down completely at 3 AM and rose again at 4 AM. A zucchini about 18″ long and 5″ wide on the bottom end is sitting on the counter of The Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe, Talkeenta, AK. They offer birch syrup drinks, but I really just want a sample of it so I know what it tastes like. The lady behind the counter gives me a couple of drops in a spoon. It tastes almost like molasses, but not as heavy. We enjoy a delicious smoked salmon bagel sandwich. The trees surrounding the place are draped in a soft green moss that I haven’t seen anywhere else we’ve traveled to. In the woodland trail I spy a dark-eyed junco (slate colored subspecies).

birch collage

  We stop because Barbara sees a trumpeter swan couple in a pond. In the next RV park, Montana Creek, we park in for the evening, we go for a walk by a creek and see a school of fish close to the opposite shore, probably salmon, appearing to swim in place. They are most likely laying eggs in the rocks. A large, dying one is swimming alone on the shore we are standing on. Seagulls fly overhead. I occasionally hear one swoop down to try and pick one up or hear a fish jump. Todd and his dad part ways with me to eat, while I obsess over lovely lichen patches with my close-up filter while talking and singing aloud to invisible bears that could walk up at any time, especially if they smell fish. Lichen are not plants, but a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi. They absorb minerals from the rocks, trees, and bones they attach to and create soil by expediting the decay of those hard surfaces. Some varieties are then eaten for their mineral and protein content by moose and caribou. I traverse through most of the woods there and stumble across a tunnel window. Just after taking a picture, I small man, with a strong resemblance to a leprechaun in his plaid paddy cap, white hair and beard walks into the passageway, carrying a bundle under his arm, grumbling fiercely to himself. I scramble up the hill to the train tracks because a petite woman alone in the wilderness should be especially cautious. Todd said he was probably grumbling because there wasn’t enough gold under the rainbow. Later I see him in an RV near ours. He no longer sports a sweatshirt, but a long sleeved tee with suspenders. I see that he is Asian and his beard was merely speckled with white, but the darkness of the tunnel must have only allowed that to show through. A wild berries of Alaska poster at one of the trail heads helped us recognize the abundant high bush cranberries there. We sampled some. One was too tart, one was awfully overripe, one was just right. Still, I preferred the low bush type that we had a few days before.

hi cran collage

  Musk ox farm in Palmer, AK. They are raised here in order to harvest the down under their hair. This ultra-soft fiber, qiviut (KIV-ee-OOT), is warmer and softer than sheep’s wool. When these animals are grown, they looked like giant long-haired guinea pigs (with horns). Highly durable and waterproof scarves and other items are made from qiviut. Just a shake will dispel all the water even from a rain soaked garment! Their astounding spiral nasal cavities allow the air to warm up before reaching their lungs, so that they can endure -80 degrees fahrenheit! Obviously, qiviut has helped them survive those temps too. Oomingmak, as the animals are known to native peoples of the area, have been around as long as the woolly mammoth and fossils of them have been seen as far south as Florida. If have ever been a fan of the Cocteau Twins, here is a lovely song, named after these sweet animals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSKO2vDTfq4

 

Anchorage Airport
has a bar called the Sleeping Lady where an art exhibit featuring work by living artists from Northwestern Native American tribes.

 

WASHINGTON

Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington, Denny Creek Campground
  Dad picks me up after dark from the airport. He’s smaller than I remember. He says I am too. He says he shrank by two inches after he had spinal surgery. I don’t remember the conversation now, but I remember his is in a great mood and being funny. We haven’t seen each other in four years. I haven’t been to Washington in seven. We arrive in the forest after dark, but I can still see the massive height of the trees and see that some of them are a good four feet wide. The sky is clear so I can finally see the stars! I don’t have a tripod with me, so I rest my camera on the ground supported by a flashlight.
In the morning, we eat sage sausage that he has made with fresh eggs. I take a walk by the creek (Denny) flowing through the park. It’s the prettiest creek I’ve ever seen. There are clear running waterfalls and pools along the trail. I become so engrossed there that I hardly even wander far from camp, but am gone for hours. Dad shows me his walking stick that he has hung feathers of Stellar’s Jay, woodpecker, and crow. He shows me a bone that is used to make an arrow shaft from a small tree branch. There are many robins but the light is too dim and they are moving too quickly for me to get a good shot. I did manage to get one of a hairy woodpecker. At night we make a campfire and act silly.

My friend in Alaska, Dave, tells me to go to a diner in North Bend because it’s the one everyone hangs out at in the surreal murder mystery series Twin Peaks. We just happen to be staying 20 minutes from there, so plan to head over for breakfast, pie, and coffee. I have been watching Twin Peaks: The Return every Sunday, so am excited to be in one of the three-dimensional locations I have seen on the two-dimensional screen. We are greeted by a flashing open sign with a blue neon mug and red marquee lights above it representing steam rising from its hot liquid. I’m pretty sure it was in one of the episodes.

  The props and memorabilia sprinkled throughout the place definitely lend to the feeling that the show is superimposed on top of the charming diner. I can see close up, the panoramic landscape painted in a strip along the entire wood paneled wall. My cup is emblazoned with the logo for Twede’s Cafe along with their slogan “The Home of Twin Peaks Cherry Pie and ‘A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee’.” A rectangular wooden sign with letters carved out and painted white: TWIN PEAKS Population 51, 201, sits on top of the pie case. A man, appearing to be the manager, sports a t-shirt with a Twin Peaks Sheriff Department decal on the back. To top it off, as we are leaving, we see an FBI Agent smoking out back with one of the waiters as a sun dog glows above us, just like in the intro scene of every Twin Peaks: The Return episode.  In fact, that entire fictitious town, invented by David Lynch and Mark Frost, is situated in that area, including other regular scenes depicted in the show, the Snoqualmie Falls (named for a branch of the Salish tribe) and “Crying Man” mountain, Mount Si.

  After brunch and a walk to the aforementioned falls, we go hiking up to Franklin Falls, which feeds the creek running through our camp, Denny Creek. It’s a sunny day, so we see many rainbows in its mist. The water is cool and fresh. Dad finds an arrowhead along the rocky shore. We see a young guy climbing the cliff side really fast like he is a billy goat.  We walk off our Twede’s, so have room for grilled steak, compliments of dad’s friend who owns cattle and uses no hormones or antibiotics. Needless to say it was super flavorful and fresh.

The next morning, we are considering going into the city to meet with the Rychener’s to view the eclipse, but are worried about the traffic, which has been insane the past couple of days. Instead we drive out to the highway near the campground where we have a clear view of the sun. The peak of the eclipse is supposed to be at 10:20, but it is still pretty bright outside, which I am not expecting because I had already seen one in the 80’s that was much larger (lower in the sky because it was evening time) and probably closer to totality because it got much darker. It did cool down noticeably though. I try to capture a shot at 1/8000th of a second, ISO 100, and f32, but my lens isn’t very long and when I review the image, it doesn’t look like much…until I see it on my monitor! So pretty! Very different than the cell phone pix I take, which only show a tiny trace image of a crescent sun shape off to the side.

  We enjoy lunch and a pint at my favorite Irish restaurant, Kell’s. They have the best soda bread and so many delicious seafood choices. It’s right on the wharf, so we stroll over to the aquarium, which was closing soon and cost too much for the amount of time we would have in there. Still, we get a good view of the water, boats, and gulls. We have some time to kill before heading to the airport, so we make our way to the Discovery Park lighthouse, West Point Light. The park is non-existent without getting a special permit first, so dad drops us off and comes back to get us later. The nostalgic looking building has been renovated and has been automated since 1985.

 

I don’t want to leave the wilderness to return to Austin traffic and heat, but I know that the bitter cold will catch up with the Northwest shortly after we leave. Luckily for them, they get the Northern Lights as consolation. We are too early to catch any. It isn’t dark enough. I hope to go back another time for their electric show and go to Valdez too, which is highly recommended by several people.

Between the Tale and the Tangible

Visiting real world places used as settings in novels or a script can be way to enhance your interpretation of the material. It can serve to flesh out the scenes you imagined when you experienced the story on paper or screen. Here are a few examples of spots I have both read about and encountered in the physical realm.

Going to a place I had read about in a book…

As a senior in high school, I read An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, which is set in Kansas City, Missouri during the early part of the 1900’s. The story is based on two actual death row cases from that time period. The main character, Clyde, lands a job his first job as a bellhop at a high class establishment, the Green-Davidson Hotel. Described lavishly in the book, the hotel is a strong contrast to his upbringing in a poverty stricken missionary family who spends their days proselytizing on street corners. In the story, his striving for wealth and prestige at any cost brings about his tragic demise.
Shortly after reading the book, I went on a trip to visit my family in Independence, Missouri, which is near Kansas City. I decided to try to find some of the locations described in An American Tragedy. I found a closed down King’s Hotel where the fictional Green-Davidson stood. I could see chandeliers, a wide spiral staircase, and parquet floors through the window. I imagined Clyde in his uniform hauling suitcases up its marble steps for dapper men and beautiful women in furs gliding across the foyer. Seeing the glamorous hotel decades later as a disheveled and abandoned space reiterated the message in the novel that the power behind materialism is fleeting and as vulnerable to destruction as our human lives. Clinging to it as if it can somehow immortalize or make gods of us is a trap.

Going to a place I had seen in TV show…

On a recent trip to the Northwest, knowing that I was camping near Seattle, an Alaskan friend mentioned that I should try to go to Twede’s Cafe, in North Bend, the town where the fictitious setting of Twin Peaks lives. I had been watching the murder mystery series written by David Lynch and Mark Frost, Twin Peaks: The Return every Sunday, so was excited to be in one of the three-dimensional locations I had seen in only two-dimensions. We just happened to be staying 20 minutes from there, so planned to head over for breakfast, pie, and coffee.

We were greeted by a flashing open sign with a blue neon mug and red marquee lights above it representing steam rising from its hot liquid. The props and memorabilia sprinkled throughout the place definitely lent to the feeling that the show was superimposed on top of the charming diner.  I could see the details in the panoramic landscape painted in a strip along the entire wood paneled wall. My cup was emblazoned with the logo for Twede’s Cafe along with their slogan “The Home of Twin Peaks Cherry Pie and ‘A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee’.” Dad is exuberant about the pie, especially the crust, and asks a guy appearing to be the manager in his Twin Peaks Sheriff Department tee, if the secret is Bisquick. He merely reply that it might have some Bisquick in it… A rectangular wooden sign with letters carved out and painted white: TWIN PEAKS Population 51, 201, sat on top of the pie case. To top it off the experience, as we were leaving, we saw an FBI Agent smoking out back with one of the waiters as a sun dog glowed above us, just like in the intro scene of every Twin Peaks: The Return episode.

Discovering a place I am familiar with was in the book I was reading…

As a girl, I went to Wisconsin every summer to stay with my grandparents. One of the adventures they took me on was a visit to The House on the Rock, a roadside attraction near Madison, which is featured in American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I have been there several times and to this day reflect on it as one of the places that enchanted my childhood. Gaiman chose the most striking elements of the site and in each of those passages he conjured the spellbinding energy I felt when I was surrounded by its strange fortune tellers, animated dioramas, horsemen of the apocalypse suspended from the high ceiling, and fully furnished rooms containing orchestras of instruments that would play themselves with the drop of a quarter. I could picture every scene vividly as his characters interacted with the oddities in its many rooms. I was envious of the characters who managed to sneak a ride on the make-believe creatures of the dimly lit antique carousel. As they were spun around on the platform, they were transported to another dimension, just as visiting places in your favorite books will transport you!

Su Casa es Mi Casa

Some shots from the juried exhibit, Gimme Shelter, at Columbia City Gallery in Seattle, where I am showing my project, Su Casa es Mi Casa (video and building cards). According to the gallery’s website, Gimme Shelter “speaks to the many types of dislocation happening in society today both locally and internationally. Artists working in 2D, 3D and video address issues of homelessness, gentrification and refugee dislocation.”

My project focuses on twelve meandering months of sacrificing stability to focus on art by completing an MFA, showing work abroad, having difficulty trying to find employment during school and after graduation, and thus also trying to find a long term residence, especially where rising rent costs are prohibitive. Here, 26 surfaces slept in during that time are the focal point. Some while house sitting, dog sitting, renting cheap rooms briefly, or visiting far away friends.

The images are rendered in impermanent media in a style touching on the vulnerability and fragility of a dollhouse, yet in some cases are also reminiscent of an interior blueprint. They are primarily recollections from memory vs. photographic representations. Therefore, the room renderings are wrought with inaccuracies and omissions. Words are imperceptible in the disorienting layered monologue which ponders the meaning of “home” for someone who has accepted nomadism and expansion through travel and creativity over domesticity, yet longs for a place to settle down. The disquieting incompleteness and constant change provides comfort through spaciousness and balances the alternative by thwarting staleness. On the other hand, constant movement is contrary to the stillness needed to support long term goals. Therefore, balance must be found between the two, just as it is required to build a house of cards. The concentration, energy, and persistence needed to succeed during this period of transition is apparent in the tension of the monologue and motion of the builder and camera operators, Stephanie Reid and Todd Rychener.

Camera operation: Stephanie Reid and Todd Rychener
Illustrations, Direction, and Editing by Stephanie Reid

Video: https://vimeo.com/221571137

Detailed images of the cards: http://haikuflash.photoshelter.com/gallery/Su-Casa-es-Mi-Casa/G0000UW0W15mhFLE/C0000nFrmMwTH.y4

Summertime

chirping near window

What kind of night bird is that?

Wait! That’s a frog song.

 

wings spread, slender neck

curves slowly down then straightens

graceful heron dance

 

duck swims at high speed

frantic flapping and quacking

paddling bird dog chase

 

indigo damsel

flew through window wings brush wrist

Granna died today

Gorman Falls and Colorado Bend State Park, Texas

Raccoons raid campsites

Barking echoes in canyons

Boars grumble in the night

 

Creatures in the Moon

Stills from a handmade book, Creatures in the Moon, that I made in collaboration with Todd Rychener to be sent to Telavi State University (Republic of Georgia) as a gift for their library. Book artist / educator, Miriam Schaer, will be delivering the books in person during her Fulbright awarded trip to teach and research felt and embroidery in art book making. Todd and I illustrated our book with colored pencils, gel pens, paint pigment, and gouache. The story is the third in a series of book films I am currently working on.

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Winter Shadows

In between larger, complex projects, I do simple ones like this little series of photos, Winter Shadows (a follow up to my Autumn Shadows series from 2015) in collaboration with another Austin artist, Todd Rychener, for the Weather show at Lower Level Creative Space in Denver with colleagues Lindey Anderson from Colorado (Gallery Director), Asher Mains from Grenada, and Andy Spaziani from Canada.

empty seed pods

dead leaves

bare twigs

empty seed pods

winter color

winter-shadows

 

 

 

 

A collection of photography on the theme Imperceptible Self

This summer the Transart Institute is hosting a Triennale, in Berlin, on the theme Imperceptible Self, a term coined by philosopher Rosi Braidotti.

I have curated a blog post, entitled Dissolve, of three photographers’ works which I feel poetically embody this theme. (*Not for viewing by children*).

To view it on the Triennale site, along with access to other entries for the festival, view it here: http://www.transarttriennale.org/blog/dissolve

OR view it below.

Raphael Umscheid

Ghosts

Approaches to art that are perpetually bright and sunny lack dimension as they ignore the darker aspects of life. The Surrealist André Breton coined the term “l’humour noir”, also known as black comedy or gallows humor, which takes a cynical approach to sensitive topics. It often makes light of them, sometimes in offensive ways, in order to prompt serious contemplation. L’humour noir writing usually concludes that life is meaningless, yet absurdly comical.

Similarly, in Umscheid’s “Ghosts” we might coin the term gray comedy. Here he represents the mental blind spots where our motivations are still secreted away from consciousness. This is the stage where we function as shades of ourselves. Yet the apparitions he depicts are sympathetic characters. Some are caught between oblivion and manifestation / ego and non-ego, not quite ready to surrender to the mystery of becoming-imperceptible. Like small children trying to find their way, he keenly describes their awkwardness. Their grasping at the invisible strings of the world as if it were a puppet is futile. Their imbalance and uncertainty causes them to collide into delicately gorgeous and vaguely humorous consequences. Even the “Made in Korea” marking sewn onto the borders of the fabric are part of the haphazard nature of these ghosts’ encounters. In Falter, a ghost drags its paint covered foot as if it had accidentally stumbled into it and is now attempting to wipe it off. In Fallen Petals, the apparition props up a dead flower on its hip as a final protest to fading away. The two almost seem to empathize with each other. In Pool’s Bottom, the phantom gives a shudder and impulsively attempts to maintain muscular control in the final throes of losing corporeality.

Others in his series appear as if they have finally succumbed to their dissolution. In Becoming the Other, individual personalities are lost as they merge to become new forms. In To the Heavens, lets its limp limbs float with the stars. Finally, in Uncloaking, it appears as if one is already levitating, and about to be unveiled after an incubation period. It has touched the invisible and is now prepared to function with a new mind state perpetually open to flux.

Painted Leg

Falter

Floating with the Stars

To the Heavens

Fading Petals

Fallen Petals

Uncloaking

Uncloaking

Shudder

Pool’s Bottom

Becoming Other

Becoming the Other

(proposed physical size 18″x 27″ prints on matte photo paper, framed in in 24” x 36” white metal or wood)

(Models: Dandie Doyle, Kate Kubala, Heather Sanford, Mechelle Gonzales, Rachel Theobald, and Jordan Schiappa)

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George Angelovski

Post Morality

How can men learn from the feminine Jungian archetype, the anima, theorized to be inside them all? She is said to visit their dreams to guide them towards enhancing intangible abilities such as intuition, receptivity to the irrational, and depth of emotion, all of which will balance their lives. In his Post Morality series, Angelovski has done just that by listening to his inner visions and dreams about how to proceed with a portrait session requested by the model.

Despite the collection seeming to be influenced of Joel Peter Witkin, after getting to know the model better, Jan Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring suddenly came to the photographer’s mind. That famous painting is sometimes considered a tronie, a 16thand 17thcentury term for Dutch and Flemish paintings of heads of universal character types, usually wearing costumes, and portrayed to show distinct expressions descriptive of those characters. A youth might be making a funny face or a witch might appear to be laughing hysterically. Sometimes the faces were obstructed by shadows to create a more dramatic image.

A subsequent dream of the model wearing one of artist Polly van der Glas’s “facebags” became the catalyst for the costume in these photos. Similarly to the ploy of shadows in tronies, the woman’s face is totally covered here leaving the expression to be found on the mask itself, which might be indicative of what the character is thinking. However, the fact that the figure is masked reveals to us that she embodies the skill of looking inward in contemplation. Perhaps even better able to communicate with the child in her womb. Angelovski then, has shown in these images a potent connection between spirit and flesh, not only of one’s self, but with others. What better archetype to embody this ideal than a mother?

Finally, it is very fitting that while trying to find a third person for this exhibition, I had a vision of George’s face in a dark stairwell with a spiral staircase. A few days later, I saw this Post Morality series and it dawned on me that it was the missing link between the other two artist’s works here.

with god under me

pilli

organ of corti

virgins milk figure 2

socrates bar

(proposed physical size 8″x 10″ in 11”x 14” ornate wooden frames remniscent of frames tronie paintings, or possibly as an installation using rope and clamps to imply a cradle)

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Analia Sirabonian

(in collaboration with her brother, Andrés

Where is the beginning and ending of our flesh? When we empathize with another? When we are outsiders who do not function by the status quo? When we build our lives around genuine passion and devotion to our work? When we commune with our environment?

Here, Analia explores these questions by seeking the answers in the story of the unusual life circumstances of herself and her brother, Andrés. Although they have the same parents, he was first born with a natural genetic alteration causing physical disfigurements and a mental disorder, whereas she was born after genetic adjustments were made to ensure she was healthy. In opposite ways, how they were brought into the world is very different from the majority of humans. Together they are outside of societal norms. Their portrait together tenderly expresses her attempt to empathize with and protect him, hiding his protruding rib cage and face, while at the same time gently placing her hand on his. In her second piece the gyroscopic panorama of the kitchen in a restaurant where Andrés is a potato peeler, he again only shows his lovely, dedicated hands to us. In the final photograph of this diptych, she explains that her series of misshapen potatoes represent the ones he discards at work. Thus either revealing his commonality with or mirroring of the majority, the compulsion to discard that which is not uniform.

Autorretrato II (Self-Portrait)

**Below is a still image from a 360 degree interactive gyroscopic image, entitled José, after the owner of the restaurant when Andrés works.

To view it, click here, then scroll left, right, up and down, for the full view: http://analiasirabonian.esy.es/jose/

Jose detail

Misshapen potatoes (1 of a series of 3)

(proposed physical size: 12”x 12” in 14″ x 14″ frames + 1 large monitor with internet access and mouse for interactive 360 gyroscope panorama)

UK coasts

winds build to a gale

foam caresses stone shorelines

birds hover like kites

Why I rarely socialize December-March

seikô udoku; kakô tôdoku (In summer, cultivate the fields; in winter, cultivate the mind.)