a blog about poetic creativity*******************ALL IMAGES © Stephanie Reid for HaikuFlash

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Mockingbird records

Texas sounds then sings them back

Even chirping frog


Yellow with brown marks

Camouflaged, still, and waiting

Sunflower spider

waiting brighter cropped

snack time


Spirit House

The first Saturday of every November is usually the day of the Austin Powwow, which I have attended every year since the early 2000’s. I go to honor my Native American ancestors and to support the culture. I go to see other people, especially with Cherokee and Choctaw blood, in one place. I go to feel the drums and voices. They vibrate in my very core, so I am moved to dance near them during the All Tribes Blanket Dance. It’s fitting that it’s the same weekend of Halloween/Samhain and Dia de los Muertos, other days for honoring ancestors and recognizing the spirit world. So when a dancer from my graduate school art program in Berlin, Claire Elizabeth Barratt ( http://www.cillavee.com/cillavee.html ) asked me if I wanted to collaborate that weekend when she was traveling through on her dance performance tour, I said yes, but the event would have to pay homage to those traditions that I would be missing out on celebrating as I normally do. We had worked together before, with me on video and her dance, but I am a dancer as well, so planned to do both…

I wanted the event to be interactive. Being from Texas, where Mexican culture permeates our state with color and flavor, I thought of ofrenda (offering alters). I also lived in Thailand for two years, so naturally I thought of Thai spirit houses, which are in front of all businesses and homes to offer recognition and thanks to the previous inhabitants of that particular piece of land. Things that are included in these are photos or statuettes of people or animals, flowers, incense, food, and other objects which symbolize things they enjoyed. I decided to make a spirit house from fallen sticks in our yard woven together with mustang grapevines growing along our fence. My boyfriend Todd and I had almost finished it at this point:

spirit house night w nik

A Wiccan friend of mine had a gathering for Samhain where everyone held hands under the moonlight and talked about those who they missed. I found it to be a cathartic experience to vocalize my appreciation and love for my great-grandmother who had died recently. I was unable to attend her funeral, but this somehow seemed far more meaningful than any funerals I have gone to. So, I wanted my guests to share stories about their loved ones who have passed away and to bring something to place in the spirit house. Thanks were given to the memories of hands making tortillas that inspired the love of drumming, the tragic loss of a dear cousin to the heroine epidemic, and of the talents and good qualities passed down from ancestors. Things guests brought were photos, a pet cat collar, a drawing done by a dear aunt, and a piece of jewelry given as a gift. Everyone took their mementos home that night, but here’s the spirit house with Todd and mine mementos still on it.

evening spirit house smll fnl

Detail shots:

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Most people who have lived in Austin for a long time are true music lovers. The wire tree that the spirit house sits on was inspired by the massive escarpment oak behind Central Market. The long limbs are made of wire twisted with guitar, mandolin, and sitar strings strung with an eclectic array of beads that I’ve collected from around the world. Most of the musicians I know in town are paid performers, so aren’t available or interested in playing for other reasons. Luckily, I found out from my coworker, Audra Tillman, that she and her teammate Michael Lopez, are community percussionists, meaning they regularly attend drum circles for enjoyment and/or healing ceremonies such as sweat lodges. I was planning to create a studio piece playing from speakers for the dance performance part of our event, but they generously agreed to drum for it instead. Michael has a large collection of percussion instruments and agreed to bring extras so that guests could join in. He brought several including an ocean drum, heard in the Water (Summoning) video below and a thunder stick, heard in the Fire (Magnetism) video. This way there would be full audience participation from the spirit house gathering to the performance. I had loosely planned arrangements for the music and during our first practice, another drummer, Bob Collier, let me know that his friend Robert Bingham, a seasoned Native American flute player, would be joining us.

Finally,  I wanted to do the performance under the massive Pecan Tree in our side yard. Full with growing pecans, it’s branches drooped to the ground like an escarpment oak. It’s far reaching arm extended in the perfect spot in the grassy performance space and was at the perfect height for the billowing fabric. The veil between the earth dimension and those beyond it is said to be thin at that time of year, so our ceremonial dance used that symbolism in its props.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Another tree gave of itself for material for our drapery. I wanted to a braid willow ring like I have for dreamcatchers, but that willow was from Wisconsin. It is too hot for willow to grow easily here. There is a water reservoir next to my workplace, though and a big storm brought a few large sections of it down to the ground. I carried it home and Todd and I wove it into a ring to hang the mesh from. On the night of the gathering, the weather was absolutely perfect. The temp was just right with a slight breeze to ripple the veil~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Grayscale veil

Below is a collection of videos and photos taken on various cameras, some during the performance, some reinactments and constructions. As much as I wish I had a full video of that night, I really wanted the attendees to enjoy themselves by participating with instruments rather than documenting. I also didn’t want to inject a roaming camera person and special lighting into the performance space. Still, thanks to shutterbug enthusiasts Raphael Umscheid, Todd Rychener, and myself, there is enough documentation to share the story in an A/V format. Additional thanks to guests who attended, improvised with instruments, and shared stories at the Spirit House: Jodi Brooks, Scott Jones, Ayanna Spears, Gil, Emily Summerfield, and Jeremy Simon. If we decide to do this again next year, I will definitely make sure to get photos of guests.

Before Claire arrived, I had designed four movements from 1) airy/abstract choreography and music transitioning into 2) watery movements, symbolic of summoning, followed by 3) the percussionists creating a circle of sound by playing from left-center-right as a video of silhouettes walking in a loop would be projected onto the curtain (https://vimeo.com/311101181). After whirling around in the round, Claire’s character, The Medium and I, Walker Between Worlds, would finally sense each other between the thin veil…our hands magnetized to each other. 4) The last movement was to embody the material plane with a deliberate dance rhythm and African-inspired action as the Medium pulled me out from behind the veil, removed my pale cloak and handed me a drum to play as I beckoned the guests to the Spirit House altar.

After Claire arrived, she added the missing pieces that would tie the story together by adding distinct characterization of her part as Medium. She would be Animal as Medium and wear her cat suit as she did the magic of the natural world. She also brought beautiful flowing fabrics to dance with that made it clear through visual queues of how the fabric was activated, and which color it was, that it represented one of the four elements.

With no further ado************************************

Air (Abstraction)

Grayscale 7057

https://vimeo.com/315359307

Water (Summoning and Hypnotism)

best water cropped-2

https://vimeo.com/315365105

(Magnetism)

best magnetized

https://vimeo.com/315367631

Earth (Manifestation)

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It almost felt like the tree giving thanks for us honoring it when we harvested three big grocery bags full of plump and tasty pecans this winter.


Even the shadows

at twilight couldn’t conceal

ripe pawpaw from me

 


Mockingbird chick’s

Relentless screeching to mom,

“Gimme more bugs! MORE!”


Sparrow on one arm

Mockingbird on the other

Weathered wooden chair


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


UK coasts

winds build to a gale

foam caresses stone shorelines

birds hover like kites


smell, taste, and hear snow

winter’s blood, water’s sleep dance

fragility’s breath


New York City, Chelsea District, January 2015

All images copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Reid

Click any image below to enlarge

To view the area from a different angle, take a walk on the Chelsea High Line, an elevated railroad track that has been converted into a boardwalk and garden.

If you’re a foodie, be sure to check out the Chelsea Market which holds a wide array of gourmet restaurants, a fresh spice vendor, books, and sometimes an arts and crafts bazaar inside a beautifully restored National Biscuit Company factory. This is also where The Food Network has its offices.

 

Also recommended is the cozy Co Pane pizza serving 17 unique, wood-fired combos.

http://www.co-pane.com/index.php

Fashionistas! Check out the Comme des Garçons shop. It’s like being in a toyshop elf’s closet. Besides pointy shoes, apparel becomes outrageously fun wearable sculpture in here.

CAM01625

 

Chelsea Gallery Tour Favs:

Murray Guy Gallery, Lucy Skaer’s exhibit Sticks and Stones takes two forms cut from a dissected mahogany tree and duplicates each in a variety of materials. This successful interpretation of belonging to a group with similarities while retaining individuality gives new, exciting meaning to sculpture.

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Peggy Preheim’s exhibit Archipelago combines nostalgic pencil drawings of people in found photos with pressed leaves or other natural materials such as feathers and fur. The delicate illustrations ask us to imagine stories of interaction between gentle humans and nature.

 

Gagosian Gallery, Takashi Murakami’s exhibit In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow is exhilarating in its scale and use of cutting edge materials. Taking queue, as Murakami does, from graphic design precious metals sheets are embossed with skulls then over painted with acrylic landscapes and characters straight from a comic book and screened designs of acidic suns. Thick glossy lacquers embedded with glitter enhance the dimensional quality of the works where mandalas of Buddhist masters beckon neophytes to walk the thin line between the land of living and dead, their insane gestures and eyes give warning of what we will experience there. Gigantic guardian sculptures guard the gates of Nirvana and fight those who try to enter before they are well prepared. The gorgeous scent of ancient wood permeates the front gallery which is entered through a replica of a shinto shrine.

 

303 Gallery, Mike Nelson’s exhibit Gang of Seven takes found objects collected on his tour of the west coast of the United States and Canada and turns them into imaginative and sometimes disturbing sculpture.