Into the Deep Group Show

For the past 10 weeks I have been honored to work along side Catherine Just and 10 amazing women photographers to create a body of work in a master photography class called Into the Deep. I have known Catherine for many years but this was only the second time I have taken a course from her. By spending some time every day making and photographing the world around me, I have been able to strengthen my creative practice, something that it so important for artists of any medium.

Throughout the process Catherine challenged us to view as much photography and art as we could. This is something I do anyway on a weekly basis but Catherine opened my eyes to additional photographers that I did not previously know about. Cig Harvey was one such artist. I was drawn to her work because we both shoot mainly in a square format and her subject matter of home, nature and family were intriguing to me. Her handmade photo books are beautiful pieces of art in their own right and something I aspire to create more of with my work.

For Into the Deep, my subject matter included Reno/Tahoe, San Francisco and Los Angeles. I live in the Reno/Tahoe area but am constantly drawn to San Francisco and LA for work, family and play and have a deep love and longing to live back in the city.

All the photographs for this project are black and white and I chose to exclude myself from the images. It was important to me to be able to evoke a feeling and sense of longing through what I was seeing in the camera. Many days, I would stop the car and capture an image of the clouds as I glanced and saw something that caught my eye. In addition, when I travel I like to sit in the window seat so I can glance at the world below the airplane. Again, if something captured my attention, I would shoot several images through the window of the plane and adjust them slightly to create the feeling I was looking for.

In the course of the last 10 weeks, I took hundreds of photos and narrowed them down to just 20 for the exhibit. This was probably the hardest part of creating a collection. Being able to decide what stays in and what gets discarded, I am sure is a life long endeavor as you keep creating.

At the beginning of the course, Catherine asked us who inspires our work or who is inspiring us now? As part of my business I work with many creatives, who constantly inspire me to work harder and smarter but for this particular project, my friend and fellow photographer – Nick Holmes influenced much of the work I created. His use of light and shadow to enhance his subject matter encouraged me to view my work in a completely different way and allowed me to set aside my expectations of perfection and just shoot. For that I am grateful.

To view the entire show please visit Into the Deep on Catherine’s website. This group of women are remarkably talented and I am honored to be exhibiting along side them.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone!

My Immigration Story

(me – 4th grade – Fall, 1977 – Australia)

I have lived in the United States for 40 years. I am a green card holder and in process of becoming a US citizen. Most people do not know this about me. On the surface I look and speak like any other American. I am married and have 2 children that were born and raised in this country. I am by birth, Australian. My family is all Australian and I only have one family member currently residing in the US – my step father; which is how I came to move to the US at the age of 10. He was and still is a scientist and at the point in his career when we moved to this country, he had exhausted all his opportunities for research and a Ph.D.. In order for him to continue and grow and make a difference in the science community he needed to make a shift and my mum, my sister and I followed him.

In some ways this is a story about love and following your heart as much as it is a story about the people that come into your life that are meant to teach you a lesson about that love and help you grow as a person.

We moved from Canberra, Australia (Canberra is the capital city much like Washington D.C.) to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois the home of University of Illinois in the fall of 1977. I remember sitting in the airport in Canberra saying goodbye to my family not realizing of course at the age of 10 that I would never live in my home country again. Our travel to the US took us to Sydney, Tahiti, and then Los Angeles where I experienced my first Sambos restaurant and a grilled cheese sandwich – the one with Kraft Singles – american cheese melted to perfection. I had never seen cheese like this before and was enamored with its color and texture. We visited Disneyland and stayed at a hotel where all the bushes were shaped like animals. As a 10 year old this was thrilling! After Disney we flew up the coast of California to San Francisco to visit my mum’s cousin. I instantly fell in love with the hills, the ocean, the cable cars and the fresh northern California air. I would not know until much later how significant this city would be in my life today. On a walk around Fisherman’s Wharf we stopped at a cart vendor selling sea shells and I purchased two cowrie shells. Those shells have followed my travels around the US and sit on the side of my sink in the bathroom as a reminder of moving to this country as a little girl.

(our first home in the United States – Orchard Downs, Urbana, Illinois)

Once we left San Francisco we arrived in Chicago at O’Hare International Airport. It was cold and dreary and grey much like Chicago is from November to May. It was bustling and loud and much different from anything I had ever seen before. After a short stop we boarded a small plane for a quick trip to Champaign. Exiting the plane was like entering a new world. Central Illinois was home to farmland – cows, corn and soy beans. To this day I cannot eat soy beans as the smell of them in that flat country air is too strong a reminder of the place I would spend the next 8 years of my life. My step father picked us up at the airport and drove us to our new home in faculty and student housing just south and east of the main university campus. The housing was a series of apartment buildings from the 1960’s. Our apartment was at the end of one of the buildings on the first floor. It was two bedrooms and I would be sharing a bedroom with my sister. There was no carpet in the apartment just linoleum floor that in the summer would flood because the neighborhood was constructed on swamp land. In addition, there were no laundry facilities in the apartment so my mom would walk two blocks to the laundry building each week to wash our clothes.

(my Australian home)

This was so different from where we lived in Australia. We had a house in suburban Canberra with 3 bedrooms and beautiful property that my mother had purchased as a single, working mother in the early 70’s. I think at how difficult it must have been for her – coming to a new country, a new culture so drastically different from what she was used to and unable to work because of her visa. But somehow she managed and made friends.

(1978 – Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School – Urbana, Illinois)
My friends and a family that still have such significance in my life today would be met through school. My first day, just a few days after arriving in Urbana, I would enter 5th grade. There were elementary schools close by to us but we were bused to an outlying black neighborhood north of the university. I along with friends from Japan, Israel, Zimbabwe, Australia and the US intermingled with students from the neighborhood and it did not seem to make a difference who we were or where we came from. I remember entering Mrs. Malone’s 5th grade classroom and being welcomed by students from all over the world. Somehow I was still very nervous because I was different. I had a very thick Australian accent and that made me feel uncomfortable. There was a sweet girl with beautiful brown hair that her mother would hand curl into the most incredible curls I had ever seen – she smiled at me and offered for me to sit next to her – we became fast friends and later that first day I would ride the bus back to our neighborhood with her. She lived with her mother and step father as well in another set of apartments just a few bus stops down the street from me. Together, my new friend Sonya and I would experience sushi, Halloween and learning about the Jewish culture from our Israeli friends. One of my favorite memories was ice skating together on the weekends and stopping for ice cream at Baskin Robbins before getting on the bus to go home. We would stand at the bus stop in 15 degree weather eating our favorite flavors Rainbow Sherbet and Mint Chocolate Chip on a sugar cone. Our parents became friends as well and shared a similar background of science and university life in Urbana.

As our family began to grow and we added another sibling – my brother, we moved into faculty housing and a 3 bedroom house. Sonya’s family moved as well and lived just down the street from us. I would spend many Saturday nights with them and was introduced to Saturday Night Live on their black and white television. We watched Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase and John Belushi make light of American culture in the 70’s. We would have weekend sleepovers that consisted of listening to music, watching TV and singing songs while getting ready for bed. Sonya’s mom Linda would make us waffles, bacon and strawberries and fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast. Why I remember the breakfast is because she would heat the syrup so it was warm when we put it on our waffles. I had never known anyone to do this and I thought it was wonderful. We listened to Saturday Night Fever and Grease on her stereo and Linda, a librarian at the university, introduced me to American writers that added to my love of reading. Andre, her step father shared his love of art and watercolor paintings that I still receive today in a handwritten note each Christmas. My family now has dubbed it “Andre art” and it fills my house in every corner.

I loved going to Sonya’s house. It always felt like home should feel – warm, loving and kind. Their house smelled good, like fresh baked cookies and lavender all mixed together. Throughout middle school Sonya’s family would include me on trips and I traveled with them often to visit family in Southern Illinois. Her grandfather was an officer in the air force and I remember going to his retirement party at Scott Air Force base and being enamored with what an important man he was. They always made me feel welcome and part of the family.

(Summer 1984 – Stamford, CT)

 

By the time we were in high school, Sonya’s family moved to the east coast. We remained in close contact and visited them one summer on a trip to New York City. After high school, Sonya returned to University of Illinois for college and she and her family would become a significant part of my life again. As a junior in high school, my mother returned to Australia with my newly born sister. At the age of 17, I decided to stay to finish out my senior year of high school. I lived with my step father and after graduation left for Carbondale, Illinois to attend Southern Illinois University. At this time in my life my parents decided to divorce. Sonya’s family again, made me part of theirs. I would spend the next several years joining them for holiday’s and being included in all their family festivities. I would visit Sonya at school and stay in her dorm with her on many occasions. Her friends became mine and we share a group of women that are some of the most important people in my life still today. Many of my own family traditions, I have extracted from things they did for me and their loved ones during the holiday season. What I remember most from my time with Sonya’s family is the generosity and kindness that they shared with everyone. It did not matter who you were or where you came from but if you were in their house you mattered; you were family and they never made you forget that.

(June 1990)

After college, when I married my husband, they were there again. Sonya was a part of my wedding party. The extension of our friendship from such an early age, does not happen often and I am grateful for the love and kindness of Hardin and D’Avignon families. Sonya met her husband through Teach for America and they both fight for education rights of students around the country and in their hometown of Baltimore, MD. We don’t see each other as much now but we pick up where we left off and our friendship remains strong. As I write this I realize that I have been friends with this family and Sonya specifically for 40 years this November. Three quarters of my life has been influenced by their kindness, love and generosity. This American family who took in a foreigner and befriended many others from varying cultures who to this day fight for education, inclusion and rights of all people. This is what a true American family represents and I am proud to say that I know them and love them deeply.

September Creativity Tips – Starting a Personal Project

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“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits” – Twyla Tharp

Back in June, I asked you to follow along with a new book I was reading called The Wander Society. I have read about 3/4 of the book. In it, Keri Smith discusses Walt Whitman and the fact that he may be one of the founders of this “secret society”. I’m not sure what I think about the possibility of a secret society of artists and creatives but I do believe it’s a great place to begin to explore and find new ways of refining your path.

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[Mary Jo Hoffman – STILL – relative losses]

This month, I’m taking that explorer notion and opening it up to “personal projects”. These are projects you create that are purely for the desire of making and building your skill set as an artist. I have completed several of these over the past few years and find my art and photography has really grown because of the discipline to do something continuously.

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[Mary Jo Hoffman – STILL – one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small]

I’m also inspired by other artists and their thought processes behind what they create. Have you seen STILL blog? It is a blog created by artist – Mary Jo Hoffman. She has been sharing a daily photo for (4) years, of gathered natural objects, on a white background. The images are strikingly beautiful but its also the discipline to keep creating after such a long period of time that interests me.

 

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[Lisa Congdon – Collection a Day – 2010]

Of course, I couldn’t write a post about personal projects without including, my dear friend Lisa Congdon. One of her first personal projects is called: A Collection a Day where she photographed a collection each day for 365 days. This project had it’s own blog and eventually turned into a book published by Uppercase Magazine.

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[Lisa Congdon – Experiments in Blue – Week 34]

Lisa’s most recent project is entitled Experiments in Blue. For 52 weeks, Lisa is painting, drawing and creating artwork using primarily blue as a starting point for her creations. As you can see these are two very different projects that show a great range in her development as an artist.

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[Lisa Congdon – Experiments in Blue – Week 23]

By continually stretching yourself and gathering subjects that interest you, your art, photography and creative discipline will grow into a body of work that over time can become a jumping off point for further exploration.

In the coming months I will be exploring personal projects in greater depth and sharing some of my personal journeys with you.

Have a great Thursday!

Note: Special Thanks to Mary Jo Hoffman for the use of her images and to Lisa Congdon for the constant friendship and YES! when asked to use her images!

 

Nick Holmes: Time Spent Falling

Poetry has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. As a child my aunt-Sally Morrison would read A. A. Milne out loud to me and my cousin; later in high school I remember reading Beowulf and really falling in love with way the words flowed across the page. This summer, I picked up a copy of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman and have I Sing The Body Electric” marked dutifully with a pencil. I had almost forgotten my love of language and then I read Time Spent Falling by my friend Nick Holmes.

Nick is a portrait photographer, actor and an incredibly talented poet. His portrait work spans across Hollywood and beyond and I feel blessed that my own son Ben is included in his portfolio. You may know Nick as a “Gilmore Guy” who is reprising his role as Robert on the upcoming Gilmore Girls – A Year in the Life. But to me, it’s his words and photography that really show his true artistry.

Poetry is not something that you read quickly; instead it is something to be savored to allow the words to truly enter your soul. It is a beautiful form of writing that expresses deep emotions and feeling without being pretentious. Nick captures this perfectly with his prose and keeps you wanting more.

 

Time Spent Falling renewed something in me that has been laying under the surface for many years. Sometimes in life we can forget parts of our deepest selves only to be reminded by beautiful words on a page. Nicks poetry does just that…gives you a reminder, a nudge if you will, to something deep inside and encourages you in bringing it back to the surface.

In his words:

“My hopeful wish is that any one of these, with luck perhaps a few, will serve you as they served me. A memory recalled, a flavor not forgotten, a lover called to attention, or the simple escape inside yourself.”

I quite often write about the cross over of disciplines in this space and have lately been broadening my reach of creatives to share with you here. As artists, we are often called to many different sources of creativity, whether it be acting, photography, painting, or writing. Nick transforms these many disciplines and shares his mastery of seeing and feeling in both his writing and photography.

Virginia Madsen wrote about the book:

“In many ways, poetry is the music of literature. It often reflects the changing moods and trends in society. But somewhere along the way, we have lost the gift of language. TIME SPENT FALLING is reminiscent of a time when that gift was treasured…”

Thank you Nick for sharing this treasure with the world and thank you for providing all the excerpts, photos and cover art for this piece. You are a pleasure and someone I am happy to call a friend.

You can find Nick at the following:

Website: Nick Holmes

Instagram: @narcissusholmes @narcissushorse and @nickholmeshair

Twitter: @narcissusholmes

Have a great weekend everyone!

NOTE: Please do not use images from this post unless you have permission from the artist. Thank You.

 

 

 

 

June Creative Tips

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” Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity that you are doing. It is an attitude, an inner approach – how you look at things . . . Whatsoever you do, if you do it joyfully, if you do it lovingly, if your act of doing is not purely economical, then it is creative.” –  Osho

Its summer! and time to go outside. It’s also time to wander, discover and explore the world around us. For me it’s all about travel and visits to Lake Tahoe and mini adventures that I can create at the last minute to see where I will end up. These are the best ways I find to develop my creative muscles. I’ll be traveling to San Francisco and Chicago and will have my camera ready to capture all that I see.

I just came across a new book by Keri Smith called the Wander Society. I have been a huge fan of Keri’s for quite some time and even started my own creative journey on this blog with her 100 Ideas. I’m intrigued by the subject matter of the book and want to go exploring and wandering to see what I can find out about this secret society.

This month, I want you to explore. If you are so inclined, purchase the book and follow along with me. Or pull out your phone, camera or sketchbook and go outside. Take a walk, stop along the way and record what you see, hear, feel and smell. These records can turn into inspiration for your writing, your art or just be something special for your sketchbook. If you get stuck, pull an idea off Keri’s 100 ideas worksheet and see where that takes you.

Most importantly, these exercise are meant to be fun, easy and not perfect. Get outside and enjoy!