Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hello from Bali!

Well hello, Bali! This will be short because the internet connection is sporadic. But wanted you to know I am here in beautiful Bali, and we (Arcangelo Productions and I) are planning a photographic workshop here in March, 2010. Details as they unfold. In the meantime, I'm amassing photos and stories and look forward to sharing them with you soon.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Massage Story, or, "Does this panty make my butt look fat?"

Massages can be so very many things, but let me state at the onset here that if it weren't for regular massages, my shoulders would be above my neck. Dick and I have a massage therapist that comes to our home, sets up in a quiet room in our house and does her magic. She is very intuitive and never does the same massage twice. She can feel her way around aching muscles and know exactly how much or how little pressure they need. We also chit-chat throughout most of the massage although I've also been known to fall asleep. She gives advice about stretches that would be beneficial and also has ideas about what herbs or vitamins help with one thing or another. She is an exceptional human being and a cherished friend.
When I'm in Santa Fe, I have a particular massage therapist that I request when I book at Ten Thousand Waves. She is also intuitive with her touch, and is a breath therapist and naturopath.
Early on, I was shy and didn't know what the protocol is for massages. Mainly I wondered: do I have to get bare naked? But massage therapists are discreet and respectful, so now I'm perfectly comfortable with getting naked on the table. Good M.T.s are like doctors in that respect...they do this for a living, they're good at it, I don't have anything that they haven't seen before - a bold comment to make considering that for 16 years I didn't have a left breast and for the past 4 I've had a fake one.
But I digress...
Because we are staying at the Hilton here in Kuala Lumpur, I trust their choices of massage therapists so I booked a massage. But still, I don't know what massages are like here in Malaysia. Everywhere I go things are a little different. The young Asian woman led me into the room and pointed out a robe and some towels and then left me, saying she'd be back in 3 minutes. What am I supposed to do with the robe? Does she want me to wear it? And what about the towels? Should I wrap one around my waist? And what's this weightless little bundle she handed me, slippers? I opened it, it must be something for me to cover my hair to protect it from the, it''s....disposable underwear! I put them on and they looked like a diaper. That was full. On both sides. Not a good look. I decided forget the robe and the towels, this diaper/panty will be my nod to modesty and I laid face down on the table. She returned and with a tiny little voice asked if the pressure was too much, and did I like the fragrance - yes and yes! I had chosen lemon grass which is supposed to be refreshing. I nixed peppermint because mom used to chew peppermint gum when we went on road trips when I was a kid and I associate it with throwing up in the car.
OK, anyway, other than her checking in with me a few times we didn't converse. My brain is tired from trying to understand accents and I just want feel better. She worked efficiently and thoroughly...she probably executes the exact same massage for everyone but it didn't feel like she wasn't fully present. Even though the pressure was deep, there was enough gentleness so that I didn't feel tortured. The best massage therapists will never make sudden moves or whip the sheets or towels around. Everything is fluid, nothing is startling. But suddenly she hopped up on the table in one fell swoop, sat down, hard, on my legs and yanked my diaper/panties down about six inches and bulldozed my back. From the middle of my butt to my neck, back down and up, back down and up, back down and up, it felt like giant arms were ironing out every last bit of tightness. It felt so good I might have even let out a little gasp. Except for that butt crack thing. Will she pull them back up? Does she always do this?
"Does this panty make my butt look fat?" I wanted to ask that but there was that language barrier...
In the end, if you'll pardon that expression, I'm not sure why I had to put that thing on in the first place.
When she was done she left the room so I could get ready to leave. Is this when I wear the robe? I put it on because it was just too pretty not to use. But then I took it right off. Because I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to leave with my own clothes on. I removed the diaper/panty and put them on the floor. That didn't seem right, so so I picked them up and put them on the table near the brush. No, that's tacky, so I put them on the massage table. I guess I'm kind of sorry I didn't keep them so Dick could see for himself I'm not making this up.

P.S. She did pull the diaper/panty back up when she was finished with my back. Doesn't that just.........crack you up?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Greetings froom Kuala Lumpur, and a glimpse of Singapore

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, en route to Bali. We should be out exploring the city, or at the very least the gardens nearby our hotel but I can't bring myself to budge. Any efforts I make today will be to eat or have a massage. At the moment I don't even want to do either of those things; it's great to relax after some hectic travel days and just "be." I night feel differently if I didn't have such a remarkable view of both the city and the hillside from the 23rd floor of the Hilton. Thanks to Expedia - cheap price, amazing room. Paris won't be buying any Gucci handbags with what we paid!
I assume that this will be the last blog entry for a week or two, since internet access in Bali will be sporatic. So I'm just going to post some snapshots from our walk to Singapore's Chinatown - was that really only yesterday? My favorite moment of the day was late dinner at a Thai restaurant noting the sounds: The Carpenters on the radio barely audible beneath the chatter of many languages in the dining room, and night prayers wafting from the mosque across the street.

Gods and goddesses at the Sri Mariamman Temple
(So far, three people have suggested that I Photoshop my head into this photo and have it be my holiday card this year):

A tense game of Chinese least for two out of three guys:

Legs and a cigarette:

A few of the 10,000 Buddhas in the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (Really!):

Incence at the Buddhist temple:

Singapore Explorer:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bali-bound, and an homage to travel in the 50s

Today begins another adventure in travel, a photographic expedition to Bali. On the way, we have overnight stops in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur with enough time to explore a neighborhood or two in each place. I've packed my camera gear many times for trips such as this, but each time I do I start the process from scratch. How many photo cards should I bring? How many photos, realistically, will I take? What lenses do I really need? Should I take my tripod?
Can never have too many
Wide angle, zoom and macro

We will be visiting our friends Stacey and Rob from Arcangelo Productions. It's always an adventure spending time with Stacey. Although Ive only known her for a couple of years, she could easily have been that grade school friend who made me laugh uncontrollably in church and hiked her uniform skirt up an inch when the nuns weren't looking.

Today I'm going to post some photos that I stumbled across yesterday. These were taken near Pie Town in New Mexico, and are an homage to a very different era of travel. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Timeless India

Just last night, I found out that my photographic series "Timeless India" was accepted into Review Santa Fe. I was thrilled! RSF is a prestigious portfolio review event that involves meeting with influential people such as gallery owners, museum curators, publishers, etc. This event will occur the first weekend in June, so I have plenty of time to gather promotional materials and organize my thoughts.
India is such a colorful place that I was surprised to find certain images worked better in black and white or sepia. I sifted through hundreds of images to experiment. Here are a few of my favorites. In the case of the photo of women stooping to sweep leaves, I think color and black and white work equally well. What do you think? The beggar in front of the wall turned away from me when he saw my camera, but I love that he is looking perhaps wistfully at adverts for places he could never go. Or maybe he wasn't really looking at them at all. The musician, the weaver, the little girl with such intense eyes...without color, there is nothing to distract from the essence of these images.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reflections on the Taj Mahal and What Is and Isn't Awesome

The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful structures in the world by pretty much anyone's standards. Although it is dramatic to see it from the vantage point that provides the typical frontal view, I was most in awe standing close to this famous mausoleum that combines Persian, Ottoman, Indian and Islamic architecture. Dwarfed by it's massive walls and gliding my hand across the cool marble surface, it occurred to me that the word "awesome" gets overused.  The Taj Mahal is awesome. That latest electronic gadget or the fact that I am going to Bali next week is not awesome. 

While I was strolling the grounds and finding interesting views, I was often approached by Indian men who would want to guide me to the best places from which to take a photo. Of course, they were the typical places where crowds of people gathered so they could all snap the same photo. Most Indians speak English, but these men did not. They just couldn't understand why I would want to be crouched in the dirt under the tree at the side, or standing directly beneath the Taj Mahal looking up. I kept repeating "but I don't want to take a photo from there." They wanted to be paid for their ineffectual efforts and eventually left me alone.

As you can see I most certainly did take a typical photograph of the Taj Mahal. I overheard someone complaining that it was too misty that morning, but I relished the opportunity to see it any light. You can see in one of the photos that the mist is rising from the Yamuna River which flows behind the Taj..

Monday, March 9, 2009

What to name the antique doll portraits?!?

Coming up with a name for this series has been quite a challenge for me. I absolutely love the suggestion Poupee Tete ("doll head", en francais). Crazed Ancestors and Doll Face are both appropriate and fun. Not incidentally, these doll heads are a subgroup of my ongoing photographic series Secret Keepers. Since large (18" x 24") framed photos of the Secret Keepers will be the focus of the June exhibit at Jennie Cooley Gallery in Santa Fe, I will simply call the show "The Secret Keepers and Their Ancestors." It's all about using what is familiar to the art community there, building on the foundation that has already been laid. 
However, I do want them to grow their own legs, so to speak, and will continue to consider names. I've added "All Dolled Up" and "Plastic Relatives" to my list. My plan is to have a greeting card line of these images. You'll be the first to know!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Postcards from the Edge

Working with photographs never gets boring for me because I balance the sometimes urgent work of preparing for exhibitions with the playfulness that constantly exists in my head. If I'm feeling too bogged down with any given project, I sift through my images and find ideas for levity, even silliness. These postcards have come from some of those welcome intrusions.
Framed versions of "Greetings from Valley of the Dolls" and "The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful" exhibited at the Jennie Cooley Gallery in Santa Fe last year. 

Friday, March 6, 2009

Color, for a change

Spring in is the air (sort of, I'm in Michigan at the moment) so let's bring in some color!
My photographic expedition to India in November 2009 introduced me to a riot of colors and smells and sounds, oh my, all of which can easily overwhelm a westerner like me. It was by far the most intense experience of my life.
I took over 2500 photos in India. That seems outrageous, but let me explain one of my methods of capturing the right moment. If I see a background that I like, for instance this painted Sai Baba wall, I find a good vantage point. then I stand there, frame the scene the way I like it, and wait for passers-by. It takes patience and intent. Plenty of people walked past that wall one direction and the other, and I have about a dozen different photos to document that fact. This one stands out. The balance of colors and movement work well. The wall by itself is only mildly interesting, and the men are much more so in this context. And of course I'm wondering...are they going to go to the gypsy dance?
One of my favorite scenes to stumble upon was the swarm of saris (I just made that up, but it works) at a village market. These young women were buying shoes, laughing, talking, trying them on. One on the far left turned to regard me, but I didn't see her at the time. When I saw the image I realize that it is her gesture that makes the photo come alive.
The flower vendor at the market has such a sweet face, a contast to the sadness in the gypsy boy's eyes.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Another "Crazed Ancestor" photo

Here is another "crazed ancestor." They don't have a name, I've only produced a couple, and yet I'm already thinking ahead to framing. What sort of frame should these characters have? Something old fashioned? Something campy?


I love the ideas submitted for the name of my antique portraits. Haven't decided on one yet, still walking around saying them out loud to hear what feels and sounds good. anything in French in high on the list, by the way.
What a pleasure it was for me to meet with friends Kate and Jeanie ( last night to talk about shrine-making and assemblages. It seems as though I've worked nonstop on photography since going to Burma in 2006. Using real scissors, hearing papers rattle and knowing that the smell of gel medium is not far behind was a thrill for me.

I've made shrines of one sort or another all of my life. I grew up Catholic, after all. But now, whether a shrine honors a deceased loved one, a Hindu goddess, our precious earth or a piece of chocolate makes no difference to me. The best ones are rarely in a church or temple, but on the side of the road, a niche in a tree, above the kitchen sink, hanging on a wall or sitting on a nightstand. They are unique and wonderful and infused with the personality of its creator.

Michael deMeng's name came up. How could it not? He is the assemblage king ( and the inspiration for countless other assemblage and shrine makers around the country. Around the world, even, since he's spreading the word - and the gesso - in Italy, Australia and Bali. I think of assemblages as shrines with all of it's components glued together. Here is a photo of one of the assemblages I made while attending his workshop in Italy in 2007. In 2009, Michael and I taught workshops in Tuscany during the same week through Arcangelo Productions. My group was out and about taking photographs in Florence, Orvieto and Cortona, which wasn't too shabby. But part of me wanted to hang out in Michael's classroom and see what was rising from the fingers and hearts of the participants. It's all so delicious.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Still trying to perfect my Blogspot

Wait, I can't perfect my Blogspot since I've already professed I don't like perfection! But I am trying to learn my way around here which, ultimately, should be easier than the previous blog space I used.

It's difficult to focus on any one project these days. One of those projects is preparing for an upcoming three-day exhibition at the Jennie Cooley Gallery in Santa Fe. I want to showcase some of my doll photos (the Secret Keepers series) and would love to introduce yet another take on them. So here is a work-in-progress, wherein I combine an antique portrait with a doll's head. Aunt Betsy never looked this good! Not sure what I'm going to call this collection. Ideas welcome - if I use your idea, I'll send you a print!