You read that right, but we'll get to the dirty deets later. Whoa, the last three months just whizzed by. Long of the short, all is chill in Wiggyland. Yay. I've been trying on some new clothes, taking off some used. I'm still living in Lynchburg, VA with the always inspiring Dee W Loizou. We've perfected our spicy fish-sauce sauce. Yes, I'm still vegetarian but this Thai dish we love requires the Red Boat, so we tread lightly and nom, nom, nom the bejesus outta that dish. I took photos for a wedding. My god, that was hard. Probably won't do that again. Thankfully the bride and groom are the best people on the planet. I took on a bookkeeping job for my dear friends at Riverviews...what! Yes, I hear you screaming. It's just temporary, people. No, I'm not moving back to NYC just yet. But I miss it. Dearly. Took photos for a fundraising event. Umm, super hard. But I did it all in character, with a British accent, in striped tights. For the challenge. Oh, I would do that again. For sure. Makes picture taking wildly mysterious. And fun. I did a few promo videos, bought a battery powered light kit, started using my flash a bit more for stills, and yeah, I taught an Introduction to Digital Photography class and an Advanced Digital Filmmaking class at the local liberal arts joint just up the street. It's called Randolph College. Used to be all women. Then that changed in 2006. I had 19 students and 16 were women. So who knows. I began teaching in February. Unfortunately I missed the first 11 classes of the semester because I came in as a pinch-hitter. Probably won't do that again. So hard. But I would do it all again if given a full semester. I taught four classes a week for a total of nine hours. 4.5 hours on Monday and 4.5 hours on Thursday. But you know what, that shizzle was a full-time job. Seriously. Best paying gig I've had in Lynchburg, but damn, brother barely had time to rest. But I kinda loved it? I know it's trite, but mad respect to all the teachers out there. Bring it in for a group hug! Yesterday was my last day. Graded all the students, sent each a personal note of gratitude, and then I noticed I hadn't written a blog post in three months. Whizzed by. The picture up top was taken at a show ring in Big Island, VA. I imagine myself sitting on those aluminum bleachers just taking it all in. Beautiful scenery, nice and quiet, just me and the cool breeze. What a spectacle. What a show. What a gift. Might as well be happy.
I woke up today and my face was sagging a bit. My bones ached. I needed to wake up. And fast.
Our meeting was scheduled at 9am. Sharp. Don't be late. Coffee, yup yup yup. A banana. Brush my teeth. Black pants? Sure. Black sweater? K. Black shoes? Wait a second. Next comes the black gloves, the black coat, the black hat. Snap out of it. You look fine. Everyone wears black in New York. But this isn't New York.
Today was my first day of teaching a beginning photography class. I rented a room. I posted an ad. I was taking reservations. One person replied.
I arrived at 8:30. Nervous. I opened my laptop, sipped the warm joe and reviewed my notes. My student burst through the door at 9:15. His name was Grey. He apologized for being late, his forehead was sweating, he had dark circles under his eyes and he immediately told me he forgot his camera.
Ain't a thing, Grey. I offered him my coffee. With his coat hanging off his shoulder he dropped down to his knees and started to cry. He lifted his head and confessed. "I could barely get out of bed today. My head is throbbing. I am tired, so very, very tired. I'm not sure why I signed up for this class. I don't even have a camera. I'm sorry. I hate myself. And then you offered me your coffee. And I'm sensitive. And small gestures mean everything to me. And I do enjoy looking at photos and daydreaming and thinking of brighter days. Connecting with the world, living outside my head. And you standing there, looking at me, so much love in your eyes. And that's the picture I want to take. Can you show me how to take that picture? A picture of you and me. I don't care if I'm a mess. I want to see how people would see you looking at me. I am pathetic. But I can do better. Promise. I want to be that hope in your eyes."
I unzipped my backpack and set up a small tripod on the other side of the room. Grey held the coffee mug tight in his hands and sighed when he drank. "Oh my god," he whispered. And he watched me work in silence. I looked through the lens and framed Grey on the left side of the image. I imagined where I would be standing. I picked the widest aperture and focused. I set the timer to 10 seconds and walked over to Grey. He brought the cup to his lips and looked up at me. I reached out my hand and began to lift him off the ground.
The shutter clicked.
Dear President Trump,
I want you to be great. I really do. So in the spirit of your legacy I'd like to make a suggestion. I've been doing some research and I noticed that starting in 2001 our government has really jacked up the number of executive branch czars. Some of my favorites are the asian carp czar, the cyber czar, the ebola czar, the faith-based czar and the weatherization czar. Good folks doing the best they can. But maybe we can do better.
IMHO I think you should appoint a love czar ASAP!
Your personality and methods, Mr. President, are what they are. I have no judgements really. You have reasons for being and doing what you do. But again, IMHO, I think you come off as a bit mean spirited. You're kind of an arrogant bully. Hey, it is what it is. At one point in my life I was just like you. But I evolved. Thanks to the help of my friends, who are, I hope, proud Americans.
A little bit about me if I may. Just recently I appointed my good friend Dee W as my personal love czar. I created this executive branch, if you will, out of necessity. It was either create a love czar or go bonkers. I chose creativity. I think you'd really like Dee W. She is gentle and curious and effortlessly positive. A real find. Her official title is, for funsies, Director of the White House Office of Love and Compassion Policy. Right?!
Dee W is my savior. She created an essential balance to my ever changing emotions. I have so many feelings. I sometimes find myself wandering down the cold wet road of negativity, doubt and darkness. And believe me when I say that I may appear all lovey dovey on the outside, but girrrrl, don't get me started about the rage. Dee W is the light. She is goodness. Light, dark. Good, evil. Yin, yang. Masculine, feminine. These polarities are inevitable. No getting around them. The antidote is balance.
I know this is a lot to digest. Your head is probably swimming right now. But take a deep breath, visualize your greatness and what do you think about Melania? She'd make an awesome love czar! Melania knows you. Her familiarity is key to the success of, dare I say, your legacy. She will look you in the eye and say, "Honey, that idea is whack." She won't back down. Mama will tell it like it is. Melania is the light. She will provide our nation with the balance that is necessary to make America great again.
P.S. If you want to borrow Dee W's official title, go for it. I'm cool. Mi casa es su casa, bro.
On September 21st the Bower Center for the Arts in Bedford, VA invited me to have a solo video exhibition in their Sara Braaten Gallery. The space was built in 1843 as the St. John's Episcopal Church. The ceilings are pressed tin and 16 feet high. The gallery is 1,400 sq ft and can accommodate 100 people. There are 6 antique pews in the balcony. Four days later I accepted the invitation.
My first interaction with the Bower was back in May. Two of my photos were chosen for their National Juried Art Exhibition. The photos were displayed in the Terrace Gallery which is located on the first floor just below the Sara Braaten. My second collaboration with the Bower was a video installation and it also displayed in the Terrace. Perpetual Tea, or, Preparing Our Minds For Anything was the first video art to be exhibited at the Bower and was awarded Best in Show.
It is fair to say the Bower Center has been very kind to me. My two experiences with the Bower have been life changing in regards to the evolution of my art. I am a visual artist without limits. This is how I feel. So what was I going to do with my new canvas and how could it be something I could really sink my teeth into? The show is not until August, 2019 but having spent decades working in the film industry I felt like I was already behind the 8-ball. Tick-tock, tick-tock. I needed to have a plan. This was going to take some time.
The first thing I decided was to turn my solo show into an invitational group show. Yes, I committed to this idea and started inviting local friends to join me. But I really needed a concept first. What was I inviting them to participate in? I came up with a title, The Home Within A House. I would build a house on the gallery floor and my video would play on a loop inside the shack. Ok fine, moving forward. But did I mention that the Bower Center rents the gallery to the Bedford Lutheran Church every Sunday? It's a fact. I met the Lutheran congregation a couple weeks ago. I took communion, I sang a half-dozen hymns, I cried a bit when they said a prayer for the dead and then I pitched them my idea while nibbling on banana bread and crudités. I invited them to join the show. They are interested. I told them the house would be permanent for one month. Can't move it. We have not sealed the deal yet. I'll take communion again on October 21st and I'll ask for their official blessing. Wish me luck.
I really like the idea of shooting more video. Perpetual Tea was 15 one-minute meditation videos. Each video was a static, single take. So obviously my next video needs to be different. It's going to be a documentary. It's settled. The subject will be my collaborators, fellow artists in their home talking to me about art and feelings. And their art will live with mine in the gallery. We'll be together.
Ok, so that's enough for now. I'll spend the rest of this week visualizing positive vibes with the Lutherans. I'll put some tape on the gallery floor to give them an idea where the house will be built. I will imagine shaking the hands of my new collaborators, comrades-in-arms, musicians, painters, interior designers, illustrators, photographers, sculptors & poets. And I will wonder if any of my friends are handy with a hammer and a 2x4. We got to build this house.
This is how my hand woven photo looks in the Academy gallery. I really like how Dee and the intensely costumed girl to her right play off of each other. Dee is naked and vulnerable and making an effort to reach out, to connect. And the child, who is a bit imprisoned by her suffocating wardrobe, glances at Dee in a sympathetic and understanding way. These two have formed an immediate bond, a sisterhood, plotting a silent escape from the bondage of their picture frames.