26 February 2008

La Frontera Things to think about

What is a border? Who is us? Who are them? I think about the ancient roads of the region, a land called MARATA when the first
Spaniards began to map the "new" world. A place called Gran Chicimeca. A place that has old stories and a complex mythologies and mysteries that still have not been unraveled. I am enchanted by this world in 2008. Down my street the ancient ruins of Paquime; the Casas Grandes River, Monte Montezuma on the north south meridian, the theory by Steve Lexon connecting the dots beyond borders.

The Villista Cabalgata also makes this same journey to the US/MEXICO border. The land is an exquisite valley. Vast space, fields, and sky. I go beyond the towns on my travels and I always remember last springs afternoon traveling along with the Cabalgata;the shadowed mesas, the people from the various communities all out to greet the Cabalgarangos, the riders.

I return to the daily news of hate towards fellow human beings; What I hear is hatred spewing. Who is us? Who are they? These people whose ancient ancestors walked these lands 1000 of years ago......malls, and buildings on top of ancient dwellings, the Hohokom.

Now we have Sheriff Joe being a good will ambassador. What is it we support? What is human kindness, dignity,compassion?
How do we overcome ignorance? What is the value of LIfe itself ? I am sharing this tonight because it makes me feel sad; I think about the beauty of the dream of AMerica; I think about tribal peoples who shared cultural resources from miles and miles away. I marvel at ancient pieces of pottery. I see beautiful Cliff Dwellings in Northern Arizona that look like cliff dwellings in the Mexican Sierras. How can you tell people to get out of a place they've always been???

I also realize that most people have no interest or no idea of the history of where they live. Perhaps they never went to a museum, or walked through a place where people lived thousands of years ago, maybe they never were taught to appreciate the arts -

The Cabalgata would be a great place to land if you were a visiting martian. Someone would embrace you and welcome you.
They would invite you to eat and stay with the family; You would be introduced and taken in. Perhaps it is a different experience for each of us, but I really do believe the best of what it means to be and act as Human Being goes beyond borders.
I have come to respect the generosity of Spirit of the people I have met during my time in Casas Grandes.

I wish my country, my state could have a better vision to resolve the issues. All I can do is make pictures and hopefully add a little light on the situation.

In the words of Nikos Kaztanzakis, the Greek writer wrote, "To see. To record. To comment. " , that is my job as a photographer. I want to help people understand and value one another. Life is precious. The richness of what we could cultivate and protect for generations to come is invaluable. I hope to make pictures that will open people's hearts, help to question the sanity of our behavior towards our fellow humans, This is us. We are them. Who do we become ?

I feel compelled to go experience this and see what stories my pictures would tell? I think of Mexico. I am homesick for my
pueblo. I think of all the amazing things I've been exposed to this past year and sigh. How will the story unfold ???

The LInks:
Showdown in Arizona, Where Mariachis and Minutemen Collide



20 February 2008

The Sarah Vaughn Dress: A Phoenix Rising

One day a Sarah Vaughn Dress appeared in the mail from a woman whom I've never met. She had been on a Grand Canyon river trip with one of my friends who connected us. We've exchanged corrospondence now for almost three years. She helps raise awareness and supports the arts aligning herself with the Bay Area's , Bayview Opera House that helps low income African Americans in the community to develop a relationship to music,art and their African Heritage with students participating in an exchange programs in Senegal and Paris. Her collection of Sarah Vaughn dresses helps contribute to this inspiring endeavor.

I was unfamiliar with the music and art of Sarah Vaughn until her dress appeared miraculously in my life. How many days have I looked and admired and felt these dresses? the lingering scent of her perfume; I have envisioned many times how I would photograph them, and who would be my model... they've hung waiting for almost as long as I've had them until Monday night.

My new friend Phylis was on a Grand Canyon River trip through NAU OUtdoors. A trip that changed her life. Our mutual friend, Amber connected us. Without knowing each other we made a plan to do a shoot. It was a very moving experience and when she put on the dress and saw herself as a beautiful and radiant woman tears well up in both our eyes...she at seeing herself as beautiful; our shared stories of overcoming hardships, abuse; She is a single mother of four putting herself through school, a political activist; we talk about being women who have survived sexual abuse, and the act of loving the parts of ourselves that have been hidden in the dark; Photography is a way of loving, it is holding a mirror up to see what parts of ourselves rise to the surface; we explore facets; it is her portrait as well as my own...She tells me after we look at the images she sees her saddness; because I too have felt this I say, "this is the part of ourselves that need to be loved." There is no greater gift then to see someone see themselves as if for the first time.

I see before me a Phoenix rising in splendid color,exploring the world, encouraged by her kids to seize life. To overcome, to rise, illuminate; I ask if she would model for the poem series; She is brown and beautiful. Black,Native American, and more...
I see her personify the Earth Mother Goddess....The blue mantle of the Sacred Mary's becomes the sea upon which her body is
the earth floating,brown on blue. This body has given birth...she has saddness in her eyes yet laughs outloud with bravado, she looks like a queen. We both have the same forehead. I wonder if we share common African ancestors; I wonder if Sarah Vaughn was sad in her later life....I have never known birth except through the experience of the camera. I marvel and am in awe. I also want to make sure she is warm, and feels safe. A woman should be able to feel safe, to be able to be to shine bright, her body celebrated, revered. No matter what age, what form, shape or size. We come from women...we carry the lineage; we are often subjected to abuse but sometimes something larger than ourselves and all of those who love us make us regather our parts to rise up. I celebrate WOMAN in these portraits. The dark journey of the soul, illuminated by the fires of light, creativity, Nature. I make a new friend, a sister mama....a Woman who knows and still is unfolding before my very eyes.

Grand Canyon Connects us. Sarah Vaughn connects us. The love of friends I've lost and have yet to meet, the words of the poet, and some sweet melancholy that propels us to listen and share our stories. This is the power and gift of photography.
I love that I can say, "SEE how beautiful you are." I learn so much from the stories.

19 February 2008

the birdman

We began with a mask;My friend John had these amazing Venetian masks and I thought it would make an interesting prop for a portrait. He explained it was the Plague Doctor Mask; Doctors would wear masks like this to "protect" them from plague. We had at least five masks,but only shot this one. John found the cross in proplandia-our collection of props-" this is all you had at that time," . It added a different element to the story.

I also have been wanting to make images for a poem by my neighbor in Casas Grandes,Liliva Soto. For months now I have been thinking about it; I went looking for a perfect eggplant and artichoke and ended up with cilantro for one of the lines in the poem. We then did a few images with an Agave leave; cilantro, and a piece of red ribbon that wasn't long enough... these were about life; the taste, the smell. our connection with nature. Playing with the elements. Playing with light and shadow, the hidden and revealed.

It is only a beginning.I hope to make this series into a visual poetry book complete with recipes & musica.

I miss Mexico..... I sit here and read the poem outloud,struggle over some of the words and their meaning-lost in translation-again-I remember hearing Lilvia reading her poem in her kitchen one afternoon. How I love to listen to people read outloud...her voice rising and falling, images dancing in my head beyond the words, colors, tastes, memories.

Later when editing I reflected upon the experience how connected it is to my dead bird series I've been doing in Mexico;it also reminded me of Pedrito's portrait with the head covered. I felt a profound sense of melancholic, a beautiful sadness; sentimental; I wondered if Pedrito is flying around. I thought of all the thousands of birds in the afternoon in the sky over Paquime, the river valley; memories of gold cloaked in the blackness,the everythingness of muerte. death. Late night metaphors.

As I download photos from my shoot I am scanning in Spencer's MacCallum's Slides from the early Juan Quezada days. I peel apart glass slide mounts. My fingers still remember. I load image after image and get a sentimental feeling for Kodachrome. The yellow, warm golds,the greens of the aged film. Juan with hugh chops; the adobe house,the kids, EL Indio,the constant presence of the mountains rising up out and over Mata Ortiz. it is just amazing...I think of Sam Abell and his description of Lethtos -most likely spelt wrong-it is a Greek concept of impermanence. He describes what we do as photographers is to make this huge visual statement on a very small, and insignificant material that is flimsy, easily damaged that sometimes ends up to be all that remains. A small gesture. Click. got to go scan one in now.

I am including the raw files and a couple of the worked images. They are points of departure. In the end I envision these as mix media pieces, painted and distressed. Little bits of gold leaf..dark wood frames.

13 February 2008

In honor of Pedrito. Casas Grandes, Chihuahua. He was always walking the town selling newspapers at the local Taco stand,
on the corners, the little tenditas, and in front of my house. Sometimes he would speak of politics, and enthusiastically about things I couldn't even begin to translate or understand. Lost in Translation is often a state I'm in. He was always kind and would
cross the street to just shake your hand. So much can change instantly. Vaya Con Dios Pedro. Thank you for standing before me and allowing me to make your portrait that day.I will always remember you as apart of this community that has become so endeared to my heart. I will miss seeing you in my barrio. He was one of the last people I saw before I left to drive back home across the border as he waved smiling at me as I headed to el norte.

12 February 2008

, "The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention."

The teacher Richard Moss says, "The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention."

I love to visit Ron Brezney's FREEWILL ASTROLOGYjust as much as I find insight and inspiration by picking up and turning to a page randomly in The Sun Magazineto admire a beautiful black and white image or reflect on the thoughts of people who I don't know lend insight to my own feelings about life, death, living and everything in between. Sometimes the randomness of the universe resonates with my current line of thought and I get this tingling feeling inside my heart, and I feel a tenderness for the world even it's state of chaos I find it so beautiful. Todays quote reminds me of what it means to be a photographer, because photographing is giving your attention to what is before your camera, and listening,and taking in the world. As artists we are responding and translating what we feel, something that is invisible moves us to create and share.

I am back in Flagstaff,AZ less than a week. more than a foot of snow, back in America. I am looking forward to reconnecting with my extended familia most who I haven't seen in months. My botony sisters who garden Grand Canyon, my dear friend Sam whose watercolor paintings I imagine when I drive by landscapes with deep shadows, just got back from Chile with his grrlfriend, Dkish my fellow photo geek sister is in Spain being a dirt bag climber flies in a midnight. The beautiful Willow is having her birthday-she speaks to me of her hospice care, part of her training to be a nurse and tells me about how in less than a month she has come to love this little grandma whose 80+ but has such a zest for life and living it brings tears to her eyes; I feel such an a feeling of love for life, how fleeting it is ;how some people never get to know such passion; I hear stories of people who've left the planet in the past couple of weeks, mostly in car wrecks, ironically, and she speaks of the guy who will never come back to the restaurant where she works; I watch Hason in the afternoon light at the same kitchen table, as we have coffee, the light falling on his face, gesturing over hot chocolate spiced with Chipolte chile....laughing, naked branches of trees, ipod guy the local crazy guy sings out loud and sits in the sun, the sky so blue, the shadows longer,as the sun swings a bit higher on the horizon. A lot of this I don't capture with my camera, but I watch and listen; I love these people. I love this light. I sip wine, coffee and feel the life force exchange. Precious,fleeting.

Juan and Gilla Quezada call from Mexico. I still have his beautiful pot I'm waiting to send to a client, I pull it out to admire it's line, it's beautiful form. Even though I've done so many pictures with Juan this past year I don't know his pottery well enough.
I look at it, and reflect on the lines of nature and ponder the parallels, the ancient history, the inspirational spark that causes us to be in awe. I am scanning in Spencer MacCallum's slides from over thirty years ago when he first met Juan. I handle tiny pieces of film, some of it Kodachrome even, and think of how flimsy film is like memories - I see Juan and Gilla's children as children, and how the village has changed, and how adobe remains, and the ancient pieces of pottery, a piece of turquoise, dried corn give us a story that leaves much to our interpretation. Here's a link about the "Milagro of Mata Ortiz". . Juan, calls to tell me the man Pedro, who walked the streets of Casas Grandes ranting, and speaking of the local politicos was also hit by a carnear the new entrance to Casas Grandes....he knows I did Pedro's portrait in front of Casa Azul, my home away from home; Pedro with a pile of the local newspapers ,El Diario. I reimagine his face, and think about who will miss him, I feel a bit sad because I never was able to give him a portrait of himself. Now he's gone too. Maybe I'll just have to go hang some pictures of him around El Centro when I return.

09 February 2008

Winter in Flagtown.
I have just returned to my northern homeland. Snow everywhere, the most snow in years. Blue skies. Sunshine.
I think about migration paths, borders, the ancient past and the future as I travel the highways through deserts, plateaus, mountains. I think about local tacos in my pueblo of Casas Grandes; I eat Mennonite cheese and green chiles and Takis, my favorite Mexican Chips with just the right amount of spice and lime. My worlds are interweaving, north and south through what I see. I decided to start a new blog just about my experiences in Mexico and to have a place to share all these amazing links and stories I find so inspiring. The journey continues as my photographic life now and what is inspirational to my eye, and engages both my mind and heart I feel i am being lead to meet my life's work.

I miss the sound of birds and the church bells. Mexican songs wafting over adobe walls. The local color,the old pick up trucks,
the beautiful faces of the people of my barrio. I walk like a stranger in my own hometown and feel I am floating through what I once knew; how I dread going to the super size grocery store where I know I will be overwhelmed by all the propaganda when faced with the decision of what 30 brands of toothpaste,peanut butter,cleaning products should I buy?