Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One of Us

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, What have you done with your life? & though there are many moments I think I will remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us. -Brian Andreas

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Heavy Metal Saved My Life

Mastodon and Dethklok played at the Tabernacle in Atlanta last Thursday - it was an unbelievable show. My only regret was that I went to the right side of the stage so I couldn't see Brent Hinds (who was on the left) hardly at all. Nonetheless, I managed to take a few METAL pictures:

And I shot a video of Mastdon especially for my sister who was feeling a little jealous that night:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Goodbye, Nico

I am so sad to learn that Nico the beautiful Beluga Whale, has died. I visited Nico and his sisters at the Georgia Aquarium so many times and shot this video of him during our visit on Ela's birthday:

Nico was the most playful of the three belugas, always twirling and diving and seemed like he was smiling and waving at us. The Aquarium had moved him and his sisters to Texas while they built the new dolphin exhibit- he died there. He is the third Atlanta beluga to pass away- I have written about Gasper and Marina previously.

My heart is heavy with the knowledge that we won't get to see that sweet and magnificent creature again. Here's a favorite picture from the Atlanta Journal Constitution to remember him:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Visit to Oakland Cemetery on Dia de Muertes

Today was the first time I have ever visited Oakland Cemetery on Day of the Dead. I thought of my beautiful grandmothers as we strolled through the park at sunset. The full moon was floating above and the red sunbeams shined through the trees. I smiled as I left a sugar skull by my favorite headless woman. Thanks to Raoul and his lovely visitors for inspiring today's walk!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fire in the Berry Trees

Also for the list of favorites: visiting my alma mater during beautiful leaves season.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Northwest Georgia Fall Fire

For the list of favorite things: A campfire in the mountains on one of the first cold weekends of the season.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Alan and Justyna

Justyna exclaims as she tears past her guests that mill below the Mexican paper flags, "This is the only song I can dance to!" She grabs Alan who is deep in conversation with his father at the end of the pew and pulls him to the front of the old church with the blue organ. Their friends play a dark melody from the altar-turned-stage as the two embrace in their dance. A child ballerina twirls around them. The guests gather to watch the one moment that might be described as traditional on their wonderful wedding day. Alan twirls Justyna in circles over and over as she strains to keep her balance. Without warning, Alan takes off running, apparently to make a lap around the church. He pulls a laughing Justyna behind him. Her steps are tiny and quick, well able to keep up even in heels.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dreams of A Secret Agent

[part 4 in a series of art pieces inspired by my dreams]

Dreams of A Secret Agent
spanning the last five years

7" x 5" paper, thread, acrylic and glitter on canvas

This piece is about a theme that has wafted through my dreams for years. Well, a person, really. A Secret Agent. No matter where on this planet he is or I am, the connection remains and it is particularly strong in dreams. One of my very favorite dreams featuring him is called Good to See You.

When I think about this connection that spans distance and time, I am reminded of a song on Concrete Blonde's Walking in London album, called Les Coeurs Jumeaux (the twin hearts). There's this somewhat silly interlude in the song when Johnette speaks in french. Though I often roll my eyes at her unnecessary pronunciation of the letter s in several of the words, the line that sticks out when I think of the Secret Agent is "on rêve le même rêve".
We dream the same dream.

Don't get it twisted though- the woman in this piece is not in Muslim dress- she has just wrapped her black scarf around her head to keep her hair dry because it is raining. Or maybe she's about to take a ride in her father's amazing vintage red convertible.

Read/see the other dreams in this series, The Mona Lisa, The Angel Singers Visit Me and The Feather and the Butterflies.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Four Years Into a Dream

In honor of my fourth anniversary in my very first dream home, here's a love letter I wrote in September 2005 right after moving in.

I'm in Love

I'm in love -- madly, passionately, deliriously –- with my new home. I’m dancing in my walk-in closet. I stare adoringly at my bathtub. I flirt with the walls and tease them with paint color samples. I sit in the center of each room, most of which are not at all set up yet, and blow smoke rings towards the ceiling. I open and close my liquor cabinet just to look, not to make a drink. I get choked up pulling up on the parking pad to notice her newly pressure-washed shingles. The dishwasher leaks, the washing machine breaks, and I just shake my head- she can still do no wrong. I sleep deeply each night and wake up to notice that birds have built a home right above my head.

In 2009 I've still got the love, but it has been colored by the realities of the challenges in making a relationship work. I roll my eyes as I think that this will be the third year in a row that I've had to repair my roof because Blossom the Possum moved in. And how having to replace three major appliances this year meant that doing the back splash in my kitchen gets put off till next year's tax return check.

But my god, do I love my Atlanta Sky Blue bedroom walls- they still make me feel like I am floating when I lie in my high bed. And my craft room has been the birthing place of more pieces than I ever dared to hope to create. Art actually fills my home of four years- my own and others as I've grown less and less intimidated to decorate the walls that are permanently mine. And hawks regularly visit. And as I watched robins pull worms from my freshly rained upon front lawn this morning, I heard in my head, All the World is Green.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Mona Lisa

[part 3 in a series of pieces inspired by my dreams]

The Mona Lisa
dreamed October 15, 2006

7" x 5" paper, acrylic, glitter and resin on canvas

I dreamed that I was walking by myself down a cobblestone street in Clonmel at night. I peer into the window of an empty grocery store with a big candy display. I walk further and see a dark window framed by burgundy velvet curtains. I look closer and see that the Mona Lisa is set up on a stand just inside the window. I smile at what a cliche the great painting seems in such a demure setting.

I hear a heartbeat and look anxiously around me. I am still alone. I look back at the Mona Lisa and she has started to glow. I press my forehead against the windowpane. Her face changes into a skull, the skin on her fingers peel back and show bones. At the center of the subtly smiling skeleton is a beating heart, straining to escape its ribcage.

Read/see the other dreams in this series, The Angel Singers Visit Me and The Feather and the Butterflies.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Angel Singers Visit Me

[part 2 of a series] Every 4-6 months, I have an epic dream. These are dreams that are like journeys charted to my internal map that feel like salve on my soul. They are aptly timed and make my blood course through my veins. I suppose there is a part of me that feels like dreaming this sort of dream is like having a spiritual experience, or at least receiving a message bigger than that what a fortune cookie can deliver. The next piece of art that came from my recent class based on my dreams is an Epic Dream.

The Angel Singers Visit Me
dreamed August 10, 2008

8" x 8" acrylic, glitter and xylene transfer on claybord

I was at a bar with my parents, siblings and cousins that is near my cousin Layla's house that has pictures of heav metal bands all over the walls. I am surrounded by loved ones and about to eat a delicious cheeseburger named after Mötley Crüe.

I look up and see a small group of people in front of me; Neil Young is standing among them. I gasp and slowly move towards him. As I approach him I beckon to him to come in close so I can tell him a secret. I whisper in his ear

"You are one of my angels."

He looks into my eyes and says back, "because of my voice?" I nod. He then grabs me and and spins me around him in a giant embrace. He is beaming. I ask him

"Do you want to know who else are my angels?" He nods. I start listing

Asdru from Ozomatli, Jerry Garcia, Perry Farrell, the Porcupine Singers... most importantly, Tom Waits..." Neil interrupts me and whispers close in my ear and says "Well, you're in luck then, darlin'."

I look up and on the little built-in stage Tom Waits himself is getting ready to play. My hands fly to my cheeks; I can't believe it. He plays two songs for us. He starts with "Cemetery Polka" and I just stand there staring at this madman 5 feet from me. I think he played a trumpet at one point which I don't think he really does in real life. My family is looking over at me smiling, so happy to see me so thrilled. My dad takes a picture of me.

Then Tom starts on "
Who Are You", one of my very favorites of his vast repertoire. This song includes lines like "I fell in love with your sailor's mouth and your wounded eyes", lines that I have often thought if any man ever says to me I will marry him then and there and live happily ever after.

Tom was singing directly to me and he sings the line "I did my time in the jail of your arms" and its like a skipping record, he repeats that line 3, 4, 5 times just staring intensely into my eyes. I can feel Neil behind me with his hands gently on my shoulders. And I smile through the tears that are spilling down my face, because now I know why we were whispering- this is our secret.

After he finishes the song, Tom mumbles something incoherent into the mic but I swear I can make out that he says something like "you heard the important part," and I know he was talking to me. And he ambles offstage and Neil follows him.

I bite my lip and start walking towards my smiling family.

Read the first dream in this series, The Feather and the Butterflies.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Feather and the Butterflies

[part 1 in a series] I took a wonderful class at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center this summer called Photo Collage Your Dreams. I was drawn to the class because I have chronicled my dreams for decades in journals. Now, instead of writing in journals I contribute to a blog of dreams that my sister and I founded, the One Second Time Machine.

I have dreams that range from the magical and sublime to the bizarre and silly. I have dreams that chill me to the bone. I have always wanted to try to depict them as art pieces and never felt like I had the right tools to even attempt it. Finding and learning new techniques for visually depicting my dreams is what made me so excited to take this class. Now that it is complete, I couldn't be more pleased with the experience.

The class was taught by a lovely woman who is a wonderful artist, Elizabeth D'Angelo. Beth taught us techniques of transferring images onto canvas and claybord using xylene and spoons, layering them with washes of paint, embellishing by carving and even covering the surfaces with resin (which involved a superfun blowtorch!). She is a warm and thoughtful person who encouraged our writing as much as the visual art, and created a space where we easily and openly shared about our dreams - which often can be quite intimate.

The subject matter of the pieces I made was strictly dreams I have had and written about. Some of the dreams are detailed and complex, others are sound bytes and brain flashes. In the coming days I will post the images along with their corresponding dream here. Today is the first.

The Feather and the Butterflies
dreamed October 5, 2008

5"x7" acrylic, resin, xylene transfer and feather on claybord

I dreamed that I woke up and realized that the beautiful blue feather that Jill recently sent me - that I hung on my bed above where I sleep - had been eaten away. It was skeletal but for a few wisps and the silver spiral remained. I showed it to my mother who said "Looks like the butterflies ate it. Those butterflies eat everything."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I'm Super Human for You - the Flaming Lips visit Atlanta

When you come to a party at my house, you can count on there being a big ass spread of delicious food, the cocktails will be flowing, good music will be playing and there probably will be (at least) some glitter-based decorations. Expect no less at my house. I was raised right by the Queen Hostess, the lovely Louise Totonchi.

Similarly to my party philosophy, the Flaming Lips know how to throw a rock n roll show. From the moment the first note was strummed at Chastain Park tonight, confetti, smoke and balloons filled the air. A quick glance around me revealed dozens of giggling, joyful people awaiting excitedly their chance to hit one of the fifty balloons up in the air. Oh and there was even a man in a Space Bubble:

Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne projected love and joy from the stage, declaring that despite the heavy Georgia air in August, "I'd wear a polar bear jacket, I'm super human for you." And he wouldn't have stood out at all in such a fur- the stage was filled with costumed lovlies, boy and girl bunnies, King Kong (who wielded Wayne on his shoulders for a whole song), a giant butterfly, a giant catfish- all dancing nonstop. An ingenious feature was a video camera mounted on Wayne's microphone; watch this footage of Fight Test both on stage and with the mic cam view projected behind the band:

I should mention that the Lips know how to treat their party guests. From the moment tickets were bought, we received a link for a free download of three songs from their yet to be released album which included Covinced of the Hex, my highlight of tonight's show. A few days later a link was sent to three b-sides. And if that weren't enough, they also promise to send a link to a recording of the entire show we saw tonight. Nice hospitality!

It was a terrific show tonight. We were grateful that the sky waited until we were in our cars to open up and shower, but that the lightning didn't hold back its contribution to the spectacular light show.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It Felt Like What I Wanted

I wrote this piece during an exercise in a memoir writing class I took this year. Each week we would write vignettes based upon phrases offered by the teacher. In this case, the phrase wound up being the opening line.

It felt like what I wanted. The tang of sweat above his lip lingered on my tongue as he pulled away. My lips felt bruised from careless contact with his facial hair. "He probably only shaves like, once a week," I spoke with great authority to my girlfriends that evening.

It was the sort of midsummer's day that made you wish that you lived at the beach rather than in the suburbs. As the sun baked my shoulders I sucked down every last drop of the fountain cherry cokes we bought at the corner gas station, then crunched each piece of ice left.

I could taste the cherry coke on his breath, too. He was older, 16 to my 14 and I knew it was fate when I learned his birthday was four days after mine. He loped down the street next to me like he had a guitar slung across his back. His red hair was between stages - him wanting to grow it long, his mother wanting it cut. He was tall and thin but I could see the definition of his muscles as he grasped my elbow.

We sat under a maple tree on a stranger's lawn just blocks from the building where we both took ceramics. Each day prior to today I had meticulously chosen my outfit in anticipation of seeing him: babydoll dresses with leggings, always black but sometimes small flowers to be feminine. This day though after sleeping through the alarm I pulled on beat-up, cutoff jeans covered in bleach stains - the rock n' roll equivalent of tie dye - and sharpee drawings of Led Zeppelin symbols. Of course it was this day that he announced that we should leave class and go for a walk to escape the clammy room of clay.

As we strolled down the neighborhood streets he'd ask me questions and then laugh too hard at my answers. We would halt momentarily to allow the occasional breeze to tickle our skin and the leaves above. In one smooth move he sat down cross-legged. I followed suit and felt grass and tree roots under my legs. I couldn't take my eyes off of his freckles and his blue eyes.

He smiled as he kissed me. The butterflies that had been dusting my stomach walls lifted up through my lungs and out through my shoulder blades.

Years later I would see him at a show where his band was playing. He shined when he smiled as told his friends gathered at the bar "This is the girl who taught me to kiss." I rolled my eyes, nudged his shoulder and announced that I would buy the next round.

As I turned toward the bartender I smiled and closed my eyes for a second. He was the one who gave me what I longed for. My first kiss.

Written of course, for Mike.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oakland Cemetery in the Spring with Layla

I'm sad that it's been so long since I've blogged; I'm trying to get back in the mindset of publishing again. Since I'm still always taking pictures, I thought I'd kick this back off with some photos of one of the places that makes me think the most about ashes and glass: Oakland Cemetery. I had the wonderful pleasure of taking my cousin Layla on a tour of one of my favorite places, and watching her see our gorgeous dinosaur-like magnolia flowers for the first time.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


This is my most favorite new piece of street art:

I love it like I loved the Two-Headed Pegasus and of course, the Blah Girl. Its on Memorial near Boulevard and I'm hoping that the Wilderness Works people like it as much as I do. Otherwise, the Firebird won't be long for the world.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How I Survived the 2009 Georgia General Assembly - Part 1: Drawing Class

This post is the first in a series in which I will share with you, dear reader, the little things that kept me from losing my marbles during the 2009 Georgia General Assembly. This is no small task mind you when you're a low-budget lobbyist whose constituency is in prison. This session, I really wanted to explore different ways to ease stress and minimize the misery that has always defined the legislative session and hopefully find ways to be happy and fulfilled even when I'm losing on a daily basis at the Gold Dome.

This first installment in the series is about the wonderful drawing class I took at Callanwolde thanks to the generosity of my wonderful Mom and Dad. Thanks guys!! I considered that it might be slightly crazy to commit to a weekly responsibility in the evenings when we work such long days - in heels, on marble - but I found myself anxiously awaiting Tuesday nights and being up to my elbows in charcoal. Taught by Marc Brotherton, those 3 hours each week were a complete escape from the politics and strategies, my buzzing blackberry and my ever-growing to-do list.

To draw, you have to actually look. You really have to look at whatever it is in front of you. Marc ran us through all sorts of exercises to help us develop our hand-charcoal coordination, starting with 15 and 30 second drawing drills and eventually doing longer studies of still lifes and live models. And my drawing abilities actually improved!

In the beginning, Marc showed us different techniques like the ones in these three drawings from my first class:

Mass gesture is broad marks used to create density and weight.

Scribble gesture uses scribble scrabble to show weight and density.

Contour line gesture shows the outline and other visible edges of an object.

In later classes we continued with the drills to practice, but also got to do some cool techniques like this charcoal paper - you color the page with the charcoal and then use your eraser to create the shapes and lighting:

In other classes we got to bring in objects from home to draw. Of course I brought my skull, a.k.a. "The Old Girl" (minus her usual Bedouin headdress, naturally):

I got to bring in my favorite water pitcher, also a gift from Mom and Dad:

In the final weeks of the class we had live models pose for us. This was the most challenging part of the class for me, but also the most rewarding. It takes such a long time to really see the body, to see skin and its variety on a single body.

One thing I really learned from this class was that drawing is all about practice. The importance of warming up and repetition cannot be underestimated, and after a certain point looking and translating onto paper came much more naturally. I also learned that I LOVE charcoal - love it - and I love India ink. Great fun, these tools.

Something I learned about myself is that the strategic part of my mind and the creative side compliment each other nicely. I often found that driving home from class I would figure out the next step or the perfect person that could help me accomplish the next day's goals that had previously been eluding me.

Thanks again to Mom and Dad for the gift of this class! And thanks Marc for being a great teacher. Stay tuned for more tales of survival in the coming days in this (hopefully) last week of the legislative session.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rain Walk with Mica

It's been raining for days in Atlanta. Thunderstorms in the spring here make for some of the most amazing blooms and light in which to photograph them. During a break in the downpour this afternoon, Mica and I went for a Rain Walk in Grant Park. Here is what we saw.

I love this spot near the gazebo where old christmas trees are recycled. Each year you can watch the tall pile of dark greens break down and fade into reds, browns, chartruse.

We had never seen a tree that bloomed what looked like hydrangea blossoms that hung down like giant pom poms.

I had to take a pom pom home.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Their Hearts in Tipperary Wherever They Go- The POGUES in Atlanta

I never dreamed it would really happen. I've been told by countless boys over the many years who tried to convince me the they were bigger fans, far more knowledgeable than I, that it would never happen. I had missed my chance; I would never see The Pogues in all their glory- meaning with Shane MacGowan in the front.

Well boys, you were wrong. Never underestimate my unrelenting loyalty to the bands that are my soulmates. Not that my steadfastness brought about this strange, five-city US tour that paused in none other than my Atlanta, Georgia, but I'm still claiming it as my own. And my own doesn't begin to express what we were a part of at Monday night's show. I could almost cry.

Says Word Magazine:

Shane MacGowan is is unwell. In fact, he looks dead.

Hell, it's true. The poor man is in such bad shape and it is astonishing that he is still alive at the not-so-ripe old age of 52. I remember reading years ago about Sinead O'Connor turning him into the cops in an effort to curb his drug and alcohol use - please! - and the band has broken up with promises never to speak again countless times because of his self-destructive quest.

Apparently he has a handler, someone to watch over him and make sure he doesn't wander off and go missing- he is really and truly that broken a man. Says drummer Andrew Ranken, "He can perform when he's wasted if he wants to perform. " I've heard stories of him being rolled out in stage in a wheelchair, promptly vomiting and that was it. We made bets with the people next to us on how many songs he would make it through. The bets were just 3 and 5 songs- all made with smiles of understanding that we would happily accept whatever he could give.

They had what those in his inner circle refer to as "the cage" set up. It was a curtained in area on the side of the stage - which might be be compared to a makeshift kissing both at one of my parties - where Shane would retreat to every now and then when he needed a break.

But despite our indulgent pessimism- there he was on the stage for the entire show but for minor breaks. Shane MacGowan bold as day, bright as sun, hissing saliva as he sang having fallen from grace with God. And if you don't believe my account just listen to his scream at 55 seconds in:

THIS, was their second song. This land was always ours, was the proud land of our fathers; it belongs to us and them, not to any of the others. And their third was that sacred ballad The Broad Majestic Shannon. Shane sang of tears on our cheeks, the cross at Finnoe, and our hearts remaining in Tipperary. His plea to take his hand and dry our tears and forget our fears made me still, despite being surrounded by more than all the chaos you might expect in a sold out show of thousands of incredibly drunk men.

There was so much more that they did. The anthem that applies to Palestine and Iraq as much as it does Ireland, Thousands are Sailing was triumphant and heartbreaking: where we go we celebrate the land that makes us refugees. Lullaby of London, McGowan's equivalent to the Mahmoud Darwish's Under Siege was a blessing as it washed over us:

... May the ghosts that howled
Round the house at night
Never keep you from your sleep
May they all sleep tight
Down in hell tonight
Or where ever they may be...

...May the wind that blows from haunted graves
Never bring you misery
May the angels bright
Watch you tonight
And keep you while you sleep.

This is my dear friend Jay and I, Jameson whiskey in hand before the encore:

I felt stunned in this moment. Stunned that it really happened and I was there. How when I would tell this story I might nod my head in the way that my Uncle Michael in Ireland might while telling a story that was beyond belief. About how I never dreamed it but it really happened and I have proof. And how my heart remains with the lads that are THE POGUES.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

In Like a Lion

1:43 am: Standstill traffic and pouring rain on Peachtree Street in Downtown Atlanta.

2:15 pm: Snow falls in large clumps from the sky covering already blooming bulbs.

3:30 pm: Snow builds and sticks as the sun starts to shine.

6:32 pm: Spectacular sunset after snowfall.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Love the Size of Tiger Sharks

I have wanted desperately to see the new Sand Tiger Sharks at the Georgia Aquarium since they arrived just before Thanksgiving. The video with their jagged teeth that go in every direction mesmerized me - so beautiful and terrifying! And after two unsuccessful attempts of trying to see them, I finally got my first glimpse last week.

We started out in the tunnel, and I proceeded to start my rotating search up and down waiting and hoping for the sharks to appear.

It's an awesome glass hallway where fish of all sizes swim around you - and lots of different sharks: hammerheads, wobbegongs, whale sharks, blacktip reef sharks, bonnetheads. I could stand there for hours- and have collectively waiting for a single appearance of the shy, still-adjusting-to-their-new-home Sand Tigers.

After standing in the tunnel for a good while, we decided to go to the big window because Mohammad hadn't seen the Manta Ray yet. I could sit in front of this giant window forever- it is so peaceful and beautiful to watch the fish go by.

I was settled in, sitting on the floor with my jacket off and purse splayed about when I saw it: a giant, bulky, jagged tooth SHARK start to swim by. I leaped up from the floor and sprinted to the edge of the window. Luckily Mohammad had the camera ready to document my expression of amazement and fear as I first laid eyes on this amazing creature.

This is one of the most amazing sharks I've ever seen. It makes me think of the first times I saw the nurse sharks at the Chicago Aquarium as a little girl. Both made me literally freeze with awe.

Afterwards we went and spent a good while at the shark-petting tank which was empty because it was a week day. I must have pet those sharks at least 25 times while we stood there. I think I'm making some serious progress on this life-long shark phobia of mine.