Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Artificially sweetened

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I once bought a dress that made me look like a cupcake.

I remember standing in the tiny shop feeling ridiculous, artificially-sweetened, looking at my friend and the shop-keeper and telling them, “It’s not really my style.” To which I got, “Oh but it looks so good on you! You HAVE to buy it.” Surprised by their enthusiasm for something so fluffy pink, I said, “well, maybe if it were black…”

“It’s a great color, it suits you, you need more variety in your wardrobe.”

Pulling at the sides of the dress, I said “It doesn’t have much of a structure, I look like a potato.”

So why did it go home with me? I suppose it was cheerful enough that I thought it could brighten a grey day. But for two years, it has stayed in the closet, not tempted me once. Maybe I can turn it into a lamp shade.

Pink paisley cupcake dress comes out, but not to stay

La Araña

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I lived with the artist Monica Millan in Buenos Aires. She is from the subtropical province of Missiones in Argentina and often works with communities in Paraguay. This is why, when I told her about a scary spider I saw in the bathroom one morning, and she asked me how big it was, after showing her with my two fingers making a small circle, she said, “Ah, no es nada!! En Missiones…” then she put her two hands together to make the largest circle she could, to show me the size of beasts they have up there.

Always check under the bed

She reassured me they were harmless and wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t bother them. The usual speech. Then I remembered some strange marks I had found on my arm, in a circular pattern, and I showed them to her. “Ah, si. De una araña…” she said with a shrug of her shoulders. So they do bite! And likely while you’re sleeping!

It was then that I noticed the spider tattoo on the back of Monica’s neck, and also the spider on the tank top she often wore around the house. Living with someone who revered what I feared, I had some work to do.

Some weeks later, when Bergitta moved out (a tango-dancing Swedish painter who had been living there) I changed bedrooms. I moved into the wood-paneled room with a window onto the garden. The one with the orange light, magenta mosquito net and the spider painting hanging on the wall.

On the wall above my bed

One night there was a full moon. I went to sleep with its silver-blue light shining directly on my pillow. Sometime in the middle of the night, straight out of a deep sleep, I abruptly opened my eyes. And I opened them WIDE. What I saw, was a fat-bodied spider dangling right above my face, back-lit by the full moon. I heard my voice whisper, “ooohh…my god,” as I slid horizontally off of the bed, out from under gravity’s pull on that 8-legged body, and switched on the lights. I inspected the hell out of that wood-paneled room and found nothing but my own fear.

My bedroom’s closed shutters, through the grape vines in the garden, where the cat stalks the night and the queen spider watches from the banana tree

Standing in the middle of the room, now having put on my tennis shoes, I asked, what the hell just happened? Was that real? And even now, I’m convinced the sequence of events began with opening my eyes and that it wasn’t a dream. But like a big baby, from then on I slept with the lights on, so that during the night I could wake up and immediately scan the room for anything menacing. Though after that, I didn’t see another spider. The only pests remaining were the mosquitoes.

Full moon night in Barracas, Buenos Aires

It all began in Les Ardennes

Monday, May 14th, 2012

I have been driving around Luxembourg and the Lorraine region of France, visiting and photographing for the first time, the villages where my great-grandparents were born, and the unifying color in this wonderful journey is the golden colza in bloom.

A road through Les Ardennes, Luxembourg.

Happy Birthday Susanne

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

On this day in 1885, my great-grandmother was born in Luxembourg. 92 years and one day later, I was born in the town she would immigrate to in Illinois. Today I’ve come back to stand on her old road, in her home town, try to understand where she came from.

For reasons that were somewhat unclear to me, Romain, the owner of her old house and also a distant relative who lives across the street, is not allowed to build there. So that little house on the right, just past the cow, is what she left to sail to North America on the Lapland in 1913.

Heispelt, Luxembourg. May 13, 2012.

Today at Iris

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

“My reflexion scares me when I see it in the metro window. Some people are staring, some raise their eyebrows when they see my face. My head feels hot then cold. I wonder if my scalp is blushing.”

I wrote this in a notebook I carried with me in Paris, in the weeks after I shaved my head. It’s not an easy city for a woman to be bald. It showed me how conservative Paris is, how much I prefer to be the one looking rather than the thing looked at, and made me start writing with a vengeance from this new perspective.

Today at 2pm I’m giving a talk in Cincinnati, at the Iris BookCafé & Gallery, where I have a show of three series of self portraits, together entitled FEMME. It’s the first time I’m showing my work in my own country.

Installation at Iris BookCafé & Gallery. Cincinnati, Ohio.

A few 2012 intentions

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Cheers to a new year!

Stray Dogs Christmas

Monday, December 26th, 2011

One of the most hilariously fun Christmas Eve’s I’ve ever had came together at the last minute when a bunch of strays gathered organically in my apartment for dinner and spontaneous chair dancing.

John Bond

A dashing Dutchman arrives, screams are heard

Laughing til the bottle spins

Give me the cameraaaaah

Luis y son vino tinto

"Champagne" imported all the way to Paris from... Michigan! Of course!

Competing standup routines

Josephine, photographed by a man she met flying over Africa

Dutchman disarmed

The camera turns on me

Generosity, day 3

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

On day three of this generosity experiment, what do I have to say? Well, it’s rather obvious, but it really is not about what you give, but the human interaction that has the impact.

I have a lot more to say, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

Outside metro Jaures

My generosity experiment starts tomorrow

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

I feel sick. There’s no photo to go with this post, but I can see this guy’s face so clearly. Young, thin, pale, big brown eyes, thick eyebrows, long old wooly coat, dirty white socks that he was forcing back into his shoes.

I’m getting home from a 3-week trip where I didn’t see any homeless people. Now, at 2am, I’m loaded with luggage, and this man is standing next to the door of my building.

I feel sick at my reaction, my not helping him, my instant apprehension. All he said was, timidly, “N’ayez pas peur. Je suis sans domicile. Vous avez un peu de monnaie?” (Don’t be afraid. I’m homeless. Do you have a little change?) As the words came out, I was entering my building, and when the door closed with him on the other side, I stopped.

He doesn’t have a home.

No one has ever said those words to me before, and they echoed.

I felt punched in the gut. Ashamed, embarrassed, angry at myself, angry at the situation. Angry that I could’ve helped one person struggle just a little less, even for a minute! He’s probably about my age. There’s just this stupid door between us. A door that I’m renting. I almost went back outside, but.

But the reasons are excuses.

2am…female alone…could be violent…etc…etc…but something in my mind told me he wasn’t dangerous, yet I still fled.

Damn it! So. I have to do this experiment, maybe relearn this reflex. How ridiculous that generosity is to be an experiment! Recently I watched a TED talks video of Sasha Dichter in which he talked about his generosity experiment. The idea being that for 30 days you say “yes” to every request for help. For Dichter, it was about him, his motivations, wanting to stop saying no, so it doesn’t become what you do when someone comes to you looking for help.

I don’t know what will happen, if I’ll make photographs or not, but I will write. I want to see who these people are that I could be turning my back on. I already know some of them. The girl outside my bakery, the man by the newspaper kiosk, and the assortment of metro characters and their stories.

I’m making my goal one week, starting tomorrow, September 29th. This could get expensive in Paris, where you are, sadly, so often solicited, but I am excited and ready. It takes a lot of energy to be saying “no” all the time. I do hope I see that guy again.

PS. If you’re coming to this post via Facebook and want to comment, please write it here on the blog. If any discussion ensues, I’d like it to be public. Thanks!

The Mother Ash

Friday, September 16th, 2011

This tree is 550 years old. She (because I call her the mother tree) was struck by lightening around 1850. She’s protected by Norway and has a plaque nailed to the side of her that faces the Kloster Fjord, but her trunk has grown around it so you can’t see what it says. Her roots are tangled in the stone wall that runs along side of her, and because the lightening ripped her open, she can shelter you from the rain. Her trunk bulbs out in several areas that make very nice places to sit or nap. I visit her daily, and last night decided to light her up while the sky was clear and the moon was bright. For scale, I sat in my usual spot inside her trunk, and lit myself with a flashlight.

Self portrait in the great Halsnøy ash tree

Small finds

Friday, September 16th, 2011

I feel like such a city person, terribly fascinated by banal country creatures. Slugs, snails, starfish, these curious things find themselves at my feet on treks around the island. Brijesh has been scanning objects he finds, so each time I find a little creature, I hand it over to him for the scanner.

Snail living in the ruins of the Halsnoy Monastery, Sunnhordland, Norway.

Sleepless in Sunnhordland

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

What do you do with yourself when you are alone?

I am alone tonight in a big house, built in 1841 with stones dating from 1300. My three-week residency has 1/3 passed and Brijesh, the other photographer in this amazing place with me, is in London today for a shoot.

Everyone asks if this place is haunted. Everyone. Honestly, I hesitate to write that “h” word. It is absolutely not. It’s such a lovely, big, warm, friendly house, but my imagination is running away with itself. Because I’m alone late at night in a house everyone thinks is haunted!

It’s not, it’s not, it’s just not.

And it’s silly, but I’ll wait until tomorrow, during the bright daylight, to go into the basement darkroom with the old stone floor, to make my prints. Even though I cut myself off from horror movies several years ago, the ones I’ve already seen are burned on my brain.

Looking at the Kloster Fjord from Halsnoy Kloster monastery tonight

He didn’t even have a name

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

I was taking my Polaroid Impulse down off the shelf when he jumped. Everyone had always made fun of him but I thought he felt accepted here. From now on, my August 27th will be Garden Gnome Appreciation Day. Yes, I will try to remember that. Sorry little man, I just wanted to try my new, 20€-for-only-8-shots Impossible Project film… Merde.

Gnomo muerto

PS. This was taken with the Lumix G3, my new favorite camera. It’s like a sweet little baby SLR and among the many reasons I’m enjoying it is that you can change the aspect ratio, so I can finally shoot square, digitally. Now, back to this polaroid…

PPS. A note on Mr Gnome’s history. Just after I moved to Paris, he arrived in the mail from my Grandmother in St. Louis who saw him in a Macy’s window display. He wasn’t for sale, but as the movie Amélie was still fresh in everyone’s minds, they sold it to her. And, other than 5 Parisian arrondissements, that’s the farthest he ever traveled.


Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

You’re going to tell me this photo is so banal and I’m going to tell you how much I love it.

You’re going to tell me it’s an ordinary country road and I’m going to tell you it’s the road between my parents’ houses, the route I’ve determined is the fastest, with the least traffic and the most open space.

You’re going to say it’s in the middle of nowhere and I’m going to say it’s a place I feel love.

You might know the stress of traveling between two pieces of your family, the guilt over not being there, the balance in your mind, the simultaneous leaving someone behind while joining someone else, looking behind you and in front of you and wanting to go in both directions at once.

No one can know how many times I’ve travelled this ordinary road, or how personal is the shape of that tree, how loved is this view over cornfields that make me feel so strongly a sense of place.

But I tell you, from a person who think she was born with one foot in melancholy, I am happy driving on this piece of road, in silence with the windows down.

Summer in Cadillac

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

The ingredients for the most basic of innocent summer pleasures:
hot sun, green grass, garden hose, H2O, little sister.

Addy & Anna, summer 2011.

Anna on a bed of chalk

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

These eyes seduced me away from a vacation on an Italian island, in waters of similar blue, and drew me back to the Midwest. You’re only 2 years old once, well for 365 days really, and as every one of them brings learning in leaps and bounds, I couldn’t bear not sharing a few more of them with her, not to mention her delightful sister who is all of 3. I love being Aunt Danielle.

Anna on a bed of chalk

My backyard

Monday, August 1st, 2011

The closest place I can go, to get as near to the sky as possible, while keeping my feet on the earth. It’s minutes from home, where I spent this year’s birthday and where I can hug a tree (when I think no one’s watching).

Picnickers on the Butte Chaumont

Good morning Umbria

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Good morning Umbria, your fog mirrors my mind at this morning hour
walking a dim line between sleep and waking

Morning in Todi

Man-made borders

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

One year ago I met an extraordinary person. His brief visit to my city coincided with the moment I had decided to shave my head. Visually we made a remarkable pair.

We weren’t fluent in a common language but the connection was intuitive and I don’t remember communication being too much of a barrier. When you must speak Spanish, you just do. His country is reported to be reforming laws, making it easier for its citizens to travel abroad. My country tells me if I travel to his, I face “civil penalties and criminal prosecution upon return.”

What astounding barriers can interfere with the possibility of two people meeting each other. And yet, it happens.

Luis y Dani bajo una luz de néon.

Making it a real job

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

A birthday gift from my dad, I got to see Joe Bonamassa in concert tonight at the Olympia in Paris. I recently joked that his music had become the new family religion. I’m proud to say we’re a Chicago family and like big guitar sounds and blues.

It was one of the best concerts I have ever seen. He played almost 2 and a half hours and looked like he loved it as much as we did. When leaving, my spirits were so high I couldn’t fit into the metro and had to walk all the way home.

At one point Joe said he had taken a photo of the facade of the Olympia and sent it to his mother so she’d stop bugging him about getting a real job. He’d made it. Well I think he did that quite a while ago (opened for B.B. King at the age of 12! and will have his 34th birthday in a couple of days). It made me think of my parents and their relation to photography as “a real job.” I think they now believe I’m capable and do not worry as much, even if I have not reached the level of the Olympia.

May 5, 2011. Bonamassa at the Olympia.

Lunar preoccupations

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Good night moon

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Last night’s full “super” moon stretched its light in a narrow streak across my floor, all the way to the head of my bed. Even though it keeps me awake, I can never close the curtain on a full moon.

The only thing Nietzsche ever said that made immediate sense to me

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

A glance at my bookshelf

A little moonlight

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Full, waxing or waning, I can’t tell
It shines a beautiful light