Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Virtues of Yard Work

My roommate and I have two plants that border each side of the driveway. They are lush and green with lovely magenta blossoms at the end of their long stems that fold like origami. Unfortunately, they are hardy Florida plants hiding large thorns under soft leaves. They grow quickly and begin to make entry into the house difficult. Myra started to trim them one day but had to stop early due to stormy weather. A few days later I had some free time and decided to pick up where she left off.

After a few hours I was able to trim the plants down to a manageable size. By the end of it all I had to fight off hornets, throw out my ruined shoes, and tend to all the scrapes I received from the thorns. Despite all of that I actually enjoyed working on the yard.

The following day I decided to tackle the hedge. It was covered in vines that were beautiful and elegant. Unfortunately, they were preventing the actual hedge from receiving any sunlight. Armed with only my neighbors gloves and clippers I set to work.

At first I almost didn't see this shed snake skin tangled up in the vines. 

I love the contrast of this round, eye catching Lady Bug on a thin, spear shaped leaf. 

I snapped this photo of a Lubber Grasshopper exploring the newly uncovered hedge. I was surprised to see that the tips of her non-functional wings were missing. Because of their bad taste these grasshoppers have no natural predators. I wonder what trouble she got into. 

Another Lubber Grasshopper exploring a tree in the yard - its face pressed almost comically against a sprouting branch. 

After I had removed a patch of vines I found this open egg nestled in the leaves of the hedge. Although I am not completely sure I think it might have been the egg of a snake. A few moments before I came across it I witnessed a large Black Racer slither across our window ledge. 

Around the side of our house is a little something I refer to as the "bean stalk". The vines have attached themselves to a small piece wire and keep growing skyward. It is the only place on the house where the vines have been able to grow vertically.

This is the view from our backyard at dusk. We border a wooded area which sets the stage for some stunning sunsets. 

When my roommate got home she asked my why I had spent so much time in the yard. I stopped and thought for a moment. I realized that I wasn't sure. 

"You know, I have no idea" I started off. "Maybe it was because I've lived in apartments for so long. I don't think I've had a yard since I lived at my parents place."
"Do you like to garden?" she asked
"Not really. I'm not home often and I don't feel like I have much of a green thumb." 
She was puzzled. "But you where out here for hours" 
"Maybe my body just craved being outside."

I started to think about all the time I spend indoors at work or on the computer. I'm always thinking about the next thing I have to do. I also spend a lot of time just lost in thought. It felt good to be outside and moving on instinct. Out of my head and using my hands. No thoughts in particular. No imagination running wild. Just a pair of dirty gloves and the great outdoors. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lost In The Science Center

My love for science runs deep. Maybe it was because I was a curious kid who spent the majority of my childhood stuck within a thirty minute drive of my house. I always wanted to know what was going on miles away and years ago. In the absence of travel our house was littered with books. My mother read me stories that were age appropriate and full of beautiful pictures to fuel my imagination. My father had volumes of assorted, thick books with yellowing pages. Illustrations were reserved solely for the covers. Those book didn't fuel imagination but they did provide the ammunition for an endless supply of questions. I'm sure there were evenings when he would look forward to reading by himself until my little head poked out from the door frame - "Daddy, whattcha reading about?"

Shows like Nova and Nature were on the television just as frequently as the cartoons. We would watch shows about uncovering nomadic mummies from the steppes of Russia, the forests of Alaska, or tribes that line the Amazon River. At a very young age I realized that really wasn't much going on within thirty minutes of my house. There was so much out there that I wanted to see for myself.

My family hardly traveled so some of the most exotic, captivating places to be in were in museums and science centers. In elementary school the MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) was one of favorite field trips. When I was six years old the science center in St. Petersburg had an exhibit of prehistoric sea monsters. My favorite was a model of a megalodon shark with motorized jaws. Other small children would be clinging to their mothers in fear. I stood there in awe watching its enormous mouth open slowly. The teeth would pull forward right before the jaws slammed shut. I could have easily fit into its hungry mouth. And while mothers were consoling their tearful children behind me I couldn't get close enough. I remember looking up and thinking "I can't believe that used to be alive..." That was the moment I heard my mom scolding me for leaning on the ropes in an attempt to inch closer.

When I was seven my family went to visit my grandfather in Wisconsin. One of our day trips was to the Milwaukee Natural History Museum. Unlike most of the museums in Florida, this one had several stories which accommodated a much larger collection. The dinosaur exhibit blew me away. A ferocious T-Rex was standing over it's next meal - a terrified looking triceratops. Plastic plants covered the walls and turned the room green. A fake river was made out of glass which had prehistoric fish molded inside to look as though they were swimming in crystal clear water. Most dinosaur reconstructions I had seen were of the animal isolated on a platform. This display was made to look like you had literally stepped into another world. I still remember the pebbly texture of the T-Rex skin and how badly I wanted to touch it.

I recall taking my sweet time in the gift shop. It was the only place I was free to touch the replicas but I was also trying to convince my parents to take me back through the museum.

Years later that love and curiosity is still running strong.

I found myself in the Orlando Science Center trying to acquire tickets for a DRIP fundraiser. It was a sleepy Friday afternoon. I waited at the desk for a few moments but no one showed up. I decided to find another staff member. I ended running into a nice woman who answered all of my questions. When I was done talking with her I paused for a moment to look around. I was in the middle of the science center at the base of the stairs spiraling up to more exhibits. "Well" I said to myself "If no one wants to charge me admission..." I took one decisive step towards the stairs and away I went.

The Orlando Science Center is home to several live turtles and alligators. They are all comfortable enough with each other to lay in piles. 

There was a cross-section on display to show how the rings of a tree can be used to identify its age. This tree sprouted in 1698, right before the formation of the Seminole Indian Tribe. 

This beauty was set up to educate about the internal workings of the human female body. Posed like ancient Greek sculpture, her glossy skin reveals everything. 

A view of the downtown Orlando skyline from the balcony of the Science Center. 

This fossilized turtle is preserved so well you can clearly see the puncture wounds left by the crocodile who was able to hold on to him for just a little while. 

The tail of the T-Rex skeleton set against the industrial ceiling. At first glance it almost looks like a screen shot from one of the Alien movies. 

One of the long lost loves of my childhood. Its teeth contain a grove that may have helped distribute toxic saliva into its prey much like the lethal bite inflicted from modern day Komodo Dragons. Yet despite their enormous size and power, science has proven that their closest living relative is the chicken. I look up at the massive skull and try to imagine him moving, not as a slow giant but more like a flinchy chicken with eyes darting back and forth. 

I love the way the diagonal track of lighting reminded me of a falling asteroid crashing down to earth. I lean in closer to get a better photo. Sometimes I can still hear my mom telling me to quit leaning on the ropes. 

And in the middle of my busy day I am reminded of the joy of getting consumed by the world. Not as it exists for me in the here and now. I'd rather take it all in and see the bigger picture. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The City Arts Factory

When I was younger I wanted to be an animator. By the time I got to college I wanted to majored in Graphic Design. I always imagined I would be producing work for studios or clients. Towards the end of college I began working with the performance art company DRIP and knew from the start that is where I was supposed to be. Once I started this website I found that I had an amazing outlet to focus my creative energies as well as develop my interest in writing. The more I think about it the more I realize that I am so lucky to allow myself the freedom to follow my creative endeavours as opposed to a traditional career path. I am certainly not walking the path I had planned for myself but I do feel as though I am moving in better direction.

Originally I had never imagine that I would have work on display in a gallery. As my path changed I started to see new possibilities. One of my friends made me aware of the City Arts Factory, a gallery in downtown Orlando that has open submissions every month. The theme for August was animation and I had some perfect pieces of work to submit. I took three of my best works from my previous post Digital Portraits and they got excepted into the show.

I went to the opening reception the following Thursday evening. I had never had my work on display like this before and I was completely overjoyed. I ran into professional photographer Douglas Nesbitt, someone I have known for a while through working at Starbucks. We stopped to talk for a moment over the snack table.

"Hey, I'm glad to see you here supporting the arts."
"Actually, I have some work on display!" I said announced
"Oh, show me which ones are yours."

I lead him towards the end of the room.

"These three are mine" I stated proudly.

He looked them over for a brief moment.

"These are good. I had no idea you made anything like this." He paused to continue looking at them. "You should raise the price."

I was elated by his vote of confidence. I told him that I had struggled a bit with the price. I took into consideration that this was my first show. I did think I went a little low but I wanted to give them a good chance to sell. I was just excited that Douglas thought so highly of my work. It was kind of a Cinderella moment. Most people know me as that girl who works at Starbucks. It is always gratifying to be recognized as an artist.

Most of my friends weren't able to make the opening and my family lives out of town. I didn't realize how important it was for me to share this moment with someone until my friend Matt got there. I showed him my work and he smiled "This is it! You're and artist!"

Photo by Matthew Dodenhoff

We got some wine and walked around the gallery just taking everything in. Even though Matt came to support me he still wanted to see everything else in the show. The walls were packed with beautiful pieces; every room held treasures. We talked about our favorite pieces and met several amazing artists. After we had toured the rooms we went back to see my pieces. We were talking for a moment when I noticed a few people were discussing my work. 

I snapped a quick photo. 

"I can't believe this!" I whispered to Matt "I've never seen people talk about my work. This is incredible! I wonder what they are saying."

We paused for a moment to eavesdrop. They talked about the color and the style; I couldn't make out every word. Matt and I were still caught up in listening when they turned around to see us staring. Matt and I nervously sipped out wine and looked away. They didn't know I was the artist and they gave us a quizzical look before continuing to looking at other pieces. I leaned over to Matt and smiled. "Maybe next time we should look less suspicious."

After Matt left I began to mingle with the other artist. I got to meet so many talented people with such wonderful works of art. I was pleasantly surprised because when I mentioned that I had work on display most people immediately recalled which ones were mine. I was so happy to see that my work stood out enough that they could remember what it looked like even after they had been looking at hundreds of pieces throughout the evening. 

It was a profound reminder that even though I have experienced a number of twists and turns on my path that I am still moving in an amazing direction and it just feels right. I am starting to realize that the person I am growing into is more vibrant than the person I thought I was going to be. Evolution is beautiful. 

To view Douglas Nesbitt's photography please visit:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Lesson In Transparency

For an art project in college I had a teacher give the class miniature envelopes that people use when collecting stamps. The envelopes were semi-transparent and the only instructions were to use them for the next project. I held the miniature envelope in my hand and began to think. Usually, envelopes are opaque in order to protect the contents. I found the concept of a transparent one to be intriguing. I thought about being transparent as a person - saying what you mean and meaning what you say. I try to be as transparent as possible but found three people in my life who I had not expressed my feelings to. I wrote down my thoughts for these three people on transparent paper and presented them on a textured background to look as though they were antique. These are my letters.

The first letter I wrote to a friend of mine from high school. We had a Spanish class together and due to our last names being so close alphabetically we were usually seated next to each other. His friendship had a profound impact on me. 

Dear Terry,
You were one of my best friends in high school. Before I met you I didn't think anyone could completely understand my sense of humor. I never laughed harder with anyone than I did with you. Even though you didn't know it, you helped me become the person that I am today. I never told you this but you were the first boy that I ever wanted to ask out. Another girl was braver than me and you ended up dating her for years. I remember sitting with you outside the art department and you said that you dated her because you didn't feel like anyone else would want you. I wish I could have told you that wasn't true but I couldn't find the words. We ended up going to the same college but we drifted apart. I miss you. I just hope that wherever you are, you are making people laugh. You are one of the most colorful people I have ever met. I hope that one day I will get to tell you how wonderful you are.

The second letter was for my best friend in high school and my first roommate. She was my first and most painful experience in letting go of someone who was toxic. 

Dear Heather, 
I will always remember you as one of the great disasters of my life. You were one of my best friends for years. I was there for you when your father died. You slowly fell apart and I couldn't save you. Your depression got worse and you pushed me away. I did everything I could think of to help you. At first you acted like everything was fine, then you began to withdrawal. You dropped you classes and spent all of your time in your room. You knew you were depressed and you refused to get help. I tried not to take it personally but I was so angry that you seemed to enjoy things the way they were. My other friends didn't understand how I could live with you. I wanted to prove that I was there for you no matter what. In the end things got so bad that I had to walk away. That was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I still pray for you. 

The third letter was written for my father. 

Dear Dad, 
Lucky for me that I inherited your personality. I have learned so much about myself just from watching you. I've never been "daddy's little girl" but I still know you better than anyone else. I think that is why you get angry with me sometimes - because you can't hide from me. You always used to read me books that were over my head but it made me eager to keep up. Because of you I have a deep love for science and nature. When we were at home you played any kind of music you could get your hands on. You opened my ears to a world full of music. Your interest in world religions has made me a more well rounded and accepting person. The sense of humor that we share has gotten us into a lot of trouble. I never felt like I had to fit in or compromise myself because you never did. You made it easy for me to be myself even though you can't understand why I am an artist. 

After the assignment was done I thought more about the letters I had written. I decided that in order to be truly transparent I should communicate my feeling where they were applicable. I typed out Terry's letter and emailed it to him. To date I have never received a response. I decided against sending Heather's. Even though my heart went out to her I didn't feel that sending her the letter would do either one of us any good. 

However, I was able to give my father his letter in person on Father's Day. He didn't say much but I could tell that he loved it. It is always easier for us to talk about concepts rather than feelings, but this time it was expressed and tangible. Something to hold on to and look back on. 

Even though parts of this project were difficult and heart-breaking, it taught me a valuable lesson in being open, honest, and above all - transparent. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Light at BackBooth

I've never been much of a party girl. I hardly ever go to any of the bars downtown. However, one night I accompanied a friend to BackBooth where he was performing. The night was full of lively acts and I took several photographs. Although the best photograph I took that evening was of lamp hanging from the ceiling.

The interior of BackBooth boasts an Old English decor. Dark wood and heavy curtains accent its sturdy frame. At one point I looked up and took a moment to enjoy the design of the building. I paused when I saw this delicate lamp. Most of the people in BackBooth were too busy partying to notice what was above their heads. I love this photo because that beautifully glowing lamp looks like it could just as easily belong in the halls of some quiet Moroccan temple as it could be in a smokey bar in downtown Orlando.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Feet: Part 5

More on the beauty of looking down.

My feet with a grouping of shoes outside the Buddhist Temple of Tampa. Anyone wishing to enter the temple had to remove their shoes as a sign of respect. 

Walking up to the DRIP venue one day I noticed these beautiful yellow flowers in full bloom. 

Propping up my feet to watch an outdoor performance at the 2012 Orlando International Fringe Festival. 

Me waiting outside of Mellow Mushroom for my sister. A storm was approaching and once I was done taking pictures of the sky I turned my attention towards the ground. 

My roommate Myra has three pit bulls. Nobel, the oldest, usually prefers to sleep on his dog bed. The younger two must lay as close to me as possible while I am watching T.V. This shot also contains some of Myra's beautiful decorative lamps. I lay stretched over the couch while Raji, the black dog, seeks attention from Chewie, the brown dog. I love living in a place with so many affectionate dogs. They remind me so much of my own dog who past away a few years earlier. She was also part pit bull. 

The tree had been in my parent's front yard until it had to be removed. It was a very unusual tree and when it started to die the bark peeled away to reveal a smooth, wave-like texture. Once the tree had been cut down it become an unconventional road map of cracks from drying and the swirl pattern of the saw that cut it down. And even though the tree did grow to be exceptionally tall my entire body could fit into the diameter of the surprisingly narrow and sturdy trunk.