Monday, June 27, 2011

The first time ever I saw my you-know-what

When I was 16 or 17, I read Everything You Ever Wanted To Ask About Sex, but were afraid to ask which encouraged me to explore my own anatomy. I felt a lot of resistance, but finally my curiosity got the better of me. It felt a little bit like going to see The Exorcist - I knew I was in for some terror that would scare the shit out of me, but I hoped I could take it.

I went over to my dresser and picked up the hand held mirror which my great aunt had bequeathed to me when my great uncle died - it had been in the family for generations and was a beautiful porcelain piece, painted daintily with purple violets, with a matching brush and comb. I wondered if it had ever been used for this purpose before. What would my Aunt Estelle think? 

It was 2 AM, and I hoped and prayed no one else would be awake to surprise me in action. I was terrified my mother or father would just know what I was doing and would come in on me and yell at me for how terrible I was being. But even then, at that young age, I was a courageous person, so I lay down on the floor where I had a good hard surface. My heart pounding, I pulled my underpants down.

All the way.


My face was flaring red. I held the mirror "down there". I didn't want to look. I wanted to look. I couldn't stand to look. I was afraid of what I would see. It would be so gross. It was wrong to look, wasn't it? What would my parents say if they caught me looking? What would they say???

I snuck a peek. One eye. Closed it again. I tried again. It felt so wrong to look. Oh, God. The book had said I was supposed to touch myself and open the "lips". Gross. Touch? I'd never touched myself down there. I had no idea what I was doing or what I would see.

Gingerly, I moved the mirror to my left hand, tried to adjust the angle, then used my right hand fingers to open the things they said were my lips. It felt so weird. So foreign. I was afraid of what I would see. I had no clue. It was fascinating, but gross. Tissue like none I'd ever seen before. Mauve blending towards red or towards my normal skin color. Folds.  Creases.  What on earth was beyond that? In that darkness? I lifted my head higher to try to see.

I heard a movement out in the hall. I dropped the mirror, pulled on my underpants and scrambled into bed as fast as I could, scraping my shin on the bedrail, stuffing the mirror under my pillow.



Except for my heart pounding and my hypervenilating.

Stealthily I got out of bed again and put the mirror away and straightened up any signs of my criminal behavior then settled into my covers, processing hard and fast all I'd seen and felt and thought as I explored the nether-reaches of my most mysterious body.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lots and lots of vaginas - NOT surgically altered!

Thanks to my friend Adele Castillo, I've found a couple of fascinating websites all about vaginas - well, vulvas, to be more physically accurate. 

In this blog,, Jenny, aka The Bloggess, takes umbrage with the movement afoot to convince women that their vaginas need plastic surgery because they're too big, too lippy, whatever!  I agree with her 100%!  You go, girl!

Under the comments, there was a link to a website with photographs of women's vulvas.  Here's what the woman wrote about it: 

In Denmark we have the "Kussomat" (Pussyomat?) - a portable photo booth placed at selected places around the country. In the booth you sit in a special chair and have a photo taken of your pussy. The picture automatically uploads to a website "Woman, know your body" - now showing one more of all the wonderfully different pussies in the world! (Not safe for work!)

Can you imagine the uproar that would be caused if we had such photomats here in the US?  Maybe I should see about setting one up for my show Not Barbie, and see what happens.  I can hardly imagine women here being willing/able to show their private parts like that.

And then I am guessing you've already heard about the Great Wall of Vagina by UK sculptor Jamie McCartney.  This bold gentleman took plaster casts of 400 British women's vulvas and put them together as if they were tiles and is showing them all over the place.  Here's Saatchi Galleries description of his work:
Consisting of 40 casts of vaginas arranged in a grid, Design A Vagina is the third in a series exploring our relationship with our genitals.

Men tend to have seen more vaginas that women, who have often only seen their own and many have never looked that closely. Hence the exposure of so many, showing the variety of shapes is endlessly fascinating, empowering and comforting. For many women their vagina is a source of shame rather than pride and this piece seeks to redress the balance, showing that everyone is different, everyone is normal, and everyone is beautiful.

The title is a play on words, commenting on the trend for surgery to create the 'perfect' vagina.
It is certainly true for me that I haven't seen many vaginas or vulvas, as would be a more accurate term.  I haven't felt comfortable asking my models if they wanted me/would allow me to photograph their vulvas straight on and haven't had an idea in mind of what I would do with the images if I had them.

Maybe that'll be my next step.  I never know where my fertile imagination combined with curiosity and my feminist outrage will lead me next...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Not Barbie: A Celebration of Real Women

Not Barbie: A Celebration of Real Women

In her provocative show Not Barbie: A Celebration of Real Women, Susan Singer takes on society's version of the "perfect" woman, as exemplified by Mattel's Barbie doll. Singer paints extraordinary female nudes, but not as they appear in the Gospel according to Madison Ave. Instead of fitting the current societal requirements for beauty, Singer's women are as they are: gorgeous precisely because they have the courage to be real. One of her models weighs 270 pounds and shows us just how beautiful she knows she is as she stands proudly before us. Another strides off the stage which is the canvas, wearing her red high heels, compelling us to follow her. Of one woman, all that can be seen is a tangle of arms and legs and belly, glowing from within, leaving us in awe of her radiance. A 91-year-old dancer shares with us the joy she feels at being alive. Birth, aging, pregnancy, middle age, scars, elective surgeries - all these topics and many more are covered on Singer's canvases and in the stories the models have written to accompany each painting. Viewers to her exhibition will leave feeling they have been privy to an intimate glimpse into each of these women's lives. They will come away from this deep, rich experience knowing more of what it is to be female and enriched for having taken the journey.

The Opening for Not Barbie: A Celebration of Real Women will take place Friday, September 16th from 6:00 – 9:30 PM at Crossroads Art Center at 2016 Staples Mill Road in Richmond. Singer will give a Gallery Talk at 5:30 PM for those interested in learning more about her art, her process, and her self. The show runs through November 7.

Building on the momentum from her show, and wanting to give women ideas for moving beyond Barbie, Singer has organized a series of performances and lectures about issues important to women today: Beyond Barbie: Piecing Together Today’s Woman. Many of the presenters will be Singer's models because, serendipitously, most of her models are performers or otherwise leaders in their fields. The series will take place Thursday evenings from Sept 22 - Nov 3 from 7 - 9 PM at Crossroads Art Center. It will include the following topics:

• September 22: an evening of exciting dance performances called Strength in Motion: To Speak without Words

• September 29: an interactive evening about body modification called Body of Work: Finding Inspiration in a Canvas of Flesh

• October 6: The Blues: Liberation, Empowerment, and Joy! starring Gaye Adegbalola, a nationally known singer formerly of Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women

• October 13: Through the Fire/ Reclaiming Lost Power After Trauma & Abuse; stories, information, and resources about intimate partner abuse

• October 20: a roundtable discussion and personal stories about eating disorders called Caught in a Funhouse Mirror: The distorted Reflections of Eating Disorders

• October 27: first person stories about birth called Listening to Mothers: Birth As We Know It

• November 3: a evening of literary sharing by gifted Richmond writers called Life in the First Person: Women‘s Stories Uncovered.

These evenings promise to be celebratory, provocative, informative, and, most of all, empowering for all who attend. More information will be available at Crossroads Art Center’s website.  For information about Singer’s artwork, the show Not Barbie, or the performance series, Beyond Barbie, please contact

Susan Singer

For information about the venue, please contact

Jenni Kirby
Crossroads Art Center

Creating a Creativity Revolution in RVA

What happens when you put 250+ creative, innovative folks in one space for eight hours and give them the task to change the way something has been done for centuries?

Things change, that's what!  People leave fired up, turned out, ready to rock and roll.

Consider some of the people presenting their own passions yesterday at i.e.:

Ed Trask, a world-famous artist and former punk rocker, spoke about his art and about seeing the world in a different way, through a creative lens.

Matt and Mike from the Martin Agency, a world-renowned advertising agency, talked about their corporate culture and how they manage to do things so darn well.

Samantha Marquez, a 15-year-old rising sophomore at Maggie Walker Governor's School, blew us all away with her stories about the research she's been involved with for the last 2-3 years and the patents she's already gotten. Unbelievable!

Jeff and Joey Anderson are 21 and 23-years-old and have already started a company, BioTaxi. They get used grease from restaurants and turn it into fuel for their taxis. Not only are they working to help the environment, they are also helping people get from A to Z with incredible customer service.

Valley Haggard and I spoke about our collaboration for Artists and Writers at Randolph Macon College last February and how we're finding joy in vulnerability, authenticity, and nakedness as we pursue our separate passions.

And that was just the tip of the very deep iceberg which is Richmond Creative. 

In break out sessions during the day, we were tasked with deciding what we as a community, a group, and as individuals can do to shift the cultural paradigm in Richmond, VA.  Richmond has historically been seen as the seat of the Confederacy, the place where slave trading took place, a city where the Confederacy is still honored.  In other words, there's a lot to be ashamed of.  The organizers of i.e. asked us to consider a different possibility - that Richmond has a lot more to offer than that, that, in fact, it is a hotbed of creativity, passion, innovation, and inspiration, and could be the Center of Creativity of the US if we just become more aware of all we have to offer.

In looking for a paradigm-shifter, I was inspired by one of the organizers of the event, Stephanie Kirksey.  Everytime I spoke with her about an idea I had for the event, or asked if she could do something for me, she said, "Yes."  Without a moment's hesitation.  She made it happen.  Her attitude emboldened me to be more creative, to take more risks, to assume something could and would happen.  What would happen if we all lived with "YES" as the voice in the background instead of "Well, maybe, if such-and-such doesn't happen..."? 

Another opportunity would be to stop speaking about Richmond's past (yes, we need to honor it and make sure it won't happen again - I don't mean to lessen the suffering of the people who were enslaved), and to instead converse about the dynamic present and the exciting future.  Point to the innovations going on here and now.

The city is bursting at the seams with great ideas.  For example, Andy Thornton,co-owner of LaDiff, the furniture store cum i.e. event site, wants to make the area around his store a Design Region with a Design Museum that would highlight all the cool stuff being created and designed in and around Richmond.  THAT would draw people to downtown!  What a great idea!

I can't wait to see what comes out of this meeting and out of i.e.'s three year initiative.  I sense great change is afoot.

If you're interested in seeing a (fairly poor) recording of the entire event, here is the link. If you're interested in Valley's and my presentation, it's at minute 41 or so and lasts 13 minutes on the 5 hour video.

What part do you play in Richmond's Creativity Revolution?  I'd love to learn how you engage in creativity in your life.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Overwhelmed by so much good!

Some days it's harder than others to paint.  So often it's all I want to do, and today I have all day to do it, and it's a little bit like pulling teeth.  I like the image I'm working on, and it's still hard.

I woke up with a ton of anxiety crashing through my sleepy eyelids.  I have taken on too much, don't know how I can do it all, and the overwhelm is grinding down on me pretty hard.  I get to this place every so often.  It usually means I need some sleep, but that isn't really the case this time. 

I'm sitting in my famous red chair, facing our line of bird feeders watching the 10-15 birds and several squirrels take their turns for food, sunflower seeds and suet.  A big blue jay has figured out how to get his place on each feeders and frequently comes, causing the other birds to flee.  The squirrels try to get to the feeders but seem to still be daunted by our very fancy jerry-rigged anti-squirrel bird feeder line.  It's an idyllic setting and should help me take a deep breath and let go of all my anxiety.  Right?

My show, Not Barbie: A Celebration of Real Women, is coming along well.  I have 2 of the 8 pieces finished and another is well on its way towards being done.  That's what I'm tyring to paint today.  I feel like I'm painting to get it done though, rather than because it feeds my soul.  That's what happens sometimes when I'm getting ready for a show.  I forget to enjoy the process.  Painting is all about process.  The product hardly matters to me once it's done.  I enjoy the final product, but, really, it's the process of painting which is the reason I do it.

I've realized lately that my work isn't all about the painting though.  I am passionate, as well, about women's body issues.  I truly want to change the way people perceive women and beauty.  I want the media to begin to portray normal women, not just overly-thin ones.  And I would dearly love for all women to love themselves.  Wouldn't that be amazing?  I feel so drawn to those intentions that I can barely get myself to sleep at night, and I wake up with all sorts of new ideas each morning.  That is a blessing.

And I'm a little bit tired!  It's tricky trying to slow myself down enough that I can relax and enjoy the process.

As part of my upcoming art show, I am also organizing a performance series called Beyond Barbie: Piecing Together Today's Woman.  I realized a while ago that the vast majority of my models are talented, gifted performers, writers, dancers, etc., so I thought it would be amazing to showcase their talents.  This series was born out of that desire.  I didn't quite realize quite how much work it would be!  There are women who have taken on organizing each night so I'm not having to do the nitty-gritty of each night, but it's still astonishing to me how much thought it takes to pull it all together - marketing, program, tickets, press releases, etc., etc., etc.  The gorgeous thing about it, though, is that almost everyone I've mentioned it to wants to take part in some way - helping, performing, organizing, attending.  This series seems to have struck a chord in the most wonderful way.

So here I am with fabulous ideas being realized all around me and feeling overwhelmed because there's so much good!  That seems a little bit ludicrous, but I guess life is like that sometimes. 

My desire now is to get a bit of rest, remember to relax and breathe, and trust that all is well.  All is very well.  All is happening exactly as it should.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I will not write about...

I will not write about how to apply mascara, the four coats of five different types you should buy to give your eyes the perfect luster to attract the perfect man who loves you because your eyelashes are perfectly delineated and separated and pure.

I will not write about the charms of Botox, the thrill of having puffed up lips or less droopy eyelids.  I may write about the enormous mind-blowing pain my eleven-year-old son experienced when he had to get a Botox shot to help his overly-tense leg muscle relax so he wouldn't limp so noticeably.

I will not write about the thrills of perfectionism.  There are none.  I will not write about the joys of a 5'10" 110 lb body.  There are none.  Those women can never be skinny enough to satisfy their longings to disappear.

I will not write about the patriarchy's right to exist, how women need to be subservient to their men so society can function properly.

I will not write about the rightness of war, how violence is the way to bring about change.  I may tell the story though of the outraged mother at the playground who, upon seeing her child strike another toddler, rushed into the sandbox to grab him by the arm and spank his bottom, full of rage, yelling at him, "Haven't I told you it's wrong to hit people?"

I will not write about the advantages of having a billion dollars of disposable income a year because it's unlikely I'll earn that much, but I may write about the joys of living simply, having enough and giving away the rest.  I may write about the fear I just experienced at the thought of giving away so much instead of squirreling it away for later, just in case.  Why not experience the joy of giving instead?  Of seeing the relief on a woman's face when she receives enough food for herself and her children for the month?

Perhaps I will write about the soft skin of my baby's face, how I touched it with awe as she lay in my arms, trusting me to meet her every need, how absurd that proposition is, yet how determined I was to try.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pastel Classes

From 6/23 - 7/21, I'll be offering weekly Pastel Classes on a drop-in basis for anyone who's interested.  They'll be held in my studio.  $30/session, pay as you go.  Limit 6 people.

It's an opportunity to work on whatever you'd like to in a supportive fun atmosphere.  Just contact me if you're interested, and I'll sign you up!

For strong women - no more headaches!

In Valley Haggard's Creative Nonfiction Class, we read Marge Piercy's poem "For strong women".  I'm working on getting permission to reprint it here, but if I can't, you can look at her site.  Here's the link to the book this poem is in.

The oddest thing occurred when we read it.  We always go around and read a paragraph each.  When it got to me, I found myself reading the lines, "...A strong woman... is trying to butt her way through a steel wall./Her head hurts."

I cracked up since I was suffering so excruciatingly from headaches a few weeks ago, and everyone in the class knew it.

Here is my written response to Marge's amazing poem:

Now I understand what my headaches were about.  Thank you, Valley.  Thank you, Marge.  "A strong woman is determined to do something others are determined not be done...  She is trying to butt her way through a steel wall.  Her head hurts."


Yep.  I am butting my head through a steel wall.
I will get through it.
I actually will.
There are thousands helping me,
cheering me on,
butting with me.
They, too, want this wall down
They, too, won't take no for an answer.
Others' distress and fear will not stop me.
Nor will my own.
Nor will the headaches.

The power in my belly
will break through the wall.
And a glorious
celebration there will be!
Women dancing in the streets,
naked breasts flopping as
they jump up and down
in Hurrahs.
Breasts squeezing loose breasts in
exultant celebration at finally being
to be
Hips and bellies
loose flesh dangling,
Bones and ribs and thin skin
being caressed
by the wind,
free to grow as well.
Young ones,
old ones,
loved, beloved,
old and young,

So much
communal power
to embrace the planet
to usher it gently
through to its next stage
Who better to take it there than
who understand from birth
the power of creativity
and kindness
and compassion,
who know
love grows
upon love
upon acceptance.

Renewable is our middle name
We renew ourselves daily
as we look in the mirror
and decide to move on
and go into the world
and live another day.
We renew life
as we give birth
to the next generation
and to words
and to music
and to art
and as we dance our fundamental life-giving rhythms,
attuned to the microcosm
and the max.

We are women.
We are life-givers.
Together we break through this steel wall
We bring our power to the rebirth of this Earth, together.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What would happen if I really accepted myself?

If I truly accepted myself, my belly would be the most luscious beautiful voluptuous bit of flesh on the planet.  I would gaze at it lovingly, pat it absent-mindedly in meetings, paint it in warm glowing colors instead of cold putrid ones, and tell stories about its glory.

I would tell most especially about how it expanded lovingly to hold my precious children as they grew from cells into sentient beings.  How it grew to bulbous proportions threatening to pop or to topple me over with its lopsided heaviness as I plodded wearily through the final days of my third pregnancy while still nursing my second baby.  Yet it contained everything - my hopes for this child, my love for him, my health, his safety, a generous place to spend his first moments of this lifetime.  It protected him from my exhaustion and made sure he had enough food, enough liquid, enough oxygen, enough room, providing him seemingly automatically with just the right amounts of everything as I lay down to sleep each weary night, dulled to the distress of each day by my exhaustion.

If I truly accepted my belly, I would thank it constantly for offering my children such a safe and loving haven for their first nine months.

And I would realize it is my belly that taught me about prejudice and injustice and the cost of each.  My father's orders to hold it in cursed me and made me feel humiliated to be a woman, to have a woman's curves.  I head him tell my mother the same, and I learned to bristle at the injustice though at the time I had no recourse.

But now, thank you, dear belly, for not disappearing despite my two hundred adolescent sit ups a night.  Thank you for the constant reminder that you are the seat of my empowerment, my rage, my fight to help all women grow into their own bellies.

My power has been gestating there, growing and growing with just the right amount of everything.  And now it is becoming time for its birth.  It is preparing to enter the world just as my beloved children did, alive, awake, alert, and ready to make its mark on the world.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The moment my life changed

I didn't know I couldn't see, but my fourth grade teacher noticed me pulling frantically on the corner of my eyes, squinting to try to see the board.  She told my mom who took me to see Dr. Taylor.  The first test I knew I flunked - he told me to stand with my feet behind the line on the floor and read the letters on the fourth line of the chart ten feet away from me.  I was aware there were grey filmy shapes on the wall, but couldn't begin to decode them into letters.  Then I had to sit in a huge dentist's chair with a looming black machine pressed up to my face.  The doctor turned a bunch of dials and told me to tell him which was better, 1 or 2?  2 or 3?  1 or 3?  I squirmed in my chair, knowing this couldn't be good. 

Dr. Taylor talked to my mother in the waiting room and told her I needed glasses.  I felt the floor fall out from under me.  I knew I would be consigned to the nerd group from here on out.  I asked him if I had to wear them all the time?  Well, ideally, but maybe I could just put them on when I needed to read the board.

We went home where Mom told Dad.  He excitedly went down to the basement and brought up several boxes full of displays of eyeglasses, things he'd saved since his second stepfather ran out on his mother and left them behind.  Now they would be useful and he could save some real money.  These things were worth a mint.  They were antiques!  Unsure he was right, I nevertheless had no choice, so picked out a pair of gold granny glasses, perfect actually for the nascient hippie movement of 1968.

A week later my mother took me to Sears.  Oh God.  Oh no.  The end of my cildhood as I knew it.  I just knew it would be awful.  I dragged my feet as Mom strode purposefully towards the optical department under the down escalator.

I saw some colorful blobs on a circular rack and went over to investigate, feigning interest in women's oversized bathing suits since that was where I'd landed.

Mom paid the clerk for the glasses and brought them over to me.  She encouraged me to put them on.  I balked.  She insisted.  Firmly. That voice meant I had no choice.  I slowly put them on, yuck.  The world suddenly became crystal clear.  Color abounded.  There were words above the stairs and I could read them.  I'd been right - my world would never be the same again.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The provocation of poison ivy

I am loving taking Valley Haggard's class, Creative Non-Fiction.  In it, we read a few pages which she has carefully selected, then she gives us a prompt and we're on our own to write for ten minutes.  Then we read outloud what we've written to the other students.  Valley then fills our heads with how wonderful our writing is, and we begin the cycle again.  She is incredibly gifted at finding whatever morsels of genius might be found in those 10 minutes of free writing and helping us see their beauty.  What a gift she gives us each time!

When we arrive at class, the first free write always begins, "Right now..."  It gives us the opportunity to arrive and to become present to the class.  And to discharge whatever distress we may have brought into the classroom with us.  It's a brilliant way to start and is very helpful for getting to more interesting stuff afterwards.

Here's what I wrote last week.  The class suggested I share it on my blog, so here goes!

Right now I'm aware I've been writing since 5 AM and don't know what more I have to say.  I feel pretty clear and calm.  I guess I could describe the feeling of waking up at 5:03 AM scratching myself almost to the point of bleeding until the burn is stronger than the pleasure.  Then I could write about the remorse as the burn remains and the urge to scratch remains and the desire to scratch remains and the mind wakes into full consciousness to deal with the disparity between comfort and desire, unclear which is which.  Desire to scratch and feel that pleasure, comfort in the release of the itch?  Desire to control myself so I experience the comfort of no pain/ less pain? - the itch still wants to be scratched.  Tiny microcosmic pins inside the dry scaly red patch on my arm beg to be satisfied.  Peaks of dried pus on my knee, flea-sized, beg to be picked and released, scratched and freed.

This is so gross to write about - these people are going to think I'm a walking mess of painful and gross physical symptoms - I feel that way too these days.  AND I guess it's allowing me to explore another aspect of women's body image - how to love, appreciate and accept my body fully when it's offering me challenges like debilitating headaches, rashes and obsessively demanding poison ivy?  I worry I'll have something else crop up before the filming next week and I'll end up looking like Job times three.  Thank goodness my message is about loving and accepting our body no matter what - what an opportunity to practice.  No vanity is possible without great humiliation when my inner left arm is red and bumpy from three inches above my elbow to my wrist where the red patch ends in tiny little flea bit sized bumps, ready to burst at the slightest provocation.  Better not point to anything with that arm.


More entries to follow.  (The rest don't contain quite such graphic descriptions!)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Grown up children and their parents

A friend of mine sent me this quote the other day.  I am finding it quite useful to reflect on it 
and to consider its inherent wisdom: 
Katherine Briggs wrote to her daughter Isabel Myers ( I  
think Isabel was in her 20's at the time).
"Please memorize:
It is the PRIVILEGE of parents of grown up children to make suggestions;
and it is the DUTY of the children to give serious consideration to  
those suggestions.
It is the PRIVILEGE of grown up children to make their own decisions;
and it is the DUTY of the parents to respect and acquiesce in these  
As my kids grow up and move into their 20's and out of the house and onto their own, it's so 
important that I back off and let them do what they need to do to live their own lives.  And 
still be there for them as much as they want me to be.  We each have to sort of how much that
is exactly.  Some days it's more, some days it's less.  In some situations, I want it to be more,
and they understandably want it to be less!  For example, Dylan is leaving for China tomorrow 
and I am having some feelings about it.  I trust him completely so it has nothing to do with that at all.
I just worry a bit because it's a gigantic country, he doesn't speak much Chinese, and he'll be 
alone most of the time.  He has done an amazing job preparing for it, but that doesn't mean I'm
not a bit concerned about his two month odyssey.  And I'm excited for him and can't wait
to hear the tales!  It is certainly a mixed bag.  He doesn't need or want my concerns right now, 
and it isn't appropriate for me to share them with him, especially since they aren't overly rational. 
He is sensitive enough that he sense them anyway, poor guy!  And he knows that if he needs me, 
I'm here.  My job is to stay away unless I'm needed and let him grow as he grows and live his life - 
it is, after all, HIS life! 
Parenting is a lot trickier than I ever thought it would be.  I think there should be classes in school 
to teach people how to parent.  And communicate effectively.  And handle ones anger.  And finances. 
So many things would be more useful than some of the academics we learn and are so hard to
come by on ones own.
Here's wishing Dylan a safe, wonderful journey, and each of you a safe, wonderful journey 
with your kids! 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

How would Barbie look if she were full sized?

In preparation for my upcoming show in September, I've been researching Barbie and her pervasive influence on our society.  This article is an interesting one - a young woman made a life-size representation of Barbie in the proper dimensions.  It's a bit scary!

Barbie doll in real life

The article also has some good statistics about how many Barbies are sold each day, etc. My favorite tidbit (just in case any of us doubted the message we might get from Barbie):

Slumber Party Barbie was introduced in 1965 and came with a bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs with a book entitled "How to Lose Weight" with directions inside stating simply "Don't eat."

At my show I'll have an exhibit where you can compare yourself to Barbie - and to a typical 5'10" slender model and a "full-figured" model.  Hopefully it'll give you the chance to see how far from an obtainable reality any of the media's images are.  The full-figured model is not too bad, but still not "normal".

Friday, June 3, 2011

Jean Kilbourne is an outspoken advocate for more responsible advertising as regards women.  Here is a link to an outstanding video of her speaking about the affects of advertising on women's self esteem.  I hope you'll watch it. 

Killing me Softly

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Heather's pictures and Shelia's make up - the real and the even more real me!

Heather Addley arrived first and we immediately started taking pictures.  I had the curtain and the lights set up.  And I was dressed for the shoot.  I'd decided to wear a tight-fitting chemise-type shirt primarily so I wouldn't get make up on my clothing once Shelia got there.  Heather was quick - she took a couple of preliminary  shots to set the camera up then began shooting.  My intention with these pictures is to radiate my authentic soulful self to show that beauty has nothing to do with make up or artifice but actually comes from within.  I believe there is nothing make up or clothing or hair cuts or jewelry can do to make a person beautiful who can't access it from within her/himself.  

You can judge for yourself how you think they turned out.

A few minutes later Shelia Gray arrived and began setting up her supplies.  I had originally asked her to do "glamour" makeup, but she felt like someone else might be able to do that better, so I asked her to make me up like a feline instead.  Why?  you might very well ask...  Well, when I was doing the work with Karen Morris a couple of weeks ago, I had an image of myself as very feline.  Strong, sleek, muscular, fierce yet not ferocious, powerful, ready to strike but not needing to.  I wanted to experiment with that image.  It was a bit tricky because I couldn't articulate it since it wasn't clear enough to me yet.  I thought the make up and pictures could help me a bit with that.  They have.  I can picture it better now.  These pictures capture a little bit of what I was going after, but I may have to do it again to get exactly what I was looking for.  

I can say, it was really fun having Shelia put the make up on.  It felt good being so attended to.  I also really liked letting myself go in front of the camera.  I took a few minutes first to find the energy I was looking for then began posing.  I am fairly shy by nature, so this was a stretch, but I decided I wouldn't have a better chance than this to access that spirit, so I let myself go for it.  It felt good.  Like what I want to do with my painting.  Just let it go and enjoy the flow.  It's a lovely thing!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Photographing Gaye and Being Photographed Myself

Tonight I'm going to be on the other side of the camera lens and I can feel the anticipation.  I spent the afternoon photographing a very cool woman (aren't they all?), Gaye Adegbalola.  She's a singer and musician, a teacher and a writer and all around very cool woman.  A friend of mine told her about my project and asked if she would be willing to pose for me.  I'm so glad she did!  We got some very fun, goofy pictures as well as some powerful images.  Stay tuned for paintings of her in the not-too-distant future.

And now after 3 hours or so photographing her and learning about her,  I'm going to be photographed.  Heather Addley is going to do the honors.  I had an idea for a piece and needed some help with it so I asked her and Shelia Gray to help me out.

Here's the deal - you know the Before and After pictures you can find in any magazine?  What I tend to notice is the wide disparity in the background, lighting, clothing, and expression of the model in the two images.  I want to play with that.  I'm going to have Heather take a picture of me before I don any makeup.  I'd like her to use beautiful soft lighting.  I'll wear attractive clothing.  I'll smile as beautifully as I can manage.  I'll let myself be soft and pretty.

Then I'll have Shelia make me up as well as she can, truly trying to make me as pretty as possible, getting rid of the bags under my eyes, covering up skin blemishes, accentuating whatever it is make up is supposed to accentuate these days, glam my hair - all that good stuff.  Then I'll ask Heather to photograph me again, but this time using harsh light and an unflattering angle, and I'll wear less attractive clothing and won't smile.  I'm curious to see how it'll turn out.  I am hoping it'll be a fun spoof on the Before and After shots but that it will also make a serious point that they aren't particularly credible.

Or perhaps I'll end up looking so gorgeous when Shelia is done with me that I'll end up wearing make-up every day from now on!

Stay tuned!!