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Maybe you've wondered what my origin story is as a photographer. I, for one, am an "origins" person. I like history, genealogy, geology, and the timing of "firsts" and "lasts." It all comes together to make us known on a deeper level as individuals and as a people.
Half of my lineage comes from northern France by way of Acadia, the other half comes from Sicily and Italy in the Mediterranean. Hence, I ended up with a funny shade of pale olive skin and freckles that doesn't tan well, and I'm only 5'2".
The French came by boat to Acadia in the 1600's to be fur trappers and settle new land. These Acadians made their way to southern Louisiana through escape and expulsion after some unpopular rules were enforced by the British crown during their claim to these northern French lands by way of several wars. My ancestors from warmer climates came in the 1800's to areas outside of and within New Orleans that were already American. These two bloods, the Mediterranean and Acadian, mixed in the Deep South, where I became a known as Cajun.
I began studying photography at the University of New Orleans in 2001 and was one of the last few generations of students before the digital wave, meaning every roll of film I shot was reeled in a pitch-black closet and printed under the amber light in a darkroom. I was one of the midnight warriors, making my way in the darkness to have the place all to myself late at night to make prints on silver halide paper. Only a couple of other determined warriors joined me at this time of day.
I was on the slow path to graduation, working two jobs while studying with a goal of graduating debt free, and by 2005 I was only a junior at age 24. That August, Katrina sent us out of class and her destructive forces were the beginning of a really cool and empowering survival experience for me that began with swimming out of my front door in fins and towing my two roommates from India out with me on a Home Depot extension cord. It ended with me getting a plane ticket from Salt Lake City to Eugene as part of payment for working with a New Orleans record store's van that followed the Warped Tour. We set up big tents at each new city from Arizona to Utah. I stood outside selling punk chains and hemp necklaces, while the rest of the crew sold custom band t-shirts made on the spot under the tent.
I had fallen in love with what little I knew about Oregon the year prior, having been a skateboarder and wanderer in a state where wandering meant you needed a boat to get to the best spots and skating meant riding pot-hole-ridden streets, giant oak tree roots lifting up sidewalks over 6 inches in some places, and absolutely no outdoor skate parks. So I took the chance to get myself out to Oregon on a "refugee" status that offered me in-state tuition to the University of Oregon in Eugene. Living through Martial Law was not fun, and I'm glad Oregon stepped up for us!! I was exited to head for a state that had rocky basalt cliffs and desert, all in one.
At that point, I was getting around mostly on foot and by bike. I got my New Orleans bike as a rescue from a garbage heap in Baton Rouge on a family visit prior to the hurricane. It had a sweet custom bandanna seat that I designed and a Little Rascals sticker on the stem. Sadly, Buckwheat drowned in the flood waters, chained to my porch. When I got to college in Oregon, I borrowed a bike from my driving college roommate until I got Fiend. Fiend was designed by the Cadillac car company (strange, I know) and had some really crazy structure that only fitted BMX fenders, so I felt like I was on a half-motorcycle on the road.
Oregon was more than the beauty I could conjure in my head. I knew I had come to where I wanted to be when I started to check out my surroundings between classwork. The sensations I experienced being around my first Northwest waterfall were of total relaxation and triggered some sort of animal sensuality. We were barefoot, we jumped from the top, we were free.
Oregon became forest hiking, mountain climbing, sea cave exploring, and beach camping on the weekends with my house-mates. I found out beer tasted better in these places, but I still drank the cheap stuff a couple more years until I tried PNW craft beer. There were so many choices!
After living here now for over ten years, I can say I've seen a lot of the Cascadian coast and hiked many trails, but I feel like I've only tapped into a tiny bit of the natural beauty it has to share with us, and I am so glad to live here with the purpose and intention of exploring as much as I can with a camera and bringing that beauty into our everyday lives. I live for those moments, being out there. And I am greatly satisfied when my image pleases you!
Hello curious readers! I've been so busy this summer and want to fill you in on some of my current projects and directions in art and design.
I stepped out in a big way (left my day job) over the spring, and I am happy to say I have been working full time at art ever since! I'm never bored, that's for sure! Adventures are for creating, and projects always seem to find me or I find them!
Resort Design in Key Largo
This summer, my design work got discovered by the Playa Largo Resort in Key West, Florida. It started when I began collecting vintage cedar wood floats that were made right here in Astoria, Oregon in the 1950's. You know, the ones that were used before plastic and styro-foam became a big thing and formed the big mass floating in our sweet Pacific (ugh). The resort has been asking me for them, and I've been dutifully refurbishing them and even shipping them off just before and after the big, destructive Hurricane Irma. Don't worry - the resort fared well since they are one of the newest structures on the island, and building codes there require greater resistance to the forces of nature to lessen the blows that seasonally arrive. I'm excited to say that my project has become a signature part of the resort's design! And Playa Largo Resort is one of the Marriott's "Autograph Collection" of boutique hotels. Yes, that certainly feels a bit fancy for me.
Back in our Oregon Coast paradise, I have been busy working with several Astoria shop owners to increase the presence of my work on the retail scene. This comes after months of art scene business, doing solo and group shows of my work. I was asked by several shops to supply my photos on postcards, and so far they are loving them! Thanks, you are helping me survive out here in this old city.
That Postcard Thing!
One of the shops where you can find my stationery cards, postcards, mini wood panels, and a few refurbished floats is the illustrious Luminari Arts! These shop owners are killing it in the card and unique gifts departments. I am so excited to finally be in there! You can find Thailand-carved wood decorations, folksy northwest fish paintings, crow stuff, and more. I could spend at least 30 minutes there just perusing their vast, humorous, and creative collection of cards!
Several other shops carry my other different stationery cards. Each shop has a unique selection, so you have to look around to find them all. I'm not letting any one shop bogart the postcards though - we artists have to do what we have to do to get our work out there, and sometimes that requires buying stuff in bulk quantities. A few of these places where you can find my coastal tote bags, postcards, and cards are Old Town Framing Co., Maiden Astoria, The Astoria Column Gift Shop, Buoy Beer Co., and the ever-fun collection at Riverfront Trading Co., aka Coldwater Skate and Surf (reborn).
Well, as far as the near future... I hope and pray I get invited to Key Largo to check out the wares I'm shipping down there. I need a break for real! Sunned freckles, reggae music, Caribbean breezes, and white sand would do this girl some good! This winter will be a good time to hunker down and create new work while pushing existing work into the hands of many, and as always, looking for new art and design opportunities. I don't plan on doing a northwest winter ever again without staying in a warm locale for at least a couple of weeks, now that I have found out how much cheaper winter flying can be!
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When I was a kid, my brother and I would go out trick-or-treating in costume. We had a red Radio Flyer wagon and the freedom to wander on a warm southern October night. Lots of kids were out. There was a sense of quiet excitement, all of us wondering what spookiness we would encounter at each front porch as we mustered ourselves up to ring the doorbell. Some houses were downright scary, others were just people who got off work that day and wanted to hand out candy to us kids. Since I was older, I kinda became a leader in this Halloween stunt when I saw a ripe opportunity. My entrepreneurial kid brain figured that I could hack the system and get more candy than the other kids - in other words, I could be a very successful candy monger. It wasn't about greed, because I didn't even eat most of the candy in the end. It was about getting the most, about feeding a growing competitive spirit that resided in me even as a kid. Our little plan was to pull the Radio Flyer behind us together and leave it on the sidewalk just out of view as we stopped at each house. We would go up and say "trick or treat" like all the other kids, but each time we stood amongst spiderwebs and skeletons, our plastic orange trick-or-treat pumpkins were empty. Some kinda felt bad for us, so they gave us a little more candy. That was the plan. I know, this is horrible, but remember, I was a kid and I wanted the taste of success in numbers, not necessarily in my mouth. So we would empty our pumpkins into the red wagon after each successful mission, loading it with candy by the end of the night. At home we dumped the night's score onto the carpet of our empty front room. We were rich!! I sorted my candy by bubble gums, chocolate, and "other." Then, because I was the oldest kid, I claimed the biggest of our nesting cookie jars in the kitchen to store my stash.
My mom remarried when I turned 12, and two more kids became part of our family. By the time I was a teenager, I still had candy stashed in that cookie jar of mine. I knew it was stale. But that didn't matter. What mattered is that it was full, and I had worked hard to get it. It became a symbolic totem of my efforts. Now that there were two new little pairs of hands in the house and another boy for my brother to consort with, they felt the courage to start treating themselves to my candy, just a few pieces at a time. I think they thought I wouldn't notice, but I did! Just like a bank account, I would check on my candy stash from time to time. Let's just say the level was "lower" than it had been. When I started questioning them as to who had been ferreting away my supply, one finally fessed up "But you have more candy than any of us!" (I also have great teeth). Really, at that point, I realized I was past the candy game. That my trick-or-treating days were over. And that now I wanted to hang out with friends my age instead of worrying about candy. So, I let them have what they wanted of it once I fully gave up my stronghold. What I learned about myself in the process, early-on in life, is that when I can create opportunity that exceeds the vision of my competition, I can have more success to call my own. And if I am careful to put away some savings in times of bounty, I will not be without when times are lean. Also, I can 't live forever on past accomplishments cause things get stale. And, it feels good to share. :)