I'm beyond thrilled to share that my cyanotype diptych, "At the Edge of Remembering," was selected as the first place winner for the inaugural art exhibit at the Ryan Resilience Lab, which is part of the Elizabeth River Project. This newly built living laboratory will serve as a global model for urban coastal living that protects both the ecosystem and humans as sea levels rise. It's a space for art, education, and demonstration of sustainable living practices, and I'm honored and thrilled to have my work appear there. The theme for the exhibit is “All Water Has a Perfect Memory: The Poetics of Resilience and Return."
“You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. ‘Floods’ is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”—Toni Morrison
The River Remembers Itself: My Approach to the Exhibit Theme
Cyanotypes are a printing process that involves placing objects or photo negatives directly on paper or fabric coated with light-sensitive chemicals. I created these cyanotypes on the banks of the Elizabeth River using a hand-drawn river map and in situ natural elements—leaves, feathers, sand, debris. After exposing, I immersed the prints in the river’s waters to develop them. Thus, the river can remember itself by being physically present in the fibers, textures, and shapes of these images. The sun, water, and natural materials manifest the river’s memory.
In this piece, I delve into themes of the ever-changing nature of water and the impermanence of the natural world. The composition harnesses the inherently unpredictable qualities of cyanotypes to mirror the fluidity of water and its pathways. I aspire to evoke a sense of reverence for the fragile equilibrium that sustains us all: plant, bird, human, world.
Behind the Scenes: The Making of Cyanotypes on the Banks of the Elizabeth River
It was a blistering hot day in June when I set out to a lovely little nook along the Elizabeth River Trail in Norfolk, Virginia. I brought with me several large pieces of fabric coated with cyanotype chemical, a map of the Elizabeth River I drew on a sheet of clear acrylic, and a patient and kind friend who assisted me.
Once the treated fabric makes contact with sunlight, it begins to transform, so it was a frenzied, fun process to create designs. I'd pull a sheet of treated fabric from its light-proof envelope, spread it out on the ground, and begin making designs with natural elements (sand, leaves, wrack, feathers, wood debris, and more), as well as human-made debris I found (plastic wrap, chip packages, a drink cup). (I collected and took away all the human trash on my way out.) I also used my hand-drawn map as a negative over some of the pieces, and I experimented with sprinkling the fabric with salt, vinegar, and spices like turmeric and paprika.
I exposed some pieces for only a few minutes, and others for hours, letting the tide creep up over them as time passed. Once I was done exposing, I rinsed the fabric in the water of the river. Water develops and fixes the images into their characteristic blue and white hues.
I let the pieces dry in the sun, and ended up with a beautiful collection of images that celebrate the river's impermanence.
About the Lab and the Elizabeth River Project
from The Elizabeth River Project:
"The Pru and Louis Ryan Resilience Lab is located on the Elizabeth River, a waterway that already has changed dramatically with human action and is changing once more as humans cause sea level rise. In the last century, the river was back-filled and redirected to two-thirds its historical width and twice its depth, so that the cities of today are built where the river once was.
Now, as glaciers melt and the water levels rise, the waters of the Elizabeth are remembering their way back to their ancestral beds and perhaps beyond. The Ryan Resilience Lab is intentionally situated in the path of the coming floodwaters and aims to inspire people to connect to and protect the returning river, rather than fight it. The living lab has been outfitted with eco-conscious green systems designed to address the causes of climate change, sea level rise, and flooding, as well as make it resilient to its effects.
When the floodwaters reach a critical point in 50-100 years, the Ryan Lab will be gracefully surrendered back to the remembering river, a process called planned retreat. In the meantime, the Ryan Resilience Lab hopes to model how to live in right relationship with the returning river. This inaugural exhibit aims to explore the poetics of the river’s return and the resilience of communities in its path. How can we work, play, and live with the rising water?
How can we welcome the river back to its remembered home?"
Come to the Exhibit Opening!
Please join us for the opening of the exhibit on November 17 starting at 6:00! You can tour the incredible space and see work from nine artists selected from all over the east coast. You can also hear a special preview of an original symphony piece composed by local artist Jerome Ellis in collaboration with Virginia Symphony Orchestra, a tribute to the Ryan Lab’s unique, ever-evolving wetland, designed to migrate with the rising tide.
The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Register now to attend!
Earlier this year, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of traveling to Antarctica. Want to see stunning landscapes? Want to ogle penguins and cute baby seals? Want to know what moment almost made me drop my camera? Check out my photo essay of our trip to Antarctica here!
Looking back at 2022, I’m full of gratitude for adventures with so many wonderful humans and animals, a challenging and fun job with awesome coworkers, delicious food, and lots of love and silliness with my beloved. Happy New Year, all! May you have the energy and opportunity to follow your dreams. Here’s how my 2022 shaped up, in about one second a day.
What feeds your creative soul? For me, it’s playing with all kinds of media: art-making, paint-playing, collage-creating, ink-splattering, and note-scratching random fun. All the different forms feed my creativity with the camera, in graphic design, and more. So I took an art journaling class with Amie Oliver, and here’s what happened. Click on the video below for a little tour through two journals I’ve been working in over the last two months!
2,218 miles, 9 days, 11 states
I set out with the vague idea of capturing magic, whatever that might look like. And in this collection of photos, I share what is magic to me: the interconnection of all things. The bell shape of a flower is the bell shape of a ctenophore bioluminescent jellie. The lines of a granite quarry are echoed in the lines of bamboo photographed with intentional camera movement. A Beluga whale's fin is a Salem tombstone is a Japanese pagoda tucked in a nook of ferns. Echoes in shape, line, and color. Here's a look at what I found.
I recently had the honor of being featured in Golden Isles magazine in an article about photographing the night sky. The Georgia Coast and its beautiful night skies are an endless source of wonder for me. I've braved the late hours and sand gnats so you don't have to. Click on any of the images below to bring some of the wonder into your home... no bug spray required.
$65.00 - $300.00
Two whale statues on a playground on Saint Simons Island in Georgia make for a fun foreground to the Milky Way.
Under the Stars, Red Dreams
$115.00 - $300.00
Light painting (in this case, "coloring" the tree with a red flash light during a long exposure) under the stars at driftwood beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia.
Astral Chorus of Cumberland
$115.00 - $300.00
Camping out on Cumberland Island in August 2016 allowed me to catch some of the magic of the Perseid meteor shower.
East Beach Rising Moon
$65.00 - $300.00
Have you watched the full moon rising over the ocean at East Beach on Saint Simons Island? It's like a fairy tale. It's a moment you can't capture with your cell phone, but you'll always remember it. The scent of the salt air on the coastal Georgia breeze. The grit of the sand between your toes. Your lover's hand in yours, maybe the giggles of your children playing nearby. Nights on East Beach are full of sweet memories. Bring those memories home and hang them on the wall. Let the moon illuminate them. Listen for the waves. Can you hear them?
Under the Stars on Tybee
$25.00 - $300.00
The Milky Way rises over the the pier on Tybee Island, Georgia.
No Lifeguard on Duty
$65.00 - $300.00
A lifeguard stand sits vacant next to the column of the Milky Way on Tybee Island, Georgia.
Star Light Star Bright
$200.00 - $300.00
Geminid meteor shower as seen from driftwood beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia.
Coastal Georgia Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse
$65.00 - $300.00
Amazing night skies over Brunswick, Georgia: the lunar eclipse of January 2019 fortunately occurred on a clear night for our area in coastal Georgia. Sprawled on my back, clothes smelling of smoke from our bonfire, I shot a series of images of the moonover 5 hours to capture the wonder of our solar system in motion. May this image bring to you the awe I felt witnessing the event.
Saint Simons Lighthouse at Night
$200.00 - $300.00
The lighthouse on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, stretches its beams out into the night, keeping those on the water safe. Lighthouses symbolize the way forward: taking risks, going on adventures, and finding our way back home.
Milky Way Over Driftwood Beach
$145.00 - $300.00
Starstruck: the beauty of Driftwood Beach at night under the Milky Way is unparalleled. The dark night skies of the Georgia Coast offer truly special photographic opportunities.
The Coastal Photographers Guild Big Photo Show is on display at Glynn Visual Arts through August 1. I've got three photos entered in it, and I'm so thrilled to share that one of them won first place in the People category and Best in Show. I took all three of my photos in Kenya in January when I was there with a bunch of fantastic photographers led by David duChemin and Cynthia Haynes.
For the past two years, I’ve been doing an intensive Buddhist study program through Heartwood Refuge and Retreat Center, and on May 17, I was ordained and authorized as a minister (reverend or acharya) of the Embracing Simplicity Contemplative Order, a dual lineage.
What does that mean? I've spent the last two years trying to learn how to love harder and wider than I ever thought possible. It’s been a silly and difficult and profound time of learning about compassion, joy, and equanimity. It’s changed my approach to work, community action, photography, relationships, life, and death. My teachers, Venerables Pannavati and Pannadipa, have served as models of what selflessness means, through their work in their local community and across the world. And right now, our world needs loving kindness more than ever.
Here’s the thing. Heartwood, like so many other places, is struggling due to the pandemic. Their funding comes primarily from retreats and speaking fees, which are all on hold indefinitely. And I know everything is temporary, but I’d really like Heartwood to be around for a while longer. Venerables Pannavati and Pannadipa are doing such powerful work there to spread peace through the world.
I know so many of us are feeling economic pain right now, but if you have the ability to contribute even a small amount, I’d be ever so grateful.
(Not a post about wearing masks!)
So here we are in the thick of the pandemic. I hope you are all well and safe, whether you're sheltering in place or required to go out in the world as an essential worker. This experience has been difficult in different ways for all of us. Some are stressed about their finances (lost jobs, closed businesses, and more). Some are worried about their health or the health of a loved one. Others are bored out of their minds, or crawling up the walls wishing they could get away from their housemates or out to see friends. And of course, some are using extra time to learn new things, create, plant gardens, paint, bake, and read. Many of us are feeling a little bit of all of the above.
I've been social distancing since March 7--no travel, no visiting with family or friends, no restaurants, no photoshoots in my studio. Although I've had more time at home than usual, my day job in communications for the Federal government is busier than it's ever been. So I haven't felt like I've had "extra" time. I haven't been diligently applying the Mari Kondo method to every room, closet, and drawer in my home. But I have been on a lot of Zoom video calls to stay connected to family and friends, and I recently learned this magical trick: VIRTUAL BACKGROUNDS.
If you're like me and perhaps want to keep your mess to yourself, you can turn on "virtual backgrounds" in Zoom and hide the real world from the people you connect with virtually.
Virtual backgrounds allow you to go from this:
(Look how tidy my house is!)
So just in case you want to spend some (virtual) time in a KonMari-ed, uncluttered space designed by professional decorators and adorned with photos by yours truly, I've got a fun, free download for you. There are seven backgrounds to choose from, each featuring one or more of my photos hanging on the walls, all free for you to use whenever you need to protect yourself (or your meeting participants) from whatever mess is in your world.
Need help turning on virtual background? Zoom has all the information you need, and lists the system requirements and steps for any device you might be using. But the basics are this: on Zoom desktop, click on the arrow next to the "Stop Video" icon at the bottom left in your meeting screen. Select "Choose Virtual Background..." Then you can upload any of the free virtual backgrounds I created for you. It does work best if you don't have TOO much clutter and distractions in your real-life background—the camera isn't super smart when it comes to figuring out what is YOU and what is the background you need to hide.
Inspired by these photos and want to make the transition from virtual to real-world beauty?