Category Archives: Photography

O- Georgia O’Keeffe: Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge

“I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.”
Georgia O’Keeffe in Laurie Lisle, Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, 1981

As you may be aware, I am currently taking part in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, and my theme this year is: Writing Letters to Dead Artists. The overall concept is to explore the artists who have touched me through a particular work and then pose them a question. They then send me a reply, and even I’ve been surprised by what they’ve come back with, because much of it has been news to me. So, you can make of that what you will.

Today, I’ll be writing to American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), who has taken me beyond the bustling streets of New York and up into its iconic, soaring skyscrapers which she loved to paint from the ground looking up like teeny Jack staring up at the Giant. I have never been to New York, and yet I’ve sung and danced to the song with absolute gusto  to a band called Paris Dumper at The Nag’s Head, an English-style pub in Sydney’s Glebe. It was always their closing song, and an electric end to a great night out.

Please excuse my ignorance, but I only stumbled across Georgia O’Keeffe two weeks ago when I was hastily trying to fill all the letters of the alphabet for this challenge. I feel a little remiss in not getting to know her sooner. However, my justification is that I’m Australian, and art seems to be a bit of a nationalistic thing. We don’t always get exposed to artists from other countries. Moreover, my poor, overstretched brain also has its limits. You can’t know everyone. That said, one of the things I love about writing, is how my limits are continuously stretching and expanding, hungrily devouring fodder like a starving teen fuelling a growth spurt.

Poppy Untitled 1970 oil

Georgia O’Keeffe Untitled 1970 oil.

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) has been described as “the mother of American modernism”. Yet, within this framework, her subject matter is quite diverse. Indeed, there’s so much more to her, than just her infamous, flower portraits. A few nights ago, I was stoked to stumble across her series of New York Skyscapers 1925-29. These were painted while she and her famous photographer husband, Alfred Stieglitz, were living in a 30th floor apartment in the Shelton Hotel, one of New York’s first residential skyscrapers. It had a gobsmacking view across the city, and they really were living and breathing the New York vibe. In 1929, O’Keeffe made her first trip to New Mexico, where she made love to the rugged, arid landscape, and it soon became an integral part of herself. After her Stieglitz’s death in 1946, she moved to Abiquiu full-time. She lived there until her final few years, when she moved to Santa Fe where she died on the 6th March, 1986.

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.”

-Georgia O’Keeffe

That’s the condensed version. You see, I’m keen to continue on our travels, focusing more upon the road less travelled, than regurgitating biographical facts. Indeed, I’m much more interested in getting to know Georgia O’Keeffe the woman instead. I never expected this to be easy. However, when I scratched the surface, she burst into a thousand pieces, which have been very hard to put into any kind of order or structure to create a cohesive portrait. I shouldn’t be surprised, but it would’ve been much less work and mental angst, if she could’ve stayed between the lines.

No discussion of Georgia O’Keeffe is complete without mentioning her husband…the famous photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, who gave O’Keeffe her big break.

Georgia O'Keeffe New York Night

Georgia O’Keeffe, New York Night 1929. I have always marvelled at this little boxes of light through the darkness, signalling somebody’s home and wondered who is there, what they are doing. each box is like an illuminated mystery.

Stieglitz created and managed New York City’s internationally famous 291 Gallery located at 291 Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. While Stieglitz was at the forefront of photography, he also introduced some of the most avant-garde European artists of the time to the United States. These included:  Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, Henri Rousseau, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brâncuși, and the Dadaists Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp. This was clearly a man who knew his art. Knew his artists, and was very well connected.

Radiator Building-Night NY 1927

In early 1916, Anita Pollitzer, a friend of O’Keeffe’s, showed Stieglitz a series of her highly innovative charcoal abstractions. He found them to be the “purest, finest, sincerest things that had entered 291 in a long while”. In April 1916, Stieglitz exhibited ten of her drawings at 291 without her knowledge. At his request, she moved to New York in 1918 and their professional relationship soon became personal. She was 28 at the time and he was 52. She also became his photographic muse. In 1924, after he’d divorced his wife, they were married. O’Keeffe and Stieglitz were prolific letter writers and exchanged around 25,000 pieces of paper between them…a mind-boggling volume of correspondence, which covered the highs and lows of their relationship.

At this point, perhaps it’s pertinent to mention O’Keeffe’s battles with mental health issues, which were exacerbated by her husband’s affair with Dorothy Norman, who he called ”Dorothy-child.” Yet, despite this apparent confidence, apparently she experienced anxiety all her life. Yet, instead of making it her prison, she went on and did what she wanted to do regardless.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

Georgia O’Keeffe

Indeed, I wonder whether she might’ve known Dorothy Parker’s poem: Resume written in 1928:

 

Razors pain you;

Rivers are damp;

Acids stain you;

And drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren’t lawful;

Nooses give;

Gas smells awful;

You might as well live.

I tend to feel this earlier O’Keeffe is almost a complete contrast to the fiercely independent, tenacious woman she became in later life, even before her husband’s death. Indeed, I can almost hear her singing from her grave: I Did It My Way.

georgia-okeeffe with her car

This freedom could best be symbolized by her car, which she adapted into a mobile studio and was a critical necessity for her trips to and from New Mexico. As Carolyn Kastner, curator of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum explained:

“She would remove the driver’s seat. Then she would unbolt the passenger seat, turn it around to face the back seat. Then she would lay the canvas on the back seat as an easel and paint inside her Model-A Ford.[1]

After all, the heat in New Mexico was intense and she’d paint with the windows down, until the bees became a nuisance and she’d wind them up until the heat became too much and she headed home.

Georgia O'Keeffe Painting in her car at Ghost Ranch New Mexico

Georgia O’Keeffe painting in her car studio at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.

 

As much as I don’t really like driving, it does provide that sense of freedom, which can really only be surpassed by learning to fly. There’s a huge part of me, which would love to jump in the car and escape somewhere and immerse myself in my writing, photography and possibly even paint. Indeed, playing my violin somewhere out in the middle of Australia’s Nullarbor Desert has a strange appeal, although my preferred escape has been driving a Kombi up to Byron Bay and going for a surf. The fact that I can’t surf or drive a Kombi has done nothing to dampen this dream, although now that the kids are getting older and my health isn’t quite so dire, it’s been awhile since I’ve been indulging in some Kombi dreaming.

I’m sure many of us indulge in some form of escapism, and I guess that’s where TV can take you on a thousand journeys without even leaving your chair. That ease of entertainment, I guess is something to watch out for. Living vicariously through a screen is a poor substitute for living and going on real life adventures of your own, instead of living through someone else.

Speaking of living, I’d better get on with this letter to Georgia O’Keeffe.

Envelope to Georgia O'Keeffe

 

A Letter to Georgia O’Keeffe

Dear Georgia,

A few short week’s ago, I’d barely heard of you, and yet now I’m in raptures. Not just with your paintings, especially your New York Skyscraper series, but with you as a person who was such a strident individual with your own ideas, and yet there was also your marriage to Alfred, with it’s 2500 pieces of paper, the photographs, his affair and then how he didn’t want to sell your paintings. He wanted to keep them all for himself. I’d also love to pile into your Model T with you and drive from New York to New Mexico. I’ve never ever been to America, but there’s something about America and the big road trip which has a certain magic and reminds me of my many trips across Australia’s Nullarbor Plain on my travels between Sydney and Perth. I’d better warn you though. I hope you like having plenty of stops, because I’ve never been an A-B traveller. I always have to stop.

Well, that assumes that I’d be driving the car, which is probably very doubtful. Something tells me that you wouldn’t hand over the keys to your beloved studio on wheels under any circumstances. That said, I think your eyesight started failing later in life so perhaps I would be driving after all.

While I’m fascinated by your New York Skyscraper Series, I’m actually writing to you about your bone paintings from Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. There you were painting flowers for such a long time, which are such a thing of beauty, and then you turn to bones, which intrinsically have to have some association with death, destruction and despair. There a bit of a gulf between the two, don’t you think?

Please explain.

There’s so much more I coujld ask you, but this might just be the beginning of our own series of 2,500 pieces of paper. You never know. I have a hell of a lot of questions and who knows, perhaps you might just have a few of the answers.

By the way, did you happen to meet up with Australian artist, Sidney Nolan? I wrote to him yesterday. While I focused on his Ned Kelly Series, about an Australian bushranger, he also did a series set in the Australian outback about doomed Australian explorers, Burke and Wills. I think the two of you should go on a long car trip together and see what you can come up with. You might even what to take along his mate, Russell Drysdale and author Patrick White, although the last I heard Nolan and White had a falling out. However, one hopes those petty earthly squabbles would all get ironed out somewhere along the between heaven and Earth.

Bets wishes,

Rowena

A Reply From Georgia O’Keeffe

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your energetic letter. I could sense your uncontained enthusism in each and every word and your unstoppable energy reminded me of myself. Indeed, I suspect you also have something of my nervous energy, which was a positive negative force my entire life. It drove me forward. I wouldn’t let it hold me back, but there were those times it overwhelmed me like a wave and swept me under.

Sometimes, I wonder if people don'[t have anything better to do than make up fantastic Freudian interpretations of my paintings, when my thinking was very practical. I painted flowers simply because they were there. They were cheaper than models and they don’t move. Quite frankly, I don’t know how my husband coped handled all those models. Sorry, I wasn’t going to go there. We both know what happened with that wretched Dorothy woman, although more than one of my so-called friends told me I’d got my comeuppance.  You don’t always think of that when you’re a young woman caught up in the throws of passion and you have this incredible, world famous photographer falling at your feet. I was just a girl from a wheat farm in Wisconsin, who was dazzled by the bright lights. That’s all.

Anyway, getting back to my paintings of the animal bones, it was the same as the flowers. The bones were scattered across the landscape and I gathered up a barrel of bones and took them home. This was around the time that they were hell bent on finding the greatest American novel, the greatest American play. Indeed, Superman was created in 1938. America was looking for heroes. This was my cheeky contribution to the quest. You’ll notice the red, white and blue of the Stars and Stripes in the painting.

You see, abstract works aren’t always so cryptic as you might think, and I encourage you to release your inhibitions and preconceived ideas and explore more abstract works for yourself. Find your own meaning, if you must. Or, simply enjoy them for what they are.

By the way, I heard you gave up on art growing up because you couldn’t draw your dog. What a pity. No one should ever give up painting and drawing and expressing their inner world through art. It’s just like dancing, which I’ve heard you’ve embraced now that you’re almost 50 and battling this dermatowhatwhat disease. I don’t mean to be unsympathetic, but why do they give these rare diseases such long unpronouncible names? Humph…dermatowhat what…ther’s subject for an abstract work. HOw would you paint it?

See, I got you back with a tough question of my own!

Best wishes,

Georgia.

PS Rowena, you don’t need a Kombi to go off the grid and you don’t need to drive to the end of the Earth either. You live in such an inspirational part of the world, surrounded by beaches, the ocean but also the bush. Don’t tell me you have nothing to paint!

Sources & Further Reading

[1] https://www.c-span.org/video/?310650-1/life-artwork-georgia-okeeffe

Wikipaedia

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

https://www.biography.com/people/georgia-okeeffe-9427684

http://artreport.com/exploring-mental-health-through-art/

Georgia O’Keeffe Exhibition at Tate Modern

J – Jackson Pollock…Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge.

As you may be aware, my theme for the 2018 Blogging A-Z April Challenge is Writing Letters to Dead Artists. Today, I will be writing to American Abstract Expressionist, Jackson Pollock (1912-1956).

In 1973 the National Gallery of Australia purchased Jackson Pollock’s masterpiece, Blue Poles, for a staggering $1.3 million…the highest amount ever paid for an American painting at the time. Perhaps, not unsurprisingly, the purchase was highly controversial, triggering a wave of debate across the country.

Blue Poles newspaper article 1974

Opinions came in thick and fast. Indeed, I even saw him described as “Jack the Dripper”:

“I THINK the money spent on Jackson Pollock’s painting “Blue Poles” would have been better spent on building a four-lane highway linking the capital cities of the Eastern States. The Hume and Pacific Highways are not fit for the traffic they carry these days, and many lives, as well as time and money, would be saved by their improvement.$2 to A. W. (name supplied), Gladstone, N.S.W.[1]

“Mr Daniel Thomas, senior curator of the Art Gallery of NSW and Sydney Morning Herald art critic, described the purchase as “the greatest thing that has happened to art in Australia”.

Artist Sali Herman said, “The whole thing just stinks. I am all in favour of the National Gallery buying good paintings . . . It seems that they have money to give away. I don’t think Pollock is worth two million”.

nla.news-page000024737719-nla.news-article230427808-L3-bb769ed0b291bf41444a6578460e5a05-0001

Mr Henry Hanke, a winner of the Archibald and Sulman art prizes, said he had not seen ‘Blue Poles’ but he “did not think much of paintings created by dribbling paint”.

Another Australian artist, Russell Drysdale, was in favour of the purchase. He said, “The whole art world was affected by Pollock and this was one of his masterpieces. If you have a masterpiece then it is priceless[2]“.

After arriving in Australia in 1974, Blue Poles was first exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney and our family joined the throngs of Sydneysiders to just to see it. I was almost 5 years old at the time and had just started school. Indeed, I hadn’t even had the suggestion of a wobbly tooth.

This is where our visit starts getting personal, because when I saw Blue Poles up on the wall, it reminded me of the painting my father had done blowing swirls of colourful paint across a dark blue background through a straw. So, what does this one in a million, little kid do? She walks straight up to Blue Poles with all the confidence of the Director of the Art Gallery himself and points a finger right on the painting: “My Daddy painted that!” My 2 year old younger brother also touched it, at least as far as our memories are concerned. Humph! I also remember just as clearly being told off by a very austere Guide of Gestapo proportions, who snapped: “Don’t touch the painting!!” Clearly, I’m lucky I kept my fingers. But, isn’t that what every little kid wants to do, especially with all that thick, oozy paint splashed all over the canvas? It was just begging for sensory-seeking little fingers to touch it, especially back in the olden days when we didn’t have fidget spinners to keep them occupied.

Dads Painting

Dad’s painting 1974. This now reminds me of fireworks over Sydney Harbour, which weren’t a thing back then.

I was quite excited to find this film footage from 1974 showing Blue Poles on display.

After such an experience, how could I not write to Jackson Pollock in this series? Blue Poles could well have been the very first painting I ever saw in an art gallery, and that scolding “Do not touch the paintings” hasn’t left me either. Of course, we can’t have such masterpieces destroyed by grotty fingerprints, but surely art can also be tactile, a complete sensory experience? Indeed, couldn’t art also be an active thing for the viewer, as much as the artist themselves, the creator? Why should they have all the fun?

I was reminded of this hands-off rule of art, when my husband and I took our then four year old son to the Art Gallery of NSW (returning to the scene of my crime as a parent this time, not the child). He was very well-behaved, but he was active. Indeed, I remember feeling very nervous as he started looking at some thousand year old sculptures, wondering if he’d accidentally knock of a head. He wasn’t always looking where he was going.  Could you imagine the guilt of that as a parent? The headlines! No, thanks.

Then, taking after his mother, he walked up to a painting, and said he’d painted one like that at school and I photographed him standing beside it.

Next, after leaving the gallery, we were walking through the park across the road when he found a large autumn leaf on the footpath. He was so excited and he wanted to take it back to the art gallery so someone could make a painting. You should’ve seen his eyes light up with childish enthusiasm and he was so sweet. Meanwhile, I was lost for words. How could I explain that they didn’t want a leaf? Or, for that matter, a pressing of a leaf like he’d made at pre-school? How could I throw cold water on his flame?

IMG_6646

Who’d refuse a leaf from this little rock star…

Perhaps, we should’ve taken him back. I’m sure the gallery staff would’ve thanked him for it and been considerate. She wouldn’t have laughed in his face and told him how much the paintings in the gallery are worth, and how they’re only done by real artists. In other words, that they don’t have leaf prints hanging in the gallery. Instead, I just told him that they don’t make the paintings there. That they’re only on display.

….

Who Was Jackson Pollock?

Jackson Pollock Life Magazine

Beyond all these family anecdotes, there was an artist…Jackson Pollock.

In terms of his bio, he was born on the 28th January, 1912 in Wyoming and grew up in Arizona and California. In 1930, he moved to New York with his brother. 1938 – 1942 he underwent Jungian therapy to treat his alcoholism . October, 1945 he married fellow abstract artist, Lee Krasner and in November, they moved to Long Island. On August 11, 1956 Jackson Pollock died aged 44 when he crashed his car within a mile of his house under the influence of alcohol. Jackson Pollock was an Abstract expressionist.

Pollock provided a solid account of his artistic processes in an interview with Life Magazine in 1949, which was headed: “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?”

“Jackson Pollock was born in Cody, Wyo. He studied in New York under Realist Thomas Benton but soon gave this up in utter frustration and turned to his present style. When Pollock decides to start a painting, the first thing he does is to tack a large piece of canvas on the floor of his barn. “My painting does not come from the easel,” he explains, writing in a small magazine called Possibilities 1. “I need the resistance of a hard surface.” Working on the floor gives him room to scramble around the canvas, attacking it from the top, the bottom or the side (if his pictures can be said to have a top, a bottom or a side) as the mood suits him. In this way, “I can… literally be in the painting.” He surrounds himself with quart cans of aluminum paint and many hues of ordinary household enamel. Then, starting anywhere on the canvas, he goes to work. Sometimes he dribbles the paint on with a brush (above). Sometimes he scrawls it on with a stick, scoops it with a trowel or even pours it on straight out of the can. In with it all he deliberately mixes sand (below), broken glass, nails, screws or other foreign matter lying around. Cigarette ashes and an occasional dead bee sometimes get in the picture inadvertently. “When I am in my painting,” says Pollock, “I‘m not aware of what I’m doing.” To find out what he has been doing he stops and contemplate the picture during what he calls his “get acquainted” period. Once in a while a life-like image appears in the painting by mistake. But Pollock cheerfully rubs it out because the picture must retain “a life of its own.” Finally, after days of brooding and doodling, Pollock decides the painting is finished, a deduction few others are equipped to make. [3]

Of course, so much more could be said, but I guess it already has been. So, that leaves me with a letter to write.

A Letter to Jackson Pollock:

Dear Jackson,

There’s so much I could ask you, but I couldn’t resist this simple question:

Are you the greatest dead painter in the United States?

That’s all.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Reply From Jackson Pollock

Dear Rowena,

Am I the greatest dead painter in the United States?

I’m still not saying.

Heard you playing the violin(4) last night. Smashed mine as a kid, after it refused to cooperate.

Left you one of my signature apples pies (5) in the fridge, but I ate your pavlova. Would love the recipe. Could you please send it in your next letter. Promise not to get paint all over it.

Keep up these letters. We’ve been passing them round so much, they’re about to fall apart. Looking forward to “K”.

Yours,

Jackson

References

[1] Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), Wednesday 6 March 1974, page 43

[2] Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), Tuesday 25 September 1973, page 7

[3] http://www.theslideprojector.com/pdffiles/art1/pollockarticle.pdf

(4) Bruce Claser “Jackson Pollock: An Interview with Lee Krasner” Arts Magazine 41, No. 6 (April 1967) pp 36-39.  Reprinted in Jackson Pollock: Interviews, Articles & Reviews edited by Pepe Karmel, 1999, The Museum of Modern Art. Distributed by HN Abrams. p 34. Link.

(5) Jackson Pollock loved baking and also made a great spaghetti sauce Ibid p 33.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 8th April, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Tonight, I made a batch of Chocolate & Raspberry Muffins, made with almond meal and coconut sugar. They were scrumptious with dark chocolate overtones, with a blast of raspberry. Yum! Would you like to try one? Then, you’d better be quick. The mix only yielded only cupcakes and next time, I’ll make a double batch. We ate ours straight out of the oven.

So, how was your week? Have you been taking part in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge? I have. My theme this year, is writing Letters to Dead Artists. So far, I’ve written to Botticelli, Grace Cossington Smith,Edgar Degas, Eileen Agar, Frederick McCubbin and Vincent Van Gogh.

Today, I posted a  Weekly Round-up Letters to Dead Artists A-Z Challenge

Although I’ve been very focused on researching and writing for the challenge, the usual realities of family life ensure I’m on my feet. It’s good for me really, because going through all this research can get very intense. I don’t want to join any of these artists in the asylum.

Yesterday, we had a busy day. It was open day at the dance studio and so I spent a few hours watching my daughter and the other students performing their solos as well as a preview of the piece for the mid-year production. As always, I loved watching the performances and was dazzled seeing Miss all decked out in her tutu again. After focusing on Van Gogh’s Starry Night intensly for much of the last week, I couldn’t help noticed the emotive swirls in some of the solos. There’s definitely an intensity there, something with connects with a part of me which usually doesn’t see the light of day. These days, being a mild -mannered mum provides good camouflage. Of course, I’ve got it together!

DSC_9293

After dancing, it was off to the Scout & Guides Gang Show Camp. It’s held in the bush about 30 minutes drive away and then it’s about a 15 minutes walk through the bush to reach the camp site. This provided an easy bushwalking opportunity for me, where the track is well-maintained and an easy stroll. It felt like such a treat to go bush and after writing about Australian artist Frederick McCubbin and , I felt like I was walking through his work On the Wallaby Track. There was the familiar scent of eucalyptus through the air and even after all these years, scribbly gums haven’t lost their magic. They still look like fairies or bush folk have left little messages to each other through the bush. As we walked back to the car, the sun started setting, bathing the trees in golden light. Where was my easel?

During the last week, I caught up with my physiotherapist and I’ve been told. Get back into my exercise routine. Just to prove the point, after we went walking my cough eased. The walking is clearly good for me. So, in addition to yesterday’s bush walk, I’ve been on a few walks with the dogs to the beach..one with all three dogs and today, it was just Rosie who has submitted to the Halti collar and now agrees to sensible walking and unlike Lady, doesn’t stop every metre or so for sniffing and watering duties. Lady doesn’t do a lot to boost your heart rate.

It’s now Autumn here but we’re still enjoying bright blue skies and sunny days. Indeed, it’s still what I deem “hot”. It was 26°C today and it’s threatening 31°C tomorrow. It lulls us into a false sense of security that Summer will never end.

Anyway, that about sums up last week. How was your week? I hope it’s been great.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.. Can’t believe I’ve actually completed and beamed up my post before the weekend’s done and dusted and we’re well into Monday.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share, April 1st, 2018.

Welcome to our Easter Sunday Weekend Coffee Share…and April Fool’s Day!

Personally, I’m not too sure about Easter Sunday also being April Fool’s Day and as if that wasn’t already bad enough, here in Sydney, we’re turning the clocks back an hour and it’s the end of Daylight Saving Time. However, you just try telling that hot sun that it isn’t Summer! It’s currently 27ºC or 81ºF and I feel like heading off to the beach.

How was your week? Are you doing anything special for Easter?

We celebrated Easter with my parents last night, to avoid the traffic today and we also wanted to attend our local Church. Things can get a bit crazy at times, can’t they and you just have to spread things out to dissipate the madness.

Anyway, I made a pavlova to take down for dessert. This turned into quite an epic saga, because the eggs refused to separate and I basically went through twice the number of eggs to get 6 that worked. Then, just to totally blow out my stress levels, I dropped he final egg yolk into the five, perfect egg whites and it was looking like I was having to start again from scratch if it wasn’t for a bit of artful “fishing”. Even then, I still wasn’t sure I’d removed all the stray traces of yolk and thought I’d beat them up and see how it went. Fine! Phew! Anyway, of course when I arrive at my parents’ place, my Dad said it looked like the perfect pavlova and by the time our daughter had added the cream and decorative touches, it was. Goes to show, you don’t always knows what goes on behind the scenes to produce perfection, and we could all ease up on ourselves a bit.

Our big news last week was the our daughter had an audition for a speaking part in a musical, and the two of us headed down on Thursday to Surry Hills. Surry Hills is a short walk from Central Station, which is about a 80 minute train ride from here. Our daughter recently turned 12 and she had her first audition for the Sound of Music a few years ago. That was for the second youngest Von Trapp and it was a singing part. So, we had a fair bit of practice in the kitchen. I had the flu at the time and was on the nebuliser for asthma, so it was a surreal experience, but I got her there…along with an army escort from her Godfather who is in the reserves. This time, the reheasal side of things was easier, but I had trouble finding a reasonable head shot. Although I clearly do a lot of photography, she avoids the camera and a head shot is different from your standard photo. It’s like a portrait crossed with a passport photo. I chose a photo which I thought was alright. However, when I printed it up, there was one stray hair across her face and her makeup was ever so slightly cakey. So, I had to dash home and search for some more before the shop shut. I realize that I now need to take some purpose head shots. They’re very demanding and every little freckle or touch of poor lighting shows up so they need to be done with meticulous attention to detail on my part, while trying to capture a relaxed, natural look on hers. That’s going to take some practice, and a bit of luck.

Before and after her audition, we walked around Surry Hills and watched the neighbourhood pass by. Anything goes in Surry Hills, so people watching was a lot of fun and a few of the local dogs also entertained us. You can read about it here: Surry Hills Through the Lens.

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Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to prepare for the Blogging A-Z Challenge, which also kicks of today. This year, my theme is…Letters To Dead Artists. I love my research and am finding it very hard to pull back and actually write. These artists are fascinating and when I’m looking at how their artworks inspired me as well as their bios and background info, it’s very hard to pull back and keep the word limit down. Find a focus and just stick to that narrow piece of what really is a mind-bogglingly huge and complex puzzle. After all, we’re talking about trying to encapsulate creative genius here and that’s no easy undertaking at all. Indeed, I know I’ve bitten off too much and I’m already feeling very stressed and wondering how I’ll ever get it finished in time. Yet, two years ago my theme was Letters to Dead Poets. That was equally intense and overwhelming. Yet, I finished and I had a solid body of work at the end of it. It was a significant achievement.

Well, on that note, I’d better get moving. Are any of you taking part in the A-Z Challenge? If so, please leave a link in the comments below as well as a brief overview of your theme. A inherent part of the challenge is that you read at least 5-10 other blogs every day, which is also why I’ve been trying to write ahead and get this series cracking. Unfortunately, the other areas of my life haven’t got with the plan and so I’m concerned. Can I pull it off? Yes, I can…

Well, on that note, I’d better head off and get cracking. I hope you have a great week!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Surry Hills, Sydney… Through the Lens.

If people can walk and text, then I can walk and do photography simultaneously. Or, so the theory goes, although my daughter just told me that I kept stopping, with the implication (of course) that it wasn’t appreciated. I should also be more careful. Looking through the lens instead of where our feet are going, renders photographers easy prey for accidents. Indeed, I’m lucky that the cracked and bumpy footpaths of Sydney’s Surry Hills didn’t swallow me up. I was only seeing in 6 x 4.

Yesterday, my daughter had an audition in Sydney’s Surry Hills, and either side of that we managed to walk the streets with my Nikon SLR dangling round my neck like an elephant truck with it’s extra-long lens.

Surry Hills is a photographer’s dream. While it used to be a rough slum area, like many urban residential areas, it’s been gentrified and prices have gone through the roof. It has a strong gay community and is arty, a bit lateral, alternative and it’s also a dog’s paradise. That has to be a good endorsement. Oh yes! I shouldn’t leave out the cats. There’s even a cat cafe in Foveaux Street.

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We spotted this man wearing  an American flag running down Crown Street.

 

Although I’ve been to Surry Hills many times before and this is just the latest installment, I wanted to share what I’ll describe as a random cast of characters, who roamed the streets.

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My daughter called out and said someone was wearing a box on their head. On closer inspection, it turned out to be the Easter Bunny. 

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I guess too many dogs can be a bad thing!

We also spotted a cat cafe in Foveaux Street:

All of these unconventional sightings, all made me feel like packing up my bags and moving to the Surry Hills, or elsewhere in the inner West. I used to live not far from here in various terrace houses in Glebe and Chippendale culminating in a loft apartment in a converted warehouse. However, I also love the beach and the clean, fresh air and being able to spread my wings (and park my car). I also wonder whether I would notice all these details if I lived here all the time. Or, whether you need the eyes of the interloper or visitor to truly take it all in. What are your thoughts?

Stay tuned for dinner off Broadway.

xx Rowena

 

Caution & Risk…Friday Fictioneers.

After much coercion, Ingrid reluctantly agreed to join Klaus on a precarious bus trip through the Peruvian Andes to Huaraz.

Known as “Captain Risk”, Klaus embraced extreme sports, and would jump off a cliff attached to a rubber band. Meanwhile, Ingrid was “Captain Caution”… scared of heights and nauseous on a Ferris wheel.

Yet, she was still a photographer.  As the magnificent condor soared majestically across the canyon, Ingrid saw nothing else. Indeed, she didn’t see the sign until Klaus grabbed her by the wrist, saving her life.

That, she wrote in her journal, was better than a proposal.

99 Words

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers Hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields . This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © Björn Rudberg.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 19th March, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How was your week? Oops! By now, I’ll also have to ask about your weekend. Perhaps, in the interests of brutal honesty, I should really be calling this “Monday Night Coffee Share”. However, as I’ve mentioned before, I usually take advantage of other time zones to sneak in under the radar. I just won’t verify the time in the Sandwich Islands.

My apologies for my evident neglect. However, weekends can get pretty flat out here and it can be easier to post on Mondays.

This week, I’m going to do something a bit different and run backwards through the week.

Amelia YIPA Photo

Yesterday, we saw our daughter perform her ballet solo for the first time on stage, when she auditioned for a local Youth in Performing Arts Mentorship program (YIPA). This is open for youth aged from 1st year high school (12-13 years) through to 21 years. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure exactly what getting through actually means but there will be a series of concerts in May.

However, that’s only the business side of things and that wasn’t on my mind as I watched our daughter dance. I was spellbound. She was like a real life incarnation of that little plastic ballerina twirling around in my childhood jewelry box to the tune of “Love Story”. She had such elegance and poise and moved like a real, live, mini ballerina. How was that so? It was an absolute miracle. Well, after so much practice, dedication and natural ability, she didn’t just pop out of a cereal box. It’s been a long journey which all started out as a tiny little girl, and the very same teacher who has helped bring our little dancer out. I’m simply her taxi and officially trip over both feet. Well, I am a lot more than that. It takes a lot more than driving a taxi to encourage and mentor your children.

You can read more about her performance Here: The Unbelievable Lightness of Being

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Gosford Sailing Club, NSW, Australia.

Rewinding to Saturday, we went out for dinner at the sailing club with my parents for a belated celebration of the kids’ birthdays. The sailing club has knockout water views, which sort of goes without saying. My parents managed to see Mr’s boat out on the grass, not quite the same as in the water, but better than nothing. We enjoyed watching the sunset and darkness sweep across the marina and the lights come out. There was also an engagement party in the adjacent party room and we had great fun watching the fashion parade go past. Been awhile since I’ve been to one of those. 

Last week, I got stuck into my application to have my recent NDIS plan reviewed and it’s almost ready to send off. The NDIS is Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme and was intended to improve the quality of life of people living with disabilities. However, in the usual way of government programs, it has also promised a lot and delivered a lot of headaches. When I received last year’s plan, I was over the moon. I couldn’t believe how generous it was. In many ways it was, but when it came to providing much needed equipment, participants across the board have experienced extensive delays only to have the equipment knocked back despite genuine professional reports from Occupational Therapists. I was guttered when my request for an electronic chair was knocked back. It was knocked back because I can walk, ignoring specifics of my muscle weakness which make it difficult to get out of chairs, particularly comfy chairs. So, the social activist in me, is fighting back.

My battles with the NDIS put a big dent in my mood last week. I’ve been having to delve into the darkest depths of my complex medical diagnosis and document the lot. It’s no time for positive thinking, post-traumatic growth or pushing myself beyond the beyond, which is my usual modus operandi. While I wouldn’t say that I’d reached dangerous mental territory, I knew I wasn’t okay. That’s when I heard the words of a young woman Dolly Everitt who took her life in January in response to cyber-bullying: “Stand up. Speak even though your voice is shaking.” I realized that these words cover so many situations and contain such truth. That its hard to tell others when you’re not okay, and it’s equally hard to know what to say or do, when you know someone is not okay as well. So, I guess the thing is, to push beyond all of that and it doesn’t matter if it all comes out wrong. That a shaking voice is better than no voice at all.

I probably should apologize for getting deep, serious and drifting towards the dark side of the moon. However, most of us spend too long skirting round the edges and perhaps it’s time to dive in. Or, perhaps that should read dive out. Reach in… and reach out? Clearly, I’m writing and thinking at the same time and should possibly think first and write late. However, by then it would be time for next week’s coffee share.

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Meanwhile, the pups are providing comic entertainment. Pups are notorious for pulling on the lead. While Rosie and Zac are pretty docile at home, put the lead on and some deep sled dog instinct fires up and they take off like bats out of hell. It takes a really strong hand to keep them in line, and so I take Lady and our son takes one or both pups. This afternoon, our son popped into the supermarket and let his mate and I outside with the dogs. Zac couldn’t cope and starting howling and leaping trying to catch up to him. From our perspective, it was sweet he loved him so much. However, we got quite a few judgmental stares from passersby who clearly thought the dog was mad and we weren’t controlling him well enough. If you’ve ever had a two year old throw a tanty in the supermarket you’ll know the gist of it.

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PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

Lastly, thought I’d just mention this week’s contribution to Friday Fictioneers: Capturing the Moon

Well, that at least sums up the last week. How was your week? Hope you had a great one.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

xx Rowena