It's hot up in here. Those of us on the core team call it Click 366. Every day of the year and one more. Proud of myself and my diehard teammates Bryce Lankard, Frank Konhaus, Ray Pfeiffer and Stephen Fletcher. It's all coming like a freight train...the month long festival which is October, the hotbed of Click120 (120 hours of condensed stellar programming), the Rock Star Artists, Keynotes, Reviewers, the Big Ass Polaroid Camera and last but not least...
the l o v e
It's up to us creatives to save the world from the haters. I love nothing more than when we stop our lives and gather together. Like Dinner on The Grounds. (a Southern memory)
DEAR VOLUNTEERS... We could not be more grateful and we've never needed you more. Thank you. love, us.
Go to our website and line up your calendar clickphotofest.org
dusk. this past february. i'm driving on one of my favorite country roads not far from my house and a deer jumps right in front of me. i stop because i'm a peaceful deer lover and because if there's one --there's more. i flash my lights to warn the cars coming at me (and all the deer) and indeed more cross. i'm prepared to sit till i know for sure they've passed safely. for some reason i look over to the woods, off my right shoulder. and there she was. two feet from my car window... was an albino deer. she literally glowed and she seemed enormous. it felt like seeing god. like maybe you're not supposed to, but for some reason you are seeing god. she took off. i dreamt about her that night.
a few days later. dusk. same place. i saw her again.
next morning-- i'm awake in the wee hours of the morning and i think to myself...'self'...when do the deer run free? dusk and dawn. i take off in my pajamas with coffee and park the car and within minutes, she is there. she has twin babies. they are brown. she stands in the road while they cross. i feel stunned by the ways i already feel connected to her. i know where to find her. i know she is smart and a good mother. i know she, in a way, is a freak. not everyone can understand her. she has to be vigilant in her ability to protect herself. from the haters and the hunters.
you wanna know what's crazier than finding an albino deer? an amazing artist who had just moved to town, saw the albino deer many months before -five miles away. the deer actually slept in her yard for a few nights. i think i would have died happily right there. this artist and i had become fast friends before the albino deer. i report my sightings like an emergency and we get together for dinner to talk about her. rapid fire. we name her Nevada which means 'covered in snow'.
we talk about what it feels like to see her. we talk about the obsession with seeing her again and why it matters. we talk about how we worry about her safety. how we should move the road that she crosses twice a day! yes. we should move the road.
amazing artist is heather evans smith. she is accomplished and doesn't need a thing from me but she loves nevada too. we have declared a collaboration. searching for nevada. it's about the quest for beauty, spirituallity, peace, inspiration, and the creative connection to another...an idea, the natural world, the truest place within oneself, an albino deer. we don't know if it will be successful according to the typical measures of success. but we care only about the quest. to see her. to be fully present.
she is magic
s e a r c h i n g
i'm feeling kind of bad about myself because I was once a girl who used her blog as a journal. i wrote pretty much every day and i actually loved it. but ya know...life expands and one must adjust the sails to tend to what is absolutely required. much is required.
two weeks ago i came home from two weeks on ossabaw where i, along with my partner anne berry host the pigs fly retreats. i've talked about ossabaw here before...this was my longest stay ever and we had two tribes for this time around. both remarkable. tribe echo. tribe hinder me not. artists committing to their time on this wild island, each other in the pursuit of art and themselves--sharing fully. these art warriors inspire me. being with their courage and their vulnerability elevates my own experience and what i leave with. ossabaw is in my bones. sharing it with anne and now others has become a huge part of my life. my time there connects me to the truest part of myself. the rest falls away. i came home a better person. i would like to stay better. so i've chosen a slow re-entry.
so i'll step back into blogging as part of my re-entry. it's good for me. find-time-make-time-all- the-time.
respectfully yours with a handshake to be a better person and a better blogger,
i am so very proud of this show curated by dennis kiel for myself and anne berry. this was three years in the making. at the Dishman Art Museum of Lamar University, Beaumont, TX till March 5th
Intrusions of Grace: A Visual Response to the Writings of Flannery O' Connor
Flannery O’Connor was aware of the connection between fiction and visual art; she argued that writers sometimes painted because it made them notice things. Both the writer and the visual artist should be concerned with showing the reader or viewer something important, what Joseph Conrad called “that glimpse of truth for which you had forgotten to ask.” Flannery O’Connor’s fiction deals with mystery that can be felt but maybe not understood; intrusions of grace always occur but are not always seen by the modern intellect. The works in this exhibit also hint at the mystery of the unknown and the existence of things beyond the surface. These works, like O’Connor’s stories, present something real and believable while hinting at what is invisible but nonetheless true.
Polly Gaillard has reviewed my show Portal at the Southeast Center for Photography. She is a wonderful writer and someone who looks deeply. I am fortunate beyond measure to have her consider this exhibition. Thank you Polly Gaillard and Michael Pannier. Here is an excerpt but you can read the entire review here.
The exhibition is closely tied together throughout the space. On entry, Vrba's Mind's Eye hangs above her sign-in book (a vintage ledger from Ohio titled Record of Baggage Check Forwarded and Received). Encountering the images and thoughtful installations as you walk throughout the gallery is something that can only be experienced firsthand, given the three-dimensional quality of much of the exhibition. One will not only admire the quality of the silver gelatin prints, but also experience a dimension of seeing through round mirrors and magnifying glasses used as portals to reference another dimension of time and space. You don’t get the idea of the depth of the work from Vrba’s website since websites are a place limited in the ability to demonstrate experience or three-dimensional space. The show at SE Center for Photography is a welcome dimensional surprise. My technical mind wants to know how Vrba managed the reproduction of imagery within or on mirrors, but the aesthetic is consistent and strong enough that I turn off my techno-logical self and think about falling through the space of Vrba's portals.
Whoa. Some stuff HAS BEEN GOIN' ON!
May 2nd, I was once again standing on the dock of my beloved Ossabaw Island with my fellow Art Warriors - Anne Berry and Mark Frissell with SEVEN FULL DAYS of kicking-some-art-ass-collaboration and big adventures which included post-absinthe midnight truck rides to secret locations that will remain secret to protect the not-so-innocent... but all for no other reason than to try to make a photograph that matters. Or two. Oh hello run on sentence. Welcome back.
Came home and ran the 30 rolls of film with my first born assisting me with tank agitation. We made contact sheets together and called in the second and third juveniles to chime in with critique and edit. The baby daddy was out of town hopefully making bank cuz...well, because more is better.
Then I began to build PORTAL for exhibition. Scheduled to open two weeks later on June 3rd. I fired up the darkroom and kept chemistry at-the-ready 24/7 so that no matter what hour I was awake or able, I could go in to print. My framer (who is a bad ass and partner in show planning) was put on high alert. I bought a dress.
Packed myself and myart and drove it to Greenville, SC where Michael Pannier has opened the Southeast Center for Photography. He is my new best friend. We busted it side by side installing this show without the slightest bump in the road. Stress-free installation? Talk about a freaking vortex...have I slipped into some perfect universe where the answer is always "yes" followed by "i love it" with a fairy tale lighting job to wrap it all in perfectly perfect angel light? Yes. The vortex is Michael Pannier, Director and Brave Champion of my region's Center for Photography. Adore.
And then the people came. People from every cubby of my life. Worlds colliding in my favorite way. To say it fills my heart doesn't quite cover it. At some point we closed the doors and popped some tucked-away champagne. Food rolled in on carts and the guitars came out of their cases. Mama Do A Tone (my band with musician and artist extraordinaire, Tama Hochbaum) played our first out-of-state gig. It was a large night that ended in the wee hours of the next morning. A vortex of happy.
Thank you. Michael and Jane Pannier. And to everyone who brought the love.
Here's a walk-through of the show.
I met Mary Oliver once. She was as big as a minute and dressed in black. I tried to tell her how this one poem had affected my life, but I know I failed.
Becki gave me a silver cuff bracelet a few years ago with the first words of this poem engraved. I wear it every day on my left wrist. I don't believe in luck so I wouldn't say it's lucky. It's a reminder.
I read it all today for the first time in a long while. It's just true. Thank you Mary Oliver. Thanks Beck. Thank you my dear friend Jody for this image we made together.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice – – –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – –
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – – determined to save
the only life you could save.
I am sitting in a North Carolina Drivers License Office waiting to renew my drivers license that expired 8 months ago. I'm waiting to take a vision test (yeah I got your vision DMV), and a test on my signage knowledge and then they'll want to take my picture. I am perfectly clear on my reasons for putting this off for so many months. The Buzzing Ultra Violent Lighting is ample reason alone.
I was determined to write an upbeat blog post. HA HOW AM I DOIN'?
How about Spring? I would be hard-pressed to find any complaints about SPRING!
How is my Nest you ask? She is amaaaaazing. Thank you.
There. I've righted myself.
So I've been in a pretty good place creatively. THAT'S especially wonderful and noticed and appreciated. Hey Art Gods, if you're listening to me type - Thank you and I'm not finished making stuff so keep it coming por~favor.
The ideas are coming faster than I can birth them. And for the first time in my life, my dreams are filled with A R T...vivid, gorgeous, strange ideas all night long. Last night I was successfully collaborating with Vic Muniz. wtf. Sleep has never been so fun.
Also, I've been thinking about the people in and out of my life. I've lost more than my fair share of people as I've said before. I do believe in the tight edit. But lately I've been thinking about the relationships that remain tried and true. I have a renewed appreciation for my collection of extraordinary human beings I am humbled to know as friends. The last few months have brought this fact back into the good light. I have done one thing very well. I have found the best people. They love me when I'm sad. They still love me when I'm mean. And they are cheering the loudest when I finally get my shit together and stop with all the sad and mean.
My invincible and amazing pal Eliot Dudik made the image here of me and my Nest with his big ass camera of course. His patient and persistent support and wise council have been invaluable. AND he made this photograph. I mean...really.
This just in...Mbuno from Nigeria of the NC Department of Motor Vehicles has decided that I know enough about road signs. And she thinks I have vision. And when I signed on the line for my new license she said, "Oooh I LIKE your signature! You an artist?" heh heh heh
peace out bitchachos
As I begin typing here in text edit, without looking, I know it's been awhile since I've posted. In the guttural voice of Bette Midler - belting it out as she was dying onstage in The Rose… Stay With Me Baby … yes, a bit dramastic for a blog post but I wanted to open with UMPHH! (even if it is borrowed OK STOLEN from 1979)…stay with me? baby?
Creeping up on the end of February…the young year has been surprising. I've been searching for my footing. I've been editing my life. I've been looking inward and further inward all the way to the earth's core and then back outward again to the handful of people I trust. Looking to my better self. And to the idea of Providence in my life.
I can talk about the details of the events that have informed my first two months of 2016 but it would bore even me, so I'll spare you.
Just this...my first two months of the year have more to do with me living fifty-one years than anything else. I have no time for bullshit. I have less than no time for bullshit. So I edit harshly and I'm not going to apologize for it because I Have No Time. If now, you're thinking that I sound puffed-up and haughty…I'd like to suggest that we're not different at all. You have no time. No time to spare. Breathe in Strength, Breathe out Bullshit.
My oldest son Aaron is in his Sophomore year at NC State University. He is taking a Philosophy course and he knows I would love to be sitting next to him with my perfectly sharp pencils and even sharper mind… tuned-in, hyper-focused, and grateful to be there. Aaron sends me bits from his notes that he loves and/or that he knows I would love. This past Wednesday he sent a quote. Reading this quote on the most perfect day I could read such a thing… I felt not only connected to him, but to the idea of providence…the wind at my back…the whole world pulling for me. my unique strength and energy. that there are no coincidences. that god is sometimes anonymous. faith.
here it is
"I wish my life and decisions to depend on myself, not on external forces, of whatever kind. I wish to be a subject, to be the instrument of my own, not of other men’s, acts of will. I wish to be a subject, not an object; to be moved by reasons, by conscious purposes which are my own, not by causes which affect me, as it were, from outside. I wish to be somebody, not nobody; a doer – deciding, not being decided for, self directed and not acted upon by external nature or by other men as if I were a thing, or an animal, or a slave incapable of playing a human role, that is, of conceiving goals and policies of my own and releasing them."
Dang. You've been amazing. Can I just thank you Oh One for showing up with so much heart and beauty? Like an answered prayer. Like a granted wish. Like a present and it's not my birthday. January…I love you. Two Thousand Sixteen…I freaking love you.
A last minute plane ticket was booked and BECK FLEW IN ON JANUARY 7th. She's been my best good friend since the first day of the first grade. She saved my life and still does. We have been very good at loving each other well across the 1,177 miles over these past 8 years. She's been here many times but this trip was one of my favorites. Partly because I've missed her more than usual this year--rough year. And partly because we K I L L E D it. We took a day-trip to Virginia ON HER BIRTHDAY (cue the romantic fog from 8am till sundown…it was ridiculous beauty). We had a girl party here with girls and inspired readings and music and some hard core dancing. We climbed into The Nest on the last day. We could have stayed there forever. It was a creative jolt…the best kind of high…pure joy and free for the both of us. Never gonna forget it. Nevereverever.
About a week later…we got our first good snow of the season. If you haven't heard…I am shamelessly sentimental about snow. I weep when my world turns white. I am literally moved to tears. I have only seen this sort of thing on big vacations. I lived in SE Texas all my life. When I wake up now in Carolina and look out MY BEDROOM WINDOW and the world has abracadabra-presto-change-o the world is white and weighted with cold blue…and nothing looks like it did when I fell asleep --- I am breathless and renewed. I'll never get over it. Don't want to.
So I've made soup and taken hikes and photographed The Nest (it's her FIRST snow) and I have felt grateful.
This morning my daughter Olivia came in while I was playing guitar in my office. She is about to turn 15. She is a force. She's a cross-country runner on the Chapel Hill High team -coached by Joan Nesbit Mabe. Google her. Joan has lived large. She is not only my daughter's coach but an Olympian and fireball-with-a-medal and a cherished friend of mine. Joan should be my life coach. No joke.
SO---Olivia comes in today and says that she has to run and she asks me to go with her. I'm deep into guitar and it's cold and icy and slick as sh*t out there. I say I can't. I'll fall and break something and I'm slow and I'm not a runner. (I do jog on occasion but jogging is so 1978 --we can't even use that word) Liv insists…she says…I want you to go and there's SNOW OUT THERE WHY WOULDN'T YOU GO-- YOU LOVE SNOW? !!
I thought to myself…'why wouldn't you go?' If you're going to go--it's a good way to go.
I said yes and bundled up and we headed out.
Now…she takes off running and we both understand that she'll run faster and she'll come back and then go ahead again. So right away I see her ahead of me - as a woman- running. And when she runs…even if she is running fast…she looks like a gazelle. Running in slow motion. She's way ahead of me and I keep looking for her through the woods. It's stark and icy and I'm checking to be sure she's okay. And then I realize that I'm also looking for her to inspire me so that I keep going. Because it's hard. And she's doing it so well way ahead of me. She comes back and grabs my arm and pulls me with her.
I sucked in my breath when I realized how typical it is for she and I. I'm checking to be sure she's okay because I am her mother. And I'm inspired by who she is. She has become her own woman. And she lives a bold, adventurous, intelligent, curious, nurturing and intentional life. I hope she sees anything of that sort in me. I don't think she would say that now but I hope I'm living in her somewhere.
No matter though. Not now.
Today was beauty on beauty on beauty.
Gratitude? The Mother Load.
So hey it's New Years Eve Eve. I'm stepping up to my two favorite days of the year…The Last and The First. Reflection on the Last and then Hope on the First. Both are more difficult now than in years past.
Two Thousand Fifteen has been important for me. I got a head-start on considering the review.
The book. I can't believe it happened. I still can't. Exhibitions come and go and when they're over it's almost as if it never happened. A dream. A wish. Poof. The book is different. It is an artifact that represents me and I ran myself through the finest mesh filter to take it all down to the essence. I used as few words as possible. Uncharacteristically…I wanted to live or die by the photographs alone. Not everyone loves the book. But not everyone loves me.
The Nest. She saved me. I started building The Nest on September 20th. I know the date because I took a picture of the very first tic-tac-toe-stick-grid that I hoped would be a solid foundation. I worked constantly for many weeks and as she took shape I began to recognize the significance. Creating The Nest has been physically taxing. I am grateful. It's been meditative, cathartic, and defiant. She is in my backyard right now in the rain as I type this. And typing that sentence literally moves me to tears. She is mine. And but I am hers. She cannot be sold. No one has any say about what goes on between she and I. I can wake up at any hour and take my coffee out to sit with her…see how she's doing…see what she needs. (Sometimes consider my own well-being…which I would rather not.) So I usually choose to get to work. Nesting. Caring for her and helping her make it through the rain and the seasons. And the damage.
Which brings me to my worries about Hope.
I am not an optimist but still - I dream big. I believe that I'm strong enough to handle the disappointment if the dream doesn't work out. I believe in being brave enough to ask the universe for exactly what I want.
I am self-reliant. I don't need anybody. It's best if I just take care of myself and that is how I have lived since before I even knew to think about such things. But I am vulnerable in my art. Because I don't think the work is valid without the real truth of me.
I am vulnerable with the people I trust. And so this has been a year of loss. I have lost people I've admired. I have lost people I've trusted. I have lost people I love.
Because integrity is not negotiable.
You can't use me. You can't steal from me. And when you think I won't notice…you're wrong. I know what it looks like. Because I've had the real thing. I do know what integrity looks like. I do know what real friendship is. And I do know love. This year I've been heartbroken to realize how rare it all is. Integrity should not be assumed and I am devastated by this fact. It's a loss of faith.
I do not claim to be perfect. And I don't expect perfection from the world. I'm looking for integrity. Hoping for it. And that's all.
I made a film this time last year. I'm watching it and sharing it with the hope of renewal. As my heroic Ray Wylie Hubbard so eloquently puts it..."When I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations...well, I have mighty fine days." Thanks RWH. I'm going to hitch my cart to that idea for 2016. 2015...Thank you. I am grateful for the gifts and the lessons. Don't let the door hit you in the ass.
I found this buried in my old blog and I felt grateful. I wrote this on April 24th, 2008
On the surface, Olivia appears to be above it all. Sarcasm, bossiness and ambivalence could lead one to believe that she is not much of a deep thinker. That she doesn't feel anything too deeply. That she's too busy running the show to notice. As her mother, I know better.
Olivia: You know mom, some people think God made people but they're wrong.
Me: Oh really?
Olivia: People evolved from monkeys.
Me: Well maybe God planned it that way. Where do you think those monkeys came from?
Olivia: Other monkeys.
At the dinner table...
Olivia: What if those baby birds fall out of their nest?
Me: Well they will probably die.
Olivia: What if the mama bird leaves and doesn't come back?
Me: Sometimes it happens that way. Even in the woods...the baby birds fall out, or something eats them, or the mama bird abandons them. Nature isn't always kind.
Olivia: But these birds are on our porch. We can save them.
Me: Yes, that mama bird was very smart. Our porch is a good place to have babies but still...they may not live. Ya never know for sure.
Olivia: Well that's not fair.
Me: No it isn't.
Pregnant fish, floating dead in the top of the aquarium. Olivia bursts into tears...sobs for half an hour...three days later we discover two tiny baby fish...
Olivia: Their mama is dead. How will they eat?
Me: I'm not sure. But maybe they can.
Olivia: We should feed them extra tiny food.
Me: I agree. JIM...LETS FEED THESE BABY FISH EXTRA TINY FOOD!
Jim: You can't do that. They will either make it or they won't.
Olivia: That's not fair.
Me: No it isn't.
My girl is obviously going to carry on my tradition of conflict with Mother Nature. I suppose I should steer her into a loving relationship with that Mutha but how can I? I've learned that I can be disgusted and in awe at the same time. Its unfair and wrong. Its perfect. Look away. Closely observe. Reject. Embrace.
Olivia: Let's go check on the baby birds.
Me: Good idea.
New Year's Day is my favorite holiday. I love a clean slate. I prefer mornings over the night for the same reason. Nothing is out of sort, no one has hurt my feelings or pissed me off and there is a very real possibility for goodness in the hours to come. The indigenous people of Sapelo, the Geechee Gullah, have a name for the precious seconds just between the dark night and dawn…they call it "Dayclean"
Before Thanksgiving I spent four days on Ossabaw…a barrier island off of the coast of Georgia. It is a place that is absolutely Southern and mysteriously exotic at the same time. It feels otherworldly. Ancient. Sacred. I'm not a great traveling photographer...I choke. I was there only with the hope of coming back a better person. To be honest...I have sunk over the last six months to a place where I have completely lost faith in humanity. Not just the world…given current events that wouldn't be surprising. I've lost faith in my own world. And that's a heavy thing to wake up to every day.
So there was this particular afternoon on Ossabaw where we were working our way on foot to a specific area and a huge chunk of land had been washed away. We were a hot mess trying to get ourselves across this gully with our gear. We managed but it wasn't pretty. We made photographs for awhile and then headed back for the treacherous path to the truck. As we approached the gully we could see that our caretaker had quietly left us shooting and ran back to construct a make-shift bridge so that we could cross with ease. He had laid palm fronds in the mud, stretched wood from one side to the other with a found piece of styrofoam placed underneath for support and then had posted a walking stick into the mud…up high so that we could grab onto it as we made our way across. Caretaking. At it's finest. Thinking of what we would need to be okay without a word. I thought to myself right there in that moment…here is kindness. Here is respect. Here is generosity.
I'm hanging on to that memory with all my might. I'm hanging on to that awareness in spite of the contradictions that are before me on any given day back here in real life. There are good people in the world. I'm looking for them. And I hope they're looking for me.
I'm grateful to my traveling companions Anne Berry, Ann George and Meg Griffiths.
And to our caretaker Mark Frissell. who changed my mind.
Here are my favorite images from my beloved Ossabaw.
Once upon a time there was a girl who had a blog. She whole heartedly posted almost every day. She thought of it as her diary and wrote freely without a hint of self consciousness. She loved the blog. And then some weird stuff went down where a few freak-o-philes started stalking and commenting and e-mailing and a dark cloud moved over her blog life and she became very aware of her vulnerability in the badness of the world. And she shut it down. She was safe from the freaks. But she missed the blog. For a long long time.
She grew older and a bit wiser. She reconsidered the blogging and the badness of the world and chose light and creativity just to spite the mean freaks. She decided it was time to write her ass off and flames began to fire off of her smoking keyboard of full-blown expression.
I am lori vrba. I prefer my name in lower-case. I'm 51. Writing seems to help me process my own thoughts in a way. I don't edit myself much. Over-thinking the writing would murder whatever goodness it might hold. I'm also not much of a stickler for the rules of grammar and punctuation. I am a huge fan of the dot dot dot…it's the perfect pause. These are the things that might annoy you or someone and I'm giving you or someone the immediate heads up…cool your jets or move on dot com. Namaste Bitchachos. Word…I do enjoy sarcastic humor. Very much.
I'm going for it. I'm going to write about my whole life because I don't separate the art from the kids from the daily chores from the guitar from the best friends from the hurt feelings from the long walks in the woods from the crying from the laughing so hard you snort or maybe wet your pants a little. It's all the same life. Mine. Welcome. ( Jim Vrba just came in and informed me that there are several mis-spelled words in this first post. GOD DON'T BE SUCH A HATER )
Much has happened in the last few months...some good and some bad and here is what has mattered most -- I built an epic nest in my backyard. I still work on it every single day. Yesterday I bought a wider lens (that I could not afford) and I borrowed a higher ladder and made this image called Awakening. This nest is more important to me and my well-being than you might imagine.
Me. and my good good friend Tama Hochbaum are now Mama Do A Tone. This is one of our first front porch rehearsals.