Tag Archives: Interview

Artist Feature: Danny Lubin-Laden

Danny Lubin-Laden

I have always been fascinated by the power of having a [brass] band that is able to play on the street with no amplification and have such a moving effect on the audience.

– Danny Lubin-Laden

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

DLL: I grew up in Berkeley California, and I’m currently living in the Fruitvale neighborhood in Oakland, California. I spent about 6 years living in New York, where I was studying music and working. In July I moved back to the Bay Area.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

DLL: I think Reflection and Response are very interrelated in the field of arts. Reflection as a musician and composer is super important to artistic growth. I look back frequently at songs and sketches of songs during my time with Brass Magic and really try to dissect the song, identifying my original voice and separating it from my attempt to recreate a sound that I had heard elsewhere. Both are super important to tap into. I’m always reflecting and analyzing and using those perspectives as a basis from which to respond by pushing forward. I’m always looking to hone my craft and achieve a more original sound. Luckily with Brass Magic, we function more as a collective, so we are able to bounce ideas off each other.

How does your piece Continuous Movements fit in with that definition?

DLL: Continuous Movements was one of the first songs I wrote for Brass Magic. I’ve revised it many, many times but I think it is a super solid example of the sound the band was developing. It is a prime example of how reflection and response has been important to what we do. When I first wrote the song it had somewhat of a New Orleans brass band feel. Over time I have tweaked it so much that it no longer sounds anything like that. It’s still definitely danceable, but the horn writing is completely different from something you would hear in New Orleans. I feel as though the most important thing in music for me is to try and build off the music I love and not to repeat or recreate it. This has been why Brass Magic continues to evolve.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

DLL: Brass Magic is currently working on putting out another EP. This will most likely be something we just put out online. We printed our first CD in September 2013 and since then we have really focused on writing a whole new songbook for the band. I feel as though the sound of the band is the strongest it’s ever been. We have really dissected what we are doing and what we want to be doing more of.

In addition to playing with Brass Magic I have also been working on music with Kaila McIntyre-Bader, the awesome singer in the band Big Tree. She is such a talented songwriter with such a terrific voice, that I’m having a great time writing songs with her. Hopefully we will be putting out songs this year. We are still trying to come up with a band name that fits the music we make.

Who or what inspires you?

DLL: I am inspired by a wide variety of things. I grew up studying jazz and that became my whole world. I was blown away by the power of improvisation and its ability to transform a song and take it to the next, highly idiosyncratic level. We are still trying to integrate the aspects of jazz that we value into Brass Magic. Although jazz was once dance music, some of its danceability has been lost over the years. We are trying to capture some of those powerful rhythms in our music.

I also love brass band music, whether it be all of my favorite New Orleans bands or the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. I have always been fascinated by the power of having a band that is able to play on the street with no amplification and have such a moving effect on the audience.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

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Artist Feature: Annie Rigney

Annie Rigney

[As a dancer] I enjoy putting myself in physical situations where I’m not sure how my body will respond. For example, allowing myself to be perpetually off balance, no matter how subtly,  in order to be in a constant state of fall and recovery, where each action that follows is a response to the previous one.

– Annie Rigney

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

AR: I grew up in Berkeley, California on sunshine, meyer lemons, and an infinite number of ballet classes. I majored in dance performance and choreography at SUNY Purchase, in New York and after graduating, moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, to follow my dreams of dancing with the Batsheva Ensemble. This led me to a contract with Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollack Dance Company, the following year, with whom I had the opportunity to tour and travel the world. We performed in theaters in Israel, Norway, Macau, Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Japan, Malta and the U.S.. After almost 4 years abroad, I’m finally back living in Brooklyn, New York, a place that is home to many of the people I love.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AR: I think that reflection and response are the essence of the artistic process. An artist reflects on his or her experiences and feelings, and then funnels them through whatever medium he or she chooses, be it music or paint or movement, in order to create a piece of work: a response.

What interests me most about this question, is understanding the ways in which I use reflection and response in my body when I dance. When I think of the word “Response”, I think of my nervous system and my sensory system and how they respond to stimuli. How this response of the nervous system creates an instantaneous action; a movement. I’m interested in making myself available for things to happen to me when I move– for my body parts to affect and respond to each other. For example, if I rotate my forearm far enough, the rotation of the shoulder and the twisting of my spine are both almost inevitable responses. It’s a chain of events that happens out of necessity. I enjoy putting myself in physical situations where I’m not sure how my body will respond. For example, allowing myself to be perpetually off balance, no matter how subtly,  in order to be in a constant state of fall and recovery, where each action that follows is a response to the previous one.

Similarly, “reflection” can be a look back or a processing of something that has already occurred, but it has another meaning–it can be an echo. The act of reflection in sound is when a sound wave bounces off of a surface and returns. Movement can behave in the same way. It can create an echo. I’m interested in riding this echo; listening to the memory and resonance of an action in my body and allowing my whole sensory system to process it. I often ask myself “What does the movement feel like?” while I’m performing, to help keep me in the moment. Cold, tense, empty, sweaty, or powerful, these are all physical sensations that have abstract connections to emotion. I guess the ultimate point of it all in dance, is that an audience gets an emotional response to viewing the physical events happening within the body of the performer. Ideally, it makes the viewer feel something. Feel alive.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

AR: I’m in the very early stages of a solo for myself…it’s untitled at the moment.  After becoming so deeply embedded in the community and aesthetic of Israeli modern dance, I now find myself back in New York, with an ocean separating me from the dancers and people who formed and defined most of my professional career thus far. Now I feel I can begin the real process of reflection. From this distance, I can decide what in my dancing I want to hold on to and take with me. What was someone else’s vision of me, and what is my own? I think in the research for this solo, I’m trying to understand myself in this new context of NYC. How will I chose to move, now that I am filled with  knowledge that I didn’t have 4 years ago, last time I was New York? It will be a solo about sorting and searching and re-searching. Unwinding myself and my habits or familiarities. The time I’m spending in the studio is really just an exploration of how I want to move now. I hope that the solo will be some sort of  response or answer to the questions I’m posing for myself. But we’ll see! I’m more interested in what I don’t know yet…

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

AR: I’ve been working as a practitioner in a method of therapeutic bodywork called the Ilan Lev Method. I am very excited to introduce the Ilan Lev method to New York as it’s mostly being practiced in Israel and is fairly unknown over here. I fell in love with the work during my time in Israel, and I find it to be revolutionary in the way that it can help people who are suffering from pain, as well as being a source of never-ending inspiration for my work as a dancer and choreographer.

Annie Rigney - Ilan Lev

In the method, we use gentle movement to create a rich and thoughtful dialogue between the patient and the practitioner. In this way, new maps and pathways are formed between the body parts and movement is restored to parts of the body where communication was cut off or blocked, due to pain, injury, or emotional obstacles. From Ilan, my teacher, I learned that the body has immense capabilities to heal itself, that pain is not an enemy but an indicator that there is a problem, and that movement can surpass physical limitations, break down emotional barriers and undo old patterns or habits. The possibilities are endless when you learn to let go, and when you release yourself into mess (“Ballagan” in Hebrew) and chaos. From chaos we can find the things we didn’t even know we didn’t know; a possibility will arise that wasn’t there before, a possibility that is usually the solution to the pain. The method has also taught me the value of laziness—something that many years of dance instruction was specifically designed to combat. Now I understand that laziness is a wonderful tool we possess to actually become more efficient. To do less, and with less effort, and to get bigger results. It’s something that’s very important to hold on to and remember in a city as busy and hectic as New York.

I recently started dancing for LeeSaar the Company, and I’m happy to see where it will take me. Lee Sher and Saar Harari are a couple of Israeli choreographers who started a dance company in Israel, and in 2004, brought their company here to New York. Beginning to work for Lee and Saar has made many things in my life come full circle. I left New York immediately after graduating to dance with the Batsheva Ensemble, where they train in Gaga- a movement language rooted in sensation-based improvisation, with no mirrors and no pre-determined form. When I joined Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollack Dance Company, the work took me into a different direction entirely. Pinto and Pollack’s bizarrely imaginative and magically twisted aesthetic allowed me to explore my theatrical side. I found parts of myself hidden in mysterious characters and ways to stretch my body’s ability to tell a story. Working with LeeSaar feels like a sort of strange homecoming. I’m coming home to the States, where I can speak the language more fluently, and I’m returning to the movement language of Gaga: the raw and textured aesthetic that first grabbed my imagination and ripped me quickly away from the world of ballet. It’s a welcome comfort for me in this new chapter to wake up each morning and begin the day with an hour of Gaga- or a meditation on my bones, my flesh, and my groove.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Alex Ruger

Alex Ruger

You can only change where you are by truly knowing where you are, questioning your motivations and why you’re doing what you’re doing, being brutally honest with yourself. There’s no room for self-deception or ego in an artist’s life.

– Alex Ruger

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

AR: I grew up in central Indiana, studying piano and guitar and a bit of viola. I played in some bands–progressive rock, funk, jazz, lots of stuff. There wasn’t really a point where I “decided” that I’d be doing music for a living–it was just the obvious choice and always has been, so I went straight to Boston’s Berklee College of Music after graduating high school. My first two years at Berklee were mostly spent studying jazz guitar and working towards being a sort of jack-of-all-trades guitarist, but after a horrendous bout with tendinitis nearly ended my career before it had even began, I changed my focus to what, in retrospect, was my passion and goal all along: composition (and more specifically, writing music for movies, TV, and video games). After a couple years adjusting to my new trajectory, I graduated Berklee and moved to Los Angeles back in September 2013. Since then, I’ve been working for a few composers–including Bear McCreary and Penka Kouneva–and as a freelance composer, as well as balancing the odd producing, arranging, or mixing gig. I’m falling in love with the cultural and artistic melting pot that is LA–and the fact that I can go surfing pretty much any day is a nice plus.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AR: Refinement. Self-awareness and mindfully whittling away the unnecessary is an important and ongoing process for me–not just in my music, but throughout my life.

With regards to writing music, John Mayer said it better than I can. I’m paraphrasing, but he once said something to the effect of, “When you write, it’s like when you were a kid, throwing glitter on to a plate covered with glue. But it’s only when you shake off the glitter that doesn’t stick are you able to see the pattern it’s making.” That’s the fun part–shaking off the stuff that doesn’t stick.

When making music, that process is fun, but when you’re whittling away at yourself, it’s hard, and only recently have I begun to the see the patterns–thought processes, motivations, etc. You can only change where you are by truly knowing where you are, questioning your motivations and why you’re doing what you’re doing, being brutally honest with yourself. There’s no room for self-deception or ego in an artist’s life. And none of that introspection matters if you don’t have the courage to change and put what you’ve learned to work. It’s all about working towards a more refined version of you, and hopefully your art will reflect that.

How does your piece “Christmas 1914 in No Man’s Land” fit in with that definition?

AR: A great example of this is actually one of my non-film pieces, entitled “Christmas 1914 in No Man’s Land” (inspired by the Christmas Truce of World War I). It was a beautiful near-miracle that occurred right in the middle of what is quite possibly the nastiest war in human history–the two sides stopped fighting and enjoyed Christmas together. But it’s also a sad story–they began fighting again the next day. So the crux of the piece is an emotion that’s hard to describe–bittersweet comes closer than anything else, but it’s still not quite right. I guess that the saying, “Where words fail, music speaks” isn’t just some dumb phrase to put on refrigerator magnets!

To achieve this weird intersection of emotions, I really had to reel myself in and make sure that I wasn’t stepping on my own toes. Certain phrases needed room to speak, while others needed to be interrupted by the next one. Every note really mattered–it took a lot of “shaking off the glitter” to come to the end result. Even though I recorded it nearly a year ago, I’m still very happy with it. The number of things I want to go back and change is unusually low.

Alex Ruger - Conducting What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next? Continue reading

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Artist Feature: Michela Buttignol

Michela Buttignol is a visual artist that we met up with through Maryanne Ventrice. Born and raised in Sacile, Italy, Michela has been based in New York City since 2009. She now focuses on her craft as a freelance illustrator, often switching between client projects and media work. She highlights an interesting version of Reflection as legacy, in that all reflections come from ideas that have previously existed, and Response is the unique style in which an artist creates work. Throughout the interview she discusses her experience growing as an artist working for the New York Times Op-Ed Page, an exciting upcoming show at the Bushwick Open Studio alongside dope artist Andrea DeFelice, and the journey curating visual components of her husband’s band Libel. Her unique style shines through the prints presented next to the dialogue below. Peep the talk below!

Michela Buttignol

Working with boundaries, if well defined, helps me move out of my comfort zone and find new solutions for better results.

– Michela Buttignol

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

MB: I am originally from Italy, born and raised in Sacile, a super small town in the northeast, not too far from Venice. I moved to the United States almost three years ago because of love. Back in 2009 while in New York, I met a guy who’s now my husband and makes me very very happy.

Since I’ve moved here I’ve been working solo as a freelance illustrator but art, drawing and creativity have always been central in my life. I decided to embrace a hard but beautiful career in the arts when I was very young; leafing through children’s books, I fell in love with the magic world of illustrations. Through the years, my passion has shifted from children’s books to editorial illustrations, which became later my profession.

Today I switch between media work and client-driven projects. I always try to find new inspirations, experimenting and pushing myself forward to improve and grow as a designer.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

MB: Reflection is to recreate. Deliver a new point of view on something that already existed but appears differently every time someone builds or creates a new identity with it. I love to recreate what I see; for example, when I draw people, I tell a new story about them, attaching a new vision and a new identity. The response is in the style, in the world that you create with your art and how the audience recognizes and captures it, understanding the process behind the artwork.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

MB: I love to work on commission. That’s why I don’t recognize myself as an “artist” but as a designer. I like the pressure of the deadline and the exchange with the commitment. During this past year I’ve had the opportunity to work for The New York Times Op-Ed page, and the experience made me understand how important a challenging topic is, as well as the urge to give it a new meaning with your design. Working with boundaries, if well defined, helps me move out of my comfort zone and find new solutions for better results.

Michela Buttignol - The Tonic of Wildness

Michela Buttignol – The Tonic of Wildness

Michela Buttignol - NYT

Michela Buttignol - NYT

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

MB: Today I am working on my next exhibition for Bushwick Open Studio. I will open my apartment and my studio during the festival weekend and share my space with friend and extraordinary artist Andrea DeFelice.

Michela Buttignol - Jump

Michela Buttignol – Jump

Also, I am very happy and proud to curate the visual identity and everything related to my husband’s band Libel. Creating posters, album covers and animated videos for this band is a joyful ongoing project that constantly gets more challenging. Since I started (almost three years ago), with Gavin’s direction and the inspiration from the music, I’ve created a large collection of gig posters that is going to grow in the future along with other video projects I am going to jump on soon for the band.

Michela Buttignol - Gig Poster

Michela Buttignol - Gig Poster

Michela Buttignol - Gig Poster

Michela Buttignol - Gig Poster

Michela Buttignol - Gig Poster

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Nichole Speciale

We connected with San Diego-based visual artist Nichole Speciale through our friend Andrea Harris. Nicole goes in on Reflection and Response, detailing the graphic representation of these processes in her piece Repeat After Me, focusing on the interaction of various surfaces and mediums. Additionally, she delves into her fabric work, On Gravity, which provides two different viewing options that each inform the other to provide a complete understanding of the piece for the viewer. This is a visual artist that practices ill artistic and multimedia expression and we’re juiced to have her words and pieces represented as part of the LIFESTYLE Collective below!

Nichole Speciale

I’ve had this ongoing project called Repeat After Me, which is about considering the plane of the canvas or the paper as a closed system, and as soon as a mark or shape is made in an art material another reflection or translation of that shape is made in thread.

– Nichole Speciale

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

NS: I am originally from Boston, MA and about 3 years ago, I moved to San Diego to go to graduate school, which I am currently finishing up.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

NS: I would have to say that my practice is largely based on this concept. I’ve had this ongoing project called Repeat After Me, which is about considering the plane of the canvas or the paper as a closed system, and as soon as a mark or shape is made in an art material another reflection or translation of that shape is made in thread, which becomes a more difficult task because to make a shape composed of straight lines you have to move back and forth through the plane of the paper or canvas.

I have also been doing an ongoing project with a flutist where we have a continuous feedback loop where I’ll reflect on the music she has played and respond through the making of an object and then she will reflect on my work and respond musically. So, to define the terms for myself – I would say that Reflection is a process of seeing/hearing and then internalizing only to turn back to the original occurrence and present your own version, much like holding up a mirror to the original act. Response is something delivered that does not have to emulate the original, but can carry a thread of the original with it in the returned action.

Repeat After Me (in Response to Rachel Beetz, flutist)

Repeat After Me (in Response to Rachel Beetz, flutist)

How does your work fit in with that definition?

NS: I’ve included a drawing from the Repeat After Me series, which I touched on in the my last answer, and have included my piece On Gravity, which is a two-sided work on stretched fabric made with sewing pins and nails. I feel this work fits in with this definition in that you can only take in one side at a time, while knowing that both images exist at once. And in viewing each side you have to consider the other to make sense of the whole piece.  The front of the canvas creates one impression with subtle color changes and soft textures and in response, or maybe an inverted reflection, the back side with the colored heads of the pins is like a bejeweled surface, and is surprising, but can only be surprising because of the reverse side.

On Gravity (front)

On Gravity (front)

On Gravity (back)

On Gravity (back)

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

NS: I have been collaborating with a different musician than the one I mentioned earlier and we have been making ‘sound paintings’ where we embed speakers in stretched fabric or canvas to extend the surface of the painting via sound. The one I am currently working on is about 5.5’ x 3.5’ stretched canvas and I have been sewing 2 large coils of speaker wire onto the surface. We’ve got magnets that turn those coils into speakers. So we are working on figuring out what sound should be coming from that piece… very exciting.

Pie from Scratch - In progress (speaker wire and thread on canvas)

Pie from Scratch – In progress (speaker wire and thread on canvas)

Who or what inspires you?

NS: I am very inspired by investigation of the universe. So I will often read things by Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse Tyson or Brian Greene. I also love watching NASA TV or poking around on their website. I also get really excited by 80s and 90s art that looks like it was the product of AV club, like Gretchen Bender or Nam June Paik.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

NS: Hmmm… Well, I recently learned that wasps basically make their nests from paper maché… how cool is that! They started it!

Shout out to…?

NS: Andrea Harris for suggesting me to the collective!

And my music collaborators: Curt Miller and Rachel Beetz!

Redshift Blueshift (ball point pins on speakers)

Redshift Blueshift (ball point pins on speakers)

Check out more of Nichole’s artwork on her website: http://nicholelizspeciale.com/home.html

Reflection and Response.

 

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Artist Feature: Alan Pugliese

Alan Pugliese es un cantante punk rock que nació y vive en Buenos Aires, Argentina. Conectamos con él por su padre Angel, un amigo de Peter cuando él vivía en Argentina hace unos años. Recientemente contactamos con Angel otra vez, estuvimos emocionados cuando Alan se apuntó a la idea de hacer una entrevista con nosotros. Alan forma parte del grupo Pegamento que toca en vivo a menudo. El cantante habla del papel de Reflexión en el proceso de componer canciones y Respuesta en el acto de tocar en vivo. Nos alegra la colaboración de Alan como parte del colectivo the LIFESTYLE. Lee el dialogo y mira los videos abajo!

Alan Pugliese is a punk rock vocalist straight of Buenos Aires, Argentina. We connected with Alan through his pops Angel, who was a friend of Peter’s while he was living in Argentina a few years back. After reconnecting with Angel recently, we were juiced when Alan was down for an Artist Feature with the LIFESTYLE. Alan is part of the group Pegamento and they perform live regularly. In our dialogue, Alan discusses the role of Reflection in songwriting and Response during live performance. We’re juiced to have Alan as part of the LIFESTYLE collective — peep the dialogue and some videos of his work below!

Alan Pugliese (2nd from left) & Co.

Alan Pugliese (2nd from left) & Co.

Estamos en contra de las canciones tristes; lo que queremos es transmitir alegría. Cantamos lo que vemos y lo que sabemos, las cosas que nos pasan, aveces escribimos las canciones de forma irónica.

We’re against [making] sad songs; what we’d like to do is communicate happiness. We sing about what we see and what we know, the things that happen to us, [and] sometimes we write songs in an ironic way.

– Alan Pugliese

Para empezar con algunos puntos básicas, de dónde vienes? Dónde estás?

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at? 

AP: Mi nombre es Alan Pugliese, soy de Bs.As Argentina, y actualmente vivo hay.

AP: My name is Alan Pugliese, I’m from Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is where I live now.

Que quiere decir “reflexión,” y “respuesta,” para ti?

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AP: Reflexion es pensar sobre un tema o experiencia tratando de mejorar ese aspecto, o madurar si la situación lo requiere.

Respuesta es la acción que puede cambiar una situación conflictiva para mejor.

AP: Reflection means to think about a topic or experience in order to try to improve it, or mature [from the experience] if the situation calls for that.

Response refers to an action that can change a difficult situation for the better.

Cómo se mete tu arte en esta definición?

How does your work fit in with that definition?

AP: Aveces reflexiono sobre un tema antes de escribir una canción, la respuesta la veo cuando subo al escenario.

AP: Sometimes I reflect on a topic before writing a song, and my response comes out when I get on stage.

Que más estás haciendo actualmente? Que proyectos estás pensando trabajar próximamente?

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

AP: Aparte de cantar creo veladores artesanales y soy fumigador.

Estoy apunto de sacer mi nuevo cd con mi banda. 

AP: Aside from singing, I make hand-crafted tables and I work as a fumigator.

 I’m also getting ready to release a new CD with my band.

Quien o que te inspira?

Who or what inspires you?

AP: Me inspiran las buenas experiencias.

 AP: I’m inspired by good experiences.

Hay algo más que quieres que sepa el Collectivo? 

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

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Artist Feature: Liz Borda

We welcome photographer Liz Borda to the Collective! We met Liz through friend and fellow photographer Lou Rouse. Born and raised in the New York City area, Liz currently makes her home in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Her photography represents a powerful look at the variety of the human experience and the stories that stem from these images contain deep Reflection and Response. Liz is active with her craft and is working on several new projects, including a piece about a young woman in the Bronx and the New York Dream Act. Liz drops some dope knowledge throughout this piece. Make sure to read her ideas and peep her work below!

Liz Borda

Something may trigger me to reflect on a moment, my life and my work. As a result I am active or inactive in my response. Being inactive is a response as well.

– Liz Borda

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

LB: I am a born and raised New Yorker. I grew up in Inwood, Manhattan and later moved to Flushing, Queens. Both places make me super nostalgic when I hang there. I enjoy going back to these neighborhoods and hanging out in my old spots, I love visiting my friends and family. I live in Sunset Park, Brooklyn now and dig it as well. All these places have incredible energy, people and eateries!

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

LB: I feel like reflection is a constant ongoing thing for me. Something may trigger me to reflect on a moment, my life, my work. As a result I am active or inactive in my response. Being inactive is a response as well. Will you act or not after the said reflection? I ponder this more with age.

How does your work fit in with that definition? 

LB: My work ranges from street photography, long format documentary stories and essays to doing assignments for not-for-profits, organizations, to shooting events and portraits. I feel like reflection and response happens in all these types of photography. Theresa from a project named Ladyride had panic attacks for twenty years and she felt her learning to ride motorcycles helped her overcome this. We talked extensively about it and we reflected on that time. She shared with me how she changed her life. I met her after she overcame this. The images I have captured of her you would never guess she had this earlier problem. To me these images show her response to her fears now.

Liz Borda: Theresa Takes the Lead, Ladyride Series

Theresa Takes the Lead, Ladyride Series. Theresa Thompson had a twenty-year history of panic attacks where she couldn’t drive very far in her car or truck. She believes riding was therapy for her and the panic attacks stopped after she started riding. “I think most of my life and relationships I felt pretty trapped, you know, wanted out but was afraid to leave and so this was probably the first major thing I did in my life for me that I was pretty much in control. Started my road to independence.”

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

LB: I am working on a project about a young woman from the Bronx named Janet and the Dream Act as well as the New York Dream Act. I am looking to keep working on long format stories, working with more organizations as well as to keep learning and trying new things with my photography. I want to keep pushing myself and enjoying this crazy journey I am on.

Coming Out of the Shadows

Coming Out of the Shadows

Who or what inspires you?

LB: I am inspired by many things around me. At times it can be a piece of music, walking around the city, a show at a gallery or museum, people in my life or reading/listening to a news report. I love listening to Morning Edition on NPR.

Stoop Life

Stoop Life

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

LB: Thanks Lou, Vicken, and The Lifestyle for this platform and for featuring me. Much love.

Shout out to …?

LB: My husband Joshua Auckenthaler, he is a talented retoucher and photographer. He is my rock. He is such a supportive partner. I also would like to give a shout out to my mother, sister, buddies and loving folks in my life. They offer another level of support and cheer me on. I love them all to pieces! Thank you!

Check out the following links to keep up with Liz’s photo projects:

Reflection and Response.

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Artist Feature: Erica Hellerstein

Erica Hellerstein is a Bay Area-based journalist who we’ve known since attending high school together back in the day in Berkeley. She has contributed to and published stories from around the globe, from Central California to Chile. She highlights the importance of Reflection in her craft as the ability to find universal themes within circumstantial details of a story. She exhibits this approach in a current piece on cervical cancer in South Texas, exploring central ideas of womanhood and resistance. Throughout our dialogue she discusses various other projects including an investigative narrative piece exploring the use of the abortion pill misoprostol, and a radio documentary about Curanderas in the Bay Area. We’re excited to have an engaging talk with this craftswoman tough on her grind! 

Erica Hellerstein

Reflection is the process of distillation. It’s the opposite of reflex, of the reactive tweet or the fiery text. Reflection forces me unpack my impulses. As a journalist, it’s probably one of the most important and satisfying muscles that I can exercise.

– Erica Hellerstein

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

EH: I was born and raised in the Bay Area, in a trendy, club-friendly corner of the East Bay called Kensington. After High School, I moved to the East Coast , where I stayed for several years. It was terrible. Everything was grey and frigid and even the wind howled more despairingly. Now, I’m happy to report that I’m finally back in California, wrapping up a graduate program at UC Berkeley.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

EH: I like this question because I’m sure I would have had answered it very differently had you thrown it my way a year and a half ago. I think that reflection and response will mean different things to me at different times. Right now, I am in a transitional period, and have genuinely no idea what I’ll be doing five months down the road — which makes the process of mindful reflection difficult. Sometimes it’s easy for me to get bogged down in the uncertainties and transience of my life, and this maddening tendency I have to beat myself up over matters I can’t control. When I’m constantly on the go, sometimes I forget to stop, look around, and relish the volatility of it all.

So for me, reflection is the process of distillation. It’s the opposite of reflex, of the reactive tweet or the fiery text. Reflection forces me unpack my impulses. As a journalist, it’s probably one of the most important and satisfying muscles that I can exercise. Without a process of reflection, my pieces wouldn’t have depth or universality. For me, it takes careful reflection and contemplation of the human spirit, to understand the stories that really pack punches. The ones that transcend time, place, identity, gender, nationalism, and religion — these are the pieces that endure and connect people across virtual bridges. Certainly it’s my aspiration as a writer and a journalist to tell universal stories. I think that reflection is the vantage point through which I can suspend my complicated identity and simply observe.

Now response, that’s easier for me. As you can probably tell, I’ve always been a talker. To me response feels natural, it’s what I do. Response means telling a story. It’s reflection digested — and I love to eat.

How does your writing fit in with that definition?

EH: Sometimes I view writing as a birthing process. I’ve created some deeply embarrassing babies — think angst-ridden college memoirs and romanticized articles about revolution in Latin America — so it’s hard for me to go back  to stories I’ve already produced and analyze them through the prism of reflection and response. Instead, I’m going to flip this question around and talk to you about a piece I’m working on that embodies this definition. Just to keep you on your toes, Peter.

So right now I’m writing a story about incredibly high cervical cancer rates in South Texas. It sounds like a terribly depressing story, and in some ways, it is. Or it would have been if I hadn’t reflected on the real story, which isn’t a doom-and-gloom piece about cancer. The real story is about women. And resistance. About a fascinating and inspiring group of of educators who are driving from slum to slum in South Texas, teaching women about their bodies and how to prevent cervical cancer and other reproductive health problems in spite of family planning clinic closures.

There are certainly elements of this story that are unsettling, raw, and unfair. There’s a community that has been forgotten by our health care system, and a group of women who are suffering because of that. There are children who are losing their mothers because they can’t afford to get regular check-ups, and there are families who are moving back to dangerous border towns in Mexico because they can’t get their health care needs met here.

But this is exactly where reaction and response came in. From afar, I thought it would be an incredibly sad and terrible story to work on. But when I got to South Texas and shadowed the health educators, driving from home to home on dusty, unpaved streets, I realized that my preconceived notions about the community and situation were completely wrong. It wasn’t depressing. The women couldn’t change the cards that they were dealt, but they were absolutely changing the ways that they played the hand. They were responding, reacting. The health situation there is still dire but they don’t think about it in a fatalistic way.  It was humbling to for  me realize just how wrong I was about the situation. Those are the moments that make me want to continue doing this work — when I realize how much I have left to learn. 

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

EH: I’m working on a lot of projects right now. First off is my master’s thesis, which is a long, investigative narrative piece about the use of the (in some countries, illegal) abortion pill, misoprostol, in South Texas, where all of the abortion clinics have shut down. In many states in the US, it’s not legal to take this pill to induce your own abortion. It’s really a profile of this pill — an exposition of its lifeline. It has a fascinating history, it was discovered by women in Brazil in the ’80s to induce abortions and became wildly popular. My story follows the pill around the world and is rooted in Texas, where there are these parts of the state without abortion clinics that have basically turned into these pro Roe v. Wade wastelands. It’s rumored that misoprostol is sold illegally in South Texas flea markets, and I went undercover at the markets in search of the pill. You’ll have to read the piece to see what ultimately ended up happening.

I’m also working on a 30-minute radio documentary about Mexican folk healers, or Curanderas, in the Bay Area. There’s a really vibrant movement of female healers in the Bay that have all coalesced together in recent years. Nobody quite knows how it happened, but my documentary explores this group of healers and how they integrate their ancient practices with the modern. It also follows the story of a young woman who recently found out that her grandmother was a Curandera in Mexico, and is sort of exploring her own past by learning more about this tradition.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Valerie Wilson

Valerie Wilson is a visual artist and educator based in San Francisco. We first met when she was working with students at Alchemia, an arts program for adults with developmental disabilities. In our dialogue, she comments on the conscious and subconscious nature of Reflection, and the unique uses of these Reflections that each person chooses as their Response. Valerie chooses to reflect through art as a “healing interpretation,” of her world, as she describes with her print, The Royal Rooster, dealing with mixed emotions of a past relationship. Check out Valerie’s ideas in more detail below and snapshots from her printmaking process!

Valerie Wilson

Either consciously or subconsciously, people are processing their surroundings, their past, present, & future every single moment of the day. What one does with their reflection(s) is completely subjective, but unanimously response is a direct reaction to reflection (and visa versa).

– Valerie Wilson

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

VW: I’m originally from Sebastopol, a small town in Northern California infused with wine, liberals, and art.  In 2005 I moved to San Francisco, and have set up a semi-permanent fort there.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

VW: Either consciously or subconsciously, people are processing their surroundings, their past, present, & future every single moment of the day. What one does with their reflection(s) is completely subjective, but unanimously response is a direct reaction to reflection (and visa versa). Reflection and response are symbiotic with each other, for every action there is a reaction, creation is what happens when these two work together (which is all the time).

Valerie Wilson - The Royal Rooster

Valerie Wilson – The Royal Rooster

How does The Royal Rooster fit in with that definition?

VW: I’m incredibly detailed oriented and love symmetry, but besides that, my artistic process is very lackadaisical erring on the side of intuitiveness. My most complex pieces have surfaced during equally complex life events. Without a doubt I’d say that my work is a creative and healing interpretation of my world & existential well-being. My art is interchangeable between Reflection and Response, and is definitely fueled by both concepts. The Royal Rooster is the romanticization of a past partner. In the spring of 2011 I started carving and designing this bird after a breakup with someone I truly respected but equally despised. He (the rooster) is so tall and proud and beautiful while simultaneously reiterating his haughtiness and unattainability. Of course, I come to realize this only retrospectively, but see this piece as an obvious phoenix rising from the ashes of a failed (but cherished) relationship.

Valerie Wilson - The Royal Rooster (Process)

Valerie Wilson – The Royal Rooster (Process)

Valerie Wilson - The Royal Rooster (Process)

Valerie Wilson – The Royal Rooster (Process)

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Alicia Martínez Díaz

Conocí a Alicia Martínez Díaz por primera vez en un concierto de artistas locales en Madrid en 2012. Era compañera de piso de Amber Stiles, miembro del Colectivo the LIFESTYLE, y en el concierto hablamos de su interesante arte visual ecléctico, que incluye medios tan diversos cómo el mundo musical hasta la publicidad. Dos años después de conocernos seguimos en contacto y estamos alegres de que haya aceptado la oferta de hacer una entrevista con nosotros. En nuestro diálogo, Alicia nos cuenta su proceso creativo, la naturaleza pensativa de la reflexión y la acción de la respuesta. Además describe su proyecto llamado “La Vida de los Otros,” que busca explorar la idea del “desconocido” tras una mezcla de medios diferentes. Abajo disfruta las palabras y unas selecciones de una artista visionaria!

I first met Alicia Martínez Díaz in Madrid in 2012 at a concert where several dope local artists were performing. She was friends with LIFESTYLE Collective member Amber Stiles, and at the concert we spoke about her eclectic visual art projects, ranging from working with musicians to advertising. Two years later, we remained in contact and we’re delighted that she accepted an interview spot for an Artist Feature. Throughout our dialogue, Alicia delves into her creative process, the pensive nature of reflection, and the active nature of response. She also describes her exciting project “The Lives of Others,” that seeks to explore the idea of the “stranger” through a milieu of different mediums. Enjoy the words and selected pieces from this visionary artist below!

Alicia Martínez Díaz

Mi proyecto fotográfico denominado “La vida de los otros”…recoge y muestra mi mirada, mis pensamientos y conclusiones, sobre personas que no conozco y que veo pasar; las personas que pasan por mi vida directa o indirectamente, las que están y las que no están, y todas las historias que imagino al verlas, las historias que me sugieren los enigmas que parecen rodearlas.

My photo project “The Lives of Others”…gathers and showcases my vision, thoughts, and conclusions concerning strangers that I see but don’t know; those that pass through my life directly or indirectly, those that are here and those that aren’t, and all the stories that I imagine upon seeing them, stories that suggest the oddities that seem to revolve around people.

– Alicia Martínez Díaz

Para empezar con algunos puntos básicas, de dónde vienes? Dónde estás?

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

AMD: Soy Alicia, de algún lugar de la Mancha, y resido en Madrid (España) desde hace más de 15 años, ciudad que conozco por tanto muy bien y que cumple a la perfección el dicho: “de Madrid al cielo”. Y debe de ser verdad, porque aunque siempre estoy ávida por conocer lugares nuevos, siempre estoy ávida también por regresar después. Estudié un símil de Bellas Artes en un lugar tan peculiar como la Casa de la Moneda, en otras palabras, el lugar donde se fabrica el dinero en España. Mientras de día aprendía con una mano a grabar, dibujar y diseñar becada y mimada durante 4 años; con la otra, de noche, y de manera eventual para conseguir algo de dinero extra, destruía con una troqueladora millones de euros empaquetados en fajos de billetes… irónico, y un acto que, aunque no tuviera nada que ver con el aspecto artístico, tenía su evidente carga simbólica y sirve de ayuda para relativizar la importancia a lo material y concentrarse en el lado más espiritual de la vida. Desde hace más de diez años soy cofundadora de mi propio estudio de diseño (91Nueveuno), pequeño y con ganas de ayudar a aquellos que nos llaman a descubrir lo que necesitan y todavía no saben, haciendo de medium entre lo utilitario y lo artístico. Pero mi pasión real son los libros, la música y, sobre todo, fotografiar.

AMD: My name is Alicia, I’m from a place in la Mancha, and I’ve been living in Madrid for over 15 years – so it’s a city that I know really well and it fulfills the saying “de Madrid al cielo” (“from Madrid to Heaven”). And it must be true, because although I’m always eager to get to know new places, I’m also always eager to return [to Madrid] afterwards. I studied Fine Arts in a place as strange as la Casa de la Moneda (the Royal Mint), in other words, the place where they print money in Spain. Meanwhile, during the day I studied film, drawing, and design on a 4-year scholarship; on the other hand, at night, in a sporadic way in order to earn a little extra money, I used a machine press to turn thousands of packaged euros into bundles of bills… ironic, and an act that, although it had nothing to do with the arts, had it’s own apparent symbolic responsibility, and served to help me diminish the importance of material [things] and concentrate on the more spiritual side of life. For over ten years I’ve been the cofounder of my own design studio (91Nuevueno), a small project with the desire to help those who ask us to discover what they need but don’t already know, operating in between utilitarian and artistic aspects. But my real passions are books, music, and more than anything, photography.

Alicia Martínez Díaz - Barcelona

Alicia Martínez Díaz – Barcelona

Alicia Martínez Díaz - Berlin

Alicia Martínez Díaz – Berlin

Que quiere decir “reflexión,” y “respuesta,” para ti?

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AMD: Para mí, reflexión es pararse a pensar. La respuesta, casi siempre, actuar. Reflexionar es hacer un repaso de nuestro “histórico” personal, emocional, intelectual (y, en mi caso, especialmente importante también, el visual) y, en base a nuestro objetivo previo, decidir qué deseamos hacer. Con todo ello en mi cabeza y sin que la reflexión sea eterna para no caer en la “parálisis por análisis”, me dispongo “a pasar a limpio” lo dibujado y escrito en mi mente, ya sea diseñando o fotografiando. Pasando a una dimensión real esos planos de mi pensamiento. De todos modos lo que realmente lo inunda todo, tanto en lo personal como en lo profesional, es el factor X de la intuición. Ese intangible mágico y decisorio que se encuentra entre la reflexión y la respuesta. Para mí es lo realmente determinante. Y que en el caso del artista es lo realmente fundamental. Yo diría que ahí es donde reside el verdadero talento.

AMD: For me, reflection means to stop and think. Response, almost always, is to act. Reflection involves taking another look at our personal, emotional, intellectual (and, especially important in my case, visual) “histories,” and based on our individual objectives, deciding what we’d like to do. With all this in my mind, however, I run the risk of falling into the trap of reflection leading to “paralysis via over-analysis,” and I often start over from scratch both in design and photography.

Alicia Martínez Díaz - Madrid

Alicia Martínez Díaz – Madrid

Alicia Martínez Díaz - Madrid

Alicia Martínez Díaz – Madrid

Alicia Martínez Díaz - Madrid

Alicia Martínez Díaz – Madrid

Cómo se mete tu arte en esta definición?

How does your work fit in with that definition?

AMD: Es diferente, aunque no radicalmente, si se trata por tanto de un proyecto personal o de un encargo por parte de un cliente. Cuando se trata de un encargo en el desarrollo de la reflexión serán claves también las premisas del briefing del proyecto y, aunque el resto de pasos del proceso sean los mismos, será necesario sumar un análisis más condicionado y un timing más estricto, eso seguro, pero también debe satisfacerme a mí además de al cliente. Jugar como decía entre lo utilitario y lo artístico. En el proyecto personal los límites los pongo yo. Es más experimental: lo emocional y lo intuitivo lo llenan todo…

AMD: This is different, though not radically, depending on whether I’m working on a project for a client or a personal project. For orders, the premise of the client’s instructions are instrumental for reflection, and though the [creative] process is the same [as a personal project], working for a client is more conditional and requires strict timing; however client orders should be satisfying for both the customer and myself. [This process] involves working between pragmaticism and artistry. [Alternatively,] I set the limits on personal projects. These are more experimental: these are projects filled with emotion and intuition.

Que más estás haciendo actualmente? Que proyectos estás pensando trabajar próximamente?

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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