On Tuesday, I met Smashley Massacre and River. Usually, I meet each derby girl in her home and we get to know each other and I get to scout her space. Then I come back another time and make pictures. This time, I combined everything into one visit. I’m trusting my instinct and experience more in my shooting decisions for this project, and this most recent shoot helped. I’m hoping to travel and photograph derby girls a bit further from home, but I’ve been uncertain about how the time constraints of travelling would affect my work. But I think it’s going to be ok.
Tuesday was my quickest shoot ever. I couldn’t keep the camera out for long because darling River was fascinated by it. I managed to squeeze four frames with River in it: one to check exposure, one where Smashley’s face was blurry while River nursed, this one, and one when both of them were a blur because he noticed my camera and needed to come explore again. I shot some more frames with just Smashley, but they just didn’t come close to this one.
So last Friday, the opening of Revealing Spaces, was pretty great. The Baby Who Hates The Car didn’t scream as much as usual in the two-hour car ride to my parents’ place. But when we arrived, I realized I’d forgotten the outfit I was planning to wear. That sucked. The few other clothes I’d brought were decidedly weekend at the farm clothes, not suitable for an opening of my work. My mom and I went out to the little second-hand shop in the teensy tiny village two miles from my parents’ in the hopes that might have a better shirt for me to wear. But as luck would have it, not only did I find a shirt, I found a whole outfit, including a cute vintagey mint blazer and snazzy shoes, all of which fit me perfectly. All for about $30. And it was WAY snazzier than what I was planning to wear. How crazy is that?
Here are a few photos:
Here I am speaking, with Curator Sonya Jones in the background. Apparently I was very hard to hear. Ah well.
Anyways, I don’t think I made an ass of myself at the opening, my work looked great, if I do say so myself, and the whole show overall was pretty great. The Durham Region Roller Derby League had a table there, which I thought was pretty great since I hadn’t actually had any contact with them yet myself. It felt legitimizing somehow. The highlight of the evening for me was when Kiss My Ashlinn’s daughter introduced herself to me. I was honoured she came out. Kiss My Ashlinn died in April of this year, just a few months after I photographed her. Today, the RMG blog posted some of my reflections on her.
I’d like to speak at the opening of Revealing Spaces this Friday. But I’m drawing a complete blank as to what to talk about specifically (obviously, I’ll talk about Yes these bones shall live, but exactly what angle?). I could talk for hours (and have done) about the project, what it means to me, why I’m doing it, what I’m learning from it and from the women I meet through it, how I do it, etc., etc. At the opening for Hard Knocks last year, it was easy: the curator used a question and answer format, so I only had to answer the questions.
So it occurred to me, maybe I could ask the audience for questions. But that’s always risky, because nobody cares enough to ask. So then I thought, why not ask here? I don’t know if anyone is still reading, but if you are, would you mind sharing with me what makes you curious about my roller derby project? Any burning questions about the series? Anything at all?
This summer my work will be in two shows. Tonight is the opening for Insights, a juried exhibition at the Wellington County Museum, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. When I dropped off my two pieces a week or so ago, there was a ton of work, and it was all good so I have high expectations for the show. I’m looking forward to tonight’s opening, and would love to see some familiar faces if you’re up for it.
But my big excitement is a show at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, ON. Called Revealing Spaces, the show features the work of three Durham Region artists (I grew up in the region and still visit my parents there regularly.)
I have nine pieces in it, all from Yes These Bones Shall Live. The show has been in the works for a long time so I can’t wait to see it and meet the other artists. I hope to post the curator’s essay here or a link to it when it’s available. (It was SUCH an ego trip reading someone’s thoughtful analysis of my work.) The opening is on Friday, July 6. I know it’s a trek for most people I know, but I thought I’d mention it anyways in case you’re in the area.
We often go for a stroll after dinner if there’s time. We almost always go the same way and it’s just matter of how far we go before we turn around. But tonight my oldest asked, “Where should we go tonight, Mom?” And it suddenly struck me that we could go see Harris and Eva’s beauty bush. There are other beauty bushes in the neighbourhood, but Harris and Eva’s is spectacular. Indeed, when he saw it even my curmudgeonly husband (curmudgeonly as far as plants go that is) was kind of blown away. It’s as big as a tree and pretty much dwarfs the house.
I actually took this photo two years ago. When I checked the date stamp just now I realized it was exactly two years ago to the day.
For the last couple of years I’ve been entering competitions and juried exhibitions madly. But this year I’ve kind of stopped. It gets expensive fast, and I’m trying to live economically (yes, Canada has paid maternity leave but the legal amount is only 55 percent of your income to a maximum of about $400 a week). Not only the entry fees but the printing and framing and shipping. And of course, my time is short these days. Anyways… the other day I discovered one that I’m seriously considering. The juror is a renowned curator/collector/author but more than that he clearly took a lot of time to write about what he’s looking for. It makes him seem so human and approachable and passionate that I really want to try and please him. I want to see if it might be my work that “rings his chimes.” (Yep, I’m nothing if not ambitious… perhaps dreamer is a better word.)
I love his advice for collectors. It seems to me that it’s good advice for photographers:
“When you look at the photograph you want it to push back at you.”
“The best part of the education is not only looking… but reacting and having a sense of how stuff plays on you.” “The best thing you can do is make yourself available to the experience. Do you like it? Listen to it. What are you responding to? It doesn’t have to make any rational sense but what’s doing it for you? … You can get a sense of what your taste is. … When you have an eye you walk into a situation and you go, ‘that one.’ … “It’s experience and instinct and the ability to hear yourself.”
Back in 2008, when I still volunteered at the Drop-In Centre, a young woman was found naked and dead in a local park. I had never met her but people I served at the drop-in knew her and grieved. It took the police more than a year to decide it was homicide. I guess because it’s common for mentally-ill, crack-addicted, part-time sex workers to end up naked and dead in a park from natural causes. I haven’t followed the details of the case closely, but they did finally arrest a man in 2010 and now his case is being tried. I have read precisely two articles in my local paper about the trial, and I am disgusted. I don’t know whether to be disgusted with the lawyers and legal system about the way the questioning is going, or whether it’s simply a matter of misogynist reporters and editors. But from the articles I can’t figure out who’s on trial: if it’s the accused, there hasn’t be a whole lot of coverage on him. It seems like it’s the victim who’s on trial, judging by the articles.
The first one is all about how mentally ill she was and how much crack she smoked and how much prostitution she did. The only mentions of the accused are how he sits quietly in the court and [politely] rises when the jury enters and exits, and how when the victim was killed, he was homeless… “on the street; he was distraught.”
The second article continues in the same vein. There is some small mention of how the accused was caught in the act of beating and sexually assaulting a prostitute in Barrie before being arrested in this case, but the bulk of the article is about the victim. How she didn’t pay the full amount for her last hit because she often waited until she got paid for sex. Whether all the sex she and a former boyfriend had was always alone and how his answer was that they never had a threesome. I’m sure that’s relevant to the case, somehow, but the way it’s being reported it’s all out of context and just ends up feeling horrible. Would they report it this way if she were still alive after the sexual assault? I thought we had laws about the relevance of a victim’s sexual history in sexual assault cases, but perhaps it goes out the window when the victim is dead. Or when she’s a crack-addicted sex worker…
It’s so discouraging to see how backwards we still are in so many ways. It’s disgusting that a human life is so disregarded. She was a person, like all of us, with flaws and grace and love. She sold roses to amorous couples. People loved her, people who have to read this trashy, disrespectful coverage. People who have to watch the system dehumanize and devalue her life over and over again. It’s sickening.
The derby project is going SO slowly. The baby has developed a bunch of intolerances, which means my diet is pretty restricted and I have to make pretty much everything I eat from scratch. Which takes a lot of time. But I’m hopeful the project will pick up again in a couple of months. In the meantime, there are these:
I am shocked and sad that Adrienne Rich has died. I don’t really know what more to say about that, but I feel a connection with her. When I requested permission from her publisher to include one of her poems from “An Atlas of the Difficult World,” in Two-Powered, they sent my manuscript to her for her to decide. I was terrified and giddy when I read the notification. I’d thought the publisher would make its own decision, and that it would likely reject me flat out. While I waited I obsessed between extremes: “My work was crap – of course she’d hate it! But she wrote a book called Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Institution and Experience – surely she’d connect with my book!” Back and forth I went until I got an envelope in the mail from the publisher. I still feel so honoured that she agreed to have her poem be part of my wee, self-published book. I guess she must have seen at least some kernel of… something, authenticity at least?
I only actually read her Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Institution and Experiencelast fall. I mostly read it when my oldest was in school and the baby had tummy time (unfortunately he started crawling way too early for that to continue for long). I marked passages I wanted to share here, but I didn’t get around to writing about it and I had to return the book to the library long ago. It remains perfectly relevant to my experience as a young mother today, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in reading or art about motherhood.
Anyways, today I am sad. I’ll leave you with my favourite part of the poem:
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.