higher ground

September 12, 2023

My daughter, Luma is an avid beader. This aerial view of Labbezanga, a small riverport village in Mali, photographed by Georg Gerster in the early 1970s reminded me of our kitchen table when Luma’s at work. One of the magical things about aerial photography is the multitude of textures, patterns and visual references that reveal themselves when we shift our perspective. We see a whole new world. “I see my best aerial photographs as a kick-start for flights of thought. The aerial picture is a tool of reflection. From high up, one sees not only what is, but just as well what could be – the inventory of our possibilities.”

around and around

July 19, 2022

Rebecca Sammon’s mythical, magical figures.

A mural by artist, Zhang Enli adorns the facade of a rural, Italian chapel.

Printed summer dresses by Oslo based, Cathrine Hammel.

Francisco Matto’s couple, crafted from marble and wood.

Smithsonian miscellaneous shell collections.

The walls at Osteria dei Meriavigliati

around and around

July 6, 2022

Isamu Noguchi’s ashtray prototypes.

Pippa Dyrlaga’s exquisite paper cutouts.

Nathan Isaac’s mixed media collages.

Matt Stuart’s pictures of London’s busy streets.

Pan de maíz.

Ice house in Iran, photographed by Lynn Davis.

the lesson

June 30, 2022

It seems odd, indulgent, even to be paying for Greek lessons when I have a whole pool of family of friends to practice with. I could call any number of them for a natter. Only I know that within seconds I’d revert to English, as would they. I needed to talk to somebody that would only speak to me In Greek, and that would insist that I do the same. Enter Eleni from Thessaloniki. We only speak Greek, and it’s as frustrating as it is liberating. Frustrating because Greek is so hard. And because basic words like ‘bill” are a million letters long. λογαριασμό. And because it’s been so long since I spoke Greek that I can’t remember the word for toaster or pineapple. And because I learned Greek as a child, and my vocabulary doesn’t include words like bigotry and sensationalism. What’s the word for surreal, Eleni? How do you say expectation? Fuck, Greek is hard. Did I say that already? And liberating because I have no inhibitions with Eleni. I’m ok with sounding like a pillock. So much so, that I am more myself with Eleni than I am with many people I’ve known all my life. With them, I am a paler version of myself because I’m tongue tied or scared of making mistakes. I don’t have my usual artillery of words, and I can’t express myself the way I would like. When my brother moved to Athens 15-years ago with braces and very rusty Greek, he said to me, “Athena, I’m just not funny here.” Alex’s ability to make people laugh is his gift, and his storytelling is another. Words facilitate both. He was lost. Eventually, his Greek improved. And/or he got comfortable with being himself, broken Greek, and all. When I go to Greece next month, (my first visit home in four years) will I revert to English? Or will I charge through with whatever words I can muster? Am I willing to sound like a pillock? That’s how Alex did it. That’s how anyone does anything.

lake swimming

June 24, 2022

The first time I swam in a lake was in the late 80s at Kingsley Pines summer camp in Maine. I was used to seawater, so the lake –– smooth, cold and gunmetal grey –– was such a novelty. I imagined all kinds of lake monsters lurking beneath the water. Not being able to see down to the bottom was unnerving. I’d watched Stand By Me, so I was leery of leeches. Saltwater will always be my favourite water to swim in. But there’s something about lake water that is a majesty unto itself. This week, I swam laps across a small motor-free lake in Hunstville remembering my first lake swims at camp. In the morning, the lake water was almost obsidian in colour, choppy, and so cold you have no choice but to move your body rigorously. By dusk, it was Wedgewood blue and smooth as glass. What a thrill to swim in a lake like this. Snapping turtles, leeches, and all.

around and around

May 13, 2022

Thierry Martenon’s beautifully carved sculptures.

Raspberry meringue pie with mile high meringue.

Bronwyn Oliver’s stunning metalwork.

A house in the hills made from earth excavated from the site.

Marble on marble.

Brenda Holzke’s clay vessels.

A yew in the spring by August Sander.

around and around

May 6, 2022

Lake water the colour of Pepto Bismol.

Textiles cast with concrete by Crystal Gregory.

Exquisite embroidery by Tzip Dagan.

This bookcase.

Henrique Oliveira’s arboreal installations.

Delphiniums in a house of blues.

new normal

May 4, 2022

Born in Morocco and raised in Belgium, Mous Lamrabat‘s photographs are an eye-popping fusion of his Arab heritage and the Western symbols he grew up with. Think models dressed in Gucci djellabas and superhero burkas. “As a child of first generation immigrants, there is always a point in your life where you feel like you don’t fit in anywhere; not in the country you were born in nor in the country you were raised in,” says Lamrabat. “I felt like I was too Moroccan to fit in as a Belgian and too European to fit in as a Moroccan, and this is something that almost every immigrant has to deal with.” Through his photographs, Lamrabat is honing a visual language that captures both the universality and uniqueness of this experience, while dismantling stereotypes and cultural norms and paving the way for something new and more flexible. “As a kid, I loved wearing djellabas and rocking them with my Jordan sneakers. It felt “cool” at that time because that’s who I was: a mixture of identities. Doesn’t it make sense that your “idea-basket” gets larger when you live in different cultures or you live in multiple places in the world?” The eyes, and often the whole face, are covered in Lamrabat’s images, which interestingly, makes his subjects even more accessible. It’s the experience that we’re connecting with rather than the individual. “I love creating from a perspective that it’s not about one person,” he says. “The face takes so much information away and doesn’t leave that much to the imagination…. I feel when the face doesn’t show, the person who is looking at the image puts their own face in there.”

I must have flowers, always, and always

April 21, 2022

I remember standing at The Orangerie in Paris as a teenager enveloped in Monet’s waterlilies. “These landscapes of water and reflection have become an obsession for me,” he wrote to a friend in 1909. “It is beyond my strength as an old man, and yet I want to render what I feel.” The waterlilies dominated the last 30-years of the artist’s life, each painting capturing the passing of time from sunrise to sunset. The Orangerie (built originally to store the citrus trees of the Tuileries Garden from the cold in the winter) is the perfect place to house them. I often wonder what it would feel like to re-live its curved walls bathed in lilies through an adult’s eyes, like re-reading Lord of the Flies or Animal Farm three decades later. The subject remains the same, but the way we see and feel it changes.

endless summer

February 10, 2022

I’m a sucker for anything that conjures summer, which is why Stevie Michael’s ocean inspired ceramics are high on my wish list. Her vases are adorned with swirls and waves, while sea creatures crawl across her simple white plates. The multicoloured ‘millefiori’ details on her glassware remind me of schools of fish swimming through the sea. The whole collection has me dreaming of al fresco suppers on the water. Pass me the Campari, won’t you.

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