Thursday, November 17, 2016

On the horizon for 2017

This year is almost coming to a close. We, Americans are faced with an extremely difficult time as the president elected is probably one of the worst in history. Well, at least in my history. Living in France and being on social media has given me distance to see things clearer and I am just very sad and afraid for what will happen in the next 4 years and I can only hope that there is either an impeachment beforehand or that it's calmer and less dangerous than what is expected and hope that there are stronger people there to take on the next presidency in 2021. And I also hope that there are many of us that are doing things to make a difference and an impact. I may not be strong enough to do so myself, but I shine my light to those that will. And I thank each and every one of you that does.

This year seemed to have had also brought more losses in entertainment than previous years and we lost so many inspirations. You will all be missed.

The personal silver lining is that I am settling here more, gaining more employment and progressing more with French. In my relationship with my husband, I discover more, each day, of what it is to be in a happy, loving and fulfilling marriage. These things I mention are the blessings that I do not take for granted each day.

And I am working diligently on my image making. I spent almost 2 years on work that I have since given up on only to turn to something new. That's what it's all about you know. I don't consider it a waste of time. I had to do it to get to this place and I hope that this place is one I stay with for awhile.

I will close this post with this. May 2017 be a time of strength and love for us all. May it be a time that we focus on what is really important in our lives and to nurture it and each other. If we are able to help one another, let's do so without hesitation.We can do that in a huge way or in a small way. We do not have to show that we are heroes. It will be known.

I will also close this post with another new image. I entitled this "The Ugly Duckling"  as a reminder to  myself that once I was told this, repeatedly so I accepted it and lived that way. No more. The swan has sprouted her wings. I will never again feel that ugly, inside or out. And I want the women out there to feel that way about themselves. NO ONE should tell you otherwise. No man nor woman.

Blessed be to you all.

Monday, November 7, 2016

fumbling around again

November 7, 2016.

 It's cold and rainy with leaves still falling, but not completely fallen. Feels like me. I am struggling with so many things at the moment - a serious financial crisis, past demons haunting me in my thoughts and dreams and an overall depressive state of mind. My husband is wonderful and is always there to support me with his words, his actions, and his love but when I feel stuck, it's hard to get unstuck.

However, if I am indeed stuck, I am doing it standing. I am not in bed with the blankets over my head. So falling, but not fallen.

I spend so much of my mental energy figuring out what else I can do to make money in order to survive that there is very little space in there to devote to my art. But somehow, there is a little. I spent the last year and change, working on some images that I now feel is not really me. I did get excited to try different things but in the end, I am not sure what any of it said. I went back to look at all of my old work and moreso my 2 series of work "Rabbitholes and Revelations" and "Not Wonderland" and said "ok maybe not every image here is strong but I had a purpose in creating them. I thought maybe a new starting point would be to revisit the journey and ideas from that time but with a different process, a different outcome. Maybe the process I have used for "The Divine Journey" and maybe with a more monochromatic and soft feel like the previous works.

It's a thought anyway and I am grateful for being able to still come up with ideas. Will see where this goes and in while all the other difficult stuff that I am dealing with is a constant, this is a positive one and so is the love I receive and give. I want to always be able to do give and not just receive.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Living in France - a long post

I have read some idiotic and not-quite-accurate blogs about living here so, maybe it's time I wrote just a little but about my experience so far here in France. I touched on it a bit in this post (with French language errors):

I came here in the summer of 2014 to meet my now husband for the first time face to face. We had been online friends for 8 years before we met in person (a story for another time unless you already know me) and then moved here in January 2015. However, since I didn't have a long-term visa yet, I spent 3 months in Colorado with friends between April and July. I returned back here in July where I married my wonderfully amazing French husband and I am now in the settling process after a year and a half-plus.

I live in a town named Massy. It's a suburb in the Ile de France region about 10 miles from Paris. I live in an apartment near a decent supermarket, a great little street with 2 boulangeries (one better than the other!), a boucherie and a couple of wine caves. I am close to all public transportation and since I no longer drive here, this is trés nécissaire. Comme je suis ici vers 2 years, I can talk about the pros and cons and also the realities.

First off, yes, I live near Paris and it IS a beautiful and very cool city. I adore the architecture, art and culture and look for the most artsy arrondissements I can find but I am not in Paris all the time for enjoyment. I now work in many of the arrondissements so I am seeing more of the real Paris and taking in the ones I prefer to see more of.

However, like any major city, it is expensive to do a lot in there so when I do go in, it's for very specific reasons. The trains/subways are, in my opinion, similar to the ones in Manhattan. You have crazy rush hour, too many people, problems CONSTANTLY with the RER-B (my main train line) and the exhaustion one feels after your 2-3 hour daily round-trip commute (depending on where you have to be). Since I am still learning French AND trying to sort through static announcements, I generally have no idea why a train has suddenly stopped and won't move again for 10 minutes or so. Anyway, if I do not have to go into Paris, I am relieved.

So, living here in of itself is easy for me. I don't see that many cultural differences but it's the little things that I am amused (and sometimes annoyed with).

The 13:00 lunch hour:
At 1pm (13:00 since the French use the 24h clock), EVERYONE goes to lunch. Almost everything shuts down and if you have an appointment with, say, an administration-related thing, at 14:00h, don't think you will be taken at that time. You see, some of the lunch hours here last 1 1/2 hours. One of my préfecture appointments was between 12 and 2. We got there at 12 and at one, they closed their windows and went to lunch while we waited! Also, if you are not hungry for lunch until 3, don't think you can find a good place to eat at because almost all restaurants and brasseries (France's version of a diner) close for 3 hours between lunch and dinner. There are BK, KFC, McDs and Starbucks but...blech.

The Food:
Ah, yes the French are all about their cheesy, fatty, creamy, gooey, greasy tradition and I love that about them. I am of Italian descent, and I feel the same with Italian food. However, when one is trying to watch their weight, there is only so much you can do, especially if you are not rich. Yes, there are vegeterian options hidden in the supermarkets and some over-priced organic shops in Paris but overall, you have to try to find things that are healthy without breaking the bank and that is hard. In fact, you have aisles in the supermarket dedicated just to the cheese. And how I ADORE le fromage. Thankfully, we do not eat out often at all, so I cook and I try to keep things on the healthier side even if we do have cheese and bread on our table every night. Still, there is the indulgence of tartiflette, cassoulet, and many other pork/duck fat related delicacies. Chicken and turkey sausage doesn't really exist and there are ingredients that are strictly American that one can not find here (unless you go to the exclusive and ridiculously priced "American" shops in Paris) so it's been a challenge to eat "well". 

Family Matters, Childless Couples Don't:
France centers everything around the family. If you have children, you get all of the benefits and compliments France has to offer. In addition, a childless married woman (and who knows? Maybe childless women in general) are looked at very differently. It's not very obvious but it's there. It's also one of the first questions doctors, new acquaintances and even employers ask - "do you have children?" And if you say no, you get looked at funny. And here's an interesting and annoying thing - you can get diapers and other family-related things in the pharmacy but feminine hygiene products? No, not really.

While we are talking about pharmacies:
Over-the-counter meds do not really exist. Sure, you can get Doliprane (Tylenol's equivalent) and some placebo-type stuff but to get something of substance, including cough syrup, you need a prescription. If you have just a little cold but it's enough that you need something, you HAVE to go to the doctor if you want decent meds. On the up side, prescription costs are extremely low. I don't think I have paid more than 4€ (approximately $5) for one prescription. I imagine if you have a serious illness, the cost would be higher but I remember needing to buy iron pills and getting any vitamin supplements in the US are a fortune compared to the 2€ a month I spent here.

Santé, Politics and Sports, Not Sex:
And with pharmacies and doctors comes santé (health). This is one of the three topics that are mainly discussed in length about and what the French society likes to focus on. Politics and sports are the other 2 main topics of conversation and all three are revered on a high level, all the time and with such passion. There is a popular misconception that the French are so sexy. Well, yes they are but it's subdued. Sex is NOT openly spoken about, except with your significant other and even that can be very modest and conservative. Jokes about sex are rarely made openly and,'s just not spoken about in general conversations. This is something I don't get at all, especially because of the aforementioned idea that ooh la la the French are all about sex.

French Administration:
What can I say? That is something that I have read online that IS accurate. I am very thankful I am married to a French person because I can't imagine what I would have to go through if I wasn't. This is difficult enough. I am baffled at the amount of paperwork - I mean PHYSICAL paperwork they ask for each time you do anything legal here. You need to show proofs of things, you need to provide physical copies and for me when we went for our marriage paperwork, I had to have professional translations made AND copies of the translations. A wonderful article has gone viral online about how France is one of the first countries to really bog down on plastic but they don't understand how important it is to save trees, apparently.

Another thing that I don't understand. In the US, whenever you go into an official government building, not only is Spanish a second language spoken, but most signs are in multiple languages of the world. Here in the biggest immigration organization OFII, and even the préfecture, there are no signs in English and most employers don't speak it either...or at least they are afraid to try. Athletes playing against France from other countries (and France's athletes) speak English...why don't immigration departments?

It also seems that the fonctionnaire never communicate with each all. I have received emails from different people in the same office with different responses to the same question....or the "I don't know" can come up as well.

French are afraid of speaking English:
This is the common denominator. I have met many English-speaking French but there are ones that CAN but are shy and afraid to try. I suppose I can understand that but if I am in my own country, I would be comfortable making mistakes in another language. Maybe that is me. And again, in government offices, it should be mandatory to have some level of English.

Side note: shop signs, posters, movies, TV English, so it exists here. It really does!

De-bunking the myth that the French hate Americans...sort of: 
This is something very important to me and I can easily empathize for the French. I have witnessed Americans in Paris. I am referring to the vacationers, not the ex-pats....though there are some of those that I fear are of the same mentality. I don't know but maybe I am weird for thinking that if I am going to a foreign country for a vacation, maybe it would be in my best interest to at least learn enough of the language to say "hello", "goodbye", "thank you" and "where is the bathroom?" The Americans I have witnessed here, don't even try. What's more is this strong sense of entitlement that they can do whatever the hell they want because, after all, if they are on vacation in Paris, then they should be treated like royalty. They also feel, as I wrote above about not understanding why so many do not try to speak English, that they ought to but not in their minds. They will rudely ask the person helping them "well, why don't you speak English?"

My husband and I were in a créperie once and there was an older couple ordering their food and of course, this was in one of the more touristy areas so English was spoken by the servers but the couple were so rude and didn't even say "please" or "thank you" in any language and made some remarks about the French! I then witnessed this several times while out with others as well and inside a few shops. Sure, there are some rude servers, usually in cafés and brasseries in the tourist areas, but overall, it's not the case. Lastly, when we were on our honeymoon, we were on a bus to the Normandy beaches coming back from there. In front of us were 2 American students that were talking about the French in such a mean way and I just shook my head and asked my husband, "do they know that there are English-speaking French and maybe some others that can understand everything they are saying? Do they care? Ugly Americans indeed.

French are rude?
Extending what I just wrote. Yes, like any other person, there are rude people here - in banks, in administrative buildings, some servers but you know, I don't usually encounter the rude French often (ok, in my bakery there are a few but they are rude to other French as well). What's more is that when I speak French, the best I can, I have been told they were impressed by how much I know and how well I can speak. Secretaries in doctors' offices for one, have told me this. I have also received a lot of help and have met some very nice people. I am modeling more now in ateliers/schools and even the ones that do not speak much English are very happy and appreciative of me and I am told that. So, if the French are rude, I blame the Americans above. ;)

On to a different subject just for a moment. There are more taxes here that I am aware of than in the US. People who rent apartments get charged a renter's tax once a year that is either equal to or more than one month's rent. There is also tax if you own more than one TV and you have to declare that....I don't really remember how they find out if you do, but they can find out. The tax on a receipt is different too including a 20% tax that I am still not 100% sure what it all means.

At the moment, if you work a conventional job (this excludes me), you are responsible for your own income taxes. There are a few taxes that are take out of your salary but the majority is not so once a year, you declare your income and then 3 times a year, you are hit with huge amounts to pay. This is all supposed to change with the way it is done in the US but that might cause other problems here.

If you work a full-time job, it is illegal to work any other jobs. Period. It's in the contract. If you are caught working another job, you can get into trouble. With me, what has happened is even more complicated. As a model in the US, I was considered self-employed and depending on the school, I would either receive a W2 (they took taxes out automatically) or a 1099. It's kind of the same here but as an auto-entepreneur, I had to get a number, similar to a tax ID number for only some schools of which I have to provide invoices for, as if I am an actual business. I suppose I am but it's handled very differently in the US and I think I have a lot more administrative work cut out for me. Welcome to the NEW world of modeling nude.

There are other details that I can't think about at the moment, but to sum up my feelings for living here, I can say that I love it here. I have the right combination of similarities and differences, thrown in with romance. Of all the realities, there are only really a few that are difficult to handle at times and learning the language is, for me, the biggest hurdle that I am doing my best to get over. In the year and a half of learning, I do know more.

Je peux parler, ecrire et lire. Je peux comprendre plus mais pas assez mais j'essaye chaque jour. Je voudrais continuer avec un autre formation de langue mais je ne peux pas pour le moment donc je ferai que je peux partout. Quand je travail, je suis dans un endroit ou j'ecoute et je parle. À chez moi, je parle avec Gilles et mon beau-frére aussi.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The value of a photograph, complaints and ramblings

I am at a place with my work that I don't know what I am doing anymore. There is too much imagery that crosses my eyes everyday that it's fogging up my judgement and influencing my work in a negative way. I want and need to escape it and just be honest with my work once again. And with my thought process always comes the self-doubt and the question of why I am still making photographs in the first place. It's in my gut that I need to do this but why and who cares?

The subject of the value of a photograph has been spoken to death about in my circle but I think I need to just write it out for my sake.  Maybe it's a diversion or procrastination or maybe writing this will help clear my head a little to make room for new ideas.

Traditional photography - film, development and print are true art forms. You can do a lot of altering of images just by adjusting exposure, using different chemistry and times developing film and playing around with print exposures..all hands get wet,  pun intended. One can make the same print 10 times and there will almost always be slight variations making the images "more precious" in the eyes of the fine art world especially now as these materials are harder to purchase.

Digital photography - with a photographic mindset, exposure changes and filters can alter the image in the shooting process. One can use traditional methods of changing light and color as well with diffusers and such. Then we have Adobe Photoshop to take our images and go wild with them, if we want. We have different papers and inks to create the final image but in the end, the physical print is more easily reproduced, making them, in some way, "less precious"and definitely less expensive.

There are  some photographers that combine the 2 processes. They shoot digitally, creating digital negatives that they print in the wet darkroom and some even go as far as to print using very traditional techniques, like wet collodion printing and these are more sought out and even more precious than a silver gelatin print.

So, here I am with very little income and a Canon 40D that my best friend gave me because I lost my Nikon digital in a divorce and do not have the money to shoot film with my beautiful Nikon FM2 (or even with my Holga!) I do not have a high end printer yet but I still must shoot and create images.

What do I do?  I create and then they stay on my external hard drive until the day I can print them or have the money to have them printed, which is something I have never done in my photographic career. I have put in a lot of effort in the shooting process and even more effort in Adobe Photoshop taking the years I learned photography and art and incorporating it all into the image. So,when I do print them, what will they be worth? If I make a pigment print from an Epson printer on an acid-free paper such as Hahnemuhle or Canson, will my print be worth less than a wet collodion print? Why? My efforts are just as valid, I think. My image can be just as strong. In fact, I have seen some traditionally printed work beautifully done with the most boring of images, however, if it's a platinum or wet collodion print, it will mean more in the fine art world....but why should I care or worry about that myself? It's almost a fact if I want to succeed in selling, I suppose.

Then, let's go off topic a little and talk about dates of work. In this time, we are always looking at the next thing and the next. I have a body of work called The Divine Journey that I created over the course of almost 6 years but it's 2 years old now. If I keep promoting that work and trying to get it exhibited, will I be told the work is old? I almost feel pressured to having to create something every year. Perhaps that is my own self-imposed thought?

So what has this post taught anyone reading it? Ha ha ha. Well, I suppose it sounds like I am just complaining and I should just stop worrying about what is going on in the fine art photography world and make work. True enough. However, I think any fine art photographer reading this post will at least relate to my thoughts on some level and can commiserate with me. I would love to read your comments on the subjects.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Relationships and Love for Convenience

I was watching an old episode of the TV show "Friends" the other day. One of the main male characters was complaining about how he met the perfect woman but she lived 2 hours away - so so far away. I then read a LiveJournal comment from an online friend of mine about how he is on an online dating site which has been failing as he gets many people contacting him from other countries and that he is not about to get a green card to date someone.

These are really interesting examples of how people meet and fall in love with each other. Do people really fall in love with someone who happens to live nearby or is it just convenience? Sure, he/she seems great but is it possible that somewhere in their subconscious that the need to look for someone "perfect"  doesn't go beyond his/her backyard?

Please, do not get me wrong. I am guessing this is the majority of our society unless you meet in a university, peace corps or some other unconventional way but the norm seems that we don't want to look for someone somewhere far.

I had many relationships in my life, including a first marriage to all men that were local to me. Looking back at all of them, I can say that I wasn't in love with any of them but that I settled because one - I thought that was the best I could do and two - they were close. 

Having a long-distance relationship is far from easy though but I think the idea that your soulmate could possibly live in another state, another country should open people's minds a bit. 

 I met my dearest husband online 10 years ago but with absolutely no intent of love or relationship more than friendship. He was in France and I in New York also. I was married to someone else during that time and was living a different life. I traveled overseas only once at that point and I didn't see more than the life that was in front of me. I was also never interested in living in France (England and Ireland yes but no other country). So, how does someone like me end up living in France and marrying her soulmate? It was easy for me. No, not the journey I had to take (and am still on) to be here, but the decision. I knew. My grandparents and many older, wiser peers I have met over the years told me that when you meet the right person, you just know. I always thought that was BS or at least that it would never happen to me, but it did and I am blessed to have finally found him.

So back to the question at hand - if that is indeed the case - knowing when you have the right person - why do so many people base it on distance and convenience of location? What if you *think* on a conscious level that it is, but in reality, your soulmate is in Asia, England, or even 2 U.S. states away from you?

And maybe it's a fate thing..maybe none of where the person is from matters...either way, it is possible to look beyond your fence to get what you want when it comes to love.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The financial future..

It's one we all worry about and after reading this article just now: I think it's important to write about my realities with finances and my future.

I worked long term at jobs until I went full-time to the university to get my B.F.A. in art. It was in school that I decided to focus on becoming an artist and image-maker but without having any business sense. I knew it was something that would not make much money but it was what made me happy, fulfilled and alive.

Becoming an artists' model was a wonderful extension of that goal and it was a bonus that I was able to make this an almost full-time job. Some schools even took taxes out of my salary so I could have some Social Security when/if I retire. To supplement that, I worked for 8 years in an art supply store further adding to my Social Security....That was when I was in the U.S.

Now I am in France and I had to start from the ground-up with working. I have started to finally re-gain a little bit of my modeling career,  slowly building contacts and regular jobs and gaining more as I persevere. I don't know what my future will hold in terms of me getting an actual supplemental, regular weekly job unless I somehow become fluent in French. That may happen, and it may not so I need to model.

I am 47 years old. It's not old but many people my age at least begin to think about retirement or at least what they can do to plan for. My job is a physical one and there are times that pain in my muscles and bones lasts for weeks. I have to take public transportation for work and I bring with me a rolling suitcase with all my modeling-related gear. I am going up and down flights of stairs while dragging this thing with me and sometimes the commute is over an hour to get to one of the ateliers. Sometimes I am tired before I even begin work. But it has to be done. And I think about how long I can go on doing this.

My husband has a very good job but that might be in trouble soon, due to downsizing/integrating employees after a company merge. Even if he stays on, we do not have savings or anything that would make us safe in the "golden years."

Economic crises have hit across the Atlantic Ocean. The US is not the only country affected by this. I chose this path in life, I know. However, I do have many worries. Bills, groceries and being able to handle going out once in awhile to enjoy life has become a creative balance. At times, it's become very difficult to stretch the euro and I know I am not the only one this is affecting. Many people that have chosen this unconventional life of multiple part-time jobs, freelancing and living week by week financially. Retirement is a thing of the past and I believe most of us unconventional folk will have to work until we die.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Today is the first day of school, or rentrée you would call it, here in France. Apparently it's made a  big deal here, more than I knew it to be in New York anyway. It's not just the start for the schools, but all of society seems to finally get back to work after 2 month vacations.

I personally see January being the start of a year. I suppose as I think about it, I am not sure why aside from it being the new calendar year but I always say it's time for the slate to be cleaned and to see what the year will bring.

The last 2 years here has been taken month by month in terms of planning anything aside from living here permanently. The financial struggle has been enormous so slowly building up work, slowly learning a new language and being at the mercy of many things have led me to have to take it all in increments. If I didn't, I would have fallen apart and into a deep depression with all of the frustrations at hand. Perhaps that's not entirely true because my husband, my partner, has been my strong, loving support system through this and I know he would have never let that happen to me. He has proven that time and time again.

Now, things are looking up a little in terms of being able to make a couple of future plans. We are planning to renovate our bedroom after Christmas and in the late Spring of next year, we are planning a visit to New York, finally. I feel like it's something we need to do sooner than later for various personal reasons, one of which is that I need to truly focus on solely grounding myself here. I am doing it now, yes, and maybe it sounds strange but I feel until I see New York with Gilles soon, I can make a full closure and get on with my life here.

To end this entry, I'd like to post a photo of our new baby, just in time for rentrée -France's new year. In another post, I will perhaps write about the loss of my pets through my divorce but for now, I want to focus on and cherish this boy. He's a 2 year old Maine Coon mix that we adopted from a cat rescue association. He was apparently abandoned, though the head of the association didn't know the story of how. And I never understand people that do those things and with him, even more so. He is gentle, affectionate, calm and sweet. We named him Finwë (pronounced feen-way) after a high elven king from Tolkien's The Silmarillion. (Thanks to my wonderful geeky husband). Isn't he beautiful?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Why self portraits?

This is going to be a more than frank post about why I chose to dedicate my craft to photographing myself. Maybe I posted a little about this before but here I will write deeply what my thoughts have been over the years.

It started with the fascination I had for beautiful women (and some men). I sought out to photograph people that I wanted to possess the beauty of. If you have been reading my blog, or if you know me, you know the childhood I endured. So when I was in college, I asked the beautiful ones - mainly fellow students - to pose for me. 

But before I continue about how I ended up turning the camera onto myself, I have a huge confession to make.  It really wasn't just because I wanted to possess their beauty but it was also because I needed to be the center of attention. This is the truth.

I am the youngest of three girls in my family and I remember becoming excited and happy when I had my picture taken but every time I asked my mother to do so, she would become annoyed. There are some photos of me through the years but when I look at them, I can almost remember that response from my mother. One photo in particular was taken by her after I cried incessantly because she said no at first. I was around 6 years old here. She only took my photo to quiet my tears and whines of "why won't you, mom?"

You can't tell I was crying, could you? Well, it's because once the camera was on me, I felt loved. I felt like I was finally getting the positive attention I deserved. Positive attention that I felt was not given to me in any other way.

However after what I continued to go through with abuse, bullying and ridicule over the years, the yearning for any attention went away. So, with photographing others, I truly wanted to photograph them and put the focus on the beauty ideal.

And I was happy with that. It was easy for me to pose these women because, in my opinion, there were no bad angles on them. However, the more I photographed, the more I saw things different. First of all, I spoke to my models and often they would tell me what they didn't like about their looks. I was shocked then to hear those things. Also, on some, it became difficult to find the right angle. They were very beautiful in my eyes and in person, I found no flaws. However, when I held the camera up to my eye and try to pose them, I saw something different. In fact, there were several models that I made big efforts to make look good on film...even if they looked good in front of me.

It made me think about beauty in photography more and what's more is that I asked myself, "what am I saying with these photographs? Aside from them being classic portraits, is there a message? Does there NEED to be a message?"

I went back to look at a photograph of me that I had to take for a self-portrait assignment. When the assignment was given, a little joy was felt inside but there was also dread. How did I want to photograph myself? What do I want to show the class or anyone else looking at the photo? I took my shirt off but not my bra and thought of being sexy because in my mind then, sexy equals beautiful. Just like society says and sexy/beautiful is held in high regard.

In the media, in American (and some European) society, if someone wants to take your picture, then you must be worthy of that. Being sexy and beautiful was the only way to be photographed and since I wasn't going to get a photographer to want to photograph me, then maybe I should just do it.

And after several years in university, I became courageous in that I was going to show another kind of beauty. I wasn't 100% convinced with feeling it but I knew it would be important to do so. And if it wasn't just enough to photograph my face, I would shove my body in their faces to show that I, too, was beautiful and worth having her photo taken.

And then I got attention. I received attention from the school, from my peers and from the local art community afterward with other images.

I'll go further in saying that the art modeling and encouragement and compliments I received from other artists helped me become more confident and so I decided to use photography to delve into my psyche and really learn about myself. I made an affirmation that I would dedicate my artistic life to the self-portrait. I do photograph others and other subject matters as well but I believe I will always need to say something about who I am through my art.

 Things have changed a little in terms of motive. I moved from a more physical and social one to a more psychological one. I have gained and lost a lot of weight over the years and now I am 47 years old and facing a new era in my life soon. 

Is the self-portrait photographer egocentric/narcissistic? I can only speak for myself and say no. These words are used in a negative connotation defined as selfish, and disregarding of others, only caring about his/herself. I don't consider myself any of these. What I am doing is for self-preservation - loving my inner child and loving myself as I could not do for a good part of my life. I am giving myself the positive attention I deserve in a way that I can relate to.

Friday, August 12, 2016

9 years of this

I have been thinking about what memories I would like to write about next but I scrolled through this blog and realized I have had it for 9 years. And there was a time I was going to shut it down but I think not. I may not have a big following, though I am trying to change that, but if anything, it helps to look back and read things I have written, as one would with a diary.

So, here's to another 9 years as long as this format is still in existence! I'll be back next week with a new memory post.

In the meantime, I leave you with a new "nymph" image I shot last week.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Memories Part IV - Modèle Vivant Extraordinaire

After I graduated from the university, I felt empowered. I began teaching Adobe Photoshop workshops at a chain computer store (not Apple) and then got a job in New York City working in a photography department for a dot com company that went belly-up after 6 months. After I was laid-off, I had a hard time again. I went on many job interviews for photo assistant jobs knowing I didn't want to assist most of the photographers I went to see. Needless to say, I wasn't hired.

In between the university, though, and the Photoshop gig, I photographed other artists' work for their gallery submissions, for pay. This was back in the days before JPEGs and CDs. I shot chromes of paintings, drawings and sculptures. One of those jobs was for a watercolor artist. After the shoot, we talked a bit and I told her the type of photography I was doing - self-portraiture.

A side remark: it was in the university that I was able to become brave enough to photograph myself and nude. My thesis project was called "She or Me?" - 20 x 24 inch color nudes that won me the aforementioned award of excellence. And here is a photo from that series:

Back to the watercolorist - we talked about my work and what I was trying to accomplish personally, which was to accept my body, myself. She asked me if I would ever consider modeling for an art class. I was hesitant at first but then I thought it made perfect sense to try as it was a part of the goal I was trying to achieve. In addition, I loved drawing the nude and the models I drew were great and to be able to do what they did would be pretty cool.

So, in 1998, I modeled for a group of artists at an evening atelier at the Nassau County Museum of Art. The woman in charge of the group was older and so were most of the artists...and they were serious as well so that put me at ease. In other words, I wasn't thrown into a group of young people that never drew a nude before (that came later!) So, I got up on the model stand, disrobed and began to pose. What surprised me is that I was a natural with the poses. I knew to turn in different directions so everyone got a front, back, side, etc. I also knew that I wanted to pose the way I wanted to be seen - as beautiful and graceful so I did just that. At the end of the session, I received an applause - something that apparently doesn't happen TOO often - and then was asked to come back. From that moment, I began getting phone calls from other ateliers and then I met a few art professors who used me for schools and so on. Soon after, and even when I wasn't working elsewhere, I was able to almost make a living from modeling as I was doing it for every art school and organization in Long Island, New York.

Over those years, I have some very fond memories. There was the time, early on in my modeling career that an older man came up to me with calipers to measure my head and it startled me as I was in a zone and didn't expect someone to do that. The instructor yelled at him that he couldn't do that and I wanted so badly to laugh. 

But one big memory that will stay with me forever took place around 2009. I was really not feeling so wonderful about my body. I lost a lot of weight at that point and the skin on my body was just hanging off me. I looked at myself with disgust because I felt like a science experiment. It was definitely an "ugly" day.  Honestly, there are days when I model, I need to be "on" but there are sometimes challenges like this.

I was posing for a beginning drawing class at Nassau Community College. It wasn't the first nor the last. The students that go to this college are generally made up of young adults from blue-collar backgrounds or from lower-income families so their exposure to the arts is usually limited. I say usually because there are students from other backgrounds, too but in a beginning class, the students are usually those of my previous statement. I walked in to a very full class and groaned as they were loud, noisy and being silly. I got ready and the instructor-  a dear woman I knew well - was teaching but wasn't their usual teacher. I groaned again knowing how students get when there is a substitute.

She lectured and gave them instructions on what to do for the gesture poses - the quick 1 or 2 minute poses that an artist/art student should do to warm up. After her lecture, she cued me. I sighed,  turned on my music, disrobed and began to pose for them. The class got very quiet which I was shocked at. Then the teacher told me she had to leave the room to go make some photocopies and if I was OK with that. I said I was because at this point in my modeling career, there was/is very little I was uncomfortable with. Still, as I mentioned, I wasn't feeling very good about myself but I tried to put those thoughts aside and listened to the music to get inspiration. I did my dynamic, graceful and beautiful poses that I do specifically for gestures. I was doing my last one when the teacher came back and when I ended, the students stood up and gave me a standing ovation AND cheered! I felt my face get warm and I became so full of emotion. I realized this was it. This was the reason I got into modeling. At the end of the class, I had male students say I was great (uh, in ghetto slang but it was respectful) and I had young ladies come up to me to tell me how inspired they were by me because if how accepting I was of my body....and if they had only known that day of what my thoughts were.

It's now 19 years that I am modeling. I started to get work here in France, mainly in Paris with a few suburbs thrown in. I have begun to get compliments from the artists here and at the end of last month, I modeled for an atelier in Paris who, at the end of the session, applauded me and told me how much they loved my poses.

I found my calling. I love my job. I am grateful for the inspirations and I am grateful to the woman that asked me all those years ago to model for that small atelier.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Memories - My Grandparents

So far, I have posted memories regarding some of my childhood and how I have been involved in the arts and I also wrote about the bad, serious things that happened to me as a child. However, to paint a clearer picture, I did have some very fond family memories and they all centered around my maternal grandparents.

Grandpa Vito (Willie) and Grandma Bea (Mary) came to the United States (and apparently stole identities?)  from Sicily when, I believe they were teenagers. They lived in Brooklyn, like most Italian immigrants did back then, met, married and raised 3 daughters, my mother being the youngest. In fact, my grandfather was engaged to another woman when he met my grandmother and the story he would tell us was that he saw my grandmother's "healthy breasts" and he left the other woman for her. My grandmother would nod in agreement when he told that to us. True story!

When my parents moved to Long Island, New York, and then after I was born - the last of 3 daughters as well, my grandparents moved a few blocks away to be closer to us. And the memories of them that make me smile and laugh today are plenty. My grandfather quietly "breaking into" our house every Sunday morning to leave us fresh rolls and pastries from the Italian bakery, to all the times I spent at their house. I was there, sometimes more than at my own house. My grandfather had a small vegetable garden, a grapevine (he made his own wine) and various fruit trees and flowers that surrounded the house. I would help pick the vegetables and fruit sometimes and I would sit with him while he killed flies and relaxed. Many times, I would get picked up from school (down the block) from my grandfather either by car or he would walk there and hold my hand the whole way back.

And then there was the food. First, were the lunches of egg sandwiches that were made for me - I won't dare repeat the botched up Sicilian pronunciation for what it was but my guess is that it was considered almost like an omelette - it was very basic - eggs, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese scrambled and fried and put in between some crusty Italian bread. That and a half of a banana was the main lunchtime meal for me.

But Sunday/holiday and special occasion dinners were the all-day "fêtes alimentaires" that began at 11am and ended around 3 or 4pm. We had the pasta dish, the salad dish, the meat dish with sides, the dessert and then the fruit and nuts. Yep, we ate until we burst and then sometimes, we would play cards after. It was my family, plus my two aunts with their husbands and children and it was a really fun time. There were several other parties during that time too, notably my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary where I had my first taste of really cheap beer and the holidays where I had shots of Anisette - a licorice-tasting liquor which I grew to hate but still have fond memories of.

And in the summer time was the all-mighty Meat Fest. My grandfather would fire up a pit and grill steaks, sweet and hot sausage, hot dogs, hamburgers and sometimes porkchops. Yes, my grandfather made it ALL and was served at the table in a big soup pot that we affectionately termed "The Pot of Meat". We had this with corn on the cob, baked beans and salads. It was seriously a wonder how we were able to eat so much but it was stretched out through the day, so we managed somehow.

But aside from the food, the thing I remember the most is that the aura was always that of love. My grandfather was my hero - he was the pillar of strength and the sweet loving man that I looked up to. He always hugged me and let me sit on his lap and the smell of his stinky cigar was one I cherished. My grandmother always gave me affection and told me how beautiful I was even as a teenager, when the braces, fat and frizzy hair were present. She always held my face, smiled and said "my bella". And when she said her 45-minute rosary in the mornings (well, it felt that long anyway) she would smile at me when I rudely interrupted.

I remember how religious they were. The house was decorated with photos and statues of Christ, Mary and various saints. And in the bedroom was the holy shrine, which honestly, scared the hell out of me, especially since I slept in there a lot when I spent the night. A huge photo of God adorned with plastic red roses and candles. They were Catholic (as my whole family is) and what I remember most though, was that they never preached religion. They just led good, honest and hard-working lives and enjoyed the good moments together.

Of course there were moments of fighting and cursing at each other but it never lasted and their love prevailed. As they got older and their health began to fail, they moved into our house. There were several really funny moments with the two of them then but the time was shortened when my grandfather was transferred to a nursing home. We would take my grandmother everyday to see him and I remember well, how they never let go of each others' hands  during the entire visit.

My grandmother passed away when I was 13 years old and my grandfather when I was 16. Their memories stay so close to my heart and when I am in the middle of a difficult time, I think of them. I also create an homage to them when I cook certain foods - like the egg "omelette", swiss chard with garlic, olive oil and tomato, and escarole, olive oil and chick peas, I think of them and hope they are somewhere watching over me with love.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Memories Part III - Art again

In my last post, I wrote about my first memory of photography and the art classes I took when I was a child. I really only dabbled in art then - drawing a little and the usual children's projects and I felt both at home and intimidated when I entered art classes then.

After I graduated high school and failed to become a hairdresser (thankfully as that was really not my calling), I went on my first job interview at a wedding photography studio. I was 17 years old at the time and my boss - the owner of the studio - was an old Swedish man named Tryg (like trigonometry). In fact, he and his wife Ann ran the studio with a stern hand but they had their soft sides too and I saw them as gradnparents. I was taught how to print color in the strangest of manners. I don't recall it all but I remember learning to just look at a negative and "know" the timing to print it. It definitely was not the way I was taught later on at the university but it was instinctual based on the density of the negative. So I printed everything, I put together all of the orders/albums and then I was "promoted" to being a sales person and photographer booker (I hired the photographers). I never photographed nor was I asked to but I did get to load films into the Hasselblad backs a few times. At that point, though, I was doing every job except take photos.

To you, readers, that might sound disappointing but at my age, it was an excellent learning experience. I worked long days and was there for 6 years or so. I got to observe a lot and I learned so much about interacting with different personalities, as well. Tryg and Ann decided to retire and they sold the business to two men that were, well....let's just say, not worthy of owning his business and had no idea how to run a photo studio. In fact, I think Tryg was so burned out by that point (he owned the business for over 40 years!) that he just took the first deal that came along.

Everyone was fired except me because I was the one that knew every aspect of the business by that point. The lab part of the studio was shut down, though, and the work was sent out to outside labs. Some of the photographers quit because they couldn't handle the new owners' attitudes and soon after, did I, because I was verbally abused by these guys.

However, when Tryg was there, I loved that place. I worked with a small staff of office workers, a quirky retouch artist (back then, ALL of the photographs were retouched by hand. Computers didn't exist at all and our retoucher was great at her job.) and a bossy saleswoman that I had to work with at times. I witnessed a torrid love affair between our videographer and one of the salesgirls that was hired for a short period of time (yeah, she was fired because of the drama that was created there). And it was my first experience with customer service and my exposure to wedding photography...of which I decided then was not the type of photography that I wanted to do.

When I quit, I immediately got a job in a very small camera repair shop and realized that obviously I needed to become a photographer but I wanted to expand all things in my life. I wasn't doing much of anything at that time other than work and getting drunk with friends so I wanted more in my life.  I decided to go back to college and at 23 years old, I was considered an older student. I went to a community college first, because I was afraid to dive into a university environment. I matriculated immediately into the art program with a concentration in photography but because I was working a full-time job, I only took a few classes a semester.

After 3 years of that, I saw that I was learning at a slow pace and I knew that my job at the camera shop was not going anywhere. I quit my job, transferred to a university and went to school full time. I took a part-time job answering phones in a hospital and the rest of the time, I threw myself into learning and art-making. I was so into my craft that I spent long long days at school, getting up at 6:30am to be the only one in the darkroom when it opened at 8 and in-between classes, shooting and printing some more. I took the first Adobe Photoshop classes given and it was really a new technology then and I took other art classes too. I took all of the other well-rounded classes - English literature, math, science, economics, philosophy and needless to say, I was burnt out. By the time I graduated, I was at the cusp of 30 years old  but with a university degree. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with high honors (magna cum laude) and also with that year's award in photography via the school's visual arts department. At the graduation ceremony, I cried. I had worked very hard to get to that moment. It was the first time I did something I wanted to do and succeeded. I was proud of myself and I was driven and from that moment on, I never stopped creating art. It was, in my opinion, my very first success. Maybe in reality there were others but this was the first huge one.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Memories Part II - Art

In my last entry, I talked about the music teacher that inspired me - not to become a famous musician, but to become a huge music lover/appreciator and more importantly, she was the first person to make me feel a sense of pride in who I was.

Well, it was definitely different with art. Naturally, since the age of 5, I gravitated to anything artistic and I remember spending days trying to draw and cut a perfect circle freehand - something I am still not able to do and if you, dear reader, can, well kudos to you and let me know your secret, please.

I was fortunate that art and music were mandatory courses in elementary school (ages 5-11) and were elective-based after that. So, when I turned 12 and entered middle school, the first courses I chose were art and chorus. And, in fact, it was at 12 that I took my first photography course. Mr. D was my teacher and the first day he handed me a manual light meter and a Yashica TLR. I was intimidated. He explained the workings of the camera a few times but I saw this heavy beast as something to fear. I admit I struggled with the whole technical concept of it, thus the imagery I created was sparse and lacked creativity, imagination, it. It also wasn't easy because we had to share cameras so my time with it was limited. So, here is the one successful print I created.  I intentionally didn't re-touch the scan to show you how BAD it was. I suppose there were 2 saving graces - the wheel (this was at my house) was somewhat interesting and the glassine envelope I used to expose the negative through to create the texture were it.  Maybe if I learned sepia toning back then, it would have helped.

The following year, I took a course called Graphic Arts. It was a year of learning all about page layout, book-making/binding, printmaking (in the BASIC of forms) and there was a little photography thrown in. It was the first time I shot with a 35mm and I felt more comfortable with that. I got a better handle on the technical aspects of shooting but, again, I had limited time with the camera and didn't produce one artistic thing with it.

Sadly, after those courses, things took a drastic turn. Wanting to please my mother first, being told the special Photography program was not offered at my school and wanting to escape high school for at least part of the days, I went to a vocational school part-time during my last 2 years of high school for cosmetology. Yes, I went to study hairdressing knowing I wanted nothing to do with it. After graduation and failing the physical aspect of the licensing exam, I finally went to work in a wedding photography studio as a printer/album manufacturer/salesperson/photography assistant. I was 18 years old.

Next entry, I will talk about that time and what happened next that led to serious photography.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Memories Part I - Music

From the last post I wrote, I thought maybe I should begin to write a memoir of sorts. I thought about my memories from 2 years ago, from right before I moved to France but I thought I should start at the beginning...try to think of my earliest good memories. Sadly, for me, the bad memories are what stick in my mind because there were plenty of them and because of their impact they had on my "becoming" as I began to write about in my last post.

So what do I remember as a child that was good aside from my rock-crushing fascination and small observations of nature? Well, even before I really got interested in the visual arts, I was very interested in music. At age 5, when I attended kindergarten (interesting German word, huh? Side note: For my non-US readers, kindergarten is the second level of school we go to with the first being pre-school - mostly for socializing. Kindergarten actually begins the real learning process in addition to the socialization of humans), I had trouble adapting to other children, except for a boy that I chased around the classroom until I cornered him and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. I lost interest in him after that kiss though, and he said hello to me every morning, I hid from him. I suppose I felt I conquered him so it was time to move on.

But I digress. It was kindergarten that I was introduced to a woman that would inspire and influence me for many years to come. Mrs. C was a huge light in my life. Her personality, and hair, was huge. She would walk into the room and whatever mood I was in at the time, would change dramatically and my focus was on her. She was the lead music teacher not only in my school, but in our town community. Her involvement, musically, was everywhere. I clung to her that first year, following her wherever she was in the classroom. In fact, she told me at one point to please let other kids be near her also. I wanted her all to myself though. When she taught music, I was attentive 1000%. I learned rhythms, I learned how to read music and from that moment on until I graduated from high school at 17 years old, I either sang in the choir, played clarinet, the bells, and guitar. I participated in the County Music Festival and I helped her sometimes after school. 

In high school, she was asked to teach the guitar class for one year - coincidentally a class I was in but had no idea she would teach. One very proud moment for me was when the very-tough band teacher came in to teach alongside with her. In the class, I was the only female student and in the 80's, among guys that had long hair and wore leather everything thinking they would be the next Eddie Van Halen or Randy Rhoads. The band teacher casually quizzed everyone with their knowledge of music reading. I was the only one that answered every question and correctly. Mrs. C smiled at me proudly while the guys in the class stared at me stunned. The band teacher pointed to me and said "This girl knows her stuff so she will be the successful musician, NOT you if you don't learn how to read music. You need to take her example!" 

So why did I not become a musician? Maybe it was  because I found the visual arts/photography more of what I needed, perhaps it was the discipline I lacked at some point but it was also the lack of support I had at home. I took private guitar lessons for awhile but I really wanted to sing. However, at that time, my self-esteem was pretty low as well and I was too afraid to stand in front of an audience (especially alone) to perform. Strange, how I can model nude now in front of a large amount of people...maybe it's because it's silent performance? Hmm...

A number of years ago, I learned that Mrs. C died. I believe she died a legacy. If not in my town, in the very least, in my heart.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Personal thoughts of my life

I thought that maybe I would take this platform to just write, and not just about art but about me, my life and thoughts.

Lots of changes in me are happening as I get older. I have finally begun to accept me in all forms, not just the physical one. However, thoughts have been slowly creeping into my mind as to how I could finally grow my hair color out and become the natural gray and God-knows-what that is underneath this long red mane. Not sure how to go about it though and I refuse to cut my hair short. It's something I will have to address to a color expert, I think.

I notice I am also becoming even more in touch with nature. I am spending time not just walking in the parks but really taking notice of all around me - the birds, insects, butterflies, rabbits (we have lots of wild ones in the local park here in Massy) and even the changes of the trees, the grasses, the light.

But maybe it's not that I am becoming more in touch, but coming back to it. It reminds me of my youth. When I was between 5-10 years old, even older, I spent most of my time alone. I didn't have any friends except maybe a couple of neighborhood kids that I would see once in a while but I preferred to be alone most of the time. And when I did, I would sit on the grass in my yard and play with and examine the leaves, go into the swimming pool and gaze up at the sky feeling the water, crawling under the bushes and sitting under them peeking out and just feeling all of the natural elements. One thing, though, that occupied me more than ever was when I would take a hammer and break open rocks to discover what was inside - the quartz and crystalline prettiness. It was a time where my curiosity was at my highest.

Sadly, as a teenager, all that changed because my focus turned to serious stuff - dealing with hardships in my family,  not-dealing-very-well-with, the bullying/physical abuse from the kids, the more-than-painful crushes I had on boys, failed and false friendships and the countless hours and days of feeling lonely and alienated. All of these things preoccupied my life- why wasn't I loved? why did the kids hurt me so much? And with my family, it was worse - my father had schizophrenia and no one in the family knew how to deal with that except for his psychiatric visits, constant medication changes and a time in an institution. And by extension, I got caught in the crossroads and experienced a toxic environment. The years of my adolescence and young adulthood took a toll and I became blind to who I was becoming. I became someone I didn't like but ignored her, if that is possible. There were moments of me there - my decision to go into higher education - to get my Bachelor's degree in art, for one, but the rest of the time, I was desperately searching for something to fill the hole of unhappiness.  And this search continued on for years in many forms - mainly failed/bad relationships with men but also alienating myself from more people. I did many things that I regretted for a long time but now I am ok with. Everything in those years that happened, formed me. They gave me strength and appreciation to go on and figure out where I was going, who I was going to be and to find out what would make me happy.

So, now I am here at 47 years old and I am just now discovering what is making me happy and what I want in my life. I also now have control, in some way, of what I allow into my life. I can choose to leave out most of the negative things. So, what has made me happy? Coming back full circle - nature and connecting to it. Being able to share thoughts and interesting, in-depth conversations with someone that understands me (my husband gets kudos for that) and being happy hanging out with myself. Am I anti-social? Well, I won't completely go that far. I do enjoy meeting people and am outgoing.  I have a few close friends whom I cherish. However,  I suppose it's honest for me to say that it is not always necessary for me but when it is, I reach out. It is difficult at the moment though, living in a new country. I have begun meeting people but haven't formed solid friendships with anyone. It's not really the language barrier but just finding people with common ground.

To end this post today, I want to write that I believe I have one goal, at least, in mind and that is to completely regain my level of curiosity in nature, in things I am really interested in, if that is possible. I want to thank the universe for showing me the signs.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


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Monday, June 20, 2016

insights about this year's work so far

This year, I have began to produce new images that are taking different forms than what I have been doing. After The Divine Journey series, I had no idea where I wanted to take things. One of the big fears of artists is the uncertainty that they will never come up with another idea or concept once they finished a series of work, however, trust me, the ideas come. And they come by working, not by sitting around hoping you will just be inspired. One has to "make stuff" and then one day, something will spark and soon another body of work is created. Well, with me, there has been 2 different bodies of work this year but I feel there will be a melding of the 2 because in some ways, they are coming from the same place - transition, transformation and upheaval, if you will. 

This is how it started. I wanted to make the images a bit ambiguous. As I have used myself as the subject for over so many years, I was tiring of the focus being about the obvious me. I wanted to finally have viewers look at my images more universally and without asking "is that you?" or comments like "you have lost so much weight/look since then" or "why do you look so sad?".

A side note about those last comments -  I am not sure viewers walking into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre or any other museum, looks at a portrait and wonders if the model was that curvy or skinny and...sadness? While that is not usually the emotion that I present in my work, how or why does a smile have to be something that makes a piece of art beautiful, thoughtful, or interesting? Of course, these are almost a part of every self-portrait artist's every day inquiries and I do take the comments with a grain of salt almost never responding to them.

So, I worked on this series and things evolved:

As I "finished" up the series, I thought to myself that there wasn't much more I could say with that at the moment...or so I thought. So, I photographed some more, with stronger lighting and contrast. And I looked at the original photos. This is me - AnnMarie - the classic beauty, that has the face of the Madonna. I can mimic all of the grace and composure of Old Masters paintings because I know how to do that.

And with the start of the previous series, I wanted to continue changing the way I saw myself in my work. It's always auto-biographical and so were these - so much has happened to me emotionally and physically over the last several years and I didn't want to "mask" that with creating romantic imagery as I always have...per se...I continued to conjoin, disfigure and morph myself using Adobe Photoshop - similarly to what the commercial world is doing with their fashion models and celebrities. However, I am doing it to show a diachotomy - the light, composition and poses are beautiful like classic paintings,  and the changes in me - sometimes painful, sometimes exquisite and wonderful seem, to what some of my peers have said to me, disturbing. Well, what is inside of our minds can be a mess and it's never one-dimensional. Throw in major life shifts and it makes things even more chaotic. So this is where I am headed now. They are still very much portraits - romantic, old Master painter-like with a twist. Too different from my previous work? Not at all. Braver, perhaps.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Les Médiévales de Provins

I am writing this here because this is my blog after all and it's the perfect platform to write about this. This past weekend, I attended my first "Renaissance Faire" here in France, specifically in the medieval region of Provins entitled "Les Médiévales de Provins" naturally. It was their 33rd year and it seems, going strong! This medieval region houses a castle and a square. On the off-season, of which I have been, one can see the modern shops around the edges but on this weekend, one could never tell. It looked and felt like the time period.

Let me write here that the faires in the U.S. are nothing compared to this and rightfully so. This is France - rich with the actual medieval history that they endured and experienced. The U.S. didn't even exist as such back then. So this was the real deal complete with historically accurate costumes, crafts, games, and even some of the foods. There were camps set up with fires going everywhere you looked and there was medieval music playing everywhere via many troubadours. A side note though - a Faun song DID play over the loudspeaker system in the square at one point and I squealed with joy!

There were knights, maidens, artisans and tribes and with that, came a huge focus in my experience, on the cosplayers, themselves. In general, they come in 3 different groups  - Professional:  the most serious ones who have the knowledge, the money and maybe even the craftsmanship to create true-to-history costumes. Intermediate: the ones that dress in any fantasy type outfit (but still take themselves very seriously) and when they hear about a faire of ANY kind, they will go in that outfit...even if it happens to be Link from Zelda. I suppose he can fit into the Middle Ages. ;) Amateurs: (where I fit in!) the ones that don't take themselves too seriously but dress to a certain point and know that they are wanting to fit in with the theme but they can't quite afford to do it the best way.

So, the first thing I did when I got there was buy a new chemise. I didn't think I was going to. I had my underbust corset and my antlers and what I thought was a fairly adequate top and skirt underneath but the minute my husband and I got off the train, I was inspired. I went into the first shop and saw a great one. It was a little expensive, which most of these things are, but it is so well made and something that I know will last years. I did end up tucking it into my skirt later on the day but sadly, there isn't a photo.

And then I convinced my husband to buy a little something so we got him leather wrist cuffs and they suit him, and the chemise he wore, perfectly.

There was so much to see and do here. In the U.S., the faires are pretty contained in a small area and here, there were so many alleyways and places that not only had the market booths, but things to watch. However, along the ramparts and in the square, were the 3 main events - the stage for band and performers and the areas for 2 spectacles - La Légende des Chevaliers and Les Aigles des Ramparts -the one we went to,  however it was all birds of prey among other animals shown.

And what a fantastic show! The price of admission in was almost nothing and we got there early enough to get second row so the birds were up close and personal as you can see. They flew right over our heads and in fact, a few times, the wings of a few touched the top of my husband's head. And the wingspans on some of them are enormous! I have a renewed respect for these magnificent creatures. The actors/handlers were great (though I didn't understand what they were saying) and you can tell that the animals are well taken care of.


And then I shot arrows for the second time in my life (the first was at a Ren Faire in Florida and received completely wrong instructions then.) We each took 5 arrows and with the help of the instructor at hand, I got a bullseye on the 4th try! Merida, no, but I can fantasize ;) Gilles tried and did alright but it was so enjoyable for both of us. We even received little diplomas when we finished.

 We did so much walking around and the visions around were so overwhelming at times so I admit, I was a little disappointed in that though I took many photos, I believe I did not capture the spirit of this event nearly enough. For example, there were craftsman and artisans there, including a woman that creates illuminated manuscripts but I didn't have a chance to photograph her nor spend enough time admiring her work (I caught a glimpse).  Here is another glimpse of what you will see:

So, with that we made a promise to go back for the full weekend experience next year.

For the complete album of photos, go to my Facebook page: It's a private account but I made the album public. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

To keep this blog or not?

This post is written for those of you that actually read my blog. I know I don't update it often and it's always easier just to go to my Facebook page or my website to see updates. I have almost always kept this blog a professional one, only writing about my art because it's so public. I rarely write about my personal life here and even if I did, I am still not sure anyone is reading it.  In fact, I am sure this is the last place people are coming to find out what's happening with me in any capacity so do I continue?

I'll just make this final one, I think. I am in process of the new series "Shining the Light" which I am thinking of new ideas for but in the meantime, I am trying to just sell existing work from my site and commercialized work via RedBubble. I am offering portrait sittings:

and I am offering to teach portrait drawing:

All of these seemingly random acts have two main purposes - to give me much-needed funds as times are extremely difficult, and to just bombard everyone with some aspects of my artistic skills.

And hey, why not?

And I created an update for my former Kickstarter backers and the Kickstarter community in HERE it is.

So I won't close my account here, in case and if you ARE reading this, please let me know if it's worth keeping up or not. I won't be offended at all :)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

website updated, new work and some French


J'ai mon examen de Français mardi et j'ai fini mes classes hier donc je sais plus Français mais pas assez. C'est pas grave. Je continuerai des classes plus tard mais maintenant je veux parler de mon art.

I have a new series of work (in progress) entitled "Shining the Light". It's different than my earlier work in that it's a little bit abstract and more surreal. It's about transition and reforming some things.

Living in a new country has obviously brought on some major changes and though I am still me, I am learning new things about myself. And being in this amazing relationship with my husband has also had me reflecting on what I knew I always was but is now able to be able to express. What I am attempting to show in these new images is not the final result of me but the internal transitions.

Here is one piece but you will have to go to my site to see others.

In addition to creating a new series, I have managed to get some model jobs here, mainly in Paris. As I re-establish my modeling career, I thought it was time to promote my services. And I am also taking portrait commissions here as well. modèle vivant et les portraits.

And remember, I am on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so for the latest news and updates, be sure to check there! Be sure to ask for a request for Instagram!