Gratitude and Celebration

Three generations. And a lot of matriarchs.

Three generations. And a lot of matriarchs.

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It's back to school time, and though my students are adults, I've been thinking a lot about how much we can all learn from my cousin's five year old sons. Though I don't see them as often as I'd like, I have always loved watching them play. The twins just started kindergarten.

I realized that one of the things I love see most is that they haven't learned that they "can't" do something, or can't do it in a certain way (kitchen knives and hot pans aside). They are discovering new things every day.

As we grow up, we learn we are better at some activities than others. We are encouraged down different paths. We begin to be assigned labels. We practice different skills.

Yes, some things come more naturally (I have never been able to understand car engines, no matter how hard my father tried), and we generally like doing things we excel at, but we also build the muscles we use. For me, those are often creative in nature. The way I see. How I solve problems. The tools I use to make images. And it isn't easy. I hear people talk about talent like it's something that just shows up, delivered by the proverbial stork. Or Santa Claus.

Like many people, I've had my share of ruts and setbacks. This happened recently (for two years) and I felt so frustrated and confused by this art of mine. I kept pulling out the camera because I knew I had to do it - I had to stay alert and I also needed to stay connected to the pathways through my brain and heart that seek out the beautiful and the curious. I knew I was making something, but I couldn't see where it was going.

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After conversations with friends, therapy sessions, a few bottles of wine, and travels from one coast to the other and back again, one day, sitting in an airport, all of the pieces came together. After two years, I finished the body of work within a few weeks. As my life came into alignment, so did my art. The day I put the final words to paper to describe this journey, I submitted the work for the first time. And now I sit in wonder that this creation is a finalist in Photolucida's Critical Mass. I received the email a few days ago and haven't been able to find words to adequately express my humble gratitude, my shocked amazement.

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One body of work is now complete and slowly making it's way out into the world. Another hangs from magnets in my office - resequenced daily. It is still growing. This weekend I began planning something new and I am excited to see yet another path for exploration. Another way of working with love, longing, connection, memory, home.

Today I write to remember this moment and to celebrate the triumph of continuing to create, whatever comes next. And I write to thank you for traveling through this journey with me.

Gratitude and Celebration

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It's back to school time, and though my students are adults, I've been thinking a lot about how much we can all learn from my cousin's five year old sons. Though I don't see them as often as I'd like, I have always loved watching them play. The twins just started kindergarten.

I realized that one of the things I love see most is that they haven't learned that they "can't" do something, or can't do it in a certain way (kitchen knives and hot pans aside). They are discovering new things every day.

As we grow up, we learn we are better at some activities than others. We are encouraged down different paths. We begin to be assigned labels. We practice different skills.

Yes, some things come more naturally (I have never been able to understand car engines, no matter how hard my father tried), and we generally like doing things we excel at, but we also build the muscles we use. For me, those are often creative in nature. The way I see. How I solve problems. The tools I use to make images. And it isn't easy. I hear people talk about talent like it's something that just shows up, delivered by the proverbial stork. Or Santa Claus.

Like many people, I've had my share of ruts and setbacks. This happened recently (for two years) and I felt so frustrated and confused by this art of mine. I kept pulling out the camera because I knew I had to do it - I had to stay alert and I also needed to stay connected to the pathways through my brain and heart that seek out the beautiful and the curious. I knew I was making something, but I couldn't see where it was going.

After conversations with friends, therapy sessions, a few bottles of wine, and travels from one coast to the other and back again, one day, sitting in an airport, all of the pieces came together. After two years, I finished the body of work within a few weeks. As my life came into alignment, so did my art. The day I put the final words to paper to describe this journey, I submitted the work for the first time. And now I sit in wonder that this creation is a finalist in Photolucida's Critical Mass. I received the email a few days ago and haven't been able to find words to adequately express my humble gratitude, my shocked amazement.

One body of work is now complete and slowly making it's way out into the world. Another hangs from magnets in my office - resequenced daily. It is still growing. This weekend I began planning something new and I am excited to see yet another path for exploration. Another way of working with love, longing, connection, memory, home.

Today I write to remember this moment and to celebrate the triumph of continuing to create, whatever comes next. And I write to thank you for traveling through this journey with me.

…You can see the full body of work on my website, maricofayre.com

NEW WORK: Cartographers of Memory

I was raised on stories I didn’t believe, but wanted to. Fairy tales and family histories that changed with every retelling. Through empty roads and conversations around kitchen tables, I learned that every moment is both a discovery and a loss. The facts of our lives become history, until we have only pieces of memory woven into a personal mythology.

My grandmother, Tutu, had a stroke last February, at the age of 92. Four months later she told me that she could no longer laugh or cry, but that she still had a universe of thoughts inside her mind. For this woman of passion and chaos, a house was never enough space for all of her paper sculptures, her pianos and violins, her inventions and ideas. Now she sits in a chair in her daughter’s house, surrounded by beige walls, her mind filled with emotions and desires she struggles to express.

When I was a child her life existed for me as a series of unbelievable tales: training as a concert violinist in New York and drawing maps during WWII. Building a house in southern California out of barn doors and stained glass windows. Intentionally burning toast every morning. Befriending movie stars and opera singers and getting married four times to three husbands, but raising five daughters on her own.

At 30 I realized the stories were real. Without knowing it, I spent three years retracing many of my grandmother’s dreams – from New York City to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Adventure is her legacy.

These images, captured during my travels to San Miguel, are part family album, memoir, poem, and prayer. In the high desert, all of our masks and facades are scoured away in the wind and the dust, washed clean in the afternoon rain. The land here is made of light. It is sunbaked stone and agave plants and women emerging from their old lives like butterflies into the sharp sunlight.

This is a map of my search for my family’s history and my own home. The photographs show the expansion of a life, of becoming part of a world vaster and more fantastic than the books that fed my childhood dreams. But pause and reverse, see the images backwards, and they tell the story of a life that now turns inward, contained within four walls. And the universe of her mind. My world is now the one expanding, while Tutu’s becomes ever more still.

...You can see the full body of work on my website, maricofayre.com...

NEW WORK: Cartographers of Memory

CofM_025     CofM_026 I was raised on stories I didn’t believe, but wanted to. Fairy tales and family histories that changed with every retelling. Through empty roads and conversations around kitchen tables, I learned that every moment is both a discovery and a loss. The facts of our lives become history, until we have only pieces of memory woven into a personal mythology.

My grandmother, Tutu, had a stroke last February, at the age of 92. Four months later she told me that she could no longer laugh or cry, but that she still had a universe of thoughts inside her mind. For this woman of passion and chaos, a house was never enough space for all of her paper sculptures, her pianos and violins, her inventions and ideas. Now she sits in a chair in her daughter’s house, surrounded by beige walls, her mind filled with emotions and desires she struggles to express.

When I was a child her life existed for me as a series of unbelievable tales: training as a concert violinist in New York and drawing maps during WWII. Building a house in southern California out of barn doors and stained glass windows. Intentionally burning toast every morning. Befriending movie stars and opera singers and getting married four times to three husbands, but raising five daughters on her own.

At 30 I realized the stories were real. Without knowing it, I spent three years retracing many of my grandmother’s dreams – from New York City to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Adventure is her legacy.

These images, captured during my travels to San Miguel, are part family album, memoir, poem, and prayer. In the high desert, all of our masks and facades are scoured away in the wind and the dust, washed clean in the afternoon rain. The land here is made of light. It is sunbaked stone and agave plants and women emerging from their old lives like butterflies into the sharp sunlight.

This is a map of my search for my family’s history and my own home. The photographs show the expansion of a life, of becoming part of a world vaster and more fantastic than the books that fed my childhood dreams. But pause and reverse, see the images backwards, and they tell the story of a life that now turns inward, contained within four walls. And the universe of her mind. My world is now the one expanding, while Tutu’s becomes ever more still.

...You can see the full body of work on my website, maricofayre.com...

Breathing and Being

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These days I often feel like I'm living in a dream. The air is thick and heavy and I have a hard time keeping my thoughts together. They travel in waves, in circles. They travel on the wind. It’s not so much a lack of focus as a feeling of drifting through a galaxy of thoughts and ideas – everything connected but not yet solid. As much as I want to put down roots I feel like I'm being pulled in and out in the tides. Floating and untethered. And so I do things that help ground me: baking, dancing, petting a cat, reading. And I feel myself connected to the earth again. There are so many ways that we weigh and measure time. These days, I'm learning to be. To pause and measure life not by how much I'm doing, but by the quality of the moment. Allowing the smell of wood smoke and the vibrant red of a too-ripe tomato fill my world. Learning to prioritize, some days better than others, what's really important. Learning what truly adds value to my life and what just takes up time.

I've been thinking a lot about history, memory, patterns, and how we learn to acknowledge, name, and accept all of the pieces of our experiences. Of ourselves. And so today I send this wish to all of you.

May there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.

Breathing and Being

1_2_fayre_odalisque.jpg

These days I often feel like I'm living in a dream. The air is thick and heavy and I have a hard time keeping my thoughts together. They travel in waves, in circles. They travel on the wind. It’s not so much a lack of focus as a feeling of drifting through a galaxy of thoughts and ideas – everything connected but not yet solid. As much as I want to put down roots I feel like I'm being pulled in and out in the tides. Floating and untethered. And so I do things that help ground me: baking, dancing, petting a cat, reading. And I feel myself connected to the earth again. There are so many ways that we weigh and measure time. These days, I'm learning to be. To pause and measure life not by how much I'm doing, but by the quality of the moment. Allowing the smell of wood smoke and the vibrant red of a too-ripe tomato fill my world. Learning to prioritize, some days better than others, what's really important. Learning what truly adds value to my life and what just takes up time.

I've been thinking a lot about history, memory, patterns, and how we learn to acknowledge, name, and accept all of the pieces of our experiences. Of ourselves. And so today I send this wish to all of you.

May there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.

Reminder

Sorting through paperwork that I need to file, I came across a postcard from 2005. At first Arthur Rackham’s illustration of Alice made me smile (I am a big fan of art based on fairy tales and children’s stories) but I couldn’t remember why I had kept it for so many years. I turned the postcard over:

This is a reminder of one of your particular burdens. Your ability as an artist to create things that expand beyond yourself and can encompass the whole of humanity.

I know it might sound overwhelming but I know you have the strength to make it light as a feather or a playing card.

Good luck.

So, on this Sunday morning I wish you luck on this journey of art, life, transformation, and balance. Find your passion and live it. Remember that it expands beyond your personal experience and impacts the world around you.

You are stronger than you know.

Waiting

Watching silver fabric blowing sideways as the party continues in the face of an impending storm. Savoring the warmth of comfort food and the solitude of a deserted patio, conversation backlit by a crowded dining room that feels miles away. Remembering how to lose and find myself in nuances of words. Seeing hidden colors. Singing along to pop music in a darkened theater. Perusing emptying shelves and contemplating the importance we place in certain objects over others. Preparing. Dreaming. Planning. Waiting. Walking through dark streets. Feeling the wind change.

Notes to Remember

The hope in mid-day sun. The feel of weathered tempera. The weight of language. The warmth of community. The sound of fireworks, so close you can touch the sparks. The layering of freckles. The treachery of cobblestones. The look and feel of tradition. The bond of music. The taste of mango juice on sun-warmed skin. The texture of shadow. The evolution of colors. The audacity of pigeons. The grace in a smile. The heat of the dance floor. The freedom of nights alone. The opportunities in a breath. The luxury of water. The influence of rooftop mojitos. The inspiration of transformation. The solidarity of women. The possibilities of light.

The Journey

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice-- though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. "Mend my life!" each voice cried. But you didn't stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do-- determined to save the only life you could save.

Reflection of a New Moon

Walking the city at night has a magical quality. The color of light, the tiniest sliver of a yellow moon, the ring of footsteps on cobble stones, the shimmer of breath in the night air, so recently thick with the heat of a golden sun. It is the same wherever I go - from small midwestern towns, to Manhattan, to the heart of Mexico, high in the Sierra Madres. There are possibilities illuminated in the darkness that we wouldn’t dare to dream by daylight.

Persona

I notice patterns. Serendipity? More than mere coincidence, though it is fair to note that once you begin looking for something, you find it everywhere. In letting go of one identity, or, perhaps, the need for a clearly defined and quantified self, I have found the conversation, this search for definition, coming up in every conversation over the past week.

We all wear masks - the question is whether you will allow me to see behind yours. Or, more importantly, whether you know you wear one in the first place. I forgot, for awhile. For years it fit so tightly, so smoothly, that it became a mark of honor. Ingrained. I counted the mask as an accomplishment - look how quickly and quietly I can become...anyone. When I looked in the mirror I saw skin, but on camera the mask was inescapable. Staring back at myself, I knew all I had given up. All I had become. Through dedication and loyalty, hope and expectation. Fear and love. Once I finally saw her, I was more terrified than any hero faced with the snake-crowned Medusa. I was already stone. It took 4000 miles, two months of sunlight, humor, patience, and whole lot of pop music to finally crack the marble mask.

Reflections

I’ve gone from creating worlds to describing them - exploring the nuances of color and texture, the changes in meaning that occur with every shift of light. I no longer feel the need to record my presence in the world - the act of creating is proof enough. I was here. I saw. This.

Time and Space

Miles feel shorter at 90mph. Or maybe time means something different here. I could stop at any point along this highway and shoot for hours. And yet there is magic in racing through the changing colors into new light, always having the camera close at hand, ready to seize images in a split second that becomes a memory.

The Backstory

A combination of love and loss stopped my writing over a decade ago and righteous angst resulted in two garbage bags full of shredded journal pages. Now life and technology offer a new direction, where words no longer serve as the balm for fear.

The theme of the last year has been learning to have faith - in myself, in life, in the people I care about, and in the work that I do. I thought I had a pretty good idea about what my life was going to be like, until I became trapped in the comfort of familiarity.

Now, I am collecting myself. In preparation. For something I can't quite see. It shimmers like a mirage, but I feel it ahead of me. In the desert.