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“Place does endow.” Eudora Welty and Walker Percy (and William Buckley) on the Southern Imagination, y’all

28 Apr

… men are endlessly curious about any cradle of genius.

 

 

The whole interview, which is well worth your time, is available various non-free places, including Amazon Prime.

An interview with artist Ashley Macias.

5 Dec

Ashley Macias’ artwork is often a reflection of nature and ourselves. Her work explores the complex nature of organic fluidity, the deeper consciousness, and appreciation for beauty that is existence. She uses acrylic and spray-paint to create an organic, surreal element associating with natural elements of color whether earth tone or vibrant, passionate arrays. The eyes are a common association with the Pineal gland, and her work is an expressive portrayal of a deeper insight to our living selves.

We caught up with Ashley after she returned from Burning Man 2014.

PEA RIVER

Do you find your style evolving as you continue to create art, or do you find yourself continuing to explore and perfect certain forms, with all their depths and complexity?

ASHLEY

My overall style is definitely progressing the more serious I become about the quality of my work. It’s not as apparent until many months have passed and I rummage through prior works. I tend to find internal conflicts in my work when I feel as if I am not advancing. Ultimately, it’s that very realization later on that teaches me where my process of creation is headed, and that I have in fact been making progress through these challenges. I’m always looking for a new direction without losing the very essence of my technique. When I am faced with conflicts of growth in my work, I become more radical and chaotic in my attempts. Deviating often helps me understand this. My style is becoming more defined and clear with more effort and time.

PEA RIVER

Do you have a process for approaching a new piece? Do you tend to plan in a formal way, or do you just start sketching?

ASHLEY

I try to be as organic as possible, but it often begins with a eye. There’s a deep essence that consumes me in the awareness and internal consciousness that mystifies my mind when I draw eyes. I try to be as fluid as possible when
creating a world around the eye and most often will paint a piece inspired by it. Organic lines, people, and dimensions consume me further. From a simpler perspective, I tend to plan through my drawings. They are all the things I wish to paint with time and planning. Sketching is like someone’s daily cup of coffee for me. It’s how I begin my day. I try to be as free as possible with my ideas on paper or canvas. I will sometimes intend something on canvas and find myself painting something completely new. It’s all about how I feel that determines the movement in my lines.

PEA RIVER

What is your current project?

ASHLEY

Organizing my projects seems to be my current project. I often take on more than I can handle. I have a deep willingness to try everything and be better than myself. Besides applying for upcoming grants and planning group shows with other local artists, I’m trying to become more involved in public art with youths and public mural work. So naturally I converged the two and will be working with non-profits to beautify walls with young minds in hopes of inspiring them through art. I’m also currently in the process of starting a more detailed and imaginative series as well. It’s something I am more privately evolving with time. I can’t quite grasp this new direction in my personal work, but I genuinely feel this will be very different from my previous conquests. It’s going to be special for me and hopefully for those with whom I share it.

PEA RIVER

When did you first know that you wanted to create art?

ASHLEY

Always. I was not always conscious that I could actually be a working artist, but I knew it was what I believed was my true happiness and that art was the only way. Being little and creating was my internal home. Nobody really told me I could do these things. As I got into my teens, I had more guidance with the help of teachers, which ultimately led me into an artist internship that changed my life for the better. Through artistic advances, my feelings about creating my work became more concise; therefore, I would challenge myself and become greater with effort, patience, and resilience. It’s who I am, and I’m proud it is the path I will walk my whole life.

 

ashleypaint

PEA RIVER

Who are you reading right now?

ASHLEY

Currently The Mission of Art by Alex Grey. It is always a great guideline and art inspiration book to pick up and read every so often. He has a lot to say about the creative process, and I tend to connect with his vision even if our work is not necessarily the same. I have other current interests in books such as The Resurrectionist & anatomy related texts.

 

ashleypainting2

PEA RIVER

Which artists and periods/ styles inspire you?

ASHLEY

I enjoy Romanticism & Surrealism overall. Both have a dramatic complexity I can’t quite explain but I feel through. I feel more attached to the subject matter. I don’t feel hugely inspired by particular artists. I enjoy some of the common greats like Dali, Basquiat, & M.C Escher, but they don’t necessarily define my work. I really try hard not to obsess about a lot of artists and their work in hopes of creating more of what’s internal in myself.

bwmypainting

PEA RIVER

You have also done collaborative and performance work. Where do you find the intersections between that work and your solo art, if you draw connections or lines? Is there significant bleed-through? Does one feed the other?

ASHLEY

I find plenty of inspiration in performance art. There’s something about the physical action through motion that allows me to grasp a better concept of what I am trying to convey in some of my work. Everything flows and has a process of natural fluidity in my eyes. Performance and my art are best friends. They compliment one another in my style of work. I find a lot of my technique comes from people such as dancers being physically creative. The form, the delicate gestures and the swiftness all compel me.They are so free and fluid in their craft. I recently brought my work to life through wood cutout figures and a group of dancers in the Scottsdale Public Art Water+Art +Light event. I painted them as surreal organic figures emerging from the water, and they performed as water with such dynamic presence and desire for our precious resource. It was a push into another direction for my art, and that has created more possibilities in the future with performers. I can take my solo work and incorporate it into actual living beings in various ways and interpretations, and that is exciting. I really want to become more involved in public and performance art. Collaborations allow me to break out of my comfort zone and gain useful tools while working with other artistic minds.

PEA RIVER

So I have to ask this question of everyone. If you could become a different animal, which animal would you be? And why?

ASHLEY

The first thing that came to mind was a Tiger like coated monkey with a Lion head feature and the eyes of a hawk and the heart of a child. It just sounded right, and then I laughed. I think I just prefer my own imagination.

 

ashleyheadshot

 

ASHLEY MACIAS is a downtown Phoenix based artist born in Laguna Niguel whose artwork is strongly influenced by everyday interactions and complexities of life through nature and consciousness. Self taught at a young age, Macias’s mind always runs wild with imaginative ways to translate the things we see, think & feel. Her techniques in bold line work are often inspired by the natural raw organic flow in plants, the aging of people, and a deeper awareness of complex human emotions.

Matt Rouser interview.

9 Nov

INTERVIEW WITH Matt Rouser

We first met Matt Rouser at a conference in Sweden, where we were both presenting our work on participatory media projects. He continues to imagine innovative uses of urban space. His recent work has been focused on revitalization of underused and empty urban space, specifically in Landskrona, Sweden and New York City. Mobile technologies and new media are his tools of choice: maps, location-based services, social media-platforms, and AR.

Some of his projects include City API, for Landskrona city, Sweden; Made in the Lower East Side in NYC; The Boston Barometer, a look at tax assessor’s data and indicators around the city; and Ungentry, a web map of gentrification indicators in Boston.

We caught up with him in July 2014, in the midst of his current projects in Boston.

 

 

PEA RIVER

Do you find your sense of the locative evolving as you continue to work, and have you found that client/community requirements and expectations are more location-centric now than they were, say, 3-5 years ago?

MATT

It is definitely ever-changing and evolving. I brought myself into this field because I was fascinated by more philosophical questions surrounding space. How do we assign meaning to space? How do spacial characteristics influence our interactions with each other and with the space itself? From there, how do we broaden or focus the scope of possibility for interactions in given spaces. How does a space become a place which is amenable to these various forms of interaction?

As technology rapidly evolves, I am finding that there are new possibilities opening up on almost a daily basis. From the whimsical and momentary to the rather profound. Further, the locative is more and more becoming embedded into daily activities. A picture uploaded to Facebook can automatically be tagged with your location. Yelp can quickly give you suggestions based on your location where you might have needed to rely on verbal recommendations or otherwise before. Entire forms of social interaction are being replaced with processes that begin by looking at your Lat/Long coordinates.

5 years ago, smart phones had not yet reached the level of ubiquity that they have now. Facebook and Twitter were just hitting their stride. A large portion of my friend circle were creeped out by the idea of a social “check-in” that gave their location. This is something that is now often taken completely for granted. Not much consideration is given for the deeper social implications when iOS ask you “This app wants to use your location: OK/ Cancel.” That becomes part of my role as a designer and creator; to look to integrate the locative in a way that serves the purposes of community in a healthy way.

PEA RIVER

Do you have a process for approaching a new project?

MATT

My projects are generally either purpose-driven or exploratory in nature. For an exploratory project, I work to develop a framework that will allow for unexpected discovery and build in as few restricting factors as possible. For example, in mapping a set of data for 311 calls in a city, I work to let the data show through on its own and provide complimentary data so that correlations can be explored.

Purpose-driven projects take a much finer grained approach. Each component of a platform or an installation has a determined role, leading to greater engagement or eliciting a purposeful response from the user.

In each case, I draw from geographical, sociological and data-driven frameworks to guide and instruct the construction of a project, along with industry best practice and carefully chosen collaboration points.

PEA RIVER

What is your current project?

MATT

Currently, I am leading a project through the Code for Boston volunteer brigade. It is called Ungentry, and it maps out various demographic indicators in Boston related to gentrification. It is in the early stages, but we are working on combining census data with data from apps like Foursquare to get a picture of the location and pace of change in the city. Everyone “knows” that Boston is changing rapidly, and quickly becoming too expensive to live in, but the statistical evidence has not been put together yet.

PEA RIVER

When did you first know that you wanted to work with location-based software+apps?

MATT

When I was working on my grad degree in Urban Planning, various forms of social media were beginning to flex their muscle as drivers of social change and paradigm shifters in communication. I began an independent study on its relation to space and while I was in process, I downloaded Foursquare (now Swarm) along with a few other locative apps and was hooked.

Most have not delivered on their initial promise of increased social connectivity and serendipitous interaction. Instead, most have followed the path to monetization through exploiting users’ social patterns to create personalized recommendation engines. The possibility of greater social utility still exists, but it will take continued iteration, exploration and technological evolution.

PEA RIVER

Who are you reading right now?

MATT

I’m reading Code/Space by Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge. It explores the permeation and inescapability of code surrounding us in everyday objects and actions. Code plays a integral part in the production of space and vice versa, and they deepen the understanding of this important relationship.

PEA RIVER

Which writers and genres inspire you?

MATT

When I am not reading about code/tech in space, Urban Planning case studies or geographical analysis, I tend to enjoy literature in the absurdist tradition. Camus and Kafka are favorites along with a plethora of short fiction.

PEA RIVER

I love the gentrification mapping project idea. Where do you think you (and others) will take it?

MATT

We will take it as far as the data allows us. We do not have a particular axe to grind re gentrification, but we do want to help people have a better idea of the ways that the city is changing.

PEA RIVER

What are some uses you can see for the project and its maps as people start studying the implications of this work?

MATT

Its goal is to be an informative tool for both community members and policy makers in the city. We have the ear of a number of people in government and other positions that have a hand in development, and they have shown an interest in examining data in this fashion.

PEA RIVER

And since this issue is focused on the burden of home, and you are the location/mapping mastermind, how has your own sense of “home” shifted since you’ve begun work with this emphasis? Or did it begin with a desire to interrogate what geolocation and mapped/mappable relationships mean?

MATT

My initial interest was related to what I recognized as a rapidly changing landscape, and a desire to examine the possibilities of where that could lead. However, over the last few years it has certainly colored my thought process related to concepts of home, place and belonging.

“Home” is still a concept that I ponder on a regular basis. To be frank, I have yet to obtain any real sense of assuredness when it comes to my own definition. In a working sense, I believe that home is something that you take with you. After going through the immigration process in Sweden and becoming a dual citizen, I have gained an even stronger sense of the elements in my life that are still so foundational and were derived from my upbringing in Michigan. To feel “at home,” there is a certain percentage of those elements which must be present, along with a level of social connectivity and intimacy that supports and nourishes.

As I stated before, geolocation has not yet delivered on its promise of greater social utility, but I take that pursuit into consideration with every project I take on.

PEA RIVER

So I have to ask this question of everyone. If you could become a different animal, which animal would you be? And why?

MATT

I have an affinity for the woodlands of the northern hemisphere and the creatures therein. I would choose an owl, probably a great horned owl. They embrue a certain sense of dignity and gravitas that is admirable. Plus they’re just really cool.

 

matt rouser

An interview with Rachel Hyman.

30 Oct

INTERVIEW WITH Rachel Hyman

We met Rachel Hyman in Detroit and created a chapbook with her the first day we knew her. This is the way with Rachel Hyman.

PEA RIVER

Do you find your style evolving as you continue to write, or do you find yourself continuing to explore and perfect certain forms, with all their depths and complexity?

RACHEL

All of the above, I think. When I first started writing, I was super into flarf and appropriation. That’s gotten toned down as I’ve found other productive ways of creative expression and developed my own voice. I guess I still take a lot of inspiration from cultural ephemera and the detritus of (post)modern life. That could be an inheritance from my roots in flarf, or just an epiphenomenal thing. I like accidental poetry (seems important to differentiate this from found poetry), and recontextualization. Poetry is a wide, warm terrain. I am always walking the line between making poetry that is wide open and utterly unsubtle, and making poetry that lies way too far beyond the pale of interpretation. Most days I lean closer to the latter, obtuse side of things. More lyric than narrative. And generally short, concentrated bursts—the same way that I think. In the last few years I’ve been exploring repetition a lot as a device.

PEA RIVER

Do you have a process for approaching a new poem? Do you tend to plan in a formal way, or do you just write?

RACHEL

Lord knows that if I sit down with the stated intention of Writing A Poem, that’s the last thing that’s going to happen. Poetry is integrated into my life, and the way I write follows from that. It’s not a separate sphere of higher being where I ascend to and receive wisdom from the poetry gods. Without trying to sound overly whimsical, if you listen, really listen, poetry is everywhere. So I’m always just idly thinking in poetic terms, observing the world and my interior in that way. I think of a lot of lines in the shower, or as I’m drifting off to sleep, or with other people. And then the poems grow around those. I’m working on the art of editing my own poems, trying not to get too attached to any one line.

I write when I need to say something, or work something out. And I don’t when I don’t, because nothing feels worse than forcing yourself to write when it’s just not there. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I write in fits and starts: I’ll be super creative for a few weeks, a month or two, and then I won’t for a while. And I try not to feel bad when it’s a low period, because I know I’ll tumble back into things sooner rather than later.

PEA RIVER

What is your current project?

RACHEL

Writing-wise, I’m collaborating with my friend Dakota to create a series of sound collages and poetry for a September reading in Chicago. It all started with a joke about a fictitious “noise hall of fame” and the sounds that would be in it–feet crunching on freshly fallen snow, the pop of a beer bottle cap after a long day at work, and so on and so forth. Poetic words got thrown around, and then the next thing we knew, we had a legitimate collaborative endeavor ahead of ourselves. It’s kind of amazing how well our poetic voices mesh together. This is new terrain for me, the medium of sound, so I’m very excited. I’m also collaborating with Tracy Dimond on a series of poems inspired by the music of Third Eye Blind (no irony–we’re both big fans).

Editing-wise, I’m co-editor of Banango Street, an online journal publishing (mostly) poetry and some fiction, creative non-fiction, and artwork. It’s thrice- yearly, but there’s always lots of work to be done around that. We’ve got a women’s issue, guest edited by Emily Kendal Frey and Julia Cohen, coming out in September. My co-editor Justin and I are also spinning off an e- chapbook arm called Banango Editions. The first echap or two should be coming out this fall. I also run an ongoing project called Anthology of Chicago that’s collecting poetry, stories, and essays based around the different Chicago neighborhoods. Through that, I co-curate a semi-regular reading series called Chi Lit that similarly brings together poets, journalists, and writers to perform neighborhood-focused pieces.

PEA RIVER

When did you first know that you wanted to write?

RACHEL

So, I used to put in my bio that I went to poetry camp when I was 13. Pretty good substitute for an MFA, right? I definitely wrote a lot in my teenage years, and I seem to remember that summer camp as the pinnacle of my creative production at that age. I still have my portfolio and I’d probably cringe looking back on it. Then I took…6 years off to grow up? I was never someone who’s always known forever that she’d be a writer, though I certainly was and am a voracious reader, which probably contributed. I fell seriously into the literary world during my sophomore year in college and just got super involved with reading, participating in the online lit community, and then eventually writing myself. I often find it hard to inhabit this persona of a writer, and frequently feel more comfortable identifying as an editor or curator, someone who creates the space for the creative expression of others. I wonder if this has to do with, like, embarrassment at my own work, which I maybe conceptualize as some kind of freakish baby that I cycle between being proud of and feeling a bodily humiliation about. I made this joke recently that “poetry writer” seems better to say than “poet.” Right now though, poetry is the best mode of creative expression I have. I hope that this remains true. I can’t imagine any other way of being.

PEA RIVER

Who are you reading right now?

RACHEL

Mostly poetry these days. Some of my favorite people writing right now are: Nate Pritts (probably one of the most influential poets for me, and someone whose work I return to time and time again), Gale Marie Thompson, Mike Young, Bianca Stone, Ben Fama, Dalton Day, Lucy Tiven. You stumble upon a lot of stuff in the small press world. I just started Elizabeth Ellen’s Fast Machine and I’m tearing through it.

It’s rare that I have the time to read a whole novel, but when I was in Boston I sat outside and devoured Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. I read a review of it on the plane there that convinced me to buy it. I also recently read Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State. That was an intense, difficult, important book.

Nonfiction-wise, I read a lot about the social aspects of technology. I’m also always reading up on contemporary art—I finished Terry Smith’s Contemporary Art earlier this year, and I’m currently working through e-flux’s collection of essays on the topic, which is well nigh impenetrable. I told my friend recently that I thought art writers take delight in obfuscating their argument. You kind of have to understand art writing as a creative form in its own right; the essays are sort of lyrical. I love it.

PEA RIVER

Which writers and genres inspire you?

RACHEL

It’s probably obvious at this point that poetry’s where I’ve made my home. It just seems best suited to the way my brain currently functions and what I care about. Being immersed in other people’s poetry opens up worlds outside my own. Poetry is also, then, a way towards empathy. This seems achingly important.

Outside of poetry, I’m into clearheaded, methodical writing that makes an argument. Things that challenge me. I am inspired by those who write with empathy, whatever their subject.

PEA RIVER

You also edit (I’m thinking of the Chicago anthology) and gather poets for performance. Where do you find the intersections between that work and your writing, if you draw connections or lines? Is there significant bleed-through? Does one feed the other?

RACHEL

Reading/hearing, editing, and publishing others’ work unequivocally makes me a better, more careful writer and reader of my own work. I’d say the influence runs more in that direction: working with others’ poetry helps my own work, though of course my preferences affect the lens with which I view others’ work. I feel that what I publish is very different from what I write, though. I would definitely reject my own work if it was submitted to Banango Street. And I started Anthology of Chicago partly out of a curiosity as to the possibilities of a creative lens onto place—what it means to write about a neighborhood poetically. Specifically, working with other people’s writing helps me better understand my own voice, worldview, blind spots, the devices I fall back on. Very often, my own work serves as a turning inward, a way to process the emotional vicissitudes of this wobbly world. Working so closely with others’ poetry arrests that myopic swan dive before the point of no return and helps widen my world. Genuinely caring about other people’s poetry, being invested in it— these are things that have made me more empathetic, and thus given me more of a lens onto my own work.

My various collaborative projects are where the cross-pollination between my editing and my writing most come to seed. I feel emboldened to edit, revise, rewrite with these poems in a way that I wouldn’t with others’ work. I love doing collaborative works because you end up with these beautifully chimerical poems that you’d never have written yourself, and you have the full ability to mold them into what you want. You get attached to your own lines, works that you’ve written in their entirety, but when it’s only part yours, it becomes easier to step back and slash things. Is that ruthless? Maybe a little, but I think it makes for better poems in the end. When you’re collaborating with someone, you build up a certain level of trust—that they’ll take the project seriously and see directions and interpretations for the poems that you wouldn’t—which allows for an entirely new thing to form. I write poems collaboratively that I would never have written by myself. And that’s beautiful, the generative possibilities in that mode of work.

PEA RIVER

You’re in transition right now. What is “home” to you? And what is the burden of that concept of home?

RACHEL

Context: I recently moved from Detroit, where I’d been living for the past year, back to Chicago, which is emphatically the place that I call home. I appreciate that you didn’t ask “where are you from?” because that’s a question I’ve always had difficulty answering. I guess the challenging year in Detroit gave me more insight onto what home is, what’s important to me in a place, if by negative example. Going to college in Chicago, being so involved in different scenes—first the music one, then the literary one—my identity became bound up with the city. These qualities that I have that are important to me–independence, autonomy, mobility, curiosity, investment in place–were developed in large part because of the life I was able to lead there. I directly have Chicago to thank for who I am and for what is important to me. And when I lived in Detroit, the structural conditions and limitations were such that I could not be the person I wanted to be, knew myself to be. So what I’m saying is, maybe home is the place that allows you to live unencumbered, that allows for the full flowering of the self. But this would mean home recedes into the background, that its fundamental component was a sort of non- intrusiveness. And I think home must have more of a presence, more positive attributes, than that.

Quoting from Perfect Pussy’s incredible lead singer, Meredith Graves: “Home is where you’re supposed to feel the safest. Home is where love happens. Home is where you’re supposed to feel best about yourself.” And the band Dads: “I’m finally realizing that home, it doesn’t have an address.”

The burden of home is this tension between comfort, safety, familiarity, and the desire for that which is different, exciting, exotic. FOMO writ large. And also, maybe home is a moving target (imagine that—home as something constantly aspirational, not as a background) as life shifts around us. Do you ever feel like you need to just have a good long sit in quiet?

PEA RIVER

So I have to ask this question of everyone. If you could become a different animal, which animal would you be? And why?

RACHEL

One of my friends recently told me about “girls who are super into horses” as an archetype that he was wary of/weirded out by. Not sure I understand this. I was super into horses as a kid though, so probably that: they are strong, independent, beautiful, and useful.

 

rachel

Interview with rock climber and writer Travis Skrine.

12 Oct

PEA RIVER

So much of your life in recent years has been spent quite literally in open places, in the wild, climbing. Can you describe that special relationship you have with nature and various kinds of rock? And do you think the urge to balance freedom and control is something everyone “has,” and at some level either struggles with or embraces, or is it something that surfaces only for a certain tribe of us?

TRAVIS

To be human in 2014 is the most bizarre and beautiful existence I have ever known. The amount of stimulus, options and distractions that I choose to ignore or indulge on a daily basis is a trip and a half. We have done some pretty remarkable things as a species, but the tranquility and vastness that this planet harbors in the natural world is unparalleled to anything we could physically create. The complex imagery and layers of color painting the desert sky in anticipation for the setting of the sun needs no explaining. It is simply perceived and without effort, energetically tuning the accompanying environment. Something much bigger than any of us, and on display for what seems time itself.

One of the things I appreciate most about Mother Nature is her confidence and tenacity. She doesn’t ask questions. Does not consult with anybody or anything. She just is, just does. I love how we are an after thought to it all. For so long, I believed this was all here for us.

To strip away our worldly distractions and surrender to something as powerful as the mountains, or as magnificent as the ocean is blue, simplifies things for me. Throw climbing into the mix… forget about it. It is a selfish and seemingly pointless pursuit at times with polar extremes, but a beautiful one undoubtedly.

It is scary how easy it can be to tune out my intuition at times, and look to logic to make a decision. It’s like folding up the personal road map to my highest calling, shoving into the glove box, and using a GPS to do the navigating. When I find myself in a rhythm with climbing, or travel in general, tuning into my intuition seems much more natural. The flow is almost animalistic, and what is relevant in the moment is rather primal. Climbing has become one of my greatest teachers and is the strongest form of meditation I have come across. It is so much bigger than the act itself and facilitates space for internal yin and yang to exist in harmony.

The desire to balance freedom and control has been one of the dominant themes of my young adult life. Finding balance may be a much deeper pursuit than I will ever understand. My biggest fear is committing/ investing in something that I will regret at the end of it all. Fear that my life will not have amounted to the potential allotted to me. That kind of fear is the burden of mortality. In pursuing freedom I have become a prisoner, living in fear of being trapped and confined to my own poor choices. It is an ironic predicament to have. But, I see that in order for me to embody the divine masculine the way I would like, pursuing my heart’s desires and making a stand to accomplish my goals is the only way to move forth. I have begun putting out the things I am looking to call in, and finding a healthy balance between freedom and control is the current task at hand. It may take many lifetimes, but the work has intentionally begun.

travis3travis2

PEA RIVER

Do you find your style evolving as you continue to climb, or do you find yourself continuing to explore and perfect surfaces and tactics, with all their depths and complexity?

TRAVIS

Training is a big part of the experience for me. To bear witness to my weaknesses and train specific movement accordingly is something I really enjoy. To put in the work, apply it, and reflect over a cold one with my buds is like cashing a paycheck at the end of a long week with a bonus on top. To push past physical limitation and break through what once felt impossible teaches us so much about ourselves and what we are capable of. The feeling of being completely worked on route, yet continuing to climb, is one of those life experiences that changes things. I am going to try and paint a picture of what I am talking about, but cannot promise it will make any sense.

Ok. You are currently in the Red River gorge in Eastern Kentucky, climbing on some of the steepest and most beautiful sandstone known to man. You have done sixty or seventy feet of challenging climbing out a negative 30-degree ampitheatre. You have invested a good chunk of time and energy on this particular route, so falling isn’t really on your list of things to do. You are on the last rest hold (a hold large enough to shake out the pump, get your heartbeat down and contemplate life for a moment) as far as you can see, and you know that the meat of the route is before you. It is do or die time, and doing is what you came to do. Your breath, technique, endurance, and ability to read rock are now your biggest allies. You take one more shake, one more deep breath, and work up the courage to leave the rest hold and enter into the beast’s chambers. (Hardest section of the climb, aka the “crux”. Aka Giddy Up!) A few moves into the crux, everything seems cool. You might even still be smiling. You are still breathing, pump is at bay, and you make one more move. Before you know it, your vision slowly begins to shrink. Two more moves, and you are almost blind from trying so hard. All you can hear is your heartbeat, the voice in your head telling you that you are f’d in the a, and the fear/psyche/try-hard screams purging from your suck hole. And while your senses and brain start to shut down temporarily, your forearms are on the brink of exploding from a lactic acid overdose. But then, somehow, when all hope seems lost, this ounce of reserved energy kicks in, and you slap something and manage to stick. Much to your surprise, you did not just take a thirty-foot fall into the air. No. You, my friend, are still rock climbing! And your mind is definitely blown! Your buddy belaying is shouting up nonsensical profanity, but all you really hear is the sound of nothing.

Your brain and body have no clue WTF just happened. It takes a second to come back to your breath, to your body. You rest for a moment and think to yourself, “Keep your shit together and climb smart. You never want to have to do that again.” Adrenaline is a hell of a drug, and the potency of a release like that keeps you coming back for more. Most of the time I fall in that situation, but the times that I have persevered is as good as it gets. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 5.10 or a 5.14… it is all about pushing yourself in a way you didn’t know you could.

travis

 

PEA RIVER

Do you have a process for approaching a new climb? Do you tend to plan in a formal way, or do you just climb?

TRAVIS

My motives are generally driven by aesthetics. It’s the lines and features that are just out there, waiting for us to climb. Those times spent face to face with an ancient, raven black water streak, for example. Dry only a few months of the year with just enough holds to make it go… it’s electric! Gold at the tips of your extremities is so special; it’s hard to do anything but laugh at how perfect it is.

Early spring, I was conversing with one of my best friends and climbing partner, Dyl. We were discussing the desire to progress and why and what exactly is the underlying motivation. The biggest reason ended up being quite simple. It is to be equipped with enough experience and confidence to show up at any crag on earth and choose the line or lines that inspire. To be capable enough to play on anything, no strings attached. Simply for the joy and pursuit of inspiration. Whether it is the easiest or most difficult in the area, having the key to that kind of castle is the dream. Not to mention, it is the most fun you can have with or without clothes on. Damn right I want to keep pushing it. It seems to keep getting more and more fun as it gets more difficult, too. I will never be a professional climber. That is not and never will be the goal. The goal is to find my personal limit, break through it, and keep on truckin’.

PEA RIVER

What is your current project?

TRAVIS

My current project is rehabbing my shoulder back to health. Strengthening the complexity of the shoulder is turning out to be a much bigger project than I had anticipated. It is difficult enough to continue progressing at anything in life, let alone doing it in a way that keeps us free from injury physically or spiritually. It goes back to the balance thing, and clearly I was not balancing my practice well enough. Rest is huge, and I straight up suck at resting. It has helped me understand that I am not going to rush the healing process so that I can climb next week. The goal is to be able to do this, among other things, for the rest of my life, and I pray that it will all work out.

PEA RIVER

When did you first know that you wanted to climb?

TRAVIS

I was twenty years old and viewing the world with a fresh perspective after a summer dirt bagging through Europe. I have never felt more American than the way I felt at the tail end of that trip. I knew I needed to see the U.S. and decided Colorado would be destination numero uno. I ended up couchsurfing in Boulder, and walked into a door that literally changed my life.

Tired and wrecked from the twenty-four hour push, I ended up staying in and watching a climbing video that the cat hosting me had. I watched it twice and would have watched it again had I not been in zombie territory from sleep deprivation. I returned to Michigan a few weeks later and spent the next six months exercising and dieting to prepare myself to try this climbing thing. I knew that whether or not climbing was for me, I was in a very unhealthy spot in my life, and climbing was the motivation that inspired change. It was the catalyst for freeing myself from the dark existence I fell into around that time in life. I took the trip to Colorado initially to experience the mountains. I could have never predicted what experiencing the mountains would turn into.

PEA RIVER

Who are you reading right now?

TRAVIS

I am currently reading as much literature on anatomy, nutrition and types of healing that I can get my hands on. I am moving to Kauai in December to begin studying at the Pacific Center for Awareness and Bodywork. I have been using my shoulder to experiment with different forms of healing, and it has been motivating me to learn. Life is funny like that. It seems like the onset of this shoulder injury could not have come at a more perfect time. It has been a good reflection for me, solidifying my desire to explore the healing arts. I may not practice massage or body work, but I am committing to something outside of climbing and am psyched about allowing myself a step in that direction.

PEA RIVER

Which writers and genres inspire you?

TRAVIS

Kerouac, Palahniuk, Castaneda, Vonnegut, Conor Oberst, Black Thought. I thoroughly enjoy tales of those riding the coat tails of societal taboos. Mystical journeys. Personal confessions of the darkest, grittiest nooks of the human experience that only exist collectively. Gypsies. The warrior path. Organized Chaos. I really enjoy hearing others’ interpretations of what we are doing here. How others spend their time. How they process. I am a big fan of abstract styles. Tangents. Dribble. It kind of helps me feel a bit less crazy because my thoughts and writing style tend to follow a similar format.

PEA RIVER

You also write, or have written, amazing creative work. Where do you find the intersections between that work and your climbing, if you draw connections or lines? Is there significant bleed-through? Does one feed the other?

TRAVIS

Writing has been my go-to tool for processing my overall experience for as long as I can remember. I recently separated from my partner and have been doing a lot of internal work on paper. Getting my thoughts out in a healthy way has been very medicinal. I keep a journal to keep tabs on how I am spending my time and the potential to use it for reflection. Even though I may never go back through and read my journals, knowing that these precious moments were documented adds weight to the experience. As if by capturing time, I never have to let go of it. I can take it with me forever like a photo album or souvenir from the Grand Canyon. It’s kind of weird, like this squirrel mentality to hoard and collect. But, for whatever reason, collecting moments on paper has seemed like a good idea to me over the years. I just pray if I ever have kids, they never find them.

Since I have been out of school, I don’t believe much, if any, of my writing has ventured more than ten feet or so from the top pocket of my pack. The writing I do share, oddly enough, is poetry and rap. I have this dream of rapping with a live jazz band. Bold horn section, epic percussion, and the smoothest piano player out there. My style is strongly influenced by my connection to spirit and the natural world. It is not your typical rap… there is nothing “cool” about it. I just have a blast doing it. Freestyling and messing around has been a part of who I am since the fourth grade. My friend Mark and I had a rap group, and it is something that’s been following me ever since.

PEA RIVER

So I have to ask this question of everyone, but given your work, maybe especially you. If you could become a different animal, which animal would you be? And why?

TRAVIS

If I could be anything other than human, I would be a bird of prey. Osprey, eagle, hawk… I would be pretty open to the idea actually. Watching a bird jet through the sky is something else. Effortlessly cruising, incredibly aware and truly free from everything but the moment.
I spent the last couple years living and working on farms in southern Oregon, and it gets HOT there in the summer. One day I was seeking shade and sat down with my friend/teacher to share some conversation and tobacco. Right in front of us an osprey came flying out of the sky, full speed. She grabbed a bass from the pond and flew off into the forest above the valley. I remember looking over at my friend’s face and being at a loss for words. There is nothing ordinary about flight. It was like a spell had been lifted, and whatever conditioning I had to witnessing flight prior was broken. Honestly, it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen and down right humbling.

Truly though, I love being a human. I feel so damn blessed to have been born with all of my fingers and toes. My eyes work pretty well, my hearing is ok, and all of my organs function. I have had a lot of love and teachings in this life and pray to spirit every day with gratitude. It’s a wild existence being human, but the greatest life I have ever known.

 

 

travis

Interview with Marium Khalid

29 Sep

INTERVIEW WITH Marium Khalid

We first met Marium Khalid in an abandoned Atlanta warehouse after a brilliant immersive performance of her theater company’s adaptation of Moby-Dick. And now we follow everything she creates, because everything she creates is challenging and magical.

Marium Khalid-245

 

Her vision statement inspires us:

I was lost in the desert, so I built a shade.
I craved knowledge, so I learned to listen.
I was living in gray, so I brightened the colors.
I wanted to teach, so I become a student.
I heard my song, so I found my voice.
I desired to conquer, so I learned how to share. I yearned to grow, so I discovered my roots.
I needed to love, so I decided to help.
I wanted a change, so I spoke to the times.
I needed to heal, so I found my breath.
I decided to create, so I erased all borders.
I wanted to laugh, so I learned to dance.
I hungered for adventure, so I rode an elephant. I aspired to fly, so I made wings.
This is Saïah
I am Saïah.

PEA RIVER

So much of your work is a mix of magical thinking and some inescapable darkness. Can you describe that special machine of magic and darkness? And do you think it is something everyone “has,” and at some level either struggles with or embraces, or is it something that surfaces only for a certain tribe of us?

MARIUM

Thank you for noticing.
Magic is the world which we don’t pay attention to, or happen to miss the moment we glance its way. Darkness, is the un-nerving realization of that moment lost.
What I follow—search for, is the truth. Truth in lives, grand gestures, moments, cracks, breaths. Once I get to the root of it, I look around and realize that it is soaked in mystery, genius, flawless connections from one soul to the next- but the journey to get there, required the breaking open of wounds that had been patched up decades ago.
My work comes from my own life’s work. The practice I uphold myself to- to heal the wounds of “the past.” Every single being on this planet suffers from the wounds caused from the past—Those wounds are perceived as a darkness. Most choose to settle into them, or perhaps struggle to face them. I have found in my life and work, that the key to reaching a higher truth is ripping those wounds, that darkness open, revealing it in the light of day and speak it, in truth. When Truth is revealed in all its darkening glory, therein lies the magic of it all.

PEA RIVER

Do you find your style evolving as you continue to design and produce, or do you want to continue to explore what I would call a postmodern mythos, with all its depths and complexity?

MARIUM

I have absolutely no interest in having a style or settling into something I am “known for.” My loyalty is only to the truth of the vision. If tomorrow the story asks to told via film or music, I will do what I can to bring it to its highest self.

PEA RIVER

Your work is so metaphorically real, going far afield to bring home crucial truths. Have you considered instead straight, traditional, theater, or does that seem too . . . outright and upfront?

MARIUM

My earlier work started out being more traditional- well, with influences such as Artaud, Jung, Sufism, it was still considered “experimental,” but I used more traditional standards.
The truth is that I don’t come from a traditional space in this world- nothing about my childhood, my education, my spirit, et cetera, was outright and upfront. I have always lived a life where I would very clearly witness “the normal lives of others,” but never really felt the urge to participate. And I believe when you come from that, it is buried in your bone tissue to be, or in this matter create from, a place that to the rest of the world seems “nontraditional.”

PEA RIVER

Do you have a process for beginning new work? Do you tend to plan or see it as New Work in a Certain Form, or do you just start writing and sketching?

MARIUM

I usually start with a very clear vision of a relationship I want to tell a story about. Then the journey goes inward and outwards at the same time. The deeper I explore who/why this relationship is, the outwards vision of what/ when/how starts to reveal itself. This is also where my partner and husband steps in. He will gather up all the intricate details I have been focusing on and see it all from a distance, creating an outline for a story. Sometimes I feel without him, I’d write and create in fragments. But both us create a full experience.

PEA RIVER

What is your current project?
When did you first know that you wanted to do this kind of work?

MARIUM

Our last production, TERMINUS, took me three years to compile together. So I am at a place where rather than rushing into another project, I am walking through the past a bit. For some reason, I feel I have unfinished business with a few of our last productions, so I am reworking them a bit. In the mean time, I am beginning to work on a new story, but it has a ways to go.
I have always known that I wanted to be someone who revealed the truth. My Mum says it comes from being the youngest in the family, because as the youngest you bear witness to all the lives around you—and eventually want to heal it all.
SAIAH is a place that allows me to do that in a healthy and creative manner. I am very grateful for that.

PEA RIVER

Who are you reading or viewing right now? Which writers, performances, and genres inspire you?

MARIUM

I am currently taking a break from feeding myself intellectually—I feel we need to be grounded in our own vision, to gather inspiration from other’s work. Currently, I am in a place where I am trying to attain “being grounded,” then the external feeding will come.
The past inspires me. Secrets, buried truths, wounds that need cracking open, inspire me. But most of all bravery inspires me.

PEA RIVER

You have created a community of followers and artists at SAIAH. Where do you find the intersections between that community-sustaining work and your new creative work, if you draw connections or lines? Is there significant bleed- through? Does one feed the other, or do you find that one takes energy the other needs?

MARIUM

If you are referring to our patrons: People want to witness courage. That is one truth I have realized in my few years of being alive. The work we create, every ounce of it, comes from “the edge of a cliff,” and they feel that. They are on board for that. And when the bar is set, we have their permission to jump, because they know we’ll be asking them to do the same.
As far as the artists we gather, per experience. We are very particular about who we work with. This is sacred work. We hand pick creators, visionaries, performers who are willing to uphold the highest vision of the story. With a community like that, we are fearless and limitless.

PEA RIVER

So I have to ask this question of everyone, but given your work, maybe especially you. If you could become a different animal, which animal would you be? And why?

MARIUM

I meditated on this and saw a Jaguar. This is what it means to see a Jaguar:
“The Jaguar’s medicine includes seeing the roads within chaos and understanding the patterns of chaos, moving without fear in the darkness, moving in unknown places, shape shifting, psychic vision, facilitating soul work, empowering oneself, reclaiming power … gatekeeper to the unknowable.”

I’ll take it.

 

Interview with Phoenix artist, entrepreneur, and maker Ruben Gonzales.

26 Sep

INTERVIEW WITH Ruben Gonzales

We first met Ruben Gonzales at an art opening at what was then his pop-up shop on Roosevelt Row in 2011. Ruben’s shop, 11th Monk3y, is now a company specializing in custom screenprinting, bikes, and bespoke furnishings. He and his crew create everything in their shop (now located on Grand Avenue) in Phoenix. There’s something special about his shop, everything he makes, his relationship with street and hiphop/bboy culture, and the way he supports local artists.

PEA RIVER

So much of your work is a mix of magic and some inescapably practical function. Can you describe that special machine of magic and function? And do you think it is something everyone “has,” and at some level either struggles with or embraces, or is it something that surfaces only for a certain tribe of us?

RUBEN

Most of what I use to create what I make is just a basic mig welding machine, some grinders, and some cutting blades. I think the magic comes from your own mind though; we all see objects differently then the other person, and I think that is what makes us unique and or makes us curious as to how things are done or come about.
I do believe we all strongly have some level of enchantment, however I feel as we age we tend to make a choice. Do we want to live out our life the way we feel free, or do we want to live out our life having some kind of foreseen comfort? I guess with that last answer it comes down to your choice: live to live or live to live freely. There is a difference.

PEA RIVER

Do you find your style evolving as you continue to design and build, or do you want to continue to simply refine what you’re already doing?

RUBEN

I find both, actually. The more I do what I do, the better I become at it, and I can see my progress growing in ways I never even thought possible. I generally don’t make the same items more than 2 or 3 times (unless it’s commissioned). So I would say it’s being refined with every new project.

PEA RIVER

Do you have a process for beginning new work? Do you tend to plan or see it as New Work in a Certain Form, or do you just start cutting and building?

RUBEN

I do. I will usually start with a very basic line sketch, nothing artsy, just some doodles, then I’ll google some images and combine what I see on my paper and what I see out there to make it my own.
Work inspires work. I consider all the work I do “New Work.” Before, I would just build as I go, but that doesn’t always work out. So now, for me, the best way to build is to start with a plan(ish).
The goal is truly to have the client walk in and go “oh my, thats beautiful, it’s gonna look awesome in my place.” Or maybe it’s just to see them walk in with no idea and then smile and say “wow!”

counter

PEA RIVER

What is your current project? (Choose just one. I know it’s hard.)

RUBEN

Hmm. Okay, so my current project is for Co+hoots (a co-op work space). They wanted some more stylish but sized-down private call booths. Never done this before, did some research, and bam I have 3 down already, 2 more to go!!!!

PEA RIVER

When did you first know that you wanted to make things?

RUBEN

Ever since I could break things. Seriously though. As a kid, like most, it wasn’t about just breaking something; it was about taking it apart and seeing how it works. Finding the heart to it! I loved learning at a young age, just not the stuff you would learn in schools.

PEA RIVER

Who are you reading or listening to right now? Which writers and artists and genres inspire you?

RUBEN

I don’t read much. If I do, it’s a Dwell mag or just a random wood and metal blog. Atmosphere’s new album ( SO GOOOD). Hmmm writers … as a kid it was def Stephen King, now I don’t know… but as for artist/builders, I’d say it really started with Jesse James (the motorcycle dude). Before he went big, he would build the coolest things in his shop: not only cycles, but art. Everything about his form was Killer. You could just tell there was passion in shaping metal objects into functional working pieces. He even had this show at one point, Monster Garage, and man they would build ridiculous things for fun.

PEA RIVER

You also run a business, and have created a community of followers and artists at your shop. Where do you find the intersections between that work and your creative work, if you draw connections or lines? Is there significant bleed- through? Does one feed the other, or do you find that one takes energy the other needs?

RUBEN

Most of the artists we have had through our shop have something about their work, their passion. That’s the connection I get with them. They don’t do it just to say they are having an art show; they do it because without creating art and showing it, life would just seem wrong. The look they get on their faces when the doors open and the crowds come in: that’s priceless! The bleed- through is a good amount. I’m always baffled by how they can create, draw or just in general get down with the skills and talents they have been gifted with. I think it’s an equal share of energy. It’s a great balance we all share here.

PEA RIVER

So I have to ask this question of everyone, but given your work, maybe especially you. If you could become a different animal, which animal would you be? And why?

RUBEN

So many choices of animals, but if I could be another animal, my first choice would be a monkey, because they are so damn clever, but deep inside I really want to fly. Like physically FLY!!! So in that case I’d say if dragons were not mythical creatures, I’d be a dragon, but in today’s age an eagle. Yeah, I’d be an Eagle.

ruben2#dowork #buildshit #11thmonk3y #whatsyourpassion

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