We began this journey with me inviting a team of my favorite creatives, artists, and beautiful minds to share in a birthday celebration and hear about this ridiculous idea I had. Since then it has seemed this project is a series of ridiculous and outlandish ideas that make little sense to anyone else at their conception.
God help any writer or creative that leaves their search history open to the scrutiny of others… I’m always researching the strangest things. I think while many others have told me they find an image or point of inspiration and then build off of that, I tend to go in reverse. Most of the time I have an idea that I spend minutes, days, or weeks turning over in my mind and molding into a solid concept, then I go looking for inspiration, and to see hornet original my idea is. For example there were thousands of images of kids looking into the sparkling pages of a book, their faces illuminated by the glow of magic within the binding, so it solidified for me that in the Turning of Pages the magic was in the butterflies and not in iridescence.
Likewise here it was of importance to know what I wanted and then adapt that to my own vision… a vision no one else quite saw when I began with a red seamless backdrop and a vinyl baby pool.
Dane Sanders is a great photographer, but more so an inspiration/motivational speaker. I was quite star struck when I first met him in person and in a moment of rare shyness found myself without words as I handed him my book to sign after listening to him teach. He asked me how long I’d been shooting, who I was; small talk, then scribbled something inside and handed it back to me with a smile. The next person behind me shouldered ahead and I stepped aside. When I opened the inside cover; a momapher, a novice, a budding photographer, with no experience, little skill, and modest talent, there was within: a two word mantra that changed my life. It said simply:
I can’t remember where I heard it: “It takes bamboo 5 years to root. In the 5th year it can grow up to 75 feet.” That’s always stayed with me though. It took me 5 years of ‘rooting’ within photography and a lifetime of art and writing to find the courage to pursue this project. Still as with all things, we meet great resistance when attempting to scale mountains, and while I expected to encounter judgement and naysaying from those who don’t support me, I was not prepared for the amount of resistance and apprehension I received from colleagues, mentors, family, and friends.
They came from a place of love and concern, but me setting aside my success, my reputation, all that I had built the last 5 years to pursue a totally different genre, setting aside weddings entirely, scaling back studio sessions… I was forewarned that I would lose my following, that I would alienate my clients, that I would end in financial ruin, that I would lose sponsors and speaking opportunities… And when it’s people you love, respect, and admire it wears on you more. I spoke of some of this to Dane, one of my oldest mentors and later handed him his most recent book and said “the last time you signed a book for me you changed my life… no pressure.”
He didn’t disappoint. It was exactly what I needed at that moment to steady my wavering confidence that I was meant to walk this path. Half a decade between photographs and mantras, but the same feeling.
Plums weren’t my favorite fruit, pears held that honor for taste, but as a child I loved the deep violet concealing the unexpected golden honey color within, I knew from the start I wanted this color in my fruit.
While seeking inspiration I came across this beautiful pie. It’s very reminiscent of many of my paintings from childhood, where the colors would bleed and fade into one another.
Then I came across the beautiful work of Dennis J Wojtkiewicz an amazing painter with an affinity for fruit. This one in particular moved me. The seeds backlit in the translucent fibers of the fruit moved me. Interesting what feelings and memories art takes us to. For me it was to the first sound of a beating heart… and these black and white forms flowing into each other on an ultrasound screen as a tiny nose, and lips came into focus. I saw new life suspended, waiting to be born into existence. This was exactly the sense of wonder and restless anticipation I wanted to feel when looking at my image, that it was the awaited birth of soulmates.
One of my favorite scenes from the Wizard of Oz was the poppy fields, the latin name meaning Sleep Bringing Poppy, they’re beautiful, and have the ability to be a powerful medicine, or lethal drug, depending on dosage and reasoning. The dichotomy played into the writing the tea party scene, for the fruit, I liked the veining aspect of the dried poppy.
There’s truth to that there are no original ideas. The more I’ve come into contact with the world, I do not find that discouraging, I believe there is an interconnectedness to us all, and the similarities in the things we are inspired by and to create are our higher forms of spiritual intertwining, vibrating at deeper frequencies… all that said when one types in ‘lovers inside fruit’ well… after some inappropriate images and some time I was introduced to Vladimir Kush, whose work I am now so inspired by. He creates breathtaking paintings, seemingly separate coming together: ships with butterfly wing sails, the morning sun as a cracked golden yoke… and the Walnut of Eden, the closeness to my sketch’s resemblance is uncanny.
Pieces from each inspiration threaded together, and I found the heart of my vision: The beings within the fruit from Kush, the embryonic womb like feel of Dennis, the veining of the poppy pod, the richness of violets and golds from the plums, all came together as the heart that would breathe life into my vision.
I’ve always been one to jump in, and learn to swim afterwards… so there is a bit of symbolism for me that the skeleton of this enormous prop was made of a baby pool.
The problem with the pool was that it was cylindrical, and I needed it to be spherical… Enter my hero Rob aka Uncle Awesome… don’t you wish your helpers were this sexy?
Before Michael left for Afghanistan I bought him and Robert matching knives, each engraved, a sort of manly “best friends locket”. Rob very much took a sort of brotherly vow to take care of us while Michael was deployed… from playing with the kids, to helping when things broke around the house, to molding chicken wire around a baby pool for one of my crazy props.
I’m lucky for those I call family.
For some time a collection of art works were given sanctuary, for their sentimentality rather than quality. They lingered in various places, stored eternally away.
This fruit came into existence in the autumn, as all the trees shed their leaves in warm colors… it was an encouragement to me to learn to do the same. Letting go is not a talent I have come by easily… attachment was something I often incorrectly titled as love. Interestingly we often fear change, and yet do not want things to remain as they are either. And so in an interest to honor all the artistic endeavors of my youth that had brought me to where I am now, we offered them a reincarnation. The pieces were torn into a creative confetti, and used to build the flesh of the fruit… even the children created drawings to add to the enormous 7 foot sculpture. It was bittersweet to watch years of work be torn apart, knowing they would be painted over, and no other, save those who read this would ever know that this piece was made of more than 2 decades of artistic growth and expression… Art made of art.
On many scraps were signatures and dates, some two decades old. This was certainly a work of art, at the hands of many, so it was fitting that each of their names were added.
I would consider myself resourceful and creative when it comes to making… most things, however part of that resourcefulness is knowing good people. I am very lucky to call such clever, creative people friends. They’re the kind that show up to help move, to care when I am ill, to play with my children, to break bread… to help figure out how to make a giant 7 ft piece of fruit.
As this project deepens we spend as much time purchasing props at Home Depot as we do at Art stores. In honesty it becomes somewhat overwhelming, daunting. The project is so big. Even with my stubbornness, and hopeful nature, I have my moments of fear and doubt, and looking at these men, problem solving and building my ideas into reality, I was filled with gratitude.
The base was done, and while laboring, was less intricate than trying to figure out how to create the veining, and there were many minds and hands that came together to figure it out… We created the skeleton together, there was a symbolism in that, as I looked at all the people taking part, realizing they were the skeleton that would support the project.
The Reliquarian is no longer my own, it is a collective heart beating from the blood of many, and it warms me to know this life is made of many souls… parallels in my life and story… life continues to imitate art, and art imitates life.
I can say with honesty this project is the most fun I’ve had with friends and creatives, and the later the hours the more delirium sets in, so the studio erupted in laughter when the first words of greeting from the door are “What the hell is that thing your in?!” and the reply from Siena was “It’s a magic vagina!”
Though a humorous sarcasm it wasn’t terribly far from the truth… within the story the fruit represents a sort of spiritual womb, a birthplace of soul mates.
This project has been full of miscalculations: How long it would take, how many people would become part; more specifically how big the fruit and my doorway were… and how to get it out said door. By the time I had sculpted, textured, painted, created the skeleton, veining, and began painting nearly a year had passed. I was adding color to the fruit, and the trees were adding color to their leaves.
The details are the intricacies that create splendor for me… Even when I consider that none may notice them but me. Most of the time I don’t know what I’m doing, I simply make it up… creating is in my veins.
Rub a Dub Dub, Siena and Mackenzie in a tub!
The texture added, all trace of the artistry beneath now gone, it now had a lovely deep plum tonality to it.
One thing that I have greatly appreciated is that while the storyline is not, this whole project has been very family friendly, and many of afternoons of creating are accompanied by the sounds of lots of giggling and playtime… it makes me happy to know that they are growing up seeing their parents “playing” for a living. I forget sometimes that I am no longer the generation of youth, but it fills me with a sense of love and joy to see the children of my best friends becoming friends with my own, and the Reliquarian becoming a playground that is enchanting for all of us.
We’re often taught not to speak of our accomplishments, lest we seem full of ourselves. Still, I’ve had articles written about me in magazines, spoken on stage to hundreds of people, and received multiple awards and accolades. However I was more moved when I received these photographs from a 9 year old’s grandmother. Emmie is a friend of Cadence’s and when she came to pick her up for a playdate and saw us setting up for the Higher Learning shoot she was so inspired she went home and set up a ‘photo shoot’ of her own.
I LOVE that. Of course it is flattering, but more importantly, I love that those following me in this world might see that they can do what they love, what they are passionate about as their career. I think that’s so important, and if I can inspire that, even in only one small girl, then all the effort of this project will be well expended.
Brian and Cassidy have been dear friends for years, and aside from being incredibly beautiful people, they are incredibly good looking. In my portfolio are sexy couple photos, family photos, and their wedding. They are the kind of couple that make others say “Some day, that will be us.” So they were the natural choice for this image, which essentially represents the birth of the very first soulmates within the tree of life.
A year to create this piece… and more than two decades creating the work that was torn apart to create the base. It was less about the physical creation of them than the learning, the expression, the cathartic process creating them has been to me, each was a small step in a journey, that at the moment feels as if it were a finish line, but is I’m sure a beginning of it’s own.
I think, to be honest, that since the idea for this shot began to take shape, that at it’s core, it’s about vulnerability. For years people have entrusted me to create very intimate portraits of them, to strip not just their clothes, but all their false imperfections, their defenses, and show them the truth of their own beauty.
For me, soulmates, womb, birth, nature, lovers, nudity… they all represent that vulnerability, a sense of connectivity with one another, the bridging of that which is without and within.
As I looked down on them interlocked and tested the framing and light before adding the top, I saw that vulnerability represented, and when I got back to my computer, I liked the rawness of this moment, as it was, straight out of camera.
“The Impermanent Fragmentation of the One Becoming Two”
My personal definition of Soul Mates. A temporary severing of one from itself so that it might experience and perceive and learn from itself at different vantage points. I believe simply that we encounter many who are meant to teach us something important. When that lesson is done, we move on, and it is a travesty that we seem to assume that unless it lasts it didn’t matter. We part, not because of insignificance, but because our paths diverge to lead us into deeper connection with the world and ourselves. Not all soul mates are lovers, and if we have one that is our true mate they may present themselves in many forms, in many lives so we can continue to grow. The Reliquarian meanders this line of thought frequently within it’s story, and plays upon the symbolism many cultures and faiths have of the ‘Tree of Life’ in a more literal sense, with the visual of some small fragment of all soulmates being conceived and held within its fruit, when the fruit ripens, the souls encounter one another in their current incarnation, when the fruit falls they part paths for a time.
Many speak of lovers and soulmates as two becoming one, but I don’t find that accurate, I think it is no a converging, but a returning to it’s restored self. I saw birth and life in this image, and symbolism in the sense of male and female, yin and yang. The sculpture of the fruit was imposed on the branch of one of the pear trees on the grounds here… many of the photos thus far have occurred here, and they leave their memories on this place, a sort of nostalgic haunting that lingers like an aroma, or a tone of music fading… I am beginning to see the magic of the world I envision existing all around me here, and it is beautiful. I think for me this represents it’s own returning. So much of me, of those I love, those I’ve lost, my memories, my hopes, my emotions and thoughts, and pain and promise all lie within this… seeds that have yet to grow, fruit that has yet to ripen. All these elements, an impermanent fragmentation, now finally diminishing its severings.