The Long Way Home


Road Trip Diary
July 3, 2012, 6:06 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , , ,

wytheville, virginia

The challenge of taking self-portraits is coming up with something different each time and lately, I don’t feel very creative; I find that I end up taking a lot of similar shots. But being on the road provides a change of setting, which also means opportunities to create new stories and find ones along the way. When I started taking photos, self-portraiture was a  convenient way to integrate human with landscape – certain places sparked my interest in our road trips, and nobody but Jeff and I were there to fill the empty spaces. I see a bright blue abandoned house on a gray day, and imagine how the scene would look with a woman in a red dress standing next to it. The motel off the highway becomes a makeshift studio; I use a table for a tripod, the 10-second timer. I have a whole list of places I have yet to go: the Badlands, an open field, a slew of nameless towns in the middle of nowhere.

fayetteville, west virginia

fayetteville, west virginia

wytheville, virginia

weeki wachee, florida

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Wakefield and Ward Streets
May 30, 2012, 6:09 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , ,

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When I lived in the South Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh in the early ’90s, I rarely ventured outside my tiny world on Semple Street. I dreamed a lot about leaving the city when I graduated. But lack of funds, and fear of the unknown, kept me here; I explored my hometown, searching for a place to call home. I know Pittsburgh well  – its shortcuts and cul-de-sacs – streets so familiar I don’t even remember some of the names, like feeling your way through a dark room in a house you’ve lived in your entire life. So I was excited to find this part of South Oakland on the Ley Line walk, a piece of the city that looks as if you have arrived in the country.

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Letter to My Mother
April 22, 2012, 9:32 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , , ,

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I dream about you a lot since you’ve been gone. Usually you seem very real, and the things you do in them are things you would have done if you were still alive. Like in one dream, you booked a room at some crappy motel next to a broken-down Ferris wheel, and Kristy, Fred and I had to scramble for money to get us all out of there and home. Or another time, you spent all the vacation money on souvenirs, so we couldn’t enjoy the rest of our trip. Why are you so irresponsible? I said, as if I were talking exasperated to a child. I have to remind myself, even now, that you were a grown woman, my mother.

But last night’s dream was different. I was standing at the top of the stairs of an old house. I heard knocking at the front door and peered down to see a man waiting for me to open it. I couldn’t see his face, but you were standing in the corner looking incredibly sad. Mummy, I said, and I panicked because you were disappearing. That’s not mummy, that’s a man at the door, Kristy said somewhere behind me. I was the only one who knew you were there.

[from A Conversation project]



Letter to My Father
April 11, 2012, 7:27 AM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , ,

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Today Jeff and I drove past the nuclear plant near Industry on our way to a flea market. I never realized how far your commute was from our apartment in Moon to the steel plant in Midland. You told us stories about river rats, swing shifts and trading adventurous food with the guys at work, late night meals of squirrel or bear or venison. Remember when you took us to Niagara Falls and introduced us to chow mein? A group of monks sat in the middle of the dark restaurant silently eating. Paper lanterns shifted lazily over our heads while we speared dumplings with our chopsticks. I was amazed eating in such an exotic place in a different country. I didn’t think about it until now, but isn’t it strange so many Pittsburghers traveled on holiday from one industrial city to another. It’s like we did this so we’d never have to leave the comforts of home.

[from A Conversation project]



Letter To My Great-Grandmother
April 8, 2012, 12:35 PM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , ,

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I remember your house like a familiar drive home – knowing no route names or street signs, just landmarks that have stood before my time. In a past life, I am sitting in your kitchen, listening to you tell stories about your trip to the 1939 World’s Fair. I devour the Sara Lee cheesecake you feed us because it is American and convenient. I laugh when you complain in Hungarian. I walk through rooms, looking for the things that remind me of you: the mounted deer heads over the guest room beds, the cuckoo clock by the back door, the ringer washer at the foot of the basement stairs, your wedding portrait from 1928. Your house is a time capsule, and when I need to organize the chaos in my life I open it, knowing everything is in its place.

[from A Conversation project]



Letters from the Rust Belt
April 3, 2012, 7:57 PM
Filed under: Art Gallery | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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Last month I shot a Polaroid series of Ohio River towns for an Utata project. The “Conversation” theme was a challenge to convey through image, as well as words when it’s only you who can do the talking. I chose to write letters to the people and places who I think about a lot, who have made me who I am. I always felt that some of my better writing came out of letters to friends, and that the letters from others I’ve received over the years were gifts to me. I saved boxes and boxes of them from the time I was in junior high through undergrad, and then before I moved in with Jeff, I felt like cleaning house in my life and shredded almost all of them – seven trash bags full of my personal history down to one small box. It wasn’t until recently when writing for the project that I felt a twinge of remorse for what I had done, realizing how much I miss this kind of communication.

I’ll post the six letters throughout the month. The entire project is found here.

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Looking through mummy’s papers, I noticed that in the late ’70s she listed “housewife” as her occupation. This surprised me, considering we never lived in a house – we lived in that apartment off Sharon Road, the one with the groovy plaid couch. Our neighbors thought it was weird that she gave us fire-belly toads for pets instead of a dog, and that she decided not to send me to kindergarten because she thought nuns were evil. Or how she’d blast Parallel Lines and sing really loud in the kitchen while she baked cookies. Or how she’d roll down all the windows in the car and yell out crazy things to people because she was so happy. You were too young to remember any of this. Everything along the rivers was closing up and falling down. Our father lost his job like most fathers lost their jobs, but that didn’t stop us from dancing.



90 Miles to Cuba
January 29, 2012, 8:19 AM
Filed under: Florida | Tags: , , , ,

staring at the sea

It is exhilarating and terrifying to stand at water’s edge, wind kicking at your back, knowing that you are at the southernmost point of the States. This is where borders melt into the ocean, no land for miles, a definitive endpoint. Jeff and I spent a beautiful week in the Keys with Sheryl and Rebby and Sheryl’s sister, Amanda, and sister-in-law Allison. We celebrated Sheryl and Rebby’s 10 year anniversary and a birthday with many rum drinks, a drag show, waking to rooster calls, breakfasts of tropical fruits with sweet pink Florida shrimps, lazing in the hot tub, finding pirate-eyed kitties and marveling that the icy, snowy world we left for a week had turned to days filled with sunshine.

tropic cinema

caroline street

a mysterious yellow house

saint mary star of the sea

an abandoned bible school

rooster




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