Stirring, white light, the desert sun of California, the sand beneath the asphalt.
I remember how it shone evenly, on beauty, bizarro, and every wound concealed.
Photos: 2006-2012. Images from different times, new edits. I am not of Christian faith in case you wonder, but I do like the symbol.
Thinking of you California.
Published on March 22, 2023 at 2:23am JST, unpublished 2 minutes later (I had my moments), re-published at 3:22am. Today is New Moon in Aries at 2:23am JST, also the Astrological New Year, the official start of the Spring.
Morro Bay, 1995, further north of where the soon-to-be-fully-contained fire is at the moment. Bottom photo was taken by a friend of mine who also did the driving throughout our care-free road trip along the coast line. As you can see, she caught me in the perfect Kodak moment tilting the famous Morro rock.
Images were photographed with a single-use, most probably water resistant camera I used a lot in those days, and casually handed over for processing at local Target. Back then I didn’t think much of my creative inclinations, in fact I thought of them as the source of all my troubles and in most part I treated them accordingly.
Many years later in 2012, I decided to pamper my creativity with a high-end film scanner (rented), and discovered the negatives in progressed decay. Lines, scratches and uneven colors, they hinted at everything that happens only once.
Now, in December 2017, as California finds itself in flames again, I dug up the photos and gave them the suitable “vintage postcard” edit, then messed them up a bit, to near the creative disaster. Why, it’s a play, to be slightly off balance so your foot no choice lands forward. Well I was thinking of California I know, the foreign land always felt like a well worn pair, appreciating every minute I spent, submerged in the air of adventurousness and experimentation the land so eagerly, and effortlessly permits.
September 1996, Los Angeles, north east San Fernando Valley, mildly Mexican* neighborhood. The flat expanse with wide, uncrowded streets evenly lit by dry desert sun.
The place I rented, a garage of a little house, a loft-like mini shelter for me and my canine friend Sophia, stood next to a rectangle swimming pool the landlady tirelessly cleaned. Separated by sort-of lawn was a main house, with two rooms for rent, both occupied.
The other end of mi mini casa was a neighbor’s yard, where serious mariachi parties took place thankfully not too often, complete with a set of super woofer speakers you’d find in night clubs. How I knew? I snuck a peek tiptoed over a sloppy stack of cinder blocks stood between me and the fiesta.
So, the place I rented. In one of the rooms in the main house, the one adjacent to the Mariachi’s, lived a petite lady, a tipsy intellectual. Told me she was a wine taster trained in France, in the kitchen we shared, in a stained XL tee, a stemmed glass in her hand, held as if she was standing under a chandelier.
Then suddenly one day she had a boyfriend. I recognized him from the 711 corner across the street, hanging with alert eyes, in business transactions, the back alley type of deal. From there things progressed rapidly and it was not long before I found him in our kitchen, a new resident in the honeymoon phase. Soon after I took refuge in a living room at my friend’s nearby.
My friend, he lived on the Avenue Quiet only a few blocks from the Villa Mariachi, with his ailing wife and a lady who was there to help her out. Their generosity to welcome me in along with a rather large, wise but energetic dog into a full house is worth a mention, but it didn’t end there. He, a sculptor in hiatus, offered me the full use of his studio.
“You are an artist”, I wasn’t that convinced but he proclaimed anyways. “Artist makes art.”
That was the only string attached to the offer.
All his sculptures were made from wood, abstract with true substance. Used to exhibit, said he, did well for a long time. Something held me back from asking what changed all that.
The studio was originally, again, a garage. No light entered from the California sun but I could feel the heat. Tables, tools, wood scraps. Works half done, paused. All sat still gathering dust.
I was not certain of my ability to carve or to sustain my interest. Where is my fiesta? Besides, it was sunny outside. As I began to gather dust myself, a book, its title, caught my eye.
“Abstraction in Nature”
The three words made all the sense in the world. I knew exactly what they meant but had no idea until then it was something to write a book about. It was enough to get me started though.
Carve, sand, buffer. Shapes began to appear. As if there were ideas floating about waiting to be caught by the next available human.
I spent about a month and a half at the Sculptor’s, before moving over the hill to Hollywood, the place I so missed all the while I lived in the Valley. The milder sun and some fiestas, but most notably, walks on Sunset with ever proud Sophia strutting past girls in 7 inch heels working the Boulevard. Strangely though, now in 2017, I get just as excited google-earthing the Valley, if not more.
The things I absorbed in the Sculptor’s studio seemed to have gone dormant for a long while after that but looking back, I think, maybe that wasn’t so. You see, those things never really quit on you.
In fact, I have reasons to believe they had gone ahead and nurtured themselves while waiting, years of waiting, of dropping hints, nudging with intrigues, for this human and her next available moment.
I finished total of 8 pieces during my stay at the Sculptor’s, and got 3 more on pause. For this post I photographed four of them arranged with masterpieces made by someone else.
Lastly, I wrote this as a tribute, to my sculptor friend who’s passing I learned only several days ago, and to ‘Abstraction in Nature’ who definitely never quits, crystallizes into elements large and minuscule everything there is to life: the feast, the knife, and the whole enchilada.
*In considering the current – as of March 2017 – trend of Mex bashing in U.S., I’d like to add:
“Colors” of the characters are intentionally unmentioned (hint: there are 4 in the post). I went to Angeles with no prior knowledge of Mexican culture, or how Chicanos (or Japanese for that matter) are positioned in the society. Mariachi blast landed on a blank canvas. Growing up in Japan I did not face discrimination based on color, nor do I have a strong inclination toward seeking my identity through the culture I was raised in, and that is where I am coming from, just an observer of the – our – human condition.
Last time I was in California, I took a long lone ride across the southern half of the state. Came alive in the open land where no one knows what I am. Beneath the desert sun the earth and the ether met at right where I stood.
Photos from my too few/far between visits, from top:
P1 – The first time in San Francisco, Christmas 2011, practicing my “light calligraphy” technique near Union Square. Posted the monochrome version on my then Tumblr around 2017.
P2 – The car was not moving but my camera was; the early incarnation of the above-mentioned “Light Calligraphy” thing. Northridge California, September 2006. Posted the diptych version of this photo titled “Miss LA” on my website, Flickr, and MySpace shortly after I returned.
P3 – Don’t try this at home: holding a camera on a freeway riding back from Half Moon Bay, into SF city, also 2011. Never posted this one anywhere simply because I don’t think it’s that good, but “the feel” is there; the California night, going places.
A quote in decorative letters from a conversation I had earlier in the day, as the other party, noticing the change in my tone as I spoke fondly of Calif. good-natured jokingly said, “Is that it, the ‘you can take a girl out of California but you can’t take California out of the girl’ thing?” And I laughed with her remembering that girl I once was, the girl who fought a long, lonesome battle against Creativity Itself.
1. Somewhere above Pacific, chasing the sunrise.
2. SF, near Ocean Beach.
3 and 4. “Mavericks”, Half Moon Bay.
5. China Town, SF.
6. Midland somewhere between SF and LA along Interstate 5.
7. Museum of Natural History, LA.
8. Agua Dulce.
9. San Simeon.
Photographed during my visit to California in late 2011 – early 2012,
Originally posted on my previous “Photo Journal” diary.
“The path of love is a dynamic balance of opposites, a painful creative tension of uncertainties.”
All photos are of the apartment I lived in in Los Angeles, California, 1997. Initially posted on my website, possibly on MySpace and Flickr as well, around late 2006.
The jacket in the top pic is a meticulously patchworked circuit-board inspired abstract design, precursor to my “Dyed Threads” series. The piece is called “Mao Jacket”, as it was designed after the socialist Chinese uniform, there, my own variety of un-obvious socio-cultual commentary and conceptual twist in their budding stage. The person in mirror is my then-self, to whom I will give a warmest, sweetest bear hug after I’m done writing this.
The fancy text below the photo 1 is a line from “People of the Lie” (M Scott Peck, 1983, p.267, Chapter 7. The Danger and The Hope / A Methodology of Love).
The second from top is a snap shot of my dining table, in small kitchenette by the window where I did lots of stitching. My bestie Sofi who was a canine creature at the time of photographing used to take refuge beneath it. Facing right, half showing is one of my 2D abstract (acrylic on cardboard, 1995-ish), using lines in multiple colors attempting to depict Energy/Movements I see in my mind’s eye.
The last one is the view from the rooftop, taken on one of those warm southern California evening. I moved there in late 1980’s when West Hollywood Oki Dog was still in its original location. When there were not much tall buildings so the sky above greeted everyone open and wide, when the city of Angels itself was the wild side in its own right, offering the likes of me about a ton of spaces to jump in, be silly to the max, and push it to the edge. I am a firm believer that, if aspired to create beauty one cannot just look at pretty things in Light*. I wanted to feel the otherwise, come alive in it, not so that I will rot in a swamp but to survive it somehow and bring the experiences to the creative table where I’d stitch, draw, paint, freely envision while my toes resting on the soft thick coat of the beautiful creation I had the honor to share residence with; a potent reminder of what is True overseeing lovingly, the painfully petit existence of mine.
*Please be noted: what I share here is my experience. Each of us, as you may be well aware, is in charge of keeping oneself safe.
Simply because no-one else can know your strength: psychological, spiritual, physical, emotional and more. Knowing that oneself is hard enough. From my experience tho, my soul/heart would know, and to be guided from within I need only to ask. In order to sense/hear It’s subtle directions however, to the best of my ability, I’ve got to not lie to myself about the realities of my existence. That, between me and Me, I must enough-grasp, at very least not look away from, my own truth. Then I have the best chance at keeping myself “safe” – as Life is not always safe, and clutching onto safety too tightly it seems to negatively affect one’s creative freedom and quite paradoxically, punch security holes in the person’s existential firewall.
13Oct22 @20:32 JST
16Oct22 Added the quote in fancy text.
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