Monday, September 10, 2012

Masks & Portraits.

I can't even tell you what a whirlwind the past six months have been. My beloved grandmother, one of the sweetest and loveliest people around, a real innovative and creative spirit that has been one of my biggest influences, drifted off into endless sleep suddenly in April just days after her birthday and just weeks before I was setting out to see her. I had to leave Brazil unexpectedly to make it for the funeral. My first time back in America for at least a year and a gray cloud settled over me. I remember being in the airport, making the long endless journey through layover after layover to get there with this foggy feeling like the whole world was a ghost town now that she wasn't in it. Then you have to pull yourself out of the haze and do those busying tasks to prepare for the wake: The heartbreaking work of choosing photos to display, mindless baking and devil egg making, the surreal talk of ashes and hair samples and money and belongings left behind. Suddenly, its over and you are left with a huge bill and a permanently empty chair by a picture window. I couldn't linger in misery, I had to rush back to Brazil to the minutiae of life that seemed to matter so little: the horrible international move process, packing, paperwork, movers, paperwork, crossing the last to-dos off an endless list.

With my things packed up and heading for the docks, I said hasty goodbyes to Carioca friends and headed to the airport. It was raining. My guy made a joke to the cab driver that Rio was crying because we were leaving. I returned back to my Mom's, who still resides in my grandmother's old house, and it was surreal, that house; everything in it she had a hand in: those little blue tiles I remember her installing in the 80s, those faux crystal knobs with magical facets, the stone path to the door, the kooky crystal ball in the front garden. I kept expecting her to shuffle down the hall any minute. I made my way to DC, to the new apartment I had bought via the internet and never got to see in person, and was pleased with the place. Including the amazing christmas-y 'running' fairy lights the previous owner had installed as a makeshift closet light. The summer blazed and the air conditioner broke. The shipment of our stuff arrived from overseas after a couple months and we unpacked boxes in our undies, sweating and drinking ice water.

Violent storms raging through the midwest and east. I went out one evening to meet friends and something was up: nearly everyone was bailing last minute and we stepped outside at 9pm to an eerie 100 degree plus pitch black night.  It was as if the sun were out, but it was completely black. We got to the bar and a couple of the ten invitees appeared saying a storm was coming. An hour into the pleasant night, things got kooky. It felt like the end of the world was coming.  Suddenly the bar was packed and people were constantly checking the windows. Lighting ripped across the sky horizontally, flashing one immediately after another for two hours; the winds were high and we felt we might die in the bar that night. After four hours the downpour dulled to a weak drizzle and we hailed a cab. The cabbie's radio was blaring about eight deaths in the city due to trees falling. It was quite surreal. The next morning the damage was more visible. Leaves and branches strewn violently across the street. Things were worse back home. A tree fell through my mom's roof and landed on her bed; the power was out for two weeks.

With all the whirlwind changes and to-do's behind me, I am finally settling in to my new apartment and preparing a shop opening for this fall.  Summer flew past and there was little I could enjoy about it:  It was uncomfortably steamy outside, I had a scroll length list of boring errands to do, and one misstep after another slowed the progress.  I just finally made it to the theatre to catch the last leg of Moonrise Kingdom, and weep for the end of summer.  I can't complain too much though because I had an endless summer last year, going from summer in Brazil to summer in America.

The day before I left Rio, with my all things aboard a ship with exception of my camera and a few paintings in hand,  I did a hasty guerilla photoshoot with the lovely dancer pal-slash-muse Tanja who donned my painted portraits as masks in Rio's gorgeous jungle maze of botanic gardens at the base of Corcovado. We took all our gear in tow, hailed a bus, and harnessed every moment of light we could manage in those few rainy hours.  She bravely, deftly hopped atop fallen tree logs and crouched into mossy caves while I snapped photos like Quick Draw McGraw.  These paintings are an example of the custom portraits I'd like to do for the shop:  Folks send me photos of themselves, and in a week or two, voilà : A mixed-media, watercolored portrait with a caption ripped from 50 year old headlines on the doorstep.  

Le sigh.  So many fun plans for the shop in preparation, vintage and art, but so much to be done until the grand opening.  My days are filled with reading up on vintage fashion history, photography internships, sewing buttons, pricing bulk lots, searching for dream items, steaming, list-making, note-taking, sketches.... Really more the business side of things rather than the creative side, so I can't wait to get back to making things.  All the while, it still seems way too warm to be fall; I'm dying to drape bulky sweaters on my shoulders and stretch fat stockings over my gams.  Between now and then, I have plans to revamp the blog, post regularly once again, focusing more on vintage clothes and styling, and my own work, paintings and drawings.   I have a mix of excitement and nervousness and fear and and hopefulness and hopelessness and motivation and procrastination all bubbling below the surface, its barely containable.  


You can see more photos from this series here

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