Saturday, February 28, 2009

Perilla! I have found it!

Ever since I returned from Korea, I have been wandering around looking for this scrumptious leaf I ate there. Well, I finally found it. It's called perilla, and I ate almost a whole containerful tonight. :)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Recent Meanderings in Photography: some things I'm thinking about, iii.

I am interested in the idea of creating a narrative through a series of photographs. I'm not thinking here so much of linear (or circular) narratives like those of Duane Michals, but more of accidental narratives created by the personal tastes and ideals of the individual taking and collecting photographs. For example, when I was a child I photographed animals profusely. The images were blurry and out of focus, and sometimes my subject was rendered so small by the Polaroid camera I used as to be almost indistinguishable in the frame. Yet I keep those photographs to this day. There is a power behind those images, in having them, that I don't quite understand yet, but fascinates me. I think part of it is because these Polaroids are amongst my first "creations." Also, I was documenting my "relationships," the relationships of a child whose perfectionist tendencies made the actions of other children seem sometimes indecipherable and alienating. I often turned instead to animals, who I believed could sense something trustworthy and special in me that humans could not, and whose timidity and dependence mirrored my own. And so, in a small way, these images describe me.
Fascination with animals during one's childhood is fairly common. But what about more specific, more descriptive interests and obsessions? I am curious how a person (or perhaps a fictional character) can be described by the photographs they take, and the photographs they choose to keep. I'm quite curious too about the things other than photographs that people collect, and how those might speak about their possessor, but that may be a discussion for another day...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Project Loo

(c) G. Heimlich, 2006.

I just noticed one of my photographs on the Mosaic homepage. Not sure if I should be flattered, or pissed that they didn't give me photo credit. (Not sure either how it got cropped all crooked. :/)

The Fall

I’ve always thought I could fly.

Less now at age six, but still sometimes

in dreams, when nobody’s looking. So

when Father began working with wax and feathers and thread,

building wings, disembodied, like those of birds,

I saw nothing in them of flying, nothing in them of

me. In my dreams I

fly with my arms, I fly by my strength,

I fly because I am special.

I have no need of these awkward feathered toys

like too-large shoes, lashed

to my arms by Father’s trembling, calloused hands as

with half an ear I listen to his cautious words.

Father is sweating on his forehead,

in his armpits. He shows me how to flap

these wings, he is taking too long.

At last I move my arms, my

sandals kiss grey stones and rough grass

goodbye. Flying is not as easy as I had imagined,

but I learn quickly. Father looks like a wasp buzzing

straight and slow; I am a swallow.

On the beach below, a girl is collecting stones.

Her back is to me, and when she turns,

the stones fall from her hand.

I swoop.

I laugh into her open mouth.

The shore becomes small, and smaller still, a white

scalloped line dividing brown from blue.

I put it behind me. The wind on the sea is cold

and strong, but I am stronger. I climb, then

dive, a thousand swallows beating

in my stomach as I fall, calming when

I spread my wings and right myself. Still Father

plumbs his line, a wasp never faltering between sea

and cloud. Follow me, he said, but I ignore

him now. Clouds are like fine mist against my cheeks,

enveloping white, cool as dawn.

Still I climb. I must be higher now even

than Mount Olympus. I break through the clouds

like a world being born. Everything here is clear, bright,

still. Below me clouds are my own

pillowed bed, broad as the horizon. I

dive into them straight and fast, wings by my sides, head

thrown back, and the clouds swallow me, burning

the insides of my nose like the sea.

I climb. I am brave as any warrior, braver

than Father, higher now than Zeus himself.

I climb. I feel I will never tire. I am swallow,

I am wind, I am cloud, I am sun.

I climb. Nothing now can stop me. Men will speak of me

around campfires at night.

Now feathers begin falling from me one by

one. As they circle

downward, fringed with light, I know

I’m becoming everything I

was meant to be, that soon I will shed these wings,

I will fly with my arms,

I will fly

by my strength.

I find I am screaming my father’s name.

In my stomach

a thousand swallows rage,

I beat my arms but find

no purchase,

I fall.


The myth of Daedalus and Icarus has always resonated with me. I actually did believe I could fly when I was a child, before I learned to separate dreams from waking. It was something I could only do when no one was watching, my secret gift. I think I've always been afraid that if I were to become all I dream of becoming, if I were to fly, I would outgrow the ones I love and be forced to leave them behind. I would be alone. I know this isn't true, not exactly. Yet see these hobbles? I tie them on myself.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Recent Meanderings in Photography: some things I'm thinking about, ii.

As I began looking at vernacular images, my concern was first with the physical aspects of the photographs' contents: the color shifts, depending on the type of film and other factors; compositional similarities, such as the tendency to place the subject in the center of the photograph, or to accidentally crop it out entirely; other interesting compositional accidents, such as the converging angles of the shadows in the image above ; lens flare; lack of focus; over- and under-exposure; etc.
Beyond these superficial elements, I also began thinking about the actual content of the images: the subject matter they portrayed, and how they reflected the perspective of the photographer.

Along these lines, one particular element of these vernacular photographs that I found compelling was their tendency toward the bizarre. When you really look at it, everyday life is filled with bizarre moments, and whether by intent or by accident, many of these vernacular photographs captured this quite strikingly.

And there is humor, whether intended or no:
I also began considering why we take photographs—why we have in the past, and why we do now. It is a way to mark occasions: birthdays, holidays, vacations, celebrations. By marking we remember, by marking we trace the passage of time. Photographing special occasions is also a way to remember the ideal in our lives. We choose the high points, and memorialize them through photographs. There can be an element of fiction-making in this—we "smile for the camera" whether we feel like it or not, cementing for posterity our idealized past.
In Ways of Seeing, John Berger discusses portrait painting as "a celebration of material property and of the status that accompanied it" (110) - that is, the rich displayed their wealth first through the commission of a portrait of themselves, and second through the display of their material possessions in that portrait. I believe there is a similar attention to social status through the display of material goods and leisure activities in vernacular photography.

Recent Meanderings in Photography: some things I'm thinking about.

A while ago, I began shooting at an abandoned cactus nursery in Moreno Valley. The pictures were similar in method and aesthetic to my thesis images—a natural palette of muted pastels and greens, nearly shadowless, photographed in such a way as to read almost as a catalog of the subject matter, which in this case was cacti. I was drawn to the way these domestic plants had grown wild and unkempt, like feral cats, or had just shriveled up and died, without the hand of a gardener to look over them. Most of all, I was fascinated by the ways they'd adapted and survived.

I included with these images five photographs that I had found at the site, in what appeared to be the former nursery office. The photographs had been lying on the ground, and were in different states of deterioration. I felt like these photographs helped shed light on my subject matter, emphasizing the history of that particular space, but I also was interested in the ways the images had changed over time: how the flat surface of the photograph had become dimensional, then flat again when I scanned and re-printed it, or how their colors placed them in a specific time period and gave them a sense of the historical, even the archaeological.

The response to these images was interesting in that most viewers didn't associate the subject of the my photographs with that of the found images, and also (sadly) that there was a much greater reaction to the found images than to my own. So, with a gentle prod from my professor ("One of the greatest challenges for young artists is to know when their project has grown into something new..."), I began my exploration of and obsession with vernacular photography and the found image.

(to be continued)

All images (c) G. Heimlich, 2008.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Because some days you need a little Jessidog

Okay, yes, so I'm one of those people. But who can blame me? Just look at her. She is, without a doubt, the coolest, cutest, smartest dog ever. Etc, etc.

(c) G. Heimlich, 2008. Riverside, CA.4x5 flatbed scan.

Buy Something

At the gym I can't help watching
television commercials. Even without sound
they make everything seem flat
and meaningless and my legs
want to stop making circles, because
what is the point? It's like driving down the road
and seeing all the other people in
all the other cars. We think so many things
are important. But I can't love you,
not like I should. Not when cars slide along
like they're being pulled by the tabs
in the flat part of a pop-up book. Not
when everything breaks down
into red and green and blue and
all I know is I should buy something.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Beyond the circle of stadium light
night cuts quick,
my hands untrembling
as they pull stained shin guards and purple socks
over thin bones,
as they knot the fraying laces
of my cleats.
The ball is harsh
and unmanageable.
Dribbling, I run in starts
and stops, inhaling the damp
potpourri of mashed grass
and mud, the chill air searing
the insides of my ribs.
Trailing out behind, I run.

I never consciously wonder if I'll ever be enough.
On defense, I
uproot grass shoots, gnawing
the sweet white of the stalks,
tearing the seeds from the stems.


Where do you Grip a Human Weight?

I once saw my cousin do biceps curls with my niece. Something to pass the time while waiting in a mortuary lobby, I suppose. He made it look easy. Seems like bench-pressing an adult could be a little more complicated.

Human weights pose for photographers as they stand in a line in order of their weight at a Gymbox gym in London January 21, 2009. A British gym is trying to add human interest to otherwise dreary workouts by replacing traditional dumbbell weights with human ones.The Gymbox chain gym in central London says fitness enthusiasts can now swap their usual lumps of metal for human beings in a range of shapes and sizes.

REUTERS/Stephen Hird

Monday, February 9, 2009

Regarding Lauren Greenfield

(c) Lauren Greenfield

It feels like a few words should be said about my previous mishmash of a post. For a while now I have been grappling with the idea of significance in art—that is, it seems that much of contemporary art, when viewed by the average citizen (if viewed by the average citizen), elicits one of two responses: "wow, neat" or "I don't get it." That is, much of contemporary art is so steeped in theory, so necessarily steeped in theory, due to the expectations and demands of the contemporary art world, that it demands at least an explanation, if not an art degree, to be comprehensible. What I've been looking for, and what I'd ideally like to do with my own practice, is to create art that is at once approachable, can hold it's own as fine art, and is significant, i.e. prompts the viewer to re-examine his/her world in a way that promotes positive social change.

(c) Lauren Greenfield

Enter Lauren Greenfield. Her subject matter is often female, often youth. But in looking specifically at this demographic, she addresses pivotal issues—issues that affect every American—and does so in a way that is approachable and relevant. When we watch a documentary such as Thin (which explores the recovery process of anorexic women at the Renfrew Center in Florida), we can't avoid seeing aspects of ourselves in the extreme behaviors of the subjects, can't help reexamining the values we hold as individuals and as a society. And this is important—not only for us as Americans, but for the world we continue to influence.

Saw Thin at LACMA Sunday. It blew me away. I'm going to post a bit of one of the Renfrew women's stories here. Polly committed suicide in February, 2008.


"I came to Renfrew after a suicide attempt over two pieces of pizza. That was obviously not the whole reason why I tried to kill myself. That was just kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Dieting has always been a huge part of my life. I remember all the things that are symptoms of eating disorders being taught by my family: to cut my food into really small pieces, and chew very slowly and take your time, and always drink water in between so that your stomach fills up faster. I was counting calories and counting fat by the time I was 11.

I had diet pills packed in my lunch when I was in elementary school. When I was 10 years old, my mother and aunt paid me $100 each to lose 10 pounds. I always thought I was fat. It wasn’t until recently when I pulled out an old photo album that I was like, Oh my gosh. I really wasn’t fat. I’ve had a distorted view of myself pretty much most of my life.

I remember being a kid and not having an eating disorder, but I don’t remember a time ever in my life when food and dieting weren’t an issue. It was always low-fat this, low-fat that. At the pool, you had a Popsicle instead of a candy bar because the Popsicle had less fat. The message was, when you’re thin, you’re prettier. You’ll get boyfriends faster. You’ll get married faster."

Excerpted from "Thin" by Lauren Greenfield with an introduction by Joan Jacobs Brumberg. Copyright 2006 by Lauren Greenfield.

(c) Lauren Greenfield

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

वहत इ'म थिंकिंग अबाउट

MEMO: checking the "enable transliteration" box DOES NOT make it so Hindi-speaking peoples can read your blog. At least, I don't think so. Maybe I said just said something profound in Hindi. What I do know is that it DOES make it so you can't read your own blog. Unless, of course, you read Hindi.

¡Ya Basta!

(or, Reason #57 Why I Love the 99 Ranch Market)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

words of the day

sea change
a transformation, esp. a major one

"The summer I turned twelve, I graduated from kids’ camp to teen camp. I was still terribly innocent and very much a child. I don’t remember paying attention to my appearance until my counselor’s boyfriend singled me out in front of the other girls and told me I had beautiful eyes. I was stunned, embarrassed, and excited. It must have been my first compliment from a man, because I remember it vividly. It reinforced the lesson that attention, on which there is such a premium for girls, is bestowed because of beauty. It also made me see myself through someone else’s eyes, another step in the awakening of my self-consciousness. It was a sea change from my camp experience the previous year, when I had won the title of “dirtiest camper” and wore the superlative with pride, as the public acknowledgment of my ability to play hard."

-Lauren Greenfield, From
Girl Culture (Chronicle Books, 2002)

© Lauren Greenfield. Lily, then 5, shops at Rachel London's Garden, where Britney Spears has some of her clothes designed, Los Angeles, California.

palimpsest [pal' imp sest΄ ]
[ L palimpsestus < style="font-style: italic;">palimpsē stos
, lit., rubbed again < palin, again (see PALINDROME) + psē n, to rub smooth < style="font-style: italic;">bhes-, to rub off, pulverize > L sabulum,SAND]

a parchment, tablet, etc. that has been written upon or inscribed two or three times, the previous text or texts having been imperfectly erased and remaining, therefore, still partly visible

"In this work, I have been interested in documenting the pathological in the everyday. I am interested in the tyranny of the popular and thin girls over the ones who don’t fit that mold. I am interested in the competition suffered by the popular girls, and their sense that popularity is not as satisfying as it appears. I am interested in the time-consuming grooming and beauty rituals that are an integral part of daily life. I am interested in the fact that to fall outside the ideal body type is to be a modern-day pariah. I am interested in how girls’ feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness are expressed in physical and self-destructive ways: controlling their food intake, cutting their bodies, being sexually promiscuous. I am interested in the way that the female body has become a palimpsest on which many of our culture’s conflicting messages about femininity are written and rewritten. Most of all, I am interested in the element of performance and exhibitionism that seems to define the contemporary experience of being a girl."
-Lauren Greenfield, From Girl Culture (Chronicle Books, 2002)

© Lauren Greenfield. Allegra, 4, plays at being a pop star.

© Lauren Greenfield. Fina, 13, in the tanning salon, Edina, Minnesota.

© Lauren Greenfield. Swimming period at Camp Shane, a weight-loss camp, Catskills, New York. Many kids love to swim at camp but will not swim or wear a bathing suit at home.

Monday, February 2, 2009

May the Wrath of Hanuman Descend upon You

Monkey with a mission

Reuters, Jan 30 - In India's southern Karnataka, a monkey prevents the authorities from demolishing a roadside temple by attacking officials who venture near the temple premises.

The bizarre incident saw the monkey defending the temple dedicated to Hindu monkey god 'Hanuman'.

The authorities in the Kolar region of the state are planning to demolish the temple to widen the national highway on which it is located.Locals said the monkey normally does not harm anybody but surprisingly turned hostile towards the officials who came with the intention of demolishing the temple.