WRESTLING ELEPHANTS

By Jamie Brisick

Hold Your Breath: Vava Ribeiro’s Deep Immersion into the North Shore

I first met Vava Ribeiro in 1996. We were in Amsterdam, covering the 9th Annual High Times Cannabis Cup. We both worked as journalists—he in Sao Paulo, me in Los Angeles. A mutual friend had given us vague physical descriptions and told us to look out for each other. In an airy banquet room, a bearded and tie-dyed commune founder gave a lecture about growing pot, dodging the man, and ballin’ old ladies. He paused often and at great length. The audience crowded around him, sitting Indian style on the floor, severely stoned. When the lecturer paused, shook his dreadlocked head, giggled, and said, “Sorry, I forgot what I was sayin’,” the audience hardly noticed. I can’t remember whether it was during this lecture or the one about hydroponics that an audience member raised his hand and pointed to the passed-out guy next to him. They exchanged a few words. The lecturer became flustered. “Is there a doctor in the house?” he asked. “Hey man, anyone know CPR?”

It was after one of these, a pack of stoned audience members stepping out into a bright corridor, that I saw a guy who fit the description. Brown-skinned, brown curly hair, big warm smile, two cameras dangling around neck, a girl, tall and beautiful, at his side.

“Vava?”

“Jamie?”

We’ve been great friends ever since.

Vava’s story goes something like this: The younger brother to two beautiful sisters, he grew up in the Gavea neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, a short bike ride from Ipanema Beach, where sparkling waves and sunstruck tourists and G-stringed girls converged. Vava came to surfing at age thirteen. A goofyfoot with a smooth style and a dashing cutback, he swiftly climbed the Brazilian amateur ranks, a small village of trophies filling his mantle. When Rodrigo Mendes (son of bossa nova giant Sergio Mendes) started dating one of his sisters, the two became great pals. They surfed all day, partied all night, and obsessed over surf magazines in between.

Cut to a few years later. Rodrigo was living in New York, and Vava was enrolled at Rio’s Faculdade da Cidade, studying design. When Vava and his first ever girlfriend split up he was devastated. He booked a one-way ticket to France, with a brief stopover in New York. His plan was to surf himself into amnesia in the A-frame beachbreaks of Hossegor. He arrived at JFK and subwayed it over to Rodrigo’s downtown apartment. Rodrigo was in a frenzy. “Swell’s pumping!” he said. “Grab your board, we’re going to Jersey.” It was the last thing Vava expected to find in New York, but he went with it. For the next three days, he scored clean, overhead waves at Sea Girt and surrounding beaches. At night they ran wild in the East Village. Vava was hooked. He canceled his flight to France and stayed—for fifteen years.

The surf would never quite deliver the way it did for his arrival, but life certainly did. A resourceful man who speaks four languages and thrives in the presence of beautiful woman, Vava got a job assisting some of New York’s finest photographers. Within a year he was shooting his own stuff. Before long, his pictures were appearing in the biggest fashion magazines in the world. Vava traveled voraciously, spending time in Paris, London, Los Angeles, Sydney, Sao Paulo, and Amsterdam. In 2000 he won the photo competition at the prestigious Hyères Festival in France. Around that same time he began the body of work on display here. For the last decade, Vava has been immersed in “Hold Your Breath,” a book about Hawaii in general and the North Shore in particular. He grew up obsessing over the Hawaii depicted in surf magazines and movies. When he finally arrived there many years later, he found it to be both nothing and exactly like he’d expected.

What drew you to photography?

As long as I can remember I had a camera in my hand. I always knew that I was going to be doing something visual—an architect, or a designer, or a graphic designer. As a kid I was always doodling and doing little drawings and I was actually pretty good at it. When I got to college there was a photo class that I took and I loved it, and I felt good about it. My brother-in-law was a professional photographer. My grandfather was a photo-enthusiast; he always had a camera around. So photography was something that was familiar to me. I started shooting on my surfing travels. But I never set out to be a photographer—it was just a natural extension of my travels. But I really got the first buzz when I was in design school when I started to shoot and develop my film. At that time it was happening at a very subconscious level. I did not know I was going to become a professional photographer, but I got hooked then.

As long as I’ve known you traveling has been a huge part of your life. When we first met you had separate phone books for London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, and Hawaii. Where did all your traveling start?

It started in the early ‘90s in Brazil. There was a very weird political scenario in the country itself. It was a very instinctive feeling that I wanted something else. I had traveled within Brazil and to Europe as a kid, with my family, and I knew there was something out there for me. I had no real plans for the future, I had a broken heart, I was bored at college, and I was tired of surfing in competition, and surfing itself. So all the main motors of my life weren’t fulfilling me at all. Once I started to travel it opened up this vortex, it opened up these possibilities. For me it was very easy to travel. I’ve always been very adaptable, very easy with new languages. Going to a new country and learning a different reality has always been exciting to me.

Did surfing contribute?

My very first international trip, alone without my family—I was seventeen years old—was a surf trip to Peru. We’re talking around 1988. And I was the youngest guy, I was with four other guys, all older, and we went to all the best places. We went to Punta Hermosa, we went to Machu Picchu, we surfed perfect Chicama. That was probably the gnarliest, craziest trip of my life. It was the first time that I heard about terrorists. There was a terrorist group in Peru. I knew there was going to be big waves, trouble, all the difficulties of traveling in South America. Peru at that time was a fucking shithole. But that didn’t stop me from going. I remember driving through Máncora, and Máncora was a dead town. It was year after El Niño, there was a mudslide that covered the whole town—all you could see was the roofs of the houses poking out of the mud. It was like a horror/western movie. You looked to the left and there was this crazy disaster, and you looked to the right and there were these peeling, perfect lefts with no one out, not a soul to be seen. We surfed our heads off. It was this wild contrast of joy and fear. Oh my god, this is amazing! Oh my god, where the fuck are we? At night they cut the power and we thought the terrorists were going to attack the town because that’s what they used to do: cut the power, attack the town, kill everybody, steal their passports, and move on. The Sendero Luminoso means “The Shining Path.” It was the biggest terrorist group in South America. They were pretty active throughout the ‘80s. When the power got cut everybody ran into the desert to hide, and we stayed in our little hut, and it turned out to be just a power shortage. We were shit scared. But that didn’t stop us. We kept on traveling through the desert. I think that planted the seed in me. The sensorial experience; the knowledge that I can function in whatever situation you throw at me—it made me feel special in a way. It made me feel good. Everything after that was easy.

What would be the highlight of your photography career?

In a professional sense we can talk about the prize I got in Hyeres, which was very renowned and opened up a lot of possibilities in my life. It gave me a little bit of status, but it also gave me the self-assurance and confidence that I needed. That was very fulfilling. But highlight of my photography career—that’s a tough question. How do you measure that?

You’ve been photographing the North Shore for over a decade. I remember us talking about how you grew up looking at pictures of Hawaii in the surf mags, and that your photos deal with how you imagined Hawaii to be, and what it actually looked and felt like.

My first trip to Hawaii was in ‘99/2000, so it’s been twelve years. A lot of the North Shore has changed. A lot in me has changed. Photography is amazing to me because after a while that file, that archive, has a life of its own. When something is about five to ten years old you start to look into the documentary value of it. The more it ages, the more significant it becomes. When I first started to photograph Hawaii the pictures looked like my dreams, or like the images I formulated in my head from reading all the surf magazines. It was like déjà vu. I realized at some point that just like my memories, the actual images I was shooting needed to age, to get some sort of ” real ” vintage value so they also could speak with that same tone as the images I was paying tribute to. And probably that’s why now these images make more sense then the first time around when I first stared to edit the work. Photography is a time travel platform. I wanted to portray my lifelong experience with surfing through emotional images. Hawaii was a place that could magnify that story and at the same time provide the elements for new theatrics. All I needed was to live them through a camera and let time do its part.

Is there a single image from your Hawaii work that you feel captures your impressions of the North Shore?

There’s an image of Jesse [Faen] with the Fish that I really like. He’s laying down in bed with the board next to him, and he’s raising his hand up to block the sun. It’s an introspective moment of a surfer. It has a vague narrative to it. It could have been me in that image. It could have resembled something that I saw in a surfing magazine when I was a kid. But it also resonates to the time that I was there hanging out with Jesse. There’s another picture where Joel Tudor is looking at me, and he’s wearing a T-shirt that says “Dora Lives.” That image could have been shot in the ‘70s or the ‘80s. When I shot that image then he was paying reference to something that I saw as a kid, of a place I only knew about through the magazines. Now I look at that image and think about first, the moment when I took the shot, and second, the period where I was a kid growing up with surf mags that featured the North Shore. There are two layers to it.

Who are your favorite photographers?

I can decipher my photography influences by layers. The portraiture of Richard Avedon, the colors of Stephen Shore, the haunting portraits of Emmet Gowin, the raw youth from Larry Clark, the skin and innocence on Jock Sturges, the cold and abstract compositions from Michael Schmidt. I’ve always been a photo junkie. I could name 100 photographers on that list. I also like movies. Strong visual narratives: Kurosawa, Kubrick, Antonioni, Lynch…

What makes a great image?

There’s no rationale to it. There’s no mathematical formula. There’s a distinct sense you get when you look at a good image. That’s the beauty of photography for me. It has to be felt. It’s not something that you see; it’s definitely something that you feel. It’s one of the most sensorial mediums that you could possibly have. The only thing I could possibly compare to it is music. You listen to it and you have a rush of thoughts and emotions and feelings. Photography does that to you. In a funny way, a good photograph will start a dialogue with you—internally you have this conversation going back and forth with the photograph. That to me is a buzz. That to me is what makes it so amazing. And another thing: photography as a medium is close to magic. A camera is an amazing, magical instrument. You’re recording a fraction of a second of a moment, and it stays. And you’re living that moment. And that moment is a whole different feeling when it’s frozen. This little machine does all that. What else do we have out there that is such a clever trick?

What are you most inspired by right now?

Music has always been important. I look at other people’s photography and painting. I try to draw inspiration everywhere. I could listen to a Silver Jews song, or Cro-Mags, or Vivaldi, or jazz and images come to my mind. If I close my eyes in darkness and listen to music my head creates images. Imagination is the most important thing in my head. Not creativity—that you can play with, or control in a way. But when you can access imagination and record that and bring that out—that’s the place where most of my work comes from.

December 9, 2013

Hold Your Breath: Vava Ribeiro’s Deep Immersion into the North Shore

I first met Vava Ribeiro in 1996. We were in Amsterdam, covering the 9th Annual High Times Cannabis Cup. We both worked as journalists—he in Sao Paulo, me in Los Angeles. A mutual friend had given us vague physical descriptions and told us to look out for each other. In an airy banquet room, a bearded and tie-dyed commune founder gave a lecture about growing pot, dodging the man, and ballin’ old ladies. He paused often and at great length. The audience crowded around him, sitting Indian style on the floor, severely stoned. When the lecturer paused, shook his dreadlocked head, giggled, and said, “Sorry, I forgot what I was sayin’,” the audience hardly noticed. I can’t remember whether it was during this lecture or the one about hydroponics that an audience member raised his hand and pointed to the passed-out guy next to him. They exchanged a few words. The lecturer became flustered. “Is there a doctor in the house?” he asked. “Hey man, anyone know CPR?”

In any case, it was after one of these, a pack of stoned audience members stepping out into a bright corridor, that I saw a guy who fit the description. Brown-skinned, brown curly hair, big warm smile, two cameras dangling around neck, a girl, tall and beautiful, at his side.

“Vava?”

“Jamie?”

We’ve been great friends ever since.

Vava’s story goes something like this: The younger brother to two beautiful sisters, he grew up in the Gavea neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, a short bike ride from Ipanema Beach, where sparkling waves and sunstruck tourists and G-stringed girls converged. Vava came to surfing at age thirteen. A goofyfoot with a smooth style and a dashing cutback, he swiftly climbed the Brazilian amateur ranks, a small village of trophies filling his mantle. When Rodrigo Mendes (son of bossa nova giant Sergio Mendes) started dating one of his sisters, the two became great pals. They surfed all day, partied all night, and obsessed over surf magazines in between.

Cut to a few years later. Rodrigo was living in New York, and Vava was enrolled at Rio’s Faculdade da Cidade, studying design. When Vava and his first ever girlfriend split up he was devastated. He booked a one-way ticket to France, with a brief stopover in New York. His plan was to surf himself into amnesia in the A-frame beachbreaks of Hossegor. He arrived at JFK and subwayed it over to Rodrigo’s downtown apartment. Rodrigo was in a frenzy. “Swell’s pumping!” he said. “Grab your board, we’re going to Jersey.” It was the last thing Vava expected to find in New York, but he went with it. For the next three days, he scored clean, overhead waves at Sea Girt and surrounding beaches. At night they ran wild in the East Village. Vava was hooked. He canceled his flight to France and stayed—for fifteen years.

The surf would never quite deliver the way it did for his arrival, but life certainly did. A resourceful man who speaks four languages and thrives in the presence of beautiful woman, Vava got a job assisting some of New York’s finest photographers. Within a year he was shooting his own stuff. Before long, his pictures were appearing in the biggest fashion magazines in the world. Vava traveled voraciously, spending time in Paris, London, Los Angeles, Sydney, Sao Paulo, and Amsterdam. In 2000 he won the photo competition at the prestigious Hyères Festival in France. Around that same time he began the body of work on display here. For the last decade, Vava has been immersed in “Hold Your Breath,” a book about Hawaii in general and the North Shore in particular. He grew up obsessing over the Hawaii depicted in surf magazines and movies. When he finally arrived there many years later, he found it to be both nothing and exactly like he’d expected.

What drew you to photography?

As long as I can remember I had a camera in my hand. I always knew that I was going to be doing something visual—an architect, or a designer, or a graphic designer. As a kid I was always doodling and doing little drawings and I was actually pretty good at it. When I got to college there was a photo class that I took and I loved it, and I felt good about it. My brother-in-law was a professional photographer. My grandfather was a photo-enthusiast; he always had a camera around. So photography was something that was familiar to me. I started shooting on my surfing travels. But I never set out to be a photographer—it was just a natural extension of my travels. But I really got the first buzz when I was in design school when I started to shoot and develop my film. At that time it was happening at a very subconscious level. I did not know I was going to become a professional photographer, but I got hooked then.

As long as I’ve known you traveling has been a huge part of your life. When we first met you had separate phone books for London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, and Hawaii. Where did all your traveling start?

It started in the early ‘90s in Brazil. There was a very weird political scenario in the country itself. It was a very instinctive feeling that I wanted something else. I had traveled within Brazil and to Europe as a kid, with my family, and I knew there was something out there for me. I had no real plans for the future, I had a broken heart, I was bored at college, and I was tired of surfing in competition, and surfing itself. So all the main motors of my life weren’t fulfilling me at all. Once I started to travel it opened up this vortex, it opened up these possibilities. For me it was very easy to travel. I’ve always been very adaptable, very easy with new languages. Going to a new country and learning a different reality has always been exciting to me.

Did surfing contribute?

My very first international trip, alone without my family—I was seventeen years old—was a surf trip to Peru. We’re talking around 1988. And I was the youngest guy, I was with four other guys, all older, and we went to all the best places. We went to Punta Hermosa, we went to Machu Picchu, we surfed perfect Chicama. That was probably the gnarliest, craziest trip of my life. It was the first time that I heard about terrorists. There was a terrorist group in Peru. I knew there was going to be big waves, trouble, all the difficulties of traveling in South America. Peru at that time was a fucking shithole. But that didn’t stop me from going. I remember driving through Máncora, and Máncora was a dead town. It was year after El Niño, there was a mudslide that covered the whole town—all you could see was the roofs of the houses poking out of the mud. It was like a horror/western movie. You looked to the left and there was this crazy disaster, and you looked to the right and there were these peeling, perfect lefts with no one out, not a soul to be seen. We surfed our heads off. It was this wild contrast of joy and fear. Oh my god, this is amazing! Oh my god, where the fuck are we? At night they cut the power and we thought the terrorists were going to attack the town because that’s what they used to do: cut the power, attack the town, kill everybody, steal their passports, and move on. The Sendero Luminoso means “The Shining Path.” It was the biggest terrorist group in South America. They were pretty active throughout the ‘80s. When the power got cut everybody ran into the desert to hide, and we stayed in our little hut, and it turned out to be just a power shortage. We were shit scared. But that didn’t stop us. We kept on traveling through the desert. I think that planted the seed in me. The sensorial experience; the knowledge that I can function in whatever situation you throw at me—it made me feel special in a way. It made me feel good. Everything after that was easy.

What would be the highlight of your photography career?

In a professional sense we can talk about the prize I got in Hyeres, which was very renowned and opened up a lot of possibilities in my life. It gave me a little bit of status, but it also gave me the self-assurance and confidence that I needed. That was very fulfilling. But highlight of my photography career—that’s a tough question. How do you measure that?

You’ve been photographing the North Shore for over a decade. I remember us talking about how you grew up looking at pictures of Hawaii in the surf mags, and that your photos deal with how you imagined Hawaii to be, and what it actually looked and felt like.

My first trip to Hawaii was in ‘99/2000, so it’s been twelve years. A lot of the North Shore has changed. A lot in me has changed. Photography is amazing to me because after a while that file, that archive, has a life of its own. When something is about five to ten years old you start to look into the documentary value of it. The more it ages, the more significant it becomes. When I first started to photograph Hawaii the pictures looked like my dreams, or like the images I formulated in my head from reading all the surf magazines. It was like déjà vu. I realized at some point that just like my memories, the actual images I was shooting needed to age, to get some sort of ” real ” vintage value so they also could speak with that same tone as the images I was paying tribute to. And probably that’s why now these images make more sense then the first time around when I first stared to edit the work. Photography is a time travel platform. I wanted to portray my lifelong experience with surfing through emotional images. Hawaii was a place that could magnify that story and at the same time provide the elements for new theatrics. All I needed was to live them through a camera and let time do its part.

Is there a single image from your Hawaii work that you feel captures your impressions of the North Shore?

There’s an image of Jesse [Faen] with the Fish that I really like. He’s laying down in bed with the board next to him, and he’s raising his hand up to block the sun. It’s an introspective moment of a surfer. It has a vague narrative to it. It could have been me in that image. It could have resembled something that I saw in a surfing magazine when I was a kid. But it also resonates to the time that I was there hanging out with Jesse. There’s another picture where Joel Tudor is looking at me, and he’s wearing a T-shirt that says “Dora Lives.” That image could have been shot in the ‘70s or the ‘80s. When I shot that image then he was paying reference to something that I saw as a kid, of a place I only knew about through the magazines. Now I look at that image and think about first, the moment when I took the shot, and second, the period where I was a kid growing up with surf mags that featured the North Shore. There are two layers to it.

Who are your favorite photographers?

I can decipher my photography influences by layers. The portraiture of Richard Avedon, the colors of Stephen Shore, the haunting portraits of Emmet Gowin, the raw youth from Larry Clark, the skin and innocence on Jock Sturges, the cold and abstract compositions from Michael Schmidt. I’ve always been a photo junkie. I could name 100 photographers on that list. I also like movies. Strong visual narratives: Kurosawa, Kubrick, Antonioni, Lynch…

What makes a great image?

There’s no rationale to it. There’s no mathematical formula. There’s a distinct sense you get when you look at a good image. That’s the beauty of photography for me. It has to be felt. It’s not something that you see; it’s definitely something that you feel. It’s one of the most sensorial mediums that you could possibly have. The only thing I could possibly compare to it is music. You listen to it and you have a rush of thoughts and emotions and feelings. Photography does that to you. In a funny way, a good photograph will start a dialogue with you—internally you have this conversation going back and forth with the photograph. That to me is a buzz. That to me is what makes it so amazing. And another thing: photography as a medium is close to magic. A camera is an amazing, magical instrument. You’re recording a fraction of a second of a moment, and it stays. And you’re living that moment. And that moment is a whole different feeling when it’s frozen. This little machine does all that. What else do we have out there that is such a clever trick?

What are you most inspired by right now?

Music has always been important. I look at other people’s photography and painting. I try to draw inspiration everywhere. I could listen to a Silver Jews song, or Cro-Mags, or Vivaldi, or jazz and images come to my mind. If I close my eyes in darkness and listen to music my head creates images. Imagination is the most important thing in my head. Not creativity—that you can play with, or control in a way. But when you can access imagination and record that and bring that out—that’s the place where most of my work comes from.

December 9, 2013

FOR THE LOVE OF GEOFF DYER

There are several hundred reasons to love Geoff Dyer. One of them is his writing. The author of eleven books, including “But Beautiful,” “Out of Sheer Rage,” “Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It,” and “Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi,” Dyer is hailed as a genre-defier. He explores, crosses lines. I want to say that he digresses, but in the astonishing rabbit holes down which he takes us, they don’t feel like digressions. In Dyer’s protean world, there’s no such thing.

I first met him a few months ago at a residency/workshop at Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. I was deeply enamored of him, which often leads me to stuttering and nervous, incoherent ramblings. Dyer put me at ease. He joked, he self-deprecated, he exuded a droll lightness. During a discussion about literature he said that he likes to think of writing books as epistemological journeys. Me being of the knuckle-dragging surfer variety, I had to look up “epistemological.” It means “the theory of knowledge, esp. with regard to its methods, validity, and scope.” Not only did this fire me up on my own writing (“Writing is an opportunity to learn in the public eye,” wrote another of my favorite writers), it made me realize what I love so much about Dyer’s non-fiction. He starts out on the bar stool next to you, drawing you in to whatever subject, and by the end of it your both dressed in cap and gown, clutching diplomas.

Another reason to love Geoff Dyer is his passion for balls. Dyer played tennis nearly every afternoon. His wins and losses became the source of inside, ongoing jokes that were bandied about the dinner table. One scorching afternoon we went to the beach. “How boring!” said Dyer, scanning the group of pasty writers stretched on towels, heads in books. He produced a tennis ball, and rallied us all into a game of catch at the shoreline. But ordinary catch was not enough for Dyer. “The idea is to fake each other out,” he said, eyeing me but rifling the ball to the unsuspecting player on his right. He also insisted we add an element of hot potato—the moment you catch the ball you’re already throwing it. Indelible memories of Dyer diving for balls in the spuming shorebreak, his drenched T-shirt clinging to his narrow frame, his toothy smile gleaming in the Florida sun. I felt nine years old again. Had he proposed we build a sandcastle I’d’ve been in without question.

“The Ongoing Moment,” Dyer’s illuminating discourse on photography, focuses on linked subjects, motifs, and gestures in his favorite images. He shows us how one picture leads to another, thus creating a sort of conversation between photographers like Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, Edward Weston, and Robert Frank that, by extension, traces right up to the present.

Dyer and I spoke via Google Hangouts. He was framed dead center, cropped at the high forehead and lower chin, clean shaven, cheery, laughing easily. He was in New York, I was in LA, but it felt like we could have been sitting across the table from each other.

Q&A coming soon to Huck magazine—http://www.huckmagazine.com/

October 25, 2013

MASTURBATION IN PUBLIC (#3,796 in a series)

Last night I drank a bottle of Two-Buck-Chuck, masturbated first to Asa Akira while listening to Nine Inch Nails, then Like A Virgin-era Madonna while listening to The Smiths, felt lonely, a hole so big you could hurl into it Tonka trucks and puppy dogs and vodka shots and still not touch the sides, reached for Gmail/Instagram/Facebook/Twitter the way John Belushi must have reached for his syringe in Bungalow 3 on 3/5/82, wept for a whole bunch of reasons far bigger than my immediate pain, gorged on Ak-Mak sesame crackers and roasted red pepper hummus interspersed with spoonfuls of avocado and goat cheese, fell into bed with my clothes on — no teeth brushing.

Woke. Scribbled this entry into journal. Thought a lot about “creepy” and “oversharing” and “boundaries,” how these buzzwords produce shame for simply being human. Thought about posting this (honesty, tapping inner voice, shedding inhibitions makes a cloudy day sunny). Thought about not posting this (you’re a clown, who’ll take you seriously?). Thought, You’re sounding like Nicholas Cage in “Adaptation”...not only that, you start out writing about masturbating — now you’re masturbating in writing. Thought, Ah, fuck it.

October 23, 2013

GREAT FRIENDS

“What are you most proud of?” asked my therapist.

“Well,” I said — bulging passport, cutback in 1989, collage of female faces torqued in ecstasy. “I have great friends.”

“Beautiful. Care to elaborate?”

“Well, this one guy, Derek Hynd, he’s Australian, he’s in his mid-50s, and he’s an amazing character. He’s a writer—he was a pro surfer and he had a surfing accident and lost sight in one of his eyes, and he started doing a column in one of the surf magazines. His byline was a cycloptic eye, with ‘Hyndsight’ written under it. He’s a romantic, a fatalist. World War 3 could be going off and he’d be pointing out the pretty colors in the sky. He dances like no one you’ve ever seen, spasmodically, from pulses deep within. Almost like an epileptic fit. Oh, and he’s one of the best surfers in the world. And here’s the thing. He rides finless. Which, in surfing terms, is like surrendering all control, it’s like driving on ice, all traction is gone, so when he’s on a wave he drifts sideways, backwards, he twirls into 360s, he falls a lot.”

My therapist shifted, folded her hands together. “Do you feel finless, Jamie?”

October 21, 2013

REFLECTING THE MIRROR: THE ART OF JOHN BALDESSARI

In 1971 the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design invited John Baldessari to have an exhibition, but it couldn’t afford to pay shipping or travel costs. Baldessari proposed instead to invite students to write on the gallery walls, “I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art.” The students showed up in droves and covered the walls. The school subsequently made prints of the phrase—one was bought by the Museum of Modern Art. Baldessari had clearly hit a nerve.
 
Eighty-two years old and playful and Santa Claus-ish in appearance, if Santa were 6’7” and on a kale diet, John Baldessari has been hitting nerves for over five decades. His contrarian brand of conceptual, often photo-based art seethes with irreverence and dry humor. It questions the very notion of art, often turning inward, or inside out. "Pure Beauty," for instance, consists of those two words, painted by a professional sign painter in black capital letters on an off-white canvas. One of his well-known text pieces simply says EVERYTHING IS PURGED FROM THIS PAINTING BUT ART, NO IDEAS HAVE ENTERED THIS WORK. In "California Map Project," he created physical forms that resembled the letters in "California" geographically near to the very spots on the map that they were printed.
 
Baldessari grew up in National City, California. He studied at San Diego State, UC Berkeley, UCLA, the Otis Art Institute, and the Chouinard Art Institute. Initially a painter, he began to incorporate text and photography into his canvasses in the mid-sixties. In 1970 he began working in printmaking, film, video, installation, sculpture and photography. His works are collected in the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Broad Collection. He has won countless awards, among them a Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. He is known for being a wonderful art teacher, in fact, he used to have his students throw a dart at a map of Los Angeles and wherever it landed, they’d visit on a field trip. The idea was to break out of the studio.
 
I met with Baldessari in his spacious Venice studio. He was kind and thoughtful and laughed easily. I got the sense that he was greatly at peace with the world, or at least having a lot of fun in it.
 
more on page 98 (no link, you're going to have to copy and paste): http://malibumag.com/uploads/online_issues/august2013michaelshannon/files/html5/

October 18, 2013

GUERRERO, MEXICO

On a Waves4Water mission to Guerrero, Mexico we distributed food, cleaning supplies, and water filters to victims of the September floods.

October 16, 2013

MID-‘70S AMC PACER

At the time I was embarrassed but now I’m proud to admit that my right middle finger lost its virginity in the back seat of one of these.

October 16, 2013

SOMETHING GLORIOUS

    “When you die,” she said, “what do you think happens to you?”
    “You’re not going to die.”
    “I know, but what do you think happens?”
    “Something glorious.”
    “Oh, Philip. Only you would say something like that. Do you know what I think?”
    “What?”
    “I think that whatever you believe will happen is what happens.”
    He recognized the truth in it.
    “Yes, I think you’re right. What do you believe will happen.”
    “Oh, I’d like to think that I’ll be in some beautiful place.”
    “Like what?”
    She hesitated.
    “Like Rochester,” she said and laughed.

      —from “All That Is” by James Salter

September 10, 2013

THE RINGS OF SATURN

"For days and weeks on end one racks one's brains to no avail, and, if asked, one could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one knows not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage, any more than one could say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane. Perhaps we all lose our sense of reality to the precise degree to which we are engrossed in our own work, and perhaps that is why we see in the increasing complexity of our mental constructs a means for greater understanding, even while intuitively we know that we shall never be able to fathom the imponderables that govern our course through life."

          —W.G. Sebald in "The Rings of Saturn"

March 26, 2013

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