2017: Year in Review
Here is a collection of things I did, I found, I loved about 2017.
The year as I lived it.
Keep scrolling, it goes on for a bit.
Earth: The Pale Blue Dot
Composer and filmmaker, Michael Marantz, made this piece 9 years ago. Throughout those years, I've often found myself coming back to this tender three minute pep talk from Carl Sagan.
This year, I watched it dozens of times.
Every step forward in our history has come on the heels of women and men who often, themselves, did not feel oppressed, but joined, recognized and marched with those that did.
Sophie and I spent the last days of the Obama administration talking about human rights, listening to lots of Bob Dylan and making this for the Women's March in Washington D.C. The backside implored: "Don't Let Democracy Die." In the style of the suffragette's banners, everything was hand-cut and stitched. Peace lilies and olive branches framed the entire piece and we wore mourning veils pinned under crowns of olive branches.
It felt powerful to march in a sea of half a million, mainly women, who all remained peaceful while sharing in the outrage.
Marrying our skills as trained artists, Sophie and I officially launched WIFE at the beginning of the year. We made a lot of cool shit and worked with even cooler people. KEDS, Comedy Central, Popular Mechanics Magazine, Rifle Paper Company, Julio Torres, Shiseido, Parker Fitzgerald, and Sally Roots were my favorites. We pretended to be carpenters and built an overly complicated cabinet in a matter of days (special shoutout to Micah for that one), often used our company car (a vintage Camry) as a lumber transport, found the best empanada place in town (hint: Western Beef), tried our damnedest to get sponsorship from Highlife (did not), struggled below and succeeded beyond my expectations and taught ourselves a lot of essential skills like: respecting our own processes, jigsawing perfect circles, collaborating, communicating (sometimes by not) and balancing a budget. I had a blast and am so proud of everything we made. Though I eventually stepped away, Sophie is running the show single and killing it. You can see more of the work we did together here and the work she continues here.
Left: Iphone and professional photos of things we made.
The most poignant and affecting event of my life (so far) happened early this year. Jon Gomez and I traveled to a national wildlife refuge near Arizona's southern border, to film the decomposition of an adobe sculpture we'd made together. The sculpture was an exact replica of Jon's body. As a first generation Mexican-American, his work often centers around landscapes that predate U.S. expansionism—lands that frame the evolution of immigration, identity, and nationalism in
To gain access to the reserve, we both signed hold harmless agreements. Copies of the agreement are seen here.
We later titled the project after number six.
On March 27th, I drove Jon into El Camino Del Diablo (The Devil's Highway), a road that stretches through Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, and an area frequented by migrants and traffickers.
It was a tense day of shooting. Once an hour, and sometimes not even then, we would see another vehicle, always either Border Patrol trucks or armed unmarked SUVs. The desert's landscape is vast, everything seems to mirror each other and it's not difficult to find yourself in the complete opposite direction than you intended. We stayed within eyesight of our truck as to not get disoriented. Every time we heard the low rumble of an approaching vehicle, we would jog back to the truck for safety. I was relieved when we wrapped and began to drive out. Thirty minutes from the exit, as if the desert was talking to him, Jon asked if we could stop to get one last shot.
I'd felt like something had been watching us all day and still was. We got out of the truck and walked away from the road, looking for a good angle. I stopped short when I noticed a large kitchen knife at my feet. Anxious to get back to the city, mindful of the setting sun, and now a little worried, I was fumbling to set up the camera when I heard a soft voice call out. A small Mexican man dressed in camouflage from head to toe, emerged from behind a bush. "Agua," he requested. Jon motioned for me to stay where I was as he approached the man and offered him his gallon of water. I was so scared I felt nauseous—my inner monologue was all expletives mixed with concerns that perhaps there were more men watching us, and if so, how outnumbered were we?
The man's lips were swollen from dehydration and when he drank water from Jon's canteen it turned his stomach. He had no food and had been walking for eight days by his count. It became clear that he was alone, lost and had been for some time. Thankfully, Jon was able to communicate with him in Spanish. Cautiously, we led him back to the truck and fished out what snacks we had left, one clementine. We knew we couldn't transport him far, there were checkpoints before Phoenix barring us from returning without being searched. Deciding we could at least get him out of the wilderness, into a city and away from Border Patrol or ICE, we set off north to the nearest town, Ajo, for food. Once in the car I realized we didn't have a plan but we also didn't have time to make one, we were due for another patrol truck or unmarked SUV any minute. I asked Jon to give his extra shirt to the man, I thought, should someone see us, this would be better camouflage than wearing all camouflage. The roads in Cabeza Prieta are all-terrain and largely washed away and, as mentioned in the hold harmless agreement, they are unmarked and intersect randomly. I drove as fast as I could while trying to not be obvious, we had no rights as long as we were in the refuge (see hold harmless agreement above). As we approached the exit I exchanged waves with the border patrol agent driving past, then I pulled onto the highway.
For safety, we had outfitted our vehicle with GoPros and a mic which were all turned on during this interaction. The final piece is a three channel video installation showing the footage from the original project and what was filmed near and in the car. It is set to be installed at El Museo del Barrio in January. The following short film is a combination of the footage and audio recordings from March 27, 2017.
Dangerous Arrangements was my last production with WIFE.
Sophie had been painting snakes for a while and had amassed a beautiful body of work. She designed matching metal vessels which Micah welded and I filled with floral sculptures. We booked a small gallery in LES for the show, Sally Roots donated cocktails, we made a poster and emailed it to everyone we ever met, Sophie's parents came to town and so many people showed up there was a line to get in. My favorite piece was installed at the back of the gallery. Two steal snakes locked in a mating dance emerged from a glass swamp of flowers. The entire piece sat atop a rotating motor hidden inside the gallery stand.
It stayed gently spinning all night long.
In the summer I began freelancing full time. Below are some higlights from the year. To all the florists that hired me, taught me, encouraged me, gave me deals on flowers, followed me, recommended me and worked with me—my most genuine thank you.
You made this year so sweet.
Isn't there an adage about only being as good as the people you surround yourself with? If that's true, I've peaked. 2017 was filled with kind hearted, creative, hilarious, hard working humans —mostly women—though I do have some good men around.
I've learned much from this cast of characters, but most importantly the art of savoring the moment. It's the art of slowing down to wonder at (and potentially forage) that perfectly pink grass growing in an abandoned lot, or trying to taste every flavor in the meals made by friends, or leaving the city in order to more happily return to it, or mindfully separating compost in order to foster new life, or taking time to deliberately talk about difficult things with each other.
All this savoring taught me to sit still and I've drawn closer to myself. I can feel myself growing. My friends taught me to be comfortable in my own singularity.
I hope, along the way, I also taught them something of themselves.
So here's to cooking more apple pies in cast iron skillets, less parking tickets, more trips to the beach, free Dutch coffee, the Edge truck fleet, the beer and shot special, eating too much butter, affecting lives outside our own, Taryne's $30 astrology app, taking flowers home, getting up before sunrise and generally having a grand old time.
Here's looking at you, 2018!
I made you turds a playlist. I'm John Cusack and you're Ione Skye. I'll be blasting it outside your windows all week.
Click on the image to get to it.
I couldn't delete this section so I hid it at the bottom.
Things I watched way more than once on youtube in 2017.
The end for real.