A mother, a bridge, a lion, a garden, and another mother – unrelated things, right? Since I posed the question, you must now be curious and thinking they must somehow be related. This circle of life begins with my mother, the one whose Alzheimer’s journey led me to photographing a flower a day for almost 1,300 days now.
It was those very flowers that took me to France as an artist in residence for a photography festival. The founder of that festival asked me to assist in creating Photographic Nights of Selma in Alabama. Beginning in April, this festival is uniting dreamers of today who are building bonds through art, to walk hand in hand for common good. Have you ever pondered the power of putting your dreams into action?
I crossed bridges and oceans to see the eyes of a lion in Africa that continue to speak to me today. While far away from my homeland, the animals and people there are a part of the same planet I inhabit. On that continent I marveled at the beauty of the earth, and also witnessed how the most dangerous animal of all, humans, are hurting our planet. We can do more than dream about a healthier planet, by beginning with one step today. Let’s not wait for tomorrow.
At Jasmine Hill, a garden in Wetumpka, Alabama this circle of life powerfully connects. In this beautiful community space long loved by my mother, I am joining hands with other change agents to allow art and nature to intersect for conversations about our planet during the Naturally Artful Festival on March 6th and 7th. When we come together in community with art as the catalyst, we can better understand each other, and thereby better care for each other and the world we share. Mark your calendar to join us.
This circle ends much like the way it began – with a mother. I am that mother seeing that every point is interconnected and touches the lives of my own children. The choices we make every day impact the world in ways beyond our comprehension. When we pause and deeply consider our actions, we begin to grasp how much they impact those around us. We then see how our circle ripples out to affect a larger world that requires our attention, and our compassion.
Just as my choices matter, your choices matter. Our world needs us to focus on a future where we celebrate beauty, and that which is good and just. We must care for every single living thing as if our life depended on it, because it does. Today you can do something as you find your wonderfully unique way to make a difference.
As I find my own way, it is an honor and a pleasure to have people join me on this Camera Journey.
I continue to enjoy opportunities to speak and share, and send greetings to new friends I met on this journey in Georgia and North Carolina. I look forward to presenting for the Tuesdays with the Kelly brown bag lunch event this week in Wetumpka, Alabama. Come if you can!
On receiving the gift of a +Factor Award in New York this summer from ETHEL, an incredible string quartet, I remarked that art invites us to dig deeply into our souls. Art allows us to acknowledge our sorrows and our joys, and to be fully human.
As an artist in residence in both France and Italy this summer, I witnessed that no matter the language, we can understand each other through art. When living with a wonderful lady, whose English was as good as my practically nonexistent French, it was incredible to realize that we understood each other without the need for many words. My “French Mom” fed and housed me, and drove me for many miles to beautiful places in the Provence region seeking flowers to photograph. Later in the summer, I returned for the Pierrevert Photography Festival and shared the “Flowers for Mom en Provence” created earlier in the summer. During my first ever presentation translated into another language, my French Mom had tears running down her cheek as she experienced and understood my art. It was incredible to witness the power of art reminding us of our shared humanity across generations and oceans. To those who made it possible for me to be an artist in residence I give my most sincere thanks and to anyone who has ever made it possible for other artists to be in a place to create and share their work, I thank you for allowing for exploration, for expression, for sharing, and for lives being touched in ways beyond anything you ever imagined. It was tremendous for me to see large pieces featuring my photographs gently swaying the the breeze touched by sun being shared in a community garden. A perfect place for “Flowers for Mom!”
Italy was also on my schedule as I crossed even more borders for a work of dance, “At the End of the Road,” choreographed by Thomas Johansen of Norway, danced by students of the Royal Danish Ballet, with music by Kim Helweg of Norway, and a backdrop of my photographs of pine trees in Alabama. This collaborative work was part of an evening of the DAP Dance Festival in Pietrasanta, Italy focused on saying no to violence against women. Once again, no words were required as art was the medium through which we understood each other.
It is easy for us to lose our way and focus on the bad, the sad and the difficult. For our world to be the peaceful, joyful place we all imagine, we must take positive steps to make it so. I chose connecting with nature when in a place of sadness. Through observing flowers and learning from them, I now am beginning my fourth year of photographing a flower a day honoring my mother’s Alzheimer’s journey and I find myself enriched because of deliberately pausing for beauty and celebrating nature. If you are in or near north Alabama from now through October 12th, go visit the Carnegie Visual Arts Center where opening tonight is the largest ever exhibit of “Flowers for Mom.” On September 20th I am joining Hudson Alpha scientist, Nick Cochran, for the Lunch and Learn event at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center where we will share about research and personal journeys tied to Alzheimer’s. Memphis has called me to speak next week, and the trip there lets me add both Mississippi and Arkansas to my list that now includes flowers from 15 countries and 21 states, plus Washington D.C.
Find opportunities to experience or create art as a means to bring us to a deeper understanding of our shared humanity. Aim to be enlightened and empowered to improve our world. Be the peace you want to see in the world.
A journey begins with a single step. After 1,000 steps, it is incredible to see how far you have traveled. This past week marked 1,000 days of “Flowers for Mom.” Every day there has been a flower. Every day there has been beauty. Every day I have been reminded of the value in pausing for just a moment to be creative.
Such gratitude I have for the gardeners, for those who show me flowers, and for the people who are with me on this journey that appreciate the power of connecting with nature. The first step began out of a feeling of helplessness with a desire to do something to help my mother. Now that I have taken over 1,000 steps, I see that I am the greatest beneficiary of this floral odyssey as I have been joined by friends along the way, supported by family, and learned the value in stopping to appreciate beauty, even on the hard days.
For Mother’s Day weekend, I will be speaking at my greatest source of floral inspiration – Jasmine Hill Gardens. It will be fun to share my story and photographs with friends and family in the area. Do join us if you can, or reach out if you want to schedule a time for me to come to your hometown to share words and images aimed to enlighten and entertain.
With the first step I never thought I would surpass 1,000, and I certainly never thought that the path would one day lead me to become an international artist. This summer is going to be an exciting one with a start in New York City before venturing to France and Italy. Stay tuned for details! Alabama has its very own International Art Center, so perhaps my art hanging there is my first step in the international realm! If you are in the area, join us for the opening event on June 3rd at Troy University, and see how advanced photography students used my work as a jumping off point to create their own images.
Whether it be a pot of basil or mint at your back door, or a garden full of flowers, do something to get your hands in the dirt. Feel the power of connecting with nature. Beauty abounds. Seek it daily.
Petals in the wind. What a wonderful vision. The “Flowers for Mom” petals float and travel to the most surprising places landing in ways never imagined when the first seeds were planted.
Hardships such as the loss of a child, divorce, and cancer, impact a circle that extends well beyond immediate family members. When in midst of dark days, it is often the smallest things that we need the most such as the kindness of friends as they give us a gentle touch of love. It is humbling that my response to an Alzheimer’s journey is providing a ray of light for others.
During the first year of my “Flowers for Mom” photo series, a friend suggested asking people to post their own flower photos on social media to be shared with Mom. What a brilliant idea, and what a tremendous gift to witness the growth of my photo garden through the nurturing hands of others. The outpouring of love was a gift to my mother, but perhaps more importantly, to my father as he saw the kind words and images from so many friends. This year as Mom celebrated her 80th birthday, more flowers were shared with her than the number of her years, and the comments and gestures of kindness exceeded many lifetimes of years. Thank you to all who touched our world with the petals of your flowers.
This past year, I was celebrating a birthday ending in zero too, and it was a friend of my eldest daughter in Boston who surprised me with a gift of flower photos. As he stepped into his yard to find a few flowers, he bumped into a five year old neighbor who “got super excited and insisted that she show me every flower in the neighborhood.” Needless to say, the game became incredibly fun as they traipsed through yards and the number of flower photos exceeded his original goal. On finishing, the little girl proclaimed that the next day she was going for a long walk to take pictures of her own! For the rest of the summer, I imagine that there were two people who found themselves noticing flowers in their neighborhood that they had never seen before. Just like “passalong plants” dug up from one garden and shared with friends, this floral odyssey of mine is being passed along and it is incredible to witness how the act of one person sharing can bloom in far away gardens they have never seen. Unexpected gifts from Alzheimer’s…
Sitting beside me is a coffee filled mug by the master potter, Larry Allen. When meeting him and selecting my piece, it was fascinating to learn about his technique and the meaning behind the figures in his intricately carved work. Our exchange reminded me of the response from the award-winning architect, Bobby McAlpine when I asked him how he maintains momentum and inspiration. As glamorous as it sounds to be an artist, the reality is there are periods of struggle, and McAlpine’s response to my question has become one that has remained with me when I hit times of needing a creative boost to keep going – crop rotation.
It is other art forms that provide great crop rotation, and life has given me recent opportunities to be rejuvenated by creative spirits such as Allen as well as the amazing Tena Payne who founded Earthborn Pottery. Also inspiring me with their passion both on and off stage, are some talented performers working with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Collaborative Arts Ensemble. If you need to add some pep to your step, why not seek work by a local artist or attend a live performance? Creativity is a key ingredient in the fabric of a successful community, so support artists while also nurturing that creative spirit within yourself.
Music has long made my heart soar, and has also been a vital comfort during difficult times. When processing my “Flowers for Mom” images, I carefully select music to play according to what kind of crop rotation I need at the moment. For fun, I created a “Flowers for Mom” playlist on Spotify with a focus on the meaning behind the lyrics as well as memories of music loved by my mother. You can give it a listen here. Do let me know what songs you think I should add!
My “Flowers for Mom” sculpture goes on display at Bellingrath Gardens in Alabama for a couple of months when I speak for their Winter Wednesdays series on February 27th. Treat yourself to a spring visit to the garden and experience the magnitude of this flower series by experiencing the sculpture’s scrolling photos that are close to 1,000 in number. Learn learn more about why this garden is special to me here.
When beginning my “Flowers for Mom” project of a daily photo in August of 2016, I never imagined I would still be seeking a daily flower in 2019. People sometimes ask me what is next. That I cannot answer because for today, I find there are more flowers to find, angles to capture, and lighting to explore. This post features all camellias in memory of my great great uncle, Walter Bellingrath whose name was given to the first full sized camellia photo here. As you can see, each image and each flower are very different. How can I possibly be finished?!