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.