Coney Island - a kind of circus for the soul.

At the very beginning of the twentieth century, Coney Island was the quintessential American resort: the birthplace of the hot dog, the enclosed amusement park, and the roller coaster. Its history is one of breathtaking transformation and reinvention. Celebrated at its pinnacle for its glittering amusement parks and its enormous crowds of visitors, it was in earlier times a vast seaside pleasure ground with grand hotels, racetracks, beer gardens, gambling dens, concert saloons, and dance halls. It gained notoriety as Sodom by the Sea long before it gave rise to Steeplechase and Luna Park. Visitors gawked at the Elephant Colossus, at Pain’s pyrotechnic spectacles and at Little Egypt’s erotic gyrations. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show had its premiere seasons at Brighton Beach and Harry Houdini worked his wonders there. Sigmund Freud paid a visit to Coney Island’s Dreamland and reported to have remarked “The only thing about America that interests me is Coney Island.” Coney’s shimmering, incandescent seascape left writers breathlessly straining for adequate words to describe it. Some envisioned a substantial city of brick by the sea. But Coney Island was destined to be a city of lath and of fire, a place of transformation and illusion. A city of transitory wonders.

photographs by @eimyfig and I

wearing @freepeople, @shonajoy, @stoned_immaculate_, @ash

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Laura Gilpin,  Tonita Peña ,  San Ildefonso, New Mexico , 1945. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of The Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.

Laura Gilpin, Tonita Peña, San Ildefonso, New Mexico, 1945. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of The Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.

In 1921, the United States federal government placed regulations on the Pueblo tribes sacred dances. About the same time, a San Ildefonso Pueblo woman started painting pictures - though only men of her tribe were allowed to partake in such activities. That artist, Quah Ah, whose Native American name translates to ‘white coral beads’, but who is often referred to by her Spanish-assigned name, Tonita Peña, captured the defiant, inner strength of her community. She painted the dances.

Peña portrayed the sacred cycle of life by focusing on figures performing rituals devoid of background. She painted her love for the sacred Corn Dance, she painted men and women as equals, performing tasks they believed would create harmony with the spirits. This sense of harmony also came through in her brushstrokes. Quah Ah’s paints, made from local pigments and yucca root, crackled with the New Mexico sun. Her compositions aligned the dancers in ceremony and in movement. On stark, blank paper canvas, the richly colored imagery felt elevated from everyday life.

Tonita Peña,  Corn Dance,  early 20th century. Gouache on paper. ©Gilcrease Museum.

Tonita Peña, Corn Dance, early 20th century. Gouache on paper. ©Gilcrease Museum.

Drawing at an early age, Quah Ah was introduced to watercolors by the teachers at the San Ildefonso Day School, and adapted and ink-and-watercolor technique, despite accusations of being influenced by white patronage. (By mandate, the school could not teach traditional Native American arts). Quah Ah simply made art with the materials provided.

At age 12, after the passing of her mother, Quah Ah was sent to live with relatives in Cochiti Pueblo where she would ultimately marry and learn new ways. She started over in many aspects, except in her art, but painting defied their tradition. Only through her husband’s negotiations with the tribal council was she granted the ongoing right to paint. In order to dedicate time to her craft, Peña paid others to preform her traditional female duties, like a modern working mother.

Quah Ah’s influence began to flourish in 1921, when she met Edgar Lee Hewett, the then director of the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe. Impressed by her work, he bought paintings, supplied materials and introduced the artist to other patrons. The arrival of railroads brought both a challenge to American Indian culture and a cavalcade of tourists, who all wanted to buy a piece of Pueblo heritage. Pena would become a bridge between her Pueblo and the outside world. Her timeless watercolor and ink pictures touched new art lovers who came to New Mexico by railroad, and her artwork changed opinions and helped to defend Pueblo culture.

Tonita Peña,  Buffalo Dance group , early 20th century. Gouache on paper. ©Artnet.

Tonita Peña, Buffalo Dance group, early 20th century. Gouache on paper. ©Artnet.

Studying one of Quah Ah’s paintings brings you there - to the Pueblo. It fosters a spiritual connection, a bridge. In the 1920’s her paintings, like white coral beads for which she is named, were traded and shown all over the East Coast. Her work helped change perceptions of Native Americans. The federal government’s dance ban was lifted in 1934.

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I am in love with Montana.
For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love, and it's difficult to analyze love when you're in it ... It seems to me that Montana is the perfect splash of grandeur. The scale is huge but not overpowering. The land is rich with color, and the mountains are the kind I would create if mountains were ever put on my agenda.

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As early as 40,000 years ago artists invented the first pigments — a combination of soil, animal fat, burnt charcoal, and chalk — creating a basic palette of five colors: red, yellow, brown, black, and white. Since then, the history of color has been one of perpetual discovery. The invention of new pigments accompanied the developments of art history’s greatest movements—from the Renaissance to Impressionism —during which artists experimented with colors never before seen in the history of painting. As our visual vocabulary has expanded to include an infinite amount colors, so too have our associations with them. Different cultures across the globe have forged culture-specific associations of colors to people, places, objects or emotionally charged events, and within these cultures these connotations have also changed over time. Today, in my culture, most people understand that brides wear white, that "seeing red" means being angry, and that one can feel "green with envy." But the link between color and feeling is also a highly individual thing. We create personal connections through idiosyncratic personal experiences with colors. A British toddler might, for instance, witness his parent shriek at the sight of a banana spider which, though not indigenous to England was accidentally imported to London by a freighter ship. Such a toddler might connect fear with the speckled brownish-yellow color of the spider, a connection that could last a lifetime. By attempting to better understand our own idiosyncratic associations with colors we can unveil a lot about ourselves and our own self expression.

Last month I taught a class at Free People here in New York City, where I introduced a self-help strategy, or exercise that allows one to explore his or her emotions through colorful art-making. This was not an art therapy session. My intention for this class was to simply share with a curious audience a creative practice that has been highly beneficial for my own well-being. Following a coherent threefold process that includes contemplation, art making and reflection, this class aimed to strengthen the participants mind/body wellness and general self-awareness.

Mark Rothko,  No. 7 [or] No. 11  , 1949. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.). Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. 1986.43.144.

Mark Rothko, No. 7 [or] No. 11 , 1949. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.). Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. 1986.43.144.

When engaging in this exercise at home or in a group setting, I always begin with time for contemplation. While there are many different contemplative methods, I focus on mediation, specifically mindful meditation. Mindfulness is the active component of the mind in meditation. You don’t necessarily need to mediate to be mindful. In fact, as humans we have a natural tendency to be mindful, it’s just that sometimes we forget how. Most of the time we move mindlessly through the day, getting swept up in the day to day or multitasking that keep the “mind full,” rather than aware and present. For example, we may become caught up in regrets about the past (contributing to depression), or worries about the future (contributing to anxiety). But mindfulness is about paying attention to how things are in the present moment.

Mindful based practices serve three main functions: to relax the mind and body, to raise awareness about present moment experience, and to regulate emotions. The calming function of meditation aids relaxation, where de-centering provides a psychologically safe space for exploring emotions. As the mind quietens, the body becomes calm and we begin to notice a shifting array of thoughts, feelings, perceptions and sensations that present themselves. From here we can gain deeper insights and awareness of how things are and are able to access deeper parts of yourself and your emotions. The kind of thinking that goes on in mindful meditation is about self-reflection. Reflecting inward is more focused and powerful when not clouded by a barrage of repetitive thoughts we run over and over in our minds. Instead, we become present with our thoughts, feelings, emotions, perceptions, and internalized images as they arise, but are not caught up or defined by them. In other words, this inward reflection allows the participant to explore and express deep-felt emotions that often keep you stuck.

This phase of the process takes place in the comfortable silence of a relaxed and safe psychological space where one can turn inward through meditation and begin to notice their inner mental life. Something happens when we quieten the mind, detach emotionally from their problems, and consciously connect in this way. The goal here is to gain clarity and focus.

Sharon Paster,  Slow Waves.  Oil on canvas mounted on wood panel.

Sharon Paster, Slow Waves. Oil on canvas mounted on wood panel.

Translating subjective thought and feeling into a tangible art form is empowering for those who have difficulty communicating their emotions. Where mindfulness helps to calm a person, art provides the liberating effect of enabling people to communicate through it. Translating inner mental life into a tangible form is the goal in this next phase of the process. Drawing on inner resources through art is beneficial in many ways; first in helping people to access deep-felt emotions that may be difficult to harness or verbalize; second, in providing a means for cathartically releasing pent-up feelings; third, in providing a visual language resource for communicating such feelings; and fourth, in the power of direct experiencing that often results in inner mental shifts. In other words, we get to the heart of the matter of what ails us.

That which one focuses on during mediation - albeit a thought, feeling, idea, or sensation, or anything – is what becomes the driving force behind their creation. For my artistic exercise, I typically use color blocks, cut from paint chips found at my local hardware store, to create a collage. Immediately following my meditation session I select several paint chips to work with, any that I am instantly drawn to, and glue the chips in whatever way make sense at the time. If I find myself feeling stuck at this point, I often revert to asking myself: What is aesthetically pleasing to you in the moment – what are you gravitating towards? Here aesthetics refers to the structural features of line, shape, or color.

Ellen Dodd,  Green 2 . Watercolor, colored pencil, graphite on paper. Anne Neilson Fine Art, California, USA.

Ellen Dodd, Green 2. Watercolor, colored pencil, graphite on paper. Anne Neilson Fine Art, California, USA.

Aesthetic reflection helps to construe meaning from the visual elements of a work, during reflection we go beyond the crafting of an artwork to “seeing” and thinking about its meaning through deeper observation.  This marks the discovery phase, which will help one to accept and acknowledge the resonance of his or her feelings and to consider other alternatives. In other words, one can now we reflect on the images created – which offers a springboard for understanding his or her emotions.

Upon completion, I objectively compare the colors in my work to any of the various published ‘emotional color wheels’. These emotional color wheels are based on evolutionary connections between colors and emotions. Evolutionary connections are the most widely shared connections, and are probably the themes for which the cultural and personal connections are variations. I often allow for a few moments of reflection here, where I revisit the thoughts, feelings, perceptions and sensations I encountered during meditation.

Guiding you into, rather than away from your artwork allows you to approach emotional pain with presence, openness and curiosity.  This enables us to see the artwork afresh, and dialogue beyond its face value, in terms of the underlying meaning expressed in for example the liveliness or tensions of line, color and shape or from, or through the deeper emotional tone of a work. Both art and mindfulness practices support the notion that there is greater hope for spiritual and emotional recovery if people stop, turn inward and access deep parts of themselves. When words fail you, or you find it difficult to grasp or harness what you want or need to say, art can provide another source of awareness, communication, and self-insight to guide the path of restoration and healing.

Whether we realize the fact or not, color is a major part of our lives. Colors can quietly influence our emotions and consequently our decision-making processes. This knowledge should open up our minds to the possible ways by which we can make them an active and positive influence on our day to day existence.


Throughout next year, I am attempting to bring this practice to a wider audience through collaborative group healing ceremonies and workshops. If you are interested in a collaboration or booking please contact us; and check here for announcements and upcoming happenings.

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One of my favorite things about visiting Los Angeles is the light and color that surrounds you wherever you are.

It’s funny, sometimes you don’t even realize that light is different in different cities. Even things most categorically evident can occasionally seem invisible. 

not because they do not exist 

but rather

because,

at particular moments, some act of intellectual conjuring, some configuration of action and thought, thought and action, manages to conceal them from our horizon of perception. 

35mm film by @stephanieseverance and I.

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Francisco Goya,  Witches' Sabbath, 1798.

Francisco Goya, Witches' Sabbath, 1798.

October 31st is a haunted holiday shrouded in many spellbinding traditions. Although the magic and mischief of Halloween has captivated young and old around the world, folklorists regard this day as the most widely misunderstood and misrepresented in the festival year. Most people believe the Halloween holiday began as an ancient pagan festival associated with the supernatural. Indeed, Halloween does have religious connotations - although there is much disagreement among historians as to when and why it all started.

Some say Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, and in fact most evidence does support this claim. According to Celtic tradition, this day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark and frigid winter season. Celtics believed the barrier between the living and dead was at its most permeable during this harvest holiday. In addition to communicating beyond the grave, this phenomenon meant that ghosts of the dead could return to earth. To welcome these visiting spirits, Celts would make offerings of food and wore costumes typically consisting of animal heads and skins as a way to both honor and channel their Celtic deities otherworldy energy to tell fortunes and make predictions about the future.

Vincent Van Gogh,  Head of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette , (1886).

Vincent Van Gogh, Head of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette, (1886).

By the first century CE,  most Celtic territory was conquered by the Roman Empire. The subsequent melting pot of cultures meant that rituals and festivals began to blend, culminating in new hybrid holidays. Samhain, for example, merged with the Roman festival of Pomona, a harvest-inspired feast believed to have taken place on November 1st. Though these harvest holidays would go on to last for centuries, they underwent dramatic changes in the 8th century. During this time, Pope Gregory III reinterpreted the Pagan festival as a series of Catholic holidays. Specifically, he declared November 1st, ‘All Saints’ Day,’ a holiday intended to honor “saints, martyrs, and confessors” in heaven, with October 31st serving as the preparatory All Hallows Eve, also called All-hallows or All-hallowma and, eventually, Halloween. This day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils.

No matter what tradition you are celebrating this Halloween - for centuries people have reveled in the fun and frightening festivities of Halloween and celebrated this day of spooky myths and magic in the arts; solidifying this holiday as an important one, in many different cultures.

Shawn Walker,  Untitled (from the Halloween series), Harlem, New York , ca. 1960.

Shawn Walker, Untitled (from the Halloween series), Harlem, New York, ca. 1960.

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For the season of change: prints and patterns are as varied as the turning leaves, yet there is one that remains constant - the polka dot.

The term ‘polka dot’ first appeared in 1857, in an issue of Godey’s Lady Book, where one writer described a muslin scarf, ideal “for light wear,” as being “surrounded by a scalloped edge, embroidered in rows of round polka dots.” Indeed, dotted patterns dd not just immediately appear on the scene in the 1850’s, before the polka dot received its moniker there were several types of popular regularly spaced spotted designs; but none of these earlier patterns became as well-known as the quintessential polka dot, quite simply because the technology to mass produce evenly spaced, uniformed sized dots did not exist until the industrial revolution. 

The art world was also experiencing seismic shifts during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and some of these burgeoning movements, Pointillism in particular, incorporated fields of round spots - and, one cannot talk about dots in art without talking about the father of Pointillism, Georges Seurat, who was inspired by the science behind color and the human vision. He completed his manifesto painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, in 1884. The large scale oil painting depicts 48 well-dressed middle-class types lounging around a suburban park. The entire scene, from the water to the sky, is made up of thousands of tiny colored dots: distinct pricks of red, green, indigo, and zinc yellow. In a 2004 piece about a Seurat exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, New York Times writer Holland Cotter notes that “La Grande Jatteis more like a textile than a painting, a kind of 19th-century Bayeux Tapestry…”

It is often true that fashion follows art and vice versa - so what is it about the dot that inspired these two realms nearly simultaneously?

photographs by @jackiembarr

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I finally got around to developing some film from my December 2017 trip to New Mexico.  I've only recently begun shooting film and am still getting the hang of the entire process. While I was developing this roll of film, standing over the bowl and watching the photograph appear from the liquid, I noticed the images were hazy and that the focus wasn't improving. At first, I was frustrated with my error, wherever I had made it down the line. However, the longer I spent with these overexposed images, the more I began to appreciate their artistry.  

These stripped photographs transform ordinary forms of everyday life into nearly unrecognizable observations of my New Mexican surroundings. Akin to their naturally desolate desert subjects, these images convey a natural minimalism -  which when viewed collectively portrays an intricate study in grandiose abstraction unique to this otherworldly environment.  

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My friends and family always make July 2nd an exciting and special day for me. But this year, my anticipation was racked with melancholy in the days leading up to my birthday. I was struggling with the number 25, struggling with the knowledge of aging.  I was sad to 'age-out' of the wide-eyed niche society labels as 18 - 24, which is even an option on most exercise equipment, and worried that my accomplishments seemed less impressive than they were when I was 24 and more expected of someone who is 25. 

All of these anxieties stemmed directly from my fixation on societies perception of age and whether or not I had, by societies standards, reached my peak or if I was peaking momentarily.

After a saguaro cactus reaches 40, its peak growing period begins.  Between the ages of 50 and 60, it will begin to produce its first flowers. The same is often true of women. Much of the cactus will spend its first decades sheltered beneath a nurse plant, coincidentally, we are more likely to find protection in trends or expectations in youth, but once a woman has grown beyond the desire for approval is when she truly blossoms.  Indeed, age is just a number, nothing more, nothing less. 

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On the eve of this years Strawberry Moon, the shortest full moon of the year and lunar signal to some Native American tribes that it was time to harvest ripening strawberries, I reflected on the night. 

During the Middle Ages, compline was the hour for nightly prayer, marking the end of the day for monks. Typically involving meditation on death, it initiated the hours of dark and silence - a perilous time. As clergy drifted to sleep, their authoritative prayers faded and spiritual protections weakened.  In the darkening night, the faithful and the superstitious lay awake and envisioned freewheeling devilry, unchecked by the dozing pious.  The witching hour - from midnight until 3:00 AM - was when spirits and spells became the most potent. This was followed by Satan's hour - 3:00 AM until 4 AM. Supernatural threats aside, this darkest hour of night is no time for humans to be about as we are physiologically ill-suited to nocturnal pursuits. 

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What is more gentle than a wind in summer?

What is more soothing than the pretty hummer

That stays one moment in an open flower,

And buzzes cheerily from bower to bower?

What, but thee Sleep? Soft closer of our eyes!

Low murmurer of tender lullabies!

Light hoverer around our happy pillows!

Wreather of poppy buds, and weeping willows!

Silent entangler of a beauty’s tresses!

Most happy listener! When the morning blesses

Thee for enlivening all the cheerful eyes

That glance so brightly at the new sun-rise.

- John Keats, Sleep and Poetry, (1 - 18).

photographs by @stephseverance

wearing Stine Goya

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Josef Albers,  Untitled,  1967

Josef Albers, Untitled, 1967

We are able to hear a single tone. But we almost never (that is, without special devices) see a single color, unconnected and unrelated to other colors.  Colors present themselves in continuous flux, constantly related to changing neighbors and changing conditions. 

As a consequence, this proves for the reading of color what Kandinsky oftern demanded for the reading of art: what counts is not the what but the how. 

- Josef Albers, Interaction of Color, 1963.

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I'm always quick to say spring is my least favorite season.  It's messy.  It's ice-crack and tulip bud, wet streets and birdsongs, mulch and meltwater. Allergies ramp up, rain clouds open and frozen feelings come loose. In spring things dawn, break, molt, change form; it's also when our skin is changing too. 

This winter was particularly hard on my extremely sensitive skin. As I emerged from hibernation my dry and damaged skin was forced out of the intense environment it had unwillingly grown accustomed to and into another plagued by inconsistency, wavering between soggy humidity in April and bitter cold blasts in May. It wasn't until I went on vacation in the tropics that my skin seemed to regain itself, leading me to wonder what my skin was benefiting from while away that was virtually absent in my routine at home in New York.  What was naturally here but not there? The only conclusion I could come to was nothing but clean, raw nature.

 My curiosity led me to RIPE. A skincare brand that boasts products designed, sourced, & crafted for our true nature. Just as we are nature. Eight years ago, founder Shannon moved to Hawaii and recreated her favorite skin care products in her own kitchen using papaya straight from her backyard. Now located in both Hawaii and coastal California , RIPE sources from both regions to the root - papaya & kukui nut from rural Hawaii, lavender & mint from California - either wild harvested by the RIPE team or from consciences growers they know personally.  

Seasons don't just switch like records in a jukebox, the next one neatly clacking into place. Spring is like summer, like autumn, like winter. It's a moment in motion changing before you. It's always transforming and our skin is too. Keeping skin care products as natural as possible keeps us in sync with nature and our natural selves. RIPE is a refreshing & soulful way to celebrate change and adjust to it, naturally. 

photographs by    @stephseverance

photographs by @stephseverance

check the RIPE products I love here

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I would like to thank all mothers, who encourage their daughters to discover, individually what being female does mean and might mean. Who encourage conversations about real, important issues. Who teach their daughters to be brave, smart and proud.  

Having to question every mode of behavior and every expectation is the scariest part of being a woman today.   So, I would like to thank my mother, for teaching me to not feel guilty for doing exactly what I want, and to not feel crazy because I'm not content with what society says I am supposed to be content with. Because of you, I am not afraid of being bright, or of not being beautiful, or of having an ego of my own. I'm not afraid to be assertive, or to take control of my life, or to consider myself important. I value women. I value myself.  Thank you for teaching me that I can become the woman I want to be, and that I can help to build a world that will value her. 

photographs by Abigail Heyman 

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Fresco, House of Livia, Prima Porta, 1st Century B.C.

Fresco, House of Livia, Prima Porta, 1st Century B.C.

In 2014, I took a course while studying abroad in Italy on Tuscan gardens. To date, this was the hardest, most rewarding course I have experienced.  People have created gardens across the world and throughout time, and these spaces have been an essential part of the human experience.  Gardens such as Eden, are rooted in religious context, to this day, regarded as sacred. Gardens are also a key element in some of the best-known myths. One of the Labors of Hercules required the hero to steal, from a place on the far edge of the world called the Garden of the Hesperides, the golden apples that the goddess Hera had given to her husband Zeus as a wedding present. The palaces of the ancient Near East are known to have spectacular gardens, including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, whose precise location is still unknown.

The heady scent of hyacinths. Leaves unfurling. Buds in bloom. I really wish I could keep plants alive. 

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