Sunday, January 14, 2018

"The Trouble with Progress", part 7

The Trouble With Progress
Part 7

Oh hai guys. It's def been only... A day! And here we are again. 

o I

Today is one of those ill-fated 2 steps forward, 10 steps back sorta deals. One of my favorite expressions has always been a simple one and coincidentally was also the title of my senior thesis project video, pictured above. That was hmmm circa 2005, & (if I do say myself, and I do) pretty freaking progressive and alarming to the traditional art institution. Now they have a special "ALT" performance ish fashion show every year where I must assume the artists present weird ass funky shit, a la my obvious inspiration, and the "normal" fibers/fashionistas don't have to worry about their entire art future career in the fashion world (or wherever) being at all tainted by that icky conceptual fine art weirdness! 
Pray tell. We would not want THAT NOW WOULD WE. 

Well, that was what *I* was like roughly 13 years ago. Consequently, one of my younger café co-workers was just graduating the 8th grade, and thusly I am reminded how decidedly un-27 I am. Though this is my fake age, guessed by the general populous or at least suggested in an effort to avoid offending me as a female (by erring on the higher age numbers, which is just some sexist ass blasphemy but I'll take it!) 

(Xtiina looks not so bad for 49, right? BAHHH gotcha. I'm only like.... 31 ish here guyz. And probably fresh off a fire gig, hair n makeup all did. Makeup = my fountain of youth/fakeout... Its like painting guys, just on your skin instead of canvas. Easy peasy, practice makes perfect. )

I'll just let you do the math. Around about when I crafted this video, I was turning 21 & probably puking off my rooftop during a mid summer bday party rager where I personally knew like... 1/3 to 1/4 of the guests in attendance. (Mind you, this was MY birthday party.) And to top it all off, at the time I worked at this ancient copy shop print place called "Kinko's", so NATURALLY I made myself many, many neon colored fliers for said birthday party, which I gave out to literally NO ONE but covered my front door in my apartment building with, that featured a photo of myself, dressed up, as I was often known to do back then, wearing my ghetto version of a fat suit in a mayo-eating alter ego character with a shitty blonde wig that I liked to call "Darlene". God, I definitely have a print or file of that SOMEWHERE AND I WILL FIND IT. I have Darlene photos somewhere too. Ah, those were the days. Back during a time when life was more simple, and also when wigs would still fit over my head. (The hair is too much now. I don't even try.) 

Ooh! The even better kicker. These fliers which I must reiterate I LITERALLY GAVE TO NO ONE, totally got me in deep shit with my crappy slumlord landlord company after the fact, when I went on vacation with my parents and of course forgot to remove them. They took one look at that flier and called my parents. I happened to be WITH them at the time, and I like to think my dad believed my (very true) account of what happened but.... I'm not absolutely certain. I should probably ask him one of these days. 

Anyway, in the spirit of taking more STEPS BACK than forward in one day, enjoy my reminiscing and college art video of mayhem wrought upon an overpriced, over-caucasioned foo foo art school, which btw I am still paying back. It was so much fun though. Wouldn't change a second of it. Even the rooftop puking part, which I am almost certain definitely happened on my 21st bday rager. (Thanks for throwing that epic party for me, K-Tin!)💜💛💚💙

A few more videos of just music I saved forever ago that I was re-jamming out to, in the spirit of uplifting my shite mood. Because, bubble butts, borders, and the sky is forever. Boom Shaka laka. 
One of my fav videos of 2017, brilliant song, video, and direction. You tell em what's up MIA YASSSSS QUEEN. Enjoy. 

Because like, I need to laugh at SOMEthing today besides myself. "That beat is fucking dope" "Ya how do I look?" (Dolphin noises, steel drum weird DnB) "Like a fucking slut" YASSSSS SO GOOD. (Apologies for the left side thing, phone editing is nearly literally impossible. #willfixitlater )

Ah now THIS ONE IS JUST GOOD. REAL GOOD. Like DnB Like I do? (LOVE, correction.) Great, you'll like it to. Don't? Still might dig it cause it's just GOOD. MAD PROPS to both these guys,  who independently are talented but together are fucking electric. 

I apologize really sincerely for the wack ass formatting. Blasted phone blogging. (Awful, terrible word.) The perfectionist editor in me is embarrassed to publish something so full of formatting flaws, but I gotta get it out and I'm starting to care way less. I'll drag my laptop to a cafe with wifi in the very near future and fix all deez entries up REAL NICE FER YOUS GUYS. Promise. My fingertips and a really shitty, really cracked, totally busticated smartphone are not making this easier. At all. 

On that note, I have work far too early again tomorrow. 

Ciao bellas, till a few days or maybe even tomorrow. (Depends on how good of a day I have. Hooray!) 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Xtina, Pity Party of 1? F THAT! A list of 10-nay, 11 things ya probably missed

HELLO 2018. And good riddance to 2017, 16, 15 & whenever the hell else I visited this mess.

And WOWWWWW I have been a terrible, TERRIBLE BLOGGER.

(Please re: I hate that word.)

I'm sorry it's been like... 5 years since my last cheeky blog post. Funny though, cause it feels like literally nothing has changed.

While that is undoubtedly partially true, it's also not. Hmmm, what actually has changed? Let's see...

1) First and foremost, as well as most "life-changing" (& not in a good way...) my husband lost his job nearly exactly one year ago. Not his fault, the company he worked for, after a few strings of serious layoffs ended up closing their entire Philly electronics branch. Ho hum, welcome to 2017. And now 2018. Hooooray.

2) Thanks to #1, we are dirt f&$@ing poor. Still. Thanks Vane Bro's!

3) #1 happened just as FREAKING JUST AS we returned from our first Christmas holiday visiting my parents (in sunny Miami Florida!) in a LONG time, having thus decided (well I decided/was finally ok with) f&$@ this winter shit, he works on boats let's gtf out of Philly. (Note; he has been into this idea since his first visit down there to like, meet my
parents, over 10 years ago. I was holding on to the Nooooo but I live here now all my friends are here! Except now they aren't, not All of them, and also F*** THIS F***ING WINTER BULLSHIT!)

4) Needless to say, we are currently still in Philly. Ugh. (Naw PHL, I do love you, I just really really am ready to leave you now.)

5) I am still at the same god damn job.

6) I still live in the same shithole apartment.

7) Ooh! A GOOD THING. I have been making and selling my bejeweled wares via the non website and non Etsy platforms....mainly Facebook, Instagram & friends/word of mouth.
(Check that out @zefluxuria on IG & ! Also a store in Baltimore selling my stuff, Night Owl Gallery in Highlandtown!)

8) I have taken an extensive hiatus from my most beloved fire group, Lux Arati, mostly for financial & emotional reasons, that suck and I hate them. (The reasons, not Lux. Will always #lovemyluxies)

9) Thanks again to #1 & just life being crappy sometimes, we are car-less and also wifi ness, which is real fun. (Actually, our car is currently in mechanical purgatory, thanks to us not having the coin to get it fixed, registered in PA & all that jazz...)

10) Thanks to #9, I am currently composing this on my shitty, shitty shit piece of shit phone, which I also hate. (P.S.: It is REALLY HARD to edit this on said shitty phone. Sorry, one pic only bc I'm already way too frustrated.)

11) What else totally sucks right now? Hmm. I owe a lot of people money.... Including various financial institutions & friends/employers... it's cold a.f. outside.... Oh. And I'm OUT OF WEED & didn't know I was also out of cash when I spent all my tips today on booze. Sweet. (thx babe!)

Florida, I wanna be (back) in you.

Guys, shit is real dark for me right now. Quite possibly never been darker, only because any OTHER time in my life that's been REAL bad, you know... Like wow, at least I'm not 22 and my bf is using my parents stolen CC # to bail himself out of jail bad...any OTHER time that has been awful, I could blame it on someone besides myself. Oh, well clearly my 22 year old predicament was the Ex BF! Or oh, shit, my mom is distraught because my sis ODed for the 5th time this year, or whatever. Or, I don't have a car right now because a drunk driver hit it while it was parked on the side of the road....! Totes not my fault. And those are ALL real life examples of some of the shit that has befallen me in my short, lame ass 34 years.

This time... Well fuck. I guess I'm just as much to blame as my husband, whom I still love dearly no matter how many tears I've shed while moaning about how "this should not be my life" & "boohoo, why does everything suck?"

It just does sometimes, amirite? I can't be the only one who feels or has felt like they're failing at life. I have to believe that this will be the year that things get better. Despite the despicable leader of our country, despite the .24¢ in my bank account, despite the very unglamorous job I share with coworkers 10 years my junior. I HAVE TO HAVE HOPE THAT THINGS WILL CHANGE.

Otherwise, there's no hope for me, is there...?

Not to get dark, or add to the 11 mostly depressing life updates... But we did lose a few good ones since my last entry. Prince. Bowie. My epically dark and beautiful sad, sad photographer GENIUS friend of ye olde livejournal initial friendship, Krystal Layton aka Zvandrythx (RIP BISH I MISS YOU! Once I get back to Florida I PROMISE I WILL FRAME AND HANG YOUR PHOTOS IN MY NEW PAD I SWEAR.) And of course the only girl I could stand to be that close to my husband, the amazing Steph K. I miss you both more than you know.

F*ck it's been a rough few years.

Writing helps. It helps me process things, it helps me get IT out. I've always done this, though not usually so publicly. I'll probably share this on the book of faces. Will anyone read it? No clue. Krystal probably would have, because she was a writer like me. Hopefully not anyone that'll be too worried. Don't get worried guys! Just like, buy me a drink some night, or better yet, buy a print of my artwork or some ZefLux jewelry. I'll be ok, eventually. Once I get out of this bloody hole of despair and darkness, I vow... 2018, YOU WILL BE MY BITCH.

At least I still have my sense of humor. AMIRITE?????

I've already reminded a few very close friends.... Don't worry about me, please, unless it appears my sense if humor is suddenly gone. If I ain't cracking jokes, come pay me a visit, JUUUUUST in case. K? K.

Love n kisses, and may y'all never feel this kinda poor in your lifetime.

Trudging onward. Forward. No looking back. One day at a motherfucking time.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Wordiness of it all: Writing in excess, explaining into the most epic distraction ever, and an undying love for too many beautiful words

After spewing out a short novel marauding as a comment (to someone else's Facebook post),  I must share my additional thoughts about the wordiness of it all.

"I am part of a dying breed of wordy folks..." 
... it began, and it just kept going on into the most infinite reaches of my sanity, 
exhaustion, and mind for the evening. 

If you know me well, you must know this to be true. I am part of this dying breed of writers, of excessively wordy folk. Emails, text messages, comments posted on social media... truly, this is my nature and I cannot help it. I wrote many things once... (long ago, in a land far-far away, when the only people that had their own computers were rich white people... and absolutely no one had their own personal computers in their pockets, desperately in need of someone else's charger.) Sometimes I even still write things (like in these long, forgotten times...) I had a blog before they were called such silly names -- back then, they were merely "online journals", much like a regular BOUND physical journal or diary (it's kind of like a "book", we still have a few of those lying around do we not?), also these old-fashioned means of communication we once called "letters" that came slowly over long distances between friends, family, or people you met while on vacation. It took a long time to get where they were going, traveling through something called "the mail" (which we now use primarily to receive goods one purchases in online retail stores.) I painstakingly and carefully penned many essays, articles, a few decent short stories (still have one in the works yet, but it appears then again that it's plot is unfinished) and even had one of my creative writing attempts actually be selected for something so special, it made my college education a few thousand dollars cheaper. One year, anyway. (I later made that story into a movie, so no one ever has to actually read it, it promptly was released to video/DVD, but as they usually are it's just NOTHING like the "book."  I have one remaining pen-pal, and we've been telling our stories to one another back and forth for years now. (Jethro Rebollar ! It is way overdue my turn, but I want you to know there is a half-finished letter for you right now in my possession/sight!) We accept, maybe even sometimes use but still kind of hate the abbreviations the internet somehow made "okay" in our complex language... (...the "U"s, the "R"s, the numbers, the piss poor grammar, nonexistent spelling skills, etc.) We love words, we love weaving that delicate language into something a little bit more beautiful than what our eyes and brains experience on a daily basis. We may not have a lot of different or incredibly important things to say, but damn if we won't take our time saying it exactly how we feel it should be expressed. And it will look damn fine doing so. And maybe... just maybe, a few of you out there will enjoy reading it all.

So here's to the story, the novel, the letter writers out there still providing that lengthy commentary in and out of the internet's available avenues... the ones that have reluctantly morphed into "bloggers", the real diehard and nouveau bloggers too (more words than pictures please, and recipes don't count), especially the ones that aren't quite sure a lot of the time exactly what they are writing about... and who they are writing to... and definitely often if anyone is reading any of this at all. The super-readers (who write by default) that are admittedly in love with words, that tend to write a little too much by default, especially those who sometimes do so in slightly inappropriate places. Here's to you, if you're still out there that is, and those like you, and definitely those who made it this far. Finally, here's to me, this, words in general and this tired but determined brain explosion of the extra, ultra, superbly wordy people still out there, and all of those friends and family that actually make it to the bottom of the page. Thank YOU. And goodnight.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What a slacker!

This happens every year. I get too busy and totally, completely neglect my poor blog.

Back in the early days of social networking (we're talking EARLY, like AOL chat rooms were still around, and Facebook wasn't even a glimmer in Mark Zuckerberg's twinkly little eyes...) I had something called a "Livejournal", an ancient, primitive form of this thing we have here. It was very anonymous and very few people used it to it's full potential. I, however, wrote it in frequently, as have I written in a pen-and-paper journal for most of my life. It's a sad, sad thing that I realize I'm not writing in ANYTHING as much as I used to or even should be. Do I have nothing to say? Do I have no time?

Who knows, but this is my "Art/Creative" blog anyway, so I should probably stop typing and show you guys some bloody pictures, huh?

Works for me.
In progress painting of Ganesha. I started this after extensive subject research for
some murals that I should be painting in a local yoga studio sometime early next year. One may be a Ganesha, but not the first one I'll be doing. That I will come back to in another post. 

I made these for a Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos!) inspired costume for a performance
on (you guessed it) November 1st. I even hand-painted the little sugar skulls and one of them has rhinestones in his eyes. Aren't they just effing adorable?? Yea they are. I also made a more comprehensive headdress that I ended up NOT wearing with these little guys but wore it later to a DOTD themed party (on November 1st.) Haven't managed a picture of that one yet, but here I am at said party wearing the headdress I was just referring to. 

I'm finally having fun here after a long day of regular work 
and a long night of performing. Thanks PEX for another fantastic Halloween party, even
if I did have to leave early and work way too early the next morning. 

Performing! Right, there I am. In case you were wondering, yes, 
I am spinning fire as I often do, except  at this event, we were performing in a graveyard. 

Another graveyard gig shot. These shots were from Lux Arati's Halloween performance 
for the Sexton Sideshow at Old Swedes Church in Philadelphia. I'm probably kneeling 
on some way-long-dead people right here. And then I ate fire. MAGIC!

And here is the whole Luxie family, dressed up in our DOTD makeup, 
magically matching one another and looking damn fine, if I do say so myself. 
What a fabulous bunch of ladies, by the way. I am blessed!

Alright, back to creative stuff. Made and sold these feather earrings a 
couple months ago to a friend. But I can absolutely do custom orders. Ask me! 

THESE I made for another friend as a wedding gift. I still have not gotten these to her. 
(Sorry Kristin! They're waiting for ya!)

AND, finally, for the month of November I hung my work in a local bar/restaurant called
Cedar Point. It was pretty anticlimactic, as I never got my shit together to host an opening or closing reception (also, the girl who asked me to hang my work ALSO totally did not respond to my "Hey girl, would this date work for a closing?" inquiries. It's cool though, because I really just didn't feel like it. I also admit that I didn't try THAT hard to make it happen.) This is a new series of paintings, a mathematical triptych, the specific names of which allude me temporarily and I really just am too lazy to look them up. You're getting photos AND a blog post, people, be happy. Be semi-satisfied... satiated, even. I'll tell you all about them later. With a better, clearer picture of each one. Anyway, they're tiny, each is 8"x8" I believe, and they are all math inspired and finally finished. (Some of these have been in-progress for quite a while. Like months, maybe years.) And they are STILL FOR SALE!

Last but not least... here is a shot of my newest toy -- a fire staff! I have no idea what to do with it yet (dance, fire spinning wise) and it's still unlit (virgin wicks!) and mostly un-played with. This new toy came to me as a very very belated birthday gift (it arrived late November and my birthday is in July...) from my amazing, thoughtful husband Alex. His birthday just passed a little over a week ago and I expect to give him his gift around late May, early June. :) Considering how we do things a bit backwards, I assumed that would only be appropriate. 

On that note, hoping I will get my shit together and do an end-of-year recap... or something... since 2013 held very few updates for all my faithful (now probably lost) readers. I guess my life has alternated between being incredibly busy and an incredible mess these past 6 months. Working on it, as usual. Life sometimes takes a backseat to everything else, I guess, and I have no idea where the time has gone. 2013 feels like a blur. Productive in many ways, intense in many ways, and a blur of "What on earth just happened" in too many ways. Working on it, my friends. Hoping to come out of the clouds in the near future and get on with it all. Till next time... and THANK YOU if you are reading these words!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's raining, it's pouring...

... and life is anything but boring.

So far, things are going well in my little world. Better than expected. And though I still am hesitant to start screaming my accomplishments from the rooftops, it's time for an entry so I can share with the world all the exciting things that have been going down.

The shift has come -- no longer am I holed up at the desk in my studio, quietly making work that I'm never sure if anyone will see. Nope. I almost WISH I had time for that right now. Instead, I have a painting commission in progress,  5 pairs of feather earrings ready to sell (and one sold pair to a sort of VIP customer), just received the design fee to start designing a large scale public outdoor mural, and I can't tell you how many people (friends, acquaintances, random strangers) have been contacting me asking if I want to hang my work in restaurants, bars, and cafes all over the city. And even if I did have the time to organize a show in the next couple months, I wouldn't have very much work I still own to hang on the walls of whatever venue, because I've sold some of my more popular paintings recently and there is a noticeable gap in my personal collection (ie, personal artwork storage.)

I know it's not a terribly exciting photo... but I had to put one here. 
This boring little building will soon be the site of my first outdoor mural project!

I've been "discovered"

One of the most exciting things so far this past month was that I finally got my sh*t together and sent in images of my paintings and bio to Anna over at She contacted me recently, asking if I was interested in having my work displayed on their website, to which I replied YES, absolutely!

Check out my page over at Sacred Geometry Art.

Sacred Geometry Art is essentially an international artist's collective set up in web gallery format, featuring over two dozen artists from all over the world. From their homepage;

Displaying the artwork of artists who are inspired by and work with 
Sacred Geometry, Symbols, Science and Spirituality.
Artists experience a visionary world which informs their expression and the end result is their artwork.  The chosen media is simply the tool that artists feel can best represent their experiences and visions at a certain time in their lives.  The purpose of this website is to display work across any media including; digital art, design, sound and motion as well as painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, mixed media and jewellery.

What else? Oh, there is more. Much more.

The Workshop

I am thrilled to announce that I will be teaching an art-related workshop at this year's PEX Summer Festival in Darlington, MD. The Mandala: Sacred Art & Creative Expression will be open to anyone regardless of artistic level or experience. 

Here is the workshop description (the long one, that actually explains what the workshop will consist of -- I had to squish this into 15 words or less for the printed guide distributed at the gate during festival weekend):

The Mandala, the design of the universe --a spiritual tool for meditation...a therapeutic method of creative expression...or a thoughtful work of art? Through visual & verbal presentation and hands-on techniques, we will explore the history and meaning of the Mandala as a sacred art form. We will learn some of the basic principles of sacred geometry as well as discuss the general art & design elements that make up Mandala imagery (such as symmetry, color, and balance.) Then, we will examine how we can translate this ancient symbolism into a form of creative meditation through what we've learned. Students will create their own personal Mandala drawings, balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain in harmony as we practice this ritualistic exercise in creative expression. 
This workshop is open to anyone regardless of artistic ability, but some interest/knowledge in art/sacred geometry is welcome and encouraged.

It is a Christmas miracle that I was able to get the paperwork for this workshop in on time. Some glitch in the system/my computer/internet connection failed to properly send my original application. Thankfully I had mentioned wanting to teach it to one of the workshop coordinators months ago, and when she noticed mine wasn't in the stack of applications (metaphorical stack, because this is all obviously digital) she contacted me and I of course had not saved half of the information properly and stayed up entirely too late one night trying to re-create the whole darn thing. But I did it, and I got it, and I will be teaching it. Hooray!

My Lovely Luxies

Other than all that, my troupe Lux Arati has been doing fantastic. Every group like that goes through changes, and the past year was a major one for us. We lost three of our performers that had been with us since Lux Arati's inception, taking the total group # down to a measly 3. However, there is no shortage of lady performers in the Philly area interested in joining. We invited four new girls to be a part of the group, all with different levels of experience and a variety of backgrounds in dance or performance. Thankfully, it has been going very well -- even though we still have a lot of work to do to get ready for the summer performance season, it has blown me away how fast some of these girls are picking up the choreography and taking to working with fire. Everyone is enthusiastic about being there, everyone is practicing at home, and everyone is bringing their own contributions to the group as a whole.

We had quite a successful performance this past week at the Rotunda in West Philly, the first performance we've done with the entire troupe present since the new girls joined. We had a ton of people come out to the event just to see us... we had people who found us online randomly, friends driving from hours away... I even had a regular customer at the Cafe and his 16 year old daughter (who works with me sometimes at the Cafe on the weekends, a dancer her whole life) come out just to see us perform. It was not without it's small hiccups, but for what it was... a 20 minute showcase of solos, duets, fire, non-fire, bellydance, burlesque, "crunking"...totally come together in a short amount of time and look pretty darn decent. And the audience LOVED US. Yes, things are good.

Check out the amazing shot below (photo courtesy of Reagan Lam) from our performance at the Rotunda, May 1st for Poet-tree en Motion Spring Performance Series. This is a move that Lux Arati has done before... from our first fire performance at PEX Summer Festival in 2011, with a whole different cast of performers. We call it "The Flower" --  we come into a circle and then fan out (literally, with our fire fans out, haha, bad pun...)  We rotate in a circle, with the highest point in the back and the lowest point facing the audience... creating the effect of a giant flaming flower! This particular move has it's roots in traditional Japanese fan dance choreography, something we almost always end up referencing since we use fire fans quite often with our group pieces. At any rate, the audience always goes nuts when we do this move. We hear a lot of "Oooohs" and "Ahhhs" and that sort of thing. 

The Show

Speaking of performing, I'm also working again on the team organizing this years Russian Roulette Variety Show for PEX Summer Festival 2013. I suppose at this point my role is something like co-creative director/co-producer, and along with my dear long-distance friend Jexi we are making it happen this year, rain or shine. We have two shows planned for the weekend (Thursday and Friday night) and proposed a rain date JUST IN CASE. We will NOT be rained out again!

Aside from co-directing and co-producing the show, I'll likely be performing in it with Lux Arati and I've taken on the role of graphic designer. Whatever we'd had from previous years was somewhat unfinished and needed to be updated. Below are what came of that assignment... a new logo and the rectangular graphic is for our Facebook page cover photo. Not to shabby, eh?

New logo for The Russian Roulette Variety Show for 2013

RRVS Facebook cover photo graphic

Besides being incredibly busy and finally feeling successful in my art and performance outlets... I've been able to handle most of the unnecessary drama that goes with my life (evidently) in stride, so far. In case you couldn't tell from my paintings, I am a serious perfectionist, and more often than not this curse-blessing can stress me the hell out. I pay the same amount of attention that I give my detailed, mathematical geometrically perfect paintings to the costumes and accessories I make, "rough" sketches for bigger plans, graphics and everything else. It can be really intense, and I am definitely my own worst critic and judge myself harsher than anyone else on a regular basis. After nearly giving myself a nervous breakdown this past weekend over some simple costumes (for our long-planned Lux Arati video shoot day) I decided that I have enough anxiety in my life, and if I can avoid putting extra stress on myself for things that just aren't worth it, I will try my hardest to do so. (For example -- instead of trying to make things when I really don't have time... I promised myself to try and find something I already have to use, or go buy something. It won't kill me to not have a completely new, original, beautiful costume piece for every single performance. It just won't.) 

On that note, I have loaded but not edited all kinds of pictures of some of the earrings I've recently made (sold 1 more pair to a Lux Arati member and friend of mine, thank goodness), painting commissions in progress, and other random things that need documenting. Going to try and post more entries, even if they are shorter in writing and just a lot of photos. People like photos. People hate reading. People... are in general dumb. Not that anyone reading this is dumb. If you get this far, I freaking love you, man. I do. Thank you for listening to my ridiculous rants and musings. It means the world. <3

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Say You Missed Me

2013 is under way, and even though it's not quite the middle of February, there have been some exciting opportunities that have presented themselves for my performance and art careers.

Here is the first stellar example... the fiery fabulous ladies of Lux Arati and I were featured in the latest music video for Sunshine Superman and their song "Say You Missed Me."

Their Facebook page describes their music as "Catchy tunes, snarky lyrics" and "innovative pop" -- and although my first thought was "Okay, how are we supposed to bellydance to this?" -- we are fortunate enough to now have a mistress of modern dance in our midst. The inspiring and multi-talented Geri Vanore, aka Lady Omni, is one of the newest members of Lux Arati, and even though she is new to the world of fire, she has an extensive background in choreography and dance instruction (among other things, of course.) She also happened to be the link between Sunshine Superman and Lux Arati, and was asked by their snarky-sexy songstress Valentina to help choreograph dancers for their next music video. Geri mentioned the Luxie ladies and the band was sold. Guided by some seemingly magical unseen forces (and a lot of hard work), in one week we were able to put the pedal to the metal,  as Geri adapted some of our existing dance sequences to fit the tempo and mood of the music and we did our best to learn the new material in time for the video shoot this past Tuesday evening.

Still shot of Lux Arati with Sunshine Superman lead singer Valentina in the center 
during the video shoot for "Say You Missed Me."
(Photo courtesy of Valentina Raffaeli)

It was edited by their band member/resident videographer in just a few days and now has over 2000 hits on Youtube, which is totally mind-blowing.   

I can't wait to see the rest of the footage -- we shot a TON of takes that night, freezing our little butts off in a friends newly purchased warehouse space not too far from where we practice. There's always a measured degree of suffering with performance art, especially what we do. For awhile there, it seemed like every time we had a show there was a threat of rain or snow and one too many nights with frigid temperatures -- or, during the summer we were lighting things on fire during some of the hottest & most humid days of the season, which is almost worse than the cold. (Heat + humidity + fire = seriously unpleasant conditions.)

It looks like Lux Arati will be exposed to a whole different audience thanks to our involvement -- hopefully this will lead to more (paid!) gigs and performances in the future. Next stop? Not sure, but we are tentatively scheduled to perform at Poet-Tree in Motion again this spring at the Rotunda in West Philly. More information on that and other performances will be posted soon.  

****Sunshine Superman is playing in Philadelphia tonight at the World Cafe Live. Click here for the Facebook event page and more info. ****  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On to the next one

Goodbye, 2012, and good riddance.  
(I mean, Happy New Year guys!) 

Those close to me know that I am happy to move on to 2013. It's just another day, just another year, but something about the shift from December to January has us all reflecting on how we've been doing, what we've accomplished in the past 12 months, how we feel about it and what we want to change for the next year to come. I've always resisted the New Years resolution thing, on the premise that I should be able to make changes ANY time of year, not just in January. But I welcome it now. I think I need the reassurance that in 2013, things will be different.

I couldn't figure out what image to use at the beginning of 
this entry, so... here's THIS.  (Photo by Alex from Burning Man 2012)

2012 had, among other things, a rocky start, literally from New Years Eve on. It was a rather turbulent year from start to finish. Not just for me - in fact, more so for those close to me, including my friends and family. There were many beautiful moments, and plenty of difficult times, and a whole hell of a lot of hard work. But life goes on, and here we are in January of 2013 and I have assured myself (and those around me) that this year will be better. 

It may be because come July, I'll be turning 30, or because things were so chaotic this past 12 months - regardless my willingness to move on and keep going is strong and steadfast. It's not that I've never had (or written down) concrete life goals -- I think usually a vague direction of where I want my life to go has been enough in the past to get me by the day to day. With so much chaos, drama, tragedy... it's hard to sit down and think about your 5 year goals in a calm, collected manner. That was then, and this is now. Changes abound, and I've been pondering where I want to be, what I want to do, and how I want to get there in the past few weeks. Who knows what date this entry will post under, but I've been working on this entry since the first week in January, and now it's FEBRUARY and I'm finally able to understand what my brain has been processing since the start of 2013.

What I want to accomplish in 2013

1. More opportunities to show my work in and around Philly.
Last year I was ridiculously busy with enough extra projects I didn't have time to focus on exhibitions. I had one solo show at a local cafe and submitted my work in several group shows at First Friday events, parties, and so on. I'd like to show my work at several new venues, and hopefully organize another solo or partner show. Providing I can find appropriate outlets (sometimes these things just cost tons of money in entry fees) I'm hoping to submit my work to local group shows as well. 

2. Mural gigs.
The goal I am most excited about trying to accomplish this year is to get a mural gig. My idea is this: Despite having done murals for much of my life as an artist so far, it's been several years and none of them have been in the city I live in - the mural "capital" of the country. I want to find someone to donate an outdoor wall in a public area that I can use as a kind of advertising space for my work. I can fundraise for the materials and donate the time when I can -- possibly through a kickstarter campaign or something similar. I've always dreamed of going into the mural business with my dear friend and fellow artist Kristin Sholz. (Since we both work in the service industry and are otherwise prolific artists doing freelance work whenever we can, and between the two of us I think we can paint anything and cater to any client... yea, we should sit down and talk about this one.) 

3. Fire, bellydance and performance art ; take what I am already doing to the next level of awesomeness.
I created this ridiculous headdresses for performing in and have only worn them each once, for two separate performances. (One for my NYE gig, and I'll post the anticlimactic video of the performance at the end of the entry.) I want be able to incorporate the things like the headdresses that I create into my regular performance outlets, like Lux Arati. I want to get better at creating choreography so I can contribute more in that area of what we do. I want to learn a *new* fire tool, probably fire staff, and if I can afford to get one sometime soon, work on learning the art of sword balancing for bellydance. I also want to put on a concrete show of what we do in Philadelphia, though that may be more than I can handle this year. We'll see.

4. Personal goals: 
Work on fixing up my credit and be on my way to buying a house by this time next year. Work on quitting smoking, cause that is important for you know, staying alive. Especially if I ever want to have kids, which I should probably start thinking about doing before I get too old. I want to travel more this year, and forego Burning Man in 2013 to do so if need be. (Unless I come into a bunch of money, yea, that's not happening. I'd rather buy a house.) Incorporate more yoga/exercise into my daily & weekly rituals, along with more juicing and raw food smoothies, which I already do fairly often. Get better at setting up systems in my life for keeping things clean and organized. And go to bed earlier, because I am pretty much always exhausted. 

Looking back on 2012

1. Changes, changes...

Three of my dear friends and fellow members of Lux Arati either have moved to different cities or are about to leave Philadelphia. Or probably will. We also gained three new members, who are AMAZING and talented and I'm really excited about having them be part of the group. The saddest no doubt was the last minute exit of Lux Arati co-founder (and my closest friend in Philly) Jexime, one of the most talented, inspiring people I know.

Jexi spinning fire fans with the rest of Lux Arati 
(I'm next to her on the right, Nicole and Michelle on the left.) 
Photo by Lindsey Tweed.

Jexi left us to go halfway across the world to join the circus in Thailand. Seriously. And that's just for a few months, until she returns to the US and follows her heart to Taos, New Mexico. Since Jexi and I pretty much only got through 2012 because of our mutual support of one another, this is a hard one to let go of. However, I know she's doing the right thing, as the heart is the only thing you should listen to sometimes. I wouldn't be here, in Philly, if I hadn't done the same thing back in 2007. Ah, love. Le sigh.

2. Some of my favorite things from 2012:

Performing with Aish Tamid Fire Conclave at Burning Man 2012; From the beginning -- assisting with bringing already practiced choreography and seriously talented performers into our fire fan & bellydance sections ; to the hot sticky middle -- just surviving the 101 degree day with 100% humidity the day of the (hot hot fire) video shoot ; to the very end, the actual performances out in the desert -- in front of the Stella sculpture the one night and then at the base of the man, the best seats in the house, surrounded by our Philly fam and representing the East Coast (serious business) under the magnificent, magical full moon the night of the burn. 

Michelle and I performing with Lux Arati at PEX's 
Magic Garden Party in August 2012.
(Photo by Redlite Photos.)

Getting better at doing what I do (and being recognized for it); Especially with performing, I know I have a long way to go to be anything shy of an expert -- but with each performance and each practice session I find myself picking up choreography quicker, I can understand the moves faster and I'm finally ready to graduate to a new set of fans (now that I found someone to make a set that I actually really love.) My comfort level with free-spinning (as in, no choreography) has always been lacking, but this year there were several occasions where I went out there and did my thing and killed it. PEX's Halloween party was the pinnacle moment of that realization -- no awkward pauses, no fumbled moves, just smooth, tight transitions and graceful maneuvers. Thank god. Several friends came up to me after that performance to tell me how amazing it was. And it felt good. 

Nicole and I performing with Lux Arati at the 
Northern Liberties Krampus Christmas celebration, 
December 2012 in Liberty Lands park.
(Photo by Amber)

On a similar note, suddenly I find myself taking on a role and responsibility with Lux Arati that I never anticipated -- I am now the one who knows the most about performing with fire and the one that has been doing it the longest. Wait -- I'm the what? But yea, that's now me. I started playing with fire in early 2009, and now it's 2013. Anyone else who has been doing it longer has moved on, and I'm the resident fire expert for the group. Who knew?

Continuing to develop my work and name in the art community of Philadelphia; Art related, I sold more paintings, prints and received more commissions in 2012 than I ever have. The paperwork for these things I still need to get better at, if I ever want to transition into doing my thing full-time... which may happen someday, you never know. In the meantime it feels good to have 355 "likes" on my art page on Facebook, a handful of followers of this blog, and a number of people who I know read these words occasionally and are hopefully entertained, amused, or inspired.

Shape of the year: Definitely the Merkaba. 
This is the long-ago promised photo of Stella Octangula, the Philly C.O.R.E. 
Burning Man project at night all lit up with LED lights. 

I heard some FANTASTIC music and danced my ass off on numerous occasions; Favorite mix of the year (that would be music, folks, and mix as in a set that a DJ plays and/or records for our listening pleasure) I think has to be Coyoti's set from PEX's Halloween party, Back to Battle aboard the USS New Jersey. Actually, he played from the art car The Blackbird, parked right out front of the ship where we were spinning fire. Incidentally, I am almost positive that my greatest free-style spinning I was referring to earlier in the post took place during this set. Coyoti has come a long way since he started DJing and this mix absolutely shows it. (Click here to listen to the mix on Soundcloud.)

Now, if Mr. Michael Nighttime, one of my FAVORITE Philly DJ's had recorded his set from Sunday night at PEX Summerfest next to the pool... that might have trumped Coyoti's Halloween mix, but as it turned out, unfortunately that fantastic set that saved my weekend was not recorded. Oh well.  

Other notable music moments include seeing legendary drum n bass DJ Aphrodite play at the Opulent Temple stage during Burning Man. Waking up several mornings in the desert, listening to the sunrise sets from our Baltimore brother Neil Kurland travel into my tent -- and I can't forget hearing Neil's private drum n bass/jungle set during the only rainstorm on the playa, played to a maximum of maybe 8 people underneath the semi-shelter and on the modest musical setup of Mosaic Lounge (literally a block down from our camp.) That was a special moment, indeed. We couldn't find any music we liked that night so we made our own. 

All said and done; It was an excellent year for growth in performance and my artwork, and I like to think I made some marked improvement with my costuming projects, painting and even with my technical bellydance skills. I had several decent paying gigs with Lux Arati and on my own, I finally finished "The Honeycomb Merkaba" painting and gave it to it's owner(s), and sold a few paintings and pieces to friends and strangers. Just finished another commission at the end of the year (photo below) and am in the beginning stages of another one.

I survived the chaos, the tragedy, the abrupt changes to my comfortable little world. I had a lot of fun, many times, and worked hard in between. 

"Papaver Somniferum" / acrylic, charcoal pencil on wood 
Commissioned painting for Drew Rodkey, completed at the end of 2012.

"Poppy Box" / acrylic on gessoboard, wood
Sold this year to friends Erik and Hedy after my show at Buzz Cafe in April 2012.

Going to stop there as far as reflecting on 2012.  Though I wasn't sure how this would turn out when I began writing -- if it would be as negative and depressing as my initial reflection on the year at it's end -- I managed to stay hopeful, positive, and concentrate on most of the great things that came from the past year instead of the disappointing ones, the hard times, and general chaos. (Cancelled performances, family drama, breakups, and other rough times.) There were some fantastic moments within the general sludge, and on the whole I worked my ass off in all of my creative outlets.

Now that the initial shock of the new year and the necessary time to reflect and plan ahead has passed, I feel at ease. Writing has always been a form of therapy for me, whether it happens in private journals or here in my blog, on display for anyone to read. I believe everyone should try and write (even if no one else ever reads it), just as an emotional release. It doesn't matter what or why, be it something amazing that happened to you that you want to share with the world or a private message to yourself to re-read in years to come, and especially if you just feel awful that day and need to get some of that emotional baggage off your shoulders. 

I've realized lately also that I'm an incredibly, unnecessarily wordy person. Whether it's a personal email to a friend, info I'm posting to a group online, or most obviously, the blog post you may have not bothered to read this much of, I can't help it. It's my nature to draw things out longer than needed, there is no part of me that is naturally short and to the point. For those with short attention spans that can't be bothered to read my nonsense, I apologize. To the rest of you that have gotten this far and will continue to read whatever words I paint this page with, thank you. In a world that has become increasingly brief -- if you can't say it in a tweet or text message, it's not worth reading -- I'm going to hold on to the essays, the short stories, the gorgeous possibilities of the English language and it's bountiful, copious, innumerable myriad of words to choose from. (I hope that made sense and I used all those words correctly.)

My next post will be less wordy and have more photos of new work, hopefully exciting developments on new projects -- and not take as long to compose as this one did. Happy New Year, in February of 2013 from Xtina. 

And, the previously promised video of my performance from NYE 2012, dancing with fire fingers and wearing one of my headdresses. Also features fire eating by Lauren Raske and Liana Cameris, my fellow performers from the evening. Enjoy and don't laugh too hard. :)