Chicago blogger and baker, Natalie Slater, escapes all stereotypes. At a glance, you may think that you’ve got her all figured out, but spend an afternoon (or a week) reading through the content of her blog, BakeandDestroy.net, and you will surely reform your assumptions, time and again. Part of what you will uncover is that Natalie is a tech-savvy, self-promotion guru, a loving and supportive mother and wife, a veritable repository of counter-culture factoids, and a hell of a baker.
She is also a dear friend of mine, having put up with my disappearances and re-appearances over the years, and as such, has agreed to kick-start One Round Jack [my interview site; indefinitely postponed] with the following question and answer session. When you are finished reading, be sure to check out her celebrated blog!
I was interviewed recently by HEC TV for their program State of the Arts. The interview highlights my organization, Photo Flood Saint Louis, and they caught up with us while we were out photographing at the St. Louis Zoo. Obviously, this is some exciting promotion for PFSTL, and I will post a link to the episode when it becomes available.
Photo by Jason Gray
“Camino” translates roughly to “path”, which could provide a basic analogy for Francesca’s relationship to art. She is most certainly on the path of art, and in a relatively short amount of time, has traveled a long way (having co-founded/curated two apartment galleries and worked for several important arts organizations both in St. Louis and Chicago, all in less than a decade). Still, Miss Wilmott somehow remains entirely approachable, and considers promoting emerging local artists one of the important aims of her latest involvement, Los Caminos.
Francesca and Los Caminos are but two examples of the ever-expanding, St. Louis art-scene; proof that this city along the Mississippi still has something in store for an audience fast-becoming willing to look. If you haven’t been over to Cherokee Street lately, why not make your next trip a visit to an opening at Los Caminos? That is, right after you read her interview below.
I am currently looking for people to pose for my new series, Self/Unself. Each resulting image is a composite consisting of nine photos that attempt to alter a person’s identity by changing what they wear. One of the images will be nude.
Note: You do not have to feel completely comfortable posing for this (in fact, it’s probably better if you have some reservations), but you must be willing to be photographed without your clothing. Please follow the link above to see what will be expected. Each shoot takes about 20 minutes to complete.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in participating.
The proposition of identity in the 21st century is a complicated thing indeed. Our ability to control and alter the public perception of ourselves is extremely acute given social media’s dominance over visual and ideological communication. The desire for uniqueness is greater than it ever has been, and spills out in the development of our persona through our strict control over what others see and how they interact with us. Clothing is an important facet of this.
What we choose to wear each morning reflects our points of view (on politics, culture, etc.), and so the decision of what to wear becomes an extension of the brand that we are cultivating mostly through our presences online. In most Westerners’ minds, life is an imitation of an ideal, and so clothing becomes a standard bearer of this construction. However, for a substantial portion of the global community, the decision of what to wear is determined by their access to the castaway trends of post-industrial societies. For these people, clothing, as a personal language, does not exist (or exits less significantly). They are simply reliant upon what is provided. In this case, clothing is reverted back to its simple, utilitarian context as a barrier against the elements.
For the Self/Unself project, I have photographed volunteers in various states of undress. Each work is a grid comprised of nine images, documenting each person’s transition from clothing that they have selected for themselves to clothing provided for them (obtained through Mers Goodwill in St. Louis). The process illustrates several comparisons, the comparison between the self (as we identify with it) and the self taken away, the comparison of a person to another person (in various states of dress/undress), and then begs the question, “Are we really as unique as we think we are?”
tableful, © Toni Tiller
In life, there are certain people that you meet whose trajectory seems to point them perfectly at their intended destinations; people unconfused about their purpose and seemingly unfettered by the baggage that you yourself carry on your own slow journey. These persons do not stop to read the road signs; they plunge ahead, assured by their own inner compass. These individuals, few as they are, tend also to constantly inspire, albeit often less for following the rules than for breaking them. Toni Tiller is one of these people.
Tiller is an artist, but not of the traditional vein. For instance, she does not concern herself with the typical game of galleries and exhibitions, preferring instead to showcase her new work online to a growing base of supporters (many of who tune in for her wednesday contributions to the arts blog, www.Darteboard.com). Often, she has traded her work with other artists, their cultural esteem/art world-cred notwithstanding. In other cases, she has even allowed herself to become the object of the art. For her, the art is always front and center, while the commercial value of it is of very little concern.
Since 2006, when I first met her online, I have witnessed Toni’s virtual following grow from a mass of strangers on an arts forum, to blossom into a real bouquet of friends and fans alike. Despite all of her bohemian tendencies (or maybe because of them), I can imagine that she would be the first person that many people would choose to take with them to a deserted island. And why not, if nothing else, I am sure that she would tell some damn entertaining stories.
After you read her interview with One Round Jack, take a moment to explore her Flickr sets and see for yourself why I find her artwork so compelling.
Brian and I met under the oddest of circumstances, we both were working for a short time selling luggage for a retailer in Chicago’s Water Tower Place. Hawking high-end luggage was a stretch for me, so I can’t imagine what exact circumstances brought Mr. Motl to be employed at this particular shop on Michigan Avenue. In any case, we soon found common ground in the Dot Game (I am still the champ, Brian), and in playing music over the store’s sound system that was wildly offensive to our clientele. Sometime during that year, I got married, and my mother selected Brian to be the human tripod for her video camera, another unlikely partnership for Brian (the result is the only surviving video record of my wedding ceremony).
All of this is relevant only to illustrate that Brian is the type of guy who is at home anywhere, despite the fact that, for at least as long as I have known him, his singular obsession is with an object that is designed specifically to take you places.
I had hoped for this interview to be a really thorough introduction for the outsider into Brian’s signature world of bikes, beer, and anti-bon vivants, but he responded in typical Brian style by keeping things painfully simple and direct. I couldn’t even squeeze a picture of a bike or two that he has built out of him…
Oh well, the world is probably better off not trying to nail down what makes a guy like him tick. So do yourself a Brian and make yourself at home, pop open a beer, read this exceedingly brief interview, and then get back on the road where you belong.
Ramon Norwood, aka Radius, is not an enigma; you meet him once, and you understand him for life. This is not to say that Norwood is simple, just consistent about his passions. After all, how could someone who sites their influences as “everything and nothing” be simple, or inconsistent?
It’s somehow true that Radius’ music embodies both the present and the absent, and that is truly a difficult thing to phrase with words. His creations fill even as they hollow.
Ramon and I have known each other for over ten years, and in that time, we have had a knack for drifting away and then crossing paths again at improbable intervals. This too, is a possible comparison to his music; the evanescence followed by the unexpected resurgence. Maybe not.
Nevertheless, one thing about this music is for certain true, whether you are after the everything or the nothing, Radius has something for you.
Chicago-based pastry pro, Dinah Grossman, is a woman of many talents. She performs Tango, has a super-sharp wit, and of course, bakes delectable treats, among other things. Her business, Cheap Tart Bakery, employs the latter ability, and I imagine that a lot of people will be taking notes as her enterprise grows. I know from personal experience, that the food industry is a difficult market to be successful in, but when you have a true talent, it just shows (I didn’t).
Dinah and I met several years back, when we were both working at a job that did not utilize either of our full, innate potentials. She struck me then, as she still does, as being extremely self-assured and competent, but also accessible and adaptable. In other words, capable of seeing things from many points of view. She had traveled extensively, which struck me as remarkable for her age at the time.
She once gave me a short story of hers entitled, Tucson Days, which illuminated the extraordinary thoughts of a few ordinary people grasping for a glimpse of the profound and hoping to find it underlying the unremarkable reality of life. The story is written in a fluid prose that borders on something Kerouac would have been fortunate to contrive during one of his long typewriter benders. There is a bit of Updike in there as well. Thankfully, I still have this copy; a short excerpt:
“I wasn’t sure what any of this had to do with an impending nuclear explosion, so I sat and watched the sun melt away, glancing at Hershel’s face for clues. Moshe picked at a hangnail. Hershel, who was nodding in grave understanding at Garrison, apparently found it all terribly relevant. After a while we climbed down off the roof and Garrison got on his bicycle and rode off into the dark.”
So, what does all of this about Dinah have to do with tarts? In my opinion, everything.
Some of you may recall that I formed a site to post interviews with notable people who I have met, and that the site has been dormant for some time.
I am closing down that site now, migrating its content to Hours of Idleness, and will continue to feature interviews here. First one is below.