By Lupe Carlos III
For me creativity is creativity. Whether painting, drawing, writing or photography. These come from the same place deep in my being. I “bring forth” (the meaning of the word, “draw”) images found in the well of my experience here in this world and times where I’ve snuck a peek beyond the veil. Writing gives a story and asks the reader to create pictures in their mind. I asked this with my first blog post. See: “Along The Bank”, 6/20/2017. Visual art gives an image and asks the viewer to create a story in their minds. These are two very different processes but oddly the same. My photography is intensely personal and autobiographical. I tell stories from my own life through images I’ve edited on the computer. As Picasso said, “Exaggerate toward the truth”. The images are about the feeling of an experience far more than they are about thoughts or memories. I use symbols to tell the story in a visual language that I invented. My hope it to trigger curiosity in the viewer. There is opportunity to overlay their own stories on top of these images. These pictures come from a place of universal human-ness. It is our stories that bind us. I prefer not to say very much about what the pictures mean to me. I much prefer to hear what people say the pictures mean to them.
A couple Februarys ago I asked our dear Cassia to pose for a series of photos. I had an idea of what I wanted and gave her only a vague suggestion. I told her I wanted a red riding hood vibe. She came dressed as requested and I supplied one of my “magic” suitcases. Karen, Cassia and I met in early morning at Camp Long, here in Seattle. Indeed, magic ensued. I’ve included images from that day. Until this very moment I’ve never told anybody that these are images I made to process and honor the passing of my mother. These are pictures of Mom's journey. The suitcase is filled with the only thing we can take with us, a lifetime of memories. The suitcase is filled with all the love she shared here to comfort her until she arrives home.
The most literal of these images is “Afterlife”. The picture included with this blog that depicts a woman walking toward a wooded cathedral. My mother was a Catholic Native American and I imagine this is what her journey home might look like. I gave a copy of this picture to Cassia without telling her what it meant to me and was stunned to receive her beautiful interpretation 15 months after the photo shoot. Her written words are the kindest, most generous gift she could have given me. They are an indication that she has truly seen the work and allowed herself to be vulnerable to a story. With Cassia’s permission, I’ve included her writing below.
I keep this picture on the shelf with my art supplies and a blank drawing book my cousin gave me that I may designate for colored pencil sketches and ink & watercolor. Sitting at my table (the new one, that invites you to soon dine upon it) I can see this image, propped against the back wall of its shelf. It's called "Afterlife." Yet it is oddly filled with an infinite present, one life lived spilling into the next and then the next.
I sit for a moment not to tell the story of what the suitcase contains. But to consider the entire image. The picture is a dark silver-screen forest, where a lit cathedral awaits, like a gateway to the land of Oz. Like the warm lit way-station buildings Ray Bradbury created in the Martian Chronicles, on a planet he described where cold rain poured down all the time--all of it--and along the way there were warm well-lit glass domes with doors, where travelers could enter and find dry towels and sandwiches and clean cots with comforters and pillows.
The primeval forest of this composite photo as well is strangely not ominous, but lit like lanterns and there is warmth and nourishment in the cathedral. The suitcase contains something the Goddess of that temple needs in order to perform the most powerful act of healing ever conceived or carried out. What does this worn, disguised conduit hold (we know there are several right answers.)
The figure is a character I portrayed. But I know that beneath the coat and scarf (it was a chill February morning) it is me. I am an immigrant in new territory walking perpetually toward new lives as earlier ones fall away. I am walking into transformation, on solid earth. I bring the last key ingredient, though (and here's the truth) I don't know (yet) what it is or how to use it, to someone who does. Anyone and everyone could be beneath that coat. It happened to be me on that day. That coat is everyone's cocoon, and we know what finds its way out of those things.
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist