Blue Fringe Arts 2019

I know this transformation is painful, but you’re not falling apart.  You’re just falling into something different, with a new capacity to be beautiful….William C Hannan

I was thrilled to have been featured artist at Blue Fringe Arts and Literature prize last week during their annual exhibition and art/literature prize. I had the opportunity to speak at the awards ceremony and I will attempt to share what I MEANT to talk about.  I tend to get side tracked and forget some of the things I want to say when I speak, which is probably why writing is so much easier for me to do.  I can go back and edit… Public speaking isn’t quite so flexible.  So I will share with you here, the gist of what I meant to say.

Three years ago I was in a really bad place, both mentally, emotionally and physically.  I was in an horrendous housing situation which was triggering my PTSD beyond belief.  Reaching out to politicians, media, authorities, anyone who would listen, I was desperate to find my way out of it.  I got some practical help from our local State Member of Parliament, the wonderful Trish Doyle.  She helped in many ways, but one of those was to put me in touch with some organisations who might be able to help me deal with the emotional side of what was happening.

So I had one of the workers come out to see me and I showed my art.  I’d only been doing it for about a year at the time and so was not confident with it.  She suggested I should enter Blue Fringe Art prize which is for people with a lived experience of mental illness.  I, of course, said no.   No was my first reaction to everything at the time but I felt my work wasn’t good enough to be exhibited.

The next time she visited, she brought the entry forms with her.  I told her I couldn’t afford the entry fee.. She told me it was free.  Sigh!  That excuse gone,  I caved and entered just to shut her up.  It is indicative of how worn down I was, that I didn’t have the energy to sabotage myself as I would usually do.  So I went to the op shop to find a frame to use as I couldn’t afford professional framing.  I found one for $10 (still more than I could afford to be honest) and framed a work I’d already had printed.

On the day of the awards,  I went along and I came second in the photography section.  I took my seat again and as usual, my mind started to wander through the rest of the awards.  When they were announcing the overall winner, I realised that it was my work that was being described.  I went hot and cold.  My stomach started to knot and ache.  I had difficulty breathing… Classic anxiety attack for me.  My son sitting next to me realised it and said quietly.. “just breathe mum”.  I got up, accepted the award with what probably looked like a nonchalant attitude.  I was masking the anxiety.

But amongst the inner turmoil, something changed in me that day.  I started to believe that maybe my art  was actually good enough.  In fact, maybe I was good enough.  Because up until that time, if I’m honest, I was just sitting back, waiting to grow old and die. I felt I had nothing of any worth left to offer the world.  Suddenly, I started to see my art with fresh eyes, which then rolled onto making me look at myself a bit more kindly.  I finally felt alive again.

Since that time, I’ve had numerous opportunities that I could never have dreamed of having.  I have had a residency at Arthur Boyd’s Bundanon Trust, I have spoken at the Art Gallery of New South Wales,  I have had my work published and have won other soul enriching awards.  I currently have work on display in Brisbane and at the Melbourne Arts Centre.   Last year in the lead up to Blue Fringe, I was having treatment for breast cancer and working on my entries into Blue Fringe kept my mind off the invasive procedures that I was undergoing.

I credit that all to Blue Fringe 2016.  Because that is the day my soul started to grow again.  The committee, volunteers, sponsors, supporters, TAFE, the workers who encourage entries and the dignitaries that always attend are amazing and I thank them all for their tireless work.  But mostly, I want to thank the artists who are brave enough to bare their soul and put it on display.  They show the world the beauty within.  They are changing perceptions.  In the media, people with mental illness are often portrayed as tragic, angry, anti social people who are not worth anything.  They are so wrong.

The work on display is anything but tragic or angry or anti social.  It is bright and beautiful and its shows the hope that lives in the heart of the artist.  It pays homage to the resilience of the human spirit.  By speaking out through their art, these beautiful and brave souls are changing the way mental illness is seen.  And only by sharing our stories and changing perceptions, can we change the world.

(These photos are merely a tiny slice of the work on display.  Head over to Blue Fringe Arts on Facebook to see more of the day)

 

 

 

All The Best People Are

Have I gone mad?  I’m afraid so.  But I will tell you a secret.  All the best people are….. Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland

Last year at Blue Fringe Arts Exhibition, I ran into Rose who had made and exhibited a gorgeous, over the top, Mad Hatter’s hat.  The hat told a story, as all the art in Blue Fringe does.  I said I would like to do a shoot with it one day and almost a year down the track it finally happened.

For those who don’t know about  Blue Fringe, it is a yearly art and literature prize that runs in conjunction with Mental Health month. Blue Fringe Arts celebrates and acknowledges the creativity of people with a lived experience of mental illness. Based in the Blue Mountains, the Festival is held in October each year to coincide with Mental Health Month.

Blue Fringe Arts originated as the Adrienne Brown Awards in 1992.  Adrienne Brown, born in 1969, was a young woman who had a lived experience of schizophrenia.  Her long struggle with her illness was relieved, at times, by her love for poetry, the arts and music.  Adrienne is remembered in the Blue Fringe Arts and Literature Festival for her passion for creative expression.  It is now coming up to it’s 27th year and will be held at Wentworth Falls TAFE from 23rd to 26th October.   It’s well worth seeing.

This year, I am the featured artist, and I am so honoured to have been chosen.  I have been fortunate and humbled in the past, to have won both the Photography prize as well as the overall art prize.  Winning was fantastic, I’m not going to lie.  Being chosen as featured artist, unbelievably exciting.  But being surrounded by such a diverse group of incredibly talented, creative and passionate people and seeing the difference art makes in lives is by far the greatest thing about Blue Fringe.  I have made great friends and love spending time with so many of the participants and the committee.

So last Saturday, while a blanket of snow fell on the Blue Mountains, I was going into a bit of a meltdown.  I had about 12 people organised for a big Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  There was a cast of 10 but one couldn’t make it due to the weather.  I also had a behind the scenes shooter and someone who was painting faces too, so I was in panic mode at the inclement weather.  The venue had already had to be changed to an inside location, due to the sudden cold snap but snow really was pushing the friendship.  I love snow.  Adore it….. But the roads were closed and the thought of my whole cast of characters not being able to make it sent me into a tail spin.

I had been preparing for this for ages.  Making costumes, headdresses, scepters, planning images, researching….  I had borrowed equipment from Purple Sky Productions, my “go to” when I need anything.  A portable green screen for a Down the Hole shoot, which I’ve yet to edit and some nice bright lights made for a great set up. The night before the event,  Lachlan had helped me start setting up the teaparty.  I was not going to be happy if it all fell down.  However, Mother Nature was kind and the snow cleared, the roads opened and the shoot went ahead.  We had a tea party feast with great conversation, laughter and fun.  I did some of the costumes and some of the characters did their own.

The gorgeous Rachael painted the most glorious faces while her partner Richard went to pick up things I’d forgotten.  My darling Kirsty was taking behind the scenes images and Nick from Filmclass Pictures came in and did a bit of filming.  Everyone got into character and made the shoot so much fun.  To be honest, the pictures weren’t as good as they should have been as I was too intent on enjoying the day too, so wasn’t completely in photographer mode.  I don’t really mind.  I’m so blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people.  The experience was by far the highlight for me.

But here they are.  My wonderful cast of characters.  I have lots of behind the scenes stuff I will put up soon but for now, let me introduce you to Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, the White Queen, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the White Rabbit, the Duchess, and of course, TweedleDee and TweedleDum.  – All the best people are!

curiouser and curiouserred queen, white queen and meits always tea timeas it isn't it aintferrets are ferrets

The Long Road to Happiness

She finally found the strength to let go of the past. She no longer needed the fear which had haunted her for so long. She found a way to set her spirit free and followed the long road to happiness.  Allowing the past to wash away from her soul. With a promise of brighter days…..Livonne

There has been so much upheaval and trauma in my life and if you had told me seven years ago that I would one day know absolute peace and happiness, I would have called you crazy.  And yet, that’s where I find myself. At peace with my life and happy with where I find myself.

Little did I know when I entered a classroom in 2013 to study photography, that it would be the first steps on the road to happiness.  I had been trying to work my way back to happiness for years and the fact that I’d even considered doing a photography course says I had started making some progress.  But it was only when I started looking at life through the camera lens that really started to find myself.

Whilst I don’t create many self portraits as such, every image is a reflection of my life.  Each image has part of me and my story in it.  That has been incredibly healing and has turned out to be the road to happiness.  This image is perhaps one of the most telling I have ever made.  It is me!

The-Long-Road-to-Happiness

 

 

Imagine a fairytale

Sometimes in the middle of an ordinary life, life gives us a fairytale….

I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to do a photoshoot with these gorgeous girls last month, just 5 weeks before their wedding.  Well yesterday was the day they said “I Do” to each other and started a new life together and now the adventure for them begins.

I knew I’d end up doing a mermaid image when I took a photo of them beside the pool.  The Little Mermaid has always been one of my favourite Disney movies.  Part of that is because of the music which I adore but there’s more than that.  I love mermaids.  I always have.  Mermaids and Unicorns.  I believed in them, in fact I still do.  Just because we’ve never seen proof, doesn’t make them not real.  Even if they are a figment of someone’s imagination, they are real and beautiful.

I’ve often been called a dreamer.  Mostly it was meant as an insult, but I now take it as a compliment.  The dreamers of the world hold so much power in their beautiful minds.  Imagination is the precursor to real life.  Someone imagined electricity,  phone, computers etc before they came into being and our lives are radically changed as a result.

We need to use our imagination everyday to imagine a new way of life.  Imagine what we could do if we all collectively imagined a world with no poverty, no war, no hatred, no climate change. Imagine a world where people are accepted for who they are with no judgement or prejudice.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?   To quote John Lennon.. Imagine all the people, living life in peace… Imagine, Imagine, Imagine.  We all need to imagine.

There was a song I heard when I was a very small child by Tom Clay, about the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and John F Kennedy.  It impacted me greatly on many levels as a small child but regardless of the trauma and grief in it, the words that impacted me most were these.  “Some people see things as they are and say why?  I dream things that never were and say why not.”  Those powerful words made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my dreamer world.

Someone once dreamed that you would be free to love whoever you wanted to love and yesterday proved how far that dream has come.  Isn’t the world amazing? We all know there is so much more to do, so many more wrongs to make right, but let’s celebrate each victory.  Let’s appreciate every dream that becomes a reality.  As Maya Angelou once said, “If you’re always trying to be normal, you’ll never know how amazing  you can be”.. Let’s stop living ordinary lives and start living our fairytale.  Imagine that!

An Ordinary Life
Sometimes in the middle of an ordinary life, life gives us a fairytale.

 

 

The Magic

I do believe something magical can happen when you read a good book….JK Rowling

I can honestly say that reading is the most important skill I have ever learned in my life.  Of that there is no doubt.  I have spoken before about how someone gave me a “read along” book of Mary Poppins when I was quite young and with the help of Tinkerbell ringing a bell when it was time to turn the pages and my amazing Mum, I learned to read at a very young age.

By the time I went to school, I was well ahead of other kids and did the first 2 grades of school in one year thanks to my ability to read.  Reading has always been able to distract me from whatever was going on in my life.  Being able to read from such an early age, I retreated a lot into the books I read.  I didn’t just read them,  I became part of them.

I climbed the Magic Faraway Tree to visit Moonface and Dame Washalot.. I became part of the Secret Seven and when I ran out of those books, I shifted my allegiance to become the sixth member of the Famous Five.  Little Women, Seven Little Australians, Anne of Green Gables, the list went on and on.  I read voraciously.  I read fairy tales, poetry, magazines.. anything I could find.

I’ve never forgotten how special it is to open a book and feel the magic of becoming part of the story.  I never want to lose that feeling.  When I went to the Promoting Passion workshop by Brooke Shaden last month I took a range of photos of the models there.  As soon as I took this one, I knew I would make it into a homage to literature.  The gorgeous  model is Lea Lorenz and she played the enchanted reader perfectly.

DSC_8086

 

When Life Imitates Art

Paradoxically though it may seem, it is none the less true, that life imitates art far more than art imitates life…….Oscar Wilde

On the 15th April 2018, I was playing with some photos I had taken in Paris and I pondered what the earth would look like after we careless humans had finished with it. That thought prompted me to make this image of Notre Dame Cathedral with water pouring in, the roof destroyed, given back to nature…….Post apocalyptic . While I posted it on Instagram and Facebook at the time, I ended up removing it from Instagram as it’s not my usual style of work.  I left it on Facebook though as it’s harder to scroll back and to be honest, I’d forgotten about it.

Scroll forward a year  and I woke up to the news of Notre Dame being destroyed by fire. Then Facebook sent me a memory… a reminder that I did this picture.. On the 15th April 2018… Exactly a year to the date that Notre Dame burned. While I pictured it flooded and it had actually burned,  I imagine the water inside would have been quite plentiful after the fire had been put out. 

Then I saw a photo taken of the inside of the cathedral after the fire.. The roof was damaged in a very similar way.  Not exact but similar.. And if you’ve been to Notre Dame, you’ll see that it’s exactly the same area that I imagined damaged.   While I know it was human error due to the renovation work, I have to be honest,  I felt totally spooked by the similarities and of course the date, being exactly a year prior to it’s destruction.  How often does life imitate art?  I think more often than we actually realise. 

I’m a strong believer in envisioning our future the way we want it.  I’ve always kept a vision board and mostly everything has happened that I’ve put on them.  Is it really a secret of the universe or do we see the images of what we want and remind ourselves constantly what we’re working towards?  Is it a combination perhaps of the two?  Really, does it matter?  As long as I’m travelling the road I want to be on and it’s working for me, I’ll keep doing it.  But when I think of envisioning my future, this wasn’t what I had in mind.  It makes me more careful of what thoughts I allow my brain to entertain.

So I’ll share this image of Notre Dame that I named “After We Leave” even though it’s not my usual style… It still freaks me out a bit to think that I did this exactly a year before Notre Dame was damaged.  Was it a premonition?  Or just a spooky coincidence.  I guess we’ll never know.  There are some mysteries of this thing we call life that remain just that.. A mystery.  And just in case it does work, let’s all imagine a world living in harmony, where war, poverty, climate change and crooked politicians don’t exist and we live as one with nature…. It can’t hurt can it?

flooded-notre-dame

notre-dame-comparisonThe image on the left.  Credit Livonne Imagery.

The image on the right. Credit:CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/POOL VIA REUTERS

Unlocking the Soul

She lived in a cage with the door wide open, never realising she could leave.  She craved freedom.  She longed to fly.  She desperately yearned to unlock her soul.  Then one day she realised that she had held the key in her hand all along.   She had only to  believe in her wings to carry her and to trust her dreams to guide her……….Livonne

When I gained my Diploma of Photo Imaging in 2014, I really had no idea what I wanted to do.  As I’ve spoken about in previous posts, I tried all sorts of the usual commercial photography options and found I really didn’t enjoy them.  I was at an age where I wanted to find that one thing that would enhance my life and not feel like a chore.  I had tried my hand at composite photography but really didn’t have the skills to make the images that lived in my head though I kept trying.

As I browsed the internet for inspiration, one particular artist’s name constantly appeared –  Brooke Shaden.  I loved her images.  Though they were a bit darker than I would normally be drawn to,  their beauty drew me in.  She was able to tell a story with one image.  The storyteller in me was enchanted.

I bought a few of her tutorials and learned so much about how to make a cohesive image out of many different photos.  She spoke about finding inspiration and textures and curves and all sorts of stuff that I was longing to learn.  Armed with the knowledge, I started to bring the images in my mind into reality.

I became quite voracious in my need to learn and went on to find many other artists who had different techniques and teaching styles.  I had never wanted to become a Brooke clone but rather to find my own style, however the inspiration I gained from her was invaluable.   A few months ago, I saw that with the sponsorship of Sony Alpha Female program, she was coming to Australia for a Promoting Passion 2019 workshop in Melbourne.

So last week, I headed down to attend the workshop.  It was fantastic being in a room with so many other like minded people and listening to Brooke speak about finding our passion and following our dreams.  The other guest speaker was Joel McKerrow who I was enthralled by.  An  award winner writer, poet and speaker, he held the audience in the palm of his hand with his awe inspiring prose and wisdom.

All in all it was a great day and I was so pleased I made the effort to go.  Although there were many highlights throughout the day, the image maker in me was thrilled to spy Brooke posing for some images on the other side of the room and I managed to head over and get a few shots.  Here is my favourite of the day.  It was appropriate for me that she had keys in her hand as it was her images that inspired me and her tutorials that unlocked the skills needed to bring my dreams to life.  It was an honour to finally meet her and even get a hug.  Thank you Brooke.

Brooke-Shaden