Summer means escaping the desert and heading to the beach.

     I recently mailed out several rolls of film to be developed after holding on to them for several years. Unfortunately for me, there is no place to develop E6 or black and white film here. I should start developing my own black and white, at the very least! Yes, this seems like a very good idea. I will!

     This little series is from last summer. Me and my little Bee went on an unforgettable vacation together-we went to Disneyland, just the two of us. I didn't take a Polaroid camera with me, because I thought it would be difficult to manage, but I did take my little Black Slim Devil 35mm for film shots. This is Ilford film, and if I remember correctly, 400 iso.

     I wonder where we will be able to manage to escape to this summer. I don't think we will have the means to go very far, not this time. I hope you get a chance to get away with your loved ones in the coming months, too.  I always like to think "this will be the best summer ever!" I say that every year.

Bee at Disneyland, Main Street, Summer 2010

Bee and Thomas

Huntington Beach, CA, Summer 2010

Bee and her new temporary pal.

SURF CITY aka Huntington Beach


Our City Dreams

     Last night I took the time watch the 2008 documentary film, Our City Dreams.  It's directed by Chiara Clemente, daughter of renouned artist Francesco Clemente.  Clemente's experience growing up in the art world inspired her to become a filmmaker.  She creates documentaries which allow the public a semi-private view into the lives of artists. 


     This film follows the working lives of five female artists within a two-year time span. (Official Website)  The artists included are Swoon, Ghada Amer, Marina Abramovic, Kiki Smith, and Nancy Spero.  

     Although each of these women approach their work differently, they are all concerned with issues that are relevant in the lives of women with diverse backgrounds around the world today.  In an article by Giovanna Masselli, she describes Clemente's vision, and how her personal experience influenced her view on art. 


     What interests me most about the film is that it takes an intimate look into each artist’s process and their feelings behind what inspires and motivates them in the studio and in their lives.  Clemente was able to piece interviews together in a way that allows viewers to feel a personal level of engagement with the artists.  I was happy to find that this film is currently streaming on Netflix.

     Here is a little background information on the five artists included in this film, in the order of their appearance.  

1. Swoon, (birth name Caledonia Dance Curry) born 1977, Daytona Beach, Florida, USA.


     Swoon works mostly with large paper prints and cut-outs in public urban spaces.  She also makes good use of installation in a gallery space, and has also worked on community projects.  Her art is characterized by a sensitivity to the personalities of the people in her representations.  She is mostly concerned with the dynamics of human connection. 


2.  Ghada Amer, born 1963, Cairo, Egypt.


     Gender and sexuality are central thematic elements in Amer's work.  She first received international recognition for her embroidered pieces.  She is currently working as a multimedia artist and includes drawing, painting, sculpture, performance, and installation in her repertoire.  She addresses contemporary issues of women living in a modern society.

And the Beast, 2004. Acrylic, embroidery, and gel medium on canvas.
Collection of the artist, courtesy of Gagosian Gallery


3.  Marina Abramovic, born 1946, FPR Yugoslavia.


     Amer is a performance-based artist dealing with gender, ego, identity, and the dynamics of relationships and behavior between people.  She tests the boundaries of human nature and the body itself in her performances.  She works both on location and within the walls of a gallery space.  

Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Imponderabilia, 1977 

4.  Kiki Smith, born 1954, Nuremberg, Germany. 


     Smith works within the broad parameters of gender, identity, and social issues.  She uses a wide variety of media and techniques in her art, which includes print, sculpture, and installation.  She is featured on the PBS Art21 series, which highlights the work of contemporary American artists.

Hanging Woman

5.  Nancy Speroborn 1926 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, died in 2009 in New York City.


     Spero had a prolific career, and was one of the first notable female artists involved in the women's movement of the 20th century.  Her work deals with cultural issues, politics, and gender, with a focus on the female experience in society.  She is also featured on the PBS Art21 Series.

Israeli Women Soldiers, 1966-70 

     I know you'll enjoy Our City Dreams as much as I did, whether you're an artist, or someone who enjoys art.  It's an inspiring, interesting look into the lives of five artists who are successfully communicating their ideas.  I enjoyed the rare opportunity of being able to share the experience of these women from their inner world.


The Awkwardness of a Self-Portrait

     Those of us who are obsessed with photography eventually succumb to taking a self-portrait. Once you take one, it is very hard to stop, possibly because of some ingrained need to try to see yourself as others do.  The reflection in the mirror seems so dishonest most of the time, and reality is shrouded by shifting feelings concerning identity.  It's not about having an overextended ego, it's more of a curiosity with oneself.
     For me, the urge to turn my camera towards myself stems from two things, the first being the need to photograph a person, and not having a person around other than myself to shoot.  Also, I have to say that I am admittedly shy about working with models.  I have before, but fairly precise planning is often times necessary, and that is just something I am currently not all that interested in.

     The second thing is simply wanting to have a record of myself.  I have taken so many photos of the people around me, yet there are very few of me.  I realize I am the only person I know who always has a camera (actually always at least two) on hand, so it is understandable.

I don't think I have ever taken a self-portrait at this distance away from the camera.
I ran out there, and was surprised I made it before the timer went off.
     Shooting a self-portrait can be very difficult, and those who do it well deserve major high fives.  Flickr has even made a few people famous (at least Internet famous) for taking fabulous self-portraits.  Although I have been attempting to shoot decent self-portraits for several years now, there has only been a small handful that I can honestly say I like.  As for all the rest, I share them because I don't feel the need to always be sharing only my best work. To me, outtakes are an interesting part of a photographer's process, and I always enjoy seeing them.

It would have been a better idea if I had worn something less sporty, like a dress.  This was sheer laziness on my part.  As I was getting ready to leave my house, it did cross my mind that I wasn't wearing a good outfit for pictures.  I talked myself out of changing by briefly convincing myself that me as-is would be more honest, and would therefore make more sense, visually.  I can talk myself in and out of anything, when it comes down to it.  A floaty dress in this wind would have produced a nicer picture.  Also, a different posture would have helped.

     Perfection is never my goal or main concern with portraiture.  I am much more inclined to try and capture personality and mood, if I can.  I happen to love those shots where a person is caught in mid-blink.  That half-second of vulnerability is very appealing to me.  The facial expression around the eyes is completely charming in it's misrepresentation, making the person seem inordinately precious and out-of character.

I quite like the position and size of my body within this frame, but like I said in the previous caption, a more appropriate clothing style would have made something I could have been proud of.  This film's tones lend so much to a picture atmospherically.  It really is a shame not to take advantage.  Regardless of the turnout, I still had fun going out to the desert by myself for a Polaroid adventure.
     I took these with my Polaroid 340, Polaroid 100 Chocolate Paul Giambarba (expired) film, and Polaroid self-timer #192. I drove to the outskirts of town with a step ladder in my trunk to use as a tripod.  It's hit-or-miss with a Polaroid self-portrait. I'm not at all happy with any of these, but at least I know what to do better for next time.


About me. The formal version.

     My name is Mia Carisa Moreno.  I was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, in 1977, where my parents met while they were attending college at Highlands University.  I was raised in the border town of El Paso, Texas, where I currently reside with my 10-year-old daughter, Isabella Dolores.  We are Mexican American, with an emphasis on the American.  (It could go both ways here in El Paso.)

My parents and our first family car.  My mom is pregnant with me here. 

I think my dad was feeding me bananas.

Me and my mom.

     After my daughter Bella (“Bee”) was born, I made a decision to return to school to pursue my dreams.  I am finally going to be graduating with a BFA with a Drawing major and a Painting minor in December 2011.  I say “finally’ because I did not anticipate it taking me a full decade to get here. 

Bee, just a few hours old.

My Kindergarten baby.

     I underestimated the struggle that single mother’s go through when there are limited resources, limited time, all-nighters in the studio, and the dire never-ending flow of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.  Relentless self-doubt and second-guessing have invaded my being consistently.  There is a voice in my head that tells me this degree is absolutely luxurious, and totally meaningless.  Lucky for me, I love living in the art world enough to drown out any negative connotations.

My favorite thing to do in this town.

     I plan to continue working on a graduate degree.  I am most interested in research pertaining to the psychology of the creative mind, specifically the female creative mind.  Gender and society are central thematic elements in my work, and sharing any acquired knowledge fulfills my spirit in a way that motivates me to continue on this path. 

     I hope to someday write a few books, have a few solo exhibitions somewhere other than my hometown, teach an art class or two at the college level, and be the sole proprietor and lead seamstress of a profitable dressmaking company specializing in wedding and christening gowns.

Polaroid SX-70, Artistic TZ.
     If I am not drawing, painting, stitching, or out on a photo-taking adventure, then I am probably either watching Little House on the Prairie reruns with my brilliant little Bee, playing Rock Band with my super-romantic partner Steven, or sneaking off to the movie theatre by myself to watch something that has the potential to make me cry.

Me and Steven, a few years ago.


Me and Bee embarked on our first analog photo adventure together.

     It was just a few weeks ago, Easter weekend, I believe. I can't wait for Bee to finish her roll so we can go get it processed. Finally, there will be some non-self-portrait shots of me! Well, the photos of me part is really not that exciting, but maybe I would eventually like to remember how I looked in my 30's.

     How sweet of my little Bee, returning the photo-love by pointing her little blue cutie 35mm at me. I'm a lucky mama. I wonder what the world looks like through her big brown eyes. I wonder what I look like to her. Photos tell the truth, don't they? At least photos from analog cameras do, if the exposures are unprocessed, and even more so when they are uncropped.

     Well, this is a discussion that holds too much debate. Everything is always relative anyway, as it should be. And I'm not completely convinced one way or the other when it comes down to it.

Bee with her birthday present...from me, of course!  A Kumo San cool Blue Ultra Wide Angle 35mm camera.

Her first nature photography adventure with me...with her own film camera, that is.  A pretty fantastic upgrade from my old point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix pocket digital, if I do say so myself.

I took this with the self-timer on this newest vintage camera acquisition of mine...a Pentax ME Super.  I'm so happy it works!  Everything is spot-on, exposure, everything is good.  Not to say that this is a good exposure, because it's surely not.  I still need a light meter for mixed-light situations like this.  I will be true nerd-times with a light meter, I know.

A very low-light situation in the bathroom of an amazing pizza place called Rio in Ruidoso, NM.  This Fuji Natura 1600 film is so sweet with it's grain, it perfectly describes what I love about analog photography.  I don't really know where to get it anymore, besides Ebay.  I've had a few rolls in my refrigerator for a few years now.  If anyone out there knows, please let me know.  It's my favorite!


I was an MTV kid, back when it was all about music videos...

The only way I ever see music videos anymore is via YouTube. Here is such a great one...enjoy!
The Honey Trees - Moon River (The LoFi Sessions)


Before & After Fun Slide

I've been wanting to share a little before and after with this sweet Polaroid film, and think this shot makes a great example. I'm not really a peeler of shots. I've peeled some exposures from the first pack I shot with this film, and felt like I would have been happier if I never did anything to them at all. Of course, I could feel differently about this a year from now, when chances are the images could be totally faded, too faded to even make out any details. Peeling made me feel like I was destroying something precious, and it was not happy times with Polaroids for me.

Before & After
1 week time color shift, PX-70 Colorshade Push film.

Little Women

After an hour or so of searching the Internet, I finally discovered the (not solid) date of the publication of this edition of Little Women. It was published by A.L. Burt Company, 1911. It turns out that the illustrations have all been torn out of the book, along with the publishing information. This realization made me sad at first, but I'm over it now. The fine old smell of the aging pages melted all the sadness away. It's just SO lovely, regardless.

The Elms Vintage

My beautiful new old copy of Little Women.

The binding was stitched, not glued...

I really don't think that the book was published with a blue fore-edge, but I could be wrong.  See, new book vocabulary-fore-edge, the unbound edge of a book opposite the binding.

This is where the missing pages used to be-apparently they included photos of Katharine Hepburn, from the movie.

I love it more and more, the more I look at it.


Featured Artist: Liliana Porter

     I recently compiled a set of 50 links to artists who influence me personally in this blog's sidebar.  While it would be fun to let you go through them all by yourself, it's much better to talk about them a little, to share with you what it is about these particular artist's work that appeals to me.

     Liliana Porter is an artist who works in a multitude of mediums including printmaking, painting, photography, installations, film and video.  She was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1941, and has lived and worked in New York since 1964.  Porter was a 
professor at Queens College, City University of New York, from 1991 to 2007.
Levitating Rabbit (2003)
Nail (1972)

Dialogue with It (1997)

Candle (2005)

Situations with Them (2007)

Triptych (1986)

     I enjoy Porter's work for its charm and appeal to my sense of nostalgia. I also respond to the emotional quality and irony that seem to permeate the bulk of her work. Her quirky drawings of small objects are carefully juxtaposed within the starkness of a smooth sheet of paper, suspended in a singular moment, giving the viewer time to consider and question its relevance.  Human nature persuades an attachment to objects beginning from childhood, and Porter takes what is deemed sentimental to create a message, even if it may be one that gravitates towards the absurd.

Liliana Porter's Current Artist 
     In the last years, parallel to photography and video, I have been making works on canvas, prints, drawings, collages, and small installations. Many of these pieces depict a cast of characters that are inanimate objects, toys and figurines that I find in flea markets, antique stores, and other odd places. The objects have a double existence. On the one hand they are mere appearance, insubstantial ornaments, but, at the same time, have a gaze that can be animated by the viewer, who, through it, can project the inclination to endow things with an interiority and identity. These theatrical vignettes are constructed as visual comments that speak of the human condition. I am interested in the simultaneity of humor and distress, banality and the possibility of meaning.