Posts tagged bon vivant
q&a with atlanta artist michael jones

Atlanta artist Michael Jones at his Moving Targets: Full Clip exhibit at Eyedrum Atlanta-based artist Michael Jones is a man of many faces – he’s a visual artist, a budding musician, an accidental comedian, a social commentator. He also happens to be my neighbor. A fact that made it easy for me to reach out to him to discuss his latest exhibition, Moving Targets: Full Clip.

The exhibition – a collection of 25 pieces displayed in 3 separate, but conjoined spaces – is a visual representation of the artist’s commentary on the themes of guns and targets in American society. After attending the opening of the exhibit, I invited Michael to a casual one-on-one interview to share his thoughts about his work, his influences, and his take on the role of guns in modern society.

 

What was the inspiration for the show’s topic? Why did you decide to broach this subject in the manner that you did?

The first time I shot a gun was 4 or 5 years ago. I got invited to go to a gun range for someone’s birthday party. That first firing range experience was exciting, but unsettling – the devil on my left shoulder and the angel on my right shoulder both pissed their pants – it was sensory overload! The sound, the smell, the sight of the fire coming out of the barrel.

The second time I went, there was a group of black ladies at the range too. This was just after Trayvon. I overhead the ladies imagining that it was George Zimmerman they were shooting. That’s when I realized that the target is more important than the firearm.

 

Moving Targets: Full Clip 'Backpackin''

You’re a Texas native right? How were you influenced by gun culture growing up or living there? Were you at all?

I’m originally from Dallas, Texas. My dad was in the military, he served in the Army in Vietnam. He always had guns when I was growing up. But I never owned a gun. My dad came to visit me one time and when he was going back to Dallas, we were at the airport, and the security guy asked if he had anything on him. And my dad goes, “Yeah,” and pulls out his gun – he had it in a Crown Royal bag. I’m like, “You can’t take that on the plane!” So that’s when he gave the gun to me.

 

Why do you think Americans are so obsessed with guns? What do you think guns symbolize to the people of this country? Do you think that obsession will ever change?

Because we manufacture them. So it’s only natural that we have our citizens support it. We are the number one manufacturer of weapons and firearms, across the board. I think it’s too late for stringent gun laws. Even if we restricted citizens from owning, criminals would still have guns.

Also – there was a time when African-Americans were prohibited from having guns. I think that’s part of the problem – because we aren’t educated gun owners. Also, a lot of us aren’t responsible enough to have guns.

 

You’ve said this exhibit is less about firearms, but more about targets – explain what you mean by that.

The media uses the audience as a target – with different media you can do that. Take the Catholic Church for instance. The Catholic Church’s images of Jesus are different because they are targeting a different audience, wanting to give you a bigger guilt trip. I try to utilize those tools as well in this series. This is the first time I’m dealing with social commentary – the reason is that it’s bigger than me. I’m just the vessel. I’m the bottle that’s holding the beer.

 

The artist, the writer, the target

I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about how you feel about the increased media coverage of black Americans – men, women, and children – as targets, by both armed police forces and by gun-toting private citizens. There was even a news story in Jan of this year about a police force using mug shots of black men to conduct target practice. As a black person in America, have you ever felt like a target? How do you personally manage those feelings of being targeted?

It ain’t nothing new, it’s just crazy that it’s getting exposed now. They can fix the shit without even showing it on TV. It all goes back to the overseers, the slaves and the master. The masters are the elite. The masters aren’t all white, but that’s what gets people riled up. It also happens to Latinos, poor white people, even some rich people.

I have a friend who’s a cop. But I’m glad he’s a cop, because I know he’s a standup dude. The cops are also a target. My friend had a similar situation happen, and the media jumped all over him – and his victim was white. When all of these mass shootings were going on – where were the people who were supposed to be the good guys? That’s why cops should be honored.

I’ve always felt like a target – but that’s just because of who I am. I grew up in a lower middle class black neighborhood. Growing up being the weird artist kid I was a target in my own community. The other day I was driving thru the ‘hood and hit a stop sign. There was a dude in the middle of the street, saying something. I don’t know what he said to me, but I said, “Naw, man, I’m cool.” And as I drove off, he raised up his shirt and showed me his gun, right by his nuts. And I thought to myself, that’s a bad ass motherf----. ‘Cause if you carrying there? (laughs)

 

Tell me a little about your background as an artist. How you got started? Who influenced you? When did you first say to yourself, ‘I am an artist’?

My mom and dad got divorced, but they were together the majority of my childhood. I lived with both of them at different times. My dad was the person who pushed me to get into art, but my mom was the artist of the family.

I’ve always been doing artwork, but it’s funny because the title was bestowed on me… by the community. Everybody always referred to me as Michael, the artist. In 3rd or 4th grade I used to draw G.I. Joe men and sell ‘em to my friends, until I got busted for tracing. One of my friends busted me and said he wasn’t gonna pay me until I drew it right there on the spot. So, I did. I thought it was bad, but the dude paid me for it. I used to draw funny pictures of my teachers too, and all the kids would laugh.

Comedy and art has always been something that goes together for me. That’s why I’m a smart ass artist, it’s why I call my art ‘signified’ – it’s a layer cake. It’s satire, it’s comedy, but it’s also truth.

When I got older, my dad was the one who forced me to go to art school – a local arts high school. I fell in love with the school ‘cause girls was running around in leotards, there were kids playing sax in the stairwells after class... it introduced me to art life. I got blown out of my mind – there were artists there that were way better. But they were pushing me to be better, yet also respecting where I was coming from. So that was when I first started painting. And people would come and talk to me, ‘cause my studio was in the school hallway – so people were always passing by, and the principal would walk by with visiting guests and ask me questions.

When I was a senior, I got to go to Chicago on a contest I won – an NAACP ACT-SO award. It was my first time on a plane, so I was nervous. My best friend was like, “Why you nervous? Your artwork will be able to take you anywhere you wanna go.” He was always like that old coach on Rocky – getting me amped up. I remember this one guy came up and asked me, “Are you an artist?” And I said, “Yeah I’m trying to be.” He was like, “What you mean, ‘trying to be’? You either are, or you aren’t.” But I still was kinda bitch about that shit.

About 6 years ago, I went home to my grandma’s funeral, and everybody who came up to me was like, “You’re Paulette’s son, the artist.” At that time, I was getting ready to figure out something else to do. But going back and having everybody already refer to me as that kinda did it for me.

 

You have an alter-ego persona named Iceworm. Who is Iceworm? Why the need for this persona? What does Iceworm do that Michael Jones can’t?

(Laughs) Yeah… Iceworm Jones, aka, Ratfoot. He’s a very clever individual – he’s been baptized. That’s his baptismal name.

Iceworm likes to explore and push the elements of music – from a person who never took any music classes, but still plays and makes music. That’s what Iceworm brings to Michael Jones. I’m a baby at all of this music stuff, but all of it starts with ambition. Learning how to work with tools and making a rhythm. A rhythm is something that everybody has – I have a heartbeat, or when I tap on something that’s me expressing my rhythm. That’s why I think music is a higher art than visual.

 

Moving Targets: Full Clip 'Target Practice'

You work with a variety of techniques and media – sculpture, paint, performance art – all of which are represented in this exhibition. How do you decide which medium to use for a piece? Are there any techniques that you feel more comfortable with? Are there any you’re still learning or wanting to learn?

It’s kinda like a pimple or a volcano – it builds up – it don’t come outta nowhere. I’m more comfortable with painting. Less comfortable with spoken word, poetry. But the art that you’re scared of is the shit you need to be doin’. That’s when I said, ‘Imma release an album’.

 

Speaking of which, what other projects are you currently working on or have planned?

I’m collaborating with a couple of other artists to work on a play. I just finished the mural, Letter Blue in our neighborhood, Westview.

There’s The Pavement Series – my collection of abstract cityscapes. The Trinity Series is a non-objective abstract collection. I’m also getting ready to go back in the studio.

 

Tell me a little more about the Westview mural you just completed – what’s the subject of the mural?

It’s funny ‘cause I like to layer things. When I went to the first community meeting about the mural and listened to things people were saying, what I got out of it was: some people want the new and change; some people fear it. The piece represents the tug between the two – where you have an old school neighborhood and the downtown influences that could be coming, not necessarily taking over – but sometimes they could be doing that, too.

michael jones letter blue mural westview atlanta

What’s one of the greatest obstacles you’ve encountered as an artist? How did you overcome it? What advice would you give to other new and budding artists?

Getting people to give you the chance to showcase your art. And being a hustler – hustling.

The people I do know that are in the game – they are good hustlers. Hustling is something that they all do well.

I would pass this on from 2 or 3 people who’ve said this to me; and I just recently started to apply it. Be a part of a community or some kind of family, and be loyal to your word. Artists give artists a bad name. I hate artists. Artists suck.

 

Why?

Because we need to think a lot bigger than ourselves; we need to stop being selfish. Artists are assholes. Artists are divas.

 

Are you a diva?

No, I’m a smartass.

One thing artists can do is volunteering. Dedicate some free time to do something that’s not just on you; that doesn’t have shit to do with you or the career that you’re trying to be in. It’s a way to get connections, but also to learn and grow.

 

What can people expect from the show, the venue – Eyedrum – the 3 different spaces? Why should people want to be there?

The space is perfect for me – it allowed me to display and showcase some of the work in different mediums. The space was able to allow for the opposing themes of the show – which I like. The gallery space holds framed artwork; next door allowed me to create an interactive scene, to recreate the shooting galleries that used to be at the back of arcades or state fairs. Then, on the rooftop – the space with the videos – those are like the teasers, the previews you see when you’re getting your popcorn at the theater.

The curators at Eyedrum definitely push artists to be out of their comfort zone. They gave me that opportunity, and I wanted to jump on it.

 

What is art to you?

I figured it out when I went to Chicago to visit my best friend one time. I was driving through Chicago and I saw that someone had made a penis out of the snow on someone’s windshield. Then, later on, I was outside smoking a cigarette, and I started stomping these patterns on the snow.

That’s when I realized that art is when u purposely put something here. And there and there. Martial arts is when you intentionally put a kick or a punch in a certain place. It’s about coordination, practice, repetition, rhythm, vibrations. That’s what f—kin’ art is.

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Moving Targets: Full Clip is showing at Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery in downtown Atlanta until December 5. Michael Jones will host an artist talk at the gallery on Sunday, November 15 from 1-4 p.m.

michael jones eyedrum gallery atlanta

 

summer travel: 3 travel junkies share their travel philosophies
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I’m starting to get that itch again. The travel itch. I find myself perusing travel sites multiple times a day to see what specials or discounts are being offered. I stare enviously at other folks’ online photos of their recent trips. I refresh my mental inventory of friends across the globe… “Who do I know that lives in (insert faraway city here)? Wonder if they’ll let me crash in their spare bedroom?”

I know I’m no exception. It seems most everyone I know is stricken with travel fever during summer. But some folks have that fever all year long. They are travel junkies, so to speak.

Since my budget and current work schedule are severely limiting my ability to scratch my travel itch, I thought I’d live vicariously through 3 travel junkies whose unique travel styles seem to reflect their attitudes toward life in general.

 

Travel Junkie # 1: Rue Mapp

Rue is the founder and Chief Outdoor Enthusiast of Outdoor Afro – a nationwide community of Black nature lovers. Growing up between urban Oakland and a northern California ranch, she developed an early love for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, fishing and hunting. Through Outdoor Afro, she fosters local communities of Black outdoor adventure seekers, and creates events that encourages them to reconnect with nature.

How would you describe your travel personality?

I am a nature historian. I connect with land not only because of its beauty and potential, but also by relating to connected people, culture, and ecology.

 

What is your favorite summer vacation spot?   

Any place near a lake! I particularly enjoy going to Buck's Lake in Northern California each year as part of our annual family camping trip.

 

What are your favorite online tools for traveling / travel planning (e.g., couchsurfing, AirB&B, Kayak, etc.)?

I prefer to just put the word out in my personal network, or via Outdoor Afro, which I founded and manage. I trust people to share with me based on something they already know about me and what I care about.

 

How many countries have you visited?

Just 3 - although I am quite the Americanist!

outdoor-afro-logo

Any other thoughts on travel?

One goal I have is to go to Brazil with my three children before they are grown - so any leads/tips to make this happen would be appreciated!

Visit the Outdoor Afro website

Follow Outdoor Afro on Facebook

 

Travel Junkie # 2: Walter Allen

Walter is a good friend of mine who really knows how to blend business with pleasure. His job takes him out of town and out of the country quite often, and he takes advantage of the opportunity to do and see more, either by extending work trips to do some personal sightseeing, or by using all that mileage he’s racked up to chart his own course to adventure. We joked recently that he’ll probably spend a good portion of his summer checking in at Hartsfield-Jackson airport here in Atlanta.

How would you describe your travel personality?

I am the laid back, do what you want to, when you want to type of traveler.  I am one for new cultures and adventures as well.  I take the "try it once" approach to traveling!

 

What is your favorite summer vacation spot?

With me having a "try it once" approach to traveling, I can't say that I have a favorite summer spot.  I will say that when I am traveling during the summer, I tend to look for a beach location. The beaches/locations I have enjoyed the most have been: Haulover Beach in North Miami, Canary Islands, Cayman Islands, and Santos, Brazil.

 

What are your favorite online tools for traveling / travel planning (e.g., couchsurfing, AirB&B, Kayak, etc.)?

Delta.com, Hotels.com, Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, islandhideaways.com

 

How many countries have you visited?

12+

 

Travel Junkie # 3: Greg Gross

Greg is not only a travel junkie, he’s also a travel evangelist. His mission? “To encourage all Americans, especially Americans of color, to see more of the world.” He spreads his gospel via his personal blog, I’m Black and I Travel!, which is a blend of Greg’s personal travel accounts and his insightful commentary on destinations and experiences of interest to travelers of color. Both his travel and writing styles are intriguing, as evidenced by his winning the title of ‘Best Travel Blog’ in the 2011 Black Weblog Awards.

How would you describe your travel personality?

My travel personality is eclectic. I'm equally comfortable in a 5-star hotel, a cruise ship, an all-inclusive resort or a sleeping bag in a tube tent strung between two trees. Lively metropolis or peaceful forest. Group tours or independent travel. I'm fine with all of it.

 

What is your favorite summer vacation spot?   

Only one?  In that case, I'll say San Francisco, followed VERY closely by Vancouver.

 

What are your favorite online tools for traveling / travel planning (e.g., couchsurfing, AirB&B, Kayak, etc.)?

I've learned not to have favorites when it comes to online travel planning. The field changes constantly. I use what works best for me on a given day. Over the years, I've had success with Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotwire, Priceline, Kayak, CheapoAir, Momondo and Dohop.

 

How many countries have you visited?

20

Any other thoughts on travel?

These days, my travel is no longer confined to summers. I may go anywhere at any time. But for me, the ideal summer travel is one that gives me everything I'm looking for in a destination, but with a minimum of crowds. Not easy to find! But then, what's life without a challenge, right?

Visit Greg’s blog: I’m Black and I Travel!

Follow I’m Black and I Travel! on Facebook

 

cheers,

k

photo: "Where I've Never Been"- graphic illustration available for purchase from 3LambsIllustration on Etsy

mistress didi - crusader of classic fetish

**Disclaimer: some of the links and topics contained in this post are of an adult nature. If you find such information objectionable, go watch a cartoon. :)**

Bondage, BDSM, fetish, kink. When you hear those terms, images of whips, chains, leather, and latex may immediately come to mind. Less innocuous terms like freak, pervert, or deviant, are often used to describe the participants in the bondage and fetish scenes. Many people are confounded, some are intrigued (even those who won’t admit it), and others are downright repulsed by the set of behaviors classified as modern fetish. But there is at least one woman who is dedicated to preserving fetish and BDSM as an art, not only for the beauty of it, but for its therapeutic benefits as well.

Her name? Mistress Didi. Had it not been for the annual Hedonism art show at Apache I attended a few months back, our paths might never have crossed. After the show, which featured live performances and installations by several local erotic artists, I had questions. Who were these artists and performers? Did they have day jobs? What path leads one to take the stage or pick up a paintbrush as an erotic artist? I set out to find answers, and when I came across Mistress Didi, I felt that I’d found a reliable source for them. Instead of the usual graphic and provocative imagery on other fetish websites, Mistress Didi’s site provides page after page of information that is an unlikely blend of spiritual philosophy, basic manners and etiquette, and of course, fetish culture. Her emphasis on quality and artisanship in the culture has led her to coin the term classic fetish, of which she is a very vocal proponent.

After a few online exchanges, Mistress Didi - a petite little firebrand with a demeanor befitting a Mistress - agreed to let me interview her so she could explain more about the spiritual, therapeutic, and artistic aspects of classic fetish.


What do you think is the biggest misconception about fetish? That it’s not consensual and that it’s a psychological deviation. In the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) fetish is literally classified as an abnormality.

That’s sort of ironic, since you consider fetish to be therapeutic. Can you speak about how you’ve added a therapeutic aspect to fetish? What sort of challenges or blocks do you feel fetish can help people overcome? You make decisions about who you are in your life. You have to like who you are. So many times, we choose things based upon others telling us that we will be accepted or like based on their criteria. People are massively mind controlled by religion, the media… but it’s about being responsible for your actions, and living life to enjoy it. I have my philosophy of spiritual hedonism which is my religion that I invented. I figured, hey, if L. Ron Hubbard can invent one then I can too! And mine is a helluva lot more fun than his! (laughs) But my thing is about being responsible for your actions. Whatever you choose to do, be responsible for that 100%, live life to enjoy it and spread that joy. Party on!

Hey, what else is there, right? What if? That’s my motivation. What if? What if the world does end in 2012? What if something falls out of the sky on top of my head? What if this is my last inhale? When I die, I don’t want to go, “Oh hell, that sucked”. I wanna be able to say, “Alright, that was pretty cool!” I recognize that I am a sadist by nature, but I also know that as a Libra, I go to extremes. Like all my charitable work, all my healing work in my vanilla life is one end of the spectrum. And then my expertise in the sadistic arts is the other end of the spectrum. However, as I was saying to you earlier about responsibility… I’m not one of these people that has some kind of egomania going on and is picking up a whip and just flailing it ridiculously. I studied with qualified practitioners and experts in their particular genres, and I know what I’m doing. Plus I have an extensive knowledge of human physiology and human psychology and I’m always enhancing my education. I owe that not only to myself, but to the fetish community. Because if you’re gonna go out there and call yourself a dominant, then you need to be in control of your reality, your own personal space, your own domain.

That’s quite powerful. But you can take that outside of the fetish world. The thing is that we are taught to react rather than respond. Reaction is irrational and it’s designed so we can take the focus off of our responsibility. When you respond, that requires conscious choice and a decision that you make that you can live with yourself.

So how do you respond to the mainstream’s misconceptions about fetish? What I’ve decided to do is create better fetish. What they call fetish now are these screaming, screeching parties. At these little screeching parties with all these kids who think they’re gonna tell ME about domming… what they don’t know is that I’m old enough to be their mother, I just look better than they do. And there’s a reason for that too. Their whole concept of S&M is stand and pose. They like getting dressed up – god knows I do – but that is not the end of it all. They have no etiquette, they have no manners. Some people think fetish is kink. Fetish is not just kink. Fetish is not just about sexuality.

There’s a more ancient, historical aspect to the term, right? If you look at the word fetish in the dictionary, you will see that. In indigenous cultures, these people took a physical thing that embodied the representation of how you were working spiritual energy and how you were focusing that. How u connect with the higher God energy to manifest things in your life.

Fetish (definition) - A fetish (from the French fétiche; which comes from the Portuguese feitiço; "artificial" and the Latine facere, "to make") is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular, a man-made object that has power over others.

French philosopher Michel Leiris simplifies the original definition as, an ‘objectified form of our desire’.

Another misconception about fetish. People think that you go to one of these parties and someone is gonna beat you. No, no, no! If that happens, you need to complain to somebody and have the offender thrown the hell out. Because the creed is safe, sane, and consensual. I see all kinds of abominable things happening at these parties and that’s why I don’t go. I have my own parties and with the exception of the one on June 4, they’re all private. And because that behavior is fostered and allowed to breed like a cancer in our community, that’s why I wrote, “How to Properly Present Yourself to a Mistress” and offer it as a free book.

You mention on your site that your book is also useful for people who aren’t necessarily into fetish? Absolutely. I tell people to use this for their kids. Because all that it is is common courtesy and social graces. Now, if we taught our children in kindergarten 2 things. Body awareness so that they would be able to do a check-in internally, do some deep breathing or other techniques instead of fidgeting because they’re uncomfortable. And if we taught kids that it’s ok to acknowledge that I’m angry or I don’t like that. Acknowledge that and realize what else you can do with that. You don’t always have to be…  well, for lack of a better word, you don’t always have to be a d*&k! You can choose to take the high road even when others are being low-lives. That’s one of the things I teach in Domina 101.

Is that what separates classic fetish – the protocols, the courtesies, and the rituals? My brand of classic fetish goes even beyond that. I call it classic fetish because we’re taking it towards the highest beauty. Have you ever seen a pair of shoes that takes your breath away and it’s a magical moment? I grew up in the fetish scene, so what it’s deteriorating today is disgusting and its deteriorating because there’s these little hoochies working in a dungeon and they think they can put the word Mistress in front of their name and that puts them in the same category as someone like me.

First of all, they’re not really dommes. They are subbing to some idiot guy with a pimp mentality. That’s why I call them ‘hoochies with whips’. The reason that we even have the distinction of classic fetish is because people have decided to abuse something that was beautiful.

How would you suggest dominants or aspiring dommes who don’t just want to be ‘hoochies with whips’ educate themselves? What about vanilla people who want to begin exploring fetish? For aspiring dommes, there are tons of seasoned dommes out there to learn from and there are organizations like TES (The Eulenspiegel Society). They should also check out my articles: The Importance of Rituals and Protocols, and Domme vs. Dumme. For newcomers to the scene, there is a website called The BDSM Resource Center. It’s a really good resource for fetish or I should say BDSM education. Fetish includes lifestyle stuff like people who just enjoy certain articles of clothing. BDSM is bondage, domination, sadomasochism – it is an actual physical expression. It’s a very physical thing.

Are there certain tools and techniques that every fetishist should have in his or her toolkit? Yes! Have a basic knowledge of First Aid. Become CPR certified, definitely own a First Aid kit. Know how to handle burns, cuts. Have safety rules. And always play with a phone nearby, in case of emergencies. I think everyone should go to a safe party - where you can actually talk to people whose lifestyles are a part of this culture. And these people are a much higher caliber versus going to a loud disco where the music is so loud you can’t hear anything. When I see people playing in these clubs where the music is so loud… that to me is very irresponsible, because you can’t see the danger signs.

As an African-American in the fetish / BDSM community, are you something of a unicorn? Do you find that there are any racial divides or misunderstandings within the fetish community? There’s a huge black culture in the whole BDSM thing. People give folks - especially those who are into being slaves or submissives a lot of flack for that. Like, given our history, how could you want to be a slave? But they don’t understand that this is a completely different concept from the slavery that we understand as a part of African-American history. That was completely non-consensual.

Talk about some of the classes you offer? Which is your most popular? Transcendent trampling. Because when I trample it’s a sight to see. That’s my own specific technique. When I teach that, first I start out with a basic anatomy course. Which muscles can take weight bearing, where are the places that you should never apply pressure. Where is the carotid artery... don’t lean on that! (laughs) because I was a dancer for years, when I trample, it’s a work of art.

I seem to get a lot of response for Max Wax, my waxplay course.  Now the vanilla women are really funny. They want to know all of this stuff, but if it’s not presented to them in a way that they feel they won’t be judged, then they can’t get with the program. So I have a course that I call Role Play 101 – and it’s really just a basic introduction on how to spice up your sex life with your honey.

Where would you like to see fetish go? Ten years from now, do you think you’ll still be involved in fetish? Oh, absolutely. This is a part of who I am. I think folks think it’s something you do on the weekends. This is part of who I am, not just how I am. Most people don’t realize that who they are can be quite lovely… how they are is quite wretched.

To be a dominant means you choose how things are for your comfort and your ultimate well-being in your life. People don’t like that. They think it means you put on 8-inch heels and walk around with your butt hanging out, but I only do that on special occasions and only for special people. And no I DO NOT have sex with my playmates. This is not a sexual thing for me. This is a connection between two people on a level that is spiritual, physical, emotional, mental and is totally transcendent. And because I have that experience on a regular basis, I see how many people are not having it, and that’s what's missing from what is considered fetish in the mainstream today.

It’s not necessarily for everyone else. But I say, don’t knock it until you try it. There are things that you’ll discover that you don’t like, and you just have to understand that that’s what YOU don’t like. Just try not to judge what other people do like. And there’s some nasty stuff out there – very unhealthy stuff. I don’t understand how folks get into it. But I try not to judge it, I just make my choices not to indulge with them.

At this point in our talk, Mistress Didi’s dog, who she calls Li’l Doggie enters and asks for a treat. She shares that Li’l Doggie – who she got from an animal rescue - doesn’t have much longer to live. She moves on to tell me about another dog that she rescued previously that had been abused.

I took him, in a short amount of time, from being in a place of extreme fear to being able to sit on strangers’ laps. And that, to me, is dominance. Because I created an environment for him to become as beautiful as he could be, and to love life as much as he could. And that is what BDSM is for me. That’s what I believe the goal of being a dominant is. You don’t just have someone in your life because you can. It should be a mutual evolutionary process.

We move on to talk about other things like: her future plans to open a private fetish club in NYC (contact her if you're interested in investing), RuPaul's Drag Race (she's a fan), and the fact that she feels this season's RPDR winner - Tyra Sanchez - is a good role model for his son.

I'd love to meet her. Tyra accepts who Tyra is. Tyra says to the world, this is how I express myself and how I love living.

How dare someone tell me how we should love. Look what their way of loving got the world.

For more information about Mistress Didi and her brand of classic fetish, check out her website, her blog, or follow her on Twitter.

cheers,

k

shifting into manic with atlanta photographer gudrun stone
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Gudrun (pronounced: 'good-drun') Stone continues to build a reputation for herself as a rising star in Atlanta's artist community. She excels at capturing the energy and passion of stage and concert performances - Van Hunt, Brittany Bosco, and countless visiting artists at the annual National Black Arts Festival have all found themselves in front of her lens. Her first solo photography exhibit - Long Exposures, which debuts at the Ferst Center on April 11 - is just another milestone on her journey of evolution as an artist, and a multi-faceted human being.   I sat down with Gudrun to talk about the upcoming exhibit and to get some insight into what helps her bring her visions to life on film.  


  So tell me a little about yourself. Where you’re from, about your brothers and sisters, your criminal record and things like that.  I’m a real live Georgia peach. I grew up off McAfee and Glenwood. My Grandpa used to own the corner store near East Lake Elementary. We moved to North Dekalb in 1985. My grandmothers still live near East Atlanta Village, so I still say I’m from Decatur.  

Art comes from my mother – she’s one of 9 kids and each one has an artistic avenue. We ‘downloaded’ that through good DNA. Mom raised us in museums. She did interior decorating, too. So, color came to me at a very young age. My parents became non-traditional students. And when they went back to college, I went with them. I say that I went to college my whole life. I grew up in the art department of the school, listened to WCLK, Ken Rye, Ken Batie – all of them growing up.  

The surprising thing is that I’m not a painter or graphic designer. I started doodling and even designed my own comic strip. I used to draw on myself. I would sit in class all day and draw, and when I ran out of sketch pad paper I drew on my wrists, my ankles.  

And then in my early 20s I just stopped everything and I worked.   

What kind of work did you do? I’ve been in public service my whole career. I was a page for Dekalb county public library system, and I was a photography assistant for the Governor’s office for 1.5 years.    

So how did you get your start with photography? Was that your first run in? Oh, my dad took pictures of everything. At Thanksgiving dinner he took pictures – and not just pictures of us at the table. Pictures of the food, you know, moving it around to shoot it just right. Both of my parents were very detail-oriented about what they did. My dad would experiment taking pictures of me on different settings – light, dark. The internship just sort of fell into my lap.  

But you asked about brothers and sisters? I have an older brother, Thelonious – named after the monk, not the musician. Both of us were musicians growing up. I had a sort of a hero complex. We didn’t go to school at the same time, but my brother had been a musician in high school – you know jazz band and all that – and sort of became big man on campus. So by the time I got there, he wasn’t there anymore, but the people who knew him sort of took me under their wing. I didn’t get into art until my junior year. But it was good that I followed in my brother’s footsteps. Music is a part of the art for me.  

  

Your name is pretty unique. Is there a meaning behind the name? My father named me. My father was drafted for Vietnam, but he never made it, he was stationed in Germany. He took the opportunity to learn as much as he could about the culture, and he heard the story of Gudrun. The name means, ‘secret keeper of the gods; divine wisdom; battle friend’. It’s from the Volsungasaga. It freaks German people out when they see that I have that name. And of course I used to get picked on as a kid.    

Uh-oh, what were some of the nicknames? Bad Run. Goodie-Goodie Two Shoes. But what I realized when I got older is that my name could have been Susie Q and people still would have made up names. I’m thankful to my dad because I have this great name and it’s an ice breaker, a conversation starter.  

  

On your blog, you describe yourself as a little bit redneck, a little bit ghetto,a whole lot of suburbia and a dash of glamour. Explain what you mean by that. I was raised in Chamblee - Tucker, I’m a product of Dekalb County public schools. I hate when people say the public schools system fails. A lot of what I have comes from public schools. 

I love to go to East Atlanta Village, but I hate to go to East Atlanta Village. It  kills me when all the hipsters complain about suburbanites coming over there. It used to be all black-owned. What used to be Willie’s Bakery is now a sushi restaurant. I used to get my hair done at the flea market building that shares the lot with The Earl. What’s hip and popular now, were thriving, black-owned businesses. And we had something. That was our community. 

When we moved to North Dekalb, it wasn’t uncommon to see people come to school on a tractor. So, I listen to country music. I used to want a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, raised, with roll bars. People say, ‘you talk white’. I’m like, no I don’t. I talk proper. I speak the Queen’s. What you see is only a quarter of who I am. 

  

Do you find it challenging to be an artist now, to make a living off of your art? Yep. That’s why I have a day job. I love that we have a strong art community here. Michi, Dubelyoo, Dosa Kim, Fahamu, Russell Gunn. We have this beautiful art community. But people in the A always want a hookup, they want free.99, or to barter… which is fine, up to a point.   

Yeah, the landlord doesn’t take barter. Right? Georgia Power won’t accept barter. I mean I barter too, but I always tip in cash. So there’s a place for it, and people have to remember that. You know, I’m here in Atlanta now, but in 20 years, I probably won’t be in Atlanta anymore. Other cities, like St. Louis; San Francisco; Venice, California… New York – people are willing to pay for work. I can recall sitting in coffee shops when I was in Venice and seeing people who’d come in and be so inspired by art hanging on the wall in the shop, that they’d buy a $200 piece right there, while they were just waiting in line for a bagel. Whereas here, I see people go, “Oh, I really like this. I’m not gonna buy it, I’ll just take a picture of it and make it a screensaver.” 

I want for Atlanta to realize what they have. We have the seedlings of a great art scene. I should have more options than to go dance my booty off until 3 am. You can go to a museum in New York at 1 or 2 in the morning. Atlanta is my home, I don’t want to have to go somewhere else to be able to be a self-sustaining artist. If you can’t afford the $300 work, come up to me and say, I can’t afford this huge, framed piece, but do you have an 8x10 unframed print in my price range? 

  

How did you get started with the National Black Arts Festival? Mike Moss – I believe he was looking for someone to do something rock-ish. He wanted something with a little edge. He did a search on Myspace – back then I was still on Myspace – and he reached out and contacted me. It was a while before we actually connected. And then all of a sudden he calls me up like, “I want you to come shoot Van Hunt”. I’m like 'what?' This has gotta be a joke. This guy’s up to some skullduggery and mischief – I mean, I didn’t even know who Mike was. So I go and meet them at Apache, and I sat outside in my truck for a while trying to decide if I was actually going to go in. I finally did, and Mike takes me to the back and goes, “This is Van,” you know, like it was nothing. Meanwhile, I’m so excited that I can’t even answer when Van asks me what my favorite song of his is. It’s ‘Dust’, by the way. I shot Van Hunt that night and I think there was only like 1 shot that he didn’t like. 

About a week later I got another call from Mike. He says, "We want you to shoot the festival". I’m like, really? So they tell me to look at the schedule and pick what events I want to shoot at. You know that dream you have… where you’re walking through a store, shopping and picking out everything, and then when you get to the check-out, you wake up? Yeah, that was sort of like that dream for me. 

So I shot the (2008) festival. And by the time I was done I had like 9,000 photos. Leatrice (Ellzy) and Mike were like, “What didn’t you take?” But for me it’s the little things, all these little moments…. 

The festival allows me to shoot the way I shoot for myself. 

  

So how did you hone your photographic skills? I’m pretty much self-taught. I had a year in the darkroom learning the ropes, and trial and error. A lot of trial and error. 

  

A lot of people might not know this about you, but you were the first Black Atlanta Rollergirl. What brought you and roller derby together? I came across the Atlanta Rollergirls on Myspace back in ’05. I really just wanted to shoot some sports photography. I reached out to The Notorious R.I.P. (aka, Gabby), and asked if I could come to a practice and shoot. And she was like, “You can come to practice and try out”. After she didn’t budge, I had my whole McGuyver thing planned out. I figured I’d go do a couple of laps and fake being out of breath, and just hang out on the side and shoot from the waist. But that Monday night was like something from a movie. I was sitting there and these 4 girls walk in – and it was like they were

 moving in slo-mo – I think it was Princess Lay You Out, Demi Gore, Chelle Shocker. I saw them and thought, “These might be my people”. I took a couple of laps, fumbled a little, felt like a kid again, and all of a sudden it was like, this is something I want to do. 

I had always had guy friends. It wasn’t until I did roller derby that I had girl friends. And there was none of that Real Housewives of Atlanta drama – it was a sisterhood I had never had in the Black community. If I was ever in a Turkish prison, these girls would come bail me out. It was a real growing period. Before then I was ‘normal’. I had no visible tattoos, didn’t have my sleeve yet. After that I got pink braids… all of a sudden I could do things like that. My parents always brought me up to be straight-laced. 

I did roller derby for 3 years. But it was time consuming. It was like having a part-time job you didn’t get paid for. I got sick for a little while and couldn’t skate. And that’s when photography sort of became my outlet. 

  

So I know that you’re recently engaged. Now, a lot of women in Atlanta, especially Black women, lament the ratio of men to women here and complain about the quality of the dating scene in general. Do you have any advice or opinion to offer that helped you find a lasting relationship? I can’t really give any advice. Atlanta is unfortunate. Because of the homosexual climate in Atlanta, a lot of women are settling, and they’re breaking rules they wouldn’t normally break. It’s hard. I struggled too. I remember I’d date multiple guys – they were all aware of it – because Guy A would have 5-6 qualities I was looking for, Guy B would have 3-4, and Guy C would have maybe 1 or 2. So if I went on a different date on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, it’d be like I had a whole person. The climate in Atlanta makes you do this, because it’s better than having a gay husband. My best advice is just to quit looking. When you look, you become desperate and you settle. 

  

Your Twitter handle and your blog both bear the moniker, Shift Into Manic. What significance does that phrase have for you? Most people think it means I’m bipolar. But I prefer shifting gears to an automatic transmission any day. It’s about me. The fact that for 3 days a week I work the day job, and for 4 days I do something totally different. It’s about being able to be many people. Like when I met Neal (Barclay) I dressed up, and they were like, ‘we’ve never seen her like this before’. And of course you know by now, the way I talk and change topics. It’s about being a chameleon and still being able to come back to what I am. It’s about the different layers of Gudrun Stone. The layers that make me me. 

  

What sort of equipment do you use when you shoot? I’m a Canon girl, but I’m not a snob. But I have a lot more respect for someone who can get in a darkroom and develop by hand, create a picture from start to finish. If you can get in a darkroom and go toe to toe with me, I have respect. But if you have no manual skills, you don’t even shoot in manual mode on your digital...? 

So many people call themselves photographers, but they rely on electricity. God forbid, if some ‘I Am Legend’ stuff broke out, I could still create pictures. But some people see that and say, “You’re really using film?” Like I live in the projects, or like I got a polo shirt from Wal-Mart and stitched a little green lizard on it. 

  

What can people expect to see at your show, Long Exposures? This is my first solo show ever. 31 pieces of my little heart will be on display at the Ferst Center. 22 pieces in one gallery, 11 in the other. I tried to work with creatives in Atlanta – people that you don’t think of being in the arts scene... underground, so to speak. It would have been easy to pull people with names you already know. I used people like Dash (Dashill Smith), Melissa – who I always knew as a producer for Fox 5, but she’s also a classical pianist. I just reached out to people, and some couldn’t see the vision. But I just tried to showcase people with that creative energy. Mr. Soul – this graffiti artist out of Cleveland – I think he’s the best picture in the show, and all I did was click the shutter. I challenged him to do some graffiti without pen, paper, or spray paint, and what came out was amazing. And that’s what it’s about, to surround myself with others that have like energy. 

That’s what’s great about the show. I felt like I got to learn about these people I see all the time. It was a bonding process… they got to know me too. 

This is like my baby, and it’s days until my due date… and I’m sure I’ll have Braxton Hicks up until the show. I hope people come to the show and they’re moved by something they haven’t been exposed to before. Because I feel like each artist that participated bared a little bit of their soul. 

  

What advice do you have for other aspiring photographers? Read. Reading is fundamental. Experiment. Don’t be afraid to fail. And this is not sage advice, it’s just things you’re going to go through. You’re gonna fail. But sometimes in the failure, you find new ideas and concepts. Don’t think that because you have a BFA in photography or some other degree that you’re guaranteed success. Don’t be afraid to walk the road less traveled. Everyone doesn’t have to be Derek Blanks or Gordon Parks… you have to be who you are and your work will speak for itself.  

  

Who would you say are your role models or mentors? I’d have to say my dad, for the things he’s been through. For being a fighter. 

Ms. Baker who I met working at the Governor’s office. She looks at my work, I read her book in progress. She’s someone other than my mother who guides me. 

Frank Mullen. Mullen also shot concert photos. He shot for Rolling Stone, did personal shoots with Dita von Teese. But he would help you. I could call him in the middle of a shoot and say, “I’m not getting the results I want, these are my settings,” and he’d walk me through it over the phone. Frank Mullen taught me that you can be a rockstar shooter and not have a rockstar personality. It’s when others start dropping your name, not you dropping theirs, that you’re really a rockstar. 

Gudrun Stone presents Long Exposures Sunday April 11, 3-6pm Ferst Center at Georgia Tech 349 Ferst Drive Northwest Atlanta, GA 30332 

Gudrun Stone on Twitter Gudrun Stone's Blog Gudrun Stone on Flickr 

B&W photo of Gudrun Stone by Dean Hesse

Ima Gitcha photo by Russell Limprecht 

Van Hunt photo by Gudrun Stone

cheers, 

k