Sunday, October 11, 2009



We got kicked out of the cemetery. And had I not lost my shoes there your accident may have never happened. But please, allow me to explain. The cemetery office hadn’t cleared us to photograph there. Usually, Partansky takes care of those types of details for me, but she’s been in Jordan and so many of the things that she would never let slip through the cracks became details I somehow managed to bypass. So when I saw John, the cemetery security guard, parked a couple yards away from where we were unlawfully shooting, I panicked. You see, I waited three months for Dondee Quincena to even have an opening free to photograph me –he’s just that amazing. The night before, I spent hours getting my art packed and wardrobe ready, and the strain of wanting to be on time as to not warp any one else’s schedule got to me. Having to meet my makeup artist the afternoon of the shoot and giving up on my “natural” look by trusting Patty enough to give her the creative freedom to put blood red eye liner on my bottom lids, all this, on top of driving to the location, took a toll on my organizational skills –ALL my list checking became futile as I somehow left out the part about getting authorization for the shoot for my Goth Girl interview. I couldn’t help but go into fight or flight mode on the cemetery lawn. When I saw John, I ran, forgetting I was barefoot. I told Dondee we should go as I started to grab as much camera equipment as my little arms could hold to my chest while proceeding to run towards the vehicle we had carpooled in –fast, like the time my older sister & I heard a rattle snake shake it’s tail from behind the volleyball I lost fast (because I served it over the fence of our backyard and into the canyon below). Only then I was seven and the noise from the rattlesnake made my knees lock into position and I was frozen stiff. My sister, who had the common sense to run, was more than halfway up the hill by the time I broke out my haze. She woke me from my then petrified state by calling my name over her shoulder and screaming me into action by adding “Run fool! Run!” as if to remind my feet what to do.

Fortunately, Dondee is just as easy going as I am. So as we started to pull out the cemetery parking lot and the question of where should we head to next came up, there was such a strong professional commitment to the shoot that he didn’t hesitate when I said I wanted to continue on a set of rail road tracks. Dondee & I drove past L.A. and we began to discuss how we came to fall in love with our separate art forms. He said he broke his father’s camera when he was just a boy living in the Philippines. That his father gave him the broken camera as a gift, bought a new one, and a friend repaired the broken camera for free –and the rest was history. I told him how in high school someone stole the only baby photos I had left over from all the moves my family made and that I began to paint so my future children (and their children) could “see” who I was. I began painting portraits, but that my other beginning, the one with statues, came after my friend Jeanette O’Keefe had been murdered.

On the drive to find my rail road tracks Dondee & I discussed things only artist experience. From creating on to misconception. Reinterpreting the world through our senses and having our sensitivities misinterpreted. “E-Conomy. NO-conomy,” I giggled. “I can’t stop (painting). This is who I am.” I began to explain why I needed railroads. “My next project involves the Holocaust.” I rolled my eyes, “I know. I know. I know. I take on heavy topics (cemeteries, death, grief) –things most people don’t want to look at, but I do this because I feel the urgency of the challenge. That if I can present strong subjects in a beautiful way, perhaps someone will allow themselves to open their eyes and look at something that they would have typically avoided. For me, art is a way to present a new perspective and maybe, then, my work will permit someone to see, even if only for ten seconds, that the Holocaust is not just a Jewish problem –it is a multicultural challenge that must be addressed before there are no more witnesses.” Dondee agreed. I told him about the exhibition that I have underway and how the Associated Press wants to be the first to release the details. I wasn’t thinking that in a hour he and I would cause your accident on the same freeway we were maneuvering through. Nooooo, not at all. I was telling him about how everything has culminated through this collection: my life, my friends, and my sense of personal liberation. That I’ve never been so content as now. And how hard I blushed when Larry King invited me to the screening of Valkyrie when he heard that the Holocaust was my subject. And that I’ve just been jumping up and down with joy these past few weeks knowing that I have commitments to immortalize everyone whom I’ve ever wanted to sit for me (well, everyone, except for Adrien Brody, that is).

“And what about the members of the Resistance,” I added, “the non-Jewish people who fought Germans, hid people, grabbed guns and choose death over tyranny –are all their lives a lie too?” My rant was over. The car had stopped by then and we were in a parking lot facing the 5 freeway. Four rail cars were clasped together on the tracks like school children playing ring-around-the-rosie. I could see the cars from freeway on ramp that they were moving a bit slower in the merging lanes out of curiosity. It was still daylight so the flash wasn’t as strong. A man in a great big truck with a flatbed asked for my autograph then asked if he could watch us work for a while. He stayed for over an hour. I asked if he could leave his email address on a piece of paper and put it on the windshield of our car so I could have some photos sent to him. It was dark then and whenever Dondee pressed his index finger down on the camera it felt like the whole sky lit up. I was hanging off the train and I imagine from the freeway what people saw went something like this: darkness, flash!, little black girl hanging on a train, darkness again, flash!, oh wait now she’s lying down on the tracks.

And that’s when we met (almost). I was sitting between the tracks when I heard it. A screech of tires and a Whomp! The kind of whomp that resembled a metal parachute hitting the ground and being bundled together. It was the crumpled up hood of your dear brown car. A black car was in front of you, I think it may have been a new Nissan. The rear bumper was smashed in. And I felt it, the possible guilt that our work had distracted either you or the black-Nissan-man. That you were doing your evening commute and flash! you wondered if you had just seen a little black girl hanging off a train, and in your pondering failed to see the car in front of you come to a sudden stop, and then crunch! I have been thinking about you all weekend but was unable to write you until today because yesterday was the Sabbath and I spent it with my Jewish family and was thus rendered unable to use electronic devices. I know you were physically alright. I saw you standing talking to the police. And while I know that while I wasn’t the one behind the wheel, I remember how I was in the exact spot as you. What’s really wild is before I ever had the privilege to work with Dondee I recall driving on the 5 fwy not that long ago and seeing the flashy lights of a photo shoot and thinking “keep your eye on the road” never knowing a year later I’d be working with that same photog in that same spot. So I wanted to say that if my work led you to lose yourself, I truly apologize. I would also like to send you one of my coffee table books and an invitation to be my guest at the opening of my 2010 L.A. museum exhibition. I’ll know it’s you because you’ll have to tell me the on ramp / exit where the crash happened. If you Google my first name it will come up with my gallery’s website (never posted on CL before so don’t think it will allow a link to it) Email Partansky at the info at xyz address and she will make sure you don’t fall through the cracks.

And if you are shy like I am shy outside of business, and around strangers and new people, and if this is going to truly be a missed connection, the least I could do, I figured, was embed some photos and release them out into the abyss that is cyber space so like a message in a bottle, perhaps, this note of goodwill will reach you and at the very least, you could see the photos of the scene you were trying to look at when your most unfortunate accident happened.

In any event. Be well. But most importantly...

Be You For You


  • Location: OC
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