Laura Sallade’s first commission happened in art school, not long before her graduation. I use the word “happen” because that’s the impression I get in hearing her talk about it — that it appeared from the ether. Laura was working in a materials shop, she helped a woman who looked a little bit lost among the supplies, and the woman ultimately made a visit to Laura’s studio.
Some people aren’t cut from the same mold as the rest of us. They operate by entirely different notions of what it’s all about, inhabiting a space largely beyond that of contemporary customs and culture. It’s not that they’re odd or quirky. It’s something deeper and more nuanced than that, possessing a spiritual quality. I see them as mystic outsiders — those who were never indoctrinated, or were indoctrinated but fought their way out. Precisely because their minds are not molded by bourgeois propriety mystic outsiders have clarity. If you happen across one it’s a special day. You will be seen for who you are. Over the years I’ve had the good fortune of meeting a handful of such people. One of whom is Coconut Rob.
Solveig Galbo punctuates her sentences with laughter. Particularly as she’s describing her obsession with flowers or her unusual upbringing in remote forests. Her laugh is full, but casual and light. It shows humor and self awareness — or the humor of knowing and embracing one’s own quirks. More than anything it’s her laugh that proves she’s not weighed down, even though she’s willing to fight for a worthy cause. Lacking a genuine sense of purpose or self one can easily be consumed by the troubles of the world. But Solveig is fine. With a light heart and a positive outlook she’s able to fight the good fight.
Morocco Omari entered my world at the right time. I had been a little too caught up in big worries over small things, such as work and money and making my way in new pursuits. But talking with him, then listening back and transcribing the recording word for word, helped clear my mind of its concerns. It was like meeting with a counselor, hearing him describe his life and how he goes about living it. There’s a calmness to his voice. Not only the sound but the substance; the essence that is being conveyed. Absorb what he’s saying and it will affect you. Several emotions surfaced while putting this piece together: joy, sadness, humility, admiration, respect, gratitude. I laughed, I nearly cried at times, I was quiet — just listening…
The first time she traveled by airplane Shei Phan was 21. It was a one-way ticket from Oklahoma to New York — her ticket out. She had been working three jobs and studying for a degree in art education when her break finally broke. “It was a little scary because I didn’t know anybody [in New York]. No friends, no family, no nothing. I just thought, ‘Well, lets see what happens.’ It was my first city outside of Oklahoma and Texas.” She had also lived in Bakersfield briefly and Vegas for a month, but we’ll get to that.
Peter Makebish is an easy man to find. On a sunny day he’s ordinarily seated in a fold-up lawn chair on the sidewalk outside the glass and steel facade of his dainty, 10th Avenue gallery. Cold or rainy and he’s seated just inside the front door. His is the kind of place that stands as evidence that the city of New York is not without its soul. It’s a kind of protectorate, as though, in a debate with a reminiscent friend who insists that all is lost, you could simply say “Peter Makebish Gallery” and you’d be drinking for free that night.
The dynamic shifts when you place a smartphone on the table midway between yourself and another person, pressing the record button and proceeding to talk as though it’s not there. No longer is it a casual affair, shared words irrupting and dissolving in real time with only faulty, lapsed memories keeping score. We are now creating history, capturing in abstract time even the subtlest intonations, documented word for word. Nothing is lost. And as any good conquerer knows, the power to write history is a spoil of conquest. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I sit before Melinda Hanley knowing only that my intentions are pure. She sits before me knowing that she has much to say, but that any word she speaks has the potential to be misused — intentionally or through carelessness.
Earlier this year brothers Sam and Jack Powers decided to spend their vacation time in the Democratic Republic of Congo — the city of Goma to be precise. Initially they thought northern Iraq but, you know, ISIS. They’ll be revisiting that thought next year. Things have quieted a bit, but Goma is no stranger to conflict either. … Nearly all of the helpers in Goma work for top-heavy international organizations, such as the UN. They can be seen racing through town in expensive, kitted-out Land Cruisers, which can lead one to ponder just how far is the divide between helper and profiteer. Not so with Sam and Jack, who preferred to get around by motorcycle taxis and tried to stay in a hostel until they discovered that it was a brothel. They are fully on the helper side of that equation.
Ancient myths are littered with tales of descent. Be it a voyage to the underworld or a debilitating injury, heroic figures customarily fell from grace. But to be heroic, one must overcome. From descent there must be a succeeding ascent. Otherwise, it’s only a fall; a story of death and disease. It is the very process of overcoming that makes one heroic, simultaneously grounded and majestic. Heroes are defined by their struggles.