Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A grant year is done

The last year was a whirlwind for me. I had started one project with my Jerome Fellowship when a I was awarded the MN State Arts Board grant. This allowed me an extremely rare opportunity to Visit a place I would have never been able to visit otherwise in order to create a series of paintings I had been obsessing about for a while now. I also received some extremely negative press at the time from a "watchdog" group which would not have been a very big deal until the local news station also picked up the story and ran with it. Unfortunately, both news sources only looked at my one sentence summary to the project to determine what I was doing and where my funding came from. I attempted to resolve the matter privately with the media sources at the time but I made too good of a headline to be able to input facts into the matter at hand. It was deemed wasteful spending before the project had even started. In addition, this was happening right as I was about to leave for my research trip and giving my energy to the nonsense would've put the entire project at risk so I set aside making any public statements about the issue beyond a brief acknowledgment in an interview for the Walker blog at that time. 

As this was publicly funded, I would like to make sure it is public knowledge where my money came from, my budget, and what I actually spent. $6426 of my project came from the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts, $3574 from the State Arts Board, and $1600 from my own pocket. My total projected travel expenses were $6700 (actual was $6594*). In the end, I spent $168 of Minnesota tax payer money for travel. The rest of the grant was studio materials ($1300 projected and $1400 actual)and extra studio time because I had to limit my freelance work in order to meet the deadlines of the proposed grant ($3600 projected and I maxed at $3600 since this has become a much larger project).

The project is ongoing and I will continue to make work through the end of 2014 before moving on to the next venture.

*$2300 of that was just plane tickets and I spent 33 days in one of the most expensive places in the world. I ate a lot of rice, beans, bananas, and baguettes and walked an average of 9 miles a day in tropical heat. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bora Bora or the The Island the Americans Claimed as Their Own

Yes, the water in Bora Bora really looks like this. It has an intensity that I didn't see one the other islands I visited. Unfortunately, it is a tiny island in a state of ecological collapse. Half of the hotels on the mainland have closed down and the nice resorts have moved to the motus that encase the tiny island.  This is also where the U.S Navy set up base in World War II. They built the airport, put artillery on the hill tops, tanks, and stored huge ships in the coral ring. The Tahitians said it was the island that the Americans took, because once the war was over the honeymooners replaced the military. 

Seeing the waters here, I understand why it's a dream vacation for so many. I'm sure staying in an over-water bungalow on a motu is a great experience. Especially for a honeymoon. However,this place was the least magical, least Tahitian of all the islands I visited. 

Here is one of the resorts on a Motu. They have artificial beaches, pools, and run on diesel generators. 

This Motu is reserved for the tour group I joined for the day. So you can feel like you're on your own private island. Notice the smooth sand and carefully placed rocks.

Each island is responsible for its own trash which is creating a huge problem here on this tiny island. 

This is what it is left after the usable parts of a resort ware sold off. Many of the bungalows are hauled away and become someone's home. 

Bora Bora has large areas that are mud bogs because it is a sinking island and I was visiting during the rainy season. 

Piles of sand that are waiting to be sent to the resorts. I had to book it soon after I got this picture cause those dogs were trained to go after anyone that lingers too long. 

This is a Marae with a road going through it. 

A U.S military tank. The American tourists love it. 

This is the southern tip of the island near where I stayed. It is the only natural beach on the island.

This is the same beach around the corner from the public area. It made me question the notion of "natural"

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tahaa: A day trip and a rest from hiking all day

This was a day trip I took from Ra'iatea. The islands are super close to one another so it was a zippy boat ride over. Tahaa is mostly vanilla farmers and not many tourists. Also the best snorkeling I've ever seen.

I really loved how joining a tour group gave me a different perspective on what kinds of experiences people have while visiting the French Polynesia. It also reminded me how I was an outsider looking in on both worlds. Neither islander nor tourist. It was deeply lonely and at this point I was terribly homesick which was amplified by the two deaths in the family while I was away. But now I look back on this trip as the one of the best experiences in my life. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ra'iatea: The place where they banned bikes for visitors (also known as the Sacred Island)

I have to say that this was my least favorite island. It's mostly an administrative island so there isn't a lot else going on. I heard it is very beautiful in the mountains but guides will only go if there are at least 2 and so I found myself out of luck. The also banned bike rentals for visitors and the island is huge so it is quite impossible to get around without anything...can we say forced car rental conspiracy. Too bad every car on the island is a stick shift and I am apparently the only person that does't know what to do with that. The nice people at the hotel snuck me a bike though, after I was followed around all afternoon by "guide" who kept trying to take me into the mountains. 

 A church built in front of a Marae using the altar stones. 

Every time I ventured into a valley to get closer to a distant waterfall, my view would actually get worse. It was my week of chasing mirages. 

The 1.5 hour kayak journey to this deserted Motu was not disappointing though. 

I met a lovely couple Ian and Pennie from New Zealand and they let me tag along on their car ride around the island so I could see the most sacred site in all of the South Pacific the Marae Taputaputatea. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Huahine French Polynesia (The Rebel Island)

It's been a terribly long time since my last post. In my defense, I made an 8x12 ft painting, gave 2 artist talks, bought a house, and moved my studio to said house. But I am still going to post about each island and throw in a transcript of my talk about the French Polynesia as a reference. 

When I came to Huahine, I instantly loved the people and the way of life there much more then the previous island. It's not really a tourist island but it has the most archaeological sites and the people are very proud of their heritage as well as being the one island that never willingly became a French Colony. 

This was also the island where I was able to establish a contact person Dorthy Lubin-Levy who runs the beautiful Fare-Pote'e. She helped me with information, finding a great place to stay, and introduced me to some wonderful people.

This is at the Marae Paepae that was built in the hills so the people could be more protected from the colonists. 

I found the Marae Tefano to be really magical with the huge tree that is growing in the Marae. It is also hidden in the thick jungle hill of Mata'ire'a away from the colonists. I was lucky enough to have met a great American painter Melanie Shook Dupre and her Tahitian partner Cesar Delord who live on the island and he was kind enough to take me around the island and show me his favorite places. 

The Fare-Pote'e was really great to see. It is built in the traditional way with artifacts and Maeva people who weave and talk about their traditions. It was amazing how cool it felt inside.

This are all Maraes around the Fare-Pote'e. I visited several times to get different lighting. 

watermelon fields. 

These lava slabs are found at the outside edge of the islands. Huahine is unique because part of the coral ring is still attached to the main island so I was able to bike to the beach and see the slabs that they would stand up to make the Marae. 

Marae Manunu overlooks the beach. 

 Because of the small bit of land that is still attached to the outer ring, there is a long narrow bay that looks like a lake where the people still use the fish traps of their ancestors. 

These traps are stone mazes that the fish swim into but can't get out. 

The best snorkeling on the island was at an abandoned hotel. I was able to get in a few photos before a man started waving his machete around and yelling at me.

By a stroke of luck, I happened to be visiting during the presidential elections. They held the first round while I was on Huahine. It is great how they decorate everything with flowers, have music, and lots of food for the occasion.