Montana Winters

Winter here was long and cruel. It was colder than any I’ve ever experienced.

But it also made me feel alive. One night I didn’t realize it was -65F with windchill and walked over a mile to my favorite bar. Halfway through I couldn’t feel my legs. My cheeks were red and I am surprised my face didn’t have frostbite.

Winter tests you. It makes sure you’re ready. It makes you worthy. You learn to get good boots and gloves and you get used to slipping and sliding through intersections. You ready yourself for school with 4+ layers of wool, fur, and cotton, topping it all off with down. Hats become necessary and the windows have frost on the inside.

Here are some bits of my December in the midst of our winter. I sat on my bed with Chris playing with lenses. We meandered all over the lake in Helena. My sister and I ate pies. My father ice fished for the beautiful, delicious rainbow trout that circle the lake. We went hunting and I shot my own goose and later plucked it.

Winter.

 

 

A day at the museum

I’m graduating in a little over a week from COLLEGE!

WHAT!

Anyway, today we went to the Museum of the Rockies here in Bozeman for a final art class. Although our purpose was more just to have something to do, for days on end I was bothering Chris telling him, “I get to see the geckos!” and getting overly excited.

You see, if I had really done it right, I would have gone to school for herpetology, or the study of reptiles and amphibians. I love frogs, salamanders, skinks, snakes, and lizards galore! So upon entering the museum I immediately raced to the glass enclosures. There were fat geckos, flying geckos, geckos that looked like leaves, and brightly colored little geckos. They were all wonderful to observe, and have such interesting body structures! I could talk about their feet all day.

The museum also has some wicked exhibits about Montana’s ancient shallow seas that used to cover modern day Missoula and other parts of Montana. I’ve been to the museum dozens of times in my life but every time I appreciate something more. I love the amazing skeletons of the dinosaurs and the petrified wood and fern impressions. I will always be a sucker for neat plaster exhibits of old school nautilus’s swimming around prehistoric seas.

Overall it was a great day to spend in a place I love. I’m going again tomorrow but tomorrow will most likely be the last time I go before graduating college!

The final days

My dog was dead. My beautiful, black and white Springer, Maggie, was dead 3 days before I left Switzerland. Leaving would validate her death. Upon returning to my home, she wouldn’t be there to smell all my clothes and jump on me like she had 5 months earlier. If I returned she would really be dead. As long as I was 6,000 miles away, she wouldn’t really not be there.

Returning was necessary. It was financially unfeasible for me to remain there. My family didn’t have the money to keep me at the school, and I was unwilling to perch precariously on a mountain of debt. In late May, I got on a little plane with whirring propellers to Zurich and headed “home”.

“Home” at this point wasn’t real. I was leaving my new family- my beautiful, vivacious friends. I was leaving my new home- my messy studio apartment with lentils on the ceiling due to a bad canned lentils accident and a tiny shower in a black granite bathroom. I slept in my house with the door open to the balcony, hearing rain pound endlessly just outside my door, letting the cool air waft in. I wore rain boots and ate horribly and drank sugar-laced apfelsaft. I walked downtown to get Thai food with my beautiful friends, and Hannah and I shared gelato and meandered around, buying gummy candy for no reason. We walked through the park or made food at ridiculous hours.

To me, leaving was the worst. I was in mourning about 2 months before I had to leave. I desperately photographed everything- even playing Uno on the floor drinking heady wine and bier. I took videos on bad and good days. I tried to piece together what it was like, even though I knew I’d glaze it over to only the good moments.

Packing up my room was the weirdest. At that point I was numb. I simply got rid of things without understanding their significance. How proud I was to put together the Ikea shelf I bought, how much I loved my little duck-shaped laundry hamper meant for children. How heavy it was so get my books back to America and how I refused to leave almost any of them. How taking photographs off my walls made them echo more.

Taking the taxi to the airport was surreal. I’d done it quite a few times before. I knew the drill. The overdressed Switalian man would load my luggage in his trunk and not be able to fit both enormous suitcases in. He’d drive the same beautiful Jaguar and listen to bad ’90’s pop on the radio. He’d make minimal conversation and I’d go over in my mind if I had my passport and boarding pass. Getting to the airport I didn’t want to cry. Nobody I knew was on my flight. I felt so alone. I checked in, using some of the last Italian I’d use ever. I stumbled over the words, making a mess of the language I’d hated and loved and messed up for two years.

I got onto the plane, and looked out the window. It was clean and white. I saw classmates faces but they didn’t know who I was. No flicker of recognition. I sat silently, looking to see how long of a layover I had in Zurich. I looked around and saw the hills in green, covered in the lush trees.

Crying finally caught me as the plane took off. Planes out of the Lugano airport take off at a very steep angle because of the surrounding terrain and I remember loving how I knew that and how I would hopefully fly back in fast and hard in a year or two. I took pictures out the window and saw San Salvatore underneath me. I could spot the park and Gandria and all the places I’d marched all over that beautiful city.

I haven’t been back. I don’t know if I ever will be.

The “bad” frames

My Argus Argoflex E is about 70-75 years old. It’s sturdy and pretty light, but I wasn’t used to working without a light meter, and didn’t carry one with me.

This meant that many of my frames weren’t properly exposed, or I didn’t time them right. Or I was moving too quickly to focus accurately (bugger). Nonetheless, I don’t see these as wasted frames. They’re learning frames. There’s no way every frame in a roll will be a worthwhile one, or that it will be impeccably framed, focused, and composed. Sometimes they’ll be downright awful.

To me, these are still awesome. They have memories attached. I was fumbling around, dashing, trying to keep up, or having trouble figuring out the intricacies that every camera presents when getting to know it. Especially this one!

My first foray into medium format!!

Using a 70 year old camera, I brought a few rolls of 120 film and ventured with the red girls around Los Angeles with Ektar 100. It was my first time actually shooting with this camera and trying to correctly load 120 film (which was surprisingly easy)!

I loved imagining how they’d turn out! The square format is really lovely, a great change from the rectangular format of 35mm, and the negatives were awesome to look at!

I don’t have a photo scanner and the labs are only for photography students but Chris did a patient, lovely job of scanning my film in with me. (A lot of my frames were actually heinous. Like, really bad. I might make a bad photo post).

Now they’re here! I’m in love! I’m so excited to keep shooting with my old ancient camera and experiment more with 120mm film!

Almost 23 and exhausted: Growing up a girl/object.

Snapshot_20130709

I’m about to turn 23. In one week! Blink-182 says nobody likes you when you’re 23. Damn.

Honestly growing up as a girl has been really, really fucking hard sometimes. I’m white, so there’s privilege there, but regardless, I’ve grown up as an object.

I remember the first time I had a car honk at me. It was in high school, and I was running. From that moment on I realized that my body was just that- disconnected from me as a person. To a lot of society I wasn’t Kate, I was a girl, a thing, a creature to be honked and whistled at from the car and a thing that didn’t have the agency to do anything about it.

I’m still honked at, touched in bars, winked at by men. This last week in Los Angeles at the LACMA a creepy man came by while my friends and I were lying on an exhibit bed, saying, “Oh look! They hired live models!” and lifted his camera. I felt disgusted. His behavior his whole life had been tolerated and thereby approved by people around him. It was seen as harmless, not invasive or uncomfortable.

“It’s not a big deal”/”Oh my gosh! It must be exhausting having men find you attractive!”/”You get free drinks and dudes do things for you, that’s awesome!”/”Oh boy, another feminist rant!”

I am sick of ALL of those responses when I talk to men around me about society seeing me and my fellow girls as things. Not people, not vessels with souls and goals and wants and needs, but as creatures to be objectified, hit on, harassed, and pawed at. I have had my ass squeezed in bars, I have had men get upset when I don’t want their attention, and society has always told me it’s a “compliment” to have all these things happen to me. FUCK. THAT.

I am made to feel bad when a guy gives me unwanted attention and when I turn it down. My right to say “no” makes me a bitch, a cold-hearted cunt, an ice-queen just waiting to get a bunch of cats and die alone. Girls are shallow, nasty creatures because we might reject men. Because we might not WANT their attention or their drinks or their hands on our bodies or their eyes on us.

“Don’t dress _____ and it won’t happen.” This is another exhausting, vile answer I get when I talk about going out. When I wear my favorite tight velvet dress or a low cut shirt out I am not inviting you in. I am dressing myself up for me and only me. I am saying to myself, “You deserve to look nice and pretty and you deserve to think you look good tonight.” I am not having thoughts of hoping some man will come swooning over.

I would like to put in here at this point that I don’t mind making conversation. I’m not against having a guy come up and talking to me. I will not immediately write off every man as a “creep” because he approaches me in a bar/concert/cafe/other place. I will engage in conversation and banter willingly. However, I am allowed to not be into you, I am allowed to not want a drink, and I am allowed to say “no” at any point to anything.

As a child growing up I was taught that as a girl my life is constantly under scrutiny and that just being a girl puts me in danger. I park under lights like my mother told me to. I look underneath my car before I get in. I look behind me when I walk, even in daylight. If somebody is walking too close to me I cross the street. I walk alone at night, apparently asking to be raped. I am actually scared of men.

When men I talk to hear this they get upset. They say “We’re not all like that”/”You’re being dramatic”/”You have to get over that” but every time a rapist shows up suddenly I am the one who has to stay inside and lock my door and watch my back. When a guy tried to attack a girl less than 1/2 mile behind my apartment a month ago Chris told me I shouldn’t go on my night walks anymore. He might be right but I want society to tell little boys, teenage men, and grown men, “Don’t rape. Women can say no. She’s not a bitch for not wanting your attention. You’re not complimenting her when you honk/whistle/leer/wink- you’re solidifying the idea that women are little more than objects. You’re adding to her fear.”

You know what the #1 thing you can say to a guy to get him to back off is? “I have a boyfriend.” This quote sums up why this is the most awful thing ever. Found from Tumblr somewhere, I am so sorry I don’t know the genius behind this quote! (If you do please let me know!)

“Male privilege is “I have a boyfriend” being the only thing that can actually stop someone from hitting on you because they respect another male-bodied person more than they respect your rejection/lack of interest.”

I do have a boyfriend. And he’s awesome. But just because he exists shouldn’t nullify the respect I deserve from a man if I say I’m simply not interested.

I have men in my life that I love and respect. I have been lucky to have some truly awesome male figures in my life that demonstrate the kind of values men should have towards women. I don’t hate men, I don’t loathe them. What I am is wary and cautious, because 1 in 4 college aged women either are raped or have experienced an attempt at rape.

I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I hate realizing that I forgot my pepper spray and hoping that it isn’t the night I get raped or assaulted or have to get myself out of a potentially scary situation. I hate having to be paranoid about almost every action I make, whether I’m inviting attention, etc.

I’m 23 next week and I can promise you I’m not the only one who is as young as I am and already completely worn out.

 

 

Flora

Going South to California I was astounded by all the green. 

Montana is essentially covered with mud, ice, or snow for 6 months of every year and the field of color around me seems to dim. It was almost shocking to feel warm green grass on my bare feet on a lawn in early March! My time there was spent marveling at all the growing things- orange trees, birds of paradise, succulents and cacti taller than me. Of course, I was allergic to it all, and quickly had to go on Benadryl but that didn’t matter.

Being around living things, whether they be flora or fauna, will always be my favorite. I love nature and all she has to offer, and it seems like every surface was teeming with something! There were dozens of bees swarming over the birds of paradise, having a feast, and there were wasps bothering you at breakfast.

Also side note: The squirrels at Scripps were enormous. About 3 times fatter than the Montana ones (which are downright scraggly creatures). They were sleek and bold and ate so well! As a result, there were some gorgeous and sneaky hawks perched in places you wouldn’t see right away that would quickly swoop over the bushes towards their well-fed prey. It was really neat to be sipping coffee outside the dining hall and see a bird of prey just come down so silently. I loved it.

Now I’m back in the land of ice, snow, and mud, dying of a cold in my bed. My car is dead from something (battery hopefully) and I might be medicated up to my non-existent gills but I don’t think I’ll forget my lovely foray into such a warm, lush place.

 

 

The red girls

I spent my amazing week in Los Angeles staying with these two girls. I slept in their room, invaded their space, and used their Ibuprofen, and they were very gracious about all of this.

We had a great week-I don’t really have words to describe how much I needed to be somewhere warm and sunny and sit in the grass outside. Montana winters are long, dark, and cold, and every March it seems I feel the need to escape in an almost violent way.

We ate like queens, drank beer like we were raised in breweries, and wore dresses without tights. I was amazed at 80 degree weather, and actually had to apply sunscreen! My freckles popped out, my hair was loose and I felt like a new person.

I’ll be posting more photographs from my trip soon but these are two of my favorite frames. Thanks Chelsea and Comrade Kate for everything!

 

What it feels like to write a thesis

USEFUL

Step 1: Turning in a proposal and experiencing gut-seizing fear.

You wonder “Why did I ever decide to do this?” Your emotions will revolve around a mixture of apprehension, excitement, and wanting to vomit thinking about all the RESEARCH!
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko a

Step 2: Sitting your ass down and researching.

THIS IS THE WORST! You get so mad at the world, kind of like Dictator Lukashenka, because you spend 83.9% of your time ELIMINATING sources rather than FINDING sources! Your advisor asks for “1st person sources” and you want to scream “Those are as hard to find as the rich husbands I need to fund my future doctoral degree!” (Just kidding…)

weird_stuff

Step 3: Realizing how weird and specific your thesis is.

By now you’ve got some semblance of data. You’re done being bitter and now you’re actually sort of excited about what you’re writing! You want to tell people and nobody really thinks it’s that interesting but you still tell them about it. You talk about it at parties and to strangers and when you pet dogs outside of coffee shops you mention it to them. You spend your nights lying awake re-organizing your outline and wondering if the coffee shop will have your favorite roast for your next hard-core thesising day.

(Also at this point the verb “to thesis” becomes a reality. You are always thesising, about to thesis, etc.)
mary_shelley_thebest

Step 4: You’re in too deep to give up! 

Now you should put on a false sense of bravado. Even if your adviser hates your stuff, even if you’re potentially screwed, you have to just act like everything is peachy and you’ve got it under control! (Because you totally do. Obviously. Even if most of your thesising is spent making effective study playlists…)

tumblr_lty5ujxxmd1qmaa05o1_500

Step 5: Realize how quickly the semester is going and have a single, graceful moment of panic.

You are scared s***less and you frankly have no idea how you will make it through. You might occasionally cry in Target store aisles looking for shampoo thinking about how little time you have left.

431px-Judith_mit_dem_Haupt_des_Holofernes_2Step 6: VANQUISH!

I’m not here yet. I’m still in the false bravado stage. I hope to get here and have the damn thing bound and slap it down triumphantly in the library and scream “HELL YEAH” and then erase all my favorited research links and burn all the old drafts! Then I fully plan on having a large helping of wine and cake and being sufficiently praised for my hard work (although the praise probably won’t happen).

 

Thesis Pieces

My current thesis topic is the comparison between various Spanish-Colonial Virgins from Cuzco and Mexico City.

I’m absolutely entranced by both of these pieces. The three pictures at the top are of the Virgin of Guadalupe enconchado piece (enconchado is mother-of-pearl applied directly to the canvas) by Michel Gonzalez from 1698. This style came from Japan, as the Spanish had a trading route with Japan and much of the art and furniture, although meant for Spain, ended up in Mexico!

The other three pictures are from the Virgin of Belan by a Cuzco School artist from around 1710. Obviously she is a very different depiction of the Virgin Mary- hers incorporates Incan and native symbols and styles learned and developed in Peru.

Both of these pieces are in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and I hope to see the enconchado piece! (The Virgin of Belan is not on view right now, gah!)

 

World War One and Harold Gillies

EYEBROW-GRAFT tubed-pedicle-graft-harold-gilliesThese are two images from Harold Gillies’ 1920 book “Plastic Surgery of the Face”.

I’m doing a rather greusome and graphic study on medical innovations that resulted because of World War One, and it’s painful to know that thousands of people had to suffer massive disfigurements, wounds, and other fates. Treatments were done with the aid of ether or choloform, sometimes mixed together- both were not as medically sound as they could have been, although no other options existed at the time.

Harold Gillies pioneered a lot of plastic surgery techniques to restore a realistic face to many men- he performed over 11,000 surgeries (along with the first sex change!) and his work, while not perfect and often with scarring, gave many soldiers hope that they could return to society and not feel the need to hide. He grafted cartilige, injected fat (sometimes paraffin wax), and gave men lips, eyebrows, and eyelids where they were burned off or blown off by the massive artillery or chemicals.

I’m doing this paper and every word I write makes me grateful for the medical science around me as well as feeling immense compassion for the surgeons and men who had to work under such conditions.

 

Heading West soon!

00550021 In three weeks or so I’ll be on an airplane again.

Thank goodness!

Without travel I feel as though my soul shrinks. Or is warped, at least a bit.

This time I’m going somewhere I’ve never been: Los Angeles!

My thesis piece is there- a beautiful enconchado that I will do a post on soon!

I’m staying with good friends Chelsea and Comrade Kate and the last time we all were together in a city was a roadtrip through Montana, Idaho, and Washington to Seattle and Olympia. Harlan tagged along and upon getting to Seattle declared, “I hate cities!” at which point we all wondered why he had come along to a trip to a city. Nonetheless, we had a blast, eating our way through seafood and staying with Chelsea’s wonderful grandparents.

I’m excited to see these two soon in an entirely foreign environment to me!