Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!, originally uploaded by Secret Ultra M.

I wish you all peace and joy on this Christmas day...


Texas, Here I Come.

Howdy Kerchief, originally uploaded by Secret Ultra M.

As I count down the days [five] until I get to see my family in Texas, I have been embroidering on this kerchief. I actually started it in October, but haven't had time to finish until now.




While my subject was finishing up in wardrobe, I tried to jump into the shot myself, to test focus and light. This was shot one...



shattered, originally uploaded by Secret Ultra M.

I was spending a quiet evening at home, when one of my candle glasses exploded. Ok, it didn't explode, per se, but it did blow its bottom right off. It narrowly missed breaking the glass lantern sitting right below it...

I think there was a small bubble in the glass, which, when the flame got right next to it, made it ka-splode. Yes, this is my hypothesis.


art morsel

I went to Bergamot Station is past weekend with some friends, and we visited the Brendan Monroe show @ Richard Heller. Style-wise, I don't think this is Monroe's best work ever, but I did enjoy the content of the show. I like the way his abstraction resembles organic forms at the microscopic level, and how he jumbles up the context and scale of said abstraction by inserting the human figure.

This piece, although lacking the figure, drew me in. Having a spontaneous childlike association, I imagined this piece as depicting a single, essential atom of macaroni and cheese. Initially comforting, and then kind-of gross, right?

Brendan Monroe
The Cell Who Remembers the Sun

26 x 20 Inches, Acrylic on Paper


Portrait of Katherine

...It could also be called, "Portrait of a Best Friend."

Kat just came out to L.A. from Georgia for a wedding, but I managed to commandeer most of her west coast hours (and even an extra one, thanks to the end of daylight saving!).

We got to catch up on tons of stuff, including our lack of [insert excuse here] that keeps us from doing just-because creative work. She came up with the brilliant charge of making each other's portraits during our free Sunday evening time slot.

We each got an hour, and were confined to using a digital 35, two small strobes, and my bedroom.

This is it:

Now, none of this was necessarily in the front of my mind during the shoot, but I love this depiction of her, because it reflects where she is in her life right now. I especially love the pensive body language, because she is someone with whom I can always share the endless cycle of questions and answers with. We have had so many adventures together, from late-night shooting in L.A., to hour-long train rides to Coney Island, to driving and camping along the Appalachian Trail. She is a thoughtful and steadfast soul sister (not to mention, a great photographer), and I love her to pieces.


Homage to the Rebel

A salute to the iconic James Dean as Jim Stark...

Homage to the Rebel, by Secret Ultra M.

This image is a tidbit from a menswear/lifestyle shoot I art directed last week. It's part of a project I have been collaborating on with some talented friends;

Photographer: Kim Garcia
Model: Preston Vanderslice
Stylist: Corban Poorboy
Art Director: Mariann Marcum (me)

These peeps are so good at what they do, and I loved spending the day working with them. Thanks, you guys!


fab fobs?

I will be the first to admit that I pretty much only look at the photographic content in most fashion-culture mags. I'd prefer to read a book before I read about whatever of-the-moment person has been propped on the front cover. Don't get me wrong, there are some awesome writers out there who touch on some interesting and vital topics--but usually, I am not drawn to read most bio/fashion/lifestyle articles.

However, while looking through the latest issue of The Fader magazine (#64), I found myself wishing there was an accompanying article for a specific photographic editorial spread. Entitled "No Place Like Home," photographer Gabriele Stabile and stylist Mobolaji Dawodu portray young émigrés and first-gens living in NYC. The puzzling part is, their portraits were taken in their home or neighborhood, and they are dressed in designer clothes. Each image is captioned with the subject's name, age, current location and country of origin. A smaller caption names the designers of the wardrobe. But I want to know more.

ime from The Fader Magazine, issue #64

Photographer Stabile, according to her website, is a photojournalist. Her style is ultra contemporary, and she shoots with chrome films. Her images are contrasty and luscious with color, and are more beautiful than the snaps by your average Times shooter. Her style pushes the limits of journalism, and straddles the line between photography as reportage and photography as art. You know, the kind of art that mashes up contexts and pokes you in the eye. Moreover, what kind of photojournalist works with a stylist?

I really want to know more about the people in the portraits, and about what the producers' concepts for the images were. Also, being that there isn't any other information in the mag, I wonder how much these images can tell me on their own. Are they a visual commentary on the American dream? I guess I'll need to take some more time to see.

See them for yourself in the free PDF download of the issue, pp 50-54. (The whole issue is great--it's a photo issue.)



A few weekends ago, I was able to get away to Sequoia National Park. I was there with a group of a dozen or so friends, old and new. We spanned a couple camp sites, and did a fair bit of cooking and hanging out. It was fantastic to sit around the fire and chat and laugh after the sun went down. Smells of wood smoke, chili, whiskey, and forest were the perfect backdrop for the pitch-black nights.

I was able to have a tent to myself one night, and to branch off into a smaller group for an off-trail hike on our one full day there. The quiet moments I thereby got were wonderful, and much needed. Anticipating these quiet moments, I only packed my "no look" CyberShot. I'm glad I didn't get into large-format mode for this short trip.

Here is my favorite image from the "roll:"



point and shoot

Soo, I went to New York City this summer to see these people get married;

It was a lovely ceremony in Long Island City, and a fantastic party afterward.

Anyhow, the camera I had on hand at any given moment over my long weekend was a recently broken Cyber Shot. Well, it wasn't totally broken, the LCD screen was just busted. Since said LCD was the only viewfinder option on the camera, I was guesstimating at most of the framing. Thank goodness for auto focus and the Zeiss--the pics don't look half bad!



unabsence, originally uploaded by Secret Ultra M.

...and I'm back.


No, he is not from an evil parallel universe...

...he is just from North Korea.

It is amazing to think that while we get to do things like sit down for morning coffee, grab a burrito on a lunch break from work, and chat with friends over dinner, there are people on this very same planet, at this very moment, who are starving. Yes, I know this is not news to you--how many mothers have used this fact to guilt us into eating the rest of our dinner? However, the fact that North Koreans are practically blindfolded and isolated from the rest of the world, on top of being slowly starved--all by their own government--is not just circumstance, but severe injustice. If one could glance away from the nuclear glimmer in Kim's eyes for just a moment and see through his propaganda fog, one would find that a deeper atrocity has already been carried out. Yet, there are organizations that are working very hard to help North Korean people. Liberty in North Korea, headquartered right here in Los Angeles, is one such organization. They work in a grassroots way not only to raise awareness of the situation, but to directly aid NK escapees re-settle in the free world and prosper for the rest of their lives.

A real, live glimmer of hope.


Yard (and Studio!) Sale

This Saturday, September 26, I will be participating in a fund-raising yard sale. Many of the works from What Happens (pictured above) will be among my offerings, along with some other interesting stuff. Yes, stuff. Stuff like CDs, housewares, and a sweet old single-slide projector.

100% of the funds will go to a group of my friends who are traveling to India next month to do some projects. One is to make a documentary in the foothills of the Himalayas, and the other is to put on a children's activity day-camp type thing at a school.

Come to the sale, drop a few bucks, and talk to my friend Rod about what he'll be shooting for this doc!

I'll also be making some delicious Iced Indian Red Tea.

4534 Ambrose Ave, in Los Feliz, 90027. It's near the big Albertson's shopping center on Hillhurst.

I will be there from 8:30am - 11am, and I'm not sure what time the party will stop, but I will make the appropriate update here in this entry when I find out.

Hope to see you there, Cheers!


these are a few of the beautiful things...

...Yes, I was singing that to the tune of "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. (No, I don't really like musicals.)

Anyhow, as I get back into the blogging saddle, I have decided to sprinkle a few personal anecdotes and goings-on into the mix. This should result in more frequent posting, and will serve as a nice notepad/record for my post-post-studio practice. Ha!

Now, on to the topic at hand--beautiful things. Specifically, I wish to make an account of two heart-moving occurrences I've recently witnessed;

1) At a local used bookshop, a boy of about age thirteen was standing behind me in line with an older brother/uncle/mentor type figure. I say older only because he was older than the boy--he was a young man himself, twentysomething at most. The boy was holding an unknown H.G. Wells paperback with some fantastic, funky cover art and said "Yeah, I think I want to buy this," in a half excited, half timid tone. The brother/uncle/mentor smiled encouragingly and told the boy he'd like to buy it for him. The boy's responding grin was also half excited and half timid, but totally heart-melting.

2) In a museum, in a very dark gallery, a woman was with a young boy (again, around age thirteen). The boy was blind. They walked arm in arm as the boy tapped with his cane, and they proceeded through a thick velvet curtain which was a passage into an exceedingly bright gallery space. And when I say exceedingly bright, I mean it--they were walking into a space featuring a sculptural installation that consisted of a grouping of flood lights, creating a blinding-white wall. So, you can imagine how the light streamed through the draping velvet as they passed. Maybe it's cheesy, but it was a kind of bittersweet, allegorical moment.

Anyone else catch a moment like this lately?

Over and out. . .



unabsence, originally uploaded by Secret Ultra M.

Hello. I'm on my way back to this blog from a longish absence. I've been traveling, working, and spending high-quality time with people. I'm almost back, now...


Hooray for Graduate School

Hello, friends. I just read this fresh New York Times op-ed article by Marc C. Taylor of Columbia University. He aptly highlights some of the outdated patterns of University academics and suggests some interesting new ones...

Ahhh, to be a new advanced degree holder. So promising. :|


art morsel

Hello, all! It's been a few weeks. For me, a few very busy weeks. But I'm happy to be back on the blog with an exciting art morsel. Perhaps it's better described as an art sip:


by Rebecca Bray and Britta Riley

installation image
from Eyebeam Feedback exhibition
March 2008.

The artist duo behind this thought-provoking visualization of toilet water treatment narratives did their research during a residency at Eyebeam in NYC. The "bio-artists" also created this surprising D-I-Y urine-to-fertilizer kit. Finding this gem was timely, as part of my days being away from the ol' blog were spent doing some springtime indoor gardening. Too bad these fertilizer kits are no longer available...


i talk about me.

Who needs Frost/Nixon when you can have Miliate/Marcum? The wondrous Lynelle Miliate has posted an interview with me here. This is only the beginning of our online interminglings; you'll see...


art morsel

I love Richard Heller's gallery. He always seems to share something that is part whimsy, part sour, part craft, and part just-plain-lovely. You get a different ratio of each, in any given show. I was able to see the current Amy Bennett show during the recent "breakfast receptions" at Bergamot Station. I was with a couple good artist friends, and if I remember correctly, this was the one show all three of us liked.

It was almost exclusively small-ish oil on panel works, save for a single sculpture. The very nice attendant informed me that it was created by the artist as a reference from which to paint, but it was a beautiful object in and of itself. (I could go off on a whole other tangent, talking about how wonderful it is that she paints from miniatures she builds herself. For the sake of my much needed night of sleep, I will not.)

The panels are each finished with a flawless, shellacked sheen, which gives the pictures' color and form an assertive presence. The palette is quietly idyllic and the rendering of light is ethereal. The materiality of the gloss also resonates with the theme of houses on lakes. From image to image, the lake surfaces change from rippling, to unnaturally, eerily, glass-like. The dominant aspect of the images are the rural landscapes and their reflections; yet dwelling within them are minutely rendered people. Their activity is familiar, yet peculiar. Think super-removed/aerial view of Gregory Crewdson at the lakehouse on a spring morning. The paintings are, for lack of a less-clichéd word, captivating. I will say no more. Go see this show. Take your valentine. (It's over after the 14th.)

Vacationland, 2008
22" x 48"

by Amy Bennett, at Richard Heller


They say you should never meet your heroes...

I'm not sure who "they" are, but I am happy to report that meeting Sophie Calle was lovely. It's an honor to be able to thank someone who has been so influential and motivating (especially when they live in Paris).

I was able to meet/thank her earlier this month at an artist talk she gave in La Jolla, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (in conjunction with a visiting artist program of UCSD's). She presented a slide-show/overview of her career's worth of work, peppered with some really great anecdotes. It was so fun to hear some of the stories that went along with her projects and process. She's an amazing artist, and a pretty funny lady. Here's one of the images she showed of her recent work, made after the passing of her Mother:

I believe this is related to the work wherein she represented plaques inscripted with the maladies claimed to have been cured by the Lourdes fountain's famed healing water. She added a blank plaque, symbolizing the fact that breast cancer, the disease that took Calle's Mother, was not listed as one of the fount's triumphs.

Her Mother was the center of another recent work, "Couldn't Capture Death," wherein Calle continuously videotaped her mother on her deathbed, in an effort to capture her last breath. As the title infers, she couldn't be sure of the exact moment, neither at the time nor via reviewing the film. While the description of this work almost sounded distasteful or sacrilegious, Calle was so loving and sincere when speaking about it. Moreover, she reported that her spirited Mother felt vindicated in finally being featured in Calle's work. (I think you can still find this video on YouTube, if you want to see it for yourself.) As for the issue of the work coming close to some kind of abstract personal boundary, if you know her work, you know this is nothing new. :)

I first learned of Sophie Calle when I was on a trip through Dublin in 2004. She had a retrospective at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and I was enamored. I still am.


Stop. (unh!) Hamma-time!

I paid a visit to the Hammer museum on Tuesday, and I really, really wanted to take a photograph of this Warhol photograph in the Oranges and Sardines show. Not because I respect A. W. or love the photograph (and I do, both), but because it was in this intense light atmosphere! Anyhow, the guard said I could not take a photo, so I drew this picture/diagram, instead.

Now, imagine this; Warhol's silver gelatin print of a hammer, sickle, and pizza slice; lit by the tungsteny-yellow bulbs of Felix Gonzalez-Torres' Go-Go dancing platform from the left; and from the right, glowing blue from Dan Flavin's "Diagonal of May 25, 1963." It was crazy!

What an interesting occurence. (Which came out of the circumstance of Gary Garrels' curating and Wade Guyton's contribution to the Oranges and Sardines project.)

Xmas miXchange

Xmas miXchange, originally uploaded by Secret Ultra M.

This is some of the mix cd cover art made by CSULB MFA candidates at our recent studio-party. We exchanged music mixes as "holiday" gifts. Artists, left to right: Shaden Mousa (untitled mix), Gabi Ferrer (See-Thru), McLean Fahnestock (pLAceness).