Paradise can be deceiving

Paradise can be deceiving. Sometimes what you see on the other side of the fence (as in this picture) might look idyllic for some, but in actuality it’s just a mural on the façade of a building.

Sometimes paradise is right in front of you staring you in the face. Reach for the stars and dream, but remember, you don’t always have to go to exotic locations to be in paradise––pure happiness and paradise can be right where you are.

paradise, gate, mural, fake

The Yo-Yo Queen

My grandmother passed away the other day. She was 93 years old. I was glad that I got to see her one last time on Mother’s Day. As she sat in the kitchen eating the ham and sweet corn that my uncle had made for us, she was constantly looking around, observing her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild: she said very little––just observed. As I was making small talk with my cousin and watching my niece designing her ideal 9th birthday party in her sticker book, I noticed my grandmother staring at me. She never said anything––just stared––almost as if she was taking in one, long, last look.nan yo, yo-yo queen

We called her Nana Yo. My mother joked to my youngest cousin and more recently to her granddaughter, that she got the name Nana Yo because she was the Yo-Yo Queen of the 1940’s. For us older kids, we understood it was short for her first name, Yolanda.

A few months ago, I learned that my grandmothers maiden name (Marco) was originally longer than what I had known it to be (Panasidi-Marco)––it was shortened when she arrived in America from her homeland of Marina di Caronia, Sicily, Italy. Funny what you learn so many years later.

A few years ago, I reunited her with her sister who she hadn’t seen or spoken to in almost twenty years. We may never know what the real cause of their rift was, however, both she and her sister both thanked me for bringing them back together. It was probably one of the most important things that I ever did for her.

Here’s a picture of her that I took in 2008 on a sunny day in her backyard. The old style curlers tightly wound in her hair. On the table beside her, most likely a Dewar’s––straight up, rocks on the side. If I liked scotch, I’d go drink one for you today. Maybe you’d approve of a fine Italian wine instead.

Go Get Your Nails

jason landry, photographer, reflected hands, paris, nails, mirror

Jason Landry, Reflected Hands, Paris, 2007

Photographer Jane Tuckerman stopped by the gallery today to witness yet another crazy installation day.  Our next exhibition opens in two days.  Before she left she said, “Jason…go get your nails.”  The way that she said it, and my assistant thought the same thing, sounded like the word ‘done‘ was going to come at the end of her sentence, as in “Jason…go get your nails done.”  But no, she was just reminding me that I needed to buy some nails to finish hanging a few of the pieces in the show.  It would have been funny if the latter sentence was uttered.  I needed a good laugh today.  Regardless, when I think of nails, I think of my wife.

There’s Anne’s hands, reflected in a closet mirror in Paris. Her gel manicure that she got a few days earlier still looked good.  For those that are wondering, the color is Lincoln Park After Dark.  That’s how the ladies at the nail salon know my wife, not by her name, but by her nail polish color.

This photograph is a few years old and one of my favorites.  Her hands are raised in a way that looks rather religious in nature, however, not intended.  When you ask your model to get into the closet and shut the door like so and then stick their hands out so that you can photograph their reflection, you have only so many seconds to direct the scene before your model, my wife, gets aggravated and the opportunity is over.  Luckily on this day, her jet lag had passed.

She’s always been my best hand model, among other things.

Let’s Talk About Valentine’s Day

kevin van aelst, heart, panopticon gallery, photograph, valentine's day

Kevin Van Aelst, The Heart, 2009

Here’s my story about Valentine’s Day, but first, a little back story to set the scene. So, I’ve been doing a bit of writing over that past two years – actually a bit more than normal. In fact, I started writing and keeping journals when I met my future bride to be. That was in ninety-three. For those of you having trouble, a quick math exercise brings us up to twenty – twenty wonderful years with the same woman. It’s not an easy thing to do – you know – being married. Relationships take work – and most of the work tends to be on my end. My wife is easy to live with – I’m the one who brings the drama.

I used to write in a journal every day when we first met. This was well before the advent of Facebook, email and text messaging. When we would get together, she would read what was going on in my life during any given week. Some people forget that there was a time in the past that used to be like this. So for those of you reading this that are smirking at the fact that I was writing in journals – well – most of you are doing in now – that is – those of you who type something every day in Facebook, Twitter or on a blog. Those are the virtual journals of the now generation.

My journals were packed with poems and stories, pictures that I drew, pictures and comics from magazines that I glued in, and photographs of us. Yeah, I was a real sap…but I was also creating memories and those are important to me. Come to think of it…I’m still a sap. Other people created memories back then too buy sticking photographs in photo albums. I’m guilty of doing that, however, with the amount of photographs that I used to take, being a photographer and all, most ended up in boxes.

I asked my wife if she wanted to go out this year on Valentine’s Day. Her response, “No, there are too many shmoopies out.” When you have been together for close to twenty (gulp) years, you should know each other by now – know what the other is thinking (for the most part) and what they really want.

They don’t want store-bought valentines. You know what I’m talking about…they come in many shapes and sizes. I’m sure that most of you are familiar with the popular ones. There are the trademark flowers, of course: roses and carnations et al. Red, pink, yellow, white – they’re all the same thing. In February the florists mark them up and there are a lot of suckers out there who will drop a mint on a few dozen just to get their heart broken a few weeks later. I know some of you have bought the little teddy bears on special at CVS, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates from whatever bon-bon shop you fancy, and let’s not forget those lovely little numbers that are silky and lacy and can be purchased at a place that prides itself for offering the best secrets, stolen from a girl named Victoria, right? It’s the same shit every year. My valentine doesn’t want more of the same. She wants originality and fine execution, pretend like Ed McMahon is judging you on Star Search – right? That’s what she wants.

Then comes the agony of dinner reservations, and if you can’t get reservations at her favorite place, well then, call it a night, or start your Plan B. Reservations are a bitch to get on Valentine’s Day. Since her favorite restaurant is booked up solid months before, and remember she told you this a while ago, you try to be slick and pull some last-minute reservation out your ass at some place that neither of you have been to. After waiting in line in the vestibule freezing your ass off for over two hours, you finally get seated around eleven pm, your date’s irate, the service blows and they still swipe your credit card for one hundred and fifty cause it’s a prix fixe menu. The night ends in a fight and no one gets any nookie. I know this, because it’s happened to me before. In hindsight, the safer play would’ve been to give her that card with Charlie Brown on it with the tag line, ‘Be Mine’. Worst-case scenario would be your ‘Lucy’ pulling the old football trick on you.

The bottom line is, you don’t have to indulge your lady friend, lover, partner, significant other or your wife with these store bought icons of love that they don’t really need and often times don’t want, because let’s not kid ourselves – most of the times the gifts are for us. You don’t have to wine and dine them at the trendiest restaurant with the hottest chef from Europe either. What they really want, what they really deserve, is a moment of true love, honest praise and a whisper of sweet something’s in their ears. Sweet nothings are what they expect from us. Let’s surprise them this year. Let’s offer them something that they least expect. Let’s flip the script! Let’s make them dinner, rather than going out. Let’s do the dishes and clean up afterwards – “Hey honey, it’s Palmolive and I’m soaking in it!” Let’s do the laundry and put away the clothes so they don’t have to lift a finger but make sure you lay out their favorite pair of flannel pajama bottoms on the bed next to their pillow, okay? Let’s offer to be at their beck and call – even if it’s just for one day. Let’s make sure that our valentine is so happy that they brag about us tomorrow to their friends on Facebook! Wouldn’t that be awesome?

If your lady friend is anything like mine, maybe she just wants you out of her hair for the afternoon so that she can relax in peace. I can hear her already, “Jason, go phone a friend.” And if that’s what she wants, then my queen, I shall obey.

If tomorrow comes, I will have survived another Valentine’s Day, and another year without being in the doghouse. Just don’t forget to tell your special someone ‘I Love You’. That’s very important!

~ Jason Landry
February 14, 2013

The Gaze of poet Charles Baudelaire

What do you see when you look into these eyes?charles baudelaire, poet, paris

It’s a portrait of Charles Baudelaire by Étienne Carjat.

Baudelaire wasn’t the biggest fan of photography. After its invention in the mid-1800’s, the recognized poet denounced the medium as a true art form.  As documented in the book Baudelaire, Man of His Time, he was quoted as saying, that for photography:
“its real purpose…is that of being the servant to the sciences and arts.” He’s also the same individual who said,
“What is art? Prostitution.”

I stare at this photograph every day.  It hangs in the entryway to my bedroom.