Tag Archives: Writing

Artist Feature: Allison Spence

Allison Spence

What interested me most in those frames was how the video–the digital eye–reproduced them. A machine doesn’t have the same preconceived notions of what a body looks like. It doesn’t see it the same way we do, where in a confusion of limbs we always pick out what is intelligible to us.

– Allison Spence

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

AS: I grew up in South Florida, but I very recently moved to Los Angeles, via San Diego where I attended graduate school. I swung from palm tree to palm tree.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AS: To me, Reflection refers to a kind of information processing; whether it is a mental reflection (memory) or the reflection on a surface of an image or group of images, say with a mirror. Either way, Reflection is affected by its medium—by the perception of that medium. One’s memory of an event, for instance, is influenced by their position (physical/emotional/political/etc.) within that event. Or, if you think of fun-house mirrors, the same applies. We laugh at the reflections in a fun-house mirror, or they disturb us, because they do not conform to the views we already hold of our own bodies. But I think all of these reflections hold a kind of truth, even if they are sometimes considered just pale imitations of what they reference. Who is to really say for sure, though?

I think Response fits snugly into Reflection in that it is born out of a similar type of processing. But Response comes from the sum of a number of reflections, or experiences. In other words, there’s math involved. But because of all the different variables, it is easier to think of Response as a closer measure of the subject than Reflection. Like this interview versus the picture of me it starts out with.

Allison Spence - mass 6

Allison Spence – mass 6

How does your work fit in with that definition?

AS: Well, a lot of the work that is pictured here is from a recent series of paintings, which used as its subject split-second frames from highly compressed Youtube videos. They’re bodies, groups of bodies. The specifics of who they are or what they are doing don’t really matter in the long run. What interested me most in those frames was how the video–the digital eye–reproduced them. A machine doesn’t have the same preconceived notions of what a body looks like. It doesn’t see it the same way we do, where in a confusion of limbs we always pick out what is intelligible to us. We will always see the arms, the legs. Machines don’t always do this, and instead they’ll reproduce the limited information that they are given, like colors, values…there’s less separation, the boundaries blur, become masses. I like to think that maybe the machine sees something that we cannot, that this kind of collapse happens sometimes. The idea fascinates me.

Allison Spence - Big Mass

Allison Spence – Big Mass

Then, of course, I reproduce these moments in paint, and I bring with it all of my own baggage, all of those painterly considerations, color theory, all that junk. It becomes twice removed from its source. I’m responding to a reflection, in a sense.

Allison Spence - mass 4

Allison Spence – mass 4

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Erica Hellerstein

Erica Hellerstein is a Bay Area-based journalist who we’ve known since attending high school together back in the day in Berkeley. She has contributed to and published stories from around the globe, from Central California to Chile. She highlights the importance of Reflection in her craft as the ability to find universal themes within circumstantial details of a story. She exhibits this approach in a current piece on cervical cancer in South Texas, exploring central ideas of womanhood and resistance. Throughout our dialogue she discusses various other projects including an investigative narrative piece exploring the use of the abortion pill misoprostol, and a radio documentary about Curanderas in the Bay Area. We’re excited to have an engaging talk with this craftswoman tough on her grind! 

Erica Hellerstein

Reflection is the process of distillation. It’s the opposite of reflex, of the reactive tweet or the fiery text. Reflection forces me unpack my impulses. As a journalist, it’s probably one of the most important and satisfying muscles that I can exercise.

– Erica Hellerstein

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

EH: I was born and raised in the Bay Area, in a trendy, club-friendly corner of the East Bay called Kensington. After High School, I moved to the East Coast , where I stayed for several years. It was terrible. Everything was grey and frigid and even the wind howled more despairingly. Now, I’m happy to report that I’m finally back in California, wrapping up a graduate program at UC Berkeley.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

EH: I like this question because I’m sure I would have had answered it very differently had you thrown it my way a year and a half ago. I think that reflection and response will mean different things to me at different times. Right now, I am in a transitional period, and have genuinely no idea what I’ll be doing five months down the road — which makes the process of mindful reflection difficult. Sometimes it’s easy for me to get bogged down in the uncertainties and transience of my life, and this maddening tendency I have to beat myself up over matters I can’t control. When I’m constantly on the go, sometimes I forget to stop, look around, and relish the volatility of it all.

So for me, reflection is the process of distillation. It’s the opposite of reflex, of the reactive tweet or the fiery text. Reflection forces me unpack my impulses. As a journalist, it’s probably one of the most important and satisfying muscles that I can exercise. Without a process of reflection, my pieces wouldn’t have depth or universality. For me, it takes careful reflection and contemplation of the human spirit, to understand the stories that really pack punches. The ones that transcend time, place, identity, gender, nationalism, and religion — these are the pieces that endure and connect people across virtual bridges. Certainly it’s my aspiration as a writer and a journalist to tell universal stories. I think that reflection is the vantage point through which I can suspend my complicated identity and simply observe.

Now response, that’s easier for me. As you can probably tell, I’ve always been a talker. To me response feels natural, it’s what I do. Response means telling a story. It’s reflection digested — and I love to eat.

How does your writing fit in with that definition?

EH: Sometimes I view writing as a birthing process. I’ve created some deeply embarrassing babies — think angst-ridden college memoirs and romanticized articles about revolution in Latin America — so it’s hard for me to go back  to stories I’ve already produced and analyze them through the prism of reflection and response. Instead, I’m going to flip this question around and talk to you about a piece I’m working on that embodies this definition. Just to keep you on your toes, Peter.

So right now I’m writing a story about incredibly high cervical cancer rates in South Texas. It sounds like a terribly depressing story, and in some ways, it is. Or it would have been if I hadn’t reflected on the real story, which isn’t a doom-and-gloom piece about cancer. The real story is about women. And resistance. About a fascinating and inspiring group of of educators who are driving from slum to slum in South Texas, teaching women about their bodies and how to prevent cervical cancer and other reproductive health problems in spite of family planning clinic closures.

There are certainly elements of this story that are unsettling, raw, and unfair. There’s a community that has been forgotten by our health care system, and a group of women who are suffering because of that. There are children who are losing their mothers because they can’t afford to get regular check-ups, and there are families who are moving back to dangerous border towns in Mexico because they can’t get their health care needs met here.

But this is exactly where reaction and response came in. From afar, I thought it would be an incredibly sad and terrible story to work on. But when I got to South Texas and shadowed the health educators, driving from home to home on dusty, unpaved streets, I realized that my preconceived notions about the community and situation were completely wrong. It wasn’t depressing. The women couldn’t change the cards that they were dealt, but they were absolutely changing the ways that they played the hand. They were responding, reacting. The health situation there is still dire but they don’t think about it in a fatalistic way.  It was humbling to for  me realize just how wrong I was about the situation. Those are the moments that make me want to continue doing this work — when I realize how much I have left to learn. 

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

EH: I’m working on a lot of projects right now. First off is my master’s thesis, which is a long, investigative narrative piece about the use of the (in some countries, illegal) abortion pill, misoprostol, in South Texas, where all of the abortion clinics have shut down. In many states in the US, it’s not legal to take this pill to induce your own abortion. It’s really a profile of this pill — an exposition of its lifeline. It has a fascinating history, it was discovered by women in Brazil in the ’80s to induce abortions and became wildly popular. My story follows the pill around the world and is rooted in Texas, where there are these parts of the state without abortion clinics that have basically turned into these pro Roe v. Wade wastelands. It’s rumored that misoprostol is sold illegally in South Texas flea markets, and I went undercover at the markets in search of the pill. You’ll have to read the piece to see what ultimately ended up happening.

I’m also working on a 30-minute radio documentary about Mexican folk healers, or Curanderas, in the Bay Area. There’s a really vibrant movement of female healers in the Bay that have all coalesced together in recent years. Nobody quite knows how it happened, but my documentary explores this group of healers and how they integrate their ancient practices with the modern. It also follows the story of a young woman who recently found out that her grandmother was a Curandera in Mexico, and is sort of exploring her own past by learning more about this tradition.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Matthew Potter

Matt Potter is a creative writer who grew up in Kentucky and Virginia before settling into San Diego, California. He reminds us that, as artists, we should try to avoid forcing our messages, and instead try to communicate our perspectives in clear ways. Matt also argues that reflection on both positive and negative responses is beneficial to artistic growth, and that past artistic pieces can serve as snapshots of captured Reflection and Response. Woven in throughout the interview below, Matt provides dope perspectives, scenes, and imagery in his poems ColleteCasey’s Last Bat, Night NoisesThe Day Timothy Died, and Three Thoughts on New Orleans. Check it!

Matthew Potter

It is important to reflect on both the negative and the positive responses. Both are going to drive you and hone your craft.

– Matthew Potter

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

MP: Well, I am an Army Brat, so I bounced around a little. Not as much as some, though. I was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, but spent my formative years in Newport News, Virginia. I’ve been in San Diego, California for the last thirteen years. I was only supposed to be here a year, but California has a way of dilating time.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

MP: In writing, I take it to mean reflection in your own work, or the reflection of others on your work. Often, it takes someone else’s reflection and response to initiate your own. I think as a young writer, it is extremely hard to self-edit (for an old writer too), because you try to put a piece of yourself in that work, and when it doesn’t sync with someone then you want to dismiss them.  When I read my own, or others’ work I ask myself, “What is this trying to tell me?” Not just on the surface but on a deeper level. The point of all art forms is to communicate, so you want the message to be clear. When a poem or story doesn’t work, often the writer’s message is muddled, and the same when my work doesn’t work for others. The best advice I received was from a Creative Writing professor in college. She told us “You can’t jump out of the page and tell your reader, ‘No, you’re not getting it! I meant you to read it this way!’” So, I try to approach everything in that manner, even work e-mails. Granted, there are going to be times where you and your reader are just on different trips, and that same piece will resonate with so many others.

I think it is important to reflect on both the negative and the positive responses. Both responses are going to drive you and hone your craft. Also, I think it is important to go back to old pieces. I have come across pieces I have written years ago, that I thought were great, and came away thinking, “God, did I write this existential piece of crap?” But I won’t throw them away. It is like having a time capsule of your very specific thoughts at that moment.

On a personal level, I probably spend too much time reflecting. It is easy to get caught up in the past and believe you should have done something different. As Jack Kerouac said, “Accept loss forever.” But having said that, I think it is important to take a little time to reflect on your mistakes so you learn from them.


Oh how I long for a thin-legged French girl named Collete. She would take long drags of her cigarette. Shoot a stream of smoke pushing it through the air, as she rolled her cold black eyes toward a paint-chipped ceiling–exhaling all the stupid things I just breathed into her.

And when she was mad she would huff and stammer in French as she kicked my empty wine bottles across cold wooden floors. She would always be in bed before me, and I would lie on top of the sheets beside her–staring up at our paint-chipped universe alone. Watching Paris spin around me.

And in the morning the sun would breath through pale wind-rustled curtains as shafts of light pry our eyelids open. She would roll over and bury her head in my chest, and we would lie there for an eternity as I engulfed her long dark hair.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

MP: Probably one of the hardest things I find in writing is to have a title that fits your piece, but doesn’t give so much away to your reader. This is probably why I title my pieces after I have written them. It is reflection during the creative process. Occasionally, a title will come to me and I’ll build on it, but it is not the norm. I want to set the tone or a mood with the title, without telling the reader exactly what [the piece] is about. Some of the best poems I have read, Charles Bukowski immediately comes to mind, are ones that have me go back to the title after I have finished reading the poem, and find that the titles are one-line poems themselves. The good ones always make you have that first sip of coffee reaction (the “mmmm. . .” effect). I would love it if my titles could have that response on my readers. I think it is a bit of a cop-out to have too many of your works untitled or have the title be the first line of the poem. Not only for your readers, but for yourself in not reflecting on your piece before you send it off.

Casey’s Last Bat

Every spring, in Havana, when the sugar cane stalks became thick and green

and America still held such promise,

the Dodgers would knock the red clay dust from metal spikes.

Hemingway would breath in the salt soaked air and

run rumrunners down a thick bearded sun burnt throat.

He and Casey would decide who the

Heavy Weight Champion of the World was that night.

Maniacal roar of the home team crowd,

pleading of a Hemingway’s wife,

“Life should be different than this.”

Genius soaked in alcohol and pain,

but he held her tight on warm spring nights

and told her that life was beautiful and worth fighting for.

Shared drinks would bleed into morning,

day’s tomorrow would begin again.

And when October winds had whipped

the baseballs clear of the diamond fields,

Casey’s glove, beaten and worn‐‐sad with the past,

lay stored in an unmarked box in the dark closet.

Casey gathered his strength and lifted not a bat,

but a shotgun and calmly put the barrel to his throat.

Hemingway said, “He did it like a man.”

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

MP: I have several poems that have been published here and there. I would like to get a collection published. Either a chap book or a complete collection. I’ve found it difficult to gather the ones I wish to see published in a collection and come up with a title for that collection. I would say the majority of it is making the time to make it happen. I certainly use the excuse of life’s minutia getting in the way.

Night Noises

You start to hear everything after midnight

in the middle of the week maybe,

when the summer air is thick and heavy.

The buildings are still.

Breeze pushes trees-rustle of leaves,

loud whispers in the night.

Lonely birds that sing at 2 am,

just when you thought everything was asleep.

The hurried scatter of gravel as the cat rushes through,

chasing a cricket or the moon.


I focus on my breathing, as if hearing it for the first time.

Thinking about every molecule rushing in and out of my mouth.

Squeaking protest of the bed as I try to get comfortable.

The refrigerator suddenly awakened-hums itself back to sleep.

The faucet that rains tepid drops–pling, pling, plop.

A stray car’s tires rolls across cool asphalt.

And somewhere in the dead streets and abandoned beaches

a barbaric yawp tears through the night,

as morning starts to awaken the rest of the world.

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Artist Feature: Naïmah

I had the good pleasure of meeting Naïmah at a local coffeehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn a couple weeks ago. A Washington D.C.-based singer-songwriter, Naïmah is currently working on her own EP, writing songs for a handful of other artists, and playing shows in the DC and New York areas. We’re happy to welcome her to the Collective as she discusses her understanding and application of Reflection and Response, the creative process behind her song Wolf and I, and various other topics. We’re looking forward to a lot more dope work from Naïmah in the months and years ahead! Check out the dialogue below.


Support each other. I’ve witnessed too much animosity in the art world, especially jealousy-driven. Everyone has their own gift, their own individual way of looking at something, and at the end of the day, no one can replicate that.

– Naïmah

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

N: I’m from Washington, D.C., and after going to boarding school in Boston, and college at USC in Los Angeles, I’ve made my way back to the District. A bit surprising to some, as I’m emanating those California vibes “for sure”, but it’s nice to be home and planting my roots and growing where I first got started.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

N: Within the harmony of those two actions I find the creative process at its best.  The thing about art as I see it, or at least how I approach my music, is that it is always a response to a reflection on a moment, a person, a feeling, and so on.

Whether I realize something is on my mind or not, songwriting helps me navigate through that process of reflection, and to figure out just how much that subject meant—or means—to me.  Each song is me saying, “This is my response about X. This is how I feel.”

And the incredible part is when that individual reflection and response, my response, captures the way someone else might also feel in their own reflection, or to allow them to see their feelings in a new light.

It’s hard to make this intangible transaction into a tangible explanation, but I hope that all makes sense.

How does ‘Wolf and I’ fit in with that definition? 

N: It doesn’t get more “reflection and response” than in Wolf and I. Well, it does, but prior to writing the song I’d been in a phase of day-dreaming and imagining and writing songs based on these scenes I made up when, after a trip to New York, I was headed back home on the bus, feverishly free-writing in my notes on my iPhone (let me say how restrictive auto-correct and that little screen is) as I attempted to capture how I felt about the events that had just occurred, and all the moments and experiences making up my relationship with this particular person and situation.

Wolf and I is a love song in its most basic interpretation, but I think the fact that it’s really so much more than that below the surface is why people have been able to connect with it. It’s about perception, the way you look at something, the good and the bad all at once.

Wolf is a simile I used to describe someone and something both close and distant, endearing, and in the process of change; and Wolf and I was my reflection, my attempt to articulate, all these thoughts in some kind of compact organization that I could store them in.

Since writing the song, I’ve opened back up to the realization of how important reflection and response is, and how my songs come to life when they are created in this frame of mind.

Photo by Alexandra Howland

Photo by Alexandra Howland

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Album Review: Yeezus

Not music with empty space, rather, open sound. The difference: nothing about Yeezus is “empty”. This is a synth-intense orchestration with the same meticulous composure as Dark Fantasy.  Super hero music, ripping the floor up on the mainstream pool of overly soft limp sounds and regurgitated rhythms; thus begins a new era. The only artist to even hint that hip hop/rap/whatever-the-fuck-label-you-prefer-to-use would go in this loose leaf direction is Frank Ocean with Channel Orange, which was hands down the most prolific sound of 2012. Yeezus is the forerunner of a new genre—industrial sound.

Understanding music, culture, and art is to recognize the waves and turns of expressive production. There is always a shift, inevitably; the monumental reformatting from eccentric to simplistic. This is seen in Miles Davis’ work as he transitioned Birth of Cool into Bitches Brew. Picasso as well – he built the hieroglyphic art of cubism out of his mastery of realism.  A break beyond excellence; transcendence, the master artist redefines complexity by routing simple aesthetics into a matrix of intensive minimalism.  It’s a seamless craft; each component fitted for function—comparable to Japanese joinery. Those who drive these shifts are, as Mr. West put it, the Nuclei of their respective cultures in specific moments in time. And yeah, Kanye does have that seat. He a’ready told the world to Watch the Throne.

Now for the breakdown. Let me start by saying I like this joint, A LOT. It appeals to me because it dives into the beauty of darkness. Like Milton’s Paradise Lost, Yeezus is intellectually stimulating, soulful and somehow illuminates without light. So raw and disgusting by normative standards, it can only be described as perverse. And that’s exactly the type of shit I’m into. Ugly indeed, yet the allure is in the rhythm that dares to flex beyond the confines of “beauty”. Deviation and creative confidence make these dark arts so attractive. And yeah, all you haters and naysayers I’m aiming this at your knot…so duck…duck…goose.

My overall analysis for this joint is: Epic.

“On Sight”: the new culturally relevant catch phrase…well, it is for us, and it should be for you too. This track sounds like a lazer tag battle between the Dark Side and the Jedi, a brief discovery of challenges that we all face. Unnamed yet spoken through the drums, the subaltern becomes the voice. Bridged by angelic soulsounds—a harmonic break in the battle, the content to be explored is a matter of personal reflection and response. On which side of the fight do you fall?

“Black Skinhead”: drums, Drums, and DRUMS. Black Skinhead is a direct address to the North American (US) nation building process. Revoking society’s attempts to tame and create docile, well behaved, “proper” citizens. An open rebuke of smiling faces and tap dance attempts toward assimilation, rather than creating a new world for a new America… “stop all that coon shit”, apparently Ye has dedicated himself to a pathway that is so counter to the American Identity that it inherently disrupts the tempo of everyday complacency. Black Skinhead is an anthem for villains, werewolves, and all sorts of social menaces. It’s about dedication—the true pathway to Kingdom. Like 300 Romans you gotta protect what’s yours, to fight for what you believe in, constantly pushing towards achievement. Low-lines repeating “BLACK” sampled and threaded in, this track BANGS. The ending transition is fucking stellar too…GOD, GOD, GOD…Straight into no other than…

“I Am A God”: Yo, everybody flipped cause Kanye West is back on his god shit. Honestly if you didn’t see this coming you should go take a nap now and hibernate on some “wake me when September ends” type snooze. Nobody made a fuss when Pusha-T stated that he’s the god of everything around him, nor does anyone throw tantrums about the god reference of Jay-Z’s alias Hova (Jehovah). When Yeezy does it though, all hell breaks loose…Oh No! If you listen to that blasphemy we’ll turn into a society of the likes of Sodom and Gomorrah. Whatever dude. Cats have been on their God shit since the days of Rakim. Recognize what this is really about. Ownership. Participation and order versus spectation and passivism. And if I’m wrong…Pray for us. I’ll leave it at that. The track sounds like waking up in an extremely lucid dream. The type of dreams that aren’t dreams at all, rather, experiences beyond the capacity of logic. It’s other worldly; I know some of you have been there before, I have, it’s real. Conviction; that reoccurring BuzzTypeBell-MuffledChime sounds like the something out of Sartre’s “No Exit”, the doorbell that serves as an eerie reminder…yeah, you’re in hell, don’t let the furnishing fool you.  On to the next one.

“New Slaves”: Ye really does something with this one. I have yet to see a review that recognizes or even acknowledges the fact that he speaks about the Prison Industrial Complex, one of THEE Grimiest nation building projects since Reaganomics. Be real, Kanye has never been one to let this type of shit pass by unaired. Remember Bush…yeah, that guy, enough said. Money is the number one agent of converting revolutionary peoples into pacified citizens; I’d imagine it hard to speak or act out against a society that has made your fortune. Big Bucks buy out anger. Not for Ye tho, not for Ye. Threatening to throw out Maybach keys…meanwhile some of these other artists are using Maybach as a certificate of authenticity. To Kanye it’s just another notch under his belt. Calling out what he sees as apparent social ills especially in the way of racial interaction and, specifically, black complacency. The track is mean. And don’t forget, Ye is Dead Prez. The production is super simple cause his flow and delivery are what this track is about. I mean, dude even brings back lines from one of his earlier mixtapes, “Freshman Adjustment” and finds use for it in this album. The end of the track is raw too, it’s an awesome soulsound and again the message is simple, “loss is not an option for those of us actively building upon our dreams”. Let’s Go!

“Hold My Liquor”: Aright, so this one took me a minute to latch onto. That’s a Kanye trend though, each album always has one far out track—I would equate this to “Drunk and Hot Girls” off of Graduation. The sound alone is inebriating—a sensory trail of compartmentalized memories breach on this track. This is like the equilibrium of the scale, tilting a little toward the dark, then a little back to the light… the rest of the album tells the outcome of this continuum. This album is never the same twice. It’s incredible how interactive Yeezus is.

“I’m In It”: First off, I would like to say I am 100% for this joint! Yo, its perverse, its fuckin wild, its London type Grime, Punk influenced, pornographic sound with reggae roots—shit is wickedly undeniable. Bark after bark it brings the animal out of anyone who is brave enough to bear their sexually aggressive fangs. The imagery is overly explicit, super raw, and Ye’s flow is crazy dope (especially on the third verse). As he wheelies out on the Zeitgeist, nobody can classify who Kanye is nor what this dude does. He’s mentally speeding into the future, leave peeled wheels on the promotion of homogeneous culture.

“Blood On The Leaves”: an ambitious and adventurous exploration of a male pathology, remembering the past that has led to this particular present. Strange fruits of relationship exploits—sour, over ripe, recollections of dark pasts. Badd bitches seducing their way to mad riches, and the worth of finding one good girl who’s down for you. Trust turns into treachery, loose situations careening out of control as they reproduce more fruit into this world, webs complicated by offspringing children and untrue matrimony…there’s Ye claiming nothing holy about it…

“Guilt Trip”: The Sample is so incredibly ILL on this one, “all in my wallet”—he turnt that line out! And you GOTTA feel ‘im for that! The Chewbacca line is as rock steady as when he shouts out PETA on Cold—apparently Ye’s fur game is always above and beyond. Kudi’s vocals are mad eerie, a perfect fit for this project. The Kid is wailing on some howl to the midnight moon; the wolf takes a brief pause to cry out, and then returns to his run—that’s when the music comes back in. This is one of the only tracks where I can say that the production is king over the lyrics. Don’t get it misunderstood, both are gnarly, it’s just that the production hammers super hard; I mean the string sounds next to the rocking 808 thwarps are Stupid.

“Send It Up”: this is the warehouse funk, a simple sort of exposition. Bridged by bending baselines and old style simple rhyme schemes, Kanye opens the lab up. A provocative resurrection of what Yeezus is all about, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, bringing together all the odds and ends of a journey and pushing into a space never seen… memories, they never leave us; pasts, they build to the present. Own yours.

“Bound 2”: straight up Kanye West. From the soulful production and high-pitched sample sound to rhyme sets and a Charlie Wilson hook. This is a definitive track, the rebel’s sensitive side…it is still dark, no doubt, yet it’s in a sort of slap stick comical way. The sound is so domestic it almost sounds like a sitcom or commercial. From talking about his bad rep to him confessing his bind to love, this is pure Kanye West, so great.

Aright, so through and through Yeezus is excellence. This is 2 years back to back that Kanye has killed the summertime sound. This time it’s with an existential expression of black sound. Black meaning contrast, not skin color; the othered experience juxtaposed against whiteness, a dark presence in white America. With regard to black sound, ACDC’s Back to Black record has held the podium, now Kanye West is the only other artist to successfully compete against that with Yeezus. And that’s saying a lot. Ye opens it right up. He’s an artist through and through and this installation is above and beyond what anybody expected. If you still “hate” this joint it’s for one of three reasons: it scares you, your mind is comparing it to what you know as “rap” music, OR you just need one more thing to hate on in life. Either way, Kanye turned art expression out and put Sound on a whole ‘nother realm. With Rick Rubin and Daft Punk as production consiglieri, there’s no way this sound would be anything less than spectacular. Come on dude, Rubin would never cosign on any sort of bull.

And there it is folks. Once again, I’ll say it, Yeezus is EPIC.


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Original Mondays: Hide

First they cut off our tongues, breaking a people from native language. Next they stole our drums. Warrior hands with no rhythm to run…attempts to dissipate a captured people, the spinal column that build an economic base for the developing colonies. Thus was the birth of the nation state.

Borders militarized, ghettos red-lined, iron bars, strong backs carrying generational curses called scars.

The fight continues; a battle of body soul and mind.


Reflection and Response


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The Porch Swing: “A Ride of Definition”

One year ago we launched The Porch Swing, a series centered around a Reflection and Response artist residency where we feature a Collective member’s ongoing projects through weekly installations. Our first Porch Swing resident artist was none other than core Collective member Samuel Bostick. It’s been truly inspiring watching Samuel’s various projects unfold, and his contributions to the LIFESTYLE through creative writing have helped build and develop the Reflection and Response dialogue. We’re proud to have been a part of this year-long collaboration, and we’re looking forward to Samuel continuing to expand his craft as part of our Original Mondays series. Keep an eye out for a lot more to come from this multi-faceted artist! We’ll let Samuel close this one out with a letter to the Collective entitled “A Ride of Definition”:

Yo, this letter makes postage of one plus year of Porch Swing activity.

This has been a ride of definition; that type of space age time travel…the sort of low-tone groove bouncing over spurring high hats and jumping 808 boom-baps. Coming from a forgotten place where it seemed as if life had no direction, this has served as an orientation to truth. Poetry. Introspective thoughts. Erotic peeks. WORDs. Illustrations. Collaborations. Late submissions. Early bird tweets. Ups. Downs. Great and Shitty. It all happened here.

Behind the scenes dreams poured out. This is a place of evolution.

An honor, privilege, challenge and a test of endurance; when it all boils down, there is a special insight that has come from this process. Through and through writing has become a vital part of life as I know it—expression, reflective process, artistic composition, here at the LIFESTYLE all of these avenues have shown through.

It’s kind of crazy thinking back to that first piece—“Vision” and now seeing myself; Closer to my dreams, yet so far from the finale.

Out of pain, doubt, deception and lies, the nighthawk shall continue to rise. Building dreams with a passion; in hard times the cause of pursuit keeps the mission on track. Shit gets tight, every day turns dark, still through it all it’s a matter of self respect and character which maintains momentum. Follow your heart. That’s what I’ve learned through this past year. I finally understand…There is a destiny to fulfill and I’m the only one who can do it for me. The picture isn’t completely developed, still the truth in conviction discerns what’s real as much as it reveals what a lie smells like. That’s the process of growth. It’s not an easy route when there are not many others who have pioneered the way. Regardless of difficulty keep chugging along and learn as you go.

It has been a great adventure and although I’m stepping out of the box, I’ll still be around. There’s no doubt about that.




the LIFESTYLE’s role is to create collective space for active Reflection and Response through the arts. This space is built around dialogue, expression, collaboration, and artistic (ex)change involving international craftspeople and their realities. The Porch Swing series opens up a Reflection and Response residency where we feature a Collective member’s ongoing project through weekly installations.

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The Porch Swing: Character Series

Character Series: The Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones, Vol. VI, by Samuel Bostick.

Vol. VI is the final chapter in Samuel’s intricately crafted Character Series project: The Aventurs of SnakeMan Jones. The project was delivered to the Collective in bi-weekly installments over the past couple months: Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III, Vol. IV, and Vol. V, and before we kick off the final volume, we’ll take it back to where it all started, in Samuel’s words:

This is a new sort of writing experience and I feel like it’s off to a good start. This project actually originated as a collaboration piece with a student of mine who was often drawing these really fantastic monsters and such. I told him that I would write a story about the monsters he drew and this is the first of that run. On this past Saturday, I showed him the monster I had reworked and gave him a brief of the beginning of The Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones. After studying the piece and seeing the development of the collaboration, he gave his 2 thumbs up approval and said he likes where the character and story are headed. This has been a really exciting adventure and experiment. Enjoy it!


SnakeMan Jones

Volume VI

The Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones

As they stepped into the chamber, there was a spirit of awe that swept over each and everyone one of them. A beauty so divine it cause a silent reverence, there were no words that could express. Through time, it was told that in that moment each and every one who stepped in elevated from earth to another space.

Climbing through slim space, squeezing to find that next step, in the chamber there was so much to see. It was a dream. In the center of the space was a small island covered by the thickest lush grass any of them had ever seen. Even more amazing was the poppies that covered it, they grew in bushels; thick stems 6-8 inches out the ground each crowned with the most noble of gold petals leafed together dense and full of organic vitality. These were the fullest flowers any of them had ever seen. They must have been well nourished by the spring on the left hand side of the room. It was pouring in fresh water from the hills above; into the room spinning serenely around, filling the pool around the raised meadow.  Above it all the cave was open, the sky exposed as the rims of the chamber bit at the deep blue hue that canopied the sky. In the high of the night there she was, the moon, shinning down, pouring over into the scene.

The walls danced with the reflection of the water and the room was well lit. Unfolding of the night’s magic was soon to beginning, the poppies began to stretch out their petals and reach toward the sky. The Fallians filed in drawn by the scene; without direction they found themselves lined up alongside the water. This place was a sanctuary, hidden in the heart of the land. The combination of the moon’s white light and the gold of the petals were as rich as milk and honey. Surely there was never such a fantastic sight as this. Each one of the StaggMooreFallians had forgotten about the usual feast that would be taking place and the ceremonial processes had been removed from all thought. This was the truest Full Bloom Festival.

Along the walls under the shining from the water were carvings. Pre-modern characters that vaguely resembled the literary code that they used in the current time; it was a sign that people had been there before. Years ago long past the memories most of them had. There were two women who could read the message. They came over with the assistance of some of the younger men. With a deep focused look at the carvings, they got closer. Still not completely convinced they were really seeing what was in front of them, they read it out loud, “Footsteps will fade, and the light of day may fall away, still in the night a glorious sight guided by light, we have again found the truth inside, the wave that moves this mountain’s tide.”

Beyond the island, Jones had just arrived to his humble refuge; that small island uncharted by any cartographer. His Bike parked next to a short palm tree, white sands stretch out under the soft lapping of the sea. He climbed onto the hammock as it swayed loungely in the night’s breeze; as he sat up reflecting on the day he untied his boots, and set them to rest. No need for a fire, the moon was bright enough to light up the eve. Swaying in the cool breeze, he grabbed his jugg and took a few easy swiggs. Back to the peace of his own space, the calm way he preferred to live. Looking up the stars were shining so bright, the constellations locked into an eternal battle of glory, elegance, and might. He pondered their story. Still, the Moon was the highlight; Jones felt he had never seen a moon so radiant, such a glorious moon. As the night grew deeper and the blue darker, Jones sank further into the hammock’s swing. His eyes settled into a soft close. As he drifted into rest, the jugg dropped from his hand and slumped into the sand. The tilt was so that some of the spirit splashed out onto a lone flower. Its amber color shone refreshing as the night’s dew, running down against a tight budd of golden petals. There he was again, that little lizard; scuttling zigg zagg traces across the sand making its way to the flower. Up he crawled and lapped away at the amber dew. As quickly as he came, he was gone; running back toward his hiding spot, this time with a little more zigg to his zagg. The flower opened in that moment, unfolding magically, reaching out toward the heavens.

She smiles down upon them, pouring into the scene with a beauty so divine, serene—The night’s queen.

The End.

Samuel Bostick



the LIFESTYLE’s role is to create collective space for active Reflection and Response through the arts. This space is built around dialogue, expression, collaboration, and artistic (ex)change involving international craftspeople and their realities. The Porch Swing series opens up a Reflection and Response residency where we feature a Collective member’s ongoing project through weekly installations.

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The Porch Swing: Character Series

Character Series: The Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones, Vol. V, by Samuel Bostick.

 Following up on Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III, and Vol. IV, catch the fifth installment in Mr. Bostick’s intricately crafted Adventurs

Volume V

The Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones

The head hit the floor, rolling away from the body to which it once belonged. It came to a stop, eyes open in a gaze of lifeless shock, halting at Jones’ boots. Deep red fresh on the sword’s blade, he was breathing hard, heart pounding, in a rage. Locked onto the next victim, his move was swift, as large as he is in build he was incredibly explosive and the quickness of his feet showed.

In the same moment, the militia pressed the Gnomads back, heels toward to sea, there was no hope for them. A fallen captain and a boat aflame were the only things waiting for them beyond the sands of the shore. Jones finished three of them off. The way he moved in the way of the martial arts was fiercely graceful and elegant. Seeing him in that state was to watch an artist paint; the way that he proceeded to cut through enemies with such form and accuracy was truly artistic. None could match his skill or bravery. There was no place for his enemies to neither run nor hide. The Gnomads’ greed had tied down their fate to fall on that day. SLASH, a diagonal sweep of the sword left a Gnomad body in two parts, THOP. The left side fell to the ground then the right bent at the knee and thudded down soon after not far behind. Chad-sama and the troops had taken on the rest of the Gnomad forces. Finally the last body had fallen.

Upon survey, they realized that the attack was done. It was the town center again not a battle field. There was no more fighting to do; they could return to how things were before the invasion. Jones was off to the far side of the scene. The militia began to whoop and cheer and holler as they realized they had overcome the attack. Full of joy, pushed by their love for the land—their duty to their peoples, they had really done it; they won! A feeling that had not been on the island for so long was there again. The battle brought the town together; they regained the sense of camaraderie which had made this city great in its founding days. Its funny how things work out; the hardship, sacrifice and organized violence that characterized battle were the same thing that brought the people together.

Chad-sama was right in the midst of it all. He was sitting calmly, reflecting upon everything that had just happened. He admired his neighbors for the new sense of pride they had gained. “The StaggMooreFalls militia had really won, we really did it”, he told himself. A half smile pushed up his cheek as he silently laughed at the thought. Thinking about the way that everyone came together for such a cause, for what they believed in, moved him on the inside. He was touched by the scene. Just in that moment, his comrades ran frantically over to him yelling, “AAAAAHHHH!”, and in an instant without warning they jumped up and dog piled him. It was a riot to see grown men acting in such a youthful way, the magic of the full moon was exceptionally glorious that day. Even Jones had to smile seeing the way that the men acted as comrades of victory. He looked down at his sword, wiped it clean and returned it to its sheath. This sense of community he saw in the townspeople was something he never knew, in a way he did wonder what it felt like. He didn’t approach them though, he never really socialized with people and even though he fought in their benefit, he decided to keep his distance as he usually would.

Jones took in a deep breath and gathered the last memories of the battle field—the one place where he did feel fully welcomed. He turned and walked over to where he had left His Bike and jumped over giving it a wicked kick start. The thunder rumble under the engine assured him he was in his proper place. Just as he was about to put the bike in gear he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning around he saw Chad-sama’s face with a smile spread from ear to ear. Chad spoke to Jones giving thanks for all he did and for raising the spirits of the militia in their hardest moment. Not knowing how to respond, Jones simply nodded his head with reverence yet held his peace. Chad-sama understood well that Jones was a man short of word. Jones geared his bike up and took off across the open sea. Chad-sama shook his head in amazement then ran back to his comrades. Passing by where the Gnomad ship had been anchored there was wood adrift on the surface of the sea, Jones smirked at the demise that met them by the action of his fury. He sped away toward his little island. What an eventful day.

A young boy who was swift of feet and well spoken came up to Chad-sama and the militia. He explained he had been sent by the town folk to find out the status of the battle and to inform the troops that the people were safe in the cave. The militia was relieved by this news for even in the heat of battle and the joy of victory they had not forgotten about their families. Also the messenger brought word that the Full Bloom Festival would take place still that night. The only change was that the festivities would be held in the cave. One of the men questioned the rationale of this as he didn’t understand the function of celebrating the moon and golden poppies in a cave which presumably had neither. The messenger responded calmly, reassuring the militia that they would understand in due time. So they took to their feet in that moment and began the trek. By the time that they had arrived at the cave entrance they were in amazement by the magic and mystery by which they were led there. They were astonished having lived so long on the island and never known of these places.

The first chamber of the cave was like any cave could be imagined: dark, damp and stony. Again the militia questioned, yet this time the messenger did not answer, he continued to guide them further into the caves. Poppies soon started to show up against the walls of the cave. There were the largest, fullest flower buds any of them had ever seen. First one, then a few spread in small clusters; the walls of the cave seemed to change as well. It had become a deep green, a heavy emerald almost, which replaced the damp stones that composed the mouth of the cave. As they moved into the second chamber they were met by their families and friends. They all celebrated and expressed their joy at seeing one another.

After greetings and such were exchanged they began to move down through and into the next chamber, the deeper they got into the cave, the more poppies appeared. At this point they had begun to fully cover the walls. At the end of the second chamber there was a slim passage leading to the third chamber. It was the only way to get through. They took a short rest before heading into the pathway. From the side they were standing it felt as if a breeze was coming through from the other side of the wall. The first few people made their way through and upon entering into the third chamber they each gave a sound of disbelief. The people waited in line patiently with their families and slipped in as was appropriate. Now, in the third chamber was the magic that left them all in awe.

To be continued…

Samuel Bostick



the LIFESTYLE’s role is to create collective space for active Reflection and Response through the arts. This space is built around dialogue, expression, collaboration, and artistic (ex)change involving international craftspeople and their realities. The Porch Swing series opens up a Reflection and Response residency where we feature a Collective member’s ongoing project through weekly installations.

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The Porch Swing: Character Series

Character Series: The Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones, Vol. IV, by Samuel Bostick.

 Building on on Vol. I, Vol. II, and Vol. III, Mr. Bostick’s takes us on further Adventurs

Volume IV

Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones

…As the boat sank and flamed in the background of Jones’ ride, he headed into the island.

He found the Fallians still fighting and with the past time their comradery had grown ans they developed a collective identity. Teamwork built them strong. Something about alliance in struggle that makes difference take a back seat and brings out a congruency of shared experience. They had put up a strong frontline and strategies with their numbers and knowledge of the landscape. They were driving the Gnomad foot troops back to the shore.

Jones was set in position to hoist the perfect flank…a surprise to all sides. Moving quickly over the water; cutting through the air and mist he arrived at the Eastern cove, jumped off his bike and ran toward the commotion. StaggMooreFalls had transformed into a battle ground by this point. As he ran toward the center of the city the flames from the ongoing fires clawed at Jones from the heaps of timber that were once homes. There was a strong sense of urgency on his heels, onward was his ambition. The heat from the flames and the pressing duty in front of him charged his being; more than a man—he was a force controlled by senses and emotions, he continued closing in on the scene.

Chad and his troop had organized toward their strengths. They began to see the strategy of the play rather than just the move of attack. They made strategic method to make the most of the terrain—nobody could out maneuver them on their own land. The militia who had proven skillful in long distance attacks and projectiles had taken post among the hills; they rained down there offence onto their opponents. The front line fought as valiant as a sun rising frm winters darkest night. It was a battle of proud proportion. All hesitation had been lost and forgotten far back, constantly inspired by the resilience of Chad-Sama’s spirit in battle the militia had come to move as a unit rather than a collection of individuals. With a uniform cause they breathed fury against in invading forces.

Meanwhile, those who were not able to fight in the battle had found refuge on the back side of the hills. They had moved in search of a cave hidden away in the depth of the island, the elders were the only ones who actually knew how to access this place for it was never written down by map rather been a source of lived history. It had been a long time since anyone had stepped into these caves—a sacred space. The last time was when the elders where in their youth. Now it was tradition that would be passed on through the experience of the young folk who were now making the journey, generational gaps broke down and even away from the battle field there was a collective spirit among the Fallians.

No path would lead to the cave, no way of following footsteps of those who had walked the path years ago. The magic was in the moon. It was by moonlight that the group made the trek. Under the moonlight there was a certain and particular light would shine from the moon as it traversed the heavens and would reflect through the waterfall. This was the only guide that could show them how to get there. It was a legendary light told to be a brilliant blue with dazzles of purple throughout, a marvelous sight that was so mystic it sounded as if myth. Still they headed for the place where the supposed light could be found. It could only be seen from the foot of the hills where the river stream flowed most relaxed, the pooling wells were at there deepest and the grass grew ever more lush. The most spectacular part of the journey was how the light moved across the land as the moon moved across the sky, it served as a true host. Even in the mist of all the chaos one couldn’t help but to notice the beauty of StaggMooreFalls. The layout was so intricate yet so simple at the same time.

As the group waited by the stream and watched the moon move across the sky full in all of its elegance, the poppies began to bloom. Stretched out breaking out their pods, they grew open—reaching for the stars. The golden pollen danced on the wind as the pedals breathed with its flow; melodic respiration, in and out. Time took pause. In those moments, temporality seemed to fold away as the pedals spread their magic. It was as if the stars broke away from their place in heaven and graced the earth with their dance; a luring scene, a sight of awe and wonder. The stream trickled down against the bank and rolled melodic over smoothing stones. The nocturne was in fully dense yet the sky was illuminated with such brilliance from the moon’s shine. The poppies radiated a light as charismatic as the choicest gold cooling as freshly pulled from the heat of a refining flame. Serene silence set over the camp. Breaths moved under chest, life refreshed in cycles of rise and fall—the whole scene seemed to sway with the same cooperative rhythm. In the distance the pour from the falls powered out a baritone surge adding the low notes to the silent symphony.

The lushness of the land struck as exceptionally remarkable as well, for that night it seemed as if all the foliage had risen up with the intention of greeting the long removed guests. Outstretched leaves rustled in the cool breeze, accents of deep green. The vines stretched their coils taut and flexed the strength of their reaching length as they covered the faces of rocks lining the path of the stream. The outline of the hills ahead caressed one another and built a backdrop contoured of fineness in full glory. On the most subtle of notes, an aroma rose from the poppies and caressed the nose; it was like an instant remedy to all stress. Shoulders relaxed and muscles once tensed eased their way into a peaceful state. The aroma was like nectar from the gods, divinely sweet yet so earthy and floral only heaven could hold together such juxtaposition. A beautiful spell spread across the scene.

He danced, a young man, in an instant as if his spirit had been enrapt by the moment and the nights allure pulled on his once woes as a nimble hand of a puppeteer do to his muse. It broke; something surely had. The tension from the battle was loosed and the Fallians were humbled by the rawness of the night’s presence. This was the night of the Full Bloom Festival after all. It was as if they had forgotten its essence as the evolution of the tradition came to revolve around feast and festivity.  Now was a return to the place of actually celebrating the blessings of the magic that held StaggMooreFalls together.

Some of the elders and ancients cheeks were watered by gentle tears as they were moved by the young man’s dance; he had no reserve it was not his body that moved but rather his spirit through. He was the heart of what the celebration should be. And they were all moved to join, each in their own way. Some of them playfully wade in the pond others laughed and joked, some danced, a few couples even found romance in the Full Moons warm hues… it came it struck them all as the presence of a god itself would…the light hit the space off the moon the same way it had in times long before…the guide show itself—ushered in by the reverence of the moment…it was there to lead the way. In an instant it began to move forward with no hesitation, a steady and slow-flow pace; the clan banned together and followed in suit. This was their shepherd, the angel of the night…

To be continued once more…

Samuel Bostick



the LIFESTYLE’s role is to create collective space for active Reflection and Response through the arts. This space is built around dialogue, expression, collaboration, and artistic (ex)change involving international craftspeople and their realities. The Porch Swing series opens up a Reflection and Response residency where we feature a Collective member’s ongoing project through weekly installations.

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