Friday, April 30, 2010

öppna dörren!

We are in the final hours of fundraising for my fantastic Jätte Swedish Adventure now, ending at midnight on April 30 (Tonight!)! And so far I have amassed a grand $2000+ from my very kind and generous supporters to help make the project come to life, starting in just two short weeks.

After I made a preposterous promotional photo for this project, where I dressed up as the ogre-character from the package of a popular but weird Swedish candy, JätteSalt, there was an unexpectedly large amount of interest in tasting this candy which is not available in the US. You can see both the original packaging and my rendition of the ogre with the mysterious door in his crotch (which I am told leads to a balcony!) below.

not my photo!

öppna dörren! THE FINAL HOURS!
öppna dörren © Laura Kicey

It was actually on our long drive from Reykjavík to Jökulsárlón and back to Reykjavík (a grueling but beautiful 12 hour jaunt) that I was first initiated into the taste explosion that is JätteSalt by way of being handfed by my travel companion Sandra. In the final two hours of the home stretch, I was getting quite drowsy and a misty-foggy-rain draped the road in a milky curtain, making the precarious cliff drops hard to see - and JätteSalt with its pungent flavor brought me back to alertness, better than caffeine is able.

Sandra pieced together that this photo of her on the southern coast of Iceland was actually taken very close to Vík and VERY near the site of the raging volcano at Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced like "Hey ya fergot La Yogurt" softly).

Hopefully the swiftly shifting ash cloud won't prove to either prevent me from leaving the US or Sweden once I get there! I am keeping a very close eye on things.

hitching © Laura Kicey


Last week my friend Candace threw together a Scandinavian inspired food and film party as a send-off for me. I brought a mountain of Bergman and she brought the goodies. She made a baked brie topped with lingonberry and basil, almond butter cookies topped with lingonberry or cloudberries, sugar cookies spiked with orange and elderflower, elderflower drinks (my favorite!), Swedish vodka cheese, knäckerbrod (big seedy crackers), cardamom skorpor (like anisette biscotti) with a side of Død Snø (Norwegian Nazi-Zombie movie Dead Snow) and Bergman's Wild Strawberries.

canda's scanda spread

Swedes love sweets - both pastries and candy - even a lot of savory main dishes have a sweet element (think Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce) - and bizarre candy flavors are especially popular. The candy JätteSalt (Giant Salt) is a hard licorice candy (which is less like standard American black licorice flavor - more of a mild anisette flavor) coated with ammonia salt. It is not for everyone and is very much an acquired taste. It took a lot of effort not to spit it out the first time, but I have learned to love it. Most (non-Swedes) people I know who have tried it couldn't handle its pungent flavor or odor. Even those who were able to eat it often said it tasted like cat urine. Not a strong selling point, I know.

I recently learned there are other Jätte varieties besides JätteSalt, including:
JätteSur (Giant Sour - described as corrosive-lemon-acid but very nice')
JätteStark (Giant STRONG!- as if the Salt is not strong enough this is licorice+salty+SPICY)
and a couple other curiously strong combos not Jätte:
Filidutter is salty-banana-sour, super delicious
Kryptoniter is sour on the outside and salmiak (ammonia-salted licorice) on the inside.
here is a page of the products

If anyone would like for me to include a pack of their choice of odd candy from this list of 5 in with their print/book, I would be happy to do so, just let me know when you make your reward selection what tickles your peculiar flavor fancy. Strange tangential offer I know, but what's a bit of fun in the name of culture sharing?

I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has come forward and participated - I'm thrilled to see both new faces and returning sponsors from last year's Kicey to Iceland. The last few weeks have been rather harrowing so every bit of help you've given me to go onward and make beautiful things is appreciated far more than I can say. I will not let you down!

bound for nowhere going everywhere
bound for nowhere going everywhere © Laura Kicey

Let the resfeber/travel fever wash over me!

Glad Valborg!


In addition to the flurry of excitement surrounding the upcoming trip, things have been moving and shaking on a lot of other fronts. I had an epic shoot almost two weeks ago now with the two girls from the last cycle of America's Next Top Model - Jenn An (who I worked with before a couple times, you may recall) and Miss Sweet Southern Sunshine herself, Laura Kirkpatrick, who came in second place! We got together with 28 Crash!, April Ramirez and Sasha Zavadsky at a bizarre location and put together an incredible, energetic and wildly colorful series that I can't wait to release. We also found out that Mami Magazine will be printing the series in their Summer Issue!!

It has been ages since I put made a construct. I was inspired by a flickr friend, awertz, who hails from Trenton, to go an re-explore the often rather rough corner of The Jerz.

pygmalion makes the world takes

The top right corner building-piece has a story behind it....

the photo we almost got shot for.

which pretty much guaranteed if had to be included, despite it being a less than exciting slice of architecture:

I spotted this building on the corner and when we turned down the street, we could see a drug deal happening down the block- a guy standing by a white car in the middle of the street. Goldberg made a u-turn so that this was going on behind us and I could get the shot - truth told this was the boring part of the building, the real gem was the sign by the main door. Goldberg had not pulled the car all the way over and right before I put my camera up I see the drug-deal-car coming up the street in the rear view, thinking he would go around us, to the left. Instead, he drives by us on the right.

I turn and take the shot once he passed. I turn back and realize he has stopped not far in front of us, but there was no stop sign. He starts honking and his reverse lights come on. And I yell, "GOLDBERG!! GO GO GO GO GO!!!!!!" and we fly past him on the left.

I have no clue who he thought we were, or what he thought we were doing/going to do - or what he planned on doing, but I haven't been that terrified since I got robbed at gunpoint with a few friends in Gray's Ferry years ago.

The title, thanks in part to Goldberg, is a weird twist on the rather well known bitter-sounding bridge in Trenton which has huge letters on the side with the slogan: Trenton Makes, The World Takes.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Some of you longtime readers may recall when I originally encountered Violet Hobaugh fours years ago (almost to the day!) - out near Palmyra, PA. (I won't retell the entire tale, but if you are interested do check the old blog posts above or looking through the set I made on flickr here which includes some local media clippings and photos I have not made public.)

rot spray
rot spray © Laura Kicey


When I heard in December that she had passed away, I was saddened to hear it, knowing I would never be able to meet and speak to a woman who had made such an impression on me, and really also my work. I had been closely following her life by way of stories passed on to me by locals I knew who had met her, random commenters here and on flickr, and through occasional news items on her. She always seemed such an immortal character, who had seen and experienced it all and carried on no matter what.

on the fence
on the fence © Laura Kicey

It felt like the next logical step after her passing would be for me to revisit her property - nearly 3 years since my last visit - and document it before it was either razed or severely vandalized. I had always seen it in winter in past, so what struck me first was how the property was transformed by the flowering trees and lush ivy that covered just about everything, never had it seemed so very alive.

the uneasy chair
the uneasy chair © Laura Kicey

While being able to walk around freely I did discover some signs I had never seen before, I was surprised by how much of what I was familiar with was now completely obscured by the ivy and what wasn't covered with ivy was now significantly faded. In a strange way, it felt to me like the anxieties and accusations that once consumed her life and thoughts had peacefully ebbed away at the end. I was surprised to see that the site was almost completely undisturbed, though a few signs she had once had propped up were now missing.

reclaimed © Laura Kicey

lawless © Laura Kicey

fear to tread
fear to tread © Laura Kicey

vandlisom © Laura Kicey

snow white
snow white © Laura Kicey

When Goldberg and I first pulled up behind the main house, I immediately noticed her pile of rusted vehicles, the front cabin of a tractor trailer, a small car, and several tractors. Around each of the tractor tires, she had painted permutations of the word 'vandalism/vandalisem/vandlisom'. In the backseat of the car and the trunk/hatchback area there were cushions, pillows and tattered blankets, covered with mouse droppings, where it appeared she may have slept. I suspect that during the two years she was living in her treehouse, she may have slept in the car on especially cold nights so that she could remain close by and ever-vigilant.

back seat bed
back seat bed © Laura Kicey

dos equis
dos equis © Laura Kicey

pledged © Laura Kicey

The one door that appeared as though it would lead into the house was marked with "REWARD FUND PLEDGED" and a tiny illegible metal sign. None of the doors allowed us entry, but I think it was for the best. Having lived a long time without electricity and running water, I imagined the smell would have been fairly intense and there were not many windows to let in any light either. Sitting on the front porch among the piles of mail, coffee cups, and tiny cartons of 1% milk, there were many plastic buckets that smelled as though they were used as makeshift commodes, and a wooden stick that was clearly used to mix the ubiquitous red paint.

messages © Laura Kicey

By the front door on the porch there was a tiny hand written sign that said LEAVE MESSAGE CAN'T HEAR KNOCKING ON DOOR. On the wall on other side of the door, the ever-disturbing message scrawled in huge letters "PREMEDITATED MURDER HELP". It was quite affecting to finally see it up close, as never before.

dormer © Laura Kicey

XX © Laura Kicey

wind man
wind man © Laura Kicey

tree house
tree house © Laura Kicey

collapse © Laura Kicey

It appeared as though the bend in the road where PennDOT once attempted to take down Violet's tree to widen the road, had finally taken its vehicular toll on her property- something had hit the corner of her garage with quite a bit of force. What remained was a pile of cinderblocks, each of which bore fragments of words I had photographed long ago.

writer's blocks
writer's blocks © Laura Kicey

The backside of the same building which I had never seen, had a narrative that did not appear anywhere else on her property, where she seems to declare a betrayal by her husband:


persecutes prostitutes
persecutes prostitutes © Laura Kicey

The third side of this same building appeared to have at one time had a word painted on each individual cinderblock, but was now faded beyond legibility.

quieted © Laura Kicey

The wall facing the road was essentially unchanged, listing items for sale and reward amounts for different crimes with a bit of graffiti that had been there for years.

I had been concerned that we would be harassed or chased off, but there was only one guy who slowed as he drove by us while we standing on the street looking at the buildings and he shouted "It's really something, isn't it?!!" And it was.

sam hoover

All the buildings seemed like they were on the verge of being completely swallowed by all the thick ivy. Recalling how panicked and alarmed I felt the first time I saw this place, it did my heart good to see quince and magnolia growing over Violet's 'grave'. May she rest in peace.

magnolia © Laura Kicey

The light of God surrounds me. The love of God enfolds me. The power of God protects me. Where I am God is. That's my prayer.

-Violet Hobaugh, from one of her past interviews

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Monday, April 05, 2010

black-eyed susan

In the interest of not embarrassing myself too deeply on basically every level - I will limit the written portion of this post to an absolute minimum. Due entirely to my inability to form coherent sentences after sustaining a concussion after blacking out in the bathroom and falling face first onto a tile floor. I spent the weekend in the hospital for observation and it was decided that there is nothing wrong with my heart or my head. Not that that was the question I went in with. It was a tedious, unenlightening experience, but hey, I'm not dead! I just have a goose egg on my forehead, a black eye, a sore nose and jaw, a chipped tooth and my fine motor skills leave a bit to be desired.

So with that NOT in mind - I would like to again draw your attention to my forthcoming Great Swedish Adventure. And also this spiffy self portrait I created in its honor!

dalahäst kicey
dalahäst kicey © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

A note about the painting on my face - I was inspired by Sandra (my Swedish friend) who recommended I do a distinctly "Swedish" self portrait. She properly introduced me to the Dalahäst while we were in Iceland, when she brought a tote decorated with the traditional red toy horses. I had seen them before at Ikea in years past but never knew their significance or name.

From the Dalecarnian Horse Wiki:

A Dalecarlian horse or Dala horse (Swedish: Dalahäst) is a traditional wooden statuette of a horse originating in the Swedish province of Dalarna. In the old days the Dala horse was mostly used as a toy for children; in modern times it has become a symbol of Dalarna as well as Sweden in general.

Traditionally a Dala horse is painted bright red with details and a harness in white, green, yellow and blue. It may also be painted bright blue or, if originating from the Rättvik area, grey. The distinctive shape of the horse is due to the usage of flat-plane style carving. The wood blocks used for making the horses were originally scrap wood from the clock case industry in the region of Dalarna.

It was in the small log cabins deep in the forests during the long winter nights in front of a log fire that the forerunner of the dala horse was born. Using simple tools, generally only a knife, woodcarvers made toys for their children. It was only natural that many of these toys were horses, because the horse was invaluable in those days—a trusty friend and worker who could pull great loads of timber from the forests during the winter months, and in the summer could be of just as much use on the farm.

The earliest references to wooden horses for sale are from 1623—nearly 400 years ago. The pattern of today is about 150 years old, and it reflects a style of painting known as kurbits. In the 19th century, Stickå-Erik Hansson from Mora introduced the technique of painting with two colours on the same brush, still used today. The Dalecarlian horse of today is still a handcrafted article, made of pine. At least nine different people contribute their skills to create each horse.

The traditional pattern is painted free-hand by practised "ripple" painters. The art of rippling requires great skill and takes many years to learn. Finally, "all the fine horses" are varnished and sent out from Nusnäs to serve as a symbol of Sweden in the outside world.

Please consider supporting my project- creating a photo book and travelogue based on my trip to Sweden. There is a long list of places I might be visiting, most of which hinge on whether or not I will be able to afford doing so, and truly every little bit is appreciated and incredibly helpful. Another possibility is renting a castle (!!!!) for a photoshoot. And it is certainly not every day you can say you've rented a castle. Am I right?

Since I last posted I had some lovely outings including going to NYC to meet up with Sandra who was in town. We fought the rain and miserable weather to paint the town and get down to business discussing things I should do while in Sweden. Plus take a few photos of her irresistible face.

feather light
feather light / model & makeup: sandra © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

We also went to the Museum of Natural History to see the live butterfly exhibit, which was delightful, in a sweaty way.

lightest touch
lightest touch © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

We also spent some time with actor Joel Garland on the eve of his first big movie premiere - The Bounty Hunter. Congrats Joel!

cameo © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

Then a couple weekends ago I finally had the chance to meet up with Veronika Placek who runs the Etsy boutique Sweet Tooth Vintage - we had been planning on doing a shoot with her modeling some of her wares since early maybe February. Though it was a bit chilly, we still managed to capture a hint of Springtime loveliness, by way of sunshine, cute clothes and some of my favorite spots in Philly. (model/styling: Veronika Placek)

meadow © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

frozen © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

driven © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

ring © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

bella © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

peaches and cream
peaches and cream © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

peeling back
peeling back © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

self service
self service © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

Also I took a little day trip to Island Beach State Park with Goldberg, thinking that while it was nearly 80˙ in Philly it would be likewise Down the Shore™. Incorrect! It was chilly but pretty and nearly Icelandic in appearance, sandy and mossy barrenness, with foxes!

driven © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

low tide
low tide © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

sly © Laura Kicey, All Rights Reserved.

And in published news, Context Magazine (AIA/Philadelphia's publication) - released a photo essay I shot featuring images of public urban spaces that were appropriated for sports usage.

Jennifer Nehila - practitioner of slacklining, Rittenhouse Park
Jennifer Nehila - practitioner of slacklining, Rittenhouse Park © Laura Kicey for Context Magazine, All Rights Reserved.

pickup basketball under I-95, 2nd & Washington
pickup basketball under I-95, 2nd & Washington © Laura Kicey for Context Magazine, All Rights Reserved.

volleyball court at 33rd & arch
volleyball court at 33rd & arch © Laura Kicey for Context Magazine, All Rights Reserved.

soccer in the bowl at Clark Park
soccer at the bowl in Clark Park © Laura Kicey for Context Magazine, All Rights Reserved.

Lastly one of the photos from my October collaboration with 28 Crash! Vintage, Genevieve @ Reinhard, Arpita P and April Ramirez - was published in ELIZA magazine! You can check the online issue for free here

ELIZA: published!

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