Thursday, May 19, 2011

plot thickening

With every ounce of effort and forward thrust, I have shaken off this sluggish winter chill and am now hurtling towards... Iceland, again. Not a day has gone by in over two years where I haven't thought about it, wishing I was returning. So I decided I ought to make it so, and, much to the surprise (and likely relief) of some, sans Kickstarter.

sandra amongst giants
sandra amongst giants © Laura Kicey

I am hoping to make it on my own steam as much as possible, not without the company of two of my favorite Swedes, one meeting me there and another half way for some romping in the wild West Fjörds... for two weeks in July! I am simultaneously wanting to be there presently so badly I can taste it and also wanting to savor every minute leading up to it, I am nearly intoxicated with this cocktail of anticipation and desires.

threes © Laura Kicey

Of course this has lead to copious research, dotted with yelps of delight and shrieks of panic... and somehow I ended up stockpiling notions and images in a tumblr, which started off very abstractly about nothing in particular, but has been veering from oh isn't this pretty, towards one day I will go there, and maybe soon and back, alternately. So if you want to look at things that are not by me, but get me riled up I give you: feints&stratagems

Lest you think I've -only- been laying about combing the internets and books for things to amuse myself at some future time – there has also been a resurgence of daytrippery. Which was long overdue. First, my dear friend Irina Souiki came to visit our new home and take a much-needed weekend off. It happened that we were met with a spot of unfortunate weather to start so I thought we might take visit my 2nd favorite gardening center, Ott's.

antlers © Laura Kicey

string theory
string theory © Laura Kicey

paperwhite © Laura Kicey

Although things quickly devolved into a monsoon-like fury outside, inside was still, lush and tropical as ever. Petals falling in our hair, vines creeping over everything. And well... there was a kitten that spontaneously leapt into a basket. Really, nothing can top that, no matter the weather. Flowers. Kitten in a basket. What more does one need?


Fortunately, Irina was quick and kind enough to capture my ecstasy at this discovery.

by Irina Souiki

The next day we had made plans to explore an abandoned village near Princeton and meet up with one of our mutual West Coast Flickr friends, Rita (who I'd known for years but only met in person just days before my last birthday - well -our- birthday, as we share the same day).

sunshine state
sunshine state © Laura Kicey

We strolled around town to take in some of the brilliant Spring color, then we made our way to the village which I had discovered some time ago but not properly explored due to being assaulted by hornets. I wanted to wait for colder weather, but I waited a bit too long. Though all the houses were still there are even more accessible than previously, they had all been mostly stripped inside and as well as most of the plant life surrounding them. The one house I had gone into for a moment before the hornets started swarming, did have some remnants upstairs of interest. Signs, construction vehicles and supplies all pointed to this area being developed, but I was rather surprised that they seemed to be set to restore this cluster of long abandoned houses rather than raze them. Of late I've been keeping a tally of known abandoned houses, some of which I've been in and others which I've merely stalked and pined for and those that have not been demolished are largely being restored and/or integrated into a newer larger residence. Knowing how deteriorated some of these houses were makes this quite shocking, many have sat vacant 10 or more years, exposed to the elements with open windows. Ultimately it is a positive thing, but also a bit surreal to see them return to life after so very long.

unicycle © Laura Kicey

j. vinch and suns
j. vinch and suns © Laura Kicey

cold bath
cold bath © Laura Kicey

bonfire © Laura Kicey

As Goldberg saw a glimmer of free weekend time on the horizon, the first weekend in May, we were compelled to mount an expedition: exploring the southernmost end of the Borscht Belt in New York state. Having done a bit of research on this particular town, I knew the town proper was a bit kooky and interesting in its own right and the Catskills have long been of interest to me for the excess of abandoned... everything, especially huge resorts from the 60s and 70s. Once one of the grandest of the Borsch Belt resorts, beyond what appeared to be a most fantastic (and well-preserved) indoor swimming pool, I was not able to find a great deal of images of other things of note from the location I had set my sites on.

crown © Laura Kicey

When we got off the interstate I pretty much straight away spotted a woodsy area that was fenced off and in the tangle of branches I saw what appeared to be an abandoned and rather ramshackle building. I told Goldberg that I suspected that it was part of what we were looking for... and I was right. The way the remains of the resort are situated is... perhaps not unusual for Borscht Belt resorts but in my years of urban exploration such as they are, finding an operational business on or next to the grounds of buildings that are just barely still standing (or entirely collapsed) has always struck me as a curious choice. In this case it was to our advantage, giving us a handy place to park, though the whole hiding in plain sight has never been my favorite option, not a big tempter of fate.

resorting © Laura Kicey

On the way up the winding hill road, we immediately spotted the main attraction, the swimming pool room, but walking back down on foot we took a less direct route and stopped by the greenhouse and peered in some of the boarded up buildings along the way. The little we saw before making it into the swimming pool room, well, let's say there wasn't much we were missing. Crumbling, moldy, unstable... boringness, mostly. But the main event was quite breathtaking.

Gorgeous Space Age lighting fixtures still hanging from the ceiling, 30 foot high floor-to-ceiling windows flooded the room with light filtered through pines, massive wooden beams crisscrossed the ceiling, the tile floor, still mostly intact but covered in broad areas by moss and ferns... and a fair number of orange and white lounge chairs. Very Jetsons... one almost expected to see drinks-serving robots rusted out in a corner.

high dive
high dive © Laura Kicey

We quickly discovered that the areas covered by moss were very unstable as they started giving out under Goldberg's feet. Fortunately we didn't cave in altogether as I later read the area beneath the pool contains the former-salon and spa... as well as corroding containers of chlorine and other dangerous chemicals. We walked round and round for over an hour, soaking it all in from every angle.

lawn chair
lawn chair © Laura Kicey

Upon leaving the building we attempted to make our way into some of the other nearby buildings but for the most part found them to be too unstable, funky-smelling and/or in a state of never-completed construction... completely bare and/or collapsing inside. I know there is at least one other room of interest but the day was heating up and we felt pretty satisfied leaving with just the pool room under our belts.

Making our way into the town proper, we decided to take a walk along the main street so I could gather some of the fine sign and architectural offerings there for a most triumphant construct. The amazing antiques shop at the main intersection was not to be misses - both for its outrageously colorful mod façade but also for its beautiful and varied wares within, which I had a hard time not buying. Plus the side of the building has a beautifully restored painted advertisement/mural. The resulting construct that came of all the inspiring signage and textures is this:

libertine © Laura Kicey

(which also contains a fair bit of Stockholm as well, it should be noted).

We continued driving around up to the Swan Lake area and beyond, finding an astonishing number of what appeared to be (nearly) abandoned Jewish summer camps, one after another down every road we turned. Many in such bad repair they barely looked inhabitable, yet many had a few vehicles parked on the property and people wandering around behind the locked gates. Between the summer camps were numerous rehab facilities and then plenty of homes that were highly decayed, but still very much lived in. A very strange area, not so different from rural central and NE PA.

The following weekend, I don't know what possessed me... I hate NYC with a passion, but I decided that after seeing some photos of here and there, we should venture to Brooklyn and explore Dead Horse Bay and Bottle Beach. Two weekends in a row, we go to NY! Unheard of! Though it would have been best to go at the lowest point of low tide (which at that time fell very early in the morning or around 7pm), we arrived around 10am. We parked at Floyd Bennett Field, which actually ended up being perhaps even more fascinating than Dead Horse Bay at that hour and we walked along the street trying to find the proper entrance to the beach, wandering, foolishly through the high grasses and scrub, into the trees which proved impenetrable. And burgeoning with TICKS. We eventually walked through the marina and later realized that there was an entrance down close to the toll plaza which we turned back *just* before reaching. If you should decide to go, be ready for the ticks, they are apparently one of the known unpleasant gifts of the area. We both felt crawly for the entire day as a result, though managed to avoid getting bitten. I think. I brought a bucket with me in the event I should find some treasures along the way.

The peculiar history of this stretch of beach might be enough to turn any one off, even without the lure of TICKS. There used to be an animal processing plant (as in making horses into glue, fertilizer etc) and they dumped their refuse into the bay, thus the name... later, in the 1930s, it became a landfill for the city. The tides at that beach on Barren Island are such that the landfill's contents and remains of dead horses are forever washing up on the shore.

tickling the ribs
tickling the ribs © Laura Kicey

The beach is covered mostly in its namesake - glass bottles - from the 30s and 40s, from all variety of products, perfumes, lotions, clorox, wine, beer, soda, salves and makeup, some whole, but at this hour, mostly broken bits. There are also horse bones and hooves, mysterious fabric pieces, shower curtains, paper ornaments (surprisingly), toys, doll parts, toilets, pieces of furniture, lighting fixtures, an endless array of shoe soles, machinery... you name it. A scavenger's dream.

spirits © Laura Kicey

top shelf
top shelf © Laura Kicey

sea lace
sea lace © Laura Kicey

We returned to Floyd Bennett Field to wash some of the grottiness off ourselves and we ended up making our way to the now abandoned airport, which was apparently the first in NYC. Though not entirely accessible, we were able to do a bit of poking about in some of the hangars. There were a lot of people in different areas of the field, just driving around, some fishing, some picnicking, others working in the community gardens. It seemed like it was the place to go on the weekend.

air strip
air strips © Laura Kicey

cotton field
cotton field © Laura Kicey

Between the two outings to NY, I managed to sneak in a little (increasingly rare!) Philly time with some of my favorite local photogs, who I met up with at the PIFA street fair, with the confusing Paris theme. It was quite impressive for Philly, though I don't think we were anywhere near equipped to handle the amount of people that showed up for the finale especially.

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance by the group Mucca Pazza earlier in the afternoon - who are a huge band from Chicago that sound like a punk rock gypsy marching band... with cheerleaders and nerdiness.

mucca pazza
mucca pazza © Laura Kicey

Very energetic group!

brassy section - mucca pazza
mucca pazza © Laura Kicey

flippin out
flippin out © Laura Kicey

There were also assorted performance artists - the living fountain and the living garden, as well as acrobats, a group of penny farthing riders, French food stands, many other musical performances on multiple stages I missed or saw in passing and lastly La Compagnie Transe Express who are a group of acrobats and musicians suspended from a folding mechanized flower device hanging hundreds of feet over Broad Street... and overhead. Despite it taking forever for the performance to actually start, and nearly getting crushed repeatedly by throngs of annoyed people, half of whom were trying to leave, the other half of whom wanted to stay for the show, which started well over an hour late. It was worth it and I had some nice people being crushed into me so it could have been worse.

living vines performer
living vines © Laura Kicey

la compagnie transe express
La Copagnie Transe Express © Laura Kicey

living fountain
living fountain © Laura Kicey

In more local news, a little bit of my personal history is disappearing into rubble. Very dangerous rubble: The Keasby & Mattison Asbestos Factory is coming down. Well, mostly. Almost all of the buildings, save the power plant with the smokestack, have been demolished. The power plant has been stripped of everything save the most basic brick structure and is quickly moving towards becoming office space. My mind can scarcely wrap around it all. I took a walk down to the site last week for the first time in literally years. This one wall was still standing adjacent to the power plant, but there was little else to see. Having spent the early years of photographic exploration here, this site more than anything else spurred so much in me... not just my interest in exploring abandoned buildings (though clearly where it all started for me) but also my interest in fashion photography set in unique location, it launched relationships and partnerships of all sorts. And now it is gone. It feels like my childhood home has been razed, and I think I might be less sad about losing my childhood home honestly.

vanishing act
vanishing act © Laura Kicey

Speaking of architecture, just this last weekend the construct below made an appearance at the opening of the annual juried Art of the State show at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.

unritten - ART OF THE STATE - OPENING tonight!
unritten © Laura Kicey

careful buddy
careful buddy © Laura Kicey

gallery gal II
gallery gal © Michael Alan Goldberg

Here I am at the opening! Thanks to Goldberg for taking this shot and faring in an insane sea of people. I had an unexpectedly large show of support from friends, some of whom I had not seen in in as many as ten years. It was a really enjoyable night all around and I was thrilled so many people came. A lot of people showed interest in my piece, it was refreshing to talk about it with people face to face.

Here is another construct I completed in the last couple months of radio silence, based mostly on West Philly... which I find endlessly inspiring:

tonsoreal © Laura Kicey

A few weeks ago I had a fashion shoot with an excellent tried and true team with a new model: riverboat menswear mixes with Gibson Girl romance. Here is a little taste, but you'll have to wait to get the full effect...

river queen © Laura Kicey

photography~ Laura Kicey
fashion editor~ Stacey Appel
make-Up & hair~ April Al-Zahrani
model~ Kristina S. @ Wilhelmina

Happy Summer Solstice all! The next time I post it may well be upon my return from Iceland! Only a few weeks away now...

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