It’s been quite a journey getting to a place where I am publishing my soul art without filters (okay I edit the photos but metaphorically speaking) and this self-portrait shoot was a huge breakthrough.
I took a trip out to visit my family on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska where I spent my early childhood. My original intention was to go one final time (my family member who still owns the property is quite old so it’s unlikely to be accessible much longer) in order to finish any primary source research I needed for my novel, SUPPLIES. Upon reaching the island I was struck by the environmental devastation visible to the naked eye. The inlet next to our old house, completely uninhabited by current peoples but home and burial ground to the Kaigani Haida people who abandoned their home after white colonialists forced them out in the early 1900s. It’s hard to find a lot of information on this but that is what I’ve gathered from oral tradition and the internet. Seeing the whole right side of the inlet, which had never been logged in modern history and is as beautiful as the famed Misty Fjords, broke my heart.
Then I started seeing seiners everywhere, big salmon fishing boats with huge nets that are cast by skiffs and drag in everything in the water. The fishing folk on the island told me there was less fish than ever and they felt like they were competing for the seiner’s scraps. It lit a cool rage in me thinking about how their fishing, all with poles, stiff regulations and only six people per boat was becoming impossible because big commercial ships were pulling up the whole ocean and throwing away everything but what they were looking for.
It had been many years since visiting my family in Alaska, and without going into detail, I was shocked by the extreme gap in our attitudes about life. What I might seem to mean here is our political differences, but I can hardly call their opinions political. For example, I was sent a chain email while I was there saying that the Muslims caused the Holocaust. This level of ignorance from old people on an island in the boonies can hardly be called political as much as social. The expectation that I dress a certain way, cover my tattoos and armpit hair, which I didn’t have last time I visited, spiked my thoughts with poison. Somehow the suburban conservatives I grew up with bother me less, their lives are boring and thoughtless, they move through the motions and expect you to as well. My Alaskan family built a home and business on a remote island, sweats their ass off trying to live closer to nature, and yet they won’t allow themselves or others any freedom of self expression. As I tried to be respectful of their rules and merely pity their ignorant, hateful politics (I’m on an island only accessible via floatplane so I can’t exactly leave of my own accord), I was hit with a direct confrontation.
One of my in-laws found my website and marched into the house to tell me under no uncertain terms that my family would be devastated if they saw it (what’s left out is, if they knew you were such a slut). I tried to remain calm and simply said my art wasn’t for my family as she slammed the door behind her. Feeling trapped and panicky, flashbacks from my conservative religious childhood pushed up my blood pressure. I grabbed my camera and headed up the mountain to the trails that had held me as a toddler.
This photoset is a statement to the way I move through the world now. When confronted by hate and fear in the world, I will not lash out but I will not be silent. I will go create something free from my heart, that people might be inspired or soothed by my vulnerability.
In the midst of environmental crisis and an impending exponential curve of disaster, played out on a backdrop of intersectional global capitalist neocolonial oppression, I hope my Mystress Mycelia can be a resources for dreaming your utopia and finding your voice of freedom.
This has been a heavy post, but my heart is full of hope, and I am proud of these images where I am exactly me, a belted creature born out of the moss and trees of a stunning and wild Alaskan island.