Tough LOVE in the Gravel

Posted by on February 14, 2011 in balance, butoh, collaboration, dance, gravel, love, maureen freehill, momo, momobutoh, photography, rex hohlbein | 4 comments











Creative co11aboration is one of my favorite and most beloved activities. My entire being feels stimulated, nourished and enlivened when a juicy artful exchange is happening! It is a form of lovemaking that I will allow time for whenever I can, especially with other artists who I admire. Photographer Rex Hohlbein is one of those special co-creators that I feel very lucky to have met and grateful to work with for the past year. Even with a super full work schedule, he will drop it for a creative “date” when I have time to come over to Seattle. Sometimes we have a plan of where to go, others not.

This time, since our MomoButoh “theme” for February is Love & Family; I said I was “looking for LOVE” and places that would inspire it in the dance and imagery. He said he had a place that really excited him in mind. Since he was pressed for time and it was only a block from the office, we should check it out. Turns out this “special place” is an industrial site for storing and distributing gravel, asphalt and other products of what I tend to call “earth rape.” When we arrived a HUGE truck was sounding an alarm as it dumped the stuff into a holding area; creating a great dust cloud as another machine pounded bits of stone into submission. I stood in a daze, pained at the sensual assault of it all. Hmmm? I just was not feeling much very “in the mood.”


Suddenly he realized he had forgotten his photo memory card and had to run back for it. As he was gone I has some time to contemplate and let the dust settle. The rare February sun was beaming down and my initial resistance melted a bit at that. Then I was reminded of my teacher Yoshito Ohno’s lessons about soft and hard….the intercourse between those two can be a beautiful dance where life itself is created. I was thinking of the essences of butoh practice that were so essential. I remembered a dance of the flower growing through the crack in the cement. Phrases I had heard so often in the “butoh world” like: “places in between,” “the revolt of the flesh,” and “a body at the edge of crisis” flowed through my head….I was beginning to feel my love for the EDGE rekindle and smolder a bit. I wanted to challenge myself by exploring how to hold my heart open and keep love alive even in the most seemingly brutal of situations. I wanted to explore BOTH the dark & light sides of love.


Rex came rushing back and I had removed a bunch of clothing and put on a shirt to shroud my head. I realized I needed a Significant Other, a softer little sign of life to hold as a companion in this dance. I really wanted a flower but the closest thing we could find was a sprig of foliage from the landscaping and we began to dance. I lost myself in the experience of dancing at the foot of the gravel mountain until Rex asked if we could head over to the black shadowy cement pit of asphalt. There among the sticky black goo (I could not do it without shoes) noxious fumes and cold shadows; I danced with as much loving as I could muster; often loosing motivation as he cheered me on with “this is SO beautiful”-but I could not see it.


After we were done I was anxious to see the pics because I was so curious what they would reveal. Rex said he was very busy so it could be a while before he could get to it. Later that night I was perusing Facebook and there they were! I was stunned. It is funny how, even though I do SO MUCH public sharing of my image, and I know perfectly well how fast digital information can move from here to there; I still can feel shy and protective about revealing it. Perhaps I had opened up something vulnerable and intimate in that gravel. When this was revealed before I felt “control,” my ego had a knee jerk reaction and I wrote a somewhat upset note to Rex about being sure to show me first. Then he was a bit shocked by my concern but also understanding and kindly deleted the pics and sent copies to me to share in my own timing. Now I see how silly this is in a way….and how essential too. A true love lesson, as are so many lessons in life….and these would not be possible without my collaborative “family” of fellow artists. I feel so grateful for you!

Thank you. Please Forgive Me. I’m Sorry. I Love You.

I love these photos really. I love the shadows, the contrasts, the range of emotions evoked. I love Rex. I love collaborating. I love the sun. I love the earth. I love all living beings. I love my job.
I want to know what YOU see in these images.

4 Comments

  1. These photos are striking! Beautiful. I see softness and vulnerability. I see the potential for pain. I feel texture of rock of points of hardness of shifting fabric of bare foot and leg. I see cleavage (in the piles of gravel, mind you). I feel the weight. I want to see through the fabric. I feel the sun.

  2. There is no question of this photographers gift of composition. He captures quite a number of striking postures which invoke many possible scenarios of character(s) in relation to the place.

    After reading all of the writing a general character and scenario sticks in my head. (I often resist concretizing other's work with the stories I see, but maybe I'll venture this and see how it comes across.
    Recently I watched a video which I will recommend to everyone. It's on Love and Fear.
    One thing the speaker says on Love is that it is indiscriminate. It loves those who destroy, and those who create, equally, with the same fervor and acceptance.
    I see a combined child/spirit of growth dancing in a wasteland. She's as curious about the existence of the wasteland as she is in destruction of her home.

    She's isolated in one image, then inexplicably joyous in another.

    The 1st and last image, a display of the "rock cleavage" and Momo on the right looks like a lost spirit roaming her dead forest. 2nd I'll persevere with a warping personality, and grow no matter what. 3rd it's a lonely world as a wandering survivor. 4th, but I'm in love with life, and all that's in it. 5th Curiosity and playfulness in the dead and in the living. 6th I am faceless, unidentifiable, a growth of nature.

    7th (is the most intriguing) Will they know I'm still growing, I'll twist myself into the earth and hide, but I'll keep an eye on my brothers and sisters. This image has the most story to it, it's dynamic because it appears to be quiet, but it's also very loud, with the eyes watching with so much playful secrecy.

    The 8th, and yet I'm a monster wandering the wasteland and trundling through the black pits.
    9th, I am powerful, and yes it is an unfathomable experience to lose the lions share of the earth.

    10th, I'm lost in a wasteland, in love with my life and the nature of change

    Even a gravel pit has breasts.

    What I see working about the hidden face is what escapes the mask. The collage would have a vastly different character without the pictures of your face. But the contrast of the faceless emotion in the wasteland makes the face shine brighter.

    Lonely, Playful, In Love, Clever, despondent, curious, childlike, mysteriously confident, careful, brimming with pain/love/perseverance/mystery and awe.

    Numbers 3, 6, and 8 seem less strong to me. They seem to show the monstrous and faceless, but I think it's already in the others.
    If you took them out, I'm curious how the whole collage would change. Methinks it would change quite a bit.

    I just saw something else. Your jet black hair blends into the tar immaculately. And the black/white contrast really causes you to emerge out of the black, be connected to it.
    Then in the other images your hair doesn't quite look attached to your head, but there all the same.

    Maybe it's just that I'm a man, but the fact that you're a woman brings with my notion of spirit and nature roaming through the gravel wasteland a more nurturing appeal, of perseverance, and slow growth, gestating and waiting. If a man danced through the gravel wasteland, (well, it would be wholly different because they would be them, and you are you)

    Rather, in these photos you especially engender a secret forest spirit, waiting. Playing with the dead land.

  3. thank you dear patricia & evan for responding with such generosity to my question!…this moon i began delving into my love of fantasy & dream imagery again….it is SO amazing the insights that Significant Others can offer one another about our subconscious creations…things we might never see ourselves! VERY enlightening offerings…i become excited to go deeper and deeper into this collective exchange. Ill pass your insights on to Rex as well.

  4. loved reading your comments, patricia and evan… mmmm… thank you for your insights…
    i tried to 'see' these photos without 'knowing' – where they were actually taken and the story behind them and the dance…
    what i saw initially was the barren landscape – could be a desert anywhere in the world… not a man-made phenomenon… then
    seeing momo initially as being 'lost' in the desert (within the inner landscape, too, with the face covered).
    what struck me with the photo of her with the branch was the image of a dove holding an olive branch of peace – and seeing her transform into a bird-like being… life in the dead-zone… the touch of life that struggles to survive like a delicate flower growing up through concrete… the fragility of life…
    and the ones where she enters the more man-made realm of concrete blocks in the background, the way the branch is held, it feels like a peace-offering of sorts, or an offering for forgiveness…
    i can feel the curiosity of the 5th photo – looking through the lens of the sweater to the soiled earth… (reminds me of 'tar sands' and i can smell the creosote in those)…
    the final photos, moving into an expression of despair… the uncovering of self, with the face 'cover' removed…
    such exquisite photos, rex! inspiring dance! thank you!

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