Monday, September 8, 2014

Rachel Tribble Creates Art for Peace

Photo by Thomas Winter

Artist Rachel Tribble has always been inspired by peace and the concept that art can produce a feeling of serenity and a connection to the universe. So it was a natural fit for her to join forces with Michael Brooke, publisher of Concrete Wave magazine and pioneer of the Longboarding for Peace movement.

In a recent exclusive interview, Rachel described the movement that started a little over a year ago. "Longboarding for Peace became involved with at-risk youth and started to teach them longboarding as a way of learning about balance in life and learning that you can overcome obstacles… [Michael has] worked in Israel with Palestinian and Israeli children bringing them together for a week at a time teaching them all to skateboard."

She explained that they have also worked in Texas trading weapons for skateboards in an effort to curb violence there. Longboarding for Peace has a goal of building a global Peace Army of 50,000 people. Rachel noted that have already reached people in 30 or 40 countries.

Longboarding for Peace's most recent project is in support of the Native American activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), Leonard Peltier, who was imprisoned for the death of two FBI agents in the 1970s. Many, including Amnesty International, believe he was wrongly convicted and label him a political prisoner. Peace activists have been working for decades to have his sentence reversed.

So when Rachel, a longtime advocate for the rights of Native Americans, found out that Michael was planning to start a project to benefit Peltier, she jumped at the chance to create artwork for three longboards. She explains, "He wanted to do a project that gave Leonard some public exposure to people that didn't know about the case. And he asked me to paint some longboards that would somehow define and quickly tell the story of Leonard, which was almost impossible to do."

While Rachel was challenged initially by how to tell Peltier's tale through her art, she described her ultimate inspiration for the colorful, abstract, linear work she created. "One board has a feel of earth, one board has a feel of darkness and water and the other board is one of red fire… I did some research and I found a letter that Leonard himself wrote this year, 2014, from prison. It's a beautiful letter of thoughts on peace and what it's like to be in the situation that he's in. I took excerpts from the letter that were very fitting for the story and I used Leonard's own voice and his own words to tell his own story and his own statements."

Rachel's one-of-a-kind boards will be auctioned off on eBay with the proceeds going to the Leonard Peltier Defense Fund. She stated, "Longboarding for Peace is a movement I really believe in. It's longboarders and skateboarders and anybody with a good heart and a desire to see peace in the world. It's not a non-profit, it's more of a pay it forward. So essentially we're a network of people who know people who know someone… Nobody's making any money off of it, it just people trying to help other people."

Rachel has always been interested in examining the concept of peace through her artwork and has recently launched a new jewelry line that explores the themes further. While she has been working in this realm for a long time, the current state of the world makes her mission that much more timely. She said, "I'm pretty outspoken about how I feel about what's going on in the world right now, so I'm hoping that people of like minds respond."

Her necklaces, mainly 28" in length, are handmade beads and glass on a weather froze chain. She remarked, "I want to call them Nebular, like a neutron star, a place where new hope and new life is born… to remind people that we all come from the one place, we all live in one earth, in one universe and one solar system and we should all be happy to be together here."

Rachel shared that she gets her inspiration for all of her art from nature and meditation. "I live in a very quiet, rural area and I spend a lot of time in nature. And in those quiet moments I am often inspired by either something in a meditation or some depth of color that I may see in the morning. I get up just before the sun starts to rise and I go outside… I go into mediation as the sun pops the horizon. Everyday it's something different. It's amazing when you do that for a really long time, you start to realize that every single sunrise on this planet is different, every single one."

She continued, "I am completely inspired by nature in those quiet moments… So when I paint I am trying to offer that to other people. When they look at my paintings, or they live with them like many people do, that they also can feel that connection to the universe and that connection to some serenity in their own lives. And my hope is that when people are around my work or they live with my work, that it will inspire them and they will be inspired to do something peaceful and help other people."

Find out more about Rachel's art at her website and discover more about Longboarding for Peace at

Monday, August 11, 2014

Filmmaker Mick Caouette Shines New Light on Thurgood Marshall

Image Courtesy of Mick Caouette

Most of us learned about Justice Thurgood Marshall in school. We all know he was the first black Supreme Court Justice, nominated by Lyndon Johnson in 1967. But few know of the heroic life he lived leading up to that high profile position. Filmmaker Mick Caouette has set out to change that with his new documentary Mr. Civil Rights: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP, scheduled for a fall 2014 release.

Mick said he wanted to make the film because he hoped to shine a light on the Thurgood Marshall none if us knew. He states, "He was the first black Supreme Court Justice, which is probably the most significant thing… A lot of people only know him from that period… But the early part of his life was, in many ways, more courageous — from 1908, when he was born, to the early 1950s… So the story we're telling is that story of that period."

He continues, "He traveled the south as an NAACP lawyer and fought case after case in these white courtrooms. It was really dangerous. He was at the foot of death wherever he went. And he traveled a lot alone. Always running from the Ku Klux Klan and other people. He slept in three or four different houses some nights and just kept moving, and all by train from Harlem to the South. He was a really courageous person."

Marshall was trying to do what no one else at the time would dare. Mick explains, "He was trying to bring equalization to education. He was trying to enroll African Americans in colleges and high schools. So the Brown vs. Board of Education decision was the culmination of his journey in 1954 and 1956."

The filmmaker, who has been making docs since the '90s, didn't know much about Marshall himself when he decided to make the film. He recalls, "I knew something about him from [my earlier film, "Hubert H. Humphrey: The Art of the Possible"] because they knew each other. Humphrey was Vice President when Marshall became Supreme Court Justice. For the Humphrey film we interviewed Roger Wilkins who was Roy Wilkins nephew. Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshall were best friends and they ran the NAACP together." When Mick contacted Wilkins to do a film about his uncle, Roger suggested he look into Marshall instead. "So I dug into it a little bit and he is a colorful person."

The film tells the story of how Marshall paved the way for the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Mick tells us, "He had a dozen Supreme Court cases that had been decided that he had won, that were the foundation for all the things that happened in the '50s and '60s, like Rosa Parks. Those decisions were based on his victories in the Supreme Court."

During his research, Mick was most surprised to learn about Marshall's courage. He claimed, "I had no idea that he did what he did. At one point they brought him to the river to lynch him and he was arguing in the Supreme Court within weeks. So absurd. He got away from them at the last minute, because another group of black guys that came back from World War II had guns in the car and they chased the crowd and got him freed. That's the kind of courage he had. He was going to these kinds of places where they wanted him dead… It's not a well known story and that's why I wanted to do it."

Marshall went about his crusade under the radar and was never really acknowledged for his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. Mick points out, "He was a real hero… He was not out in the public. He was behind the scenes doing all this. He laid the foundation for the [Civil Rights Movement] and never really got credit for it."

In fact Marshall was so behind the scenes that it posed a problem for Mick while making the film. "It was tricky because he didn't really travel with a camera person, so it was hard to find visuals."

But he found resources to help round out the doc. "There were a few black filmmakers from the '40s and '50s that were shooting around Harlem and they were shooting these amateur films. And I found a number of those that were public domain and used scenes from them. And also there a lot of photographs of Marshall. And then I used contextual film from the time of Harlem and New York and other places… But I panicked at first at what I got into. There's nothing. There was no TV, no anything at the time… If you look through the old newsreels, everything's covered except African Americans, through the whole period. They were nonexistent. So it was tricky but it worked."

Mick hopes the film will be an inspiration to all people facing any kind of hurdle. He says that the film is evidence that "incredible obstacles can be overcome with persistence and drive and the belief that you can change things. What [Marhsall] changed and what he did is no less difficult than any problem we face now. He was overcoming everything. He was overcoming race. He was overcoming opposition everywhere he turned, and yet he did it. It's a story of inspiration and courage."

To find out more about Mick Caouette's film Mr. Civil Rights: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP visit Mick's website at and watch for the doc on screens this fall.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Anaitte Vaccaro Brings the Surreal to Life through Digital Scenography

Image courtesy of Anaitte Vaccaro

For some artists, the essence of their creative endeavors it to capture one single moment in time. That is not the case with Anaitte Vaccaro, who chooses to visualize her paintings in motion through what she has dubbed “digital scenography.”

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Vaccaro became interested in art at a very young age, albeit the more traditional disciplines. Her focus on painting and sculpture ultimately evolved. As she explained in a recent one-on-one interview, her “desire to express the full story behind one single image was how I then came into this ‘digital scenography’ world that gave me more tools to express that type of time inside a message.”

After earning her BFA from Escuela de Artes Plasicas in Puerto Rico, Vaccaro decided to move to the U.S. to get her Master of Fine Arts in Visual Effects from Savannah College of Art and Design. Unlike her fellow students, she never intended to pursue a career in the film and TV world of digital production.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sparky Campanella’s horizon Series

Photo courtesy of Sparky Campanella

What is it about staring at a horizon that is so calming? Watching the sunset over an ocean. Being mesmerized by the road disappearing straight ahead on a highway. Lying on the grass taking in the blue sky and puffy clouds. Photographer Sparky Campanella set out to explore the relationship between land and sky, man and nature, in his series appropriately called horizon. And through his work he has achieved an unexpected level of tranquil beauty in everyday scenes.

In a recent interview Sparky told us the images “have a calmness to them. They’re quiet and they’re powerful. I like that combination. I was trying to have the biggest impact with minimal and often abstract content. It’s calming. It’s contemplative, but there’s still energy there.”

He began the series one day on the top of a friend’s studio. The roofline of the white stucco building against the cloudy sky caught his attention. He recalled, “I saw this scene that just struck me. It just grabbed me. That’s true of a lot of the horizon work. A lot of times I go out looking for things, driving around, walking around, at a slower pace and just observing. And some things just click.”

This minimalism is something Sparky tries to achieve in all his work. He explained, “I aspire to have minimal content and maximum impact — both conceptual impact and visual impact. I try to make pictures that are beautiful because I want to make stuff that I would want on my own wall. And yet they are not just ornamental but they have layers of conceptual depth to them.”

He went on, “The conceptual side is focused around the relationship between man and nature.” He talks more about this notion on his website saying, “I believe that man and nature can co-exist. horizon manifests my belief through the urban horizon line, a point of reference common to all city dwellers… Our urban landscapes are bounded by the geometric architecture of buildings, rooftops, walls and even passing trucks. My love of both city and country draws me to scenes where man-made and natural complement one another.”

Sparky hopes the horizon series inspires people to appreciate the common sites around them. He said he hopes those who see his work will develop “an appreciation for the beauty that’s all around us. A lot of these shots in the horizon series are pretty mundane scenes — buildings or rooftops or walls — but with the right lighting, at the right time of day and at the right angle they become extraordinary. That’s around us all the time, all day long. If you don’t notice it, you’ve missed a lot of life.”

The artist had advice for people thinking about exploring the field of photography. And it’s all about being authentic. He suggested, “Go out and look at a lot of work — not just photography, but anything — architecture, performance art, anything — and pay attention to what captures you, what resonates with you. And slowly piece together that puzzle of what it is you are drawn to in other people’s work."

He emphasized that having a knowledge of art history is crucial to finding your own voice. “Be worldly. Take art history courses to realize what has come before you and how whatever you’re doing is different from what’s already been said. Does it build on previous ideas? Is it an extension of them or is it just repeating the same thing? And from that, put together what your special niche is. It’s important to have your own look and for people to recognize that.”

Sparky is preparing for his first museum showing this fall at the Crisp Museum at Southeast Missouri State University. He will have 14 of his images in large scale (40” x 50”) all hung in a special way. He described the set up, “All images are exactly divided in half. There’s always a mid-point between nature and manmade. So when they are all hung consistently, this line creates this a virtual horizon line in the space and it’s almost that’s transformative in terms of how calming it is.”

Find out more about Sparky at his website

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dr. John Day Heals the Body, Mind, Emotion and Spirit

Photo courtesy of Dr. John Day

As a young man growing up in post-World War II Alabama, John Day lived in a household that was dedicated to healing others. His father was a surgeon and his mother was an internist, who often took him on house calls or on her hospital rounds. But no one could predict that an encounter with a pop culture icon would help the future Dr. Day forge his own unique path in the medical profession. 

When Day was nine years old, his mother introduced him to Helen Keller. The author and political activist’s story, who was immortalized in The Miracle Worker, was stricken with an illness when she was just 19 months old which caused her to go deaf and blind. But even as a child, Day new that Keller had senses far beyond the physical realm.

“I knew that Miss Keller could see, despite her physical blindness. I had a real sense of knowing that,” recalled Day of his meeting with Keller in the parlor at her sister’s home in Montgomery, Alabama. “She was very aware of my presence as a child. She offered me her blessing in a particular, intimate way.”