Plush Decay means dying with fullness.
Our thirteenth installment was a bit different from the rest. In March I was getting together my application for the Pfister Narrator, and my dear friend (multi-talented Kristin Peterson) recommended we collect some footage of me directing a Plush Decay shoot for the application video. Thus, this shoot was born - you will find below a video interview from one of the unique and talented people we had as a model, a special guest and newcomer to the Plush Decay series.
The inspiration for this shoot came from a couple different places. Our cold and beloved Milwaukee was finally warming up a bit, for one - the green was coming back (very slowly) and I forgot how much I missed the lush color, the swaying of leaves. Everything is a cycle, and the promise of warmth was comforting me. Alongside the changing environment, I was halfway through Jeff Poniewaz's Dolphin Leaping in the Milky Way (1986), a beautiful book of poems (also listed under the genre "ecology.") Jeff, who passed away in 2015, was an eco-activist as well as poet, a passionate nurturer and staple of the literary community who also served as Milwaukee Poet Laureate alongside Jim Chapson. Here is an excerpt from his poem "Oct 30, 1979: After Playing Tranquil Tail-End of Kindertotendlieder" -
What's it like,
with the sense of touch
to the nth degree
of what touch is & means.
BE KIND TO
YOUR SPLINTER OF EXISTENCE
is the key.
Reading Jeff's work put me in a mindset of gratitude, not only towards the planet, but the people around me. I wanted the shoot to be tender and lush, soft but vibrant. Olivia, a young and very talented photographer, agreed to collaborate with me. Her portrait work is clean, beautiful, and somehow conveys innocence. I also asked Annie Grizzle, my dear friend and frequent collaborator, who brought along some unique equipment to produce some beautiful, trippy photos that play with color in interesting ways. Kristin took some video of us traipsing around in the woods, as well as shooting the segment of Antler speaking poems and talking about his life (check out below!)
If you're unaware of who Antler is, googling him will enlighten you somewhat, but watching the video below and being in his presence (if you get the chance to see him read or meet him, please do) is a much better way to grasp his powerful energy and the gravity of his poetics. I met Antler last year, at the photoshoot for Vegetarian Alcoholic Press's Milwaukee poets anthology. Since then I've been honored to visit with him, talk with him, and read poems to him. Antler is not only a legendary Milwaukee poet, but he was Jeff Poniewaz's loving partner for over 40 years, until his passing a few years ago.
I reached out to Antler about modeling for this shoot - I was surprised when he said yes, I figured it was a long shot, but felt his face and tenderness would fit perfectly, and so what was the harm in trying? He arrived and let me style him in my long light green button up, with a dark green pull over sweater (which bears images on the front - a cabin with a deer, fish, an eagle soaring above it all). I took down his hair and placed his curls on his shoulders, and crowned him with my flower-unicorn crown that I made with my sister's help. On his face are two dots above each eye, one dot below. This pattern signifies the great patterns of human behavior - birth, sex, and death. This was inspired by Antler's poems, which usually contain two if not all three of those themes. I asked my mother, Kathy Taylor, to come up from her hometown of Beloit to model - I styled her in a dress and silk cardigan from Kristin's closet, and placed on her a faery-green ribbon crown from Luv Unlimited. My mother, a communications professor and pastor, was recently interview on David Smalley's podcast. Adam Taylor, her husband and my step dad, came up as well, and arrived in a kelly green button down which paired well with a light green scarf. Adam is a handyman/youth coordinator/literary extraordinaire, as well as a tender hearted man, so it made perfect sense to include his energy and look. Around his head is one of the flower crowns Alyssa made. Alyssa, a frequent Plush Decay model and also the woman behind local Fuel Good MKE, wears a light blue and flora tutu dress made by local designer Jess Wright. Around her shoulders is a bright green button up from my closet. Nicole Peterson (cousin of Kristin) is a multi-talented budding creative. Her piercing eyes (I often call them beautifully vampiric) matched the blue skirt I brought, and her green blazer and denim button up came from Kristin's closet. Molly Corkins, local poet and actress, wore a vintage top and green skirt from H&M. Keep an eye out for her plays - she's got a potent stage presence and the way she manipulates her body, face, and voice for her roles is incredible to watch. This cast of 6 beautiful creatives, in addition to the photographers and the ever-supportive Kristin Peterson, made the afternoon beautiful - reminded me of how blessed I am.
If you're wondering, I didn't get the Pfister Narrator job - and it's completely okay. I tried, and through trying I found that people believed in me, which means more than any job. There's a place in this earth for the hermit as well as the socialite. It's important to listen to your self and balance accordingly, but be sure to appreciate the humans who are supporting you, who let you style them, who let you take photos of them, who answer your calls on late nights when you can't sleep. No one is created in a vacuum. Encourage tenderness in your self and encourage it in others, too. This earth can flourish if we take care of one another. We are a long way from flourishing, of course. There's the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, America's idiot president, to name just a few points of ugliness. Do what you can to keep your art alive, to keep your partners' art alive, to keep the earth alive, to hold your loved ones accountable, to question our biases - do what you can to hold love in all its myriad forms close. Love includes trying to better each other, and better ourselves. I'm grateful for the ways I am developed by those I encounter, by what the tenderness of others can teach me. As Antler writes in Gathering Place of the Waters (30 Milwaukee Poets) -
What is my Mission on this Planet? What am I here for? Ding! Ding! Ding!...Suddenly we realize WE ARE FROM OUTER SPACE! WE ARE CREATURES FROM OUTER SPACE! EARTH IS OUR PLANET IN OUTER SPACE!...There's nowhere in the Universe that is more in Outer Space than we are! We live in the Universe! It's not "out there"....Each of us should be as much an apparition as the Being coming down the ramp of the spaceship from "out there." How dear this earth becomes then! How sacred every wild place and creature that remains!...To feel in this flash of existence in the Antler form the unending Amaze!