Thursday, November 3, 2011

Road Trip Tokens: featuring animal parts, flowers and more

I happen to be smack in the middle of several unfinished paintings so this will not be an art post. It's also just about time to take down the show at O'Reillys, so I'm hoping to snag a few pics of the setup to post here before I take it down. Instead, for your viewing pleasure, I have photos... pictures of carnage, flowers, and inspiring objects that will soon become sculptures/costumes/headpieces and more. And at the very least, they are strange and interesting.

I recently took a trip down to Miami, Florida (where my parents live and where I am from) to purchase their old car and drive it back. We flew down, hung out for a few days, and drove the beast of a car back to Philly, going from summer weather to full-on winter in 20+ hours of driving. I took a strange collection of pictures along the way.

View from the plane landing into Ft. Lauderdale of a lake covered in algae

Flowers in my parents backyard. I always take pictures of whatever is blooming
for painting references and general mid-winter cheering up.

We made a brief trip over to the beach on the bay at Key Biscayne, just to see the ocean, smell the salt air, enjoy a little beautiful scenery before we left back to the grey concrete jungle we call home. We got out of the car and walked over to the shore, where we discovered carnage of epic proportions. (If you are disturbed by pictures of dead things, please fast forward.)



Feathers strewn everywhere. Bones, chicken feet, and various animal carcasses (including something furry.) My first thought?


The word is Spanish and loosely translates as "worship of the saints." Santería is a religion with roots in West Africa and the Carribbean, a blend of the Yoruba religion (practiced by the Yoruba peoples in Nigeria and West Africa, brought to the America's and islands during the slave trade) and Roman Catholicism. The ancient deities worshipped in Yoruba belief systems - Orishas - were disguised as Catholic saints, and in Cuba and Santeria, the words and figures became interchangeable. Like Voodoo, it is regarded as mystical, fascinating and also frightening to Westerners, especially thanks to their tendencies in rituals, magic, and animal sacrifices.

According to Wikipedia, Santería evolved from those transplanted beliefs in Cuba, although similar religions (with the same origins) are practiced in Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, among others. Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants brought Santería to the United States, and given Miami's massive Cuban population, seeing remnants of a Santería animal sacrifice on the beach there is not so far-fetched of an idea. Thanks to a court case there in 1993 (Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah), animal sacrifices done in the name of Santería are legal.

The research I did leading up to this post did not have me convinced what we stumbled upon was indeed the remains of some kind of Santeria ceremony, but I like to think so. For all we knew, it could have very well been a cock fight- (another equally controversial but less exciting reason for there to be dead chicken parts strewn about the beach.)

But... if this was a cock fight, why was there something that resembled a large furry mammal? With hooves? (There were also several random rose petals, and none of the animal carcass heads seemed to be anywhere in the wreckage/carnage.) Religious ceremony, gambling match, or predators dinner table, it's remnants were out of place, and I was excited to have stumbled upon such a scene with my crappy point and shoot in hand.


I'm still not sure what that was, but it was arguably the most interesting point of our 48 hours in Miami last weekend. I gathered the most beautiful feathers I could find (without getting totally grossed out) and took them home with me. I'll let you know if anything I make from them seems to be cursed one way or another.

Another exciting find from our brief road trip was a pair of deer antler I picked up somewhere at a road stop in northern Florida.

And, funny enough, they were exactly the kind of weird find at a road stop that I was looking for. Literally. I needed antlers so they could go with my ram horns, which I picked up during a late summer road trip to the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Total, both pairs cost me just over $20, which was the best part. First of all, I am undeniably attracted to weird natural collectables. This includes rocks (& "crystals", ahemHIPPIEahem), feathers, interesting pieces of wood, dead flowers, dried leaves/other plant material, shells, bones, etc. (I realize this is possibly why I found the Santería scene above so fascinating, come to think of it.) Second of all, The Penny Treats have just been brainstorming for their next performance number, and the costumes are going to include elaborate, decorative animal/hybrid headdresses as a main feature. And these headdresses are now going to include these beautiful horns that I managed to find. And I am terrifically excited to work with them, take pictures of them, draw them, and develop these new costumes around them.

We also found this thing on the beach (a different area than the carnage & feathers) and although we are not 100% sure where it came from or it's purpose, we thought it was cool enough to take home with us. It's half of a hollow shell, like a giant nut of some kind, though is nothing I recognize as being part of the local foliage. It also already came with these markings on part of it, and a little crack on one side. If you turned it over, it would be a bowl - but I think we should make it into a mask of some kind and continue decorating it with wood burning tools, painting or cutting. Like a good piece of driftwood or an intact seashell, I couldn't resist taking it home with me.

These and numerous plastic bins (of high school yearbooks, sketchbooks and childhood photos my parents finally made me take out of their house) accompanied us on the road trip back. I didn't take very many exciting pictures of anything else. There are a couple of silly shots of Alex or I driving, the temperature in the car with no heat we just bought and some random others. I'm going to leave you with a shot of the Fort McHenry Tunnel that we took passing through Baltimore. I lived there for 6 years and Alex is from there, so it's appropriate that it was the only place we felt nostalgic about passing through together.

And just a few hours later, we were back home in Philly. The ocean and the beach (and animal parts) when it was 80 degrees outside were a distant memory.


  1. Beautiful and insightful! Animal remains, sacrificial rituals, The Penny Treats, and road trips... love it.

    You'll have to check out my roommate's fossil/bone collection sometime and dig through her bulk boxes for things to keep (prehistoric squid tails!?)

    Can't wait to see those Penny Treats headdresses.

  2. Thank you! Good to know there are those out there reading. I'd love to check out your roommates collection, too. :)