“Mojave Mosaics” – Art Show in the Desert!

This coming October I’ll be launching my month-long art exhibition, “Mojave Mosaics.” I’ve spent the better part of the year lovingly toiling away on my stained glass mosaics and am excited that the date is finally approaching!

My mosaics for this exhibit are all desert-themed, with a focus on southern Nevada, my former home.

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“High Winds Over the Mojave” Stained glass mosaic by Angel La Canfora

Some were created for hanging in windows while others were made for wall-hanging. All artworks will be for sale with a cut of the profits going towards the museum.

It will be held at the Lost City Museum in Overton, Nevada, just outside Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Mead. I exhibited at this very museum just two years ago and am thrilled that they asked me back! The museum itself is amazing — built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps to house artifacts from prehistoric archaeological sites that were uncovered or destroyed in the construction of nearby Hoover Dam.

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“The Red Rock Climbers” Stained glass mosaic by Angel La Canfora

This beautiful pueblo-style building on the National Register of Historic Places is sprawling and even has outdoor exhibits, such as a Native American Pit House. There’s much to see!

The museum is located about an hour’s drive from Vegas but it’s right off Interstate 15, so it makes a fun detour if you’re heading out to Zion or Bryce Canyon. And if you’re going to Valley of Fire State Park then you have no excuse not to check it out, as it’s quite literally mere minutes away!

 

 

Here’s the low down;

When: October 1st – 31st

Where: Lost City Museum, 721 S Moapa Blvd, Overton, NV

Phone: (702)397-2193

Cost: $5 for adults & seniors but free for children under 18

Lost City Museum’s website

What: “Mojave Mosaics” Artworks by Angel La Canfora

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Taking the Pain Out of Moving

If there’s one thing in life I’ve perfected, it is the art of moving. I’ve moved…a lot. I’ve moved house all totaled a little over 30 times. It started fresh out of the womb. Not long after I was born, there was a major earthquake in LA, damaging the Hollywood garden apartment building my parents inhabited. They then decided to move to Orange County. We moved 5 times before I was 11 years old and I think it’s not a stretch to conclude that all those moves indelibly imprinted me.

My teenage years were stable, boring even, in middle-class Huntington Beach. It was one pleasant valley Sunday after another and I dreamed of roaming free. So straight out of high school, I hit the road and didn’t look back. But while I wanted to travel, I also wanted to get to know different regions and towns, learn what made locals tick, so I would set down roots for 6 months to a year or more before moving on (is it any wonder I majored in cultural anthropology in college?).

Over the course of my life, I’ve moved crosstown, from state-to-state, cross country and abroad. In all my moves I have learned some things and I’d like to share the benefit of my experience with you (Note: the following tips are for people on a budget. If you’re independently wealthy, move right along. There’s nothing to see here).

1. PARE DOWN – Even though I’ve moved a lot, it was oftentimes incredibly stressful. But I can tell you in a word the one thing that will always make it more stressful and that is STUFF. I’m talking about furniture, TVs, desks, washer/dryers, books, etc. The more stuff you have to pack, the more stressful and expensive your move will be. If your move is within town, go ahead and take all your stuff. But if you’re moving out of the city/state/country now is the time to ruthlessly cull your possessions. And be brutal. Sell off your couch, your TV, even if they are newer. Because you will either have to pay to have these items shipped to you or you’ll have to ship/bring them yourself and either way, it’s not worth it. Shipping/moving vans are costly and the more miles away you move the less worth it is to bring items that can be easily replaced in your new town. Think about what is meaningful to you and hard to replace. Bring that original Picasso but sell the microwave. Now’s the time to hold a garage sale or sell stuff through Craigslist or Nextdoor. Pare down to the bare essentials for living and that which is irreplaceable (this goes for cars, too!)

2. DON’T LET THE MOVE DESTROY YOU – Obviously, the more time you have to plan and prepare for your move, the better. But if you’re pressed for time, remember to take care of yourself! It’s easy for a move to be all-consuming, to spend every waking moment fretting about the details. Unless you’re under the gun and have to move immediately – which is a whole different ball game – try to relegate working on your move to certain times of the day, for your sanity’s sake. If you’re working full time, then give moving prep an hour or two a day and then LET IT GO. By scheduling the time when you work on moving plans and prep, you free your mind and body for your present life. You can’t worry about it all day, every day. You need moments of recreation and decompression.

3. MAP EXERCISE – In the event that you have to move but are unsure as to where to go, here is one helpful way of thinking about where to move. Print up a map of the general area, then X out all the places you know for sure you don’t want to live, or can’t live in (parkland, lakes, etc.). Next, research the places that are left. Check out real estate listings, climate forecasts and Niche.com for demographics, crime info and reviews. Watch YouTube videos of the area. As a result of your research, you’ll then wind up crossing more places off the map. When you narrow it down to a handful of places, then take a trip out there. Your list will then get whittled down further once you’ve experienced them in person. When you’re down to the top 2 or 3 then you go actually stay in those places for a few days, to get a taste of what life is like there. Try to act less like a tourist and more like a resident. Go to the post office, the grocery store. Take a walk or jog around the neighborhood at the same time of day when you normally would at home. Remember that while you may love it now you may not love it at the height of summer or the depths of winter. In my experience, it takes at least a full year to get to know a community, to understand the rhythms of the seasons. But most of us don’t have that much time for moving prep. So next…

4. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS –  Repeat after me – “there’s no perfect place.” Try not to succumb to tunnel vision and idealize a place through rose-colored glasses so much so that you forget to look at the big picture. You’re not going to turn into a different person just because you move into the house of your dreams. Wherever you go, there you are. We all have our criteria –  affordability, safety, access to shops and malls, proximity to job to lessen a commute, etc. The chances you’ll find a place that ticks off every single one of your boxes is slim to none. Not to sound cynical, but really, people, there’s no perfect place. Trust me on this one. You can move into a fabulous historic villa in Tuscany and find you have a bat problem. There’s no perfect place! You might move into that charming cottage by the lake you’ve dreamt of your whole life only to have your face eaten off by mosquitos every July. There’s no perfect place! You might purchase a house near the river only to have it swell and overflow its banks next year, causing you to evacuate. There’s no perfect place! You might move into that cute Hollywood bungalow only to have your neighbor across the street install a 10 foot “Putin 2020” sign across his garage door replete with blinking red lights. There’s no perfect place!

OK, so that about does it. I really can’t stress enough how much paring down household items will relieve the stress of the move and bring down the costs. But if you absolutely can’t bring yourself to cull, then may I suggest a storage unit?

 

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Downtown Los Angeles viewed from Torrance. Photo by A. La Canfora

Is the Internet Doing More Harm than Good?

I’m just old enough to have witnessed the rise of the internet, to watch as it engulfed our culture in every way.

It all started with electronic mail. Wow, you could just dial into your modem, and 11 minutes later after it noisily connected, you could compose a message to someone and click send. It was revolutionary, changed how everyone communicated seemingly overnight. Websites were primitive and slow to reveal themselves. Graphics were pixelated. You were lucky if photos would load on a webpage if your connection was buffering, which was common.

You all know the rest of this story. “We are already cyborgs,” Elon Musk was recently quoted as saying in an interview and it’s hard to argue with that. Unless you’re off-the-grid, you are internet-dependent. You most likely get your news, TV shows, music, movies, porn, shopping, bill-paying, socializing via the internet.

As the internet blossomed, we Gen Xr’s felt like we were privy to the dawn of a new era. The excitement was palpable. The internet was going to unify us, bring us altogether, some said. Make our vast world smaller as people 1000s of miles away could Skype you in real time.

I first logged on to the world wide web in 1999 and was instantly fascinated. I taught myself to code and created websites for myself and friends. Templates for website building had yet to become a thing so it was time-consuming but I didn’t mind.

More and more, I gradually immersed myself into cyberspace. As a music nerd and musician, I was in heaven when Napster came online. I would spend hours searching for and downloading mp3s (for my own listening pleasure. Please don’t bust me, feds!). I was a member of a few music discussion lists (for Captain Beefheart, Robyn Hitchcock and Dylan, primarily). In 2000, I founded an internet based band, the Learning Lovers Project. My bandmates lived all over the U.S. and the U.K. We would lay down a track, burn it to CD as a WAV file then mail it to the next in line, who would then add their track & so on.

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Angel La Canfora working on a track, circa 2000

Hell, I even met my 2nd husband online, through Facebook-prototype site, Friendster (I would divorce him 5 years later).

I’ve been wondering lately, though – has the internet reached a tipping point? We have been witnessing, in recent years, the darkness that the internet can bring, the ills it can cast on to society. Rather than unifying us, the internet seems to be doing the opposite. People choose sides, form groups and cliques and then war with each other via the You Tube comments section, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Governments employ hackers and trolls to disrupt other country’s elections, or to sway people against certain politicians or public figures or policies. As social media companies grow larger and hungrier for dollars, we look on in horror as our personal lives and information is mined and sold to the highest bidder. Memes, once the height of online silliness, have grown a sinister underbelly, can now sometimes include harmful messaging that targets the vulnerable, encouraging children and teens to abuse others or themselves. We watch videos of thieves stealing packages from porches, of terrible car accidents from dashcams or shaky footage of police brutality, all of these serving to undermine our sense of security. As the next generation comes of age with their faces buried in iPhones will real life social skills continue to erode?

If the internet isn’t healthy, can society be?

Dear American Teenagers. A Letter…

Dear American Teenagers,

It’s not supposed to be like this.
This is not normal.
You are supposed to be able to go to school, free of heavy cares, so that you can concentrate on learning and growing.
I can’t imagine what you must be thinking, how bewildered you must feel. How angry. How sad.
The government is letting you down – Republicans are afraid to stand up to the NRA, who lobby hard against gun control.
But the NRA line the pockets of the craven, spineless conservatives, who in turn throw up their hands and walk away from the issue.
These people have put power, profit and greed before your well-being.
I’m so sorry.
This is why it’s important that, once you come of age, you remember who is to blame for these shootings, these recurring, preventable tragedies.
One day soon you will be able to make your voice heard with a ballot.
You will be responsible for electing the nation’s leaders.
You’ll have to put your foot down, raise your voices loud, perhaps even take to the streets with signs and chants.
It’s looking like it’s going to be up to you to bring about change.
I’m so sorry for this heavy burden.
But know that millions of people, throughout the country and beyond, are behind you.
Are there for you.
It’s not supposed to be like this.
With love,
Angel La Canfora
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Funny, Isn’t It? A Poem…

How you endured drunk parents reeling
and a broken playground elbow.
A gas shortage, a drought.
Friends coming and going.
A living room apartment flood.
Then a house move or two or three.
You survived 1980’s Orange County.
Reebok shoes and shoulder pads,
John Hughes films and Duran Duran.
You went to college like a good girl.
Arrived on time for lectures
even when hungover.
You ate spinach salad
instead of pizza.
You quit cigarettes
to prolong your life.
You met a man
and fell in love.
You showered daily and exercised
on days when you didn’t want to.
You moved to London
and got married.
You returned to California
and divorced.
You said goodbye as you watched
your father die.
You survived car accidents
and bouts of flu,
thunderstorms
and sunburns,
a night in the hands
of a serial rapist.
You played guitar to
intoxicated crowds.
You danced at weddings,
volunteered for the Red Cross.
In Lost River, West Virginia,
yellow jackets stung your arm.
In Washington, D.C.,
you received a diagnosis.
In Big Bear you shivered through
a mountain blizzard.
In Vegas you throbbed from
the desert heat.
You worked your day job
until your nerves were frayed.
You quit and leapt state boundary
lines in search of a better life.
You got it, found peace
in coastal L.A.
Only to one day
find your very life threatened
by the careless, tossed-off
words of your country’s leader.
Funny, isn’t it?
-Angel La Canfora
  8/10/2017

How to Road Trip While Chronically Ill

I was asked how it is that with all my myriad medical issues that I’m able to venture out into nature solo on a regular basis and indulge in landscape photography. The short answer is planning! A longer, more detailed answer will follow below. But first, a little about my conditions. I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, type 3 – a rare, connective tissue disorder – along with secondary Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – which is a long-winded way of saying that my blood pressure sometimes takes a nose dive, causing heart palpitations, dizziness, etc – and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder commonly found in people with EDS and POTS.
Hopefully these road trips tips will be helpful for those with EDS or other chronic conditions. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you, so please use these tips to inspire and help you figure out what might work for you in your particular circumstance.

Before the Trip;

Research – The day before and day of, I check weather forecasts, make sure the trip is even worth my while. Landscape photographers like interesting weather – clouds, the aftermath of storms, etc. I consult sunrise/sunset charts so that I can time my visits to the hour, for the best light and to minimize having to expend precious energy by waiting around. I check and recheck road/traffic conditions, looking for the least stressful route, not necessarily the most direct one. For example, I’d rather go ten miles out of my way if it means not driving through downtown L.A. during rush hour. I familiarize myself with my route and destination if I’m not familiar with it already – I study maps, figure out what kind of conveniences are along the way, pinpoint rest stops and check out where the best views will be.

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At Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Angel La Canfora

Planning – Dealing with crowds or long lines is hard on me so I avoid tourist destinations such as national parks and landmarks on holidays. I prefer to shoot off-season photos anyway as they tend to be more interesting and dramatic. The day before departure, I fill up the gas tank, do laundry, take care of any errands so I don’t have to worry about it the day of the trip and tack on needless activities to my travel time.

Careful Packing – I bring items that will help me get through the day with as minimal pain as possible. Items such as;

  • Salty snacks and gallons of water to keep my blood pressure up.
  • An epi-pen in the event of anaphylactic shock.
  • A pillow for rest breaks.
  • Layers of clothing to accommodate abrupt weather changes.
  • Cash in the event I find myself at a truck stop whose CC reader is on the fritz – happens more often than you’d think!
  • 2 pairs of shoes, one for driving, one for hiking.
  • Common sense stuff everyone should have in their car when they head out into nature like a hat, a 1st aid kit, a flashlight, etc.

Day of Trip;

Pacing – Gently does it. At places like Lake Mead National Recreation Area or Joshua Tree National Park, I go on mini-hikes. I’ll park at a trail head, and walk for about 10-15 minutes round-trip. Back in the car, I take a quick break, then move on to the next trailhead. It may not sound like much but you’d be surprised at how much you can see in these short bursts!

Knowing my Limits – Most of my photo junkets are day trips, sometimes extending to two days but rarely more. Sustained physical activity is my enemy. I give myself plenty of time to reach my destination. If I don’t make it on time, if I get stuck in a traffic jam or experience car trouble or some other unforeseen issue, then que sera sera. I make the best of it and enjoy the journey, look for other stuff to see and do and keep my eyes peeled for photo opportunities.

I’ve been doing things this way now for the last 7 years and my success rate is high. I’ve luckily had very little go wrong over the years. When things have gone pear-shaped, most of the time it’s been due to my own carelessness, such as that time when I brushed up against a cholla cactus plant in Joshua Tree, puncturing my calf muscle in a half dozen places, and had to call it a day. <Shudder>

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Angel La Canfora at Joshua Tree National Park sans puncture wounds.

It all comes down to brains over brawn. Sure, I have chronic pain and an ever-present risk of complications but nature fills my soul, makes my life worth living. It’s worth it to me to put myself in harm’s way to be able see some breathtaking views and shoot photos that may one day wind up on magazine covers like this one in the spring issue of  Inlandia Journal.  Yet other photos may find their way into my Shutterstock portfolio .  I have to spend the following day after a road trip once back at home resting, engaging in as little physical activity as possible. So a one day road trip actually takes up 3 days all total. Which is why I don’t go too often. But once a month or so and I’m a happy gal!

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And while I have you on the line…

My desert photography and mosaics will be on display all month long in November at the Lost City Museum  in Overton, Nevada, located on the outskirts of Lake Mead. I’m very thrilled and honored to be exhibiting there, as it’s a historic museum in one of my most favorite places, the Mojave desert. Please swing by if you can!

 

My Mosaic History

In 2007, I was living in Charlottesville, Virginia and developed a hankering to explore a new artistic outlet of some kind. While walking through a Michael’s craft store, I spotted a DIY mosaic candle kit, purchased it, took it home, worked on it and was immediately hooked. Bells and whistles sounded in my brain. Ding ding ding! We had a winner!
I proceeded to buy books on how to mosaic and to amass different kinds of glass tiles. My first pieces done without a kit were clunky, awkward mirrors. Using handmade Italian glass called smalti, I made my 1st real fine art work, an image of a lighthouse. I found it impossible, backbreaking, exacting work. I got 3/4’s of the way through and felt so frustrated with it that I shelved it for 6 months and went back to working on mirrors. I told my then-husband that I thought it was bad and was going to chuck it, but he talked me into finishing it. So I completed it and wound up selling it a couple years later for around several hundred dollars. A vocation was born.
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My 1st fine art mosaic, “Pigeon Point Lighthouse.”
For the next 6 years, mosaic art became my main pursuit and passion. I enjoyed the glass; love lots of bold, exuberant color in my pieces.
In 2009 I began exhibiting around Charlottesville. During that time I went through a cordial divorce then moved back to my native SoCal in 2010. While living in my hometown of Huntington Beach, California, I continued pursuing mosaic art full-time. I exhibited in a number of art walks, street festivals, restaurants and in an exhibition at the Huntington Beach Art Center.
Finding the rent too darn high and wanting to stretch out my savings, I moved to the SoCal mountain town of Big Bear Lake, California the following year. I’d vacationed there many times over the course of my life and wanted to see if I had it in me to live there full-time, to be a real mountain woman. I leased a rustic, hundred-year old, 2 bedroom cabin on the outskirts of town and turned one of the rooms into a studio. There, at 7000 feet, I hoped the peace and quiet and idyllic surroundings would spur me on to artistic excellence. Instead, I crashed and burned. Gosh, but you wouldn’t believe how much work is involved in maintaining an old cabin in the woods, especially one with no garbage disposal, no central heating, no dishwasher, no washing machine, etc. From having to keep the fireplace going non-stop after the snows came to having to shovel it around the perimeter of the house to having to strain for breath at that altitude to schlepping laundry back and forth to the laundromat to blah blah blah…I had nothing left over to make art! And I was lonely. Many of the homes nearby me sat vacant most of the time, were vacation rentals, mainly occupied on weekends. Most shopkeepers in town lived “off the hill,” as they’d say, down in San Bernardino. Needless to say, I got very little done, mosaic-wise, in the year that I lived in Big Bear. I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t working out, I didn’t have what it took to be a mountain woman, at least not by myself in that old house. So I pulled up stakes and moved to Henderson, Nevada, to thaw out.
There in Henderson, I had a ridiculously ginormous walk-in closet, 1/ 2 of which I converted into a studio. I managed to pump out a few mosaics and get back into exhibiting for awhile. But something was wrong. I was feeling uninspired. My ideas had dried up. The work I was turning out was meh at best. I figured, “why fight it?” and got a full-time office job instead. I spent the next four years on mosaic hiatus, turning my artistic sights towards photographing the Nevada desert, publishing my poetry and performing the odd gig now and again in Las Vegas.
In June of 2016, personal circumstances forced me to leave lovely Nevada and move in with my mom in her house in Torrance, California. With her blessing, I converted the old pool room into a studio. Having a nice, big dedicated space in which to cut glass inspired me once again. I’d also inherited boxes and boxes of beautiful stained-glass from my late grandma, herself a stained-glass artist. Ideas started burbling up. The passion rekindled. I’m back in the mosaic game once again.
It’s important to me to love what I do. I feel that it shows in my work if the heart isn’t there. Art is about emotion. And if there’s no emotion there behind it, then it becomes disingenuous and lackluster. I’m not interested in phoning it in, in anything I do in my life.
You can see my work for yourself over at my Etsy shop or my Facebook fan page.
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“Blooms” Stained-glass mosaic by Angel La Canfora