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Landfill Harmonic

It’s much easier to become a musician, artist, mathematician or scientist if you have the tools to learn and the opportunities to excel. But what if you had neither of these necessities? What if you lacked the funds to buy a violin, the market to acquire a paint brush or the text book to learn science? Certainly, many people would quit despite their passions in music, or their deep seated love for science and math. But then there is that rare group of individuals who will not give up, individuals that despite their circumstances, pursue their dreams.
The Landfill- harmonic, an orchestra consisting entirely of recycled instruments, has exactly these kinds of individuals. Perhaps you can guess from the name of their orchestra where these musicians live- in a slum built on a growing landfill within the poverty-stricken city of Cateura, Paraguay. Their instruments are built out of the very same garbage they find in the landfill- empty oil cans, scraps of metal and tossed chunks of wood- anything and everything is fair game. You would be surprised to hear the deep melancholy tones coming from an oil can-cello, or the sweet melody of a scrap-metal violin. This recycled orchestra brings an entirely new meaning to the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The treasure they give back to the world through their music is undoubtedly much greater than the garbage they transformed.
The video below details the Landfill-Harmonic’s journey. At the very beginning they tell the audience “The world sends us garbage, we send back music.” Its’ simple message reveals the power of overcoming poverty through music. It proves being an artist isn’t so much a way of living as it is a way of thinking. These artists used what little they had, and transformed it into something beautiful. They saw the world for what it could be, rather than what it was. I think we should all be a little more like the Landfill-harmonic orchestra, through our creativity, resourcefulness and ability to come up with solutions- no matter how desperate the situation. They inspire me to see the world through a clearer set of lenses.

The Starling Ballet

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Nature is the most fundamental and bare form of art. It doesn’t need paint or canvas, pencil or paper- it simply is.  Photographer Alaine Delorme was able to capture a fleeting beauty of nature in his stunning Starling photographs. Each year in Europe around February or March, the Starlings come together is breathtaking displays, blanketing the sky in clouds of flapping wings and motion. These flock called murmurations are a ballet of constant motion as the flock dives and dips in perfect synchronization.  The flocks can range anywhere from 100 to thousands of birds.

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The dancing starlings are, beyond a doubt, the performers of the skies. Often times it’s easy to forget that even animals can be incredible artists. Their mesmerizing displays have inspired countless of poems, such as Mary Oliver’s “Starlings in Winter”:

“They are acrobats in the freezing wind. And now, in the theater of air, they swing over buildings, dipping and rising; they float like one stippled star that opens, becomes for a moment fragmented, then closes again…”

Here is a beautiful video of the starlings’ murmurations:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eakKfY5aHmY

Mary Oliver describes the starlings as acrobats, pulsing through the atmosphere like stars- and they truly are.  But what amazes me most about the starlings is their ability to move as one; thousands of birds coming together in a startling entity of life and sound.  I think it’s important to appreciate these wonders of nature, as fleeting as they are. Ultimately, they remind us to recognize beauty in the simplest of things.

Here is the link to Mary Oliver’s entire poem: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2009/12/08

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To think, or not to think, that is the question.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
-William Shakespeare, Hamlet

I’ve read Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet and Othello- but none of these have ever come close to my new found love for Hamlet. Maybe it’s because I can relate to the ill-fated protagonist, Prince Hamlet, who no one seems to understand. While I can’t say I’ve had a close encounter with my father’s ghost, and plan to enact revenge on a murderous uncle, there are still certain parallels between our personalities. Just like Hamlet, I think too much. Decision making is a lengthy process for me, as it is for Hamlet, because I consider every option, as well as their benefits or consequences. I am that hopeless daydreamer who will occasionally zone out in conversation because I noticed a tree that has striking red and gold leaves. Of course, as seen in Hamlet, over thinking has its disadvantages. Sometimes taking action is a much better route to success, especially if you’re plotting murder. But in the end, I think it’s good to practice a healthy mix of both introspection and action. After all, rash and hasty decisions will not get you very far either.

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As an artist, my greatest challenge is overcoming the blank canvas. There are so many options for a new piece of artwork how can I possibly choose just one? Like Hamlet, I struggle everyday with my inner critic/philosopher. By thinking about everything, sometimes I fail to accomplish anything at all. By utilizing that healthy mix- the sweet spot between an idea and making the idea a reality- I succeed in creating a great piece of artwork.

 

 

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Make the World your Canvas

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Behold a new and innovative form of art work created by Alexa Meade, an artist who seems to have a knack for turning the real world into a 2-D painting. What appears to be an oil painting to the naked eye, is actually a 3-D model painted to look like a 2 dimensional surface. That’s right, she paints portraits of people on the actual people- the ultimate optical allusion.

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Perhaps the most captivating part about this artwork is that its core foundations are regular people and simple, everyday objects. The world is literally this artist’s canvas as she transforms the concrete into the abstract. And though the artwork is designed to transform the 3 dimensional into the 2 dimensional, the pieces seem to have a life of their own- as the vivid colors, deep shadows and over-exaggerated highlights come together into a way that mimics motion.

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This new form of art undoubtedly proves things are not always as they seem- and the platform for creativity is much broader than we realize.  I think Shakespeare put it best when he said “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” In other words, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and be a little crazy.  As long as there is a method to your madness, you are on the right track. This artist realized she didn’t need to use typical tools to create beautiful artwork, her canvas became the people and world around her.

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For more on Alexa Mead visit these sites:

http://alexameade.com/artwork/

http://www.visualnews.com/2013/10/21/alexa-meade-mini-cooper/

College Applications: Sailing Towards Uncertainty

A shout out to all high school seniors: the college application season is upon us. It loomed over our heads all through summer, stood breathing on our necks as September 1st came about, and now it has all but swallowed us whole, drowning us as wave after wave crashes over our dilapidated bodies.  At least that’s how college applications have felt for me- as though I am sinking amidst a sea of deadlines, letters of recommendation and personal statements.

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I suppose the college applications themselves are not completely blame, but rather the height of the pedestal we put them on, as they fly higher and higher into the atmosphere, further and further from our reach. We are certain that the gap between our dreams now and what they will actually become is dependent on that perfectly crafted college essay- that pristinely molded resume. And of course, there is the pressure of choosing the perfect university, the one that will bring you equal amounts of  prestige, academic challenge, and social freedom, the campus that will be so perfect you won’t mind wallowing in decades of student loans for it.

More and more, I find myself asking the question why?

Why do we define our own success by the number of acceptance letters we receive? Is it because society has told us that success only comes with a name brand college degree?  Or is it because we have spent so long preparing for this moment, acing those SATs, volunteering at that hospital, taking part in those countless extracurricular activities- that we feel all the meaning in our lives has simmered down to this decision, this moment?

And why am I filled with a tangible dread every time I sit down to write a college essay? And what if I don’t possess that one trait that makes me unique, special, genuine, interesting- that makes me stand out amongst so many applicants? How can I possibly condense who I am, all of the indescribable moments and nuances that make me myself, into a 650 word essay?

Dr. Seuss once said “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Well I seem to have a lot of complicated questions, with no definite answers- let alone simple ones. Maybe I am looking too closely, looking at the world through a closed lens rather than an open one.  Maybe I’m not looking close enough. But I think we are all propelled by this uncertainty, in its best and worst forms. We all have doubt- maybe it’s good and maybe it’s bad but it pushes us to ask the tough questions.  Perhaps if we come together and pool our resources we will find something, we will ask more questions, we will find more answers.  Through it all, maybe we will stop being crushed by these waves of uncertainty as they crash over us and capsize our sinking ship.  Maybe one day we will find ourselves on calm waters, sailing towards our beautiful, unknown destination.

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Thinking like a Child

Have you ever stumbled across a hidden pocket of the universe? As a kid, I felt as though I was discovering them all the time. A blanket would become an elaborate fort, or castle, where I would reign over my kingdom.  A cannonball into the swimming pool would become an underwater adventure with mermaids. A glimmer of sunlight through the trees was the tooth fairy, coming to pay me a visit. The entire world was my play ground- beautiful, unpredictable and without limits.

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I guess you could say I was a pretty imaginative kid. But as I got older, this boundless perception of the world soon began to shrink.  As I spent more time in school, and less time on the playground, I realized the world wasn’t exactly what I thought it was.  I was the girl who took lessons in everything -from musical theatre to baseball.   Some things stuck while others faded into the background, but through it all I discovered that with age came more responsibilities- and the price you paid was time.

When I entered high school my world shrunk even more. My “To do” list was filled with a varsity sport, AP classes, piano lessons and maybe a couple hours a week for a social life. I found I didn’t have as much time to do the things I loved- like art or spending time with my family and I certainly didn’t have enough time to be creative.  I suppose this is the point I am trying to make. As children, our worlds are limitless; and as a result children have this incredible capacity for creation and innovation. They do not think in terms of what they have to do, they simply act on impulses of innate creativity. As a child, I probably spent 50% or more of my time on imaginary play.

I would argue that some of the most creative adults out there possess some of this raw, childlike imagination. Their abilities do not stem from genetics, or an innate sense of creativity- it starts in the way they choose to structure their lives. I believe that when you strip away the routines, the crippling “To-do lists” and the hours spent worrying – you can begin to step out of the confines of your self-made jail cell.  Then maybe one day, you will happen upon those hidden pockets of universe you misplaced all those years ago, the treasures you buried beneath work, tests and routines. We need to strive for some of that fearlessness and spontaneity we lost- and rediscover the inner child in all of us.

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