Featured Artist Spotlight: Courtney Phi


An expert in paint, pen, word, and stitch, Courtney Phi has been covered in art from her young days. She has been painting and drawing for as long as she can remember, with differing degrees of facility. Her mother provided a creative foundation for Courtney in their home as she took on various art projects, sewed, and drew her daughter into her sphere of creativity. Supportive of Courtney’s talent and passion, her parents placed her in an arts magnet school when she was a young girl, where she was exposed to art history and technique from an early age.

Now a proficient artist across  many mediums, Courtney Phi is constantly reaching for new heights, new pursuits, new projects, new avenues for her creativity – whether it be fashion, writing, medieval dancing or cooking, or painting. Courtney Pritchard is also one of the most perceptive people I have ever met and it shows in her art, her ability to see beyond the lines she is currently drawing or painting, to see what comes next. She is also perseverant, keeping at her work until she gets it right. These are not only traits of a highly-creative mind but of a highly-determined, wonderful-hearted person. Her creativity has been an inspiration and muse to me on several occasions, just as she has as a friend.

Courtney Phi Art Facebook Page

Courtney Phi’s Patreon Page – Come support the beauty!

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Art is property of Courtney Phi. Prints available at her Etsy Store: Sycamore Grove Designs

 

Succumbing to the Beat


So. It has finally happened. I have succumbed to the beat. I have been enthralled by the story lived out in music. I have been captured by history dusted off, shined up, and with new life breathed into it.

Yes, I am talking about Hamilton. After seeing the company’s performance at this year’s Tony Awards, I am officially a Hamilton fan. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music is amazing and has swayed even my heart, which has never really been drawn to hip-hop as a first choice. I have listened to the soundtrack in bits and pieces, thanks to Pandora, and I have just finished on my first full run-through of the cast recording as I post this.

I must admit that I am drawn hard to the story/triangle of Alexander Hamilton, his wife Eliza Schuyler, and her

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Left to right – Renee Elise Goldsberry: Angelica Schuyler, Lin-Manuel Miranda: Alexander Hamilton, Christopher Jackson: George Washington, and Philippa Soo: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. Photo credit: Tyranny of Style

elder sister Angelica. The ladies’ main songs: “The Schuyler Sisters”, “Helpless”, “Satisfied”, “Take a Break”, and “Burn” tell a story of hardships and the pulls between head and heart, the decisions that are so difficult to make but that we make because we think them the best ones for our families, and even the selfishness of human emotion and ambition and its effects on those we love. Angelica’s introduction of Hamilton to Eliza–who is previously established as struck “helpless” by the familyless, penniless revolutionary–not only kept Angelica free, as the eldest, to seek her fortune through marriage but, as she points out, “At least I keep his eyes in my life.” But the drama doesn’t end there, believe me. Human lives are never devoid of such, after all. Act II will break your heart, by the by. I’m talking tears and tissues, people. As a friend recommended, don’t be driving (or really doing anything else) while you’re listening to Act II. Act I will make you dance. Act II will bring all the feels, break your heart, melt it back together, and shatter it all over again.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s excellent song sets, lyrics, and composition beautifully tell this story of a “young, scrappy, and hungry” revolutionary and his contemporaries but also paint him as an ambitious and very flawed man. Eager to rise up from his obscure, tragic beginnings and make a mark upon the world, Hamilton takes his shot, often making his said shot, but also makes mistakes–grievous, damaging mistakes–as well as powerful moves in the development of this newborn country and has to live with the consequences of those mistakes, moves, and decisions, both in his professional life as well as his private one. Miranda has a way of writing conversational lyrics that flow almost like honey. Not thick or cumbersome but well-formed, belonging together, and intentional. They also beat and burst through your chest with anger, fire, frustration, passion, determination, courage, fear, and defeat. Every emotion on the spectrum is touched on and poured out in the cast’s voices and performance as they wend their way through Hamilton’s story and those of the lives of those he touched. As he lives and dies and they tell his story.

I am thoroughly enthralled, happily seduced by a new (old) story soaring in a tornado of music. I am so excited that people, especially young adults and children, are becoming so passionate about this show and the history that it represents and presents, as well as the

 

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Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator, portraying the titular character in Hamilton.

ceilings and barriers that it shatters in encouraging young actors and actresses to pursue whatever parts their hearts lead them to. I can only hope that I will have the privilege of seeing this fantastic show in person on its tour some day soon.

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me. *puts my earbuds in and presses PLAY*

Moments of Glory


I felt the glorious tonight, and I realized something. There are few times that I feel more sensual, more alluring, more glorious than when I am being slow and slinky in belly dance. When I am being deliberate and controlled, powerful and serpentine, particularly with snake arms. There’s a power in the movement, as well as a power in the one performing it. There is a strength, endurance, and control that the movement requires to be flowing and mesmerizing. There is also a feeling that goes with it, a confidence, a fierceness. I saw it in the raising of my chin, the tilt of my head, the deep, warm light in my eyes (I even had a thought that they could rival Anne Boleyn’s famed “dark hooks for the soul”), and the curve of my lips. It started without, curled and coiled within, and then flowed outward again, suffusing my body, mind, and soul.

It’s been a long while since I danced. Almost a year. Being back in boot camp class–conditioning, drilling, practicing, perfecting–reminds me of the beauty, strength, and the power that I found in the dance. And in myself as I did it. As my calves are so poignantly reminding me after Egyptian “choo-choo” shimmy drills, this dance, like any other, takes power. It takes strong muscles for control and precision in the movements, as well as developed endurance and stamina to make it through open dances and choreography without dropping to the floor. And even though performing really isn’t my thing anymore, I still love the dance. I love the drills, I love the conditioning, I love learning to move my body in new, prepossessing ways. In ways that make me feel beautiful, charming, captivating, mesmerizing (our goal-word when I first started dancing).

I felt the glorious tonight, and I’m holding on to that sublimity.

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Muncie Gras 2010. Photography by Rachel Penticuff.

 

Encouragement for Sunday Night


OK, LOVES! It’s Sunday night. Monday is on deck, another week ready and raring to go. Sunday nights can be dark nights sometimes and rather trepidatious. So: that is why I am here. If, tonight, you are feeling a bit unsteady, I want to remind you of a few things:

You are strong.
You are beautiful.
You are intelligent.
You are loved.
You are enough.
You can do this.

If you feel like you could use a bit more of a pick-me-up–words spoken just for and to you–I’m more than happy to try my best to do that. Feel free to comment below. I would love to encourage you, love on you, and, if you will let me or would like, to pray for you over whatever this week and your life hold for you.

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Once a Lost Girl…


Ruth B’s single “Lost Boy” has been moving quite fluidly across the airwaves of late,  sung in her dreamy, soulful voice, though I first heard it when a friend of mine shared a YouTube video of the song to my Facebook page, saying that it reminded them of me. I take that as quite a compliment, personally. The first half of the song goes like this:

There was a time when I was alone
Nowhere to go and no place to call home
My only friend was the man in the moon
And even sometimes he would go away, too

Then one night, as I closed my eyes
I saw a shadow flying high
He came to me with the sweetest smile
Told me he wanted to talk for a while
He said, “Peter Pan, that’s what they call me
I promise that you’ll never be lonely, ” and ever since that day

I am a lost boy from Neverland
Usually hanging out with Peter Pan
And when we’re bored we play in the woods
Always on the run from Captain Hook
“Run, run, lost boy, ” they say to me
Away from all of reality

When I was a child, the first storybook character I fell in love with (yes, I believe that I loved him with all my little-girl heart) was Peter Pan. I had a beautifully illustrated storybook, a book on tape, loved the Disney movie (was so jealous that Tiger Lily got to “kiss” Peter), watched the “Peter Pan and the Pirates” television series on Fox in the mornings before school, had my blue “Wendy” nightdress, and had the Mary Martin production of Peter Pan memorized (still sing “Once Upon a Time” and “I Won’t Grow Up”). It’s safe to say that I was a bit obsessed with Peter Pan and all the characters therein.

When I was a child, I didn’t have many friends. I was small, skinny, awkward, studious, always with my nose in a book. Not many people wanted to associate with that, particularly in the first half of middle school. So I turned to my books and movies (which were mostly based on books), to the characters held within them who had ever been steadfast friends. I was a Lost Girl in truth. I could sink myself into those stories, let the characters pull me along to join them on their adventures, and live a thousand lives that I would never have in the real world. I was happy as a Lost Girl, in Never Land. I was happy with the dream of Peter (who, interestingly, has continued to grow as I have grown) coming to my window, taking my hand with that handsome, sweet grin, and flying me off to somewhere where I could be more than what I was. Where I could be a Lost Girl, not just little Melissa. Where I could talk with mermaids, fly with fairies, fight pirates, and dance with Tiger Lily.

Where I could be someone else. More than what I was.

Even now, I am still a Lost Girl. I still run off with these characters and dive into their stories, their ranks having swelled over the thirty-some years of my life. Dear friends and new, they make me happy to be a Lost Girl. In fact, there are two new books on my table, two new shedloads of characters just waiting to take me on their adventures and share with me their realities.

As a matter of fact…I think that’s a tap on my window. Excuse me.

 

 

Grieving for Reality


Tonight, as I turned off “Mr. Selfridge”, I felt tears burn hot at the backs of my eyes and I fought a brief battle that I finally allowed myself to lose. I covered my face with my hands and just sobbed for a minute or two. But I wasn’t just crying. I was weeping. I was grieving.

I must note that what I am about to describe has definite trigger warnings attached to it.

The end of the episode depicted Kitty Edwards, head of the beauty department at Selfridge’s, heading home after work. As she did, she passed a few ex-soldiers returned from WWI, one of whom asked for a penny. She shook her head and didn’t stop walking. Then he called her a bitch, which stopped her in her tracks. He accused her of spending her money on fripperies and yet couldn’t spare a penny for a man who had fought for King and country. She informed him that she hadn’t been shopping, she’d been working. He told her that he’d seen plenty of “working girls” during the war making good money “lying flat on their backs”. She spat back that she was head of department, that she sold lip color and rouge, had just worked a fourteen-hour day, and it was no wonder that he and his lot couldn’t find jobs. Several of the men converged on her and the one speaking to her grabbed for her. She fought back and hit him. Enraged, he struck her so hard that her face bounced off the wall of a nearby building. He then instructed one of the men to “keep watch” while he proceeded to cover Kitty’s mouth and assault her. Thankfully, Harry Selfridge was just leaving the building, heard her muffled screams, and ran over, shoving the men away and shouting for the police before the man could rape her.

Perhaps I had a surge of hormones, perhaps I am getting more emotional in my deepening thirties, or maybe it’s because, deep down, there is a visceral fear, a despicable truth, and terrifying reality attached to this depiction.

I have been extremely fortunate in my life to have never been verbally or physically assaulted. However, I have had friends who were. I have had extended family members to have been assaulters and, thankfully, gotten the punishment they deserved for it. The truth of rape/assault culture and its prevalence is not hidden from me. And scenes like this hit me hard with that reminder.

I wasn’t allowed to walk home from youth group as a teenager, on the same street that I had grown up on, because it was considered too dangerous for me to be out alone at night.

I remember a year in college when my guy friends wouldn’t let me or any of my girlfriends walk anywhere on campus alone after sunset after we had four safety alerts for assaults posted in four weeks. I remember resenting it. Not my friends’ insistence on escorting us but that my freedom to walk our beautiful campus was curtailed and we were given reason to fear and worry.

There have been events that probably would have been great fun but that I declined because it would have meant that I would have been walking back to my car late at night in unfamiliar territory.

For years, I refused to buy a winter coat with a hood because a hood meant that I couldn’t use my peripheral vision to see who was coming up behind me.

My doors have always had and will always have the deadbolt shot.

My keys are always in my hand when I move through a parking lot alone at night, and I immediately lock the doors again the minute I’m in the car.

I don’t get catcalled much anymore but, the times that I did, I would ignore it and increase my walking pace. I’m a small woman so slipping through and losing myself in a crowd was a well-honed talent.

I hate that I have had to do this. I hate that I will teach my daughter to do this as well. I hate that her father and I will worry about her when she’s away from home and regard strangers with at least a modicum of suspicion at first.

All of this, including my tears at a television show, is because I acknowledge the reality of rape/assault culture and the deep wounds that it has inflicted and continues to cut into our society every day. I weep for it, I grieve it. Like all women, however, I continue to live it every day. When, in order to be true to life, even art must depict it, how can you deny the reality of its truth?