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I wanted to save these until after yesterday’s anniversary of the Granite Mountain Hotshots’ death, but several interviews and online posts all went live during the last week.  It felt disrespectful to the Hotshots to interrupt their week of honor, so I’m just posting them now.

So, in no particular order…

Millennial Magazine Self Portrait of the Week Feature

Guest Post 2 of 2 for Robin McKinley’s blog

And lastly, a very in-depth interview with Ezra Magazine!

 

Thank you to all of these people and sites for having me!  Hope you guys enjoy reading them 🙂

In The Lilac Wood

In The Lilac Wood

 

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Just a quick note to let you guys know about the lovely interview with me that LensPeople just posted!  I have been very impressed with LensPeople’s genuine passion for photography, which translated into an especially interesting, in-depth interview for me to do!

Check it out!

LensPeople Interview

LensPeople Interview

Many thanks to LensPeople for coming up with such interesting questions for me!  🙂

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My dear friend and frequent collaborator Katie Johnson has recently started a new video series which profiles the artists she works with frequently.  I was honored to be featured in the first of her videos!  She put a great piece together which includes an interview with me and lots of behind-the-scenes peeks into how we work.

Take a look!

I often think of lines from the song the princess sings in Peter S. Beagle’s legendary work The Last Unicorn:

Oh, I am a king’s daughter
And I grow old within
The prison of my person
The shackles of my skin

And I would run away
And beg from door to door
Just to see your shadow
Just once and nevermore

The prison of my person, the shackles of my skin” perfectly describes how I feel about my physical body most days.  Though I doubt Mr. Beagle had ME in mind when he wrote it, it resonates so strongly with me.  And I’m sure people with other chronic illnesses will be able to identify with it; it’s a pretty universal problem across the chronically ill spectrum.

Feeling so trapped has always made me instantly know something of what Amalthea felt at finding herself in human form.  I imagine it was even harder for her though.  The disharmony we chronically ill feel with our body was something I’d wanted to express in my Enchanted Sleep series for quite a while and I was glad to finally bring the image to life!

There’s something more visceral about images than you often can’t replicate with words.  Words are powerful, they can build and tear down mountains, but the visual world offers the same information in a different form.  One that, if used well, can strike like a snake and bring instantaneous understanding.  That’s my hope with this series; to illustrate the life of a person with myalgic encephalomyelitis in a way that reaches where words cannot.

I will admit… I’d beg from door to door just to catch a glimpse of a unicorn’s shadow too 🙂

Here’s a look at the final image from our shoot:

Inside Looking Out

Inside Looking Out

And a detail shot:

Inside Looking Out - detail

Inside Looking Out – detail

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Does anyone recognize what movie this blog’s title is from?  A+ to you if you do!

You guys all know about the cross-country screening tour that Peter S. Beagle, his publisher Connor Cochran and a beautifully new, restored version of the 1982 animated classic The Last Unicorn have been on, right?  Where you can see the film huge, in  movie theater, which, if you’re like me, you’d previously never had the chance to do before.  And it’s not merely a screening of the movie, although that would be wonderful enough.  The whole evening is an event, with Q&A sessions with Peter, prizes, costume contests, and Peter stays for hours and hours after each show to sign books and take photos with every single person who would like to do so.  You may remember that I was at their screening in Long Beach last August, when Connor introduced me and my work to Peter’s fans.  I also had the chance, while they were in town, to “borrow” Peter for a couple hours and turn him into DreamWorld’s King; an incredible honor, and something that I will remember for the entire rest of my life.

Aerie - Peter as the DreamWorld King.

Aerie: Peter as the DreamWorld King – one of the five pieces on display at the Modern Fantasy Summit.

And you guys also remember how I’m now contracted with Connor’s publishing company, Conlan Press, right?  There’s a ton of stuff in the works with them that I don’t want to talk about quite yet, except to say that it will be very exciting 🙂  What is very safe to say for now is that the owners of the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Peter was going to be screening on January 25th decided to really up the ante at this show.  Not only will you get all the amazing things that happen at every event, but George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones books, will be there as well.  George R.R. Martin and Peter will be interviewing each other live on stage!  It will be spectacular.

And, as if that weren’t enough, the Jean Cocteau Cinema people decided they needed to have a unicorn fine art show as well 🙂

This Dying Body - one of the five pieces on display at the Modern Fantasy Summit.

This Dying Body – one of the five pieces on display at the Modern Fantasy Summit.

A few days ago, I got a call from Connor asking how quickly I could get prints made from some of my The Last Unicorn-inspired pieces.  Thanks to Lauren, my go-to girl at POV Printing, I was able to get a rush order in and she printed off five huge, gorgeous pieces of my work.  They’re traveling with Peter, Connor and their assistant/wrangler Cat through Arizona and into New Mexico and will be beautifully displayed and for sale at the show!

I really have to take just a moment to say what amazing work POV does.  Every single thing I’ve ever had them print has turned out unbelievably gorgeously.  They use archival inks and thick, museum-quality paper, almost like a watercolor paper.  These are not flimsy, cheap prints.  The work they put into each and every print they make elevates it to another level.  I am so glad to have found them!

To Be So Full - one of the five pieces on display at the Modern Fantasy Summit.

To Be So Full – one of the five pieces on display at the Modern Fantasy Summit.

So if you are at all in the area, I would strongly recommend getting tickets for the Modern Fantasy Summit!  The tickets will get you in to see The Last Unicorn movie, experience two of the greatest fantasy writers interview each other, all the usual perks of a screening, as well as getting to see the art show, featuring my work along with other artists’… which you can also purchase and take home with you 🙂

Now Has Come The Time For Silence - one of the five pieces on display at the Modern Fantasy Summit.

Now Has Come The Time For Silence – one of the five pieces on display at the Modern Fantasy Summit.

I wish I were a little closer myself so I could go to this once-in-a-lifetime event!  Traveling with ME is always a challenge, and I’m still recovering a little from traveling over Christmas, otherwise I’d drop everything and chase after Peter and Connor like Molly Grue after Robin Hood.  If you go, please take some photos and let me know what you thought!  And to satisfy my vanity, I would love it if someone could snap a few photos of my pieces up in the gallery 🙂

I hope you guys can go and let me live vicariously through you!  Thanks to all who turn out!

In The Lilac Wood - one of the five pieces on display at the Modern Fantasy Summit.

In The Lilac Wood – one of the five pieces on display at the Modern Fantasy Summit.

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It’s that time of year when everyone with a blog is required to take a look at the previous year and take stock.  I like this tradition.  It gives you a sense of accomplishment for the things you’ve done and also brings to mind what still needs attention.

So what happened in 2013?  So much!

I signed a contract with Conlan Press, Peter S. Beagle’s publisher.  This has already brought some very exciting things about, and there are many, many more to come!

In The Lilac Wood

In The Lilac Wood

I created what I consider the first “real” DreamWorld piece.  By “real” I mean a full-fledged character was brought to life with costumes and props which took months to create and inventing new ways to bring about my vision on a shoe-string budget.  The inclusion of birds would also prove to be a frequently occurring theme in DreamWorld.

The Court Of The Dryad Queen

The Court Of The Dryad Queen

I got to photograph Lauren Cohen, aka Maggie from AMC’s The Walking Dead.  The image also kicked off a sub-series of DreamWorld portraying the various steps along the Hero’s Journey.

Crossing The First Threshold

Crossing The First Threshold

I also got to photograph Paul Telfer, known for his roles in NCIS, The Vampire Diaries and other roles that require buff-and-handsome men.  He perfectly portrayed the angelic kind of being you would want watching over you while you sleep.

Prayer For The Frail

Prayer For The Frail

This year also brought about a new, ongoing collaboration and friendship with actor/model Katie Johnson.  I could write an entire post about how wonderful it’s been to have Katie in my life, both for artistic reasons and personal ones.  I will leave it at two main points; that she is a spectacular model, equally skilled at following specific, minute directions as well as being let loose while I just try and keep up with her.  Her friendship, strength and grace have been a great boon this year, especially during some notable rough patches.  Thank you, Katie 🙂

Perennial Parasol

Perennial Parasol

One of those notable rough patches was learning about the tragic deaths of the 19 Hotshot firemen in Yarnell, Arizona this summer, and that one of them had been a childhood friend of mine.

To The Lost

To The Lost

In a somewhat similar vein, I took my passion for animal rights to a new level after watching the documentary Blackfish.  This also meant that I finally tackled underwater photography, which I’d been quite nervous about trying.

Concrete Cell

Concrete Cell

I wrote an open letter to Jack Hanna criticizing his continued support of SeaWorld after the Blackfish allegations, which became quite successful and even garnered the attention of celebrities such as British actor Stephen Fry.

Stephen Fry Tweet

Stephen Fry Tweet

Like DreamWorld, the set of Blackfish photos has set in motion a more all-encompassing series addressing animal rights in other areas.  More of that will come in 2014!

A Drop Of Blood

A Drop Of Blood

In championing human causes, I got to be a part of the Kickstarter campaign for the documentary Canary In A Coal Mine, in production, about myalgic encephalomyelitis, aka ME, previously known in the United States as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/CFS.  The Kickstarter was an INCREDIBLE success, and we can look forward to seeing the film in late 2014 or early 2015!  I’m proud to have been a small part of the movement.  I also got to work a little more on my series on living with ME with the help of model/friend Aly Darling.

Martyrs To A Name

Martyrs To A Name

I visited a sheep farm to take photos of lambs and goats along with friends Katie and Brooke Shaden, to create a very personal portrait of my grandmother.  This particular lamb was appropriately named Too Cute 🙂

The Shepherdess

The Shepherdess

I had the pleasure of being interviewed on The Candid Frame, The Altadena Blog, and having some of my photos appear in the self-portrait how-to book, Shooting Yourself, by Haje Jan Kamps.

SP book all pages

I “celebrated” my 5-year anniversary with ME.  I’ve tried many new therapies this year to combat the ME, but with the exception of ART massage, it has gotten slowly worse and finally forced me to quit my day job.  In some ways this is a good thing, as my day job was doing my body no good at all, and it also means now I can concentrate fulltime on art.  But it’s also a bit frightening; will the ME get a little worse every year?  Will it level off now that I’m not pushing it trying to hold down a job?  There are many unknowns, which can be worse than knowing something bad will happen.  I try and keep a good attitude about things, but it’s also no good trying to simply ignore your fears.  They won’t go away, they’ll simply grow in the dark.

Vanity's Murder

Vanity’s Murder

This TED Talk sums up my fears, hopes and trials beautifully, and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone, especially any who struggle with depression.

I am still mourning Richard Harrow’s death (this was my light-hearted way of dealing with it) and I’m working on a photo to help work through those feelings.

On a happier note, I got to save a litter of opossum babies and was deeply moved by a beautiful new book.

But perhaps very best of all was getting to photograph author Peter S. Beagle, of The Last Unicorn fame, and bring him into DreamWorld as its King.  It was such a tremendous amount of work, but that just makes the resulting photos that much more meaningful.

Beloved Of The Crown

Beloved Of The Crown

A year ago, I never would have thought I’d find myself not only merely talking to Peter, but actually interacting with him, making a costume for him, and casting him as one of the most important characters of DreamWorld.

Aerie

Aerie

If that all happened in 2013, what will 2014 bring?  I am very excited to find out!

Christmas Eve

Here’s to a great new year!

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AN OPEN LETTER TO JACK HANNA

Dear Mr. Hanna,

The great empathy I have toward animals today I owe, in part, to you.

I grew up watching your animal shows.  They delighted and educated me, giving me insights into wondrous creatures I would not have access to otherwise.  I believe you deeply and sincerely care about all wildlife and would never knowingly support animal cruelty in any form.

So, seeing you in interview after interview defending SeaWorld in light of the revelations in CNN’s recent documentary BLACKFISH both boggles my mind and breaks my heart.

You have done so much in support of conservation and animal rights…advocating for humane conditions for factory animals, championing the idea that wild animals should be left wild and just generally bringing people a better understanding of the animal world…so I am at an utter loss to explain how you can justify and defend SeaWorld’s tactics and practices.

The orca Tilikum languishes alone every day and night in a tank equivalent to the size of a bathtub to you.  The victim of terrible abuse, he bobs motionless, having retreated as far back into his mind as he can, as that is the only option he has.

Tilikum Languishing, photo by  Colleen Gorman, via The Orca Project .  Click on the photo to read about her documentation of Tilikum’s miserable existence.

You know enough about animals — and humans, for that matter — to read this body language.  He is miserable.  And his actions which forced his solitary confinement are not only understandable, they are the direct result of the unconscionable practices of SeaWorld.

How can you defend SeaWorld when you know it began its collection of orcas by physically ripping calves away from their screaming mothers?  Mothers who could only watch the nightmare unfold before them, powerless to stop it.

How do you justify this kidnapping and cruelty for the sole purpose of building an amusement park?  Especially when you KNOW orca whale pods are matriarchal and that, in the wild, the males never leave their mothers.

These are such emotionally complex animals.  Study after study shows they demonstrate not only the use of language, but actual sentience.  You cannot reasonably expect such an intelligent, social animal to thrive in forced captivity away from its natural family structure.  And why should he have to?  For profit?

Any human enduring decades of similar physical and emotional torture would not be well-adjusted.  So it is no surprise Tilikum reacted as he did to his repeated abuse.  Given his complete isolation now, unenriched without so much as one other companion, human interaction or even a single toy, his life can only be one endless, meaningless misery.

You said in a recent interview with CNN that your motto is “touch the heart to teach the mind.”  And you said that is what SeaWorld does.  But that isn’t true.  Organizations like Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherds do a huge amount of touching hearts and teaching minds without kidnapping a single wild animal and forcing it to perform for our amusement.

You also mentioned that animals which are “out of sight are out of mind.”  That is true.  And that is where animal sanctuaries come in.  True sanctuaries — places for animals too injured to live in the wild, born in captivity, or otherwise unsuited for life in the wild — are invaluable, and indeed do “touch the heart to teach the mind,” while allowing animals to maintain their dignity and their sanity.

I recently visited a wolf sanctuary where all the wolves had been born in captivity.  They were given huge enclosures, always paired with several other wolves they got along with and lived very happy, enriched lives.  I have adored wolves since I was a young child.  Yet seeing them in person in this environment not only taught me new things about them, it gave me an even deeper appreciation for them… accomplished entirely without capturing any wild animals, destroying any families or forcing the animals to perform in any way.

In another part of your interview, you seemed unsure of what “happy” means in regards to whales at SeaWorld…as if “happy” is a mystical, unknowable state.  Well, if you cannot define “happy,” I can define “unhappy.”

Whales covered in scars from being attacked after they have been forced into cramped enclosures with strange whales from outside their families…they are unhappy.

Whales with flopping dorsal fins from an unbalanced diet…they are unhappy.

Whales who have their teeth drilled out by hand without any anesthetic…they are unhappy.

Whales forced to perform just to survive…they are unhappy.

“Whatever happy is,” you said.  If these whales were your children or grandchildren, would you be satisfied with your failure to define “happy?”

Perhaps the only happiness in this situation is that death finds SeaWorld’s whales much earlier than their wild counterparts.  Wild orcas can live for a hundred years.  SeaWorld’s whales die many, many decades sooner.  And given the conditions they must endure, I do not doubt they are glad to receive that early release.

Mr. Hanna, you know these whales are intelligent and emotional.  You know they are mistreated and miserable.  You know that they have never harmed a human in the wild.  And you know this is not conservation…it is capitalism.

Please restore my faith in you and all that you have taught me through the years.

Please do the right thing and stop defending this blatant, horrific abuse.

Sincerely,
Sarah Allegra

Orca

Orca – an old photo of mine, but one which suited this blog perfectly.

 

If you, dear reader, are as enraged and sorrowful as I am, here are some things you can do to help:

Watch Blackfish and spread the word about the atrocities being covered up by Sea World.

Sign the following petitions:

Ban Imprisonment of Orca Whales at SeaWorld

Release Tilikum To A Seapen

End the SeaWorld Captive Breeding Program

Urge Macy’s To Cancel SeaWorld Float In Thanksgiving Day Parade

Free Lolita, the Captive Whale

Marine Mammals Don’t Belong In Tanks

Dolphins Don’t Belong In Dolphinariums

Support the following organizations:

Life Force Foundation

Orca Network

Whale and Dolphin Conservation

World Society for the Protection of Animals

Voice of the Orcas

Blue Voice

Born Free

Thank you all for your help in righting these wrongs!

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I meant to post about this several days ago and life kept getting in the way… better late than never, I suppose!

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed for The Candid Frame. It’s a fairly in-depth interview, so settle in. If you have any questions or comments after listening to it, let me know in a comment here!

The Court Of The Dryad Queen

The Court Of The Dryad Queen

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