My latest series of photos are very much influenced by Mark Ryden. His photo exhibition from 1997 has intrigued me for nearly fifteen years. “The Meat Show” evokes strong feelings. Often times I find myself perplexed by his images. They are disturbing and beautiful, all at once.
Ryden’s cartoonish paintings often depict small children, meat, as well as religious images. The combination of all of these subjects continues to amuse me. They are darkly satirical. They speak volumes about certain aspects of American culture. The photos I’ve taken in Ecuador tell a different story. The photograph above was taken in a small town roughly sixty miles south of Guayaquil, near the coast of Ecuador. I was traveling in a van, which had slowed down due to traffic on a dusty road. Beaten motorcycles sped past in a flurry as several heavyset women carrying sacks of maíz hobbled across the street. The scent of carne wafted through the humid coastal town. Large metal hooks hung from bodega storefronts. Chunks of vermilion red meat and various sausages hung from the giant hooks, evoking an authenticity I rarely see back in the states. Mesmerized by the sight of all of the meat, I took the photo.
The remaining photos were taken during my first trip to Ecuador, back in August. I took the photos in a large market south of the city where I spent my days volunteering with a local volunteer agency. Towards the end of my day, I wandered around the enormous market and marveled at the two hundred or so local vendors selling anything from fresh avocados to pig intestines. Large sacks of various beans and endless wheelbarrows overflowing with every kind of fruit imaginable. Giant slabs of meat glistened on blood stained countertops. Of all the things at the market, the meat intrigued me the most. I found the lack of sleek packaging and hormone injected meat very appealing. The absence of any kind of regulation was both refreshing and jarring. I decided on the day that these photos were taken that I was going to take more photos of meat. Meat! This continues to be an ongoing project….
Today…hanging out with llamas.
A pastoral life. Foreign and beautiful. Nice to drop in and visit…but
I need the city and its pulsating energy. Freshly sprayed graffiti and glittering
lights. Sewers and alleyways. Vagabonds and bars. Garbage trucks and
overflowing dumpsters. Buses and cars. Liquor stores and laundromats.
I need the city.
For a long as I can remember I have been fascinated by the carnival. The endless concession stands with their glowing lights are magical beacons of delight for the hungry masses who line up for a taste of fried dough and cotton candy. French fries and freshly squeezed lemonade are always a sure bet at the carnival, along with pizza and every deep fried concoction imaginable. While at the Florida State Fair last year, I tried a deep fried Snickers on a stick. It changed my life.
Aside from the food, the thrill of a ride on a giant ferris wheel draws me to the carnival. As a kid, I was afraid of them. I always thought if I leaned too far, I would fall hopelessly to the ground. These days I can’t get enough of them. The exhilaration I feel when the small cart climbs higher and higher is wonderful. Gazing out at the glittering lights and hearing the blaring music in the distance is captivating.
The carnival, with its interesting subculture and history, is romantic.
The first time I ever had a seafood boil was in Austin, back in the summer of 1995. I wandered into a southern style restaurant armed only with my two fellow road warriors, and a dozen thinly crumpled one dollar bills. We sat down at a giant wooden table, thirsty and tired from spending the morning in the sun. Our server was a middle aged blonde woman who brought us tall glasses of water and large sheets of wax paper. I stared down at the paper, perplexed. I noticed there wasn’t any silverware on the table. After gulping down the glass of water, I took a peek at the menu. Louisiana crawfish, crawfish etoufee, chicken & sausage jambalaya, and chicken and sausage gumbo. I didn’t know what the hell etuufee was, and had never tried jambalaya, so I ordered the crawfish. Ten or so minutes passed by before the server came back to the table with a small tin bucket. She dumped the contents of the bucket on top of the wax paper, and what came out of that bucket was profound. Bright red crawfish, steaming and beautiful, glistened before my eyes. The smell was intoxicating! After savoring the sight of the giant pile of crustaceans in front of me, I began to eat. My life has never been the same.