Guest Post: Poems Inspired by VCCA by Beverly Sky

I’m just back from three weeks plus residency at my home away from home: the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.  I’ve written before about residencies and I’m sure I mentioned that one of the best things about them are the people. You meet amazing people at these places. This stint was no exception.

I’d like to share some poems written by Beverly Sky. Beverly Sky, Fiber Artist (and wannabe everything else) has a studio at the Boston Center for the Arts. A fellow at VCCA, her morning walks on the way to her studio in the Virginia woods have engendered a few poems.

She shared them with me and  we were both tickled that her poems complement my photos and my photos complement her poems. I asked if I could share them here and she generously gave me her permission. So here then are poems by Beverly Sky with photos by me.

Poem 1, Day 6

Walking Through The Unknown Woods In December

Brown leaves
trimmed with
hoar frost’s crystalline ice,
crisp in the early morning
as I start out
on the poorly blazed trail
to the pond.

Bare trees stand silent
against the blue sky
sentinel witnesses to time passing,
the crunch of fallen branches
under my footsteps,
flash of a Cardinal,
red in the bushes.

I hear the Geese call
and look up to see the
gaggle, all crowded together
along the water’s freeze line…

and then, the bench by the shore…


The trail,
now camouflaged.
The blazes, bits of shredded ribbon,
tied to occasional branches are
weather-beaten and scant…

I have no compass.

Then, the small wooden arched bridge
over the brook
in the near distance
and I follow.

For a time,
I watch the sparkling stream
flowing through its
well defined path.

Up the hill
the narrow trail
of delicately flattened leaves,
is barely visible
and then,
the bright green moss mound
parted down the center.

A sign,
as I pass through,
that others have tread here too.

I hear the call of a Crow
And then
a train passing
in the far away.

Thoughts pile up
like kindling twigs
set aside for winter.

Further up the hill,
the way is blocked with bramble,
violet Raspberry branches
thorny, twisted and arching,
and the Bittersweet berries,
catch my coat and tangle my hair,
I stumble on the dead logs.

And then,
a ray of sunlight
the clearing ahead is illuminated.

I push my way through
and out to the meadow,
the sunny morning meadow.

Poem 2, Day 7

The Next Day

Past the great Nordmann Fir
ferns still splay their emerald fronds
on the leafy brown earth.

The geese are gone this morning.
It’s Monday, off to work, I guess.
I pick up a verdigris lichen covered piece of bark
to take back to the studio
so I can remember the moment.

Passing the clear stream
riffling along it’s banks,
light sparkling the surface.

New moon last night
brought out all the heavenly stars.
Shining bright ! Pleiades, Orion, Cassiopia
twinkling, dancing, celebrating
the darkest night of the year.

Walking up the steep hill
takes  my breath away
and clears my mind,
yet, I miss the subtle signs
and find myself in a bramble of bushes.
I have lost the way.
I stand still.

Turning back
to find the path,
a blue Jay flies by.
In the distance,
the call of it’s mate,
and then,
the tattered orange blaze
hanging on a slender branch
I am out of the woods.


Poem 5, Day 8


On my way to dinner
through the woods
here and there
a tired cricket chirps.

Pink lenticular clouds
float against a pale blue sky.
The abandoned shed,
part lean-to with faded
celadon green siding,
is filled with broken tools and memories.

The cook told me
there is a secret garden nearby.
I find the opening
between the high Boxwoods.
Three cracked, mossy stone steps,
overgrown with Ivy,
lead into a grassy circle
with a small octagonal stone pool.

Five Goldfish, (actually, deep Orange-fish)
slumber under the black water’s surface.

To the side,
an ornately carved, round
cast iron table,
is covered with pine needles
and leaves.
Two matching chairs,
all tilting in the wet ground,
waiting for company.

Small clearings
are home to sculptures.
Totems made from rock, ropes,
concrete and iron,
they too, wait for company.

Out into the parking lot,
the blue Shenandoah Mountains
rise over the rosy horizon.

The 5:25 train clickety clacks by,
Whooooooo, whoooooooo!
A bumper sticker on a fender asks:
“What would Walt Whitman do?”

Poem 6



No poem today.

Foggy outside,
Foggy inside.

Beverly Sky
©copyright 12.7.15


It’s a Nostalgia Kind of Day

Today is my birthday so you’ll excuse me if I’m feeling a little nostalgic. Here are some photos of things from my childhood that I still own.

This may be the first photograph I took. It’s of my family on their summer beach holiday. I believe I took it because I’m the only one not in it.



Here’s a photo of me with the Kodak 8mm movie camera.

The director with his signature confused expression holding a movie camera he still owns. With brother George and first best friend, Prince.
The director with his signature confused expression holding a movie camera he still owns. With brother George and first best friend, Prince.

And here are some moving images that little movie camera captured.

You can see  some of the View Master Project Apollo images here. They are wonderful dioramas.

You can hear transmissions from the Mercury flights at NASA’s Connect Sounds site.

As far as spiders, well, take a look around. But don’t kill them because they’re really our friends.

Do you still have things you owned as a child? What are they?

If you want to contribute to A Life’s Work, you can do so via the New York Foundation for the Arts. Donating is easy ($5 – to you name it!) and that money will be earmarked for this film, spent responsibly, and will be a tax deduction for you.

There are other ways you can support A Life’s Work that don’t involve money. Why not do it? It won’t hurt.

Process: A Life’s Work and the Canon 5D by Guest Blogger Andy Bowley

Andy Bowley 5D

Today’s post was written by cinematographer Andy Bowley and originally published in June 2010. I’m putting up this “encore post” because shooting video with the Canon 5D has recently come up several times at my day job. That, plus I just like this post and Andy is an awesome writer.

I know. You’ve been wondering after reading this blog: what’s Licata really like to work with in the field? Sure, he seems measured and nice and all when he’s tapping away in his socks, all warm and cozy in his New York apartment–but what’s he like in the trenches? Is he a screamer?

Well, no–the opposite, actually. He’s a wonderful collaborator. But more importantly for my sake, he is well in touch with his inner geek.

Example: When he invited me to shoot the work being done by the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project in Waco, I suggested we do some macro work with extension tubes and obscure Ukrainian/East German lenses to get close-up shots of needles and grooves.

His initial response? “Ooooh”

I told him it would be tweaky and slow working with these lenses, which would sometimes allow us just a millimeter or two of effective focal range — and that we’d have to mount them to a Canon 5D DSLR and go through a not-yet-tested workflow.

His response? “Great. If you can think of more possibilities, bring ‘em on”

Just what I hoped hear. A director with patience. But more importantly, another geek who understood. I was excited. But time was short.

I began to test my macro set-up the next day. I was training for a trail race at the time, running every morning along the paths that cut through a wooded section of Central Park. Along the way I found a pinecone–perfect for the test–and maybe useful for A Life’ s Work.

My Manhattan pinecone had lots of interesting shapes and exuded its own woodsy charisma, but I needed to make it move for the camera. Not having enough time to construct a motorized turntable, I biked to the hardware store, bought a lazy Susan, plunked it under a metal Ikea filing box (the heaviest thing with a flat surface I could find in my apartment,) mounted my Zeiss Jena 80mm lens on an extension tube and tilt adapter, and shot some test footage with the Canon 5D.

The results?

[vimeo width=”500″ height=”300″][/vimeo]

I liked what the lenses did that day – but the lazy Susan filing box turntable system was less than optimal. No matter. Much of the macro stuff I hoped to shoot in Waco would be moving–records spinning, needles dropping–and if all else failed I could use my new Kessler pocket dolly to make the moves.

That night, I somehow managed to pack all the gear (lights, grip gear, tripod and dolly) into two checked bags. I was leaving for Waco early the next morning.

Tune in next week for Here’s Andy’s post about the shoot and some beautiful HD footage. If you want to read Andy’s tech notes about the pinecone test, click here.


Andy Bowley is a NYC-based cinematographer whose projects have won many national Emmys and one Peabody, but he considers the coolest thing on his mantle to be an old Pentacon six medium format camera, which now sits next to his beloved Manhattan pinecone. He has found a lot of other things while running through wooded sections of Central Park, but doesn’t want to talk about it.

E-mail Andy: a b o w l e y at  e a r t h l i n k d o t n e t


Ucross – Slideshow

I’m leaving Ucross today and preparing for a bumpy re-entry. They always are.

Here are some photos taken during my residency. Hope you like them.


You! Complete Me.

I’ve been at Ucross for more than a week. Time is flying, and as usual I’m not satisfied with my productivity, but I know that I have been working — revising a couple of stories and playing around with the order of the sequences in A Life’s Work.

Like most everyone else, I can get caught up in “results,” in the end product. I want something to show for my time here. I want to be able to hold up an object and say, “I finished this at Ucross!” But I know I won’t be able to do that, because this is a process, a long process, and my month here will not yield “closure.” At best it will yield a few ideas to take home and develop further.

And that’s great. You’d think that I, a guy making a film about people whose projects won’t be completed in their lifetimes, would go easy on himself.

You’d think that. But you’d be wrong.

When I get all caught up with “completion” at a residency, there’s only one thing to do. Play guitar.

Here are some photos. Hope you like them.

An Arcosanti Slideshow

Jessica Roth, writer, guest blogger, and friend of A Life’s Work, took these photos on a recent trip to Arizona and sent this bit of text along to accompany them.

I make an annual sojourn to this spot…alongside the river, in a cave overlooking it, near the mesa that coughs up chalcedony and jasper, above the low branches of the bosque. Every time, I discover something new. A pile of sun-worn bones and cicada wings below an owl’s roost. A new elbow in the river. Another cave, higher, whose shadows are lined with small bells. The beginnings to stories I’ve still to tell.

These photos show an important part of Arcosanti, that is, what you see around Arcosanti. The structure-town is not intended to dominate the landscape, but be integrated with it. These photos may show a tiny bit of structure, some bells, some presence of people, but mostly they’re about the natural landscape you experience when you look out of a window at Arcosanti or walk a few feet from one of its doors.

Jeff Stein said this in the recent interview:

So not only am I part of this powerful urban architecture, but the architecture itself is contained, and we’re on the edge of a cliff so I wake up in the morning and throw back the curtain and there, only about a 1/4 of a mile away, is the face of the opposing Mesa. I can see down a valley, there might be a herd of pronghorned antelope prancing around down there. There might be some cows on some grazing land up above. The sun is doing different things with cloud formations in the landscape and in fact it’s a wholly engaging and beautiful and rich natural landscape that we’re a part of.

A Present for You – More Classical Guitar Music!

VCCA silo

When I was at VCCA I made a couple of recordings of me playing some classical guitar music, one in the field on a beautiful summer-like day (listen to it here) and another in the silo. Its circular shape and glazed clay walls make this space reverb-a-licious.

vcca silo guitar


My guitar in the VCCA silo.

It was not a beautiful summer-like day when I recorded in the silo. It was a cold, winter-like day, and the silo, though obviously swanky, is not heated. So, I was cold, and my fingers were cold. But it had to be so, because when those beautiful summer-like days happened, so too did the wasps, who swarmed in the silo on those days and a few afterwards. (To know how I feel about wasps, click here.)

But after a few winter-like days, they died, and wasp corpses, hundreds of them, carpeted the concrete floor and made a crunchy sound when you stepped on them. Not surprisingly, I didn’t mind this sound too much. I didn’t record it, though. But I did record this, me playing Bach’s Prelude, BWV 999, originally composed for lute.

I hope you enjoy it.

Want more classical guitar music? Click here.

Bonsai and A Life’s Work: Photos by Guest Blogger Karen Bell

“There is something hopeful and serene about Bonsai!”

That sentence was left by someone on Facebook after they looked at photographer Karen Bell’s images of the bonsai trees in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Here they are, courtesy of Karen.


It might seem odd  to some that I almost included a bonsai gardener in A Life’s Work, seeing how I did include the Milarchs; their work with trees seems the exact opposite of what a bonsai gardener does. But what intrigued me about bonsai was that, with the proper meticulous care, they can outlive the gardener. Bonsai gardening seems to me like an extremely selfless act, and I really liked that. It’s also something that’s done for its own sake; that is, it’s like making a art, it doesn’t exist to edify or solve a problem. It’s there for its beauty.  I liked that a lot, too. I also thought the visuals could be very striking. I enjoy looking at hands engaged with work, and this had the potential for a lot of close-ups of hands at work.

But, it wasn’t to be. Not this time, anyway. Maybe the sequel, which I’m told I should title A Second Life’s Work.






SETIcon II: Guest Blogger Danielle Futselaar Takes Us Inside

(Last week guest blogger Danielle Futselaar told us about how she came to be the graphic designer for the SETI Institute’s SETIcon II. I’m delighted that she took the time to write about her experience at the conference and share some photos. Take it away, Danielle!) 

 I’m completely exhausted! All the impressions, and meeting all those great people overwhelming me with attention, but let me start at the beginning.

Greetings from SETI

Friday evening I stumbled in at the Hyatt Hotel after a BBQ with friends, so I was a tad late for the opening party. After I had settled into my room, I went down to the lobby where I met so, so many people from the SETI Institute; Karen Randall, Edna DeVore, Franck Marchis (finally 🙂 ), and many, many more. And seeing my work 8000 km away from home and meeting these great people made it real and worthwhile. Everything I had been working for, for those many months finally had meaning and purpose; this had been the moment I had been working so hard for.

SETIcon II: THE Event

Saturday and Sunday were incredible days. I mean, there was so much going on. I could have sat in the lobby for hours, watching the diverse group of people walk by, a melting pot of attendees, astronomers, scientists, writers, actors, etc., that alone was such a joy for me. But listening to the panels (some were so crowded that people had to stand in the hallway) was fun and very intellectually stimulating.

The Gala Dinner honoring Jill Tarter was amazing and I was speechless as I watched her receive the drawing the SETI Institute asked me make. She’s a very sweet and humane woman, someone truly worthy of admiration. Another highlight was the interview Andrew Fraknoi conducted with Frank Drake during Sunday’s lunch.

Personally, all of my illustrations sold in the auction and you can imagine how happy that made me. But when it came time for my first-ever panel discussion, about “Artists Imagining Exoplanets: Getting it Right” (in English!! I’m Dutch), I was brain-melting and armpit-gushing nervous! Somehow I managed to get through it, though I’m not sure how. Afterwards, I received many thanks for all the work I had done. It all was overwhelming and beautiful.

How About Some Photos?

Tuesday morning I joined the SETIcon II committee for a debriefing about the conference. We discussed the pros and cons, and this is what I believe: this was only the second SETIcon, but this is a growing event. The SETI Institute proves itself again and again as pioneers of bringing science to the public, and here’s another instance of that. This event will continue to grow and become more extraordinary. If you’re at all interested in astronomy or this big question—is there life somewhere in the universe besides earth–I really encourage you to attend the next SETIcon, because one really must EXPERIENCE it, it’s pretty mindblowing!


I am grateful that I could be a part of this whole experience, and I hope I can continue my association with the SETI Institute, because I made some really great new friends and met some really nice people. But no matter what happens next, this is a memory I will take with me for the rest of my life.



Here’s a recent Facebook status I lifted with Danielle’s permission

OK, I am going to have to tell this… This morning I was at the “aftermath” SETIcon II meeting at the SETI Institute. When I said my goodbye at the end of the meeting (being the second after Seth to leave the meeting) I got applause from all of the committee… Of course I hope that was not for leaving the meeting (joke 😉 ), but for what I have done for them… I left with pride and hope to keep on being involved, one way or another….

(Danielle Futselaar is a graphic designer and illustrator and owner of ArtSource Graphic Design. She has been — for a year now — the volunteer graphic designer for the SETI Institute. She lives in Arnhem, Netherlands.)









Space Shuttle Enterprise’s New Home

Yesterday I biked to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum to watch the space shuttle Enterprise settle into its new home. More after the slide show.


Enterprise never went into orbit. It’s role in the space program was humble. It was used for test flights in the atmosphere, it had no engines and no heat shield. It did not enjoy the success of Endeavor, Discovery, or Atlantis, or the tragedy of Columbia and Challenger. And yet it did its job and contributed to a body of knowledge. Without Enterprise, the others would not have had their moments of glory. But the crowd that gathered to watch it didn’t care, they applauded and cheered when it came to rest.

But the cheers were also for the riggers. I could see them smile and laugh and I think I detected an aura of pride surround them. Imagine going home that night.  Your child asks what you did at work. “I brought a space shuttle to its resting place, where it will be visited and admired by millions of people.” Imagine that child bringing his child to the exhibit 30 years later and saying, “My father was one of the people responsible for putting this amazing thing here.” And on and on. That’s pretty freaking cool.

These riggers had a lot of help, of course. They had amazing technology, but they also had the knowledge bestowed to them from their rigging ancestors, all the way back to the pyramids and Stone Henge.*

Yeah, it all comes back to A Life’s Work with me.

*UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that the folks who constructed the pyramids and Stone Henge did not pass down their rigging techniques. This is true, of course. How those giant stones were put into place is still up for debate. I stand corrected. Damned facts! Always getting in the way.