Where Poetry Meets The Human Body
This is Skin on Sundays. I write poetry on people’s bodies, and shoot photos of the results. I post a new episode every Sunday. The poems are inspired by the people they are written on, often focusing on issues that I feel can be more than entertaining, but of service to the soul. This includes things like body image, race/sex/class, bullying, mental health, and spirituality in the contemporary world.
I write mini-bios for each episode, including something about the model, the background of the shoot, or anything else that might seem relevant in telling the story of the episode. The purpose is to show vulnerability, to show honesty, to portray the people in the world as they are through the photo and the poem that is written on them. The connection I make with my human canvases and the other amazing artists I collaborate with is intimate and vulnerable. I hope I can make that connection with the world as well.
I’ve been doing this project for over 2 years now, and I don’t see it ending anytime soon. It has been such a fulfilling addition to my life, not just the art, but meeting all kinds of people that I might not have met otherwise, and finding a way to talk publicly about the things I think are important.
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Jacqueline is from Mexico City. I think she has art is her organs, in her blood, in her bones. Her apartment is decorated with things that are made, often by her. This includes a table made of bottle caps and lamp shade made of cassette tapes. It takes a visionary to see the ways objects can be transformed into others; not everyone has that gift.
I think my favorite story Jacqueline told me is that she used to have a poor relationship with her father because of her fierce disagreement with machismo culture, which he was participating in, probably more as a cultural norm than a personal conviction. She took a stand as a teenager against the way all of the household responsibilities fell onto her mother in her family, despite the fact that both of her parents were working. Now, her parents share in the responsibilities of the home, largely because of her willingness to stand up for what she believed in. By pushing back, she not only helped to change her family dynamic by making it more fair, but that small deed is the kind of thing that perpetuates growth and change in positive directions for whole societies. She is a visionary.
Collab with photographer Arely López .
Find Your Route
Victoria is from Córdoba, Argentina. Some years ago, Victoria came to Mexico City for a modeling gig, but then on a whim just decided to stay (as free spirits are known to do). Now, she is married, has a beautiful daughter, and has a boutique, Amor A Mi, showcasing a selection of gorgeous intimate and swim garments, one of those pieces she is flaunting in this photo. Despite these commitments, her spirit remains the lightness of a buoy, not only floating herself, but lifting up those around her as well. It will not go without saying that she is a bombshell superwife and supermom, many of her powers stemming from her natural and open and positive outlook on life, her commitment to female solidarity, and her truly Gandhian way of being the person she wants to see in the world.
Collaboration is one of my favorite parts of life, combining energy with the passionate souls around me to create something that shines. I have reunited with the phenomenal photographer Eder CZ from last year’s first anniversary episode (!) and Amor A Mi, a boutique boasting a collection of women’s intimate garments and swimwear with the mission of empowering women to love their bodies, right in Mexico City. What a treat to not only work with other ridiculously talented people, but to keep it local in the place I now call (and love to call) home.
I Know Why the Caged Bird is Still in a Cage
Laura is from Mexico City. She is not a caged bird any more than any other woman. In fact, she is much less so, because she sees the cage, and intends to break it. What I mean by that is she doesn’t let the social oppression that all women face dictate her life. When I met her, I was impacted by her delightful aviary vibes. I thought her spirit animal could be some kind of bird. I didn’t know which one, though I could see her moving through spaces as if she had invisible wings. But many kinds of birds have wings, not just the light ones. She’s also fierce like a hawk. I can see it in her eyes in this photo, a look that begins in her heart. Her easygoingness and her grit add up to a kind of personal freedom. No matter what forces exist around her, she seems as if she will find a way through, even if she has to make the path herself. In this way, what she has brought to this episode is symbolic of the kind of attitude necessary to elicit change.
The problem is that it’s not a job for one or two or ten or a hundred or even a thousand. The only way for women to be equal is for us all to demand it and do something about it. That doesn’t mean going to a rally. It means not being afraid to be ourselves in a world that tells us we have to be a certain, specific way in order to succeed. Those terms weren’t even decided by us.
Collab with photographer Arely López.
Queen is the New King
Loreta and Monze are from Mexico City.
Even though Mexico City is a city of 22 million people, somehow, when Loreta and Monze, sisters, arrived for the shoot, a friend recognized Monze. He told me that when she was in high school, the other kids used to bully her because she was a model. They called her Monsexy, and spread rumors about her being easy. First of all, that kind of bullying is gross. Whether or not Monse had decided to have sex with people or not is not the concern of anyone else. Sex as a concept is not a shameful thing. When a man sleeps around, society does not call him a slut. If sex as a concept were shameful, they would apply its shame to everyone. No, it’s only when a girl does it that she is shamed. Further, just because Monze is gorgeous and a model does not mean she is sleeping with a bunch of people. That stereotype has got to go. What she does in her private life shouldn’t be the concern of anyone, ever, no matter what she looks like nor how she dresses.
Bullies are people that have something big lacking in their own lives that they have to compensate for by tearing others down.
I would have never guessed that Monze went through this from her poised and confident demeanor. She is a diamond, stunning and fierce.
Loreta too brought another kind of fierceness to the scene: fearlessness. She floats through a room leaving a trail of ease in her wake.
These girls came together with Skin on Sundays to help send a message to Mexico City and the world. The 21st century has already brought about tons of huge changes with the introduction of the digital world into our daily lives. With those changes, opportunity for reaching more people with a few clicks has arrived. Still, equality is a not the way of life, not anywhere in the world and certainly not here in Mexico City. Gender inequality in Mexico City is especially rampant, and it has so much to do with the way society allows people to continue to treat women. Did you know that the subway cars have an area for only women for the purpose of protecting them against men? Did you know that I can’t even think of going out of my house, not even in one of the poshest neighborhoods in this megatropolis, wearing shorts without receiving kissy face noises and whistles and honks and feeling the heavy stares of men around me. Even women stare at me, as if I am violating some code of conduct. The people are perpetuating this behavior because it is what they are fed. So what they are fed needs to be something different. What they are fed needs to be the message that women should be able to make their own choices about what they wear without society pounding them down with harassment or worse. This is the message. Women are coming to break down the barriers of gender inequality, to smash the glass ceiling, to show the world that we can do whatever the fuck we want (as long as we’re not hurting anyone), and our clothing nor our bodies nor anything about our exterior selves will get in the way. This is the millennium which will be remembered for humans finally reaching the point in evolution to realize that women and men must be treated as equals. We will make it so.
Collab with photographer José Bauza.
The Outer Leagues of Awareness
Eder is from Mexico City. He is one of Skin on Sundays’ favorite collaborators in photography. Some may say that he’s a dreamer, and they are right. His internal philosophy follows him through his external life, to take things day by day, to go with the flow, and that’s exactly what he does. Sometimes it leads him into the far mountains and sometimes it leads him into storms. Both routes suit him, as he takes each experience and builds a new level to his consciousness. He is contemplative and charming, letting the power of zen conquer anything that could tarnish his worldly outlook.
Ale is also from Mexico City. She is a caring analyzer, prone to favoring the beauty in the world rather than the ugly. I’m not an Enneagram expert, but if I had to guess based on what I know, I would call Ale The Helper–thoughtful and generous, seeing when others need someone to lean on in things large and small alike, always willing to offer what she can. Her voice is soft and calming, a complement to these qualities. She is by nature a casual planner with an open and positive spirit, which can easily bring enchanting adventures to her doorstep.
Eder and Ale’s fondness for each other was obvious early on watching them interact, and no matter of what the future holds for them, it is obvious that they will forever hold each other in warm regard; there is something stronger and deeper than romance present, and in that way their bond is solidified. The met in Barcelona.
Danie is from Mexico City. She finds texture in places most of us haven’t found it, adding layers to the world around us in ways she may not fully realize, far beyond the lines of fabric she sews onto photographs.
Jessica is from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. She is a person that believes in the power of beautiful things: rocks, stars, ideas, animals, sounds, water, the human psyche and all of its strange turns. And I think believing in beautiful things helps make the world more beautiful.
Their poem is a mix of their cultures, written in Spanglish, and their episode means to shine a light on how love can be shared across so many lines.
I, Hazy Moon
Sarah is a Boston transplant following her heart as if it were the only map that ever mattered. By that I don’t mean that she is following love, or at least not the kind that involves other people. After having spent years agonizing over her weight, dealing with a long era of eating disorders and social isolation, in which time she became obsessed with the style of 1950’s America, I am so proud of her and so happy that she has now found a path that looks internally for peace of mind and fulfillment rather than externally. She is the kind of giving person that had a tendency to give far too much, leading to her own unhappiness, and she is putting effort into not doing that anymore, seeing the world with equal parts reality and hope. Sarah is my cousin, and we have, in the last few years, regained the closeness we had as children; now she is one of my best friends, someone I can always confide in and someone I feel eternally comfortable around, which are gifts she (perhaps unknowingly) gives to me regularly.
In her continued struggle to feel comfortable with her body, she has offered herself a few times to Skin on Sundays as a way to force herself to love the way she looks in her natural state, one that excludes under-eating and purging her food. I think it is both her hope and mine that others will read and see this and feel even just a little more comfortable with their own bodies, will try to love themselves just a little bit more, especially those who struggle with body image issues like she has and does. Solidarity truly does mean something, and can impact people in real ways. No matter what our shapes and sizes, we’re all always dealing with our own selves.
This photo was taken in Boston, Massachusetts during my visit in mid-March. Sarah’s dress, hair, make-up, and interior design were all impressively done herself. She remains a huge fan of 1950’s style, and it suits her well.
This episode was gloriously inspired by a pretty famous photo by Pink Floyd, and features 6 beautiful women from 6 different countries around the world.
Zoe is from London, England. She is radiantly sincere in both her exterior and interior worlds. I think this is because her experience in so many parts of the world and so many different cultures has led her to an immense and deep level of insight, compassion, and wisdom.
Stephanie is from Utrecht, the Netherlands. She has a soft voice, beautiful pen sketches on leaves, and the spirit of a small songbird. Perhaps in another dimension she has wings.
Olga is from Vyshgorod, Ukraine. Her presence is quiet, but her energy is bold. In other words, she looks like a fairy, but she is really the forest where the fairies live.
Amanda is from Texas, USA. She’s an existentialist and a romantic. She’s wandering the world with lots of generous love to share with others. I feel sure of this after only talking to her for about 10 minutes (with an additional 5 minutes of mild internet stalking) because of the confident and open way she presents herself.
Kyoungmi is from Ulsan, South Korea. She seems shy at first, but then suddenly you’re standing under an umbrella in the rain with a group of friends and she starts freestyling in Korean.
Toma is from Berlin, Germany. She’s the type of person that will be the first to dance at a party and pick up garbage around before she leaves, the type of person that will give you the last sip from her cup and the last drag of her cigarette. She’s a rare and beautiful breed.
Collab with photographer Eder CZ.
Samantha is from Mexico City.
I am from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
*This is part of a longer, 4 part poem and picture series. This is part 3.
Does this poem make you sad?
The reality of the world is now more than ever that guns in the United States are killing people. You can say what you want about it being people that kill people and not the guns, but recently, almost 60 people are dead because of relaxed laws about gun ownership, the kind of guns that can spray bullets into a crowd, leaving so many dead and wounded that it is impossible not to think, wow, that could happen to me at any moment and for no reason. Back when the right to bear arms was established as part of the US Constitution, in order to kill a person with a gun, you had to do something like load powder into a musket, and it wasn’t a quick process. There was no chance you were going to commit mass murder with your musket, because before you could get around to it, some of the people you were going to kill would probably attack you. That’s clearly not the case anymore, and because guns are more precious than lives to (I would guess) the majority of Americans, because those people for some reason think it is a human right to possess guns whose only purpose is to shoot other humans, people will continue to die at alarming rates at schools, concerts, clubs, parades, movie theaters, salons, and on and on, from bullet wounds. All we can do now is hope we’re not in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Collab with photographer Arely López.
Myths For Hire
Wonu is from Toronto, Canada. She is the epitome of what youth can look like if you put your dreams at the forefront of your life. Her dream was to travel, and she was away from home for years, moving solo around Central and South America, Europe, Africa, and Southeastern Asia. Now the road has led her back to Toronto, but her adventurous and curious and unconfined heart has left its mark on many people in many corners of the world, including mine. Wonu is a expert lover of learning, of lipstick, and being alone. We just met, but I will be following her adventures for as long as she keeps posting them, and I don’t doubt that we’ll meet again, somewhere.
Uriel is from Mexico City, a city filled with immense culture and beautiful colors and every kind of person you can imagine (in a city of 22 million, perhaps that is not so hard to believe). I have commented on some of the harsher realities of living in this city as a female, constantly feeling like a rabbit caught in a hawk’s gaze if we choose to navigate the city with exposed skin. What I haven’t commented on yet is another side of that story, which is to be a gay male amidst a population that is reaching forward but still is in many ways firmly planted in machismo culture. Early in my days in this city, I found myself crying as I wandered the streets after a failed shopping trip, feeling defeated with a dead cell phone and not sure where my home was. The thing is, I am allowed to do that without much question, cry in the streets, for crying is a feminine attribute that is perfectly acceptable for a female.
And I wonder what it would be like to feel feminine as a male in this city now, especially after meeting Uriel, an unapologetically fabulous gay man with a spirit the size of Jupiter, rivalled by his refreshing and magnetic openness as his most pronounced quality. As we entered the scene of the photo shoot after he went in my bathroom to change from pants to a skirt, he told me how right it feels for him to wear a skirt, and how he relishes in the chance to express his femininity. I imagine that is because to wear a skirt regularly in public as a gay man could be a hazard, so he usually has to repress that side of him. I don’t want to make it sound as if he could never do it, but any reservations he might feel are founded in the city’s too slowly dying machismo culture that could easily arrive to literally break his knees. That’s a worst-case scenario. More likely, wearing that skirt he would feel the whole world watching him with heavy, judgemental eyes, a kind of energy that is hard to grapple with when you are just going out into the public world to pick up some groceries. Part of it is simply because society is not accustomed to men in skirts; still the majority of the attention would without a doubt be negative.
I witnessed it first hand, and we hadn’t even left my building. While our original plan was to go to a gorgeous little plaza for the photoshoot (I only sensed a moment of hesitation from him or else I wouldn’t have suggested it), when I saw the color of the skirt in person, I changed plans and we headed up to my roof because of the way the colors would accent one another. Still, upon arrival back into my apartment afterward, a crew of guys were hanging getting ready to go to a party, and their gazes upon Uriel were felt even by me. While they are a friendly and open bunch, they still couldn’t help but awkwardly try not to stare at a man in a skirt–which goes to show that even the people in society that would never present harm to Uriel are still part of what makes him uncomfortable to live as freely as he would like.
Let me tell you, throughout our late afternoon photoshoot on the rooftop in the center of Mexico City, he was in the zone, free and happy and relaxed, and I felt freer just being around him that way. He is not only a sweet and sensitive and beautiful soul on the inside, but a captivatingly gorgeous physical being as well. He shines bright like a motherfucking diamond in every direction.
Rent This Space
Robin Lakritz from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
Omar Cabrales Terrazas is from Mexico City, Mexico.
Jose Jarero is from Mexico City, Mexico.
Isabela Mora is from Veracruz, Mexico.
David Jimenez is from Mexico City, Mexico.
Ireri Millán is from Mexico City, Mexico.
Santiago Meru is 34, from Chiapas, Mexico.
Something horrible happened. It has happened before. It keeps happening. The steps forward taken in dismantling racism and putting it where it belongs, in the trash, are often closely followed by attempts to thwart the progress. The Neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville (their motives exemplified clearly in their confederate flags, Nazi slogans and salutes, and racist chants about whites not being replaced by non-whites) is a disgusting reality that must be faced head on. It’s not enough to abhor the alt-right and their hateful agenda. Remaining silent is not ethical when our brothers and sisters are being killed by our own law enforcement with no consequences. Stand up for what is right and speak up when you see these kind of atrocities—this is something everyone can do. Use your voice.
Race and borders are social constructs meant to unjustly inhibit people from sharing wealth and power with those who hold it. They are not etched into nature and science. They are not real. Human beings are one race, and we all hold nearly the same genetic code that makes us human. As a person who has not only traveled all over the world, but lived in many parts of it, it’s easy for me to say that prejudgments based on preconceptions of what I’ve been told are bullshit. I meet people of all colors from so many countries all the time. Some are cool, some suck, but being cool or being awful is about who you are on the inside, not on the outside. There is no relationship between morality and skin color. There is no relationship between morality and what part of the earth you live on.
Things like what happened in Charlottesville are not going to stop unless we make them stop. The only way we can do that is to use our voices.
Sara is from Mexico City. She must be daring to pose while a near stranger paints her bare chest and writes a poem over her heart in the space of a full moon. It seems that her daring comes from an eagerness to make the world a sweeter place–silence is not her answer to ugliness. Sara is also a music journalist and a bilingual poet and a free spirit and a lovely, lovely person whom I would love to get to know more.
I also want to mention that her poem was an accidental haiku, which feels significant. I bet it was her poetic energy transferring special poetry vibes that made it happen.
Collab with photographer Arzu Martínez Estavillo.
Amber is infinite, and appeared in a field on the outskirts of Krakow, Poland. She introduced herself in a whisper as Botticelli’s secret lover, and proceeded to strip to nude and prance through the mud and streams beside Benedictine Abbey.
I wrote on myself because I had meant to find someone else to write on, and it just didn’t happen. I had been pretty sad in this time, from natural life things. Moving to a new city is of course exciting and amazing and full of cool wondrousness. It is also lonely, frustrating, exhausting, and hard. Most times you don’t hear much about the latter, more difficult parts of what it’s like to move to another country. Social media is all about sharing the exoticness of it, the perfect adventure. All of the hardship I’d been dealing with did pass, as everything always changes whether or not you want it to. Still, I think it’s important to acknowledge this melancholy as a part of my life, one that will come and go, come and go. Talking about my sadness is a helpful step in overcoming it. Not talking about it and ignoring it generally just makes it worse. So here I am, and here is the poem I wrote for myself, to share a piece of what was going on inside me lately, a bare vulnerability which I hope contributes to shining some light on the darkness. No need to worry. All emotions are fuel for growth, which I will forever be able to use in recovering my zen when I need to.
The Interior Forest
Rebecca is living in Maui, Hawaii, USA. We came together through a mutual soulmate, and once we started spending time together, we realized two things. One, we already kind of knew each other quite well, and two, it made a lot of sense based on who we are as people why the same person would love us both. Rebecca loves poetry and math, the quiet of organic farming, the isolation that comes from island living. She is a social extrovert, a spiritual expert of the self, and a dreamer who turns dreams real.
Devin is from Maui, Hawaii, USA. I thought he was shy, because he’s quiet, but I think he is just particular about who he converses with and what he says, because he likes a lot of alone time. Perhaps his soul would be missing something without the space of a quiet world around him, the kind of quiet made by gigantic palm leaves and the surrounding sea. Anyway, he is amazing, he radiates peace, and I feel so happy he felt comfortable to open some of his world to me.
Rebecca and Devin live and run a beautiful, magical farm in Haiku, Maui, from which the land can provide them everything from food to guitars for as long as they bring to it loving hands. They are a spectacular team. I was lucky to stay with them for a few days at the opening of July 2016, where they welcomed me like family into their sacredly remote tropical home.
Skin on Sundays
Thank you to the amazing AllMyFrnds from Barcelona for making this beautiful video showcasing what I do with Skin on Sundays.
And to my model, Anna, from Liepāja, Latvia. I met her, and I felt better knowing that someone exists whose dream it is to build a shiny castle to settle down into. She looks like she could be a grunge princess, dazzled in shiny shoes and glitter and sparkles as often as possible, and this is also the way she wants to design her dream home, a castle that literally shines outside and in. There are not many adults in the world that dream this way, that see the possibilities of reality as reaching this level of imagination. She is the first one I’ve met, and she blew my mind. Thanks for that, Anna. I say with 100% sincerity that I hope we meet again (maybe in that castle?!).
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