Finding East Prussia

She was born in the small fishing town of Konigsberg in East Prussia.  As a young girl all she knew was her small family in this quiet town. She spent her summers running along the seaside as the ocean lapped salt and seaweed over jagged rocks and the birch trees stretched out their long trunks toward the heavens. The seals bobbed their heads, the dolphins played as dolphins do and the whales seemed to hold court in the ocean. It was a postcard setting until the Red Army came in and viciously forced her, her family and friends out of the only world they ever knew. The victims of things done in their name to those they never knew by those who never even asked.

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Faceless people in hats and heavy coats in sepia photos holding the little hands of children. Erika was one of those children. The daughter of Refugees. Forgotten people. Unlike today the best moments were never captured for posterity. They live in the heart. Refugees carry the soul of their lands. It cannot be taken from them. It burns within them like a candle that cannot be blown out and this candle has been burning inside Erika’s heart all these years so we traveled to Maine with the idea that she might recreate it.

We took an hour drive from Bar Harbor Maine to a tiny Milbridge marina. So tiny we drove by it twice. From there we took a twenty-minute boat ride to Lower Birch Island.

The island on the pier side must have been a 15-foot elevation. Granted the tide was quite low due to the dark ring around the slate rocks but regardless it was a bit ominous looking up a sheer rock face covered in jagged treetops.  We travailed fifteen minutes into the forest guided by buoys hung to the trees as path markers. Once we found the cottage on the other side of the island the view opened up to an incredible landscape of long dry grass crescented by pine and birch trees. The summer cottage was a simple three-bedroom structure in good shape. We walked along the boulder beach and back into the forest where we stumbled upon apple trees which had been snacked on by the island deer. The island was beautiful and came with another smaller island, which connect, by a sandbar in low tide but there was something missing which we couldn’t put our finger on. We were looking specifically to recreate an idea and this spot came up short for us both. Perhaps it was the rock face greeting or the forest crawl to the cottage or perhaps the land lacked a certain essence we were searching for.

Our second destination was Pond Cove Island. It was another 45 minutes further by boat and with the fresh ocean air, the heat of the sun and the hum of the fishing boat it just makes you want to fall asleep. Once we arrived to the island we clamored into a small dingy to get ashore as there wasn’t a pier. Five steps onto the pebble beach I looked down and found a small heart shaped rock among thousands of other rocks. I took this to be fortuitous. The Island was enormous, 58 acres of virtually untouched land. There were two small structures on the island the most notable being ‘The Golden Nugget’, an open air out house. There was no plumbing and no electricity. Yikes! But there was something magical about the land itself. Perhaps the raspberries growing wild, the heart shape rock I found or the furry caterpillar that pooped on me. That’s got to be lucky. But more importantly was it the right place for Erika?

 

On our third day we visited Casco Bay Island. It was an hour and a half drive from Bar Harbor and a 10-minute boat ride from Campobello. The water depths vary from 40 to 500 fathoms deep so this area becomes a playground for all types of fish and mammals namely whales. Our boat was greeted by dolphins, cormorants and a minke whale named Travis.  The island was located just inside the New Brunswick side of the Canadian American border so looking east you could see America on the right and Canada on the left. We sidled up to the newly constructed pier, which was not just beautifully done but smartly engineered by the Canadian fisherman hosting us on their boat.

The pier jutted out from a large Sandy beach surrounded by wild grass with the forest beyond. The 4×4 or ‘Little Tank’ as we named it took us from the beach up to the cottage, which was perched high up on the jagged rock edge like a tree house on the highest point of the Island. Eagles would swoop by and look you straight in the eye. When their wings flapped it sounded like one of those joggers in an all vinyl sweat suit. Swish…swish…swish. We took a night walk that early evening to one of the sandy beaches on the far side of the island and met a family of dear. When we came face to face none of us really knew what to do. The baby and mommy bounded off but the daddy stayed to inspect us. We just stared at each other for the longest time. Us and the dear, the dear and us. He was backlit by the sun and the sunrays reached around his large antlers. It was a beautiful moment I will never forget but then he took a few steps toward us. At that point we started waving our arms above our heads like lunatics and he jumped off to join his family.  That evening we sat under the stars in gob smacking awe of the lightshow above. The expanse! It was as if you could stick your hand right inside space. The next morning we sipped coffee while we watched Travis play below. He would remind us he was there by his loud blowhole then Erika said, “You can never go home but you can definitely come close to it” and with that…we had found East Prussia.

This adventure was filmed by HGTV which will air on the Travel Channel – January 2014

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A Dandy Punk

A Dandy Punk

Born from an obsession with the arts, elements of street culture and the feel of foggy Victorian London comes the inspired character ‘a dandypunk.’ Created by Joel Sebastian, a unique artist with an eye for things out of the ordinary. His goal with a dandypunk is to perfect an instantly recognizable and original style that transfers to all areas of his work. For his movement to resemble his illustrations and animations which in turn are reflected in his clothing, philosophy and words.

Based on the “do it yourself” mentality, Joel explained that a dandypunk is a character he created for himself and others to inspire creativity and everyday eccentricity.

It derives from the word ‘dandy’, that was used to describe a group of men that had a particular sense of style and a unique wit about them, popular in London during the 1800’s.

“The part of the punk movement that I’m interested in is their D.I.Y mentality, they created their own clothes, music and scene,” Joel said.

“I grew up skateboarding, doing graffiti, freerunning and breakdancing on the south coast of England – a place that has produced a strangely large amount of mega-creatives. I have a huge love for the essence of hip hop culture. The emphasis on originality, the creation of something from nothing using limited resources, and competition within art forms rather than sports, these have always been my foundation.”

He explained that the punk culture evolved from the youth, based on extreme non-conformity and non-traditionalism. These characteristics about the culture hold true to Joel’s personality.

“Even though most of the art forms that I’m interested in have their roots in hip-hop, I’m not from “the hood”, I don’t feel I have any natural flavor or funk – I would even describe myself as “the anti-swag”, he laughed. “It’s all about authenticity – the day that I realized I was pretending to be something I wasn’t and started moving, dressing and creating exactly how I wanted to without the constraints of hip hop’s “rules” or caring what others thought, was ground breaking, and I encourage others to do the same, if for one second they feel like they don’t belong there – create the scene you want to be part of”.

“I’m not really aggressive in a battle situation, although I do like the idea of competition within art. I think that’s a really great part of hip-hop that doesn’t really exist in other art forms, it pushes people to be original and create new things,” he said.

Apart from hip-hop, his other interests are the very things that led him to create “a dandypunk”. A life long fan of fantasy movies like “labyrinth”, “The Dark Crystal” and “Edward Scissorhands” combined with the literature of Charles Dickens, Neil Gaimen and H.P. Lovecraft make for an unexpected mixture of influences, when combined with the street arts and his most recent passion of multi media technology.

“I created a dandypunk to inspire myself and others to get things done, I’ve spent to much time talking about ideas and not seeing them through…”

As a professional dancer/acrobat, Joel is a cast member for Cirque du Soliel’s “Love” where he has won three awards from their annual company wide creativity competition. Although he’s strongly an independent artist, Joel enjoys working for Cirque especially because he gets to play different characters. He is appreciative of the opportunities Cirque provides for him inside and outside of the professional setting, but he feels most of his artistic fulfillment comes from things he creates alone in his garage studio.

Joel has a unique eye for the arts and he boldly represents them through his work. Aside from working at Cirque, he has accomplished several independent projects, of course “a dandypunk” being one of them.

“It’s important to me that I create a style that’s instantly recognizable, similar to the way you might know it’s a Tim Burton film after only watching a few seconds.” he said.

The style, the colors used and the way the film was captured in a Burton film are so personal to him and Joel always aims for his work to do the same.
“That’s one of the things I like about a dancer whose style is original, you can be a mile away, only see their silhouette and not their face, but you know that it’s them and I’m drawn to that kind of uniqueness,” he said.

Recently, Joel collaborated with fellow Love cast member, Mukhtar for an hour length production called SECRECT SHOWThe show included performers from Cirque du Soleil that opened Joel’s two car garage to an audience of executives and excellent reviews.

Joel was also recently commissioned to create a proposal for an Alice in Wonderland modern opera in London and is currently working on a fully immersive, audience interactive show in collaboration with some other Cirque and Le Rêve artists. He hopes to create a gallery show in downtown Vegas, where he can both perform and display his artwork simultaneously in the near future