The Marrakech Cure

It was a week after the passing of a dear friend that an email alert popped up with a deal to Morocco round trip for $440. My husband and I had always talked about going, and in a spark of ‘why not because we could die tomorrow’ I decided I was going. I then texted my husband, “guess what, I just bought non-refundable tickets to Marrakech!”

Ten months later, and with two friends, we embarked on our first real vacation that wasn’t a ‘working trip’ after a crazy year of both my husband and I having surgeries a few months apart, his near death experience, and the resulting PTSD. I’ve traveled internationally all of my life, but this was great to go somewhere completely unfamiliar and where we knew no one.

We landed at sundown and stepping off the plane (old school down a flight of stairs onto the tarmac) in the heat at the edge of the Sahara, I knew this would be different, and just what we needed. We spent an unforgettable week with our dear friends in the heart of the Medina. My husband wrote half of his next novel on our riad balcony. Souks, palaces, gardens, hidden alleys, amazing mint tea, and a lazy coffee on any terrace we could find with the echoes of the call to prayer. Our raid, Dar Jaguar, was amazing I think partly because we were literally the only guests there. Every morning breakfast was served on the rooftop and we had one night where the chef made us dinner. We even had resident turtles in the courtyard, which for some reason I was very excited about.

There’s so many riads in the city and I’m glad I didn’t book anything at a fancy modern hotel. They are surrounded by walls and a bit outside the old city. I would almost compare the surrounding city to Palm Springs. Condo communities and golf courses are being built everywhere, and you need to go by car if not by scooter most places. I would never in a million years drive a car there — just crossing the street is tempting death.

A pilgrimage to Jardin Marjorelle was in order to pay tribute to Yves Saint Laurent; it was overrun by fashion bloggers I almost had to shove out of the way in narrow walkways. We missed the proper museum opening next door by five weeks but maybe one day we’ll go back. Yves’ partner, Pierre Bergé, whom he bought the property with, passed away one day later.

Of course, the cats who roam the city rooftops came to visit us every morning at breakfast, and this might have been the best reason of all to stay in the Medina. One in particular slept on a motorbike seat in our alley and really liked us so he followed our group into the riad next door all the way to the roof when we had wine. I had a habit of buying from shops that had a nice cat sleeping outside, but maybe that was because the owners will strong arm you in a charming way the second you notice the cat.

Our friends were able to buy the carpet they desired, and that was a whole Odyssey lemme tell ‘ya! I did get used to the wheeling and dealing culture and even had fun for a while, but by day 6 it was exhausting. I think at one point I never wanted to shop again, but that didn’t last. Sometimes you had to pick out what was cheap crap from China and what was real, but we mostly stayed around the perimeter of the souks and didn’t go into them. I don’t think I could have handled it. My friend and I had to physically fight off a henna women trying to make us sit, and those gals are strong! I learned to say a few phrases in Arabic and I must have said “no thanks” 80 times in one day. At one point on the way to the mountains I did get trapped by a clasped bracelet when a man came out of nowhere and handcuffed me with it; my husband was nowhere to be found because he narrowly escaped a cobra being put around his neck so he ran back to the car. I ended up getting 3 other silver bracelets for a steal from the cuffer because I carried little cash and was told a few times I “barter like a Berber” because — well, I’m kind of a bitch.

I’m still shocked at how other tourists from Europe dressed (we rarely saw Americans, we met, like 2) mainly the women. I tried to cover my shoulders at all times and my tattoos, but I think I saw more ass, tits, and skin in Marrakech than at any strip club. A lot of women didn’t get the memo when you wear a white caftan, you have to wear more than a thong under it! The men were going crazy, it was hilarious. It could get up to 107 degrees but I still covered up. I know it is really lax in Morocco but I just didn’t want to be the ugly American. But not to worry, the episode of AbFab when they go to Morocco played out in real life in front of us almost every day. People assumed my husband was a British rock star detoxing, but they still tried to get him hash, and one restaurateur tried to arrange a private car for us to get him to the flashy club he owned.

Now for the big news. We booked a tour to the Atlas mountains where we took tea with a Berber family, rode camels, and bartered hard for anything and everything. I never want to ride a camel again. Put it this way, horses are way more comfortable! It was the mountain hike that solidified for me that after years of work, I didn’t need my cane anymore. A cane I’d had since surgery seven years ago. I didn’t realize what we had signed up for (and we decided not to do the mule ride) but this was a lot more physical activity in very treacherous terrain! One wrong step and you go splat, or break a bone. I threw my cane out in the trash at the airport in Marrakech upon leaving. Between the hike and dodging scooters in narrow alleys daily, we’ll call it physical therapy Moroccan style! I’ll still need a cane if I wear heels and I still won’t ever be able to run again, but to not have to drag it around with me everywhere has been so freeing!

[As an aside, please, the next person who says “I didn’t recognized you without your cane” I’ll never speak to you again and I might trip you when you aren’t looking. Oh let’s be honest, women never say this to me, only men do. WTF is that about? It’s not funny. Don’t be a dickhead.]

I caught a cold on our last day and fought it off with mint tea, and Moroccan aspirin was pretty hardcore! I’ve kept some and now wish I had bought more to stock up on. It makes me wonder what other goodies the pharmacy had that are better than what I get in the US. We almost stocked up on spices but were afraid they would get dumped at customs with our day in Amsterdam or coming back to the US. Oh, did I mention I only packed half of a carry-on suitcase for this trip so I had room for all the stuff I bought? I literally left one side empty! I was away for about 10 days and survived. I was going to do a packing video again of ‘ how to pack for Africa with practically nothing’ but you can see I did something similar with my husband here.

Anyway, here’s just some of the stupid amount of photos I took. I might post video later, because I took a lot. We are planning on a trip to Tangier next year!

 

 

 

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Forma and Flora exhibition at The Gathering Place

This show takes place at the newly built Sandy Borrelli Center at 25425 Center Ridge Road in Westlake, Ohio.

Opening reception: Friday, October 27th from 5pm to 7pm and on view through December 30th.

I’m so happy and honored to be showing at an amazing resource for those dealing with cancer, as well as the facility being named after Sandy! She’s an amazing woman. Please do check out The Gathering Place and both their locations. Not only do they provide group services, but there’s a wig shop, and programming for children (including kitten camp!)

Anyway, more about the showy-poo….

​Arabella Proffer’s biomorphic paintings revolve around a fascination with the history of medicine, microbiology, and surreal organisms. Her work is many times of landscapes combined with abstract representations of organic processes, alien botany, and the cellular basis of the unnatural. Each painting is started from a place of abstraction; becoming filled with strange hybrids of flowers, cells, and symbols; a nature that is a genetically modified in oil paint.

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“My work changed drastically one day in 2010 when I found myself creating surreal organic environments. Although I started from a place of abstraction, they became filled with strange hybrids of flowers, cells, and symbols that appeared like organisms from another planet. It was only later that I found out I had cancer crawling through my leg at an alarming rate. When my doctor showed me the scans of the tumor it looked almost identical to what I had been painting – tentacles and all. In succession over the last seven years I had painted other images that closely resembled what was going on in my own body; cysts, growths, and other organ entanglements all later revealed well after the paintings were done. A fascination with the macro universe and micro universe had come about, and made me wonder if I was at times painting in-tune with what my own biology was doing. This was a major departure for me after 12 years of exhibiting as portrait artist.”

Arabella attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA before receiving her BFA from California Institute of the Arts where she studied under artists such as Derek Boshier, Jim Shaw, and Raymond Pettibon. Arabella participates in solo and group exhibitions throughout North America as well as parts of Europe, the Middle East, and Australia. She was awarded an Ohio Arts Council grant in 2016 and has been a teaching artist at The Cleveland Museum of Art. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Plain Dealer, GOOD Magazine, Hi-Fructose, Juxtapoz, The Harvard Gazette, SF Weekly, Cincinnati Magazine, Snob, Scene, Modain, Hektoen International Medical Journal, and more. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and bred in Southern California, lives on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio.

 

 

 

Artists I Like Right Now: People and Places

Sarah McRae Morton

Sophia Heymans

Esther Sarto

Current women painters you should check out more of on their websites.

Ellendea Proffer Teasley in Cleveland!

Hey, did you know my mom is a bestseller in Russia? Well, the English translation of her latest book has just come out and she will be doing talks both at Cleveland Public Library (Monday, October 2nd at 6pm) and at my favorite bookstore in the world, Loganberry Books (Tuesday, Oct 3rd at 7pm)

You can order the book here, and while you are at it, the newly expanded edition of my dad’s memoirs is here.

Given the current climate and divide between the US and Russia, these talks are very now if you are interested in poetry, literature, and how to cope when a government censors and attacks its artists. Read more below! There’s also a video and podcast link….

Monday, October 2nd from 6pm to 8pm at Cleveland Public Library525 Superior, Main Library in the Louis Stokes Wing 2nd Floor. Cleveland, Ohio. Q&A and refreshments to follow. 

Censorship, anti-intellectualism, and totalitarian despair. How are creatives to resist, and survive?

Author and publisher Ellendea Proffer Teasley is in Cleveland to talk about her memoir Brodsky Among Us, recently released in English, but already a runaway bestseller in Russia, where it was translated as soon as it was finished, an indicator of Joseph Brodsky’s status in his native country. Proffer Teasley’s portrait of this brilliant poet is something very different from the hagiographic portraits that had come before, and was immediately acclaimed as the most believable description of this complex genius.

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Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, exiled from the Soviet Union in 1972, was a notorious poet and protégé of Anna Akhmatova. KGB arrests, a courtroom trial, and sentence of hard labor exile near the Arctic Circle only added to this notoriety. However, when he landed in the United States — thanks to a young Midwestern couple from Ann Arbor, Michigan — he truly began his path to international fame, eventually winning the Nobel Prize for poetry.

It was the late 1960s in the Soviet Union that Ellendea Proffer Teasley met Brodsky after she and her husband Carl Proffer found themselves admitted into the small and exclusive circle of legendary writers, poets, and artists that included Nadezhda Mandelstam, Elena S. Bulgakova, Lily Brik, and Vladimir Nabokov.

Witnessing the censorship of creatives, in what Proffer Teasley later coined an, “eleven time zone prison” the Proffers began the legendary publishing house Ardis Publishers in 1971, the only one in the world devoted exclusively to Russian literature in both English and Russian, a remarkable feat given that they themselves were not Russian. Ardis published the first English translations of books by major Russian writers such as Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelstam, Mikhail Bulgakov, Anna Akhmatova, and many others, including young Soviet writers. Ardis became known to Russian readers for its determination to publish the “lost library” of the Russian twentieth century, books that were erased from history by the Soviets and physically destroyed. Most important of the forbidden authors was Vladimir Nabokov, whose novel Lolita was banned in the Soviet Union. The Ardis editions somehow got smuggled into the Soviet Union to the readers who were desperate for them.

The Proffers brought Brodsky to America after his exile, and miraculously secured him as a poet-in-residence at the University of Michigan. From there his rise to fame in the United States was meteoric; receiving a MacArthur Fellowship, appointed the United States Poet Laureate in 1991, teaching at the best American universities, and becoming the toast of New York.

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Since his death 1996, Brodsky has been greatly deified in the form of museums, statues, film biopics, and even referenced on HBO shows like “The Young Pope”. Brodsky Among Us attempts to shed light on a man, not the legend: it is a frank picture of a willful and creative mind.

Brodsky Among Us is a deeply felt memoir of a life lived between two cultures and friendships with Vladimir Nabokov, Vasily Aksyonov, Vladimir Voinovich and many other writers, and it has resonated with all those who are interested in not only poetry, but also the Cold War itself and the myriad ways these cultures found to connect despite official prohibition of contacts.

Ellendea Proffer Teasley a writer, translator, and co-founded Ardis Publishers in 1971. She is known for Mikhail Bulgakov: Life & Work (1984); translations of Bulgakov’s plays and prose; numerous articles and introductions, most prominently the Notes and Afterword to the Burgin-O’Connor translation of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. She edited a series of well-received photo-biographies, including those devoted to Nabokov, Tsvetaeva and Bulgakov. She was on the first judges’ panel for the Booker Russian Novel Prize, and in 1989 received a MacArthur Fellowship. She lives and works in Dana Point, California.

LSA Magazine feature

Reconsidering Russia podcast

Commentary Magazine

The Nation

Russia Beyond the Headlines

London Review of Books

The Kenyon Review

“Her Brodsky is brilliant, reckless, and deeply human… an engaging, compulsively readable text that is bodacious, graceful, seamless.” — The Book Haven, Stanford University

“If this book did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it. But the problem is that very few people would be able to invent it—that is, to write it this way: without teary-eyed delight or spiteful score-settling, without petty fights with either the dead or the living, and at the same time with a full understanding of the caliber and distinctiveness of its “hero.”

— Anna Narinskaia, Kommersant Daily

“Proffer Teasley’s Brodsky is both darker and brighter than the one we thought we knew, and he is the stronger for it, as a poet and a person…Brodsky Among Us appears to have been written in a single exhalation of memory; it is frank, personal, loving, and addictive: a minor masterpiece of memoir, and an important world-historical record.”

— Cynthia Haven, The Nation

Artists I Like Right Now: Summertime

Vincent Xeus

Matt Wolcott

Anna Valdez

Joey Slaughter

 

New Painting: Lasher

16×16″ oil on panel. (click to expand)

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GURLS Pre-Orders

After much pestering from a lot of people, I’ve gone ahead and made a pre-order for the reprint of GURLS, as well as for GURLS volume 2!

Pre-Order one or both here!

They will be released November 15th, 2017 which is earlier than I had anticipated but hey, makes a good Christmas gift, right? The last two runs sold out within 9 hours, and over a weekend respectively, so this way you are guaranteed a copy.

By the way, the show GURLS has been extended at FB69 Galerie if you would like to purchase an original. Here’s a new interview in Scene Magazine about my GURLS, btw!

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