April 21, 2015
Words and Photographs By Alessandra Nicole, As appeared in the spring edition of Landenberg Today, April 2015
Three chili peppers, some rocks, a honeybun and three cigars. Four white plates containing these objects were lined up on the hardwood floor in front of a fireplace in a cozy Landenberg apartment all awaiting their screen debut and their sacrificial destiny — on the strikingly cold and misty Saturday morning when I performed in a music video, on assignment from Landenberg Today.
I was greeted at the door by the broad Cheshire Cat smile of writer/film director/musician /Renaissance man Chris Malinowski, who was creating a music video titled “White Deer” that would soon serve as part of the soundtrack for his latest film, “Yes, Your Tide is Cold and Dark, Sir,” which has been screened at several festivals around the nation and is now available through Amazon on DVD.
I stepped through the doorway of his cottage, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, that simple step forward was as good as signing my name on the dotted line of a contract issued by a distant and unknowable Supreme Creator. Stay with me here.
After returning Malinowski’s smile, I very shyly offered my own to a small group of five other women, all strangers. Gathered to one side of the virtually empty living room, they were completely clad in black just like myself, as Malinowski’s email a week prior had requested. On the room’s other side, a man with a camera adjusted a rig, holding it belted firmly around his waist.
In the rain, still others were positioning a large light just outside of a bank of windows that led into the living room. A flick of a switch and Ahh: Instantly the cold, misty Saturday morning was transformed into the fantastical mind trickery that was a perfectly realistic sunny afternoon. The “sun” streamed luxuriously across the floor of the room and the women flocked toward it, smiling.
I knew little about Malinowski, beyond his unapologetically gregarious and dramatic stage performances (at times in full makeup) at the Deer Park Tavern in Newark, with his band, The Collingwood. As frontman and lead guitarist, he seemed to be a man possessed. His eyes would roll back into his head in an inner-lighted bliss.
A well-known fun fact about Malinowski is that his favorite place on earth to visit is New Orleans, and that not only does he bask in the well-known undercurrent of ・voodoo・ central to the core of the city, he channels it, often, in his creative work.
For me, it wasn’t the most absurd thing to agree to show up to the set of a music video. Years ago, I was an art student at a college in Savannah, Ga. There, I found myself participating in courageous filmmaking and acting projects, convening with my fellow students in basement coffeeshops until the small hours, fleshing out their visions. We all worked tirelessly on film shoots, propelled forward by the natural electricity of inspired artistic discourse and execution.
After college, I was a production designer on several short and lengthy projects, grim horror stories, high-concept dramas and dark comedies. I lost hours and days without realizing it while in production.
In Landenberg, I was totally in my element.
The six of us sat cross-legged on the floor around the white plates. We held hands. Malinowski sat in a wooden chair in a corner of the room with one more statuesque and masked woman standing at his shoulder. We fumbled with our ill-fitting masks, offering one another rolled bits of paper to keep the masks from chafing our faces.
Someone pressed ‘Play’ on a boombox that sat on the floor by the door, and suddenly, the room was filled with the haunting, melodic sound of Malinowski’s guitar on the track “White Deer.” It was the first time I heard the tone of the song, and the first time I would get a real feel for what our director was looking to achieve. The song was played with saturating volume, the tempo slow, and it cast a spell over us. I am a hyper-aware introvert and holding hands with a stranger of the same sex was a hyper-real experience on its own, but I barely noticed the camera hovering around us.
At first, we were to sit as still as possible. Severals takes were made. In between, we smiled, and fixed one another・s hair and masks. I was in the company of extraordinary women; it was as if the setting and the music had peeled off our earthly bodies and we were these radiant young souls. The more vulnerable and transparent one of us became about a wrinkle or an ill-placed strand of hair, the stronger we became, and the greater we were as a formed circle.
When I stole looks across the plated offerings at our knees to the ladies facing me through the ill-aligned holes in my Zorro mask, I saw our manufactured golden sunshine creating angelic halos around their heads. Something quite special was happening to us. Soon, we were on our feet, dancing in slow motion, hands waving around.
Malinowski coached us in that the footage was going to be slowed down so that we would appear to be in slow motion, but I felt that it was already happening, in that way you feel when you are aware that you・re going from merely buzzed to full-blown drunk. Although we were all clearly sober, time was slowing in the most peculiar and special way.
There was one part to the shoot left. Alhough it was raining, Malinowski asked if we would be willing to go outside and dance in the elements. I looked to the other women, and it was a universal understanding that this was the perfect evolution of the day — to ground our collective heightened spiritual experience by dancing in the rain in the cold Landenberg afternoon.
A few of us removed our shoes and decided to dance barefoot. We ran outside and gathered at a tree behind the cottage, and without any external music guiding as at all, we danced together, slowly, beneath an overcast sky while rooted to the earth beneath our tender feet. The more I trampled the frozen world beneath me, the more I felt vested by the women around me, and existence itself, to stay vibrant, new, open.
I left the set of Malinowski’s music video feeling transformed. His cottage and his song provided the backdrop to such a special synergy that I will not easily forget. It’s wondrous when you’re open to brand new experiences to begin with. My own reaction to life prior to this had been one of isolation, but to meet creative women who are all on the same stage, was like seeing the glow of a lighthouse after having been at sea for too long, and getting to dance with that beam of light.
I want to live in that light, to bask in that light.
Alessandra Nicole is a writer and photographer. Her essay, “Like a Ballerina in the Air,” appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of Landenberg Today. To learn more about her, visit www.alessandranicole.com. Other published essays include: “Sunlight, Held Together by Water,” which appeared in Fall 2014’s edition of Kennett Square Today magazine, and “Requiem for a Tree,” which first appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of West Chester and Chadds Ford Life magazine.
To view the “White Deer” video, visit: The Collingwood: “White Deer” Official Music Video, on YouTube.
April 11, 2015
I always try to grab a little snapshot of the NYC skyline after emerging from the tunnel in New Jersey.
Though the day was seasonably warm last week when we left the City, it wasn’t remarkable weather. That’s alright though, unremarkable snapshots are fun to play around with using iPhone apps and a friend of mine turned me onto one that gave me this result:
So, who cares? It’s fun. Don’t judge the bad snapshots, use them to experiment. I create something, however small, daily. Sometimes an unremarkable snapshot inspires sketches, paintings, illustrations, short stories, down the line. I open my eyes and explore. That (and a little bit of love) is the stuff of life.
March 24, 2015
While spring is struggling to maintain altitude in the northeast and midatlantic, we are keeping hearty soups on the menu. It was below freezing last night, will be again tonight, and again this coming weekend! Philadelphia forecasters warn that we won’t be able to put our snow shovels away for good until after April 15th!
Here is a photo from a lighting test for an upcoming cooking shoot on an icy day in southern Chester County, PA recently. This is Chez Dejardins’ Zuppa Toscana, a similar recipe below.
- 1 pound(s) Italian Sausage (spicy)
- WE RECOMMEND Esposito’s sausage, located in the heart of Philly’s Italian Market mmm
- 4-6 Russet Potatoes :bite sized cubes
- 1 Onion :minced
- 1/4 cup(s) REAL bacon pieces
- 2 tablespoon(s) Garlic :minced
- 32 ounce(s) Chicken Broth
- 1/2 bunch(es) Kale (or Swiss Chard) :destem & cut/torn into bite sized pieces
- 1 cup(s) Heavy Whipping Cream
- 2 tablespoon(s) Flour
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 5 Hours, 30 Minutes
- 1. Brown sausage links in a sauté pan.
- 2. Cut links in half lengthwise, then cut slices.
- 3. Place sausage, chicken broth, garlic, potatoes and onion in slow cooker.
- Add just enough water to cover the vegetables and meat.
- 4. Cook on high 3-4 hours (low 5-6 hours) until potatoes are soft.
- 30 minutes before serving:
- 5. Mix flour into cream removing lumps.
- 6. Add cream and kale to the crock pot, stir.
- 7. Cook on high 30 minutes or until broth thickens slightly.
- 8. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.
- 9*. Serve with Alsace, stoke the fire in the fire place, and nosh leisurely while gazing out over the hilly serenity of quintessential horse country in southern Chester County, PA
- *substitute for enjoying the best of your unique surroundings :)
March 20, 2015
I am cozy, hot coffee in-hand, in my creative nook today editing last night’s event shoot while listening to Neil Finn as the snow falls softly outside- this late in March! I can’t believe I’m hearing snow plows scraping along the curvy bend outside the house. It was 65° just three days ago! Some craggy old seasons truly don’t know when to let go, move on, stop it’s petty vanity and let the new season settle in- WE ARE ALL READY for it. Your grace has withered away and you have Long overstayed. Winter, you are OVER! As Neil Finn sings in his song Recluse, you are like a “dog pissing on a statue,” trying to mark your territory and get your last shots in before delving back down below the equator. Go bully another continent! Give us fresh flourishing sun-kissed Spring! Freedom and light and colour and life-giving inhales and exhales!
A morning glance from my personal Instagram account: My day lily looks forlornly out at the snowy vista. She was looking forward to being planted outside this weekend but we’ll likely wait another week.
I have seen the world turning
in time you’ll find that some things
travel faster than light
In time you’ll recognise that love is larger than life
-Neil Mullane Finn, Faster Than Light
We got to see Neil Finn perform last year on Apr 11th at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA, front and center, and were sent home swooning on a moonbeam of love. Such a great show!
March 18, 2015
Whoever said New York City is bleak in winter never looks up!
March 17, 2015
For my old Savannah friends celebrating in arguably the 2nd largest St Patrick’s Day festivities in the States, no caption required.
©Alessandra Nicole 2015 | All Rights Reserved
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