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Faeries: Visions, Voices and Pretty Dresses Hardcover – June 30, 2000
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
"Keri Pickett's photographs aren't from a distant voyeuristic perspective--hers is the eye of a member of the family who reveals the sacred life of her dear subjects. This book is a documentation of a modern day Midsummer Night's Dream."--Amy Ray, Indigo Girls
"Pickett's photographs of men in skirts, in the buff or in flower wreaths are gentle and dignified.... There's a timelessness to the light, to the naked beautiful bodies, to the storybook costumes."--Duluth News-Tribune
"This collection of photographs and voices spins a tale of heart circles, rituals and trees, the cookhouse and cabin, the lake, river and lots of beautiful faerie nymphs who really know how to dress for dinner. The images and voices illuminate a place where people dare to explore a way of being for which the mainstream has no room."--Keri Pickett
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Recommended to anyone interested in the Radical Faerie movement/lifestyle. This book is a keeper.
For the guys at Kawashaway Sanctuary in northern Minnesota, wearing a flounced skirt while splitting wood is more about freedom and options than about drag or some not-very-suppressed desire to be a woman. Ditto going nude, wearing nail polish, posing with a parasol or lunching on the lawn in lingerie and high-topped tennis shoes. Anyone who first meets the Kawashaway guys in Keri Pickett's beautiful, big-hearted new book "Faeries: Visions, Voices & Pretty Dresses," is just going to have to deal with the clothes - and lack thereof. The costumes are deliciously fun in a campy and surprisingly natural way, but the book's larger vision quickly sweeps you up in its festive celebration of a free-spirited community. "The selection of photographs is really stunning," said Cynthia Gehrig, president of the Jerome Foundation, which contributed US$17,000 toward the book's publication by Aperture, a nonprofit New York foundation and prestigious photography publisher. SANCTUARY FOR 'FAERIE' SOULS Pickett, a Minneapolis photographer, has spent the past six years photographing summer gatherings at Kawashaway, a rustic 17-acre retreat founded in 1989 and collectively run by gay men. With little more than a cabin, a cook house, a pump and tent sites in a wilderness of trees, marsh and wild rivers, Kawashaway is an environmental haven as well as a sanctuary for "faerie souls." Most Kawashaway visitors are men who identify themselves as "radical faeries," a phrase they define variously as "a gay men's spiritual movement," "a community of trust, based on unconditional love and acceptance," and "boy children who failed the state masculinity tests." Pickett, a straight woman whose antic spirit has won her a welcome at Kawashaway, describes the community as an "anarchistic cult." Her New York boyfriend aside, Pickett insists she's a faerie too - that is, "someone who honors and celebrates the unique mix of masculine and feminine in everybody." There are faerie communities and sanctuaries throughout Europe, Canada and the United States, said Kawashaway regulars. Even within the gay community, however, radical faeries are sometimes considered a bit far out, particularly by gays who prefer to blend quietly into mainstream society. "There are a number of people in the gay community who don't understand and aren't necessarily happy that there are people like us out there being bold," said Hummingbird, a St. Paul resident who appears in Pickett's book. ("Hummingbird" is a name he once used only in faerie circles but has legally adopted.) "I prefer to say: This is who I am. If you have issues, go deal with them." Although Pickett's book is full of guys wearing dresses, they're not tarted up as glamour pusses. With their hairy legs, furry chests, stubbled chins and the occasional tattoo, they could pass as a reunion of the Woodstock fraternity. PLAYING DRESS-UP "There are very few faeries who would disguise their facial hair or shave their armpits or whatever," said Rocky, a k a Robert Gordon, a Minneapolis handyman. "Mostly it's a kid thing, playing dress-up and wearing these goofy outfits and getting a good laugh out of the fact that somebody actually wore them. . . . It's also one of our fiercest
competitions. We don't play rugby, and it's really hard to find glamorous things that fit big boys." Faeries also say they don dresses to thumb their noses at society's taboos about male attire. In a world where women wear pants, men still have little freedom to blur gender lines. "It isn't about passing as a woman or pretending to be one," said Salamander, a Twin Cities clergyman and Kawashaway regular. (Like most Kawashaway visitors, Salamander is identified in the book only by his
faerie name. He asked that his legal name not be used here for professional reasons.) "It's more about messing with the boundaries of gender, about liminality in a spiritual sense, exploding the social construct of gender identity." As a freelance photographer, Pickett, 41, shoots primarily for People, Sports Illustrated and other national magazines. Her first book, "Love in the 90s," was an affectionate photographic portrait of her 90-something grandparents. She is also among 12 photographers who were commissioned by the Minnesota Historical Society to document the state for its millennial book "Minnesota in our Time," published this month. She first encountered the Northwoods Band of Radical Faeries in 1993, when Mpls/St. Paul magazine hired her to photograph people caring for David Lindahl, a Kawashaway founder who had AIDS. Many of his caregivers were radical faeries. Before Lindahl's death in 1994, she visited the sanctuary with him and was so taken by its spirit that she started attending and documenting the group's 10-day "gatherings" each August. "She's not an outsider taking pictures," Rocky said. "She's very much an active participant, so . . . you get a truer sense of the community because her engagement is so much stronger." In the book and interviews, Pickett candidly acknowledges that she abandoned journalistic objectivity and "went native" with the faeries,
whose ideas she believes "have a lot of potential for healing individuals on their personal journeys." Having studied art history and photography at Moorhead State University, Pickett brings a well-trained eye to her work. Her faerie photos are a mix of magazine-style candids - of guys cooking, chopping wood, talking, dancing, swimming - and more formal portraits in which poses, lighting and setting sometimes echo fine art, particularly paintings by Monet, Courbet, Botticelli and Vermeer. With their outdoor settings, natural light and expressions of humor and affection, her photos are strikingly different from those of the late Robert Mapplethorpe, whose images have defined mainstream impressions of the gay community. Aside from his porn documentaries and erotic torture shots, Mapplethorpe's are mostly hothouse images of narcissistic models and lovers posed under artificial lights, their perfect bodies gleaming like rain-slicked statues. In contrast, Pickett's natural settings and candid style domesticate her subjects' exotic garb and sexuality. "With Mapplethorpe, there is sometimes this aura of self-abuse that reflects his own concerns and anxieties. In Keri's work that blackness just isn't there," said George Slade, a St. Paul photo historian..."
I was totally enchanted with the book, spent all my free time for a couple of weeks looking at the photos and reading the interviews. I had that experience of finding my lost tribe. In the year and a half since then I've met a lot of the faeries pictured in the book. I've visited the wolf creek faerie sanctuary in Oregon twice. This summer I might go to Kawashaway with my friend Heron (check out p. 70 -- I like your look better with short hair, honey!).
When I tell people I'm a faerie and they ask me what that means, I show them this book. They get it in a way I could never convey in my words alone.
If you're interested in beautiful documentary photography, life stories and personal philosophies, the nuts and bolts of creating and nurturing an alternative community, and expanding your vision of what it means to be human on this planet at this point in history, I would encourage you to get this book. If you're a faerie I would insist, honey!
I heard recently that Keri Pickett has been working on a book about faeries in the northwest US. I can hardly wait!