Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What are Artists Starving For?

Ever think about what exactly a starving artist is?  I have and recently I thought a little deeper about it in regard to my own life as an artist.  Usually when we hear that someone is a starving artist we think that they are poor, "starving" and scrounging around all in the name of art.  However, that could be anybody, struggling to make ends meet, whether they are an artist or not.  I thought about the definition of 'starving' - and when I took away the literal meaning in regard to food, I wondered what it meant when it came to artists.  Of course, this is just one point of view, mine, and for right everything else changes, that could change too.  (Now that the disclaimer is out of the way...)

I see starving as a longing, a thirst for something and as an artist I realize that it is simply the need to create.  I remember, when I was a full time musician, reading about artists and that they need to have tumult in their lives in order to create since it is that place that stirs their creativity (according to this article I read). I was so upset about this and thought I might be doomed for a life of angst and unhappiness... it was as if it were an excuse to be unhappy... so that I could create.  And, I do agree with the notion that there needs to be something unsettling on some level in order to create our best creations.  However, this brings me back to the concept of starving.  One can be totally content in their lives, esthetically anyway, and internally, if they are not creating, they feel a void.... a thirst that is not quenched.  And interestingly, though the artist is rewarded by either acclaim or in monetary ways, I am not convinced that a true artist is ever satisfied with that... which is where the turmoil lies within and could be the very place from which we create.   After all, Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin and so many more were never satisfied and thank goodness they weren't.

 I am referring to certain people who are called "artists" but I do believe that we are all artists... in fact, I think that artists can be interchanged with the word "human" since we all are creating something.... whether it be numbers, teaching, healing, cures, paintings, photographs, music, etc....
In the end, I believe, the reason we 'starve' for creation is because it is inherent to desire to feel purposeful.

I have written many songs from break ups, falling in love, falling out of love, my views on politics, my anger and sadness and it took quite a bit of time before I started the practice of writing songs that actually had a happy sentiment.   And in all honesty, I really had to push myself to write songs from a loving place...and even now, after the hundreds of songs I've written I can safely say the songs written from a painful place outnumber the happy songs by far.  And... I can only surmise that the reason for this is that when I was happy, I felt a lesser need to express because I was more in the moment of living and not feeling that need as deeply to express any pain.  I am still learning how to express myself in positive ways.... it is rare, but it does happen, when lyrics will float into my head to express some pain that I am experiencing... usually, I just write about 2 lines and then I ask myself, what is it that I want to contribute to this world.  It is then that I realize that I don't want to add to the misery or suffering... at least, not without some essence of hope and the act of overcoming pain because pain is inevitable... but I have a choice as to how to deal with it.

My husband painting in nature.
My husband is a successful engineer, and would hardly call himself an artist.  However, he is probably more of an artist than me.  Though he enjoys his engineering work, his passion and essence is so incredibly obvious when he is painting or wood working...and what I'm about to say is not just because I am his wife, but because it it true.... his artwork is astounding.  And more than once, I have copped an angle of a photograph because his 'eye' is also amazing for composition.  I use him as an example.... because I think he represents us all... and confirms my belief that we are all artists.

So... if you are starving... chances are the act of creating will fulfill that void, until the next time you feel the need to create.... and the next time.... and thank goodness for that... because satisfaction is overrated and unsettling.   I guess we're all in this together... but hardly starving... but thriving and desiring to contribute, in any way that "almost" fulfills us....and the world.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Beauty and Wisdom, The Last Generation

516B5leJ4pL. SX258 BO1,204,203,200  Beauty and Wisdom, The Last GenerationAfter four years of photographing and interviewing women in beauty parlors all over the country, the book of Beauty and Wisdom was released on at the end of this past year.
The reception has been wonderful and while I had hoped and expected women to relate to it I have experienced a surprisingly overwhelming response from men.  I have given two talks so far this year and it has touched me deeply that when it came time for the Q & A section of those talks, it was mostly men asking questions and at the end of those talks they approached me to convey their gratitude and were pleased that someone was covering or rather, uncovering, this topic of agelessness in a culture that concentrates mainly on its youth. In fact, it was mostly men that bought the books!
I was introduced as the photojournalist who traveled around the country photographing women at their weekly hair appointments. They didn’t know what to expect but I sensed that they thought this was going to be a whimsical talk about older women in salons and it reminded me that it was just like that for me before I walked into the first salon to photograph for the Beauty and Wisdom project. It was interesting to see the transformation which took place for me, also occurred for them.
I started the talks with a short movie I created for the presentation:
It presented many of the photos from the book and exhibit set to the music of Joe Cocker’s “You are So Beautiful.”  There were chuckles at some of the photos, but I could tell these chuckles were filled with love, respect and sensitivity. They weren’t making fun of the photos, they were enjoying, as I did, being voyeurs into what was considered a sacred ritual of sorts for many women of that generation and realizing that it was anything but frivolity.
In most cases, these women attended the salon as a necessity since at the time they could not reproduce their hairstyles by themselves.  In fact, many of the styles from the past are no longer taught in salon schools. Attending their weekly appointments provided connection and relaxation while beautifying.  And, as one of the women who shared at my talk noted, the salon was also a place where ‘underground’ information was shared at a time where certain circumstances were to be kept secret or thought of as taboo. This was a special time, women helping women at a time of need and sharing in elation as well as sorrow.
This generation of women (and hairstyles) is fading.  I have lost three of my models in the last four years.  Perhaps someday in the not too distant future, these salons that cater to the patrons of the once-a-week beauty parlor ritual, will be obsolete, but the wisdom and paths that they paved for future generations will not be. I hope they know how much they contributed and continue to contribute to so many of us.
If I had to do it over again, I would spend more time talking with the women about their lives, more in depth. I wanted to honor their time at the salon as they set it aside and I didn’t want to invade on their privacy. They agreed to let me take their photo and I didn’t want to take up too much of their appointment asking them questions. Some were more conversational than others, but they all had beautiful and wise insight to share as well as the women who contributed to the book in writing, also had beautiful and wise insights to share.
What I learned was that when I get the opportunity to speak with an elder, to ask questions about their lives, I will.  I once heard that a good question you can ask your elder is, “what was one difficult time of your life and what did you learn from it?”  This is where the wisdom gets juicy and the gap between generations lessens.  We start realizing that even though this person is older, they experience their own trials and tribulations, just as a teen or twenty-something…or fifty-something…. and they have the uncanny ability to offer some kind of gem of wisdom that will remind us that we are all connected and valuable, no matter what age.  The gems of wisdom shared are invisible reminders for difficult times.  Our elders have more wisdom than most and our culture would greatly benefit from giving them visibility and a platform to hear their wise voices. I offer an alternative to how aging and beauty is perceived and hope that you will take the cue from the women in my project and choose to age fearlessly and gracefully, with no regrets, all at the same time.
I’ll close with this quote from Debbie J. Johnson, contributing author to Beauty and Wisdom:
“I am so grateful to be reminded of the true beauty of age and wisdom and of a time-honored tradition that shaped our world more than we will probably ever know. It has reminded me that nature demonstrates beauty in so many ways. The firm, tight petals of the rose bud are indeed beautiful, but we all await the real beauty, as time unfolds, when the petals reveal the fullness of the bloom.”

Link to Article on Changing Aging, click here -->  The Last Generation

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Granny Club

 My good friend Karen recently bought my Beauty and Wisdom book for her granddaughter for Christmas and I was so touched I wanted to share her story.  Here is the email she sent me.
Karen and Mini

I want to give one to my granddaughter.  We have a thing about what we call "The Granny Club."  It's kind of like a beauty and wisdom joke in its own way. 

Granny KB:  "You have to brush your hair because you haven't since you went swimming and if you go out to dinner looking like that I could get kicked out of "The Granny Club." 

For years, Micol thought there really was a Granny Club and cried when she heard the truth.  I felt awful but we have made a big joke out of it as the years have passed.   
Micol is the only person who cuts my hair for some years now so, in a sense, she is my stylist!  I thought it would empower her to think she could do something so important and using scissors too.  But in fact it is a tender and empowering thing for me too--like going to the salon.  She says my hair is beautiful and she loves the "silver parts"!  She's messed up a couple of times but with my hair it doesn't really matter.  She loves to do it.  Funny, huh?  I think she will like your book very much.  

Thank you Karen, I am so honored to have my book given to your sweet granddaughter...  Micol obviously already possesses so much beauty and wisdom!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I am accountable for deleting my post on accountability!

Yep, I just deleted my somewhat lengthy post on accountability.  I opened it up to edit it, so that I could add a very crucial part that I left out.

I guess that this post will make sense to whomever read the last post.... so.....

Between the time Luna ran out of Janin Acres and the other day, when I saw the woman whose dog scared Luna, Luna had major knee surgery and was out of commission for 4 months healing.  Her let was already hurting (as I mentioned in the ghost post), so after bolting out of the walking area, that put her over the top and after, healing, physical therapy and  many dollars later, she is doing very well.  If fact, the first time I let her off the lead to play with another dog was the day I met the woman who provided for me, an opportunity to take responsibility for what happened.

And there you have it...  hope this makes sense and next time, I will not edit the way I just did and lost the entire post!   This accountability sure is humbling....

Til next time!

Photo:  Beautiful tree in the mist at Janin Acres, the day I finally met my could be imagined nemesis!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Beauty and Wisdom in Santa Barbara News-Press

Beauty and Wisdom : Santa Ynez photographer explores weekly ritual of aging generation of women

Above, Mrs. Milner, John Peri Salon, Marina Del Rey, CA

Santa Ynez photographer Robbie Kaye spent four years photographing beauty salons across the county and the elderly clients who frequent them for her new book, "Beauty and Wisdom." Here she is at Melba's Beauty Salon in Solvang.

Southern Ladies, Sheila's Beauty Salon, Brantley, AL

Jenny, The Cut Salon, Santa Monica.

December 9, 2013 6:08 AM
In Robbie Kaye's new photography book, "Beauty and Wisdom," there is an image she took of an empty chair at a Santa Monica beauty salon. Embedded within the arm of the chair is an ashtray with its lid sprung open, waiting for the falling ash from a burning cigarette.
The photograph is a poignant symbol of a bygone era, an era where beauty salons were the social center of every community around the country to which local housewives would make a weekly pilgrimage so they could be spoiled and pampered. As stylists sculpted curls into gravity-defying creative statements and turned nails into works of art, their clients would converse about the weekly happenings over coffee, pastries and, yes, even cigarettes.
Ms. Kaye, a Santa Ynez photographer, remembers those times well from growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. A visit to the local beauty salon was a weekly ritual for both her mother and grandmother. But as firmly planted as the tradition was in American culture, by the time Ms. Kaye and her generation stepped out into the world, it had started to slowly fade away.
"A visit to the beauty salon used to be something on every woman's weekly to-do list," Ms. Kaye, 53, told the News-Press. "Just like shopping for groceries or dropping clothes off at the cleaners. But times changed and people started doing their own hair at home."
In her recently released self-published book, Ms. Kaye features photographs from 20 salons across the country. There are also portraits of 52 elderly ladies who still regularly frequent the parlors. The 162-page "Beauty and Wisdom" (All Night Long Publishing/, $29.95) is the culmination of four years of work that began in 2009 when Ms. Kaye stepped through the door of a Santa Monica beauty parlor.
"I was working on a series called "A Day At" where I documented different places to capture what happened there across the course of any given day," Ms. Kaye explained. "I photographed an antique mall and a junkyard and I then went to a beauty parlor in Santa Monica. During the day of photographing, I realized there was a much larger story there, and for the next four years, I took photographs of women 70 years and older in beauty salons all over the country."
A photographic study of older women in beauty salons appealed to Ms. Kaye on several levels. Not only did she want to see for herself what remained of the ritual that was such an intricate part of the lives of her mother and grandmother, she wanted to see how the tradition had endured in the hearts and minds of women who are now in the twilight of their lives. So she packed her camera and took to the road.
Desiring a wide demographic, Ms. Kaye not only covered both coasts by visiting California and New York, she photographed in the South, including Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee, along with states like New Mexico.
She visited establishments with iconic names like Sheila's Beauty Shop, D's Hair Styling Salon and Cindy's Vanity Faire. Prior to arriving in any given location, she would research local salons and then contact them to inquire about their clientele.
"Once I found a salon that had clients who were 70 years or older, I would ask the owners if I could come and if they would ask their clients if I could take their photographs," Ms. Kaye said. "I kept it general because I didn't want anyone to know when I was coming. And the majority of women were fine with that."
What she found at the salons was a communal and social atmosphere that encompassed both the clients and the stylists. In a salon in Alabama, there were five women trading opinions on everything from the town's new pastor to recipes, while in Santa Monica, clients reminisced about the marriages and births and deaths they have collectively experienced.
One of the project's greatest revelations was how open and accommodating Ms. Kaye's subjects were to being photographed. She was dealing with women in varying states of make-up, not always flattering, but she found them all to be supportive of her requests to photograph them.
"These women were so wonderful in allowing me to be a voyeur during this time when they're pampering themselves," Ms. Kaye said. "They were so stoic and so open to what I was doing. They were sitting there with curlers in their hair or under a dryer, but they weren't self-conscious at all. It was interesting to see how vanity has changed over the generations."
Despite her talent, photography has only recently entered Ms. Kaye's life. A trained classical musician who has worked as a recording artist and staff songwriter for the likes of Warner/Chappell Music and both Walt Disney Pictures and Disney Music, Ms. Kaye was first exposed to the creative potential of the medium through a musician who took photos of one of the bands she was in while they were on tour.
After living in Manhattan and working on music for a number of years, Ms. Kaye relocated in the mid-1990s to Oregon and then to California to continue her craft as a professional musician. In 2003, she studied photography at USC, and though she never earned her degree, the subject has remained a burning passion.
"Photography is very much like music," Ms. Kaye said. "It is like a visual symphony where you put different elements together. Composing is an important part of both mediums and so is beauty. And I really like to take photographs of unsuspecting beauty. I feel like in this world of craziness, one of the things I can do is just inject some beauty into it."
Much like the music she still writes and performs, the photographs that Ms. Kaye takes stem from deeply personal beginnings.
"When I started this project, I was approaching 50," she said. "I think most art is born from something within ourselves and I think this was somewhat of an exploration of how I was aging.
"I wanted to do something that would help change the perception of aging," she said. "In other cultures, these women are revered and looked to for counsel. But here in our culture, this is a generation that is overlooked a lot of the time.
"I really think they have so much to contribute and I wanted to celebrate them."

"Beauty and Wisdom" (All Night Long Publishing, $29.95) is available at, Chaucer's Books, 3321 State St., in Santa Barbara and Outpost Trading Co., 3547 Sagunto St., in Santa Ynez. For more information, go to

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The art of BE-ing

From the Animal series
"The wise know that too much doing and a thing won't get done. The secret to manifesting on the highest level is to find the perfect amount of doing and non-doing to allow the doing to be done. Sometimes much more can be accomplished simply by letting go and trusting."
- Jackson Kiddard

Aside from publishing Beauty and Wisdom, I have been co-working on a project that I am very happy to share with you. I have partnered with an amazingly gifted woman, Kei Milner right here in Santa Ynez and together we have created Be Notes. Our mission? To create functional, inspirational art and share it with the world and to create reminders what beautiful people we all are... no matter how much we do, we are be-ings. So BE you... fiercely, lovingly and honestly.  You ARE beautiful.

We decided to do a small holiday promotional run and we produced our first product, Be Note pads, which have 10 images and text (50 pages) reminding us that we are be-ings during our very very busy lives. They are also magnetic.  We are delighted that they are being carried in several stores now in Santa Barbara County and Ventura, CA

There are 4 themes (that were printed, of course we have many more!) Animals, Roads, Gardens, and Santa Ynez Valley.  We do have a website,, however, we are not yet selling any pads from there as we are gearing up for large production in 2014 when we will have the inventory to offer them online and everywhere. 

We invite you to visit our website anyway... there is a short video and there are photos of all the themes that we are offering for this holiday.  Again, we only printed 50 of each and we don't have a lot left but we wanted to offer what we did have since the holidays will be here and we believe that these are great gifts to share.  

From the Animal Series
 The cost of each pad is 13.95 + shipping/handling $3.95 (will be nicely wrapped)
 Get 2 or more for 12.50 each.
(Additional shipping will apply if purchasing more than 4 pads per order.)
From the Garden Series
If you are interested in ordering pads for yourself or for a holiday gift, please email me at and put "Be Note Pads" in the subject line and let me know which pad(s) you would like to order.  We will send it priority so you get it in time for the holidays.
Below is a little sample of some of the sheets in the pads. Visit the Be Note website to see all the themes and images.

From the Roads Series
From the Santa Ynez Valley Series
From the Santa Ynez Valley Series

From the Garden Series
Robbie and Kei

© Robs & Kei
© Robbie Kaye Photography


Friday, November 29, 2013

The Journey Continues

Thanksgiving comes at a perfect time for me this year. Though there have been challenges and losses, which are part of life too, there have been many amazing miracles that I have experienced.  So much growth, connection and love and for that, I am eternally grateful.

It's so easy to get caught up in the "Doingness" of life and even though I absolutely love what I do, I also allow it to consume me sometimes and I forget about other important aspects in my life.  I wake up early and jump on my computer instead of meditating or taking a walk. I roll over and pick up my iPhone to see if I need to tend to anything right away.  I worry that I don't have a beautiful photograph to put on Instagram for that day... or a good quote.  If I'm not diligent in my daily practices, I will allow the technological neurosis of the times to set in and eat me up.  So Thanksgiving and Hanukkah come at a great time....   I get to stop for a little bit and give my energy and love to reconnecting with people and I get to be social.  I emerge from the bubble I've been in and I find myself really wanting to listen to others... hear about their stories, their lives.... as I have been so engulfed in my own.

It's a balance... one that I am sure I will always struggle with... but I am learning that that too, is a part of life.... not the struggle, but the quest for balance... and I am grateful that at some point, I can feel the need for realignment and as I sit here writing this from my office, listening to the much needed rain, I am reminded that blogging and writing in my journal, are also a part of my daily balance practice.

Wishing you all a day of internal peace and joy.