Laughing as she pulled up to the airport baggage claim in her travel dusty Subaru wagon, I embraced her in a trail of throat vibrations. When we hugged, I didn’t just feel warm, I felt full. She wore a blazer and jeans, paralleling her uniquely defiant beauty – short windblown hair, front tooth gap in the middle of a generous mouth, long honey coloured form. I felt relieved to see her in real time and real flesh after speaking hungrily on the phone regularly before the surmised requisite text, u free? We first stopped for wood oven pizza with a chilled celebratory drink, she – beer, and I – wine, and then for film in Phoenix before heading on a two hour drive to her Tucson home studio.
Pinned photographs along the longest wall, many of her son, in a growing formation, create a larger picture. I loved seeing her images together, in dialogue, revealing the mind behind her eye. We slept in the same room- I, on her bed she generously offered and, she, on a cot near me. Her space invites clarity and query – a safe cocoon to soul search. I joined in her circadian rituals. We drank coffee in the mornings and wine by night. She meditates upon waking for an hour, and then intermittently throughout the day. We began these meditation journeys together, exploring and reflecting upon them afterwards, trading visuals and daily mantras. I observed that her meditation practice works in synchronicity with her creative practice by nurturing her receptiveness to the divine. As an artist, Hilary works intuitively, exploring themes of femininity, motherhood and childhood through experimental film photography.
Six days together. We traveled from Phoenix, “Valley of the Sun,” to the Sonoran desert of Tucson, before reaching majestic White Sands, New Mexico, and finally to the rolling grasslands of Dragoon in Southern Arizona before I returned home. Across landscapes and state lines, so much transpired between she and I, both in our 30s, with a taste for the open road, a passion for film photography and a proclivity for portraiture. We equally sought healing from a collective and intimate history of mistrust of our sex. We did so in the simplest way – by believing in one another, acting as reflections of self love. This interchange worked because of the trust and communication we grew, which blossomed into the truest bloom. We turned the camera on each other, turning our personal paradigms upside down. Expansion of our spirits transpired at such a meteoric rate that only in hindsight did we stop to articulate, we are brave.
A five hour drive from Tucson in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico and light years away from anywhere, White Sands became our fantastical archetype for how we want to live and treat each other, as creative women. At the largest gypsum dunefield in the world, 275 square miles of waves of desert sand, we found ourselves at the beginning of time, at the end of the earth, in a sacred paradise, together. We stepped inside the dream – bare feet on warm sand, bodies moving freely in the light, a sunset picnic of herring fillets on flatbread with chilled white wine. We thanked every moment that brought us to the present and we thanked ourselves for manifesting the soul medicine we endeavored. The experience was a gift to ourselves – a remembrance to take pleasure in the present. Being in that moment in time together, at one of our Mother Earth’s greatest wonders, was the sign we both avidly sought. We had finally arrived, wordlessly gazing into moist, adoring eyes, then off into the infinite distance.
As word circulated that Hilary and I were adventuring together, we inadvertently generated three commissioned projects and two collaborations in our fleeting time, not counting our own collaborative personal art. I watched her transform with each role she inhabited. She managed the strenuous balance of transitioning between art director, photographer and muse for various jobs with virtuosity. In a flustered moment, I anxiously blurted I was not sure which roll of film would be for which commission. She looked at me and calmly said words I’ll never forget – they are all one. What I learned about Hilary is she is on an enlightened path, an upwards trajectory, a limitless voyage. She asks the questions, both outwardly and inwardly. She humbly listens. Her process is to process. She sees, beholding the beauty of others. Most importantly, when faced with the quotidian choice of fear versus love, she always chooses love.
To learn more about Hilary Kathleen and her artwork, visit her website.