Zagreb, a Tale of Two Cities

Our first trip here was in 2001 in the summer. My husband had just completed a Fulbright Scholarship in Poland and we can for vacation before going home. We visited Dubrovnik and it was magical. The Serbo-Croatian war had just ended. We saw very little of the damage in Dubrovnik but the capital city of Zagreb was hit pretty hard. We found the people we met to be optimistic, friendly and fun loving.

On the way back we spent several awful hours in the Zagreb airport. It was old, dirty and not air conditioned. There was one cafe. There was no where to walk to and we had a long layover in 100+ heat. Armed military police were everywhere.

Arriving here last weekend we saw marked changes to the airport. That same cafe is still there (!) but it’s clean and air conditioned, serves food and has an outdoor seating area. There are a few shops now, and the Duty Free section is huge and just as overwhelming as the biggest airports in Europe.

We found a taxi; after some back and forth between two drivers because the one that was supposed to take us really wanted to take the two pretty young girls who were next in line.  We ended up being dropped at the same location as those girls: a funky youth hostel close to our B&B. I guess it’s the place most people stay in this part of town if they are foreign. A few blocks walk later we were in our place” for the next 8 days. Very modern inside, socialist architecture outside. A lovely garden behind with three resident cats. Perfect!

Day two we took a walk up to the Uni where my husband would be teaching. We are in a nice residential area with some free standing homes and a lot more socialist style apartment blocks. Roses are everywhere. The wisteria is done and only a few Peonies are out but the roses are spectacular.

You can see in some of these photos, lingering mortar shell damage to the outside of the buildings from the war.

The people we have met so far in this neighborhood have been nice enough; some greet us with suspicion, others friendly and helpful. What is missing though (only my opinion from limited contact) is the sense of new beginnings and optimism I felt 16 years ago. My husband says his students are very disheartened about their future here and many young people are leaving for better jobs and quality of life elsewhere in the EU.

A few days later I made into the center at last. Here I found the sameness I have come to expect in large cities everywhere. Shopping malls, trendy cafes and bars, high end shopping, etc. All within yards of gothic, baroque and modern or prewar architecture. There are two levels to the old town; upper and lower towns divided by a decades old farmers and flower market. The Dolac Market is divided into parts; upper town has the vegetables and fruit, lower town has the flower stalls and the central plaza has an open area for different craft stalls and special events.  My first visit there was an art market for learning challenged young people.  I picked out a few lovely drawings from these young folks pictured here.  They were pretty excited that I am from Florida.  “Hot! Hot!” they said.

On my way into the Upper Town museums I wandered into Zagrebs “Art Park”.  Known for it’s murals and other graffiti art.  They were evidently preparing for a new installation.  The next day I went back and these were all been painted over to prepare for new work.  Talk about the nick of time!


My last two stops of the day were museums.  The Museum of Broken Relationships and the Naive Museum.  Both fascinating in their simplicity and approach to their topic.

The Naive Museum art was starkly beautiful, disturbing and calming all in one.  A wonderful exhibit.

The next day took me to the Croatian National Arts and Crafts Museum.  So many interesting exhibits.  My two favorites were the 60’s exhibit and the Art Deco room.

All in all I’m glad we went to Zagreb again.  I met some interesting people, saw a lot of really fascinating art exhibits and took a ton of photos.  Look for more of them to be coming up in the online shop!


Usually I don’t like pigeons

Visiting Rotterdam in the Netherlands where the street art installations are abundant and compelling, I stopped to photograph a very interesting piece of sculpture near the Centraal Station.  As I was checking angles and looking for in interesting shot, I noticed a pigeon playing hide and seek with me.  Then I see several flying in and out of what must be a nesting place.  I don’t usually have the patience for wildlife photos but on this day I enjoyed hanging out with this little family.

An Old Public School

Saturday I had the opportunity to volunteer on clean up duty at an old abandoned school in my neighborhood; Annie Lytle Public School #4.  It’s been in a sad and slow downward spiral for close to 40 years.  The Annie Lytle Preservation Group has been working hard to try to save the school.  It’s an incredible piece of Jacksonville history, established in 1917- the structure is still relatively sound and has some beautiful architectural assets to offer.  As I walked around with the group of volunteers on a tour before we began working, I was astounded by the beauty that remains.

Out with the new, in with the new

2017 was full of new adventures and in a lot of ways, I’m sad to see it go.  I started a new business, met some new friends and networked a great deal.  I took a lot of really good photos and taught myself how to make them better through editing.  I traveled as much and for as long as I wanted to (no time constraints).  I spent more time with Moses my cat and also with friends and family.  I actually started to socialize again after a lot of years doing the opposite.  I enjoyed myself tremendously for the most part with the support of my  very encouraging husband (he really didn’t sign up for this wild ride my life has become!).  I also turned 60 last year, which rocked my world a bit until I realized celebrating it was much more fun than being depressed over it.  I have a lifetime of experience to share and a long time left to do it in.

I’m looking forward to a more than interesting 2018 with more new adventures ahead.  My first juried Art Show in the Spring, more opportunities for community Pop-Ups that will get me in front of new art lovers, more of the same great steady venues that provided me with just enough income to pay for supplies.

As far as challenges in 2018; doing my first taxes as a small business owner, finding new and exciting venues to present my art, honing my skills with both the camera and the computer (editing) and finding new subjects.  I do know that I need to stay fresh, and so will be doing more camera work locally and everywhere else we go.

All in all, I have so much to be thankful for and I feel so blessed today to be healthy and happy going into this new year.  img_0881.jpg


A new chapter. Welcome Graham Hickling to Still Life with Cat Studio!

Graham Hickling is trained as a Wildlife Biologist in New Zealand before moving to the United States in 2002.  He lived in Michigan for several years before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he teaches at the University of Tennessee. Throughout his career he has combined his interests in photography and videography with his wildlife research activities.  His primary interests are nature photography and macrophotography, however his eye for the quirks of humanity in the Southern landscape has led to a growing enthusiasm for street photography.

I’m looking forward to sharing his passion for photography with you soon as we grow his new collection.

G reflectionsSpringfield House

Beauty in destruction

Hurricane Irma left so much devastation in my city.  More than we have experienced in over a century.  Yet in the midst of all the destruction, there is still beauty.  The power that water holds over us mortals is felt in a visceral way when we see what it can do.  These images are from a city park near my home.  I have been walking to and around this park for almost 14 years.  I have seen the park and it’s central winged statue at all times of the day and have photographed it often in many different settings and light.  In many ways the statue (called Life) is an integral part of my life as an artist.  I sell more art photos of this statue than any other local icons.  So when I heard the park had flooded, and that the seawall had breached, I was devastated.

The worst of the storm had passed and the storm surge was beginning to recede when I walked down to see what was left.  The following photos were taken within the first 48 hours of the storm passing.  The most beautiful dawn light comes after a hurricane and I did my best to capture it and the power of the water still crashing into the 100 year old balustrade surrounding the statue.

Memorial Park Jacksonville

Sunrise of Life after IrmaLife with chessmen WMbalustrade sunrise2 WMChess pieces vibrant WMBroken Dreams WMChess pieces sunrise best WMSunrise WV BW WMBroken wall of Life WMRiverside Avondale Preservation

The good news is that the park will be restored.  the city has already begun some work and the Memorial Park Association and the Riverside Avondale Preservation group is also involved.  Many of the marble pieces have been salvaged for restoration and many of the balustrade “chessmen” are now in safe keeping for the day they rebuild the sea wall.  The statue itself was not damaged, in spite of being up to his ankles in crashing waves at one point.