Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#171 Hayley West: The Build Up

Hayley Jolene West was born in Melbourne, Australia to English-immigrant parents. Her last name, West, is new; her middle name, Jolene, she took from her sister. Hayley has some horse-whispering heritage, has broken wild horses, and loves the feeling of galloping on a horse. When she has 5, Hayley’s little sister died in a friend's swimming pool—after which, Hayley and her brother were forced to learn to swim like fish. But most of her childhood was fantastic. Her parents used to party at their friends’ houses, so she often got to stay up late with other kids. At first, Hayley was a rat-bag in primary school, cheated a lot, ran away every other weekend. Then she was sent to a different high school and became a straight-A student, at least for a while. Hayley’s first two years of University were spent drinking, seeing bands, and protesting. After that, she changed her major from languages and did an associate degree in furniture technology. At the same time, she was working three part-time jobs and saving, saving, saving. At 21, Hayley traveled Europe for a year with a friend and ran riot. Hayley’s loud laugh makes Hayley particularly Hayley. At 22, Hayley returned to Australia and lived in Hobart, Tasmania where she studied furniture design for a year—before moving back to Melbourne to be with her father who was dying of cancer. After he died, Hayley didn’t do much for a year. Eventually, she went back to school and studied sculpture at RMIT. Over the years, Hayley has worked lots of different jobs, including a few in the adult industry—a dodgy dating agency, a chat-line operator, a sex shop assistant. It is fascinating. After all that, Hayley left a boyfriend and left Melbourne. She moved far away to Darwin where she had never lived before and then things really changed for her. It is one of the best decisions she has ever made. She began to flourish as an artist and she met a man named Tobias at an art gallery where she worked. He is also an artist and would visit the gallery once a week. Hayley was always excited when he showed up. Over 2 years ago, Hayley’s mother died, also of cancer, and becoming an orphan as an adult changed how she feels about her self and family. In 2007, Tobias proposed to Hayley in Venice. In 2008, they got married on leap day and then honeymooned at an arts residency. They've been together 4 years now and Tobias calms Hayley down, especially in the build-up—a humid, grey-sky part of the year with no rain—when she can go a bit troppo (everybody goes slightly mad during this time—more suicides, more babies conceived, more angry emails). Hayley is so happy to have found Tobias and can’t wait to spend the rest of their lives being artists together.

[Update: On March 18, 2010, Hayley West gave birth to a beautiful baby girl --Ramona Billie Lola Richardson. This winter, Hayley canceled her arts residency in the Philippines when her mother-in-law became very ill. She died just a month ago and everybody is still devastated. Their old dog Lassie, an Aboriginal camp dog, was about 11 years old when she died in the garden next to Buddha. Hayley loved that old smelly dog. Hayley will soon begin another arts residency in London—with Ramona. Tobias will be on his arts residency at the same time in Paris. She can't wait to get out of Darwin where everybody is already going troppo. Hayley is looking forward to re-evaluating her arts practice in London. It's been quite hard being creative while pregnant, but she’s loving motherhood more than she ever imagined.]
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#184 The Art That Is Stephanie Barber

Stephanie Barber was born on Long Island and her childhood was complicated, chaotic. She didn’t enjoy that. She moved more than a dozen times as a child and chunks of time were lived in Florida and Pennsylvania. There were times when she swam in the ocean and there were often a lot of musicians around. When she was 6, Stephanie knew that she wanted to be a writer and started typing out her poems because she thought published poems were typed. When she was 8, Stephanie had a ballet recital that went particularly well, and, after the show, as she was driven home in her father’s convertible, she stood up in her seat and pumped her bouquet-filled fist into the sky in triumph. Sometimes, Stephanie thinks of that moment and how she never feels that unadulterated pride and joy after a performance or a screening. Stephanie regrets not having become a child star. Growing up, Stephanie was bizarrely serious and very religious (even though nobody in her family really was). She decided she was Catholic and walked by herself to church on Sunday mornings. She even talked her way onto a cheerleading squad at the Catholic school, which she did not attend. Stephanie thought that she was cheering for God or Jesus. Eventually, the Catholics realized that she was not one of them and wouldn’t let her cheer anymore. When Stephanie was 12, she fell out of the church and today she is a sort of lazy spiritualist. In high school, Stephanie studied playwriting and ballet at a performing arts school. In college, she studied film and anthropology and poetry. In graduate school, she studied film and poetry. Stephanie became interested in making films because the more experimental films she had seen seemed rooted in poetics. Stephanie reads a lot. She is an artist, a filmmaker, a videomaker, a performer, a writer, and, sometimes, a musician. The way that Stephanie believes in art has a religious fervor. There is a purposefulness that sometimes assuages the angry muddled tenor of her existence. As an adult, Stephanie has lived in 9 different cities. Whenever you see her anywhere, she is almost always smiling or laughing. To get by, she always gets different funny jobs for money—shoveling gravel, selling snakes, teaching water aerobics to senior citizens, college professor, street performer, freelance editor, adoption counselor at an SPCA, phone psychic. Other than where she is living and what job she has and who she is romantically involved with, Stephanie is pretty consistent. She doesn't have too many decisions to make. When she moved to Baltimore, she bought a house that used to be a corner grocery and leaks. It was full of groceries when she moved in, but the groceries are all gone now. Soon, she will move again. She will get her first professional job and win a large grant. She will write a novel and fall in large love.

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Photo Credit: Joe Milutis
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#171 Hayley West: The Build Up

Hayley Jolene West was born in Melbourne, Australia to English-immigrant parents. Her last name, West, is new; her middle name, Jolene, she took from her sister. Hayley has some horse-whispering heritage, has broken wild horses, and loves the feeling of galloping on a horse. When she has 5, Hayley’s little sister died in a friend's swimming pool—after which, Hayley and her brother were forced to learn to swim like fish. But most of her childhood was fantastic. Her parents used to party at their friends’ houses, so she often got to stay up late with other kids. At first, Hayley was a rat-bag in primary school, cheated a lot, ran away every other weekend. Then she was sent to a different high school and became a straight-A student, at least for a while. Hayley’s first two years of University were spent drinking, seeing bands, and protesting. After that, she changed her major from languages and did an associate degree in furniture technology. At the same time, she was working three part-time jobs and saving, saving, saving. At 21, Hayley traveled Europe for a year with a friend and ran riot. Hayley’s loud laugh makes Hayley particularly Hayley. At 22, Hayley returned to Australia and lived in Hobart, Tasmania where she studied furniture design for a year—before moving back to Melbourne to be with her father who was dying of cancer. After he died, Hayley didn’t do much for a year. Eventually, she went back to school and studied sculpture at RMIT. Over the years, Hayley has worked lots of different jobs, including a few in the adult industry—a dodgy dating agency, a chat-line operator, a sex shop assistant. It is fascinating. After all that, Hayley left a boyfriend and left Melbourne. She moved far away to Darwin where she had never lived before and then things really changed for her. It is one of the best decisions she has ever made. She began to flourish as an artist and she met a man named Tobias at an art gallery where she worked. He is also an artist and would visit the gallery once a week. Hayley was always excited when he showed up. Over 2 years ago, Hayley’s mother died, also of cancer, and becoming an orphan as an adult changed how she feels about her self and family. In 2007, Tobias proposed to Hayley in Venice. In 2008, they got married on leap day and then honeymooned at an arts residency. They've been together 4 years now and Tobias calms Hayley down, especially in the build-up—a humid, grey-sky part of the year with no rain—when she can go a bit troppo (everybody goes slightly mad during this time—more suicides, more babies conceived, more angry emails). Hayley is so happy to have found Tobias and can’t wait to spend the rest of their lives being artists together.

More Hayley West
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