" ...Riders on the storm
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm ...
The Doors' song 'Riders on the Storm', which I have quoted from above, has accompanied me throughout my childhood, teens and adulthood as a visual artist. It has become the basis and inspiration for an ongoing project that I feel very passionate about, and which aims to portray the graffiti artists and streets of Florida at a particularly difficult moment in time.
The original song evolved out of a jam session when the Doors were inspired by 'Ghost Riders in the Sky', a cowboy song by Stan Jones sung by many musicians, chief among them Johnny Cash. The Doors' song is infinitely more philosophical than its inspiration, and I have played it in times of crisis and times of joy, for it speaks of the human condition in a seemingly chaotic universe. It's a song about all of our lives, and its impact upon me has been profound.
The 'writers' referred to in the title are the graffiti writers of Florida, whom I have been meeting and observing since 2014. My aim has been to describe the individual personalities and the work of the artists on the streets of the district of Wynwood Miami, but my title for this series suddenly took on an even more profound meaning as, during the early days of September 2017, Hurricane Irma descended upon the continental United States in particular on the greater region of South Florida. It seemed appropriate to change the original Doors 'Riders' to 'Writers' to reflect the specific situation in which those artists found themselves.
My visit to Miami and the resulting documentary work—seeing old friends, my extended family, interviewing the people that are the foundation of my work---became the story of the people that rode out this catastrophic storm in their own homes, sometimes against the advice of the authorities.
For me, the graffiti writers are the riders of this particular storm, but I didn't intend this to be a documentary about the destruction and mayhem that was brought about by the natural disaster. Rather, I have tried to show the positive in this situation: the artists and their creativity have survived. They survived the hurricane, and they continue to survive the storms of life with which we all contend on a daily basis. We all find strength in unity, in our work, in our arts, and the love we feel privileged to share when we look in the right places.