Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Appeal of the Square Format...

I see things first and foremost through the eyes of a designer. If I were to paint, I would be an abstract painter – reducing the natural world around me to the most basic elements of shape, color, texture, and composition. I suspect this is also why I am attracted to the square format in my photography work. The unity and cohesiveness of the equal sides suggests the image is but a unit of a larger whole. We experience our environment through a series of basic sensory interactions, which our mind then combines to create an overall feeling. However, we are only able to consciously focus on one interaction at a time. Thus, the square format is a good way to show a glimpse of awareness – as demonstrated in this image of a barn window. The blackness of the window panes, the one long bleached board, the dried winter weeds and the knotty texture of the wood are but small details of the barn itself (see the full barn image posted below.) Yet the basic elements of shape, color, texture and composition are so rich...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Preliminary Stages of a New Body of Work

Embracing the lens and the digital dark room - I intend to focus on wintery Catskill landscapes over the coming months...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Group Show at Catskill Artist Gallery, Liberty, NY

Some of my work is currently in a group show at the Catskill Artists Gallery, 38 Main Street, Liberty, NY. The show will be up until November 29.

The Importance of Physcial Processes In Making Art

Here's a link to a video of my lecture at SUNY College at New Paltz for anyone who is interested in watching:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lecture At SUNY College at New Paltz

I have been invited to present a lecture on my work at SUNY College at New Paltz on 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening, October 21. Check out this link for more info...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Deja Vu Series

Deja Vu #5 and Deja Vu #4 • Pinhole Photographs with digital TTV effect

I feel the pull of distance everyday. My daily life is separate from the land. I am too busy to stop and notice. I am too busy to connect. In her book The Lure of the Local, Lucy Lippard claims, “Virtually all ancient spiritual models in every culture emerge from or exist in intimate relation to land or place.” Therefore, doesn’t our growing distance from the land ultimately represent a weakening of our spirituality? My desire to close the gap motivates my work. I want to stop and notice. I want to connect. Perhaps it is more accurate to say, “I want to feel,” since spirituality and place are sensual.

How can I depict these feelings with/in my work? I appreciated Lippard’s quote of Richards Misrach’s comment, “…beauty can be a very powerful conveyor of difficult ideas. It engages people when they might look away.” But I also agree with Lippard’s observation, “Conventional landscape photography tends to overwhelm place with image.”

I am trying to visually capture the essence of an idea. I am trying to show a feeling. I am trying to portray a hidden world. A world we don’t take the time to connect with. This world may only exist in the past. How do I show that?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Sense of Yearning

As the ongoing winter months cause the walls of my studio to close in on me, I find it appropriate to revisit some earlier writing. Here are some thoughts I penned a few years ago:

A Sense of Yearning

Since I was a child I can remember experiencing bouts of melancholy that are perhaps more accurately described as a sense of yearning. These moments seem to come to me more often in the fall, which has always been a reflective time for me. I keep a journal – have for years – but only write in it periodically. When I thumb through the pages the most common entry dates are between September and November.

I recently read a book that offers a possible explanation for my seasonal ruminations. Gretel Ehrlich sums up my thoughts most accurately in The Solace of Open Spaces. She writes:
All through autumn we hear a double voice: one says everything is ripe; the other says everything is dying. The paradox is exquisite. We feel what the Japanese call “aware” – an almost untranslatable word meaning something like “beauty tinged with sadness.”(Ehrlich p. 127)
Perhaps I become reflective in the fall because it is the time of year when the passage of time is most apparent. As each new day blooms, I am aware that another day has passed. My yearning stems from a desire to capture the passing days – or rather, to return to an earlier time.

In Black Sun, Julia Kristeva discusses the idea of a lost thing as the reason behind melancholia. She tells us, “My depression points to my not knowing how to lose – I have perhaps been unable to find a valid compensation for the loss?” (Kisteva p. 5) Kristeva’s thing defies an absolute definition, but I see a connection with my sense of yearning in a section where she notes, “Kant asserted that nostalgic persons did not desire the place of their youth but their youth itself; their desire is a search for the time and not for the thing to be recovered.” (Kristeva p. 60)

I find this concept interesting because the focus of my recent work and writings has centered on the idea of place and our physical connection with place. Until now, I believed my interest stemmed from my attraction to the landscape of my youth. Is it possible that my fascination with place actually represents a longing for a specific time (or even an earlier self)?

Rebecca Solnit observes in As Eve Said to the Serpent, “Landscape’s most crucial condition is considered to be space, but its deepest theme is time.” (Solnit p. 48) While I have been considering my connection with place (my earliest home), I have actually been considering how I interacted within the space of the landscape at a specific time (my childhood). I chose to concentrate on my physical experience because, as Diane Ackerman claims, “Our senses connect us intimately to the past, connect us in ways that our most cherished ideas never could.” (Ackerman p. xvi) My physical (or sensory) experiences create memories, which in turn can represent time. Memory is recorded time.

Furthermore, in their groundbreaking book, Memory: From Mind to Molecules, Larry Squire and Eric Kandel maintain, “Loss of memory leads to loss of self.” So, if landscape’s deepest theme is time – time that is recorded by our memory of experiencing its space – and our memories build our perception of self, then it can be reasoned that landscape can represent our identity; our shifting identity of self.

I believe it is also possible for this identity to travel beyond our life span, powered by the vehicle of our imagination. As a child I use to love to listen to my grandmother’s stories about growing up in the very home we lived in. I would walk barefoot along the cool dirt paths in her garden with my denim skirt swishing around my legs – imagining I lived in the “olden days.” Of course, my play romanticized the time. My grandmother’s world (as I created it) was much more attractive than my own. This is not so uncommon. Rebecca Solnit declares, “Our culture is pervaded by nostalgia for things that may never have existed.” (Solnit p. 1) We imagine the lives of earlier generations as simpler than our own. Much like the promise of a peaceful afterlife, time provides distance from the discomforts of reality.

Ultimately, I believe my yearning for an earlier, romanticized time is actually a longing for a return of innocence. It could be the innocence of my youth, before pubescent and/or adult concerns began piling up. Or perhaps my desire should be traced back over time to the concept of original sin – the innocence of our species. We all have fantasies of simpler times because as we shed our naiveté we can’t help but see death on the other side of beauty.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New York Wildflowers

I am by no means a botanist and only know the common names of a few flowers from having grown up in a rural environment. Of course this didn’t stop me from impressing some out of town friends years ago during a hike through the Catskill Mountains. I began naming all the plants we encountered and they were amazed by my skill until some of the names became so outlandish they couldn’t help but realize I was making a majority of them up as I went along. : )

All humor aside, I wasn’t terribly concerned by my lack of botanical knowledge until I began to focus on tiny weeds as subjects in my
Roadside Flowers scannography series. I was less than satisfied with titles like Yellow Weed and was hard pressed to discover the true name of my subjects. I will be eternally grateful to the Connecticut Botanical Society and their wonderful website on Connecticut Wildflowers. Obviously, as neighbors Connecticut and New York share a lot of the same wildflowers and the great images I found on the Connecticut Botanical Society’s website enabled me to identify a number of my subjects. Here are some of my discoveries:

This is a great example of my ignorance. I discovered this flower while hiking along a trail at Sam’s Point in late October. The details captured in the scan were barely discernible by the naked eye and I named the image Paper White because of the quality of the petals. At the time, I did not know that there is another kind of flower called Paper White and the title I had come up with is a misnomer. The true name for this tiny flower is Sweet Everlasting (Catfoot) or Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium (Gnaphalium obtusifolium) as seen here.

This series was dubbed Blue Wild Flower 1 & 2. The true name is Chicory or Cichorium intybus as seen here.
I remember reading about how Chicory roots were used to make a coffee substitute during the civil war – but I never knew it was the pretty blue flowers growing along my road.

And what I
simply called Yellow Weed is really Common St. Johnswort or Hypericum perforatum as seen here.

This tiny sprig from a bush I titled Pink – for obvious reasons. But its true name is much better. It’s called Meadowsweet or Spiraea alba (Spiraea latifolia) as seen here.

Just as focusing on tiny subjects in the Catskill/Hudson Valley Region caused me to be more appreciative of the details in the surrounding landscape, learning more about my subjects has proven to be equally delightful.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Increasing Popularity of Scanography

Yellow Weed

A few years ago when I began scanning subjects directly on my flatbed scanner I wasn't sure what to call the process. Ever willing to conduct some research, I searched the internet to find what others were calling the technique. I figured I couldn't be the only one having so much fun. But when I first began my search I had a difficult time finding other examples. I did eventually come across a few folks who were working with the medium in similar ways and called the process "scanography." I'm not crazy about the name… it sounds medical to me. But the name seems to have stuck and there appears to be a growing interest in the process. Now when you google "scanography" a whole slew of sites come up. Here are a few that I find informative: