Wild Rose, seen in the post below, is included in an exhibition at the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware, from March 9 to May 26.
A new show with 20 of my latest works will open February 15 at Olson-Larsen Galleries in West Des Moines, Iowa. The show will continue thru April 6. www.olsonlarsen.com
image copyright © Ken Smith 2013 all rights reserved.
There are several AT&T tv ads currently playing that grabbed my attention. They show an adult male in a suit, sitting at what looks like a kindergarten classroom table, with four elementary school age children.
He asks, “What is better, Bigger or Smaller?” Simply that. The children all scream, “Bigger!!” That is the real message of the ad, which we find out at the last is about the biggest 4G network the company has.
There are other ads. “What is better, Faster or Slower?” Of course we know the childrens’ answers.
And finally, in the same setting, the question becomes, “What is better doing two things at once, or just one thing at once?” The more the better….
I wonder the message being sent, not to those shopping for a fast phone, but to children sitting in front of a tv. And to us adults, who like me have been grabbed by the initial humor, but also question the values expressed? What do these values mean to all of us in our daily lives? What does it mean to me as an artist?
Last autumn I began shooting film again. Black & white film loaded in old cameras, and newer cameras. All medium format 120 size film. I got out the handheld light meter, the tripod, and it felt great. In the late afternoon, I once again was in the darkroom souping film in chemicals measured in beakers. A thermometer is now very important. It was heaven, and simple. I was doing one thing carefully at once. The medium required I slow down to develop my 12 shots made that day.
I am still scanning my negs and printing with a black & white inkset, and I haven’t given up my digital cameras, but now I feel more connected to this new work. It is curious what real hands-on involvement in each image can do to the art psyche. My darkroom still has the ancient Beseler 23c enlarger sitting, waiting for my attention, and it may be rewarded soon. I have stacks of badly outdated printing paper, long obsolete, that want to show me about time and most likely fog. But they might teach me something new along the path.
Digital or film, one is not better than the other, but very different. My rediscovery of film, I know isn’t a unique ephiphany, or an earth-shattering renaissance that will change the world, but for my world it is revealing. It reminds me of the value of meditative work, where film is expensive and limited, not throwaway pixels where the goal feels more important than the journey. The tools of the process bring me back down to earth, instead of me creeping in the ether of an lcd screen. I agitate the film to the cadence of the timer, and dry my hands on a clean towel. Simply that, while I await the mystery that is on the film inside the tank. There is the gamble, the sacrifice, the possibility of something good to come, and I enjoy that suspense.
It is sort of shameful that children cannot hear a message by the big corporations that it is ok to slow down, to be spare, to be contemplative instead of the revered multitasking. Unfortunately, I expect there will be no turning back.
Unless…they pick up an old argus off ebay, buy some film from Europe or Asia, and take a deep breath.
“What is better, a Tweet or a Haiku?” I know the answer to that one.
(Image info: A recent winter day in the woods. Made with a 1950s Kodak Brownie Hawkeye Flash with the lens reversed, on Kodak Tri-X 120 film.)
image copyright © Ken Smith 2013 all rights reserved.
This is another of the new grasses I’ve been working with. I have images, sketches, to create a new series.
image copyright © Ken Smith 2012 all rights reserved.
I had driven my orange volkswagon bus from Michigan to Los Angeles the autumn of 1975. I wanted to finally visit the offices of Plane & Pilot magazine that I had been writing for. I was just a kid, but had already been writing for six years about my youthful flying experiences.
I had spent a few days in LA, had written a few articles for the magazine while I was there, on the typewriter I had brought with me. I had even interviewed for a flight instructor job at Santa Monica airport, and taught for a couple days. But the rattletrap Cessna 150 and the airport surrounded by endless city and the Pacific Ocean to the west, just didn’t feel right to my midwestern upbringing. I got paid on the spot for the articles I wrote instead of on publication. Checks in hand was a great feeling, and I knew somehow I was a writer.
I had been staying at various magazine staff homes, sleeping on couches or in spare rooms. That afternoon, at the little house over in the valley, in Reseda, my host was an editor at the magazine. There was a family dinner coming, and then, to my surprise there was the evening meeting of a writer’s group the lady belonged to. With joy, I heard that Ray Bradbury was one of the writers in the group. I had been reading Bradbury for many years. He, along with Ernest Gann, St. Exupery, and others, had been previously suggested to me, by my Iowa friends Richard Bach and Bette Bach.
I ran up the street to a used bookstore and bought copies of The Illustrated Man, and Twice 22, so I would have them on hand in case I could ask Mr. Bradbury to autograph them.
The four or five writers began to appear. Before long, Ray Bradbury, arrived by taxi, since he never drove. With introductions, also meeting the author of Flower Drum Song, I sat in the circle while these writers read from their latest work.
Mr. Bradbury read a short story about a steam locomotive pulling a train across the sahara desert. Only as Bradbury could write it, the train chugged thru the hot night….soon running low on fuel that kept the boiler going. The engineers sent men to raid tombs, and put the wrapped mummies in the fire to make steam, and went on their way through the night. Soon, they had to stop again on the tracks, repeating their search for the eerie fuel. I remember one short scene, described in his own voice, of the spirits of the long dead, curling up into the desert night out of the locomotive’s smoke stack.
When the meeting was over, and the taxi called, Bradbury signed my books kindly. He encouraged me to keep writing. As he was leaving he came to me with arms out-stretched, and I was taken aback. To be hugged by another man…I was an Iowa boy in the big city of LA? He said, “It’s ok!”, and gave me a hug goodbye.
Later, when I looked at the autographs in the two books, I found his self-portrait in The Illustrated Man, and more encouragements for my writing in Twice 22.
We never met again, but I read all his books, and only recently had looked him up on the internet, happy to see that he was still alive.
Today, I woke to find that Ray Bradbury had died June 5. I was instantly saddened. After reading the news about his life, I pulled down the two books from the shelf. I read the prologue to The Illustrated Man, then read The Veldt. A smile was back on my face. His writing will always be with me.
I suddenly felt that the slow June 5 transit of Venus across the face of the sun, was a tribute to the writer of The Golden Apples of the Sun, and many other books. Or maybe, with a feeling of sweet wonder, I imagined Venus cradling the traveling spirit of the man himself.
copyright © Ken Smith 2012 all rights reserved.
In the mail yesterday I received copies of a book smelling of printed paper, new ink. Thank you to Briar Cliff Review for including my photograph titled, Reeds and Reflection, in its pages. The Review is an 11″ x 8-1/2″ glossy 124-page compilation of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, book reviews, and artwork. The Review has been printed for 24 years, this being Volume 24, 2012. There is a real satisfaction in getting off the computer and sitting down with a well-designed book.
In addition, the Sioux City Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa will be exhibiting my Reeds and Reflection piece, and other art work published in the Briar Cliff Review, from May 9 thru July 1. Sioux City Art Center
I am represented by Olson-Larsen Gallery in West Des Moines, Iowa and they prepared and shipped my work to the Art Center for the exhibit. Olson-Larsen Gallery
This is a new image of old grass. I was wandering around with the camera, and came upon this unique sculptural form, a survivor of last year’s grasses. I brought it home to work with. Nothing spectacular, shocking, colorful or earth shattering. But when I first saw the grass, and while working with it, I felt a building recognition, sense of belonging, kinship with the shape and what the grass represented.
image copyright © Ken Smith 2012 all rights reserved.
aspens and bloom
Spring aspens and blossoming. Spring fever.
woman with scarf
I do not often show my work with people, tho I have done alot of figurative work in the past. I am wishing to change that now, and work as much as possible with people during the coming year. Somehow, without slowing down on my other work, series, I will be looking for people to put in front of my camera. I need the variety, the change in subject, the collaboration. Since opening that horizon to myself, I am now flowing with ideas for new work with people.
This image was made some time ago…a quiet afternoon stroll along a winter lake. A lovely friend, a beautiful mood.
weeds at dusk
A strange thing about art. It can be raining and blowing a torrent outside like it is now, and one can go thru his past work and find an image. By looking at the image, I can remember the evening I approached this gaggle of sagebrush and weeds. I was not looking for anything special, but something was there in front of me, as tho it had urged me to look. The evening was silent, and I had come out there to be alone, but with nature. I looked thru the viewfinder to see this one beautiful desolate leafless branch like a black pen and ink among the autumn background. The evening light was inadequate for making pictures, but by bracing the camera just so, slowly making exposures with the lens aperture wide open, I thought at least one might fall in that nether time when there was no shake of hand or shutter.
Later, the image was beautiful, but it was too close to the time I shot it. I could not appreciate it, like looking at someone I was always close to. But now apart from it, as the the wind blows rain against the skylight, this serene image made on a windless, almost lightless evening, seems very special. That’s what it is about art. It removes you from your present, and represents a different time, a remembered place, a rarely felt feeling. Art is altered consciousness.