Archive for January, 2010
Yesterday I drove down the mountain to town to ship UPS and get a few groceries. I always carry a camera even for mundane trips…a leftover from my days working for a newspaper, for one never knows what will occur. It was foggy, and on the way home I made a few images in a place we call ‘the cut’. It is a half-mile gash in the rock where water runoff collects in a bog, lots of desiduous trees, and of course the paved road. As I looked over the images this morning, one stood out for its soft color, it’s geometrics. I immediately responded to it.
The act reminded me again of those days as a newspaper photographer. As the morning deadline came closer and the intensity in the newsroom became more vibrant, the photographers would start pitching their images to the editors. If it was an image that went with a news story, then it got preference….the goal was to try to get on page one. So we would bring in our 8×10 printed on the smelly ektamatic machine paper, and try to sell the image to the editor. He would pull out a couple old envelopes and begin cropping. The space in the paper was sacred, every pica hallowed.
I was amazed….for as we zoomed in, cut away, removed the unnecessary, the image would become stronger. I would go away with a grease-penciled box around the chosen space, and a size scribbled on the edge. If there was time, I would go make another print to size. Usually there was no time for that, and I just went directly to the guy doing the copy camera work, gave him the specs….and went back to a typewriter to write a cutline caption.
So I now sit at my computer, with the image on the screen. Sometimes, I grab a couple envelopes forming an “L”, and hold them up to the screen, imagining a new border here or there. Sometimes it makes the image much better, or creates a whole new image with a different sense and presence.
‘the female gesture’ is the title of my nude show opening February 6 at The Studio, in Twisp, WA. As is usual when putting together a one-person show, the artist needs to write an artist statement, which is something said on one page about the show’s content, what is behind the work, and maybe a bit about the artist. It is always difficult to write in words what is essentially the task of the work on the walls to portray visually.
In a short paragraph I can summarize the artist statement I wrote: Working with the nude model is a special adventure, but at the same time is no more sacred than working with the still life or the landscape. The difference is it is a human being. But the work is not about the artist and the model as they live their everyday lives among society, so much as it about the two participants and what they have brought to the moment of collaboration together. It is about the individual and universal feelings expressed in the visual image that comes from that collaboration. I hope I did not dance around the issue of sexuality in the statement about the work. What I attempted to say was, although many photographers describe their work with the nude as about shape, form, and light….and that it isn’t about sex….that is impossible. For we are all sexual beings along with all the other aspects of our ‘beingness.’ I described that complete self as a fabric woven of all the threads that make us up. We cannot select one thread or another, shut off one part of ourselves, as though we are made of boxes, some open, some left unopened. The model and the artist have put it all into the work. So the work contains all the feelings it should if the work is successful, and that is what makes it beautiful, and felt strongly by the viewer.
Yesterday, I got an email from a friend from Madrid, Spain, where I was fortunate enough to work for over a year….jeez, it was 20 years ago. Just reading the email took me back as if it was last week. It is no wonder I look back at that short time with memories of adventure and a romantic aire. On one of the many weekend trips, Miguel and his wife, Beatriz, took me to her family home in a small town northwest of Madrid. We drank red wine and ate traditional food in the bar in the town square, and then visited Carlos, Beatriz’ brother. Carlos has a small ranch with an eclectic stone house, and he raises sheep and cattle.
I carried my Canon F-1 everywhere, so I was ready when Carlos’ sheep gathered to study this foreigner.
I have been working on wood panels for some time now. For the upcoming nude show I will have 20 images mounted on panels of various sizes from 8×8″ to 9×12″, with squares and rectangles in between. Although in the past I have applied beeswax over the attached print, on these panels I am using acrylic varnish.
Above is one of the panels, with the print Curly Willow, 10×10″.
Preparations for the nude show which is titled, the female gesture, is soon coming to a close. I will be hanging the show on February 1. As mentioned I will have 20 panels, four pieces framed 16×20, and six framed pieces 22×28. As I chose images, looking through older work, I have seen the quality I had forgotten existed. Now that the show has come together I have become more and more inspired to work with the nude again.
I feel my skills as a photographer have improved since most of the images in the new show were made. But much more important than that, I have learned what is necessary for me to imbue my work with feeling. I may not always be successful, but I know the requisite path.
I have always been in love with paper. The feel of it, the possibilities of it. The deckle edge of handmade paper is like the edge of a leaf, natural and seductive.
And books have been my guides to my life. I know I will not be an e-viewer type. I love the feeling of turning the page in reality.
So it is only natural for me to become enraptured by making handmade books. I have made a few, always with Japanese stab binding. My latest small book presented ten of a new series of b&w photographs of reeds in a lake I visit by canoe in the summers. I titled the series Laughing Reeds. The book is only 6-1/2 by 9-3/4″, small and personal.
The Reeds book was a prototype for one I am going to make in conjunction with the February nude show I am preparing for. I plan to make a limited edtion of 25 books – the same size as the Reeds book. It will have 15 images, a short preface, and wrapup pages. The covers are simple heavyweight printmaking paper, with textured paper glued to their inner surfaces to add strength, similar to the Reeds book.
The two owners had seen my still life work, but when they visited my website, they were both excited by the nudes. February, the week before Valentines Day, they thought would be the perfect time to warm up the space. So I have been going thru my files, reacquainting myself with the work, much of it done 10 or more years ago. It is haunting to open negative envelopes and peer into the past thru the lupe. It is also a gift, for many negatives were never printed for one reason or another, but now they can be revealed. Since I now scan my negatives and print by wide-format printer, I can remove the scratches and imperfections that once denied the originals.
Some of the prints will be framed behind glass, but many of them will be printed small and mounted on wood panels, and acrylic varnished. I have just begun presenting my work on the panels, and I love the directness of not being behind glass.
Nude with Tree Shadows is one of the gems I found, that had previously been unprinted.