Saturday, March 16, 2013

Finding the Right "Words" with Images

     In my first meeting with Jesseca she suggested going back over and over again to photograph just a few places.  The photographs I brought to the January residency were from a wide variety of places.  Although the locales were different I was trying to address the same themes of time, transience, and transformation.  She suggested that by returning again and again to the same places I would become more visually intimate, and able to see the subject more deeply and capture their nuances, and therefore visually articulate more clearly.  The three places I immediately thought of are shut up for the winter, so I set that thought aside for Spring and focused on photographing my sculptures.
     But I found I just had to step outside of myself, stop peering into worlds I'd constructed, and photograph outside.  I went back to a place I have been photographing periodically for about 12 years.

     Although with every year this old cabin gets rougher and drastically more dilapidated I always feel like I'm going home to someplace comforting and warm and friendly.  Maybe it's the way that the cabin is still standing only because of the way it leans into a supporting tree.  Maybe because it is turning back into the natural forms it came from.  Maybe it's because my husband and I lived for 7 years in a rustic one room cabin.  Or maybe it's all these things, and many more.  So I took this portrait of the cabin with the idea I will build a little sculpture of it.
     Across the street from the cabin is an old abandoned farm house and barn.

     It was all intact when I first discovered the place.  But weather has taken it's toll on the barn, and the roof has started to collapse.  The last heavy snow of this winter has collapsed the roof even more since I took this photograph a couple weeks ago.  I feel like this place is on the verge of transforming dramatically into a new shape or heap of who knows what, so I have been dragging cameras there whenever weather and light have allowed.  One breezy day while I was waiting for my paper negatives in my pinhole cameras to be exposed I listened with both fascination and fear to the groan of the steel roof sheeting as the wind tried to pry it loose.  This just made me feel more desperate to capture this barn's final transformation from function into something else.  A story of the past, a relic, a ruin, or what?  I'm not sure what it really will be, but I'm watching it, and I'm trying to let it tell me its tales.
      I am really enjoying the nuances and surprises I get with my black and white paper negative pinhole cameras, but I also love color film.  So I thought I should try pinhole with film.  I got a paper camera kit from eBay for $10, so I figured for that price I had to check it out.  Although the directions say you can build this camera in 2 hours, it took me more like 5 because I had to be so careful in following the convoluted directions.  But here is my film camera:

     Most of the time I do not take photographs with all three kinds of cameras at the same shoot.  But I am taking photographs of the same places with all three cameras.  So now I am at a place of looking at three different visual "voices", and it's hard for me to say which speaks better for my subjects.





And sometimes I just like the surprise gifts:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lonely Waterboro House

Old Barn & Cabin

Close to little Sculpture

My Thoughts on "Why Transformation"

Below is really a journal entry kind of thing I wrote because Jesseca got me thinking and she told me to write.  I wrote it for me, so it has a bit of the 'true confessions' feel that is a bit sappy.  But I think there is still something important here, so I decided to post it.


     This is really a response to the realization that nothing stays the same.  Everything changes: sometimes dramatically, sometimes slowly, sometimes tragically.
     Why am I now making art again?  I was supposed to go to Europe on a boat.  That could not happen because I’d worked too long for the Captain, and he stopped working with me- instead against me.  Bad situation.  Boats sink that way.  I had to leave.  This was a huge life changer for me:  great disappointment, ego destruction, hurt, anger, but the worst was a dream was crushed.  I live for dreams.
So I was big, and left the boat, because the dreams and glory really belonged to the boat, and I would never do anything but love and champion this boat.  She deserves that and more.  And I knew there was a reason I had to stay behind.
     Then my boat-dad didn’t answer his phone.  I called all his sons.  One answered.  Boat people can be hard to track down.  Lane, my best friend, mentor, former employer, and second father to me was in intensive care with pneumonia.  His final diagnosis was lung cancer.  Boat people can smoke like chimneys.  There is a saying that working on boats is “long periods of boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror.”  So what’s not to smoke about?
     So I didn’t go to Europe, but instead I got to spend time with a man I didn’t know how to loose from my life.  The boat I thought I would sail on won first place in a transatlantic tall ship race.  But I got to go fishing with my boat-dad, and listen to his dreams that could not stop.  One morning after breakfast he said, a bit pleadingly, “I still have to dream, you know!”  And I knew.  That was why we were so close.  We are both dreamers.  And not the kind of dreamers that keep hiding their dreams in shoeboxes and hat boxes under the bed and in the closet.  The kind of dreamers that believe that really anything is possible, and we both expected that from ourselves.  My favorite memories of Lane are sitting at the galley table sharing ideas, and scheming how to achieve them.  Lane was the one person who saw me, looked at my ornery, out-of-the-box unconventional self with gleaming pride.  I knew he saw me with pride as a daughter A mutual friend told me at his death that he once said that I was not from him, but I was of him.  Yes, and so the unthinkable happened: Lane died.  And I didn’t know how to live without him.  But I did.  In the will, as it was, I got his sons and grandchildren, whom I insisted to one of his sons was all I wanted anyway.
     Life keeps changing.  My Mother-in-Law, who was a great friend, passed.  Three girlfriends, about my age, passed: two of cancer, and one slipping off a dock in winter.  None of these were expected.  It seems like they should all still be here.
     And then my Dad, the man who had always been so healthy, got leukemia.  He was told he had six months to live.  He lived nine.  But the last three were in home hospice where I watched a highly active, thoughtful, and creative man reduced to a trapped being pleading for freedom.
     Nothing stays the same.  If you think it will, think again.  By the time you blink it’s something you couldn’t even imagine.  Life travels in strange circles, which sometimes creates cyclones of destruction, or centers of unity.  Life’s constant transformation is something I’ve needed to embrace.  Intuitively I know this is a path of evolution and revelation.  But the path still is not necessarily a comfortable one.  Still, I need to pile all of this into a heap of optimism, and know I can still talk to the ones I love, even if they are in a different place from me.  And I can still dream my dreams, and plot my plans, and desire a world where art is everywhere and all children are open-minded.  And all of this is real, as long as I keep fighting, working, believing, and living.  And this is why I make art. 

February 18th Meeting with Jesseca

     Jesseca was very concerned that she had influenced me to do pinhole.  I assured her that was not the case, that it was something I had done, enjoyed doing, and thought would compliment my sculptures.  Once she was sure the choice was coming from me she was thrilled, because obviously she loves talking pinhole.  She showed me several Pinhole Resource Pinhole Journals and mentioned several artists to look at, some of whom I knew of already.  She said I had to be prepared to answer ”Why Pinhole?”
     About my work, she said I need to get closer to my sculptures when photographing them.  She said I need to draw the viewer in completely to the world of my sculptures.  She said I seemed interested in creating new worlds.  She said even my ice photographs were like new worlds; islands in the ice.  I mentioned that my next paper is to be on Anselm Kiefer’s High Priestess and Rosamond Purcell’s Bookworm, and she said, “Wait a minute!”  She came back with an Anselm Kiefer book and put it next to my ice photos.  His paintings with straw and other ephemera looked oddly related.  She said since I seem so interested with the hand aspect of art, and putting actual pieces of nature in my sculptures, I should consider building up my photographs with pieces of nature and other ephemera, and she said Kiefer was a good one to look at.  Also, one pinhole photographer she mentioned, Walter Crump, is now painting over his photographs, and I should look at that.
     She said I’m doing something that has power and meaning, but I don’t know what or how.  She said I have to document it, write things down to find out what it is.  Why am I paying attention to certain things?  My ice photographs feel like small worlds, little islands, and there is something I want to tell with these.  My interiors are little worlds.  One way is to build things and photograph them.  But I should also try taking the photograph and construct over and with them.
     Since I left Jesseca I have selected some of my ice and some of my pinhole images and scanned them in to be 17” x 22”.  I got this nice cold press paper from Epson that has a nice tooth to it and is quite thick and printed them out.  Now I am ready to mess them up and see where that leads me.  I am pretty excited about it.