In October, Jo and I are both happy to have been again selected for inclusion in the Albuquerque Museum Foundation fundraising show “Artsthrive”. It’s being hosted in an online auction this year. You can visit their website for more details. Here’s the link: https://albuquerquemuseum.org/artsthrive/
In January, I was selected for inclusion in the “Alternatives 2020” show at the SE Center of Photography in SC. If you don’t know this gallery, please check out their very active website. The juror was Jill Enfield – a name long known by hand-colorists, so I was happy to be selected with some digitally-based prints I painted with photo oils. Of course, the Covid pandemic soon closed many galleries to in-person visiting but they were able to transfer to an on-line viewing of the exhibition.
Thoughts on Photography Based Art
Some believe photography cannot produce truly lasting artwork but I strongly disagree. I continue to believe that imaginative, non-documentary photographs often linger in a one’s mind long after viewing – just as any fine painting, sculpture, or other art form can be held by the mind’s eye. However, a significant recent problem is that with the proliferation of high resolution, affordable digital cameras, nearly anyone can successfully capture quite detailed and accurate pictures - but as evidenced nearly every day, we are overwhelmed by a multitude of mundane visual statements of limited imagination and challenge. A seasoned artist’s viewpoint will always be paramount to any lasting visual statement and their awareness of historical artwork builds richness and context to that statement. Finally, a demonstration of fine craftsmanship over multiple works validates the work as true artistry.
Form: I started photographing in earnest with an architectural emphasis, echoing my respect for classical building structures and spaces – an acknowledgement of historical artistic achievement in a different media. However, while making these images I soon attempted to focus the viewer’s attention on smaller details rather than the overall impression of the structure. I also worked hard to cultivate an awareness of the natural reflections and shadows of objects within a scene. As I go throughout a day, I know that I’m too often distracted by a busy lifestyle to isolate my focus enough to recognize the full beauty and depth of what is right before me – missing out on the some of the amazing richness of the wonderful gift our eyesight provides us. This realization persuaded me to slow and lean toward a stronger appreciation of still life and studio art. In the studio, I consciously began to try and limit or enlarge the perceived physical space, or over-emphasize shadows to force the viewer to look closer. Special care regarding the quality of light - especially dim light - became very important, along with muted color. I increasingly found myself working more in my studio at night, where I could simplify the forms and better control lighting. This also seemed to enhance the “magic”...
A Still Life Setup: Utilizing a stage set, I produced several series of work late at night after having just awakened from a restless sleep. I have sometimes caught myself thinking about imagery just before I drop off to sleep and Wikipedia claims that creativity can be significantly correlated with sleep disturbance. In any case, I feel that these late night sessions were often quite productive and ...“illuminating”. In recent years, I have continued to visualize ever more abstractly, often focusing on simpler forms and the interaction between simplified shapes. I started using cut and folded paper and transparent materials sometimes combined with physical objects. Letting my imagination run free, I am now often compelled to persuade the viewer to imagine a form’s inherent mystery as an allegorical life-form. Interesting shapes, subtle lighting, strong shadows, spatial perspective, and muted color remain crucial features to consider as I develop my work. I prefer the finalized result to be quiet, restful, and non-intrusive, providing a respite from our busy world.
Color: Hand-colored prints are scarcely seen now that most photography is digital-based. My hand-colored work until the early 2000’s was oil paint or pencil directly applied over traditional Black and White Silver Gelatin prints – similar to the first examples of color in early postcards. I always found the coloration step was a time-consuming yet meditative process, demanding an uninterrupted effort as the painting of the entire print needed to be completed at one sitting for best results from the media. When successfully applied, this could produce an artfully subtle and refined print with a quality in my opinion rarely achieved by traditional color photo processes. The appeal of this now rarely used process echoes an important goal of my work - to take the viewer beyond the ordinary – by process as well as imagination. With the advent of digital media and loss of wet darkroom materials, the result achieved by attempting to paint over digital paper with modern materials has not been to my satisfaction, so as I setup to capture those images, my visual sensibility continues to remind me of the refined look of that vintage process and I constantly strive to adjust to some kind of equivalence of color quality in new digital work.
How the Work Evolves: Awareness of all of the above has helped me to often conceptualize an initial image before I actually construct the stage setup to capture it. I often shoot up to 50 variations on a new idea, usually producing a whole other series of ideas. Afterward, a lengthy “reviewing” process takes over and I will typically rework many versions of those images or combine them with others and often spend days contemplating the results before reaching what I believe is an adequately distilled selection of work. This clarifying process is mandatory for me and helps give the final work a feeling quite different from photography designed to capture the “decisive moment”.
Many life choices are often low-hanging fruit, but for real satisfaction, you must work hard at whatever your task. In the case of art, the viewer as well as artist must attempt to look beyond the obvious - deeper beneath the surface and within the shadows or why the work is presented in that way. Artists are always searching for the truth and sometimes for all their work they are rewarded with a wonderful visual statement, but life is an enduring mystery and for the artist there is always the question - did it go far enough ?