Welcome to a blog of my own. Mostly I prefer to let the images do the heavy lifting, but sometimes, it helps to get a sense of the thought process that lie behind the work. Since writing is in many ways partner to my process, whether contemplative or whimsical, a few words now and again can prove illuminating.
Earth Day 2020 -- Paradigm Shift
This entry has been waiting in the wings for some time. However, events have conspired—in a good way – to make it perhaps more relevant than it was initially. To state what is likely the obvious, many of us who are not on the front lines of holding the fabric of of things together are in a time of forced slowing. And we’ve been there for a number of weeks. As with most crises there may be mixed blessings. Time to think, time to catch up with a home projects and binge watching, time to see our hair grow longer and get scruffy, time to start getting more than a little stir-crazy.
What follows is the blog written to accompany the works I contributed to an exhibition held in Tokyo, Japan last summer. Two are highlighted here, the rest are [where in the website] The focus is the environment and considers how we might rethink our relationship within it. I hope that these images serve as a portal, assuring the viewer that everything and everyone really is connected across space and time in ways more profound than we often realize or appreciate.
Paradigm Shift: The Things We Value
Those Things We Want to Keep and Those We Want to Leave Behind, September 2019
The exhibition, “Paradigm Shift,” which began on August 31 and ran through October 26, 2019, focused on the theme of values with the two-fold intention of raising “awareness of the need for a paradigm shift toward realizing a sustainable society.” It offers viewers an “opportunity to think about what values really matter and what values need rethinking.” The exhibit, created, organized and curated by Yuji Hattori of Ego Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, is located at the Senba Mansion in Harajuku, Tokyo. The project is in a condominium scheduled for demolition. There are works painted in one room and another filled with photographs. The artwork will be archived. This exhibition is presented by Ego Art Gallery, Tokyo, with support from Sun Frontier Fudousan Co., Ltd, and Gridge Inc.
I am honored to be one of four fine art photographers invited to participate in an exhibit in Tokyo, Japan that explores the decisions we have made as a culture and consider where we are, what we need to keep for the future and what we should leave behind. It is an honor to be included with fellow artists Janet Millhomme, Diane Cockerill, and Maureen Van Leeuwen Haldeman.
On viewing my photographs, Yuji Hattori sent an inquiry about the one pictured here: Why knitting? Indeed, why knitting? The title of this image is “Knitting Lesson.” While we were gallery sitting fellow artist, Anita Dixon, was teaching me the process of casting a row of stitches along with the basic techniques of moving needles and yarn (knit and purl) to create rows of knitting. How does knitting relate to or affect our values? Do we want knitting in the world that we want to create or do we want to remove from the world as it is?
Like many handcrafts, knitting, is a long-stablished creative process that is uniquely human. While many animals create complex structures like dens, dams, and nests as shelter, humans have also discovered ways to create “mobile shelter” for the body, one of which is knitting. It is a technology so deeply embedded human history that it is no longer perceived as such. How it is accomplished seems obvious and commonplace today and it has evolved into an activity traditionally designated as “women’s work.” Significantly, this kind of creative work is essential and foundational as it contributes to meeting basic needs: it keeps people protected and warm in cold weather.
From another perspective, knitting feels akin to magic: it is a technology that employs two pointed sticks and some kind of flexible and resilient rope or yarn. Worked together they can create something from next to nothing. (The technological creativity that led to the creation of rope and yarn also seems paradoxically equally mundane and magical.) However, it is also reasonable to expect that there was a process of failures and successes along the way. Our innate creativity seems to include a willingness to experiment and to try and to fail and try again.
Knitting is a technology that leads to creating new things that did not exist before. The process can be seen as a symbolic joining and unification of yin and yang energies into the creation of something harmonious and productive. Knitting is an activity that helps us reflect on how we can create new things sustainably. Like most other crafts, making things by hand is a way of engaging mind and body in maintaining our connections with the wider world.
But for every yang there is yin.
From the other side, among one of the things we want to reconsider and might want to leave behind deals with the excesses of consumerism and the overabundant use of plastic. Both contribute to an accumulation of materials, many of which cannot readily be re-used and do not readily recycle. This is developing into an ongoing nightmare from which it is turning out to be difficult to wake.
Barbie Massacre, Redondo Beach, CA
The second image shown here contains plastic molded dolls of the wasp-waisted, 12-inch variety – the kind that was introduced and became not merely popular but coveted in the 1960s and well into the next few decades. As a preteen, I owned one, as did most of my contemporaries. Having two or more was rare. I remember wandering the back end of the Kresge’s, the local five and dime, where I would stare longingly at the high shelf laden with the long rows of bright boxes that held perfectly coiffed and painted dolls, and packages on hangars filled with marvelous outfits that reflected the generally accepted womanly ideals of the times.
Decades later on a neighborhood walk, I faced a literal crate full of these dolls sprawled in a swath across a lawn. The dolls, in various states of undress and dismemberment were scattered along with doll clothing and doll heads and arms strewn about. I was both amused and put off by the sheer quantity of dolls and how they seemed to be treated so casually. They may have been the collected assembly of a gathering of girls or just one girl’s bounty, but even so, I was amazed to see so many—even a few male dolls among the bunch. But then, this was decades later, in a very different time and place. There is no way to know whether the dolls still served as touchstones for imagining who these girls wanted to be as they played, or whether they were just more stuff.
The quantity of dolls reveals a significant upward shift in affluence, an indication of a time of great abundance and increased wealth. This state of relative wealth is not in itself an issue. What we do with it is. The dolls reflect one set of social and cultural choices. Perhaps these choices stem from our innate nature to collect things that make us feel happy, safe and significant. Slowly but surely, we are becoming aware that our ways of consuming need to be re-examined and rethought as many are ultimately unsustainable and need to be reviewed, re-evaluated and revised. As we become more mindful of the long term effects of the sheer volume of things, what they are made of, and how they are packaged, we are encouraged to reconsider whether we need the next new thing, the consequences, unintended or not, of its life expectancy, and where the waste ultimately ends up.
This is a story whose end is not yet written. How things turn out may well depend on our creativity and willingness to effect a paradigm shift that leads to greater sustainability.
Special thanks to Yuji Hattori and Janet Milhomme for their efforts to make this happen and for including me in such an insightful and probing exhibition.
EXHIBITION: Paradigm Shift: Photography and Performance Art Exhibition, August 31-October 26, 2019
LOCATION: Senba Mansion Harajuku (1 min walk from Harajuku Station)
PRESENTED BY: Ego Gallery
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-0023 Japan
This summer has been anything but a time to kick back and relax. I’ve had a run of good luck with work being accepted into several exhibitions. It's been hectic, but kind of fun. Here’s an update...
I’m delighted that two works depicting the ranching life of the Owens Valley, “Cornered” and “”Done,” were juried into the Inyo County Photo Contest. Both were taken in Lone Pine, which is in the Owens Valley at the foot of the Eastern Sierra.
I was particularly taken with the body language and the look on the faces of the calves.
The work may not be done, but the glove certainly is. I can only imagine the wearer's frustration at the last and final tear led to its decorating a fencepost.
These are two of 40 works that are on exhibit at the Visitor’s Center in Lone Pine from July 30 through November 1, 2019. If you find yourself on California Route 395 and passing through the Owens Valley, stop by.
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I’m both pleased and honored to have my work, “Shinjuku, Tokyo” accepted into 2019 California Open Exhibition at the TAG Gallery. The exhibition was juried by fine artist Ruth Weisberg, Professor of Fine Arts and former dean of the USC Roski School of Art and Design. Of the more than 1400 submissions nationwide, 110 works were selected.
Opening Reception: Saturday, August 10, from 5 to 8 pm.
Exhibition Dates: August 7 through August 23
Location: Tag Gallery, 5458 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90036
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Concurrently at TAG in their Loft Gallery, members of Photographic and Digital Artists (PADA) will be exhibiting works depicting “California through the Lens.” California defies simple description, which makes capturing the essence of California photographically a challenge. Spanning an incredibly diverse range of geographies and landscapes – real and imagined, it is a place of mind as much as of reality. The members of PADA present their visions of California. The piece I will be showing is a slice of life, a view into a sushi bar in the Sawtelle district on the West side, also known as Japantown.
Sushi Bar, Sawtelle
Opening Reception: Saturday, August 10, from 5 to 8 pm.
Exhibition Dates: August 10 through August 17
Location: Tag Loft Gallery, 5458 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90036
Website and Members' Galleries: www.padapv.org
Find us on FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Padapv/
Wishing you a relaxing and pleasant summer!
Bubbles. The sound of them bounces jovially across the lips. Bubbles. Ephemeral spheres borne from a soapy pool of water. They are short-lived artifacts of playfulness and sheer magic. They inspire the imaginations of children and their older counterparts, should they permit their minds to disengage from the mundane and be permitted to flow. Bubbles can be found in many parks where there is a vendor who dips magic wands into a bucket of solution and lifts them into the air letting the breeze release torrents of bubbles into the crowd.
Shining, giggling children chase them under watchful parental eyes. The dogs follow them, confused as they pop and are gone. This makes me smile. Bubbles make me lean toward the imaginary, beyond the physics of surface tension, into the magic soap and water can create. I wonder about the uncertainty of existence and how bubbles move into the unknown like fragile explorers. Then, too, I think of the cosmos and theories of how the universe came into being...could we be part of an unimaginably large bubble that blebbed off another universe? Would that make the big bang the moment at which “our” universe pinched off the other? Makes one wonder about the immensity of life, its marvels, and how things can emerge seemingly from next to nothing and disappear in the blink of an eye. And they are all the more amazing and joyful despite the brevity of their existence.
These bubbles were captured in flight in Barcelona at the long city park near the Arc de Triomf, not far from the Galeria Valid Photo where a piece of mine was included in the 10th Julia Margaret Cameron Exhibition in Barcelona.
I am honored and delighted that this image of Blue Bubbles sailing into an uncertain expanse was selected from the many submissions to the online fine art gallery, Your Daily Photograph.
Living in the Continuous Present, Part 1
The past seems to be always with us, holding on tenaciously to the leg of our pants like a crazed pooch with a chew toy. The future is always out there, waiting, feeling at times like a mugger lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce or like a fairy godparent waiting to grant one’s deepest desire. Or perhaps something in between.
What we do have now and always is the present. And the present is continually on-going, charging ever forward, an inescapable buffer.
While the continuous present can be reduced to a point of grammar, the bigger notion is how language is a factor in shaping how we look at the world. From a philosophical viewpoint, the continuous present as it occurs in English captures both a sense of time and timelessness. Time passes and seasons change and the continuous present speaks to the perpetually unfinished and ongoing-ness of life and how it cycles through the changing seasons marking passages year after year with seemingly little or no change.
We see this on the Preserve. As efforts restore the Preserve to much of its original state, the life cycles of the plants and animals within its boundaries and beyond them continue on their independent paths, going through their own set of changes. As restoration continues, the Preserve takes on a deeper sense of timelessness that surpasses the existence of most of its inhabitants and visitors. And yet, despite the feeling of predictability in the seasonal shifts, the reality is that change is constant—it is the only constant in living systems. Life is change. Life is now. Life is continuously present.
But the nature of nature is change. Changes are generally small and incremental unless there is a major event, like a tree aging out, or something unexpectedly radical. Even then, time and the forces of life seek to return to an equilibrium, perhaps a new one, perhaps with a modification or two.
The images in this exhibit lean toward the present and timelessness. There was a hawk in the sycamore, there is a hawk in the sycamore, and with luck there will continue to be hawks in the sycamore. These are the things that draw us here— the wobbly dynamic stability that varies with the seasons over time.
Past, present and future are necessarily linked for us. Then again, living in the continuous present is a space where we can breathe and look forward and backward…. This is more than the label of a verb tense, it captures where we are at any given moment—wedged forever between the past and future, but always in the now.
Now is where we are. Now is what we have. Now is what shapes and reshapes past and future.
Living in the Continuous Present
There is the predictable pattern of movement
in our lives. The repeated actions and
a repeatable sequence of habits
which adds up to an equation
that equals existence.
Perhaps it is only the daily bleating
Of the alarm insisting on rousing
us out of bed with fierce consistency.
Perhaps it is the succession of
meals, or the daily changing of socks
and underwear, the two cups of tea,
the three dirty dishes, the fork, the knife
the spoon that mark each day's passage.
We are suspended in the now, even as
everything matures and changes,
destined to remain unfinished.
Still, there is the ever-changing sky,
the passing clouds, wind, rain
to spark startling bursts of color,
the rising scent of sundrenched land
etching bright points of memory
that illuminate being in the now,
even as they fade from memory
slipping from our grasp.
Living in the Continuous Present, Part 2
There is an interesting paradox between photography and the continuous present. The two are in a perpetual tug-of-war, not unlike the way two celestial objects engage in a push and pull rotation around each other. They are not exactly compatible. Photography inherently consists of capturing discrete moments, real or otherwise. The continuous present is a state of being that is inherently in process and incomplete. Despite the apparent dissonance, or perhaps because of it, each image captures a sense of immediacy of the moment and the timelessness that is a part of the natural world.
There is also the issue of a difficult to define relationship between humans and other species. For a host of reasons we have a tendency to think of ourselves as being quite separate from all the other creatures on the planet. One of the things I’ve come across in reading Native American mythologies is that this perception between humans and everything else doesn’t exist everywhere. In the indigenous universe all of the critters and the vegetation and the earth are considered “people.” Many of the stories tell of their origins. This offers a very different way of regarding other life forms and if one mulls over the notion, it has many interesting implications: it’s not us and them, it’s just all of us, which is a mind set quite apart from where most of us come from.
In many of these images, I had the distinct impression I was being watched and evaluated as much as I did the critters that found their way in front of my lens. Many of these have a sense of whimsy attached perhaps because the behaviors of the critters are often not too different from our own. Even the insects seemed curious and in many cases tolerant of my presence. There is the possibility that many of the critters inhabiting the Preserve have become used to humans on the land. Then again, it likely works the other way as well.
As I was preparing for the upcoming exhibition “The Show at the Top of the Stairs at the TAG Gallery in Los Angeles (August 11-25, 2018), a friend of mine made me laugh when he responded to my work, Nigori Tempest 2. He said it reminded him of watching a front-loading washing machine. There is a resemblance to the shapes clothes make as they tumble in soapy water just as substances of differing viscosity do when they move in liquids-think oil and water. Like my friend, I sometimes stop and gaze at front loaders with a good window view. Car washes have their fascination, too. The world can be an exciting place when looked at just so.
For the record, that isn’t how quite these images originated.
Clearly though, there is something going on in these images. And here’s the skinny: the title is taken from the contents of the bottle I photographed. Nigori is a kind of sake, Japanese rice wine. Nigori is unfiltered sake. Consequently, it contains sediment from the rice it was fermented from. The nigori is meant to be stirred up before pouring and drinking making the liquid cloudy.
I happened to have been given a small bottle and found the clear round shoulders of the bottle and the white swirling particles enchanting… it set my imagination going. Because it is a contained environment, like a snow globe or a terrarium, it reminded me of how fragile our planet looks from outer space with its thin layer of atmosphere. The way the sediment moved reminded me of how sand and snow move at the direction of wind and water. The muted colors of the nigori with its slurry transforming the interior of the bottle’s landscape held its own fascination. When still, the landscape looked much like a dune desert or an ice field piled with drifts and the mystery of their movement. And it also says something about perturbation in a closed system -- when sufficiently swirled, it looks like a dust storm. This often meant having to wait for hours between taking pictures while waiting for the sediment to settle once disturbed. And each time things did settle down, there was a subtly different “landscape.”
This would be the time to invoke William Blake’s poem that starts, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand.” It’s a sweet poem, and I’m going to leave that up to you. Here are a couple of interesting links to take you there (it’s not long). Another inspiration was the Stanislaw Lem novel, Solaris, with Lem's descriptions of an alien landscape. And the film version is pretty faithful to the intent of the book.
So many hands pull invaders
loose from earth, trying to return
to the old order.
So many spades bite
into rain soaked, sun brittle,
clay, crumbling into fine
sandy dust. Upturned and damp
it is readied receive new life,
descendants of old friends.
So many fingers crusted thick
with mud, probe beneath the sun
soaked ground into its cooler
depths where new roots reach out.
So many relentless days and years
digging, digging, digging
to return natives to their rightful
land try to regain lost wisdom.
So many shells of hands lie
lifeless in a pile.
Worn leather, sand, gritty clots
of earth, cling to canvas,
So many five-fingered shapes
splayed out, cracked
and coated with traces
of their work,
the next task.
The geography of Robertson Boulevard, just one block south of Beverly Boulevard, is a strange attractor. It's a short block where the cities of Los Angeles, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills touch. There are tony, high-end shops and a restaurant noted for its celebrity patrons. Hollywood tour buses glide through daily, both riders and guides hoping to catch a glimpse of someone famous.
Besides the denizens who work and shop there, this block is host to visits by celebrities of many stripes and the paparazzi who "feed" on them, looking for their money shot. Theirs is a peculiar symbiotic relationship in which the celebrities get the media exposure they need and the paparazzi get paid. It is part of the job. Once word goes out by text or e-mail, paparazzi begin to swarm on the streets like wasps at the scent of fresh meat. The “meat” is the celebrity du jour, who may be an actor with a fading career trying to create some buzz, a hopeful rising star seeking more media exposure, or a celebrity simply stoking his or her celebrityhood. In most cases, the prey is willing and surprisingly gracious. Until their subject emerges into a public space or word goes out that they've slipped out the back, paparazzi watch and wait, cameras at the ready.
Having the chance to see this first hand as a result of working in the area over a period of several years was both fascinating and unsettling. Walks to and from lunch and breaks offered a number of opportunities to see these events unfold up close. These images were taken with small point-and-shoot cameras as they were easily kept in pocket or purse and allowed me to be a tourist in their world.
As I think about the pieces I might submit for this year's Palos Verdes Art Center holiday exhibit, I am still enjoying the buzz from having had several pieces in last year's event, one of which, "A Propensity for Dendridic Arbors," was honored with a Best of Show award given by the Open Artists Group. The award came as a pleasant surprise--I have always considered myself fortunate simply to have work accepted. Why? Because there are a lot of talented people also presenting their best efforts, so the selection process always has an element of chance and subjectivity. The quality is certainly there, but some work may not meet the curator's taste or vision. And while it is always a bit disappointing not to make the cut, it is a part of the process.
Having the piece accepted was particularly rewarding as it had an unusual evolution. Some months earlier I'd been thrashing around ideas for another exhibit, "Optic Nerve" and while driving I caught a broadcast of Radiolab on the topic of neural enrichment. The phrase "a propensity for dendric arbors" stuck. I could envision dendrites, the fibers of nerves branching out like tree branches. It struck me once again how effective patterns in nature seem to find a way to multiple uses and in very different domains. And the metaphoric nature of language tied things together as the nerve fibers branch out in tree-like structures intertwining as they send electrical impulses through the nervous system.
The piece was received well, but it seemed cramped being contained in a 16x20-inch mat and frame. It wanted to be larger. As an experiment, I had the image printed on a smooth satiny fabric through a dye sublimation process, which allowed a larger printed image than I might have otherwise done (50x36 inches). It was submitted as a long hanging and I found that while there was no glass cleaning involved, the piece did require ironing.
So, here is am, on the verge of preparing this year's submission. As I look through the images I've created, considering which ones to enter, trying to once again to select pieces that might catch the curators eye, and yet trying to have no expectation of success, I also need to keep in mind that the work is the work. But without ironing this year.