I had a very enjoyable weekend in New York City exploring Chelsea galleries and visiting MOMA for the first time. A very action packed few days, I put over 20 miles on my sneakers walking from Chelsea to MOMA, and from Chelsea through Soho to Little Italy. My partner, fiber artist Linda Doucette, and I took in a variety of gallery exhibits in Chelsea and a couple of floors of the MOMA. I experienced my first Rothko in person, and this impressive Barnett Newman painting above. Abstract Expressionism is still a genre that I am working to fully appreciate, this trip certainly aided in that goal. A much more extended visit is needed I know.
It’s important for artists to get away from the studio and see what’s happening in the art world outside one’s normal sphere. The Chelsea gallery spaces were as impressive as the artwork. Big, white-walled venues where individual works were displayed in stark light, by themselves, not competing for anyone’s attention.
MOMA was packed on the Saturday we visited and that actually made me feel good. The diversity of the demographic of the visitors made me feel good too; lots of young people were among the throngs.
It was an inspiring few days and had me anxious to get back to my studio to start working on new prints and consider the making of new images.
Driving back from a show in Virginia last month, we passed by a section of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. It was snowing which made the scene along the river appear to be in a fog. The snow obscured the details of distant hills, and generally gave a soft feeling to the landscape. I made some mental notes about returning under similar conditions with a qualified camera.
After a few more miles I couldn’t stand it any longer and pulled over the first chance I got. I always bring a camera with me to shows in order to make new booth images for future show submissions, and to do some PR images for web use. So I got out of the van with that “show” camera in hand and figured I would do what I could. The camera is an Olympus Stylus 1, a small sensor camera with a very good lens and full manual control capability. I am a strong believer that strong images are made by artists not cameras, so I worked to create an image that conveyed the feelings I had looking out over the river.
I like the feeling of dimension in this piece. My eye travels first to the island on the left then to the distant island on the right, then toward the middle island and the distant hill. I converted the image to black and white as color was not relevant to my visualization, and added a subtle sepia toning. I think the image has a rather timeless quality to it and am quite happy with it. My 11×14 test print is very pleasing and so this image is available on my website HERE.
It makes no sense at all to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts as the current administration wants to do. It does nothing to balance the budget. It’s purely being considered because of political reasons.
To be honest, I hadn’t realized just how little a budget the NEA was working with. I mean really, less than $150 million a year! To support the arts at a national level for such a paltry amount of money is a disgrace in itself.
Here’s some math I did. I found that 65 million voters selected Clinton for President last year. If half of those voters were to spend even $200 (two hundred dollars) in original works by contemporary (living) artists, it would equal well over $6,000,000,000 (six billion dollars!) in art sales this year. That’s only $200 in original artwork in a year! It’s good for people to have art in their lives, it’s good for the country economically, culturally, socially, and its good for contemporary artists.
I enjoy buying artwork for myself and gifts. I also appreciate it when I receive art as a gift.
There are many unfortunate terms used to describe the work and tools of photographers. They come from within the medium itself which makes them even more disturbing. I find the vocabulary especially problematic for photographers who work with the medium as an art form. A making of fine photographs requires a number of decisions about how a particular subject or scene is to be rendered in order to communicate what the photographer-artist wants to convey. The image thus created reflects a complex, although sometimes rather quickly considered, set of thoughts. Words like “shot” and “capture” fall well short of describing the process involved in the making of the art photograph.
As an artist, I am not “capturing” an image. The image does not exist out in the world only to be found and collected by the photographer. Images do not exist in any form in nature. Images are the unique creations of an individual artist and brought into being through their imagination and craftsmanship. I believe that what Jerrold Levinson (American Philosopher) wrote concerning the making of musical works applies to photographic works as well – that “they do not exist prior to the composer’s compositional activity, but are brought into existence by that activity“.
Knowing why we do something can give us insight into what we are doing presently and motivate our choices going forward. I came across one explanation of why artists create the work they do which I find apropos. Artists, it is suggested, create works that help them fill in for something that is missing in their lives. I can see that explanation of motivation being true with certain works I make. There have been times when I felt the need for more beauty, peacefulness, or simplicity around me. There are many stressors in life, and creating imagery that balances those stressors by emphasizing peace and simplicity seems like a logical explanation. These works then are expressions of that desire.
One piece that I come back to often when feeling a desire to unwind is titled A Ripple, A Blade of Grass. It is an image of grasses reflected in pond water in Acadia National Park . A minimalist image, it really only consists of lines against a monochromatic background. I find it both soothing and engaging though. The simplicity of it is calming, yet there are lines that create triangles (due to the grasses reflection in the water), a shape that imparts a sense of action. Also, the ripples in the water have created zig-zag patterns that serve as visual contrast to the straight lines and add a sense of tension through the implied motion. I applied a sepia tonality to the piece to lower the visual harshness of a stark black and white.
This type of imagery is not easy to make because as a result of it being minimalist, every element that is included becomes more important to the piece. Finding the right balance in a minimalist work is part of the challenge however, and for that I am often working from a gut feeling.
I’m currently reading two books on aesthetics which I find fascinating. I’m still at the beginnings of both books but already they have me contemplating the “why” of art more deeply. As an artist I create from a relish for nature, a relish for beauty, a relish for life. It is a consciousness raising experience and one that lifts my humanity. I respond to natural beauty through aesthetic experience and translate that into my own interpretation, striving to create something beautiful in itself. When I respond to a field of grass aesthetically, I’m not trying to recreate that field. What I am doing is trying to relate my unique aesthetic experience of that field to a viewer so that they may feel about it the way I did.
If I am successful with my creation then I have affected some response in the viewer which raises their consciousness and relish for life as well.
The process of getting into the various shows I do each year requires a sometimes complex set of actions. The most important starting point is deciding with which images I will represent myself. These must be images that are visually strong, have been made within the past few years, and authentically represent my personal aesthetic. It is a rather stressful process because I can’t know how any show juror(s) will respond to my work. As a full time, independent artist, getting into shows, and more prestigious shows especially, can greatly affect my livelihood.
All I can do is send in the work that excites me most, represents who I am as an artist, and hope for the best. Different shows have different submission processes, but most now charge an application fee just to have one’s work considered. Then there’s the show fee, often a fee for electricity, travel costs, hotel costs, food……..and so on. As an independent artist, I am both the creator of the artwork, manager of the business, and the art dealer.
My 2017 show schedule is beginning to take shape and will be updated on my website soon. But, the process is just at it’s beginning and I am updating my image selection for applications. The image above is one I selected for this year. It is part of a series I am doing on meadow grasses and other botanical subjects. For this series, I have been primarily using a few antique lenses made about 60 years ago. Using an adaptor to fit the lens on my Fuji camera, I’m creating images that are quiet, peaceful, reflections of my feelings while in the field and my personal aesthetic. My work may be seen HERE