Tuesday, April 24, 2007


While working away on the computer the other day, I heard a strange popping noise and looked out my window to see flames licking the sky. Jesse, a local volunteer fireman, had ignited the neighborhood burn pile. A little voice inside me said – get your camera. So I dropped my work mid-sentence, and headed across the dirt driveway to the empty lot where three households gather our garden debris for burning. This year, the fire burned so clean with minimal smoke and bright orange explosions of flame. I shot frame after frame. I still am not certain what I will do with these images – maybe they will be incorporated into the Sanctuary series or maybe they will become something else. All I know is that when I hear that little voice giving me directions and I act on it, there is a sense of deep creative satisfaction.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Artists Beginning with M

While in Portland last week, I had the extreme pleasure of visiting Powells Books - an enormous labyrinth of books, featuring used and new books side by side on miles of shelving. The photography section alone is the size of a large living room. I spent two happy hours browsing there.

One of the ways I enter such a large collection is to head straight for the monographs beginning with M. Over time, I have traced a consistent fascination with M artists. I wrote an undergrad thesis on Lee Miller. I did graduate research on Tina Modotti and Sally Mann, and concluded my MA in photo history with a thesis on Dora Maar. I love the work of Man Ray, Duane Michals, Sarah Moon, Wright Morris, Abelardo Morrell, Muybridge, and Annette Messager. My excursion to Powell’s yielded the happy discovery of a brand new book on Lee Miller and one I had not seen before on Tina Modotti. I left that day with a book on Ralph Eugene Meatyard.

This is not to say that I limit myself to M artists only – my library at home attests to my love for the full alphabet of names. At Powells, I also added to my wish list Henri-Cartier Bresson’s Scrapbook and a new book on Claude Cahun. But I do find it helpful when faced with a sea of books to pick a coordinate from which to begin my exploring, and for me that coordinate is the letter M.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Photo Lucida

I just spent five days in Portland at a portfolio review event called Photo Lucida. Every other year, more than 100 photographers and 60 photo-professionals (curators, gallerists, publishers, etc.) gather at the Benson Hotel to network and dialogue. Over the course of four days, each photographer has eighteen 20-minute, one-on-one reviews with various photo-professionals. This year, the reviews were held in the chandelier-lit room pictured here – the reviewer on one side of a white linen-covered table and the photographer on the other.

I gain so much from attending these events…

First, I get organized. I prepare my resume, handouts, and my prints and mixed media work for presentation.

Second, I get new words. This time I was sharing my current work in progress – Evocations and Sanctuaryand it was so helpful to get the keen insights of people who are skilled at looking and talking about photographs. Some of my new favorite words I collected are "herbarium" and "forensic."

Third, I get good questions – ones to take home and mull over. For example, what is the role of beauty in my art?

Fourth, I get diverse feedback – some people love certain images while others love different ones, maybe even somebody else’s least favorite image. In the end, I leave with the affirmation that I simply need to make the work I feel most called to make.

Fifth, I get opportunities and possibilities. Many of the people I met will consider my work for future shows and publications. For example, Jim Casper offered to publish Evocations in an upcoming issue of Lens Culture.

Sixth, I get so inspired by the talent and commitment of my fellow photographers there. Some of the work that knocked my sox off is Heidi Kirkpatrick’s mixed media pieces and Jessica Hines’ in-camera collages.

Seventh - and this is the main reason I go - I get connected. Spending four days with almost 200 people who value the creation of new photography-based work makes me feel - even after the event is over - that I am part a larger community of accomplished image makers from around the country. Now, back here in the studio all by myself, I feel profoundly that I am not alone.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

That feeling...

“What I am looking for are sites that evoke a feeling of inner peacefulness, some quality of contemplation. I don’t always get it, and I don’t always translate it, but I certainly know when the feeling comes over me and that’s what keeps me going.” -Lynn Davis, New York Times, Sunday, April 8, 2007

This past Sunday found me with bagels, eggs and coffee, perusing the Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times where I was struck by an article about the photographs of Lynn Davis, called “Travels Abroad Lead to Journeys Within.” Lynn has an exhibit that just opened at the Rubin Museum in New York City – a show which Charles Melcher describes as “taking Lynn out of the white box of the traditional gallery and placing her in a museum that feels more like a temple.” I love that image.

When I read Lynn's quote above, I felt as if she was speaking directly to me. "Evoking a feeling of inner peacefulness, some quality of contemplation" is what I am after in my Sanctuary series (pictured here). I want these images to speak of internal refuge – a resting place for the mind. These days, I am photographing, bottling, then re-photographing, then printing, editing, and re-printing – building this series from the three currently completed pieces into a larger collection. Lynn's words remind me to trust my inner instincts about what has that “feeling” and belongs in the series, and what does not.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Why Art is Like Fishing

1. Because you have to enjoy the process of it. It’s called fishing, not catching.

2. Both art and fishing require a combination of skill and luck. You put yourself in the right place, at the right time with the right equipment. You look for signs. You read the water and the movement of birds and head where it looks auspicious. But in the end, it is a spark of chance (or magic even) that delivers the fish or the artwork.

3. Every day is different – some days are empty, and some are so full of catching you can barely keep up.

4. A really big fish feeds a lot of people. A good artwork will too. But a small one can be just as fun to catch and sometimes even more tasty.

5. “You’ve got to put in your hours for your inches” as one fishing friend says. It takes time and dedication, which is why point #1 is so important.

6. The possibilities are infinite. You never know for certain what you might see and what you might catch. The sea is a magical liquid world that hides, and sometimes reveals, its wonders.

A Break

I have been on vacation at a wonderful spot in Mexico. There was time to sleep late, walk miles on a virtually empty beach, linger at the palapa fish restaurant, read a novel or two, and cast our lines in the warm water and search for fish. There was also the luxury of time to just sit and watch the ocean waves and the wind move in the palm trees, and for my pen to slowly move across the page of my journal – taking stock, integrating, and planning for the future.