Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Creative Chaos

"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star." -Friedrich Nietzsche

The studio is a mess these days. I have excavated my drawers, piles, and files, discovering maps, photographs, and other symbolic objects buried in my studio. Now they flood my main worktable, inspiring me to try new directions with my Evocations series. It is a healthy chaos they have created. The kind, that I hope and pray, will lead to the creation of a “dancing star” or at least some strong new images.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Playing with Fog

I am almost reluctant to speak this aloud in case it might jinx me – but, after overcoming some resistance, I have been shooting new photos for my Evocations series. Every foggy morning for the last week, I have been on my studio deck – my table filled with a variety of props and backgrounds – working intuitively, quickly, before the sun bursts through. I prefer the even, filtered lighting of fog to the shadows caused by bright sun. Fortunately for me, Muir Beach is one of the foggiest places in the Bay Area and summer is fog season. It feels a lot like fishing – putting in my time, taking photographs, and later I will edit and see what I caught. But for now, I am having much fun playing in the fog with bottles, maps, and other ephemera.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Space to Grow

My studio overlooks my vegetable garden – a view fertile with metaphors for the creative process. Weeding, watering, fertilizing, planting, sprouting, growing, harvesting…are all apt expressions of artmaking.

Last night found me planting. I love beets, and so I bought two six packs of starts when one probably would have been plenty. To my delight, each cell of the six-pack had 3-4 separate seedlings, so I planted approximately 40 new plants last night! The challenge was finding enough space for them. After filling the rows I had pre-designated for them, I had to squeeze them into beds with slower growing plants. This was a reminder to me that everything in life needs space – yes, sometimes you can find a extra spot for a great thing, but in the end, all projects/dreams/visions manifest best when given adequate space to grow.

This week, I have planted my art in the center of a big open week. I call this an “art retreat,” and take several throughout the year. I map out days in my calendar and place secure fencing around them – no work for artheals.org, no teaching, no errands – in fact, no leaving Muir Beach. I stock up on groceries, and spend the week fertilizing my artistic roots. I work in the studio, tending existing projects and seeding some new ones. I also garden, hike the hills with my dog, journal, daydream, and read…filling myself back up.

I have also been cultivating my blog. Today I added some new links to my blogroll and have also finally figured out how to set up an RSS feed - which means, if you like, you can now sign up to receive my blog posts via email. See the right hand column here for details.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Creating Sanctuary

I am frequently asked "How did you make that?" - especially when it comes to my series, Sanctuary. Many speculate that I did the whole process in Photoshop. But no, my PS skills are not nearly sophisticated enough for that, and frankly, I love the tactility of composing art with my hands. So I start by photographing a spot in nature that is a "sanctuary" or refuge for me – most often a place within five miles of my home. Then I print the photo and bottle it in mineral oil layering it with old maps and handwritten texts - essentially building a sculpture. It is this piece that I then place on black velvet and re-photograph with my digital SLR, a Canon 30D (as pictured here). Then after some minor adjustments in PS, I have them printed with the help of Kris at Electric Works in San Francisco. It is a bit labor intensive, but a multi-layered process seems to come with the territory of creating multi-layered art.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Behind the Scenes: Hiroshi Sugimoto at the DeYoung

Last week, I had the supreme pleasure and surprise of being invited to the press preview for the Hiroshi Sugimoto retrospective at the De Young Museum. I say pleasure because I have always loved Sugimoto’s photographs for their masterful beauty and powerful concepts. And I say surprise, because I was quite shocked (thrillingly so) to get an email invitation from a media relations officer at the Fine Arts Museum to attend the press preview with the artist, because she had read my blog entry below about the Legion of Honor. When I started my blog months ago, I never realized the potential for such benefits from it – it made my week.

So last Friday found me in a museum conference room with four kinds of coffee, cucumber sandwiches, press packets, 40 or so members of the press, a museum director, one of the exhibit’s curators, and the artist, Hiroshi Sugimoto himself. After introductory remarks, we all headed to the galleries – which Sugimoto described as his “spookiest” venue of this traveling exhibition yet. Sugimoto designed the installation, and it is quite remarkable. The lighting is such that the large photographs (many of them close to 4 x 6 feet) seem to glow as if illumined from within while the dark walls evaporate into shadow. It is as if you are standing inside a giant camera – each photograph becomes an aperture through which his ideas are imprinted onto the viewer.

As curator, Kerry Brougher, said so aptly, “Sugimoto is a photographer of ideas.” In particular, I learn from him how photography can expand and collapse our sense of time. For example, in this shot below of a drive-in theatre, the shutter was left open for the full duration of the movie, recording every second, and yet in the end, the compilation of all those moments is simply bright light. It seems fitting then that when I snapped the photo above, holding my camera high above the other heads around me, Sugimoto was illuminated by the flash of someone else’s camera - he is rendered a white, bright blur himself – burning with ideas.