Tuesday, August 30, 2011

About Time

2012 WALL CALENDAR
8.5 by 11 inches

Whether you are seeing summer slip away to be replaced by fall, or are in the part of the world where the first signs of spring are promising an end to winter, it is probably equally hard to consider that 2011 is more than half over and 2012 just around the corner! To ease any distress you might feel at the cruel and inevitable march of time, I’ve prepared a new 2012 calendar, now available exclusively here on my website, in a full-size wall format, suitable for hanging, and a smaller desktop version. 

 2012 DESK CALENDAR

 8.27 x 3.74 inches

To order yours now, simply click the BUY NOW buttons below the images at right, which will remain long after this post has been superseded. To have a look inside the calendar, please visit my IMAGE SHOP page by clicking on the tab underneath my header. They make wonderful gifts, so order yours while supplies last! The wall calendar is 17 dollars, with 5 to ship (10 international) and the desk calendar is 10 dollars, with 5 to ship (10 international). 


MARCH : SHIFTING GEARS

Thanks to a customer who purchased one of my images of a snowbound bicycle and then inquired whether I had any more images of bicycles, I’ve been spending the past few months finding and capturing bicycles on film in interesting and sometimes amusing situations. I am not a rider of bicycles, and approach them with the eye of a poet and photographer, not an athlete or a commuter attempting to keep myself or the planet healthy.

SEPTEMBER : CROSSING THROUGH

I’ve always been attracted to objects that owe their particular shape and in fact their existence to a specific human need, and how strange they look when humans are not around. Bikes especially seem particularly odd, and even a bit forlorn, when they are at rest and alone. This sense of expectation and abandonment is what I was drawn to in the photographs collected into my calendar. The bikes in these images all have a full past and a promising future but seem a little lost in the present moment of my taking their picture. I choose to read into their suspended animation a message of hope. They seem to say “the readiness is all.”   

 AFTER THE STORM - perhaps for the 2013 calendar?

One final note: I’ve had some inquiries lately about images that appear here on my blog but have not appeared in my shop as printed and mounted items for sale. As a rule, I am always willing to do custom work for anyone interested in a print of one of my images. Don’t be shy! Please feel free to contact me and we can work out a fair price based on size and format and whether you’d like your photo shipped already mounted or as a loose print. My shop will be undergoing more updates as the gift-giving season approaches, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Good Read is Hard to Find Time For

The Reader by Honoré Daumier

In one of my earliest blog posts, called “Time Enough at Last,” now occupying the number 5 spot of my most visited entries, probably owing more to its searchable references to a certain Twilight Zone episode than any other appeal, I wrote about the newly rediscovered pleasure of reading, occasioned by my no longer having a 9 to 5 desk job occupying all my mental and physical time and energy. 

 The Novel Reader by Vincent Van Gogh

Sadly, it didn’t take long for my new job of self-employed artist, which it turns out demands at least ten times the time and energy of a traditional 40 hour workweek, even if you’re blessedly allowed to do a lot of it without taking a shower or getting dressed or having to deal with life forms other than your cat, to put my life as a reader back into the dim corners of stolen moments after its brief holiday in the dappled sunlight of early retirement.

 The Pensive Reader by Mary Cassatt

Reading. I miss it. I sit at my computer lately enjoying blogs by other people who collect, consume, even create books, and it has the feel of peering into the window of a warm cosy establishment I am always meaning to visit but seem to come upon only when I am hurrying elsewhere. There is never enough free time. There will probably be even less of it on hand before there is more of it. Clearly I need to go beyond the available supply, and when I can’t find the time, make it.

 Young Girl Reading by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

As a motivating force, I gathered the images for this post from some of my favorite paintings of readers. Readers seem to be a popular topic among artists. Even when the pose has been staged for the purposes of the work, there is something about the act of reading that is both introspective and expansive, fully focused and utterly free. We are drawn into a good read away from the world outside, deeper into ourselves and the lives we lead inside our imagination, but in that detachment we often find ourselves ironically less isolated and more connected to both who we are and how we relate to the world. We emerge from the experience relaxed and revitalized. Outside our windows the sun has risen or set, but meantime in the pages of the book we have not looked away from or let go of for hours, whole histories have come and gone. It’s not about escape, but discovery.

 A Listening Thing by William Michaelian

Today a book arrived in the mail. Many books on my shelves languish unread. They have been around for too long and know me too well to hope for that sad state of affairs to change any time soon. Quite possibly they aren’t good reads at all or perhaps I would have found or made my way to them by now. But to this new book I owe the kind of good behavior and attitude one would give to a new acquaintance of unexpected quality, in those first few animated conversations that let you know that the friendship to come is a different thing altogether, deserving, rewarding, enduring, possibly even lifechanging, and definitely not to be set aside for another time, a better time, when there is more time. I scanned the descriptive text on the back cover. Mr. Michaelian, you had me at “romantic misfit and underground man.” The time is now.

 The Reader by Jean-Honor√© Fragonard

Tomorrow I am going to shut the lid of my laptop and in the privacy of my living room with no other obligations or persons permitted to interrupt or intervene, no apologies, and a comfortable pillow at my back, read “A Listening Thing.” It doesn’t matter when and how I finish, as long as I begin it. Too often in prioritizing what we come to believe are the essentials in our lives, we deny ourselves the very things that sustain and protect us, every bit as much as food, clothing, shelter. A good read is not a luxury or a leisure activity but a necessity. For the timely reminder of this neglected truth, I have this book and its author to thank.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Adjacencies

 The Company We Keep


We’ve all heard the old adage that so much depends on the company we keep, as if we were all chameleons ready to change our colors to suit whatever landscape we happened to occupy or group we found ourselves among. As if boldly declaring our true colors and shape were tantamount to an invitation to be shunned – or eaten. I would hope that we are made of stronger stuff than a flying insect or a small lizard using variations in skin tone as a form of camouflage or social signaling and bonding, but the fact is, we aren’t as far up the evolutionary scale as we think.


 Invitation to be Eaten


But I’m not here to discuss human frailties or my admitted admiration and envy of creatures with wings or tails. This blog and its author are all about art, so it’s art I’m about to discuss. Follow me back to an afternoon some 20 years ago when, thanks to the influence of a painter friend, I found myself in a place I had never visited nor felt any urgency to remedy my neglect – the modern art wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in particular that most impenetrable of sanctuaries, the rooms dedicated to Abstract Expressionism.


 Adjacencies


I’ve always been a Representational kind of girl. I like clarity and a classic sense of structure and proportion in all my artistic expressions, be they made of words, stone, paint, physical movement or sound. There was always enough chaos and abstraction going on inside my head and heart, enough questions and confusions, enough consequences following upon the mistaking of a man for a nest of snakes, or a swimming hole for a sea of knives. I liked my scenes familiar and their inhabitants unbroken, whatever their character or intent.


 Beyond my Reach


My reaction to abstract art was always that of tolerant appreciation for the effort of the artist and even the importance of the piece in the context of art history, but in general, being left cold and not a little annoyed by the experience, like an uninvited guest standing outside a window through which seemingly intelligent and likable persons were visible having seemingly meaningful heartfelt conversations I could not decide whether to envy, resent or discount as nonsense. Whatever was going on behind the frame, I was not welcome. It became easier to declare that there was indeed nothing worthwhile there than to find a way inside.


 Still Room


I had seen the likes of Pollock, Kline and Rothko in books. As I walked through the Met galleries, their paintings definitely made a bigger impression in person, but not necessarily a deeper one. Then I walked into a room full of large canvases by Clyfford Still and took advantage of a small centrally located bench to rest my tired feet and frustrated sensibilities. The painting I faced was simple enough, consisting of jagged splashes of a few basic colors with no discernible subject matter or theme. But for some reason, I could not stop looking at it. It was one of those rare afternoons in the museum when everyone is somewhere else and I had the room entirely to myself. Suddenly I felt as if I were sitting in a vast cathedral with walls of stained glass pierced and illuminated by shafts of sunlight. One minute I was looking at a painting, and the next I was looking through a window, and the next I was inside the window looking out. Then I was the sunlit window.


 Still Room with the recent misguided addition of a sculpture where my bench used to be


I gasped audibly and said to the empty room “now I understand!” as I realized I was not looking at a painting of a thing, but a portrait of a feeling, and it was more than a human emotion evoked, it was the emotional life of paint itself. I spent the next hour confronting each side of that square room and the artworks hanging before me. Each one had its own feelings to share with and to stir in me. I began to notice that Still only used a small selection of colors and did very little blending and mixing. He achieved his effects by placing colors next to each other in certain ways and bringing out different qualities by adjacency alone. I said out loud to no one “red with blue along its back is nothing like the red that lies alongside black.” It became clear to me that these colors were literally taking on character before my eyes depending on what colors they were next to, depending quite literally on the company they were keeping. 


 Side by Side (with thanks to Fiona D)


When I began making the selections for my photography book, I followed a tradition of book-building I learned when I was collecting poems into a full-length manuscript. A collection of works should never be random in its structure; there must be an organizing principle, whether it be as simple as date of creation, or batched more thoughtfully by subject matter or form. But it should not be as superficial as matching your shoes to your handbag. Within that ordering, a good writer will also attempt to construct adjacencies that run deeper, placing poems together that may seem unrelated in every way, but side by side bring things out of each other that no other nearby poem can. An attempt at this kind of matching informed my choices for my photography book, and I assumed I was building a book of images the way a poet would build a collection of verse, in which every poem belonged and none could occupy any other place, a larger version of the microcosm of one poem in which every word was where it needed and had to be.


 Untitled 1946-H by Clyfford Still


Then I realized I was actually putting photos together the way Still put paint on a canvas, sensing that a certain image would feel entirely different depending on what image lay next to it. I was amazed to discover how unique and distinct these pairings were, as if I were entrusted with a delicious plate of food and charged with finding the right wine to complement and in fact enrich its flavors. It was hard to find combinations of images that worked subtly and interactively, only bringing out the best in each other. To my mind, they are all more or less successful pairings, and I hope that at least some of them will be to any one person’s individual taste.


 Hide and Seek


Which brings us to matters of taste. Five weeks ago, on the very last day before the submission deadline, I created and entered my book into the Photography Book Now contest featured on the Blurb site. I knew about this contest for three months, and had plans to make a book of my images as far back as autumn of last year, but for some reason the concept and the content were not coming together harmoniously and I kept setting the project aside, recognizing that any time creativity feels forced, for best results it is wise to wait until such time and circumstances in which it flows smoothly, the way you entice a photogenic butterfly to land on a branch nearby by pretending not to be there. 


 Safe to Come Out


As the deadline came closer, I felt even more forced to create something, even more concerned with the kind of book I felt would be to the taste of the judges, and even more frustrated as the project failed to come together. Then something wonderful happened – on the day before the deadline, I decided not to submit a book after all, and freed myself from the arbitrary pressure of the contest and its specifications. Then I began playing around with my images and downloaded the Blurb bookmaking program, and within an hour the book I had imagined simply emerged, like a cat you thought was lost but was simply hiding behind the curtain. And it was exactly the book I had been carrying inside my head for months. I told myself that the contest had already served its purpose in prompting this act of creation, that I now had a collection I could share with others in book form, and that no other reward or recognition was necessary or to be expected. After all, there is no accounting for taste.


Out in the Open


I wrote this post yesterday knowing that today the Finalists for the PBN would be announced on the Blurb site and leaving this final paragraph to be written at that time. It still remained to be seen whether the judges would respond to the survivalist chameleons taking on the surrounding colors of what is currently considered the proper look of fine art photography, or the solitary butterfly out in the open, unprotected and daring to be different. The results are in. 
 
Reader, I am not a Finalist. I am not surprised. And I am not changing my true colors for anyone.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Happy Anniversary


“Believe the incredible. Do the impossible, against all odds and common sense.”

One year ago today, I began my first blog with those words. In that post, ambitiously titled “Bigger, stronger and longer lasting than anyone ever imagined,”  I offered words and images, my own and those of a few of my favorite kindred creative spirits, to give some idea of who I was and what I hoped to accomplish through, and document in, this blog. It’s been a year above and beyond anything I could have hoped for or imagined, and for that achievement I owe so much to my followers, with special thanks to the first to join, Brian and Caio, that I’ve decided to dedicate this post to you. In particular, I would like to celebrate the unique connections made possible by this blogging phenomenon, by sharing with you a selection of images of my works in their new homes around the country and the world, thanks to the continued sympathy and generosity of you good people out there. I'll be maintaining a special image file from now on, so if you'd still like to submit a photo of one of my creations in its new home (with or without its happy new owner in the picture), please feel free to email me and I will include it in a future post. Whether or not your names or images appear here, please know that you have my eternal gratitude, and my heart.

 My new book in the family home in NYC. My parents have been unswerving and tireless in their support of my artistic endeavors. 


 The scarf I made for my Mom decoratively arranged on the bureau in her bedroom.

 

There was some concern the scarf I made for my Dad last winter would not match his new coat, whose colors proved indescribable in words and uncapturable in images. Not a bad result! (Yes, that is indeed a wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in the background, further explanation of where I am coming from!)


My sister-in-law Robin in Massachusetts looking up to “Happiness.” 


Karen Sylvester (aka Brian’s mom) in West Virginia showing off my books while wearing her cornflower blue wristwarmers.


 "Awakening," in the home of Brian’s sister Brenda.


 Another version of "Awakening," across the world in the Australian home of Elephant’s Child who had the strength not to keep all of her purchases for herself!


My good friend and fellow poet and also a damn fine farmer, Dave, who cleverly anticipated the theme of this post by mounting my notecards surrounded by some beautiful maps in his home in upstate New York. 



 Fiona Dempster, another friend from the land of Oz was good enough to send several photographs, among them, this one in which I can’t take my eyes off the Queensland view!



And another. Many thanks F for taking your task so seriously and creatively and holding up the card that bears the first image I posted on this blog!



 William Michaelian’s love of the written word is evident in this scene, what all good books must envision when they dream of heaven, which it turns out, is in Oregon. 

Today I end this post with the same lines I did one year ago, no less true now than they were then, and still written with joy:

Today is a new beginning for me. Who knows where this road will lead? Consider this an invitation for all the likeminded souls out there to follow me. There is much more to come.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's the Journey...

No Time for Reflection

This post may seem a little rushed and scattered, as it has been a very distracting and eventful week leaving little time for reflection and writing, which is not necessarily a bad thing! I have a feeling this will be the story for the month of August and beyond. I’ve been spending a lot of time at home working on projects that do not require studio space, which works out just fine on those days that the studio has been too hot to work in anyway, and had an added benefit, as you will learn if you read on. 

 Please Accept My Submission

As you all know by now from one or more of the many means I have used to broadcast that information, my new photo book “Studies in Contrast” is complete and on sale from either the Blurb bookstore or right here through my blog (see column at right). If you follow the STUDIES IN CONTRAST link at the top of the page, you can enjoy a full preview of the book and read a little about the background of the project. Thank you so much to those of you who have already ordered and received copies! My book is currently under consideration in the Photography Book Now contest, for which judging is taking a little longer than I anticipated. It now seems that finalists will not be announced until later this month, and winners sometime in early September. Rest assured, you will know as soon as I know whether my humble creation receives official recognition!

 It’s the Journey

I have also been hard at work putting together a new 2012 calendar featuring images of bicycles. I do not own a bike, nor did I ever learn how to ride one, but I have always lived in cities that welcome and support this environmentally friendly mode of transportation, and have always been drawn to their appearance, especially when their riders are absent or they are in unusual settings or attitudes.  As soon as I have a proof in hand and can go ahead with production, I will announce here when and how they will be available for purchase. I will try to keep the quality high and the price reasonable. I think they will make a wonderful gift – for friends, family and self!

April Showers in July

Last week, in one of those “it could have been worse” moments that put to the test the optimistic side of my disillusioned optimism, I was busy at work on my laptop in my livingroom/home office, having just turned off all the air conditioners and fans for a little peace and quiet, when I heard what sounded like an April shower in the distance in spite of it being a clear sunny day outside. It didn’t take very long to discover the cause: water raining from my bathroom ceiling, which now featured an ominous swollen bulge the size and shape of a harbor seal and whose intentions I preferred not to underestimate. I closed the door and contacted the superintendent who located the trouble: my upstairs neighbor had clogged her sink and was allowing it to overflow freely and without announcement of this situation to anyone, somehow not comprehending that water will seek its own level – in this case, the bathroom directly below hers, otherwise known as mine.

 Damage Control

The happy ending of the story is that I was at home and within earshot to avert the crisis immediately. I am sure that had I been out of the apartment all day, my cat, who is not a strong swimmer or capable of dialing a telephone, would not have fared as well handling the emergency.  Even so, the damage to property was considerable. Toiletries and electric devices were waterlogged and stained beyond cleaning or repair, and three photographic prints which cannot be replaced were lost.  It’s fortunate that I do not have to deal with explaining to employers why I need to stay home to prepare for, keep an eye on, and clean up after workmen, who needed three visits of unpredictable timing and duration to put my bathroom back to rights. It’s good to be your own boss! 

 It Goes by in a Blur

Next week as some of you know I have planned a special post in honor of the one year anniversary of this blog, which began on August 9, 2010! It has been an amazing and sometimes crazy year, and you good people out there have helped make it rewarding and memorable, even though it now seems to have gone by in a blur!  Many thanks to my followers, old and new, near and far, and continued health and happiness to us all!