Exquisite Corpse

Drawing inspiration from such disparate works as Ingres paintings from the early 19th Century, a poster I remember seeing all over New York 40 years ago for a Joffrey Ballet production, and those pulsating hippie light shows of the Sixties, I shot all these photos in a single session. I wanted in each to merge my model with a projected image — but do it my way, no Photoshop — to create a modern image with classic beauty and some sense of mystery. Perhaps at first glance one thinks “How was that done?” but the perceptive viewer will see the images for what they are: photographs made with photographs. And proud photographs, not paintings.

It was a delight to find when they were exhibited in the 2011 edition of curator Tina Maneca’s Exquisite Corpse, an October show that opened during the Jersey City Artists Studio Tour, that each photo was a favorite of at least one visitor to the show. Of course some in the series drew positive comments from many people, but it was nice to know that each had at least one admirer. All were printed on metal, with glossy finish and ready to hang with no frame, and “In Her Realm,” below, is my largest such print to date — 45 inches wide. 

 1 Exquisite Corpse

 

Below is “Recognition.” It’s printed 24 by 24.

 3 Recognition Exquisite Corpse

 

“Sosei,” below, is also 24 by 24.

 2 Exquisite Corpse

 

Below is “In the Garden,” printed smaller, perhaps 15 inches wide.

 9 In the Land Exquisite Corpse

 

“Forest Dawn” was not seen in Exquisite Corpse, as the print was damaged by a worker taking down the previous show in the space.

 7 Forest Exquisite Corpse

 

Fire? Ecstasy? Cherry blossons? Wagner’s surging music? All there. “Greeting Spring” is large, about 36 inches wide.

 6 Ecstasy Exquisite Corpse

 

“Aspiration” is perhaps 20 inches wide.

  8 Trinity Exquisite Corpse

 

“Discovery” is about 20 inches wide, too.

 5 Amaryllis Exquisite Corpse

 

“Peace” is 20 inches square, and was used in one of the many 3-artwork assemblages that curator Tina Maneca put together.

 4 Tullip Exquisite Corpse

 

Below is “Peace” and the works shown with it. Each assemblage in Exquisite Corpse has a “head,” a “torso” and “legs.”

 EC assembly

 

My model visited the show. In her realm, indeed!

9 Exquisite Corpse Feast


Tough old bird

Included in “Actualities” is a portrait of a New Yorker I snapped in Chelsea a couple of Octobers ago. Walking east in the high 20s after attending the PhotoPlus Expo at the Javits Center, I noticed a pigeon sitting on a railing just off the sidewalk in a niche in the front of an old apartment house.  He was perfectly lit in the late afternoon sun, and as pedestrians bustled by he didn’t seem to move except to swivel his head. When I paused, he shot me one of those “You looking at me?” looks. Would he fly away, or stick around long enough for me to pull out the camera and turn it on? New York pigeons are tough old birds, and I’m sure he’d stood his ground in the face of things far more menacing than my lens.

FacesToughOldBrid

For “Actualities,” on display at Made With Love Artisan Bakery & Cafe in Downtown Jersey City through June 28th, I had the photo printed on metal, choosing the “sheer” option. This allows some of the metal to show through in “high key” areas of a photo. It took me a couple of days after the delivery to warm to the results, and I’m still not 100 percent liking it. In my opinion, a successful photo has to look good in all levels of light, and my New York pidgeon loses some of its punch under low light. Below is a photograph of the metal print in the “Actualities” show. See what you think.

Faces Pidgeon Made With Love


Actualities opens June 1

You’re invited to my first solo show, on the walls during the whole month of June at Made With Love Artisan Bakery & Cafe, in Downtown Jersey City.  An opening party is planned for Saturday, June 5, from 7 to 9 p.m. Susan Newman designed my postcard. Copy of Actualities1sixhundred

Copy of Actualities2sixhundred


Flying down the highway

During a recent trip to Oklahoma to reconnect with my native state, I had just visited the little town of Perry, a few miles east of I-35, and was heading due east on my way to a left turn that would take me straight north to Ponca City, when a biker flew past me. Impulsively, I tried to keep up and photograph him at the same time. (Autofocus makes this possible, but I don’t recommend it in heavy traffic.) I drove above 70 mph, and sometimes hit 80, and followed him for miles but never got close, and then came over a hill and he was gone from sight. But I’ve got this to remind me of Oklahoma’s big sky and wide open spaces, where the air is clean and you can see for miles.

BikerActualities600


Philadelphia, Here I Come !

There are few things that signal spring as brilliantly as the Philadelphia Flower Show. I’m planning to arrive one afternoon this week only 90 minutes after leaving New York City by bus. I’ve made the trek each year for several years, but didn’t last year because the day I’d set aside turned out to be the worst travel day of the year in New Jersey. Blizzard conditions lowered the speed limit to 20 mph on the New Jersey Turnpike that afternoon. A big disappointment. Understand that normal snow falling, even pouring rain, is no problem, as the Convention Center is only a couple of blocks from Philadelphia’s Greyhound station. Never been? You should go! This year’s theme is Passport to the World, and the show runs through next Sunday. Here are some of the visions I saw in 2007.

ShowFountain600

The show’s theme in 2007 was Ireland and its gardens. Each show has acres of displays by landscape firms from around the country, every one showing creative ideas.  Above is a simple recirculating fountain with a totally natural look.

ShowHarp600

This massive display showed what can be done in the garden with recycled glass.  

ShowHarpTwo600

The harp and its mound greeted attendees upon entry, giving plenty of punch.

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One of the most exquisite big displays was a stone church ruin with a rose garden.

ShowSaint600

Saint Fiacre is the patron saint of gardening. He left Ireland in the 7th Century for France, where he joined a monastery. Granted a swatch of forested land, he asked for open land, and the legend says when he was told he could have as much land as he could till in one day that trees and bushes miraculously uprooted everywhere he touched the soil with his spade.

Show1stCactus

I’m including this for my friends who grow cactus. Yes, there’s a Philadelphia Cactus and Succulent Society. A good bit of the show is about competitions for best specimens, best arrangements, best table decorations, best room decorations, best miniature displays, etc. To be recognized by the judges of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is a great honor, and the organization works every day of the year in schools and in public education. Many displays teach conservation. The annual Flower Show is only one of the Society’s major activities.

ShowCactus600

Another winner. There’s always a plant of a kind you’ve never seen before.

ShowOrchid600

And there are always orchids of surpassing beauty.

ShowSucculent600

The individual plants that make the cut and are displayed can be viewed up close.

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There’s also a competition for decorative arts utilizing plant materials, so there are many framed examples of pictures pieced together with petals and fibers.

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The view behind this shimmering fountain gives a sense of the size of the exhibition hall.

ShowOverTop600

Too over the top for your taste? Keep moving. Something pleasing is just steps away.

ShowCottage600

Perhaps a quaint Irish cottage with a splashing waterfall.

ShowGardenWinner600

Wouldn’t you love a garden like this to welcome you home? It won a big silver cup.

ShowSwamp600

So, the first of three last photos — from 2008!  The theme was Jazz and New Orleans, to give us a reminder of all the heritage that Hurricane Katrina threatened. This bayou scene had swirling fog moving on the water below the mannequin.  

ShowNOhome600

A silver bowl went to this New Orleans front yard display.

ShowFrogs600

Frogs in their finery. Perhaps now you understand why I like to spend a late winter day in Philadelphia each year.


Arizona Sunset

“Arizona Sunset” was printed 16 by 20 on canvas last month. I was visiting the Desert Botanical Garden, which sits among the red buttes of Papago Park between Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona, one recent February when I noticed an aircraft leaving a trail high in the sky. Some of the cacti at the arboretum are 80 years old, dating from before the garden’s opening in 1939. I thought an elemental contrast might prove interesting. The setting sun is at my back and illuminates this looming stand of cacti. I’m pleased with it printed on canvas. Looks great in all levels of light, and hangs in my dining room, a modernist touch in a Victorian home built a generation before the Wright Brothers ever saw Kitty Hawk, N.C.

FacesSunset600wide


3 photos in Vital Voices, October 2009

While selecting photographs to show in the 2009 Vital Voices exhibition in the Jersey City Artists Studio Tour, the influence of three master photographers seemed obvious. I’ve loved their work for decades, so I wasn’t surprised.  There’s not a photographer alive whose vision has not been influenced, either directly or indirectly, by their ways of seeing.

“The Quartzsite Beauty Salon, Quartzsite, Ariz.” – The town of Quartzsite, pop. 3,354, is in western Arizona near the California border. A popular RV camping ground for winter tourists, its gem and mineral sellers and more than a dozen general swap meets attract more than a million people a year to the only town on the interstate between Phoenix and California. It was a bright February day when I stopped there for lunch at a just-the-basics restaurant, and across the street was a beauty parlor waiting for business to walk through its door. 

Quartzsite Beauty Salon Show Me Your Faces 

Revered for finding quiet beauty in unadorned people and small-town architecture, Walker Evans was born into wealth and was educated at Phillips Academy and Williams College before dropping out and spending a year in Paris, then joining the New York art crowd. He is best known for documenting rural life and poverty during the Great Depression for the Farm Security Administration. His book with the author James Agee, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” focused on three sharecropper families in southern Alabama, was published in 1941. His 1938 show at the Museum of Modern Art was the first the museum devoted to a single photographer; it staged another comprehensive exhibit in 1971. Walker Evans died in 1975, having spent several years teaching at Yale after writing and editing for 20 years at Time and then Fortune magazine. Except for 1,000 negatives owned by the Library of Congress and in the public domain, the Metropolitan Museum of Art owns the copyright on all of his works in all media.  He is quoted as saying his goal as a photographer was to make pictures that were “literate, authoritative, transcendent.”

 

“Calla Lilies, San Francisco, January 2009” – It was raining when my plane landed and in my first walk around my friends’ neighborhood I spotted these callas, still wearing raindrops, growing in a cement trough squeezed between the driveway and front staircase of an otherwise ordinary home.

Calla Lilies Show Me Your Faces

Considered the quintessential woman photographer of the 20th century, Imogen Cunningham’s first job out of college in 1907 was making platinum prints in the darkroom of Edward S. Curtis. The photographer whose work documented the lives of the various North American Indian tribes operated one of the most successful portrait studios in Seattle. Cunningham’s independent college study had focused on chemistry and optics, as photography was such a young medium that there were no courses discussing “vision” or “expression.” It was Pictorialism – doing in dreamy, soft-focus photos what painters had been doing – that was the dominant photographic style. Always on the cutting edge even as she raised three children and operated her own successful Seattle portrait studio, Cunningham by the early 1930s was a leading Modernist photographer, a co-founder of the Group f/64, which valued sharp focus and helped bury the Pictorialist style, and her iconic studies of magnolia blossoms and other flowers, as well as nudes, movie star photos for Vanity Fair, and industrial landscapes, moved the medium during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. In 1945, Cunningham accepted a teaching position in the first fine art photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, and continued to take photos until shortly before her death at 93 in San Francisco in 1976.

 

“The Pennsylvania Woods” – In my photo shot from a walkway at Falling Water, the Frank Lloyd Wright house, we are looking down, across and up into a wilderness area that is under the protection of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

The Pennsylvania Woods 600

From the 1940s through the 1970s, Eliot Porter’s nature photography set new standards in color photography, and in presenting the natural world, at a time when most “serious” photographers were limited to black and white and color was considered “too literal.” Porter’s entire body of work, and in particular his first book for the Sierra Club, “In Wilderness Is the Preservation of the World” (1962) with text from Henry David Thoreau, gave early momentum to the modern conservation movement. Porter died at age 89 in 1990, and bequeathed his professional archives, containing 10,000 prints, 84,000 color slides and transparencies, and 4,400 black and white negatives, to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. A biography and a review of a book about Porter can be found here.


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