After my last post “the Agony and Ecstasy of Chaos,” I started thinking more about DAYDREAMS.

Let’s just take a moment here – did you daydream in class, or actually, anywhere? I was always criticized for it – on report cards, and in class. “If only she would pay attention…” was the mantra that followed me from grade school through high school. As I described in my last post, I would spend much of my class time tilting […my head this way and that, trying to line up the cross bars of the window with trees, poles, or buildings outside, until the alignment of the two would make crosses, or parallel lines, or even new shapes.] Little did my teachers know that these seeming lapses was actually the start of my career as an artist!

Untitled #03-15-19-192

Now, I believe that daydreaming is a wonderful and healthy thing to do. It also feels quite good! Letting the mind wander – making connections and putting things together. In our crazy and manic world, we don’t have much time for daydreaming between checking our phones, messages and emails, UNLESS we happen to be lucky enough to be an artist.

When I am looking though the lens, completely present to my seeing, it feels as delicious and wonderful as a daydream. The important piece here is that I am FOLLOWING (NOT guiding) my eyes. In daydreams we allow our minds to wander this way and that without CONTROLLING our thoughts. It is different than the crazy monkey brain that jumps all around distracting us, but rather a pleasant process that leads us . When I am photographing, and truly following my eyes, I am, as in daydreams, not controlling where I am going. At this point I am discovering – trying different relationships between forms, lines, shapes, tones, colors, etc. “WHAT HAPPENS IF….”
These connections may SOUND absurd when I THINK about them, but these visuals may lead to metaphoric seeing.

Untitled 04-19-19-880

This latest work, 2019, illustrates my love and even passion for putting lines and shapes together in “nonsensical” or playful ways. I love lines intersecting, crossing, and following other lines. Currently I am working with two models, one very tall, and the other quite a bit shorter which creates an interesting visual relationship. Above, in Untitled #04-19-19-880, a leg (red light) and an arm (natural light) are combining in a way that makes no reasonable sense but creates a visually fluid dance.

Untitled #06-06-16-598

In 2016, exploring how using different shapes of broken (plastic) mirrors could reshape or reform the figure, I discovered they could also define or exaggerate gestures as in Untitled #06-06-16-598, above.

The New York Times discussed this idea of daydreaming, though they called it doing nothing in this April 29, 2019 article:
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/smarter-living/the-case-for-doing-nothing.html

???
Why does this approach lead to metaphorical seeing?
Excellent question……

I will attempt to answer that in a future post –
“The eyes are the scout of the heart” Joseph Campbell

(Any hyperbole you find in this post may be credited to my growing passion for opera…)

Nothing pleases me more than when two distinct lines come together in a surprising way.  They could touch, cross, form a point or run parallel. Actually,  I am also quite pleased when shapes do the same thing – combine to create an entirely new shape.

Putting graphic elements together is extremely satisfying for me.  I don’t know why – but it is not new. As a kid, as I would stare out the window – daydreaming (perhaps that is why my report cards regularly said, “if only she would pay attention in class…”.) I would tilt my head this way and that, trying to line up the cross bars of the window with trees, poles, or buildings outside, until the alignment of the two would make crosses, or parallel lines, or even new shapes. 

Untitled #01-14-19-88, 2019
Untitled #01-14-19-88, 2019

After indulging in this quirky pleasure for 60+ years, I have gotten quite good at it.  Actually, I have made a career out of it.  My work has always utilized this “gift” (?) starting with putting layers of reflections together. My LATEST work takes this even farther.  Let me tell you how this goes in a typical shoot…

I have a large mirror held upright in my studio.  I tape some shards to it creating a graphic mess.  Then I put one model in front and another behind the mirror. This is the start. After fussing with lights for a bit I confront the chaotic mess – a jumble of lines, and fleshy shapes. At this point I often get irritated with myself – why do I put myself through this?  The pressure is to find some interesting relationships within this mess. This self-abuse and “monkey mind” go on for the first minutes, sometimes longer other times shorter.  It stops when I begin to see something – and my explorer self takes over. It is a very slow process organizing this visual chaos – luckily, I love doing it… once I stop the self-talk and just get into looking at the forms.

Why does this work?

Well, for one thing it gives me a different framework to begin exploring shapes.  I’ve been photographing the human form for so many years, in order to continue the challenge of seeing it in a new way I put up different mirror shards, redefining the familiar shapes.

As Gary Zukav writes in the Dancing WuLi Masters:

“True artists and true physicists know that nonsense is only that which, viewed from our present point of view, is unintelligible. Nonsense is only nonsense when we have not yet found that point of view from which it makes sense.”

Untitled #02-15-19-552
Untitled #02-15-19-552

When he says “the point of view” he is talking directly to us photographers.  Point of view is CAMERA ANGLE! The importance of exploring (or playing) cannot be overstated – it is the foundation of seeing in new and unexpected ways. This is particularly evident when working with reflections in the mirror shards, as the transformation from even the slightest shift in camera angle can be drastic.

This blog post can be summed up neatly and poetically by Nietzsche:

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

Since I started shooting in color in 2007, after many years as a devote black and white photographer, I have been learning about color and its affect on the “read” of the image. Once I found RED, however, it changed my life. [If you feel I am prone to exaggeration I credit it to my growing passion for opera.] RED conjures passion, depression, elation, energy, viscera, and the most powerful of all emotions – love. Remarkably, it can be both attractive and repulsive – sometimes at the same time.

Recently I invited two very dear and close friends to see my new work in my studio. I have shared my work with them periodically for many years, so they are quite familiar with my images. These are a few of what we looked at:

Untitled # 10-19-18-734
Untitled# 11-30-18-1063
Untitled #11-30-18-854, 2018

Untitled #11-30-18-854

In just a couple of minutes one said that she saw them as pornographic and the other quickly agreed. After I regained my composure, this led to a fascinating conversation. To me these images are not overtly or even covertly sexual [well, maybe a TAD seductive] but this was a reaction I felt I needed to pay attention to. As I have said many times I do not work with an idea or an image in mind but prefer to rely on my intuition. When I am shooting I am exploring the subject in front of me by studying the forms – lines, shapes and tones. I don’t intend for the images to have a specific meaning but rather I see them as open to interpretation by the individual viewer.

I determined that three common ingredients had to be present in the images for them to be considered pornographic to my friends; 1. a face 2. a breast 3. the color RED. 1. The face identifies the figure as an individual as opposed to an anonymous model, opening the doors for a sense of vulnerability. 2. Since a breast is something that is usually hidden, seeing one adds to the idea of a person exposed. 3. But the RED is the essential ingredient in these particular images to evoke those strong feelings.

The different uses of RED-

A little about RED – RED, a primary color (along with green and blue,) symbolized nobility and wealth during the Renaissance; became the color of revolution in Russia, China and Vietnam; and is often used in flags to illustrate power. Because it is the color of blood it is also associated with bravery, sacrifice, and danger. It conjures feelings of passion, anger, love, joy and sexuality [my friends’ reactions.]

Untitled #01-07-19-679

Without a face, as in 01-07-19-679, the sense of vulnerability is lost, but the RED empowers the form with a life force.

Untitled #4-24-12-012
Untitled #4-24-12-01

As I see it, a sense of depression is elicited in Untitled #4-24-12-012, as the RED hand reaches up from hell to pull the psyche down. (Obviously you may have different reaction, but if you see this as pornographic I might suggest medication and/or therapy).

Untitled #09-04-13-287
Untitled #09-04-13-287


Untitled #09-04-13-287 is Oedipus, the tragic Greek figure, who pokes out his eyes after killing his father and marrying his mother [the “Cliff Notes” version of the tale, if you want more detail click here for the Wikipedia version. /en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oedipus]

I would love to hear your thoughts and continue this discussion. Do you see the above images as pornographic? Yes? No? Controversy has been my life-long companion (not by choice) and I am no stranger to censorship, criticism and all the other stuff that goes along with being an artist, so please be honest…

Untitled #07-02-18-486, 2018

2 new strobes,

2 new models,

and lots more opera

Last year was another productive journey in the course of my work as I continued to integrate more abstract forms within the mirrors. Perhaps my biggest area of growth in 2018 was my use of lighting in the studio, in primarily two ways:

  1. I significantly upgraded the lighting system in my studio. The impetus for this change had to do with safety – during a shoot my studio is dark – really, really dark – lit only from the modeling lights on the strobes [which provide not much more light than what you would have in a darkroom.] I do this so extraneous elements don’t show up in the various reflected materials. As a result of working in essentially a cave, I would often trip over the legs of the light stands. Since this is a working, creative space I could splat on a multitude of things on the floor such as broken plastic mirrors, scissors, lenses, black crates, models, etc. So I invested in a rail system where the lights are hanging from the ceiling. The result is much, much safer, instead of tripping over the lights I now bang my head into them – a significant improvement! The unintended benefit is that it is so incredibly easy to move the lights up and down, and side to side that I have been much more playful – always a good thing.
  2. The second reason for my growth in my use of light is that I started working with a new model, J., who is from Jamaica and has beautiful dark, dark skin. My other new model, R, is a lovely and expressive young woman of Filipino descent.
Untitled # 08-20-18-899

J.’s skin appears metallic – almost granite like in texture- with brilliant highlights dropping off to shadow very quickly, while R.’s lighter skin has a broader tonal range from highlights to shadows.

Untitled # 07-02-18-486

I have not had a regular female model for several years, so combining her with J. in a purely formal way has been a new direction this year.

Untitled #11-05-18-1079, 2018
Untitled #11-05-18-1079

Sometimes, like in the above image, Untitled #08-20-18-899, I get to work with two models, but when I only have one, the mannequins I began working with in 2016 continue to serve as superb stand-ins.

OPERA
Another area of growth for me in 2018 was my continuing love of opera and frequenting more productions. Opera is full of extreme emotions – jealousy, unrequited love, a love triangle and/or death, murder, sickness. There is nothing subtle in an opera plot. [BTW opera fans are just as enthusiastic as football fans, and almost as vocal!]
It seems that my devotion to opera manifests itself as RED in my work.

Untitled # 11-30-18-894

RED – seductive, visceral, angry and passionate, crept back into my work toward the end of 2018. RED can be both joy and agony, and passionate and visceral. More about RED in a later blog.

Untitled # 10-19-18-734
Untitled # 12-10-18-238

As with the last handful of years, 2018 included a significant amount of time spent in the studio and shooting on a consistent, regular basis. 77 shoots total, finding myself behind the camera an average of at least once a week. I have loved being able to devote so much time to looking through the lens, seeing new and exciting forms emerge from the same materials I’ve worked with for over 30 years, and I’m looking forward to what develops in 2019!

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback!