Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rousseau on Happiness

"If there is a state where the soul can find a resting-place secure enough to establish itself and concentrate its entire being there, with no need to remember the past or reach into the future, where time is nothing to it, where the present runs on indefinitely but this duration goes unnoticed, with no sign of the passing of time, and no other feeling of deprivation or enjoyment, pleasure or pain, desire or fear than the simple feeling of existence, a feeling that fills our soul entirely, as long as this state lasts, we can call ourselves happy, not with a poor, incomplete and relative happiness such as we find in the pleasures of life, but with a sufficient, complete and perfect happiness which leaves no emptiness to be filled in the soul." - Rousseau

photo from the book Look and Leave : Photographs and Stories from New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward © Jane Fulton Alt

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A thought for the New Year from Rilke

On Patience

"I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer…"
- Rainer Maria Rilke

Wishing you...

Lots of Love, Light and Laughter!

from Cathedral of Oaxaca ~ Angel © Jane Fulton Alt

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Original Mind

Our "original mind" includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few.
Shunryu Suzuki-roshi

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jonathan Traviesa ~ Winner of the Michael P. Smith Grant 2009

I saw Jonathan Traviesa's work at the Ogden Museum while I was in New Orleans. His environmental portraits give one a glimpse into the everyday of New Orleanians. He captures the essence of the person and the place over and over again, with frankness and honesty.

Jonathan was the first winner of the new Michael P. Smith Grant and also has a newly published book on the work, Portraits.

Friday, December 11, 2009

David Halliday

I became familiar with David Halliday and his work while in New Orleans this past week while participating with him on a PhotoNola panel discussion. His work speaks volumes about elegantly seen and presented. Check out his website.

Frutti di Bosco, 1998
sepia toned silver print
4.5 x 6

Still Life with Cantaloupe & Scissors, 1998
sepia toned silver print
11 x 15

David's work was included in two shows that opened this week at the Arthur Rogers Gallery and the Homespace Gallery. The later exhibit was titled, Revival : Historical Precesses in Contemporary Photography and was curated by Richard McCabe. It included the works of many photography masters, including Sally Mann and Robert Park Harrison.

Ciccada, 1996
sepia toned silver print
11 x 22

I am planning on featuring more work from the New Orleans art scene so stay tuned. It is a happening place with lots of exciting work going on.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Greetings from New Orleans

Here few of the highlights from New Orleans...

I went to the L9 community art center in the lower ninth ward where Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun have their Studio. They lost many of their negatives after the storm but are reclaiming their lives. So great to finally meet them. And their work is awesome.

Mural at the New Orleans American Museum of Art, Culture and History

Second line parade Monday morning at 9:30 am!

Louisiana State Museum where I took a morning yoga class overlooking Jackson Square.

Christmas parade on on Canal Street.

On route from the airport there is a billboard that says be sure to check out the "miracle on Fulton street." I finally made it over to the one block to see this christmas extravaganza. They had a bubble machine blower that simulated snow...I guess that was the miracle.

Stay tuned for more on the New Orleans art scene...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

On the Men and Women who Serve ~ Ellen Susan

While on route to New Orleans as I was passing thru airport security, I spotted a young man in fatigues surrounded by his family with his mother clutching Kleenex in her hand. They were all hovered around the young soldier, bidding him a farewell. I looked into his face. He seemed so youthful and innocent. My mind then traveled to a photographer, Ellen Susan, whose work focuses on the young men and women who serve our country and with whom I will be participating in the Six Shooters Panel discussion at PhotoNola.

SPC Brandie Carpenter, Brandie, 2007 , Ambrotype 6"x6"

In Susan's words..

"The Soldier Portraits Project is a work in progress. The project consists of portrait photographs of soldiers of the United States Army, primarily of the 3rd Infantry Division.

SPC Brandilynn Corntassell, 2007, Ambrotype, 6 x 6 in

The photographs are made using the 150 year old collodion wet plate process - the primary photographic method from the 1850s through the 1880s, encompassing the dates of the American Civil War. The men and women photographed for the Soldier Portraits project are members of the U.S. Army based in Southeast Georgia. Most have deployed to Iraq one to three times since 2003.

PFC William Burnett, 2007, Ambrotype 6"x6"

The necessarily long exposures of this process often result in an intensity of gaze, and the grainless, highly detailed surface brings out minute details of each individual. These attributes, combined with the historical military associations made me feel that the process could be a meaningful way to photograph contemporary soldiers to provide a counterpoint to the anonymous representations seen in newspapers and on television. I wanted to produce physically enduring, visually arresting images of people who are being sent repeatedly into a war zone."

SGT Timothy Campbell, 2007, Ambrotype 6"x6"

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Jennifer Shaw's Hurricane Story

I am returning to New Orleans for some book signings, panel discussions and to participate in PhotoNOLA 2009 . The New Orleans Photo Alliance (NOPA) did not exist pre Katrina and has grown into a very robust, all volunteer organization. They have had much support and have worked incredibly hard on what will be, I am sure, a fabulous week of photography events.

During my second visit to New Orleans I met with another photographer, Jennifer Shaw. I heard of her trials in dealing with Hurricane Katrina..she was nine months pregnant and...well the rest is told in her book, Hurricane Story.

We left in the dark of night © Jennifer Shaw

"I was nine months pregnant and due in less than a week when Hurricane Katrina blew into the Gulf. In the early hours of August 28, 2005 my husband and I loaded up our small truck with two cats, two dogs, two crates full of negatives, all our important papers and a few changes of clothes. We evacuated to a motel in southern Alabama and tried not to watch the news. Monday, August 29 brought the convergence of two major life changing events; the destruction of New Orleans and the birth of our son. It was two long months and 6000 miles on the road before we were able to return home."

When we arrived at the hospital it was time © Jennifer Shaw

"Hurricane Story is a depiction of our family’s evacuation experience – the birth, the travels and the return. These photographs represent various elements of our ordeal. The project began as a cathartic way to process some of the lingering anger and anxiety over that bittersweet journey. It grew into a narrative series of self-portraits in toys that illustrate my experiences and emotional state during our time in exile."

In spite of it all there's no place like home © Jennifer Shaw

Guthrie Contemporary
Opening: Saturday, Dec 5, 6-9pm
3815 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70115

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

After the Storm ~ Final days of Exhibition

I am feeling really sad about the end of my exhibition, After the Storm, that is currently up at the Chicago Cultural Center until December 27th. It has been a great venue, seen by many... a dream come true. The inclusion of text and a continuous video with great New Orleans music has provided more context for the photographs.

There have been several reviews of the show.
New City
Chicago Maroon
The Red Room

The book is now available online and I so appreciate it having been published. However, the exhibit is a more visceral experience, maybe because of the size of the prints, the music and the text.

If you haven't seen the show yet, please make an effort to get down won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 30, 2009

David Maisel

David Maisel has once again pushed the boundaries of photography while exploring memory and excavation. While at a residency at the Getty Research Institute, he states that he began exploring "where the realms of art and scientific research overlap each other. While photographing the Getty Museum’s conservation departments, I became captivated by x-rays of art objects from the museum’s permanent collections. The ghostly images of these x-rays seem to surpass the power of the original objects of art. These spectral renderings seemed like transmissions from the distant past, conveying messages across time."

"History’s Shadow comprises my series of re-photographed x-rays of art objects from antiquity. I have culled these x-rays from museum archives, which utilize them for conservation purposes. Through the x-ray process, the artworks of origin become de-familiarized and de-contextualized, yet acutely alive and renewed."

"I view these x-rays as expressions of the artists and artisans who created the original objects, however many centuries ago; as vestiges and indicators of the societies that produced these works; and as communications from the past, expressing immutable qualities that somehow remain constant over time."

For those of you who are not familiar with David's work, it is well worth your time to visit his website. He has done some amazing work, including his Mining Project and his Library of Dust series

“. . . these canisters hold the cremated remains of patients from an American psychiatric hospital. Oddly reminiscent of bullet casings, the canisters are literal gravesites. Reacting with their ash inhabitants, the canisters are now blooming with secondary minerals, articulating new metallic landscapes.”

— Geoff Manaugh, Contemporary

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Nature and Poetry Work on Maybe" Bill Viola on his favorite time of day

I have been thinking about this "in between" time a lot these days. Maybe it is because of the birds migrating "in between" seasons, maybe it is because I am drawn to the possibility of "what if" rather than "what is." I keep thinking of a phrase " when is becomes if" which I think may be from an ee cummings poem but I have not been able to locate it. If anyone finds it, please let me know.

Viola, in another video created at the Otis College Convocation, states that in the history of mysticism, all art rises out of the cloud of unknown. He later states that (forgot the source but it could be Buddhism) the gap between your desire and your ability is the most precious thing we have...and that is the inability to reach greatness.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Angela Bacon Kidwell

I am amazed at the feeling evoked when I look at Angela Bacon Kidwell's photographs. They are dreamy, surreal and just utterly beautiful. If you are not familiar with her work, you are in for a real treat.

part of her artist statement..

"My photography comes from a life long obsession of exploring how my subconscious generates my dreams. As I move through my day, I am keenly aware of my encounters with people, places and things. I mentally record the details of these situations, and the physical or emotional responses that they evoke. These fleeting associations replay themselves in my dreams. The random moments combine to form sleep stories that are rich narratives, ripe with symbolism. With that as my model, I construct sets, use props and invite myself and models to perform in a natural, intuitive way. In essence, I attempt to create a waking dream."

What is so amazing to me is that often, when someone tries to "construct" a dream, there is a self consciousness about it. Not so with Angela's work. It feels like the viewer is right in there with her dreams. Thank you Angela for opening your world to us!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Work from Oaxaca

I am happy to report that my work from Rick Bayless's annual staff trip to Oaxaca was hung this morning in the entryway to Frontera Grill. I also had the pleasure of having a late breakfast at Xoco....yummy! The Barcelona hot chocolate and churros are to die for.

The girl pictured here is in traditional dress for the annual celebration of the Precious Blood of Christ in the village of Teotitlan. It is quite a spectacular processional with hundreds of young women carrying devotional baskets on their heads through out the cobbled streets.

The 18 works are photo based with gold leaf and resin. I enjoyed creating them while not sure exactly how they would be rendered. It is the unexpected surprises in art making that makes it so interesting.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gregory Scott

I know that I have blogged before about Gregory Scott but he has a new exhibition up at the Catherine Edelman gallery...and if you have a chance, it would be well worth your time to go see it. If you don't live in Chicago, just go to the gallery page to get an idea of what he is up to. Gregory has broken thru to a new level in combining painting, photography and video. The pieces are seamless, humorous and, well, just amazingly well conceived. A real triumph.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


This weekend, a new movie, Precious, is being released in NY, Chicago and LA (and more cities the following weekend). It is based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire, which has just moved up to #1 on the NYT bestseller list. I had the opportunity to see a screening of it in NYC and can't stop thinking about it. The director, Lee Daniels, was interviewed today on NPR and his last words were "I will never not see her again." The movie is a masterpiece, addressing compassion and the human condition. It has won multipe awards in all the film festivals and will surely make it to the Oscars. As I was talking to a friend about it, I thought of a poem that summed up the experience for me by Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh....

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

On Jasmine and the Election of Barack Obama

Today marks the first anniversary of the election of Barack Obama to the office of US president. I am sure everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when the election results were announced.

During the presidential campaign, I wrote about a cutting from a jasmine plant that a woman from Iowa gave me as I was canvassing. She told me the Queen of the Night jasmine was a favorite plant among many in India, where she was from.

As I was admiring the plant, she proceeded to break off a stem, handing it to me. It has felt very, very important to properly care for this gift, as it was symbolic of the kindness and generosity of spirit so many wished could transform our country.

This was the very first time that I tried to regenerate a plant. After some 4 months of the branch sitting in water, it finally started to grow roots and was placed in a planter with soil. I am happy to report the jasmine plant is flourishing. I now refer to it affectionally as my Obama plant.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Self Re-Defined by Richard Olderman

I am so happy to introduce you to Richard Olderman's work. He is the reason I pursued photography. He is not only a fabulous teacher and person, but also an amazing photographer, offering up the magic in the natural world. You will need to visit his website to check out his multitude of portfolios...For this blog, I would like to share his self portraits which are some of the most amazing creative transformations.

Here are some excerpts from a review from an exhibition at the Evanston Art Center...

"In the current exhibition Focus: The Self Re-Defined, artist Richard Olderman takes viewers on a surprising exploration of the self and nature; a journey of self discovery. Curated by Evanston Art Center Director Michele Rowe-Shields, Focus: The Self Re-Defined, Recent Photographs by Richard Olderman presents 22 of Olderman's manipulated, silver gelatin prints. This handtinted series incorporates a group of early black and white self-portraits taken around 1980 with more recent black and white images from nature and cemeteries. Olderman superimposes the two images and then applies a variety of creative
techniques to the print itself, such as adding color and toner or bleaching, scratching and scraping the print. His work deals with a number of issues such as confrontation of the self, transformation, birth, death, coming and going.

" I have always had a fairly comfortable fascination with cemeteries and death. Death in the sense that it's the end of one thing, but is also the start of something new. With this new series it's like scraping away the layers and something new coming out of the ashes," explains Olderman.

In Olderman's earlier portraits he confronts the camera by directly facing the camera without pretense. This process comes out of a need to document a difficult and unsettled time in his life." In combination with his more recent images, the results are stunning. The handtinting is exquisite, the images mysterious and provocative, " says Rowe-Shields. "Richard's remarkable
photographs express the essence of self-portraiture as self discovery. Through his personal struggle and exploration of the self and nature, he portrays a layered reality evoking a spiritual dimension and dramatically capturing his inner sense of being."

The Obamas by Annie Leibovitz

This portrait of The First Family was taken by Annie Leibovitz on September 1st, sitting in the Green Room of the White House.
It is stunning. There is an article in the upcoming New York Times Magazine, The First Marriage, that is refreshingly honest and candid. Can't believe we are coming up on the one year anniversary of Obama's election... a time that is seared in my memory.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

JR in Kenya ~ Women are Heros

On the plane back from NYC I read about a French-artist JR, who had produced a public art project in an effort to honor the residents of one of the world's largest ghetto's- the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is best known for his technique of photographing inhabitants of a city or other area & pasting the resulting imagery up on grand scale around the community.

He has just completed something similar in Kibera, Kenya. This time, 2000 square meters of rooftops have been covered with photos of the eyes and faces of the women of Kibera. PLEASE click here to see a movie of it and you get the impact of the project. The still photographs below give you an overview but the movie is INCREDIBLE!
With the eyes on the train, the bottom half of the their faces have been pasted on sheets on the slope that leads down from the tracks to the rooftops. With this, their eyes will match their smiles and their faces will be complete whenever the train passes.

The Times online magazine stated in a recent article 'the trade in JR's pictures, created in third world slums and bought by affluent westerners, is reinvested in the slums, this makes him a robin hood figure'.

What a way to transform the world.