Thursday, July 30, 2009

on childhood and home

i have spent the last week with my 2 year old grandchild. it has been so amazing to watch her and how she experiences the world. everything is so very immediate...her joys, her sorrows. i am constantly reminded of the work of Paul Klee and Joan Miro... and of course, a quote by Pablo Picasso...

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Last Night ~ Crown Fountain @ Millenium Park, Chicago, the most magical place to be in Chicago on a warm summer night © Jane Fulton Alt

there is something so fresh, innocent, pure, and exquisite about childhood. and then i think about how my children talk of returning home. what is it, exactly, that they (or we for that matter) long to return to?
what is home? one's family of origin? the house where one grew up? is it about place or about a state of being? just wondering....

anyway, if you have an opportunity to be around a "little" one, it is a real privilege.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I have been spending the last several evenings watching the fireflies as they begin lightening up at dusk. The mysteries of the natural world are truly awe inspiring.

I am reminded of the magic of childhood as I observe the twinkling flashes of light. Keith Carter's "Fireflies" image ©1992, so artfully captures the moment on film. Another artist, Michael Flomen, makes actual photograms with fireflies.

Contact 2001, Michael Flomen.

Here is a short video about the way he works....

The New York Times had a wonderful article on fireflies a few weeks back, Blink Twice if you Like Me.

Well, I say.....I do! I do!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"...being without intent...."a post worth repeating

In October 2007, I spent 2 weeks at Ragdale for an artists residency. My home was the Beach Room in the Barn. Next to my bed was a notebook in which previous artists shared some thoughts about their time spent at Ragdale. There was an essay on the word "squander" written by Johanna Keller on July 15, 1999. I was so taken with it that I photocopied it and have had it on my bulletin board for the past 9 months. I just unearthed it and with Johanna's permission, would like to share it...

v., to spend wastefully or extravagantly (according to the Webster's New Dictionary on the desk in the Beach Room)

In art, as in nature, nothing is wasted.

Cherish the hour lost to the shimmer of cottonwoods rimming the prairie, the afternoon swimming in the lake, the croquet game at dusk. Let yourself be a child bedazzled by the town fireworks on the Fourth. Write of love-making on the creaky bed. Search for dusty treasures in the attic. Rock on the screened porch reading a book that serendipitously came to hand, a book you didn't bring with you, one that wasn't on the planned list.

Plan?List?----those are words left behind, words for the architects of the busy world, for the makers of cities and maps, for the times when it is necessary to know the destination and estimated time of arrival (and there are those times in the creative life).

But, in this long month of summer, I don't know where I'm going. I confess to allowing myself to drown in a sweet delirium of sensory experience. The result has been new and strange poems, daring essays, and odd drawings whose purpose and place in my manuscript are unclear to me as yet.

I don't know my path, but I'm traveling extravagantly.

Art spends us extravagantly, demands we lavish our lives on it. And in return, at the times when the deepest impulse is gathering force, we experience a blessed state of being without intent.

We enter a space previouly unimaginable, surprising, dangerous, uncharted on any map. This place of impressions is very like the tangled and subtle prairie with its unplanned glories of wildflowers, tall grasses, cattails, dragonflies, birds, sky. And at the center of it, we find the source. Encircled by stones laid by other hands many years ago, brimming with liquid light, the wellspring is a small eruption, a rupture in the earth, the location of correspondence. It is here where what lies underneath comes to the surface, where the invisible is transmitted into the world of the senses. It is here the unseen becomes known to us."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Note from Franz Kafka for the restless

"Remain sitting at your table and listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet."

Franz Kafka

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Openings for Fall Critique Group

Monthly Photography Critique Group in Chicago Area
Looking for members with a serious interest in photography.
Mixed media also accepted.
$300.00 for 10 sessions. Interview and portfolio review required.
Any questions, please email me at:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Prescription for Creativity

Winged © Jane Fulton Alt

"Eventually I discovered for myself the utterly simple prescription for creativity; be intensely yourself. Don’t try to be outstanding; don’t try to be a success;don’t try to do pictures for others to look at- just please yourself."
Ralph Steiner

Friday, July 17, 2009

What Makes Us Happy?

"The take home lesson is to enjoy where you are now....Playing, working and loving, and loving is probably the most important. Happiness is love..." Dr. George Vaillant talks about what he learned from decades of research in The Atlantic.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Awaiting Final Approval

I am anxiously awaiting to sign off on the final proof book cover of Look and Leave : Photographs and Stories from New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward. I am so excited that the project is nearing completion. It has been 4 years in the making, and I feel that my early personal commitment to share my experiences is nearly realized.

I think often of a young boy sitting next to me on the bus as we drove through the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood and with his big brown eyes, he pleadingly asked for "someone to please contact Oprah or Spike Lee or someone who might understand and send help." We all felt so very helpless.

I made a video shortly after returning with music and images. I listened to it a few weeks ago in preparing for an upcoming exhibition. What totally amazed me was that the last , upbeat song of the video was Yes We Can Can by Allen Toussaint.

Here are the lyrics.....

"Now is the time

Now is the time for all good men
To get together with one another
Iron out our problems
And iron out our quarrels
And try to live as brothers
And try to find a piece within
Without stepping on one another
And do respect the women of the world
Just remember you all have mothers
Make this land a better land
Than the world in which we live
And help each man be a better man
With the kindness that you give
I know we can make it
I know darn well we can work it out
Oh yes we can, I know we can can
Yes we can can, why can't we
If we wanna get yes we can can
I know we can make it a world
I know we can make it if we try
Oh yes we can, I know we can can
Yes we can can, great, got your money
Yes we can, I know we can can

Take care of the children
The children of the world
They're our strongest hope for the future
The little bitty boys and girls

Make this land a better land
Than the world in which we live
And help each man be a better man
With the kindness that you give
I know we can make it (I know that we can)
I know darn well we can work it out
Oh yes we can, I know we can can
Yes we can can, why can't we
If we wanna get yes we can can
I know we can make it a world
I know we can make it if we try
Oh yes we can, I know we can can
Yes we can can, great, got your money
Yes we can, I know we can can"

Little did we know then that Barack Obama would rise to the call. A friend last night said that Obama's leadership is UNPARALLELED IN HISTORY.
Now that is something to think about.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On Slave Forts, Human Nature, Shakespeare and Evil

I was watching Anderson Cooper last night report on Obama's visit to the slave forts in Cape Coast, Ghana, and have a few comments. As I mentioned before, one of the most breath taking moments for me when I visited there was walking out to the ocean side of the fort and seeing the vast fishing community. It was extraordinarily beautiful. What I realized last night was that probably due to security, no Ghanians were allowed to be in the area. I was disappointed to realize that the fishing scene, that has been part of daily life for centuries there, was not part of Obama's experience.

I was very impressed with Obama's comments on being witness to man's inhumanity to man. I remember when I photographed in the concentration camps and couldn't help but wonder how I would have handled myself if confronted with the choices people were forced to make under Hitler. I could see myself being incredibly challenged on all fronts with more questions left unanswered.

Door of No Return, Ghana

I saw a performance of Macbeth last year and in the playbill, there was a quote from James Baldwin which really resonated.
" We would rather believe that evil comes into the world by means of a single man, can be laid at the door of Another; but Shakeskpeare knew, and all artists know, that evil comes into the world by means of some vast, inexplicable and probably ineradicable human fault. That is to say: the evil is, in some sense, ours. And we help to feed it by failing so often in our own private lives to deal with our own private truth."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back End Art

It is always thrilling to find inspiration in the oddest places. I was driving on the tollway in Wisconsin and could not believe the beauty of this "framed" piece of art that was rolling ahead of me, attached to the back of a truck. Amazing. Too bad I was driving....photographing it with my point and shoot was a challenge, to say the least.

Monday, July 13, 2009

President Barack Obama in Ghana

I was so excited to learn that President Obama went to Ghana with his family last week. The country is beautiful with much to see. I travelled there a few years ago and was amazed with the warmth and grace of the people.

One of the most powerful experiences I had was visiting the slave forts of Cape Coast. It was incredibly sobering. I was alone in the "door of no return" room when I heard the rhymthic, chanting voices....mesmerizing. When I walked out to the ocean side, I saw the most spectacular, other worldly scene, as the fishermen were pulling in their daily catch.

The photos I shot inside the fort were added to my Mourning Light series about man's inhumanity to man.

Tryouts for Artist Reality TV show this coming Thursday in Chicago

From the Chicago Tribune

July 3, 2009
Calling all contemporary artists. Casting scouts are coming to Chicago to search for emerging and semi-established artists to compete on a new reality show on Bravo, "Untitled Art Project." The program will bring together 13 aspiring artists to compete for a gallery show, a cash prize and a sponsored national tour. Sarah Jessica Parker -- along with her production company, Pretty Matches -- is involved with the development of the show. Though Parker won't be in Chicago for the casting, Bravo promises the tryouts will be judged by "known people in the art industry." Auditions will be July 16 at Sullivan Galleries at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Artists who work in one or many mediums -- including painting, sculpture, installation, video, photography and mixed-media -- are asked to bring, among other things, a portfolio, resumé and, if possible, any original and easily transportable artworks. "Just be yourself. It's really easy," says Nick Gilhool, the show's casting director. "We don't know what we're looking for. But we'll know it when we'll see it."

More information about the casting can be found on the Bravo site.....

What a strange world we live in.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Stone Soup

When I heard we were going to taste stone soup upon our arrival in Oaxaca, my mind traveled to a well loved childhood book of the same name. I imagined making soup from nothing.

Boy, was I wrong.

This restaurant, called Caldo Piedra (or stone soup) served a fish and shrimp soup that is traditional to the Chinatecs, an indigenous group from the northeastern part of the state. The restaurant owners from the Chinatec village were required to obtain permission from their elders to serve this sacred dish “in town” under the strict conditions that it be prepared in the exact same manner in which it had been prepared for centuries in the village; only by men, and with each serving individually prepared with the sacred stones gathered from a specific river bed.

Each serving assembled in a dried gourd included water, onions, tomatoes, shrimp and fish. A burning hot riverbed stone was then dropped into the gourd and the alchemy began, sizzling the simple, delicious ingredients together. Learning about and consuming the traditional, ancient stone soup of the Chinatecs was the first of many amazing experiences I encountered in Oaxaca.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Oaxaca, Oaxaca

left my heart in Oaxaca...
no time to write but too excited not to share, even if just a little.
thank you to Rick Bayless and the staff of Frontera Grill for a trip of a lifetime...once again.
missing you all.....

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Red White and oh so BLUE

Every year at this time I have a good laugh. 25 years ago we planted what we thought were dwarf cherry trees next to our house. It took a while to realize that these were not dwarfed but full sized, bigger than life cherry trees!
They now extent way past our roof line which is 3 stories high!

I have put several bird feeders out our kitchen window but have been a bit distracted in my studio today as I have been watching the birds having a hay day with the very delicious ripe red cherries, none of which I can reach.

so it goes....

Thursday, July 02, 2009

On the Road with Rick Bayless

Its that time of year again, the time to board the "magical school bus" with Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill for another one of his magical, mystery tours of another region of Mexico. This year we are visiting Oaxaca, which is the cultural, artistic seat of the country. Excited? That is an understatement. I get to be swept along with 30 staff members and shoot to my hearts content. What could be better?

Woman with a Red Bow ©2007

These photos were taken in the Yucatan. It is the first time that I started to combine photographs and manipulate them thru photoshop.

Rick divides up the group into teams and we go to the food markets in search of specific ingredients. Afterwards, we return and each group reports on their finds. Food has never been more fun to photograph!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

it must be xmas!

Just learned that 2 of my images landed on the cover of two recently published books. One has been released in the Netherlands, The Alchemy of Loss by Abigail Carter, and can be bought at and I haven't been able to find the other online but learned that the deceased author, John McGahern "was arguably the most important Irish novelist since Samuel Beckett."

Surprises never cease.