Friday, December 31, 2010

The New Year


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

China, one more time

This image was once again published today in the Xiaoxiang Morning Herald, the biggest newspaper in Hunan province, in their 2010 year-end report raising people's aware of enviroment protection.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On Ice and Snow

I just returned from my second (of the season) cross country ski outing along the shores of Lake Michigan. It was incredibly beautiful. I did not have my camera with me but took many mental notes on the ever changing light as I watched the "lake effect" snow move in. I was thinking of my ongoing interest in ice. Years ago I would combine water and "stuff" in containers, place it in my back yard and wait for it to freeze. I would then photograph whatever surprises awaited.

Last year while doing an artist residency during a deep freeze in January at Ragdale, I started playing with ice and snow again. Sometimes when I TRY to intervene with nature, it just doesn't work that well. It feels contrived.

And then in early March there were shards of ice lining the beach. I was in a state of rapture as I took in the ephemeral beauty.

It seems that try as I might to manipulate my subject, no one does it better than mother nature.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

on "holidays"

Yesterday I was driving in my car and saw this text on the back of a truck.

Everyday is a "HOLIDAY."

That just says it all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just in from Beijing

This could be the last of numerous publications of my Crude Awakening series...thought I would share as it is fresh off the press from the Fellow Traveller Magazine in China.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Butterfly Installation at Macro Museum in Rome

Thanks to a forward from Susan to Edward Lifson's blog, Hello Beautiful, I learned about another butterfly installation, only this time the butterflies are real. How cool is this?

A new installation by Bik Van der Pol – a house with hundreds of butterflies inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s popular Farnsworth House – was chosen to inaugurate the new wing of the MACRO Museum in Rome.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Blizzard of the Season

We are fast approaching the shortest day of the year. I was really interested to learn from a Iranian friend that December 22nd is celebrated in his culture with great zest for being the longest night of the year. The holiday is known for its poetry, dried fruits, nuts and watermelon (to signify the promise of spring).

I am currently experiencing the first snowstorm of the year. The winds are howling and the snow is falling. I found myself starting to do a butterfly installation in my home to counter the storm. The butterflies, simply put, make me happy.

I then found my back yard bird friends braving the storm at the feeder just a few minutes ago.

We ARE going to get thru this winter!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Blessings of the Butterflies

"Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?" Frida Kahlo, 1953

I have just completed an installation in the entryway of Frontera Grill/ Topolobampo in Chicago. As many of you know, I have travelled for the past 12 years with award winning chef Rick Bayless and his wonderful staff to Mexico to become more familiar the culinary and cultural riches of each state. Every year I come back with photographs and mount a show from a particular region.

The idea for the current work was born on top of a pyramid at Teotihuacan just outside Mexico City. It was noon as I reached the peak of the Pyramid of the Sun. The quiet and gentle breezes were caressing my overheated body under the blazing sun. Much to my surprise and delight, I spotted many butterflies flittering about. The guide explained that the butterflies always appear at noon. The ancients believed the butterflies were reincarniated manifestations of the holy priests. It was a magical moment.

We also went to the village of Tepoztlan in which there was a audible collective sigh from everyone as we stepped off the bus into the gardens. It is a serene, low-key spiritual town nestled between craggy cliffs in the state of Morelos.

The transformative gardens of Tepotzlan

While in transit I was reading The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea (another Ragdale Fellow), a book filled with images of magical realism. We also visited Mexican painter Frida Kahlo's home (known as La Casa Azul, The Blue House), adding to my deeper understanding her life and work.

All of these experiences contributed to my wish to communicate a certain feeling I have about Mexico. Having conceived of this work was a bit like jumping off a cliff. I have not done anything like it before and yet it seemed, in my head at least, to convey the magic of the places we visited. An unanticipated surprise for me was to experience the flutter of the butterflies as the door swings open, ushering in the cool Chicago breeze. I have included some installation shots but encourage you, if possible, to experience the work in person. You are sure to also have a culinary experience extraordinaire!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

now it is about the butterflies

I have been fascinated by the monarch butterflies for a long time. They are mysterious, beautiful and awe inspiring.

A facebook friend posted this video yesterday on the monarch butterfly emerging from a cocoon. I witnessed the transformation about 15 years ago in Northern Wisconsin and it was seared into my memory. I have since felt a very strong affinity with the butterfly and have incorporated it into my work at various times.

mixed media

encaustic, wood and photo

Stay tuned for the next installment of the monarch butterfly!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Sally Mann

Sally Mann's new book, The Flesh and the Spirit, was reviewed yesterday in Fraction Magazine by Daniel W. Coburn. I have always been very drawn to her work. Coburn states, "Sally Mann grapples with the universal themes of love, loss and mortality that simultaneously enrich and plague the human condition. The beauty and power of Mann’s lifelong exploration of these topics lies in her ability to employ the art of photography as a psychological conduit. It is a channel through which she powerfully and effectively communicates her personal discoveries to the viewer. Her photographs celebrate a human existence that is both tragic and beautiful."

© Sally Mann from Immediate Family

Here are 2 of some of my favorite early photographs of members of my family (in need of a lot more darkroom work but for the sake of sharing, here they are)....

Mann's later work revolved on understanding death and dying. She released a book, What Remains, where she photographed the various states of decomposing bodies. In the following video Mann asks "what happens to a landscape when there are massive numbers on deaths on it" and then goes on to answer "The Earth doesn't care where a death occurs. Its job is to efface and renew itself. It is the artists who, by coming in and writing about it or painting it or photographing it, makes that earth powerful and creates deaths memory." She goes on to talk about the imperfections in art making as gifts...

Mann's work is endlessly fascinating, riveting and true. There are numerous resources online to explore her work further. Well worth the time.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Its about the TREES!

If you live in New York City, New Orleans or Santa Barbara, please consider visiting shows I am participating in that open Thursday and Friday nights...

© Burn No. 26

GIVING TREES, an upcoming fundraiser sponsored by 25CPW Gallery in New York City, opens Friday night. The exhibition will benefit Green World Campaign, a non-profit organization focused on seeding trees throughout the world and The Magnum Foundation.The hope is that through print sales and contributions "we can help the Green World Campaign plant trees in some of the most environmentally damaged areas of the world."

The featured Magnum Photographers are Bruce Davidson, Gilles Peress, Alec Soth, Steve McCurry, Jim Goldberg, Mark Power, Jean Gaumy, Stuart Franklin, Larry Towell, Martine Franck, Danny Lyon, Werner Bischof Estate, Trent Parke, Peter Marlow, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, John Vink, Harry Gruyaert and Jonas Bendiksen in addition to other select photographers from around the world (including the 3 images from my Burn series that are included in this post).

© Burn No. 83

Wall Space Gallery in Santa Barbara just opened an online curated show, Evergreen. In addition to Evergreen they are opening "Into The Light" tomorrow night. Burn No. 26 will be happily be hanging on the wall of the gallery.

And in case you are in New Orleans for PhotoNola 2010, my "Mourning Light" work will be featured in the SlideLuck PotShow tomorrow night, the kickoff for a great photographic weekend.

© Burn No. 72


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Alternative Gift Giving

"A gift that cannot be given away ceases to be a gift. The spirit of a gift is kept alive by its constant donation." —Lewis Hyde from The Gift.

grid of Collect.Give photographs

There are many ways to gift. If you haven't read The Gift by Lewis Hyde, I have an earlier post that sheds some light on the subject, just click HERE.

"What is good is given back." Lewis Hyde

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

And for a short time our lives are transformed. My studio happens to be in the "heart" of my home. As such, it is temporarily transformed into a nursery! My creative energies have been diverted for a bit and I am loving it!

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Waffaa Bilal and The 3rd I

Not sure if you remember when Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal locked himself into a studio with live webcams for the month of May at Flatfile Gallery in Chicago in a piece titled, Domestic Tension. His provocative interactive video installation raised awareness of daily life in war torn Iraq.

Well, I just learned that he is planning on having a camera IMPLANTED in the back of his head for a project titled "The 3rd I." The camera will take pictures at one minute intervals. OUCH!!!!!!! For more info, click HERE.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thoughts on the recent release of Aung San Suu Kyi

Burma is one of the most compelling, haunting, and complex counties I have ever visited. The prolonged forced exile and recent release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is thrilling. If you are unfamiliar with the situation, I suggest renting the DVD, Beyond Rangoon. You will have an historical insight into what the country is facing today. I watched it before I visited Myanmar (former name) in 1999 and the image of Aung San Suu Kyi facing the guns is the most dramatic and gripping demonstration of the power of peaceful protests. She is truly fearless and an inspiration to us all. A must see.

photographing in Rangoon in 1999

While visiting I took many photographs. The only problem is that all are in negative form and I don't have the time to scan and reprint. My head keeps swimming with images from the trip. It will be so interesting to see how the political process unfolds for the country. I wish, for the Burmese people, a non- violent transformation to greater freedoms and prosperity.

I photographed a series of a boy in the countryside who had a caged bird. For me it represented the Burmese population whose freedoms had been severely curtailed under the current rule. A counterpoint to the caged bird was the kite flying activity which was evident everywhere in the cities and the countryside. Every day hardships were put aside as the kites took to the skies. These were the last photographs I took, offering the hope of transcendence for the country.

Perhaps the time has come?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hiroshi Sugimoto ~ The intersection of Art and Science

There is a wonderful article in the New York Times art section on the work of Hiroshi Sugimoto. His new body of work, "Lightning Field" contains photograms of light made without the camera...and they are stunning.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Courtesy of Pace Gallery

"He generates his lightning photographs without a camera, rather like a photogram. But instead of placing an object on photo-sensitive paper, then exposing it to light, he produces the image by causing electrical sparks to erupt over the film’s surface. The process “creates a similar situation to the first meteorite hitting the Earth.." excerpt from the can see the entire article HERE.

Lightning Fields 198, 2009

Lightning Fields 168, 2009

It seems that many photographers are searching for the light, the beginning, the essence of what it means to be alive. Hiroshi Sugimoto "conceived of “The Day After” as a spectacular sound-and-light installation focused on the origins of life and the intersection of art and science."

I am then reminded of the amazing work of Michael Flomen whose work explores light generated by the firefly at nighttime, again, thru the photogram.

Contact 2001, Michael Flomen

I heard world renown conservationalist and naturalist E. O Wilson speak yesterday at the Chicago Humanities Festival and was so taken by his passion and wisdom. The intersection of science and art is fascinating. Both artists and scientists approach their work with curiosity and a sense of wonder and experimentation. The creative impulse is an amazing gift.

I am reminded of a line from the song, La Vie Boheme from the play Rent...
The Opposite Of War
Isn't Peace...
It's Creation...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Silent Moan by Michael Donner

In Michael Donner's words...

"I have always been fascinated with the idea that people are not as they seem. My self included? I believe it is a rare happening that the true self is shared, and even more rare that when true self is shared it is seen. Instead what is shown to the world is a projection of the blurred truth of self; a projection of how people think they should be seen. Curiosity leads me down this path like the curiosity to know what is behind a closed door. What is behind the door of a blurred projection of self? I always find the answer to this though is not as amazing as is the way a person builds their façade. We have marvelous tools of ego architecture that allow us to construct these grand fortresses that protect the fragile truth inside. It is these fortresses of ego that I am at wonder about. To know a truth about someone and watch them from behind the stage, as the lights go on, and the curtain goes up; to see the performance, a great one at that. Knowing I am the only one realizing... what a show it is. This project is my exploration from behind the stage of the greatest show of all... us. It is my view of false projections, fortresses of a facade, and the egos that stand upon them. The fragile truth that is covered up can be many things: a secret best not shared, an event best forgotten, a failure best not remembered, or perhaps a dead dream that will not rest. Whichever the case, they are all a part of us that we will carry; the past that is a silent moan."

The Process

"The process begins with the negative; the decision of how to destroy it and decay it is about looking further than when the shutter was released. Many techniques are used to further convey the concept in each image; freezing, melting, scratching, and cutting are a few. Once the negative is finished, the control of depth of field is done through the enlarger, allowing the choice in each print of where the focus will be. The prints are silver gelatin; archivally toned in selenium, and uniquely stained in tea. They are signed, dated, titled and editioned in ink by the artist own hand. The edges are then burned and beeswax is applied in layers, finishing each piece from conception to print. They are one of a kind within an edition; from the tones to the lettering, burning and wax finish. No two prints are the same."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Quote by American Poet, Louise Bogan

"In a time lacking in truth and certainty and filled with anguish and despair, no woman should be shamefaced in attempting to give back to the world, through her work a portion of its lost heart"
Louise Bogan

© Jane Fulton Alt : Self Portrait; mixed media, bees wax, paper and string

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

the political climate in my neighborhood...on bullying and intimidation

I don't like to get too political with this blog but I ran into a neighbor a few weeks ago after a very disturbing incident. I feel it is important to share what happened to her and what is happening to the political climate in this country.

So here goes...

"Dear friends, family, and random people who are probably in my address book for a good reason,

For those of you who don't know that Glenn Beck personally attacked me, by name, on his show a couple of weeks ago, and for those who want some background, here goes:

I moderated the 8th US Congressional District forum Wednesday, October 20th, as a member of the League of Women Voters. While I had expected a contentious forum, I was not prepared for the audience taking control away from me to say the Pledge of Allegiance. This action was recorded by audience members (against explicit forum rules) and has gone viral, even drawing attacks from Glenn Beck.

Let me start with a little background. This forum was co-sponsored by the local high school and the LWV of Lake County, IL, with roughly 400 attendees. Many minutes into the forum, after two high school teachers had spoken, I’d been introduced, I’d explained the rules, and was about to have the first candidate speak, I recognized an audience member who was standing with his hand up. He asked IF we were going to say the Pledge. I said no, and while I was explaining, some audience members immediately began booing and shouting “why not?” Nearly the entire audience then rose and recited the Pledge, after which they applauded. This was NOT an example of having been asked at the start of the forum whether the pledge could be said.

Of course I can't prove that the entire pledge request and follow-up were a set-up, but watch the videos yourself and make up your own mind.

Local media covered the event in balanced fashion, and the local paper carried a front page photo of the audience reciting the Pledge. The blogosphere is not balanced. While vicious about me personally and extremely negative about the LWV, there is a more troubling thread through these comments, which is the use of the Pledge as a public litmus test of patriotism. Among many other comments on blogs, websites and youtube, some people have reposted the newspaper photo from that night pointing out who wasn’t standing. Commenters have said it would be a good idea to insist on the pledge and then see who the traitors are; and, paraphrased, have said that we give them a choice, love it or leave it, or die. One shot one kill.

LWV events take place in our local communities. The audience is made up of our neighbors. I do not believe we can allow one group to use our nonpartisan forum to intimidate other members of the community.

I (and, separately, our Executive Director, Jan Czarnik) have reported threats against us to the police, and Jan has made a report to the FBI.

I’ve laid out the chronology of events at the 8th District forum in the attachment, including links to some of the coverage, if you would like to see how the evening actually went.

Warmly, and a bit nervously,

Here is the video from Walsh’s youtube site. He went outside immediately and filmed the opening statement. Notice that the camera is unwavering on his face, getting his reaction, though one might think that a person speaking from the crowd, or the moderator saying that the pledge would not be said, might have been tempting to film. Note also that it is on his campaign youtube site, though he begrudgingly signed the candidate agreement not to use footage for campaigns.
Joe Walsh: The first time he posted it on youtube his campaign began the written intro by saying that “AMERICANS have shown the League…”
most of the pledge discussion, including after it was said: #2 (at 7:09 me, at 7:33 - "this is America")
Here’s the Glenn Beck show: 6:47 – 11:58! nice. He gets the chronology entirely wrong. Of course, I don’t need to address with League members that we moderators are perfectly entitled to be politically active. I am not even currently on my local board. I was an active Obama supporter. Jan did not work for ACORN, but of course there wouldn’t have been anything wrong if she had. "

Friday, November 05, 2010

Baptism ~ The work of Jennifer Hudson

I was browsing thru Pedro Meyer's Zone Zero website and came across the stunning work of Jennifer Hudson. I am happy to share it as I marvel at her imagination, creativity and technical skill. These photographs are so dense with meaning and composition... one could spend hours mediating on their intent.

In her words...

"Baptism is a personal, intimate exploration of a young woman’s journey through the life altering experience of spiritual re-awakening. Re-born into a vapid landscape in need of
re-structure and human affection, and torn by the comforts of her past life, the empowered woman is moved to toil her new spiritual soil to create a habitable place for her new found faith to grow. We celebrate with her in worship, where she has found rest and whispers quiet praises. We then bear witness to the painful, frightening surrender of the former self, and the desperation to reach her once again. We follow her heartfelt journey of guilt and transgression, temptation, desperation, prayer, commitment, and true grace.

This work is an illustration of complexity, adversity, agony, and triumph in the ongoing battle of the mysteries of human faith and Sacrifice."