Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Peace of Wild Things ~ Wendell Berry


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry

© Jane Fulton Alt

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Interview for El Nuevo Dia

The following is an interview by Ana Toro Ortiz which was published today in the Puerto Rican newspaper, El Nuevo Dia. It might answer some questions about Crude Awakening that have been circulating on the internet.

(ATO) Where were you when you hear about the oil spill for the first time?
(JFA) I was meeting my new grandson in the hospital for the first time. He was born April 19th, one day before the spill. I was not reading newspapers at the time. I have a vague recollection of something terrible happening in the greater world but was totally focused on the immediate joys of a new little person coming into the world.

(ATO) When and why do you decide to make this project?
(JFA) I was deeply disturbed by the images of the oil drenched pelicans that were first distributed during the early days of summer in Chicago, where I live. I remember walking along the shores of Lake Michigan watching young mothers with their children heading down to the crystal clear waters for a swim and could not help but think about what was happening on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. I have spent a lot of time in Louisiana, where I am known most recently for my photographic exploration of New Orleans post Katrina. I felt deeply connected to the area and was in touch with many of the photographers trying to get access to the oil spill. Having "covered" one disaster was enough for me...I never considered traveling down there to photograph the spill. However, I decided I might be able to help from afar, by creating a conceptual body of work that would discuss the oil spill.

(ATO) Was the work created for an exhibition or it was an internet based idea of diffusion?
(JFA) When I created the work, I was not thinking at all about how it would be shown or exhibited. It was only after the shooting that I decided I wanted it to reach as many people as possible. Once I sent it out to my email list, it started to spread. I also decided to create a video on You Tube as another venue to make the work more accessible. The power of the internet is really staggering. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be seen so widely.

(ATO) What was the creative process?
(JFA) I had pre-visualized the entire project before I took my first picture. I knew that I wanted the work to speak not only about what was happening in the Gulf of Mexico but also have it relate to the issue of energy consumption and exploitation of the earth's resources worldwide. I tried to find families of various nationalities to support that premise, although someone mentioned that once a person is covered in the non-toxic substance, it was difficult to tell the nationality. That was one of the factors considered in choosing to use their names as titles, hoping the viewer would realize the titles might reference different nationalities.

(ATO) Who are the people in the pictures and how do you selected them?
(JFA) Of all the photographs, only 5 were taken of people who were neighbors or friends of friends. The rest of the subjects were complete strangers who saw me working on the beach as asked if they could participate in the project. People everywhere are acutely aware of and deeply concerned about our collective impact on the environment.

(ATO Was it really oil? Where is the setting?
(JFA) I initially wanted to use real oil but did not think it would be safe. I tried to simulate oil in photoshop which did not work. I thought the project was dead. Then I went to a BP protest in Chicago and casually asked another protester if she would consider modeling with real oil. She said yes which totally shocked me. We then brainstormed about other non toxic substances we might utilize.

All of the photographs are taken on the shores of Lake Michigan which contain 20% of all the world's fresh water supply, a few blocks from where I live.

(ATO) How many days did you worked on the project?
(JFA) I started brainstorming about the project in early June. On June 11th the project became a realization when this stranger said yes to being a subject. Two days later I was photographing my neighbors. The shooting took place between June 13th and June 30th.

(ATO) What was the hardest part of the process?
(JFA) The hardest part of the whole process is letting go of the work. There has been some misinformation on the internet about where the images were taken and the intent of the project. It would have been wonderful if the artist statement had been embedded in the images files and were mandatory reading for viewing the photographs.

I have always said that when you make art and decide to "put it out there, " you need be ok about letting it go, because everyone has a different take on how they will experience the work. I really like what was written on the blog, " doesn’t the value of art derive precisely from the fact that it is not the real thing?”

(ATO) In terms of making people around the word conscious about the environment, what has been the biggest obstacle?
(JFA) That is a big question. I don't really think I am qualified to answer. My hopes are that this work might be a spring board for more discussion.

(ATO) Why the Internet?
(JFA) I had an exhibition last year at the Chicago Cultural Center of my Katrina photographs, After the Storm. What pleased me the most was that people who would not normally go to an art gallery had access to the work. It made me realize the power of public art spaces. I am really pleased that the work has been seen by so many people worldwide. It is really staggering.

(ATO) I see in your work that you're interested in an anthropological view at the different phenomenons... How do you describe your style?
(JFA) I am a clinical social worker by training and have been in practice for over 35 years. I have traveled extensively and am most interested in our shared humanity. There is a "collective unconscious" that exists, no matter where we live. I am interested in how we all come into this world, how we leave this world, and everything in between (which is, if we are lucky, love). My work is about life cycles and trying to understand the meaning of life more fully. How that gets translated into "style," I am not sure.

(ATO) When did you start to work in photography?
(JFA) When my youngest child began grammar school and some time freed up, I began taking art classes and decided to try photography as I had just purchased a new camera in preparation for a trip. At the start of the class I did not really understand the nuances or poetic potential of photography. I had an exceptional teacher, Richard Olderman, who taught me to see with my heart. I learned over time that the camera was just another tool for expressing oneself.

(ATO) Do you have faith in art as a way of making a change?
(JFA) Image and art making , if done well, can have a tremendous impact on social change.

(ATO) If theres anything you would like to add or share with our readers is more than welcome.
(JFA) I always assumed that we would leave this world in better condition than how it was passed on to us. Now I am not so sure it is possible. The challenges are great but for the sake of the future of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren I have hopes that we can learn from our mistakes and be better stewards of mother earth.

©2010 Jane Fulton Alt ~ Jean and Jordan

Friday, July 23, 2010

Chris Jordan and E Pluribus Unum

You may remember a previous post on the incredible work Chris Jordan did in the Midway Atoll. Well, he has created another piece which is truly inspired. It is called E Pluribus Unum and it...
"Depicts the names of one million organizations around the world that are devoted to peace, environmental stewardship, social justice, and the preservation of diverse and indigenous culture. The actual number of such organizations is unknown, but estimates range between one and two million, and growing."

You need to visit his site to actually experience the work.

There is a really great interview with Chris on Yes! titled Bearing Witness: Chris Jordan on Art, Grief and Transformation.

an interesting excerpt...
"feeling is the kingdom of art. I've gotten to meet lots of scientists who are uniformly wringing their hands in frustration at their inability to convey to the public any sense of the extreme urgency they feel about the issues that they're studying. The underlying phenomena are profoundly important, and yet the information we're receiving is fundamentally dry and incomprehensible. Art can act as a mediator between science and the public, translating what science can tell us into a visual language that we can understand, that allows for personal connection and feeling."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Slideluck Potshow Chicago IV ~ This Saturday


Saturday, July 24, 2010
Columbia College, Conaway Center; 1104 S. Wabash St.,Chicago, IL
7:00pm - Potluck
9:00pm - Slideshow (with an intermission)

Presenters for Slideluck Potshow Chicago IV
Jane Fulton Alt * Dalia Amara * Jason Andrews * Nicholas Azzaro * Pete Barreras * Wayne Cable *Francesca Cao * Chicago Tribune Photographers * Emile Hyperion Dubuisson * Marc Falzon * Lee Gainer * Heath Hays * Tim Klein * Joe Koecher * Callie Lipkin * Mona Luan * Lindy McAra * Tammy Mercure * Chris Ocken * Jill Paider * David Plowden * Rich Ricar * Sally Ryan * Diana Scheunemann * Christopher Schrek * Jasmin Shah * Kelsey Shultis * Erika Snell * Donte Tatum * Chikara Umihara * Phil Velasquez * Chris Ware * Shane Welch * Rachel Wolfe

Click HERE for more info...

Beijing News

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

a comment worth repeating...

The following was a comment left on by Devin which I thought was worth repeating...

"Before this disaster and the war, there are a lot of things that I hadn't really considered or thoroughly understood.. One of the most profound realizations was that the world as we know it was entirely built on oil. All plastics and rubber, all the wiring, all the machines that produce the trinkets, the packaging for the trinket, the gas to ship the trinket, the oil to produce the truck that shipped the trinket, the tires on the truck, everything. That and the fact, that oil is not an infinite resource. Not only is it not infinite, some suggest we may be past "peak oil" (by a few years actually) and are now on the down slope towards depletion. Worse is that the possibility of need exceeding the ability to supply is very real as China and India become more industrialized and consumption continues to grow."

©2010 Jane Fulton Alt ~ Richele

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reflections on the Oil Spill and Life

One of the many surprises of my Crude Awakening work is how widespread the work has traveled. I am in the process of answering some interview questions that were emailed to me by a newspaper in Puerto Rico. The first question totally stumped me. It was "Where were you when you heard about the oil spill for the first time?" Nothing came to mind. I had to look up on the internet when the Deep Water Horizon explosion happened. It was April 20, 2010. Then it all made sense. I was meeting my grandson at the hospital for the first time. He was a day old.

During the 3 weeks I was helping out with my grandson's arrival, I never read any newspapers. I had some vague awareness that something terrible was happening in the world but chose not to learn more about it and just focus on the immediate joys of a new little person coming into the world.

It is now a full 3 months later. 3 Months of growth...

...or 3 months of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. On Jul 15, 2010, for the first time in 87 days, oil stopped flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

I always assumed that we would leave this world in better condition than how it was passed on to us. Now I am not so sure it is possible. The challenges are great but for the sake of the future of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren I have hopes that we can learn from our mistakes and be better stewards of mother earth.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Contemplating the Bottom Line

© 2010 Jane Fulton Alt ~ No Life Guard on Duty

It has been a wild ride with the proliferation of Crude Awakening across the internet. I am thrilled with the exposure the photographs are getting as the state of affairs with our environment is grave... hopefully this work will facilitate more discussion.

I was interviewed briefly yesterday morning by a talk radio show in Dublin, Ireland. I hung up feeling a bit disparing as the host inferred that our collective greed had gotten us into this disaster as he referred to BP's "bottom line" and consumers seeking low cost products. I don't really know how to reconcile this as it seem that greed has been a trait of human nature thru out time.

I started to think about Buddhist teachings and came across an interesting quote by the Dalai Lama. "Because self and others can only be understood in terms of relationship, we see that self-interest and others' interest are closely interrelated and there is no self-interest completely unrelated to others' interests. Due to the fundamental interconnectedness which lies at the heart of reality, your interest is also my interest: in a deep sense, "my" interest and "your" interest basically converge."

My friend, Paul added...
"How, in the Buddha's terms, a thought becomes a word, which becomes an action, which becomes a disposition. So, too, of our motivations, so that this oil spill is inextricably tied up with our own desires and needs, and we cannot honestly condemn the spill unless we are willing to acknowledge that it is not separate from ourselves: not just the consequences (which is why your pics are being picked up), but not separate from our own appetites."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

excerpts from "What Is Art?" by Leo Tolstoy

In response to all the internet discussion surrounding Crude Awakening...

"Art begins when one person, with the object of joining another or others to himself in one and the same feeling, expresses that feeling by certain external indications. To take the simplest example: a boy, having experienced, let us say, fear on encountering a wolf, relates that encounter; and, in order to evoke in others the feeling he has experienced, describes himself, his condition before the encounter, the surroundings, the woods, his own lightheartedness, and then the wolf's appearance, its movements, the distance between himself and the wolf, etc. All this, if only the boy, when telling the story, again experiences the feelings he had lived through and infects the hearers and compels them to feel what the narrator had experienced is art. If even the boy had not seen a wolf but had frequently been afraid of one, and if, wishing to evoke in others the fear he had felt, he invented an encounter with a wolf and recounted it so as to make his hearers share the feelings he experienced when he feared the world, that also would be art. And just in the same way it is art if a man, having experienced either the fear of suffering or the attraction of enjoyment (whether in reality or in imagination) expresses these feelings on canvas or in marble so that others are infected by them. And it is also art if a man feels or imagines to himself feelings of delight, gladness, sorrow, despair, courage, or despondency and the transition from one to another of these feelings, and expresses these feelings by sounds so that the hearers are infected by them and experience them as they were experienced by the composer.

And it is upon this capacity of man to receive another man's expression of feeling and experience those feelings himself, that the activity of art is based.

The stronger the infection, the better is the art as art, speaking now apart from its subject matter, i.e., not considering the quality of the feelings it transmits.

I have mentioned three conditions of contagiousness in art, but they may be all summed up into one, the last, sincerity, i.e., that the artist should be impelled by an inner need to express his feeling. That condition includes the first; for if the artist is sincere he will express the feeling as he experienced it. And as each man is different from everyone else, his feeling will be individual for everyone else; and the more individual it is - the more the artist has drawn it from the depths of his nature - the more sympathetic and sincere will it be. And this same sincerity will impel the artist to find a clear expression of the feeling which he wishes to transmit."

Thank you, Dick, for sharing this essay so many years ago...
(This essay (originally published in 1896) and the translation by Alymer Maude (first published in 1899) are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

BP in Whiting Indiana ~ Photographs by Lloyd Degrane

In 2007 there was a big uproar about BP dumping ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan. A Chicago Tribune article, BP Gets Break on Dumping in Lake, spelled out what was happening. A fellow photographer, Lloyd Degrane, has been photographing in Whiting, Indiana for some time now.

© Lloyd Degrane

Here is what he says....
"I've been working on a documentary project for a few years now and took these along the shore and nearby industrial sites of Lake Michigan. The Whiting,In. BP Refinery is only 15 miles from downtown Chicago. Up until the Gulf oil spill the Indiana refinery was surging ahead with their planned 100% expansion that would allow for the refinement of Canadian Tar Sands. The Tar Sands project starts in Alberta Canada. There, it's roughly refined and then would be shipped to Whiting for final refinement, right on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Tar sands oil is the dirtiest oil on the planet. It also requires a huge amount of energy to process. The one good thing about the Gulf oil disaster is that the Tar Sands project has been put on hold."

© Lloyd Degrane

Sunday, July 11, 2010

BP and where I live

Just got an email this morning from Ben Prisk who lives in Ocean Springs, MS. The following is a post from his blog.

"I ran across the image below tonight at Boingboing. It was done by photographer Jane Fulton (look at the rest of her work please).

Currently, our barrier islands are doing a fair job of keeping the oil at bay. Growing up, I used to hate those islands, because they kept our water from being a brilliant green (as it was when you sailed to those islands). Now those islands are covered in the oil that all the other states are encountering.

I've held a bag of that has the weight and consistency of molten liver. I've talked to the men trying to skim it. When the oil splashes onto the boats, it takes an acidic cleaner and a lot of 'elbow grease' to remove it (hours).

I spoke to a friend of mine who owns a gorgeous wooden boat that BP tried to hire....he looked at the fine print in the contract and it said that 'all wooden boats would have to be destroyed after the event'. He declined, as his 52 ft boat was built in 1939 by a 19th century local boat builder wiped out by Katrina.

Thanks barrier islands.

If I were a wealthy man, I would license her images from her, have them printed in bus-stop size format and have them placed along the coast.... no logos ... no words ... only a tiny photo credit. Her work says it all."

© 2010 Jane Fulton Alt ~ Keith, Laura and Olivia

Thursday, July 08, 2010

back from Mexico City

Just returned from a 4 day staff trip with Rick Bayless & company....and some company it was! The people who work at Frontera Grill/ Toplobampo/Xoco are amazing in their passion, dedication and curiosity of all things Mexican. I am overwhelmed with all that I was exposed to.

The main food market in Mexico City , La Merced Market, is one of the biggest on the planet. Driving there was a challenge. What was normally supposed to take 10 minutes of travel time took a full hour, so we had to literally race thru the market as many stalls were closing down. We were instructed by Rick to stay close and follow. It was a great photographic experience for me as there was NO THINKING time, just reacting.

The market area is also known for flagrant prostitution in which women can be seen soliciting at all hours of the day and night.
Merced is considered to be a “tolerance zone” for prostitution, meaning that police generally do not intervene. Prostitution exists in just about all parts of Mexico City but it is most obvious here.

more to follow....

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Calling for the Pelicans

© 2010 Jane Fulton Alt ~ Itay

"As I was watching the world cup on TV, a commercial from BP came on with a phone number to make a claim for anyone that has been harmed by the effects of the recent oil spill. The commercial went on and on about how BP is trying to make things right by replacing the lost livelihoods of fishermen and others living on the Gulf Coast, but I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if I called in and made a a pelican. I've come to realize how people are so concerned with the safety of the oil rig workers or how the fishing industry in the Gulf is in ruins, but what about the pelicans? What about the environmental repercussions that the oil spill has caused? I think that when man makes mistakes that cause himself problems, that is own business, but when our thirst for oil disturbs the processes of nature, we are responsible for the damage. The horrifying images of pelicans struggling to get out of the water, drenched in oil, are constant reminders of the severity of the environmental crisis in the Gulf Coast. I'm calling BP to make a claim for the pelicans, because they've been affected by the spill as much as anyone, although they don't want a check in the mail. All they want is to have the water where they feed and live to be free of fossil fuels so they can go about their business. They can't do it themselves, and it is up to us to make a difference throughout this environmental catastrophe. I'm calling for the pelicans."

Itay ~ age 16

US Could Learn Plenty from European Energy Policy

Thursday, July 01, 2010

History Repeating Itself in the Creative Process

©2010 Marissa

©2000 Emily

© 1996 Katie

Also, some nice coverage of Crude Awakening today in the Chicago Tribune, 3rd page front print section, front page webpage and on a green energy blog, EnergyBoom Policy and the NBC Chicago News blog.

June 1, 2010 Chicago Tribune Front Web Page