Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pushing the Boundaries of Photography ~ Greg Halvorsen Schreck on The Art of Fixing a Shadow

If you are interested in what is new in photography, be sure to check out the work of Greg Halvorsen Schreck. His work is nothing short of amazing. It is just a matter of time before this goes mainstream. Greg is a Chicago treasure.

in Greg's words....

"Lambertian photographs are digital photographs made out of wood. There is no pigment, ink, or emulsion that define them, nor are they projected images. Rather, the photographs are formed by light and shadow as it rakes across the surface contours. The science of the images is based on Lambert’s Law, from 1760. The equation calculates the diffuse reflection intensity of a surface based upon the angle of illumination and the angle of observation. Programmers have used Lambert’s Law to render objects realistically in 3-d computer programs. Mark Woodworth, a friend, an industrial physicist, coded Lambert’s equation into a software program that translates grayscale pixel densities into angular surface changes that can be milled on to a wood surface. Each photograph combines around 96 separately machined pieces of wood viewed from the side. In normal room light, the images can barely be perceived. They look like a peculiar chunk of wood; maybe something is carved into the surface. Illuminated properly with a single light source, the wood magically transforms into a black and white photograph."

"The poetry of each portrait comes from their concave quality. The photograph is hollowed out of the wood, a subtractive process. So the sitter leaves a space behind, an absence. That absence is reminiscent of the shadow that symbolizes the origins of art, when the Corinthian maid traced the shadow of her beloved the night before he left for war, so she could remember him. As a result of this myth, both art and photography have been described as “fixing a shadow.” John Berger speculates something similar as he reflects on one of his drawings, “What is a likeness? When a person dies, they leave behind, for those who knew them, an emptiness, a space: the space has contours and is different for each person mourned. This space with its contours is the person’s likeness and is what the artist searches for when making a living portrait. A likeness is something left behind invisibly.”

Greg teaches photography at Wheaton College and has his work up at the Schneider Gallery in Chicago until December 31st. His work is extraordinary and must be seen in real life to fully appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

gratitude |ˈgratəˌt(y)oōd|
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Scenes from the Front

The smells coming from my home studio are truly bittersweet. The beeswax from the new work is oh so lovely but the camera and case reek of smoke. It will all dissipate in time.

The burning season is over...her are a few images from yesterdays shoot.

When I parked my car near the storage shed, I thought I was having a vision as the corner of my eye spotted this madonna and child. It was so erie as I have many of those images in my new work from Mexico. I really thought I was hallucinating and then one of the ecologist said that she was left in the wood shed and they decided to leave her there to protect them and their work.

The cattails always put on an amazing, breathtaking show.

What remains has become more and more can see why. New body of work???????

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Return from Ragdale

I am back from another amazing two weeks at Ragdale. It has expanded my work in ways that I did not imagine but in looking back I think...of course! It makes perfect sense!

Before I went, Susan Burnstine, an amazing photographer who captures dreams scapes like no other, asked me if I would be interested in being interviewed for her blog titled, Underexposed. I said that would be fine but it would need to wait until after I got back from my residency.

I happily received the interview questions while I was in the midst of the two weeks. I say happily because when I wrote my first draft, the words just flowed out, a direct consequence of being in a highly creative mode. However, when I read it over, I was shocked at how clumsy the writing was. I edited it many times over.

There were 8 amazing residents at Ragdale while I was there, 4 visual artists and 4 writers. At dinner one night I mentioned how many times I had to edit and re-edit the interview. The writers said, " Yes, that is how it is!" I chuckled to myself because I thought if you were a writer, it was supposed to be easy! I guess there are no short cuts to really good art!

my studio at Ragdale

Anyway, I thought I would share the interview with you that is posted on her blog, which can be found along with many more images HERE. The images I have posted in this blog are newly created from the residency where I explored encaustics.

"Jane Fulton Alt’s The Burn was one of the bodies of work I viewed in Photolucida’s Critical Mass that resonated on a profound level for me. After viewing the work, I contacted Jane who graciously agreed to an interview.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: What were your beginnings as a photographer and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?

JANE FULTON ALT: I started photography after my youngest child began first grade, having dabbled in the arts much of my life. Prior to taking classes at a local art center, I was a proficient quilter but frustrated by the limitation of the materials. I was fortunate to have had a really gifted photography teacher whose vision and curiosity allowed me to consider the potential for poetry with the medium.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: Congratulations on all of your recent successes most recently with your exceptional series, The Burn. Can you discuss the personal impetus behind this body of work?

JANE FULTON ALT: The work found me, as have most of my projects. In 2007 I was awarded the first of several artist residencies at Ragdale which is located in the former Howard Van Doren Shaw’s estate overlooking a beautiful prairie in Lake Forest, Illinois. There is something very magical and compelling about the setting. During my first residency restoration ecologists from a local organization, the Lake Forest Open Lands, were conducting a small burn on the property. Being in a mind state of openness and wonder, I watched the fires and took a few photographs. I inquired about the possibility of following them the following season. In mid April I picked up the phone realizing that I could have very well missed it, as I forgot to call earlier. Well, as fate would have it, they were going out that very morning for the first time that season. It was a monumental day in my mind because my sister was simultaneously undergoing her first chemotherapy treatment after having been recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Photographing the burn that day was a very emotional experience. As I looked thru the view finder I kept thinking about what was occuring in my sister’s body and the parallels were stunning. I could imagine the burn that was happening in her body at the very moment the prairie was burning to make way for the new spring growth. The insight of that first day has influenced how I have photographed, edited and printed the work. It has been a very hopeful and inspiring project and an anchor for me during these past four years. Through this project I have tried to look deeply into the essence of life cycles. If we listen closely, nature has so much to teach us.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: How did you gain access and how did you know about the controlled burns you photographed?

JANE FULTON ALT: After the first spring shoot I developed a trusting and respectful working relationship with the restoration ecologists. I am now familiar with the particular weather conditions that must exist to carry out a controlled burn and am contacted by the team during these times to photograph.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: Can you tell me a bit about the areas where these images photographed? Are they personal properties or publicly owned?

JANE FULTON ALT: All of the properties are part of a land trust located in Lake Forest, Illinois and run by the Lake Forest Open Lands Association whose mission is to conserve the natural environment through land acquisition, habitat restoration, environmental education and conservation advocacy. They have acquired over 800 acres of local native landscapes, including prairies, savannas, woodlands and wetlands.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: You have been photographing this series for four years. Is the series ongoing or complete? If ongoing, do you foresee any new directions for this project?

JANE FULTON ALT: Interesting question. I am in the midst of another artist residency and my goal was to think more deeply about the work. My ideas have been in a state of fluidity, which has been really exciting. I have always felt that the images were fine as photographs but that the series was not fully realized. I love the depth and mystery of the images but wanted more surface to the work. After much grappling with aesthetics and technical issues, I am very pleased to have returned to working with encaustics, which I utilized in two other bodies of work, Mourning Light and Chiapas.

I have also been fascinated by the ash remains and have spent many hours thinking about how to incorporate the found ash and seeds into the new work. Happily, the creative muses paid me a visit and both elements will be incorporated into each piece. I have been working on several small pieces to identify and master the technical challenges. Once I have a handle of the full range of issues that need to be worked out, I plan on creating larger pieces.

The best part of being on an artist residency is the time and space to daydream about one’s work. It is an incredible gift to be able to focus without interruption and has been an amazingly productive time for me. I have also thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the camaraderie and critiques from the other residents.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: Is there one image in this body of work that speaks to you more so than others? If so, can you discuss why?

JANE FULTON ALT: My favorites keep changing, especially now that I am working with beeswax. I am attracted to images with warm tonalities, quiet compositions and an air of mystery. I am thinking more about the abstracted images and will be culling thru all my files to reconsider or “audition” new images.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: Are there plans for The Burn series to become a book?

JANE FULTON ALT: I would love to make a book of The Burn. I am hoping / waiting for the right time and publisher. Creating a book is a tremendous amount of work and everything needs to line up to start the process. When the work was shown in New York for the Photo District News Curators Choice, I was speaking with one of the judges. His insights and ability to articulate his thoughts about the photographs were thrilling. He did offer to write an essay about the work. Now I just need a publisher. When the work does get published, I plan to dedicate the book to my sister.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: When looking at your career as a whole. You have created varied, but truly fascinating and poignant bodies of work. Is there one element amongst the subject matter or perhaps within your psyche that connects all of these series?

JANE FULTON ALT: I would say that my training and practice as a clinical social worker, my extensive travels and raising my family have greatly influenced my thinking and seeking to understand what is universal to all people. My inquiring mind sought to understand humanity and the meaning of our existence. I have used the camera to explore issues around birth, death, and everything in between. The human condition is what interests me most.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: What are you working on now?

JANE FULTON ALT: I am continuing my work with The Burn but in using the new materials, it feels like a different body of work. The use of encaustics, my interest in ash and the infinite qualities of the subject matter will keep me occupied for many lifetimes!

I am also working on a project from this past summer’s Frontera Grill/Topolobampo staff trip to Mexico. I have been traveling with the award winning Chef, Rick Bayless and 35 members of his staff for 15 years now, creating new work for the entryway to the restaurant. I am collaborating with a writer whose book influenced the current butterfly installation that is in the entryway of the restaurant. I just finished transferring images onto a gold leaf surface, which will then be mounted onto copper…a loose reference to retablos. But that is another story!

SUSAN BURNSTINE: Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?

JANE FULTON ALT: Burn No 49 is currently on exhibit at the Corden Potts Gallery in San Francisco. Images from my Crude Awakening portfolio are currently in a satellite show at the Hereford Photography Festival in England and will also be in a group show at Wall Space Gallery in Canada this spring.

I will be included in the Critical Mass traveling group show and will have a solo show at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in my home town next fall. Finally, I always have work up at the Frontera Grill and Xoco restaurants in Chicago.

Friday, November 04, 2011

taking a break

...on an artist residency so will be concentrating on generating new work. will post again mid-november. xxoo

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Critical Mass 2011

I am so pleased to announce that I made the final list of the top 50 in the Critical Mass competition. This is the 3rd time, and the second year for the Burn series. It was thru my Critical Mass 2009 participation that the Corden Potts Gallery picked me up for representation. It just so happens that Corden Potts is opening a new show this Thursday featuring selected gallery artists and the work of Sharon Beals.

If you haven't seen Sharon Beals work, it is amazing. I am a sucker for life's beginning moments and her work zeros in on it.

From the Gallery show announcement, Sharon is quoted...

"Bird nests, even without knowing which birds constructed them, seem hardly possible," Sharon says. "Creations of spider's web, caterpillar cocoon, plant down, mud, found modern objects, human and animal hair, mosses, lichen, feathers and down, sticks and twigs--all are woven with beak and claw into a bird's best effort to protect their next generation."

Sharon goes on to say, "But survival for so many birds is tenuous in a modern world where habitat loss is as common as the next housing development, and even subtle changes in climate can affect food supply. It is my hope that capturing the detailed art form of the nests in these photographs will gain appreciation for their builders, and inspire their protection."

Sharon photographed nest and egg specimens, collected over the last two centuries, at The California Academy of Sciences, The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and The Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology. While few nests are collected today, these nests and eggs are used for research, providing important information about their builder's habitats, DNA, diseases and other survival issues.

I will be showing my Burn No. 49 at the Corden Potts show.

A newer Burn image from the 2011 Critical Mass entry will be traveling in a group show in 2012, curated by Darius Himes, Assistant Director at Fraenkel Gallery to the following locations:
PhotoCenter NW, in Seattle, WA
Newspace Center for Photography, in Portland, OR
RayKo Photo Center, in San Francisco, CA

Other photographers included in the Top 50 are...
Evgenia Arbugaeva
Jessica Auer
Mary Ellen Bartley
Daniel Beltra
Nadine Boughton
Colette Campbell-Jones
Christopher Capozziello/AEVUM
Kirk Crippens
John Cyr
Katrina d'Autremont
Scott Dalton
Christopher Dawson
Nigel Gordon Dickinson
Mitch Dobrowner
Carolyn Drake
Jeremy Dyer
Mark Fernandes
Michelle Frankfurter
Misha Friedman
Lucia Ganieva
Meggan Gould
Gabriela Herman
Sarah Hobbs
Jeroen Hofman
Jennifer Hudson
Yaakov Israel
Heidi Kirkpatrick
Alejandra Laviada
Fritz Liedtke
Sebastian Liste
Gloriann Liu
Larry Louie
Mark Lyon
Michael Marten
Rizwan Mirza
Viviane Moos
Kenneth O Halloran
Susana Raab
Jesse Rieser
Alejandro Rivas
Kent Rogowski
Philipp Scholz Rittermann
Geoffrey H. Short
Youngsuk Suh
Daro Sulakauri
Stephen Vaughan
Toshiya Watanabe
David Welch
Sarah Wilson
Susan Worsham

Be sure to check out the Critical Mass website. Lots of interesting portfolios to browse thru.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Visitor

Last night I had an unexpected visitor. I was next door watching people's reaction to the worlds most elaborate Halloween display. A family of three strolled up the sidewalk to take in the scene. I had a feeling they may have been Mexican and inquired. They were indeed. I asked if they would be interested in seeing my Dia de los Muertos altar, which they were.

45 minutes later we were hugging each other goodbye. Her name was Yolanda and she was in the neighborhood with her family trick and treating. It turns out Yolanda was from Michoacan and grew up with all the rituals associated with Dia de los Muertos. She really liked the altar but proceeded to share other items I might consider adding. Slowly we refined the altar, adding a glass of water in case the spirits were thirsty, sea salt to keep the path clean, placing the candles in a bowl of water for keeping the vibrations high, and adding an apple and orange for nourishment. She spoke of the importance of having the 4 elements present on the altar...Fire, Water, Earth and Air. She also sprinkled the copal (incense) over the altar. It was truly an amazing experience and now I feel that the altar is finally complete and ready for welcoming of the spirits tonight, November 1st, the official start of Dia De los Muertos.

(note Yolanda's angel earring)

And Yvette, you asked if the altar would be up for the critique group next week. I am happy to say that Yolanda said it was important to keep it intact for 9 yes, it will be up.

Yolanda's mother lived to 120 years old.