Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Business of Photography

Having your work seen is as important as creating it. Fotofest (in Houston) is the "mother" of all reviews and where it all started.

As I am posting from my iPhone, I will keep this short.

I plan on posting on the second creative collaboration next Wednesday. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wabi Sabi

Never heard of it? Neither had I until my good friend and mentor, Dick Olderman, told me about it and then sent me a book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers. I read it a few months ago and did not understand it. It is a Japanese aesthetic associated with the tea ceremony.

Burn No. 98 ~ Floating Ash

I reread the book last week and was totally mesmerized by it as I felt that it resonated with much of what I am doing these days.

Burn No. 33

Burn No. 71

I would like to share an excerpt from the book that might give some insights...

"The Wabi-Sabi Universe

Metaphysical Basis
- Things are either devolving toward, or evolving from, nothingness

Spiritual Values
- Truth comes from the observation of nature
-"Greatness" exists in the inconspicuous and overlooked details
-Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness

State of Mind
- Acceptance of the inevitable
-Appreciation of the cosmic order

Moral Precepts
-Get rid of all that is unnecessary
-Focus on the intrinsic and ignore material hierarchy

Material Qualities
-the suggestion of natural process

Burn No. 96

Maybe I have piqued your interest? If so, have fun learning more about it.

Friday, March 23, 2012


These photos were taken this season from the Burn. I have been working on this project for 5 years. It seems like each season offers its own challenges. I am finding it physically very taxing and often, after 2 hours in the field I feel like a wilted flower. I am not sure where I am heading with the work but I suppose that will become clear over time.

I found myself playing with The Red Chair image (from the current creative collaboration project) and enjoyed the process of letting things surface without much thought. My creativity slid by my conscious mind which was such a gift. John Loori, the author of The Zen of Creativity writes about this state...

"In no mind there is no intent. The activity, whatever it may be, is not forced or strained. The art just slips through the intellectual filters, without conscious effort and without planning. In the instant there is intent there is expectation. Expectation is deadly because it disconnects us from reality. When we get ahead of ourselves, we leave the moment. No mind is living in the moment, without preoccupation or projection….hesitancy or deliberation will show in our art when we leave the moment."

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Thin Place

Did you see the "Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer" article in the NYT travel section on Sunday?

It took my breath away and I am so happy to share it in case you missed it.

I am always so grateful when I read something that totally resonates with how I feel. I find it very difficult to articulate certain states of being.

What is a Thin Place?

"A thin place is a locale where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we're able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, the Infinite Whatever. Not everyone finds the same places thin. It's what a place does to you that counts. It disorients, It confuses. We lose our bearings, and find new ones. Or not. We are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world, and therein lies the transformative magic of travel."

"Yet, ultimately, an inherent contradiction trips up any spiritual walkabout: The divine supposedly transcends time and space, yet we seek it in very specific places and at very specific times. If God (however defined) is everywhere and “everywhen,” as the Australian aboriginals put it so wonderfully, then why are some places thin and others not? Why isn’t the whole world thin?

Maybe it is but we’re too thick to recognize it. Maybe thin places offer glimpses not of heaven but of earth as it really is, unencumbered. Unmasked."

Eric Weiner's has a new book out, “Man Seeks God: My Flirtations With the Divine”

There is also a wonderful description of someone's encounter with the "divine" in Driftless by David Rhodes, another extraordinary writer.

Happy Friday!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Collaboration with Luis Alberto Urrea

There is something in the air. After I called out for the first creative collaboration, I realized that I had, in fact, just completed a collaborative project.

Two summers ago while traveling in Mexico, I was reading The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea. (buying the book after I heard Luis do a reading at a fundraiser for the Ragdale Foundation).
While in Mexico City I had an "thin" experience on top of the Teotihuacan pyramid, where something magical revealed itself to me. When I returned home and contemplated the event I decided that instead of making photographs I would create an installation, influenced in part by those precious moments on the Teotihuacan pyramid and the magical realism contained within the book.

"Every second, even the worst one, is sacred."

I returned to Mexico again in 2011 on the annual Frontera Grill staff trip. This time I was drawn to the altars that are found in the markets, homes and virtually everywhere, where the sacred and the everyday merge.

I have always been fascinated by retablos, devotional paintings most often created on tin. I decided to create my own version of "offerings" that referenced the retablo. My attempts to write the text fell way short of what I felt in my heart. Then, one day a thought entered my mind... wouldn't it be amazing to collaborate with Luis Alberto Urrea?! It was like a lightening bolt hit me.

"Cooking is prayer. Eating is prayer. You never stop praying."

Well, the rest is history. We met. I shared my vision for the work and sent Luis the images. He sent back text he thought might work with the photographs. I was able to match the text with the pieces. In my wildest dreams I would have never expected it to work out as well as it did.

"Everybody knows that being dead can put you in a terrible mood."

"Plants are a big responsibility--how many have you spoken with?"

"Everything speaks, Child. Everything is singing."

"Love is the color when hopelessness catches fire."

"God has a worker's hands. Angels carry hammers, not harps."

"Life is so tart it stings the mouth--add sugar."

"Water is like the soul, free of sins--every glass is the universe."

"It never hurts to cook The Maker a snack."

"The work of the healer begins with the nose--they smell life."

I hung the work this past weekend in the entryway of Frontera Grill in Chicago. They are made of copper (thanks to my generous roofer who cut the pieces), paint, gold leaf, resin, milagros and xerox transfers. The pieces are much more vibrant in person. There is a "real time" luminosity that changes depending on the light falling on the work.

"Tortilla--made of sacred corn, light and rain. Round as the sun itself. You eat a miracle."

If you are in Chicago or passing thru, consider stopping by to see the work in person AND have a delicious meal!

Frontera Grill/Topolobampo/Xoco
445 North Clark Street Chicago
Lunch hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday
Saturday Brunch: 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Dinner hours: 5:20 to 10 p.m. Tuesday; 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
(312) 661-1434

Saturday, March 10, 2012

On Creativity

There was a wonderful article in the Wall Street Journal today on How To Be Creative.

"... creativity is not magic, and there's no such thing as a creative type. Creativity is not a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed by the angels. It's a skill. Anyone can learn to be creative and to get better at it. New research is shedding light on what allows people to develop world-changing products and to solve the toughest problems. A surprisingly concrete set of lessons has emerged about what creativity is and how to spark it in ourselves and our work.... For prompting creativity, few things are as important as time devoted to cross-pollination with fields outside our areas of expertise."

Interesting! I was thinking about the Creative Collaboration project and the feedback I received from the photographers who participated. Kirstianne Koch wrote about her experience on her blog....

"... It was such an amazing process for me and really gave my creative process the nudge it’s been needing. I have always loved ‘making’ images. From the moment I learned how to make high contrast masks of my negatives and use registration pins in the darkroom, I have been making composite photographic images.

Kristianne Koch ~ What Path Will She Pick?

Making images from piecing together several images has always been a part of my repertoire. Currently, I am interested in doing this to tell surreal stories. I am fascinated with quirky and offbeat imagery with a beautiful quality to them. It’s this balance of the eccentric and sublime that gets me excited about making images. I see this thread woven through all my favorite photographs.

In this image for the collaboration, I saw the light in the image and the first thing that came to mind was this image I had previously taken of a taxidermy coyote. I had him in the piece for weeks before I could visualize what else I wanted to say. As soon as I started researching Little Red Riding Hood (even though I used a coyote and not a wolf-flaw #1), I had Maliea on board. She actually put the wardrobe together for her part so that was another fun aspect of the collaboration. She walked the path for me happily and with enthusiasm even though she really needed to be sitting on the toilet. She is such a method actress that she put that aside to get her performance done “before the sun set on the last day.”

I couldn’t just do another version of Little Red Riding Hood, however. I wanted it to say something more personal. So when I remembered the bluebird I had photographed out my office window a year or so ago, I realized that the story was starting to unfold. The wolf (in coyote clothing) represents distractions from your chosen path and unhappiness in life. The bluebird represents happiness and joy and hope. It’s my wish that Maliea reaches the path of happiness and hope before the wolf swallows the bluebird and forces her to go down the wrong path.

It was so good for me to just put this work out there without any judgement and hesitation. I committed to it and sent it on it’s way."

It is important to approach art making with a sense of play...and to suspend the judgement. There is a lot to learn from allowing ourselves to tackle things we have not done before. To begin with a "beginners mind." We don't have to do it right or perfectly. What is most important is that we learn from the process.

So with that I invite you to play with The Red whatever you will with it. Paint, draw, write, just reconfigure any which way you could even build a paper airplane with it! JUST DO IT!

from the Wall Street Journal article...

"It's this ability to attack problems as a beginner, to let go of all preconceptions and fear of failure, that's the key to creativity."

Click HERE for details on the next Creative Collaboration.

Friday, March 09, 2012

New Work

Just updated the Burn portfolio on my website. Thought I would share a few new pieces.

Burn No. 93

Burn No. 19

Burn No. 48

Burn No.53

will be trying bees wax with this image

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Remix #2 ~ No Ordinary Chair

So this is the file I selected for the next collaboration. It is no ordinary chair and is located in it a place where the muses reside...more on that later. If you would like to jump into the mix, please send me an email and I will invite to download a larger file from my drop box acoount. Just do your magic with the digital file and return it to me by March 31st at 72 dpi, 1000 x 1000 pixels, your name in the file and your website. No rules...just follow your imagination. The show begins April 4th.
(information on the original challenge can be found HERE with the amazing creative interpretations of 32 photographers HERE)

Monday, March 05, 2012

Creative Collaboration ~ The Remix #1

"To compose a subject well means no more than to see and present it in the strongest manner possible." -Edward Weston

This post is the outcome of collaborative efforts by many fellow photographers whose creative spirit is exemplified in their unique depiction of the original photograph. Each person started with the same digital file. (see details of the challenge HERE) The multitude of interpretations is something to behold and very exciting to consider. Each rendering of the original image offers something new to the viewer. What is taken with the camera is often just the jumping off point of the final artistic expression. We can learn from each other's creative process. What are we bringing to the raw material? How do we go about pushing it to another level? What is our process? What are our thoughts that accompany the transformation of the image?

This has been so much fun to organize. I have been so inspired by your imaginative "remixes" and am very appreciative to all who participated. There is a wealth of very exciting ideas presented, offering much food for thought. Given the response to this project, I have decided to offer another round. Look for details which are contained at the end of this post.

And now...

(chronological order)

original unedited file

Wills Glasspiegel

Mark Regester

Adrian Davis

Aaron Hobson"walking the moose"

J Wesley Brown
Please go HERE to see the image animated

Chuck Mintz "They Threatened to Close Saint Colman's So We Moved it to the Sticks"

Kristianne Koch "What Path Will She Pick?"

Mark Hickman


I would like to try this again as it has been so amazing to see the creative process in action.
I went thru my files and found another image that has many possibilities for interpretation. Feel free to work with the file that is on this blog or email me at and I will invite you do download the larger file from my dropbox account. Then just return your rendition of the photograph to me by April 1st at 72 dpi, 1000 x 1000 pixels maximum, your name in the file and your website (if you have one) and I will post it.

Here is some advice on the creative process from Rainer Maria Rilke...

“Everything is gestation and bringing forth. To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own intelligence and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist's life. Being an artist means not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide.”

Once again, have fun with it!