Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ragdale Day

I know I have talked a lot about the Ragdale Foundation on this blog. This is, in part, because the residencies that I have had the privilege of attending have truly transformed my work. As I mentioned before, it is an "in between" place where transformation and alchemy abound. The campus, located in Lake Forest, Illinois, will be open this Sunday to everyone. This is a unique opportunity to see a place that is often sequestered from the public view.  You can see where novels such as The Time Travellers Wife and Loving Frank were written.

A few of the activities for Sunday include a performance by Khecari Theater, Rhino Reads (including the one and only Ralph Hamilton),  poetry reading by Cajun Poet Beverly Matherine with music, conversations with best selling authors, art demonstrations in studios along with refreshments provided by chef Linda.

    This video was just released which shows the before and after of the newly renovated Ragdale House. Please watch it...you will understand why I am so passionate about the place.

This Sunday, June 3rd from 12 - 4pm the Ragdale. Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Checking In and a Few Random Thoughts

I temporarily dropped into the life of a 32 year old, being the primary caretaker of a 2 and 5 year old. That is why you haven't heard from me as of late. I have a deep appreciation for artists that are able to keep the creative muses alive as they are raising their families...not an easy task.

My granddaughter turned 5 this past week and has been very interested in cameras. I decided that this was the opportune time to introduce her to photography. There was a lot of excitement on my part when I thought of the gift of a first camera.

After doing some research, I decided, along with her mother, that the Fisher Price "Tough Kid" Digital camera would be the best choice. I was fortunate enough to be with my granddaughter for her birthday, so was able to get a first hand look at the gift. After an hour of watching her with the camera, I was horrified. This was NOT the camera experience I had expected. There were many bells and whistles on this particular camera. As I watched her handle it I realized that I had essentially given her an electronic toy that fostered and demanded her attention similar to a video game.

Happily, the batteries went dead after a few hours. I slipped the camera into my bag and suggested to my granddaughter that this was not the right camera for her and that I would replace it with the real thing. I have decided to purchase an inexpensive "real" digital camera for her...but even that, I realize, has its limitations.

This experience made me realize how different photography is now, with the advent of the digital camera. I long for her to have the excitement of the wet darkroom experience when the print begins to appear in the developing tray, when one struggled to compose a photograph and worked for hours to create a print that would "sing." It still takes time and effort to create something extraordinary with a camera, be it digital or film, but the easy access/quick grabbing of visuals has really changed the entire playing field of photography.

On another note, I have spent the last 2 weeks traveling to see loved ones, from the west coast to the east coast and back home again, with several graduations and birthdays in between. It has been a marvelous two weeks, and the best birthday gift I could have ever given to myself.

what follows are a few emails I received in response to this post...

Hello Jane -

I had to smile when reading your latest post about your granddaughter and her new camera.  Someone once gave my son a camera with a monkey on it.  While he had no interest in the camera, he fully expected the monkey to do tricks.  When my kids were five and seven, they became curious about what I do in the darkroom (I realized early on as a parent that I would have to integrate my children into my creative life – it was either that or close down the darkroom for several years).  The three of us made two pinhole cameras together – one for 4x5 paper and one for 11x14.  It was a week-long project – planning, measuring, waiting for superglue to dry - which ended with a little photo series which they got to develop and print.  It was magical to watch their faces as the images developed.  They were so excited.  Even now, five years later, the images are still some of my personal favorites and I am always touched when I hear my kids explain to their friends what “real” photography is all about.  We are preparing for a big move to New York next month but once we get situated, I plan to use the cameras again with the kids to inaugurate my new darkroom.  

Best – Ellen O’Connell

Ellen O'Connell ~ Jules and Esther

Ellen O'Connell ~ Jules and Esther


One of the fondest memories of raising my daughter was making a camera out of a piece of brass shim stock, black paint and an oatmeal box. Not sure she was as excited as I was when we developed the sheet of film. But there was even a lesson in that. I still have that thing somewhere.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Nina Katchadourian

I have been traveling a lot this month so thought it appropriate to introduce the work of Nina Katchadourian. Her creativity is inspirational and hysterical. I love thinking of her making these images in the tiny bathroom lavatories as she is flying thru space.

Seat Assignment: Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style

In her words...

Improvising with materials close at hand, Seat Assignment consists of photographs, video, and digital images all made while in flight using only a camera phone. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing. At present, over 2500 photographs and video, made on more than 70 different flights to date, constitute the raw material of the project.

 While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror using my cellphone. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. I decided to add more images made in this mode and planned to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight. I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory's own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone. At the Dunedin Public Art gallery, the photos were framed in faux-historical frames and hung on a deep red wall reminiscent of the painting galleries in museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Improvising with materials close at hand, "Seat Assignment" consists of photographs, video, and digital images all made while in flight using only a camera phone. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing. At present, over 2500 photographs and video, made on more than 70 different flights to date, constitute the raw material of the project. 

Nina's website has many interesting projects to explore. The site of a creative mind.

I will be traveling for the next week and a half...thinking more about what is possible when in transit.
Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

On Books, Ragdale and Mary Ellen Bartley

I attended the opening of The Ragdale House this past weekend.
 It is a magical place where many artists have found the time and space to create works of art that have enriched our lives. The house,  designed as the summer home of Arts and Crafts architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, just underwent a $3 million renovation. I had the privilege of  touring the rooms where many authors have written award winning books. 
One of several Ragdale rooms where authors reside for the residency

It made me think about the importance of books in our lives.  Carl Sagan was able to articulate the nature of books by looking deeply into their essence.

“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called "leaves") imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic.” 
― Carl Sagan

 Mary Ellen Bartley has studied books from a unique visual perspective.  Standing Open and Blue Books are two beautiful portfolios.  

All The More Real

A Road Divided
Sleeping by the Mississippi

Mary Ellen's artist statement for Standing Open:
"STANDING OPEN This is my fourth series of photographs looking at books. While shooting my stacks and rows of tightly closed paperback books I began seeing some of the standing books loosen up, allowing a view of the space between their pages. I was drawn into the unique interior space of the books. I began opening all kinds of books and placing them standing open around my space where sunlight might fall on them. Using the chance settling of the pages and a close up view, this quickly became a project of looking into my photography books in a new way, with my gaze falling into and out of the books and into and out of abstraction. This work interests me on many levels. First is the sheer beauty of the physical books and the unique formal discoveries of looking at them close up. Among the repeating formal motifs I’ve found are the stripes the pages create, the shadowy voids between pages that read like burns or stains, and the reflections the photos can make on the pages facing them. On another level I’m fascinated by conceptual ideas concerning appropriation and reproduction in a mechanical versus digital age that the work can’t help but throw into question. What is the unique aura or presence of a book? Finally what drives the work for me is the emotional connection I have to the books. I’m trying to evoke the sensuality and intimacy of reading and looking through books as well as the fleeting inspiration, little jolts of connection, found for readers in books they love."

 Blue Books
All Night Near the Water, 2010
Beyond Summer, 2010

Easy Hymns, 2010

Fear of Rain, 2010

 Mary Ellen was also included in the Critical Mass Photolucida's final 50 this year.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Image Maker Fran Forman

Fran Forman was a 3 time contributor to the creative collaboration, which is how I became familiar with her work. When I checked out Fran's website, I was immediately transfixed by the wonderful, fanciful images. I am so happy to be sharing her work with you as it certainly expands our thinking on what is possible. I love the imagination and creativity that is evident in each and every piece.

The following text is from Fran...

In all honesty, I don't really consider myself a 'photographer' but rather a maker of images. My background is so varied, and until I went to college, I assumed I'd "do something with art" (I loved drawing, and still do). But it was the 60s, and "doing art" felt too self-serving and anachronistic, and "saving the world" demanded community service. When I did start taking photographs (in the 70s), I was much more interested in the story-telling aspect of it, so I gravitated towards creating sequential and surrealistic images, often expressing my fascination with time and its inexorable march. I got my Masters in Graphic Design when I realized I couldn't support myself making weird photos, and Graphic Design offered the ability to combine fine art with commerce, psychology, and sociology.

While my kids were young, I made collages for and with them, and after my mom died in 1988, I found a treasure-trove of old family photos which made their way into these collages. Then, in 1992, I was introduced to Photoshop. And here we are. It seems as if I've come full circle: drawing (with a stylus), collages, graphics, old photos, weird images, all in the service of halting that inexorable march of time passing.

"The camera was the first machine of depiction, and for a time we believed it to tell only the truth. In the end, perhaps all the images we create share a strange mixture of magic, truth, and illusion. And in this soil sprouts metaphor, which is the source of meaning."      Edward Bateman

In merging photography with painting, portraiture with dreamed landscapes, technologies and generations, my images blur the boundaries between the real and the unreal, re-imagining worlds that, like our own, remain forever a mystery. I invite the viewer to look closely, to engage with me in an imaginative discourse, and to enter into a world of dreams and memory.
The visual narratives of my photo collages dissolve the boundaries of time; they connect my fantasies and dreams with the generations that have come before 
me as I attempt to bring them back to life.

My artistic process is an act of intuition, investigation, and the construction and amalgam of, at first glance, seemingly random objects. These dream-like visions and altered habitats are constructed of photographs I’ve taken with a variety of cameras, as well as discarded portraits of long-forgotten ancestors. Yet these constructed images are intended to evoke a sense of transience, longing, memory, and, despite our yearning for connectedness, the dislocation we all too often experience.

Experimenting with light, form, texture, and color In composing my images, I pay tribute to the collage artists and Pictorialists of the late 19th century, as well as to the magic realists and surrealists who followed. I also draw inspiration from color-field painters such as Rothko and from artists who use vibrant color, visual narratives and symbolism to contemplate the human condition.  I am indebted to, among others, the juxtaposed assemblages of Cornell, the surrealism of Magritte, and the poetry and photography of Duane Michals.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

On Collaborations

Thank you for all who have participated in the Creative collaborations. It has been really fun to organize and see creativity at work with the multitude of interpretations. I have decided to include all 3 rounds in this post as a finale.
Enjoy the show!
Original file
Charles Mintz

(look for the hands by the top of the ladder)
Fran Forman
Nelson Armour
The Wall I Saw
Patricia Nolan
Writing on the Wall

original file

Fran Forman "The Elephant Not in the Room"

Tyler Hewitt (Tyler shares his creative process on his blog)

Panos Lambrou