Leading up to my mural recently installed project for the Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (see earlier posts) I had been seeking opportunities to produce larger scale work. After starting that commission I followed up with my First Encounters series of life sized portraits of strangers. Now I’ve created the three works below for submission to a billboard project in Williamsburg, Brookly. If selected they will be part of an ecoartspace.com project, I Am Water, focused on water as a source of life that mediates our planet’s ecosystems.
I can’t seem to stop producing landscapes, not that I am trying. When I do complete a new one it is likely less to present a recognizable place than a consideration of one or more real places and how I respond to them and connect them to each other.
March 31 – April 23: Sarah Spurgeon Gallery, Cemtral Washington University, Ellensburg. Work included:In Between and All Around (above) and Anthropocene Wyoming. Juror Faith Brower, Haub Curator of Western American Art at the Tacoma Art Museum, will speak about the exhibition via Zoom, with in person screening in the gallery, followed by reception, 5:30 – 7:30, April 7.
April 7 – June 5: Photographic Center Northwest, Seattle. PCNW’s gallery is recognized as one of the country’s top venues for contemporary photography. Work included: Still Life in Situ. Join me at the April 14th reception, 6 – 8 pm, which coincides with the Capitol Hill Second Thursday Art Walk.
April 7 – April 24: Artist Trust Annual Auction. My Dog Walkers, Othello Neighborhood, Seattle #2, along with the whole auction catalog, can be viewed by appointment at Axis Pioneer Square, at three events at Axis, or online. I am so pleased to have been accepted for the third straight year. There may be no better place to see the best of Washington’s current art scene–or to support Washington Artists than this event.
Alas, I had to withdraw my Precurated Legacy series from the Rotterdam Photo Festival. But I will have a new work there nonetheless, also on the theme of “The Human Blueprint,” when and if it takes place. In it full installation (not at Rotterdam) this large print will be accompanied by smaller prints of each frame that observers can rearrange in ways that make the most sense to them. They will then be able to share their curations to supplement the exhibit.
I’ve used more than 250 photographic layers from nearly two dozen places in thirteen countries and six art museums to produce this work, which suggests that the key to thriving tomorrow is connection and effort today. The reuse, recombination, and replacement of its layers the work tells us to test what to hold on to, to look at different options to use what we have, and to willingly toss what holds us back or erodes the good. The contact sheet format further suggests that today is an unfinished work. NOTE: Immense levels of detail are lost in the attached jpg. So I will be glad to provide detail files.
The following three works are part of my Precurated Legacy project that was selected for the 2022 Rotterdam Photo Festival, whose theme this year was “The Human Blueprint.” Since museums are a cross between time capsules, cultural advertising, and a catalog of samples of what we have produced. For that reason they offer a wide range of considerations for a human blueprint—though in my mind we are in no position to provide blueprints and ought to go no further than to offer notes and critiques instead.
I believe that we experience and understand a place, as we do with so much else, by forming connections between it and our experience of other places. So I cannot fully appreciate Shilshole, where the semi-panoramic layer here was taken, with the wetlands of the Union Bay Natural Area, or two spots on the outskirts of Yellowstone, which provide the rest of the image layers here. Note that you should try to view this as large as possible to see both texture and detail like the cars on the shoreline or the pole on the jetty), which will be finer in the final print.
This looks both south and west from the same point on a trail at the Union Bay Natural Area. None of the layers were shot at night. In fact, beyond the impact of the normal ambient nighttime light, the area is just northeast of Husky Stadium at the University of Washington. So the added light from that part of campus means that true night never arrives here. This condition of a seminatural reserve that cannot find night was my inspiration for this piece.
I’ve been thinking about the aging of place but had not yet produced any work on the theme until this one. We grasp the concept of geologic time through tropes of scale. So we correctly understand its comparative enormity to our lifespans by comparing grains of sand to beaches. But the tropes and the lack of a distinction between notions of the pace of time and the speed of aging trick us into thinking that the geologic time is keeps to a steady pace. And so we dangerously misunderstand our times, when the pace of geologic change is nearly the same as human time.
I’ve be invited to design art for about 550 square feet of wall space in the new branch of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, now under construction in the Seattle’s Othello neighborhood. By contract I cannot show the chosen work until the clinic’s formal announcement later in the year.
Here are some of what I created as possibilities for the site but that will not be included in the final project but are available for exhibition, rental, and purchase. Note that this is large work, intended to be over 8 feet in height. So the images here lack considerable detail.
The work above reinvigorated an interest in portraiture, which has occupied me at summer’s end. Here are some of my thoughts on portraiture, followed by additional works in my now growing project. First Encounters is a series of multilayered photographic images in which I’ve asked complete strangers to pose for me and then blended the portraiture layer with several from the surrounding location. The three portraits above and the first three below are part of the project.
I didn’t interview the people in my First Encounters series and I know no more about them than I leaned from asking them to pose. Why should I pretend that portraiture captures. At its best it suggests.
Visual portraiture is a unique form for so many reasons. It takes the expansiveness of a human life and frames it, something that gets clumsier and more unreliable with every attempt to be objective. So it is more effective if it offers up a open story. Even when the subject is well known the visual portrait is a much about a life, a person, as it is about a specific, named life. We may know that we are viewing a named individual but we respond to that person as a construction we build from the information in the portrait–and thus as an identity, real and defined but without history or verification. We know what we know about that identity and feel what we feel. But if we are wise enough we recognize both the difference between our constructions and the lives of the subjects and the value of understanding those constructions.
So the detailed presentation of the physical person should not be central to portraiture but merely as one of many elements whose inclusion may help the observer form a subject identity and connect it to his or her understanding of human lives. Some of my portraiture work places the physical subject at the core of the portrait but includes elements to supplement the information about that person’s life. At the opposite end of the spectrum are portraits that exclude the physical appearance of the subject from the array of ways to establish her identity. In other portraits I offer a generally representational image of the subject but obscure it in some way that suggests we need to look beyond the facial recognition to grasp something of the life.
I continue to create for other projects as well. The following piece is one of three recent efforts that each grew out of an interest in grasping the aging of place, which is the topic of a curatorial project that I have proposed for a possible residency.
I’m still thinking in mural mode as a result of the commission. So I created for a proposal for large still life work for display at a transit station, where it would be shown at 75″ x 225″. I also will offer it at 44″ x 124″ in an edition of 3.