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For an artist every season seems to have its own character. Some of it is built on the backbeat of an ongoing piece or project, some may be on a regular teaching schedule, but there's always the melismatic ups and downs of recognitions and refusals, admissions and rejections. This Spring has turned celebratory for me and I am very excited to announce a move to a new gallery in the very hot SoWa district; I am now represented by Rafius-Fane Gallery at 460c Harrison Avenue in Boston www.rafiusfanegallery.com.

Also, two pieces in two museum shows: "Hair Pins", from an the ongoing personal project Iron Things at the Danforth Museum Art Annual, a project I discussed in my last post,

and "West Brighton, Staten Island, NY", at the Griffin Museum's 22nd Annual Peter Urban Legacy Exhibition.

Thank you Jessica Roscio, Curator at the Danforth for recognizing "Hair Pins" and its personal significance, and for juror Elizabeth Avedon and Paula Tognarelli at the Griffin Museum for admitting "West Brighton, Staten Island". There is hope I think for the observational process after all. I'm not sure what holds these two images together besides authorship and film based black and white. Call me Sybil if you will. I'll admit no identity disorder, but will confess a fascination, with life and the world, observed.

Franson's Garage

Funny how a new camera will rekindle a smoldering project; I recently picked up a beautiful black walnut 4x5 camera, basically for the 90mm Angulon lens I needed for a large format point and shoot camera I purchased through Kickstarter (a blog for another day). Hand me any finely crafted object, especially in wood, and I'm in love. And if it is a camera I'm going to waltz it around the ballroom. You know what I mean.

Almost two years ago I started a project, "Iron Things" I called it, the title from a line in the Mary Oliver poem The Leaf and the Cloud. I had recently buried my father and "emptied the closets" of the house I grew up in and sold it. My sisters and I each kept what we wanted, locked the door, and left. These are a few of the objects I kept: a packet of hair pins my father saved that were his mother's, my grandfather's oil stained shop coat with a few matchbooks in the left pocket, a miniature Swedish book of Psalms. There is something like deep memory embedded in these, but memory not mine. What memories I do have are of a stern grandmother, and the tool and machine filled wonderland of my grandfather's automotive shop in Essex Connecticut, where time seemed to have stopped when he died. I never knew him, but I think I know the hole his death carved into my father's heart. Now I carry these memory weighted items my father held on to, and other objects from my childhood home.

I set up the 4x5, the new toy, and suddenly I'm back in my project. The hair pins, the matchbooks, the Swedish Psalm-bok, and the overcoat beckon. Though I started this project two years ago I don't consider the interval time lost, more like time lived, and these photographs intimate considerations on memory and time.

Iron Things003.jpg

New Additions.

With the onset of warmer weather I've been in manic mode shooting and printing new work, and trying to catch up on the back log. I'm adding new work to several portfolios, beginning with Dogtown.

Several of Roger Babson's stones bedeviled me, and this is one of them. Sometimes it's the lighting, other times it is the Holga in a bad mood. Persistence and luck finally prevailed.

I have several images to add to "the Structure of Everyday Life". First off are two from the South,

BUG, near Natural Bridge in Virginia, and

REBEL, which I found in an ancient AMC dealership, Collier Motors, in Pikeville, North Carolina.

Closer to home, I photographed the last business day at the Hilltop Steakhouse in Saugus, MA and made this image.

The plastic cows were gone the next day. All that remains on the site of this historic restaurant now is the mammoth sign.

The image below was taken during one of the many Feast Day Festivals in the North End of Boston.

This last Holga image I captured in a cemetery in Salem Massachusetts. I remember thinking "beware the obvious Bill, cliches abound". When the child walked into the frame I just couldn't help myself.

It is about time I added GARDEN to the portfolio "Alexia's Lament". GARDEN was another image that took several attempts before striking gold, and again, the conditions needed to be just right. This was taken outside TD Garden between the subway exit and North Station entrance. Exit the subway at night after a rain, walk a certain line, and there you have it, GARDEN reflected upside-down, looking somewhat cyrillic, in a puddle. Shoot wide open at an eighth of a second, exhale slowly, trip the shutter, and hope.

Finally, I've been enjoying medium format lately, and have shot on Staten Island,

Salisbury Massachusetts,

Boxford, MA on Memorial Day weekend,

and, one of my favorite local destinations, Lawrence MA,

This wonderfully ugly derelict mansion I photographed in North Andover has experienced various stages of construction, then de-construction for several years now.

I'm currently laying the foundation for a new project on the Mason-Dixon line and planning several trips south this summer. I'll introduce this latest project in my next post. See you on the street!

STRANGE DAYS

Yes they are. Strange indeed.

A few months ago I received an email from Lauren O'Neal, the Director and Curator of the Lamont Gallery at Philips Exeter Academy, enquiring whether I would be interested in participating in a show late in the Fall. Lauren had seen my work earlier in the year at the Somerville Toy Camera Festival and was intrigued. I'd love to be included, I said, and mentioned that in fact, two recent images were shot in Exeter:

Self Portrait, Exeter NH which became one of the pieces advertising the show:

Self Portrait. Exeter, NH 2009 Gelatin Silver Print

Self Portrait. Exeter, NH 2009 Gelatin Silver Print

and,

Eleven Plus One. 2009 Sepia-toned Gelatin Silver Print

Eleven Plus One. 2009 Sepia-toned Gelatin Silver Print

Both were shot within walking distance from Lamont Gallery on the Philips Exeter Campus. Quite a remarkable coincidence I thought.

Lauren did a remarkable job looking through my work and pulling images for the show. In fact, she chose a range of images including one from my days in art school at the Art Institute of Boston in the 70's to images shot last year. What she was looking for, and found, was my eye for the peculiar in the everyday, be it a location like Holyland USA in Waterbury, CT, Bullwinkle's shadow on a building on Sunset Strip, boulders in Dogtown, or where it all began for me, a face on a train station wall:

Salem Station. Salem, MA 1973 Gelatin Silver Print

Salem Station. Salem, MA 1973 Gelatin Silver Print

"Salem Station" was a critical image in my growth as an artist. It was in fact the the defining image for my first Boston exhibit at Enjay's Gallery at 35 Landsdowne Street in 1975 (Enjay's was one of the few photography only galleries in Boston, along with Carl Seimbab Gallery and Panopticon). "Salem Station" embodies many of the factors that continue to resonate in my work to date; a sense of presence (in this case a gaze returned), fragments of text, boundaries, and abstract elements. 

Of this image I remember pulling in to Salem Station and looking out the window at this grimy view and seeing a face staring back at me from the wall. Not only was a face staring at me but the remnants of text above the face, what was left appearing to say "God Is Here". Little did I know at the time I'd be back in college in a few years, temporarily putting the camera aside to ask epistemological questions regarding how we know what we know, what is the correspondence between language and experience, what constitutes certainty? The funny thing now is, if these kinds of questions bubble up while I'm out shooting, the game is over. Kind of like what Yogi Berra said, "You can't bat and think at the same time." The more I think while making images the more boring the work gets. Embrace the mystery of the moment, let thinking come after.

Strange Days: The Uncanny, the Curious & the Quite Possibly Magical is a four person show including Angela Cunningham, Haig Demarjian, Paulin Lim, and myself. The exhibit is in the Lamont Gallery at the Frederick R. Mayer Art Center, 11 Tan Street on the campus of the Philips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH. It opens November 5 and runs through December 13, 2014. The Opening is Friday November 14 from 5-7, and a Gallery Talk follows on Saturday, November 15 at 10 am. General hours are Monday 1-5pm, Tuesday-Saturday 9am-5pm, and closed on Sundays.

Iron Things

(I started this blog on July 22, and here, I'm wrapping it up a month later!)

I've had a project in mind for several years and it is just now coming together.

I saved a few things from my parent's house when my sisters and I emptied and sold it; some trivial objects, some not, but things my parents held on to, things they couldn't let go. A pair of french brass chiming clocks for instance, a package of De Long hairpins found in a machinist chest in the basement, the machinist chest itself, my grandfather's denim shop coat, the Griswold Inn and Oldsmobile matchbooks in the right hand pocket of the shop coat, some false teeth, a palm sized Swedish book of Psalms, my father's graduating class high school year book, cigar boxes full of small prints, and a 6.5x9cm German box camera. There is more.

The yearbook was a critical find. I discovered my father was salutatorian for his class. Number two. He was all over the yearbook, involved in everything, loved by everyone. I also discovered that he really loved photography. Why he never shared that information I will never know. Perhaps he didn't want to encourage me. He was an aerospace engineer, and maybe photography wasn't worth encouraging his son toward. Family pictures yes, but career, no.

I suspect the camera was one of the earliest cameras my father owned. It is a "Bee Bee" model manufactured by Certo Camera Werke Model A fitted with a 105mm f3.5 Zeiss Tessar, manufactured some time between 1935 and 1942, during his late teens to early twenties, high school and college years for him, the same age photography took a hold on me. There is something about the camera that captivates me. I need to make pictures with it.

The collapsible eye-piece and ground glass were missing but the shutter to my ear sounded accurate at all speeds. I purchased a box of EFKE 100 iso film cut to the required size and considered my ground glass options. Not willing to invest in a custom glass I cut down a piece of picture glass and coated one side with Rust-Oleum Semi-transparent Frost spray. I fitted the glass into the removable back, attached the back and opened the lens, and wow, a wonderfully bright and easily focusable image emerged. Here is a test image taken in my office:

My Father's Camera, Home

My Father's Camera, Home

I have the camera, it functions, what of the project?

The title "Iron Things" came to me from reading Mary Oliver's book length poem The Leaf And The Cloud. I was taken back by this fragment from the first section:

Listen,
this was his life.
I bury it in the earth.
I sweep the closets.
I leave the house.
I mention them now,
I will not mention them again.
It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.
I give them-one, two, three, four-the kiss of courtesy,
of sweet thanks,
of anger, of good luck in the deep earth. May they sleep well. May they soften.
But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.
I will not give them the responsibility for my life.

I want to take that Iron Thing and crack it open, hold the fragments to the light, consider their emotional weight. My father, my parents presence lives throughout the objects I've saved. What did a package of hairpins mean to my father? Can I turn the fragments, the "Iron Things", into icons of familial love and loss, give them the courtesy of sweet thanks, and let them go?

I brought the camera and a 4x5 wood field, processing supplies, and cyanotype materials with me on a two week vacation at a lakeside cabin in New Hampshire. I've been going to this place for 25+ years and always have some photographic idea purcolating for the trip.

Self Portrait, Brookfield, NH 2014

Self Portrait, Brookfield, NH 2014

Working in large format is a real challenge for me. I find that the longer time I spend crafting an image the more boring it gets. I love ideas and the life of the mind. But when it comes to image-making I need to be as spontaneous as possible and let ideas surface after the image is made. I'm good with that, they will come. They float to the surface, dreamlike, un-beckoned.

During the latter half of the first week I headed out into the woods to a familiar overturned tree. I love the "stage" that is created on the under-portion of the tree that is uprooted. I thought I'd do a portrait here. Clothing seemed inappropriate so off it came. Images were made with the "Bee Bee" and the 4x5.

 

Self-Portrait, Brookfield, NH 2014

Self-Portrait, Brookfield, NH 2014

Though I appreciate the Pictoralist quality of the image taken with my father's camera--the sense of emerging, with ease--I think the image taken with the 4x5 is the keeper, and I'm taking it as the beginning of Iron Things; am I emerging or am I stuck? Is this body the ultimate Iron Thing: weighty, rusting, full of memory? Where do I go from here?

To end, I return to Mary Oliver, and the preface to The Leaf And The Cloud:

"Between the earth and man arose a leaf. Between the heaven and man came a cloud. His life being partly as a falling leaf, and partly as a falling vapour."

John Ruskin, from Modern Painters

 

A website, new and improved.

Welcome to my new website, PHOTOGRAPHS. Some fresh, some recent, some classic images. Enjoy!

Untitled, Congress Street, Boston, MA 2013

Untitled, Congress Street, Boston, MA 2013