About 2014

Skate Park, Santa Rosa, CA

So this blog is primarily about my work. There. I said it. Click and Clack the Good News Garage guys on NPR (although Tom is no longer with us) have a "Shameless Commerce" section of the show where they push their own stuff. I always think of that when I push my own stuff but this is important: Ever wonder what you would do as an artist if you had all the time you wanted, the wherewithal to go where you wanted and the ability to make all the work you wanted? Would this allow the floodgates of limitless creativity to open for you and would the world welcome this new output with open arms? Or would the well run dry? Below I share with you one person's account.

Read on dear reader, as I welcome you to my nightmare.

First of all, you could get complacent. Kick back, relax, put your feet up, languish on some tropical island and view the world through your Ray Bans. Although there certainly are times when I do just that, mostly I work.

2014 was a good year for making art as it turns out as I made a lot. Many of you know I retired  from teaching in 2012 and ever since have devoted most of my time to making pictures, with frequent travel to support the making of new pictures.

In 2014 I did this:

-Aerials, CA
-Before and After Aerials, CA
-Skate Parks, CA
-Tafoni, CA
-Function and Form, Wheat, WA
-Monsters, MA
-National Museum of Medicine and Health, MD
-Tom's Neck, Martha's Vineyard, MA
-South Woods Farm, Oak Bluffs, MA
-Connecticut River Trip NH/VT
-The Wall, Chelsea, MA
-Car Show, Martha's Vineyard, MA
-Waves, Martha's Vineyard, MA

In addition, as I spent a couple of weeks in Europe in the fall, there is work coming from there, but not yet finished.


Call me up, or contact 555 Gallery where I show my work, and ask to see any of these. They are printed and ready to look at. This means they are specific portfolios and range from 13 x 19 inch prints on up to 24 x 30's and larger.

What can I derive from all this work I make now that there is at least the perspective of looking back at it from early 2015? That there is good and bad news. To have this much work shot, made and finished is a good thing, definitely. It better be a good thing as I have worked long hours here. Work finished and sitting on a shelf means the freedom and ability to move on to new projects. I am proud of much of these photographs and my work has grown and deepened too over this past year.There is more written text that goes along with my work, not as an explainer so much but to set the emotional tone of the piece. I think this is the influence of writing this blog so often. I am more aware of writing in general too after co-teaching last spring at Penland with the author Chris Benfey. As a younger man I don't think I could formulate words to go with my work very well and there wasn't a vehicle for putting words out there the way there is now. With some exceptions I am working more symphonically, to use a musical analogy.  Therefore, I am making statements that are broader in scope, with analogies to things going on in the world, in the  environment, in art and with my own perceptions. I still have a sense of humor as I am not a total cynic. I still make smaller pieces too, shorter bodies of work that are of a place or a glimpse into something, not intended to be big and expansive.

The bad news is that this is simply too much from one person and too much for anyone to look at and to grasp, handle, curate or show, regardless of whether the work is good or not. Perhaps people need multiple visits to see it all. Good luck with that. Curators are busy people. This is an aside but BTW: This is years ago but a local curator made it his summer project to look at my work made over my career. Just about all of it. He was at the studio faithfully, a day a week, to look at photographs through the whole summer.  Even then there was too much work. At the end of the summer he had a good working knowledge of my work and was conversant on much of it.  One small problem. He died the following fall. I've always wondered if maybe I killed him. One idea is to put work into books... thin, modest, small books made on demand and designed to be available as a number of books, 30 or 40 maybe. We'll see.

Central Valley, CA

I had a museum curator to the gallery recently. She arrived at 11 am and left a little before 2.  She looked at work, we talked and had lunch. It was good. At the end she said, glassy eyed, "No, I'm fine. It really wasn't too much." Of  course it was. I was   tired of looking halfway through the time we had together and I made the freaking pictures! On the other hand, to her credit, this curator has looked at more work in the past few years than many throughout my career and she's still looking.  She's either a sucker for punishment or she sees something worth looking at. 

So, I say this with, believe me, all due humility, no inflated sense of self or ego. This is the way I work. It is not necessarily a good thing but people have to deal with it. An artist presumably wouldn't change his/her manner of working for the end game of sales off the gallery wall or the one person show at a prestigious museum. I have never made work with this kind of calculation. I have just made my pictures.

Part of the problem or good thing (depending on your view) is that I work in series. I   am a professional sequencer, shooting and editing my work to put pictures next to pictures.That makes for more pictures. So be it. Do I ever believe there are too many pictures in a given series? Oh yeah. Do I frequently go back in there and pull pictures out? No, I do not. For better or worse, series are usually done and finished when printed, sequenced and boxed. They are, for me, like a published book. Already printed.

Chelsea, MA

So, my friends, be careful what you wish for. Finally and perhaps more seriously, I would not change anything about my life right now; my work, my age, my income (well, more would be better. I could get the sports car I want and use it to go where I want to make, you guessed it... more pictures!), my relationships, my travels, my daily routines and rituals, all exist at a time when I still can do and am very actively doing.

Thanks for reading.

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted January 13, 2015