I have a friend

I have a friend who is a subscriber to this blog. He will remain nameless but I got a somewhat exasperated and brief email from him that said to give you process and thoughts on where it all comes from. He's right. 

I don't know that I can do that but I can at least tell you my background and perhaps influences on me and my work.

I think it's mainly my mom. So much of what we become comes from someone giving us permission. Not in a conscious way but in a manner that shows us a different path that someone's taken. She was brought up in St. Charles, MO; tall, loud, maybe a little coarse but loved art and was often a good painter. She loved Stravinksy, the garden at MOMA, to laugh, to drink and flirt and party, and my dad. When she married my parents moved to New Canaan, CT to raise their family. My dad worked in Manhattan. My mom's life said it was okay to lead mine differently and I have. She also instilled in me and my two sisters a love of creating  that has sustained me through a long time of making art.

My aesthetic? It's roots? In post WW II modern art sensibilities: Danish  furniture, architect houses, jazz and the modernist musicians and composers, minimalism. Picasso and Mondrian and Leonard Bernstein and My Fair Lady and/or West Side Story, top forty tunes into late night on AM next to my bed from an old radio with a creaky knob for a tuner and a faint glow from its dial, playing the piano, things mechanical like go karts, bikes, and later cars. Girls, dances, four years of boarding school in the first Shaker Community in the US, sports, girls, and, oh yes, girls.

When I got to the University of Denver as a freshmen I did the same thing as so many others: I played. I mostly skied, drove fast cars, joined a fraternity, hell, was the social chairman of my fraternity, partied. By the time I was flunking most of my courses the middle of my junior year I was enrolled in a 2D Design course that changed my life and was getting a straight A but it was too late. I was asked to leave the University.

Three months later I was a full time student in a junior art school in southern Connecticut taking courses in sculpture, drawing, painting, glass blowing and art history. And getting A's.

The rest is easy as I'd found my path. I've quoted this before but here it is again in case you missed it:

Thirty-five years ago, when the concept of being an artist for the rest of my life first dawned on me, I had little to show; no skills, little education, no ability to define what it would be like to be an artist and few mentors. But my job seemed clear: I needed to learn my chosen discipline and produce work. This I proceeded to do, learning as I went, adding a series of photographs or a group of pictures that were an idea, concept or an interest on top of a stack of others that would grow over a whole career. This program entailed life-long learning. Parts of my process would change: my understanding of the medium would grow and evolve during these years. Photography too would change; movements in contemporary art and society would affect me in obvious and subtle ways. However, the requirement was to make the best work I could, to stay active, to produce work that was both quantitatively and qualitatively as consummate as I knew then how to make it. This I’ve done. As I grew and understood more about photography as an art form, and worked to master my technique and refine my aesthetic, I became more comfortable with my place in the discipline. I no longer was aspiring to be something. I was heavily engaged in the making. Finally, I have sought, quite simply, to make a contribution to the medium of photography.

It seems a little strange to be quoting myself but I think our lives are like that, segmented into different versions of ourselves through the times we live in. The above was written in 2003 when I was applying for a promotion to full professor at Northeastern University, where I taught. And yes, I got the promotion. I was the first assistant professor of photography at Northeastern, the first tenured professor in photography and the first full professor of photography at Northeastern. You might be able to tell but I am proud of that.

So there's some background on me and  perhaps provides some insight as where I come from aesthetically.

This below from the early fifties, with my two sisters. Me with hair!

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Permalink | Posted February 27, 2013