I talk to myself most of the time, so I guess I can soliloquize about anything. So I will share my observations on photography that have been the result of choosing some work to enter into the upcoming Tampa Regional Artist’s show. Having just received a grant from the Hillsborough County Arts Council for meeting some of the cost of my new solo exhibition, “Between the Gulfs: Halfway to Eternity,” new paintings were on my mind. Although it will debut in Fort Myers next year, work must begin now. The grant will help with materials, framing, and photographic documentation.
In the midst of donations for fundraising events at the Carrollwood Cultural Center here, and the Morean Art Center in St.Petersburg, and family and business, I was asked if I had any photography to enter for the TRA show. I spent an entire day on the computer looking through and reorganizing the massive amount of photos I had taken this year for the blogs and as my own “notes” for future paintings, and was shocked to discover there was very little that fell into “art.” Oh, there were many shots with good composition, color, and content, but very few could actually stand on their own as an artistic statement. What I mean is that the camera is not an artist’s hand, which alters visual material into unique creations. Yes, the artist can use the camera, but even with skillful editing and procedures, a photograph has a problem of repetition. Yes, Schoodic/Acadia was spectacular to me as I observed it daily from June to the end of October. But what I experienced there just wasn’t the way it is when I paint it. I could see the change in light due to the earth’s changing axis and the seasonal aspects. But without the sounds of the surf and the cinematic progression of the symphonic fireworks of fall, the pictures were not “art” enough to frame and enter. I could see in each photograph, and remember, what it is that prompted that shot in very specific terms. Even with editing and cropping, most fell short of what I saw and experienced to a larger or lesser degree. After a week of thinking and looking, I found 6 images out of maybe 2,000 that were acceptable as “art.” Many were valuable as “shorthand” or notes, but not able to stand apart from the millions of pictures I have seen of waves, cliffs, rocks, and all the things I love so deeply.
Of the six I finally chose, was there a common element that they shared? Yes, an element of surprise, of the unexpected, which led to wondering, within the photograph, what was the story? For example, the boat at low tide in Prospect Harbor. When I took it to George, our framer, he asked if it had just rained, or was about to? Was it low tide, and what was the boat doing there? There is a mystery that draws one into the scene. The same thing happens with the picture of the glass table in our garden room in Florida, where the brass candelabrum is reflected upside down, and the harlequin carpet is mirrored in the pedestal. Your eye tries to comprehend what is actually there, while at the same time enjoying the harmony and composition. The two masks seem to exist in a deep stillness at night in the garden room. They were painted by the boys when they were younger, and reveal their contrasting expression and character. The fire pit photo has a deep Rembrandt chiaroscuro, and after a bit of cropping, one son is dimly visible on the left. When the “charcoal” was cleaned out in the basement in Maine under the woodstove, Matt found that when he threw it into the fire it created the incandescent column of sparks. One afternoon, I was sitting at the desk in the studio in Florida, and the sun came through the skylight, lighting up a “gargoyle” I had made in high school, and miniature chandeliers fastened to a metal basket that used to hold oil cans. I took many shots as the sun mellowed into liquid gold (my favorite time of day, really). Again, it could recall a story that might have as many endings as individual as the viewers seeing the image.
So, the same motivation and actuality that I seek in painting shows itself in these photographs. I have to pick three for the show. After George frames all six (five shown), we will have to choose which ones, I suppose, tell the most interesting and exciting story. Something tells me that might be difficult! Which would you chose?