“A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.” — George Carlin
During the course of our lives, we collect a lot of stuff. Souvenirs from special times. Gifts from friends. Everyday items. Things that resonate with us for reasons we can’t always explain. Yet the stuff remains on a mantle or shelf, in a closet, in a box in the garage . . .
Over time, we become snowblind to our stuff. Then something happens. Like, say, a global pandemic that forces everyone inside for the duration.
What to do? Why not look around at all the stuff that has been hiding in plain sight. Rediscover the stuff that defines you, or reveals you. That marks notable events in your life. That reminds you of your own interests and sensibilities. That simply provides a nostalgic moment. Or that tells you it’s time to finally throw some crap away.
Sheltering in place has given me that chance to rediscover myself and reconnect with my past. Welcome to my world, through my stuff.
Through the Drinking Glass
"It seems very pretty," she said . . . “but it’s rather hard to understand!” . . . “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don’t exactly know what they are!” — Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Through the Drinking Glass uses glass vessels to explore the interplay of light and shadow and line and form. Photographing the objects from above in bright sunlight reveals shapes and patterns that constantly change with the angle and intensity of the sun. Shadows of upright vessels reveal unseen lines and imperfections. Shadows of vessels on their side provide a 3-D effect, like an exploded diagram. As Alice knows, the results are eye-catching, yet at times confounding.
The life of the Southwestern desert — a place often dismissed as a vast wasteland where there is “nothing to see” — is the subject of these panoramic landscapes. The images are inspired by a classic series of Midwestern landscapes by mid-century fine art photographer Art Sinsabaugh. He revealed the vitality in the flat, featureless landscape of rural Illinois — another place where there is seemingly “nothing to see” — by severely cropping out the sky and foreground to focus attention on the imagery along the horizon line.
Although my approach and style differ, my elongated images provide a similar graphic framework for focusing attention on the diverse physical elements and human interventions at play in the desert environment.
Skyways celebrates the sculptural beauty of freeway interchanges and bridges. Freeways are one of the defining elements of the contemporary landscape. Yet the artistry of freeway architecture and engineering is difficult to appreciate when speeding by at 75 mph. From a static viewpoint, however, the flowing lines and gravity-defying nature of these structures give them an artful presence.
The great photographic artist Catherine Opie, in describing her own Freeway series of a quarter-century ago, mused that freeways might, in some post-apocalyptic future, mark the remains of a human culture, similar to the ancient pyramids of Egypt. There’s no question that freeways are often highly divisive constructions, with serious social, economic, and environment impacts. But they are also magnificent engineering and design achievements. By abstracting their lines, my high-key, minimalist images emphasize their sculptural grace, leaving it to viewers to ponder how they will be perceived in the future.
From the Workshop
From the Workshop explores the creative impulse and the power of artistic expression no matter what the form. It honors the craftsmanship of my father and explores his artistic journey.
My father was a mechanical engineer by profession, but woodworking was his passion. He was most content in his workshop (a.k.a. the garage of our family home), surrounded by his tools and piles of assorted soft- and hardwoods. Each new project was an invitation to explore design styles, materials, and woodworking techniques to create something that was uniquely his own.
The furniture he made filled the home I grew up in — and now my home and the homes of my brother and sister. Dad’s woodwork has always been a point of pride for us, but we didn’t fully comprehend the depth of his commitment until recently. That’s when we discovered, buried deep inside a storage locker, the meticulous notes, sketches, detailed plans, and even bills and receipts that he kept for each of his creations. And there were boxes and boxes of the tools to build them, so many tools. The discovery enriched our appreciation of his desire not only to make things, but also to be creative and artful in what he built.
These resources have enabled me to carry forward his artistic journey. In this series I employ a range of image-making styles and techniques to make his work uniquely my own. In addition to straight prints, I create grids and collages to evoke his work process, sophisticated woodworking techniques, creative detail, and devotion to his work. With 3-dimensional constructions, I make both my photography and his work tangible. The resulting images and constructions celebrate the passion of a craftsman.
This series honors the artistic impulse. Whether the label is craft, folk art, or fine art, the urge to create is a powerful, universal emotion.
Self Portraits with Stenosis
Living with a debilitating condition that is largely invisible to others is the subject of these self-portraits.
I’m not that old. At least, that’s what I like to tell myself. But my body would beg to differ. What began as soreness and stiffness in my legs progressed to more intractable pain, stiffness, shocks, and numbness. Getting to “why” involved understanding a fundamental disconnect between cause and effect: the problem is in my back, not my legs.
The diagnosis: Severe spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease. The effect: Narrowing of the spinal canal, which constricts the nerves leading to the lower body, causing pain, stiffness, and loss of sensation. The treatment: Lumbar laminectomy and thoracic fusion — so far. The prognosis: Who knows?
In this series, I go beyond the straight print to describe the physical and emotional effects of my condition. Interventions with the flat print, grids, collages, 3-dimensional constructions provide metaphors for my condition. Performances in front of the camera make visible feeling and sensations that are otherwise hidden from view.
I began this series assuming that I was documenting an episode. I now realize that it’s a new reality, shared by many. At some point we all must when we must question basic assumptions about health, personal mobility, and what lies ahead.
Modern Relics is a nostalgic look at how quickly modern becomes vintage. These pinhole photographs remember products that not so long ago were the epitome of the new in form and function. Now they are quaint reminders of the rapidly accelerating pace of innovation.
The pinhole technique, which dates back to the origins of photography, creates images that blur the details, allowing the ravages of time and use to fade away. What remains is the essence of the iconic designs. My process bridges the new and old. I use a digital camera body, but in place of a lens I use a body cap with a tiny pinhole drilled in the center. This blending of modern and vintage reminds us that while technology is ever-changing, the opportunity for reinvention is ever-present.
Eyewitness News is part of an ongoing series that celebrates the daily newspaper while lamenting its marginalization and fearing for its future.
As a one-time newspaper reporter, I still value the ritual of finding a curated collection of news, prepared by trained professional journalists, on my doorstep each morning. The daily rhythm of a newspaper provides time for at least a moment’s reflection on breaking news. The format provides readers a means of judging the relative importance of individual articles, while also offering the serendipity of exposure to ideas outside their own narrow interests. And the layout offers the opportunity to mix text, images, and graphics in ways that can even be artful.
Today, more than ever, we need the newspaper’s watchful eye.