Posts Tagged ‘color’

What Draws Me To Photography

August 18th, 2011 No comments

I was thinking about what draws me to photography…. I guess I like the magic of it. When I was really young, I got a Polaroid “swinger” camera, and I loved waiting for the picture to appear on the print ejected from the camera.

Then when I was first married, my husband bought me a nice camera and we turned our only bathroom into a darkroom and I was introduced to more magic. Again, it was watching the print appear on previously blank paper.

I was always fascinated with seeing the world through different eyes. I think I’m sort of a kid. I just love pretending, and back then I used to wonder what the world looked like to an insect, or to a dog. Or a few years later, to my children.

When I was in college I studied art and music, and it was always REALLY interesting to me how artists influenced musicians, and musicians influenced artists. I was fascinated with the effects of the Paris Exposition of 1889 on Debussy, Ravel, and the impressionistic painters of the day. What we do in the world affects so much beyond us. I loved studying how African art is an extension of their daily life. It is practical and beautiful and soulful all at the same time. I think there is some of that in my images. At least I hope so.

As time went by, I was forced to deal with the business of life and not spend much time on my photography. I had changed careers by then and was earning my living through my computer science skills. I watched as the digital age of photography approached. When I felt the quality of digital images was high enough, I leapt back into photography.

I am filled with wonder at how deeply interconnected things in nature are. I am still the little kid when I see some of the amazing works of man, and observe how man-made things interact with nature. How can we ever feel apart from each other, the things we make and the natural world? It is part of us. I feel that connection when I look at things up close. I am trying to “know” the object of my photograph.

Image of Curves #8388

Curves #8388

Oh, and I am so into color, glorious color. Color that draws me in and makes me lose my sense of time and place. I love mystery. I am a huge fan of Mark Rothko and Wassily Kandinsky. I see patterns everywhere, some obvious and some very subtle. Patterns and the color and texture of the objects that form the patterns are of central interest to me.

So why photography? I think of my camera as secondary to what I am trying to express. The camera is the tool. But I like the limits it puts on me. When I was a kid I used to sculpt things. And I really liked subtracting the medium and liberating my subject from the block of plaster (or bar of soap!). Photography works like that… you take a picture that captures the light on your subject. Then you reduce it to the most relevant depiction of your vision. It is never reality, but it hopefully represents real experiences, feelings, and relationships.
And I like being outside and mobile, too. I am part of the world and I want to see it. I want to really stop to see and experience it.

But the fun doesn’t stop there! I can hardly wait until I get to my computer and upload my pictures. I really like the digital darkroom. I use software that allows me to make many more creative decisions in transforming a digital negative into a print. I love that freedom. Sometimes those decisions are obvious and routine. Crop this, sharpen that. But other times an image just grabs me and I know that I can play with it and create perhaps several final prints, each unique in its own way. It is such a powerful urge. Working on an image on the computer is at least half of my process. When I play in the digital darkroom, I lose track of everything else sometimes for hours. I try to subtract everything that doesn’t contribute to the essence of the image. And sometimes the creative process itself generates a new vision that leads to unexpected places. An Adventure! I’m smiling inside at the memory. And when I finally push away from my computer, I feel like I did when I was a kid and came into the house after an afternoon of hard play. ..exhausted, and exuberant.

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Thiebaud’s Color Revelations at Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum

October 22nd, 2010 No comments

It is my last “furlough Friday” hopefully. I am sitting in my studio at the computer sipping the morning cup o’ joe. Over the quiet hum of my computer and the tap of my fingers on the keyboard, I hear the soaring voices of the luminous and uplifting recording of Eric Whitacre’s “Cloudburst” and other works performed by Polyphony and Stephen Layton. It sets a contemplative tone for my day today. Utter loveliness. It tightens my throat to hear it.

We had always planned to visit the opening of Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum’s new wing, but it took a phone call from a friend to get us into action (this is Your phone call!). Years ago I had performed at the Crocker as a musician, and had enjoyed viewing the art work of some fine painters of the American West. We’ve loved being members of SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) and the de Young Museum(also in SF). Anyway, last weekend I got a call from my son living in San Francisco that his roommate’s mom (a painter) was visiting from New York and wanted to see the Wayne Thiebaud: Homecoming exhibit at the newly expanded Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. It was quickly decided that this should be a group excursion. My son was particularly interested to attend the show with my husband because David studied painting with Mr. Thiebaud many years ago.

After paying our admission (which we applied toward a membership), we climbed the stairs to the second floor of the new wing to see the Thiebaud exhibit. Right there in the hallway, I was captured. Of course, I’ve seen Thiebaud’s work in books and slideshows. But I’m telling you, NOTHING compares to seeing it in person. What I missed in the 2D representations of his work was the Paint. My God. The way the man uses paint is electrifying. He is generous with it. He uses the paint to add a topographic dimension to his paintings that I totally missed by viewing pictures of his work. These hills and valleys, furrows and perturbations of the force found in his brush strokes add impact and emotion to his representations. There was a fairly recent painting of a dog on the beach where Thiebaud’s use of frantic brushstrokes outlining the figure of the dog gave me the illusion that I was seeing the wet pet shake water all over the place. It evoked memories of seeing a similar scene so familiar to me.

Another wonderful gift of seeing Thiebaud’s work up close was the impact of his use of color. Musicians know that each time we play a musical note there are reverberations of related tones called harmonics that hang in the air with the pitch we just played and help give the tone its characteristic sound or timbre. Well, Thiebaud plays with harmonics  of color. The edges of his figures and subjects vibrate with colorful overtones. They aren’t pastels either. They electrify his images. I felt like I was being swept into another world looking at his paintings. It added a sense of heightened reality and more. It was Super-real.  I rushed from painting to painting ingesting that electricity and intensity. Wow! I felt changed inside. I looked at his portrait of a man in a white button-down shirt. Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? But the white shirt had a rainbow of color harmonics in it that I instantly recognized as something I had always seen, but never seen. Now I am looking for all the colors I have been missing when I let my brain fill in the blanks instead of really seeing what is actually in front of me.

On a last sad and yet humorous note, I was so excited about seeing the show that I completely missed the rest of the museum and the fact that there were 12-15 MORE Thiebaud works on the third floor. Don’t make my mistake! I’m going back this weekend to enjoy the rest of the show and to actually look at the other Crocker offerings!

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Categories: Art, Painting