Water View for a Landlocked Garden

Moving to the East Side of Providence has wonderful perks.  But like everything else in life there are trade-offs.  For avid gardner Sally Shwartz it was a challenging one.  Her previous home had a water view that was a vital element in her garden design.  Now, instead of an ever-changing palette of sky-colored moving water, her backyard ended with a poorly maintained peeling brick wall belonging to her neighbor. My 3 inch by 10 inch image of the Slocum River became the source for her daily dose of "blue." Wistfully she moved the little panel from the top of her computer to all the windows looking out on her garden. 

Out of the blue -- no pun intended -- the solution suddenly became obvious: she needed an image measured in feet not inches, and one that really lived outside. Like me, Sally likes to think outside the box, and when I proposed the idea of creating a large-scale fine art image using billboard technology she jumped on board.  Having printed several of my Art Drive fish on weather tolerant material I was confident that we could get the color and quality needed. After a lot of careful planning, measuring and tweaking the blue tones, “River View” was installed. The three panels span 9 feet and they have transformed this Providence backyard. As the light changes throughout the day, the image changes with it - sometimes reflecting real clouds from above or the green light of new leaves moving in the wind.  At 9:30 on a cloudy evening, ambient city light makes the river glow as if the moon is shining on it….

I look forward to photographing it in each season.

The last panel goes up.

 

View from the deck.

 

No more ugly brick wall from the kitchen window.

Vistas

The other day I decided it was time to check out a hike through an aspen grove that my friend assured me was both delightful and flat.  So we piled into the car to find the trailhead which is twelve miles outside of town.  As we approached the turnout my coastal brain had a total "duh" moment.  In climbing 3,500 feet in elevation we had left the Santa Fe spring of forsythia and blooming ornamental trees behind.  Our hike was a short one, about 200 yards before the snow was too deep to walk in without snowshoes.  Lovely nonetheless.

Aspen Grove in Spring

Along the coast, the water in the atmosphere often fills the air with mystery, fog and diffuse light. Here in New Mexico, where the Great Plains, Sonoran Desert and the Rocky Mountains collide, the air is dry and crystal clear. The distant clouds provide the only hint of water.

Last light of day on the Rio Grande gorge looking towards Mt. Baldy

Valles Caldera - a 13 miles long meadow that sits on top of a super volcano that last erupted 50,000 years ago.

The Moment of Truth

My was tripod precariously perched along the rocky and muddy stream edge and I was so engrossed in the scene unfolding in my lens that I failed to hear the pack of dogs coming to swim.  Most of them were a bit spooked by my presence and stopped on the bridge above me, but one young pup was beside himself with excitement.  He had found the biggest "fetch" ever – the 8 foot length of bamboo that was holding my botanic still life in the current.  It was the moment of truth.  I could protect my bamboo or my tripod, but not both.   Before the pup scored a total victory, the owner came down the trail and called him away, apologizing for his dog’s lack of appreciation for fine art photography.  

Some days I come home from the woods with good images, some days there is nothing to show for my time except a good story. But whatever the outcome, time spent watching the myriad of dramas unfolding in the moving water always makes me happy.

My Garden and Brook images begin with a walk around the garden.  I snip specimens for their lines, shape and color and bring them to moving water.  Yesterday’s bouquet and the October light was so beautiful I had to stop and compose some "dry" still life images.

Images from The Garden and Brook series will be on display at several shows between now and the year's end.  Check the Exhibitions page for details.

Change of Scene - Industrial Riverfront

The early morning October light is something I try not to miss.  Most mornings I head for places of quiet refuge where the scene is painted by Mother Nature and the chorus is one of birds and bugs.  The other day I decided it was time for a change of pace - and made the industrial riverfront of the Acushnet River my destination.  This river forms New Bedford harbor and man has had a heavy hand here.  The shoreline is ringed for miles by a stone hurricane dike and the riverbed suffers from industrial pollutants dumped from brick mills in the days before the Clean Water Act.  A more gentle hand is at play these days: old mills are becoming artist spaces and condos, the riverbed is being cleaned up and riverfront parks and harbor walkways are coming to life.  But much remains to be done.

Mother Nature enroaching on man's design

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On the Streets of Philadelphia

Philadelphia has a long and rich history of public art.  On an early morning walk in the City Center I came across this mural that was very intriguing because it seemed to have so much depth. 

When I got up close I found that the texture comes from material that appears in different places to be either woven, crumpled, stitched or sculpted.

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Desktop Dreaming....

For several years I have wanted to create a calendar using images that convey the quiet beauty of the South Coast.  But rather than employ a traditional design I was determined to use a panoramic format. But try as I might – I could not make it work. So I decided to let Google be in the calendar business and instead I would make a "mini art gallery" of the seasons – a little desktop gift for the imagination. Freed from the constraints of days and dates, the images invite the viewer to daydream, to find art to suit the mood of the moment – to revel in the beauty of an October sky, to feel the winter quiet of a snowy day, or the hope of a spring crocus.

The Desktop Gallery: South Coast Seasons includes 12 scenes and a unique wooden display stand made by Andrew Peppard Furniture Design.  It will be available in my studio during the Art Drive, August 8 & 9, and in my Online Store

Desktop Gallery dimensions: 9” wide, 3” deep, 4” tall.

Digital DNA for Belissima Blue

If amino acids are the building blocks of life, single images or fragments of them are the DNA of composite images.  These are the building blocks of Belissima Blue, my contribution to the 2015 Art Drive School of Bodacious Bonito.

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This project begins in January when our local boatyard cuts 36 fish from marine plywood. The fish are approximately 4 feet x 2.5 feet, and this year it is a bonito, a member of the tuna family.  Each of the participating Art Drive artists starts with the same wooden form and each gives their fish a truly unique, artful and often fanciful interpretation.

During this long snowy winter, my naked fish sat patiently waiting while I worked on a fine art portfolio project.  In refining a body of work, there are always good pieces that just don’t make the final cut. Some of these "rejects" became Bellisima Blue. I imagined the luscious peachy opalescent tones from my moribund nautilus project as translucent fins. I knew that close-up shell curves could be re-purposed as the dividing line between head and body,  with hosta vein patterns for sinuous scales….

For me, creating a composite image like Belissima Blue is a process of love, learning and letting-go. To get from my vague starting notions of color, shape and texture to the final product requires hours of practice, reading, and watching tutorials. Often I learn a new technique and then have to abandon that element when it doesn’t fit with the evolving “canvas.”  Those opalescent tones that so attracted me had to become more blue and less peachy for visual unity.

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But here she is! – happily swimming in my garden until she starts her summer rounds visiting the Rhode Island Botanic Center and Westport River Winery.  All the details about the 2015 Bodacious Bonitos will be posted on the Art Drive website in June, including where they will be and how you can have one of your very own!

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

It is a few days before Spring makes its appearance on the calendar, if not in the landscape.  Despite the lingering snow and a new crop of icicles replacing the ones that just melted, there are moments to relish simple things like stairs without snow.  As beautiful as the snow was, all 90 inches of it, I found that my color photos did not capture the feeling of that stark monochrome landscape so I returned to my roots in black and white.

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Thoughts for a New Year

Unlike the past few years, I am beginning 2015 at home by the fire. There are no travel plans in sight, except for meanderings down memory lane as I attempt to winnow 5 boxes of family photos and personal history into a small collection.  Having successfully printed a book of my trip to Iceland I am feeling inspired to collect the family photos and history, digitize them and put them into a book or two.  Digital formats will come and go, old snapshots will yellow and crumble, but I still have faith that books will be around for future generations to enjoy.

Creating family books is only one of many projects that will be keeping me busy this winter.  My website and portfolios are getting a thorough review during my mentorship with Alison Shaw.  As you notice changes, your feedback is always appreciated.  I continue to seek out new and interesting ways to present images. I don’t know why, but I have this dream of printing images, really big, on silk, metal, and vinyl.  The first biggie – 4’x’4’ image -is scheduled to go on permanent display mid-February at Graphic Innovations in Rhode Island.  I am hoping to complete a 12’x4’ image for outdoor display before 2015 is over.

Another project is learning how to use a GoPro camera.  This tiny, indestructible beast is not commonly used by fine art photographers. It belongs to what I call the “adventure nuts.”  These are the young people that like to cycle to the top of the Himalayas, kayak over 100 ft waterfalls, surf the killer waves, hang glide off cliffs, etc. You know the type.  They love GoPro cameras because they can be out in any weather, mounted on any helmet, bike, sled dog...and take videos and photos.

My adventure plans for the GoPro are much more modest.  I want to put it into the streams where I have been shooting The Garden and the Brook images. Can I capture the meeting of plant and stream from the water’s perspective?  Can I shoot botanicals from below, looking up through the water?  What do ripples look like from below?  

The only way to learn how to use the GoPro is to experiment and watch YouTube videos.  All of the videos are of course done by twenty-somethings who, unlike me, never struggle to read the print on the camera’s tiny LCD screen.  Their youthful exuberance is the perfect antidote for feeling old when the Medicare card arrives.

Wishing you the best in 2015.

                    Copper Stream -Variation 2

Ripple Geometry Memories

In November I will be having a show, Ripple Geometry, at Gallery 65 on William Street in New Bedford.  The opening reception will be on AHA Night, Thursday, November 13 from 5-9pm.

Each time I type the gallery address, it seems as though a new memory surfaces.  When I was a little girl, my grandfather owned a business just down the street from Gallery 65. Back then, this part of downtown was at best seedy and at night it was downright dangerous. The old bank building across the street was a bar with scary looking guys straight out of a James Cagney movie. On hot days they sat outside on the steps with cigarette packs rolled up in their t-shirt sleeves and beer bottles in their hands. Arguments often spilled out into the street -- live theater that I could watch while safe inside “the shop” I loved to visit. When the excitement died down outside, there was always my grandfather’s rolltop desk.  My child’s eye found a whole magic world of little drawers and hidden compartments in that desk.  Eventually Papa would shoo me away and I would head to the curved window nook filled from floor to ceiling with boxes of brightly colored thread. I wasn’t supposed to touch but……

When the Wamsutta Mills left town for South Carolina the family business moved into one of their old warehouses. The seedy bar has become the National Park Visitor Center in a rich and lively arts community.  The little girl who never had a real art class before the age of 40 is having an exhibit just up the street.  Dreams unimagined sometimes come true.