As the year comes to a close it is interesting to look back at my art and the path it has taken. This year, 2015, I started off with a solo exhibition of my straight black & white landscape work, the exhibition was called Forest and Flow. I ended with the museum exhibition, Quiet Places, where my photography took a big step away from tradition in some respects. It was extremely liberating to get away from the traditional framed and matted prints offered in print editions, and move on to unique one-of-a-kind photographs, some pieces almost blurring the lines between photography and painting.
I love traditional photography. I love a beautifully matted and framed print. I love having the understanding, decades of experience, and skill to photograph using large format film, and to make prints in the traditional darkroom. I love knowing how to make my own gelatin dry plate emulsions, and how to make authentic tintype photographs. I doubt I’ll ever stop any of this, but I’m feeling a shift in my art.
Perhaps the fellowship from the Racine Art Museum helped free my mind a bit. It finally allowed me to see that art photography doesn’t need to be confined to print editions, or mats, or frames. My large mixed media photo encaustics were born from this change in my perception of “art photography.”
Working on my fellowship exhibit pieces freed my mind and creativity, yet oddly once the exhibition was hung, a creative block quickly overcame me. Sure, I made some nice photos during the creative block, but they were just back to the type which would be more fitting to mat and frame. They didn’t feel like the art I had just spent a year and a half creating for the exhibition. The creative block continued, maybe even worsened.
Freeing the creative block seemed like a daunting task. It is almost like working at a job you don’t like, feeling like you are stuck there and don’t know how to leave and move on to something different. Finally a fellow artist (thanks Maureen) suggested that maybe I should just do something totally different than my photography. A great idea! I tried a few things in my main studio, but nothing felt right. Then one day while working in my home studio it all came together. Cardboard from the recycling, old house paint from the previous owner, and bits and pieces of old paper that came from my parent’s attic. These small abstract pieces were born. They became a somewhat daily meditation on creating. The creativity flowed once again.
In the past couple weeks I’ve created a dozen or more of these abstract pieces. I’m really enjoying creating them, and I’ve been surprised to see the positive feedback they have received when I post them on Facebook and Instagram. My art photography became my career, my attempts to make a living. Creating these abstract pieces have just been for my enjoyment and creative outlet. No goals of selling them, or trying to get gallery shows, only to create and enjoy.
I doubt that I will completely change my artistic direction to abstract painting, especially since it has taken me thirty years to find and refine my creative voice and vision with my photography. Yet for now these small abstract paintings are the creative outlet which my mind and spirit need.