The Thread in the River- Installing the Show

To say that I have been buried in the preparations for this show the past few months is to make a gross understatement. The pace has been non-stop, but it has all come together without any last-minute disasters, which is a miracle. I went down to the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery today to help with the layout of the work as it is installed. Since virtually none of this work has ever been exhibited before, I am beyond nervous as to the impact it will have once it is all up.

Installing "The Thread in the River" exhibition at the Weston Art Gallery, Cincinnati, OH

The show consists of 6 different bodies of work. Will all of those series make sense when seen together in the same space? Does the order and presentation of the work help the viewer make sense of it? Is it a problem that 2 of the series are in color and 4 are in black & white? Or that two series are presented as videos and 4 consist of still images? Does anything need rethinking for future exhibitions? What's missing that could make it stronger?

Initial installation of "The Wind Telephone" series at the Weston Art Gallery, Cincinnati, OH

Only about half of the work was up today, and none of the labels were done, so it was hard for me to answer those questions. I'm going back tomorrow to look things over again, and might get a better sense of it then.

Foto Founders Exhibition for FotoFocus 2016

When asked to participate in the Photo Founders exhibition at the Behringer Crawford Museum as a part of [embed]http://www.fotofocusbiennial.org/[/embed]

I initially thought that I would (of course) show new work. But the more I thought about it, the less I liked that idea. The concept of the show is to celebrate the work of the 5 founders of the university photography programs in the Cincinnati region. So I went into my archives and took a look, the first in a long time, at my Master of Fine Arts thesis photographs, with which I applied to the open position at the University of Cincinnati back in 1982. Since these were the pictures that got me the job that I remained in until recently, and since they had not been exhibited since 1983, I decided to show this work.

I wanted to see them up on the wall in order to reevaluate them, to see how they stand up over the test of time, to see what I can learn from my younger self when I was still figuring out my creative voice. Here are some of the images from that series, which was titled "Dancing on a Wall", and which were printed on Rockland Photo Aluminum:

Annie's Dream

Untitled #25

Dancing on a Wall


FotoFocus 2016 Exhibition Preparation

Photography is now an accepted part of a university curriculum, but that was not always the case. By the 1960's and 70's, the medium had firmly established itself in art and design programs around the US, including those at universities in the Cincinnati Tristate region. I was fortunate to be one of the early professors in the program at the University of Cincinnati, along with Jerry Stratton, who founded the program. The other photography program founders in the region are Cal Kowal at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and Barry Andersen and Barbara Houghton at Northern Kentucky University. This year for FotoFocus 2016, Cincinnati's biannual festival of photography,


the Behringer Crawford Museum is hosting an exhibition of photographs by us 5 Photo Founders, and it has been fun trying to decide what work to put into the show. I finally decided to exhibit photographs from my Masters of Fine Arts thesis show, "Dancing on a Wall", which has not been shown since 1983. More on the work itself in a later post, but here are a few images showing the final framing of the work, which will be delivered to the museum later this week. The show opens on Friday, September 30.

Pulling the protective coating off of a plexiglas sheet

Fitting the top onto the rest of the frame

Dayton Art Institute Artist's Talk

Tomorrow (Thur., Sept. 17) I'll be giving an artist's talk about the "Tears of Stone" show currently on exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute. The show is up through Sunday, October 4. Here's a link with more information about the lecture, which includes a short video of me talking about one of the pieces in the show.

I've spent the past few days putting this talk together. In brief, it will include information about the research I did for the project, the technical aspects and challenges of shooting it, and I'll be reading excerpts from my field notebooks about experiences I had while working on the project. I'm really thankful for the opportunity to do this- it's been a while since I've made a presentation about this work, and it's nice to get back to it.

Dayton Art Institute "Tears of Stone" Show Opening

"Tears of Stone: World War I Remembered" opened at the Dayton Art Institute today. It is paired with "Call to Duty", an exhibition of United States war posters from both world wars. Banner announcing the two shows on the exterior of the Dayton Art Institute

There was a Member's Opening a few days ago, which was really fun, and which spoke to my appreciation of detail. Below is an example of the table decorations in the reception hall. Please note that this is an ammunition box with shells draped over it! DSC_2669






I had to make a short speech to the assembled masses:DSC_2686

Here are a few pictures of the "Tears" installation:DSC_2698 DSC_2702






Thanks again to Laura Fisher (left) and Alex McClay (right), without whom I wouldn't get half the work done that I do get done:DSC_2719

Dayton Daily News Article on "Tears of Stone" Exhibit

The Dayton Daily News (DDN) published an article on my upcoming "Tears of Stone" exhibition in last Sunday's paper. Because the article is only available through subscription on the DDN's website, I have posted it below. Many thanks to Features reporter Meredith Moss for her insightful and comprehensive writing. Pages from DDN20150628

"Tears of Stone" at the Dayton Art Institute

My work on World War I remembrance, "Tears of Stone", is being exhibited at the Dayton Art Institute (DAI) from July 4 through October 4. I was able to travel there a couple of weeks ago in order to help train the docents and the show looks fantastic. The walls are painted a deep stone-grey that has slight hints of brown in it, which ensures that they enhance the tone of the photographs beautifully. Many thanks to the University of Cincinnati's Professor Theresa Leininger-Miller for bringing my work to the attention of the DAI and to Curator Aimee Marcereau Degalan, who has been such a pleasure to work with.

Thanks, too, go to my two assistants, Laura Fisher and Alex McClay, without whose help I would not get much done!

Alex McClay and I prepare a print for the DAI exhibition

The opening is in two days and I'll post more about it after that.

Pinhole Photography Exhibition in Santa Fe, NM

For decades, Eric Renner and Nancy Spencer have not only run The Pinhole Resource, they have also collected thousands of pinhole photographs and pinhole cameras from around the world. The Pinhole Resource Collection was recently accessioned to the Palace of the Governor's Photo Archives at the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, and it is on exhibit at the museum until March, 2015. Two of my photographs (see below) are included in the "Poetics of Light" exhibition, which I was fortunate enough to see earlier in the year.

Municipal War Memorial, Ypres, Belgium

Le Wettstein French Military Cemetery, France

Although I am well-aware of the wide-range of technical and aesthetic approaches to pinhole photography, I was completely blown away by this exhibit. It is educational, enlightening, and awe-inspiring. Beautifully presented, the 40 cameras and 225 photographs made me want to go out and use my pinhole cameras immediately, even though I didn't have one with me. Interestingly, the show had the same effect on the three non-photographers I was with. We were all amazed at the range of possibilities this type of camera has.

I don't know if this show will travel, but I hope it does. Anyone who is interested in photography, analog or digital, should have a chance to see it. Here is a brief article about it in the New Yorker magazine, which includes some of the images and cameras in the exhibit.

Below is a (somewhat blurry) picture of the section of the installation that my work is in, which gives you an idea of what the exhibition itself actually looked like. (The camera displayed below my images is the same make and model that I used for shooting the "Tears of Stone" project.)

If you find yourself in Santa Fe anytime between now and the end of March, check it out. It doesn't matter if you are a (pinhole) photographer or not- it's worth it, regardless!


Artists I Like- Vivian Maier

The Cincinnati Fotofocus Bienniel 2014 happened last month and I spent a considerable amount of time going to some of the exhibits that were up. Among the many that I liked, the show of Vivian Maier's work stood out for many reasons.vi finding-images-slide-OCW9-jumbo For those readers who are unfamiliar with her work, Maier was a nanny who worked primarily for families in Chicago. She was also a passionate photographer who would frequently go out into the streets with her Rolleiflex. She was a complete unknown until after she died in 2009, when her boxes of negatives were bought at auction and the images brought to the attention of others via exposure on the internet.


vivian_20Roberta Smith, in a NY Times review wrote that Maier's work "may add to the history of 20th-century street photography by summing it up with an almost encyclopedic thoroughness, veering close to just about every well-known photographer you can think of, including Weegee, Robert Frank and Richard Avedon, and then sliding off in another direction. Yet they maintain a distinctive element of calm, a clarity of composition and a gentleness characterized by a lack of sudden movement or extreme emotion."

Those sentiments sum up exactly what I was thinking when I saw this show. But I also couldn't help thinking how unique this exhibit was, in that the artist herself had no hand in it. The prints were not made by Maier, nor were they made under her supervision. The curator chose the images, the mats, and the frames, and specified in what order they would appear. It's rare that an exhibit happens under these kinds of circumstances, where the hand of the artist appears solely at the front end of the creative process.elle-vivian-maier-street-photography-8-de (As an aside, E. J. Bellocq's Storyville Portraits series and Eugene Atget's  photographs of turn-of-the-century Paris come to mind as other examples of this relatively rare phenomenon.)

In Maier's case, I couldn't help wondering if these images would have been those that the artist herself would have chosen to show us. What would she have picked instead? What themes would she have emphasized? As it was, the show was heavy on self-portraits and photographs of wealthy women in urban settings. It was fascinating to feel that Maier was not judging these women (ala Weegee), but rather observing them and presenting them to us for our own interpretation. I also vivian-maier-selfdidn't feel that she was comparing herself to them directly, although the juxtaposition of seeing her in the self-portraits with these other women led the viewer in that direction.

The exhibit was very powerful and moving, and I spent a lot of time there thinking once again about the role that editing plays in creating meaning in artwork.


The Importance of Presentation

There was a great article in the New York Times a couple of days ago that ruminated on the nature of museum artifacts and the power they have to emotionally move viewers, as well as to intellectually stimulate them. There are a number of shows currently up in NYC that succeed at these tasks more or less successfully. Part of the article discussed that the manner in which these artifacts are presented to the public makes a huge difference in how the public perceives and experiences them. If one can view the artifact in close physical proximity, "The artifact becomes a spur to the imagination: It reveals history as something lived, and thus as a result of choices made. We come more alert to the ways things are, and how different they might yet be..."

But, it goes on to say:

"If an exhibition is staged so we are placed too close to another world without being given tools to make sense of it, the effect is disorienting rather than clarifying. The artifacts can amaze, but we can't use our imagination to go further."

Exactly! The full article can be found here.

Planting Seeds....

In the mid-1990's, I was invited to exhibit images from the Stargazing project in Sao Paolo, Brazil. A catalog was published that included an image from that work. Fast forward to two days ago, when I received the following message from someone in Brazil through my Facebook page, which I have edited somewhat:

"A few weeks ago, while looking for references material to start drawing the graphic design of my first EP (CD) - I'm an actor, singer, producer (former MTV latin america) and performer, born in Sao Paulo - came to my hands,  the book "Fotografia Pensante" (edited by) the valuable and genius Luiz Guimaraes Monforte!"

He goes on to say that he found my photograph in the book as he leafed through it. Then he wrote:

"The impact that this image generated in my heart was so intense, that there is more than one week can not sleep! Seriosly!"

The idea that someone couldn't sleep for a week because of an image I made was.... well, way cool!!! But what struck me most about this is that once you put your work out into the world, you never know who will see it, when they will see it, or if it will resonate in any way with those who do see it.

It reminds me of the seeds of desert wildflowers that lie dormant for decades until just the right conditions occur that cause them to finally germinate and bloom. So plant the seeds, just get your work out there, and see what happens.

Seeing With Photography Collective

The recently-closed show at Prairie Gallery in Cincinnati showed work by the Seeing With Photography Collective. This is a group of photographers based in New York City who are either visually impaired, sighted, or totally blind. Their work is powerful in that it uses painting with light techniques to effectively create metaphorical meaning. jessica_with_lens I really like the fact that their work is so collaborative. Whether in color or black and white, this is work that is well worth seeing.

When Work Gets Returned

Last year I had an exhibit in the ArtXchange Gallery in Seattle. After the exhibition, they kept my work there in order to sell. What didn't sell was recently returned. The boxed-up  prints are now leaning against the wall in my front hall until I unpack them. It's funny how the return of work after an exhibition comes with a certain feeling of deflation. Getting work back means that the show is over, people aren't getting a chance to see in in person, time to look for the next show opportunity. Not to mention the fact that I have to find space to store it in until it goes out to the next venue. And I never seem to have enough space to store my artwork, no matter how many times I have purged my studio of work that I will no longer exhibit.

It's much more fun to make the work and put it out there in the world than it is to get it back!

Exhibition Review- Cincinnati Enquirer

Nice to see that the media in town is still interested in photography after FotoFocus ended. Click here to read a review of the "Landscapes of the Mind" show that appeared in last Sunday's Cincinnati Enquirer. My work is mentioned towards the end.

Since the writer referred to "Red Inner Bag #1, Fall, Aomori Prefecture" but didn't print it, here it is:

Thoughts on How Creative Interests Change Over Time

Having gone to the "Emmet Gowin and His Contemporaries" show up in Dayton recently inspired me to do a little more research on him. I came across an interview with him by Sally Gall (a great photographer in her own right) that appeared in Bombsite magazine back in 1997. When asked by Gall about his transition from family pictures to landscapes, Gowin said: EG: "...I always knew that it wasn’t going to last. You can’t be an artist and have your identity reside in only one thing. The thing that you master will become a stranger to you, and you will outlive it or you will need to live into something else. You will always need to be educating yourself to the complexity of your feelings as they grow, and you don’t want to do something twice, really. Everything that makes you an artist in a sense is the way things are understood; how they fit together in ways that have not been understood before. How can you discover the inherent value that’s hidden in things that you haven’t yet seen? It’s in that sense that you want to do something new. And you know that it’s chance that’s going to put those things together. Only chance can bring together new combinations in a way that is revolutionary. No one ever discovered anything really important intentionally."

SG: "You can’t will it into being."

EG: "If there were no problem there would be no discovery. But also, there has to be the confrontation with something inexplicable, something you didn’t intend to do and that has so much presence you say, “Okay, I don’t expect you to go away, but I don’t know what you’re good for.” Chemistry and the sciences are full of this kind of thing. And that’s what’s underneath the creative life for artists, how to grasp the interrelationships that exist in the world in a way that hasn’t been done before."

EXACTLY! This perfectly expresses my experiences in moving from one project to another over the years. I discover them, or they discover me. Sometimes an idea appears suddenly, seemingly out of the blue. Sometimes I think about an idea for a long time before I do anything about it, and sometimes I tackle it right away.

But there is always an element of unexpected awakening whenever an idea comes to me, a question in my mind as to what to do with it, and a sense of danger inherent in the risk I would undertake if I choose to actually address the idea. It's both exhilarating and scary, all at the same time.

FotoFocus Shows I've Seen- #3

Here are two more FotoFocus shows that I found memorable: "The Evolution of Photo Bookmaking" at the Mercantile Library downtown. This show, curated by author and artist Nancy Howell-Koehler, was a look at the art of the photographic artist's book from the 1970's-2012. It included books that were both commercially and hand-bound, and which ranged from serious to humorous in content. Books by Bea Nettles, Les Krims, Diana Duncan Holmes and Timothy Riordan, Cal Kowal, Nancy Rexroth and Duane Michals were on view, along with those of many others.

Part of what made this show so great was that it was housed in the Mercantile Library. The books were, for the most part, laid out on tables in the center of the library, which made them both accessible and secure.

The walls of the space were of course lined with library books, which made me feel like the exhibition was right at home. Viewers could page through almost all of the books themselves, which does not always happen at artist's books exhibitions.  A real treat!




Another exhibition that was the perfect marriage of location and art was "Light Castings" at Voltage Gallery. Located on the second floor of a contemporary furniture store, this gallery featured photographic installations by Jordan Tate and Anthony Pearson. Although their work is very different, both artists pose questions about the role that reproducible processes play in today's world. Because of this, their work coexisted comfortably throughout the space.


Although a wall separates the gallery space from the store, having to pass through part of the store in order to get to the exhibition set the viewer up for a certain kind of visual experience that did not disappoint.

FotoFocus Shows I've Seen- #2 (Sheilah Wilson)

Another show that made a big impression on me during FotoFocus was "Sheilah Wilson: If Becoming This" at the Herndon Gallery at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH. This exhibit contained a variety of work by the Nova Scotia native, who currently teaches at Denison University. She states that her "...photographic, video, social practice and performance work is interested in narrative and how to create ruptures in our understandings of narrative." That perfectly describes the work in this show. To that, I would add that she is interested in how history and memory are intertwined. One example of that is  "The Invisible Inside the Visible". This piece consists of one photograph, a written piece, and a sound recording. The large aerial color photograph  shows a bit of ocean, the shoreline, and a piece of farmland that has meandering white lines (cow paths) through it. The eye is drawn to another white line, this one a large, regular oval that disappears as it gets close to the shore. This is what remains of a racetrack that used to be there. The written wall plaque explains how Wilson found the racetrack, and on the sound recording, you can hear the voices of  the locals who are describing how she could find it. The combination of sound, writing, and visual evidence compels the viewer to think about the shifting nature of memory, and of how the land itself can be a powerful repository of memory.

Another piece, made for the series "You Are My Favorite Photograph", was the result of a performance that Wilson did when the show opened. Viewers wrote down a significant memory on a piece of paper. Wilson then laid down a piece of traditional light-sensitive photographic paper onto a bed she had installed in the gallery, put the written sheet under it, and slept on them overnight. (Multiple prints from this series are seen below.)

The resulting crinkly print, when developed, revealed mysterious shades and streaks of black, gray and white, which suggest the nebulous nature of memory itself.

I could write far more about other works in this show that were entirely different than the ones described above and just as powerful, but suffice it to say that the work of Sheilah Wilson is inventive, thought-provoking, and entirely alive.

The show is up at the Herndon Gallery until November 16. Go if you can!

FotoFocus Shows I've Seen- #1

Of the over 70 photography exhibitions being shown in Cincinnati and surrounding regions this month, I've been able to see a little over two dozen. Not nearly enough! But with only 24 hours in the day, that's all I've been able to manage. Here is one up in Dayton that I found memorable: "Emmet Gowin and His Contemporaries", at the Dayton Art Institute. Housed in the wide hallways of the lower level of the DAI, viewers first encounter the work of Gowin's influences and contemporaries, including Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Frederick Sommer, Minor White, and others who formed the canon of great, primarily white male photographers of the mid-to-late 20th century. (It should be noted that the work of two women, Linda Connor and Olivia Parker, was also included.)

The first hallway curved around to reveal the work of Gowin himself. One wall had pictures he took of his family during the years they were in Dayton (1967-71). This body of work was one of the first to legitimize one's personal life and family as a legitimate source for subject matter by serious photographers. It paved the way for the work of later photographers such as Bea Nettles and Sally Mann.

The other wall included other types of images Gowin had taken during the Dayton years. This wall also held prints by his DAI students, which was totally unexpected, and which were fascinating in terms of trying to see how much Gowin's style had influenced that of his students.

Just beyond the final images in the hallway, one could watch a moving 20 minute documentary film that included interviews with Gowin and his wife Edith. Made just for this show, it confirmed the impression one gets from his photographs that Gowin is a deeply caring, compassionate person.


Anyone seeking to understand the major impulses of photography in the mid-to-late 20th century, and who wants to learn more about Gowin's work in particular, would not go away from this show disappointed.


Kudos to curator Tracy Longley-Cook who drew all the various threads of the show together to create a powerfully felt experience.