This morning I waited for Pascal to come downstairs, forgetting for a good ten minutes that he was sleeping at someone else's house. It was only last year that he was afraid to sleep away, that he cried each night for days when I went to my art opening in New Orleans, requiring his aunt, who was staying with him in my absence, to snuggle next to him until he could fall asleep. The turning point came when his class took a multiple-night field trip to a farm in upstate New York, a prospect that he had dreaded, but an experience that transformed his confidence and sense of security. He also got to milk a cow and make his own yogurt: a definite deal sweetener for my dairy boy. Coffee in hand and curled up on the couch, I thought about how far he's come this year, and this evening as I kissed him goodnight, he told me that he couldn't love me any more, but then he laughed at himself and said, "That's not really true, though. Love goes on forever."
I've had a slow start to the new year, but things are heating up in the studio, if not outside. I'll be showing along two students I mentor next month at the Porter Mill Studios in Beverly, and taking down Mother Mind January 15th, so please swing by if your holidays were too busy to allow for it! Happy New Year.
Creating my dimensional photographs is such an adventure in optics. As a kid my grandfather gave me a book about optical illusions and how they are created. One of my favorites was a mirror-clad building in Japan that had appeared to have a cube of fluorescent light clinging to its side. The love of images that are hard to untangle has never left me. This small version is a wedge-shaped plexiglass form with a re-visioning of a verdant, late-summer image from a few days ago. Since the images are printed on transparent plastic, light is its very good friend, and what better way to give that light a boost than to use a mirror? It's a thought in process, and I would love to hear about your favorite tricks of the eye, too.
My life as a tree.Read More
Back in January Josh and I walked from San Luis Obispo to San Miguel, California. Josh grew up in San Luis, and had always wanted to trek the distance between that California Mission and that of its nearest neighbor.Read More
Standing outside this evening with a candle in my hand, holding vigil for the victims of Charlottesville, I thought about tomorrow's conversation with my kids. My kids are used to hearing me talk about racism in America, and I don't want to raise them sheltered from reality. Mr. Rogers said that when bad things happen to look for the helpers. When I looked for the helpers today, I saw Heather Heyer, who is dead now.
But I also see and hear the voices of the future, such as Dahlia Lithwick's, who claims, rightly, that the Nazis and the KKK cannot replace her, cannot replace those whom they fear.
This image reflects what I am thinking today. In the empty structures of the past, laid rigidly and diligently kept, a younger thing is running.
Back in the summer of 2014 when I took these pictures I was pretty blue. I had a lot going on, including a lifelong dream that I had to shelve temporarily because of a my health. A friend invited us to stay in her beautiful home for a few days while she was away, and we spent that time doing country things like kite flying and farm visiting. I remember wishing I could snap out of my depression and feel good again, and while this trip didn't do that for me, it allowed me the space and time to come to terms with my life and its surprises. While most of that summer is a warped memory of trying (and failing) to make the best of things, when I think about it now I want to give past me a hug and tell her it gets better.
Image: Iona, my mini-me, running with in a farm field with a bag of potato chips. Pascal flies a kite in the distance near the ghost of a barn.
Pascal spent the day with his godparents doing all kinds of things that he's only just learned to do: swim, boogie board, kayak, and go clamming. We've got 5 pounds of clams filtering in sea water out back, ready for chowder. When he was a baby, I used to hold him extra tight walking across the cut bridge, which is a drawbridge across a narrow channel that makes Gloucester an island. I worried that I would drop him and he would fall into the current far below. There was no chance that this could have happened, but fears know no reason.
So many of my photos are of my children running away from me, playing in expansive spaces, I the distant and unobserved observer. I've learned a few things about letting go.
Image: Pascal playing in a field with an abandoned barn.
Pascal used to dress up in costumes every day, and around age 5, he became very identity-conscious, and the costumes needed to reflect what he wanted his future job to be. His kindergarten was so rigorous that I allowed him to wear his costumes to school so he could feel like he was playing. He was so serious about the costume/future job connection that even on Halloween he would wear his usual costumes so that nobody would think he was anything but a firefighter, or an Air Force officer who jumps out of a helicopter with a hatchet (! ??) We laughed about this today, even as he donned an elaborate storm trooper outfit at age 9. He no longer needs his external self to reflect his future goals, but can relax into a character and a mode of play that I admire.
So much of my effort is spent chasing after my future self. The distance calls, the goals call, the dreams beckon, and I guess I don't usually even reach them. Or if I do, they're not what I thought they would be. I could use a page out of this kid's play book.
Image: Pascal chasing his future self across a verdant field.
I go to the Sedgwick Garden with my girls when I need a dose of cultivated nature. Of course I love the tangled woods and rocky shores in Gloucester that my life more resembles, but that order and guidance I find at the garden restores me.
This image of Iona is a blend of a few photos taken during different visits, and as I made it I thought of my friend Jessica who loves this spot as much as I do. This one's for you, Jessica Jean.
Someone I trusted once told me that unsolicited advice is just thinly-veiled contempt, and I've sat on that thought for about 17 years. But right now, a young person edging toward adulthood needs someone, maybe me, to offer her some wisdom, or maybe just a few hints about growing up. To me, this image of a solitary figure in a transitional and lonesome scene, autumn turning its leafy pages, is a wrestling with whether or not to just leave someone alone to figure out their life., or to join them in the journey.
What to do, what to do.
Sometimes as an artist, I don't know what I'm so afraid of. I was going to post a version of this image that was more toned down, without a layer that turns it more into a visual puzzle. I thought this here was a bit too much--but I preferred it anyway. What did I think was going to happen to me if I didn't go bold?
I've been updating my website all day between other tasks, and the internet is slow. The kids were bickering, Josh was painting a bedroom, and the dishes were having families of their own in the sink. I felt a step behind all day. It's easy when life is like this to cower and hide, but look at Iona in this image, a tiny girl in a viscous, rocky landscape, powering forward head on into the blue unknown.
Image: layered photographs of the cliffs at Montana de Oro, Los Osos, CA