Sunday, June 22, 2008


"To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist."
Cardinal Suhard

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Job

Robert Alderette

The Job

Imagine that
the job were
so delicate
that you could
seldom - almost
never - remember
it. Impossible
work, really.
Like placing 
pebbles exactly
where they were
already. The
steadiness it
takes ... and
to what end?
It's so easy
to forget again.
Kay Ryan, Say Uncle

Friday, June 20, 2008

Looking Around

my granddaughter

Looking, Walking, Being
"The world is not something to 
  look at, it is something to be in."
I look and look.
Looking's a way of being: one becomes,
sometimes, a pair of eyes walking.
Walking wherever looking takes one.
The eyes
dig and burrow into the world.
They touch
fanfare, howl, madrigal. clamor.
World and the past of it,
not only
visible present, solid and shadow
that looks at one looking.
And language? Rhythms
of echo and interruption?
a way of breathing,
Breathing to sustain
walking and looking 
through the world,
in it.
Denise Levertov

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kurt Simonson, Northwoods and Pinocchio

The other day I was reacquainted with the work of Long Beach photographer, Kurt Simonson. The last time I had seen his work exhibited was a year ago at Point Loma University in San Diego. The recent viewing was work from two bodies of work: The Northwoods Journal and the Resurrection of Pinocchio.

The Northwoods Journal
This work is an on going project that is developing and maturing in ways that I find profoundly engaging. When looking at the images in this series words such as haunting, memory, presence and loss come to mind. It is as if I am with a guide on a highly personal tour, a tour of which I am intimately welcome, unfamiliar with the particulars of the story but am keenly aware that these stories pertain to mine as well. 

The imagery is firmly located in a sense of place, a place that is well known; a place that is layered with deep narratives, some joyful, some painful. The narratives seem close to the place or should I say, land. At times they are in front of the land, informing it. At other times the narrative seems to be absorbed back into the land, even to the extent of being completely immersed and lost. But Simonson seems to know where to look, a quick glance, and a prolonged gaze and in doing so he invites us to do the same.

There are seasons in this work: a season of building, of planting and a season of harvesting, of passing. A season to start a fresh and a season to simply be. this is work that celebrates life and accepts its passing. 

The danger of this kind of work is its proximity to the sentimental or the nostalgic. This is where I find the work so interesting. When if bumps up against these issues (sentimentality and nostalgia) the image is not drained by it but is vaulted forward because of it. Unlike the distilled distance in the work of Alec Soth, Simonson risks getting in closer and for the most part the risk pays off. These images tell the stories of very specific people in very specific places yet they resonate with all of our stories. 

The Resurrection of Pinocchio

In this short series of photos we see the familiar and rather somber "found" or I prefer to call it "noticed" aesthetics of Simonson but in this case the work takes a very unexpected turn. We get a strange and wonderfully humorous merging of fairy tale and religious narrative: images of resurrection and recycling. 

A discarded Pinocchio doll is noticed half buried in the tracks of a land mover on the beach of an urban setting (Long Beach.) The implications are that the forgotten doll has washed up after a seasonal storm. The series is sequential in a more cinemagraphic then photojournalist way, or is it? The first few shots are shots of evidence, place, location, time, and situation. Then the fun begins. The doll is lifted up, pulled out of the sand by a source unknown but close at hand (the photographer himself?) The expression on the doll is one of surprise and if not excitement. The next shot is dark, except Pinocchio's eye. Is this a moment of cosmic accounting? A mythic journey to the bottom of the pond or into the cave? And then the doll is flung skyward, spinning, swirling. Again, the facial expression of the doll animates each shot with a sense of humorous wonder. In the final shot the resurrected Pinocchio startles the beach railing. He sits on the fence of the graveyard. Relaxed, redeemed and precariously back, the little Pinocchio sits and waits to be animate again.

There is a need to edit a number of the works in this series but overall the thing that I find so interesting here is the roll of the photographer's hand. One is on the camera recording the visual story; the other is participating with the resurrection. I am aware of the body in this work and the action of the body. From the first shot, the tractor, the doll and the human manipulated landscape to the action of picking up the beach trash, the finding, the dancing, the throwing, the gravity and then the conclusion. The doll found, the doll reclaimed, the doll left to be found again and perhaps this time by a child that is walking along that beach. And here the fairy tale, religious tale repeats itself - a gift from the cosmos all imbedded in a body.

As I was writing this a dear friend sent me a note. In it was this quote. I found it to be quite appropriate in relation to Simonson's work.

"come unto me. Come unto me, you say. All right then, dear my Lord. I will try in my own absurd way. In my own absurd way I will try to come unto you. a project which is in itself by no means unabsurd. Because I do not know the time or place where you are. And if by some glad accident my feet stumble on it, I do not know that I would know that I had stumbled on it. And even if I did know, I do not know for sure that I would find you there. I do not know for sure that it was indeed your name that made my tears come when I wrote it with my finger in the wet. And if you are there, I do not know that I would recognize you. and if i recognized you, I do not know what that would mean or even what I would like it to mean. I do not even well know who it is you summon, myself.

For who am I? I know only that heel and toe, memory and metatarsal, I am everything that turns, all of a piece, unthinking, at the sound of my name. Am where my feet take me. Come unto me, you say. I, all of me, unknowing and finally unknowable even to myself. O lord and lover, I come if i can to you down through the litter of any day, through sleeping and waking eating and saying goodbye and going away and coming back again. Laboring and laden with endless histories heavy on my back."      Frederick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Role of the Artist

Roland Riess passed this quote on about 20 years ago. It has always struck me as useful.
According to Carl Rogers the role of the artist is:

  • To juggle elements into impossible juxtapositions
  • To shape wild hypotheses
  • To express the ridiculous
  • To translate from one form to another
  • To transform into improbable equivalents 

Robert Bly - a little book of shadow

"Evidently we spend the first twenty or twenty-five years of life deciding what should be pushed down into the shadow self, and the next forty years trying to get in touch with that material again."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Slip at Alegria Gallery

Brad Eberhard

Ryan Callis
Evan apRoberts


I have been invited to curate a show for the Alegria Gallery in Silver Lake. Alegria Gallery is a unique space with a unique mission and it is for these reasons I am interested in working with them. The Alegria Gallery is part of a larger program called Art for Shelter. This program has been conceived and developed by Paul Hebblethwait, a young photographer and social service administrator working with the Salvation Army.
The Alegria Gallery is a non-profit, public exhibition space that he has created located on Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake in a facility for families that have been impacted by HIV/Aids. Paul invited me to curate the exhibition for the May-July slot of this year. the exhibition is opening on May 10th and it will run through July 30th. The exhibition, entitled, Slip, will be a show of primarily non-objective works (drawings and paintings) by young artists working in the So. Cal area. 

Three of my favorite painters in the show are Brad Eberhard, Evan apRoberts, and Ryan Callis (no conflict of interest here, he's just a damn good painter.) They all represent a new generation of abstract painters who are committed to making paintings that are visually complex and optically beautiful. These guys are making straightforward paintings: no tricks, no bells and whistles and no excuses. The paintings are extremely gracious while at the same time very serious (though not heavy handed at all.) The complex structures are solid yet always off center. They are fixed but appear as if they could (and will) shift at any minute. That's what keeps you looking. And like I said when you do look there are plenty of rewards.