Sum up your creative process in one word/phrase, and explain why.
Art excavation (in rocks—one of my favorite creative processes). Conditioned by Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism (and everything in between) I see figures & abstracts in geological subjects, which I capture and process (excavate) so that what I saw in them is visible and compelling to everyone else.
Were you always an artist, even as a child? What was your path to becoming an artist?
I drew a lot as a child and was very excited to get a Jon Gnagy charcoal-based art set around age 10 (1957). After that, I painted by numbers, too and became interested in photography around age 13 (1960). Meanwhile, I pursued to other careers: college professor (English, French, Italian, jazz piano & history); jazz pianist, critic and software developer. All of these delvings into other arts have affected my visual creativity and sense of form.
What is your medium of choice and what drew you to this particular medium?
Photography. At first it was the power of bringing travel landscapes home and projecting them very big on a sheet, so I could imagine I was there. Soon after that I got a darkroom and became interested in the art of photography (1961). Henri Cartier-Bresson was a major early influence; also Ansel Adams in another, more challenging direction. I was doing street photography in New York and elsewhere in the mid-sixties, Surrealist influenced—but then André Kertész said that photography is a naturally Surrealist medium, since it captures the incongruous associations that occur constantly in daily reality.
Is there any particular experience, person, place, or thing that inspires you to create? Tell us about that.
Hundreds: from Bisti Badlands, New Mexico; to celery root; to prehistoric sculpture.When I’m in a form-rich environment like the desert at Bisti, full of hoodoos, or White Pocket or Coyote Buttes South, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona, I’m in an altered state, very pleasurable, finding powerful compositions all over the place. This is also true in littoral reefs (e.g. Duxbury Reef near Bolinas, CA, and Doolin beach, County Clare, Ireland), littoral granites (Santa Teresa di Gallura, Sardinia; Campo Moro, Corsica; Ploumenac’h, Brittany, France); and caves like Wind Cave, Black Hills, South Dakota, and Is Zuddas, Sardinia; as well as unique geologically rich areas, like the limestone waterfronts at Bonifacio, Corsica, and Blue Basin, John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon, among many others. Since I’ve taken up drone videography, I’ve mined another source of liminal figuration in aerial stills looking straight down from 100 to 400 feet up.
Concerning the body of work that I focus on now, namely geological photography, it is (1) the great landscape photographers, e.g. David Muench, Jack Dykinga, Art Wolfe; (2) the late Surrealists, e.g. Roberto Matta, Archile Gorky, Wolfgang Paalen; and (3) the Abstract Expressionists, especially Jackson Pollock.
I’m about to put out a 30-page book that explains all of this, amply illustrated. I’m very interested in the notion of liminal figuration, that is, suggestive figuration, where the figure isn’t completely explicit, and the viewer wonders whether it was actually put there or if she’s imagining it. Both the late Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists worked with this perceptual device. Since I actually find it in nature through geological photography, I believe it was an expression of naturalism on the level of consciousness, otherwise stated, the way we encounter the diversity of forms in the world through our imagination, fuelled by our unconscious—which has been going on since prehistoric time. So I came up with the equation: liminal figuration = phenomenological naturalism. It accounts for approach of both the Late Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists on one hand, and much of my geological photography on the other.
What is it like showing your work to people and what do you hope people take away from it?
Most people really like my work. I hope they’ll take away a print and pay me for it, or buy my book.
What I hope they get out of it aesthetically is
- to stroke their sense of wonder, even awe at the beauty, majesty and diversity of the Earth’s surface (which is what they should get out of any really good landscape photograph);
- the pleasure that they get out of a strong abstract painting, which I believe touches something unconscious (since they can’t name it or identify the association); and
- an invitation to their imagination to see or to project figures. I hope they’ll take away a desire for more—and to travel to see such wonders for themselves.
I suspect I’m doing something new in landscape photography, and I’m working to establish geological photography as a separable discipline. I’ve written a short eBook guide to it, which I can email you. Since I’m still unknown in the larger world of fine art photography, the challenge is to get some respected people or institutions to endorse the work. I’m enrolling in “My Daily Photograph,” a gallery out of Los Angeles that emails a small selection of photographs daily to collectors around the world. Prices are generally $400 to $800 for 11x14s to 16x20s, and they take half. I figure this is a route to accumulating collectors.