Friday, August 17, 2012

Like an Insect

There is a space. It lasts but ten seconds. I place myself within it like breath enters lungs. I flow in and out of it to deliver life to every other part of who I am. This ten-second space sustains me in its impermanence. It feeds me everything the other spaces don’t. And at the same time, when I am in it, there are no other spaces. There is only that space in which I am born and I die in a little fraction of time. Like an insect. It is short, but it contains my whole life. And it is a life that is woven into the fabric of all life here on our planet. Its expression inevitably results in my self-portraiture art.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Princess

As a result of mingling in the larger, international community of artists on the internet, I have had the privilege of meeting many wonderful people with whom I share mutually supportive and inspiring relationships. One cannot underestimate the positive effect of open and genuine feedback from other artists! For me, it has moved my creation process into new, interactive levels within which I learn much about myself and my own potential. Sometimes what I am capable of in art becomes much clearer to me when another person notices it first. This then works as a foundation from which I experiment with new artistic techniques or styles.

Being a self portrait photographer, a big part of seeing myself in a new light, is seeing myself in the eyes of others. When a fellow artist engages a work of mine to create their own rendition of it, or incorporate it into a work of theirs, it challenges my own perspective of limits, and takes me beyond them. I have been honored to have had several artists invite me into such collaborative experiences over the last two years.

Today I would like to introduce you to one such artist by the name Rajdev Singh, from Sydney, Australia. Raj is a self taught photographer and a romantic painter whose work plays with light and form. Recently, I was most pleased to have one of my Eastern-themed, self portraits used as a guide for one of Raj’s lovely oil paintings.

It is exciting to see my art be transformed into another medium, through the creativity of another artist! In Raj’s work, entitled “Princess”, I was especially moved by what I experience as a sense of anticipation and wonder. As the princess looks out her palace window at the broad horizon full of endless possibilities, she feels the anticipation of all the experiences the world has yet to offer her. The window is a wonderful symbol, as is the vase: emblem of femininity, the womb, growth and development.

To me, the colors my fellow artist chose also beautifully capture this sentiment, for green resounds with the openness of the heart chakra, or energy center, in Eastern thought. It is a color of fresh grass, beginnings, trust and hope. The orange border on her veil bright with the colors of creativity and expression, as the princess prepares to step beyond the boundaries of her palace, and interact with new environments and individuals, which shine as a white, welcoming light before her.

The warmth in Rajdev’s painting is inviting to me, just like the spring season that is now upon us! I encourage other artists to adopt the sentiments of the princess (as I experience her), and step beyond your previously perceived limits, into the wonderful world of creating collaborative works with other artists. It is a definitely a thrill that compares to flowering landscapes after a long winter! Enjoy your creativity during this spring season!
View more of Rajdev's art here

Friday, February 25, 2011

An Early Spring!

The spring season always seems to rouse my creative spirits. The warm breezes begin to roll in and everything starts sprouting again. It stirs my creative juices and lures me outside. Suddenly I feel myself a part of the natural surroundings, the sounds of the birds, the blossoming energies all around me. It arouses me artistically! It calls me to capture it’s beauty and share it with others. It takes me into explorations of my surroundings and my self. I love the interplay between the two, and I attempt to illustrate that dynamic in my photographs. I begin by jumping a fence to enter into the wild and untamed parts of the land which surround my home.

Fortunately, I have always inhabited a geography that knows mild winters and early springs! Tropical weather is the climate that suits me best. It is conducive to spending time outdoors, in nature, which nourishes my being. In my self portrait photography this season, I aim to show you how spring affects me at this deep, soulful level.

Because I find no words to adequately describe the way spring arouses my artistry, I leave you to my images, which hopefully tell the story of a woman in love with nature, with beauty, and with the interplay between these and her very self. In the springtime I find myself, and I ask facets of my persona that have been hibernating for too long a winter, to emerge as uninhibitedly as the flowers that have begun to blossom on my property.

Perhaps in the loveliness of the spring season artists find reflections of their own beauty, and renew their faith in life’s regenerative prowess! As an oriental proverb states: “No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow”. Even when things appear to have met their death during the winter months, spring revives everything! For me, as an artist, I feel it reviving a certain enthusiasm in the way I express myself. A vitality. So spring seems to be a time of awakening. It has it’s own poetry. Maybe I can capture a little bit of it for you in my photographs.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Liberated in Ten Seconds

Imagine, if you would, that you are a photographic artist, but you have only ten seconds in which to take each shot, you use yourself as the model, and you never show your face. These are the three distinct signatures of my work. They mark each and every one of my images. And they challenge me in ways most photographers will not be able to imagine unless they have attempted this feat themselves.

Using myself as the model means that before each photo session I need to prepare myself to be photographed. It is not just a preparation of wardrobe, but of attitude as well. I have to feel confident that I will be able to express what I seek to in my art, through using myself as the model. This often challenges the kind of relationship I have with myself, and my with body. I don’t always feel like photographing myself, but that is inconsequential, as I engage my feelings in the image, no matter what they are. My photos, after all, are always reflections of something I am experiencing in my life. What better person to illustrate that then myself? So, I inevitably become my own model.

In using oneself as the model, you cannot see what you are creating until after you take the photo. You have nothing to look at except what lies in your imagination. You cannot direct the model to pose in accordance with what looks good to you through you camera’s lens. The composition is something you can only estimate. The exact aesthetics of the model’s form remain a mystery until after you have taken the shot, and return to your camera to see how it turned out. And you use no remotes, so you only have ten seconds once you set the timer on your camera to run back to the spot, and assume the desired stance, or pose. And don’t forget, your face must always remain a mystery.

These self imposed artistic disciplines usually force me to run back and forth between my camera, and the area my camera is aiming at, many times. I position myself in front of the camera, I wait for the signal, I listen, the shot is taken, I get up and return to my camera, then I look at the shot. Perhaps my face was tilted to face the camera? I need to reshoot. I set the ten second timer on my camera, run back to the spot, and do it again. Perhaps the lighting changed so my settings did not work? I do it again. Maybe I ran so fast back to the spot, I accidentally pulled the backdrop curtain down. Another reshoot. Sometimes, when I am aiming for a particular result, I may run back to my camera over 75 times. This is the number of shots it took me to come up with this image here:

With each photo shoot, I usually end up with close to 100 raw shots I upload to my computer for editing. That means I ran back and forth over 100 times. It is always interesting for me to see how many pictures I end up with, as I am often surprised by how many they are! For, when I am in the middle of a photo shoot, I am so energized by my own creativity, and the excitement of seeing the finished photos, that I rarely notice the passing of time, or the labor required involved in being one’s own model.

I believe that the most powerful art comes from a timeless, effortless dimension of sorts. Why don’t I set my camera to take several images at once? Why don’t I use a remote and give myself more time in which to settle into the pose? Because I like cultivating that timeless, effortless force in my art. As a result of this original, creative process, I’ve found myself developing a very tight relationship between time and space, and the way I fit into time and space. Instead of limiting my creative expression, I’ve found that my unique, artistic disciplines have challenged me to expand the ways in which I see myself, and my very existence. Thus, the ways in which I make art. Consequently ten seconds in which to find myself, and turn myself into art ends up being most liberating!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Art's Breath

Rudolf Steiner believed that a healthy lifestyle was one which mirrored healthy breathing, as one moved in and out of one’s activities in life, like the inward and outward breaths flow in and out of the body. Art, as I experience it, seems to have these two components to it as well. There appears to be an inward journey that connects the artist with what longs to be artistically expressed, and then there is the outward journey of expressing it.

Perhaps a work of art flows out in segments, as the artist inhales and exhales his or her way through the creative process. On the other side of the finished work is the audience. Continuing with Steiner’s poetic metaphor for life, perhaps the longest exhalation then, is represented by the sharing of one’s art. It’s when one’s art, or life breath, touches someone so intimately that it mingles with their breath. I think that, maybe, it is within such spontaneous creative fusion that lies the secret to making more art.

Recently, I had the opportunity to have my photographic art amazingly transformed into another medium: that of hand-painted images. It is wonderful to see another artist breathe new life into a work of your own! It always inspires me to connect with other artists and expand the perimeters of our own creativity. It is like expanding one’s breath to go deeper and fuller. When I collaborate with others, it makes me feel more alive! It is a special dynamic that perhaps connects us with that unlimited well of creativity that exists beyond us, and all around us. It is like that cosmic breath that is everywhere!

I invite you to breathe in our creations here. The first is a hand painted image by Gwen, a retired teacher, now art student, who uses soft pastels and is doing a study on figures. Here is her adoption of my self portrait titled “Silk”, followed by my original photograph taken on a ten second timer.

This next image is very special to me as it represents many things to me, and was created by the wonderfully talented artist and jazz singer Solitaire Miles. She produced this work of art by hand, through digital painting techniques, in only two days! She titled it “Belle Odalisque”, as we wished to capture some of the sensual beauty and exoticism surrounding medieval courtesans who were often used as models for the great masters. I see it as a symbol of feminine power, grace and freedom. Below is her gorgeous creation followed by my original self portrait, taken in ten seconds, my signature spontaneity. Please let me know how you like them! Hopefully they will take your breath away!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Appreciating Pain in Art

Many of the most recent self-portraits I’ve created have sought to express melancholy and grief. The art I make today has depicted uncomfortable sensations, like feelings of being overwhelmed and loosing hope. Because I engage my art as a journal of sorts, the photographs I create accurately chronicle one dimension or another of my life experience. They are by no means complete pictures, and they will often venture into dramatic extremes to illustrate the intensity of a particular emotion or event that is impacting me at the time. Nevertheless, each image I create, to one degree or another, consistently reflects facets of my immediate existence. Investing this emotional charge in my art invigorates my creativity, even when illustrating the darker sides of my life, as I have been doing of late.

In sharing such dark photographs with others, I’ve observed that this darker range of human experience appears to receive as much appreciation, as the former, brighter images did. These dark portraits seem to contain their own type of lure: perhaps they represent a world others are all too familiar with. After all, we have all had our dark nights of the soul. Or am I being too presumptuous by holding onto the belief that every one who appreciates the pain in my art, has themselves known pain, at one time or another?

What relationship does pain hold to art appreciation then? Does one have to be themselves familiar with pain, to recognize and appreciate it, in the work of the others? Or does one’s familiarity with pain, make artwork which depicts pain repulsive? Naturally, that will vary from person to person depending on their own relationship with pain itself, I imagine.

If we are drawn to creating, or appreciating, darker works of art, what does that say about us? Might there be a part of us that is actively engaged with pain? We may be either experiencing pain, facing pain, exploring pain, processing pain, or even at peace with pain! We may also be afraid of pain. Sometimes those who are too uncomfortable with pain, avoid facing it, even in art! It could be that aversion to such artistic creations will reflect this very discomfort. While those who are accepting of pain (and it’s role in human development), will, in turn, feel comfortable when exposed to art which reflects pain. Yet the opposite might also hold true!

Some may be drawn to art which depicts pain because they are subconsciously trying to face the discomfort of pain within themselves. And others experience a waning interest in such darker images, precisely because they have recently put personal pains to rest, and are making deliberate efforts to move beyond it. Then there are endless other possible reasons why one’s personal preferences in art may include or exclude “dark art”, as I’ve been calling it here.

With that in mind, as an artist, I always live in constant curiosity about what exactly moves others to appreciate my dark art. I can think of nothing more exciting then when someone takes the time to tell me why they have fallen in love with an image I’ve created. Why they appreciate it? What is it that it’s communicating to them? Especially with the darker portraits, I would like to know, what parts of human beings become engaged when admiring images into which I’ve injected loneliness, hopelessness, sadness, etc.

Perhaps it takes a certain kind of personal strength to appreciate, and even find beauty in art that illustrates the aching of a human heart. Today, I personally extend my gratitude to all those who do, as it inspires me to express every aspect of my being in my art, no matter how dark I may feel at the time. Every part is worth listening to and expressing. Thank you to all those who have reconfirmed this to me through all your wonderful appreciations. May we continue to include everything in art, even pain. I would love to hear your views on this subject, if you care to share.

To read more of my reflections on Expressing Pain in Art click here

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Art Auction for Cancer!

Art often takes intense emotional experiences and translates them into colors and shapes. An artist often does this intuitively. An artist’s creations can often serve as a diary of sorts through which they illustrate their inner, emotional landscape. What often fuels an artist’s emotional landscape are the people they love. Thus an artists creations can be closely connected to their loved ones: those who inspire us and touch our hearts unlike anyone else. But what happens when a loved one’s life is severely threatened? How does that color the work of the artist who loves them?

Today I would like to tell you a little secret about my artwork: It is greatly influenced by the love I feel for my little sister, who has been diagnosed with a serious, incurable illness. Lulu was just beginning to blossom into a career of modeling, music and dance, when the illness struck. It nearly took her life twice. I will never forget the night my mother called me from a hospital in Paris to tell me that Lulu’s condition was unstable. I could not entertain the thought of ever living without her. Not for a second! My sister and I have been very close our entire life and I love her so deeply.

Over time, I have watched my sister brave her illness and show an amazing strength and hope that greatly invigorate my own practice of gratitude in life. Lulu has been such an unshakable inspiration for me! She has motivated me in both my art and my life, which are very closely linked. Lulu’s spirit often shines through my images, as I focus on themes that are dear to us both. Although Lulu can no longer model, or dance, due to her illness, I attempt to keep this part of her alive by exhibiting it in my self-portraits. This is one reason I never show my face; so that Lulu can feel free to imagine herself in my artwork whenever she wishes to! I try to create worlds in my art that Lulu and I always dreamed of living in together. Worlds of music, and beauty, and magic!

I believe that it takes nearly mystical abilities to face life with a smile on a daily basis, while struggling with an incurable illness. Well, my sister Lulu is a true mystic, because this is what she does! She has been a tremendous influence and inspiration for me in my life. For this reason, I was especially touched when my friend, artist Jared Knight, informed me that his sister, Tamara, had also been a huge inspiration to him, and that she also suffered from an incurable illness. Jared then invited me to donate one of our artistic collaborations for a cure for cancer! What a wonderful idea! So we did!

We decided to wait until this month of October, as it’s International Breast Cancer Awareness month, to launch our art auction. The colorful art piece, entitled “Hope”, is on auction for ten days only on Ebay, sponsored by the

Susan G. Komen for The Cure Foundation . I excitedly invite all of you to visit it! Here is a video Jared made which tells all about it. I feel so very privileged to be able to participate in projects like this one, as they celebrate people like Lulu and Tamara, and all those whose beautiful spirits triumph over incurable illnesses, fueling the work of artists like Jared and I. Thank you for your inspiration!