Saturday, April 20, 2013

"Falling Into Place" at Fovea Exhibitions in Beacon, NY April 13-July 7, 2013

Click on this photo taken by J.P. Pacquing to see it larger.

I can't think of anything that is harder to do than to put words to an ineffable experience. After all, just read the definition:

in·ef·fa·ble /inˈefəbəl/ Adjective: Too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words: "ineffable beauty". Too sacred to be uttered. Synonyms: unspeakable - inexpressible - unutterable - nameless

Well, "ineffable" perfectly describes everything I experienced last weekend in Beacon, NY as we celebrated the opening of my "Falling Into Place: self portraits" exhibit at Fovea Exhibitions. Here's a partial list of the weekend activities:

1. A dinner in my honor for 20 of Fovea's volunteers and Board members put on Friday night by the co-founders/directors Stephanie Heimann Roland and Sabine Meyer at Stephanie and Mark's lovely home in Beacon. The wonder of meeting so many creative individuals, hearing their stories and falling in love with Sabine's 7 year-old daughter Jordan and Stephanie's 3 year-old son Mack, both of whom loved scooter rides.

2. On Saturday afternoon attending a special screening of the remarkable film, "Chasing Ice" with the film's director and none other than the folk music icon Pete Seeger, his wife Toshi and daughter Tinya in the audience.

3. Then the opening of my exhibit with 232 people showing up to help us celebrate, including Pete, Toshi and Tynya. My giving a gallery talk that was not only well received but elicited a tender sharing by Vaughn who told us of his mother who had dealt with MS with grace and tenacity. Feeling like spring rains were soaking into the sometimes parched soil of my confidence as a photographer as generous-spirited folks affirmed my work.

4. A late-night sushi dinner after the opening at an excellent Japanese restaurant on Main Street with Ron Aubert, who had kindly taken photos of the opening using my camera, and the exhibit curator, Sabine, who must have been exhausted.

5. Sunday at Fovea where J.P. was sitting the gallery as he has done every Sunday for years, then lunch at the Tea Room and hours spent at the amazing minimalist contemporary art museum, Dia Beacon, with my niece Carolyn and her husband Jonathan who had come up to visit me from New Jersey.

6. Later that afternoon as I charged my scooter at an outlet at Hudson Beach Glass, I visited with Janet Griffin and listened (unseen) to an astounding improvisation on acoustic guitar by a beautiful man named Zenote. That was followed by dinner with Stephanie, young Mack, and her singer/songwriter/creative consultant friend Carol who allowed me to brainstorm with her about the very exciting workshops she is preparing to offer to corporations.

6. Then Monday morning at Beacon High School where I was privileged to present a slideshow of images from "Falling Into Place" and discuss self portraits with Mark Lyon's photography students whose questions delighted me and whose engagement was palpable.

7. After a delicious lunch at the Homespun Cafe, I was allowed to photo-document Hudson Beach Glass owners, John and Wendy Gilvey, create one of their annual awards for the Rainforest Alliance: an exquisite earth-colored paperweight with two orange and yellow frogs painted in glass on the surface. I hope to create a slideshow using the photos to give to them.

8. My final dinner in Beacon was at the Yankee Clipper Diner with Stephanie, Mack, and photographer/photo editor Ronnie Farley who not only gave me a book of her photos but hopefully will come visit me in Detroit.

What I carry with me from these four days and nights is a sense of awe at the kindness, community-feeling, creative consciousness and open-hearted welcome given me by every person I met in Beacon. I went there for photography and found people I love. I shall return.

To see more images from the opening, go to "Exhibits and Installations" under PORTFOLIOS on my website. Once there, you can also see a video taken by Fovea volunteer J.P. Pacquing of my gallery talk on "Videos and Slideshows" under INFORMATION. The video can also be found under "Artist Talks" on the Fovea Exhibitions website.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Falling Into Place" at the Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA, January 17-March 3, 2013

Click on images to see them in a larger format

There are times in your life that you know you will never forget. Thursday, January 17, 2013 was just such a time for me. It was the opening of three solo exhibits at the world-renowned Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, Massachusetts: David Pace's "Burkina Faso: Night and Day," Mary Beth Meehan's "City of Champions," and my self portraits from "Falling Into Place." Prior to the opening, I gave a Member's Gallery Talk, and later David Pace spoke about his photos of the people in the small West African country of Burkina Faso.

The Griffin obviously has the support of the community judging from the dozens of members who turned out for my talk, and the many volunteers who were working behind the scenes to make everything run smoothly...which it did. They put on such a lovely party with a groaning table of food and plenty of wine and nonalcoholic drinks. Everyone was made to feel welcome, especially the artists. David and his wife had come from California, I had come from Detroit, and sadly, Mary Beth Meehan who lives in Massachusetts was unable to attend because she was recovering from surgery. But the Griffin Museum has the reputation it does because of two creatively gifted, hardworking women: the Executive Director Paula Tognarelli and the Associate Director Frances Jakubek. I learned so much from both of them.

For me personally, there were five individuals who attended Thursday night's celebration who have very special meaning in my life. I call four of the five my "kids" and the fifth is loved because she is the life partner of one of our kids. Now in their 50s, Diane Favrow, Colleen Smith Clark, Bill Mackey and Tripp Micou were in and out of Ed's and my house as if it were their own during their growing up years. Ed and I never gave birth to children of our own but we loved kids, and the neighborhood kids seemed to know it and loved us back. I had hoped to see Bill and his partner Andrea Samsel while in Boston because they live in the area. Tripp also lives nearby but it was still an unexpected delight to have him show up. However, the unimaginable surprise came from Colleen and Diane who traveled from their homes in Michigan - 12 hours apart, I might add - to surprise me at this opening! We happened to be on the same plane so that was where the surprise actually occurred. Happily, that meant we were able to spend time hanging out together on Thursday. I don't have a picture of her, but one more of our "kids" traveled to the Boston area to see me: Leslie Mackey Potter, Bill's younger sister who lives in Vermont, drove two and a half hours to spend Friday night with me.

Here are pictures of me and my "kids" at the museum on Thursday night:

I'm going to leave you with one more image from my time in Cambridge, MA (which is where I stayed). This photo was taken beside the Holden Chapel (circa 1744) as Diane, Colleen and I explored the Harvard Yard on Thursday. Never before had I seen an owl in the middle of the day, especially one who sat there without moving even when we stood right under it. Only when each of us had downloaded our owl photos to our computers did we see why that owl was not flying away. Click on the image and look at what it is sitting on!

Of course, to me this magical creature symbolized wisdom...the wisdom I hoped to impart at the museum that night. Now I look at what it had in its clutches and wonder what THAT symbolized!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

If not now, WHEN?

Click on image to see larger

These boys, girls and women were killed on Friday morning by a gunman shooting his mother's semi-automatic rifle, first in his home and then in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in northern Connecticut. Anyone who has ever seen a classroom filled with first grade students can close their eyes and see their beautiful faces, ready smiles and utter innocence. This is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. Even as I join the many voices crying for gun control today, I cannot stop thinking of these children. They are with me night and day.

As a meditation on their lives, I invite you to do what I just did and go to my photo portfolio called The Space Between: remember the children.

And then I beg you to do whatever you can to stop this madness. A good first step is to donate money to the hardworking folks at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Then send an email to President Obama urging him to lead the fight for serious gun control that will protect our children. Next, contact your senators and representatives (federal and state) and urge them to propose bills to control the sale and use of guns, and outlaw semi-automatic weapons for civilians. Write a letter to the editor of national and local newspapers about this issue, and get the word out on Facebook and Twitter. And, finally, talk with friends, family and co-workers about the need to stand up to the NRA and protect our kids.

I ask you, if not now, WHEN?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


"12 Seen With Fresh Eyes"
Click on image to see it larger

Rarely do we
the last time we
will see a person,
place or event.
Instead we go
through life
thinking it will
go on forever
just as it is
today. We walk
blindly, eyes
on our iPhone,
checking facebook,
twitter and texts,
ignoring the smile
we will
long to see
in the years,
or even days,
to come.

This date we
know we will

Just like
every other
in our
oh so short

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Detroit's Noel Night 2012

Willis Street at Cass, Noel Night 2012
click on image to see it larger

Yes, people are comfortable walking on Detroit's streets at night...50,000 of them in fact. That was the estimate of visitors to Midtown Detroit's annual Noel Night this year. Mild weather didn't hurt. But even on cold snowy Noel Nights, the crowds have always been huge. And a large percentage of those crowds are families with children.

For 40 years the first Saturday in December has been known as Noel Night in Midtown Detroit's Cultural Center area. Every year more museums, galleries, restaurants, shops and even hair salons participate. This year there were over 70 participating places with performances by music, theater and dance groups. And it is all free!

Detroit has so many problems. Even people in other countries know that. But what they seem to miss is that we have lots of fun together too. My portfolio of photos, "The Detroit I Know and Love" shows my long-time love affair with this city and its people.

"Vision In a Cornfield" installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), Noel Night 2012

Detroit Historical Museum, Noel Night 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

photography's gift: the people you meet

Avery Duncan, class of 2013
click on image to see it larger

It was the last day of summer and everyone knew it. Even though it was October, temperatures were hovering around 80 degrees F. Forecasters were predicting highs in the 50s for the next day so everyone was savoring today's warm sun and mild temperatures. Ed and I were enjoying our last outdoor lunch of the season at a table in front of the Hydrangea Kitchen across from the high school.

The kids had just gotten out of school for the day when a tall good looking young man came up and asked me, "Aren't you the photographer?" I said I was. He introduced himself as Avery Duncan and asked if I would ever have time to take a look at his photographs of Detroit. I said "Sure" and asked if he had any he could show me today. Avery brought over his laptop, set it up on our table and showed me some stunning images of Detroit's buildings, images that showed the beauty of the city I love. Well, Avery loves it too and his photos show it. We got to talking and in the midst of our conversation he asked if I could possibly take his senior class picture for the yearbook.

Today Avery came to my studio here at home and I managed to take 77 portraits from which he could choose the one he liked best. Avery's choice was a smiling portrait of himself dressed in a suit and tie taken from the waist up. My favorite, artistically speaking, was the photo posted above. Yes, it is rather dark and moody--certainly not suitable for a yearbook picture--but I think this image captures something in this young man that most people rarely see. Our cameras can do that sometimes: catch the intensity that drives us to persevere and overcome challenges others might not even know we are facing. From this image I know that Avery will make his way in the world with strength and determination. He is a young man of purpose and I wish him well.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Andrew Drury on Creativity and Imagination

Andrew Drury, drummer, performing in Jason Kao Hwang's ensemble at Edgefest 2010

Occasionally we are fortunate enough to hear exactly what we need when we need it. And so it was for me on Election Tuesday this week. I was a basket case that day, anxious and scared about how the vote might go. And then I received an email from a drummer I had met and talked with during last weekend's Edgefest sponsored by the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Andrew Drury and I had connected on a deep level and I had asked him to send me a copy of a graduation speech he had made to fifth graders at an elementary school in Brooklyn back in 2008. There was something about the way he described it that made me feel it was something I needed to hear. And I was right. Now, with Andrew's permission, I would like to share it with you...

Keynote Speech for a Fifth Grade Graduation (2008) given by Andrew Drury

(NB Fifth graders at a school in Brooklyn where I led junk percussion workshops in 2007-8 invited me to give the keynote speech at their graduation. So I wrote this. The school is a dual language (Spanish/English) school so an administrator friend of mine translated each paragraph into Spanish after I read it in English.)

Before I share with you some of my words I want to share with you some drumming.

(Everybody drums)

I want you to notice that we just did that all BY OURSELVES. We made something beautiful out of nothing—but ourselves. That music was inside of you. That beauty was inside of you. Creativity and imagination are inside of you.

You're born with creativity and imagination. They are free. If you are human, you have them, and no one can ever take them away from you. Not only that, your imagination is totally unique and there's no other imagination exactly like yours. That blows my mind. It took billions of years of evolution and history to create you. You guys, each and every one of you, are amazing.

You all have successfully spent a chunk of your life in a wonderful, wonderful school. The teachers and other people running (your elementary school) care very much about you, and have thought very carefully and intelligently about how to give you the things you have need. But some big changes are coming.

First, you won't be at (this school) any more. You'll be in different schools, different situations, around different people. It would be great if all of them were like (your school), but unfortunately in this society that’s not how it works. You’ll be around new people. Some who will help you and inspire you, and some who won’t.

Second, you yourselves will change. You'll enter and go through adolescence and start turning into young adults. Your bodies will change. You'll look different. You’ll look in the mirror and one day think “I look pretty” and another day think “I look ugly.” Your minds will change and you'll think differently. You'll feel new kinds of emotions.

What I want to tell you today is that your imagination, your creativity, your spirit will be with you in all your situations and changes. And the more you exercise them and use them, the more powerful they will be.

It's like exercising so you can do a sport better, or practicing so you can get better at drumming, or math, or writing, or science. The more you exercise your brain, the stronger and more flexible it will be. The more you exercise your imagination and creativity, the better you will be in dealing imaginatively and creatively with life's challenges, and situations, and opportunities.

You won’t be the only one who benefits from this. THE WORLD needs you guys to be imaginative, creative, and inspired. A lot of us adults are waiting for you kids to share with us your wisdom and ideas. (Some day you all are going to be running things— taking care of us and changing our diapers.) You are the next generation.

The world needs young people who can think, imagine, create, and do. We need young people who can express themselves with words, with images, with rhythms, with dance, with tools, with science. We need young people who love truth, and who can figure out for themselves what is true and what is false despite what television, or anyone else, says. We need young people who can figure out for themselves what is fair, and what is not fair, and how to make the world a better place.

We adults can't wait to see and hear what new kinds of beauty young people in your generation are going to make. Your imaginations are the most important things in the world really—some day all of us adults are going to be old and decrepit and your generation will be running the world. Who you all become will be who society becomes and what history becomes.

* * *

I want to read you a poem I'm working on. It's not finished. It's in progress. Right now I'm calling it "For Graduating Fifth Graders."

be thinkers, creators
be curious about the world, about people
taste ajiago in Bogota, and tamales in Sunset Park,
ask people on a bus in Nicaragua for the story of their lives
figure out a way to get to Mali and play guitar with the amazing
musicians there
figure out a way to be at home in Brooklyn
and play with the amazing musicians here

be writers, drawers, spray paint artists,
make up your own comic books
make up your own stories
and tell them in funny voices
and record them on cassettes and CDs

be researchers, inventors
discoverers, investigators
finders of evidence
experimenters, builders

write down your coolest ideas in journals
and make plans for how to make them happen
figure out the details
think of big ideas
and big plans that no one would expect to hear from a person like you

listen, always listen
take notes, observe
try to make sense of what’s going on
and imagine something better
or something different

don’t accept the narrowness
when life’s pliers try to clamp you down and squeeze out your spirit
it happens to everyone
so just respect that fact
and don’t get sucked into a rut of petty nonsense
figure out what’s truly important to you
figure out how to get on your feet
and moving in the positive direction

decorate life
take something plain and make it fabulous
see something beautiful and stop to appreciate it
take time
and dance some patterns into it
take a bucket, and drum some beats
paint your wall, or your face, or your friends face
in amazing, weird colors

* * *

I want to end by drumming again. But before we drum I want to share with you something the poet Amiri Baraka wrote about some music by an amazing musician, and one of my heroes, John Coltrane. He wrote:

“If you can hear, this music will make you think of a lot of weird and wonderful things. You might even become one of them.”

I want you to listen to the music of your life, and imagine a lot of weird and wonderful things. And if you do, I think you will become one of them.

(Everyone drums).

Fifth Grade Graduation Speech by Andrew Drury