Blue Sky NW Viewing Drawers
Each year Blue Sky Gallery hosts a juried call for entries for the NW Viewing Drawers. The rules are simple: a tightly edited collection of 10 images that fit in the 20"x24" drawer, that is juried by professionals in the field. For the past three years, I've been involved in this event, participating in the twice annual portfolio walks.
Juried by Mitra Abbaspour, an independent curator and scholar based in New York. From 2010–2014, she was Associate Curator in the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art.
Each of these are printed as an edition of 20, at 11"x 14", with mats of 16"x 20", and are $300.
At a recent photography review, while showing my black and white prints of still life flora that I’d worked hard to get a tonal range to be proud of, I described to the reviewer that what I was seeking was to make prints that, technically, looked like early 20th century photogravure. She agreed that I had succeeded, but asked me why I didn’t just have my work printed in photogravure, or study it and learn how to do it myself. Oh dear… Sigh... One more thing to add to the endless list of aspirations...
Weeks later I ran across this 1987 quote from Andy Warhol:
“Ran into Bill Cunningham on his bike, I just wish I could do what he does, just go everywhere and take pictures all day.”
It made me laugh out loud, and feel totally liberated. Just what I needed.
With that in mind, I’m letting myself experiment with something I explored back in my darkroom days, a few decades ago. For this Blue Sky project, confronting the limitations of small scale and a flat presentation, tucked away in a drawer no less, I made a series of still life photographs that look like they were solarized prints with the serendipitous technique developed by Man Ray and Lee Miller. I use 21st century tools: a scanner as image capture, an ink jet printer to make the print. The solarization comes, not from turning on the light half way through developing the wet print, but by knowing what I seek in the image, and manipulating the output through fussing with sophisticated software. Like the accident of turning on the light that led to the discovery of solarization, so did my hitting some “wrong” buttons when working with my digital image. The photographs are experimental, yet a part of the continuum of my still life floral work, striving for beauty. I’m glad for the reminders of human longing, of limits, of happy accidents, and ultimate personal goals.
Juried by Katherine Ware, Curator of Photography at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.
Ten archival pigment prints, 11"x14", in 16"x20 mats, edition of 20 each. Available for sale.
This series is about paying attention to the bugs, beetles, and winged creatures that populate my work. Yes, the bee is really from Sarasota, Florida. I found him dying on a bench early in the day, and made a note to self to check on him later. Still there, baking in the sun, he was done with this planetary life, so I put him in a yogurt container in our motel freezer, and brought him home to star in many of my pieces. I love that Sarasota Bee.
Aphids are usually a surprise revealed at 16x magnification. They tend to hitchhike home with me unoticed till enlargement. The fuzzy caterpillar was a thrill: the bright scanner light made him peek over the leaf, and cracked me up. The only thing I use Photoshop for is cleaning up dirt, pollen, caterpillar poop, and smudges that invariably show up on the glass. In these high resolution scans, all that small stuff shows up really well, so I sit in front of a computer a lot.
In 2014 when this call for entries went out, I had been working on images in the 34"x48" range, and the idea that I would intentionally make work that would be printed at about 12"x17" was appealing. I knew that simply shrinking my large scale works was not what I was interested in because the whole point of my work is to show what the eye can rarely see. When I was editing work for a Portable Works project for Portland's Regional Arts and Culture Council, I was excited by work that was making that was composed in a more serene way. So my goal with this 10 piece selection was to make images that worked at this scale. This concept that each scale has its determined composition has continued to inspire me when I'm creating a still life photograph.