“Autumn wins you best by this its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.” ― Robert Browning
Last week’s Photo Challenge was all about Autumn color, the beautiful garb of aging, death and decay. How appropriate that Tina chooses for this week’s challenge the idea of how dilapidated, vintage, older things that have “seen better days” capture the photographer’s eye as things of loveliness and interest.
“The love of old things is a way of respecting time.”
― Wu Ming-Yi
“Of all the footprints, that of the elephant is supreme. Similarly, of all mindfulness meditation, that on death is supreme.”
― Gautama Buddha
The more I study the beauty of aging and death, the more I am drawn into the transformation of cells and matter. Consider that Life is marked by change, that change is the continuation of Life in new forms. Below is a photo of a petrified tree stump in the Flourissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado, illustrating the change from vegetable into mineral.
Is it any wonder we photographers are fascinated by the visual evidence of the dance of Life and Time? As humans, we are definitely a part of this process. As humans, we take our experience and create Art to celebrate it.
“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.”
– David Alan Harvey
Soft color, diffused light, water falling as gracefully as a diaphanous gown over the form of a posed dancer – the picture above puts me in a mood of dreamy peace.
In black and white, water and rock are opposing elements. There is work being done, erosion and the exposure of contrasting light.
In this cropped version, the multiple paths of falling water suggest possibilities, nuance, ambiguity, secret diversions. In monochrome, it suggests a kind of sexiness that distorts reality. Our Lens-Artists host, Tina, says, “This week, we’d like you to think about the various ways you create your images. Show us the same subject captured using multiple, different approaches.” Her post shows fabulous examples of her photographic skill. Click HERE to see!
In working with the photo above, I made a couple of discoveries. First, I converted it to black and white, which felt more nostalgic to me. If I had a sepia option, it might make me think of an historic war zone.
Then, I zoomed in for a cropped version and noticed a spider web with intersecting lines that mirrored the angles of the fence material, creating an abstract I hadn’t foreseen.
This abstract evokes philosophical thoughts about boundaries and materials. How resistant are the fences that keep me from crossing into new territory?
“Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame. When you put four edges around some facts,
you change those facts.”
– Garry Winogrand
This photo exercise yielded some interesting results. I find it worthwhile to experiment with my vision and allow for unexpected rewards. Thank you, Tina, for the challenge!
Amy has chosen a perfect theme for this week: On Display. My favorite part of holidays, besides eating and music, is the color and light displayed in joyous abundance, dispelling the darkness of the Winter Solstice. I have always loathed shopping and buying Things, for many reasons, but I am always drawn to an attractive visual array of objects. Salt water taffy in this Oregon shop comes in so many colors, and so do lollipops!
The sparkle of glass and cellophane adds to the magical light captivating the imagination with the promise of sweetness and delight.
You can find beautiful displays in museums, in nature, and in your own home, probably. What have you got on display?
This week, Patti invites the Lens-Artists to “break the rules and go beyond the traditional realistic image of an object, scene, or element” and create Abstract photos. It’s fun to guess what objects were used to create abstract images. Here are a few abstract shots of playground equipment:
The one below is a public art sculpture, again, with the moon faintly visible.
Naturally simple lines and shapes can also make great abstracts, especially when you use photo editors.
How does the emotion and story change in the abstracted versions of the plants shown above? How does your reaction change?
I could play around with possibilities forever on this theme!
How fun is THAT? Thanks, Patti!
I am almost stumped by Patti’s Lens-Artist Challenge this week. My photographs are largely of natural subjects, and I am not likely to be in an urban setting with a camera. However, I did have one photo come to mind…
So, definitely paint is involved…and a street…and something natural because…me. And yes, I moved the painted leaf because it was stuck fast. Then I took a picture of it. Does that make me a street artist?
“There is no true greatness in art or science without a sense of harmony.”
Greatness is a pretty tough challenge. Harmony is a tough challenge as well. Technically, emotionally, socially, it is not easy to make music. I have a B.A. in Music/Vocal Performance, and almost two years ago, I took up the violin. Professionals make it look almost easy. I had no idea how difficult it is until I tried to produce some kind of pleasing sound whilst scraping a horsehair bow over a metal wire. The idea is rather ludicrous…as were my first attempts. Why do would-be musicians even bother?
This evening, my eldest daughter is performing Mahler’s 8th Symphony with the Madison Symphony Chorus…and a host of other musicians. After all, it’s the “Symphony of a Thousand”. Tomorrow, I am performing Mozart’s Solemn Vespers and Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna in a basilica known as Holy Hill.
It’s impossible to imagine the number of hours that go into producing a concert, from composition to performance. Similarly, from learning to speak to writing poetry, what motivates humans to communicate? Why bother to go further than grunting out urgent pain or danger?
There is something sublime, something divine in experiencing the mystery of being alive in a moment. Music is LIFE in a moment. Photography is LIFE in a moment. It is breath-taking, poignant, exhilarating to be able to show someone that LIFE and feel that they resonate with that experience. That is harmony — experiencing the resonance of LIFE with another being.
As a Lens-Artist, I hope to show you something that touches a chord. Thank you, Tina, for the invitation to be part of this challenge and share the art I’ve practiced.
I think Creativity inspires more creativity. Case in point: Ann-Christine has used her creative inventiveness to come up with a photo challenge, and now my creative energy imagines a new response.
And to illustrate my point further, I’d like to introduce you to ART in BLOOM – the Milwaukee Art Museum’s “stunning art-inspired floral installations” that are exhibited each spring. This exhibit is also a contest. The idea is to create a floral interpretation of one of the paintings in the museum’s galleries. This is the Grand Prize winner:
And here is my own gallery of my personal favorites:
And to take the idea one step further, here is creative inspiration to the fourth degree: a photograph of a photographer inspired by a floral design inspired by a painting.
Creativity is communal and connective this way. We inspire each other, we learn from each other, we appreciate beauty together – differently.
Thank you, my fellow Lens-Artists, for inspiring me each week and inviting me to play along. What a great opportunity to live out Einstein’s words: “Creativity is intelligence having fun!”
This article appears in The Be Zine. To see the entire issue on theater, click HERE.
What has Theater taught me? Ego indulgence and humility. Confidence and neurosis. Teamwork and competition. Empathy and retreat. Deception and honesty. The story of humanity in a microcosm. My story.
When I was a little kid, I learned that I could entertain and amuse my parents and my older sisters and get positive attention. As the youngest of four daughters, I was eager to exercise this talent to my advantage whenever my ego felt bereft. This helped me compensate for having fewer general skills and powers than my seniors. I couldn’t win at games or read or figure or run better than the rest, but I could sing and mime and look cute. I also was the only blonde, which helped.
When I was in second grade, I was very good at reading aloud “with expression”. I remember (and still have a written report about) my behavior when the class did a Reader’s Theater story about a snake. I told the teacher that I had a toy snake the class could use…provided that I got to read the lead role. Mrs. Richie declined my offer.
When I was in third grade, Miss White selected me to play Captain Hook in the musical Peter Pan. I was stunned. “I’m not a boy!” I protested. She told me privately that she thought I’d do a better job than any of the boys in the class. She could tell that I was a ham and would take risks to win attention and applause. And I did. In the final week of rehearsal, she gave me a monologue, a poem in rhyme that she would put into a particular scene if I could memorize it. I worked on it very hard. In the final performance, though, I skipped it altogether because I forgot where it was supposed to be inserted. To this day, I can rattle it off by heart. “Methinks I hear a spark, a gleam, a glimmer of a plan….”
When I was in seventh grade, I was double-cast as the lead in our pre-Bicentennial musical. I was the Spirit of ’75 for two performances (why the Music teacher and the Home Ec teacher chose this theme a year early is anyone’s guess). So was Kevin Bry. Yes, I played a man. Again. I vividly remember being in performance and feeling sort of bored with the dialogue the teachers had written to link together the songs the school chorus had rehearsed. So I decided to overact. “The sun still rises in the East….doesn’t it????!!” The audience roared. I think they were pretty bored, too.
When I was in High School, I took real Drama classes. I learned to dance, and I gained some confidence singing solos in the Concert Choir and the Jazz Choir. I became a lot more aware of my own vulnerability, too. I will never forget the Talent Show in my Junior year. I was in a leotard and character shoes, posed and ready to dance when the curtain went up. I was listening for our taped music to begin. And I heard nothing…until the audience started to howl and whistle. Suddenly, I felt naked and taunted. Then the music started, and I couldn’t concentrate on it. I was humiliated. My father and mother and boyfriend (who became my husband) were in the audience, hearing those students jeering at me. We all went out for ice cream afterward, and they tried to convince me that the performance wasn’t bad and the audience wasn’t being critical, but I just wanted to block the whole thing out of my memory forever. Obviously, I haven’t.
When I was in college, I was a Music major with Voice Performance as my Senior thesis. I auditioned for a part in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta as a Junior. I hate auditions. I tend to choke when I know that someone is out there in those dark seats judging me. I am awesome in rehearsal – prepared, alert, willing and tireless. I was working hard, getting better at performance in my Master Classes and feeling more and more that my teachers and colleagues were actually rooting for me. But not at an audition. I was nervous, my mouth was dry, and my voice wavered. I could see my choir teacher in the house, talking with the casting director. I am sure that Prof. Lamkin was telling him that I was a very good soprano despite my weak scale runs in Mabel’s aria. I managed to land a part in the chorus.
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with my B.A. in Music, I auditioned for the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Worst audition EVER! Oh well. I found out that I was already pregnant. Got the role of Mother at age 22…and 24…and 26…and 28, and stayed off the stage for years. Meanwhile, my husband performed all over the country with a competitive Barbershop quartet and once at Carnegie Hall with the Robert Shaw Chorale Workshop. My children were on stage quite a bit, too. I was their coach. They were in all the school concerts and plays, took dance and music classes, and I watched and cheered and videotaped my heart out.
Then some neighbors invited me to help them start a Community Theater. I was tired of being in the background. I stepped up, and brought my oldest daughter with me. The next summer, I brought three of my children, my husband, and my mother-in-law as rehearsal accompanist. The next summer, it was just me, and my husband told me that he wouldn’t be able to solo parent while I was at rehearsal after this. Meanwhile, he was performing with the Chicago Master Singers and rehearsing every week. A few years later, my youngest daughter started taking theater classes with a group called CYT. The next summer, they did a community theater production, and I auditioned again and got cast. My oldest daughter played in the pit band. One of the performances was on my birthday, and the director brought me out on stage for the audience to sing for me during intermission. * shucks, folks! *
I ended up working for CYT and becoming their Operations Supervisor full time. In addition, I taught Voice classes and Musical Theater classes and Show Choir classes to kids aged 8-18 after work. All of my children and my husband participated at some point in the seven years I was employed there. I watched kids grow up in the theater, auditioning three times a year, growing in confidence and artistry, and questioning their identity every time.
“Who am I, anyway? Am I my résumé? That is a picture of a person I don’t know.” A Chorus Line
Accessing emotions, improvising with another person’s energy – initiation, response, vulnerability, defense. Mime, mimicry, mannerisms, artifice and accents. Playing in the muck of human behavior. This is Theater. It can be devastating and edifying. You can lose yourself and find yourself or never know the difference.
I wonder if I should regret raising up a bunch of performers and encouraging them in this charade or if I should be proud to have modeled survival in the arena. I don’t know. It’s complex. We’re complex. And maybe that’s the entire lesson.
This article is featured in the December issue of The BeZine.
“Truth is ugly. We possess art lest we perish of the truth.” – Nietzsche
Civilization kills. We are living in apocalyptic times. The Anthropocene is here; humans are dominating and destroying the Earth. Like all civilizations in history, though, ours will fall back into the dust, and Earth will absorb it in some fashion. I get angry with humans because of this. Our arrogance and hubris and stupidity is truly abhorrent. I would wash my hands from all association with my species if I could, but for two things: music and food. I am willing to forgive everything for Puccini and Marcona almonds sauteed in butter and thyme.
Perhaps it is nothing but hedonism to feel that my pleasure in a fine meal at La Reve on Tuesday might bring me back from the brink of utter despair. The “Holiday Train” event in the village late that afternoon had created horrific traffic congestion with black-clad pedestrians pushing strollers into the dark streets while some pop Christmas frenzy blared over a loudspeaker. I felt truly Scroogeish; humans are complete humbug. But then the ambiance of a Parisian bistro — chattering guests and tremulous accordion melodies — and the buttery oak in the Chardonnay spread its warmth over that cold, post-Truth fear surrounding my heart. I asked Irene, our Asian-American server, about how the chef prepared the pumpkin soup. We talked about how roasting brings out the deeper flavors of vegetables and stock bones and what items on the menu were gluten-free. By the time I had savored my way through triple-cream brie, salmon, lamb and chocolate caramel, I was ready to admit atonement of the human race was possible.
The next day, however, my thoughts turned dark again. How could I justify the expense of that meal, even though almost half of the cost to me was covered by a gift certificate? How had the animals invested in that meal been treated? How far had the ingredients traveled on fossil fuels to get to my plate? My awareness of suffering may have been dulled for a time, but it was not erased. I may have been treated quite well, but was I healed?
Healing. In Western culture, it’s about fixing pathology. In Eastern culture, it’s about making whole. Awareness is about opening up to understand the whole, the complete Oneness of the Universe. “Life is suffering” is the first noble Truth in Buddhism. Suffering is in the Oneness. Arising from the awareness of suffering are two responses (at least): Fear and Compassion.
I experience my fear for the human race and my compassion for it as well, blended contrapuntally. To recognize that only as thoughts criss-crossing my brain might drive me mad. To see that reflected in a complex pairing of wine and cheese or in the first act duet of Mimi and Rudolfo in La Boheme saves me from perishing from the ugly truth. I will never comprehend the Truth, although I live it every day. Making, enjoying, or experiencing Art is as close as I may ever come to holding the Whole in my heart. I believe that those who practice Meditation seek to do the same, while sparing the harm caused in producing Art.
May we all find a way to happiness, a way not to perish from the Truth, a way to be at peace with the Whole.
Text and photographs © Priscilla Galasso, 2016. All rights reserved.