Still Standing

I love this photo of my brother in front of the Detroit City skyline.

Sometimes we get knocked down. For a while. We lay there, supine, gazing at the world with hazy longing while an invisible anvil pins us to the bottom of an indifferent river. An eternity ticks by in slowww-motion, tick, tick, while a hundred sunrises and a hundred sunsets quietly stain the sky. But today is a new day . . .

Forty years ago I fled the family nest, which had been uprooted in the early 60s from Detroit to a remote mining town in northern Ontario. It was always my intention to leave, but I visited often over the years, somehow believing that it’s the one who left who must always make the effort.

Guilt. It can play crazy tricks with the mind. But guilt for leaving a sad place that was never yours is absurd… especially in that moment when black ice sends your car careening through three feet of powder toward a frozen ravine while your baby screams in terror. The absurd has stubbornly lingered over time… but the gods were with us that day.

Thanksgiving. My brother traveled a thousand kilometres in late November for a long-awaited reunion with our family clan in Windsor and Detroit. Cancer and other setbacks had delayed his visit, but here he was at long last. My beautiful, brave, sensitive brother, ravaged by illness and radiation. A survivor. He stayed for five wonderful days – we talked, drank, laughed, and cried, but mostly we marvelled that we had made it this far. As a parting gift, I gave him our father’s helmet [1].

Melancholia. This thing that I naively thought I was leaving behind, in a small mining town so long ago, turned out to be a merciless stalker. Forty years, and thirty moves… apartments, houses, towns and cities. Lots of them, but still… the shadow persists. Just the other night I dreamt that I got the keys to a new apartment (right next door to my son and his family) – one with big windows, a parquet dance floor, and space to paint large canvases. I awoke with a lingering sense of joy that was gone before noon. And then this article from Brain Pickings crossed my path, What Depression Is Really Like. Van Gogh describes it well.

Reflection. I think for the first time in my life, I’m finally getting it. The moving thing. Endlessly running from the “black dog” with a carefully crafted rationale obscuring the truth. The truth. I cried for seven hours on this last U-Haul road trip in 2014, the flood-gates unleashed during a farewell hug after breakfast with my best friend, Kelly, in the parking lot at Burger World. Christ, I weep just thinking about it. Writing does that. It brings you to your core.

[1] While writing this post, it suddenly occurred to me that this is probably a preamble to the yet to be written Part 3 of The Diving Helmet. Follow the links to read the story from the beginning:
The Diving Helmet – Part 1
The Diving Helmet – Part 2

[Postscript] ** After publishing this post I realized the irony in the title, Still Standing. Detroit (the backdrop in the photo) is currently rising out of a long, dark period, and reinventing itself. I love that!!

The Magic of Polaroids

While tooling around with Hipstamatic’s Tintype Snappack for a new project last week, I somehow got to looking at Polaroids. I had no idea that they could look so amazing!! The ones I remember kicking around in family photo boxes were, well, unimpressive. Then I discovered that Polaroid had released their very own app called Polamatic!!

Of the many in-app films, filters, and borders, I have a few favourites, but one of the things I like best about Polamatic is the text option. This opens up new possibilities for creative individuals who also use the written word as a means of expression. In the images below, I used various technology at my disposal to take the Polaroid to the next level with my digital artwork. The results are pretty exciting. New project? I think so!

To see more of my work, including some great Polaroids, follow me on Instagram.Thanks for dropping by, and as always, I look forward to reading your comments.

Naked Truths (Part 2)

MOODY, EMOTIONAL WORK is the core of what drives me as a content creator. I think, I write, I create in various media, yet the same aesthetic values invariably lead to similar processes and conclusions. There is only one muse.

My long-standing enthusiasm for digital technology has been a rewarding and fruitful journey. In 2012 I had a solo exhibition of artworks created exclusively on an iPhone. The device seems limitless in its creative potential. One of my favourite apps is Hipstamatic, which I’m currently using to replicate the look and feel of old daguerreotypes and tintypes. While the results are engaging in their own right, my usual habit is to push and explore – thus branching off in parallel directions, but still retaining the emotional impact of the original images.

As I explained yesterday in my blog post essay, in addition to the rich, imperfect appearance of daguerreotypes, what intrigues me most about early 19th century portraiture is that it was able to dissolve the protective masks behind which most people conceal their inner selves. This was due to the super-long exposure times required. Nobody said “cheeeeese.” They just sat or stood motionless until the photographer signalled that the process was complete. So without the aid of a practiced “camera smile” to camouflage their true emotions, the camera ultimately captured a more “honest” portrait.

AS AN ARTIST, I have often used myself as the model in my work because the themes originate from my own complicated, inner experiences. As such, using the tintype approach for this emerging body of work is the right fit because it conveys the mood so perfectly and unapologetically. To be genuinely authentic is to embrace and celebrate the beauty of our imperfect selves, and the tintype seems particularly suited for this purpose.

Applying a technique I’ve previously used to deconstruct and abstract photos of orchids, the series below (including the three images at the top of this page) was created by magnifying selected tintype images in order to achieve new and interesting compositions. The resulting portraits are confined to only partial views of the face, but enough is still visible to retain a sense of intimacy and the mood which informs all of the works in the Naked Truths Project. It will be exciting to see how all the pieces fit in the final completed ensemble.