Friday, April 19, 2019


Requiem ©2019 - The background image of this piece is a rolling field of multi colored grasses captured in the area of Washington Township in Morris County NJ. The wall of bare trees at the rear was blanketed with fog that was hovering over the entire area that day providing an eerie, unearthly kind of mood. I caught the flock of geese on a nearby lake just as they were taking flight into formation. There is an abandoned property in that area, specifically Middle Valley, NJ, that I have photographed several times over the years so I stopped by to do an update and see what changes may have taken place since my last visit. As I wandered through, something white  caught my eye in the underbrush beside the path. It was the skull of what appeared to be a deer. Upon closer examination, the rest of the skeleton seemed to also be there, partially submerged in mud. I decided at that point that at least the skull (which was in remarkably good condition) would find a new home at my house. After a bit of cleaning, it was ready to be photographed for its second life as an art subject. The young lady in mourning was restored from my vintage photo collection, the lilies are from a recent bouquet whose intoxicating fragrance permeated my house for days, and the crow is one of many I’ve captured in my travels. Color, selected filters and texture were applied and the Requiem began.

The Lovely Bones

You fell sometime ago
with no one near to witness
or mourn your end.

Even creatures who roam
the lonely woods should be
remembered; and so I bring
lilies, pale as the moon.
A requiem for your lovely bones.

                   - Darlene Foster 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Beguiled

The Beguiled ©2018 - The inspiration for this piece came from a favorite illustration by Gustave Dore for Fables of La Fontaine in 1868 titled “The Rabbits” as well as the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  The background is a montage of two images taken two years apart in very different locations but blended together perfectly for the effect I wanted. Oddly enough, the rabbits (actually consisting of three rabbits in multiple poses) were captured in Pottersville, NJ, two of them on 7-28-18 and one on 7-28-17, same day, same town one year apart!  In Dore’s illustration, the rabbits are startled by a gun shot from a man hidden in the bushes with a rifle and scurry into the forest for protection. In my piece, the rabbits (and perhaps several crows) are being drawn slowly into the forest by the beguiling melody coming from the violin of the lady in white.  As the legend goes, in the year 1284, the people of Hamelin (a town in Lower Saxony, Germany) hired a piper (or flutist) dressed in multicolored (pied) clothing to lure away an infestation of rats with his magical pipe.  When they refused to pay for his service, he used his powers on their children, leading them away as he had the rats. While I’m not convinced my violinist has anything quite so sinister in mind, I’ll leave it up to the viewer as to the fate of “The Beguiled”.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Wizard's Apprentice

The Wizard’s Apprentice ©2018 - I began this piece with an image of the Raritan River I captured from under a bridge on Old York Rd just outside of Readington Township, NJ. There were some interesting bare trees along the bank that were leaning precariously toward the water in almost a domino effect. Between two of them, looming in the distance, I placed a graceful, white house from Belvidere, NJ. The tall, elegant heron standing calmly in the water as well as the two turtles basking in the moonlight on a piece of floating wood, are from the area of Princeton, NJ. My little wizard mouse is in reality one of my Halloween decorations who normally carries a small skull in his hands. For this adventure however, I fashioned a magic wand for him by photographing the handle of an antique, silver hand mirror and a crystal charm from a necklace. The wolf, faithful guide, protector and familiar to the wizard, was photographed at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ and the young “apprentice” is from my vintage photo collection. A crescent moon, crows, and a dragonfly were added to complete the composition. Texture, color and filters were used to blend the final image and create the atmosphere I envisioned for my traveling trio as they discover what is unveiled at the end of their journey.

 “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”  - Roald Dahl, novelist, poet and screenwriter

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Tender Trap

A Tender Trap ©2018 - When I found the vintage photo of the girl with the hypnotic eyes in an antique store, I couldn’t wait to use her in a new piece. Even so, I did wait, several months in fact, before the right elements and composition came together for this montage. The background image, with it’s quirky little bent over tree and rolling hills, was taken in northwestern New Jersey just before crossing into Pennsylvania.The Jaguars are residents of The Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ. These beautiful and powerful beasts were prominent in ancient Native American cultures. In some traditions, the Jaguar God of the Night was the formidable lord of the underworld. The name jaguar is derived from the Native American word “yaguar”, which means “he who kills with one leap”. The Mayans, Aztecs and Inca all worshiped the jaguar in some form. Unfortunately, today they have been eliminated from most of the United States due to habitat loss, over hunting and killings to protect livestock and are endangered in Central and South America. I finished the composition with some crows, clouds, and a large black feather (considered to be a sign of protection by angels). Texture, color and select filters completed the piece. The title was inspired by the 1955 movie, “The Tender Trap” which referred to love. In this case, it seems a trap of some sort is definitely being set; however, I leave it to the viewer as to who is doing the trapping, beauty or the beasts?         

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Penguin Dreams and Stranger Things

Penguin Dreams and Stranger Things ©2017 - The title for this piece came from a book by my favorite cartoonist, Berkeley Breathed, published in 1985. I fell in love with the character, Opus the penguin, when I first discovered his comic strip, "Bloom County". I photographed these  adorable, tuxedoed  Humboldt penguins at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ. The Humboldt is a South American penguin that breeds in coastal Chile and Peru. It gets it's name from the cold water current it swims in which itself is named after the explorer, Alexander von Humboldt. Although we tend to think of a penguin's striking coloring as elegant, it is actually a matter of camouflage; from above, it's black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean while from below, it's white belly is hidden against the bright surface. Considered marine birds, penguins live up to 80 percent of their lives in the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere. It is a common myth that they all live in Antarctica. In fact, the Galapagos penguin lives on tropical islands at the equator. However, in the case of my little colony of Humboldts, I've placed them on a tiny island in the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey where they are joined by a young gentleman from my vintage photo collection who is dressed as elegantly as they are. I added a cold, full moon rising in the background behind the trees, some clouds and several crows gliding overhead. Assorted filters, texture and color created the mood and atmosphere I wanted to complete the piece.

Pale Rider

Pale Rider ©2017 - The title of this piece came from the 1985 western film, "Pale Rider", a reference to the rider of the pale horse in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who represents death. My little equestrian (from my vintage photo collection) received the title only for his overall pallor and not for a specific association with death (although I leave any final decision on that interpretation up to the viewer). The tree, with it's skeletal limbs and gathering crows, was captured in the area of Bernardsville, NJ.It fit nicely into the background image of a furrowed  ield of grasses in the area of McGuire Air Force Base just south of Trenton, NJ. The small road cutting through the center provided a  convenient bridle path for the pale rider and a hitch hiking crow trying to  move things along with his riding crop. Clouds, a rising crescent moon,  color, texture and filters were added to complete the mood and finish the  montage.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Circle Game

The Circle Game ©2017 - This piece was inspired by the vintage photo of two young girls with facial expressions that are hauntingly wistful. Dressed all in white and holding hands to form a circle, they brought to mind childhood summers of local fairs and carousels. Having no carousel images in my files, I began a search and found an unusually lovely one consisting of not horses, but an assortment of endangered species at The Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ (if you're in the area, it's located in the South Mountain Reservation and well worth a visit). Oddly enough, it included a magnificent dragon that was perfect for my composition. The background image is a montage of three different photos; two from the area around Trenton, NJ of gently, rolling hills and a sky from Watchung, NJ. I arranged the dragons descending from the clouds behind the girls and a number of crows from my travels circling around them. Selected filters, color and texture brought them all together for the final piece. The title for this one was in place before I even began and comes from the first verse of the song "The Circle Game" by the one and only Joni Mitchell, 1970:

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game 

When Dragons Fly

When Dragons Fly ©2017 - I started this piece with the stone pool from an abandoned property in Scotch Plains, NJ. The house had already been demolished but the pool intrigued me with it's curious door shaped opening on one side that didn't seem to lead anywhere. It was surrounded by brush and debris so I placed it on the side of a sloping, stone hill I captured at Leonard J. Buck Gardens in Far Hills NJ with lovely plants growing along the top. The tree behind it came from another area of the gardens, but I loved the dripping leaves so I added it to the background and some clusters of ferns to the foreground. The little fish peering out of the water actually resides in an aquarium at my local pet store. The lady in sapphire blue (from my vintage photo collection) seems to be enjoying an afternoon stroll with her crow sporting his own blue fedora. Lastly, I added the magical dragonflies which were living on the same property with the pool. The sun that day created such ethereal sparkles of light on their wings, reinforcing a supposed connection with nature's spirit and fairy realms. It's hard to believe after hatching from an egg, this enchanting insect lives most of it's life as a brown, rather nondescript nymph under water for several years. When ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs to the surface at night on an emerging plant. When it's system adapts to breathing air, the skin splits open and the adult dragonfly climbs out. It spends the remainder of the night drying out and plumping up it's wings before, at sunrise, taking flight as the beautiful, agile creature we know as the dragonfly! 

"I can still only see a dragonfly, it's wings as thin and light as silk and it's body the color of rainbow. But on the wings of this dragonfly I take off and fly, for my soul carries no weight. It is our bodies - these borrowed vehicles of flesh and bone - that weigh us down. Our spirits are eternally free and invincible."  - Daniela I. Norris, On Dragonfly Wings: A Skeptic's Journey to Mediumship

And the Band Played On

And the Band Played On 2017 - The inspiration for this piece came from the wonderfully creepy little monkey sitting atop the piano playing his cymbals. I photographed him courtesy of Gallery on Main, a lovely antique shop and art gallery in Somerville NJ. I envisioned the composition to be a musical ensemble odd enough that he would fit right in. His first band mate to be added was a goat I captured in the area of Sergentsville NJ. In reality, he was standing with his front feet on a wire fence, scratching his head on a tree limb above. However, in my reality, his front hooves were in just the right position for the piano keys. I was able to photograph the beautiful baby grand at Raritan Music Store in Raritan NJ given I have an especially close relationship with the owner. The amphibian guitar player lives at my house (although I use that term loosely as he's not actually alive but stuffed). He was holding a very unimpressive toy guitar that didn't blend well with the piano so I decided to replace it with a more appropriate acoustic instrument belonging to the human guitar player who also lives at my house. The young vocalist (from my vintage photo collection) leans dreamily on the piano while the crow perched behind lends some backup vocals to the mix. I placed them all on the background image (taken near Princeton NJ) of a tree in a field with long, spidery limbs and missing the top half of it's trunk. Maybe a lightening strike? Selected filters, tones, color and texture completed "And the Band Played On".

A Vigilant Eye

A Vigilant Eye ©2017 - The rolling field of grasses I used as the background in this montage was a lucky find I happened across in Far Hills, NJ. I love using different types of grasses in my pieces and this vacant property was filled with them. It's the future home of Mine Brook Farm, a housing complex being touted as producing a regenerative environment while positively impacting the local wildlife, watershed, soil and ecology. Hopefully, they can make that happen! The abandoned building I placed in the distance, with it's draping blanket of ivy, was captured in western Hunterdon Cty, NJ on a trip home from Easton, PA. The woman peering out the upstairs window is from a vintage family photo given to me by a good friend who thought it would fit nicely into one of my pieces (and I heartily agreed!). The young girl taking an evening stroll is from my own vintage photo collection, but I spotted the majestic red tail hawk accompanying her perched in a tree behind my house. I didn't notice at the time I took the photo because of all the tree branches in the foreground, but upon inspecting the image, I found he was clutching a mouse (apparently his lunch) between his talons. I toyed with the idea of leaving it in the composition, dangling across the young lady's arm but decided it might be a bit too much. So without his mouse, I placed him on her arm and added some clouds, texture, color and filters. As the moon rises in the background, the hawk keeps "a vigilant eye" on the path ahead just as the peculiar woman in the witches hat keeps "a vigilant eye" on the two of them. And perhaps they are all listening to a song being sung in the distance….

The Poet's Song - Alfred Lord Tennyson

The rain had fallen, the Poet arose,
He passed by the town, and out of the street,
A light wind blew from the gates of the sun,
And waves of shadow went over the wheat,
And he set him down in a lonely place,
And chanted a melody loud and sweet,
That made the wild swan pause in her cloud,
And the lark drop down at his feet.

The swallow stopt as he hunted the bee,
The snake slipt under a spray,
The hawk stood with the down on his beak
And stared, with his foot on the prey
And the nightingale thought, "I have sung many songs,
But never a one so gay,
For he sings of what the world will be
When the years have died away". 


Metamorphosis ©2017 - "A change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means" is the definition of metamorphosis that gave me the title for this piece. I started the background with the small out building I came across on an abandoned property in the Delaware Water Gap in northwestern NJ.  The area surrounding it was all rubble so I placed it in a field of tall grasses from Mine Brook Farm in Far Hills, NJ. The Red-fringed Emerald moth (nemoria bistriaria) I photographed as it was sleeping on my front door. Although that is it's species name, it's wings were a beautiful, pastel green; not emerald. Unlike their butterfly cousins, moths are mostly nocturnal creatures in spite of their fascination for flames and artificial lights. While there are a few theories for this mysterious behavior, none have been proven. Many Native Americans consider moths a symbol of transformation and healing while others associate them with death and bringing messages from the spirit world. I suppose the young man from my vintage photo collection could possibly be involved with both. I added the clock from the quaint town of Belvedere, NJ (timing is everything in the process of metamorphosis) and some evening clouds from just after sunset. Lastly, filters and color were selectively applied as well as texture from a daguerreotype that seemingly added tendrils of electricity to the sky.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Dark Day in November

A Dark Day in November ©2016 - When I use texture in my work, the deterioration in old daguerreotypes is one of my favorites. Normally, I remove any figures in them digitally leaving only the texture for layering into my montages. When I came across this one, however, I was drawn to how the decay of the image had left the woman with such a desolate, haunting look and decided to leave it intact. In the aftermath of the presidential election, I pulled it from my files as the base image for a piece to express the swirling thoughts and feelings consuming me. I purposely left the darkness and long, horizontal slashes across her face and head giving the feel of an icy, blowing wind. I photographed and added the American flag and lilies along with bare trees and circling crows in the background. The book the woman is holding was a gift from my sister a number of years ago by the 19th century English poet, Emma Tatham titled "On the Ocean of Time: The Children of the Year". It's an illustrated calendar book with a poem for each month of the year and is open to the following page:


Ah, I am come! and ye greet me not.
Fear and aversion are ever my lot;
Ye shrink from the sound of my voice of storm,
And dread the approach of my shadowy form;
Ye know that my brow is heavy and dull,
And scarcely a blossom have I to cull;
Ye know that my forehead with mist is veiled,
And the blast, at my coming, hath moaned and wailed;
I have torn from the branches the leaves that stayed,
And bid the shivering chrysanthemum fade;
I have strewn the foam o'er the ocean wide,
And the bee hath gone to her nest to hide.

I fear for our deeply divided country but I have to believe we will get through this.