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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Picnic

The Picnic ©2016 - "I'll affect you slowly as if you were having a picnic in a dream. There will be no ants. It won't rain." -Richard Brautigan, Loading Mercury With a Pitchfork 1976.

I began working on this piece at the end of December 2015, put it away in May 2016 and finally deemed it finished in September 2016. I'm not sure why that happens sometimes when other pieces come together a lot more quickly. After considerable trial and error, I decided to take a break and not so much as take a peek at it for several months. When I looked at it again, with a few minor tweaks, everything fell easily into place and it finally felt right. So, back to the beginning. This montage is a combination of images dating from 2010 to 2015. The background started with a grassy field and a small abandoned building I captured in Sussex County just outside of Lafayette, NJ. The trees in the rear, filled with a large flock of blackbirds, were shot from my front yard as the birds were gathering to fly south for the winter. The lovely lady hosting the picnic is friend and model Maryanne Christiano Mistretta from a photo session we did together in 2010. For the "picnic blanket", I set up and photographed a still life consisting of a vintage table cover laden with fruits and nuts. The guests include a dragonfly, a honeybee and a chipmunk from my backyard along with several crows and a vulture from my travels. Various tones, textures and filters were added for mood and blending to complete "The Picnic".

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Night of the Iguana

Night of the Iguana ©2016 - The title of this piece came from the play by Tennessee Williams, "The Night of the Iguana" but has little to do with the storyline other than the obvious inclusion of  iguanas. The background is a very marshy creek captured from a bridge in a small town somewhere between Allentown and Freehold, NJ. I came across the magnificent ruin of an old stone building in Warren County, NJ in Pohatcong Township. Unfortunately, there was no indication as to what it had been in it's previous life but it nestled nicely into my composition. What initially drew me to the older lady from my vintage portrait collection was the wisdom and contentment in her eyes, but she also reminded me of someone else. I searched my collection and there she was! A "mini me" of the older woman right down to her hairstyle! She fit perfectly into the doorway. The iguanas were not photographed from life but from a remarkably realistic sculpture that resides in my house. The most common type, the green iguana, is among the largest lizards in the Americas, growing to an average 6 feet long and weighing 11 pounds. Sometimes called "the benevolent dragon", they are quite gentle creatures, content with just being and appreciating the simplicities of life. Perhaps reflecting on her childhood and how far she has come, the woman has learned these lessons of the iguana well; being at peace with herself in the here and now and realizing that everything she needs already surrounds her. After adding a majestic vulture gliding overhead and some clouds in the night sky, I placed the June solstice full moon from June 20, 2016 peeking over the clouds. It's the northern hemisphere's first summer solstice full moon since 1967, aka The Summer of Love, with all it's magic.  

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tread Lightly at Twilight

Tread Lightly at Twilight ©2016 - Twilight is absolutely my favorite time of day. The soft, diffused light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon and a few stars become visible has a magical quality not present at any other time. The rhythm of the day is fast paced and measured by the hands of the clock, but the rhythm of the night is meditative and measured by the movement of the moon. Twilight, or "half-light", hovers between the two signaling the death of the day and the birth of the night with all it's dark secrets. The background image of this montage was in reality captured a little earlier in the afternoon around Sergeantsville, NJ. I was fascinated by the tree whose trunk seemed to grow horizontal along the ground before swooping upward. The wire mesh containers behind the tree are probably corn cribs used to dry corn, but I chose to fill them with a murder of crows exiting into the sky. Clouds were added along with selected filters and texture to simulate that hazy, watercolorish time between day and night. The young lady from my vintage photo collection was actually climbing some steps carrying a basket of flowers, but I replaced the flowers with a candle to light her way and added some grasses and stones to her path in the foreground. Hopefully, she treads lightly through the gargoyles (trying to camouflage themselves among the stones) as she makes her way through the twilight zone to a romantic tryst.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Messengers

The Messengers 2016 - The background of this montage is a combination of two images of Green Sergeant's Covered Bridge located across Wickecheoke Creek in Delaware Township NJ. Constructed in 1872 and named for local mill operator Richard Green Sergeant, it is the last historic covered bridge in New Jersey. After being damaged in 1960, it was dismantled and replaced with a modern bridge; but, oddly enough, due to public outcry, the bridge was rebuilt from the original materials in 1961. The gulls are from a rather large flock I came across hanging out, not by the sea, but in the parking lot of Wegmans supermarket in Bridgewater, NJ. Many species have learned to coexist successfully with humans and are resourceful, inquisitive and intelligent birds. In Native American spirituality, gulls are regarded as spiritual messengers that indicate a higher communication with spirit guides is taking place. The "spirit guide" in my piece is a composite of three different women to achieve the look I envisioned. The body is one of my models, the face and hair are from two different vintage photos from my collection. The pentagram she wears at her throat symbolizes the five elements with the top point, the spirit, ruling over the other four; earth, air, fire and water. The circle encasing them all represents infinity and the cycles of life and nature. With the composition in place, I added color, selected filters and texture to complete "The Messengers".

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Edge of Seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen ©2016 -  On a recent trip through the historic town of Princeton, NJ, I came across a beautiful old building (no surprise as Princeton has an abundance of them) but what most attracted me to this one was a magical, amber glow emanating from the iron gated doorway at dusk. Upon later research, it turned out to be Stuart Hall, part of the theological seminary of Princeton University. Built in 1876, it was named for the brothers Robert and Alexander Stuart, wealthy sugar refiners from New York City who donated funds for the building. After downloading the files, the color in the doorway reminded me of an idea in the back of my mind using an image of a cicada I photographed in my backyard during the seventeen year brood emergence of 2013. Several cultures, such as the ancient Chinese, regarded these insects as powerful symbols of rebirth. Looking down at the cicada, the top of it's body resembled the intricate bodice of a Victorian lady's dress with the same coloring as the doorway. The wide set eyes seemed to form shoulder pads while the wings formed flowing sleeves and a billowing skirt. I immediately searched my vintage photo collection and found a lovely lady that fit perfectly into the "cicada gown". I placed her in the composition, just emerging from the doorway, along with a crow flying overhead and a crescent moon reflected in the window. Selected filters,  color and texture completed "The Edge of Seventeen".

Friday, March 4, 2016

Valley of the Dolls

Valley of the Dolls 2016 - The title of this piece came from the 1966 novel by Jacqueline Susann, "Valley of the Dolls". Susann used the term "dolls" as a euphemism for drugs and how substance abuse is reminiscent of children clinging to toy dolls for comfort. It was the underlying theme in the pop culture classic about 3 women looking for fame and fortune in the entertainment industry and turning to "dolls" to deal with it's trials and tribulations. The background image is an abandoned building I captured in the area of the Delaware Water Gap in Sussex County, NJ. I was drawn by the weathered, pastel tones of paint and how the bare tree limbs on one side arched protectively over the roof. The building sat very close to a road, so for my composition, I added a pond of water with a cluster of trailing vines from Spotswood, NJ to the foreground. The little girl, with such a sweet expression, is from my vintage photo collection. The doll she is holding onto ( which I have to admit might be considered a bit creepy) is from an estate sale as well as the other dolls lurking around in the background and peeping up out of the water under the vines. The sky was rather bland so I added some clouds, a full moon, texture and of course, a couple of crows to complete the mood of "Valley of the Dolls".  

Monday, February 29, 2016

Along Came a Spider

Along Came a Spider ©2015 -  I discovered this wine glass lost and forgotten in the recesses of a kitchen cabinet. A resident spider apparently decided it was the perfect place to set up housekeeping, spinning a fascinating web tethered to the inside of the glass. Unfortunately, the spider's choice of real estate wasn't the best for attracting prey and it would appear he met his demise huddled beneath, waiting for dinner to be served. As I examined his creation, it immediately reminded me of a cow skull that Georgia O'Keeffe was so fond of painting and I knew I had to use it in a composition. After trying it in several different ones, it struck me that with this, simple would work the best. I placed it on a table in my studio in front of a window with streaming, afternoon sunlight that highlighted the web perfectly. I replaced it's deceased architect with the image of a spider from my backyard, added some texture and filters and "Along Came a Spider" was complete.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Different Point of View

A Different Point of View ©2015 - This piece began with a small, blue robin's egg found abandoned in the grass of my yard. I searched the area  for a nest it could have come from in hopes of returning it to it's owner but was unsuccessful, so I put it away for future use in an art piece. I've owned the bird's nest since the early 1980s when I found it tucked inside the limbs of  my Christmas tree one year. It's had a place of honor on every Christmas tree since. When I came across the old tintype of the lovely lady, I thought the nest would fit nicely in her lap as she plays mediator between the crow and robin, each having "A Different Point of View" regarding rights to the egg. The background started with an image of a grassy hillside with beautiful foreground flowers taken up north in Warren County, NJ. I added an interesting stone structure built into the side of a hill that I came across in the area of Stockton, NJ. The mysterious entrance was totally dark revealing not a clue as to what lay inside  (and a fence prevented any adventure in that direction) so I decided to use my discretion and add a moonlit scene of a garden path from Cross Estate Gardens in Bernardsville, NJ for yet another "Different Point of View". The crows, texture, selected filters and hand coloring were added to bring the final piece together.