Artist's Words: Contact with the Mythic
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a few words about my photography . . .
I live in Boulder, Colorado, a place in which natural beauty is easy to find every day, every season, from every direction. To walk in this natural beauty is an easy path.
For me, photography follows from that beauty: Light filtering through my mind’s eye from the 360-degree multi-sensory surround. I’m interested in blending my contact with these elements into the human estimate of color and form.
But photography is an expansive medium. I can also step into what the landscape painter, Kathryn Mapes Turner, calls the “metaphorical fog”, that is, create pictures that move beyond the literal into the mythic. The openness and the variety of the western landscape evokes all that we consider mythic---the emotional psychological potency of the raw elements, thin places, the spirits, sparks of brilliant light, the seen and unseen, the silence, the open emptiness that’s filled to the brim---those places where we are left on our own to “contact” a wildness beyond our control. To contact a wildness beyond our control. This contact can cut off the ordinary world, become muse-like and pull at me to see where it leads. I’m not saying that mountains, high deserts, canyons, flowing waters, tall pines, or the big sky speak to me, or that the wind whispers ancient wisdom that no one else hears.
No, photography comes from within, skirting the edges of self-portraiture. My images come from somewhere inside me---quite literally from the inside out; familiar images, perhaps, but ones that carry the recognition of personal meaning. The American photographer, Sally Mann, writes about this in Hold Still, her 2015 memoir with photos:
“Working in the inexhaustible natural pageant before me, I came to wonder if the artist who commands the landscape might in fact hold the key to the secrets of the human heart: place, personal history, and metaphor . . . it remain[s] for me to find those metaphors, encoded, half-forgotten clues within the . . . landscape (p. 210).”
As Mann suggests, the process of creating photographic art can break us open to this kind of awareness---to the pulsing depth of life, the literal and the metaphorical.
Often, photographs stand alone as objective statements of the literal world, but sometimes we want more than that. From mind’s eye to print, I work to print images that reflect my contact with the wildness as it opens to me. I invite viewers to their own visual experience.
Today, almost everyone is within arms-reach of a photographic device of some kind. Does that make us all photographers? Maybe, but most people blame the camera for photos they don’t like. However, the “M” selection in our camera controls reminds us that taking a photo is more than just a tech process.
Framing a scene through a camera intensifies the experience of seeing. For me, photography provides the best break from the regular world---out somewhere, things slow down for awhile and the clock stops ticking, senses heighten and focus more sharply. I’m free.
If there’s art, this is where it begins.
I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, came to the West and have never really left. I completed both an undergraduate program (History of Art) and graduate program (Ancient Greek and Roman History) at UCLA. I now live in Boulder, Colorado, and for almost twenty-five years, have taught Ancient Greek and Roman History at a university in Denver.
From that long perspective, there’s nothing new under the sun, except, of course, that every generation thinks it is experiencing everything for the first time.
Influences on how I see things, include:
- Other photographers, especially American photographers, Galen Rowell and Sally Mann, in how they write about their own photography and photography, generally;
- painters, especially the American painter, Georgia O’Keeffe, in her reduction of the literal world into essential form and color;
- many writers, especially the American scholar of myth/religion, Joseph Campbell, and his ideas about the mythic quality of human experience and the role of art and artists; and the poet, Wendell Berry of Kentucky. Reading his poems is its own “contact” with the wild and the mythic quality of human life.
- finally, my undergraduate degree in the History of Art (UCLA), and, in full 20/20 hindsight, especially my first History of Art classes at the University of Cincinnati before going West.