Monday, November 20, 2017

In Time and the end of the year

Since I arrived in France over 2 years ago, I have been non-stop working on my art.  I created two unsuccessful series of work - unsuccessful meaning, they didn't make any sense to me in the end. There were some people that liked the pieces and I admit, I had a grand time creating them but after I looked them over carefully several times and over time, I realized they were not true to me at all and I had no idea what I was saying with them and a lot of the pieces were shit, plain and simple.

I went back to what I do "best" - deal with my inner "stuff" by creating fairy tale-type narratives and portraits. Hence, the 2 bodies of work "Rêves et Souvenirs" and "Ode to Pictoralists" came into being and as I was completing a piece that was blurring the lines of the 2 series, I said to myself that I wanted to take this into a color direction. I have always admired the work of Maggie Taylor with her whimsical Alice in Wonderland collages and other contemporaries that are also using digital collage in a creative manner, I, too wanted to try and go that direction.

However, adding color by a photographer that mainly worked exclusively in black and white (or at least mono-chromatically) has proved to be a huge challenge. If the color jumped out at me too much, I toned it down. And as much as I want a somewhat surreal look to the work, I don't want a Pop-Art feel to it at all. And as the work continues to be about my dreams, memories and emotions, none of them are in full saturated color. So, I can only hope that these work. I believe they do and I am pleased with them.

The link to my newly updated site:

So, here it is, almost the end of 2017 and as my life continues to settle here (amidst some stressful circumstances), I am very happy to say that my two constants have been my amazing husband and my ability to never stop creating art, whether bad or good. I am good with that.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

digital collage and......

The other day, I met another American photographer in Paris. He lives in the US and is also a collector and purchased one of my prints. He told me that he was visiting with his wife so we met up for coffee and we talked a bit about photography, naturally, and technique/technology. He does some beautiful work using the photogravure process and I spoke about the resurgence of vintage processes and how it's almost become a competition again, much like the old film vs. digital argument that, I now admit, I lost at.

When I was in university, digital imagery was at the embryonic stage. I learned the first version of Adobe Photoshop and I remember that in this first course, after learning the basic tools and what the program could do, I raised an eyebrow and asked the professor, "But what do you do with this after? What do you print it from and on?" He showed me a laser printer, much like a copy machine you would find in an office and "coated" paper thinner than Xerox paper. It was crap. The printer printed crap.

I also saw the first digital cameras come to light. More crap. So for 10 years or so, I was steadfast in my belief that digital sucked and it had no place in the fine art world. I shot film and printed in the darkroom up until 2006.

Then I lost my darkroom space and the only thing I could do was shoot and develop film but scanning into my computer and printing digitally was my only option. I noted that my prints looked better than they did when I was in the darkroom. At this point, too, ink jet printers and papers rapidly improved to higher standards. Slowly, I moved away from film, mainly due to monetary problems. And then, I began using Photoshop for something more than cropping and correcting exposure...born was my first series of digital collage - The Divine Journey.

I loved working with layers and seeing the possibilities that I could create that were, in fact, better in the sense that I could spend more time focusing on the artistic aspect that wasn't the same as spending more time just printing. I could create a whole new world just a little bit easier. And soon after, digital collage became a way for me.  I have been able to create different types of tableaux -  Rêves et Souvenirs. I didn't have to necessarily try and find locations to shoot in (as I did for so many years) and.......and I was able to mimic certain techniques of old - Ode to Pictoralists

And here we go again - for the alternative/vintage process people, what I am doing is sacrilegious. What the galleries might say is that they are not handmade prints, so they are worth less...or worthless, depending on the gallery, I am guessing. And at a time, I would have agreed with everyone but as I spend countless hours upon hours shooting, going through thousands of my photographs for source material and then coming up with the ideas and right combinations of images, re-working sometimes one piece for a month or more, I think I can say confidently and maybe having to eat my old words, that the bottom line is, and should be the content of the piece, the mood, the expression. Whether it be with the use of an 8x10 camera with an old cracked lens and wet plates, a plastic Holga camera, a scanner and objects, or a digital camera and printer, it's the final image in the end. I am sure Alfred Steiglitz would agree if he lived in this day.

And perhaps my new project is a push in a more, dare I say, contemporary direction, so to speak but I will always think the romantic in me is here to stay to counterbalance.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Brooklyn - the movie and my life

I just finished watching the movie Brooklyn. It is about a young Irish girl in the 1940's that immigrates to New York. It's a seemingly "simple" tale where she finds her life - a job while she goes to college and finds and marries a good man. However, at the beginning, she finds it very hard moving to a new country and being homesick, especially as she reads letters from her older sister who lives with their mother. Soon, her sister dies unexpectedly from an illness and the girl temporarily goes back to Ireland to be with her mother. Soon, she is pressured to take her sister's place at home, at the workplace and she even starts a new romance. However, she realizes she needs and wants to go back to her life in New York and does. A happy ending....

This movie spoke to me on one major way. While my story is not quite the same, what it made me think about is the in-between that I am.

I never felt like an American and I certainly am not a Française. The phrase, "home is where the heart is" is what feels true to me and what I hold on to because that is certainly the case here. My husband is my heart and I feel at home here with him. But I have a grim thought. If he was to die before me, Goddess forbid, would I stay here or go back to America? I believe I would stay here because at that point, I would be settled here, plus, given that this would happen when I am old, it would be way too difficult and expensive to fly back to the US, find a place to live, etc.

But again, putting that aside, who am I? Do I need to identify with my country and upbringing? There are a few Sicilian-American traditions/ties I have just based on my maternal grandparents and sort of with my parents but the strong sense of family was not truly there after my grandparents passed away. I did all I could to distance myself from it all because of an otherwise toxic family environment. When I went back to New York in January after my mother passed, I looked at my childhood home and her things from a distance again. I visited restaurants and places that I frequented when living there and while I have fond memories, I only have few worth holding. There are a few people whom are there that I love which gives me some form of connection but it ends there. However, I never felt the sense of homesick because I never felt at home there. And while I was married to my ex-husband, it was similar. There was no sense of home.

Home is where the heart is. Indeed. I feel that now. I can only hope that in time, my idea of home expands to so much more.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Book sale!

I found a great pro-print lab in Paris that creates these cute petites livres de poches! The book contains some images from my recent works 2016-2017. I am selling them in limited quantity for 15€/$18 per book plus shipping from France. Please contact me with your order.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

fantasy, fairytale, escape

Call it what you will. It's necessary for all of us to indulge in fantasy. Necessary to escape from certain realities and escape to somewhere and allow our imaginations to flourish. We need to feed our souls with it other wise, what kind of soulless people are we?

It is interesting and a bit sad though how people react to this sort of thing in an everyday situation. For my 48th birthday, I bought myself a present - well actually, the money was a gift from a dear friend to do as I wish. So, I wanted to have something fun and bought these elf-eared earphones.

Most people that read my blog know me and know that I am no stranger to wearing costumes in public on some level - generally on my way to and from a photo shoot but most of those times, I was coming from my car. 

However, now in France, I am in public transport - trains, buses, subways, trams and on foot. I have worn these earphones on several occasions and it strikes me as odd as to why I get more negative looks than positive ones. I can understand a moment of shock turned to a laugh or a shake of the head but when I am looked at in a hard way with a grimace on some faces, or get eye rolled at, I think more about what our society has become.

We have become one of the most angry societies than ever before. I see complete black and white statements being made, quicker judgement calls and even quicker tempers. People are getting angry at those of us that have a difference of opinion or our own beliefs. 

Who or what is to blame for this? We can start with our political climate for sure but this goes back a few years now. Social media has made people less patient and tolerant of others and as the more "social" people become online, the less they are in reality.

What is even more confusing is that in an era where what I have done for the last 20 years is now accepted and considered "cosplay" (I suppose I can thank whoever came up with that term to legitimize my dressing up and photographing myself), taken out of the context of a comic-con, walking around wearing elf ears is considered strange and not in a positive way.

Well, this is who I am and I never felt the need to protest it or make a "thing" about it. Let me be strange... but please don't hate me or try to make me feel bad for it. 

And if you want to be angry about it, well, go ahead. This is my life and my fantasy. I only get to live it once.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Chasing the butterfly

There she was sitting on a leaf in the bright sun. Slowly, I crept up to her with my camera to quickly snap a shot. No way. She wasn't liking that. Swiftly she flew and began a dance around my head. She landed on another leaf. Again, I slowly moved toward her, lifted the camera to my eye and whoosh she moved again and around and around my head.

"C'mon! Sit still just for one minute!" I cried to her. She then decided to land on my shoulder! I turned to her and moved fast but she hung on. "Ok, you want to stay there? I can try to get that angle with my camera" but whoosh she fled and back to her original leaf.

For 10 minutes, she continued to give chase. She landed on one leaf. I tried to be ever so gentle. No, she went to another leaf. Then a rock. Then a branch. Some moments, she would just flutter around in the air not wanting to land at all. However, when she did, no matter how quiet I made myself, she flew away every time I approached.

With my hands on my hips, frustrated and amused at the same time, I shouted, "you really are a silly girl and want to play hard-to-get, huh?" Finally, on a big leaf, she folded her wings inward slowly. I took a step. She didn't move. I took another step. Her wings remained folded. I furrowed my brows. "Are you tired? Did I wear you out?" Then suddenly, she spread her wings wide. I held up my camera and moved it close. Then closer. I shook as I approached but she didn't move. Snap! I got the shot. It was out of focus. Damn! But she still didn't move. So, I took another step, held my breath and snap!

She sat there another moment. Maybe she was communicating with me. I'd like to think that. I'd like to think that she had a fun time playing chase and interacting with a human that only wanted to interact with her.

After that moment, she flitted up and high in the sky. There, she met her mate and they began their dance of love, swirling around one another in the wind. I watched as they moved so quickly from place to place and then off they flew into the distance.

It was my moment. No. It was our moment. A shared moment that existed for a brief time but one that made me filled with joy. I felt connected to the earth; to nature. I felt where I belonged. Not of the modern world filled with too many artificial diversions but a world in which if you stop, look and listen, is filled with magic and unspoken connections that are stronger than anything could be. I am happy I was able to capture something of that moment so I will always remember my friend.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

What do you say to a man who is dying?

I was going to write this entry only with my art in mind but there is something that keeps coming back to my mind - a topic that always enters my mind: death. I suggest you don't read farther if you are expecting a happy blog entry here.

Since I was 13 years old, the thoughts and fear of dying have become a focus in my life. Maybe it began when I experiences my first death ever - that of my maternal grandmother whom I was close to. The whole experience was a bit surreal. Growing up in an Italian-American family, it's tradition to have a funeral that lasts several days, including an open-coffin for viewing (unless the person died tragically that would leave them disfigured). It was normal to go up to the body and discuss whether the deceased was presented well or not and no one gave it a thought that it was a dead body, or so it seemed. The viewing took place during 2 or 3 days so many people can have that as their last memory of how the deceased looked. It certainly was never the way I wanted to remember them.

So, as some others close to me died over the years, some affected me more than others but overall, there has been an emotional block for me. I think I was conditioned to do that from 13 years old. However, this has not made me impervious to death nor whom that has died. In fact, it has gone deeper inside and I am more and more afraid. Over the years, I developed anxiety and panic attacks linked to it all and I try to shake it out of my mind when the thoughts are there.

My father died in 2009 and my mother last year - 2016 and I am counting what older members of my family are left. Recently, I learned that one of my uncles is not doing very well. He is 92 years old. He has lived a long life with a big family. He is one of two of my father's brothers and has done quite well in his life and has done a lot to help my family. When my father died, I called him and we had a big conversation. I have reached out to him several times for help, though at one important and vulnerable time recently, he denied helping me which made things very difficult. I kept in touch with him, nonetheless.

When I learned that he is not doing well, I wrote him a letter. I began it with niceties and a brief update on things in my life without much detail. And then it came to ending the letter. I had trouble finding the words. If he is indeed doing as poorly as I had heard and the inevitable is about to happen, then what do I say?

I had closure with my father before he died but not in the way one would think. He said some loving words to me that I didn't think he was capable of, considering he was mentally ill. When my mother died, it was sort of sudden but even so, our relationship was very difficult so the last things that were said, were not good. And with the others that died, there was no time before to say anything - something I wished I was able to do with my maternal grandparents, anyway.

So what do I say to someone that I know is dying? I wanted to ask him if he was scared. I wanted to ask him if he would live his life differently if he had the chance. I wanted to ask him if he really believed in Heaven and Hell as the final places to go. But no, of course I wasn't going to ask any of that. I just told him to take things easy and rest and to surround himself with all the love and family he could and if he as able to respond to me, to do so.

He lives in the US so the odds of me being there when he dies are none. And when he passes, I will sit and mark another one off my list of others....the list gets longer.