Sometimes something small can change the course of lives.
In this case, a handful of tiny seeds.
Last week I visited Meadowbrooke Gourds Farm in Carlisle, PA and learned the story of those seeds.
I went home for my 40th high school reunion this past week but it wasn’t that gathering that brought me face to face with my past self.
The building I went to high school in is long gone so there were no “in person” trips down that particular memory lane. However, the university I attended is thriving so one day I spent a few hours wandering around the campus. The memories came fast and furious and nostalgia abounded.
Songs often bring back strong memories but in this room, the printmaking room, it was the smell that instantly made me feel like I was 18 years old again. The minute I walked through the doors I remembered the exact feeling I had when I first entered it for a woodcut class in 1977. The exact same smells are still there. The ghost of my former self lingers there, big time. I’m positive my 18-year-old butt sat on those very same stools.
Long before this week’s photo challenge I started seeing life through a frame.
Being a photographer will do that to you, perhaps not always in a good way, because often I tend to not pay attention to the “big” picture when I’m experiencing something. Instead, my photo mind is always framing what’s happening and thinking about the image that will result, as opposed to simply being in the moment.
I had the privilege of observing an Honor Flight this week and since I really was there to document the experience for a friend and her dad, I felt I was justified in seeing it all through my lens. I also added this week’s photo challenge into the day by looking for frames within my frame.
This is what I came up with throughout my day in Washington, DC.
A perfectly blue sky above me as I exited the Metro:
A group of Veterans framed by Honor Guard Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery:
I passed a milestone this past week when I posted my 2000th Instagram.
What started out as a way of forcing myself to notice my surroundings has turned into so much more. For five years now, one day at a time, I’ve looked for, recorded, and then posted a daily image. It’s become an ingrained way of life for me.
Several years into the project I started printing the images and keeping a stack of them with me, which has added a dimension that has expanded my world immensely. People often look at me with suspicion when I ask if I may give them something but when I explain that it’s a gift, a little piece of my art that they may take with no strings attached, most of them eagerly search through the photos.
Some people know immediately which one they want. Others pull out their favorites, narrowing them down and looking at them again before they choose.
Almost always, I hear stories…..why a certain image speaks to them, what memory it invokes or who it might remind them of. One of the very first ones I gave away was to an exceptionally helpful bus driver in Paris, dressed in a suit, who told me he wanted to stop his bus in the middle of the street and show everyone his picture! He obviously didn’t have time to choose his own photo so I randomly grabbed one from my stash and this particular image has proven to be one of the most popular ones in my collection.
A pharmacist in Wisconsin, after choosing a photo of pocket watches, showed me an extensive collection of watches that he keeps at the store.
On a trip to Europe a few years ago I left Instagrams with a cheesemaker in Belgium…..
a calligrapher in Poland…..
and a group of delightful sisters in Switzerland. In the case of Sister Gielia, an artist herself, the images bridged the gap between our two languages.
My sister-in-law is a big fan of this particular Instagram but every time I give it to her she finds someone to give it away to. I love that she meets people who will relate to the message, and passes it on, so now I keep her supplied with a stack of them.
When I was wondering around DC a few months ago I made an Instagram of a haiku about spring rain and posted it with the hashtag #goldentrianglehaiku.” Turns out that haiku was written by a woman in Bulgaria and it was the first time she had seen a photograph of her poetry, on a street in a country so very far away and so very different from her own. We’re now friends on Facebook.
So you see, I started out using Instagrams to help me see the world, but what has happened is they have also brought me closer to the people who inhabit that world.
That result, in Cajun terms, is the lagniappe. To a baker it’s the icing on the cake. To a kid in an ice cream parlor it’s the cherry on top of the sundae. To this photographer and member of the human race, it’s all of those things rolled into one.
Here are a few favorites from the last five years:
And if I may, let me add another cherry to the top of this story. When I started this project I lived at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Turns out, on the one year anniversary of his retirement ceremony from the Air Force, my husband accepted an offer for a full time job and it takes us right back to where the project started, in the Shreveport/Bosssier City area of Louisiana. I’ll miss the four seasons I have here in Virginia and snow will be something I have to travel to find, but this move does get us much, much closer to our grandchildren. Can’t argue with that!
To read more about how and why my Instagram project started, click here.
To visit my Instagram Facebook Page go here.
If you wish, you many follow me on Instagram under the name julannek.
You have my gratitude for visiting.
A new roof was put on our home this week and my “no art background except for the fact that he’s been married to me for 39 years” husband’s observation, after stepping outside to view the work going on was, “Looks like Christo has been here.”
And indeed, much to my delight, it did.
And then I smiled, because how many retired military generals have any idea who Christo is?
I’ve long been an admirer of Christo’s art, ever since discovering a photograph of this piece while I was in college. He and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, create non-collectible art. It is designed to end.
It occurs to me that this was my first real exposure to public art……art done on a grand scale, put out in the world for people to see, not tucked away in a museum, where the observer has to make a conscious decision to view it.
I’ve been seeking out public art ever since, as well as often photographing buildings that have been shrouded for one reason or another. I’m drawn to how a space is changed when it is draped and how that space changes with the light in the course of a day.
In 2005 I had the opportunity to see a Christo/Jeanne-Claude work in person when The Gates were installed in Central Park. As I recall, my traveling companions were less than impressed; I was mesmerized.
So yes, I was thrilled to have my very own Christo/Jean-Claude happening going on around me a few days ago, even if my roofers had no clue what they had created for me, or why I was taking so many pictures of it.
One never knows what delights the course of an ordinary day will hold.
I went to sleep last night after ruminating about what “abstract” means in relation to art and sifting through the photos I had taken with this week’s photo challenge in mind.
This morning I woke up dreaming I’d been to a restaurant to start a new job but couldn’t make any sense of the paperwork I was supposed to fill out. The words were in English but I couldn’t read them. I was frustrated and confused; it was hard to pull myself out of the dream.
I’m pretty sure these two seemingly unrelated events got locked together in my subconscious. In thinking about the concept of abstraction last night I’d been reading other’s thoughts about it and honestly, had a more muddled view of the concept after my research than before it. My brain took that ambiguity and paired it with something in my past.
Until I started searching I thought I had a good concept of what abstract was. After my search, I had less of an understanding. I suspect that it had something to do with my medium. Photography is usually perceived as being quite literal.
In the end, I’ve decided that my interpretation of abstract, through photography, is an image in which I can get lost, but which calms, rather than confuses me. It might take me searching but doesn’t leave me frustrated.
It’s a visual space in which I can seek but also rest.
I spent a few moments in a friend’s art studio recently and photographed these images in her sink, on her palletes and among the things she keeps around for inspiration.
I enjoy the fact that the byproducts of her art became my art.
And that her inspiration became mine.
Her literal…..her workspaces and her tools, became my abstracts.
The next images are me just playing around with what was in my life yesterday. Every now and then I can’t resist throwing all the photography and art rules away that I was “raised” with, completely relying on technology to take an image from literal to abstract. Because if I always stay with my original definition of art then where is the growth, right?
Sometimes it’s good to walk into those unknown places.
As a photographer, cloudy days make my heart sing.
They make a day mercurial, changing the mood of a scene depending upon the dance the sun is doing with them at any given moment, creating beautiful half-light that shifts perspective in a matter of seconds.
This scene started off a road trip yesterday between Omaha, Nebraska and Kansas City, Missouri.
I was pretty sure something wonderful was going to be at the other end of the road, I just wasn’t sure what it was going to be.
So I started googling Kansas City….
….and found this: Shuttlecocks by Claus Oldenburg in the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Followed by TheFour Seasons by Philip Haas, inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who was an Italian painter best known for creating imaginative portrait heads made entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books.
I was pretty sure I was never going to even make it inside the doors of the museum.
I did eventually go inside and if I had an entire week, I would still be discovering the treasures contained within.
What a gift this day was. Beautiful light, amazing art, the magnanimous foresight of art collectors, and a city that supports the arts with a museum that boosts free admission so the public can enjoy and benefit from the works of masters and artists who enable us to see our world differently.
Thank you Kansas City!
A poster of this Jim Dine bathrobe has been framed and hanging in my bedroom ever since I was in my early twenties.
It has survived through 30+ military moves and always finds it’s place soon after being unpacked.
Like many pop artists Dine took ordinary objects and elevated them to art. It was important to Dine to look for the meaning and passion behind those objects. Born in Cincinnati, he grew up in his father’s hardware store and many of his works incorporate paintbrushes, hammers, pliers…even, quite literally, the bathroom sink. If art imitates life it makes sense that the things we see and use every day become the stuff that art is made of.
In 1997 I made a valentine with a sketch of my interpretation of a Dine bathrobe. Dine’s bathrobes and hearts have always been my favorites so it made sense to combine them.
Today, in 2016, I went into my closet, pulled out my own bathrobe, summoned some Dine mojo and allowed life to imitate art.
After which, I played with the image and the SuperPhoto app on my computer.
I like to draw but I’ve never been a painter and although the purist in me inwardly cringes at what I’ve done here, iPhone photography has gone a long way in allowing me to let that inhibition go.
Dine is my favorite pop artist but I can hardly write a post about the movement without a nod to Andy Warhol.
I’m a Campbell’s fan but my bathrobe is more likely to invoke my passions, in the spirit of Dine, than chicken noodle soup ever will.
I could possibly be winter’s biggest fan but there’s no denying the season is pretty much devoid of color. Occasionally we get a vibrant blue sky but otherwise I’m content with the gray, white and brown palette that nature offers.
For a few months anyway, my eyes are resting.
Should I need a day with color I can always go to my local office supply store. Besides, I’m a sucker for markers, paper, clips and pushpins.
This week, however, held another source of color and vibrancy.
A spur-of-the-moment trip into DC on Monday to meet friends for lunch ended up with a trip to the newly renovated and opened Renwick Gallery. I’ve had Flat Stanley from one of my nephews for several weeks now and although he had fun being snowed in with us, he needed to get out to see the city!
Photography encouraged. What a welcome sign to see in an art gallery. Before I ever saw the exhibits my heart was smiling.
And then I encountered this.
My heart wasn’t just smiling, it was singing.
Fun fact: There are 60 miles of thread in this piece.
A few rooms farther and this met my eye. A monochromatic floor in a gallery that pulsated with light and color.
A floor that called out to be populated with humans lying down, some on huge pillows, some in couches, all looking up in wonder, at the ever-changing light show above them. Adults and children together, couples, groups of friends, solitary viewers…. each of them alone in their thoughts yet in this experience with the other inhabitants of the room.
Now my heart was not just smiling and singing, it started to dance.
The museums and galleries of my past were often silent and stuffy. They didn’t encourage laughter. Walking into one, with the oh-so-serious guards patrolling the spaces, always instilled a feeling of guilt in me. As if I was going to break the barrier between myself and the grandeur of the art. As if I wouldn’t display the proper amount of reverence for the masters.
As a matter of record, I have been known to lie down on a museum floor to better enjoy a Chihuly installation in a ceiling. To discover why click here. People looked at me strangely.
The Renwick changes all of that.
It’s current show, Wonder, is aptly named. Step into it’s spaces and you’ll find yourself wondering where this kind of art has been all your life.
How can you not love a gallery that allows you to walk into the art and lie on the floor? How can you not love a gallery that not only allows but encourages photography?
And don’t we all need a bit of color in the midst of winter?
My own decorating style leans towards rustic but when I visit Paris I’m delighted that there’s evidence of the ornate in so many places. Not just in the obvious venues like churches and museums but also in the curve underneath a bridge, a stairway leading to a restaurant in an alley, or a gate on a side street.
Beauty isn’t just there for tourists, it also exists for shoppers in a mall, the pedestrian on their way to run errands, a student walking to school, or clerks making their way to work through a crowded sea of traffic and people.
All of it, I suspect, inspired by nature’s artistry, as seen here in Monet’s garden at Giverny.
There’s no artist more ornate or more accomplished than our Creator.