More Than Material – Walter Chapelle



Walter Chapelle’s Metaflora series is the kind of photography that fascinates me most. Rather than portraying things as we see them, it uses photography to extend our senses, providing new windows into the universe.
Chapelle uses Kirlian photography to look deeply into the world of plants. Kirlian photography (named after the Russian inventor Semyon Kirlian) is a form of camera-less form of photography, akin to a photogram, that records the effects of high voltages of electricity applied to objects in contact with light sensitive material. An electric current separates the electrons from atoms and objects become ionized and glow, albeit faintly. Typically, nothing is seen by the observer during exposure, but an image appears when developed. The size and shape of the energy field is related to the amount of water, a prerequisite for life, in the object as well as the surrounding atmosphere. Plant life loses moisture after it is harvested so the length of time between picking and exposure affects the intensity of the effect. Electromagnetic radiation penetrates beyond the typically opaque surfaces revealed by reflected light, itself one manifestation of a broader spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, and renders both the interiors and the immediate exteriors surrounding objects.
This glimpse into the invisible electro-magnetic fields that surround all objects, including our own bodies, generates visual effects that are reminiscent of the age-old idea of auras or the spiritual bodies of living things. Part science and part poetry, Chapelle uses this unusual perspective to speak metaphorically about seeing into the hidden dimensions of our selves.
Who are your influences and what do they mean to you?
Find out more about my influences here.

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Why Tracking Your Influences Is So Important



“Who are your influences?” It’s a question often asked by professors to help artists grow, critics to place artist’s work and ideas in context, and audiences to understand artists’ creations. It’s also a question we can ask to do all of these things for ourselves.
It’s one thing to list our artistic influences, it’s another to clarify how we are responding or what they mean to us. Moving beyond questions of what influences us to how and why they influence us deepens our understanding of and our connection to the things we are moved by.
When you have a realization, write it down. Writing not only creates a durable record you can refer to later, it also makes it far more likely that you will remember what you write down. List all of your influences in one place and you’ll see connections between your influences by making comparisons and contrasts –sometimes finding these insights requires asking follow up questions like, “How does the relationships between these things indicate shared qualities and themes within my own work?” and “How can the difference between these things be used to create something new?” Date the times you are influenced and you’ll see how chain reactions of thoughts and feelings start, grow, and change. You can expand your understanding by writing more than lists. Write a simple line stating the essence of what the work means to you. Write a few paragraphs to outline more and reveal connections to other things.
Sometimes an influence, rather than coming another artist’s entire body of work, comes from a single piece, perhaps even an atypical work. Sometimes an influence comes from an artist working in a seemingly unrelated discipline. Sometimes an influence even comes from something we don’t like or resist. Of course, there are many other things that influence us besides other artist’s works and they’re worth tracking too.
Being self-aware is different than being self-conscious. During this process, silence your inner critic. The voice(s) that helps you evaluate ideas or results is not the same voice that sees new possibilities and generates ideas. This critical aspect of ourselves can be very helpful, selecting and refining and strengthening the best ideas drawn from many, but it serves us best after a process of observation and generation, if it is active during those processes, it can stop the flow of thoughts and feelings.
Observing our inner world, our thoughts and feelings, our associations and disassociations, our fixations and aversions, and their interconnections moves rich material from the dark corners of our sub-conscious into the light of the conscious mind. If we do this, we can find more material to work with, we can ask generative questions to help us grow, we can make clearer/better choices, and it’s very likely that we will be more productive and more fulfilled. When awareness is present our artistic process becomes a journey of personal discovery, which is sometimes challenging but always rewarding.
Who are your influences and what do they mean to you?
Find out more about my influences here.











Ephemeral Collaborations With Nature – Andy Goldsworthy



Andy Goldsworthy considers his sculptures collaborations with nature.
It’s Goldsworthy’s pieces that don’t persist that impress me most. Why? It’s not because they reverse traditional expectations, that through art an individual and culture achieves extended longevity if not immortality. It’s because Goldsworthy is free to interact with and interpret the landscape without removing this possibility for us. In many ways, his work is an invitation for all of us to participate with land in a similar spirit on our own terms.
I appreciate the irony that a majority of us see most of his work through photographs. In this respect an argument can be made that his primary medium is photography. Even if we have had direct experience with his work, our photographic experience of his work is more persistent. Over time, does the second-hand experience supersede the primary one? He’s managed to use two mediums to complement and comment on each other, while shedding light on our relationships to land and our own identities.
All of these are sentiments I resonate with strongly. What’s more, I might have framed my self-identity more narrowly as a photographer only were it not for the inspiration of artists like Andy Goldsworthy.
Who are your influences and what do they mean to you?
Find out more about my influences here.

Color As A Universal Language – Mark Rothko


Sometimes the things we resist influence us the most. For me, this was certainly the case with the paintings of Mark Rothko.
As a young man I found myself alienated from many modernist works. I felt they were overly intellectual; you needed a degree to begin to approach them much less understand them. They didn’t meet the audience half way. Some of them even needed critical interpretation to be fully resolved.
Nonetheless, my intensely emotional reactions to Mark Rothko’s paintings were undeniable. Standing before these fields of color produced a physical sensation, much like listening to music. Rothko was able to communicate powerful emotions with the simplest means. Often his canvases were composed no more than two rectangles inside the larger rectangular field of the canvas or as few as three colors. Unlike DeKooning, gesture isn’t what communicates emotion – Rothko’s canvases are stained.  Rothko’s use of scale, quite different than Albers’, also impressed me; the large fields immerse you in the sensation of color, further intensifying it.
Rothko’s painting was more than an exploration of optics, it was also a spiritual quest. It’s not just color-for-color’s sake; it’s color placed in the service of the human spirit. Upon further study, I found that many early modernists shared a similar spiritual impulse and used abstraction in a quest for a universal language that reached beyond time and culture. For me this was the link between the modernists I appreciated and the ones that left me cold. It was a quest I resonated with. It started a chain reaction within my thinking about and appreciation of art. I continue to search for similar qualities in my own work.
Who are your influences and what do they mean to you?
Find out more about my influences here.

Empowering Others – Ansel Adams


Ansel Adams impressed me as a boy. What impressed me was the total package: his images (He helped codify a movement and a genre.); his technical mastery (He refined and disseminated the zone system.); his educational efforts through books (They are still in print today.) and workshops (He set up his own program and invited others to teach with him.); his environmental advocacy both locally (It’s hard to think of Yosemite without thinking of Ansel Adams.) and nationally (He had a strong relationship with the Sierra Club and many other environmental organizations.); his strong networks of friends in wide-ranging fields (They included the painter Georgia O’Keefe and the activist David Brower.). What’s more, all of these elements worked in concert with one another creating a marvelous synergy where each enriched the other. At the end of his life, he wasn’t the wealthiest man alive, but he was rich beyond measure in so many other ways and he left us knowing he had made major contributions. Perhaps more than any other photographer he influenced both his medium and his culture and he did so by empowering others.
Ansel Adams life and work challenge me to think about how to make my own life’s work more impactful and far-reaching.
Who are your influences and what do they mean to you?
Find out more about my influences here.

Influences – Four Nudes





Sometimes you find your own voice through observing your responses to other people’s work.
One of my visual journals is a collection of images that I appreciate. When you bring enough images together new patterns emerge. This was certainly the case for me when I sifted through my favorite photographs of nudes and found a thread that tied together works by Jerry Uelsmann, Emmet Gowin, Harry Callahan, and Ruth Bernhard. All four of the photographs I had selected used double exposure to merge the figure with the landscape. It wasn’t that these works were typical of each artist’s work; Jerry Uelsmann who would be best know for this kind of work offers many such images; Harry Callahan was highly experimental and offered only a handful of these kinds of treatments; Ruth Berhard produced fewer; Emmet Gown only produced even fewer. What had been revealed through the process of creating this collection was my own interest in a specific kind of imagery and a particular theme.
Overtly stated in my own photographs of nudes in varying degrees of transparency, the theme of man and nature as one runs through all of my work. Whether subtly or dramatically, directly or indirectly, I’m interested in all types of imagery that challenges conventional notions of separateness and offer a vision of unity.
What shared themes can you identify when observing your own influences?
Read more about my influences here.

Acknowledging The Beatific & The Demonic – Matthais Grunewald



Despite a challenged relationship with the church, I still find the content in the Bible and the good acts it inspires extremely inspiring. I had strong spiritual feelings as a very young child and they’re still with me today. Many works of art inspired me, none more than Matthais Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece. It’s a complex masterpiece. Two panels in particular mean a great deal to me. The Resurrection epitomizes the word beatific – transcendently wise, compassionate and fulfilled. The Temptation of St Anthony is a riveting portrayal of a supreme test of that state and how it can survive and even be strengthened by confrontations with the darkest negativities.
I see images like Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece and I feel called to try and rise to some small measure of this greater state of being. Achieving this depth of perspective and strength of expression is a primary goal of my life/art. For me, making art is a call to learn and put that learning into practice.
Here’s a link to an good post on Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece.
Learn more about the Isenheim Altarpiece on Wikipedia.
Learn more about Mathais Grunewald on Wikipedia.

Masterworks In My Collection – Paul Caponigro – Apple, New York City, 1964


While this image is officially titled Apple, New York City, 1964 it’s often referred to in my father’s studio as ‘The Galaxy Apple’. Countless people’s first impression of this image is that they’re looking at a galaxy. That was mine. It was also Robert Glenn Ketchum’s, who was half way through his dissertation presentation, when he realized it wasn’t a photograph of a galaxy but of an apple. Even after you see the apple, the impression of a galaxy persists.
This is one of the photographs that got me into photography. I love that a literal transcription can also describe something more than itself. The power of metaphor is more powerfully expressed in this photograph than any other I can think of. What’s more, the way the metaphor unites both the terrestrial and the celestial – the macrocosm and the microcosm are seen as one. (I don’t think it’s an accident that my father’s first retrospective was titled The Wise Silence, a line borrowed from Ralph Waldo Emerson.)
The printing of this image reinforces the metaphor. It’s dark. So dark, in fact that in some places you can’t visually separate the contour of the apple from the dark background. Other printers might have held all the detail there was to hold in this negative. Unexpectedly, and wisely, dad didn’t. I have always appreciated my father’s consummate ability to transcend his technique and follow the call of his intuition. Rather than offering expected results he consistently delivers unexpected solutions, not for the sake of novelty or surprise, but because he was called to serve a more powerful inner poetry.
(There’s a lot to be learned from looking at originals, which is why we look at masterworks from my collection in all of my  digital printing workshops.)
Find my comments on other Masterworks In My Collection here.
Learn more in my digital printing workshops.

Influences – Sculpture


Is there a pattern to the artist’s above? Yes. They’re all influential to me.
Who are your influences? If you’re an artist you hear this question all the time. Many of us resist the temptation to answer as our answers may lead others to a poor choice of words – derivative. The reality is we’re all being influenced all of the time. It’s interesting to separate your enduring influences (the ones that stand the test of time) and your current influences (the most recent). For instance, I just saw the Louise Bourgeoise exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. It’s influencing me. Will I do something with that influence immediately? Will that influence stay with me long enough to become significant? Time will tell. I also visited my favorite gallery in the Metropolitain Museum in NYC – the Rockefeller wing containing artifacts from primal cultures typically used for sacred or ceremonial functions. I go there every time I visit the museum. Every time I’m thrilled. The influence of this kind of art has been and will be with me my whole life.
I just entered into the arena environmental sculpture. (See video here.) How long has this been building? Since I was one year old. Who was the earliest influence? Calder. Who’s the most recent influence? McCall. Who are the other sculptures who have been influential to me? Find some of them in the Sculpture section of my AStore. You’ll find a clear pattern – and some surprises.
Who are your influences? Comment here!
You can see my new work and hear me talk about it during my Annual Exhibit 8/2-3. Find out more here.
Watch the video in my previous post here on this blog.
Then stay tuned for the online release of the gallery of images the video relates to.
Stay tuned for online releases all weekend long.