New images from my annual exhibit New Work are out!
Get 25% off all prints today. Use the code ANNUALEXHIBIT2016.
View new Works here.
Take the online interactive 360 gallery tour here.
(Click on the images.)
Get the ebook here.
Find related Studies here.
Read more about the making of these new works here.
View my gallery talks this past weekend on Facebook Live.
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We played a fun game during my recent exhibit.
People wrote down their associations after looking at inkblots.
One lucky player won a free ebook!
We’re doing this online now.
Write down your associations for each of these images in this post’s comments; include the numbers.
You could be the next lucky winner will receive a free ebook!
View more Studies here.
View related finished works here.
This is a selection of the images that started my series Revelation over twenty years ago. I had been planning on making related images in the arctic and antarctic for more than ten years. The series Revelation was on my mind when I first went to Antarctica in 2005; I started shooting deliberately for it on a return voyage in 2007; material slowly accumulated in subsequent voyages in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015; and then in 2016 it all came together. Part of the reason this work waited so long is that there was other work to do, including the completion of other related bodies of work including Inhalation and Exhalation. Doing that work influenced this work.
The images I recently released (arctic and antarctic Revelations) have a different quality as a result of waiting. they would have been different if I finished them earlier. In part, this comes from sleeping on it; the subconscious does a lot of work. In part, this is is the result of a significant amount of conscious thought; studying craft and composition were only the beginnings, digging into my thoughts and feelings about the subject and the approach were the real keys; related reading and viewing supported it. In part, this is the result of my inner state now; contrary to what some have suggested, I’ve found this isn’t something to overcome no matter what the current conditions but rather something to be nurtured and cultivated. While one needs to guard agains procrastination, one also needs to guard against rushing through content and not developing the necessary depth to fully engage it, fostering an intimate relationship with it. Doing the work develops depth. And, the work doesn’t just happen behind the lens or in front of the computer.
So when should you make work? This is a question that is best approached with awareness and deep contemplation. Though there are repeatable patterns and common tendencies, there is no one definitive answer to this question for all artists and all situations. I’ve found some work gets produced very quickly, sometimes a whole series is made in one shoot, and some work gets produced very slowly, over decades. Ultimately, I think you have to go with your gut. That doesn’t rule out the possibility and potential benefits of a great deal of research and forethought before you do. The two working in concert together often yield the most powerful combination. However, the single most important ingredient is, not mere spontaneity, which can be short lived, but an effervescence of spirit, and it’s particularly important to pay attention to this quality if it can be sustained over longer periods of time. One needs to be alive to the work to make it a living thing.
In the era of social networks, there is a tremendous pressure to release work quickly and to keep releasing work on a regular basis. This can create a pace that is unsustainable for most creatives, at least when it comes to releasing work with real depth. Good fully developed work takes time … because developing a relationship with your work and your self takes time, much like creating deeper relationships with people take time. Savor it.
At the same time, the unfinished work we make along the way has it’s own value, a very different value, and it can be fascinating to watch how we get to our final destinations. It’s important to know the difference and make the distinction between fully developed images and unfinished images, between work and play, both when we are producing our own images and enjoying others.
New images from my series Revelation are out!
Find more here.
View the ebook here.
Get the catalog here.
See related studies here.
Find out about the making of the exhibit here.
Hear my gallery talks on Facebook Live.
Klecksography is the art of making images with inkblots. Spots of ink are dropped onto a piece of paper, which is then folded while still wet to create mirrored patterns. Symmetry most powerfully stimulates, apophenia, the human tendency to see meaningful patterns in random data.
The history of using inkblots as tools for stimulating imagination can be traced back as far as the late 1400’s. Both Leonardo da Vinci and Boticelli used them.
Interest in this practice grew wider in the late 1800’s when physician and poet Justinus Kerner collected his studies in a book Klesksographien, which was published posthumously. Kerner, also a mystic poet, felt that such drawings not only brought him in closer contact with deeper aspects of his nature but also drew him closer to the spirit of nature.
Around the same time, a similar game was described in the book Gobolinks or Shadow-Pictures For Young And Old (Stuart and Paine), which explained how to make inkblot monsters and use them as prompts for imaginative writing.
Some years later, psychologist Hermann Rorschach made the most enduring contribution to this practice. As a child he enjoyed klecksography so much that his friends nicknamed him “Klecks” (inkblot). While studying Freud’s work on dream symbolism (under the tutelage of Eugen Bleuler, who also taught Carl Jung), Rorschach’s interest in klecksography was rekindled. He published his book Psychodiagnotik (1921) and invented his now famous Rorschach Test, seeing it as a potent tool to stimulate visual free association, which would in turn uncover unconscious tendencies and desires, much like Freud used verbal free association. (From hundreds, Rorschach selected ten inkblots, designed to be as ambiguous and “conflicted” as possible.) Since then, many other psychologists have refined the Rorschach Test and used it as a tool for studying the subconscious. In the 1960’s it was the most widely used projective test.
I’ve found exploring inkblot symmetries extremely rewarding. The perceptual transformation that occurs when making them and the visual skills this practice kindles has influenced my art in many ways.
Here’s a sampling of my most recent digital inkblot studies.
What do you see in them?
View more of my inkblots here.
View some of my finished works of art that were influenced by klecksography here.
See more in my exhibit New Work 2016.
Exhalation I, Mosquito Point, Maine, 1996
I’ve collected more responses to this image than any other. While they use varied words, most people’s associations share some quality of breath and/or a divine presence. However, some people’s associations vary wildly.
One night, at an opening, a man reeking of scotch and smoke approached me and said, “I love your satanic icon!” Surprised, I looked around the room to see which image he was referring to. He directed me to this one. Challenged by his response (It was very different than my intentions), I held to my practice of not sharing my responses to images unless I feel the viewer can maintain and possibly add to rather than replace their own.
On another occasion, a friend bought a print of this image and surprised his wife with it, saying, “Look! Isn’t it beautiful?” She replied, “You’re not hanging that in here!” “Why not?” he responded. “Can’t you see? It’s dirty. It’s an x-ray of someone sitting on the toilet.” It took some negotiation and an extended session of sharing what they saw in the image for him to be able to hang the image in his office.
The response I treasure most came from a four-year-old boy who stopped in his tracks and caught his breath as he crossed the threshold of the door to the room this image was displayed in. Then he raced to it, waving his arms in the air, “It’s a giant sneeze!” Touched by his spontaneous outbursts, I tried to reconcile them with my desire to communicate something general, if not specific. I had given the image the working title of Avra, the Sanskrit word for breath. I thought, breath … sneeze … close enough. Everyone in my studio now refers to this image as ‘the giant sneeze’.
How can other people’s associations inform your work?
How many ways can you stimulate viewers’ associations with your images?