It’s the end of another year. Out with the old, in with the new, etcetera, etcetera. I haven’t written here in a while. I’m not completely sure why but life gets busy. Even so, I kick myself for not adding my two cents to the cacophony of voices. Still, one must have something to say.
Occasionally I wake up in the middle of the night with fully formed sentences in mind that seem terribly profound. Just before hosting a Christmas dinner for twelve, I woke up with the language of an entire toast that I was able to deliver somewhat coherently. It went over well enough with good champagne as lubricant and an attentive audience. On the other hand I have not found myself immersed in ideas, photographs or artwork lately that compelled me enough to write about it for public consumption. That doesn’t mean I haven’t seen anything I liked, it just means I didn’t really feel it necessary to comment.
I have made a fair amount of work on behalf of others this year – designing and promoting exhibitions and bringing in a couple of new photographers to show in the near future for Leica Gallery LA. I’ve re-shaped portfolios, and re-built a career or two for private clients. I had a photo portfolio of my own environmental portraiture and documentary work on musicians picked up by a magazine. I had the distinct pleasure of sitting for a few hours in a kitchen booth with basketball great Phil Jackson to pour over photographs with him and get clues as to how I should edit the photographic story of his life. He laughed at my jokes. I pet his dog. What more can one ask?
All this brings me to the subject of my personal body of artwork. It too, has kept me lying awake at night, wrestling with ways to manifest an idea. During a shoot last month, photographer Dan Winters asked me what I was up to with my photographs. He’s the exceptional artist that I last wrote about here and the one that always makes me feel like I’ve found my feet after we have a conversation. There’s something about a talk with Dan that just sets me right. He’d seen most of an ongoing series I’ve been working on the last couple years, but I have a new body of work that I’d shown to no one outside the family.
A few days after parting ways I worked up my nerve and sent Dan a link to the work. The fact that he wrote back quickly to say that the new images really affected him both conceptually and technically and he thought it a beautiful series, should have caused me to run a flag up a pole. After all, that kind of meaningful, trusted compliment is so rare. Instead, I just felt encouraged enough to keep working on the series. At times I suffer from my own humble nature. On the other hand I wanted it to be strong enough before I threw it to the wind.
Last night I dreamt some scraps of a phrase Dan said about sharing artwork as being one of his great pleasures. It reminded me of how freely I once engaged as a young artist in the discussion of ideas, of making and sharing imagery and collaboration apart from the obsession with self-promotion that so encompasses contemporary photography. In the spirit of sharing, I’m posting a few of my new series called “Lost Language.” There’s a proper statement about the work at the end of this column, but try to find room for your own interpretations. I know what fuels this for me, but it’s spacious and abstract work and there’s room for whatever it makes you feel. When I made the first image in this column just two days ago, I found myself grinning. So bring to it what you will and have a happy new year.
Lost Language: “Words fail me.” “I’m speechless.” “She’s at a loss for words.” Such expressions are considered a normal gap in one’s abilities to find suitable language in certain stressful or overwhelmingly emotional times. At the beginning of life, there is a rapid gathering of verbal elements – a snowball gaining speed and building to a phenomenally grand toolbox of linguistic pieces. Letters and punctuation accumulate and our verbal thoughts and words are like a tide constantly ebbing and flowing. With loss of memory, a gradual disintegration of language happens. Words stick together, but are isolated from others. Some words are lost altogether creating a language that makes accommodations for the parts that are missing. As witnesses to memory loss, we make excuses and sense of what’s left. “He had a beautiful woolen jacket” becomes “he had one.” We struggle to piece together the intended meaning and make do with what’s left until words become fragments and fragments turn to silence.