What is the most persistent myth about the act of making art?
The need to be creative. Making art originates with a simple sense of curiosity that deepens and broadens with the continued acquisition of skills that address the essential questions of technique in the medium of choice. A person may be fascinated by a musical instrument. the smell of paint or ink, or the seeming magic of image capture in a camera. The development of technique opens the door to the necessary freedom required to make art of consequence. Once the artist has mastered sufficient technical skills, that freedom transports her into the process of self-discovery that may, like a branching tree, find many pathways to creating art.
At the age of seventy-one, why do you continue to to make photographs?
Guilt and pleasure in equal measure. Guilt if I’m not doing something related to image making, and deeply gratifying pleasure that I feel from head to toe when using my camera or working in my darkroom.
What have you been up to lately?
Over the years, my practice has been to alternate between several years shooting in the landscape or the city, and several years making photographs in my studio. For the past two years, I’ve been working mostly in my studio. The two previous years I spent photographing trees and clouds with a panoramic film camera and making large photographs 17″x54″ that have the feel of Chinese scroll paintings which have been an important influence on my work. Recently, I have been working with raw images of inter-planetary space taken from the internet shot by an unmanned spacecraft that has been orbiting Saturn since 2004. One set of 14 black and white photographs is entitled “Fly-by” which, in a very loose narrative manner, describes the journey to Saturn and the void beyond. The other is a sequence of 12 photographs entitled “not this, not that” that was inspired by my interest in cosmology and the idea of entropy, the tendency toward randomness, exhibited by all material entities.
What work of a younger generation of artists do you have an affection for?
I have a great admiration for the work of Cindy Sherman, and look forward to seeing her retrospective at MoMA this spring. She has been called an artist who uses a camera. Critics and curators talk about her work as performance art or some other “ism” while forgetting that she is one hell of a photographer, using position, the action of light, color and gesture to create images that shine with intelligence and resonate with deep feelings.
You’ve been teaching photography for 42 years. What keeps you interested?
I enjoy helping students discover the magical qualities of image making, especially in foundation courses where learning basic skills can set students off on discoveries that are exciting to them, their fellow students and me. Also, I’ve had six children, one of whom will be entering high school next year, so I need the money teaching brings in.
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