The Land Always Calls

FlowerHillFarmColor-70 copy

Untitled, ©2013 Jeane Vogel Studios

I know I’m a person filled with opposites.

I love being with people, but I prefer to work alone. I am down-in-the-ditches feminist, but I like to be home with my husband and kids. I’m a homebody with wander lust.

And I’m a city woman who needs a daily outdoors fix, preferably on or near water.

I lived on a farm for three years after college. Chickens, cows, garden, snakes, bugs… and whippoorwills calling at night. I baked bread and learned to split wood for the fire. I canned. I milked cows and collected eggs.  It was glorious and hard… and lonely. Earth Mother experiment over, I returned to the city.

But the land always calls. This week I got a terrific gift: an afternoon and evening at a friend’s flower farm about 75 minutes outside St. Louis. Who couldn’t love a flower farm? Good friends, a long walk around the farm, perfect light, wonderful dinner, bottle of wine, clean air, grape arbors, hay filled barns, joyful dog begging to play.

With all this wonderfulness, and time and subjects that would make most photographers weep with gratitude, all I could think about it how this land, this way of life, is going away. Development, pesticides, corporate farming, profit, and just plain thoughtlessness about the future is stripping it away.

Thanks to Vicki and Jack of Flower Hill Farm, for being stewards of the land, for filling my home with flowers, and my heart with joy.

FlowerHillFarm-27
Untitled, Flower Hill Farm, ©2013 Jeane Vogel Studios, Digital Infrared
Posted in Art, Artist_Friends, Infrared, Inspiration, Nature, NewWork, Photography, Politics, Soap_Box, Thank You | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art, Your Cousin Is Science!

I’m a bit of a science nerd. I want to know how the world works. I want to travel to the stars. I want to understand the cosmos and the stuff squirming under the rock.

View from the Lilypad

“View from the Lily Pad,” Mixed Media (film emulsion lift on watercolor) ©2013 Jeane Vogel Studios

I don’t want to do the math.

So, I’m not a scientist. When I was younger, I thought I could understand physics if I could get 30 minutes in a room with Carl Sagan. My current science crush is Neil deGrasse Tyson, of course. He’s funny, a mensch, and has a terrific podcast, Star Talk. In fact, one day I hope he’ll agree to participate in my Dare to Touch the Face of God project in response to fear mongering and intolerance. That’s for another time.

(I also have a crush on Geordi LaForge, but he’s not real. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Steve knows.)

I was listening to podcast with Dr. Tyson (I know he wants me to call him Neil, because, after all, he is my personal astrophysicist!), that I was thunderstruck with the notion and art and science are two sides of the same coin.

I don’t mean that traditional photographers and potters have to the understand the chemistry of their processes to get their emulsion coatings or glazes formulas right, though it’s true.

I mean that art and science have the same goal: discovery.

Really?

Art is communication of ideas and emotions and memories and calls to action. Science is communication of ideas and emotions and memories and calls to action. Art and science reveal worlds newly discovered. Everyday. We just do it differently.

We all learned the scientific method in school: postulate a theory (idea), then prove or disprove the hypothesis. Experimentation. Trial and error. Research. Failure. Years of painstaking measurements, recording results. What happens if I try this? Small movements forward, step by step.

An artist does the same thing. In the studio, I will struggle with an idea, and spend days, weeks, even years to get the right combination of substrates, media, and execution to realize the idea. I work. I record. I experiment. I succeed — or fail. The trash gets pretty full.

I have work hanging in the C-Train Gallery at Washington University this summer. The building is filled with scientists and labs and experiments that one day may produce life-saving treatments. I talked to scientists about art all night. They were hungry for it. I was delighted!

In conversation with one tall, impressive-looking man, I broached the idea that he and I, the scientist and the artist, were cousins. We had the same goal. We dream something up in our heads and work to make it real, then we have a hellish time explaining what we do to the rest of the world.

The world thinks the scientist is the brilliant misanthrope in the lab, cooking up something to heal or destroy the planet.

The world thinks the artist is the flakey nut (who apparently is independently wealthy) who –la, la, la– paints and plays and toils at nothing.

No, we are the people who bring ideas to the world. We bring inspiration and hope, and sometimes we bring answers. We need art in the world as much as we need science. We need science in the world as much as we need art.

We talked about this idea for a while. Yes, he agreed. We are cousins.

Then he bought one of my Polaroid Paintings. I love science!

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No Film for YOU!

Like Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi, it felt like the universe was saying: NO FILM FOR YOU!

>More New Work!

Summer Garden, ©2007 Jeane Vogel Studios, Polaroid Painting, 20×20 inches

Taught as part of most fine art degrees in photography in the ’70s and ’80s, painting with the emulsion of Polaroid film was the hardest for some. I’ve had photographers of my era come into my gallery or art fair a booth and flash back to a class where they struggled to move the emulsion to create something evocative… not muddy.

“Oh, I hated this class,” I’ve heard more than once.

I loved it. I was one of those kids who was always drawing, but wasn’t quite good enough. But I also loved cameras and film and angles and light. That one stuck better. And adults weren’t discouraging me. So photography it was.

But part of me wanted to feel the movement of the paint under my fingers as the creation evolved.

POLAROIDS!

Actually, it was a special Polaroid film, SX-70, that had a manufacturing flaw that allowed the emulsion to stay chemically active and soft for a period of time, allowing us the change the shape and colors as it developed. To do it right takes time and knowledge of how color film develops, how to control the developing speed, and … here’s the kicker: how to draw.

To create a Polaroid Painting, you have to think like a painter. You have to know what you want it to look like before you begin. If you try to figure it out as your go, it will look messy or contrived… or like a Photoshop filter.

It’s hard for photographers to think ahead. (And one of the reasons why I teach drawing for photographers, so they can craft their images rather than “capture” them… but that’s for another day.)

This film is gone. Discontinued in 2008. I hoarded and cared for my film for three years. Out of one 10 pack of film, I MIGHT get one good image. You see the problem. There just wasn’t going to be enough film for the images I wanted.

Oh, do this in Photoshop, I hear. It’s not the same. It’s not just that the feel isn’t the same… the look isn’t the same. Part of art is INTENTION. Part of film is texture. Photoshop often fails.

I have one special pack of film left, stashed in the back of the refrigerator, with a roll of exposed by undeveloped Kodachrome that I missed when the last of that film was being processed.

Eight sheets of film. Waiting.

Impossible Project is working to bring back my film. They have done remarkable work replicating lots of the old Polaroid film… but the SX-70 is not the same.

In the meantime, I have these.

So can you.

Polaroid Opening

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Searching for Words

Image

Searching for Words, 11×14, watercolor, ©2013 Jeane Vogel Studios

Art saves lives.

Anyone who knows me or reads my posts knows that’s my mantra. Art is personal expression. It’s communication. My artist statement gently reminds patrons that “art should match your soul, not your sofa.” Art should speak to you… down to your toes.

What if art is the only way you can communicate?

Through her work, I have met Dinaz. She’s 15, attends a St. Louis area high school, is mostly non-verbal, has some hearing loss, and poor motor skills.

InspirationsPostcard_Front_0

But she can paint.

As part of the Chesterfield Art’s Kaleidoscope program for youth with disabilities, Dinaz was inspired by Kandinsky’s Circles. They chose her piece for their postcard! Before I saw the postcard, her’s was the piece that spoke to me.

Chesterfield Art asked professional artists to create original work inspired by a work of the students. She and her work inspired “Searching for Words.”

Our work will be displayed together at Chesterfield Arts, 444 Chesterfield Center in Chesterfield. Please join us for the artists’ reception, 6-8, August 16. The exhibit will hang through the end of the month.

Coincidentally, August 16 is my son Aaron’s 21st birthday. He will be there. Aaron also inspired Searching for Words… He has CHARGE syndrome, is non-verbal, mostly deaf, legally blind, developmentally delayed… and loves art. He loves creating it. He loves experiencing it.

Art is tactile for the eyes, ears, fingers, soul. Art opens up new worlds. Art allows expression that slip past conventional means.

Art is not decoration. It is communication… between you and the artist and the work.

It’s inspiration. It’s happy. It’s thoughtful. It’s a memory. It’s a provocation. It takes you to a place you might not have imagined.

Art Saves Lives.

It doesn’t have to match the sofa.

Posted in Art, Art Saves Lives, Exhibits, Inspiration, NewWork, Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Finding Something New

Bullfrog

Bullfrog, ©2013 Jeane Vogel Studios

One of the exercises I give photography students is to go to a very familiar place and find something surprising, something new, and make an image that wows you.

It’s a hard assignment. Of course, it’s an exercise in slowing down and seeing what you think you already know.

The Lily Ponds at Tower Grove Park in South St. Louis is one of those places for me. Like Monet’s garden in Giverny, these ponds are old and beautiful and set in a 19th Century Victorian Garden. It is one of St. Louis’ treasures. They are magnificent. They are inspirational. They are a little magical.

I go back to the lilies every year. And every year I wonder why I’m going. I couldn’t possibly find anything new. Water lilies are much photographed. Can I do anything new or interesting or “wow?”

It’s the exercise every artist needs. Go the familiar and find the new.

This morning there was fog over the city. Our humidity is high, with a temp to match. The light was perfect. Bright but diffused. A little golden left over from sunrise.

I walked among the soaked, dewy grass and stopped when I heard it. Bull frogs. That was new. A splash or two or five as I disturbed them. Didn’t see them, but they were telling me there were there.

About ten minutes into the shoot, I saw him. Sitting on a pad pushed under the water by his weight. I stopped. I greet him. I moved slowly. We didn’t take our eyes off each other. I’d like to think he agreed to the photograph. It would be great if he were nearer that flower, I thought. He moved toward it.

I made some images, and adjusted a setting to get a better depth of field.

The camera stopped working. WHAT?! BROKEN! Yikes. No!

The bull frog ducked under the water, as if to say “If you’re not competent enough to operate the camera, I have no time for you.”

Take the time to see something new, I tell students. And bring a spare camera! Wow. That is good advice. Gotta remember that one.Pink Water Lilies

Pink Water Lilies, ©20123 Jeane Vogel Studios
Posted in Animal, Inspiration, Light, Nature, NewWork, Photography, Stories, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Who Steals Art?

STOLEN: Rest Stop, Mixed Media, ©2013 Jeane Vogel Studios

STOLEN: Rest Stop, Mixed Media, ©2013 Jeane Vogel Studios

I understand stealing food when you’re hungry. I understand stealing money when you are desperate. I understand stealing a pretty bauble when you are young and thoughtless.

I do not understand stealing art.

A couple of Sundays ago I walked up to my art fair booth. The wall was unzipped. Damn. Somebody’s been in there. It happens, but rarely. Nothing ever has been touched.

Before then. Work was off the wall and leaning against it. It hadn’t fallen, but placed. Two pieces. After examining for damage and finding none, I replaced them. Whew! Glad they liked the work and glad they left it… I thought.

A few hours later a patron asked if I had something similar to one hanging on the wall — one that was off the wall that morning — but unframed. I did… I thought.

Nope gone. I guess the thief thought it was too much trouble to steal work in a frames.

Art enriches us. Art make us think, brings us joy, inspires, questions, enlivens. My work isn’t valuable enough to resell for a profit. The thief wanted two specific pieces… both boats, strangely enough.

How can someone find joy and inspiration and peace from a piece of work that was stolen?

And no, I’m not flattered that someone wanted my art so much as to pinch it. I’m pissed. And confused. I am not gratified.

I don’t understand stealing art. I don’t think I want to.

Posted in Art Saves Lives, Ethics, Fairs, Mixed Media, NewWork, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

New Work Demystified

SOLD! 11x14 Mixed Media Painting: Emulsion lift on watercolor painting. ©2013 Jeane Vogel Studios

My Sister’s Bay, SOLD! 11×14 Mixed Media Painting: Emulsion lift on watercolor painting. ©2013 Jeane Vogel Studios

Mixed media painting, my newest body of work, is inspired by a need to expand the photograph beyond what we can see into what we can imagine.

In fact, when I think about it, that’s the basis of every piece of art I create. I want to know what else is there to see, to understand, to experience?

I’ve discovered that some patrons want to understand this unique process. Here goes:

I start by photographing the world that inspires me. It might be water. It might be an abandoned historic building. It might be a small portion of a flower. That it inspires me is the key.

I live with the processed image for while. What lives within it? What secret can it tell? What does it want me to know?

When I’m ready to paint, I create a watercolor palate to match, complement and enhance the image. I fill a sheet of watercolor paper with paint. The abstract painting is then dried, flattened, finished and prepared for the final step…

The EMULSION LIFT. This is the most difficult to explain to someone who has not studied photography. It might seem magical… or simply impossible. It’s a photographic process, so basically, it’s chemistry!

I copy the image onto a piece of 8×10 transparency film — a really big slide. Film has two parts: an acetate carrier and the photo-sensitive emulsion on top of the acetate that actually makes the image. The emulsion is microscopically thin, maleable, easily scratched and impossible to handle. That’s why we need the acetate to put it on.

Carefully, and chemically, I separate the emulsion layer — the actual image — from the acetate backing and fuse the emulsion to the watercolor painting, hoping I do not tear it, smear it, mangle it, or place it wrong.

But the magic isn’t in the process. It never is. Art is work. Of course I love it, but it is still work.

The magic is in the finished work. What do you see in it? What secrets can it tell you?

How does it make you feel?

That’s how I recommend everyone to approach art. Art is not to be understood. Art is to be felt. What you do with that feeling is the next step.

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