Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bob as Blackie 1984

I got Bob and Blackie around the same time.  I had been dating Bob for just a few months, and one weekend we decided to visit friends in a remote, rural town in Northern New Mexico.  On the way there we passed several puppies by the side of the road.  We sped on.  Several days later, on the way back, we passed one of the puppies, now road kill.  I knew there had been more puppies and I began to look.  Sure enough,  a flash of black and white in the high grass along side the highway.  We stopped and gathered up an approximately  six week old female  Shepard mix.  We kept her, named her Blackie and she developed into an absolutely beautiful dog.  However, she did have some eccentricities.  She was fearless, and could face down any pack of semi-wild reservation dogs that would later, when we moved to Zuni, try to intimidate her.  And although domesticated, she had a kind of wildness about her that seemed to lurk right below the surface.  I was discovering some of the same things about Bob.  Although he didn't have a need to face anyone down, he did seem to be inhabited by a self that wasn't all that domesticated, and it seemed sometimes that I might lose him to his feral side(see Spiral Jetty 2011 October 30).  http://hollyrobertsonepaintingatatime.blogspot.com/2011/10/spiral-jetty-2011.html

The photograph that I used to start this painting was a full frontal face shot of Bob, but a little blurry.    When I was done painting, I had created a large Blackie head which lay over Bob's face, with only his blurry, slightly unfocused eyes remaining as photograph proof of his existence.  They both shared the same eyes, the same world view.  I realized that it was Bob as Blackie, and Blackie as Bob.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Man with Baby 2001

I was not someone who had always wanted to have children.  Babies especially frightened me.  I had no idea what to do with them and the thought of actually owning a baby was a little more then I could handle.  So, I waited until I was 35 to have my first daughter, Ramey, and the decision was made more out of fear of waiting too long and not being able to have a child rather then racing to embrace motherhood.  My one comforting thought was that my husband, Bob, would be able to deal with the child through baby and toddler hood and then I would take over when it was, say, nine, an age I knew I could (probably)deal with.

So, Ramey was born via C-section after a long and difficult labor.  When I first woke up out of the anesthesia I saw Bob with a baby girl in his arms, both staring down at me with  concerned expressions on their faces. I had not had even a glimmer of the power of what a baby could extract out of her parents. It was, of course, complete and utter love at first sight.  Oh those hormones I guess. Now, 24 years later, I wonder why I sold this beautiful little painting.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Coyote 2011

In September I signed up for a bike class with a group call Women Riding Well   http://womenridingwell.com/.  The first few weeks covered basics, such as applying the brakes suddenly without going over the handle bars, riding in a straight line, learning to feel comfortable with someone riding right next to you, etc.  As the weeks progressed, we learned about pace lines(among many other things), which meant that we would ride in a line, switching out the leader on a regular basis so that the first person, who would be "pulling" the rest by allowing the others to draft close behind, would get a chance to rest. A few weeks ago, we were riding in our pace lines, refining all the things we had spent the last three months learning.  I was leading one of the pace lines just north of Algodones when I noticed the most beautiful dead coyote by the side of the road.  I could only glance at it and try and mark where it was so that I could come back later and photograph it.  If I stopped suddenly, my line would crash into me, creating a very dangerous situation.

About an hour later, we finished our ride just as the rain and wind hit.  I drove home with a friend, and as soon as she dropped me off, I changed clothes, grabbed my camera, got in my truck and headed back to where I thought the coyote was, about 40 minutes from my home in Corrales.  It was hard to find.  It's one thing to be whizzing along on a bicycle, fairly close to the ground going 17 mph, but quite another to be high up in a truck with someone right behind me wondering why I'm going so slowly. I made one pass in my truck without any luck, and then finally, on the second try, located the coyote.  I parked my truck on the shoulder, got out--it had started to rain again--and took numerous photos of the carcass. 

I don't know how or when I will use this coyote in an image, but this is how this whole process starts.  I'm out living my life, doing something that has nothing to do with making art, and then suddenly, there it is; some startling image that I know I have to have.  For me, it's about making the decision to stop and take the photo, or, as in this case, to try and come back when I can.  So often I won't or don't or can't take those photos, and I always regret it.  I've found that the one constant in being a photographer is that you can almost never come back and find the image that you missed.  After I photograph I always try to thank whatever it is that I've taken a photo of, whether it be living or dead, animate or inanimate.  It's a gift to me, plain and simple, that I hope to honor by making that initial photo mean something that's more than what it was.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Three People Exercising 1984

New Zuni Wellness Center
34 spin bikes
Zuni Head Start Turkey Dancers

Aerobics Class, Zuni, early 1980's

Today my husband, Bob Wilson, and I drove to the Zuni Reservation for the dedication of the new Zuni Wellness Center.  It meant getting up early and driving for 2 1/2 hours to get there in time for what we thought was the dedication, but in true Zuni fashion, it was really just an arbitrary time which was part of a long day of activities.  We did make it in time to see the the Zuni Head Start kids dance, and we were there for the ribbon cutting, then streamed in with everyone else to see the beautiful new facility.

It was important to us to be there because 26 years ago, as a physician, Bob had been the founder of the Zuni Wellness Center as part of a program to try to do something about the extremely high prevalence of  Type II diabetes in the Zuni population, something that hadn't really existed in Zuni before the 1940's.  Based on the idea that through diet and exercise it might be possible to control diabetes, Bob worked at implementing this program in the Zuni community.  The Zunis took to the program with a passion, and by the time we left, after 8 years in Zuni, there were over 60 aerobics classes every week, not to mention fun-runs and a workout center that Bob and his team had put together.  The Zunis continued to work at staying fit, and this new wellness center was a wonderful tribute to their dedication and passion.

Because of the religious nature of so much of what went on in Zuni, I had to be very careful about what I photographed, never wanting to even have my camera present when there was something going on that was not to be photographed.  However, I was able to photograph the aerobic classes with complete freedom and I did a series of images from those classes.  Today I thought about the Zuni Dances that I couldn't photograph, but could watch, and those aerobic classes(which I could watch and photograph and participate in) that were in some ways so similar: they both were a result of the Zuni People working together in physical and spiritual ways to keep their culture alive and healthy. 

*My Zuni friends told me that currently Zumba is the most popular class.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Man Crying 1991

Last Friday night I sat in front of the TV to watch "Blue Bloods" on  CBS. It wasn't a program I had ever watched before, but three of my  paintings were going to be used as set dressings for a scene in an  episode called "Lonely Hearts Club". This project came through Film Art LA, a company that represents my artwork and licenses images for  movies and TV:  http://www.filmartla.com . In September I got a call from Jennifer Long, who owns the company, to tell me that my work was being  rented for "Blue Bloods". She explained that "Man Crying" had been requested for use during the scene in which the work would be  talked about by the actors. She also let me know my name would be used  in dialogue as the fictitious artist.  They would be using digital prints-much larger in the scene than in  real life. I was asked to sign off on the part of the script that used my name, so I knew exactly what was going to be said. It was thrilling being on TV and seeing my images.  I thought it was pretty great being Holly from Red Hook with a nice New York City Gallery and a sympathetic boyfriend named Patrick.  You can see the scene with my paintings in the first five minutes of the episode at http://www.cbs.com/shows/blue_bloods/video/$

The image itself was based on the photograph of a close friend who is one of the most stoic people I know. The image was about showing one kind of face on the outside, but having another face happening inside, where it doesn't show to the world but is deeply felt. I'm always somewhat surprised at how images portraying distress or sadness offend or push some people away, and it was interesting to me that they used this image as an example of how depressed and angst ridden, or "EDP"(emotionally dysfunctional people-their words) artists are.  In fact, what the painting is really about is how difficult it is for us to constantly have to hide what we really feel.  It's a kind of cautionary tale about allowing ourselves and others to have true and genuine feelings, whatever they may be.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jealous 2009

Perhaps it's because I'm a middle child, but I've always had a hard time with jealousy.  If something good happens to someone else, I always have to work very hard at being happy for them.  What my true, middle child, never-got-enough-love self wants to do is be angry and upset with the fact that those good things aren't happening to me.  I'm especially jealous when good things happen to other artists:  shows, sales, any kind of success no matter how large or how small.

Several years ago I had a very attractive young woman student in Gallup, New Mexico in one of my classes through the UNM branch there.  I didn't particularly like this student.  She seemed to need more love and attention then I really wanted to give her, especially considering how beautiful she was.  However, I successfully kept how I felt from her, and she continued taking classes with me.  Towards the end of her time in that area, she had a show at the Public Library in Gallup and ended up selling quite a few of her paintings.  When I went to see the show, and the librarian found out I was an artist, she informed me that not just anyone could have a show there, implying that my chances were slim.  I was, of course, very jealous.

My student applied and got into graduate school on the East Coast, and I wrote a nice letter of recommendation for her in spite of my jealousy.  On a trip to New York City, about a year later, I ran into this student quite by accident at the Museum of the American Indian in front of an exhibit of Zuni Kachinas.  She was ecstatic to see me, and I pretended the same, but inwardly felt disgruntled.  Why her of all people?

It wasn't too long after this, when I was back in Gallup teaching, that one of my colleagues told me that my student had been killed in an automobile accident in New Jersey.  I was devastated.  I cried for days.  I realized that her success with the Gallup library show had been important in a way that I couldn't have foreseen, that her short life had a much different trajectory then one that lasts for another 60 years, as hers should have.  And mostly I just felt terrible about my petty jealousy and dislike.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

(Small)Fox with Hummingbird 2011

When I start a piece I start it from an abstract painting. Before any images, I have worked on that painting until I think it's the most wonderful thing I've ever seen. In this case, I thought this little painting especially the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen. I loved the surface, with its multiple cracks allowing the intense colors underneath to come through. I had a vague idea of son and sky, but only a vague idea.  I didn’t know if it would end up being horizontal or vertical. I like the painting either way.

When I began to form the story, I was working with new media; photographs on ink jet transparencies, which allow the colors behind the photos to show through. I was working with transparencies of two animals.  One was a little hummingbird we found on the ground outside one of our large, plate glass windows. The colors that made up its body were vibrant and it had a long, slender beak, so unlike most of the birds I photograph. The other animal was a fox corpse I had photographed in Virginia several years ago. He had been hit on the busy road near the school I was teaching at, died, and then been dragged into the bush by crows. I had seen crows circling around when I was out on a run, went to investigate, and found the fox. I didn't have my camera so I went home for it and came back as quickly as I could to photograph. I returned over the weeks to take pictures until his bones and hide were too widely scattered to make much sense. In the painting, I liked that the animals are still alive, the fox ready to snap up the little hummingbird at the first chance he gets. And since it is my world, the hummingbird will always stay just out of his reach, safe from predators and plate glass windows

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hats for my Mom 2011

Another present that showed up at my (studio)door was a large, dead, crow that my younger daughter Teal found.  I think she was about 10 at the time. She held the crow for me while I photographed it with it's wings spread, wearing her pajama bottoms and her favorite sweatshirt. We also took photos of the crow spread out on the sidewalk alone, but the ones with Teal were my favorites. 

Teal is now 21 and a senior at the Kansas City Art Institute, so when she asked me to send as many photographs of myself as I could, I was more then happy to oblige, thinking that she might work my face into one of her drawings, or perhaps, one of her combination embroidery/drawings.  One of the drawings I sent was a self portrait I took of myself in my late 20's.  I had tried out a cream that was supposed to help my complexion in some mysterious way and while I can't remember that the cream did much, I loved the way it became, literally, a mask.

A few days ago I opened up a link to Teal's blog, "Rattime all the Time", http://tealscookin.blogspot.com/   and found myself staring back at me.  The bulk of the crow is embroidered, and the rest graphite, including the chest of the crow and my face. She had based my portrait on the facial cream photo, and of course, my mind went back to the crow connection that we had shared so many years ago.  I don't know if Teal thought about the crow she had brought me so many years ago when she did this piece, but I know the memory exists in her artist's brain, just as it does in mine.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Duck Walking 2009

One morning, when I went to gather the dog's bowls so I could feed them, I found a present waiting for me on the back porch.  It was a rather large, dead, duck.  I knew who the gift was from (the dogs), I just wasn't sure how they had gotten it.  Whatever, I was thrilled, and took as many photos as I could of the lovely bird before burying it so the dogs wouldn't continue to "re-gift".  Later I discovered  broken glass in one of my high studio windows where the duck had hit, then fallen, probably with a broken neck.

Over the years I've used bits and pieces of this duck to make countless images.  In my mind, I'm bringing him back to life, and in this case, fairly minimally: just the head, with a human eye, attached to a dictionary page that forms the body, and wings that are made of dirt and gravel.  This isn't a bird that's going to fly anymore.  He's walking on top of an aerial view of one of the many cities that I fly over and photograph whenever I travel.  In this case, probably Los Angels, sprawling, freeways and cars everywhere.  It's what he would see if he could fly, but then of course, he wouldn't be able to land anywhere since the city is so densly populated for so many miles.