A Winter Beach in Film

The person who sees participates in life; the person who merely looks does not
— Christine Paintner

A few years ago a good man gave me an old 35mm camera that he hasn't used in years. I also let it sit for it's own dusty years on my shelf, hoping one day to get back to shooting film and wondering what secrets the camera held. I finally took it down from it's quiet place over Christmas and put it to use. I have to wonder why I let it sit so long, why I wasn't ready to see with slower eyes. I do love shooting digital, but there is something about film that raises the experience to another level. You take your time, you carefully consider what you see and why you want to capture it. You have no idea if it really worked, and you have to wait a good while to find out. instead of  time spent editing hundreds of almost identical images to pick the right one, you get that 'one' and that one alone, to sit with, in all of its faults and beauty, without an invitation to retouch or change or edit edit edit - it simply 'is'. Shooting film invites into 'being'. What a kind invitation. 

These shots are from boxing day 2014, where a South Carolina Christmas beach invited my children and I into an unusually warm reverie. 

Published by Sarah

Fujimura's Truth Bomb

Makoto  Fujimura is a visual artist that I've been following the last couple years. Not only do I admire his stunning work but also adore his writings and thoughts on art and faith. 

This post is a reflection of one of his writings titled "Art, Love and Beauty: On Art, lecture 1". In it he tackled the ominous question "what is art?"

He writes: 
"Art is a faithful way of knowing the world. In this way, art and sciences share our journey toward knowledge.  Science recognizes the boundary of the closed natural world, and then attempts to understand the mechanics of how things work.  Art, in some specific ways, goes beyond those boundaries.  When Carter Ratcliff notes that “art is inexhaustible,” I think he is referring to art's role in breaking open boundaries, a core of art experience that is truly generative.  Art can substantiate the “invisible” realities, beyond what the data shows.  But both art and science can begin with a commitment, and a faithful covenant, to knowledge.  Therefore, both require an ontological base of faith as the starting point of this journey."

I love this because it focuses on the tangible and intangible. I find myself needing to attempt to describe the tension, marriage, and relationship of both. I find much of the art I see in galleries and museums is restrained within either boundaries of our world or within ourselves. And I find much of the focus in the art market and academia is resigned within the stifling cell walls of money, showmanship and ego. 

Fujimura says,"If we are going to ask it at all, I suggest we need to ask it from a more human perspective. We need to link “what is art”  to the greater question of “what is life?”  And for such deep inquiry, we have to be willing to suspend our 'lust for certainty' (Bruce Herman) and be on a faith journey toward a mystery of our being. "

For me, the art I love has an illusive quality, an distinct lack of certainty, and a touch of etherial and concrete. It mimics nature but also nods toward 'the mystery of our being.'  And this, I believe takes a long time to be able to do. And it requires both patience and tenacity.  You can see some of these things described in Fujimura's work. I love the way he describes his process: "in my studio, I stalk.  Or better, I wait.  I wait for my art to show its face above the murky waters of the art world, my own assumptions and my own ego. "

Being able to step outside of our own self imposed cell of certainty and anxiety is a very tall order. I hope that I will be able to keep the question "what is life" more at the forefront as I'm wading waste hight in the creative process in which also swirls the concrete of bills, fear, ambition and pride. I hope I find the boldness to wait and let the mystery of our being rise above the immediate and find realities beyond just what data shows.

You cand find  Fujimura's full article here and he speak of these things much better than I: http://www.makotofujimura.com/writings/art-love-and-beauty-on-art-lecture-1/. 

Posted by Joanna


Within the Work Itself

I recently came across a book that I held close during my stint in art school called  Art and Fear/ Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Their opening statements: "Making art means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares whether you do, and for which there may be neither audience nor reward.  Making the work you want to make means setting aside these doubts so that you may see clearly what you have done, and thereby see where you go next. Making the work you want to make means finding the nourishment within the work itself. " 

These words have been soothing and inspiring.  They are soothing because they exposes those common "what the crap am I doing?!" feelings. They highlight this aspect within creatives which is in constant contradiction with an addiction to beauty innately coupled with an insatiable desire to articulate it in an authentic and personal translation. The authors' acknowledgment of this predicament helps bring me back to brass tax.  

In order to feel like I have spoke to beauty and truth accurately theres most likely a lot of mundane and ritualistic work to be done. And most likely a lot of crap I'll be making (but hopefully with accidental successes in the mix.)

I also love this book because it debunks the mysticism and idealism behind the process of creating.  When walking through an art supply store (or antique shop, junk yard hardware or thrift store for that matter), I'm often intoxicated by the seduction of the potential of materials. Sadly, it distracts me like a nine-page menu, and indecision becomes my silent companion.  Over the years, I've learned (and am learning) to stick with the materials that allow me to enjoy the process more, and allow myself the space to grow in respect of them --both in their versatility and limitations. And also learning that I mostly need to just sit my ass down to do the work.

In truth, if I wasn't so in love with the process of making art itself, I'd leave it entirely. What comes after the "nourishment of the work itself" can be harsh. Our fear (real or unfounded) of others is terribly taunting, but self-critique is the most deadly. 

However, like Bayles and Orland reveal, an artist must "set aside doubts so that you may see clearly what you have done, and thereby see where to go next."  Artists are duplicitous. We pour our thoughts and feelings into a piece and then are required and compelled to step away from the feeling and move toward objective criticism. Yet, I think it's a blessed contradiction. It teaches us to be better and to strive for better while whittling away at the the valid piece in front of us that we feel is far less than best.  And the only way through is to accept this doubt and trial, not only as reality, but also as a healthy and essential landmarks  toward our goals. Our moments of disillusionment, discouragement, and even hatred for the thing we once loved aren't sexy, but they are essential. 

"Making art is dangerous and revealing," these authors point out. I'm hoping to learn more how to embrace this danger, fall more in love with the process,  the ritual of knowing my materials, the nourishment of the work despite lack of audience or reward, and accept the challenge toward more revelation and exposure -- both to myself and others. 

I'm happy to be here among other risk takers and beauty lovers.


posted by Joanna