January 31, 2017 – No Parking (america)

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This is another image from my “Compositions In Red, White, And Blue” series. It was taken standing on the rooftop of my old apartment building on Subways Street in Bisbee, Arizona. Looking straight down, and through the lens of my camera, this composition jumped out at me.

I’m not entirely sure what it means. But I like the way it looks.

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January 30, 2017 – How I Hated Mondrian

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Unless you went to art school, chances are good that you don’t know who Piet Mondrian was. He was born in the 1870s and contributed to a European form of proto-cubism that is known De Stijl. The only contemporary iteration of this term that I can think of is the The White Stripes album of the same name, with cover art that mimics Mondrian’s style.

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I was introduced to this artist as a child. My elementary school art teacher, Mr. Clinton, showed us all kinds of art from various periods, and brilliantly made projects for us built around these influential artists.

There are people who look at the works of Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, and even the later works of Pablo Picasso, and think to themselves “What’s so damn special about that? Even I could do that. My kids could do that!” I had a similar attitude, especially about Piet Mondrian. Right angles, always primary colors, blocks of paint. To this day, I still don’t understand what his motivation might have been, but I have begun to understand what a personal artistic compulsion is. I find myself gravitating toward subject matter that many of my viewers find utterly boring, banal, and insignificant, but I can’t stop myself from making these images. Art is deeply personal to the creator, and only personal to a select few of their audience – and there’s no way of predicting what colors, compositions, or themes are going to resonate with the audience.

I’m still not a huge fan of Piet Mondrian, but I don’t disregard his work as amateur, pedestrian, or boring – not anymore. He was a driven artist, and influenced a generation of artists that followed, even if his influence was a subtle and often overlooked one.

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January 29, 2017 – Burning Flags

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No, this is not a photograph of a flag. But for me, in the editing room, as I sculpted the image’s contrast and color, it began to remind me of the American flag, with a chipped-paint and rustic, aged texture. More than a week after the inauguration of Donal Trump, and all of the chaos that has followed after his controversial executive orders and the backlash from civil rights advocates, this image became a symbol to me of the erosion of American ideals.

As I have said about my other abstract compositions, there is beauty in simplicity – this image can mean any number of things to any number of people. But for me, this image is a meditation on America.

I would be curious to know what you think of this image, what your interpretation might be.

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“There are few genuine conservatives within the U.S. political system, and it is a sign of the intellectual corruption of the age that the honorable term ‘conservatism’ can be appropriated to disguise the advocacy of a powerful, lawless, aggressive and violent state, a welfare state for the rich dedicated to a lunatic form of Keynesian economic intervention that enhances state and private power while mortgaging the country’s future.”

― Noam Chomsky, The Culture of Terrorism

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January 28, 2017 – The Drip

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Today’s image, like many that came before, is a throwback to the days when I was making mostly abstract artwork. Rather than rattle on about my interest in abstract photography, I will simply leave today’s image with the following quote by Pablo Picasso:

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.”

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January 27, 2017 – Borderlands

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The San Rafael Valley is a well-kept secret in the borderlands of Cochise County, Arizona. Micro-climates make this a surprisingly fertile territory for wine grapes, and several wineries are dotted throughout the area, surrounded by BLM territory and a collection of independently operated ranches. There are the odd ‘desert rats’ that live on these lands, too – individuals who prefer to live a more solitary life, away from the noise and bustle of the city.

This largely unmanicured region can seem threatening. The rules of the west are fully on display. If you trespass on the wrong property, you will most-assuredly come face-to-face with an angry rancher and a shotgun. Landowners are wary of outsiders; many are hardened against trespassers as a result of drug-muling and human trafficking. But for the casual traveler, if you play by the rules, the only sign of human life you will ever encounter are Border Patrol trucks and the occasional unmanned drone flying overhead.

I feel at home out here, looking down the deep valley, where the wind gliding through the dry grass is the dominant sound. Where the sky opens up and reminds one how small they really are.

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January 26, 2017 – Black and White

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One of my friends – more of an activist, politically motivated, and extreme personality – once commented that my work specifically seeks to “mean nothing at all.” This was over a decade ago, but I remember the comment; it made me think a lot about the kinds of images I was making at the time. I didn’t feel insulted, but I did feel compelled, initially, to try and defend myself.

My natural instinct was to disagree (and I did disagree), but it was the first time I really sat down and tried to apply meaning to the photographs and paintings I was making. And it made me think about the utility of abstract imagery in a broad and general sense, too.

I don’t think all artwork needs to be a didactic teaching tool, or direct the thoughts and emotions of the viewer. In fact, in many circumstances, I have a contrary opinion. I am seduced by abstract compositions specifically because they can mean any number of things to any number of people. The possibilities aren’t infinite. Color, movement, composition, film grain, delicate or light brush strokes – these all guide our interpretation and emotional response. But abstract compositions allow us to think broadly about how an image impacts us, and the experience of viewing abstract art becomes very personal. An abstraction can remind us of a specific event, a movie we watched, an experience we had – and in an almost slight-of-hand kind of way, through some peculiar magic, an image made by a complete stranger can ascend to significance in the hearts and minds of the individuals looking at it.

I am compelled to make pictures like this for reasons that still evade me, but I make them because they affect me, they move me, they touch a part of my subconscious and tickle a part of my mind. I can’t expect images like this to be universally adored, but I have to have faith, as an artist, that there are other people out there, like me, who find this kind of composition interesting.

The hardest thing for an artist to do is follow their instincts. If I listened to all of the criticism, all I would do is try to mimic the landscapes of Ansel Adams or take endless ‘desert sunset’ pictures. There are plenty of those images in the world, and I just need to make images of my very own.

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January 25, 2017 – Dead Flowers

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Winter isn’t over, and we’re beginning to enter that last long stretch. For me, February is almost always the longest, coldest, hardest month. But the promise of spring, dormant as it is, surrounds us. Today’s image is a watercolor and ink illustration of a dried husk of a flower, based on a photograph I took during one of the coldest winter days I lived through in Bisbee, Arizona.

I enjoy this image because we always have a tendency to connect themes of death and rebirth to the winter. Leaves fall from trees, grass withers and dies, and our gardens crumple up beneath frost and snow. This image, to me, is a reminder of the color and warmth that we can expect in the following months.

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