Sunday, December 21, 2008

Night Light

Mars & Evening Stars, © 2001 Jeane Vogel Photography, 
Cibachrome print

There is something special about night light. It changes with the seasons. Cloud cover, moon phase, even air temperature can change the quality of the light after sunset.

Shooting at night means long exposures. I hate setting up the tripod, calculating the exposure, adjusting the tripod and camera to get the right composition, re-calculating the exposure because this process has taken so long that the light has changed and I have to start over. Ugh. It's not very magical.

I love the results, though. Anything that is moving during a long exposure takes on quality that the eye cannot see. Water become silky. People or leaves or animals moving look ghostly and other-worldly. Light sneaks in from places you didn't think was possible.

I cringe when I hear people say that photography captures of moment in time. It doesn't. And long-exposures prove it. Photography captures an essence of the moment. A feeling. Often, it captures life that simply cannot be seen.

Today is the Winter Solstice and tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. Both events are about the value and wonder of night light. It's interesting that they coincide this year. I don't remember that happening before, though I'm sure it has -- sometime.

The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of daylight -- and the longest of night light. 

Hanukkah comes every year when the sky is darkest. Our candles burst through the night light and beckon back the day light.

It's a time of wondrous light.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Film vs. Digital

Summer Storm on the Current River, 
©1980, 2008 Jeane Vogel Photography, Cibachrome print

I got a shipment of Polaroid sepia film yesterday. It's rare and when I found it, I jumped at the chance to use it again. I have no idea what I will do with it or where it will take me. It will wait until it knows what it wants to be.

I also found some 120 medium format Infrared film. That's even rarer. Grabbed that too. I absolutely know what I'm going to do with that. 

I'm a little sick of the arguing, but is there really a difference between film and digital? Most people can't tell the difference in the final product unless the photographer over-saturates the colors or over-sharpens the image. Why do they do that? It's awful!

But a talented photographer, one who has mastered both film and digital, and works everyday to master it just a little more -- the images from that artist don't show the materials or the equipment. You just see the art.

"Purists" claim they can see the difference. Sometimes, just for fun, I challenge them. They can't tell the difference, not if the image is processed properly. It's arrogance and a sense of nostalgia that drives their purism,  I think. These are the "my camera can beat up your camera" folks who think that best camera and the best lens and the best technique and the best Photoshop plug-in will create their perfect image. Or they tell me that film is just superior and nothing will replace it. Are they trying to hang on to the "good old days?" Do they think that their brand of photography is best? Don't they realize that film was dismissed as "not pure photography" when it replaced coated glass plates?

We say it all the time. It's not the equipment. It's the vision. I'll say this out loud too: I am very tired of self-proclaimed purists' superior attitude about film. You can drag around a 100-pound view camera and process your own film, but you can still take bad pictures. 

So if film and digital are the same, why not just dump film? It's expensive. It's time consuming. It's not very "green."

Ah, but it's not the same. The results might look the same under a practiced hand, but part of the creation is the creating.

I want to use everything. Sometimes I use film. Sometimes I use digital. Sometimes I use Polaroid. Sometimes I shoot in black & white and hand-color it. Sometimes I shoot in color and convert to BW. 

The point is, it's all good. Can we stop arguing about it now?

Monday, December 08, 2008

It's Baaaaaaack!

Let's Fly Away, © 2008 Jeane Vogel Photography, Hand-altered Polaroid Photograph

Polaroid Film. It's back! 

I don't know for how long and I don't know how good it is, but a company in Austria is making it again for artists. Small batches. Hand crafted. 

Oh, yippee!!!!!

For those who don't know, here's the backstory:

In the late '60s and early '70s, Polaroid made this terrific film, SX-70, for instant cameras. You took a picture and watched it develop. It was all the rage at my boy-girl parties in high school. I understand adults at the time liked it too!

It had a flaw, though. Touch the film too harshly before it hardened -- about two hours -- and you got nasty black marks. It didn't take artists long to figure out that the soft emulsion could create some wonderfully impressionist results.

Polaroid changed the film and got rid of the flaw. We artists begged them to bring back the old version. They did. They they went belly up. Twice.

In December 2005 they stopped production forever, four full months BEFORE they said they would. Last June, all Polaroid film went away.

As my stash of film dwindled, my collectors bemoaned the loss. Surely someone will start making it again, they said. We hoped.

If not, I guess this work will go up in value! We hoped again.

Truly, I wanted the film back. Some artists have tried to reproduce the results in Photoshop, but it's not the same organic, fluid results you get from this film. 

So when the film's return was announced, I ordered some. Got some sepia film in another Polaroid format too. If the film has good qualities, I will produce new work. And start teaching it again. 

Oh, oh, oh -- the possibilities!

Monday, December 01, 2008

We Have to Fix This

I know I'm not the only one who was sick to learn of the death at Walmart on Long Island when the doors opened at 5 a.m. and frenzied shoppers trampled a man to death so they could get $9 CDs and $700 plasma TVs. 

I know I'm not the only one who was disgusted to hear that some of the shoppers groused about the store closing because of the death and kept shopping anyway.

I know I'm not the only one who tired of being told that I'm a Scrooge if I don't buy the best and newest for everyone I know.

Who sucked the joy out of giving?

I'm not "silver lining in every cloud" kind of person, but I do see an opportunity when it hits me upside the head with a two-by-four. This economic downturn is trying to tell us something: stop buying crap you don't need for people you don't like! Stop doing it, whether or not you have money in your pocket.

I don't mean that I think it's a good idea that people are losing jobs and homes. That we have to stop. Today. But I do mean that sometimes we need a reminder that shopping frenzies are not worth dying for. Or killing for. And we don't have to listen to the marketers every minute.

The typical response to this buying free-for-all is "make your own gifts!"

That's great advice for those of us who can. Not everyone wants to. Or is good at it. Oh sure, everyone can bake a plate of cookies, but that gets old too. 

There is another answer. Buy local. Buy free trade. Buy from independent artists and crafters. Whether on-line halfway around the world or in your neighborhood, there are artists who have the perfect gift for someone special. Please support them. 

Let's put the joy back in giving. Give something unique. Give something special. Give something made with a human touch.

We can fix this.

Monday, November 24, 2008


New Moon, Last Night, Color Photograph, (c)2008 Jeane Vogel Photography

This is the week for blogs and articles and broadcasts about how grateful we are - or should be.
Ok, I'll add mine.

I'm grateful for people who want art in their lives.

Does that sound self-serving? I don't mean it that way. Sure, I like making a living and I'm very grateful to be able to feed my kids and pay the mortgage every month (mostly) with  money generated from my work. But that's not what I mean.

I'm grateful that people want art in their lives because that means they are willing to think. To be challenged. To see beauty in raw materials. To invest in something so original that they might look at it differently every time they see it.

It means they want more from life. That's a world I want to live in.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Autumn Carpet 2008, Digital Photograph, (c) 2008 Jeane Vogel Photography

Lots of serious amateur photographers tell me they would NEVER take pictures for a living because they love photography so much that they don't want to turn it into a job -- into a chore. They pity me for my labors.

I ask: do you love your day job as much as photography? No! They love photography more. It's more gratifying and satisfying. 

I know what they are trying to say: it's a hobby, it's fun, it's a diversion. They don't want to push beyond the fun.

Ok. Although I can't imagine doing work I don't adore, they are right. It is work! Whether I'm shooting a corporate headquarters or a family portrait, it's work. When I'm painting, it's work. Eking out a living as a working photographer and studio artist is a challenge, no doubt. And worth every minute.

The serious amateurs are right about one thing, though: generally I don't shoot for fun. The shooting has a purpose. Whether for art or commerce, it's work! I don't make the time for the fun. Unless I'm pushed.

This weekend I shot for fun. Dear friends Hildy and Dimitri were swinging through town on their three-month tour of the US giving workshops and consultations about how to revive our communities and fix the world. You HAVE to read about them and learn about their amazing work with nonprofits. Both are serious amateur photographers and wanted to get out into the city and shoot.

The day was cold and gray but, hey! Let's go! The first stop was Tower Grove Park in St. Louis, a mid-1800s Victorian park that is too beautiful to describe. The trees were past peak, but I looked down and focused on this green leaf among the red and yellow. Until I processed it, I didn't even SEE the purple one! I didn't enhance this image (except for the painted frame). This is what was there.

I would never have seen it unless I had been pushed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm going to be listening to Miriam Makeba all day today.

She collapsed and died last night after a concert in Italy to help a journalist who had been receiving death threats for reporting on organized crime. At 76, she was still singing and inspiring and working for change. 

World activists sat up and listened when she addressed the UN in 1963 to call for an end to Apartheid in her native South Africa.  She lived in exile for 31 years --banned from going home because she spoke the truth. 

A human rights activists, singer/songwriter, inspiration. 

Miriam Makeba was a living example of how art saves lives. She will be missed.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

End of the Season

The country and I wrapped up two seasons this week. The connections between them gave me pause and even made me well up a couple of times.

I finished my part of the 2008 art fair season in Memphis this week. Minute by minute, we were getting closer to electing Barack Obama president. It was almost too much.

My booth was two blocks away from the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed in 1968. I was in 7th grade. It was a profound moment in a new adolescence. It seemed that my world was falling apart. Lots of other people's worlds certainly were.

My parents did not tolerate bigotry around them. My mom was 19 when she was arrested in Mississippi for collecting money from people on the bus she was riding to visit her new husband in basic training. The people on the bus were black and not allowed to go the restaurant where the bus stopped for dinner. She thought that was stupid and she did something about it. She had annoyed the bus driver a couple of hours before by not moving from her favorite spot in the back of the bus to the front when they entered Arkansas. The food was the last straw -- the bus driver turned her in.

This was the woman who literally threw my head under the bathroom faucet and jammed a bar of soap in my mouth when a yelled a horrible expletive at a black woman walking in front of my house. I picked the word up from my grandpa, apparently. It was something they fought about all the time. I think I was four or five at the time. I didn't know what the word meant, but I knew I would never utter it again.

I was thinking about how all those life experiences have shaped my life and my art -- and what it meant to be exhibiting my art on the street in Memphis last weekend. My phone was busy with almost minute-by-minute Twitter updates on the election from NPR and BBC. I was a little tense!

The Memphis art public is knowledgeable and generous. They were buying this weekend. Thank you, Memphis, for seeing past the fear of the day and wanting art in your homes and offices. 

I think the people I met this weekend were excited for the possibilities to come. There is so much work to be done and one election doesn't fix anything. But it's a start and I'm glad I was in Memphis last weekend. A lot has been written over the last couple of days about the realization of Dr. King's dream. 

Maybe. My 7th grade daughter doesn't really understand why a whole room of white people screamed and cried at 10 p.m. Tuesday night. We knew it could happen -- we desperately wanted it to happen, but we weren't really sure that white America would really put a black man in the White House.  

A little bit of healing has begun. A lot of work awaits us.

I'm ready.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Exhibition XXIV - Art St. Louis

Windswept #1, (c) 2008 Jeane Vogel Photography, Infrared Photograph, 24x30, $400
Juried into Art St. Louis' Exhibition XXIV, Nov. 3-Dec. 30, 2008

Often an inspiring artist comes into my booth and wants advice about how to get started. I'm happy to share any information I've acquired but most of them really don't want to hear it. 

They want shortcuts.

They're aren't any.

There's one thing I always suggest and not one young artist has thought it's a good idea: submit your work to juried exhibitions. A lot. Find out what's passes the juror's test. Dare to have your work compared to the best artists out there. 

Entering a juried exhibition takes courage. You have no idea what the juror is looking for. You don't how what else has been submitted. You don't know how many works will be submitted and how few can be accepted. 

Exhibitions teaches an artist to develop a self-critical eye. My husband tells me everything I do is great. We all need supportive, encouraging people around us, but they can't tell us if our work is good. Blind jurying can.

Rejection can be the hardest part of the jurying process. Nobody likes to be rejected, but artists don't know if their work has been rejected because the work was bad, that particular juror didn't like it, it didn't fit the juror's vision for the show, it didn't work with the other pieces already selected or there were too many good pieces to fit and choices had to be made.

The rejection is important though. When a piece of mine is rejected from a show, I have to look more critically at the work. Were there flaws that could be corrected? Did I misinterpret the theme?

Of course, acceptance is much better! Fewer than 1 in 10 of the works submitted to the Art St. Louis Exhibition XXIV were accepted. I was delighted that "Windswept, #1" an Infrared photograph, was among the accepted works for ASL major annual exhibit.

Submitting work to juried exhibitions is time-consuming, costly and exhausting. And it's the best way I know to push my work forward.

Monday, October 27, 2008


"Duck Pond," (c) 2008 Jeane Vogel Photography, Infrared photograph

I think the worst advice I ever got was "Stick to a Routine." 

It goes like this: Develop a good work routine. Make your routine part of your life. You won't have to think about it. Exercise. Be at your desk. Perform your hated tasks first. Take your vitamins. Drink your milk. Read the paper.

Your routine will become so natural that the creativity will just leak out of your ears.

Oh, wait. That last part wasn't supposed to happen. But it does. Every time.

A routine is comfortable. It's dependable. It's mind-numbing.

It will make your my brain stop. Cold. That's the whole point of a routine. Do something often enough, in the same order, over and over. It's a part of you. You don't think about it. You don't THINK!

I'm not saying all routines are bad. It's probably a good idea to set a bill paying routine, for example. But most of the time, a routine will stop me from trying something new. 
A routine starts with: "I will do it this way." It eventually turns into "We've always done it this way." 

See? Creativity leaked right out.

So here's the new advice: at least once a week, try something new or unexpected.

But don't make it routine.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I'm the bad mom this morning. Last night, our 7th grader went to her first concert. She went with a friend and a friend's dad. She met the band members, got them to sign her Ipod and tickets and even exchanged a penny for a personalized guitar pick! She rocked out for four hours.

She had achieved nirvana!

The downside was that went didn't know it was a school night when we agreed to the concert. The deal was that she would have to go to school the next morning -- no excuses. (Apparently her friend gets to sleep in.)

Of course this morning I heard: "I'm sick." "My throat hurts." "I'm just going to the nurse and come back home."

Fine. But you are going to school. This is as good a time as any to learn that there are some days you have to do what you don't want to -- even if you feel sick. You just have to do them. And you have to be cheerful about it.

I feel that way in the studio a lot! 

It takes discipline to work on something because the deadline looms. It takes discipline to finish a commission you didn't want to do - but you needed mortgage money. It takes discipline to start new bodies of work, strike out in new directions -- especially when there are no guarantees of success.

It takes discipline to finish the boring stuff before we can get to the fun stuff.

I have a few of those projects hanging over me right now. Guess it's time to get to work.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A New Patron

Living Bouquet, (c) 2005 Jeane Vogel Photography
20x20, $250 framed

I was at the Highland art fair this weekend. Highland is a sweet rural Swiss town in Illinois about 25 minutes from St. Louis. It's not a huge fair, but it's fun and local and I generally do OK there.

To be honest, there weren't lots of sales this weekend. People are a little scared and holding their wallets tight. For some, art is a luxury. For others, art is life saving and feeds their souls. 
For still others, the art journey is just beginning. 

Like many fairs, the Highland fair has a children's section where kids can purchase art for $5. Artists at the fair contribute work and children can shop on their own and begin their art collection. It's a great idea and I always contribute two or three pieces. The art we donate is worth far more than the $5, but it's priceless in the hands of a child.

About an hour before the show closed on Sunday, a young boy --maybe a 3rd grader -- approached me with one my images, Living Bouquet in his hands. He had just bought it and it wanted to meet the artist. 

His parents, obviously proud of him, stood a short distance away. He chose a rather sophisticated piece for a child and he wanted to tell me what it meant to him: it's peaceful, he said. 

Wow! My work is inspired by the Impressionists and evokes a lot of emotions and interpretations. Most adults don't understand modern Impressionism, but kids view art with their heart and souls -- not their heads. They don't care if someone else thinks the work is "important" or "vital." If they respond to it, it works for them. If not, they move on. 

I removed the work from the plastic and inscribed the back for him. He left as if he had met a rock star.  He made my day.

It was my best sale of the day. And I didn't make a dime from it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

When Art and Values Clash

Searching for Time, Infrared photograph, (c)2008 Jeane Vogel
24x30, $325 matted

It was bound to happen. I meet a lot of people at art fairs and we basically have one thing in common: we both like my art! Or I like my art and they are being polite. Doesn't matter. We're just strangers to each other, finding something in common.

Sometimes a reaction to my work will be strong and a patron will share some very personal information, as if I were a girlfriend or a confidant. Like the woman who's husband was deployed to Iraq and they were both on my website and liked the same piece. She found me and bought it. It made them feel closer, and safer. Wow! 

Or the little girl who almost sobbed as she clutched one of my images, it so reminded her of her beloved home, now 1000 miles away. (Her mom got it for her.)

When a piece of art is the centerpiece of the conversation, people can feel close quickly.
It's a nice feeling. A personal connection, a sharing of intent,  a common purpose.

Then suddenly, I'm pulled up short. 

A collector of mine, someone who has purchased many large pieces for herself, as gifts, even commissioned a special work -- sent me some rather disturbing political materials recently.
Really? You believe that?, I thought. I guess she thought I did too.

Most artists I know are politically liberal. Some more, some less. I'm not ashamed to say I fit into the "more" camp. I try not to to talk politics at an art fair or exhibit, but it's burned into my DNA. If someone makes a comment, I'll engage them - in the most polite, civil way I know of if we disagree; enthusiastically if we're of the same mind.

But what does it mean if someone, a collector, is so drawn to my work but we're poles apart on major issues that affect our lives?

It truly jarred me at first. Oh no, I thought, I really like you! You have my work in your home! How could you think THAT!

Then the flash of the moment passed.  We had found something in common. The art. It's not much, but it's a start. Part of my values, through my work, were finding a kindred voice. In this contentious climate, where disagreement too often means that the opponent will be demonized, attacked unfairly and lied about, I'll take what common ground I can find.

Maybe it's another example of how art can heal the world.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


In August 2001, I opened my first art website. Since then, I've added, subtracted and tried to tweak it.

Mostly I ended up with a mess. I knew I had to start from scratch.

I finished that daunting task this morning. WHOOHOO! Ok, well "finished" is not quite right. There are tons of things I need to change and fix -- not the least of which is adding a real shopping cart. But I'm getting there!

Please click around and tell me what you think. Comments are always welcome! I want the site to be easy and friendly. Tell me if it's not.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stuff That Art is Made Of

"Maple Leaf," public domain, artist unknown

I found this leaf on my walk yesterday. First fallen leaf of fall.

Taking time to see the remarkable amidst the familiar: This is the stuff that art is made of.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Don't Be Afraid of Art

Rhymes With Orange, (c) Hilary Price, 
Used with Permission of the Artist

When I laugh out loud at the funnies, it's often at Rhymes With Orange (I've been know to cry at Funky Winkerbean and For Better and For Worse too.) Hannah, my 12-going-on-24-year-old, rolls her eyes. What is so funny NOW, Mom?

I admit to be being a huge RWO fan. In five to 10 words and a cartoon drawing Hilary Price nails the idiosyncrasies of relationships, mothers, food, cats (and the people they chose to tolerate), dogs (and the people they live for), God, politics -- you name it!

This one, The Working Artist, hit home. There's a sad little joke among artists: if you want the perfect picture -- the one that people will knock down your doors to get -- just paint a clown holding a bouquet of flowers, standing in front of a barn. Why? Because those are the safest images that everyone seems to want.

They're pretty. They're universal. They won't cause a fuss.

Ok, maybe it's the tanking economy or the rampant government corruption or the notion that it's OK to lie if we say it often enough and don't back down -- but I'm ready to cause a fuss!

"Safe" art isn't getting us anywhere. "Safe" art matches your sofa and picks up the colors of the accent pieces in a room. "Real" art matches your soul. "Real" art takes you beyond yourself. It can be pretty too, but it will won't let you just glance at it without demanding something back.

What does that have to doing with "making a fuss?" Art is life. Period. If we need "safe" art around us, it stands to reason that we might be afraid of what's out there. We might not be ready to demand what we deserve: decent health care, honest public servants, jobs that pay a living wage, challenging education for our kids, safe food and water and air.

I'm not ready to get rid of the flowers and waterscapes and still lifes in my body of work, but I'm glad to have a reminder that art is, primarily, a method of communication. Everyone has something to say, and we have an obligation to say it. And we have an obligation to hear what others say, without belittling or demeaning or demonizing them in the process. But that's a two-way street too.

I have a bumper sticker on my van: "Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes." The whole quote, from Gray Panther Maggie Kuhn, is "Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes."

Now THAT was a woman who knew how to raise a fuss!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tough Year for Art Lovers

This is a tough year. The economy is tanking. The weather has been deadly. Gas prices ... well, let's just say most of us don't get a share of those huge oil company profits.

There's a trend in times like these: people want beautiful, inspiring things around them, because everything else seems so bleak.

That's certainly been my experience this year. Collectors, patrons and "everyday" art lovers need that one special piece -- that oasis of beauty or inspiration or personal connection that our art represents for them. 

Art isn't a luxury anymore. It's a sanity-saver.

It's been a tough year to go to art fairs too. I'm grateful for every single person who comes out in the rain and nasty weather. This year of art fairs has seen more than just rain. Microbursts, tornados and straight-line winds have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars of art at fairs this season.

This weekend I was at Lakeside East in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. We set up after dark - in the rain. We finished setting up Saturday morning - in the rain. There was a record 7 inches of rain in Chicago. They cancelled the show for Sunday, so after close on Saturday we torn down and packed up in the dark -- and the rain. The urban streams were flowing in the streets and basements. Still people came to see and buy art.

Thank you.

Monday, September 08, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different...

My friend Hildy Gottlieb (desert dweller, fixer of non-profits and talented photographer -- and many other things too numerous to mention) introduced me to this web-based comic. I've become rather addicted. 

What does this have to do with art? Aside from the fact that it IS art, work like this makes me laugh and gives me some balance. I need that right now. A lot of it.

If you go to his site, ( don't forget to roll over the comic with your mouse. There more here than meets the eye!

The work comes with a warning: "This comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).

Hey! I resemble that remark!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Family In Progress

I know people get tired of hearing this from me, but it's my litany: 
Art saves lives.

Art can save the world.

How do I know? Because I've seen it. I don't mean to suggest that ONLY art saves lives. That would be silly. It's equally silly to think that art is just pretty or angry or useless.

Want an example? I have lots, but let's start with this one. Missouri Adoption Heart Gallery Project

The Heart Gallery has affiliates all over the country. The Missouri project was started three years ago by photographer Dana Colcleasure, who truly is my hero. She worked for a couple of years to cut through bureaucratic red tape, appease obstructive egos and recruit photographers. I bugged her for months when I first heard of it -- long before she was ready for photographers -- because I wanted to be part of this project.

Heart Gallery photographers are professionals who take fine art portraits of children awaiting adoption. We try to show their personality, their life-spark. The portraits then tour the state in galleries and shopping centers and community centers, hoping a family will be inspired to inquire about adoption.

It works. Hundreds of children in MO have been adopted in the last three years. I know of at least two children I have photographed who have found "forever families." Thousands are still waiting. 

This year I photographed 12 children! Every one of them is beautiful and fun and perfect and loveable. Every once in a while I check the gallery to see how they are faring. WHOOPPIEEE! Xavier, Jordan & George Michael have a family in progress! Taking on three boys is a challenge, but this family will be the best!

So you might be thinking: I don't know if I can do that. These kids are older. Some have "issues." Some have disabilities. 

Yep. That's right. But we ALL have issues. And I don't know if you can do it either. But I know we have to do something! Each one of us who is successful stood on the shoulders of others. We were lifted and coached and encouraged. That's what these kids deserve too.

Now, let's see what we can do for Blaine, Willie, sisters Tiffany, Tierra and Sharda, James, Felicia and twins Kantriel & Keron. The Missouri Heart Gallery has been touring the state since May. It opened in St. Louis yestereday and will be in various locations throughout the month of September. See the whole schedule here. Please visit it and spread the word. 

Can art save lives? I made a simple piece of art in March and three boys will celebrate Christmas with parents and their "forever family." I know I just had a small part in it, but it's a part I'm humbled and privileged to do.

We can't fix everything, but we can fix something. Art saves lives. Art can change the world.

Monday, August 18, 2008

An Opening

Candle Lighting Time, Sandwiched photograph, 30x24, $350, (c) 2008 Jeane Vogel

"Memento Chai," my solo show of Judaica, opened on Saturday night.

A solo show is a gigantic responsibility. When an artist is part of a group show, curators manage everything: art selection, invitations, atmosphere, hanging the show, getting people to the opening, wine and food, labels. Every little detail is managed. The artist just delivers the work and maybe invites collectors and friends. The artist doesn't even think about whether people will come. Of course they will.

Hang the art and people will come.

A solo show rests entirely on one artist and her reputation. Oy! That's a bit of pressure!

Before I could even worry about who would come, I had a thousand details to consider, not the least of which was selecting the art, framing and hanging it. Fortunately I had lots of help. Husband Steve Sorkin managed the PR for me, getting press releases out and making the necessary contacts. Daughter Hannah worked on my mailing list. Friend and artist Ilene Berman listened to my endless, annoying rambles, and gave me advice (which I didn't take, but I appreciated) about the invitation design. She also ran last minute errands for me and offered endless support and encouragements. And thanks to Ilene, we had lovely cups for our wine and didn't have to swig straight from the bottle.

My friend and rabbi, Susan Talve, talked up the exhibit at every opportunity -- and my talent seemed to be more grand with every telling. If your spiritual leader is going to talk about you, it's nice that she exaggerates in the positive! Susan even modeled for one of the images, Hagbah.

Friend and neighbor Arlene Kerman catered the whole event with the most fabulous desserts. HaShemesh, a klezmer band, filled the exhibit with joyful, inspiring music.

And the people came. Art cannot exist in a vacuum. It needs an audience. It needs a relationship.

Thank you to everyone who came! It was an art opening I will not forget!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Solo Show

Aron Kodesh, Digital Photograph, 2008, 29x22, $350

My first solo show of Judaica opens with a reception at my home congregation, Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, on Saturday, August 16, 7-10 p.m. It will hang until Sept 28. If you are nearby, please come. It's an artist's reception, so of course there's food, wine and music by HaShemesh, a fantastic local klezmer group.

The show contains work that was commissioned for this year's national Art Calendar published by the Women of Reform Judaism. Each year, the WRJ choose one artist to feature, and I was so honored to be selected. Some of the work is on my website now, but most will be added after the show premieres on Saturday. (Don't want to spoil the surprise!)

The show's title, Momento Chai, is a combination of ideas from Jewish tradition and 16th century portraiture.

The 16th century master portraitists spent a lot of time thinking about their relationships to God, and they were a bit fascinated by death -- probably for good reason! Many put a "Momento Mori," or reminder of death, in each of their portraits. It might have been a human skull, a rope or a knife. (Remember this from Art History class?) It was supposed to remind people of their mortality and ultimate obligation to God.

That's a bit of a foreign concept to me, but I like the idea of multi-layered concepts in my work. I combined that notion with the Jewish tradition of
Chai -- LIFE (remember Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof? L'Chaim!) Every idea in Jewish tradition is centered on preserving, appreciating and treasuring life.

The result is Momento Chai -- each image in the exhibit will have a reminder of life and the joy of living.

Memento Chai will travel to several area venues this fall and is available after November for installation. (Just email me at for details.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Death of a Film -- Part II

Sunflower, Mixed Media Painting/Photography, 30x30, $750 SOLD

People are aghast when they learn that my Polaroid film has been discontinued. The hand-altered Polaroids are popular and they mourn the loss of new images. So do I. There are five packs of film in my fridge right now. That's it. The film on eBay hasn't been handled properly, I've found, and it's damaged. I'm not buying more.

"So what will you do?" they ask. "Are you out of business?"

A one-trick pony is out of business. An artist moves on.

I have several bodies of photographic work -- traditional color, traditional black & white, the new Infrareds (that I LOVE!) My favorite still is the Polaroids. They are interpretive and organic and fluid and emotive. Nothing else does that.

Except painting.

So that's where I'm going. This year I've starting extending the image of the finished Polaroid onto the mat. I'm using soft pastels, which are so tactile and expressive that they match the mood of the original photograph perfectly.

I was at the Geneva (IL) Fine Art Fair this weekend. It's a great show with some of the best artists in the country. The level of work here is exceptional. For the first time I showed a 30x30 Sunflower that I just completed. Maybe I priced it too low, but it sold within the first hour! The patron wanted others to see it and asked if she could leave it in my booth until Sunday. Sure!

Three other patrons were upset that they couldn't have it! They can commission one!

I love the Sunflower, but my favorite is Dragon in the Clouds, below, finished just hours before I left for the show.

This body of work has a piece of my soul and I'm not letting it fade away. It's getting a new life as mixed media painting.

A Dragon in the Clouds, Mixed Media Painting, 16x16, $395, (framed)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dealing with Loss - Update!

Good karma prevails! The equipment has been recovered. I'm not asking any questions. I have all of it back!

On the other hand, I had to replace it quickly and now have some duplicated equipment. The insurance company was dragging their feet, so there's nothing to return to them, thank goodness! I did upgrade some lenses and I'm keeping them. I needed them for a while. Sometimes the universe tells us what to do -- but I would have appreciated a less stressful message!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Telling the Truth

“Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.” -- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

I got myself in a bit of hot water this week.

I won't go into all the gory details, but let's say I pulled out of an important art event in St. Louis, hosted by a respected art institution, because I thought the space that the artists were asked to use was worse than substandard and disrespectful to the art and the artists. When I saw the space I asked myself: would this group ask a visiting artist to use this space?

When the answer came back "of course not!" I knew what I had to do. And I did it publicly -- but as respectfully as I know how to do -- because I wanted to start a discussion of how art and artists should respect themselves and each other.

Apparently we don't so much.

Within moments of my post appearing on a St. Louis listserv for visual and performing art, I was getting private emails and phone calls of support.

"I wish I had the balls to do what you did," I heard on more than one message.

But the public responses called me ungrateful and whiny, insisting that I was "biting the hand that feeds you."

Really? Artists are lapdogs who gobble up any scrap thrown from the big art table where the master sits and then wag our tails in gratitude? Or are we servants who dote on the master and do his bidding, accepting his blows with a "thank you, sir"? Or are we children who are to be seen and not heard?

When did this happen? Artists are supposed to enlighten, entertain, enrich and inspire. But mostly we're supposed to tell the truth! The hard truths. The ugly truths. The uncomfortable truths.

To do that, artists must be equals at the art table.

I demand to be an equal. Artists and art institutions and collectors all need each other. We have to understand and respect and try to meet each other's needs. Without artists, the museums are empty. Without collectors and art institutions that will show my work, I will starve. I get that.

Without artists, our lives are empty and bleak and hopeless. And pretty damned bland.

I AM grateful for the opportunities, but I have to tell the truth. I, and my sister and brother artists deserve respect. We have to respect ourselves and our work. We deserve a place at the table.

We are not lapdogs.

P.S. Thanks to one of my public supporters for the quote above. It sums up the discussion perfectly!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Dealing with Loss

Taken June 24, 2008, in a little cave on the Current River

From the picture you'd think I'd be dealing with the loss of my youth or dignity or my svelte self (bad angles here!)

But really I'm dealing with the loss of equipment. The equipment I'm holding that was in the yellow waterproof case peeking out at the bottom of the picture. My daughter Hannah took this picture of me -- I hate pictures of myself, but it's the only one of me with my trusty, wonderful Fuji S2Pro and Nikon 28-105 lens.

What? Did it drop in the river? No. It but it is gone, apparently snatched from my house when I was away at an art fair. Nothing else seems to be missing except the equipment in that yellow case, which I think was on my dining room table, in full view of the front windows of our house.

It wasn't my best camera -- in fact it's a back up that I don't use that often but I do love it. I have three 35 mm film cameras, 2 medium format film cameras, a dozen or more Polaroid cameras, and a film APS camera thats just for fun, a Canon digicam that fits in my pocket and a couple of digital SLRs. Each has lenses and filters and flash units and gadgets galore.

Apparently, I'm more attached to my equipment that I thought. One of my film cameras is one of my first -- a 35mm Canon Ftb. It's a work horse, worth about $5 now, but it's not going anywhere! I started to learn my craft on that camera! (I probably COULD drop that one in the river and shoot with it later!)

Lots of people -- amateurs photographers and students, mostly -- want to know what equipment that pros use, hoping to duplicate results if they just had the right equipment.

I always say that it's the eye and vision of the artist -- not the equipment - that makes a difference.

Apparently the equipment matters too.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Trek

From the Current River series, (c) 2008 Jeane Vogel, Infrared photograph, $400

We celebrated Hannah's 12th birthday with a 3 night, mom-daughter camping and canoe trip on the Current River. I used to know this river well, but I haven't been on it in 20 years. I wanted Hannah to see all it's wonders. It's one of the most beautiful spring-fed rivers in the country, and most of the springs are only accessible by water.

It's a cold river too, because of the springs, and the recent wet weather means that the springs are flowing strong and the river is deep and quick.


And, as long as we're going, I might as well shoot! I decided to photograph infrared because it's beautiful and different. But shooting infrared can be challenging. It requires long exposures because it's capturing a spectrum of light not visible to the human eye. Long exposures means tripods. And to get the right angle I needed to be in the river.

So there I am , waist deep in 65 degree water (at it's warmest), a quick current, several thousand dollars of photography equipment and 10 second exposures.

Hannah was even braver. She shot underwater video! This is definitely my kid.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

An Amazing Thing Happened Today

Got Game, (c) 2004 By Jeane Vogel
22x30, $350

Girls Want to Play, from the What Girls Want series, (c) 2005, Jeane Vogel
22x30, $350

An amazing thing happened today -- Mamie "Peanut" Johnson was drafted by the Washington Nationals. This amazing pitcher, virtually unknown, is the only woman to have played professional ball with men.

She played for a short time in the old Negro Leagues. With and against some of the best players in the game. Of course, most baseball fans never saw any of them, because they weren't allowed to play with whites. Most people pick up the story with Jackie Robinson in 1947.

But long before Jackie, there were men and women who played. If the black men were discriminated against, women of all colors didn't have a chance. Except Peanut. She was that good.

Maime "Peanut" Johnson and 29 other living players from the Negro Leagues were ceremoniously drafted by major league teams today.

It's about time.

There's a scene in the movie "A League of Their Own" that makes me cry every time I see it.

The "girls" of the All American Girls Baseball League are playing. A ball get away and rolls in front of a young black woman who's watching the white women play. The black woman fires the stray ball back to Geena Davis. They have a moment of understanding -- the black woman announced her power and skill, the white woman acknowledged that the black woman should be in uniform with them. The story line doesn't allow for much more and you might miss it if you didn't know the whole story, but It's a nod to Peanut. There aren't many directors who would have bothered to include the scene, but it's part of our story as women, as baseball fans and as a racially divided country. Kudos to Director Penny Marshall for reminding us that even something like baseball, as frivolous as it might seem, as annoying commercial as it has become, is still a reflection of our values and dreams.

Oh yeah, and the Democrats nominated Barak Obama for President. Wow! What a week!

Monday, May 19, 2008


There's a lot of hype in this world. "We're the best!" "New and Improved!" "We're #1!"

Blah, blah, blah. It hardly means anything anymore.

You can believe it when the organizers of the Belleville Art on the Square fair proclaim themselves #1. They are!

I was privileged to be one of only 5 St. Louis artists (of 100 artists from 30 states and 8 countries!) chosen to be part of this fair. It did not disappoint. Part of the St. Louis metro area, Belleville is a historic town in its own right. The people are amazingly friendly. The town is grateful to have the artists there and the artists are grateful to be there. It's a win-win!

The patrons are art-savvy. They understand art and want to collect it. It helps that the show is so competitive that only the best art gets in. There's no "junk" art here. Anything you see at Belleville you will see in a gallery. That can't be said of most shows.

The Art Fair Source Book, the reference for fair artists nationwide, dubbed Belleville #1 in 2007. The rankings come from artists ourselves. We judge fairs on sales, hospitality, ease of set up, etc. We love this life, but the art fair business is hard -- physically and emotionally -- and a fair that respects the artists, pampers us a little, and makes our lives in their town a little easier gets high marks.

Lots of fairs are good. Volunteers are helpful. The food is generally pretty good, even if it's just bagels and coffee in the morning.

So what makes Belleville Art on the Square different? Part of it must be the community. Everyone, it seems, is part of this show. And everyone in town wants the artists to be there. The shop keepers aren't grumbling that the artists' tents are blocking their streets. The community leaders go out of their way to introduce themselves. I got personal visits from the Fire Chief and Chief of Police, both stopping by to let me know what their departments had planned to do to protect the artists. The Chief of Police even babysat my booth for 20 minutes while I attended some business with fair personnel. Who else does that?

This show is so dedicated to art (instead of making money, like many shows), that they have year-long artist-in-residence program that puts artists in area schools, and they sponsor a regional high school art exhibit that displayed student work that was so exceptional, it could have been displayed with the professional art in the booths.

And the fair buys art itself. The fair buys art for the town square and for city hall. That level of dedication to displaying art publicly is rare -- and so refreshing.

Patty Gregory, the show's founder & chair, and co-chair John Rule put together an amazing team. (John didn't even yell at me when I drove in the wrong way!) It's a long, exhausting show that brings 85,000 people to a small, four-block area of town to see some of the best art in the country. As exhausted as I was Sunday night at the show's end, the volunteers worked even harder.

I'm not being modest when I say I was thrilled to be part of this show. Thank you Belleville! You are deserving of every accolade sent your way. Please, please, please, invite me back!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Art of Photography

Find Me a Good Seat, (c) 2008 Jeane Vogel
From the So Mama Don't Take My Kodachrome Away series of Abstract Photographs
Pigment Print, 22x30 inches, $350 framed

It happened again a couple of weeks ago. It's been brewing since.

A woman who identified herself as a watercolorist approached me and told me that she doesn't think that photography is art.

Ok. We photographers get that a lot. Some are. Some aren't. Some watercolors aren't art either.

But blanket statements that photography isn't art are getting annoying. All the more so because why I happen to hear them.

She continued: But you work IS art. I can see the stroke of your hand in your work.

Really? That's too bad. I want people to see the work, the intent, the interpretation, the vision. I don't want them to see my hand. She was referring to the hand-altered Polaroids. They are alternate process photography but the sculpting of the emulsion elevates them above "mere photography" in some people's minds.

When I tried to engage her premise (that was stupid -- I should have just nodded and moved one), she pressed: But this is a compliment. She was implying that she was bringing me in the exclusive fold of artists. I could leave those icky photographers behind and be a real artist.

Uh-huh. It was more like you-move-pretty-fast-for-a-fat-lady like of compliment.

First, I'm not interested in getting praise at the expense of other artists. Second, there seems to be this lingering, elitist, self-important attitude that "anyone" can take a picture, so it's not art. This women actually said that to me too. "Anyone can take a picture, but you do something with them."

Ok. Let me get this straight. Cameras are common, lots of people have them. All you have to do to take a picture is point and shoot. No art there. If that's the definition of art, can anyone be an watercolorist? I have watercolor brushes, tubes and cakes of paint. If I dip the brush in the water and then in the paint and pull it across the paper, did I make "real" art?

In that context, doesn't it seem a little silly to say that "anyone can make a photograph"?

Art is NEVER about the tools. Photographers get trapped by the temptation of the new toys all the time. We think: if only I had THAT kind of camera, I could make THAT kind of picture. Let me say it again. Art is NEVER, EVER about the tools. A camera is a tool. Nothing more.

Give a good photographer an oatmeal can, a piece of film, a pin and a piece of electrical tape, and she will make a wonderful photograph. Give most people a $35,000 Hasselblad and you'll still get a snapshot.

So, if it's not about the tools, what it is about? Like every other art form, it's about the vision and the statement. The best tools in the world won't guide your vision. Only an artist can do that.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Matching Your Soul - How to Buy Art

Bring Me My Kitty Treats... Now, © 2008 by Jeane Vogel
22x22, $300
See it at the Soulard Art Market Photography Invitational, opening May 15

It happens every once in a while. A woman will walk into my booth or my studio with paint chips and fabric samples.

"What do you have that matches this?" she asks.

Every artist cringes a little when she hears that. It means that the art is a decorator accessory, not a statement. It's not that we artists mind that much, but we want our work to be so much more than a pretty picture that picks up the color of the cushions.

This year I added a line to my artist statement. Most people ignore it but a handful have made it a point to cheer. It reads: "Art should match your soul, not your sofa."

Art doesn't just hang or your wall or sit on a shelf. Art demands a relationship. What do you bring the work? What does the work say to you. Does it make you think? Does it make you remember something? Do you have some sort of reaction? Are you inspired or repelled? Does your impression change over time? Can you have a conversation about it?

Next time you're walking around an art fair or gallery looking for something new, pay attention to the work that speaks to you. THAT's the one that will match your sofa, because it matches your soul.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cherokee Triangle

Even if you don't think you'll be interested, if you have a chance to be in Louisville, KY in late April, you MUST go!

The last weekend in April kicks off 10 days of Derby festivities. Yes, THAT Derby. There's a balloon glow and race, a marathon and mini-marathon, tons of public and private parties, and a general air of mirth and joy.

A parade broke out in the middle of the fair Saturday morning!

Oh, yeah. And there's the Cherokee Triangle Art Fair. This was my first year there and was thrilled to be invited. I was at the St. James Court show in Louisville last October, so I knew that this is a town filled with people who know and love art. I enjoyed an energy and enthusiasm in my booth that I don't see very often. People here are just plain bubbly and happy!

And they seem to like my work. My new work was especially well received. THANK YOU! We never know if our new work will be embraced or rejected.

One woman, who I just adored, just could not decide! So she got comfortable, spread out her favorites, and started deciding! She whittled it down to three, but she kept going back to a few other. Don't worry. I'll be back in October!

Next week: Artfest on Walnut Street in Springfield, MO.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Different Direction

Summer Storm, image extended onto mat in pastel painting, 11x11 inches,
© 2008 by Jeane Vogel

The biggest complaint heard at art fairs is "there's nothing new. It's all the same old stuff."

Sometimes that's legitimate. There are artists who find a "formula" that works for them and every piece they produce looks the same. There are painters who brag (to other artists -- not to the buying public) that they can paint a 4x6 foot panel in about 2 hours. They paint the same thing over and over. It's production art.

I hate to say this of my colleagues, but there are a handful of photographers who haven't updated their work in years either. It's the same images, over and over and over.

Hey, we all need to make a living, but doesn't that get boring after a while?

We all struggle with keeping our work fresh, vibrant and meaningful -- and attractive to patrons. But we have to experiment, grow and stretch if our work is to have any consequence over a lifetime.

This year, I'm starting down another path: pastel painted mats for my hand-altered Polaroid images. I'm showing these mixed media originals for the first time in Louisville next weekend, April 26-27, at Cherokee Triangle Art Fair.

Unlike my limited editions, there's only one of these. Each is an original pastel painting or drawing. I only have a few right now, so email me at if you're interested in reserving one before the show or to see thumbnails of the whole (limited) collection.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Slow Down

Peace, Love, Luck - Variation #1, © 2008 Jeane Vogel, Infrared photograph

Plein aire painters have a huge advantage over photographers. They sit in one place for hours, studying a composition. Removing elements, adding elements. The artist is immersed in the scene.

Photographers used to be like that. Strap 100 pounds of tripod and large format camera on your back, find a composition that appeals to you, set up the tripod, load the sheet - yes, sheet -- of film, dig out the focusing loupe, move the tripod a bit, take a light reading, adjust the focus again, set the aperture, open the shutter for several seconds to several minutes -- all to realize that you forgot to remove the black slide and nothing was exposed. Start over again.

Now, everyone and his talking parrot with a $150 digicam snaps and moves on. It's nothing.

I can be the same way. I'll shoot dozens of shots to get the one I wanted. If I slowed down, I might only need three shots.

To slow down means to think through every step. To slow down means to envision the image before it's exposed. To slow down means to make fewer mistakes.

All art benefits from a more leisurely pace. Infrared photography absolutely demands it. Infrared is a spectrum of light beyond that seen by the human eye. Because chlorophyll in plants reflects that spectrum, an infrared capture on film or a special digital sensor gives haunting look to plants, leaves and grass. The effect is ethereal.

When shooting infrared, a infrared-blocking filter is used in front of the lens. It blocks out almost all the visible light, which is the point, of course. The infrared spectrum remains. But that means that composing and focusing takes extra time -- remove the filter, set up the shot, replace the filter, expose the image.

The exposure times are long, which can add to the mysterious appearance of the image -- flowing water, moving people, fluttering leaves are blurred in the 5 to 30 second exposures. Of course, long exposures require a tripod.

A tripod forces a photographer to slow down. To think. To be deliberate.

Infrared photography has the added advantage of pushing the artist's eye beyond what can be seen and back into a realm of imagination.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Play of Art

"Peace Offering," (c) 2008 Jeane Vogel Photography, Hand Altered Polaroid

Sometimes I will engage a person looking at my work and it's suddenly clear I have misunderstood. I thought they were looking at my work in awe, but apparently it was confusion -- or worse!

The person doesn't seem to know what to say to me, and they fumble. Occasionally that fumble turns to "Gosh, it looks like you have a lot of fun with your work."

Well, that's pretty neutral. Doesn't sound too bad.

Oh, yes, I love this work! I gush. Then I realize -- they're really trying to get away because they don't find the work compelling at all. They might not understand, or they might not like it, but they want to be polite -- so they unwittingly downgrade my work to something frivolous, frolicsome or lighthearted.

Hey! I want to yell: It's called a WORK of art, not a PLAY of art. I put some serious effort in here!

Then I realize that the work we do in the studio or in field is supposed to look effortless. I don't want the technique to show. I want the ART to show. It should look as if I'm having fun.

Maybe it should be called a play of art.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Cosmos II, (C) 2008 Jeane Vogel

I've been hearing bells lately.


That's not Southwest Airlines telling me I'm free to move about the country.

That's the sound of rejection.


It's a fact of life of artists -- and most everybody else, I suppose. Rejections happens. What you do with it determines how successful you are and how much character you have.

I must have character in droves these days.


All year long I apply to juried exhibits, galleries, residencies, art fairs. I get accepted to quite a few. I have two exhibits hanging right now, one a solo show of selections from the St. Louis and
White series hanging in the Board of Aldermen's meeting room at St. Louis City Hall. Still, like most artists this time of year, I have dozens of applications pending. I'm being quite selective with art fairs this year and have eight excellent shows already booked.

It works like this: I decided to apply for an exhibit or art fair. I select what I think are my best three or four images and send them off, either on slides or digital images. 500 - 2,000 other artists are doing the same thing. For the same show. That has only 100 or so spaces available.
There are thousands of us competing for a few dozen spots. Most of us are pretty good. My competition is a little steeper because there are more photographers than other 2D artists. Sometimes there are 50 photography applications for every available spot in an art show. There are hard choices to be made.

Outstanding artists are rejected. Bad ones too. Can't tell the difference from the letter, though!


Honestly, I don't get rejections every day, but I got three in a row last week. That pinched. Lots of times I get acceptances.

For three years I've been hearing from patrons and other artists that I should be in the Belleville art fair in May -- Art on the Square. Well, sure I should! So should every other good artist. We all think we should be in the best shows.

Almost since the day it opened six years ago, it has been consistently ranked the best in the country. No kidding. Everybody wants in this show. Lots of people get dinged. From all over the country, the best artists come to display and sell.

Every year I apply and wait for the rejection, all the while hoping that this will be the year.

Oh my gosh! This IS the year! I was so thrilled to get into Belleville. I am psyched! I read the letter three times. Brilliant art connoisseurs, those Belleville jurors!

So.... if I can get into Belleville, maybe I can get into Prairie Village outside of Kansas City.


I still had hopes for Clayton -- one of the best in the country. I gripped the Belleville acceptance letter like a talisman.


Well surely I can get into Art and Air in Webster Groves. I did that show the first three years. The Belleville letter had been filed away by this time.


Acceptance is fleeting and rejection lingers. How much character do I need?

A little more, apparently. The life of an artist is about tenacity, inner vision, confidence and the support of friends and family.

Oh wait. That's everybody's life!

Monday, March 03, 2008

You Can't Do THAT!

What do people need so many rules? Especially artists? Are we supposed to be the ones who are allowed to think beyond convention?

Ok, sure. Don't poke your studio mate with an Exacto knife. That's a good one. Don't drink the glaze. Don't mess with any body's else's art... EVER. Good rules.

My daughter has an art teacher who is constantly telling her that she's doing something wrong. Don't use that color. This element belongs over here. If you shape the ears like this it'll look better. Apparently this teacher believes that every project in the class should look the same. Talk about sucking the life out of learning! How many kids in THAT class will need therapy during college?

Art should be about expressing and experimenting and creating. Rules? Bah!

My dear friend and amazing sculptor Ilene, an MFA candidate, is preparing five pieces for a crit. Working in concrete, she needs to make some plates as part of a much larger piece. She could use a mold, but she wants them to look thrown -- more organic, more natural. She asks: can I throw concrete on a wheel?

Why not?

I need a new plate rib though, so she heads to our friendly neighborhood clay retail studio. She tells them what we're planning. You can't do that!

Oh please. It's my favorite thing to hear. Tell me I can't do something and I'll find a way. It's not that I'm stubborn or obstinate (HEY! I saw those eyes roll!!!), but I love finding new ways to do things. Actually, I love working with new media, seeing what can be done.

We humans tend to put people in little boxes: he's a lawyer, she's a soccer mom, they're gay. The assumptions build from there. Most people are so much more. Can't we be more than one thing? Can't artists work in more than one medium?

So we threw the concrete. We took a more experienced potter's suggestion to throw a plate of clay first. After drying it in the sun for a couple of hours (it didn't even crack! How did that not happen!) we poured in the concrete and threw! She made me wear gloves and I HATED that sensation. I need to feel the texture of the medium on the wheel. I was pretty sure my skin would grow back.

Ilene emailed me this morning that one of the two we threw turned out beautiful! One was a little thin and cracked. We learn. We do it again.

See, you CAN do that!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Watching the Death of a Film

Palm, Variation #2, (c) 2008 Jeane Vogel

I spent the weekend in the studio, working on new images. I have exactly 32 fresh pieces of Polaroid film left. 32. From that I might get 10 new images to add to my body of work. Maybe.

I used up 15 pieces this weekend.

The film I use for hand-altered Polaroids, my medium of choice, is SX-70. They stopped making it in December 2005. Like lots of other artists, I started stock-piling. The price soared but I bought as much as I could afford.

Sure some is still available on EBay, but film is finicky. Treat it wrong and it turns on you. The good film I have has been handled right, kept in the fridge until needed. It'll last forever there. I have some other film that has heat damage. I might never be able to use it professionally. I don't trust EBay film at all.

I used to go throught 10-12 pieces to get an image I was happy with and with worth adding to the body of work. Like most artists, I'm very picky and harder on myself than any critic or juror. I see every flaw. I want it to be perfect. Let's shoot it again! It's easy to make a mistake when working in this technique. I'm working directly on the emulsion of the film -- that very thin, delicate, light sensitive layer that makes photography possible. Get distracted for a minute and your image is torn and ruined.

I don't mind when someone looks at the work and casually suggests that I just "smear" and "smoosch" the emulsion to get the look I want, like some kind of primitive finger painting. Many people seem to think that I just spread the emulsion around and see what I get. Instead I try to explain that I use different tools for different effects, and some effects have to be obtained at specific times of the developing process. The process is very controlled and deliberate. I know exactly what effect I will get.

It doesn't matter. Either you like the impact of the image or you don't.

I love it. Sure you can try to get this effect in PhotoShop, but you won't. The film is too organic and subtle. PhotoShop will not get these results.

Besides, the result is only as good as the process. In this case, the process for me is transformative.

Polaroid announced a couple of weeks ago that all of it's film will be discontinued. All the Polaroid alternate process art forms are going away.

I get asked what I will do next? Develop another body of work, of course. The tool might be going away but the vision is still there. Fortunately, that can't be discontinued just yet.

PS. The Palms, Variation #2 is in honor of dear friends Renata and Jerome. These are date palms, and I shot them outside their front door. I've been working on the image for a while now, and finally finished it this weekend. Instead of being in the studio, I was supposed to be at their house in Palm Springs, but ice and snow canceled all flights and made the trip impossible. I also missed seeing equally dear friends Hildy and Dimitri, who were driving up from Tucson just to see me. I miss them all. Next time.