Over the past ten years I have been working on a series of photographic portraits of Artists in the process of creating. My curiosity to discover what it takes for each Artist to connect their own imagination to the universal source of creativity has allowed me to witness and experience the remarkable relationship all Artists share with each other. I believe both healing and creative energies come from the same source. In the words of Joseph Campbell “The Shamans of the past are the Artists of today.” All Shamans and Medicine People know that the healing energy they use comes from a universal source or well, which is not theirs but rather comes through them and out to the person or community they are offering to heal. The Hollow Bone is a Lakota Indian term used to express the intention of the Medicine Man or Woman, which means to be open of mind, body and spirit in order to allow healing energy to flow through them like a bone that is hollow. It is believed the greater the openness; the greater the potential healing can occur. The Shaman knows they are not the one responsible for the healing; rather they act as a conduit for this energy to be received by those in need of healing. I have discovered through my experiences with Artists that they share the same purpose as the Shaman, to bring light and healing to others and the world around them through their art. Each Artist I have photographed has shown such uniquely diverse ways of expressing themselves and yet I have witnessed the presence of an outside force that is universally identical. Through my ongoing photographic exploration of Artists and creativity I continue to discover the human need express oneself and use art in all its forms as a unifying and connecting force of good and healing.
How does one exactly photograph an artist’s creative process, when they themselves are the work of art? Here’s how I was able to take such a photograph: Marina was generous in sharing her spirit with me and in one culminating moment gave me this intensely direct look, right through the camera lens, I could feel it touch me inside. Fortunately my finger was steadfast on the trigger, tapped the shutter button at that precious and precise moment which captured Marina’s mysteriously creative beauty.
The first portrait of an artist I’ve ever taken. Nervous not to disturb Ross while he was working, I made myself as small as possible and moved silently around his studio as he began to paint. I knew then that I had entered a sacred space and was being given a gift as he allowed me to witness his meticulously, beautiful process.
High atop a building in DUMBO, Brooklyn I found myself looking out over the East River towards Manhattan. Like a spider monkey I climbed upon a platform, contorting my body around the structure, trying not to fall off as I captured the installation of Tom Fruin’s, multi-colored plastic and steel framed Water Tower sculpture. This was the first of now four, which he’s created.
When I first asked Ron if I could visit his studio and photograph him, he told me it was something that he never allows. He could see that I was disappointed and understood my true love of his work; so he invited me to come visit his studio, he said “Come visit, I’ll make you lunch and we can talk. Bring your camera but I’m not saying you’ll be allowed to photograph.” After his deliciously prepared lunch he very sincerely said; “You’re invited to come back again and next time you can photograph.” I’ve since been very fortunate to visit Ron’s studio on several occasions; he has become a dear friend and mentor.
For six weeks, eight hours a day, in complete silence, Terence made his way around a huge pillar of salt on his knees; for his performance “nothingtoodoo” at Mary Boone Gallery in New York City. Periodically pausing as he prostrated himself on the floor with the most beautiful Zen Spirit. Even when he went home at night, Terence remained in silence for the entire six weeks. I went to visit him at the gallery early one morning while he was performing to witness and photograph. For three hours I lay on the hard gallery floor, watching, listening to the silence, just he and I alone; I felt completely transported into another world.
The first time I met Victor at his studio, I felt like I was entering a monk’s sanctuary. Victor stood barefoot and shirtless, his pants covered in paint with speckles of white paint on his chest and arms. His paintings start with a charcoal drawing, which he applies on each linen canvas as one continuous stream of consciousness, never lifting the charcoal off the canvas until each thought is done. It’s a mesmerizing process to watch. Victor then applies white paint over the charcoal drawings in thick, textured brush stokes, revealing graceful cityscapes of taxicabs, tall buildings, fire hydrants, bridges, sneakers and water towers.
Blood, when we see it our reactions are primal, from repulsion to attraction and every emotion in between. I was fortunate to spend time with Hermann on his visit to New York from his home in Prinzendorf, Austria. I watched as he created two magnificent actionist performances, one with massive amounts of paint and the other with gallons of real pig’s blood. Both live performances were hypnotic, evoking a trance-like, altered-state of consciousness for everyone who witnessed them.
Eleven seconds…That’s all the time I had to take a portrait of Julian. While he was installing three large sculpture pieces at MANA Contemporary for “All The Best Artists Are My Friends”, curated by Ray Smith; Julian was kind enough to pause long enough to allow me to take his portrait. As I focused my camera and took my first shot, I watched Julian for that “right” expression to emerge; five camera clicks later he ran his fingers through his hair, I knew the shoot was over. The installation process of his sculptures was rigorous and felt dramatic. Watching Julian install each piece personally with his team was like watching a Master Conductor lead a Symphony Orchestra. He showed power, restraint and incredible artistic finesse.
Lola Montes Schnabel
What’s in a name? I’ve known Lola first as a friend and then a fellow artist, witnessing her unique gifts blossom like a field of beautiful flowers. The subject matters of her paintings are about struggle, relationships, exploration, spirit and love. Lola has a rare curiosity of people and life, which when I look at her paintings I know they are hers and hers alone.
Ray is a sculptor, painter, curator and visionary artist. His relationship to art and is beyond his own need to create. Ray’s support of emerging artists has had a very positive impact on their careers. In June of 2015, Ray loaned me his entire studio to present my solo exhibition The Hollow Bone, a collection of 37 artists portraits, which along with my photographs, included a piece of artwork from each artist.