Tag Archives | abstract art

Another year…

I am 51 and a day today.  This past year has been one that is still hitting me in waves, endless ripples from countless stones tossed in my emotional pool.  I contemplate making a phone call and suddenly realize there is will be no one on the other end of the line.  I imagine a voice and the softness of a cheek…and they are gone.  My mother will no longer look up from the New York Times Sunday crossword, over her glasses, and announce, “Well, that’s done!”  My father will no longer smack his lips after taking a sip of something tasty and raise his glass.  He was always one for toasts.  “Hear, hear,” she would chorus during better times.

Polly and Hilary in Provincetown, 1970. photo by Sara Ballard

Polly and Hilary in Provincetown, 1970.

I was thinking the other day that I have never been the “cool” guy.  Never hip, never dressed in the latest fashion…I was feeling down that day.  Then I realized I didn’t  care.  When I was younger, maybe, but then again I was envious of those around me who had better or more or newer or sexier (or so I believed)…not much weight there.  Pretty superficial stuff.  I hope they are happy in their respective lives.

So these days I do what I am wanting to do and this makes me happy.  I am not treading on the lives of others and I am moving forward and slightly uphill.  I am honouring my mother and my father in my life and activities.  I am finally getting around to reading a short biography of St. Augustine given to me by my sister a few years ago.  I am reading some Epicurus.  I am back to building fine scale WW 1 aircraft which give me great joy and satisfaction, not just in their execution but in the research involved.  I am in training for a very tough mountain bike race being held here March 6th.  I have a photo shoot coming up next week which I have been looking forward to for months.  It will be several hours of intense work, and then that stage will be done.  Then I develop the film.  Then I choose what to print, etc…intervals and stages, tension and release.  One day I am 50, and then the next day…

Biking here on Paros is a good metaphor for my life.  The stress of the uphill slogs are rewarded by not only the accomplishment but also the release of the inevitable downhill run, slaloming around rocks and through washed out sections of red dirt roads.  Then it is uphill again.

It all feels pretty cool to me.

–JDCM

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January on Paros…

The header image is from New York, a view of the family property in Ancramdale.  It is a winter scene.  Looks pretty cold and all but monochromatic.  That where I had been since December 1st, 2015.  Much has happened since then.  You all know that.  Life and death.  Pretty important.

I have been back in Greece since January 22 and today is February 1, 2016!  Kalo Mina everyone!  I am back on Paros and the weather has been lovely–mid-teens Celsius with light breezy winds.  It was pretty cold when I arrived.  It will get cold again, I think.  I am a fortunate man.

A view in Marathi, Paros, February 1, 2016

     A view in Marathi, Paros, February 1, 2016

It is so quiet here, so perfect.  In a couple of weeks I will begin a new photo project and I am looking forward to that.  There is also a mountain bike race on March 6th for which I am training.  After two months out of the saddle I need some time to get fit, but hey, it’s like riding a bike, right?  Ha!

One would think that I have some great wisdom to impart, but really I don’t.  I guess I’ll have to paraphrase my friend Jac who reminds us all to follow your heart, do your exercises, and eat your peas…or whatever.  The food is relative.

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Just an update…

I have always loved the change of seasons.  Whether in the Hudson Valley where I grew up or the small island in the Aegean Sea where I now live.  I welcome each new season with joy and relief, only to say good riddance three months later after weariness sets in.  This autumn is no different and there are many changes to go along with the weather.  Clocks have been set back.  Tea time seems more meaningful as darkness falls.

I have been living in an apartment full of boxes for the past two months.  All of my books, shelving, camera gear, odds and ends…have been packed up and ready to be moved.  At first it was an exciting feeling, to come home to this pyramid of brown cardboard.  It has grown stale as the day approaches when I can finally begin to move from one side of town to the other.  As one friend remarked last night, moving house is inspiring and makes one reevaluate routines.  Like the change of seasons, this move will give me a new perspective.  I need it.

My small photo show was, on many levels, a superb success.  Many people came to the opening and I was struck by the wide variety of people I know here on Paros: people involved in the arts, those I know through the local biking community, others I have come to know over the years, students from a local art school…people who would ordinarily not mix.  They crammed into the space provided by a small Italian restaurant and had a good time.  I guess that was the point, really, to have a small gathering on a night in mid-October when there was ordinarily little to do.  Many compliments, many questions…alas, not a single sale so I am stuck with 22 framed and matted photos.  So I will choose one to put up in my new apartment.  There is a part of me that wants to just burn the rest.  But what to do with the frames and glass?  Eventually I will get around to scanning the photos so people can see them online, which suddenly feels like cheating.  Now I don’t want to do that.  If you missed the show, you missed it.  Is that so selfish?

I wasn’t asking a huge amount for these photos.  They were priced inexpensively.  If I had sold five I would have broken even on the costs.  I think many people have no idea of the work that goes into a single image.  Even had these been digital images, the work would have been substantial.  They are not, of course, so we are talking days of labor to get the picture right and that is before matting, framing, the overall cost for the exhibit opening…I guess I am taking page from Robert Fripp’s advice to artists–work for free–an expensive venture.

My list for today is as long as my arm and I must get it all done.

–JDCM

 

 

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The Dancing Bear of Change…

It has been a month since my last post and, like a friend wrote so well, it is not because nothing has happened, but rather because so much has occurred that is tough to sort it all out.  I’ll try.

I have finally delivered my new portfolio to the framers. I am only a few days off schedule, and I am alright with that.  There are 24 pieces of assorted images, things that caught my eye.  In fact I am considering of naming the portfolio just that–“Caught My Eye.”  It feels very good to have this off my desk.  Now I am thinking of what is next…

Summer is beginning here on Paros and the tourists and weekenders are ambling off of the ferries in larger numbers, with backpacks and rollies, hats and sunblock.  The roads are more busy with cars and other vehicles so when I bike I must be extra cautious, especially in Paroikia or any of the other towns.  Those are the most dangerous places to ride a bicycle here.

The Circle of Paros bicycle race is this weekend and I will happily participate.  I have been riding more this winter and spring but not so much in the past few weeks.  The weather, combined with a serious head cold, kept me off the saddle for almost a fortnight and I was also out of town for a bit.  I am racing against myself, so I will keep it light and fun.

I have sold my high-end Canon gear and invested in a smart, small Fuji FinePix X-T1.  The images are sharp and since it is a mirror-less camera, it makes almost no noise when the shutter fires.  It has some gimmicky gizmos that I am not keen on, but I do have to use them.  It also has an array of Fuji film simulations that are pretty good too.  I find myself doing more with less.  I purchased it with the kit 18-55 mm lens.  I love that I can use my Voigtlander/Leica M lenses when attached to an adaptor.

Hazy Sifnos

Hazy Sifnos

Change seems to be all around me these days.  The days change, and with them the seasons.  Beginnings and endings are macrocosmic reflections of larger shifts.  The best I can do is embrace the dancing bear of change and revel in its sometimes disconcerting waltz.  I can try to lead, but only when the beast allows.  I can do my work, help out when I can, and not worry about the tune.  Like a young boy standing on the feet of an elder, I let my ursine partner carry me along…

–JDCM

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A normal life of inventories and maintenance…

Not much to report these days.  More of the same–photography, working in the darkroom, mountain biking, road biking…a life beyond my wildest dreams.

I entered and raced the Athlos Nikolaos Stellas Memorial Mountain Bike Race last Sunday.  I (phyllo 3, Mastero, John) came in 4th in my age group and event (35+, bike only) at 59:50.  For some reason I cannot add links today.  Go to https://twitter.com/poparou and click around…However, the scores listed have me coming in 6th in the 16-35 year old group.  I am flattered.  I haven’t been 35 in a long time.

JDCM in the yellow and black jersey...59:50, 4th place.

JDCM in the yellow and black jersey…59:50, 4th place.

I took the ferry to Naxos the other day for a day trip and rode over 90 kilometers on my mountain bike. It was stunning.  Spring in the Kyklades is not to be missed.

Agios Sozon Kalado, Naxos

Agios Sozon Kalado, Naxos

Along the track past Maxairota, Naxos

Along the track past Maxairota, Naxos

I will be replacing the front forks of my mountain bike this week as well as the rear derailleur.  This will be an expensive, but very necessary job.  After almost two years of strenuous biking (with a bike that was well-used when I bought it) the current forks are worn out and have lost their lubrication.  Unfortunately they are a sealed unit which means I cannot re-grease, etc…so out they go!  After this big job I will have replaced almost everything except the frame.  Necessary maintenance.

At the top...Agios Tryphonas, Naxos

At the top…Agios Tryphonas, Naxos, 578 m.

I have inventoried my works in progress for my new portfolio. I have a few more prints to make, however this will not stop me from beginning the selenium toning process.  I will be finished with this by the middle of May.  It is an interesting portfolio, very abstract, and I sure many people will not understand it, or perhaps not understand what I see.  So be it.  We all bring ourselves to these things.  It is not my job to guide people or tell them what they are viewing.

I will begin training in earnest for the 2015 Circle of Paros road race on June 6th this week.   I have ridden the route many times since last summer.  The rumor is that this year we ride the opposite direction.  Clockwise…

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Spring in the Aegean…2015

It has been the wettest and coolest spring that many can remember.  Since March there have been more clouds than sun, more rain than not.  Yes, this may seem acceptable to friends in more northern climes, but around here it makes people nervous.  Paros is, for the most part, an arid climate and our primary agricultural gifts (olives, grapes, figs, tomatoes, etc…) demand that the soil be dry and the water stop falling  from April to October.  I am hoping that by the middle of the month the rains will cease.

I have been printing a lot and I have 30 pieces so far for my exhibit next fall.  Another 20 and I can begin editing, then selenium toning, then off to the framers they go.  I will most likely use a local company here in Paroikia, but I must demand a better frame quality.  The most recent batch were inexpensive, lightweight and thinly lacquered stock and some people have brought this to my attention.  I will be a little more struct with this next exhibit.  What have I been printing?  Old stuff, new stuff, 35mm, medium format.  A little bit of everything.

I am going to invest in some archival storage for my collection of portraits that are still in their frames, in a box, in my bedroom, in my flat.  I should get them out of this situation and into something more manageable.  Plus, it will free a cubic meter of living space.

I have been biking a lot lately, which I need to do.  I have been working on my hills, getting advice, pumping the pedals.  There is an 18km mountain bike race in a couple of weeks that winds its way from Marpissa, through Piso Livadi, along Molos, through the valley to Glyfada and back to Marpissa.  I rode it yesterday with some very fit pro-am folks and we rode it in 1:16.  This included taking two wrong turns and not really going too fast.  I hope to ride it in an hour.  It is a solid goal.  Other than that, I have been out on the road bike and digging that, getting ready for the Circle of Paros road race on June 6th.

Orthodox Easter is next Sunday.  I will view the proceedings at Panagia Ekatontapiliani for Friday and Saturday nights, then at midnight on Saturday will break the fast with some friends at a local taverna!  Paidakia, kokoretsi, patates, salates…Yum!  Then the next day there will be a big feast at a friends home with whole lamb on the spit, chicken, sausages, pork chops…Yum again…

Two days later I hope to be swimming in the very chilly Aegean for my first swim of the season.  I feel a need to be anointed in wine dark sea

–JDCM

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Christmas/New Year post…2014

-I am back in the USA for the holidays.  If there is anything I have learned this year it is that the varieties of human experience can be summed in a single word: absurd.  Tragic, comic…whatever.  It is all variations of absurd arrogance and tomfoolery.  Disagree if you want, I won’t stop you.  I am no different.

-The ‘Cafe/Kafe’ images are on display in a new gallery on my Sidelit website.  You can access them through the blog or simply click here.  These are scans of the actual b/w photographs, not scans of the negatives.

-I took the train to NYC a few days ago and visited the Metropolitan Museum for the day with a friend.  We looked at a marvelous Cubist exhibit, a private collection of Braque, Picasso, Gris and Leger.  Superb!  Then we gazed in wonder at the Stanford Album, a collection of 18″x 22″ photographs from the 19th century photographer Carlton Watkins, the first to document Yosemite National Park.  Truly amazing!  Then we wandered among the 29 portraits of Madame Hortense Cezanne , painted by her husband over the course of many years.  Lovely!  We could not resist the small but dramatic El Greco exhibit.  Astounding!  With time to spare before our respective trains we ventured into the American Impressionist wing, visiting Sargent’s ‘Madame X’ and looking at Winslow Homer’s wild seascapes.  She returned to New Haven and I headed back north.  A perfect day at the museum.

-I have been going to the health club and walking/jogging my 8 miles on the treadmill with regularity.  I love the knowledge that I can get my heart rate up to 170 bpm and keep it there for 45 minutes without losing my breath.  I will be ready to get back on my bike when I return to Paros in less than two weeks.  I miss it already.  I have some Greek language homework to finish and a couple of emails in Greek that I have promised my teacher.  First things first.

-I have been shooting some Fomapan 400 with my Leica M2 so I will have some non-Greek views to look at when I return and develop the film.  I have to print more portraits before I get too busy in March.  If I cannot complete the printing on my own then I will have to send the negatives to Athens and pay for the work.  This is not an ideal situation, but if I have to do it, then I will.

-Christmas is in a few days and the New Year follows.  Much has occurred in this past year and I am happy I have no regrets.  2015 is already shaping up to be busy.

Winchell-Mtn.-fog

 

 

-JDCM

 

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Impressions of Amsterdam…

Amsterdam is not really part of Holland.  It is an autonomous state within the Netherlands.  They would prefer it if you did not call them “Dutch.”

The weather during my stay has been unusually cool and wet, very much like November weather on Paros.  I am grateful I brought my fleece and warmer, wet-weather clothes.  I have needed them.

People in Amsterdam are so fluent in English as to make native English speakers seem lacking.   I have even heard the locals speaking English to each other.  Odd.  At other times I have heard a very Anglicized Dutch.  An Amsterdammer told me they love to hear visiting Belgians speak Flemish since it is closer to their mother tongue.

The food here is good, if on the heavy side.  In addition to the traditional Amsterdammer restaurants there are numerous Indonesian and Surinamese places, a tasty side-effect of brutal colonization and the Dutch East India Trading Company.  For some reason there are also large numbers of Argentinian/Uruguayan steak houses.  These seem to cater more to tourists.  Another interesting restaurant is all-you-can-eat sushi.  The locals love these spots.  I ate at one twice.  Inexpensive and high quality.

The Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum (modern art) are all superb.  I bought my tickets in advance and avoided the long waits on line.  I also visited the Rembrandt House and the Dutch Resistance Museum.  Both were excellent and worth a viewing, especially the latter.   Ultra-right wing political parties are on the rise in Holland and in Europe as a whole.  We must all take a stand against fascism and all that it means.  If not me, then who?  If not now, when?

I do not think that those who drafted the laws regarding the decriminalization of “soft drugs” in Holland expected the odor of pot smoke to fill the streets and cafes full of college students getting wasted.  There are national movements trying to limit the usage to residents, but in Amsterdam that vote was thrown out.  Too much tourist money.  Still, it is illegal to grow it, illegal to transport it, illegal to sell over 5 grams per day to one person and illegal to buy it in bulk.  Therefore the “legal” cafes are still reliant on the black market for their stash.  So what is legal about it?  I recoiled as if from a hot stove.

As I write this I am out of town visiting friends in the small rural village of Elspeet.  Really lovely.  Quiet, green and flat as a panenkoek.

–JDCM

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Photography and other works…

–I haven’t spoken much about my photography lately, not since my Paros Portrait exhibition in August 2013.  Although I have shot and developed plenty of film, I haven’t been printing.   This has changed in the past couple of weeks.

–I am continuing my 4×5 portrait work and will do so at least for another year.  This as a larger arc beneath which I conceive and work on several other projects.

— I am thinking of a 35mm collection of textural pieces.  By “textural” I mean close up images of worn wood, rusted and tarnished metals, peeling paint.   These images tell of time and of the elements.  My eye falls into the deepest crack in the wood, the darkest keyhole, into the tiniest shadow beneath a curling leaf of old paint.  I want to go there. I want to set up shop.  This new portfolio will be small, only 12 pieces. I will begin during the first week of March and finish on the last week of May.  That is 12 weeks, or close enough.

–The soft focus work of Julia Margaret Cameron has also inspired me, especially after seeing a small exhibit last December in America.  I will work on something along those lines.  Still lives and medium format feels like the right way to go.  I will need to go shopping for the right kinds of vases and props.  This will give me a chance to pick up some new crockery for my own kitchen as well–plates and bowls and such.

–More biking, of course.  The weather just cries “get outside…move your muscles…”  The other day I rode to Marathi, then headed north overland, then northeast, bushwhacking until I was able to make it to a small farm road that led me to a large monastery just outside of Paroikia.  From there I headed back north, across the road.  Somewhere in there I punctured my rear tire, so I stopped and changed the tube.  Then I headed back home.  Clear paths?  Hmmm…That’s subjective.  Click the thumbnails to enlarge…

–JDCM

If there is a path there, I worked for it.  Unrideable, of course.  I pushed the bike.

If there is a path there, I worked for it. Unrideable, of course. I pushed the bike.

10 minutes of quick repairs and I was back on the road.

10 minutes of quick repairs and I was back on the road.

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