Roads Taken : Art and Identity
Sunday, June 26, 2022
Monday, May 23, 2022
|From Bob's Kitchen, Stephen Scott, oil on canvas|
|Polaroid, Summer 2021.|
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
I hadn’t done Reflections since 2016. They seemed like such a large part of my life as an artist when Anne was alive. I put it all aside and explored other avenues, other geographies. Lately I’ve been slowly reconsidering what that body of work means to me and taking baby steps back to a familiar terrain.
At 2.05 a liter for gas, driving around the Montérégie has become a tightrope walk for me as an artist. Money is tight generally these days so spending 50 bucks on gas and lunch to make a few pictures had better show something for the effort. But the idea of exploring the area south and south east of Montreal seems to have some hold on me.
Monday, May 16, 2022
I went for another ride with Robert Vezina (Note on a Fence Post – March 9). Robert just likes to drive me around and watch me make pictures, do my thing. Robert is going through chemotherapy right now and there’s a side of me that’s going; “but you promised yourself you wouldn’t go through this again.” But you can’t abandon your loved ones when they get sick. Robert’s a friend and going through this I’m remembering other friends in the early eighties, never mind losing my wife to it. So there’s a side of my photography that makes it a death defying act, that makes the pictures I make with Robert or anyone else for that matter, punctuated with a note on just living. I don’t take my photography lightly. On some level, Robert’s invitations are/is an epiphany of sorts, a reminder of why I make photographs in the first place. It’s not just what I do. It’s how I chose to live my life. It’s how I get through my life.
Saturday, April 23, 2022
I was never very good at tourist pictures, travel memories. I’m not a very good tourist when it comes to photography. I’m not a very good photographer when it comes to being a tourist. I’m not sure how to explain it but I think it started in Paris.
Friday, April 22, 2022
I can’t give all the credit to my parents for my penchant for photography. My father’s younger sister Freda (Alfreda – we knew her as Pitoune) had a huge impact. She had joined the Canadian Armed forces, had trained as a nurse, and had been stationed just about everywhere Canada had bases. Throughout that time, she made thousands of Kodachrome slides.
Sunday, April 17, 2022
If you google my name, you might come across this little gem. When I showed it along with the two other pictures I included in a group show in 2010, it struck a chord. It even got me on a morning television talk show. One of the other pictures made it to the local culture tabloid. For 24 hours I was a rock star. Must have pissed off the other photographers in the show. These were part of a series of photographs I was making of doors that led to nowhere. They were also part of that theme of being in-between that I worked with in the Reflections. The one that got me on TV was the door on the foundation. It was part of a new design for a circus tent approach to a skating rink. You make a foundation, put in a cooling system and cover it with an inflatable dome. The door picture was a hook, line and sinker. I was almost shameless in my self-promotion. I was thinking about Dr. Who. The Tardis. A portal.
Friday, April 15, 2022
In the summer of 2016 my Montreal friend Rachel Green took me to Cape Cod. Like an angel she lifted me from where I was and gave me the gift of displacement to a place I had never been and where I could begin the process of finding myself, alone, again. I brought my G16 again, with no intention again, and again my instincts kicked in.
Sunday, April 10, 2022
|Left "Self Portrait as a Beat Writer." Right Jack Kerouac by Allen Ginsberg|
March 12, 2022 was the 100th anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s birth. He was born on March 12, 1922. For most of you that’s just a sound-bite, as in “on this day in 1922”. And so it should. But for me Jack Kerouac has become an inevitable part of my symbolic consciousness on many levels. It’s why I have that picture of me on a fire escape on my blog for instance, my Self Portrait as a Beat Writer. The photo is a riff on who I am, not only as a writer, but as a francophone being absorbed into a larger culture, and as an Acadian of the diaspora (no direction home)
Friday, March 25, 2022
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
As much as I'd like to do more portraits, it still feels like just an arrow in my quiver, a sharp arrow that hits the target more often than not, but just one of the many tools I have nonetheless. I hesitate to go out and make it or call it a trade. It's just too damn difficult to please people. I rarely get carte blanche to do what I want unless I say I'm making art but that doesn't pay. So I don't bother to make it an occupation anymore. But every once in awhile I get someone who trusts that I will produce images they can use and maybe make some art too. My latest subject in that vein was Emilie, a friend with whom I share the wonderful career of translator from English to French. Emilie, like me, has many arrows in her own quiver and our conversations run the gamut from LGBT tropes to the latest drag styles to David Byrne and the Talking Heads. She is a multi-dimensional being for whom I have a lot of admiration so making some "headshots" for her was an opportunity to bring all kinds of things together in a creative session.
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
I suppose this is a story about the impact or non-impact of Robert Frank's work on my thinking about photography. I go on about the fact or the idea that my photography influences came from more aesthetically driven photographers and that I resisted the influence of Frank's documentary style while I attended NSCAD and studied painting as an antidote to being drawn into thinking of Frank as a kind of God of photography. You can't deny the existence of stuff of course.
It's a bit like saying I'm a songwriter but Bob Dylan had no impact on me. You can't escape what has come before you nor its influence. It drove me crazy when over the top feminist theorists denied the impact of all art made by men in the art they made. I understand the point of view but if you paint like Picasso, you paint like Picasso. There is only one way to fly a plane, no matter what your politics are. So as much as I think I was not influenced by Frank's work, I can't deny his existence. He has always been present in my thinking whether I like it or not.
And just so you know. I met Frank, briefly, and his second wife June Leaf, in 1979. He was at the rare showing of his film about touring with the Rolling stones, Cocksucker Blues. It was being shown at the opening of an exhibition at the Dalhousie University Art Gallery of the work he had more recently made while living in Mabou, Nova Scotia. I spoke with Frank about one of his collages of pictures. I suppose it was the first time I was shown you could go outside the limits of the frame. (and not by Hockney's "joiners" which were first exhibited in Paris 3 years later.) It may also have been the first time I was shown that photography could be made as art, as an expression of your emotions. Frank had a lot to be emotional about too. Anyway, that was my first important encounter with Frank's work. But let's fast forward to 2021.
My Friend Robert Vézina, who is NOT an artist, but appreciates me as an an artist, is always interested in how I think about things and in how I see things. Robert kept inviting me on a day trip, in the area between Montréal and the US border, the Montérégie. Robert was a biker and often took drives on the back roads in that area. He said; "I'll drive and you can just make pictures. We can stop anywhere you want."So finally we found a day that worked and we headed out across the Mercier bridge heading south from Montreal.
At Covey hill, a road that runs parallel to the border and feels more Adirondack than Quebec, we stopped to take in the panoramic view. But rather than point my camera at the horizon, I crossed a roadside ditch and made a picture of an old farm fence post. It was the second time Robert had seen me make a photograph of a fence post. He had said nothing the first time; hadn't questioned my motives. He didn't say much this time either but when I bumped into him at one of our favourite coffee spots, he asked; "Ok, so what's with the fence posts?" I told him the following.
I was living in Halifax in the mid nineties and had taken a job with a travel agency to make ends meet. They had sent me to New Glasgow on business one time and I stopped in at a local antiques store. On the floor I saw two framed black and white photographs. The first was of the store owner posing with Robert Frank. They were obviously friends, a relationship perhaps developed through bartering Frank pictures for rare Georgian side tables. The second photograph was a picture of a fence post, by Frank obviously, but an exquisite hand made black and white print that seemed in direct opposition to the rough collages and snapshots Frank was currently known for. I thought; you bastard, you had us thinking you'd lost your photographic mind but here is evidence that Robert Frank master photographer was still making beautiful black and white prints. Never mind that it was just a fence post. The subject didn't matter. Here was a case of form over content. (Even if one could make the case that fences and fenceposts are a recurring theme in Frank photography.) There was a lesson there. Not exactly an epiphany but a reminder that art allows you to change, to morph, to be who you are and who you want to be in the moment regardless of the expectations of others.
I told my friend Robert that the story seemed like a lesson at the time and that whenever I saw a fence post, I made a photograph to remind myself that no matter where life took me, that I was still the same person, the same artist.
Sunday, February 27, 2022
|Dartmouth Ferry, 2006|