between fire/smoke

between fire/smoke from Jane Fulton Alt on Vimeo.

“between fire/smoke” is an unfolding visual and textual journey through a landscape of liminality – leading to a place where all that is unresolved is imaginable…

Jane Fulton Alt – images, text and unique mixed media encaustic
Teresa Pankratz – structure and design

Printed and hand bound by the artists

Detailed description:
The limited edition artist’s book is hardcover, bound in light grey (“smoke”) Iris book cloth with silkscreened titling. The structure incorporates left and right covers with a magnet closure which, when opened, situate the text block as the center panel within a triptych of white space (Canson Ingres end sheets). The opening portion of the text block includes 4 sections (alternating between single and double-page construction) sewn to an exposed internal spine with a modified continuous pamphlet stitch. (Single-page sections are archival pigment prints on Hahnemühle photo rag; double-page sections are archival pigment prints on Niyodo Japanese paper). The attached back section of the book is an adhesive binding mounted on an internal “frame” constructed of laminated 4 and 8 ply archival Rising White mat covered with Niyodo Japanese paper. Unfolding left and right are, first, two three-panel archival pigment prints on Hahnemühle photo rag, followed by a series of four text and image single-page archival pigment prints on Niyodo Japanese paper. The final unfolding reveals a unique, mixed media encaustic mounted (on black Stonehenge) within the internal frame. The book is housed in a slip-case constructed of an archival pigment print on pearl gray Murillo by Fabriano.

Dimensions, closed: 8.5” x 8.5” x 1”.  Edition of 18. 2013.
For more information, please email me

Paul den Hollander ~ Luminous Garden

Feast your eyes! One of the many pleasures of traveling to the Noorderlicht Photography Festival in the Netherlands was learning about the work of Paul den Hollander

  I was immediately transfixed by his work. At first I thought I was looking at deep sea bioluminescence, the production and emission of light by a living organism as the result of a chemical reaction.

 But no, these images were "lit up" by the creative ingenuity of Paul den Hollander. Somehow, Paul is turns the invisible visible by bridging art and science. The electromagnetic field's of these plants are stunning.

 In his words...

 "My photographic work can be seen as an example of photography which breaks through the familiar way of looking at our physical world; it is an adventure in consciousness and perception. It is a fundamental idea though that our limited sensory capacity excludes from the field of direct awareness almost all the electromagnetic spectrum.
In the series ‘The Luminous Garden’ I penetrate deeper into the secrets of the vegetable kingdom. Showing a known physical reality in relation with the, for the naked eye, invisible electromagnetic field that penetrates and surrounds the physical plant. This creates a very different experience of ‘reality’."

Instead of using a formal scientific method in showing this unseen reality, I am using an artistic way, full of imagination, in revealing this important and vital aspect of life, this fascinating world full of magic and enchantment. "

Special Places

I am about ready to head out to a special place that I have been visiting for the past 35 years. Every summer I make my pilgrimage to a remote location in Northern Wisconsin where I am able to dip into nature. Every year I bring my camera and am surprised by  new discoveries. It reinforces my thought that the longer you spend with your muse, the deeper the work becomes. 

I thought it would be fun to share some of the images I have made over time.


Beasts of the Southern Wild ~ The Movie

Beasts of the Southern Wild was a tour de force. Many people spend a lifetime trying to give expression the "all of it." I came out of the theater last night speechless and profoundly touched. New Orleans, Louisiana, life, death, and art all rolled into one. BRILLIANT! Clearly the muses were at work during it's creation. It is a most eloquent expression of what it means to be alive. See it...and see it NOW!

Summer Limited Edition Prints From Photo Center NW

Dear Friends,

The Photo Center NW is offering a limited edition of Burn No. 56 to benefit the Photo Center NW.
This is the ONLY place that this print will be available for purchase.

Burn No. 56
Thinking about starting a photographic collection? This is a great way to start!
It is a wonderful, vibrant community arts center. 
Click HERE to learn more about it!

 I am heading to Baja California for the annual Frontera Grill Staff trip. Will be eating lots of fish tacos and photographing....seafood?

Have a great 4th of July!

Wabi Sabi

Never heard of it? Neither had I until my good friend and mentor, Dick Olderman, told me about it and then sent me a book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers. I read it a few months ago and did not understand it. It is a Japanese aesthetic associated with the tea ceremony.

Burn No. 98 ~ Floating Ash

I reread the book last week and was totally mesmerized by it as I felt that it resonated with much of what I am doing these days.

Burn No. 33

Burn No. 71

I would like to share an excerpt from the book that might give some insights...

"The Wabi-Sabi Universe

Metaphysical Basis
- Things are either devolving toward, or evolving from, nothingness

Spiritual Values
- Truth comes from the observation of nature
-"Greatness" exists in the inconspicuous and overlooked details
-Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness

State of Mind
- Acceptance of the inevitable
-Appreciation of the cosmic order

Moral Precepts
-Get rid of all that is unnecessary
-Focus on the intrinsic and ignore material hierarchy

Material Qualities
-the suggestion of natural process

Burn No. 96

Maybe I have piqued your interest? If so, have fun learning more about it.

Happy Holidays ~ Winter Solstice

Tomorrow is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, or the least amount of sunlight. It is really heart warming to see so many holiday lights decorating homes.

I mentioned that I was reading Driftless by David Rhodes. I just read an amazing paragraph ...

"Sometimes in the theater of winter, a day will appear with such spectacular mildness that it seems the season can almost be forgiven for all its inappropriate hostility, inconveniences, and even physical assaults. With a balmy sky overhead, melting snow underfoot, and the sound of creeks running, the bargin made with contrasts doesn't look so bad: to feel warm, one must remember cold; to experience joy, one must have known sorrow." David Rhodes in Driftless.

Nelson Armour

Nelson is a new member of our critique group and is proving to have a wonderful eye. The following work is from his travels to the Apostle Islands, located off the coast of northern Wisconsin.

In Nelson's words...

"Apostle Islands

In July of 2012 my wife and I charted a sailboat to explore the Apostle Islands. This National Lakeshore of the U.S. National Park Service constitutes twenty-two islands in Lake Superior within twenty miles of the northern coast of Wisconsin, off of Bayfield, Wisconsin. If you can picture the beauty of northern Wisconsin, transport these north woods into Lake Superior as numerous uninhabited islands with the exception of one.

Most of this series of photographs were taken on Julian Beach, the east side of the island. This beach faces directly into Lake Superior without the protection afforded by other islands. Thus, the storms of Lake Superior, huge and often frightening, bear down on this beach with high waves and gale force winds. The trees and driftwood on the beach bare the scares of these storms. Our morning on Julian was on a glorious summer day with a calm Lake Superior lapping on the beach. In exploring the beach, we also found as estuary colored by the tannic acid of decaying trees and organic matter. One final photograph was taken at dusk in Raspberry Bay, looking north at sundown into an eerily colored sky.

For me, photography is an act of artistically capturing something real. I attempt to see and frame a composition that will motivate a viewer to remain observing the image rather than quickly moving on. Many artists often spend considerable time in developing ideas and in executing their work. Yet, for some photographers obtaining an image occurs quickly, allowing little time to carefully compose the frame and consider thematic elements. In “post-production,” the term for digital darkroom work, the effort is often elaborate and time consuming, but the initial moment of creation can be brief. For these photographers, the challenge is to compress previous work, effort and study into a brief, click of the shutter."

You can see more of Nelson's work HERE.

There seems to be lots of art coming out of that state...I am currently reading a beautifully written book, Driftless by David Rhodes and it is about a small town of Words, Wisconsin. An amazing read...

Return from Ragdale

I am back from another amazing two weeks at Ragdale. It has expanded my work in ways that I did not imagine but in looking back I think...of course! It makes perfect sense!

Before I went, Susan Burnstine, an amazing photographer who captures dreams scapes like no other, asked me if I would be interested in being interviewed for her blog titled, Underexposed. I said that would be fine but it would need to wait until after I got back from my residency.

I happily received the interview questions while I was in the midst of the two weeks. I say happily because when I wrote my first draft, the words just flowed out, a direct consequence of being in a highly creative mode. However, when I read it over, I was shocked at how clumsy the writing was. I edited it many times over.

There were 8 amazing residents at Ragdale while I was there, 4 visual artists and 4 writers. At dinner one night I mentioned how many times I had to edit and re-edit the interview. The writers said, " Yes, that is how it is!" I chuckled to myself because I thought if you were a writer, it was supposed to be easy! I guess there are no short cuts to really good art!

my studio at Ragdale

Anyway, I thought I would share the interview with you that is posted on her blog, which can be found along with many more images HERE. The images I have posted in this blog are newly created from the residency where I explored encaustics.

"Jane Fulton Alt’s The Burn was one of the bodies of work I viewed in Photolucida’s Critical Mass that resonated on a profound level for me. After viewing the work, I contacted Jane who graciously agreed to an interview.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: What were your beginnings as a photographer and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?

JANE FULTON ALT: I started photography after my youngest child began first grade, having dabbled in the arts much of my life. Prior to taking classes at a local art center, I was a proficient quilter but frustrated by the limitation of the materials. I was fortunate to have had a really gifted photography teacher whose vision and curiosity allowed me to consider the potential for poetry with the medium.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: Congratulations on all of your recent successes most recently with your exceptional series, The Burn. Can you discuss the personal impetus behind this body of work?

JANE FULTON ALT: The work found me, as have most of my projects. In 2007 I was awarded the first of several artist residencies at Ragdale which is located in the former Howard Van Doren Shaw’s estate overlooking a beautiful prairie in Lake Forest, Illinois. There is something very magical and compelling about the setting. During my first residency restoration ecologists from a local organization, the Lake Forest Open Lands, were conducting a small burn on the property. Being in a mind state of openness and wonder, I watched the fires and took a few photographs. I inquired about the possibility of following them the following season. In mid April I picked up the phone realizing that I could have very well missed it, as I forgot to call earlier. Well, as fate would have it, they were going out that very morning for the first time that season. It was a monumental day in my mind because my sister was simultaneously undergoing her first chemotherapy treatment after having been recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Photographing the burn that day was a very emotional experience. As I looked thru the view finder I kept thinking about what was occuring in my sister’s body and the parallels were stunning. I could imagine the burn that was happening in her body at the very moment the prairie was burning to make way for the new spring growth. The insight of that first day has influenced how I have photographed, edited and printed the work. It has been a very hopeful and inspiring project and an anchor for me during these past four years. Through this project I have tried to look deeply into the essence of life cycles. If we listen closely, nature has so much to teach us.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: How did you gain access and how did you know about the controlled burns you photographed?

JANE FULTON ALT: After the first spring shoot I developed a trusting and respectful working relationship with the restoration ecologists. I am now familiar with the particular weather conditions that must exist to carry out a controlled burn and am contacted by the team during these times to photograph.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: Can you tell me a bit about the areas where these images photographed? Are they personal properties or publicly owned?

JANE FULTON ALT: All of the properties are part of a land trust located in Lake Forest, Illinois and run by the Lake Forest Open Lands Association whose mission is to conserve the natural environment through land acquisition, habitat restoration, environmental education and conservation advocacy. They have acquired over 800 acres of local native landscapes, including prairies, savannas, woodlands and wetlands.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: You have been photographing this series for four years. Is the series ongoing or complete? If ongoing, do you foresee any new directions for this project?

JANE FULTON ALT: Interesting question. I am in the midst of another artist residency and my goal was to think more deeply about the work. My ideas have been in a state of fluidity, which has been really exciting. I have always felt that the images were fine as photographs but that the series was not fully realized. I love the depth and mystery of the images but wanted more surface to the work. After much grappling with aesthetics and technical issues, I am very pleased to have returned to working with encaustics, which I utilized in two other bodies of work, Mourning Light and Chiapas.

I have also been fascinated by the ash remains and have spent many hours thinking about how to incorporate the found ash and seeds into the new work. Happily, the creative muses paid me a visit and both elements will be incorporated into each piece. I have been working on several small pieces to identify and master the technical challenges. Once I have a handle of the full range of issues that need to be worked out, I plan on creating larger pieces.

The best part of being on an artist residency is the time and space to daydream about one’s work. It is an incredible gift to be able to focus without interruption and has been an amazingly productive time for me. I have also thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the camaraderie and critiques from the other residents.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: Is there one image in this body of work that speaks to you more so than others? If so, can you discuss why?

JANE FULTON ALT: My favorites keep changing, especially now that I am working with beeswax. I am attracted to images with warm tonalities, quiet compositions and an air of mystery. I am thinking more about the abstracted images and will be culling thru all my files to reconsider or “audition” new images.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: Are there plans for The Burn series to become a book?

JANE FULTON ALT: I would love to make a book of The Burn. I am hoping / waiting for the right time and publisher. Creating a book is a tremendous amount of work and everything needs to line up to start the process. When the work was shown in New York for the Photo District News Curators Choice, I was speaking with one of the judges. His insights and ability to articulate his thoughts about the photographs were thrilling. He did offer to write an essay about the work. Now I just need a publisher. When the work does get published, I plan to dedicate the book to my sister.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: When looking at your career as a whole. You have created varied, but truly fascinating and poignant bodies of work. Is there one element amongst the subject matter or perhaps within your psyche that connects all of these series?

JANE FULTON ALT: I would say that my training and practice as a clinical social worker, my extensive travels and raising my family have greatly influenced my thinking and seeking to understand what is universal to all people. My inquiring mind sought to understand humanity and the meaning of our existence. I have used the camera to explore issues around birth, death, and everything in between. The human condition is what interests me most.

SUSAN BURNSTINE: What are you working on now?

JANE FULTON ALT: I am continuing my work with The Burn but in using the new materials, it feels like a different body of work. The use of encaustics, my interest in ash and the infinite qualities of the subject matter will keep me occupied for many lifetimes!

I am also working on a project from this past summer’s Frontera Grill/Topolobampo staff trip to Mexico. I have been traveling with the award winning Chef, Rick Bayless and 35 members of his staff for 15 years now, creating new work for the entryway to the restaurant. I am collaborating with a writer whose book influenced the current butterfly installation that is in the entryway of the restaurant. I just finished transferring images onto a gold leaf surface, which will then be mounted onto copper…a loose reference to retablos. But that is another story!

SUSAN BURNSTINE: Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?

JANE FULTON ALT: Burn No 49 is currently on exhibit at the Corden Potts Gallery in San Francisco. Images from my Crude Awakening portfolio are currently in a satellite show at the Hereford Photography Festival in England and will also be in a group show at Wall Space Gallery in Canada this spring.

I will be included in the Critical Mass traveling group show and will have a solo show at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in my home town next fall. Finally, I always have work up at the Frontera Grill and Xoco restaurants in Chicago.

Pae White at the Art Institute of Chicago

I feel like I should be working for the tourism board of the City of Chicago. There are so many cool goings on in the city.
Last night I attended an event at the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. I had never been to the restaurant, Terzo Piano, and the setting took my breath away. The terrace, with spectacular views of Millennium Park and Michigan Avenue, is encased with a site specific work by artist Pae White titled Restless Rainbow. She has wrapped the space with an abstracted rainbow. While planning for the installation, White wondered... what would happen if a rainbow fell from the sky?

You could go see for yourself.

While we are on the subject of rainbows, here is a stitched iphone photograph of a double rainbow.

© Alden Griffith

Who even knew they occurred in nature?

Waste Landscape ~ Elise Morin and Clemence Eliard

WASTE LANDSCAPE - Centquatre 104 - 21-07 // 11-09-2011 from elise morin on Vimeo.

A project by Elise Morin and Clémence Eliard

"WasteLandscape" is a 500 square meters artificial undulating landscape covered by an armor of 65 000 unsold or collected CDs, which have been sorted and hand-sewn. It is well known that CDs are condemned to gradually disappear from our daily life, and to later participate in the construction of immense open-air, floating or buried toxic waste reception centers.Made of petroleum, this reflecting slick of CDs forms a still sea of metallic dunes: the art work's monumental scale reveals the precious aspect of a small daily object. The project joins a global, innovative and committed approach, from its means of production until the end of its "life"."WasteLandscape" will be displayed in locations coherent with the stakes of the project: art role in society, raising consciousness to environmental problems through culture, alternative mode of production and valuation of district associative work and professional rehabilitation. Over the course of multiple exhibitions, "WasteLandscape" will go through quite a few transformations before being entirely recycled into polycarbonate. The roaming will allow both artists to pursue new awareness-raising activities.

"The installation has been developped by Elise Morin and Clémence Eliard in collaboration with the 104"
"The building has been refurbished by atelier Novembre: Marc Iseppi & Jacques pajot"

Checking In

I woke up this morning to an email from Yvette stating how she was looking forward to my updated posts. I must say that I have been thinking about this blog and how much I enjoyed taking a break from writing. However, with her nudge, I decided to share a photograph I took that really pleased me from my time in Northern Wisconsin. I was considering how we, as photographers, tend to be drawn to the same image over and over again. After I took this photograph with my iphone, I was immediately reminded of an earlier image from the 1990's.

I poked around in my storage boxes and found the "matching" image. This earlier one was a "constructed" image which I set up (as opposed to the one I took this summer). I had such a difficult time in the darkroom dodging the sheet so I just made another print and tried the cut and paste method! Needless to say, this is the very first time this print has seen the light of day.

And then there is the quintessential boat. I have photographed this boat every summer and find it endlessly fascinating in its character and poetic possibilities.

In thinking about the change of seasons, our comings and goings, I thought I would share an amazing poem by Mark Strand...

From Dark Harbor

"It is true, as someone has said, that in
a world without heaven all is farewell.
Whether you wave your hand or not,

It is farewell, and if no tears come to your eyes
It is still farewell, and if you pretend not to notice,
Hating what passes, it is still farewell.

Farewell no matter what. And the palms as they lean
Over the green, bright lagoon, and the pelicans
Diving, and the glistening bodies of bathers resting,

Are stages in an ultimate stillness, and the movement
Of sand, and of wind, and the secret moves of the body
Are part of the same, a simplicity that turns being

Into an occasion for mourning, or into an occasion
Worth celebrating, for what else does one do,
Feeling the weight of the pelicans' wings,

The density of the palms' shadows, the cells that darken
The backs of bathers? These are beyond the distortions
Of chance, beyond the evasions of music. The end

Is enacted again and again. And we feel it
In the temptations of sleep, in the moon's ripening,
In the wine as it waits in the glass."

--Mark Strand

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

There is a Ralph Eugene Meatyard exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago which is not to be missed. I was first introduced to Meatyards work when I started out exploring photography. I have plenty of broken dolls and masks that I too have collected and photographed but they never had the power of Meatyard's work. I found the photographs haunting and disturbing, offering up some truths about the human condition.

I work in several different groups of pictures which act on and with each other – ranging from several abstracted manners to a form for the surreal. I have been called a preacher – but in reality, I’m more generally philosophical. I have never made an abstracted photograph without content. An educated background of Zen influences all of my photographs.
— Ralph Eugene Meatyard, 1961

from the wall text at Art Institute show...

At the Lexington Camera Club, where Meatyard first seriously studied photography, his mentor Van Deren Coke urged students to "start in your own backyard." Later Meatyard recalled the value of this advice. "This backyard business was carried into our own work. Van believed that we could make most of our pictures around our own homes. In making any photograph, Van suggested, it was enough to find the appropriate background, be honest, and put anything you wanted to in front of it. I have found that this is still the best way, with an excursion afield from time to time."

Extract from the preface, by James Rhem of the Photo Poche

"In short, Meatyard's work challenged most of the cultural and aesthetic conventions of his time and did not fit in with the dominant notions of the kind of art photography could and should be. His work sprang from the beauty of ideas rather than ideas of the beautiful. Wide reading in literature (especially poetry) and philosophy (especially Zen) stimulated his imagination. While others roamed the streets searching for America and truth, Meatyard haunted the world of inner experience, continually posing unsettling questions about our emotional realities through his pictures. Once again, however, he inhabited this world quite differently from other photographers exploring inner experience at the time. Meatyard's "mirror" (as John Szarkowski used the term) was not narcissistic. It looked back reflectively on the dreams and terrors of metaphysical questions, not private arguments of faith or doubt."

Imagine think about a morning swim in Lake Michigan but with over cast skys threatening to burst open any moment you hesitate. You decide to put your bathing suit on and bike to the lake, checking out the swimming conditions, unsure about making the commitment. It starts to drizzle, oh so lightly. You park your bike, glance at the smooth surface and ask a fellow sitting on the bench how the water was...he said "fabulous." That clinches it.

I swim for some time, in and out of raindrops, enjoying seeing them pinging the smooth surface of the water, wishing I had my camera with me. I then see several feathers floating on the silky surface of the water, again wishing I had my camera.

So that is it....the feather floating so gracefully on the blue grey waters.

The mood? not unlike Harry Callahan's photograph of Eleanor in Lake Michigan.

©Harry Callahan

One more thought that keeps resurfacing that I wanted to share...

Diana Nyad at age 61 will be swimming from Cuba to Florida. Her personal challenge is stunning. The NYT ran an article about her midlife challenge a few weeks ago HERE. 60 hours of non stop swimming covering 103 miles!

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Monday Morning Gift

July 25

I am just starting to feel grounded again, after much traveling. I have much to assimilate and sort thru. I am happy today is Monday and just returned from my morning walk. Today I decided to take my iphone with me on the walk...just in case I couldn't resist taking a photograph. What was supposed to be a fast clipped walk became more of a stroll with lots of imaging making. I just couldn't resist.

The Art of Green

This exhibition will featureChicago-area artists and designers who are creating works in a sustainable way and/or raising awareness of environmental issues through their work. I will have 6 images from my Burn portfolio in this exhibition. The exhibition is part of the Green Design series of public programs at Ryerson Woods (located in Deerfield, Illinois).

on my way...

I am off for a few weeks. I am not sure about my ability to post on the blog so thought I would leave a few of my newest Burn images created in 2010. What I found really amazing after culling thru so, so many images was that there can be a single, fleeting moment when the light, wind, smoke, and fire converge in a way that rings true to me....

One of my Burn pieces will be available at the Houston Center for Photography annual print auction. The exhibit opens January 21st and closes February 22nd.They have some interesting programming around the show.

Just a friendly reminder that the Corden Potts Gallery is handling sales from The Burn portfolio. Please contact them if you are interested.

The View from Lazy Point by Carl Safina

I just finished reading a NYT book review of The View From Lazy Point by Carl Safina....which is next in line on my reading list.

".... Safina asks us to reconsider the importance of that perennial question: “What is the meaning of life?” Which, he believes, is the wrong question to be asking because “it makes you look in the wrong places.” The right question is, “Where is the meaning in life.” And the place to look is “between.” In other words, we should look for the ways that all living creatures and all habitats are connected, look for what happens “between” them. “Relationships,” he insists, “are the music life makes. Context creates meaning.”

from The Burn Series ©2010 Jane Fulton Alt

"Safina returns again and again to this consideration of interconnectedness, and to the need for each person to cultivate a more considerate life: “To advance compassion and yet survive in a world of appetites — that is our challenge.” He calls for reverence and caution, and a humbling awareness that future generations must live with the consequences of the decisions we make today. “Ecology, family, community, religion — these words all grope toward the same need: connection, belonging, purpose.”

“Just as we went from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists to civilized societies,” he writes, “now we must take the next great leap: from merely civilized to humanized.”

First Blizzard of the Season

We are fast approaching the shortest day of the year. I was really interested to learn from a Iranian friend that December 22nd is celebrated in his culture with great zest for being the longest night of the year. The holiday is known for its poetry, dried fruits, nuts and watermelon (to signify the promise of spring).

I am currently experiencing the first snowstorm of the year. The winds are howling and the snow is falling. I found myself starting to do a butterfly installation in my home to counter the storm. The butterflies, simply put, make me happy.

I then found my back yard bird friends braving the storm at the feeder just a few minutes ago.

We ARE going to get thru this winter!