Book Updates

I always try to plan for the expected...because it usually happens. This morning I hoped to make a dent into creating the unique encaustics that will be encased in the limited edition, artist made book,
 I was working away and the heat gun began to smoke and the coils on the inside turned an angry red...pretty scary. The studio smells like a burn but happily, I unplugged everything and found myself with time to update the blog.
I can hardly believe it is almost spring. The sun just came out after 4 days of grey, snowy, wintery days and it feels wonderful. One thing I love about living in Chicago is that nothing lasts forever, the seasons are in constant flux which keeps things interesting. 
 I have been spending the last 2-3 months preparing files for my upcoming book, The Burn. It will be published by Kehrer Verlag is will be released this coming fall. After great struggle, I finally decided to write the book  essay with the help of many eyes and ears. It was a true collaboration.
 Natasha Egan of the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago helped me to sequence the work. Her first question was ..."what would you like the first and last photograph to be?"
Everything else fell into place after that. It was an amazing process to see how her keen eye could sort thru 60 some photographs and restore order and grace to the work.
 Walker Blackwell of Latitude ran some proof prints for me. Once the final design decisions are made, he will make another set to send to the publisher for color corrections. I turned all the proofs and text over to  Renata Graw and Jeremiah Chiu of  Plural, a design firm in Chicago. I can't wait to see what they come up with!

 And now I am focusing on a very exciting new venture, creating a limited edition handmade artist book with interdisciplinary book and paper artist, Teresa Pankratz. Teresa has created an amazing structure and design for this book, which is really more like an art object. It  is pure poetry.
I am really thrilled with being able to make / create this with her and look forward to the actually assembly of the book.  The unveiling will be this coming May 17th...stay tuned.

 All of art making is a labor of love and I feel so luck to be in the throws of the creative process.

It Takes A Village...

I am in full swing now, dedicating this year to getting The Burn published by Kehrer Verlag in Germany and making an accompanying limited edition, hand made book that will include a unique encaustic piece. This process is an education. When I had my Look and Leave book published, I pretty much handed over the files and the Center for American Places did the layout, sequencing, editing and designing. George Thompson did a fabulous job. There is much to consider when creating a book and I am realizing that the photographer, whose work it is,  is not the most objective. Bookmaking is a collaborative effort and I feel so fortunate to have wonderful, talented people on my team.
  Teresa Pankratz, an incredibly talented interdisciplinary book and paper artist is collaborating with me on the limited edition book. I had a long conversation with her about how I envisioned the book. Next thing I knew, Teresa came up with this amazing structure that will delight the viewer. We have the broad brush strokes in place and are now honing in on the various papers, dimensions etc. It is VERY PRECISE work and Teresa is a master. Each book with have a "jewel" at the back...a unique encaustic piece in addition to the prints.  
I have also had the pleasure of working with Walker Blackwell (formerly of Black Point Editions).
He has started, with other passionate photographers (Maria HummelEileen MuellerAshley SingleyMatt AustinVictor Yañez-Lazcano and Kate Roger) a community darkroom for Chicago, called Latitude. Walker is going to help me convert my files so they are the European CMYK standard and make proof prints for the publisher.

Then there is the writing. I started by looking at poetry I loved, especially by Mark Strand. I sent some of the poems to my dear friend and mentor, Dick Olderman. What I got back from him was....
 "What do you have to write of your life that would be what you want to pass on, as the poetic image of a glance ... and can be reached without a camera. See what comes out of you.  Look to yourself for nothing and that's where it begins.", I have been challenging myself to write more. I am finding that if I wake up in the middle of the night, I can sometimes have access to thoughts and words without my censor at work...  a  beginning. 

stay tuned

The New Year

I know I haven't written much on this blog over the past couple of months. It has been a time of  transformation. As you may know, I had a sister who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 5 1/2 years ago and the disease finally took her this past November. I have been consumed with this "sea change" in my life and have not felt much like writing. As time has passed, I am finding my energies slowly returning, hence,  an update on my creative endeavors.

I have always used the camera to better understand the world around me. These past 5 1/2 years have been no different. As fate would have it, I started The Burn project at the same time my sister was diagnosed. It has been a gift to me because I have been able to funnel many of my ponderings on the meaning  of life  into my photography.

The year 2013  will be focused on having  The Burn published by Kehrer Verlag, a publishing house in Heidelberg, Germany. The book will be dedicated to my sister. I envision it as a quiet, meditative experience for the viewer.  I have had much input from others on how to think about the creation of the book.

My first "mentor" was Joerg Colberg, the editor of the blog Conscientious. I met Joerg in the Netherlands at the Noorderlicht Photography Festival. He shared with me a few invaluable suggestions:
Never rush the process of creating a book and  every decision made needs to support the underlying vision for the book, including the design , text, papers, format etc. I must say that I was a bit overwhelmed, but it all made sense.  I am so appreciative of Joerg's generous guidance.

The next person I met with was Lauren Henkin. I had signed up for her workshop at Filter Photo  titled Turning Toward Books : Creating Artist - Directed Publications. I thought I might get some ideas for the trade book. Unfortunately I was unable to attend (at the hospital with my sister) but I did have a brief visit with Lauren, who shared some thoughts on  limited edition, handmade books. The idea appealed to me not only as a way to raise money for the trade book, but also because I have always enjoyed making things with my hands.

In doing more research on Lauren's site, I realized that she had lived in Portland for a few short years and  had tapped into a talented pool of artisans. It was at that point that I decided to think about trying to collaborate with someone locally. Immediately, Teresa Pankratz popped into my head. I have known Teresa for years and knew she had just completed a MFA in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College in Chicago.  I called Teresa and the rest is history (not quite, but is in the making)! Teresa has come up with an amazing structure for the book which includes an encaustic piece.
Form and Content seamlessly joined.

I am thrilled to have these 2 projects in front of me and will keep you posted on how it all develops.

New Year, New Projects, New Challenges.

Life is good!

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.


Taking the Summer Mary Schmich

Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune wrote a wonderful essay yesterday that I wanted to share with you, Taking the Summer Quiz. I am grateful for her wisdom as I thought about it this morning while swimming in the exquisitely delicious waters of Lake Michigan.

Light House Beach, Evanston © Jane Fulton Alt

Mary Schmich

August already.

The flowers are open wide. The air's still warm and as soggy as wet cotton. The days are still longer than the nights.
In other words, we've reached the season's peak, and perched here above summer's downhill slope, it's time to pause. Assess. And, if necessary, correct course in the summer time that's left.

Here's one of our occasional quizzes to help you. Select one answer in each category. Points are awarded for attitude as well as achievement.

1. Summer Harvest

A. I go to the local farmers market regularly! +10 points

B. I have Googled farmers market locations and fully intend to go to one before the summer's over. +1 point

C. Anything I can get at a farmers market I can get cheaper at Jewel, without the preening people, their annoying dogs and that bleepin' hammered dulcimer. -10 points

2. Water Sports

A. I've gone swimming so much that my bathing suit has a suntan! +15 points

B. Spare me the skin cancer, but I've read four trashy beach books lying in my backyard with a glass of sweet iced tea. +5 points

C. Why would I swim when I can lie on the couch in the AC and watch Michael Phelps? -10 points

3. Outdoor Entertainment

A. Millennium Park, Ravinia, neighborhood festivals! I've done them all! +25 points

B. Ravinia is too far. Neighborhood festivals are too loud. But I fully intend to go to Millennium Park now that that bleepin' electronica "music" is off the schedule. +2 points

C. Why would I go outside when I can lie on the couch in the AC and read about Kristen Stewart's love life? -30 points

4. Outdoor Exercise

A. Hardly a day goes by that I don't take a long walk/run/bike ride! +20 points

B. I walked over to Chick-fil-A to see if those sandwiches were worth the fuss. 0 points

C. If God meant humans to exercise outdoors, she wouldn't haven't invented temperatures over 75 degrees. -15 points

5. Lollapalooza

A. I'm in! +10 points

B. I am too old for Lollapalooza. +15 points (For self-awareness.)

C. What is Lollapalooza? -3 points (Age is no excuse for ignorance.)

6. Summer Dining

A. I've gorged on fresh tomatoes, peaches, corn, etc. + 15 points

B. Fresh tomatoes are overrated, but I'm all about brats on the grill. +1 point.

C. Does eating Cheetos while lying on the couch in the AC watching the Olympics count? -15 points

7. Heat Appreciation Index

A. Heat is the soul of summer, and I've savored these hundred-degree days! +15 points

B. Heat sucks but I'm not ready for winter. 0 points

C. I cranked up the AC in April and haven't turned it off since. -25 points

8. Summer Vacation

A. I spent half my vacation posting photos of my vacation on Facebook. -10 points

B. I spent half my vacation on Facebook, jealous of other people's vacation photos. -10 points

C. I spent my vacation without checking Facebook or email once. +30 points

9. Summer Reading

A. I finally read that fat classic I've been meaning to read since high school. +25 points

B. I've read four trashy novels and all my old magazines. +10 points

C. Does Facebook count? -40 points


Above 100: No summer regrets necessary.

0-100: Still time to improve.

Below 0: Remember this when you're grousing about winter.
© Jane Fulton Alt

Remarks from President Obama

July 20, 2012

Following is the transcript of President Obama’s remarks on the shootings in Aurora, Colo., as released by the White House:
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, let me, first of all, say how grateful I am for all of you being here, and how much we appreciate everything that you’ve done.  I know that there are a lot of people here who have been so engaged in the campaign, have sacrificed so much, people who’ve been involved back since 2007. (Applause.)  And so I want all of you to know how appreciative I am.
And I know many of you came here today for a campaign event. I was looking forward to having a fun conversation with you about some really important matters that we face as a country and the differences between myself and my opponent in this election.  But this morning, we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family.
By now, many of you know, many of you have heard that a few miles outside of Denver in a town call Aurora, at least 12 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater, and dozens more are being treated for injuries at a local hospital.  Some of the victims are being treated at a children’s hospital.
We’re still gathering all the facts about what happened in Aurora, but what we do know is that the police have one suspect in custody.  And the federal government stands ready to do whatever is necessary to bring whoever is responsible for this heinous crime to justice.  (Applause.)  And we will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people.
We’re going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time.  And I had a chance to speak with the Mayor of Aurora as well as the Governor of Colorado to express, not just on behalf of Michelle and myself, but the entire American family, how heartbroken we are.
Now, even as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this.  Such violence, such evil is senseless.  It’s beyond reason.  But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living.  The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved.  They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors.  They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.
And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy it’s the reminder that life is very fragile.  Our time here is limited and it is precious.  And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives.  Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.  (Applause.)
It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose.  That’s what matters.  At the end of the day, what we’ll remember will be those we loved and what we did for others.  That’s why we’re here.
I’m sure that many of you who are parents here had the same reaction that I did when I heard this news.  My daughters go to the movies.  What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day?  Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I’m sure you will do the same with your children.  But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.
So, again, I am so grateful that all of you are here.  I am so moved by your support.  But there are going to be other days for politics.  This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.
So what I’d ask everybody to do, I’d like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day.  So if everybody can just take a moment.
(Moment of silence.)
Thank you, everybody.  I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today.  May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come.
I am grateful to all of you, and I hope that as a consequence of today’s events, as you leave here, you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us.
Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.

Checking In and a Few Random Thoughts

I temporarily dropped into the life of a 32 year old, being the primary caretaker of a 2 and 5 year old. That is why you haven't heard from me as of late. I have a deep appreciation for artists that are able to keep the creative muses alive as they are raising their families...not an easy task.

My granddaughter turned 5 this past week and has been very interested in cameras. I decided that this was the opportune time to introduce her to photography. There was a lot of excitement on my part when I thought of the gift of a first camera.

After doing some research, I decided, along with her mother, that the Fisher Price "Tough Kid" Digital camera would be the best choice. I was fortunate enough to be with my granddaughter for her birthday, so was able to get a first hand look at the gift. After an hour of watching her with the camera, I was horrified. This was NOT the camera experience I had expected. There were many bells and whistles on this particular camera. As I watched her handle it I realized that I had essentially given her an electronic toy that fostered and demanded her attention similar to a video game.

Happily, the batteries went dead after a few hours. I slipped the camera into my bag and suggested to my granddaughter that this was not the right camera for her and that I would replace it with the real thing. I have decided to purchase an inexpensive "real" digital camera for her...but even that, I realize, has its limitations.

This experience made me realize how different photography is now, with the advent of the digital camera. I long for her to have the excitement of the wet darkroom experience when the print begins to appear in the developing tray, when one struggled to compose a photograph and worked for hours to create a print that would "sing." It still takes time and effort to create something extraordinary with a camera, be it digital or film, but the easy access/quick grabbing of visuals has really changed the entire playing field of photography.

On another note, I have spent the last 2 weeks traveling to see loved ones, from the west coast to the east coast and back home again, with several graduations and birthdays in between. It has been a marvelous two weeks, and the best birthday gift I could have ever given to myself.

what follows are a few emails I received in response to this post...

Hello Jane -

I had to smile when reading your latest post about your granddaughter and her new camera.  Someone once gave my son a camera with a monkey on it.  While he had no interest in the camera, he fully expected the monkey to do tricks.  When my kids were five and seven, they became curious about what I do in the darkroom (I realized early on as a parent that I would have to integrate my children into my creative life – it was either that or close down the darkroom for several years).  The three of us made two pinhole cameras together – one for 4x5 paper and one for 11x14.  It was a week-long project – planning, measuring, waiting for superglue to dry - which ended with a little photo series which they got to develop and print.  It was magical to watch their faces as the images developed.  They were so excited.  Even now, five years later, the images are still some of my personal favorites and I am always touched when I hear my kids explain to their friends what “real” photography is all about.  We are preparing for a big move to New York next month but once we get situated, I plan to use the cameras again with the kids to inaugurate my new darkroom.  

Best – Ellen O’Connell

Ellen O'Connell ~ Jules and Esther

Ellen O'Connell ~ Jules and Esther


One of the fondest memories of raising my daughter was making a camera out of a piece of brass shim stock, black paint and an oatmeal box. Not sure she was as excited as I was when we developed the sheet of film. But there was even a lesson in that. I still have that thing somewhere.


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.

Thursday Morning Musings

"We shall not cease from our exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time." T. S. Eliot

I thought of this poem this morning as I was listening to the Grateful Dead. It was if I had never really heard the music before.
Amazing how we often gloss over things that we "think" are so familiar. I keep wondering how to keep my mind and heart open to the infinite world of possibilities.

This was a self portrait I did years ago in the darkroom by sandwiching negatives together....I look at it now and think "did I really do that?"

Days with My Father ~ Phillip Toledano

My Mum died suddenly on September 4th, 2006

After she died, I realized how much she’d been shielding me from my father’s mental state. He didn’t have alzheimers, but he had no short-term memory, and was often lost.

I took him to the funeral, but when we got home, he’d keep asking me every 15 minutes where my mother was. I had to explain over and over again, that she had died.

This was shocking news to him.

Why had no-one told him?
Why hadn’t I taken him to the funeral?
Why hadn’t he visited her in the hospital?

He had no memory of these events.

After a while, I realized I couldn’t keep telling him that his wife had died. He didn’t remember, and it was killing both of us, to constantly re-live her death.

I decided to tell him she’d gone to Paris, to take care of her brother, who was sick.

‘Days with my father’ is a journal.

A record of our relationship, and the time we spent over the last three years.

Phillip Toledano

Published by Chronicle Books in 2010.

To view the complete project, please go to:

I find these scraps of writing all over the house… they are a glimpse into his mind, the disquiet he tries to hide from me

Where is everyone?

What’s going on?

How lost he feels.

I asked my father to look in the mirror, while I took his photograph.

Now, you have to realize my dad was very handsome when he was young. When people talk about ‘Film star handsome’, well, that was my dad. In fact, he WAS a film star (of sorts), in Hollywood, during the 1930’s.

So when he looks in the mirror, he sees a man ravaged, a man no longer beautiful, and that upsets him deeply.

You see, he’s still vain at 98. In fact, his vanity can be quite extraordinary.

I tried to take him to the doctor a few months ago, but on the way out, he caught a glimpse of himself in the hall mirror.

He was so horrified with his appearance, that he refused to leave the house until I found a ‘black pencil’ to dye his white hair with.

Because my parents had me so late, my dad was essentially retired when I was growing up.

But for my ambitious, driven father, he wasn’t retired at all, just working on his next career.

Being an artist.

I have so many memories of him listening to opera, sketching, painting, sculpting.

Although he doesn’t paint anymore, he still sees. He still has the artistic impulse.

He was admiring the sunset, saying that he could make a ‘whole series’ of paintings around those wonderful colors…

The urge is still there, even if the physical ability is not.

Sometimes, when we’re talking,

my dad will stop, and sigh, and close his eyes.

It’s then that I know, that he knows.

About my mum.

About everything.

Sixty Plus Daily Diary

I just celebrated my 60th birthday and have decided to create a daily visual journal for the next 365 days. The purpose is to force me into paying closer attention to my life and everyday miracles. When I first conceived of the project, it seemed like too much work. Doubts came streaming in with lots of reasons why it would be too much trouble to pursue. The idea was put on the back burner.

Then, 2 events collided that made me realize this was to be.

First, my flip cellphone broke a hinge on my actual birthday. I had resisted buying an iphone as I thought it would demand too much from me. HOWEVER, what I did not realize was how much fun the camera and camera applications were. At the 60 plus one day, I found myself with the new iphone at a local diner in Northern Wisconsin and a prolonged wait for a table. I pulled out the iphone and took what would be the very first photograph of the diary.

May 27th ~ Sixty plus one ~ I am open to the possibility that anything is possible.

Secondly, after unforeseen circumstances, I found myself with a book, Daybook by Anne Truitt. I have just started reading it and have been struck by its resonance to my life …. “This anguish overwhelmed me until, early one morning and quite without emphasis, it occurred to me that I could simply record my life for one year and see what happened…” It is uncanny how things fall into place if you are listening.

Day Two

I have driven along a road in Northern Wisconsin for 35 years, always attracted to a run down, unusual building that had long ago been a mink ranch and then a chicken coop. The property always appeared abandoned, until today. I drove by and saw a group of people having a picnic. I thought to myself that I could ask about photographing the property but really felt too shy, so drove on. Then I thought about this daily visual diary and turned the car around. The worst that could happen is they could say no.….the rest is history. What I loved about the space was how decrepit it was and yet the light streaming into the space was so amazingly beautiful.

May 28 ~ Sixty plus two

May 29 ~ Sixty plus three ~ Elsewhere

Postcard Project

Spring cleaning offers up the most amazing bits of history. I unearthed a box of postcards from shows I have been in from the very beginning. Instead of keeping them sitting in a box, I have decided to offer them out. If you are interested, all you need to do is send an email to photos (at) with Postcard Project in the subject line, your address, which postcard you would like and I will slip it into the mail. What fun it will be to have these images circulating again!


Before the Butterflies

Southern Exposures

Matters of the Heart

City 2000 ~ Grace

The Treatment Room

Look and Leave Book Cover


Visitations No. 3

Burn No. 21

Happy Spring!

Happy Spring

The sun is out and it feels like I am in the full spring cleaning mode. I am thinking more and more about working in mixed media and realized that I did not have the studio space I needed. After some time to consider my options, I decided to clean out a storage room that was filled to the gills with boxed artwork, furniture, name it. It was a major undertaking. I relied heavily on FREECYCE and could not believe how quickly people came over to pick up various sundry items.

What I love most about this newfound space is that it is OFF THE GRID! No computer, no internet, no phone! A departure from the workspace I am used to...which I now consider my "dry" darkroom. It reminds me of the working conditions I had during my artist residency at Ragdale, which is where my art jumped by leaps and bounds, in part because I did not have the distractions. I am excited about having created this newfound space that was just waiting to be unearthed!

These photographs of tulips were taken a week ago at the Chicago Botanic Gardens where the Toast to Ragdale Benefit was held. The field of flowers were breathtaking and the canon s90 did a nice job of conveying their amazing colors.

Quieting the Mind at IMS

I have just returned from a mediation retreat at the Insight Mediation Society which focuses on mindfulness. It was a grueling and wonderful 3 1/2 days of agitation, contemplation and reflection. It seems like the first 2 days were a roller coaster of excitement and avoidance, attempting to settle into a quiet mind. By the 3rd day I was falling head over heals with life itself.

I picked up a book while there titled Coming to Our Senses : Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness by Jon Kabiat- Zinn. I am just starting it but would like to share his insightful prose.

"The world needs all its flowers, just as they are, and even though they bloom for only the briefest of moments, which we call a lifetime. It is our job to find out one by one and collectively what kind of flowers we are, and to share our unique beauty with the world in the precious time that we have, and to leave the children and grandchildren a legacy of wisdom and compassion embodied in the way we live, in our institutions, and in our honoring of our interconnectness, at home and around the world. Why not risk standing firmly for sanity in our lives and in our world, the inner and outer a reflection of each other and of our genius as a species?"

"The creative and imaginative efforts and actions of every one of us count, and nothing less that the health of the world hangs in the balance. We could say that the world is litterly and metaphorically dying for us as a species to come to our senses, and now is the time. Now is the time for us to wake up to the fullness of our beauty, to get on with and amplify the work of healing ourselves, our societies, and the planet, building on everything worthy that has come before and that is flowering now. No intention is to small and no effort insignificant. Every step along the way counts. And, as you will see, every single one of us counts."

While walking in the forest, I was so taken with these transparent leaves still clinging to life after such a fierce winter. Frankly, they reminded me of my 90 year old mother's translucent skin. It was only after spending some time with the tree that I realized there were new buds in the "ready" on each branch...the true miracle of the life cycle.

The teachers at this retreat center have spent years in mindfulness meditation and understand the multitude of difficulties in quieting the mind, with incredible benefits to the physical, mental and spiritual body.

My flight home was 5 hours delayed and went late into the night. Little miracles played out during that time in the "holding tank" including a very relaxed mind, kindnesses from complete strangers and learning that a young man sitting across from me was heading to Port au Prince in Haiti to work for 3 months at an orphanage.

The Dharma Seed website has a wealth of audio instruction for free in addition to many other related links. Check it out!



I have so much to say but have not had the time or space to articulate it.

This year has been amazing...the latest chapter involved caring for my parents, aged 90 and 91, after my mother's cardiac complications. I spent 3 weeks with them, one of which was in a hospital where they played the Brahams Lullaby every time a baby was born. When I first heard it, I thought they were trying to subtly tell everyone it was rest time! It was a wonderful reminder of the life cycle.

This was the monarch butterfly arrangement I placed in my mother's hospital window. Much to my surprise and delight I was witness to the real thing fluttering on the other side of the window pane.

The three weeks were filled with so many moments of grace. I feel fortunate to have had the time with my parents and felt completely in the moment. While there, I was reading a review of David Foster Wallace's new book, The Pale King. In it he states,

"Happiness... is the ability to pay attention, to live in the present moment, to find “second-by-second joy + gratitude at the gift of being alive.”

What else is there?

Interview with Two Way Lens

While I was away last month this interview was run on the blog, Two Way Lens which is authored by Michael Werner, a very fine photographer from Germany. Thought I would shared the interview with you...


What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field?

My photographic beginnings were very basic, initially. I was taking a trip to SE Asia and wanted to learn how to use a new camera. I had been taking various art classes at a local art center at the time and decided to enroll in a photography class. I had a wonderful photography teacher, Dick Olderman, who exposed me to the poetry of photography. I was an avid quilter at the time and had explored ceramics, drawing and painting. I realized that the camera allowed me easier access to exploring the world around me.

Essentially, my photographic explorations have drawn from my life and from asking questions about what it means to be alive. I am a clinical social worker (of 35 years) and raised a family of 3 children. I have also had the privilege of extensive travel, which has fueled my inquiry into what is universal to all people, regardless of race, religion or culture.

Contemplating man’s universal striving for love/connection, I have focused on the tension between love and separation. Man’s very first separation or disconnect happens at the moment of birth, when the umbilical cord is cut. This led me to explore pregnancy and how we all enter into life. After “documenting” several births, I created my first conceptual body of work, “Before the Butterflies.”

I then decided to explore our last and final separation, the moment of death. Death is one of the great mysteries of life and it is the only thing that is certain in life. This exploration has been ongoing and will probably continue until I take my last breath. I have visited slaughterhouses in Louisiana, Mexico’s Day of the Dead, and worked with hospice, both as a photographer and then as a volunteer. All of these experiences have enriched my life, both spiritually and photographically.

I have numerous bodies of work, many of which were created after exposure to places or events. In the fall of 2005, I discovered the power of combining my 2 professions, social work and photography. Previous to then I had kept the 2 careers very separate. I volunteered in the relief efforts post Katrina for 2 weeks in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans on a program called “Look and Leave”. After 3 days of accompanying residents back to their homes for the first time since fleeing, I had a melt down. I returned to my hotel room and realized I needed to more. I needed to photograph what I was seeing and hearing in order to be the ambassador for the people I was serving, as a way to keep their needs in focus and their stories alive. It was a turning point in my life as I realized the power of merging both professions. This integration has continued and infuses my work with a potency I had not previously known.

The Burn is my most current work. It addresses the life cycle. My artist statement communicates my current “take” on life….

“While accompanying restoration ecologists on prescribed burns, I am drawn to the ephemeral quality of the single moment when life and death are not opposites, but rather parts of a single process to be embraced as a whole.
As fate would have it, this project began on the same day (and actual hour) of my sister’s first chemotherapy treatment, having just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The parallels between the burn and chemotherapy were immediately revealed to me as I photographed with my sister in my heart and mind.

Burning helps reduce invasive vegetation that crowd out native plants, allowing sunlight to reach the seedlings. By opening the woodlands to more daylight, the fires prepare the soil for new spring growth, and the cycle of renewal continues. So too, chemotherapy removes unwanted growth, allowing for new healthy cells to reestablish themselves. It was with this deeper understanding of the life cycle that these images were created.”

I have found several quotes to be very helpful to me in trying to understand why I do what I do…One is by Andrey Tarkovsky, the genius of modern Russian cinema who died in 1986. He wrote Sculpting in Time, where he discusses his philosophy of filmmaking and art. He states in chapter 2, Art…A Yearning for the Ideal, that “The goal for all art…is to explain to the artist himself and to those around him what man lives for, what is the meaning of his existence…Art is a means of assimilating the world, an instrument for knowing it in the course of man’s journey toward what is called absolute truth.”

Another quote is from a poet, Wislawa Szymborska, who spoke on inspiration after receiving a Nobel prize December 7, 1996….

“I've mentioned inspiration. Contemporary poets answer evasively when asked what it is, and if it actually exists. It's not that they've never known the blessing of this inner impulse. It's just not easy to explain something to someone else that you don't understand yourself. When I'm asked about this on occasion, I hedge the question too. But my answer is this: inspiration is not the exclusive privilege of poets or artists generally. There is, has been, and will always be a certain group of people whom inspiration visits. It's made up of all those who've consciously chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination. It may include doctors, teachers, gardeners - and I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it's born from a continuous "I don't know." ….. This is why I value that little phrase "I don't know" so highly. It's small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended.”

In your opinion and experience, how can emerging photographers evaluate themselves as ready to start promoting their works and seek broader exposure for their photographs? What is one vital action you would recommend photographers undertake to find their audience, be included in exhibitions, and gain professional representation?

Art does not exist in a vacuum and needs to be seen by others. Feedback is essential.

Artists are constantly evolving and sometimes it is difficult to know if one is prepared to put the work out in the public. It is important to have feedback on the work, thru critiques, classes, portfolio reviews or individual consultations. Enter photo competitions but do not be discouraged if you are not included. Rejection is just part of the process. There is a blog that belongs to a writer that is solely devoted to all of her rejection letters!

I think it is important to look at other people’s work, via books, the internet, or galleries.

That said, I know that my work only progressed as it did because I was and am not making it for a “market.” My goal was never to “make it.” My path has been different from many photographers. I did not formally study photography and have not looked to photography for financial support as I had another source of income (thru my social work). My goal has always been to attempt to express my inner most concerns thru the photography. I rarely photograph for others and see my photographic practice as “sacred space.” This has been how I have carved out my practice. I think the challenges are great for the photographic market today.

How did it come about that you achieved the status of successful, professional photographer? What steps were involved in reaching your level of success?

There have been many factors in getting the work out there. First and foremost, the work needs to be strong. Secondly, one needs to have the work seen. A web presence is essential and has led to tremendous opportunities for me. Portfolio reviews are efficient ways to have the work seen by many curators and collectors who would be very difficult to approach in other circumstances. Another alternative to the expense of traveling to a portfolio review is an online review such as Critical Mass (sponsored by Photolucida) which costs a fraction of traveling to a portfolio review. If the work is strong, it will be picked up.

But really, what is most important is just going back to doing the work.. and loving what you are doing.

My advice to emerging photographers is…

There is nothing more meaningful than being true to yourself and finding your own voice. Follow your heart and don’t let anyone discourage you. I once attended a portfolio review session providing feedback from 4 internationally renowned photographers. I had brought 20 photographs and saw each reviewer separately. In the end, I was surprised that each expert cared for different images, and had varied suggestions for how to continue my work. If each expert had been my teacher, I would have pursued 4 different directions and lost my way.

It is vital for any artist to nurture and protect that which will make your vision unique. One need to go inward instead of outward and learn to trust your own inner guide, preserving your identity and finding the answers from within.

If you must have a rule to follow, I suggest cultivating a dialogue with your inner voice and photograph with your heart. If you listen to the clues your own images offer, the resulting work will be fresh and authentic. Fall in love with your world, shoot a lot, and technical problems will straighten themselves out.

Martin Luther King Day

In thinking about Martin Luther King and his message of non- violence, it is hard not to think about the culture of violence today in our country. The programming on TV and radio reflects so much that is unhealthy in our society. Violence is epidemic.

Here is a poem written by Shakita Winters from H.B Stowe Arts Academy in Chicago. She is the 8th grade winner of the 2nd annual Too Hot to Handel Poetry Contest.


Our community is like a hateful song
This crime in the streets causes everything to go wrong
When the grass is green and the sun is beaming
You seem to hear a lot of crying and screaming
But, Martin Luther King had a dream to bring all of us together
So that our children can show love and respect for one another
Despite your race.....
Red, Black, White, or Gray
We still have a chance to join together TODAY!!!!
It's best if we stop the violence
And keep the peace
In order to turn things around for YOU and ME!!!!!!!

I am hopeful that this new documentary, The Interrupters, will shed some light on the subject. The world premier is on January 21st at the Sundance Festival. The film will screen 3 more times at the festival. Tickets are now 'wait list only.' There is already an incredible buzz around it. The movie discusses how a national public health strategy, Cease Fire, is trying to stem the epidemic and has been scientifically proven to reduce shootings and killings.

The wisdom and compassion from our President and First Lady is truly remarkable. They are the true moral leaders of our time...

An Open Letter to Parents Following the Tragedy in Tucson
Posted by First Lady Michelle Obama on January 13, 2011 at 06:07 PM EST

Dear Parents,

Like so many Americans all across the country, Barack and I were shocked and heartbroken by the horrific act of violence committed in Arizona this past weekend. Yesterday, we had the chance to attend a memorial service and meet with some of the families of those who lost their lives, and both of us were deeply moved by their strength and resilience in the face of such unspeakable tragedy.

As parents, an event like this hits home especially hard. It makes our hearts ache for those who lost loved ones. It makes us want to hug our own families a little tighter. And it makes us think about what an event like this says about the world we live in – and the world in which our children will grow up.

In the days and weeks ahead, as we struggle with these issues ourselves, many of us will find that our children are struggling with them as well. The questions my daughters have asked are the same ones that many of your children will have – and they don’t lend themselves to easy answers. But they will provide an opportunity for us as parents to teach some valuable lessons – about the character of our country, about the values we hold dear, and about finding hope at a time when it seems far away.

We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis. And we can help them do that in their own small way – whether it’s by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts.

We can teach them the value of tolerance – the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us. We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree.

We can also teach our children about the tremendous sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country and by their families. We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it.

Christina Green felt that call. She was just nine years old when she lost her life. But she was at that store that day because she was passionate about serving others. She had just been elected to her school’s student council, and she wanted to meet her Congresswoman and learn more about politics and public life.

And that’s something else we can do for our children – we can tell them about Christina and about how much she wanted to give back. We can tell them about John Roll, a judge with a reputation for fairness; about Dorothy Morris, a devoted wife to her husband, her high school sweetheart, to whom she’d been married for 55 years; about Phyllis Schneck, a great-grandmother who sewed aprons for church fundraisers; about Dorwan Stoddard, a retired construction worker who helped neighbors down on their luck; and about Gabe Zimmerman, who did community outreach for Congresswoman Giffords, working tirelessly to help folks who were struggling, and was engaged to be married next year. We can tell them about the brave men and women who risked their lives that day to save others. And we can work together to honor their legacy by following their example – by embracing our fellow citizens; by standing up for what we believe is right; and by doing our part, however we can, to serve our communities and our country.


Michelle Obama

Happy Thanksgiving

And for a short time our lives are transformed. My studio happens to be in the "heart" of my home. As such, it is temporarily transformed into a nursery! My creative energies have been diverted for a bit and I am loving it!

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Taking Stock and Writers Block

Fall has arrived. As I look back over the summer I am overwhelmed with how packed it was, from multiple family visits and the creation and dissemination of Crude Awakening. And tonight I have 2 simultaneous openings, one in Chicago at 310conTEMPORARY Gallery and one in San Francisco at the Corden Potts Gallery. There is much coming up...but in the mean time, my glasses broke, my car is in need of repairs, there is a water leak in the house and my computer keeps reminding me that my start up disc is dangerously full. There is much to take care of.

What I hope for this coming fall is to focus on my teaching engagements, for which I am so delighted and honored to be involved in. I have my critique group starting up this week and several speaking and workshop commitments. I also spent this past week in the North Woods of Wisconsin cutting out 1000 monarch butterflies that will be part of an installation that I am working on for the Frontera Grill space. I would love to post some pix but am too nervous to download anything more on to this computer. I am having a 2TB internal drive installed on my computer tomorrow. Once that happens, I will be sailing!

Whew! I finally posted. Hope everyone is well.