Portrait of an Art Critic ~ Michael Weinstein

Every Chicago photographer is familiar with Michael Weinstein, the photo critic for the NewCity weekly. He is one of the city's treasures...always present at art openings,  lending a critical eye to the work  and always generous with his insights and time. Michael has an uncanny ability to contextualize work for an artist way before the artist has articulated it for themselves. He sees deeply. In a time of diminishing resources, when there are fewer and fewer critics, Chicago is very lucky to have Michael in our midst!

I asked Michael if he would be willing to be interviewed for this blog post, and he cheerfully agreed.
Here is the interview....

JFA: What is your concept of the role of an art critic?

My practice as an art critic is what the Italian philosopher of the first half of the twentieth century, Benedetto Croce, called "immanent criticism." By that he meant that the critic should not come to a work or body of work with a set of standards or values that would then be applied to judge the work, but, instead, should seek to get inside the work and re-live it as the artist intended it to be experienced, if at all possible. Having followed that procedure to the best of his or her ability, the critic would then seek to express the experience of that work in words. The way I put it is that the work is a gift given to the viewer from the artist, and I want to honor that gift by experiencing it as much as possible as the artist wants me to appreciate it. I would not have any interest in art if it did not provide me with access to the vision of another person, not my own vision or a vision that I personally prefer. Immanent criticism allows one to grow, and my reviews are meant to help readers to grow and to provide a bridge that the readers can cross to the work so that they can experience it for themselves.

Immanent criticism stands for appreciation and against "gatekeeping," the personal preferences of the critic, judgments based on pre-ordained theories, the attempt to push one kind of art at the expense of others, trendiness, making art subserve political or moral positions, criticism as an excuse for the critic to express his or her own ideas about this or that, and helping out friends at the expense of other artists. All of those have no interest for me; I am in front of the work so that I can receive an infusion of visual intelligence. The great photography theorist Rudolf Arnheim said that photography embodies visual "form at a primary level," and is an independent object of intelligence, that is, visual intelligence (which is not my strong suit). I am grateful to photographers, who have visual intelligence, for expanding my experience. To repeat, I would not want to be a critic on any other terms. I do not favor one genre over another, one technique over another, one form of representation over another in my reviewing - I take each on its own terms. Certainly, I have my own personal preferences, but what possible good could it do for readers or artists if I paraded my personal preferences in print? After all, they are simply personal preferences and everyone has personal preferences; mine have no higher standing than anyone else's. What I can do is to use my accumulating knowledge of photography to gain access to a work and then dwell within it as intensely as I can.

JFA : When did you first know you were going to become an art critic?

In 1989 I began a sabbatical, which meant that I was not teaching in my specialty, which is/was political philosophy. At that time I felt that I had accomplished everything I had set out to do in philosophy, which was to figure out and put into writing and have published a philosophy of life that was true to the way I was living. I was at what I call a "zero point" at which "everything is possible and nothing is necessary" with "nowhere to go and anything to do." So, what to do? I hit upon the idea of learning about something that was mildly distasteful to me just to see what would happen - and I chose photography. So, through the summer and fall of 1989, I took pictures, read about photography, and visited galleries. I read an essay by Edward Weston in which he said that he kept a journal of every photographic encounter that he had, and I decided to do the same. One day in February, 1990 I was sitting in the old Houk Gallery in River North writing my journal after viewing an exhibit by Alexandr Rodchenko, and when I read it over I realized that I had written a review. I decided to walk it over to NewCity, my favorite newspaper at that time and now, and met the editor and owner, Brian Hieggelke, who was stationed right in the front room. He looked over my review, said he would publish it, and offered to let me write reviews for NewCity every issue. I've been doing so ever since with a few absences due to illness. My relationship with NewCity has been a highlight of my life; without NewCity, I would never have become a photography critic. That's Chicago - a place where you don't have to be in a clique and don't have to have connections to strike off in a new direction and get encouragement.

JFA: What were the experiences and influences that led to your being an art critic?

As I just explained, there were no conscious influences that led me to become an art critic. Leaving out my psycho-history, through which I have made sense of what happened in retrospect (but that again is personal), the big influence was philosophy. I had read all of Croce's major works before I made my photography experiment, so it wasn't difficult for me to see that immanent criticism was the way that I would go.

JFA: What have been the more challenging aspects of being an art critic?

There have been no challenging aspects of being an art critic from the get-go until now. To me, it's pure enjoyment. What's not to enjoy about receiving and appreciating gifts from people with visual intelligence, and then putting the experience I have into words? I have the freedom to engage the work on its own terms - it's always new and exciting. That's why I'm into my twenty-fourth year of doing it.

JFA: Can you identify any shifts in your perspective as an art critic over the years?

My perspective as an art critic has not changed a bit. Why should it? Immanent criticism always remains the same; it shifts on its own accord from one work and one genre to the next, always open to fresh developments and artists, always alert to the nuances in new manifestations of an extant genre and an established artist.

JFA: How has being an art critic influenced your own photography?

In order to get into taking pictures in 1989, I chose the simplest photographic problem that I could think of - the recording of a two-dimensional still subject in daylight. Aaron Siskind's wall abstractions were crucial for me in showing me how that simple problem could be worked on to get intense (at least for me) results. It led me to graffiti, distressed sides of railroad cars, peeling posters, and so on. I won't claim to be an accomplished photographer in the slightest, but I can say that shooting flat subjects in open-air seclusion has led me to powerful zenlike experiences in which vision narrows to what is in the view finder and one's consciousness is consumed by it. At times the subject seems to become animated and to "dance." It's a "natural high," for sure.

JFA : How would you characterize the current Chicago photographic art scene?

I have been a great lover of the Chicago photographic art scene through all the years I've been part of it. It has always been vibrant. Grassroots galleries continue to pop up, there are always commercial galleries showing a variety of work from local photographers and from the four corners of the earth, there are big and little museums, galleries in businesses, galleries in community centers, university and college galleries - you name it. There are great people to meet if you go to openings. There is that welcoming and open Chicago spirit. There are independent centers of creation rather than a single establishment. When it comes to the Chicago photographic art scene, it's "sweet home Chicago." 

JFA : Now you know why Michael is such a gem. He is one of the few people I know who really sees clearly AND lives in "sweet home Chicago!"

On Being "Original"

..."newness" or originality are often matters of subtle degree. The new doesn't have to be an epoch-shifting breakthrough. Just as we all have different fingerprints and handwriting, we all have a potential for some increment of originality. I am always on the lookout for a spark of necessity — a feeling that this particular artist had no choice but to make this particular artwork this particular way. That is the only way authenticity or even originality can start to emerge.”                     Roberta Smith 9/28/08

Socrates on Death and Dying

© Jane Fulton Alt

"To fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise: for it is to think that we know what we do not know. For anything that men can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to them: but they fear it as if they knew quite well that it was the greatest of evils. And what is this but that shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know?"      Socrates

Mark Rothko ~ The Formula

                                 Mark Rothko ~ From a lecture at the Pratt Institute, 1958.
The recipe of a work of art—its ingredients—how to make it—the formula.

Burn No. 29 © Jane Fulton Alt
1. There must be a clear preoccupation with death—intimations of mortality...Tragic art, romantic art, etc. deals with the knowledge of death.
2. Sensuality. Our basis of being concrete about the world. It is a lustful relationship to things that exist.
3. Tension. Either conflict or curbed desire.
4. Irony. This is a modern ingredient—the self effacement and examination by which a man for an instant can go on to something else.
5. Wit and Play..for the human element.
6. The ephemeral and chance...for the human element.
7. Hope. 10% to make the tragic concept more endurable.

I measure these ingredients very carefully when I paint a picture. It is always the form that follows these elements and the picture results from the porportions of these elements...

A Meditation

©Ben Canales; The Star Trail;  Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
National Geographic 2011 Traveler Photo winning photo
What is "art" but the effort of giving permanent form---- in language, in painting, sculpture, music ---to those elemental forces in our lives, those passions, hurts, triumphs, and mysteries that have no permanence otherwise, and so require art to be known at all? Our lives, especially at their happiest moments, fly past as quickly as a mountain stream rushing along its rocky course, throwing up frothy, sparkling spray; the effort of art is to slow the rapid motion, to bring it to a halt so that it can be seen, known. All artists know either consciously or instinctively that the secret intention of their life's work is to rescue from the plunge of time something of beauty, permanence, significance in another's eyes."
                                                                              Joyce Carol Oats ; Telling Stories

The Evolution of an Artist Statement

I began the Burn work over 5 years ago. As many of you know, it coincided with my sister's first chemotherapy treatment. For the first 2 years of the project, I couldn't / did not want to, make the connection or discuss it in my artist statement.

Burn No. 21

Artist Statement Version #1

While accompanying restoration ecologists on prescribed burns, I am drawn to the ephemeral quality of a single moment when life and death do not seem opposed to each other, but are parts of a single process to be accepted as a whole.
The Burn series evolved from my ongoing interest in life cycles. Controlled burns imitate naturally occurring fires by removing accumulated dead vegetation and releasing seeds from dormancy. By opening the woodlands to more sunlight, the fires prepare the soil for new spring growth, and the cycle of renewal continues.
Burn No.74

After attending an artist residency with many writers, I was convinced that my sister's illness was a very important part of this work, and that I needed to include it in my statement.

Artist statment version #2
   While accompanying restoration ecologists on prescribed prairie 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 with this deeper understanding of the life cycle that these images were created.
And then I went to Fotofest where I met a curator who said that the artist statement did not really reflect what she was seeing in the work. I let this feedback simmer for a few months. I knew she was right and struggled with how to rewrite the statement. I worked on it on and off and nothing was coming to me. I could "feel" it but not articulate it.
I then had a very interesting conversation this summer with 2 dear friends who both completed their PHD's in art history. To my utter surprise, one friend said, and I quote, "It is not the job of the artist to write about the work. The job of the artist is just to make the work. Writing about it should be left to others." 
You can't imagine the weight that was lifted from my shoulders. I felt liberated....only I still didn't  have a statement that could guide the viewer.  My other friend offered to write the statement for me. I can't tell you how appreciative and grateful I was.  
I am thrilled to finally have an accurate and articulate statement which accompanies the work as I send it out into the world.
Burn No. 96
Final Artist Statement
These photographs are part of a series begun in 2007 when I observed my first controlled prairie burn. I was immediately struck by the burn’s visual and expressive potential, as well as the way it evoked themes that are at the core of my photographic work.  A controlled burn is deliberately set; its violent, destructive force reduces invasive vegetation so that native plants can continue to prosper.  The elements of the burn—the mysterious luminosity, the smoke that both obscures and reveals—suggest a liminal space, a zone of ambiguity where destruction merges with renewal.  These images of regenerative destruction have a personal significance—I photographed my first burn at the same time my sister began a course of chemotherapy—yet they constitute a universal metaphor:  the moment when life and death are not contradictory but are perceived as a single process to be embraced as a whole. 
Burn No. 48
Thank you Debbie!

On Books, Ragdale and Mary Ellen Bartley

I attended the opening of The Ragdale House this past weekend.
 It is a magical place where many artists have found the time and space to create works of art that have enriched our lives. The house,  designed as the summer home of Arts and Crafts architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, just underwent a $3 million renovation. I had the privilege of  touring the rooms where many authors have written award winning books. 
One of several Ragdale rooms where authors reside for the residency

It made me think about the importance of books in our lives.  Carl Sagan was able to articulate the nature of books by looking deeply into their essence.

“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called "leaves") imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic.” 
― Carl Sagan

 Mary Ellen Bartley has studied books from a unique visual perspective.  Standing Open and Blue Books are two beautiful portfolios.  

All The More Real

A Road Divided
Sleeping by the Mississippi

Mary Ellen's artist statement for Standing Open:
"STANDING OPEN This is my fourth series of photographs looking at books. While shooting my stacks and rows of tightly closed paperback books I began seeing some of the standing books loosen up, allowing a view of the space between their pages. I was drawn into the unique interior space of the books. I began opening all kinds of books and placing them standing open around my space where sunlight might fall on them. Using the chance settling of the pages and a close up view, this quickly became a project of looking into my photography books in a new way, with my gaze falling into and out of the books and into and out of abstraction. This work interests me on many levels. First is the sheer beauty of the physical books and the unique formal discoveries of looking at them close up. Among the repeating formal motifs I’ve found are the stripes the pages create, the shadowy voids between pages that read like burns or stains, and the reflections the photos can make on the pages facing them. On another level I’m fascinated by conceptual ideas concerning appropriation and reproduction in a mechanical versus digital age that the work can’t help but throw into question. What is the unique aura or presence of a book? Finally what drives the work for me is the emotional connection I have to the books. I’m trying to evoke the sensuality and intimacy of reading and looking through books as well as the fleeting inspiration, little jolts of connection, found for readers in books they love."

 Blue Books
All Night Near the Water, 2010
Beyond Summer, 2010

Easy Hymns, 2010

Fear of Rain, 2010

 Mary Ellen was also included in the Critical Mass Photolucida's final 50 this year.

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.


These photos were taken this season from the Burn. I have been working on this project for 5 years. It seems like each season offers its own challenges. I am finding it physically very taxing and often, after 2 hours in the field I feel like a wilted flower. I am not sure where I am heading with the work but I suppose that will become clear over time.

I found myself playing with The Red Chair image (from the current creative collaboration project) and enjoyed the process of letting things surface without much thought. My creativity slid by my conscious mind which was such a gift. John Loori, the author of The Zen of Creativity writes about this state...

"In no mind there is no intent. The activity, whatever it may be, is not forced or strained. The art just slips through the intellectual filters, without conscious effort and without planning. In the instant there is intent there is expectation. Expectation is deadly because it disconnects us from reality. When we get ahead of ourselves, we leave the moment. No mind is living in the moment, without preoccupation or projection….hesitancy or deliberation will show in our art when we leave the moment."

A Thin Place

Did you see the "Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer" article in the NYT travel section on Sunday?

It took my breath away and I am so happy to share it in case you missed it.

I am always so grateful when I read something that totally resonates with how I feel. I find it very difficult to articulate certain states of being.

What is a Thin Place?

"A thin place is a locale where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we're able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, the Infinite Whatever. Not everyone finds the same places thin. It's what a place does to you that counts. It disorients, It confuses. We lose our bearings, and find new ones. Or not. We are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world, and therein lies the transformative magic of travel."

"Yet, ultimately, an inherent contradiction trips up any spiritual walkabout: The divine supposedly transcends time and space, yet we seek it in very specific places and at very specific times. If God (however defined) is everywhere and “everywhen,” as the Australian aboriginals put it so wonderfully, then why are some places thin and others not? Why isn’t the whole world thin?

Maybe it is but we’re too thick to recognize it. Maybe thin places offer glimpses not of heaven but of earth as it really is, unencumbered. Unmasked."

Eric Weiner's has a new book out, “Man Seeks God: My Flirtations With the Divine”

There is also a wonderful description of someone's encounter with the "divine" in Driftless by David Rhodes, another extraordinary writer.

Happy Friday!

Collaboration with Luis Alberto Urrea

There is something in the air. After I called out for the first creative collaboration, I realized that I had, in fact, just completed a collaborative project.

Two summers ago while traveling in Mexico, I was reading The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea. (buying the book after I heard Luis do a reading at a fundraiser for the Ragdale Foundation).
While in Mexico City I had an "thin" experience on top of the Teotihuacan pyramid, where something magical revealed itself to me. When I returned home and contemplated the event I decided that instead of making photographs I would create an installation, influenced in part by those precious moments on the Teotihuacan pyramid and the magical realism contained within the book.

"Every second, even the worst one, is sacred."

I returned to Mexico again in 2011 on the annual Frontera Grill staff trip. This time I was drawn to the altars that are found in the markets, homes and virtually everywhere, where the sacred and the everyday merge.

I have always been fascinated by retablos, devotional paintings most often created on tin. I decided to create my own version of "offerings" that referenced the retablo. My attempts to write the text fell way short of what I felt in my heart. Then, one day a thought entered my mind... wouldn't it be amazing to collaborate with Luis Alberto Urrea?! It was like a lightening bolt hit me.

"Cooking is prayer. Eating is prayer. You never stop praying."

Well, the rest is history. We met. I shared my vision for the work and sent Luis the images. He sent back text he thought might work with the photographs. I was able to match the text with the pieces. In my wildest dreams I would have never expected it to work out as well as it did.

"Everybody knows that being dead can put you in a terrible mood."

"Plants are a big responsibility--how many have you spoken with?"

"Everything speaks, Child. Everything is singing."

"Love is the color when hopelessness catches fire."

"God has a worker's hands. Angels carry hammers, not harps."

"Life is so tart it stings the mouth--add sugar."

"Water is like the soul, free of sins--every glass is the universe."

"It never hurts to cook The Maker a snack."

"The work of the healer begins with the nose--they smell life."

I hung the work this past weekend in the entryway of Frontera Grill in Chicago. They are made of copper (thanks to my generous roofer who cut the pieces), paint, gold leaf, resin, milagros and xerox transfers. The pieces are much more vibrant in person. There is a "real time" luminosity that changes depending on the light falling on the work.

"Tortilla--made of sacred corn, light and rain. Round as the sun itself. You eat a miracle."

If you are in Chicago or passing thru, consider stopping by to see the work in person AND have a delicious meal!

Frontera Grill/Topolobampo/Xoco
445 North Clark Street Chicago
Lunch hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday
Saturday Brunch: 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Dinner hours: 5:20 to 10 p.m. Tuesday; 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
(312) 661-1434

Tolstoy on What is Art

According to Tolstoy, art must create a specific emotional link between artist and audience, one that "affects" the viewer. Thus, real art requires the capacity to unite people via communication (clearness and genuineness are therefore crucial values). This aesthetic conception led Tolstoy to widen the criteria of what exactly a work of art is. He believed that the concept of art embraces any human activity in which one emitter, by means of external signs, transmits previously experienced feelings. Tolstoy offers an example of this: a boy that has experienced fear after an encounter with a wolf later relates that experience, infecting the hearers and compelling them to feel the same fear that he had experienced—that is a perfect example of a work of art. As communication, this is good art, because it is clear, it is sincere, and it is singular (focused on one emotion). (wikipedia)

Last night I watched the Grammys. I was spellbound by the artistry of Jennifer Hudson.

Our Situation on Earth ~ by Albert Einstein

Our Situation on Earth
--by Albert Einstein

"Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntarily and uninvited for a short stay, without knowing the whys and the wherefore. In our daily lives we only feel that man is here for the sake of' others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own. I am often worried at the thought that my life is based to such a large extent on the work of my fellow human beings and I am aware of my great indebtedness to them. I do not believe in freedom of the will. Schopenhauer's words: 'Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills' accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of freedom of will preserves me from taking too seriously myself and my fellow men as acting and deciding individuals and from losing my temper. [...]

Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated. The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavors in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is."

--Albert Einstein

Peace ~ ful

You haven't heard from me lately because I just returned from a retreat at the Omega Institute in upstate NY where I once again met with the Brazilian healer John of God. I had seen him in Abadiania, Brazil last January for a most amazing experience (see former post HERE). This encounter was definitely different...no sacred waterfalls and no one to translate your individual questions among many other things. However, it was enriching in many other ways including being able to understand the guided meditations which, in Brazil, were all in Portuguese!
I was thrilled with the use of rainbow imagery in one guided meditation. My thoughts went immediately to my former post and to a much deeper understanding of chakras (which are referred to often in yoga practice).

©Mexico 2011 Jane Fulton Alt

By day three I found myself in a place of deep inner peace, contentment and serenity. It was so lovely to drink from the well once again.

I am in the throws of trying to incorporate the calm and peace I experienced last week into my everyday life. This has been aided by reading the New York Times bestseller, hamlet's Blackberry by William Powers. It was recommended to me in the comments section of an earlier post On Blogging by fellow photographer, Paul, whose blog, The Bertie Project, is well worth visiting. The book is a very thoughtful and balanced discussion on balancing online activities with the creative life. "The essential idea of the book is simple : to lead happy productive lives in a connected world as we need to master the art of disconnecting....Humans love to journey outward. The connective impulse is central to who we are. But it's the return trip, back to the self and the life around us, that gives our screen time value and meaning."

Quieting of the mind is essential to the creative life.

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?"

ON REVERIE by Raphael Enthoven

I am not sure if you saw the article On Reverie in the New York Times yesterday but it is too good not to share. I have posted an excerpt but you can read the full essay online HERE.

August 8

"Imagination, knowing and dreaming into the heart of the matter."

August 6, 2011, 12:46 PM
On Reverie

"It’s a sweet drug that plays with fire. A wasteland — forest of ruins or paved-over jungle depending on whether wakefulness or sleep tips the scales. An old city where the shadows still hold a trace of vanished occupants, where detailed buildings, patiently reconquered by nature, suddenly still are there, sand castles. Through the dreamer’s kaleidoscope where the absence of desire is taken as reality, birds slash through the twilight, cypress trees dive into the pool, stars sparkle in the sea, clouds take on shapes, water lilies bloom in the sky, plans become flexible, the limit to how far things can go relaxes, thought dances, light is lit by shade, opposites are juxtaposed, merge and become linked in a prelude to beauty: reverie is contemplation’s prehistory, the education of the gaze by the eyes of the soul.

Suddenly, the world before concepts.

Daughter of consciousness and sleep, reverie blends their realms. Like intoxication, reverie is lucidity without an object, an activity but one that’s passive, a search that begins by giving up and lets itself be dazzled rather than looking...."

The Underpass

The 365 photos project continues to be a challenge. Some days I am really into it. Other days it feels like an imposition and/or a stretch.

The Underpass ~ August 2

I took this photograph after having been attracted to the space for many years. Because of the project, I made myself stop and shoot it with my iphone. Who knew I would be adding the text. I guess one just needs to be open to whatever arrives at your doorstep.

Today by Bill Collins


"If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day."

Check out the animated poems HERE. They are amazing!

Nine Lives by William Dalrymple

I just finished reading a wonderful book, Nine Lives : In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, by William Dalrymple. It was recommended to me by someone I met in Kerala, India. I read it on my kindle but think I need to buy the "real" book. A wonderful quote...

"All religions were one, maintained the Sufi saints, merely different manifestations of the same divine reality. What was important was not the empty ritual of the mosque or temple, but to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart---that we all have Paradise within us, if we know where to look."