The geologist sees rock formations atop plates drift on the rolling currents deep in the Earth’s mantle, Those rocks crack and open up from the processes of erosion to hollow out a cave. Where the deposits from dissolved minerals collect to form a myriad of shapes called speleothems.
The spelunker puts on a carbide lamp equipped helmet, kneepads to prevent hamburger knee, and carries piton spikes to drive into cracks as needed to belay into the glistening underground space that upon first sight appears as if it were made to appear that way. It’s a brilliant display of mysterious intention by something far greater than any human achievement. Yet it is the dizzying reminder of how random the visual state of terrain actually is. The hand of erosion carves and sculpts without regard for the spelunker’s eyes met with such a vision on an immense scale of time.
The philosopher enters the cavern through the mind. Sees the cave dwellers who only see shadows as reality. Witnesses the journey back into the darkness after seeing the outside world and experiencing its glaring truth. The light so strong that it cannot be forgotten by its witness imbues the cavern’s folds with the philosopher’s thoughts.
Last week I tried to explain – in the bombastic style of Romanticism – the enthralling experience of trying to photograph a scene that goes well beyond one’s ability to capture that experience in gargoyles ascend a cathedral. This week is all about post. The equally daunting task of figuring out how to represent that memory with a set of images. The scene remembered changes over time from the direct experience. Now these cliffs seem taller than could ever be captured in any adequate way. Thus, the diptych format seemed to address this perceived impossibility with the cut of the line between the two juxtaposed images. A rift of artifice acknowledges what cannot be overcome by a mere image compared to the experience. The disjointedness left in place as an acknowledgement of a medium’s limits.
Strange thing is last week I lost a family member. My uncle had spent his life on ships. He lived on oceans. When I look upon these images after his passing, they have turned into some kind of funerary objects. A solemnity has seeped into the crevices. A mournful song creaks out of the waves. The cut of the line between the two images severs memory from experience and omits the forgotten of what was in between. So I dedicate this post to him, my sea dog. And since it was his wish to not have any service I will not end this with an image of him for that seems far too personal for his stoic spirit. Rather, I will end this post with something I used to collect, a cabinet card. A photo from the 19th century that I found rummaging at a flea market once has always stuck with me. An image of a bouquet of funerary flowers arranged in the shape of an anchor. It always made me wonder about the fate of the seaman it was intended for. It strikes me as the most tender of objects for such a rough calling. And now it has found its home for me as an offering to the one I’ve lost.
RIP Bob, here is a Welsh traditional verse from the 17th century for you:
The End of the Day
With the night the house grows dark, with the night comes candle light, with the night comes the end of play, and with the night comes Daddy home.
My legs push back against the precipice. My arms wearily hold the instrument as my eye peeps through the lens and my finger trembles to press the button on feelings exceeding a single frame. I could not survive out here. I am but a wanderer passing along this winding, perilous path. Blinking and glimpsing at something too powerful and raw to live beside with any of the comforts required to establish a productive way of life. Yet this is their home, their pattern, their habit, and their comfort. These dream-like forms, others simply call cormorants, gird the steepest drop back into the crashing swirl of sleep. Above the unfathomable chasm and below the infinite dome, a brood scratches its way along these stone faces of bulky severity. What wild ideas am I witnessing that can claw into such an impregnable form? Am I to believe that these are just cormorants stringing along the rocks whose random patterns of erosion drain into this dark sea? Just another iteration of genetic code replicating itself in this random display of meaninglessness? While they are scaling the deepest interior of my dreams and emerging as the shadowy forms from the deepest slumber? Even when this sublime scene awakens with a fervor of gargoyles ascending a cathedral in my mind’s eye?
The wilderness has a mysterious tongue Which teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild, So solemn, so serene, that man may be But for such faith with nature reconciled; Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal Large codes of fraud and woe; not understood By all, but which the wise and great, and good Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel. From Mont Blanc by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Dedicated to everyone who has passed away from COVID-19. Rest in Peace.
New York is a lotus flower with giant petals. If the petals were put on the floor, their terrain is so immense that each one would cover a small town. Between the petals, pathways weave in and out of this labyrinth. Go in one direction and the petals unfold before you as they fold back behind you. Turn around and the folded unfold again. The journey on one side of the lotus becomes a journey on the other.
New York is a lotus flower with infinite pathways. Step on the path and look at the petals loom overhead. From any standpoint, the petals blend into transitory formations that embody the supreme randomness out of which came its design. See how the petals twist and turn together into a vertiginous dance. If you whirl clockwise to find your way, the whole flower turns counter-clockwise. Take a rest and the place where you stood has already shifted away from where you thought you were but a minute ago.
New York is a lotus flower of bright light. Every petal has a thousand pores radiating. Every being that lives there bathes in its glory at one time or another. Its hive energy buzzes anyone who steps on its pathways and delivers them toward the light they seek. It is a flower of knowledge and know-how. It’s a beacon to the world. It’s a place of heartbreaking beauty and all the dimensions of tragedy, too. And whenever it seems to die it is reborn. And it gains even more petals which in turn create a seemingly infinite array of new pathways to explore.
The Process: About a year and a half ago I found out that I had an opportunity to studio-sit in Manhattan (otherwise there’s no way I could afford it!) for two weeks. I treated it as an artist’s residency but on my own dime. To prepare, I poured over as many photographs of New York City from great photographers like Edward Steichen, Helen Levitt, Joel Meyerowitz, Paul Strand, Berenice Abbott, and countless more to study how NY was depicted/experienced by others. Yearning to contribute some way of looking that I hadn’t come across yet embracing all that I have seen. I spent hours thinking of my previous experiences there and how the city felt to me as well. The dominant theme was that of a labyrinth but I was unsure of how to convey that feeling. By the time I arrived in NYC, I had my notebook of ideas on what to try, but after many days, I felt like it wasn’t working. When I could sleep, though, I entered half-dream states where I was ceaselessly wandering through the outer terrain internalized. And then, it came to me. The simplest of ideas. I tapped into this feeling of the buildings unfolding before me like a thousand petals of immense scale. Yet also scattered in my mind’s eye these petals came from all over town. Then, this boiled down photographically to two images juxtaposed together in a diptych. Two images of these buildings from different areas had to be brought next to each other! And once I got to develop them, some blended together, some grated against their companion, and others twisted and turned into uncanny forms from simply placing them side by side in an embrace of the fundamental experience of randomness. After a year of developing them, this is what you see now.
Where to purchase: They are for sale at www.society6.com/oneroundcorner. There are prints and framed prints available (the largest size will be the best), in addition to some having small items available like pillows, clocks, iPhone cases, and such.
Favorite? Of course, I’m proud of all of them but if I had to pick a personal favorite, it’s New York is a Lotus Flower #4 because it references zip paintings by the New Yorker Barnett Newman and I always think of them when I go to New York since I saw them in person for the first time at the MOMA many years ago. If you have a favorite, I’d love to hear about it! Thank you and enjoy!
I had to go to the mainland for an errand and was returning to the main ship on the ferries. We dock and rather than jockeying for position I look at the view until I end up at the back of the line without a care about it. There is something I loathe about being in a hurry in a crowd. Sooner or later, everyone gets off so why bother feeling an ounce of stress over it? But as I walk up the ramp, the hydraulics start operating and it begins to elevate the ramp closer to the ceiling. I have to crawl to try and make it before it closes. And then I start rolling toward the narrow opening but get stuck. It holds me there with my face pressed between the ramp and the ceiling. The others board on the other side and we return to the mainland while I watch the main ship take off and recede toward the horizon. And I see my squished face from a bird’s eye view trailing the boat and I look so ridiculous. Like some foolish clown or comedian stuck in a pinch. I wonder if I should’ve cared about being first off the ferry in the first place. Because now I’m paying an absurdly heavy price for being so nonchalant. But at least the ramp didn’t crush my head so I’m lucky in some respect. Finally we dock and the ramp releases me. Abandoned, I wander through the streets wondering what to do and where to go until I hear people screaming around the corner. Something is happening and it sounds terrible. A major flood of water rushes and swings from around the corner. Waves smash into the streets. I’m running as fast as I can. Many people are running up some stairs. I follow them to a third story balcony of some corporate building and we watch the city float by as if we were back on the main ship.
Here are some images I put together based on this dream of monoliths floating down the old archetypal river.
For all my fellow insomniacs out there who are told that all you need is exercise and a good diet but still cannot find a good night’s rest, I offer you some softer terrain to think of as we try to drift off into that simulated flight. Waiting for dreams to spill into the basin, hear the distant soft tones of sleep approaching. Fly through this place where scarcity becomes abundance of spirit. Step toward the rigid lines that fall off gently into space. Let the anxious thoughts from daily life fall away like sand blowing over the ridge of a dune. And land on that clean plate of consciousness where you finally arrive at these restorative forms that were always there inside you waiting like the cool shadows of soft dunes.
Do you imagine terrain like me in order to help take the mind off of sleep while going to sleep? Well, I hope this helped someone. And now I’m signing off (3:03am) to do the same. Good night and sweet dreams.
scattered on the old river flakes of light flutter in the breeze like passing thoughts a seed finds purchase in such barren ground some crust as thin as an eggshell divides waters details flutter in the belly of the mind, why?
The delicate visual gift called the horizon is an illusion of perspective that appeals to the edge detection of our eyesight. In the early morning, the desert and its mountains form these color fields out of which blue lines seem to exist. These lines are not meant for me to catch them with anything but my eyesight. They are like ideas better to contemplate than pursue. Like imaginary directions to a place of hope. Or it’s a quiet message telling us how to feel the distances in which we exist.
Honey seeps through the interlock of trees that the bear must enter to find what is swirling in his mind. Is my consciousness not flowing like the honey-coated saliva of a bear? Am I not chasing after myself as desire feasts on the honeycomb of memory? Is the interlock not a wood of evaluations projected by my mind?
Some inviolate frame that I cannot access exists outside of this interlock but I can only catch a glimpse of it oozing its heavy sap into the frames like a glue that seems to make sense until the search for more honey brings me to the edge where a chasm of infinite regress yo-yos. The fractal portals demarcate this interlock floating on quantum foam.
And then I fall back into my honeycomb again and swirl back to a part of the interlock where I can carry on with the feast as any other good bear would.