My grandma at eighty with my daughter at one. This photograph is from the series The Mother Lineage: Four Generations. It was made 26 years ago. This was the last time my grandma came to Holland to visit me and meet her great granddaughter. My grandma Hilda was from Poland and moved to America when she was only 9 years old. She travelled by boat with her older sister Elsie who was only 11 years old to Ellis Island. Her mother Anna went ahead of them to find work with her sons Hymie and Maxi. Hilda and Elsie stayed behind in Poland with their grandmother until their mother had a job as a baker and could afford to get them over. My mother Beverly was a single mom so my grandma helped raise me. We had an exceptional bond. This photograph captures the intergenerational love.
I have a story to tell you! Twenty years ago I sold the series Milk and Honey to the Kunstuitleen in Amsterdam. This is a company that buys art directly from the artist and then rents or sells it to individuals, businesses and institutions.
A man named Jan saw a photograph from Milk and Honey and wanted to buy it. Unfortunately for him the work was reserved for the main office of the Amsterdam Police. At that time public spaces and semi-governmental agencies were required to spend a portion of their budget on art! That alone is amazing and shows what a great country Holland was in terms of valuing and supporting the arts.
Some years later Jan went to the Kunstuitleen again and coincidentally saw Milk and Honey # 10 and bought it!
Twenty years after his first encounter with Milk and Honey Jan received a newsletter from me. Although he had been on my mailing list for many years we never had contact. He was interested in two photographs and took me up on my offer for a free 30 minute art consultation.
We talked about my process and technique. Then without hesitation Jan decided to buy both pieces from Garland of Colour!
In his words “the photographs are a colourful and majestic presence in my home.”
You are invited to join me on a journey about my path of being an artist. Over the next year I am going to share with you the various projects I have made going back in time and working my way up to the present moment. It is exciting for me to share with you the seeds that were already present from the very beginning. To be able to see them take root, flourish and blossom into a visual language is encouraging because it is a testament to the slogan “Always let go, never give up!”.
I am going to share my creative process with you beginning with the shift I made from black and white to colour. The first ten years of my life as a fine art photographer I used a medium format Mamiya 6 x 6 cm camera with black and white film which I developed in the kitchen of my mother’s apartment on 95th Street and Columbus Avenue on the 18th floor which is where I grew up. I loved working in the darkroom and printed my work on Portriga paper and selenium toned the prints at the School of Visual Arts in NYC where I was going for my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Photography from 1980- 1985
I found my voice as a photographer by initially doing self portraits but soon realised I needed to literally get out of my own way. In my third year of art school at SVA I turned my bedroom into a studio. There was one big window and the room was small and white so it was like photographing inside of a light box.
My bed became the stage for a whole world of paper, feathers, bones, ice eggs, sea fans, chiffon, sand, snake skins and glass, much to my mother’s dismay.
In my last year of art school the energy of the still life work shifted. The thought of leaving school and entering the big bad world terrified me, so death and impermanence became the main theme.
Little did I know what a lesson in impermanence these photos would become.
Five years later I moved to Amsterdam and on a visit home to NYC I shipped some things back to Holland that I had saved in my bedroom closet. In three separate boxes I sent the contents of my doll house, childhood sweaters hand knitted by my Grandmother, and all the black and white negatives that I had ever made at SVA and earlier.
The first two boxes arrived, but the negatives were lost and never recovered.
In retrospect I realised that I had shipped them overseas in the least expensive way possible with no tracking number. I think there was a part of me that felt burdened and overwhelmed by being an artist. A part of me that thought, “who cares anyway?”
From this sad and regretful experience I learned how important it is to truly value and care for one’s art work: to regard it as a gift that one receives and tends to like the seeds in a garden.
After graduating from art school I was trying to find my way as an artist and audited my favourite writing and literature teacher Linda Huntington’s Latin American Literature class at SVA.
At the conclusion of the class I made my first handmade art book of still life photographs joined with quotes from the books I had been reading.
This material was not easy to access but Linda could make anything accessible and interesting since she was an extraordinary teacher! We became friends by walking across town on 23rd Street after class.
One day as we were approaching the subway station she stopped abruptly, looked me straight in the eyes and implored me to promise that I would never stop making my art.
It was night time and the street lights caught the glimmer in her bright eyes. I could feel the importance of what she was asking me to do although I didn’t fully understand the implications!
Tragically Linda passed away this past May of 2020. Linda became a dear friend and we corresponded for almost 40 years. She saved all of my letters and I saved all of hers. That correspondence is now with me and is a testament to our love and friendship.
A few friends have requested that I share portraits of myself from the early days.
The first is a self-portrait that I made which was the beginning of finding my voice as an artist.
In my early creative life I agonised often about what to photograph. My teacher Algis Balsys gave me an assignment during our year of independent study at SVA in 1982. He told me to go into a room with one roll of film in my camera and not to come out until I exposed all 36 negatives. My first reaction was fear and panic because I really didn’t know what to do! Then I had an idea to photograph myself and that was the birth of a series of self portraits expressing my inner world through my own body and gestures.
The second is a portrait that Algis took of me.
The third is a portrait by my dear friend and fellow student at SVA, Richard Brandt.
After graduating from The School of Visual Arts I worked many different jobs in the field primarily as an assistant. One of them was on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the basement printing photographs of Andy Warhol’s paintings. Another was working the night shift at a lab called Cosmic Sound Delight in Midtown Manhattan printing color photographs. I worked into the middle of the night adjusting filters of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow in order to get the color balance just right. Those were gruelling jobs and not what I spent four years of my life at SVA for!
Then I landed a fantastic job as an assistant photographer at Tiffany.
On the weekends I was permitted to use the studio for my own art.
I brought my collections of things and “lights, camera, action” got to work using their 4 x 5 inch view camera.
I remember during one session running back and forth making adjustments with the camera and the still life setup and the darkroom in order to load the 4 x 5 inch black and white film into the negative holders.
I moved quickly, even though the still lives were not going anywhere. It felt like something magical was happening and I needed to catch the moment.
Seeds of future work were present in this series: motherhood, fertility, the relationship between painting and photography as well as the relationship between beauty and impermanence.
When I was 10 years old I met the Buddhist meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche due to the blessings of my father who introduced me to his teacher. While attending SVA when I was not waitressing on the weekends I was attending a series of meditation trainings called Shambhala Training:The Sacred Path of the Warrior.
This culminated in being accepted to a three month Buddhist Seminary in 1988 in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Thankfully I had an excellent working relationship with the Art Director at Tiffany, Q. Cassetti, and the two photographers Mark Bradley Bealmear and Josh Haskin. They permitted me to take a leave of absence for three months provided I found a replacement. My friend and colleague Peggy Spetsieri from SVA stepped in as assistant so that I would have a job when I returned.
Something unexpected happened at Seminary: I fell in love with a Dutch man. After returning to my job at Tiffany it became clear I needed to follow my heart to Amsterdam to be with my fiancé Rein.
This was a very big deal but I was young, in love and adventurous so I took a leap and moved to Amsterdam sight unseen. Soon after moving to Amsterdam I was admitted to the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten a prestigious graduate art school. The portfolio I made at Tiffany during the weekends paved the way.
I moved to Holland in the middle of Winter in 1989. Dutch winters are very grey! Perhaps that is why I made the shift from black & white to colour photography.
On my first Queen’s Day on April 30th when the whole country parties and celebrates the Queen’s Birthday I found a painted bread box. The Dutch accumulate all their stuff and sell it on Queen’s Day (Or King’s Day if the reigning monarch is a King).
I was in the gestation phase of my process and was collecting things that I was attracted to which turned out to be a big part of my way of working. The paintings on the bread box became the inspiration and the ground for the work ahead. Here lay seeds that have continued until this day: mixing the mediums of painting and still-life photography. The underlying question of what is real versus what is imagined and the relationship between the two is a theme that still moves me.
While attending the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten I produced my first portfolio in color called Ratna. This was also the first time that I titled a series. Ratna is a Sanskrit word which is characterized by the notion of ripe, rich, rotten, autumn, luscious, consuming, earth and full expansion. All these qualities are manifest in this body of work which became my second handmade book with 14 photographs. One of these books which is in an edition of 5 with original handmade cibachrome prints was purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum thanks to Johan Deumens a publisher and distributer of Artist’s Books.
Milk and Honey is the story of the strong bond between a mother and daughter. It is about intimacy and at the same time about the struggle to be independent.
Milk and Honey was the second work I made at the Rijskadademie van beeldende kunsten and is a series of 12 photographs made into a handmade wooden book in an edition of 150 with reproduced photographs. The wooden cover functions as a frame and a stand so that the book can be displayed and lived with.
The original photographs were made in NYC during a visit back home.
When I returned to Amsterdam I worked with them in my studio by projecting the slides onto various surfaces and then rephotographed them. What began as a personal story transformed into a universal one about original love and differentiation.
This book was published and distributed by Johan Deumens and thanks to Johan is in the following collections: The Tate Gallery, London,The Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco and The Getty Center, Santa Monica.
Milk and Honey is still available. If you are interested in purchasing a book please send me an email.
My artist friend Marja from the Rijksakademie was pregnant.
Over a period of nine months I documented her pregnancy while she stood in front of her own art work.
This culminated in a hand made book titled Gravida in an edition of 3.
It is an accordion style book with 16 black and white sepia toned photographs.
The book expands and contracts similar to my friends body.
When open it is a long and narrow landscape 24 x 300 cm. When closed it is 24 x 75 cm.
The Projection of Beauty was ignited by reading The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. The book opened my eyes to the myths of beauty and prompted me to explore beauty in my own way with my own people.
It was a two year project which began with my Grandmother in Florida. The women in the project were friends or family living in The Netherlands or the United States. I photographed and interviewed each woman and then transcribed the text. Then pared it down to its essence. The questions and the answers were then projected onto the back of a friends spine. This book has 7 chapters with 12 photographs per chapter, in total 84 photographs. Each chapter opens up to 1.5 x 1.5 meters and folds up into a box of 35 x 45 cm.
The elements of fire, water, earth, air as well as visual quotes from art history are juxtaposed with the women’s faces and bodies. What I learned is that beauty is subjective and not easy to pin down or summarise into one simple phrase. Beauty is elusive and profound and is a play of perception and confidence.
In October 1994 Ana Camille was born! We called her our bundle of joy and force of nature. A friend of mine asked me while I was pregnant how I plan to join motherhood with art making. I responded very matter of factly that I was going to bring my baby with me to the studio. Ha! Think again….This self portrait with Ana is the first and last time that I brought her with me to the studio. It was made in front of a large 1 x 2 meter copper plate that I oxidised with sulphuric acid and fire at the Rijksakademie.
Gestures Transformed was an important shift in my path as an artist because I started thinking of photographs as being like words in a sentence or beads in a necklace. I picked up fragments through my camera and brought them back to my studio. Then I began to push the medium through polaroid transfers, collage and painting; exploring the surface and edge of the photograph.
“Everything is simply dots of light, luminous but not solid” by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
In the series Padma I return to a thread that began with Ratna. One main difference is I began making my own paintings. This became a liberating and delightful way of working which continues to this day. Painting is a sensual experience. I love getting my hands dirty and connecting with colour and paint.
A classic, handmade portfolio was created for the exhibition of Padma at Galerie Pennings which includes two original photographic works and a poem. This is a limited edition and a collector’s item.
This series began on the beach of Inverness, Nova Scotia while collecting stones with Ana. I remember thinking this is the beginning of a new series. When I returned home to Holland I continued to collect minerals and stones and joined them with my painted landscapes. The objects are removed from their natural environment and are given a new context. Through paying attention to the details around us, inanimate objects have the potential to stop our minds.
“Things have a life of their own it is simply a matter of waking up their souls.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Against a background grid of colour and pattern various objects are placed in which the rigour of form is contrasted with the fluidity of nature. The objects used are translucent such as marbles or delicate such as the disintegrated filigree of leaves. It is an energetic expression of my love for colour and form.
Naked Stills is a series of 14 photographs with seven Diptychs. It is an interplay between two images responding to each other.
My own yoga practice and life inspired this series.The project uses the asanas (postures) to explore yoga from the inside out. The asanas are a vessel; a shape into which the body is poured. Yoga means union; to join and it is this union that underlies the visual exploration in these photographs.The juxtaposition of a still life with a figure, an interplay between the animate and the inanimate. This work expresses the power of surrender, being strong and vulnerable at the same time.
Relics is a series of photographs that sees the sacred in the ordinary and points to the unnamable. The word relic comes from the latin reliquiae, meaning “remains” or “something left behind”. Our response to the sacred might be reverence or silence. We become aware of the majesty in the ordinary, the beauty and the depth that is around us and within us.
Sky Dancer touches on embodied feminine energy. The power of the female body as the link between heaven and earth.
These images are a proclamation of strength and playfulness. They are inviting the sky of openness and spaciousness. An invitation to trust, let go and improvise.
Sky Dancer points to the natural arising of a dance from the inside out.
My process is one of curiosity and passion. I set up the conditions to create by connecting with ‘that’. A fluttering occurs, ‘a what happens if’ state of mind.
I photograph with a sense of abandon. Like falling in love. Following one impulse or feeling of attraction after another.
Then I edit ruthlessly. Following the threads in the work itself. This is a visceral experience. The work says ‘yes’ or ‘no’ inside my belly. I listen and from that a body of work is born.
In working with a pinhole camera there is no lens through which to see.
Experientially it feels like taking my eyes out of my head and placing them in the hands of the camera; a collaboration with the elements and my intuition.
One of the inherent characteristics of photography is it’s relationship and connection with time, the person, the place or the thing. I am interested in freeing the object from itself and working the edge between abstraction, the thing and no thing.
These photographs were made during daily walks in The Enchanted Forest at Land of the Medicine Buddha in Soquel, California.
My way of working has been to bring things from nature into the studio and photograph them in painted environments.
Here I am going into the world with my camera and finding still lives in nature. I am finding my work in unexpected places and becoming a co-creator with the phenomenal world. The practice of painting and photographing is expanding beyond the walls of my studio.
Through the mediums of painting and photography I aim to dissolve the notion of outside and inside, real and imagined. I am interested in spontaneous expression that arises out of playfulness, intuition and determination
No-thingness refers to the non-conceptual essence of objects, colour, texture and form exploring the “no-thingness” of the seemingly objective world.
These photos were made before a storm in North Palm Beach, Florida.