I’m in a very happy place tonight. And I’m feeling something I haven’t felt in about five years. It’s a feeling of putting a part of me out there that means more to me than anything else that I do. When I make photographs I always say I make them for myself- I make what pleases me. That is true today and hopefully will always be true.
There is another part of making a photograph that I enjoy and that is sharing it with the world out there. It’s easy now to put images on a website that can be viewed instantly all over the world. That is very exciting. But on a more intimate and much more rewarding level, I really enjoy hanging my work in a gallery for people to view in a more personal manner.
It’s not that I hope everyone likes my work because I really don’t want that. If I create something everyone likes that probably means I made something a little too ordinary. No, if some people don’t get it, then that usually means I’m on to something.
But you can only really experience that kind of a response in a gallery setting. I can’t really see the reaction of someone in Australia looking at my work on the web. However, I can be a fly on the wall off in the corner of a gallery quietly watching from across the room as someone reacts to my photography. It’s a very powerful event to me.
I once saw a woman walking through a group show I was in, pausing at the various art from the other artists showing with me. Then she turned the corner to face my wall and I heard this very audible sigh. It was actually more like “ohhhhhh.” But it was clearly involuntary on her part. It was amazing. One of my photographs caused her to react in a way that apparently was very moving to her. I will never forget that as long as I live. I’m so lucky to have witnessed it. I walked out of the room to give her time after that. It would have been impolite to intrude on her moment any more I think.
So why all this talk about galleries? Well tonight after five years of not exhibiting my work in public, I brought a couple of my portfolios in to a great gallery here in Chicago called Echo Gallery. It’s run by two amazing people, Derek and Veronika, who couldn’t be any nicer or more welcoming. We’ve been joking, a little more pointedly lately, how come I haven’t brought my book in to show them to be a part of their gallery for… well five years now. Every time I see them they always say, “Where in the world have you been? So when are you going to bring you book in?”
Even tonight I got the usual, “Well look who finally showed up again,” from both of them! And rightly so. I think before I went out to seek a gallery to show my work again, I wanted to make sure I was in a creative space both literally and figuratively. It’s not that I haven’t been shooting the last five years because I have. But I remember the last time I exhibited I was racing to meet the deadlines of the show and getting all my work framed and delivered and I never really felt like I put my best foot forward because I simply wasn’t organized. I wasn’t working in a physical space at home that I had enough room to lay everything out and properly prepare for the show.
So I told myself I wouldn’t exhibit again until I fixed that. And now I have. I’m in a beautiful new space that I have room to create and organize and I don’t have to keep moving projects from one pile to the next because I’m trying to do too much in a tiny little area. I finally feel like I have room to breathe.
So my friend Laura and I went to Echo tonight. After giving me the well deserved shit I had earned for being such a stranger, he welcomed us in and we had a great time catching up with him and Veronika and all the other artists there. Ken Keirns is one of those great artists who lets his work do the talking. He is such a soft spoken warm man who quietly makes really tremendous art. Art that’s smart too. I’ve always loved his work and it was great to see him again.
I also bumped into Richard Cornborg, who has now retired from driving his bulldozer and now paints full time. Good for him. It was good to see the ’05 on his work in the gallery. Always good to see fresh work from artists I know.
Since I had spent so much of my day putting the final touches on my new portfolio today, printing out the last few new images for it, I really forgot to eat anything more than an orange all day, I was running out of gas. So since Derek invited us to a little after hours party after the gallery closed Laura and I decided we’d better get me something to eat before I fell over. We grabbed a bite at Cleo’s down the street and then headed back to the party.
And it was there that Derek and Veronika finally got a chance to sit down and look at my books. It was a very humbling and wonderful experience. They see a lot of art and they really said some nice things about mine. I felt very warm and excited. I think it has been seven or eight years since I showed a book to a gallery. It felt very good to do it again.
This is one of the images in my new book. It’s B&W film but sometimes I scan my B&W negatives in color because the grey film sometimes makes the scanner think it’s a color negative and the image is a little golden or sepia or in this case, orange. But it’s B&W film all the same. I made this image last year, but I’ve never shown it to anyone. So it looks like I’ll finally be showing again in public. We still have to work out the dates, but I imagine it will be some time in the fall or early winter. Very exciting. I’m going to go to sleep tonight with a big smile on my face.