Category Archives: Travel Journal

The Careful Snapshot

Like many people, I am on a summer road trip.

My husband and I our heading back to our former home to see our son, visit friends, do a little sightseeing and attending the opening of “Art Quilt Legacies” in Ft. Collins Colorado.

San Antonio

While on the road, like many people; I  take photographs to post on social media. More importantly I am collecting images to potentially use in future projects.

One of my rules is to take the photograph when something captures my eye. I stop (and tell my husband to stop!). Before taking the photograph I remind myself this is a potential usable image.

My last few landscape quilts have been the product of what I call this “careful snapshot”.

To the left is a photograph I took with my cell phone on a trip to San Antonio last spring. It's my latest quilt.

A careful snapshot is a process that has provided me with a file of really exciting compositions for future projects.

Like most people I have a camera phone full of pictures from various trips, family gatherings, holidays, parties, etc... I download my image files periodically.  These photographs did not become art quilts until I changed my process.

First I am looking for a potential series of images.

Maybe it’s plants, a vista, trees, buildings, interesting graphics, still life, shadows  or water. My process is to find a variations on a theme.  My  first interesting image of the day inspires me to collect 5-8 more similar images.

I include more background than I think I want.

In college I was encouraged to compose with the camera. Of course that was in the days before digital images and photo manipulation software.

Today you can crop, adjust color, light and apply filters all on your phone. By including more background you allow yourself the flexibility to move your focal point or change the format (square, landscape, portrait).  

I don't "fix" the images right away.

Pictures in your camera that are potential projects do not need to be posted to social media. Distance measured in time and place helps artist to see potential.

At the end of the day, the next morning or sometimes when I return home, I flip through my picture file. I delete pictures that are duplicates or images that are obviously poor quality. Then I select my 3-5 to keep.

I send them as an email attachment to myself. By sending images as email I can pick them up of any computer as well as my iPad.

Now I have images that I can work with and start the process that is the first step in making one of my art quilts.

 

Another camera phone picture from the Alamo

Until next time......

Margaret

My “Business” Trip

As a “full time creative person” my business is fueled by ideas.


The Hirshhorn Museum center plaza fountain

The Hirshhorn Museum center plaza fountain

My business requires creative energy. When I travel I spend time looking for new ideas to inspire projects in my home studio.

 

On a recent trip to the east coast  trip I wanted spend several days in favorite museums. My first stop was the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC.   The Hirshhorn is an easy walk from public transportation and sits along the Washington mall. The building itself is a work of art surrounded by sculpture with a cool fountain at it’s center.  The permanent collection is wonderful and there is always an engaging exhibit to explore.

The work of Iranian born photographer and videographer Shirin Neshat is currently on display at the Hirshhorn.

SHIRIN NESHAT_2

Before I entered the museum, I knew nothing about Shirin Nashat and now I am a fan.  “Facing History”is visually, emotionally and politically compelling. Her show was divided into multiple galleries some of which contained large scale beautifully printed photographic images and other galleries showed large video presentations.

Turbulent The films presented were like odd poems or strange stories centered around life in Iran. In one gallery there was dual video called Turbulent of a man singing in Farsi with his audience behind him and in the second scene a women (I believe the artist) sings toward the now empty seats.

From the film Fervor by Shirin Neshat.

From the film Fervor by Shirin Neshat.

Most of videos seemed to be a comment on the tension between the roles of men and women in Iran. In “Fervor” the scene is of a man speaking to a large group divided by gender. The crowd includes men in white western shirts and women covered in a traditional hijab.

My western sensibility views the scene is a picture of the cultural repression of women. If I was a women in this culture would I view the scene as picture of  the expression of deeply committed religious people or as repression?

The photographic work gave me something specific to take home to my own studio. Each of the photo’s included an intimate portrait; a person, a pair of hands, feet, a mother and child. The artists transcribes contemporary poetry with ink over the surface of the image. Sometimes the text is obvious. In other portraits the text is subtle like a layer of drawing on the surface.

Shrin Neshat

The idea that images of the people contain the deeper story of their lives really grabbed me. The scale of these portraits which made the visual statement of a life having immense power and beauty.  Shirin Neshat describes her work as deeply personal exploration of her own personal and social anxieties. It seems to me that her body of work is an exploration of identity.

At work in her studio

At work in her studio

For more information about the artist, check out this video lecture from Berkeley.


 

Paris Rainy Day

Paris Rainy Day

Washington is a wonderful gift to the artist. Galleries and museums are free and in great supply. After the Hirshhorn my husband and I walked across the mall. We ended up in from of the “National Gallery of Art”. Inside we found an exhibit of the impressionist artist Gustave Caillebotte.

I recognized many of the paintings in the exhibit. I have seen many of Caillebotte’s paintings of Paris reproduced as cheap posters and commercial items sold in museum gift shops.  The originals are beautiful and easily understood by a wide audience a window into 19th century Paris.

It was the first painting I saw, as I walked into the gallery; that captured my attention. It was a painting called “The Floor Scrappers”.  The painting was rejected entry in the  1875 Salon de Paris because of it’s common subject matter. The “Floor Scrappers” has a photographic quality and the craftsmanship is superb.

The Floor Scrapers 1875

The Floor Scrapers
1875

 

While I walked the gallery and I read Caillebotte’s biography. He was a rich man who ended up supporting the impressionist art community. He sold very few of his own paintings because he had no need to support himself through his art. He was not held hostage by money or a desire for fame. He painted the food he saw in local shops and the new architecture of Paris. His eye did not reimagine what he saw. Like a camera, his painting was vehicle to document his life.


My  three big ideas:
1. Dig through my own history for ideas (family photo’s, stories, traditions, history)
2. Explore the culture  I live in (life in my community, how do I live, eat, worship, what does my community value)
3. Be authentic (what interests me, how do I view the world, my inner life)

Can’t wait to get back into the studio!

Until Next Time

Margaret

 

I could be writing this on a beach

Map of Mexico I have Just returned from a trip to Manzanillo Mexico on with a great friend who is just a year away from retirement . It was her spring break and my chance to get in a little beach time.

Manzanillo is a beautiful town on the Pacific coast between Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco. The largest part of the economy is the Port of Manzanillo which is a supply hub for Mexico City.   Its warm temperatures and beautiful beaches on the inland bays attract tourists, seasonal residents, regional visitors and transplants.

image found on http://traveltalesoflife.com/

image found on http://traveltalesoflife.com/

After a wonderful week I discovered there is more to this place than great weather and scenic views.

The goal of this trip to was to relax and enjoy this pretty place.  There was not a list of must see sites or planned activities. Enjoying the company of good friends, taking strolls on a beach and enjoying a good meal was the agenda.

manzanillo condo collage We stayed in a condo a few minutes walk from the beach. The walkway to our building was marked with a bougainvillea archway and surrounded by lush well kept gardens. Our pool included by a “palapa” with a thatched roof.  The streets and pathways were a local cobble stone. It could not have been more relaxing.

Minutes after we arrived  we were welcomed by neighbors. These snowbirds stay from three to six months.  Everyone we met was so welcoming. I was surprised to find people came down with their pets, volunteered in the local community, organized a reading room, painted together and participated in a number of sports. I met people who had been living in Manzanillo for 30 years; some full time. It was a real community – not just a vacation spot.

One of the perks of our trip was a guest membership to the beach club.  We walked to club each morning and used it as basecamp. The restaurant’s food was delicious and healthy.  As guest members we could enjoy day by the club pool on a lounge chair or have the  staff set up an umbrella, table and chairs right on the beach.

In a matter of 2 days  we felt like locals. The day could start with a walk along the beach or a short hike on a country road.  Swimming in the warm water and enjoying  the waves was mandatory. Any bar along the beach would set up a table in the sand so you could sip a cocktail and gaze out to the sea as the sun went down.

Many establishments would take dollars and make change in pesos’s thus making a trip to bank not necessary. It didn’t take long to figure out that a drink (beer, juice soda) including a tip was 50 pesos.  Breakfast and lunch with a tip were 100 pesos and an elegant dinner with wine was under 300 pesos. The exchange rate is  between 12-15 pesos to 1 dollar, making 100 pesos equal to about $7.

Manzanillo collage  

At the end of our week I was greeting people with hola, chatting about the arrival of local restaurant managers second child, learned how to fly to other cities in Mexico and take the first class bus to Manzanillo for a fraction of the cost I had spend on a direct flight. Walking on the beach I knew the local dogs. As I left, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to return.

In a previous post about a trip to New Orleans I included a quote “The tourist sees what he has come to see. The traveller see’s what  he see’s” .  My best trips our not about agenda’s their about the unexpected experience.

Travel: Street photography in New Orleans

It’s been a long time since I traveled with a “real camera”. Normally I use my phone or a small point and shoot. So on my recent trip to New Orleans it felt like a new experience to carry my camera around the city and photograph what ever caught my eye.

(To be totally honest, I find travel photography a little boring.  After the first 20 pictures of someone's trip I am likely to nod off.....)
Street in French Quarter

Street in French Quarter

On this trip I took my  just purchased a Canon Rebel. Initially I bought the Canon  to photograph artwork.

When I take a camera on the road, I am just as likely to photograph pelling paint as I am to take a picture of my husband in front of some famous monument. I put the strap around my my neck and periodically look through the viewfinder  for interesting “stuff”.

I don’t try to make a  well planned record of my trip.

I just enjoy collecting images.

In the historic Garden District

In the historic Garden District

When I got home from my trip I downloaded  everything from my morning coffee to a snapshot of the fence outside one of author Anne Rice’s home.  I found pictures of ivy on a brick wall and a photo of an upside down bike parked along a street, plates of food, flowers, beautiful homes and  an amazing sculpture found at city park. It was an eclectic mix. NOLA collage

 

As I sorted through these pictures, I grabbed a couple of my books on photography. I have several photographic reference books,  including college textbooks, portfolios of specific artists, coffee table books and histories of photography. In this pile I found a small book on Eugene Atget.

image credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Atget

image credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Atget

Atget is the photographer who I would emulate if I had the dedication and talent. He is pioneer of street photography.  A street photographer is an artist who wanders and records a place. A recent example is the newly discovered Vivian Maier.  A famous example is Garry Winogrand. There is a strong tradition of photographers who look deeply into the place that surrounds them.

Atget’s photographic career was his second act. He worked from many years as a travelling actor. Photography became his profession later in life after giving up acting .  A great part of his income came from documenting a city the city he loved: Paris.

Although he was not fully appreciated as an artist until after his death, he was able to make a good living by documenting old buildings in Paris. He sold images to artists, museums and libraries. He sold  a portfolio of his work in the 1920’s and this allowed him the financial freedom to pursue his own photographic interests.

My favorite photographs taken by Atget, are the images of shop windows filled with goods, empty streets, and parks. To me Atget is saying:

“The city itself is the art object. A thing of beauty. Eternal.” 

In the collection of the George Eastman House http://www.geh.org/fm/ATGET/HTMLSRC/m197601180010_ful.html

In the collection of the George Eastman House http://www.geh.org/fm/ATGET/HTMLSRC/m197601180010_ful.html

 Find this image at http://www.urban-photography-art.com/eugene-atget.html

Find this image at http://www.urban-photography-art.com/eugene-atget.html

After downloading some 500 pictures from my camera (and no I do not recommend taking that many pictures without downloading them in smaller increments!) I noticed I have a quite a few in the Atget style. Here are examples:

 My photos are on the right.

Tree roots  roots collage

Shop Window

shop window collage

Empty Street

Street collage

I know I can take a picture. I also know I am not a photographic artist and that’s ok. I

The Eat Drink and be Merry Culture: New Orleans

 

Travel Quote My husband and I have always wanted to travel to New Orleans. Last week we finally made it to this interesting city.

The timing of trip was just after Mardi Gras was over, but we were surprised to find the city was still full of people fully embracing the eat drink and be merry “mardi gras” culture. .

I love to travel without an agenda. My goal is find a new perspective which enriches my life when I return home. 

Bourbon Street We spent our first night in New Orleans wandering around the french quarter.We grabbed a map at the desk and headed down Royal Street and onto Bourbon in the heart of the bar scene. The street was loud, crowded and music poured out from every corner.

Near our hotel we found quieter neighborhood establishments where we could sit and chat with locals. That first night we had a nightcap at a small corner bar where middle aged and older patrons showed me pictures of their dogs. One lady even had her terrier seated at her table.

found is image on a YELP review about Harry's Corner Bar

found is image on a YELP review about Harry’s Corner Bar

 (Apparently dogs are regular customers.)

On Chartres Street

On Chartres Street

In the coming days we moved across the city from the waterfront to the suburban Garden District and up to city park.  Everywhere and at any time there were people drinking along the street. Bars have open windows where people can line up to get a cocktail or beer.

hurricane

Most of the time we walked or took a trolley. Along the way we were overwhelmed by the number a street people. Some old, some very young and a mix of lost souls. They filled up the entries of buildings along Bourbon street  right next to upscale hotels and antique shops. They filled the trolley shelters. Many had a can or sign asking for money. Virtually all were drunk.

Trolley Stop taken over by street people

Trolley Stop taken over by street people

Travel provides one with the opportunity to compare your life, in your culture and in your environment with something very different. One thing that  I am thinking about after this trip, is the role of alcohol in my own community.

I live surrounded by retired people who seem to have it all and I  have found that alcohol does play a  more dominant role for many of those people.   You find people enjoying a drink as the play a round of golf. At events from lawn mower races to ATV events there is always a line at the bar.   Many of us celebrate sunset with wine on the patio. Let’s face it, you don’t have to get up to go to work and many of have a drink near enough to home to walk.  So why not?

New York Times article about drinking issues in retirement pointed out some pitfalls with alcohol consumption after one stops working.  The message is mixed. The number heavy drinkers over 60 is less than 5% according to 2002 survey, but the number of retired binge drinkers increases with retirement. For older people alcohol misuse is more of a problem than alcoholism.

Many people who have retired may not realize how much more they are drinking because the social consequences are minimal.  As we get older  the effects of alcohol are amplified and medications can increase those effects.  Depression combined with alcohol consumption is another health issue that is under reported.

When my Dad retired our family moved from our home in Hawaii to the mainland to reduce costs. Both my sister and I were in high school.  While I was still at home my Dad slipped into depression. He was socially isolated and  fell quickly into a daily drinking ritual which only made his depression worse.  I would describe my Dad as a late-onset alcoholic.  It was sad to watch, but like all things in life, that experience is of great value now that I too am retired.

I as I look at the role of alcohol in  my own life and my social life; I want to remain aware of the rewards of that glass of wine and of the temptation to make that one glass into a bottle. If I have to have a nightcap or two to get to sleep, then maybe being more active during the day is a better solution. It is just as easy to have a glass or cranberry juice in your hand to enjoy a sunset!

Although I don’t think I will be sleeping on Bourbon Street anytime soon, I certainly want to remain sober enough to enjoy this time in my life!