Saturday, March 30, 2019

Chapter 1: The Living, Rejoicing Colors

On a recent trip to the Grand Canyon I was convinced that my camera and I would be able to capture much of its true essence. After all, I had prepared well in advance by devouring all sorts of advice for capturing the Canyon by camera.  The magnitude of my error in this regard was only slightly exceeded by the immensity, grandeur and awe-inspiring beauty of this majestic gash through geological strata, history and time. My not insignificant abilities were completely overwhelmed.

Upon returning home and brooding about the absence of something ‘felt’ at the Canyon that did not fully translate into my photographs I discovered a salve for my bruised ego in a passage written by the great naturalist John Muir in 1902:
‘But it is impossible to conceive what the canyon is, or what impression it makes, from descriptions or pictures, however good.’
In the hopes that pictures and descriptions together can overcome the individual shortcomings of either, especially when the descriptions are Muir’s own, I’ve decided to prepare a series of blog posts combining my images with passages from Muir’s 1902 ‘The Grand Canyon of the Colorado”.  I am hopeful that Muir’s power of observation and mastery of words will compensate for my many deficiencies fully aware that his brilliance will also serve to make my shortcomings even more glaring.

So here is Chapter 1 - The Living, Rejoicing Colors
“All the canyon rock-beds are lavishly painted, except a few neutral bars and the granite notch at the bottom occupied by the river, which makes but little sign.  It is a vast wilderness of rocks in a sea of light, colored and glowing like oak and maple woods in autumn, when the sun-gold is richest.... But the COLORS, the living, rejoicing COLORS, chanting morning and evening in chorus to heaven! Whose brush or pencil, however lovingly inspired, can give us these?”                          John Muir 
I’ll hope you’ll join me for Chapter 2 - The Proudest Temples and Palaces - coming next week.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Happy 90th Frank Owen Goldberg

Stata Building, MIT, Boston, MA

One week ago today, on February 28, Frank Owen Goldberg celebrated his 90th birthday.

"Who the hell is Frank Goldberg?"  you might well ask.  It could be that you know him better by his adopted name - Frank Gehry - the renowned Canadian-American architect.  Ostensibly the best known architect of our time, Gehry's name is synonymous with the unorthodox - some would say the outrageous - materials, shapes and forms used in his building designs.

Born on February 28, 1929 Gehry graduated from USC and the Harvard Graduate School of Design before embarking on what would become a historic but wildly controversial career as an architect.  He emerged as a prominent figure in the Deconstructivist movement which eschewed the prevailing principle that form must always follow function - or even be related to it some way.  According to ArchDaily, the architectural weblog, Gehry expresses this aesthetic "in titanium-clad undulating envelopes, perplexing volumes and aesthetically discordant detailing."

Gehry's first brush with fame came after he remodeled his Santa Monica residence, shrouding the original bungalow in chain link, plywood and glass geometric forms.  This early unorthodoxy foreshadowed the unconventional use of materials and shapes that would become the hallmark of his later building style.  The remodeling effort was met with cheers ... and jeers.

This early bipolar reaction to his remodeled home also foreshadowed his simultaneous ascension to the top of critic's 'Best" and "Worst" Architect lists.  You see, in addition to all the accolades, his work has also been criticized as being bizarre, impractical, overly costly, inefficient, wasteful of resources and functionally flawed.

As a self-proclaimed 'deconstructivist' architectural photographer interested in capturing and promoting artistic forms in the built environment without consideration for how they might relate to function, Gehry's work has had a strong appeal for me.  I have had the opportunity to photograph many of Gehry's buildings and will always seek opportunities to photograph more.  But it is not his architecture that I honor by commemorating his 90th birthday.  I am not qualified to comment other than to say what I like.

I celebrate his vision, his commitment to his art and to his tenacity in the face of criticism. That's something I struggle with.

In awarding Gehry the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1989 the jury commented that Gehry is
"Always open to experimentation, he has as well a sureness and maturity that resists, in the same way that Picasso did, being bound either by critical acceptance or his successes." 
Thanks for the inspiration.

In celebration I offer a collection of some my photos of Gehry's iconic architecture, including the Stata Building on the MIT campus (top), my most critically acclaimed photograph.

In you are interested in learning more about Gehry's work I've included this link to a slideshow of 31 of his buildings recently published in Architectural Digest.

Weisman Museum, University of Minnesota
Weisman Museum, University of Minnesota
Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle, WA
The Dancing Building, Prague, Czech Republic
Beekman Tower, 8 Spruce St., NYC
DZ Bank, Berlin, Germany
Detail - Jay Pritzker Pavillion, Chicago, IL

Monday, March 4, 2019

Echoes of the Music of the Ainur

My newest exhibit - "Echoes of the Music of the Ainur" - is now on display through the end of April at the UW-Madison Fluno Center. I've included a couple of images from the collection in this post along with the exhibit description.  Stop by and view all 34 images when you get the chance. Thanks!

Echoes of the Music of the Ainur

'It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives the echo of the music of the Ainur more than any other substance that is in this Earth.'     J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion
In Tolkien's mythical masterpiece "The Silmarillion", the 'Music of the Ainur' refers to the great song composed by the Ainur or Holy Ones; immortal spirits existing before the dawn of Creation. At first harmonious, the composition of the Great Song soon devolved into two themes that
'were utterly at variance.'
'The one was deep and wide and beautiful, but slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow, from which its beauty chiefly came.' 
'The one was deep and wide and beautiful'
 'The other ... was loud and vain, and endlessly repeated... And it essayed to drown the other music by the violence of its voice.' 

'The other ... was loud and vain ... it essayed to
drown the other music by the violence of its voice.'

It is from this epic score with its opposing themes that the Universe was created.  And remnants of these opposing themes can still be heard in the ancient voices of water - 'The Echoes of the Music of the Ainur.'

When I photographed the images in this exhibit I heard and was inspired by the 'echoes' resident in the water before me. The images in the exhibit are pictorial verses highlighting the two opposing themes interwoven into the Great Song of creation.  Although less obvious than the visible elements depicted in each photograph, the echoes were also captured - if only figuratively.  From the roar of waterfalls, thunder of crashing surf, the delicate rhythms of waves gently lapping on the side of a boat or the peaceful silence of a calm lake at dawn, the echoes exist just below the surface.

So while viewing the images take a moment and "listen" for the echoes of the two themes, for each is
'part of the whole and tributary to its glory.'