DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2013/02/08

Juxtaposition

Filed under: Photography: Signs and Displays — Tags: , , , — fred @ 00:10
Squint, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Squint, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt 

André Breton, the poet and founder of the original Surrealist movement, conceived of an aesthetic of “convulsive beauty” founded on sensory echoes and ironies, and random conjunctions of things that become evocative in the mind.  As an example of the latter he offered a famous line from the proto-surrealist 19th century writer Isidore Ducasse, AKA Comte de Lautréamont: “Beautiful as the encounter of a sewing machine with an umbrella on a dissection table.”  There is a terrifying randomness about the world, but the mind with which we sense this randomness is a powerful generator of meaning or significance, a machine for recognizing patterns and extrapolating them into grand intuitions of unity or into destructive paranoid delusions.

This post is a collection of photographs of evocative random juxtapositions.

Planter and Racket, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Planter and Racket, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

The sculptural form of objects may be revealed when they come into relation with other objects.

Red Glove, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Red Glove, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Did you hear that the elusive giant squid has finally been captured on video?

Chelsea Gallery, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Chelsea Gallery, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

A person is always part of a scene, defined by that scene.

Chef, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Chef, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

The contemporary scene is replete with images of desire, but such images always exist in relation to a down and dirty real world.

Shoes, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Shoes, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

In our fantasy, we soar like nature.

Dance, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Dance, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

We are colorful and emotional, in a world of stone and steel.

Tiers, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Tiers, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

We make images to express ourselves.  These images are subject to the changing weather of the world, as are we.

Eye of the Storm, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Eye of the Storm, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt 

Our monsters and our goddesses loom always over our chaotic streets.

Hannibal, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Hannibal, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

23, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt

23, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt

Departure, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Departure, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Our images of frenzy and rage loom over our calm streets.

Eras, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Eras, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Bar Pizza, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Bar Pizza, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Two Worlds, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Two Worlds, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

We desire exuberance and extravagance, but the world we create is extravagant mainly in its wastefulness.

Foofy Dogs, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Foofy Dogs, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Route, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Route, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Can the magnificence of nature be distilled in a material object?

Ansel Adams at 100, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Ansel Adams at 100, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Can desire be rendered in glowing pixels?

T Loc, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

T Loc, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Can an image endow righteousness with glamour?  (The ad on the left side of this phone shelter is for the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie film Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  The ad on the right promotes a Billy Graham evangelical revival tour.)

Omission, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Omission, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Can eros and thanatos be printed up and pasted on the wall, to win our attention?

Hottie and Monster, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Hottie and Monster, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Can I seduce you with extravagance?  Do you like it artificial, or natural?

Hair and Trunk, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Hair and Trunk, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Do you like clarity, or mystery?

Mind & Spirit, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Mind & Spirit, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Everything we can construct reflects everything that constitutes its environment.

Urban Hair, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Urban Hair, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Everything we can envision is distilled out of what we already know.

Mind's Eye, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Mind’s Eye, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

We love love and pleasure, and we love rage and destruction.

Rapture, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Rapture, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Power is the ultimate fantasy.  Decay is the ultimate reality.

Marriage with Bullets, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Marriage with Bullets, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Fix the Problems, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Fix the Problems, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Everything that has an opposite exists only in relation to its opposite.  There is no life without death, and vice versa.  They are two surfaces of a membrane.

Closed-Nepo, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Closed-Nepo, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Our world is nothing but numbers, and nothing but aliveness.

171-Five, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

171-Five, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

2012/11/21

Fluidity

Liquid Topology, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt

Here in the States we’re celebrating Thanksgiving, a time to honor family, food and fellowship, and to contemplate gratitude.  Superstorm Sandy recently reminded those of us who live on America’s Mid-Atlantic coast of the destructive potential of water, but as I think of what I have to be grateful for, I am thinking of the water of life, the cyclical element that falls and flows, permeates and dissolves, irrigates and cleanses, rises and expands.  Water is the blood of the living Earth.  We New Yorkers are lucky to have plenty of rain that keeps our vegetation lush.  We have a great water system with remarkably clean tap water from upstate reservoirs.  In recent decades sewage treatment has made our coastal waters much cleaner than they used to be.  We need to love and protect our precious water!

My most basic artistic motivation is just to revel in the beauty that is all around us, and to share my perceptions with others, “Look, isn’t this amazing?”  I’m sure the sophisticates of the Art World find it as silly as the raptures of the “double rainbow” guy, but this way of looking at the world is not sentimental or delusional.   The world is a complex phenomenon of interacting forces, and the harmonies and tensions that emerge therefrom are myriad.  Aesthetic experience is fundamental to insight in science, philosophy, and the arts.

I’ve made a couple of posts of my photographs of fire (here and here), and one of my commenters, Heart_in_Water, suggested I do a post on water, the dynamic flow that complements fire in the ancient conception of elemental forces.  Herewith, a collection of my water shots.

People are instinctively attracted to water, seek it out and gather in its cooling presence.  Here’s a scene I came upon in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, looking down from the top of a stream and waterfall.  A painter had set up an easel to make a study of the landscape, and a family took turns posing on the rocks and taking pictures of each other with their phones.  In the background you can see my friend Peter bending over to take off his shoes, compelled to dance in the stream.

Painter and Photographers, Prospect Park, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Even water in a city gutter can provide a glimpse of visual magic.  This standing water becomes a gap opening into a looking-glass city beneath the streets.

View of the Undercity, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

The mirrorlike quality of still water is often used architecturally for this quality of opening up space.  Henry Moore’s monumental abstract bronze at Lincoln Center expands to twice its size in a reflecting pool.

Reclining Figure, 1965 sculpture by Henry Moore at Lincoln Center, 2012 photo by Fred Hatt

Emerald Mirror, Prospect Park, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Even still water moves on its surface.  The bronze angel does not move, but the reflected angel quivers in the wind like the leaves of a tree.

Angel of the Turbulent Surface (Angel of the Waters, 1868 sculpture by Emma Stebbins, at Bethesda Fountain, Central Park), 2008 photo by Fred Hatt

Macy’s in a Puddle, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Taxi’s Wake, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

At night, reflected light does its shimmery shimmy on the surface of water.

Gold Under the Bridge, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

Water on a Tar Roof, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

The multiple image below shows the computer-controlled dancing water jets at the Brooklyn Museum, created by WET Design.  You can read this set from the bottom up:  the lowest image shows the initial burst of the water jets, the second picture shows them shooting high, and the higher images show the columns of water aloft as gravity begins to pull the droplets apart and back to earth.

Brooklyn Museum Fountain, 2006, photos by Fred Hatt

These fountains, with their unpredictable changing patterns, induce states of calm bliss in some who watch them, and screaming excitement in the children.

Fountain Joy, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

The city is full of more traditional fountains, all of which celebrate the thrilling movements and sounds of water flying through the air and splashing down on itself.

City Hall Park Fountain, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Ring of Rain, Ring of Flowers, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Fragmenting Sprays, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

As with fire, the shutter speed makes all the difference in photographing moving water.  A fast shutter speed freezes the water as clusters of individual droplets, while a slower shutter speed allows the movement to blur into streaks.  Sometimes a still photo of water looks like a sinuous sculpture in glass.

Belt of Water, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Fountain Dome, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Stairway Cascade, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Liquid Chandelier, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Dancing Waters, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Moving water has a prismatic quality – literally in the case of rainbows created by light shining through mists of droplets.  (Click this link for a good explanation of rainbows, moonbows, sundogs, and other variations on the phenomenon.)

Rainbow in Falling water, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Water refracts and reflects the light and object colors in its surroundings.  Water reflections weave together the colors of the environment without muddying the hues.

Wet Windshield, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Low Sun on the River, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

The texture of the water’s surface varies according to the movement of the water itself and of the air moving over it.  The surface of rapidly moving water is dense with perturbation, while stiller water warps light in a more rubbery, tremulous fashion.

Rushing Stream, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Rain on Pond, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Fluidity, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

White Splash on Green, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

I’ve never been able to get good photos of the ocean or surf on the beach.  For me, those pictures never quite capture the immensity and power of the breathing sea.  Smaller bodies of water, ponds and streams and fountains and puddles, share with me and my camera a vision of Nature as master painter.

Water’s Edge, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Ducks’ Domain, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This Summer one of my favorite and often-visited bodies of water, the Prospect Park Lake in Brooklyn, was almost completely overtaken by invasive ferns and algae.  Apparently our extremely mild last winter played a part in this opaque bloom.  Water is vulnerable!

Carpet of Algae, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

We are creatures of the Watery Planet.  Let us celebrate, respect, and protect the water of life.

Reflecting Pool, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

 

2012/08/29

Playing with Color

Filed under: Color — Tags: , , , , — fred @ 01:15

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, grid of various color manipulations

The technological capture and reproduction of images dethroned the artist as magical image maker and robbed all pictures of their aura of rarity and preciousness, leaving us drawers and painters with the same status as those oddballs who insist on writing novels in longhand or doing all calculations with a slide rule.  On the other hand, analog and digital imaging technology is a most amazing box of educational toys for learning about aspects of perception and light.  I’ve had a long-running obsession to understand as much as I can about how these technologies work, from chemical color film to digital image processing, and studying and playing with these things has deeply informed the way I approach observational drawing and painting.  In this post I’ll share some samples of such play and how I learn from it.  I will try to make this both fun and informative – if I’m explaining stuff you already know, feel free to skim through.

As you probably recall from science class, Isaac Newton demonstrated that white light is a combination of all colors of light, and that the individual wavelengths of light appear to the eye as the different colors of the spectrum or rainbow.  Red is at the long-wavelength end of the spectrum, and as the wavelengths get shorter, the color transitions to orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue and violet.  Later experimenters discovered that a wide range of colors could be reproduced by combining just three colors of light, one representing the long (red) wavelengths, one the middle (green) wavelengths, and one the short (blue) wavelengths.  The illustration below represents the overlapping beams from spotlights of these three colors.  Where all three overlap, the light is white.  Where red and green overlap, we get yellow.  Blue and green make cyan (which you might call turquoise, aqua, or teal), and red and blue make magenta (or fuschia, reddish purple).  With red plus green, but more red than green, you have orange, and so on.  This kind of color process is called RGB, for the red, green and blue lights that are used.

Additive (RGB) Color Mixing, digital illustration by Fred Hatt

This way of making colors by combining three colors of light in varying ratios is called additive color mixing.  It’s the basis of color television, cathode ray tube screens, liquid crystal displays, video projectors, and the monitor on your smartphone.  Here’s a close-up of an LCD computer monitor.  A screen has thousands or millions of pixels (short for picture elements), and each pixel has a red, a green, and a blue element.  A digital picture is nothing but a series of numbers representing the brightness levels of each of the three colors for every one of these pixels in a grid.

LCD monitor, magnified to show red, green and blue pixel array, photo by Daniel Rutter

The photo below contains 305, 400 pixels, each one defined by levels of red, green and blue light specified by numbers from zero to sixty-four.  This is a small version – the original camera photo had over ten million pixels.

Photographic self-portrait, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt

With a digital picture it is easy to separate the three component colors as “channels”.  If we take just the levels for the red component of each pixel and render those as a monochrome image, we get the result below.  The skin looks light, almost luminous.  Taking a photo with black and white film through a red filter would give a very similar effect.  Most of the variations in skin tone are variations of redness, so when red is all you can see the differences are minimized.

Photographic self-portrait, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt, red channel

Doing the same with the green channel gives a pretty objective black-and-white rendering of the original photograph.  Because the green wavelengths are in the middle, or average, of the spectrum, they’re pretty close to the average lightness levels, without distortions in tone.  The red channel made me look youthful and glowing, but the green channel shows my age a bit more objectively.

Photographic self-portrait, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt, green channel

The blue channel is similar but the effect is even harsher.  The skin looks darker and blemishes and discolorations of the skin are more pronounced.  Some of the early black-and-white photography processes, including the film used for early silent movies, were sensitive only to the blue end of the spectrum, so they tended to render skin as dark and blotchy, necessitating the use of white make-up on the actors.

With this portrait photo, the red channel is strikingly different from the green and blue channels, which are more like each other.  If I had used a landscape photograph for the demonstration, the blue channel would be the one that stood out, with black foliage and a stark white sky, while the red and green channels would be more alike.

Photographic self-portrait, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt, blue channel

There’s another kind of color reproduction, called subtractive color mixing.  This is used in printing and in photographic prints or slides, where you start with a white ground (all wavelengths) and filter or absorb wavelengths selectively using dyes or pigments.  Transparent paint, such as watercolor, is essentially a subtractive color mixing technique.  The standard colors used in subtractive color processes are cyan (slightly greenish blue), magenta (purplish red) and yellow.  As you can see from the illustration below, mixing all three colors doesn’t give a perfect black, so a fourth layer of black ink is added in four color process printing.  This kind of color process is called CMYK, for cyan, magenta, yellow, and “key” (black).  Note that the subtractive process uses as its basic colors the same colors that are the combined colors in the additive process, and that the combined colors in the subtractive process (the overlapping areas below) are very similar to the basic colors in the additive process.

Subtractive (CMY) Color Mixing, digital illustration by Fred Hatt

Here’s an enlarged illustration of an image printed in a CMYK process.  Where the RGB process varies the brightness of the colored elements, the subtractive process varies the size of the colored dots.  In both types of image, you’re only seeing three colors, but they blend in the eye to create the illusion of a full range of colors.

Image printed in four-color process, with detail showing halftone dots

The image below is from “Butterflies and Flowers”, a performance by Claire Elizabeth Barratt and her Cilla Vee Life Arts company (with whom I have occasionally collaborated) at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx in 2004.  I chose this image to play with because it has such a range of vivid colors.

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

To prepare this photo for color printing we would make “color separations“, the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black layers that would be successively superimposed to make the full color image.  Here is the cyan layer, followed by a version of the image with the other three layers (magenta, yellow, and black, without the cyan.  Notice how the red and yellow colors both look white in the cyan image, and how different the faces look in the different colors.

The subtractive process uses inks to absorb certain colors of light.  Cyan ink absorbs red light, and reflects blue and green light, so the cyan layer of the CMYK image is equivalent to the red channel of the RGB image, and shows a similar smoothing of skin tones.  The magenta layer in CMYK corresponds to the green channel in RGB, and yellow in CMYK corresponds to blue in RGB.

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, cyan channel

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, minus cyan channel

I’ll do the same thing with the other layers, showing each single-ink layer followed by the full image minus that color.  Here’s magenta and minus-magenta.

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, magenta channel

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, minus magenta channel

You’ll notice that the “minus one color versions” look like different types of faded images.  Old motion picture film often loses its cyan layer, giving a reddish image like the “minus cyan” example three images up.  Color inkjet prints that have been displayed in the sun often lose their magenta layer, leaving a greenish image like the one immediately above.  Next, yellow and minus-yellow:

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, yellow channel

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, minus yellow channel

The black layer of a CMYK print is like a very light black and white version of the image.  The lighter values will be distinguished by the colored inks, so the only place the black ink is needed is where the color mix doesn’t give enough contrast, in the darkest areas.

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, black channel

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, minus black channel

The CMY image without the black has the full range of colors but lacks contrast.  It lacks a full range of lightness or luminance.

Aside from additive (RGB) and subtractive (CMYK) processes, there’s another way of digitally specifying the values of pixels using a different combination of variables.  “Lab” color does not define color by the levels of light or pigment used to reproduce the color, though it still uses three dimensions.  “Lab” isn’t short for “laboratory” – L (lightness), a, and b are the names of those three dimensions. The three scales are actually based on the way human color perception works in the brain.

The human eye has three different kinds of cones, or color-sensitive receptors, but interestingly, the peak spectral sensitivities of the cones do not correspond to red, green, and blue, but to something more like yellow-orange, yellow-green and blue.  The visual cortex of the brain takes the input from these three sets of cones, and from the low-light sensitive rod cells, and, by comparing and contrasting, analyzes colors according to their variable positions on three scales: dark to light, reddish to greenish, and yellowish to bluish.  That’s the basis of the Lab color model.  It uses the numbers to define colors along these three polarities.  In practice, the Lab color model is mostly used as an intermediary, to translate between additive and subtractive modes, but it’s a fascinating system to explore because it is such a good simulation of how the human visual system processes color.

When we translate our experimental image into the Lab color space, we can selectively “flatten” the channels, showing the image with one variable removed.  Here’s the image with all variations in the lightness channel eliminated.  All the color differences are here, but without differences in dark and light.  It’s like the low-contrast CMY minus K version of the image (above), but instead of low-contrast, here we have absolutely no contrast in values, only in hue.

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, “L “channel flat

Now let’s restore the lightness channel to its full range and flatten the “a” (red/green) channel.  The resulting image  is very similar to simulations of the vision of people with complete red/green color-blindness.  Deuteranopia or Protanopia are the most common forms of color-blindness, and also similar to the way dogs and cats see color.  They have only two types of color-sensitive cones, so they can distinguish blue colors, but red and green colors all look more or less the same.  Note that the red flowers here completely blend in with the green foliage background.  There is speculation that the ability to distinguish red from green was evolutionarily advantageous because it helped locate fruit!

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, “a” channel flat

If we flatten the “b” (yellow/blue) channel, we can see the contrast between reds and greens but not between yellows and blues.  Tritanopia, another, very rare, form of color-blindness, looks like this (below).  For the person with normal color perception, the version below showing red/green distinctions is probably more pleasing than the version above that shows yellow-blue distinctions.  The lightness scale can often stand in for the yellow/blue scale because we see yellow as light and blue as dark.  The red/green scale is more equal in terms of values, but it is better at separating animals (usually reddish) from plants (usually greenish).  The yellow/blue scale can be seen as separating land (yellowish) from sky and water (bluish).

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, “b” channel flat

In looking at the colors of subjects I am drawing or painting, I often try to understand them according to the Lab scales.  Lightness/darkness is by far the most important scale to define form.  Seeing colors on the relative “a/b” scales, as bluish vs yellowish and reddish vs greenish, is simple and clarifying.  This model helps in observing subtle differences within color areas and help an artist avoid the “flatness” that often results when painters think of colors as duplicating surface colors of objects, rather than relative qualities of light.

Let’s try some other variations on this image, just for fun.  Here is an “inverted” version of the full color image, essentially a color negative.  Light becomes dark and dark light.  Every color becomes its complement: blue becomes yellow and red becomes green.

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, all RGB channels inverted

Here’s a version with the Lab lightness channel inverted, and the “a” and “b” channels not inverted.  Here the lights and darks are switched, but the hues of things remain the same as they are in the original image.

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, “L” channel inverted

We can restore the L (lightness) channel to its correct orientation and instead invert the color channels.  Here’s a version with the “a” (red/green) channel reversed.  The dancers are green and the foliage is brown.

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, “a” channel inverted

Here’s the “b” (yellow/blue) channel reversed.  This makes the dancers’ skin look rather purple, and the foliage becomes blue.  I find both of these variations psychedelically beautiful.

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, “b” channel inverted

Finally, the image with both “a” and “b” channels inverted.  In essence, this converts all hues to complementary hues while leaving values unchanged.

“Butterflies & Flowers”, performance by Cilla Vee, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt, both “a” and “b” channels inverted

Let’s go back to the photographic self portrait and do some other digital manipulations on it.  Here I have increased the contrast to separate only the brightest highlights of the image.

Photographic self-portrait, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt, brightest highlights only

And next, I’ve increased the contrast to bring out only the darkest parts of the image.

Photographic self-portrait, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt, darkest darks only

Here I have combined the darks and the brights against a mid-toned background.  This is essentially how I’m looking at my subject when I’m drawing with lights and darks on gray paper.  The paper provides a mid-tone, and I draw highlights with white and shadows with black, getting a wide range of values much more quickly than would be possible by drawing with only darks on a white paper.

Photographic self-portrait, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt, highlights, darks and midtone

As I often do in drawing, here I’ve superimposed the colors over the simplified black/gray/white values to make a color portrait.  As in the “Lab” model, the face is a little reddish, a little yellowish.  Some of the background colors are a little bluish or greenish.  Seeing color according to just three polarities simplifies it for the purposes of time-limited drawing.  What I have done here with a digital deconstruction of a photograph is very similar to what I do mentally during the process of observational drawing or painting.

Photographic self-portrait, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt, highlights, darks and midtone with color

 

2012/08/07

Forms of Fire

Filed under: Photography: Elemental Forces,Poetry — Tags: , , , , — fred @ 22:05

Dancing Fire Man, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

I recently returned from a week teaching art workshops at the Sirius Rising festival at Brushwood Folklore Center in Chautauqua County, New York.  I’ve been going to festivals at Brushwood since 1999, and it’s one of the special places in my world.  The climactic celebration at every festival is a huge community bonfire.   Here are some pictures from this year’s fire, with a few comments and two poems (written by others).

Circling the Bonfire, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Flames engulf the wood-stack, wriggling and leaping skyward.  This year’s pyre bore a carved blue dragon.  You can see the dragon’s trumpet-like shout and curled horns in the next two shots.  Salts of copper in the dragon color the flames blue and green.

Bonfire Nebula, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Horned Dragon, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

 TO THE GOD OF FIRE AS A HORSE

A hymn from the Rig Veda (1500-1200 BC) in an English version by Robert Kelly

Your eyes do not make mistakes.

Your eyes have the sun’s seeing.

Your thought marches terribly in the night

blazing with light & the fire

breaks from your throat as you whinny in battle.

Blue Ghost, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

This fire was born in a pleasant forest

This fire lives in ecstasy somewhere in the night.

Arising Goddess, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

His march is a dagger of fire

His body is enormous

His mouth opens & closes as he champs on the world

He swings the axe-edge of his tongue

            smelting & refining the raw wood he chops down.

Lady Liberty, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

He gets ready to shoot & fits arrow to bowstring

He hones his light to a fine edge on the steel

He travels through night with rapid & various movements

His thighs are rich with movement.

            He is a bird that settles on a tree.

(from Technicians of the Sacred:  A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe & Oceania edited with commentaries by Jerome Rothenberg)

Launch, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Gazing into the fire is simultaneously exciting and calming.  The movement is too rapid to fully comprehend, but we know that this energy is within us, in the pulse of our arteries and the impulse of our nerves, the heat of our passions and the controlled combustion that is a life.

Firewatchers, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Firelight and Glowsticks, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Revelers in the Ember Field, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

I try to understand the essence of fiery energy by studying the forms of flame.  Combustion is all movement, so it’s really an abstraction to look at it as a still picture, but my slow draftsman’s brain likes to freeze the motion so I can trace its contours.  Photography is my tool for stopping time.  For the raging flames at the top of this post, a fast shutter speed (a thousandth of a second) shows the turbulence of shredded incandescent gas.  The images below use slow shutter speeds (half a second or more) to trace the movement of glowing embers as they rise through the column of heated air above the flames.

Bonfire Centerpost, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

These scribbles on the sky remind me of the tracings of fermions and bosons recorded in the cloud chamber of a nuclear partical accelerator.  They drift and loop and zag unpredictably.  This is the kind of energy I try to bring to my own drawings.

Incandescent Flux, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Dance of Hephaestos, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

THIS IS THE TIME OF FIRE

a poem by Elaine Maria Upton

There is a time of Water and a time of Wind.
This is the time of Fire, and Fire eats time.
The sands of the desert are uncountable!
Let go of the reckoning! Let go of time!
Let go of rain! Let go of forgiving!

Fountain of Sparks, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Cloud Chamber, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Fire eats rain and Fire eats trees. Fire eats
The leaves of corn. Fire is the grain and the husk
Of corn. Fire is the raging of Water. Fire is the roar,
the hum, the sting of Wind. Fire is the pepper pulsing
from the flower. Fire is the frenzied volcano dancing.
It is the lightning’s blitz, the drumming, the singing,
The beat of tribes, telling their story all night,
Piercing the bottom of dark, birthing the light.

Pyre, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Fire is the Earth exhausted, folding, sleeping
from days and nights of love, til there is no counting.
When flowers bleed, when lions sleep, when angels sigh, oh bleed, oh
sleep, oh sigh then! Oh, burn with mountains!
When leaves flame and fall to the ground,
When grass grows brown then gray, grieve not.
Grieve not, but follow the eagle and follow the grass.

Bottle Brush, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

River of Embers, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Weep not for the Earth. Weep not for the corn.
The Earth is the lover who gives all to love.
The Earth makes a bed of Love and the Sun knows.
The Earth makes a table of Love and the Fire knows.
The Earth feeds Fire. The Earth gives all to Love.
Follow the Earth. Look beyond your eyes as you go!
Follow the Earth to the beat of the Fire!
Open your thighs. Give all to Love!

From the website Poet Seers

Fiery Tresses, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

For more photos of fire, check this earlier post.

2012/07/15

Framing Absence

Filed under: Photography: Framing — Tags: , , , — fred @ 21:13

Window Wall, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

A frame makes a picture.  A frame that is around nothing makes something of that nothing.  Most people probably never look out a window with no view, but if you take the frame’s cue and view this brick wall as a view, it is a rather intense study in texture and light.

I’ve always found something compelling in “empty” frames.  Here are a few of them.

Now Showing, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

An empty frame is a memento mori, a reminder of mortality, a window on nothingness that tells us there was once something where now there is nothing.

Red on Blue, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

A big red box frames something – maybe a keyhole? – and, combined with shadows from a scaffold, makes an abstract painting of a blank blue wall.

Dots, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Here was once a fine locking glass poster case.  Then it became a community bulletin board.  Then someone pulled down the bulletins, leaving behind scraps of tape.  Now it is a sad cabinet of glass, empty inside and marred outside.  Or you can look at it as a jaunty composition of colored dots and tape on a transparent surface.

Boutique, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

This storefront once attracted window shoppers with provocatively posed mannequins in garish urban fashions.  A sagging tarp, blue and dusty, hangs there as the flag of failure.

Billboard Support, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

A vivid golden sculpture rising into the gray sky is so much more appealing than would be another commercial message.

Caution No Floor, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Everything has been done to make this once inviting store entrance forbidding:  paint splattered on the inside of the glass, a steel gate, caution tape, and a spray-painted sign that says “Caution No Floor”.  Here is the gate to hell, it would appear.

Exit ACE. 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Peel, scrape, erase – all but a remnant of a baby’s face.

Glass Frame, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This is a little vitrine on a Subway platform where the Transit Authority posts notifications to commuters.  Someone tagged the glass with some clearish substance, creating a piece of abstract expressionism in subtle tones of translucency on transparency, casting faint shadows on a dully reflective aluminum back plate.

Now Serving Soup!, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

This frame was not an empty frame until the clumping snow made it so.  You can still read the message “Now Serving Soup!” – just what you’d want on a blizzardy day.

Chalked Plates, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Some kids with street chalk clearly saw this textured steel access plate as a frame, and decided to fill it in with colors.

Wet Cardboard, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Here’s a double frame made of an upside-down box spring and a piece of blue-edged cardboard that maybe used to be behind a mirror or a picture.  In its demise, this piece of cardboard has finally become a picture itself, as the moisture has stained it with something that looks like a misty watercolor painting of mountains.  The hard-edged multiple framing really emphasizes the pictorial quality of the cardboard, as a fancy inset double mat might enhance a soft picture.

Triptych, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

A triple window of water-stained board becomes a holy triptych.  “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.  And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.   And God called the firmament Heaven.  And the evening and the morning were the second day.  And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.   And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.  And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.  And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.  And the evening and the morning were the third day.”

Red Rectangle, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Will humanity one day emulate and extend the act of creation, seeding life on Mars or other planets?  Or will we destroy ourselves in the fire of our own consumptiveness?

Blinds, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Someone who likes to hide in shadows got a building made for putting things on display, and so they put their depression and decay on display.

Rectangles and Diagonals, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

The paper in these windows, raked with shadows from an awning frame, looks like a silken kimono decorated with delicate diagonal stripes.

You Us We Now, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This scraped poster has remnants that suggest a landscape, with brown below and blue above.  The black shapes in the lower left seem to be figures sitting in the landscape.

Blue Rectangle, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Here on a plywood fence the artistic battle between figuration and abstraction is being waged.

White on Black, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

I almost think I can read a message in this remnant in poster paste, but it’s illegible, a distorted echo, a white shadow.

Stone, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

An artificial texture reminiscent of coral, surrounded in a bold rectilinear frame, marks this stone.  From a distance, it’s just a random pattern, like camouflage, but looked at closely it has a great writhing energy.

Empty Display, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This storefront window between displays is the stage of a shabby rundown theater in an entertainment district the cool people no longer frequent.

Antidepressant, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

I think maybe this window is supposed to be a conceptual art installation, but it doesn’t look much different from the definitely unintentional depressing empty windows elsewhere in this post.  I like how the neon sign casts its shadow on the plywood – the shadow of light.  This was a storefront window in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The artist is unknown to me – let me know if you know.

Dusty Window with Rubber Cement, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt

This dusty window depicts an encounter between a rather rigid character whose plaid slacks are seen in the lower left pane, and an angel of anunciation, descending from heaven in the middle upper frame.

Restaurant, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Paper is often used to block the windows of defunct businesses.  Fallen paper, rumpled and stained behind the glass, is an emblem of fragility and collapse, but the rest of the world goes on, and that outside beauty is also seen in the glass, in reflection.

Van Windows, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Some kind of film has been applied inside these van windows to block the interior from outside peering.  The sun (?) has caused this fascinating pattern of cracks, both dark and light, to appear in the film.  It reminds me of the tessellation of a dried lake bed.

Pink Window, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Notice how much more cheerful satiny pink fabric is in a covered display window, compared with the dusty blinds, tarps, or collapsing paper seen in other images of this post.  But it doesn’t completely overcome the depressing aspect of a shrouded display case.  If the window showed us a colorful piñata donkey, or a tin man made of stovepipe, with the pink fabric behind, that would liven it up nicely.

Window, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

I think this one may be a bathroom window.  The glass is frosted and there seem to be little shelves and a towel up against the window.  The frames always make me see these empty windows as abstract or minimalist compositions.

Governors Island Window, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

This is a view looking out from a window by the waterfront on New York’s Governors Island.  The simplicity of this view, with tree branches in front of silvery water, is another lovely minimalist composition, made so by its frame.

Niche, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Something – a bust or a plaque, perhaps, surely once occupied this niche flanked by cornucopias and wreathed with ornate floral decorations.  Now it is a beautiful monument to the mystery of the void.  The gaps are where imagination comes to life, where memory and potential coexist.  Sometimes our world is overfilled with stuff and messages and sensations.  I value the absences, the empty spaces, the shells left behind by things that are gone.  The frame around emptiness says here is art, contemplate this.  And nothing rewards contemplation as much as does no thing.

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