Thursday, April 10, 2014

the four idols

Idol of the Cave #1  saffran 2014  19" x 26" sewn photographs

detail Idol of the Cave #1  saffran 2014

detail Idol of the Cave #1  saffran 2014

Idol of the Cave #2  saffran  2014 19" x 26" sewn photographs

detail Idol of the Cave #2  saffran  2014

Idol of the Theater #1  saffran 2014  19" x 13"

Idol of the Theater #2  saffran 2014 19" x 13"  sewn photograph

detail Idol of the Theater #2  saffran 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gallery Kayafas

I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon with Arlette Kayafas in her Boston gallery (Gallery Kayafas), looking at the work from my 2013 Memory series and recent works that included Razor's Edge, Resurrection and Flow. I was introduced to Arlette through Shellburne Thurber who has been instrumental in the development of my work over this past year. 

Arlette Kayafas - photographer unknown

overflowing images

Memory meets Afterlife

The work spread over the edges of the table and spilled onto the floor. Because our meeting was during open gallery hours, visitors had to step around the prints, as they looked at the current exhibition, which of course drew them into our conversation. People were curious about the subject of the photographs as well as the process of their making. They were surprised that the sewn collages were on paper and not fabric and commented on the painterly surface of the prints. Beyond those formal aspects their critique affirmed that the work held a deeper interest beyond an initial visual appeal.

Influenced by the ideas of W.J.T.Mitchell in What Do Pictures Want? I have felt an urgency over these last months to push the work out into the world. Mitchell contends that pictures are living beings in and of themselves, and as such, have desires and needs just as all living things do. (He further complicates his argument by also saying that sometimes what a picture needs is nothing at all.) Applying this thinking to my own work, half finished on the studio wall, I asked “what do you want?” Thus the urgency of exposure began. Of course one could argue that asking this question simply allowed me to project and unleash my own ego desire for attention and validation. But what if the image really was shouting to be seen? Regardless, I have been on a mission to honor what I believe to be important to the images – interaction with the public.

Meeting with Arlette was exciting. We talked about the work, current trends in photography, practical gallery considerations, the commerce of art and the future of both my own work and establishing a relationship between it and the Gallery Kayafas.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Flow  top panel 20" x 26"  main panel 155" x 20

detail 1

detail 2

detail 3

Flow is hard to see in reproduction.  The image consists of 2 pieces that are not attached to each other but are meant to be seen as one.  The longest section is a series of images blending into each other, sewn together to span almost 13 feet.  The source images are once again the trickster Coyote, (folkloric symbol of both destruction and resurrection) coupled with dormant perennial seed pods.

The importance of the sewing is shifting in this newer work. The stitch is coming into its own as a unique mark that interrupts the image and adds a layer of hand making that is done in real time.

Flow speaks to the transience of life and the belief that life never ends, it simply (or not so simply) mutates from one form to another.  When one corporeal existence dies the energy and essence of that being enters into a universal flow of energy that is never destroyed.  This flow of energy contains everything that has ever been alive.  I may still be wrestling with the ideas of reincarnation and rebirth, the jury is still out on the verdict.  However, I am committed to teasing apart and puzzling together what this all may mean.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Resurrection  Dimensions vary 60" x 52"

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detail 2

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My neighbor shot a coyote and hung it in the entrance to his barn.  When I asked him if he shot it because it was attacking his cows he said no, coyotes won't take down a full grown cow.  This one was just getting too close to the house. 

Even in death the animal was beautiful.  About the size of my dog, his coat was thick and healthy. The bullet that killed him left a hole barely visible above his front left shoulder.  There wasn't any blood and I wouldn't have even noticed the wound if the farmer hadn't pointed it out.

I remember one night, one of my first in Moretown, windows open, hearing the disturbingly eerie cries of a pack of coyotes, but I had never seen one before. I was fascinated in that push-pull way that happens when unpleasant things both draw us in and repel us at the same time. In my mind I imagined the farmer scratching his head in bewilderment as he watched me photograph the coyote. As I worked I grew sad at the loss of such a magnificent animal.

Reading about coyotes I learned that they are even better at learning from observing humans than dogs. This made me sadder. What had the coyote been doing too close to the house?

Another guy is gonna pick it up and have it stuffed. You should have seen it last year when I got five.

I am not judging my neighbor. I have no idea what its like to farm and raise livestock. His family was one of three that owned all the land that is now the town. They once owned the land I live on.

I like to think that salvation applies equally to animals and humans.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Razor's Edge

Razor's Edge 60" x 40" sewn photographs 2013

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detail 3

The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over:
thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.

The only book I have ever read and reread more than once is W. Somerset Maugham's  
The Razor's Edge.

My own Razor's Edge is not meant as tribute to Maugham nor to his novel, but as an exploration of a particular state of anxiety that comes from the fear of the unknown. An exploration, not just of any fear and not just of any unknown, but an exploration of that nearly debilitating bucket of anxiety that comes from the fear of death.

When I conceived of this piece I was thinking about and feeling an intense awareness of walking a narrow path on which balance is crucial yet difficult to maintain. If I should fall off this exiguous edge where would I land? Would I land? Is the deeply dark chasm that exists alongside the path as devoid of gravity as outer space? If so, I would be destined to free fall forever.

Maugham begins his novel with the quote from the ancient Hindu text the Katha-Upanishad, which is also called “Death as Teacher” (A fact I hadn't known until now). Further reading of the scripture reveals: 

May we light the fire of Nachiketa *
That burns out the ego, and enables us
To pass from fearful fragmentation
To fearless fullness in the changeless Whole.

The phrase "fearful fragmentation" resonates; reflecting not only the visual aesthetic of the piece but also my mind.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

PhotoPlace Gallery

My piece Peter 1972 was selected by juror Blue Mitchell to be part of the show Curiouser and Curiouser at the PhotoPlace Gallery in Middlebury.  I am a little behind in sending out this notice and the show has closed but the exhibition catolog is available and may be ordered from the PhotoPlace website.

The intention of the show was, like Alice in Wonderland, to explore those moments of alternative reality in which we find ourselves.

I respect the vision of Blue Mitchell and have been a follower of his digital work and on-line gallery Plates to Pixels for some time.  Curiouser and Curiouser includes strong work by many.  My favorite was Frond by Tara Harland Viney from her series Family Album.  An amalgamation of snapshot and drawing to form a hybrid that speaks to the roles we assume as members of a family unit.  Her images offer a visual interpretation of those unspoken undercurrent that define our role and function within a family system.

Unfortunately the exhibit also included far too many images of women and girls dressed in sexy underwear or mock Victorian garb to simulate the makers erotic interpretation of Lewis Carroll's heroine.  All in all a beautiful catalog and opportunity to meet new artists.

Peter 1972 5' x 6' sewn photographs 2012