Today’s post is about the intimate space that springs to life in this passion that is my photography. You, my community, tend to only see the final product as the print image. While talking with my literary collaborator Stephen Kristian over the past weekend we spent a fair amount of time on the concept of intimacy. The sequence of photos I curated for this series contrast the small spaces that appear to capture the vastness of deep space yet never leave my work studio.
In our conversation, Stephen mentioned that it was very interesting to hear about how I set up each photo. What materials were used, how were they arranged to put in motion the opportunity to capture a photograph. Would it be aa movement or a still shot. How did I know when I bought the glass that it would work. The latter question is more intuition than hard science. Some pieces of glass will only yield one good image, while others are remarkably generous and have a potential to grant new photographs in the future. He also observed and was intrigued that, in every case, I was able to return to setup and fragmented moments in time and recant the photos’ origin story. For example, how the movement was created and this allowed us to move towards the concept of increased openness and familiarity. The three photos were created with liquid in a petri dish. The camera was firing away whilst I was moving the dish to and fro, in circular swirls or suddenly stopping and generate arced wave from the sides of the dish. A sequence appears and a story unfolds. A bit of light/dark adjustments and a vista appears.
This all begs a few questions: why are these impactful photos for me? What memories are evoked and emotions prompted? My mind quickly goes to my latter teenage years… I had a Criterion 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and spent many hours at night gazing out into space. A planet here and there, a galaxy here and there with attempts to get better views in the still quiet winter air. I would drive to find darker skies. A feat that on Long Island is … difficult. I would eventually come to understand dark skies when living in Los Angeles and driving out to wander through Joshua Tree and Death Valley. I began to understand the phrase ‘the vastness of space’ out there.
The quiet contemplative solitude in those teen days and years quickly comes forward in my mind as I think about these photographs and the sequence. Though my attempts at astrophotography were naïve and produced plenty of artifacts that would mimic these images, I was struck by something. What brought me to deep space in these photos? Perhaps it is a desire to share that internal quiet and moments of internal reflection with you. It would seem to beg another question, in those moments of creative intimacy, can one share the same quiet and solitude that as an artist I seek and crave? Would I move from a creative artist to performance artist?
As a scientist, I know that when we observe interstellar objects in a telescope they do not move with this speed (Webb, Hubble or a lowly terrestrial based one). The deep inky blues and blacks gave me a sense of the enormity and silence of deep space and our circumstance. I would tend to think that our experience is constrained to our perceptions and the inner workings of our mind and body. To move that a step further, our existence becomes a stunningly small fragment of time and our inner world is miniscule. Pause and consider that to emphasize the need to be grateful and hopeful. Perhaps, we deceive ourselves and in moments of hubris distort our sense of self and impact on the universe. I enjoy taking a few minutes to contemplate and reflect upon these two contrasts: the amount of time we spend in our existence here against the yardstick of universal time and/or the volume of our being and the entirety of the volume of the universe. Those thoughts ground me to be remain humbled, grateful and work to savor for each day and every experience.
If we choose to focus on the movement we might find fury, frenetic or frenzy. If we choose to settle on the background and allow the color and light to move through perhaps we find calm, fluidity, or flow. What or how would you tend to interpret the photographs? What is the impression you have or the emotion you feel?
For me it is that sense of of the vastness of dark matter in contrast to the bright colored streaks of pin point light reflections that made the photos work. A sense of quietude blends with tidal shifts and crosscurrents just asks us to settle in and contemplate. Consider. Be curious and ask ourselves: what is it that we see explicitly AND what is it that we feel implicitly.
Perhaps these two questions are part of the shared intimacy of art. An external conversation can occur about what we see, interpret and what we feel. A separate internal conversation can with ourselves that is equally important. As I work in the studio to ‘discover’ these photographs I am able to move outside our world and be in quiet solitude. That is a magical secret place. I look forward to that every week on my Saturdays and Sundays.
There is blue when you observe the photographs, but there are also swaths of green, hints of fuchsia, yellows and violets. Sections are in flight and other areas are calm, some places allow us to perhaps float upon and imaginary tidal movement. There are parallels to Feux d’Artifice de Astronimae. Yet this set of images evokes a much stronger sense of calm and peace. And so I will leave the post here … with a hope for you the observer to find peace and calm within these and my artwork in general.
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2 Replies to “Visit with Jim – Deep Space and Quietude”
These pieces were crucial for me to see today. They took me to a time when I may have been seven or eight years old. We had several long Saturdays at the beach. I remember being unable to wait for everyone to unpack and settle on the beach before I was off on an adventure. The ocean called me. The cold shock of the water and salt stinging my eyes was no deterrent. I would quickly make friends with kids I didn’t know. We took on the waves without fear. It never failed that there would always be one big wave to take me under. The strength of the breaking wave had complete control. When I fought the wave, it seemed like I would never get through it. When I relaxed and went with the movement, I found myself rebounding quickly.
When the wave’s energy had control, I would keep my eyes open under the water. The combination of colors quickly moving against a deep dark blue terrain was mesmerizing. I would find myself comparing each experience to each other, never being able to see the last precious moment twice.
At the end of the day, I would be alone and exhausted. Friends moved on with their families, and the sunset messaged the end of my adventure. Being rocked by the waves and burned by the ocean floor should have discouraged me from wanting to seek out another experience in the sea with the unpredictable waves. It didn’t. It kept me coming back. I was resilient and brave and trusted myself. I enjoyed what I had learned and used it the next time. I made new friends and saw many more sunsets.
These pieces of art have recalled those memories for me. Those vivid pictures are in my mind. My definition of deep space. It also reminds me of my strength. What is to be brave and seek out adventure.
Thank you for sharing your art and insights.
Jim McCormick III[ Post Author ]
Angela, Your post prompted me to think back to those days for me. While I started the thread on outer space, you brought it to inner space. Very cool and thank you for that. Your post brings me back to Zuma beach and trying to learn to surf. The shoreside of the waves is loud, turbulent and is exactly what you describe in your experience ‘the washing machine’ effect. However, when I pushed through to the other side and sat on my board, the water was so calm, peaceful and clear. I was never able to stand up. I probably should have paid for a coach, but I can be very makulit. It strikes me now 30 plus years later to be true to our current circumstance in life: periods of turbulence and a sense of loss of control can pass when we push through to discover the other side where there is stability, peace with a return to order and control. An illusion can rise up that we lost control if we allow our minds to become reactive and stay in that froth. A lot can change around us, but we can control our thinking and stay in a mode where we are thoughtful, considered and intention in plans and decisions. Really appreciate your sharing.