The image above is the postcard publicizing my show of new work opening here in Christiansted on May 15th. I hope those who live on St. Croix will come, and I encourage those who live elsewhere to view the show when it becomes available on my website after the opening. I’ll post a direct link here next week.
Selecting the images for a show is one of the hardest tasks. Often, images that hold some meaning for me do not resonate with others. Even more confounding is the pressure to cover costs — both mine and the gallery’s — and the emotional reward of making a sale. The decorative, whimsical and happy images are often more likely to find a home with someone than those with darker themes. So when choices must be made, some of those less likely to attract a buyer get left behind. While this self-censorship may be rational when assembling a show, it can poison the well if allowed to infect the creative process itself.
On a lighter note, the image below is of a group of small fishing boats and dinghies stacked near the boardwalk in the heart of town. These simple boats have their own kind of beauty with their peeling paint in many colors, and the curve of the stem as it meets the keel.
The past few months I’ve been puzzling over the tension that sometimes occurs between the content and subject matter of an image, and its more abstract qualities of composition, color and design. Ideally, the two should complement each other, with the design qualities strengthening the emotional impact of the subject matter — and vice versa.
However, I have found that is not always the case. Sometimes color and design can compete with the subject, distract, and actually weaken the image’s impact. Photographers working in black-and-white know this well. In other cases, an image’s content can distract and interfere with the emotional and sensual appeal of the colors and design — especially when those elements are an important quality of the subject.
If there is a focus to my work right now, it is experimenting to find a balance for each image that is right for me where subject matter and design work together to make the images stronger. The images in this post illustrate one direction the experiments have taken.
St. Croix’s celebration of the holidays continues through the week, ending with the adult’s festival parade (a loud, long, and sometimes lewd extravaganza) on January 2. In keeping with the celebratory spirit, these two night-time mocko jumbies may help keep the bad spirits away throughout the New Year.
Colorfully costumed stilt dancers — or mocko jumbies — appear at many island festivals. Cultural icons and entertainers today, the mocko jumbies have ancient African origins. “Jumbies” are mischevious or evil spirits and ghosts, and one interpretation is that the mocko jumbies scare them away by mocking them. Their height allows them to see the spirits before they arrive to cause trouble. While there are other interpretations, they all relate to protection from the spirit world.
Now just imagine if it were a jumbie that had become manifest in the form of the young woman below…
We no longer trust beauty as a serious means of investigation. But it can be ... In fact, beauty can be incendiary; it can be subversive; it can make us cringe.
-- David Maisel, Photographer
"It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it." -- Anais Nin
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders of the universe, the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race.” -- Rachel Carson