Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Homage to WRJ for AOA Toilers

What this Vermonter thinks of when she thinks of White River Junction.

I look at this picture, and know that soon, when I see it in real life, I will be free, unfettered, and perhaps with just a little hair left!

And, I must say, this Saturday will be the first time in my life that WRJ is a DESTINATION and not a stop on the way to somewhere else!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reality Check Here

This is my desk -- and I'll bet it's a stand-in for 19 others.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve Destruction

Christmas Eve Destruction

This church building survived the 1927 flood, but not the night of Christmas Eve 2008. My cousins were all married here. As a child I went to the country fair here, before it got too big and had to move to behind the school. It is/was in the heart of Fairfax--its white steeple the quintessential symbol of the New England village. It's been a store now for many years, and like all village stores, you never went there without running into someone you knew. And, it was the only general store in the heart of the village. There are two others, but outside the village.

I have known for many years that one should make sure to tell the people you love that you do love them. You don't know what the tomorrows bring. Well, it can hold true for Vermont as well. We need to notice, and to show, that we love it. Because, over the course of many tomorrows, it too may be "changed utterly." (Yeats again.)

My close friend, Mike Cain, is not only a member of the Fairfax Fire Department and president of the Fairfax Historical Society, he also lives about 100 yards from the fire. On his web site there are many spectacular images of the Steeple Market Christmas Eve fire.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Only in Vermont!

This is my holiday picture of the year.

This truck is driven around the north country at night during the holiday season. Coming home from Burlington one evening last week I found myself behind it in Westford and followed it all the way to where I turn off 104 to go home. Just after turning onto my road, I craned my neck to watch it disappear down the hill outside of Faifax.

Well, it didn't. I saw its blinker on to turn into Nan's Mobil and quick did a U-ee. Of course I didn't have my tripod, but managed to will myself still for the shot. This kind of thing can give you the warm fuzzies about Vermont.

The truck is one of S.D. Ireland's fleet of concrete mixers. And, notice the shamrock. On March 17th, Ireland lines up ALL of their trucks and the convoy drives around the Burlington area, shamrocks turning and horns blowing all the while. (They may go farther afield, but I don't know.) I once saw the line of them out my office window when I worked in a building at Tafts Corners. It was impressive.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


In her comment on my previous post, Susan asked if I could make malls appealing subjects to the artist. Well, not really. Though the image above is quite fine in my book, it's not exactly a building portrait that Lowe's could love. I'm working on some others, but it's like getting blood from a stone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

For Susan Abbott

From the moment I knew I was a finalist I've known that somehow my project would have to include something ongoing for making and keeping connections between Vermonters and artists, and, I've just realized--also between artist and artists. And this post shows why.

I've been following everyone's blog and soaking up the images, but Susan was among the first heavy duty bloggers and so she's got the longest track record for me. And, as a photographer repelled by power lines, I've been fascinated to see them in her work. So, last Saturday on my way down to Burlington, I stopped the car in the middle of the road in Essex and shot this. It's not art, but it shows that I now see things I blocked out before.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hard Edges

That's it. The title of my project. Hard is, well, "hard" as in not soft, but it also means "difficult".

Everywhere, in everything I've read--the books, the CFV stuff, letters to the editor about Walmart--everywhere. It's hard edges.

Walmart yes. Walmart no.
Jobs/Transportation. Seclusion/Privacy.
Development. Preservation.

If I close my eyes, I sense threats everywhere to everything that we want to keep. Violence is abroad in the land. Like any war, this one escalates all too easily. And, the only defense is control. But control needs consensus. And consensus slams up against the hard edges. It is a vicious cycle and we spin eternally. In Yeats' words: Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.

He also gave us the phrase a terrible beauty. I will go after that. As beautiful things disappear, one struggles to find and keep them. As more disappear, terror creeps in. The beauty that we seek to hold becomes a terrible one in that we cannot hold it.

Hard Edges is something that photography can deal with. I can deal with.

Friday, December 19, 2008


The previous posts that might have been were consumed by my actually WRITING my proposal the last couple of days and by yesterday I was approaching cloud nine, sort of. And, this morning . . . !@#$!@#$!%*.

I woke up with a totally new idea. All along I've been wrestling with contrast, a tool I feel is among the most powerful that photographers have. The proposal that I just trashed doesn't cut it on that score; it just wimped around the edges of it.

With contrast it is possible, as was once said of the job of a diplomat, to hit you over the head and also make you like being hit over the head.

I know this: I don't want to get to just the people who normally look at art and visit galleries. I want to include images that might just appeal to those to whom an art gallery is a foreign country. (My relatives are mostly in the latter group, so I know what I'm talking about!).

I grew up in a small New York town on the St. Lawrence River. When I was 9 or 10, I was yelled at by my teacher for being late for school. The same day I was yelled at by my mother for being late coming home. Between me and the school was a steam shovel digging up the earth for a cellar. I couldn't tear myself away from it. The sound, the rhythmic swinging of its arm, the cascading earth as it fell from the shovel. It was blue and huge and it ate things. And, no one ever made a cute, squishey Barney out of that dinosaur.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Franklin County Pictures!

Finally, I know something for sure about my project.

There will be pictures of Franklin County.

This is a matter of concern to me because in all the Vermont and New England books I've read or skimmed lately (and in my lifetime) pictures north of Burlington range from none to few and very far between. All my adult life I've known that folks were fond of saying "Franklin County has more cows than people." And, that statement always made me proud. (Aside: I think that may no longer be true.) But you won't find images from here among the luscious views in Washington or LaMoille or Orange counties. An occasional one on a calendar, yes, but, photographically, this seems to be the forgotten county. Not any more.

Though, I must say, it's rather a daunting task for a photographer to contemplate taking pictures of the "future". Hey, if I could do that, I'd be funding an arts project!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I'm sharing this with you all this morning because I don't want to be depressed alone.

Climate Change and Future Land Use in the Adirondack Park is a very well-written short piece that will likely make you want to get drunk or to lock yourself in a room and do whatever it is you do to escape the world. We should read it for the simple reason that the Adirondacks are our closest neighbors and their problems are and will be ours.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Yet Another Driving Hazard

Reading the "Gravestones" section of Christopher Lenney's book, Sightseeking: Clues to the Landscape History of New England, I came across another delectable piece of information illustrated by the following image:

Early Christian cemeteries buried folks with their feet pointing East so that they would, on the day of resurrection, be properly aligned when they arose from the dead. Thus, all graves are so aligned in our old cemeteries. At least in the ones I've seen. Further, as you stand before a headstone to read the inscription, the body lies on the other side of the stone.

I now carry a compass with me. And am even more in terror of driving off the road. As I said in a comment on Dana's blog, I now constantly survey any likely wooded area that I drive by in case I might spot a "wolf tree". And now, I also make fast calculations (if I can see the sun) about the headstone alignment in any graveyard. If the sun isn't visible, even with a cloudy simulacrum, I slow down and whip out my compass.

I sincerely hope I live to turn in my proposal.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

IP and Art of Action Art

Something's been bugging me for a while, and now, with the advent of several more bloggers on our little scene, I can't sit on it any longer.

And, I'm apologizing before-hand, if anyone feels I'm teaching my grandmother to suck eggs. BUT . . .

There is a lot of quite splendid images appearing in these blogs and I just want to make sure that folks are attaching at least the bare minimum of IPTC information to those images.

I know that most of you are painters and draughtsmen, but even though a digital image of your work is not THE work itself, it is still your property.

The "bare minimum" is your name, © Your Name 2008., and either your email or the URL of a website where someone can contact you.

Without this information, any image you put up on the web becomes what is now being referred to in the art world (and in Congress) as "an orphan work".

If you use PhotoShop or PhotoShop Elements, you can get this info into your image by the File Info selection under the File Menu. (Other image handling programs may have similar access, though it might be under IPTC.) If your image handling program does not have this, toss it, and get another. AND, if you use any version of PhotoShop BEFORE CS4, and use the option "Save for Web", any data you have put into the image file is stripped! Adobe has been pounded on this, and has corrected the situation with CS4.

If any one wants to know more or needs help, I am easily contactable and happy to help. My phone is here. (Just not after 4 p.m. I'm usually at the keyboard by 3:30 or 4 a.m. so I'm apt to be somewhat inchoherent at the end of the day!)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Now You See It. Then You Won't.

I've been reading letters to the editor in newspapers, and hearing snippets on the television about people having fits about potential installations of wind towers and cell towers--in their back yards or on ridge lines. I guess someone, somewhere always will object to some installation.

After months and months of this, I'm finally ticked off. As those reading this will know I'm a photographer. Part of what I do is shoot stock photos which include "travel/scenic type shots" of Vermont.

Well, I've yet to see a cell tower, or a wind tower that I can't get past or around to get a good shot in the vicinity. BUT, and it's a big BUT, I daily curse power lines. Loudly, vociferously, and profanely. They go for miles, occasionally changing over from one side of the road to another. But that's it -- they are ubiquitous and ugly as hell.

I don't, however, see any letters to the editor about power lines ruining the scenery.

And, I'll bet it's just because, most non-photographer types don't even see them. They've been here a very long time after all. So, I expect, that in 2080 or so, nobody will see the cell towers or wind towers either. As for me, I'd sure rather breathe clean air and be connected to the rest of the world, than not.

And, hey, we could paint the wind towers greenish on the bottom, moving through hues of blue and gray to white at the top. And, yes, you can put one in my back yard!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Disappearing Article

Reference to Vermonters being possessed of (or by) a sense of place keeps coming up in many of the materials I've been reading over the last couple of months--in books, in quotes from folks appearing in the various reports from the Council on the Future of Vermont, in reviews where art concerning Vermont is considered. Many places.

This reminded me of something said by someone I worked with years ago who had recently come up here from New Jersey. In a tone bordering on disgust, she said, "It drives me crazy that people up here use the definite article when you ask them where they live!"

She was referring of course to exactly the kind of answer I give when someone asks me where I live. My answer: I live on the Buck Hollow Road.

THE Buck Hollow Road. But, if one lives in a city, of course you don't say that. You say, "I live on Congress Street."

My deep language and literature background causes my skin to crawl when I consider how long it might be before this particular use of the definite article is not a significator of a rural Vermonter, but rather an anachronism.

And, I can tell you when this will occur: it will happen when your road is no longer a rural road. And then, the word "road" will itself be an anachronism. We don't have roads in cities, we have streets.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What Can A Painting Do?

I was startled yesterday in Montpelier to hear Dana Wigdor ask this question in three-way conversation with myself and Susan Abbott after the webinar. We were of course talking about our art impacting Vermonters, or the future of Vermont.

As I drove north in the gathering dark, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I probably can't answer it to her satisfaction, but I sure can for myself, and maybe even in the context of the Art of Action project.

I sat in tears in the Turner Room of the National Gallery in London many years ago. And, years after that I stood transfixed and stunned in the Ontario Gallery of Art the first time I saw the work of Canada's Group of Seven.

In those moments something coursed through all the interstices of my brain, likely much as our blood flashes warmth to our whole body from a single swallow of hot coffee by way of the suddenly heated blood coursing through our arteries.

Maybe this is what we need to do. Go after that grail of "touching blood". Make them hurt, dance, weep, howl, feel heat in the blood, but above all think.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Long Ago and the Now Future

These days everything I read is read against the background of Vermont's Future. This article on digital privacy in the NY Times, 29 Nov. 08, is no exception:

"[Dr. Alex Pentland, MIT Media Lab,] says "there are ways to avoid surveillance-society pitfalls that lurk in the technology. For the commercial use of such information, he has proposed a set of principles derived from English common law to guarantee that people have ownership rights to data about their behavior. The idea revolves around three principles: that you have a right to possess your own data, that you control the data that is collected about you, and that you can destroy, remove or redeploy your data as you wish."

English Common Law

All Canada except Quebec and all of the United States except Louisiana follow common law. U.S. state statutes usually provide that the common law, equity, and statutes in effect in England in 1603, the first year of the reign of James I, shall be deemed part of the law of the jurisdiction. --The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia

The Expanded Party Line

If you were around Vermont after most folks had phones, you will remember the 8 party lines. I remember my Aunt Eula on her chair, heavy black receiver in one fist, the other hand clamped over the mouthpiece, listening. Fast forward to this, again from the Times article:

"The new information tools symbolized by the Internet are radically changing the possibility of how we can organize large-scale human efforts," said Thomas W. Malone, director of the M.I.T. Center for Collective Intelligence.

"For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew," Dr. Malone said. "In some sense we’re becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly."