Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Kids on the Porch, Ghost in the Door

I have no idea who these children are, but my grandmother shot more than 25 photos of them.

M Y   A R T — Above is a cropped and colorized version of a portrait of five children and their mother taken by my grandmother. I don't know who they are, they don't look like any of my grandmother's relatives, but they're absolutely spellbinding, at least to me. I think my grandmother must have been a friend of their mother. I have more than twenty-five negatives of these children in various groupings, along with their mother and perhaps aunts, all gathered on this second-floor porch. I've colorized this one in the subtle manner of a hand-painted vintage photo. The mother's ghost-like image in the door is another evocative feature of this particular image. I also like the strong horizontal siding, the vertical railings and the criss-crossed effect on the porch floor, just barely visible in this version. I love finding geometry in reality, and I often create grids and intersecting lines in my work. They can be as simple as a lead pencil-drawn grid on top of all of the paint layers, or as intricate as fifty layers of thin painted rules creating a plaid of sorts. In Reading Between the Lines below, I've photographed some of my plaid paintings, cut the printouts into thin strips and then used those as vertical stripes like ribbon.

I've used portions of this image in two distinct pieces, with different croppings, The Invention of Separation and Reading Between the Lines.

The Invention of Separation, approximately 20 x 11 inches on pine. This piece shows the right side of the photograph I cropped out in the top image. There was a little girl that was off to the side, apparently not part of the group of five children. There is a piece of a Bach Invention I've played since childhood included as well. I always felt separated from other kids my age for many reasons,—playing the piano was just one reason. It struck me odd that one little girl would be asked to be not in the photo, or chose not to be in it for some reason, yet my grandmother captured her anyway. That six feet of separation seems more like a gulf of emotional distance to me.

Reading Between the Linesapproximately 24 x 15 inches on three vintage clapboards. The young girl's odd, or perhaps quizzical look on her face and her older sister's protective hand on her should spoke volumes to me, but of course I'm guessing, as we all do when we look at old photos. I've included images of some of my antique books and another portrait shot by my grandmother of a woman reading a newspaper outside on a nice summer day. Using the highlights and shadows created by the three dimensional effect of the multiple clapboards adds a layer of physical lines to the mental lines of thought in my Reading Between the Lines.


  1. You are so talented. I absolutely love this one. Thank you for sharing.

    What is especially nice is your narrative that goes along with your work. I like so much more hearing first hand from the artist then a third party's interpretation of what the artist was thinking.

  2. thank you, Annie. some artists i've spoken with think i ruin my work by explaining what I've done or why i've done it, like there should be an inherent mystery to art, or I should let the viewer make up their own ideas. the whole reason i create art is to voice my thoughts about the way I see things in the best way i can at that moment, so a little extra narrative isn't a bad thing. to me. and you, so thank you! probably why i've given up talking to other artists for the most part!

    i had to shut my mac down for a while, i got the 'jiggies' again for a bit. sorry if the comments didn't get posted for a while.



  4. I find these images absolutely mesmerizing and for several reasons. The uniqueness of the clothing and housing during this era is so foreign to me. For the children to be so well dressed and clean and posed in such a populated area (or what seems to be...again, I am doing the "insert opinion" here that we do when looking at old prints.) Anyway, these are wonderful...and the integration into your art and a story to go with them is a treat. Thanks!

  5. Mare: I think these photos were taken in either New Haven or Waterbury, both small cities at the time. These look like the 3 story, 3 family houses that were all over those cities back then, but are getting scarcer now. Each floor was an apartment with 2-4 bedrooms and frequently had an entire family in the house, with grandparents on the first floor, and their children and grandchildren in the apartments above them. The little sailor suit gets me, what a stylin' little dude, lol! I"m also guessing here, but I'd bet that they were a bit dressed up for their photos to be taken. My grandmother was never one to just say 'cheese' though, she always seemed to capture their personalities in some way or another.

  6. I have actually seen a ghost myself and I knew all the lights were off at night, as I turned around and saw my shades were sealed shut.
    The image looked like christmas ordainments that took the shape or sub-shape of a human. It wasn't a complete form and its moments were kind of like a jellyfish.
    I never saw the actual human itself but was near his site of death the day I had seen this image.


  7. oh don't get me started about real ghosts! i grew up with them in our almost 250 year old family home. my mother and her mother saw them too, and so did other people that stayed in the house. I have them in the house i live in now, which part of dates back to the late 1700s. i'm used to them. i think they like me actually. i don't think they let you see them unless they like you, so they like you too, Woody!