In this fabricated landscape, a smooth rock from my garden hovers over a shagbark hickory tree that I flipped to its side in Photoshop, to create a shaggy windswept field. For me, combining scratchy and slick textures is even more engaging than working with colors. But I wonder, if I add blues, can I change this field into an ocean? This will be a small adventure for me on some rainy afternoon when, immersed in Photoshop, I will be distracted from feeling the hollowness in my heart.
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For months my bags have been packed, ready for me to go flying off to some beautiful bright place. It seems like ages since I last flew. But I remember flying above Ithaca, watching the ground below as it stretched out endlessly and disappeared into the hazy horizon. That’s what I was thinking about when I fabricated this landscape. After inverting my favorite photo of an allium seed head into a negative image, I set it over a shot of my driveway that, on an early morning in April, was riddled with the remains of the last snowfall of the season.
The hills around home are greening up now. It’s getting harder to imagine ever wanting to leave here. Maybe next winter. Maybe I’ll fly away before the first snow of the season, before I grab up the camera and head for the driveway to photograph the new day’s pattern of white patches, believing it’s beautiful.
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It was raining for days and days. Cooped up alone at home, I felt isolated and depressed. And frustrated because I had to delay my plan to focus on photographing bodies of water. I’d been hoping to shoot my pond and Cayuga Lake downtown, maybe Bullhead Pond up in Connecticut Hill. Instead, hunkering down in the house with mugs of hot chocolate, I rummaged through the kitchen and found a vase that reflected light like a rippled stream. In the high shelves where rarely used serving pieces lie in wait, there appeared a glass platter that could pick up the tiniest bit of light in the dim. In Photoshop, I paired these images to produce the fabricated landscape of the week.
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Making borders. Framing. For a long time I wondered why it was so satisfying to enclose each of my fabricated landscapes in a decorative border. My work just doesn’t feel done until I’ve framed it. Sometimes I photograph existing picture frames and then transpose their images into negatives in Photoshop, changing the colors and enhancing the shadows and highlights. Often I’ll start a frame from scratch, finding an interesting tooled edge or naturally defined edge on something and then I’ll stretch it out and piece it together, mitering the ends into four sides. Occasionally I’ll superimpose a floral or grassy graphic on the pieces. Surrounding my pictures is like securely wrapping them up into cozy nests. It’s like marking each newly composed place separate from the rest of the world.
The land and sky here is from the frothy edge of a wave washing up on a sandy shore, turned upside down and inverted to its negative in Photoshop. The moon is drawn from the image of an old tarnished Celtic knot pendant that I lightened and highlighted.
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Well over half a century ago my kindergarten teacher told my mother I was talented. So began my career in art. By the 3rd grade, I was well established as a “good artist” in NYC PS94, and they gave me an easel in the back of the packed classroom where I could paint and draw all day during lessons. For years I painted and drew, and later sewed, my way through social studies reports, science projects, college term papers, and a master’s thesis. Art was a major part of my identity. Then, one day I quit. I couldn’t stand to even go near pencils or paints. People occasionally expected handcrafted cards or gifts, and I struggled through the process of “doing art” for them. Until I discovered I could “paint” with my photographs in Photoshop.
Here I’ve painted a seascape using a photo of the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia, taken after tossing some of my daughter’s ashes into it. The frothy-looking land at the horizon line is the bubbly edge of an incoming tide at a beach where I attended family reunions in Sanibel, Florida. The sky is taken from an image of a sandy riverbank in Maryland where I rented a cottage with a friend during the first COVID Christmas. And the sun is my favorite gold pendant, enlarged, inverted and de-saturated in Photoshop.
When I “paint” in Photoshop I get lost in the process. Using images that pull at my heart and history, I now “do art” with a similar drive to what I had when I was young.
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Inspiration for these fabricated landscapes often smacks me when I’m not at all focused on creating. Preparing to cook clams on my grill one evening, I unwrapped a package of metal mesh grilling sheets, shifting the layers in the process. The way they reflected the light reminded me of an ocean’s surface. A seascape, I thought. And later, in Photoshop, I paired the mesh sheets with a photograph of crystal plates that reflected similar angles and diamond shapes when stacked. Moon over a calm ocean. Too calm, I realized. I wanted it to be lighter, more uplifting. So I superimposed an image of the discarded remains of cutout tin can tops I’d photographed at a local scrapyard—to fill the sky with flying birds.
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