Late September and early October in northeast Ohio are warm in hue … landscapes changing subtly each day. Summer’s decedents, some lost in shadow, others flame. Field grasses disappearing in the moment; ironweed, goldenrod slowly burning until extinguished.
Seed-heads across Squire Valleevue Farm stand in relief against a background of goldenrod, asters and late meadow grasses, many verdant until a frost.
I do not know what grass or weeds these may be but I see them here every year before their seeds scatter on autumn winds.
Autumn brings to mind the last stanza of Robert Frost’s poem “Reluctance”
“Rails into Autumn”
This is the scene I’ve walked into for sixty years. An arching pin oak or two have passed since my childhood but new ones rise. What has never changed are the rails, rails that take me into each season, ones that orient me through snow, morning fog, autumn hues and a lifetime of magenta mornings and afternoon shadows.
STILL POINT INTRODUCES “ART IN CONTEXT”
In the last forty-fifty years, “Contextual Art”, has been described abstrusely as a concept that seeks to define “art” in a relativistic sphere of social and cultural ideologies and myths . In a simpler, hopefully more intelligible way, we have coined “Art in Place” to define art in the “context” of its physical surroundings; the relationship of an artist’s work to the size of the room for instance, or the arrangement of furniture, adjacent artwork, colors and placement. Much of what we do in the gallery has been to assist customers with their art selections based on their verbal descriptions of the room(s) where they intend to “place” a piece. In a tribute to technology, and to better evaluate the suitability of a work, our customers are using their smart-phones images to show us photos of their intended rooms for various art works. This is great way for us to assist in the selection process. Our assistance extends to a service that allows our customers to evaluate pieces in their homes.
“Art in Place” is our new website section that features art works (photographs, prints, paintings, sculpture, ceramics and other unique objects) purchased from the gallery as they are displayed in our customer’s homes. Over the last eight years we have kept a growing inventory of photographs from customers who have been excited to share images of their art in their homes or offices. The pictures are wonderful, not only for the transformative aspect of the art but as a contextual window into the lives and interests of people we’ve come to know.
While the iPhone has become the great “enabler”, regular camera images have also come our way and Geoff has had an opportunity to get some photographs as well. With the imminent launch (April 30) of a dedicated “Art in Place” section on our website we would like to encourage those of you who may be interested to forward photos of art you’ve purchased from the gallery. We can post these with or without attribution if you prefer to remain anonymous. The important thing is we get to share a variety of interesting scenes and inspiring ways to display art. The quality of the photographs you send is secondary; it’s the context surrounding the art, its relationship to the rest of a room (furniture, colors and placement) that is most interesting to others.
As a further incentive, anyone who has a photo published will be entered into an end of the year drawing to receive one of Geoff’s limited edition prints.
Perhaps no one more than the poet, Ted Hughes, vested meaning and metaphor in the crow. For me, crows have been the source of childhood memories and are as beautiful and mysterious as black rainbows. Tender and cruel and brilliant, they carry their own shadow.
Yesterday (March 20) I saw a good dozen in singles and pairs returning to Squire Valleevue Farm. By the end of the month small flocks will arrive to begin the mating and battle rituals. And by the first of May nests will fill with black rainbows.
The lone crow (above) did not hesitate against strong headwinds, coming to rest in the swaying white pines, twisted and reaching, entreating in welcome, reminiscent of a Kona painting.
6:30 a.m., May 28, fog had settled into the dunes north of the small town of Pentwater, Michigan. It was a phenomenon unlike any I had seen in the forty-seven years I had walked these eastern shores of Lake Michigan. Occasionally, fog banks would descend obscuring the contours of the landscape but this time fog clung to the division between each dune, exposing only the tops of white pine and sporadic clumps of tag alder. As remarkably, three quarters of the scene and subsequent image were sky, tinged with subtle, almost imperceptible hues of color as it spreads its fingers across the dunes down to the beach.
It brings the quality of “impermanence” to mind – a key dimension of the Japanese art of Wabi Sabi. Within minutes the long fingers had receded, replaced somewhat ironically by the forest; its own beauty transient and ineluctably transformed as day ascended.
This is one of the images from my 2011 exhibit at the Butler Institute of Art. It has been a popular limited edition print over the last eight years but this is the first occasion I’ve printed it as a large canvas (40″x60″). We have it on view for one more week (thru Sat. Feb. 25) at the gallery.
Pentwater, Michigan, May 28, 2008 C. Geoffrey Baker
After printing this image I tried to imagine whether the scene would have appealed to three of my favorite artists, Edward Hopper, Grant Wood and Andrew Wyeth, each whose work may be considered an example of modern American realism. I think the almost surreal landscape would have attracted Wyeth; the nostalgic throwback, Wood; and the solitude of the scene, (especially the isolation of the towering outbuilding), Hopper. I mention these artists because, for many years I’ve been drawn to their work and suspect it has influenced the way I see landscapes and architecture.
This outbuilding resides on the property of Carsten Burfiend, the first settler of Leelanau County, Mr. Burfiend built two farms in the late 19th century just north of Glen Arbor. The farm is closed though restored and sits between a spine of dunes to the east and Lake Michigan less than a mile west.
I printed this recently for the first time as a large format (48″x38″) using archival pigment ink and canvas. It is on display in Still Point’s exhibit space at the moment.
Early February provided a perfect day to photograph smoke stacks at the former J&L Steel melt shop and rolling mill on the west side of the Cuyahoga river. Purchased from “Otis Steel”, J&L’s mill was home to thousands of steelworkers and millwrights since 1942. Over several generations the facility has been through numerous incarnations, the most recent of which was its acquisition by LTV Corp. (a consolidation with Republic Steel in 1984), a shutdown in 2002 pursuant to ISG’s purchase and finally the eventual acquisition by Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal and the mill’s reopening in 2004.
The billowing “smoke” animating the image is really only steam as the morning’s low air temperature (-10°) created ideal conditions for condensation. The shot reminded me a little of a Braque or Picasso Cubist painting … each of the pieces reassembled, seemingly creating more than the sum of its parts. There is something ironically anthropomorphic about the structure with its jaws turned skyward and hot breath billowing in successive bursts. I resisted the temptation to include the sprawling length of the mill in a landscape format. And finally, rather than producing this as a black and white image, which would have reduced the image to a study in “shapes,” I retained the colors to add tonality and dimension.
Not a sound at the marsh today (January 1st, 2017). Hundreds of acres covered with a thin sheet of ice, perforated only by tiny islands of marsh grass and dead pin oaks. The few remaining geese and ducks have moved to the open water of lakes and rivers. Not a sound, not even “the sweep of easy wind …”.
Groves of dead oak still stand in silence after more than fifty years, gray with age but unaffected otherwise. Today’s blue sky and early afternoon light accentuated the bleached wood and made for a dramatic black and white image close to shore.
The blanket of snow last year (see “Sentries” https://stillpoint-gallery.com) contrasts with this first landscape of 2017 – ineffable beauty waiting for us in the starkness of the season.
“Solitude gives birth to the original in us – to beauty unfamiliar and perilous … to poetry.” Thomas Mann
Among the blessings conferred by early morning excursions into the marsh has been the opportunity to observe Red-Winged blackbirds as they usher in the day with their first notes. In the morning twilight, almost an hour before sunrise, this blackbird was first to rise from the marsh to greet the morning with its song. Abruptly, the landscape erupted in a cacophony of disparate songs; harmony in its dissonance.
Isolated on a dead pin oak before sunrise and silhouetted, Kirie-like against the eastern sky, its colors were indiscernible. It made more sense to process this photo in black and white without the slightly hued and muddled colors of the predawn sky.
This is a moment I wish for everyone.