Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The HOME Project has been fifteen years in the making and is a retrospective of my very personal work.  These images are from the two portfolios "The Reservation" and "The Valley", while originally shot in color they are printed in black and white to once again remind viewers of the tradition of documentary photography which used to be considered as more truthful than color photography.  It also was perceived as artsy and also as historical instead of present day.  All three of these ideas were ideas I wanted to express about the lives of American Indians today.  Most of all I wanted to show that home to me is a very deep and multi-faceted idea of importance to an individual.  Limited edition prints (20 - 13" x 19" and 5 - 24" wide roll paper, with 1 - 13" x 19" reserved for the exhibition) and the full low res and reduced size catalog are available on request if you wish to purchase (purchases come with provenances).

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Revisiting the American West


During graduate school I had the luck to go on a field trip to Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of Art and see original prints from In The American West.  In 1979. Richard Avedon was commissioned by the museum to produce an encyclopedic series of portraits.  Avedon was the preeminent American photographer, a New Yorker, successful in commercial photography and portraits, was hired to collect images of a region filled with myths.  Such projects were not new to photography, but the images he created were innovative.

Focusing on the rural West, Avedon visited ranches and rodeos, but he also went to truck stops, oil fields, and slaughterhouses. Rather than playing to the western myths of grandeur and space, he sought out people whose appearance and life circumstances were the antithesis of mythical images of the ruggedly handsome cowboy, dashing outdoor adventurer, or beautiful pioneer wife. The subjects he chose for the portraits were ordinary people, coping daily with personal cycles of boom and bust.
 from the Stanford University Cantor Arts Center press release on the 20th anniversary tour of the exhibit

           The United States Geological Survey was created to document the lands the nation wanted to occupy and settle to illustrate its resources.  Photographers such as Timothy O’Sulliavn and Carleton Watkins documented the ‘unspoiled’ riches of the West for the survey.  Eadweard Muyerbridge, an Englishman who came to the American West for the Gold Rush in 1855, after a stagecoach accident became a photographer and documented Yosemite Valley, San Francisco, the Tlingit people of Alaska, and the Modoc War of 1873.  John Pierpoint Morgan, the financier, commissioned Edward Curtis, in 1906, to produce the twenty volume collection, The North American Indian, to capture the ‘vanishing race’, a phrase Curtis used and manipulated.
Ed Ruscha, an Oklahoman, undertook Twenty Six Gasoline Stations in 1962 to report on his trips back and forth between Los Angeles where he was studying art and his home in Oklahoma City.
I had a vision that I was a great reporter when I did the gasoline stations.  I drove back to Oklahoma all the time, five or six times a year.  And I felt there so much wasteland between L.A. and Oklahoma City that somebody had to bring in the news to the city.  It was just a simple, straightforward way of getting the news and bringing it back.  I think it’s one of the best ways of just laying down the facts of what is out there.    It’s nothing more than a training manual for people who want to know about things like that.
Edward Ruscha in Edward Ruscha Photographer
There has been this great yearning of Americans to try to understand what is out there in the vast, wide open, relatively unexplored West.  Americans no longer expected the West to be Indians surrounding a stagecoach.  Instead, at that time, the West was station wagons at gas stations trying to get to national parks or moving out to California for opportunity.  Americans still have a love of nature and try to preserve ‘unspoiled’ land for the future.
              1974’s The New West started an investigation of the West’s ‘development’ for Robert Adams, who lives in Colorado.
“Many have asked, pointing incredulously toward a sweep of tract homes and billboards, why picture that? The question sounds simple, but it implies a difficult issue—why open our eyes anywhere but in undamaged places like national parks?
Paradoxically, however, we also need to see the whole geography, natural and man-made, to experience a peace; all land, no matter what has happened to it, has over it a grace, an absolutely persistent beauty.”

Robert Adams, 1974
Adams incorporated the expansive American population onto the landscape of the continent that had been claimed.  Now, the land was not unspoiled or unharmed, but showed how the westward expansion had altered the West.
To me, an American Indian photographer from the West (born in Kansas, reservation in Oklahoma, and schooled on the West Coast) there is a fascination with the West, of appreciation of the land and a sense of what has become of it, stewardship.  My Indian forefathers back in the 19th century would have never ventured out to the West Coast or dreamed of flying above the land at 35,000 feet, way above the tallest mountains.  They comprehended the world in a different cosmological way of thinking and considered the West to be the Land of the Setting Sun, both death and yet also, an unforeseen future.
The view from a commercial airliner, flying higher than an eagle soars, takes individuals out of the viewing and yet the presence or lack thereof is always there.  Canyons, bodies of water, mountains, forests, and cities became the scale of the subjects.  The colors of striations of minerals, erosion, and vegetation became paintbrush strokes.  Roads and quarries were the scars incised into the earth.  Wind power turbines and human habitations populated the landscape like acne outbreaks.  Things that could not be viewed from a land-based angle became apparent.  Observations from land, straight on visuals, were impossible from above.  I both admired nature and saw the results of man’s impact on it.
 The route was not decided by me.  Instead, the pilot was on a certain route devised by the airline, cruising at a standard altitude.  I just chose what I pointed my camera at, choosing from the vastness of the region available.  I chose areas that illustrated beauty, solitude, desolation, and man’s impact.  Some would like to turn the hands of time back, a futile academic exercise as the sun goes forward to the West, not back to the East, and one must look towards and prepare for the new day, thus is the wisdom of my Osage ancestors instructed to us every June during our Summer Dances.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dreams from China


I am currently working on a three-part exhibition of more aesthetically inclined black and white print projects from the last few years.  The section "Dreams from China" comes from my travels in China and is more documentary, but still shows in camera manipulation and compositional choices.  Images included are from Beijing, Henan province, Huang Shan, Shanghai, and Xi'an.  Unusual for me, all three series are small (7.5" x 10") black & white prints, matted and framed for $300 each.  A few of these images were used in the one-of-a kind "China Re-Collections" at a larger size and with additional mementos, text, and 'Oriental' paper.  Look for them to be coming to a gallery or museum near you or contact me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Osage Meditations

Winter Writing
U'-thu-da Ski-the
Wa-gthe'-sce Ga-xe
Ga-con' Thin Te She-ton On-thopa Gsha
U'-thu-da Ski-the
The series 'Osage Meditations' was conceived on a snowy day in Feb. 2011 when I wrapped myself up in a Pendleton blanket looking at images from the reservation and looking through the old Osage Dictionary my grandmother's (Helen Labadie Jarvis, as is Osage tradition she kept her maiden name as her middle name) uncle (G.V. Labadie) had paid the Smithsonian to reprint and she purchased a copy for my father who has since given it to me.
'Osage Meditations' addresses such issues as "land", the environment, loss of culture and language, sovereignty, representation, and economic development and deals with American Indian art making in a modern, technological era.
This series was first presented at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art as part of Photo Slam 2011 and has since been shown in its entirety in solo exhibits or as selections among group exhibits of American Indian art including 'Indigenous Brilliance' at the Highgate Science & Literary Institute in June of 2012.
Remaining pieces are available for exhibition and sale.  They are presented in black wood frames and are 20" x 36", giclee printed on Hahnemulle Etching Paper, and sell for $500 each.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bartlesville at Night

I was teaching Introductory Photography this fall and my students kept asking questions and making observations about their attempts with low light and night situations. I attempted to answer all of their questions but they made me more curious to go out and do my own project of using available light only photography (no flash) after classes. Now I know Brassai's Paris au Nuit (Paris at Night) where he did use flash to expose the going ons in the dark of Paris night. Bartlesville is quite different from but has similar scenes to some of those 1920's Paris in a small city in midwest America.