The ‘Tarnished Mirror’ and ‘Every Angel is Terrifying…’ series come out of my confrontation with dying, death. and the loss of beauty. Not an obvious or easy connection to make. David Byrne in his journal comments on that when recounting a conversation in Berlin "…with Matthias Arndt, a local gallerist…. Matthias said beauty - being ephemeral, evanescent, and impermanent - reminds us of death. I would have never put an equal sign between the two myself – seems overly Romantic a la Rilke again, but I see his point. The morbidity of beauty. Huh."
Since I am 'overly romantic' I jumped at the title when Jeanne Wells, pointing me to Rilke, suggested it. I would never have come up with the connection although I was familiar with him since I grew up in a small German town near Worpswede, where Rilke spent some time around 1900 in the local artists' community.
While printing the 'Every Angel is Terrifying' negatives, I started experimenting with lith printing, which usually produces warm-toned prints of unusual appearance. Using this process, it is difficult to make identical prints from the same negative, unless one pays close attention to all the variables encountered in printing, which I do not. Bringing this new element of chance to my work first distressed me, and then it liberated me, especially after reading Leonard Koren’s book “Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers.” The wabi-sabi concept of the “beauty of the imperfect” worked right into the feeling I was searching for in my work. From then on, I started making prints which incorporated marks of imperfection and which often were 'one-of-a-kind,' whether made in the darkroom or with the inkjet printer. Attempting to hint at the wabi-sabi concept that things are “devolving towards or evolving from, nothingness” became important to me.
The focus of the “WaterWomen” photographs is biographical in nature, documenting the lives of several commercial Cedar Key fisherwomen. Commercial fishing, clamming, and oystering in this small, isolated community on the Gulf of Mexico is extremely hard, dangerous, and often lonely; the nearest hospital is sixty miles away.
Even though I spent a lot of time on the water, I hardly ever encountered these women on the Gulf. I would catch a glimpse of one or two of them as they scooted by on their skiffs, or I would see one waitressing or working in one of the many other jobs they did, in order to make a living. The “WaterWomen” certainly do not think of themselves as being unique, or being special. Growing up in Cedar Key, they are connected to the water and laboring in this way is “no big deal!”
Photographing these women and having the opportunity to go out on the water with them ‘driving their boat’, racing by obscure channel markers, turning at the last second, with one hand on the wheel, one hand around a coffee cup, and perhaps a cigarillo between the teeth, hair flying in the wind; that was an incredibly “big deal” for me, even if they were unaware of their exceptionality.