These four black-and-white images represent the kind of photography that engages every bit of me. I get lost in city streets, wandering and venturing into the lives of people I see. Throughout the day people move through shadows burned on walls and pavement. These shadows create ephemeral stages on which strangers portray life. Everywhere I turn another scene unfolds.
The best of these images are windows into peoples’ lives. Through the viewfinder, without always knowing it at the time, I sometimes glimpse profound elements of life, of living truth. Often my camera records unvarnished moments. And these, in particular, possess the immediacy and spirit of truth.
Photographing in city streets is itself a raw experience. It can be intrusive. There is always the element of voyeurism. It is edgy. But the camera is a powerful instrument. Black and white photography is a powerful medium. I believe it brings me as close to truth as poetry or philosophy. And, where there is no truth, superficialities and falsehoods fill the void.
Like many people, I am concerned about the state of humanity. We can never fully escape the world – its banalities and injustices – but we can try to bring greater balance to it. Photography, as well as writing, are ways I can critique and counterbalance the warped state of national and global affairs. For me, the aesthetic cannot escape the political.
Image at top of page: John Ripton , “Saxophonist”, digital photographic print, 18”x24”
The balance of forces in nature is ever-present in my mind. Whether I create art or not, I’m much of the time thinking about it – what I have or haven’t done, and what I need and want to do.
Time is of the essence, and what I have now is the rain pelting rhythmically on my metal roof like a drumbeat. Constant, constant is the desire to create.
Reflections are part of the expression, life drawing of people, animals, buildings, activities in progress. Mine is an impromptu life — ordering as it comes.
Fulfilling the expectations of art through vigorous and long-lasting training has yielded the ability to express with veritable ease. Consciousness says I must do other things on the physical plane – slower as I am in this mode; it takes time away from actual art. I do not make a living at art, but I have created at least “something” daily for as many years as I can think of. Sketchbooks are everywhere in my home, car, and purse. On the go, I manage with ink and pencil. When more precise, watercolor, inks, oils (water-soluble), gouache, pastel and acrylic are equally favored and maneuvered. And, occasional work in wood or clay persists. Even jewelry.
Attached are four examples, three created this year. One pastel life-drawing portrait (in 2 hrs.); an abstract water-based ink monotype, altered; a spontaneous zucchini flower painting in brown ink from life; and a Tibetan Cham Dancer (watercolor, outlined in ink) – detail of a larger work produced for my teacher in India.
I hope one understands that yin/yang is ever-present in daily affairs, yet, attachment to any part of it is temporary and erroneous, as emptiness co-exists. Choice is a big deal in art. Ordinariness, beauty, and authenticity is prevalent in my work and is by decision – and through practice. It is important to be the perpetual student. Then success in the outer world is not a major accomplishment. I have been a substitute elementary and high school teacher, municipal town clerk, certified electronic technician for computer repair, trained cosmetician, executive secretary, waitress, art teacher for seniors and portrait workshops, residential caregiver to the elderly, medical oncology patient, certified practitioner of the healing arts of Jin Shin Jyutsu, Swedish Massage therapy, and medical Qi Gong. And in my teens, a mother, a wife, a cheerleader, and a relay swimmer in one of the first Junior Olympics.
What have I learned? To flow. Stay healthy, and know I am an artist as true as true can be. Despite Joy and suffering, here now is where it counts. All possibilities exist. And we are participating. Variety is the spice of life for me in creative endeavors. Not to be too esoteric, but I know I don’t know what I don’t know.
Maine residents wear many different hats. Personally, I have worked hard to maintain my practice in an environment that often feels as if the cards are stacked against me. Like many practicing artists, I struggle to find the time and space to focus exclusively on my creative work. The necessity to earn a living, and the demands of raising a family in rural Maine occupy much of my time and energy. There is not always much of “me” left to get art done. Cirque was one of the few paintings I released in 2018, (recently on view at the Harlow Gallery, Hallowell, Me.) and while I had high hopes of releasing a new series of work this summer, it seems I have been struggling with the problem of finishing things.
I work in my basement. It has a 6 ft ceiling and no natural light, but I am only 5’ 7’’ and nocturnal, so it works out alright. Percival is a piece that I started last year with a fury but became fearful to touch it lest I ruin it. This is not an uncommon struggle for me…sometimes I will avoid the studio for months at a time so that I don’t have to face what I’ve left unresolved. While some artists get in the studio every day, much of my work is created in concentrated periods of time during specific times of the year. (Definitely not summer!)
It can be hard to maintain a prolific career as an artist when one can hardly call it a career at all. Many artists juggle multiple jobs just to make ends meet. I have to apply for residencies and curated exhibitions, maintain memberships, and purchase supplies for my work. Then there are always the issues of storage and transport of existing work. These are all efforts that seldom show a return on my investment of time and money, meaning that I am technically always operating at a loss. All this, after years of higher ed for a costly masters degree that brings so little food to the table. All in all, it is not a very promising lifestyle for anyone who wants to get ahead. At this rate I will be lucky to break even!
That’s it, in a nut shell. For more on my work, visit: davidallenartspace.com