Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rust in Peace, Tiny Town! (Part Two)

Here are more photos from the now defunct roadside attraction near Santa Fe called Tiny Town featuring "the art that dies to live."

Remembering how shy I was about putting myself deep into the experience of shooting there, I am reminded of an important lesson. When it comes to getting the right shot, being shy is counterproductive. So what if you have to lay on the ground, stand on a rock, walk through junk/mosquitoes/a crowd/whatever it is that might make you hesitant? Do it anyway because, like what happened with Tiny Town, the opportunity may never come again.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Rust in Peace, Tiny Town!

It was over a decade ago that artist Tammy Lange (AKA Tatt2 Tammy) began building her fantasy village south of Santa Fe near the funky art town of Madrid. Tammy collected bones, rusted objects, broken anything and pulled it all together to create an obscure tourist's delight and a photographer's paradise. This roadside attraction was called Tiny Town. Tammy's motto was "If it isn't dead, broken or rusted I just can't use it." There were the remains of roadkill, of dolls, of religious artifacts, furniture, cigarette machines, musical instruments...

I am sorry to say that a few months ago the land was cleared. Apparently the landlord and neighbors thought it had become more of a dump than a piece of art. The more of a dump it became, the more enticing it was to me!

Too bad I discovered Tiny Town in time to photograph it but too late to do it justice. Because the desert sun creates such harsh shadows, I wished for cloudy days so photographing it would be less of a challenge.

Here are but a few images from Tiny Town, the place that is not only abandoned, but non-existent.

Let this last photo remind you about what happens when you don't wear sunscreen:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

7am - Not Early Enough in Santa Fe

It's easier for me to fly half way across the globe to shoot than to walk around my own neighborhood, and that sad fact has got to stop. Photography great Jay Maisel, among others (including Paris Parfait), is an inspiration in that regard. The trick of course is to be able to practice my art without having the camera in front of my eyes so often that I don't actually see anything. If my excuse is that I don't want to lug my Canon 5D around, there is always the Canon PowerShot. There are no real excuses!

This morning I set out to the Plaza at 7am. Next time, I'd like to start an hour earlier.

The Palace of the Governors is the oldest continuously occupied public building in the U.S. It is beneath the portal here that Indians (and yes, "Indians" is an acceptable term here) have been selling their wares since 1909. In 1957, at age 3, I was here with my family. I remember being enamored with their dress; at that time, they wore more traditional Indian garb.
This morning, before the Indians sat at their assigned spots, they threw their blankets down and went out for breakfast:

Up the street one block is another portal with lots of fun shops and restaurants:

At this store, you can buy anything typical of the area - ristras (chile peppers strung together), ladders, skulls, coyboy hats, broom skirts, etc:

Sure, there are touristy shops in and around the Plaza. But there are plenty of interesting, unique places as well. Shop with confidence with confidence that you'll spend way too much money:

You can find some nice cowboy boots:

You'll need a hat to go with those:

And who doesn't need some tricked-out Pez dispensers?

"Our Lady of Guadalupe" is everywhere. Whether it's devotional or campy, there is something for everyone as far as she is concerned. The motto here is "In Guad We Trust."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day One in Santa Fe

For the next four or five weeks, I'll be immersed in various artistic endeavors in Santa Fe, sometimes  nicknamed "The City Different." I hate that moniker, so I'll just call it....Santa Fe. The state of New Mexico, on the other hand, is often referred to as "The Land of Enchantment" and boy is it ever!

Funny that in Michigan right now it is hot and sunny, the weather most people think Santa Fe experiences all year 'round. They don't realize that at 7,000 feet, Santa Fe has four distinct seasons including cold winters, often in the teens at night. But it is overcast and nippy this May morning, with an occasional drizzle. 

Arriving at our home yesterday made me giddy. Pinch me! The house is actually an old adobe home that was refurbished a few decades ago. It's part of a small compound of 6 houses now. When we aren't here, we do short term rentals and for that purpose our home is called Casa Rosemont. However, nothing about it feels like a rental. When you walk in, you are entering a cozy, arty, well-stocked home (thanks to Dick, tons of CDs and videos.) You can tell this isn't Grandma's house. And to think I toned it down a little so as not to frighten potential renters!

Here are a couple of photos for today. As I venture out I'll make sure I take my camera with me, even if it's my little Canon PowerShot.

Exposed adobe, just above the dining room cupboard:

This is where I hang my hat, with Georgia O'Keeffe smiling above (and hiding the circuit breaker box.)

A few years ago I found this antique stool...someone thought it was a birthing chair!?! 

Even the bathroom is fun:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On My Way to Santa Fe

On Thursday, I leave for New Mexico for one month.

In 2002, thanks to the generosity of Dick's mom, we bought a second home in Santa Fe. We plan to relocate there permanently next year. Our house is a five minute walk to the Plaza, a little longer to gallery-rich Canyon Road. When I'm doing dishes and look out over the city, while the setting sun tosses brilliant colors into the sky, I have to pinch myself. I am deeply grateful to Toddie Rosemont for helping us buy the home, thus putting me on a professional and creative course that I would never have imagined for my life.

The first and second weekends in June, I'll be involved in some exhibits and a portfolio event. I'll also be entertaining two different guests during that time. I love having guests because it forces me to go out and enjoy the rich New Mexico landscape. My promise to myself is to shoot more of New Mexico during this trip. One idea is to get up before dawn and drive to Plaza Blanca, The White Place, and photograph these magnificence geological formations as dawn breaks.

Assignment: Shoot something everyday, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Plan at least a couple of major photo excursions. Post the results on PhotoBLOGraphy.

Here are a few images from New Mexico, taken at various times throughout the past few years.

But first let me share a photograph of Toddie Rosemont. Not sure how old she is here, perhaps around 20, and it may have been when she went to Texas to recuperate from tuberculosis. This is the woman pretty much responsible for transforming my artistic life. It gave her so much pleasure to help us get our Santa Fe house, and we bought her a ticket to come see it in late 2003. She never made it. Just after Christmas, she died from the flu.

On the road from Galisteo:

I'm such a sucker for anything that is decaying, peeling, etc.

Taken in Cerrillos. Remember these brands? Viceroy...Tareyton...

This was in "Tiny Town" just outside Madrid which, sadly, no longer exists:

This doesn't exist anymore either! "Fridgehenge" duplicated Stonehenge. With no ancient bluestones in sight, artist Adam Jonas Horowitz used refrigerators instead. Of course!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Shooting, not shopping

While traveling in other countries it's the people, the culture and the landscape that capture my attention. It's more fulfilling for me to meet the villagers, learn a few words of their language, ask questions, take notes and shoot with wild abandon.

There are places to shop, little businesses that sell local crafts, and I always have the intent to investigate but I rarely follow through. Only later, when I look at some of the photographs in the comfort of my own office do I wish I had made the time.

Of course I do end up picking up a piece here and there - (and I've been known to literally pick things off the street - friends Michael deMeng, Stacey Mattraw and the gang from know what I'm talking about!) - but to spend time shopping means less time shooting.

Now that I've shot these images, now I want to shop these images!

In Bali, the markets have a colorful array of ceremonial supplies. I really wanted to know what each piece was used for, watch how they are made, etc.

I don't recall what was in this shop...never got past the window!

Fabric! So tactile!

Sure, those are postcards. But shooting the feathers in the foreground (intentionally using shallow depth of field) was more interesting:

An antique store in Singapore:

There's always time for a cold drink on a hot day in Bali:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Spirits of the Secret Keepers

Above, Katie John

Oh, those crumbling, crackling, aging, molding doll faces! What does my love of them say about me? I'm still trying to come up with a concise "artists statement" about that. I suspect that it has more to do with rejecting perfection than embracing decomposition but perhaps there is no difference between the two.

My Secret Keepers series has been a way to look intimately into the faces of characters I've met along the way, literally if not figuratively. They are so named because these particular inanimate beings hold countless secrets. These dolls were loved, coddled, thrown, lost. They overheard quiet giggles, jubilant birthday parties, arguments and pillow-muffled sobs. They witnessed unspeakable pain and unconditional love.

Recently I began processing the photos in a different way. Converting them to black and white, save for a feature or two, brings a haunting interpretation. Solarizing them accentuates the crevices and gives surreal outlines to what has become more a personality than a doll. The reaction is immediate; Are you repulsed? Feeling maternal? Are you yearning for your own innocence or you do you simply wonder what the story is behind each creature? Because these images are more haunting than the original series, I call them Spirits of the Secret Keepers.

I've worked on this series for about two and a half years now and still love it. I'm always looking for dolls to add to the series, so please let me know if you have any you think might be appropriate. They will of course be returned unscathed, so to speak. One woman brought me a doll that she was holding in her arms like a baby. "Will you take good care of her?" she asked as if it were an infant. They are extensions of ourselves. At least extension of aspects of ourselves. For this reason I consider each one to be a portrait rather than a still life.




Annie's Doll:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Grace Kelly Fabian
May 20, 1911 – July 4, 2004

Mother's Day is fast approaching so of course I'm thinking about Mom more than usual. She was 93 when she died five years ago.

Grace was a kind, loving, affectionate, playful, funny and dignified woman. She raised eight kids with my wonderful dad and even outlived three of them. She showed us how to grow old gracefully. She had pride in how she looked up until her last day on earth, but never whined about wrinkles which, I have to admit, she didn't have in excess. Even on her death bed she looked better than many 65 year old men and women.

Here is a short story that I wrote five years ago for her memorial.

When we were children, Mom used to bless us before we went to bed. She would gently caress our heads with her hands and while making the sign of the cross on our forehead with her thumb would pray:

May the blessings of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit descend upon you now and forever and ever. Amen.

Then she would kiss us. As time went on, the blessing evolved. In the past few years it became more elaborate.

May the blessings of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit descend upon you and all those you love, with alert minds, good memories and the wisdom and love of God in your mind, your heart, your soul and your body. Amen.

But Mom added more than just verbiage. She would, in good humor, hold our heads firmly in her hands like a vise, impress the sign of the cross hard on our foreheads, grab and squeeze our ears as she said Amen and plant a huge, noisy kiss on our crowns. Sometimes, when a few of us were together, one of us was elected to be the "victim" while the rest of us stood close by to receive the blessing through osmosis.

At Dinner with Mom on Sunday, June 27 [this was exactly one week before her sudden death] my brother Jack generously volunteered to be the recipient. Mom began the blessing as usual:

May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit descend upon you and all those you love, with alert minds...and...

She forgot the rest of the words. She paused a moment, chucked softly to herself, and with her eyes still closed in prayer reverently continued:

...and stuff.

I miss the feel of her hands on my head. I do feel so very blessed.