Flowers and gardening have been central to my life. I taught biology at Ithaca High School for thirty-two years and always incorporated these interests into my classroom. My family has been in the landscaping and florist business in the Schenectady area since the late 1800’s, so I grew up with the beauty and smell of flowers. This background has had a tremendous impact upon my life and photography.
While living in Laos, 1965-70, I was first given a bouquet of lotus buds while pregnant with my daughter, Sheryl. Several years ago, I obtained six lotus plants from the Farmer’s Market in Ithaca, NY. Those first plants have multiplied to over 500 plants and now fill the pond behind my home and can be viewed from my studio. The lotus flower, leaves, and pods, and the artistic interpretation of them was the initial focus for my montages.
I take digital photos and then adjust them in Photoshop to achieve abstract montages. The montages were initially primarily of the beautiful lotus flower, but have expanded to include flowers from various gardens encountered during travels. Another extension of the flower montages has been to incorporate non-flower images such as Buddha sculptures as part of the montage.
While taking Photoshop classes, I developed some surrealistic montages that incorporate cathedrals, sculptures, gargoyles, ponds, gardens, the Forbidden City in China, ceramic artists in China, Wenda Gu’s work, and many other objects into the digital canvas. The product is tasteful and unique.
Recent projects have included working with the transparency of layers in Photoshop, while combining the natural landscape and plants with architectural buildings and sculptures. The future is wide open as to subjects and designs. I view this as an evolving project in photography.
Art in my life
There were always art projects throughout the years in school. In elementary classes, I drew and painted, sometimes embarrassing my mother with the subjects of my work.
My mother was truly a guiding force in my art projects. She emphasized accuracy and care, be it for a poster contest or making holiday cards. In high school, I took art classes as electives and learned how to sculpt wood, make linoleum mosaics, and to throw clay and use the wheel. I still have the pieces on display in my home.
While in college, I took more ceramics classes, as well as some in metal enameling. In 1965, I joined a volunteer agency and went to Laos to work in villages with community development projects. While there, a friend taught me how to make batiks on China silk. Those batiks are framed on my walls and still remind me of the beautiful batiks that were produced by artisans living in all of Southeast Asia.
For thirty-two years, I taught biology at Ithaca High School. There was not a lot of time for art, but I maintained my interest in photography and took pictures while on vacation. I used the slides to bring the world of nature into my classroom through real examples of the subjects I taught. I traveled around the States, to Kenya and Rwanda, to Puerto Rico, to Venezuela, and to Costa Rica. When digital cameras became popular, I switched from slide and print film to digital photography. Again, I used many of the pictures for educational purposes.
When I saw a piece of sculpture in a garden center in Chicago, I decided that I would learn to make sculptures for my own garden. Since I did not know how to weld, I chose copper pipes, flexible copper tubing, and cement as the resource for those sculptures. The first two sculptures are eight feet high and are an abstract male and female. Another sculpture is embedded in the ground and was modeled after a Picasso sculpture that I saw in Dallas, Texas. I also learned how to do ferro-cement and have made some interesting abstract pieces for my garden. I plan to make pieces for sale in local galleries and landscape centers.
All of the above experiences indicate an experimental approach to art. Much of what I learned, I did on my own. When I retired from teaching, I took a Photoshop class at the local community college. One of the assignments was to make surrealistic montages. That assignment led me to a technique to produce abstract photomontages of flowers. My favorite flower is the lovely lotus that grows in the pond in my yard. The flower is elegant and is the subject of over fifty montages. Wherever I travel, I take pictures to use for montages.
In addition to flowers, I have incorporated statues of Buddha, sculptures, driftwood, trees, and stonewalls as part of the montages. When the montages are printed on mat paper with archival ink, they often appear to be watercolors. The technique provides a lot of attractive white space through the extraction process.
So, at present, I am focusing on developing my expertise with the digital camera and expanding the subjects for the photomontages, black and white adjustments, studies in transparency, and straight photography. I have shown and sold my work in several local art shows and galleries.