Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Thoughts from Shooting the Moon

Moon image for illustrative purposes.
Not all actual image shot on this evening,
rather - later in 2016

I waited for the rising moon to clear the tree line - guessing that it would be much later before it would fully appear, due to the longest day of the year.  A long swath of slow moving clouds appeared in line with the railroad tracks below, and all but blocking the best vantage point for a clear shot.  I waited, darting in and out of the back door with a cloud of groupie mosquitoes shifting right along with me.  Watched the last train from Chicago run through a bit after midnight, and so on.  

It takes a bit to set up the tripod, adjust the lens - and in my moment of contemplation of the irksome delay - I stopped and looked at the great night sky.  The wonderment.  Really, this picture is no better or worse than any other full-moon shot I've been able to accomplish, but oh the chance to be outside and see Mars drift in and out of cloudy bands, the big dipper shining bright over my left shoulder and the bright round moon nestling in between the branches of the old cherry tree; that's what I'll remember of my last chance to see the   pairing of a Strawberry moon with a summer solstice. (June 21, 20016)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

2016 Annual Scarab Club Photography Exhibition - honorable mention

"Ascend" 2016
A trend seems to be that it takes me about six months post-show (and this case, post-award) to add a note here. I was honored to have two pieces juried into the annual show last October: "Ascend" and "Return" - and though the images look quite different, they are both of the same subject matter and ultimately about the same philosophical issues.  From the unplanned series: Winged.

Annual Scarab Club Photography Exhibition, 2016 - Lisa Spindler, Juror

"Return" 2016 - Honorable Mention, Scarab Club, Detroit MI

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Farwell Building - digital overpaint - 2016 (M. Van Buhler)

Last year, late in the fall - a friend and I were driving in the dark of night through Detroit's Eastern Market.  The GPS failed us somewhat and we ended up in a maze of warehouses on a poorly lit street.  What my headlights did catch as we pulled along was truly jaw dropping sights of graffiti spreading high on the walls that closed in on the street.  These works were hard to see in the absence of street lighting, and because we had a destination, I did not stop to get a better feel for the individual work(s) - but in it's whole, it was a stunning image.

It goes without saying that people have different views about the merits of graffiti and I don't intend to get into a pro/con debate for it's existence - other than obviously the context of the work and the placement can be born from a whole host of emotions, expectations - etc.  In other words, historically graffiti has been seen as scary as a disruption to the status quo - which is in part exactly why it exists. And though I've always admired talent and expression in most any form -- that night, it occurred to me that graffiti could also be born out of love - or just the sheer existence of it, the mark of human interaction - could be loved.

In a way less gritty manner, (in the comfort of the Laz-y-boy late at night holding a lighted pad), here is a digital painting - with a focus on the play of colors that I love, the structure of the underlying building that I find appealing. This is an abandoned building in downtown Detroit called the Farwell building. It at one time was artist lofts of the Tribes of Cass Corridor. (My mother was a member of the Willis Tribe - but later than the group in the Farwell building .)

The building has been abandoned since the mid '80s, but apparently it is due for a revitalization/renaissance soon.

Monday, May 23, 2016


The unexpected – that’s what a photographer’s eye searches.

Here is my two hours for today thinking about and working on, my art.  What I have in my mind is a series of pictures I took a little over a year ago. I’ve entered this grouping in a number of photographic shows – to which I’ve had no success (not accepted). So, using this blog – here is what I want to say about these images.

When I went to my son’s graduation I saw many happy and proud families - as to be expected. What struck me was the juxtaposition of what I was seeing (in terms of those I don’t share ethnicity with), to images I have exposure to in media and in the arts (primarily photography). Why was this unexpected? The narrative of ethnicity seems to be portrayed predominantly in dire circumstances; images of healthy emotions not often seen – at least not by me.

As I sat waiting for my son to walk the stage I thought back to my photographic series “Objectification” in which I was challenging idealized beauty, most often seen in imagery of female personas, that reflect nothing of the individual being photographed. I rarely take pictures of people as I often wrestle with wanting to honor their identity without bringing my own prejudices to the image. (Though I know you cannot avoid this as a photographer – subject for another post perhaps.) I wondered why I have not seen images that surrounded me that day: images of pride, compassion, family support, love, care. Is there a reason why the narrative stays so firmly rooted in struggle, pain, and desolation? Is this what we expect a gallery worthy image to represent?

I don’t know the answer to that – maybe I just haven’t found the right venue for display – maybe I’m not the right person to elevate these images. In any case, here is what I saw – and I’d really like it to not be so unexpected.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

2015 Scarab Club Annual Photography Exhibition

Six months past due (hey, life happens!)  I felt the show was particularly strong - which made being a participant all that much of an honor to me.
Here we go:
Reception Scarab Club -Annual-Photography-Exhibition - S. Kay Young, Juror

"Vessels", my book triptych.  Touches upon the transference of information, communication, genetic code and spirit.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Needs more work! is the thought that woke me this morning.  It's been awhile since I've been in the routine of writing, and yesterday's blog post helped me realize that I need to regain some story telling discipline.  I wanted to tell the story of unwittingly taking a class from one of the most important artists in America -- and secondarily convey that if you are only ever going to take one art class, that would probably be the one to take -- and thirdly how I feel that I squandered that opportunity in my youth (but not as bad as the other wretches in the class -- they were horrible, truly). 

How it read was that I'm focused on having validation for doing creative work -- which I'm not (if I were - I wouldn't do much creative work at all!). I decorated the house before I built it (so to speak ). So the post is in revision - and if it improves or at least does a better job conveying what it should -then it may be allowed  back on this blog!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Art Cred

(click on images)
My reproduction sketch of Daumier 
(I think "The Judge")
Who to believe in terms of credentials anymore?  According to Malcom Gladwell - it's a function of time by way of quantity in the 10,000 hours rule detailed in his book: Outliers: The Story of Success (Gladwell, 2008).  For others it's the amount of education - degrees earned, proximal juxtaposition and so on.

Recently I've thought about how I would convey credentials to support my presented creative work, sparked by a recent re-design of my online art site (   This set me off on an array of paths - but especially the path of validation via formal training - to which I have almost none.  In fact, I have had exactly one class in art while an undergrad at the University of Michigan.  It wasn't even a formal art class as it was offered as an art review elective for those in the Literature, Arts, and Science college - which was far removed both physically and (probably) philosophically, from the actual art college at the university.  This class, coupled with a 30 minute lesson from my mother on drawing perspective, probably puts me under 20 hours of art training in total and allows me to use “self-taught” at best.

I suppose by proximity, given that both parents were artists and designers - I could count the legacy constiuent.  Truth be told, I spent most of my youth running from everything that my parents stood for - and is really the only explanation for my Alex P. Keaton-ish high school wardrobe of polyester suit jackets, grandmother's borrowed pearls and pointy collared oxford shirts found in clearance bins.

Stepping back some 30 years to 1982, I have brief but clear memories of the class.  I remember getting the supply list and being overjoyed at having to legitimately buy colored markers, Bienfang sketch pads, charcoal pencils, pastels, white erasers, and a red plastic tackle box; otherwise frivolous purchases on a college budget.
What does a 20 year old know?

I also remember the teacher.  In my mind he seemed to be about 93 -- but in reviewing the facts, he was more likely nearing 70.  (To a twenty year old, the in-congruence was negligible.)  He was tall, lanky and had a wide smile that was sometimes footnoted with a bow tie. He loved everything, but especially everything exuding color.

There were a number of students in the class hailing from the New Jersey/New York border that took this course for an easy grade and had no interest in, or capability for, art.  I know this because they loudly proclaimed such facts between gum cracks, extended eye-rolling side looks and regularly lobed less-than-complimentary comments about our professor.

I didn’t know much more about him and was fearful of becoming a target of classmates should I have attempted a connection, but he had the happiness of a puppy or of someone who, nearing the end, had chosen sheer delight over the sheer heaviness of life.  Though my tough years still lay ahead – even back then,  I knew this only came from deep despair and a choice to overcome.  I also knew he had a house somewhere north of campus that lay ensconced in color and art projects.

Later, I came to believe that this was most likely the last class ever taught by Gerome Kamrowski:

“In 1948 he moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to teach at the University of Michigan School of Art. He stayed at the University of Michigan until his retirement 1982. Very few of his students over the next fifty years realized that their teacher was one of the most important artists in America. Gerome Kamrowski worked every single day at his art.”  
          Wikipedia.  Retrieved August 8, 2014 from 

The only mark from Kamrowski 
I could find was the
circled check under my name
Retrieving and then searching my class sketch book for any handwritten notes on assignments - netted me nothing.  (Mold claimed my portfolio years ago along with all of my actual assignments from the class.)  My thought was, if I had nothing – at least I might have the handwriting and possibly signature of a famous artist.  As all good paths do, this detoured into spending some time looking through the sketch book that I still possess.
Extreme Color

A type of reductive print
from the bleed through
I recalled he was quite complimentary of my work (which was no more or less complimentary than what he offered  everyone - given his sunny nature).  He particularly loved colored marker pieces and thought those were the best examples in my portfolio; I did not agree.  I will say that I did use my markers more completely than others and halfway through the class, they dried up.  I can only guess that the fumes consumed me and I simply did not know where or when to stop. I found many sheets that had wicked additional color out of those markers.  I continued with the less effusive pastels from my tackle box.
Markers nearly dried up
at this point

A few more imparted points of wisdom from Kamrowski were recalled as I perused further. He talked about the importance of identifying ourselves in our work. We had assignments that included our thumbprint, our footprint, the creation of a chop block from our initials, etc.  He also had us copy numerous works from HonorĂ© Daumier – and then infuse them with color.  Pretty much what you might expect from an intro art class – with a splash of color added for lightness.

What I thought adding color meant
What Kamrowski thought adding color meant

And my chop