The Amateur ArtistMonday, May 06, 2013
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As I reflect on the influence of my mother in my life with the advent of Mother’s Day next Sunday I have been giving special consideration to the memory of my grandmother. Is not Mother’s Day also Grandmother’s Day?
My grandmother Lolita born in the 19th century when people with money did not work was part of the British (even though she was Spanish) concept of the amateur who did nothing for money. Lolita, or Abuelita or Abue had a beautiful coloratura soprano voice but never sang professionally. People of her ilk would not have dared to mix with “prostitutes” in the opera!
Early in my life my Abue was my protector from parental discipline. She would say, “Alex and I are artists and you simply have to be more understanding.” I wasn’t sure what an artist was but I liked having carte blanche (almost) to do anything I pleased, because I was an artist.
In my teens I became obsessed with chess and when I began to have chess nightmares and started losing games I knew I had to stop. The only explanation for losing in chess was that I had to admit to myself that I was stupid.
In my 8th grade class in a one-room schoolhouse in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico (my mother was the teacher) there were six boys. One of them, Sammy Simpson, was the best student plus he was tall and handsome. He wore blue jeans that were expertly ironed with a sharp crease and looked great on him because of his long legs. My only relief in my intense jealousy is that I knew I had a higher IQ than Sammy. That was shattered when one day my mother told me (and I cannot remember the occasion that caused it) that I had a very high IQ but not as high as Sammy’s. That was it and from that point on I had one big chip on my shoulder.
While my journey into the direction of becoming an artist began some 15 years ago in Vancouver I have always played it safe by considering myself to be a competent editorial and commercial photographer who just happens to dabble in the arts. To call myself an artist would leave me in a situation where if I am not recognized as one I would be another variation of the failed chess player and second best IQ-er.
In a recent past I took photographs of a woman who had received a Canada Council grant to document, photographically, all the bus stops in Surrey for a year. I was shocked (dismayed?) to find out that the grant included money for lunch and transportation.
One year, perhaps 8 years ago, I participated in an erotic show at the now defunct Exposure Gallery on Beatty Street. Two of my works were narratives (6 tiny photographs in a row) of women experiencing a self-induced orgasm. I was shocked when many (and many they were) of my female friends told me they were nixed because I had not asked them to participate. One of them suggested that I might be able to get a Canada Council grant with such a project as many women would pose for this.
It was at about this time that I came up with the idea of doing one of those “A Day in the Life” with our BC Ferries. We would unleash a battalion of photographers to take pictures for a whole day. I even thought that we might have obtained BC Ferry backing for funds for film and free rides on the ships. But in the end I gave the idea a rest and it disappeared from my thoughts.
This past weekend I knew I would be on a ferry as I had to attend my opening at the Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island. I decided to pack my Noblex Pro 175 U swivel lens panoramic camera. I have taken successful BC Ferry pictures in my past so I thought this might be a good opportunity to continue. I have noticed and it was most evident this past Sunday as Rosemary and I returned on the Queen of Coquitlam from Long Harbour that the many photographers on board where using the vessel as a platform to take pictures of the surrounding landscape and seascape. Few, if any turned their cameras around to focus on the ship.
It was a brilliantly sunny afternoon and I shot three rolls of Kodak 800 ISO colour negative film. My camera gives me four shots per roll. I took 12 exposures of which two were near duplicates of each other. The rest were all different.
When I looked at the pictures I smiled to myself as I thought what a change they were to those erotic photographs of mine at the Duthie Gallery. Is it too late to apply for a grant?
For one I would have to admit in being an artist. That would be dangerous. I can imagine my grandmother smiling at me, prodding me on to do what she could not do for being a person of her time. I wonder if it is too late to apply for a grant. Or is it safe to be an amateur?
And More Noblex
Not the end of it
The Grand Canyon - North Rim