La Penseuse Qui Pleure

Placing your work in the street means it lives and evolves without you. I suppose it always does, but in the street you get to see it physically change and live its life apart from you.

A howl from coast to shore

The saddest dog I ever met lived alone on an island you could only reach at low tide. When I visited, he followed me around the island just close enough to keep an eye on me, but at safe distance. He wouldn’t approach my out-stretched hand, no matter how much of my dog-lover’s heart I tried to project. His howl echoed on the wind the morning we left.

Ile du Guesclin

Another post going back to the roots. I’m excited about shooting digitally, making negatives from those files, then printing in cyanotype, gum bichromate, and the like. Earlier this month I had an intro to some of these older, now deemed “alternative” processes, and starting today have a weekly slot in a collective darkroom 10 minutes from my flat. Wednesdays my perfume will be fixateur

As excited as I was this morning, I found myself questioning the whole process (“I could do this in five minutes in Photoshop, is this really worth my time?” and so on…) Then a magical error happened. I had taken out the negative to blow off some dust, and when I put it back, I unknowingly set it up on the adjacent frame, and one I hadn’t chosen to print. So when I exposed the paper as before, I got a completely different result. Obviously. At first, I didn’t understand what happened, but loved the unexpected result. This simple, beautiful accident reminded me one of the reasons why I was there, and why I still love shooting film.

Kit’s lampshade

A self-portrait, featuring a work of artist Kit Brown. We once had studios
on the same floor and when I think of working near Kit during those months,
I think of Chuck Close saying, “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us
just show up and get to work.” 

Artificially sweetened

Once I bought a dress that made me look like a cupcake. 

I remember standing in the tiny shop feeling ridiculous, artificially-sweetened, looking at my friend and the shop-keeper and telling them, “It’s not really my style.” To which I got, “Oh but it looks so good on you! You HAVE to buy it.” Surprised by their enthusiasm for something that looked so silly, I said, “well, maybe if it were black…” 

“Oh it’s a great color! It suits you. You need more variety in your wardrobe.”

Pulling at the sides of the dress, I said “It doesn’t have much of a structure, I look like a potato.”

So why did it go home with me? Am I too easily influenced? It was cheerful enough that I thought it could brighten a grey day. But for two years, it has stayed in the closet, not tempted me once. Maybe I can turn it into a lamp shade.

Today at Iris

“My reflexion scares me when I see it in the metro window. Some people are staring, some raise their eyebrows when they see my face. My head feels hot then cold. I wonder if my scalp is blushing.”

I wrote this in a notebook I carried with me in Paris, in the weeks after I shaved my head. It’s not an easy city for a woman to be bald. It made me see how conservative Paris is, how much I prefer to be the one looking rather than the one looked at, and inspired me to write with a vengeance from this new perspective.

Today at 2pm I’m giving a talk in Cincinnati, at the Iris BookCafé & Gallery, where I have a show of three series of self portraits, together entitled FEMME. It’s the first time I’m showing my work in my own country.

Strange Things

I didn’t touch the negative. I didn’t move the filter. The paper was fresh. It hadn’t been previously exposed to any finger-shaped light. I swear to all of the above. So I have no physical explanation for it. 

I’d been printing in the darkroom for almost 5 hours and was ready for a break. I was making my last print, and the image was a bit too dark, so I thought, “alright just ONE more, then I’m done for today.” Except the next one had something bizarre on it that didn’t make any sense. I forced my brain not to speculate right then, because I was a little jumpy in that old house, where you never felt alone when you were alone.  Standing there in the dark, on a basement floor made from centuries-old stones that used to be the walls of a church, I felt there might be some unseen beings playing with me.

So. I quickly (frantically!) made another print, trying not to think about who or what had just interfered with my process. The new print was just fine, and as soon as it was safely in the fix I turned those lights on FAST and I was packing up. I didn’t even really look at the print until days later when I was back in Paris. 

So, what exactly are those shapes, and who put them there?

There are two distinct shapes on that first print, and almost a 3rd. Since they’re white, it means the objects that caused them were opaque, and placed above the paper, thus blocking the light falling onto the print. But no one else was there but me, and I surely didn’t do it. One shape looks like maybe a finger. That other thing, which is slightly 3D, I’ve no clue. I consider it my haunted photograph.

Earlier that afternoon, the electricity in that big old house had gone out. I’d just put paper in the developer tray when everything went black. I quickly abandoned it and fled upstairs. 

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss were singing “Strange things are happening everyday…” on my computer. 

I found the fuse box and everything was fine, no fuses were blown, no apparent reason for it. At that very moment, a student from the folkehøgskule rang the door bell. I ran upstairs to answer it. He said he was coming to play the piano in the “green room,” which was just above the darkroom. 

Relieved to have company, I went back down in the darkroom. Now I could hear his beautiful music through the ceiling and it calmed my nerves. I spent the rest of the day printing, up until the haunted photo above happened. 

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