Saturday, October 24, 2009


“OK, now take your clothes off.” My model and I had been working together for about twenty-five minutes. I shot about 125 photos of her in my living room as she posed on a couch wearing a slip and holding dolls. I found an ambiguity and psychology that was both innocent and also confrontational.
“Oh Steven, I am not ready . . . I need to think more about whether I want to pose nude.”
“I understand,” I said, “You know that I work with nude models, right?”
“Yes, I looked on your website.”
“If you do not pose, then I will find someone else, because I need to finish with my concept. I want a certain vulnerability that will come with an image of a nude alongside clothed dolls.”
“I know, and I am sorry if I upset your plans.”
"No problem."

I have been told that my nudes are erotic, but never that they are vulgar.
Eroticism is a peculiar human trait that has to do with sexual arousal. It is a dance in nature that we see also in other animals that preen and show off in spectacular ways—all to better attract a mate. The word comes from the Greek word for the god of lust and fertility, Eros. Eroticism is nasty in some prurient thinking, but I prefer to stay with the Greeks who thought Eros to also be the creative urge of ever-flowing nature, the firstborn Light for the coming into being and ordering of all things in the cosmos, an attendant to Aphrodite, harnessing the primordial force of love and directing it into mortals. As an artist, I must have a relationship with eroticism because it gives passion and sensuality that fuels my creativity. See Michelangelo’s slave sculptures or the colossal David.

A nude human, male or female, is one of the most treasured subjects in art. Just look in the art history books, or check out the work of some of the most famous photographers. An artist makes looking at nudes an acceptable, sensuous, and awe inspiring experience. We all wonder what is beneath other peoples clothing because we all know we are naked and pure. Art reveals the truth of our nakedness.

After my model demurred from disrobing, we continued and in the end, the session was fantastic anyway. Eventually, some of the images will find there way into my new work that is a combination of photography and painting.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Picture Is An Adventure Every Time

It seems I am breaking new ground in bringing photography and painting together in my larger-than-life portraits and mixed media artwork. The opening last Friday of my new exhibit, called, The Earth Is One Country attracted a steady crowd for two hours, and I am pleased at the excitement it generated. Especially gratifying is to be congratulated by other artists. One artist friend of mine told me the exhibit felt “rich”. Of course, he meant the dazzling experience of traveling around the world, living in nineteen countries and meeting so many different people in diverse cultures, then bringing it together in an exhibition.
The great French painter, Georges Braque (1882 - 1963) said, “I could not do otherwise than I do. The picture makes itself under the brush. I insist on this point. There must not be a preconceived idea. A picture is an adventure every time. When I tackle a white canvas I never know how it will come out. This is a risk you must take. I never visualize a picture in my mind before starting to paint. On the contrary, I believe that a picture is finished only after one has completely effaced the idea that was there at the start.”
And this is the way that I traveled and worked for one year. My adventure evolved from moment to moment, and I called it THE DREAM. It was a risk that I took, and I believe I grew tremendously, personally and artistically.

"The earth is one country, and mankind its citizens." Baha'u'llah

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ownership Is An Illusion

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.”
Leonard Cohen, from Anthem

I went to a party last night. It was in honor of Zara Kriegstein, a beautiful and very talented artist, originally from Germany, who died from too much drinking of alcohol—and a failed liver. The party was at the home of a wealthy physician and local patron of the arts. As I arrived with a friend and pulled up to the palatial home, I had brief nostalgia for prestige and pleasure that comes with ownership of a home. Inside, a mariachi band played in front of a sweeping view to the west, and a gorgeous sunset. Artists and art lovers mingled, talked, ate delicious food, and admired Zara’s artwork that was displayed prominently for the occasion. A curator, her son, and her sister gave eloquent testimonies to her extraordinary life.

In the end, I think ownership is an illusion. All of life is contingent and we cannot change physical laws. Animals that we think we “own” get sick and die despite our ownership. The land we think is ours existed before us and endures after us. Our cars and bank accounts vanish and so do homes. Even our bodies are given to us, but only for a short time. Moreover, I do not want to get tangled up in forming relationships with physical objects that then make a demand on me. It seems material things need attention, and the more objects, the more demand for attention. I like being connected to the earth and nature, but in a way that I can enjoy it freely, like the wind that roams across the planet. Death teaches us that everything physical comes to dust. My philosophy is that it is better to be alive in Spirit that permeates and animates every atom in the universe and is independent, than be attached to the outward appearances that are doomed by mortality.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What Poets Write About

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. ~Stanley Horowitz

I feel fortunate to live in a place with spectacular natural beauty, light that is sharp and clear, and seasons that change dramatically. Now, in the days of autumn, I have been working in my studio, getting ready for my upcoming mixed-media photo show October 16, called The World Is One Country. Yet the outdoors is so fantastic, I often leave to go hiking and painting.
A few days ago I hiked with a friend in the mountains. We parked by a stream and followed it down the mountain. The sun shone in a blue sky while the air felt brisk and chilly until we heated up from exercise and the extraordinary beauty all around us took our minds from any discomfort. The trail wound along beside the stream, sometimes forcing us to cross over by hopping on rocks or walking over fallen trees. There were obstacles in our path but as my friend said, “This is so much better than Disneyland!” The colors took my breath away more than the exertion of the hike. The evergreens had their usual deep hues, but the plants on the forest floor were all turning into blazing flames of yellows and reds. Perhaps most awesome are the aspen trees, sometimes called “quaking aspens” for the way their small, heart-shaped leaves quiver in the breeze. Now, the leaves are the color of gold, and when they quiver in the sunlight, they sparkle like gems—whole mountainsides of incandescent celebration.
Experience of nature in its pure state is what poets write about and artists try to capture. But the Creator of the universe is far ahead of our imaginings, and His work is testimony to His greatness which is well beyond human approach.
Once the last tree is cut and the last river poisoned, you will find you cannot eat your money -American Indian Proverb