Monday, November 29, 2021

Gary Larson Rock Collection

I have come into possession of an old rock collection previously owned by Gary Larson. The discolored label on the bottom of the wood-backed display reads:

Batil Merman's Grandchildren
Collected by Andrew Miller - Summer 1882
Property of FIHS

I Think Gary got it at a garage sale. Either that or he stole it. It looks really old.

Gary Larson Rock Collection - Batil Merman's Grandchildren

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Artist Jeanne K Simmons

While strolling the beach at Fort Worden Rachel and I came across what looked like an artist’s installation. A black canvas had been laid out over the sand. It was obviously covering some lumpy artifacts giving the whole thing an otherworldly landscape appearance. Next to the the canvas (soaking wet canvas) there was a bright pink child’s beach pail. But no child was present. Accidental art? Or intentional? I had a camera with me and took a couple of exposures. Spooky, eh?


Accidental Beach Installation by Jeanne K Simmons - Photo by Kevin Imper

We continued up the beach, looking for the pail’s owner, and expecting to find a child. Shortly we came across not a child, but a grown woman, diving gleefully into a huge pile of kelp with her bare hands. She was pulling apart and separating the tangle, and severing selected pieces of it with a large knife. Not your usual sight. Naturally we had to interrupt our walk to watch, and then to engage. Port Townsend artist Jeanne Simmons was the child we were hunting for. The canvas landscape I had photographed was a damp canvas laid out over her kelp harvest to keep it from drying out. The kelp was for a live installation to be photographed later in the afternoon. We didn’t get to see the photo-shoot but Jeanne did notify me when the results were uploaded to her website. 

Jeanne's finished installation is magical. Her model for the piece is another local art treasure, performance artist Katrina Wolfe.

Katrina - by Jeanne K Simmons

For a satisfying feast of Jeanne’s visual imagination and description of her artistic philosophy please visit her webpage. Here is the link to her site:

The Quimper Peninsula is rich with creative energy making it the perfect showcase for Jeanne’s vision of creation, growth, and nurturing. These female traits are expressed directly or implied in her visual creations. Some of her female figures are quietly overseeing their world, while Katrina is actively engaging it (Immersing herself). Jeanne’s natural world scenes show evidence of the female forces that shaped them. Though the installations may exist for only moments in our physical world, her vision lies indelible in her photographs. They are beautiful and strike deep!

Extensions - by Jeanne K Simmons
Extensions - by Jeanne K Simmons


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Cold Comfort

My photo entitled "Cold Comfort" has been selected for exhibit at the 2021 juried Collective Visions Gallery (CVG) in Bremerton, Washington. The competition's juror for the show is Michael D'Alessandro, Executive Director at the Northwinds Arts Center in Port Townsend.

Cold Comfort - Fort Flagler  2019

Following is my end of a discussion of the work with David, my brother, and favorite critic.

"I took this photo up at Fort Flagler. The chair was abandoned in a pile of rubbish near the end of an old loading dock and had to be moved up next to the door. An overcast November day.

Your analysis of the photos is exactly my intention. And your boldly detailing your thoughts with such confidence tells me we share a view of the world and its dangerous, or at the minimum, ambiguous, nature. I think of the chair as “cold comfort.” Take the mind's image of a veranda on a warm summer night, witness to the neighbors as they parade in front of an inviting southern home with all of its friendly hospitality - then twist it. A hard chair, actually a shell of a chair, sitting in front of the chain link, the bars, the locked gate and an exposed porch, with no warm light coming from within. The angle of the shot, the strong diagonal shapes out of balance, make the photo teeter. And hopefully make the viewer uncomfortable. I darkened the edge of thick mat a bit in Photoshop to heighten that sense of unbalance - of suspension off the plane of the porch. It is a cold day and there is no comfort to be had on this porch."

Friday, January 8, 2021

Beach Finds

While walking the beach at Fort Worden I picked up a small unidentifiable bone a few days back, and yesterday found an intact cockle clam shell. They were cool enough they went straight to the “pool room.” Actually, they went straight to the studio for an attempt at a still life.

A number of exposures later I got a few I like. A rare thing around here since the camera has been gathering dust along with everything else. Plus, I have an inbuilt loathing of sea shell still lifes. Getting a photo of the finds that doesn’t want to make me or anyone else ill was a main priority. A tall order, but I am hopeful these shots - overshot.

Beach Find Iteration #1
Photo by Kevin Imper

Beach Find Iteration #2
Photo by Kevin Imper

Why do I react negatively when confronted with beach gleanings – collections and photos? Shells and other miscellaneous beach residue have always excited me at the moment of discovery. But that excitement is always short-lived once the moist richness of the beach environment is left behind. Drawer bottoms become littered with treasured mementos - sand dollars, clam shells, sea glass, and colored smooth stones, all having become dull and lifeless. So different from the conditions of their vibrant discovery. Found treasures are ultimately tossed out with the thought, “why did I ever collect that?” Artistic renderings of the same usually fall short of success and only serve to remind me of the bottom of my junk drawer, with all of its dusty lint-covered, once treasured, pathetic, underperforming mementos of once-rich times.

So, how can we respond with fresh eyes to the once fascinating objects found on the beach? We could try to ignore the just-found associations. Maybe use the objects to express something newer, or something bigger. Present the finds to represent a theme of the oceanfront experience rather than the objects themselves. Many aspects of that unique boundary have a universal draw for humans, creating for some an overwhelming reverence. Just being on the edge of mystery and the power of nature’s force can truly amplify our senses while at the shore. The sense of power that pushes secrets of that marine world up onto the beach for the beachcomber to find, revealing alien life at its end, or the living dwellers of the intertidal space.

Possibly the artist can expand the theme by using the objects to express the vastness of the forces and of time itself as a way to illustrate human’s fleeting and minor place not only in the world we exist in, but in the universe. Humbling, eh? Andrew Wyeth put the elements that draw us to the timeless aspects of our shores into many of his paintings. They are powerful, both abstract and deceptively realistic.

River Cove - Andrew Wyeth 1958

I was going to import an image of his 1975 painting called Flint but copyright issues got in the way. Here is a link if you would like to check it out:

Found objects might also be used to express the overwhelming organic nature of the shore, the gloriously fecund richness of the earth, and of life’s organizing forces at work throughout time. In this case I am talking about the self-conscious monkey {us) viewing and interpreting this environment using our own monkey experiences as the key to visual presentation. Our esthetic sense that naturally puts mankind at the center of all things. Edward Weston’s photographs of his shell grouping, and his Chambered Nautilus are more in this vein, provoking wonder but depending on our subconscious cues for meaning.

Shells - Edward Weston 1927

My short series of the recent beach finds are all about exploring this Weston esthetic.

This next image includes two of the props from the earlier photos, but adds a third one, another flint stone gathered in England at some point. Probably gleaned while walking the rocky beach along the Thames Estuary.

Seeking to avoid earlier accusations of obscenity in the first two images, I flipped the cockle.

Beach Find Iteration #3
Photo by Kevin Imper
Beach Find Iteration #4
Photo by Kevin Imper

Beach Find Iteration #5
Photo by Kevin Imper

It has been several months since I posted this photo of the clam shell chorus line. I like the photo but it hasn’t been wearing well. It is time to play with the composition and cropping. Analyzing the original post it is easy to imagine the image without the uppermost clam shell. Being brighter it conflicts with the march of the shells out of the void and also fights with the foreground for the viewer’s attention. So let’s eliminate it.

When cropping, I find my personal preference seldom agrees with that of the most common cropping suggestions of photo editing programs. But the program presets are a good starting point, even if usually ignored. They are offered up with the weight of three-hundred years of historical analysis and should at least be considered.

Here is my rethought composition: 

Iteration #5 Rethought - Photo by Kevin Imper

Beach Finds - Three Piece 
Photo by Kevin Imper


Two Piece Beach Find with Pearl
Photo by Kevin Imper 

Beach Finds - In the Corner of Your Mind
Photo by Kevin Imper

Beach Find Iteration #7
Photo by Kevin Imper

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Close Up

"Close" Up" - Kevin Imper  August 2016

Artist Chuck Close's career was (and is) an endless reinvention. His attention to detail and the minutiae of production itself is part of what attracted me to him in the first place. His incorporation of the framework grid into his finished work particularly intrigues me. As a Photorealist painter he was skilled at using a grid layout to accurately transfer his source photos onto a large canvas.  In his early graphics works he started allowing the grid itself to become part of the artwork. Eventually it evolved to all but take over completely, but this early mezzotint image of Keith Hollingworth is a good look at the beginning of that evolution. Still pretty subtle at this point in his evolution.

Keith, Mezzotint – Chuck Close 1972
The look of that period when he had just begun to show the “underlying structure” in his finished work is what I am trying to duplicate in a “Close Up” series of photos. In my introductory image the grid has been laid down on top – it does not rise up out of the image itself. I will have to work on that.

Closer Still

Here is a rework Of "Close" Up in an attempt to get still closer to Close.

Kevin Imper
"Closer" Still - Kevin Imper September 2016

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Stumps, Logs, Pigs: Connecting the Hemispheres North and South

Yes, I like stumps. And trees. They are subjects I have trouble resisting when I come across them with my camera at hand. I am not alone in this fascination. Andrew Wyeth immortalized a downed tree on Ground Hog’s day in 1959 at the Kuerner farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. 

Ground Hog Day - Andrew Wyeth  1959
It is not just a painting of a log. Everything has an extra dimension to Andrew Wyeth. Especially on the Kuerner farm. In his biography of Wyeth, Richard Meryman notes that the log is poised to drive through the window like a great battering ram. “Jutting from its end are vicious splinters, like wolf fangs.”  Wyeth loved working an implied menace into his images. The juxtaposition of that menace –- outside, with the domestic internal setting is actually Wyeth’s interpretation of the complete Kuerner household at the time. The roughness of Karl and the fragility of Anna. The wall paper and supper setting reflect the presence of Anna Kuerner in her domestic role, and the single knife indicates that the table is set for Karl, as it was his habit to only eat with a knife. Even the wolf-fang splinters on the log bring another element of the household into the painting – the Kuerner pet; an apparently ill-tempered German Shepherd. Other paintings and studies of the log done in preparation for this image actually include the pet.

Wild Dog – Andrew Wyeth  1959
In his biography the log is identified as a cedar log. But it was actually a gum tree. Wyeth sketched and painted many versions of both the stump and the tree before it ended up in “Ground Hog Day.”

Gum Tree- Andrew Wyeth  1958
A gum tree in Chadds Ford, PA? Go figure! Everyone knows to go to Australia to see gum trees. Okay, the gum tree here is in no way related to the gum trees of Australia. But this gum tree provides an opportunity for me to connect to another great artist, the Melbourne painter, Fred R. Williams. He is an Australian national treasure. My introduction to Williams’ work came at “The Art Gallery of Western Australia” in Perth. They were exhibiting a collection of his paintings of stumps. Caught my eye. 

Stump I - Fred R. Williams 1976

Stump IV - Fred R. Williams 1976

Stump V - Fred R. Williams 1976

Big oak – Water Color – Andrew Wyeth 1978
This is my opportunity to add a couple of my own favorite logs and stumps.

Lyme Park - Peak District, UK – Kevin Imper - August  2015

Dales Way - Grassington, Yorkshire Dales UK - Kevin Imper - July 2015
If you scroll back up and look at Fred Williams’ first two stumps (Stump I and Stump V) and look closely at the backgrounds, you can see that Williams has subtly tilted the plane of the picture. It is subtle in the detailed stump portraits, but is a very common feature in his imagery. Like in this one: 

Burnt landscape Upwey No 1 - Victoria Australia – Fred R. Williams 1968
Again, it is not obvious, but the artist has put himself into an elevated point of view. In some of his works he also tilts the horizon, making it look like he is viewing as a passenger in a banking plane. Compare the “Burnt Landscape” image above with this one of Andrew Wyeth’s:

Snow Flurries – Tempura – Andrew Wyeth 1953
Lifting the horizon by raising the viewer’s point of view is a technique that Andrew Wyeth often employed as well. Note the similarities in the following examples.

Lysterfield – Fred R. Williams 1965
(Sold at Christies in London for $1.18 million in 2013)
Hoar Frost – Andrew Wyeth  1995

Evening Sky Upwey - Fred R. Williams  1965

Long Limb – Andrew Wyeth  1959
For five years, from 1951 to 1956 Fred Williams worked and studied in London, not too far from Francis Bacon’s haunts in South Kensington. After his return to Melbourne he turned his attention to the question of how to interpret the flat Australian (very non-European) landscape creatively on a two dimensional canvas. Tilting the landscape up against the picture plane was his unique answer, a technique also used by Aboriginal artists. So, rather than the European tradition of foreground/background separation showing perspective, there is very little in his work to indicate horizontal recession, often only a horizon line. The horizon might be just a line separating earth from sky or a line of trees. Andrew often combined an elevated point of view along with foreground objects; like in “Long Limb.”

Another Chadds Ford Link to the Antipodes

Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, is also home to Andrew Wyeth’s son, Jamie. He has been farming and painting there since his 1968 marriage to Phyllis Mills. In 1970 he painted a portrait of a pig he “sort of rescued’ named Den Den. Looking at Den Den you can see that this is no cuddly pet. She bristles with stiff scratchy looking hair, having much in common with the dry straw on the barn floor around her. This is no generic pig. Jamie, like his father, does not paint generic subjects. Although a benign enough pig, the size, brute strength, and prickly hair, illustrate that intimidating Wyeth edge, that can be found in both Jamie’s and Andrew’s work.

Portrait of a Pig – Jamie Wyeth  1970
Here is a photo of Jamie with Den Den, ca 1970.

Jamie Wyeth With Den Den – Chadds Ford 1970
So here is the antipodean connection: This past February I was a close neighbor of this friendly pig in Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands, in Northland, New Zealand. Like Den Den, my neighbor was a little off-putting due to her size and rather scary dental work. The similarities were striking enough that I christened her (or him) Den Den for the duration of our stay.

Portrait of Den Den of Kerikeri – Kevin Imper - February 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Missy at Lakepointe, Kenmore by the Lake

Missy on Location at Lakepointe

On Location, Missy Looking for the Pointe of the Lake - 2014

Missy Enjoying the Integrated Land Uses at Lakepointe - 2014

From the City of Kenmore Website:

"Lakepointe is intended to integrate different land uses and activities in a complementary manner to minimize the conflicts and integrate the usage among residents, shoppers, vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The mixed-use nature of this development will provide almost a mile of Lake Washington and Sammamish River channel shoreline access."

On Location, Missy Contemplating Integrated Mixed Use - Kenmore by the Lake    2016

Please don’t worry about Missy and the photography crew trespassing during her photo shoot. There are no fences, and as of June 27, 2016, there are no posted trespass warnings. Maybe there should be?

The Current Face of Mixed Use Zoning - Lakepointe - 2016