Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lori's world

It has to be quite exhausting to be Lori Witzel -- driving through the
landscapes, cityscapes, and shopping malls of central Texas

with eyes that are framing every scene


wait! --- stop the car! --- where's that damn camera?


Always looking for patterns of line and texture

And usually looking in places where I don't want to look

Sometimes she's a surrealist

Sometimes she's a Taoist

She's on some kind of mission -

to redeem the big things that are ugly

and the small things that are worthless

To which she always gives a sense of impact --
like this Billboard I found in Chicago
(that always seems to get the best designers)

Because I think that's her background --
she's a kick-ass commercial graphic designer

But she's also a poet...
with an eye for detail (like the wasp nest
embedded in this post-modernist grid painting)

Which brings me to my favorite of her shots --
this landscape

Reminding me of this late 19th C. painting by the monk, Xugu
(this is just a detail -- of a similar vertical design -- looking through branches -- and reflections to see the water beneath)


Which brings me to a topic
I've been wanting to discuss:

I hate photography because:

Because :

When my eye (which can be thrilled by the overall design)
looks down to the detail

(like the above -- taken from the lower left corner of Lori's photograph)


It's a miserable shape -- the shape of disaster
(and it's always that way -- the camera doesn't know any better)

as opposed to the form-loving mind of the artist
who's always feeling/adjusting
every edge of every shape and background
to make himself (and the viewer)
feel happy


which is just to say --
the camera can be used to design
... but not to draw.


Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Hi, Chris! What a fun surprise, to find you musing about my whirled, er, world!

This post makes me think again about "why photography" -- and indeed, the small details the world furnishes aren't edited and elegant (witness the leaf-reflection you noted) the way a master draftsman would knit the image together.

Will think more deeply on this, and it may even lead to a responsive post, but for now a long comment shard:

For me, photography occurs rather as a spiritual practice -- something akin to Buddhist mindfulness, an opening to "suchness" in the everyday. I'm drawn to oxidation and transitional things (reflections, for example) because of the ambiguous poetry I find in ephemera. I suppose it's a bit similar to memento mori or vanitas paintings.

In addition, the tools I use in digital photography are so efficient, they enable me to be profligate, reducing my attachment to the created object and increasing my focus on looking.

Because this medium allows me to catch lots and review without much delay, it immediately rewards the habit of looking -- really looking and seeing -- I believe to be at the heart of the best parts of being an artist, the best parts of being human.

Drawing and writing poetry are much slower for me. Why? I suppose that the editorial/filtering mind and hand, the need for longer spans of attention than the camera requires, make these media less voluminously productive for me.

Not that that's a bad thing -- but it does mean if I wish to engage in disciplined seeing I'd be reducing my practice time considerably if I only used those other media and not photography.


March 11, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

Lori, I so enjoy your photography blogging, I certainly don't want you to spend any less time doing it.

For me --- to see it every day -- certainly fulfills your stated purpose of "I hope what you see here fuels your own creative energy"


---if you did stop doing it
-- and if you did devote all your time to drawing and poetry
-- and if you did end up being less "voluminously productive"
-- and if you did end up making only ONE memorable poem or drawing in your life.

I don't think that would be such a bad thing.

But still -- it's true that - many people find exhibits of photography to be a positive experience -- and maybe I'm the only one in the world who finds them all relentlessly depressing -- even morbid.

March 11, 2007  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Well, this was very interesting, wasn't it? A collision between two of my favorite e-people that is revealing about both. I have a strange feeling of being caught in a piece of weaving as people I know here and yon are pulled together. Technology in our age really does have a magical element.

Chris, your reaction seems utterly in keeping with what I know of you. I like the way you sweep through an introduction to Lori, and her response is equally interesting. And I like the comparison with non-photographic works.

Your opinion about photography also reminds me of the day a good friend who taught American poetry said to me in jest, "What does the world need with another poem?" Suddenly all sorts of things (about academia, about me, about teachers of poetry, about the state of poetry) came clear or seemed more urgent. I couldn't write a poem for about a year, and I started writing prose because, you know, I simply must write.

Lori reminded me of Emerson: "I am a transparent eyeball," etc.

I'd also like to know what you think of the photographs of Lori's friend, Dave Bonta, who has a somewhat calligraphic eye and is often minimalist.

March 12, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

The irony here is that my websites would not exist without photography and the digital camera is the most expensive (and enjoyable) tool I own -- while Lori has filled her website with line drawings and poems -- the first of which I found totally compelling.

Are we colliding ? I hope not -- I hope it's just two Taoist-American weirdos -- going their strange ways.

March 12, 2007  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Oh, it's just the automobile that has made collision sound so unattractive.

March 12, 2007  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Who you callin' weirdo?


Chris, you are a hoot. And Marly's note put me in mind of those Super-Colliders -- of course I feel my quarks all becoming even finer particles now.

March 13, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Please don't any of you become less "voluminously productive".

March 13, 2007  
Blogger Gawain said...

I think I understand Lori's project really well because I have found myself doing a lot of this sort of photography myself lately (since acquiring my most expensive piece of technology -- my digital camera). It's like finding beautiful paintings in a small section of our field of vision. It enriches my life immensely -- and I can pretend that I am at a museum looking at paintings (which I can't do here because we don't have much in the line of museums here in CM)!

March 13, 2007  

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