the rain on the train is mainly on the pane.

working on capturing images that are best suited to digital photography. Selective focus is a little tricky with a digital camera, they all tend to go for a deep depth of field.

MetroNorth, train, ShelleyDell
rainy ride to NYC on MetroNorth


Light, transparency, translucency, how to get this magic transposed into paint on paper is something that I’m trying to turn my brain around. If there is a bit of a pattern I’m a goner.

Window and column, Yale Art Gallery
Window and column, Yale Art Galleryl

I went to the Yale Art museum this week to see the Whistler show, worth the trip, when my computer comes back from Tekserve I’ll post a more complete report  here is a link to the show

while I was wandering about the classical sculpture my attention was completely taken up by the light coming through the wavy glass  upstairs there were some classic Flemmish paintings of food and drink, they managed to completely indicate and describe a glass vessel using only lights and darks, no mid-values. I’m trying this at home .

Bottoms up

If I could buy one photograph, regardless of price?

I’d buy an original print of this one. And I’d hang it in a really personal space like my bedroom.

Paul Strand
Paul Strand, Fork
Paris 1928

it would be amazing and awesome in the true non-deflated use of those words to be able to see this every morning first thing. Paul Strand’s (American 1890-1976) images combine abstraction, keen observation, and kindness in a way that make them compelling. For me his images are also very inspirational, in the “get yourself out of bed and find time to make some art” way. I love Paul Strand’s work, it was hard to pick one out of the many that I love. What I especially love in this image? The many contrasts in this photo: the subject is monumental and personal, abstract and specific, timeless and quotidian.

“The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep.” Paul Strand

I’ve taken photos and painted a few forks in my time, Strand’s photo and it’s perfect compositon orbits into the back of my mind when I’m putting a frame around my view, reminding me not to let life get away. This photo that I took while out to lunch with my daughter is far too cluttered.

Red Hat on the River
about to have lunch, when all things are possible.
Shelley Dell 2014

“Mom, you and the light, it’s like you’re on a perpetual acid trip. Take another tab.” Hallie Kerr

I’m a little too close here,

Red Hat on the River
another day
Shelley Dell 2014

Strand’s photo is from the photographer’s point of view, he could put the camera down and pick up that fork. In my two photos above the fork is pointing at me, I’m not alone in the little life event being documented and not much has happened yet.

On Kawara, look him up.

or just read this, Peter Schejeldahl’s obit of him in The New Yorker:
In my recent treasure hunt for my favorite image I came across a postcard that I sent to my friend and muse Frankie Buschke a zillion years ago when she had a grant and was out painting in Taos. We had gotten out of touch and mostly communicated by the prestamped postcards from the USPS. I don’t think that the Post office even makes them anymore. I sent her a postcard, addressed to me, with the phrase “I am alive” on the back in an envelope with “PLEASE FORWARD” written on it. I sent it to her last known address. It was forwarded from San Francisco, to Taos, where she opened it, wrote “barely” and sent it to me in Brooklyn where I was living at the time.
I found this treasure as I was taking some photos out of frames to scan them.
A few years ago when I started to make art again I was not really happy with the way that I painted skies. For 4 weeks I painted a sky a day, mostly small watercolor paintings. I didn’t make great art, but I’m not afraid of painting a landscape anymore.
Kawara’s painting of dates and times seemed tedious when I first learnt about them, I made a mistake and dismissed them too quickly.

first and second winners

Bennett Banks
Got the photo out of the frame, better scan I think

I had a hard time figuring out which of these two photos that I liked better, they are similar in that they are silver prints with more subtlety than can be seen on the web, the subject is dead center, making eye contact, and both of them seem to be finding me, the photographer pretty amusing. I took this photo of my brother Phil when we were back in High School. We were hiking someplace close to home in the Adirondaks. The light in both photos is soft and even.
Phillip Dell
My brother Phil, taken on a hike in the Adirondaks, probably around 1972.

a hunt for treasure

My mission this week was to pick my favorite photo from all of the images up in my house. I decided to make this into a real project about seeing, to be visually mindful of my surroundings.

“One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”
― A.A. Milne

Here are the rules for this game: Go into a room, and look around, look at every image that can be seen without touching anything. This includes refridgerator magnets, magazine covers, Food photos on packages… really any image that started out as a photograph. Photographs of paintings do not count. And I have to like the image because I like the image, I can’t pick the photo of bacon from the bacon package because I like bacon unless that photo is right up there with bacon porn. No moving the magazines in a stack to see if I like the one underneath, This project is going to take a long time as it is. One exception, no intrusions into the kid’s rooms. Even if it has been years since the kid actually lived at home. An assignment is not worth losing their trust.

This took a surprising amount of time. I’m trying to learn mindfulness. I love looking at family photos, so it no surprise that one would be a clear winner. Here it is, a photo of my son Bennett from when he was about 9 months old. He’s almost 24 years old now, this is not a very good photo of the photo, maybe tomorrow I’ll see if it comes out of the frame. Part of the reason that I like it is that it is 10 x 8″, an old siver-based print. The photo is much larger than his head at the time, closer to the size of his adult head. I love the look on his face, everything delighted him then.

Bennett Banks
Bennett at 9 months, ready for the next adventure

The things we do for love.

There is always too much to do, small actions seem so.. small, but I try to do my bit. I volunteer for Midnight run, I try to get my neighbors organized to take all those excess vegetables from the garden to the food pantry. I donate a day’s worth of food for a family of 4 every month. Food that I would feed my family, not the expired cans of lima beans that somehow appear in the back of the cabinet.
The media is already cranking up for the next presidential election. This is what I’ve decided to try to do: turn off the static. tune out NPR’s making every little noise into a half hour of ‘balanced’ coverage. About a month before the New York State primary I’ll get serious about my choices and try a bit of due diligence.
I’ve spent a week listening to people from Iceland lament American politics. It matters so much in the world, we are the ones who have decided to be the world’s police force. America is the one with the big defense budget and we like to play with our guns. We have so much power and wealth and our politcs are a clown show to outside observers. I’ve decided not to engage in this media circus, to wait and see and then try to make an intelligent choice.
I will vote in most elections, and will make it my mission to get some of my fellow WCC students to register to vote. Hard to remember that not that long ago women died for the right to do it.

Iron Jawed Angels  directed by Katja von Garnier is worth watching again.

the digital dark age may be within your arm’s reach. literally

I’ve been framing my life in a digital screen for a while. Quickly a camera became a necessary part of my sketchbook, and an important record keeper for the passage of time. When I was growing up my mother framed the yearly school photos of my brother and me, and there they were slowly becoming cyan, smiling back behind the rabbit ears while we watched TV. When my parents moved my brother Phil and I were relieved that there was no place to put them up.

Red Hat on the River
the gang. Rarely have my kids all at one table anymore, what if I lost this record?

At least we had the choice to not look at them. A few year’s ago I had a catastrophic computer crash, like most older Mac users I didn’t have a back-up plan. I lost a whole kid in photos. My older two were well documented, I have boxes of photos of them sorted by date. My youngest’s photos lived on my computer, with the idea that I would print them out when I needed them. The only photos that I have from the first years of his life are the photos taken by his pre-school and elementary school.

The digital demons have visited me again, this time my backup hard drive was knocked off the desk and broken by a bolt of high gravity. My computer is ok, so I haven’t lost anything vital except for the joy of using “Time Machine” to retrieve an older version of a file. Yes, I also have some web/cloud storage, but it doesn’t back up my whole computer, and the files that I remember to put there are rarely the files that I go looking for.

Print your photos or risk losing them to the digital dark age is the advice of someone who knows what he is talking about.
I’ve decided to take that advice. I’ve decided that Costco is not just a place to pick up a six-pack of Christmas trees, it will be my archivist, a role formerly played by Facebook. Once a week I’ll send off my print order and the mailman will deliver my life. Easy-Peasy.

AND, speaking of lessons learnt the hard way: I’ve got some archival storage boxes in a place that doesn’t get wet. All of those photos that I took in the ’70’s, including the negatives and contact sheets were not stored properly and got wet and stuck together in a solid block of silver-based emulsion.

America, right turn only

American crossroads

On the way home the other day I pulled up to the intersection and stopped at the stoplight, just as I was listening to Ted Cruz declare that he was running for president. My view of this display of excessive flag waving, stop lights and right turn only signs was so on target that for a second I forgot my dread and dismay at what we have become as a country.

Forty Portraits in Forty Years

A whole series can add up to way more than the sum of its images.

2014, the most recent image in the series
2014, the most recent image in the series

All of the portraits are in this article in the New York Times Magazine, October 3, 2014
Each image in this series by Nicholas Nixon is interesting, all of them together are amazing.