“Chimera” – Mid Week Art at Ashawagh Hall Tuesday and Wednesday July 24 and 25

The photograph of reflecting boats, ropes and buoys is entitled “Chimera” (and yes, that’s a small school of fish swimming in the upper part of the picture). I’ll be displaying this piece and other images at an upcoming show at Ashawagh Hall in East Hampton, in NY.

The show will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday July 24th & 25th, and will run from noon until 9pm on Tuesday (with a reception beginning at 5pm) and also from 10 am until 5 pm on Wednesday.

“Chimera” is being made as a limited edition pigment print in a 22 x 22 mat, and the first print in the edition is currently available.

Ashawagh Hall is located at 780 Springs-Fireplace Road in the historic area of Springs. It’s a short walk to Accabonac Harbor, The Springs General Store and the Pollock-Krasner House.

There’s free admission and kids are most certainly welcome!

I’ll be displaying with painters Cynthia Loewen, Phyllis Chillingworth and Anahi DeCanio and also the pressed-flower artist Deborah Anderson. The five of us participated in a very well-attended show at Ashawagh Hall this past February, and I’m really looking forward to showing again.

There’ll be a good mix of landscapes and abstractions at the show, with lots of new work from everyone. There’s plenty of visitors on the East End right now, so we’re hoping you stop by after a day at the beach, especially for our Tuesday evening reception.

Below, you’ll find some details on the artists with links to their sites. Please email me if you have questions.

Cynthia Loewen is a realist painter from East Hampton, who renders her subjects in minute detail. Her specialty is local landscapes and seascapes which she’ll be displaying as acrylics and watercolors. Cynthia has a talent for evoking a sense of place (a technique no doubt informed by her family’s long history in the area). She’s also the founder of the new Community Art Project in Springs which has been having quite a year. Here’s Cynthia’s work:

http://www.aaeh.org/Cynthia_Loewen.html

Phyllis Chillingworth is a painter whose watercolors and oils evoke the transient moods of light from Montauk and nearby areas. Her paintings are bold, beautiful–full of the flavor of local light.  She’s a graduate from the Yale School of Art and Architecture and also the Illinois Institute of Technology, and she also attended the Art Students League and NYU and exhibits frequently in the NY area. She’ll be showing new oils from Montauk and Napeague.  Here’s a link to Phyllis’ work:

http://www.phyllischillingworth.com/

Anahi DeCanio’s abstractions and multimedia works have won many awards and have been exhibited worldwide. Her abstractions demonstrate a sophisticated sense of color and line, and her work often ties in themes of women’s issues in very creative ways. Her work has been displayed at Pen And Brush (NYC), and the International Museum of Women and also at The Milan Film Festival and the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Here’s a link to Anahi:

http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/anahi-decanio.html

Deborah Anderson is the creator of “Pressed Petals Of Sag Harbor”. Deborah’s art involves detailed arrangements of dried flowers, butterflies and other botanicals which she fashions into a variety of framed formats. Her work recalls elegant botanical art and design from the 19th century. Deborah has showed extensively here on the East End and will be displaying many new framed pieces at the show.

Photographing East Hampton’s Trails: Scoy Pond/The Grace Estate

The Grace Estate is a 516 acre preserve in the Northwest Woods section of East Hampton. There are larger preserves on Long Island, but in some respects the Grace Estate might be superior to other tracts of greater acreage.

One of the reasons for that is the uninhabited beach which runs along Northwest Harbor which can be hiked to through the woods. Another reason is that the remaining borders are formed by Northwest Road and Alewive Brook Road, (two of the most scenic and infrequently driven roads on eastern Long Island). Because of that, it’s exceptionally quiet in these woods. Additionally, there is even more preserved land on both sides of the roads in Cedar Point County Park (600 acres) and the Grassy Hollow Area owned by the town (just under 200 acres). To the south is yet another reserve connected to the Grace Estate by the Paumanok Path.

In other words, there’s lots of woods…lots of places to recreate.

The Paumanok Path traverses most of the Grace Estate, and a variety of loops and hiking combinations are possible from the trail (either by staying in the Estate, or by continuing out of it into another preserve).  The Paumanok Path is Long Island’s Appalachian Trail–a path which travels 125 miles from Rocky Point to Montauk Point.  Over that distance, the trail visits an impressive array of habitats making it one of the most unique long distance trails in the United States. The East Hampton Trail Preservation Society is the definitive source for  information about hikes in East Hampton:

http://www.ehtps.org/

There are a few residences that border the Estate (and unfortunately there’s more to come). Those who love the woods on Long Island learn to brace themselves for disappointments. At least there’s nothing on the immediate horizon that will threaten the wonderful degree of biodiversity found here.

The southern end of the Estate is home to several impressive kettle holes dominated by White Pines. Samp Hollow is the most conspicuous one. This region of East Hampton is virtually the only place on Long Island where White Pines may be found in indigenous stands. Quite possibly, the forest that has survived here is a remnant population from the last ice age.  Pitch Pines are also here. At the other end of the preserve is Scoy Pond–a sequestered fresh water hole which was the location of extraordinarily rare beaver activity a couple of years ago. Last week there weren’t any beavers, but the woods around the pond was ringing with the songs of warblers.

The photographs were taken a few days ago on the Paumanok Path at Scoy Pond.

For me, something about “two-dimensional” images such as these recalls the dripped-paint creations of  Jackson Pollock. Admittedly, making this sort of a connection requires a bit of a stretch.  If there is an analogy at work, it might be in the chaotic order of the twigs, and the fact that the visual language of the forest speaks in dominant colors much like his paintings did.

Beyond that, there’s no analogy in photography for the expressiveness of flung paint–and in truth, the two mediums are much further apart than they often look.

Winter Beaches – Square Format Images

The four square format ocean landscapes were shot on negatives with the Hasselblad 903 SWC – a fixed wide angle camera with a 38mm Biogon lens. To this day, the 903 is totally without peer in terms of its compactness and the ability to deliver a ruthlessly precise and highly accurate wide-angle image. Click on the thumbnails to see an enlarged picture:

Main Beach, Photographed From The Jetty

Here’s an early morning look at breaking surf just east of Main Beach. I took this photograph about three weeks ago, positioned up on the jetty with my back to the sunrise. It’s maybe not apparent from the photograph but since I was standing on the jetty, the camera is actually about eight feet above the surf.  Just to my left were the small flock of Purple Sandpipers who are regular visitors to these rocks (and who were eyeing me with more interest than the waves). They’re not common birds. If you’re down at Main Beach bring binoculars because they’re often found lurking around at the end of the jetty.

There’s no snow in the picture, but it does speak the language of winter. The steep scarp on Long Island’s ocean beaches is common during these months because of changes in current. This time of the year the ocean tends to scoop sand away (rather than deposit it),  later throwing it back in time for summer. In the picture,  a scarp is beginning to form on the beach to the right. The direct sunlight slanting across the water at daybreak is also a winter phenomenon.

For the next few months, it’s not uncommon to find scarps with four foot sheer drops caused by the erosive effects of a high tide. If you’re so inclined, it’s fun to play with a frisbee along the edges of these because you can practice diving catches.  Dogs and children welcome.

Winter Trees – Barcelona Neck

Barcelona Neck is a peninsula in Northwest Harbor that is home to the 500 acre Linda Gronlund Memorial Nature Preserve. Linda was a Sag Harbor native who died in the Pennsylvania plane crash which occurred on 9-11. The park has a network of well-maintained trails that explore field edges, salt marsh, second growth forest and beaches. There are many water views. My picture above was taken there a few years ago around this time of the year.

The peninsula has historic ties with Sag Harbor, although the park itself is within the Town Of East Hampton. It’s been said that homesick Spanish sailors thought the bluffs at the north end of the peninsula resembled those in Barcelona. On a clear day from on top you can see the distant archipelago formed by Plum Island, Great Gull, Little Gull and Fishers Island.

I gravitate to the park mostly to photograph fields, or more specifically to photograph the “gradient” of habitation as it fades gracefully into the woods. In some respects a lot of my pictures appear to be preoccupied with this, although it’s not usually a conscious function and is sometimes not successful.

Winter arrives in a week. If you live far enough north to have an ice rink in your birdbath then you’ll be enjoying a low angle of sun for another month. It can be a reason to plot an escape, perhaps to a warmer place with a sun on a higher perch. But on the other hand (if you stick around),  you can always grab a camera and try to harvest the light.

Boat, Accabonac Harbor – Thoughts on Verticals

This very slender image of a boat was taken on the same foggy morning as the last two photographs.  Here’s another variation:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=6475

With images like these I can’t deny that a lifelong interest in Japanese painting still provides inspiration.  Maybe “information” is just as appropriate as “inspiration” because what I’m remembering is an esthetic approach rather than specific paintings.

In the 70’s I discovered the Freer Gallery in Washington and museums with similar work in NYC. The Japanese paintings I was looking at were centuries old but had a sophistication and contemporariness that I couldn’t find in European art.  In my twenties, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff, particularly the verticals. The result has been a thirty year affinity with the idea of formatting photographs in this manner, especially if they’re monochromatic.

There are connections between Japanese design elements and American photography because interest in both arrived here at around the same time. Early painterly work by Alfred Stieglitz followed on the heels of impressionism and it’s affinity for things Japanese. More specific was Minor White’s imagery which its obvious connections to Zen Buddhism. My own teacher Anthony Nobile was an associate of White’s along with fellow student Paul Caponigro. A third student was the late Zen Buddhist roshi John Daido Loori whose ties with White continued to inform his photography until his final days.

My teacher, Anthony Nobile made beautiful black and white images of waterfalls and formatted them as simple verticals. One such image was published in a book entitled Octave of Prayer which is sadly out of print. I can tell you that thirty years later the memory of that photograph still invigorates the way I compose a picture including the one at this post.

Perhaps the modern world with all its clutter is constantly in need of an antidote. Japanese brush paintings are one such remedy. Photography provides another.

Photography 101 – Anthony’s Scissors

This begins a series of very basic pictures.

The images are monochromatic renditions of boats in the fog from a recent morning in Springs. Considering that it’s my 101st post here on WordPress there couldn’t be a more appropriate title than “Photography 101”.

All of us who take pictures with any kind of serious interest can benefit by being both teacher and student.  We remind ourselves what works behind the camera and then we pay attention. When we get out there with our cameras in a “101 state of mind” we start to see things better.

What works best for me is keeping things simple.

What that means is eliminating everything that’s not needed in the picture. In some cases that means eliminating 90% of your photograph (which is not easy). You get attached. You want all of it… the sky, the clouds, the water. But part of you knows it doesn’t work. Getting rid of the clutter isn’t always easy because it requires a critical eye. It calls for non attachment.

A long time ago I was taking one of Anthony Nobile’s workshops. Our assignment was to take a black and white picture, develop it and return the following week.  I still have a distinct memory of working on my own picture. After a few days, the group of us gathered again in the garage where he conducted classes. Our chairs were pulled into a close circle around a portable heater.  Tony was an unorthodox instructor who spoke with very careful language so we were on the edge of our seats.

I remember him leafing though our pictures while his cat brushed against our shins. The room was quiet – monasterial.  After a few moments, he selected a landscape and held it up. Then we watched as he cut out a small rectangle with a pair of scissors. He raised the cut-up print looking something like a rogue priest holding the Eucharist.

All he said was,  “this works.”

It wasn’t religion (thank goodness) but it was a game changer for me. Someone else’s print had been cut up, but it could just as well have been mine. Tony’s pair of scissors ushered in a lengthy period of ripping up my own prints that lasted a couple of years. Occasionally there were some good moments – times when I pulled a picture out of the developer that actually worked.

It was around then that I began to understand the nature of simplicity in photography. That was 35 years ago and I’m still in 101.

Fish Traps – Northwest Creek East Hampton (photographed with the Contax G2)

The Contax G 2 is one my film cameras. Please note the use of the present tense in that sentence. You can’t buy a new G2 anymore, but mine is far from retired and I’ve still got the stuff in my refrigerator (film, that is).

The Contax G2 was one of the last great cameras from the film years because it was a petite rangefinder with an impressive array of fast Zeiss lenses (21mm, 28mm, 50mm and 90mm). I never owned the 21mm which required a separate clip on viewfinder, but I still own the other three – a trio made with the finest optical glass and costing only a fraction of what they used to charge for the nearly identical lenses made for Leica. This picture was taken with the 28mm. You can still find lenses for the G2 but it will call for foraging around on Ebay.

Interestingly, my G2 lenses can be also mounted and used manually on my digital Panasonic Lumix G3, an option which I’ve not yet explored. To tell you the truth, I’m a little hesitant. Putting these lenses on a micro four thirds body means having to purchase an adaptor in order to install a titanium lens on a plastic camera. You end up with a cute little camera with really heavy boots.

My advice for anyone with these lenses is to go find some film. They still make it.

Five  years ago I was taking my G2 onboard my sea kayak in all sorts of strange conditions. The day I took this picture I’d paddled over to Shelter Island from near Alewife Brook in East Hampton. When I got back home the sun was going down and I carefully removed my camera from its dry sack and waded out to chest-deep water.  The G2 was one of the most ergonomic cameras made for hand-holding a picture.

More on fish traps in my next post…

East Hampton Train Station, 1987

It’s August first. On queue this morning is a vintage picture of our local train station from twenty five years ago. I shot the scene employing one of two Fuji 645 cameras that I was playing around with at the time. It was a color negative, and the image was a time exposure. Over the years, the area around Railroad Avenue has changed considerably. In 1987, the area had a scruftier look. I could be wrong, but it seemed to be a part of town that conveyed a sense of being “way out east”. When we moved here earlier that year, that’s exactly what we were looking for. We were not moving into the Hamptons, so much as we were moving onto the South Fork. There was a difference, although admittedly it was mostly a state of mind.

Years have passed. The picture is a window into former times. Looking back, I’d have to say I was fortunate to have caught the building in early evening (November, as I recall). In the distance, the sun has sunk away. The lamps have gone on and have struck up an agreement of sorts, between natural and artificial light.  As is often the case, such agreements are lonely ones.

Dawn Sky With Cormorants – Sammy’s Beach toward Hedges Banks

This was recorded on a recent morning from the East Hampton side of Gardiner’s Bay at Sammy’s Beach.  From this spot there are expansive views in all directions and it’s possible to walk north to the Cedar Point Lighthouse, a distance of three miles. The flock of birds entering the scene from the right hand side of the image are Double Crested Cormorants and so I’ve appropriately entitled the piece Cormorants.

The Outhouse of Mulford Farm

The image below was taken last week during a morning of fickle weather. For several hours it alternated between stormy and foggy with the ocean blowing air into the village that felt damper than a boat sponge. The turbulence is standard fare in May and is caused by warmer morning temperatures and their ongoing argument with the chilly ocean.

You’re looking at an unceremonious outhouse located at the historic Mulford Farm in East Hampton Village which I photographed in the fog.

Interestingly, a bit of research has uncovered a wealth of information about outhouses.  I was surprised to read that they’ve been called biffies – a term which may have had its origin with Browning Ferris Industries, a waste collection company (with a conspicuous logo) which once serviced portable toilets. Long ago, Girl Scouts put another spin on it when a biffy became a bathroom in the forest for you. Various campers have also employed the term kybo.  This is thought to have originated in Vermont where Kybo Coffee cans were once filled with lyme and placed inside the structures to keep the odors to a minimum. I would’ve loved to have visited one of those north woods shacks with a Kybo can, especially in the moonlight beneath a silhouette of spruce.

Less frequently the outhouse has been referred to as a backhouse, and in Australia, they’re known as dunnies. In New Zealand you might call them long drops. 

Outhouses originated in Europe over 500 years ago which means they’ve been around for centuries. During the depression, WPA carpenters were hired by the government to build them in rural areas. You don’t hear about that in eighth grade American history. One wonders if any of those New Deal outhouses are still in service today?

Where I grew up on the west Coast of Florida some of my classmates lived in homes with privies near the woods. Whenever I visited these places I was awestruck. To a transplanted New Yorker in elementary school, having an outhouse on the property was evidence of very serious credentials. These friends of mine were not living in the rubber stamped homes popping up elsewhere in Florida (such as the one I lived in) and they didn’t come from the wealthiest families.  It didn’t matter. Their dwellings had  abundant wealth of character.

Outhouses at Mulford Farm would’ve been constructed during colonial times. It was during those years when the crescent moon cutout was first employed. The ones with crescents were for women and ones with stars were for men. I was truly amazed to discover this and it raises an obvious question. Why did the star fall out of fashion?   It’s been theorized that men let their privies fall into such horrible states of disrepair that they faded out, becoming rotted piles of wood in forgotten rural places.

It’s the feminine crescent cutout which has stood the test of time.

East Hampton Beach Photographs – Six Panoramas

Sometimes it pays to do the obvious. Beaches, with their affinity for horizontality, are an intuitive choice for panoramic formats. As a photographer I sometimes resist the notion perhaps to avoid feeling like I’m following blueprints. In addition, I’m admittedly smitten by squares and have even written a defense of this lonely format a few months earlier.   Other times, I wonder what sort of effect a vertical rectangle will have on a low-lying beach. In truth, verticals are the right thing to throw at some beaches with their beeline arched horizons. But this morning I’ll just throw in the towel. Keep in mind it’s mid January and we’re not talking about a tropical beach towel, nor was there anything sweltering about any of these pictures. On the contrary, they were collected off season much like the seashells you pick up between October and March. Depending on your point of view you could say these are pictures of beach days… but it was cold out there.

This work has been rounded up from the sandiest spots in East Hampton and Amagansett. Some, including the ones with red fences, are from Main Beach. Others are from Napeague, which is the stretch of unpopulated shoreline east of Amagansett. In the fall and winter months the beaches here and elsewhere on Long Island fall prey to uncommonly spectacular light. The sun is hunkered down low and bathes the beach with saturated pools of color. The sky hosts some of the most impressive cloud formations of the year. Most other places on the Atlantic coast one can only walk north or south, but here one hikes on the opposite axis (give or take a few degrees). All these things attest to why our beaches are uniquely situated for dramatic lighting throughout the “off” season. To some, winter is a time to comb the internet for bargain airfares. Okay, I admit to doing this myself now and then. But I’m generally content to fly three and a half miles south in my pickup truck with my carry-on stuffed with cameras. For sixteen years my truck has been making  short nonstop winter flights to the beach several times a week. The return flights have gone well too except for the pilot’s frozen fingers.

If you hold your cursor over any of the pictures you’ll be rewarded with a title or a location – that is assuming I can remember where I took it in the first place. Typically I park the old truck down by the ocean and commence walking east or west. This can result in some confusion about the titles, if for example, I began my walk at Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett heading west only to pause for photographs mid-way between there and Indian Wells. Likewise, if I find myself in the no-man’s land between the Maidstone Club and Two Mile Hollow. Whatever. You can rest assured that they’re all pictures of the same ocean.

Mark Twain once stated that the best way to view a landscape is by standing on ones head. Assuming he got that mostly wrong, then there will always be room for panoramas. At my shows, I have to make plenty of room for them since some of the pieces require about four feet of wall space.  On the other hand, some of the pictures in this post are only printed small. I hope that doesn’t disappoint anyone but I’ve never subscribed to the notion that the optimum size for any given photograph is the largest possible print.

At times, big photographs don’t make any sense to me at all. Some prints benefit from the intimacy of being object-sized – art to hold  in ones hand, as it were. For example, I print three of these pictures a tiny triptych. It’s a true miniature which has gained much from its petite proportions. Historically, photography is full of diminutive prints. Carte de visite, tintypes and cabinet cards were cherished art objects passed lovingly from one person to another. They were collected, studied and kept in boxes. That’s why they called them cabinet cards. Visitors to a neighbor’s home would bring carte de visite – a gift for the host to be placed in a small box that hung by the door. Photographs in the early days of the medium were not about filling up wall space. In today’s seductive world of 48″ inkjet printers (machines which are fully capable of decorating the sides of barns) the venerable tradition of printing small is easy to overlook.

That being said…I want to make it clear that if my pictures are happiest when they’re blown up large then I’m willing to give it a go.  Size, to an artist who cares, is an esthetic judgement. Forty inches isn’t much nowadays but it’s still a lot to me. Several of the images in this post are the largest ones I currently print. Some of the others are among the smallest. Panoramic images can work as miniatures,  but just as often as large photographs.

Viewing these images on your computer monitor is acceptable – but it’s even better to see it all up close and personal. If you’re in the area feel free to set up an appointment anytime during the months of winter and spring. My studio is in East Hampton. If you’ve been out for a stroll on our chilly beaches – stop by – I can make some coffee or hot chocolate.

I can be reached by emailing:

johntodaro1@verizon.net

More photographs of Eastern Long Island’s beaches may be seen here by clicking here:

https://johntodaro.wordpress.com/category/viewpoints/beach-days/


Relict White Pines – Paumanok Path/East Hampton


If you walked the entire 130 miles of the Paumanok Path you’d be spending the majority of your time in the company of Pitch Pines – the definitive species of the pine barrens. But in East Hampton, the honors are shared with White Pines, where they represent a forest type so rare that it’s the only such example on Long Island. On the Paumanok Path the transition begins in the vicinity of route 114 south of Sag Harbor. It’s here that White Pines begin appearing in increasing numbers growing side by side with their Pitch Pine cousins. Over the next mile the forest changes quickly. Between Two Holes of Water Road and Bull Path the dominant tree becomes the White Pine. A little further east at Wilson’s Grove, the trail descends into a kettle hole adorned with an unbroken forest of hundreds of White Pines. Nearby, there are other similar hollows filled with their straight-limbed timber. In the spacious shade below them it’s easy to imagine you’ve somehow wandered into the Adirondack wilderness.

Some theorize that the White Pines in East Hampton are a relict woods – a southern remnant of vast forests that grew in the wake of the last ice age. Colonial records indicate that the trees were already present when the South Fork was colonized by Europeans in the 17th century. Other pockets of White Pine found elsewhere in the county are the result of plantations, or are escapees from nearby development. The nearest place where the trees naturally occur is across the Sound in Connecticut where they become common as one travels north of New London. At one time East Hampton’s forest in the Northwest Woods region of  the township was proposed as a 10,000 acre County Park. The park was never created, but the forest survives in various parcels thanks to the efforts of Town, County and State governments and also the Peconic Land Trust.

Winter is a good time to experience this forest. The woods will likely reward you with a sense of remoteness more exhilarating than you might’ve thought possible. For that matter, visiting any of Long Island’s diverse habitats after a snowfall – whether in boots, skis or snowshoes – you’re likely to encounter much of what Bill McKibben has aptly described as missing information. The splendid wildness of winter here on our fish-shaped home has been embarrasingly underrated.  Both our island and the waters which surround it are replete with much of that information.

Above – two recent images of East Hampton’s  White Pines   shot in   snowy   light.