SB_Postcards

POSTCARDS

I spent a great deal of time in the 90's photographing circles. More specifically man-made circular objects. I found them mesmerizing. I became captivated by the idea that circles held some kind of inherent power. I came to believe this absolute form, if manifested correctly could affect and even heal one’s mind or life condition. I set out to discover and understand why I felt this way.

At the time, I was reading Weston's Day Books, a collection of his journal entries and artistic discoveries. He describes a realization he arrived at through the process of photography, in which common objects, when seen with empathy can transcend themselves and their particular identity. I began developing an awareness of the intrinsic value of objects, to see beyond what is observed on the surface. I became interested in the ‘Objet d’art’ and the point of transcendence, when work, through various processes and methods becomes more than the sum of its parts.

I began photographing found objects such as the top of my coffee pot, martini glasses, saucers, giant sunflowers I was growing on my balcony, cupcake wrappers, steel cogs...almost anything circular I could get my hands on. These photographs were my first investigations into this seemingly finite form.

The best way for me to describe my life at this time, would be to compare it to Richard Dreyfus’ character in 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind', who is compelled to create a mountain out of mashed potatoes, mud, outdoor shrubbery or anything else he could find to add to his construction, without understanding why.

At that time, my phone never stopped ringing. I remember I had five of them and removed them all, so I could better concentrate on my work. I would have to go down to the street and use a pay phone if I needed to make a phone call. It was a romantic idea of being an artist, working alone, exploring through process - platinum printing on my roof using the sun, countless hours in the darkroom and piles of rejected, discarded prints on the floor.

This was a period of self realization and study. The circle was for me connected to ideas of limitation which I struggled against. Everything seemed to be connected to this object, form and meaning, the natural and man-made, societal constructs, man and the universe, spiritual, primitive and modern analytical systems.

After years of working with this subject and other bodies of work that few people ever saw, a close friend remarked, "What's the point of creating all this work if no one sees it”? This inspired me to begin reaching out. I was at a point where I felt I was creating work in a vacuum. I simply wanted someone else to see it, so I formed a list of 25 recipients to send examples of my work in the form of postcards. The list I compiled was comprised of top gallery and museum curators, collectors, a few friends and key figures that pioneered the collecting of photography.

I poured much of my creative energy into these postcards. This work was very personal. In those days, photographers still had darkrooms, so I would print boxes of the Kodak pre-stamped card stock, then choose the best 25. Each postcard was then selenium toned, studio stamped and marked with my thumb print. They were titled and numbered in an edition of 25, and labeled with the absurd un-pronounceable moniker ‘Ghukfvin’. Ultimately, it was a meticulous, cryptic presentation of symbols, annotations and stamps.

New York's main post office was three blocks from my West 29th street studio. Walking up the stairs, through the large columns to mail the cards became an obsessive weekly ritual that had a grand feeling for me. Though, after so much love and care, it always felt strange pushing the cards through the mail slot and releasing them into the abyss of the US postal system. I sent the postcards to the people in the photo and art world I most respected knowing there was a good possibility they may ultimately be discarded.

I continued this weekly ritual for years without providing the recipients any contact information or clues to my identity. I don’t remember why, but after years of mailing thousands of postcards, I eventually decided to reach out with a handwritten letter to each person on the list. To my surprise, only those that were the most highly regarded in their field responded. Among them, Peter McGill of the Pace Gallery, Weston Naef of the Getty and Harry Lunn, the ex-CIA photo dealer and pioneer of collecting photography. Each reciprocated in turn with hand written letters, cards and postcards. Harry Lunn Jr. went so far as to express mail his letter from Frankfurt Germany requesting a meeting upon his return.

At the bottom of his letter, separate from the main body, this well known master of subterfuge ended by writing what I would later learn to be a curious but serious inquiry regarding the list of recipients. ’Who are the other 24”?