I’m not trying to paint a tree, I’m trying to paint the feeling of a tree. – Joan Mitchell (paraphrased)
All this began with a visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Joan Mitchell exhibit. I didn’t know what to expect the first time I went, but I was totally entranced by her work. The sheer size of the paintings is the first thing that struck me, next the energy and expressiveness of the marks, then the thoughtfulness of the compositions and color choices, and finally, her words about her art and life.
These aren’t random paint splatters, they’re deliberate. They mean something. And they make you feel something. The play of thoughtfulness and sheer energy had me lost in her paintings each of the three times I returned to the exhibit.
When I get so inspired by an artwork I’m sometimes moved to create something of my own in response. From that, this photoshoot was born. I wanted to be thoughtful but also expressive, and to get across the feeling of nature but with the juxtaposition of a studio environment.
Amy Reid, amazing musician/artist, and Morgan Phillips of Stellarium Jewelry, both true Baltimore gems, agreed to collaborate with me on this project. We used Joan Mitchell’s “No Rain” 1976 as our jumping off point – the color and energy inspiration for our project.
I first tried hanging white organza cloth in front of the camera to add some visual depth and expressive interest. Varying the distance between the cloth and the lens, and manipulating the shape of the cloth with my hands, made different “strokes” appear in the photos.
I added potted plants to the scene to create some almost-abstract shapes that echoed Joan Mitchell’s brush strokes, but I wanted to make it obvious that we were on a set and not trying to hide it. I’ve always liked the idea that even the most commonplace objects can add beauty/mystery/feeling to life, and I wanted to illustrate that here.
I eventually switched from the white organza in the foreground to green. I love how the color shifts are so subtle and beautiful – all the green is just one color of fabric, but the studio lights and distance from the camera affect the lightness or darkness.
Our last outfit was this showstopper chain mail by Stellarium Jewelry. We noticed that the photos started taking an almost under water effect with this piece.
Thanks so much to the team for this project:
Tech/lighting details: 3 strobes (2 elinchrom ONEs and 1 Alienbee 400) with the following modifiers: large Photek Softlighter, a beauty dish, and a Lindsay Adler for Westcott Optical Spot with a handmade gobo for the specular light.