It is November 22. There is ice on the car windows. The shadows are long and stretch over everything into darkness by 4:30. We are out on the streets with the backdrops, fingers freezing over the camera, gusts of wind coming off the sea. I need to get with the program, find my gloves and hat. In Blackpool Jenn and I are surprised by how quickly it gets dark, forgetting the changes of winter. We rush out and manage to take a few portraits before all the light goes.
Still, it is beautiful and exciting and breathtaking to see all of the sunsets, the afternoon light falling away over the Irish Sea, The North Sea, The Pennines and Yorkshire Dales.
I am driving back and forth across the North, beyond the Saturdays, meetings, students, new work as Chester comes on board. I can’t believe it all, it is a whirlwind of activity and art making. I am in my element.
I have completed 5 photoshoots so far. There are 3 more scheduled for this year. I am excited about many of the portraits in each town and I can now see the work emerging.
There is a wildness to the towns that is joyful and playful, challenging and creatively defiant.
In Blackpool we are in an old clothing shop. We pile mannequins into the frame and use the shop fittings to make our studio. It feels like a defining moment - using the remnants of retail, the stuff left behind after the clothing chains pulled out of town, as prop and symbolic pyre. This is a way forward, something I will seek out in the portrait spaces.
Locations; seeing around the backdrops and onto the streets themselves, the signs and shop fronts, these spaces within the portraits, this relationship between person and place, the replacement of retail, of late capitalism with the faces and bodies of youth. Themes are emerging, patterns that I can identify, name and consciously look for. This art making is such a mystery. I never know what I’m walking into or what the terrain is. I have to just trust my feet, my process and intuition. I absolutely have to be present and in the moment, awake and aware with my eyes open. That is all. I just have to recognise the signs.
I now have worked in enough of the locations to see a bit of what I’m looking for. Often some of what I’m doing clarifies when I’m running. Someone commented about the Bright House sign in Redcar visible in a snap shot of the studio in the street and when I was running through the woods it came to me to make additional photographs of these signs, crops of words and shapes, windows and shopfronts themselves and this collage would interact with the portraits. Now the job is to try it out and see if it works.
Someone recently told me that they see me as the same as my work, that I embody my work. It really shocked me, resonated with me, stuck with me. What a thing to say, what a thing to be. To be my work. I do feel this way, more than I ever have . I am more myself now, at 53, than I have ever been. I have shed so much, let go of so much that doesn’t serve me. I have never felt so alive, so myself. I write in my journal every morning, a stream of consciousness writing, and I keep writing the words MY ART IS EVERYTHING NOW.
I sometimes write the words alone or in different groupings.
MY ART IS
ART IS EVERYTHING
NOW NOW NOW