About a year ago, we had a family reunion in Philadelphia, and we took advantage of the moment to schedule a brief trip up to New York. With just three days to spend there, we planned our visit like the Normandy invasion: MoMA (twice), the Met, the Frick, Lincoln Center for MetOpera’s “Traviata,” Carnegie Hall for Mahler’s 3rd… and all that activity left us with just half a day to blitz through the Chelsea district, the center of New York’s art gallery scene. The trick was to see as many galleries as we could in an effort to get a handle on where the current action was in the art world these days.
My wife, Maureen Milburn, is an art historian/artist/photographer and former gallery manager, so she is pretty well informed about art. I, on the other hand, am essentially a spectator, but after a lifetime of reading and museum and gallery prowling, my own sense of what works is reasonably well honed. In Chelsea, we established a regimen. We would approach a gallery, she would look in the door or through the window, check whether there was anything of interest to us, and if not, move quickly on to the next one.
One gallery in particular, Robert Miller, was featuring a show called “itica/pritica,” which pretty much stopped us cold. The exhibit featured large works in mixed media, a collaboration between two South African artists named Beezy Bailey and Dave Matthews. They began by making a film of one of them parading down the city streets in a “fat man” suit, a sort of wearable balloon. They then took frames from the film and combined them with additional images, added a variety of other materials, media, and techniques, and created the remarkable results. You can get the barest hint of their content and brilliance HERE.
And we said to each other, this is really exciting; you know, maybe we could collaborate. Maureen has been making art and taking photographs for years while I have been creating digital photomontage for some years as well. Just maybe, we could combine our disciplines and create some interesting results.
For some months previously, we had been exploring a theme to which I had applied the working title of “The Shoreline Project.” Both of us had been taking photographs of shorescapes and the details thereof, and I had already started working on the photomontages. In the interests of augmenting her photographic material, Maureen began experimenting with watercolour.
Not really knowing what else to do by way of collaboration, she started bringing me these exquisite watercolours in their formative state, while I brought her my unformed ideas embodied in photomontage. It quickly became clear that she could not control watercolour on my digital paper, and since watercolour was her current focus, the process became more unidirectional. She brought me her work, I took it and scanned it into my computer, and began experimenting with it in my own way. I would print something out and take it back to her for additional suggestions. The results are spotted around this article.
One of the ancillary areas I was interested in was what would happen if I put non-digital paper through my printer. Would the ink bleed? Puddle? Blur? So I began to experiment with Arches watercolour paper and the answer was, none of the above. For those of you who are interested, Arches papers are so good that, even untreated, digital inks sit up on them very nicely indeed. There are some technical issues surrounding colour calibration, but the paper is certainly usable directly through a good digital printer.
Ultimately I did print a couple of the finished works on Arches, but because of the inherently dicey nature of printing on untreated paper without a known good ICC profile (geek-speak; translation: unpredictable results), we decided not to overprint Maureen’s original watercolours until after the show was complete.
When our show went up in the lobby of the ArtSpring gallery and performance venue here on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, the response was most interesting. We got more positive feedback from this show than we’ve ever had before. And some of the most effusive compliments were applied to our collaborations. Amusingly, one of the most common comments was, “You collaborated!? How did you do that?” To which the answer was, “Well, we’ve been collaborating for 32 years on other projects, why not this one.” Being married that long can definitely wear the rough edges off your ego.
So now we’re getting serious about the next level of our collaboration. We have several techniques in mind that we’d like to experiment with, individually and together, but we’re currently lacking one indispensable ingredient – a concept. We’ve done Venice, we’ve done nature; what we’d like to do next is something inspired by the likes of Itica/Pritica.
For the back story, check out the article HERE
Stay tuned. More as it happens.
All Photographs Are © Maureen Milburn/Sam Lightman
Sam Lightman Photographer Bio
I started adult life in the world of engineering and electronics, but the discovery of photography in my early 20’s changed my life forever. Upon returning from technical assignments abroad, I quit my job and wound up working as a studio assistant to a highly successful commercial photographer and then going to work in advertising before eventually embarking on a career as a freelance writer/designer. During this time I also attended the Philadelphia College of Art and subsequently the Instituto des Belles Artes in San Miguel Allende. While continuing my writing career, a deep and abiding love of the visual arts has led me to expand my own horizons into artistic expression via digital imaging.
I have lived on Salt Spring Island for the last 40 years and take full advantage of the special nature of the place to expand my perception. As an avid kayaker, an occasional traveler, a keen birder and a lover of all things outdoors great and small, I am exposed to a wide variety of both natural and man-made influences, all of which eventually find their way into my work.
Blog / Website: samlightman.com
Follow Sam Lightman on: The Shoreline Project