Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Can we have it all?

Can people work 60-80 hours a week, raise a family, and maybe go back to school or reenter the dating scene? More to the point, can you do all those things at the same time without compromising any area of your life or cutting corners?

We ask this question because the mythology behind the Apple of Discord/The Judgment of Paris story raises this question. When you think of beauty, power and wisdom, you could translate that today as falling in love/starting a family, having a career and leaving a legacy. Paris in the myth story can just pick one of these life stages to pursue.  Will his choice be the right decision for the circumstances of his life? For those that know the rest of the story, the result was a disaster.  All these questions inspired us to make the short film, The Apple of Discord.  A screening of the film with a Q/A to follow happens tonight, 12/14/16 in Colorado Springs.

We'd enjoy hearing your thoughts raised by these questions. Head over to our Facebook page and let your voice be heard: www.facebook.com/figurativearc

Sunday, October 9, 2016

What kind of desert are we in?

Deserts are beautiful with their curving sensual sands, expansive skies and vibrant colors. They are also deadly with unforgiving heat, little water and blasting wind. The desert can be an apt analogy when discussing the subject of life and loneliness. Loneliness can be destructive but also instructive for our lives. How do we experience it and how have we dealt with it in humorous and positive ways? This is what my new blog project project, Lonely Mythos, is all about. We've asked people to share their experiences with loneliness. You can read people's responses to the questions about loneliness, comment and participate yourself. To learn more, you can go to the blog by clicking here.  Perhaps it's time to reflect on what kind of desert we currently reside.

Friday, September 23, 2016

If you were offered power, wisdom or beauty, which would you chose?

If you had to pick between power, wisdom or beauty, which would you chose? That’s the set up in the Greek myth, The Judgment of Paris. An “Apple of Discord” in thrown in the midst of a wedding party as a symbol of beauty. A dispute arises between Goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite who all claim the apple. They asked Zeus to decide which of them is the “fairest of them all.” Being a wise old bird, Zeus is not about to get himself involved in this no win situation. He picks a Trojan mortal, Paris to decide. All three Goddesses appear to Paris and offer their various temptations. It was Aphrodite that won the apple, promising Paris the most beautiful woman in the world. Unfortunately, this woman, Helen, was already married. Her abduction led to the Trojan War, where the Greeks launched a thousand ships to retrieve her.

What will you choose to do? Still from the film.
Myths offer memorable insights into the human condition and offer us clues to what lies beyond the physical world. That’s why they can be flipped and updated even now because of these universal truths. In my new short film, “The Apple of Discord,” we see a different outcome of Paris’ decision. It doesn’t start a physical war, but an internal one. It’s a battlefield over a current obsession of our culture. What will the causalities of such an obsession be? Explore this question for yourself by viewing the short film  here  (Be sure to select HD).

If you appreciate the film, likes are always helpful. You can also join the conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comment section below the video. Thanks for watching!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Danger: Nudity! Will we leave the warnings about ourselves behind?

Nudes are as old as heaven and hell
There were intergalactic threats everywhere. The robot wildly flared its arms like a mechanized demon possessed. “Danger, Danger Will Robinson!”  If an art gallery reprogrammed the robot today, it might scream, “Danger, Danger. Contains Nudity!”  

If there is going to be wider acceptance of the human body as an art form, then we need to see more artistic nudes in public places. There are different approaches that venues take in displaying this kind of work. Some put up signs saying, “Warning or Attention. Contains Nudity” at the door. Some take it a step further:  I once saw a gallery where they attached sticky notes on the art itself to hide breasts and genitalia. The sticky notes also had written warnings about what lied beneath. Much of the thinking behind these approaches is to minimize the chances of offending people that visit the gallery. There is also another line of thought that parents will be upset if their children see non-sexual, artistic nudity. While venue owners may be well intentioned with these warnings, they diminish all of us by implying there is something inherently questionable about the human body.

No warning signs here for this beautiful work
Nudity has been present in art for thousands of years. If you go to an art gallery, then it is reasonable that you may see artistic nudity.  Two examples come to mind of venues that don’t put up warning signs, sticky notes or otherwise stigmatize the very art they purport to promote. The gallery where I currently exhibit my artistic male nudes has adults with children that visit. Rather than trying to hide their children from the work, parents let them look at it, ask questions and have a discussion about its purpose.  Another example: At the Denver Art Museum, they currently have on display a beautiful male nude sculpture. It was of a man who lost part of his leg. It told the story of how it ended his army career and but inspired him to become a paralympic athlete.

These two examples show the power of art to transform the way we see ourselves. In this case, it communicated an important teachable moment that our bodies are to be celebrated and not shamed!  These moments can only happen when are open and honest about who we are. Are we willing to leave the warnings about ourselves behind?

Feel free instead to join the discussion about this or other blog entries on my Facebook page. You can also follow me on Google + and comment there.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

What story about men are we telling?

History. Philosophy. Science. Two men sit in a car discussing these subjects while eating their  food. Their conversations show them to be ignorant, shallow and inept. While on the surface these fast food commercials seem like harmless fun, they are in fact symptoms of a larger cultural phenomena that portray men as fools.  You can find examples of this across all forms of media.  This marketing approach taps into our insecurities via a proxy attack on all the men in our lives that have failed us.

Site of a photo shoot
My photography has primarily focused on male nudes. What story about men am I trying to tell? Men are richly complex: beautiful yet rugged; strong yet vulnerable; heroes and flawed. We take control over the story through the choices we make in art and in our daily lives. That’s a story worth telling.


If you want to learn about my artistic process and how I approach a photo shoot to capture these truths about men, you can check out this YouTube video.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Will we have the greatest ambition possible?

"Why will you not have ambition? Why? Have the greatest ambition possible! You want to be immortal: fight to be immortal. Do it. You want to make the most fantastic art...try. If you fail, it's not important. We need to try."
-Alejandro Jodorowsky

Alejandro Jodorowsky is a director who assembled an amazing team 
(Salvador Dali, Orson Wells, David Carradine, H.R. Giger, Mick Jagger, Pink Floyd) to create a film version of the famous sci-fi novel, Dune in 1975. Unfortunately, Hollywood didn't go for it, despite said team and having the entire film story boarded by famed comic artist Moebius.  David Lynch would go on to direct a different film version in 1984 that many considered (including this writer) a colossal disappointment. 

The rise and fall of the 1975 project is detailed in an amazing documentary, Jodorowsky's Dune, from which the above quote comes from. While the movie never happened, the story boards for the film directly influenced movies like Alien, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, The Terminator, Prometheus and others.

Screen shot from The Other Side of the Sun
Art can be a scary proposition, particularly when you have roadblocks that can derail the ambition of your vision. I've directed a number of short films and consider the first one to be a rather epic fail. Yet, it enable me to learn and get me where I am today: like recently directing a music video, The Other Side of the Sun. Are we learning in our daily lives to fail better and have the greatest ambition possible? 


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Are you ready to be taken on an incredible journey?

Are you ready to be taken on an incredible journey? This journey involves beauty, strength and vulnerability.  You will be lead outdoors to find men whose bodies become extensions of the surrounding landscape. Their forms become an expression of vulnerability. They risk judgment showing us who they are and this openness reflects the strength residing within them.

This is my introduction to my new print magazine, Journey: The Male Nude.  Our society often encourages us not to show vulnerability. We must always have the  right answers, know what to do next and be strong. But this doesn't reflect reality for many of us. It takes a strong person to say "I'm afraid" or "I don't know the answer" but then moves forward the best way they know how. The duality of being both strong and vulnerable at the same time is something I strive to capture in my work. Life is indeed a great adventure! 

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of my latest work, you can get more information by clicking here.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Who is shining a light in the darkness?

The shutter opens and darkness gives way to light. Soon a flashlight draws electrical trails upon strands of hair. The shutter closes and our super hero is illuminated. This is light painting photography.

I recently did a demonstration of this technique at Denver Comic Con. Toward the end of it, I talked about how art shines a light on topics that  are sometimes obscured by a dark culture. Loneliness, body image, and sexuality are often misrepresented by the superficial sound bites of social media. If you support what's real, honest and meaningful, go out this week to your local 1st Friday art walk. Most communities have one especially this time of year. See how artists are engaging in important topics in thoughtful ways. You'd may find a breath of fresh authenticity in the air. 

I continue to seek participants for my loneliness project, Lonely Mythos.  Please check it out if you want to shine a light on this important topic!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

What does it mean?

Baptism by Ice
It sits in cubes inside cups. It creates a blanket that can hold in heat on distant worlds. It contains the geometry of a snowflake. We may scratch our heads when it’s related to baptism, when one typically associates liquid water or even fire. So what does the work, “Baptism by Ice” mean?

Art should engage our imaginative participation. Too often the journey it takes us on is interrupted by an over explanation of what it’s about. Many artists have been guilty of this, including this one. The interpretation of a piece of art is just as valid from someone off the street as it is from the artist that created it. It reflects our life experience and how we see the world. Feel free to share your own interpretation on my Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/figurativearc  You can also follow me on Google + and comment there.  May our thoughts about what art means take us on a great adventure!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Will we set free what's hidden inside our marble souls?

The human soul, like a statute, wants to be free
Come out…come out where ever you are! It’s hard to believe a block of marble can play hide and seek. But that’s how Michelangelo saw it when he was carving his sculptural masterpieces. These forms were hidden in the marble, ancient prisoners waiting to be set free by his carving.

There are also things hidden in society that need to be exposed to the light of day. This is what my new photo 365 project, Lonely Mythos, is all about.  My goal is to create dialogue that destigmatizes loneliness and provides inspiration of how to positively deal with things like isolation and rejection. In order to accomplish this, I need your help!  Will you consider answering a few questions to help make this project a reality?  You can read about the project’s inspiration here and then click on participate to answer the questions.  Thanks for your consideration.

A quick word about adding comments to this blog. Because my blog is rated for mature content (because I sometimes post my art nudes here), Google will not allow comments to be posted within the blog itself.  I regret that this has limited interaction with my readers.  Feel free instead to join the discussion on my Facebook page. You can also follow me on Google + and comment there. I’m happy that my new blog won’t have this limitation.  J

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Do we need to cure loneliness or better understand it?

She traded out a lemonade stand for one that offers psychiatric help for 5¢. A boy approaches whose hair looks like a bass cliff knocked on its side. He sits down and asks, “Can you cure loneliness?” She replies, “For a nickel, I can cure anything.” He presses her again, “Can you cure deep-down, black, bottom-of-the-well, no-hope, end-of-the-world, what's-the-use loneliness?”  She screams back, “FOR THE SAME NICKEL?”

Let's have a dialogue about loneliness
I like the Charlie Brown Valentine special. The exchanges between Lucy and Charlie Brown are classic. While I don’t want to take away from this cute and funny scene, it does make me think about how loneliness is perceived by others. Loneliness is a subject that isn’t often discussed yet permeates our culture. I think the above exchange gives us some clues as to why. To admit that you are lonely implies that something is wrong with you, that you are broken and need to be fixed. Lonely people are branded as hopeless, negative thinkers that haven’t found their purpose in life. If this was all true, then the entire human race consists of nothing but losers. This is, of course, a ridiculous statement. We all have been lonely at some point in our lives. The 2 dimensional caricatures of loneliness do not even begin capture the complexity of the situations people find themselves in.  I believe we need to better understand loneliness.

So what does loneliness mean in our lives and what are helpful and humorous ways we’ve discovered in dealing with it? These questions are going to form the basis of a new photo 365 day blog. I want to interview people of all ages and backgrounds and hear their answers to these questions. These questions will accompany a photograph that relates to  It is my hope that this produces dialogue about this subject that is meaningful and helpful.  If you are interested in learning more about this project or participating in it, you can visit my new blog, Lonely Mythos.

A quick word about adding comments to this blog. Because my blog is rated for mature content (because I sometimes post my art nudes here), Google will not allow comments to be posted within the blog itself.  I regret that this has limited our interaction here.  Feel free instead to join the discussion on my Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/figurativearc  You can also follow me on Google + and comment there. I’m happy that my new blog won’t have this limitation.  Thanks for reading J

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Will we graduate from our expectations?

Art defies expectations
Their hearts burst forth as if nothing could stop their passionate play upon this urban playground. They leap, twirl and somersault through the air like a choreographed dance routine. Then the unthinkable happens as a new presence rips away their comfortable reality. Everyone freezes as an old player enters this moonlit stage. They quickly scatter like dead leaves before a furious wind. There was nothing more frightening to them than one of their own who was grey and could no longer dance.  She reminded them that they, too, will lose the ability to do the things that make them feel alive. 

One of the most iconic songs in the musical Cats is "Memory." The context is the scene described above where an extremely old cat named Grizabella makes a passionate appeal for acceptance by her fellow felines. She recounts how her once vibrant and beautiful life has been replaced by loneliness and despair.

When I recently saw a high school production of Cats,  it defied my expectations. First, the students made their own cat costumes. This is typically done by parent and community volunteers in these kind of productions.  Next, it was unclear to me  if a high school student could bring the emotional complexity and energy required in "Memory."  My thinking was that such a piece required more life experience and perspective than an 18 year old could draw upon. The senior playing Grizabella was able to move beyond giving a performance to behaving as if what she was singing actually happened to her. When I later went through the cast biography, she referred to her theater group as family. I believe the breakup of this family after graduation was one of the emotional realities she channeled in her character. 

Art at its highest level defines expectations. It moves beyond mediocre and predictable choices to something totally new and vibrant. In this sense, we can create art in our daily lives, at work and in our relationships. Wisdom helps us to recognize that some life events may never come again and now exist only in "memory." This is why it is so important to be able to reinvent ourselves throughout the course of our lives so we can take on new challenges. 

We wish the graduating class of 2016 much success in positively defying expectations!  Will we do the same?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Can seashells change the direction of our lives?

Hear the ocean of a Mother's love
The silent guns sit as moss crossed its legs upon the flowering torrents. Outside of the fort, a mother and son walk across another kind of graveyard. The shell like bones litter the seabed with grave robbers waving their pincher swords.  The unknown possibilities of what hidden treasures they might find made this world a magical place.

The above memory was of my Mom and I at Fort Desoto beach when I was a child. These outings to look for shells required us to wade out into the Gulf of Mexico until we reached a sand bar island. The sense of wonder in my child like mind ignited my sense of discovery and adventure that remain with me to this day. This led me to move out to Colorado where today I find new gems on my hikes: a vista, wildlife or a shooting location. I explore new terrains via photography, writing, painting and short films. All made possible because my Mom took the time to listen to me and my desire to go out to that island. She let me become the person I was meant to be.

What are the events that impacted us so deeply that we can share with our Mothers (or others if no longer living) this Mother’s Day?  Feel free to share by commenting below. Shells are like memories where we can hear the ocean of her love forever.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Will we choose between two monsters?

The cat faced two ferocious beasts. One had hairy legs that would grab her fur like sticker grass. The other could coil its slippery skin all around her. She would have to face one of them in order to make her escape. Which one will she choose?

This setup is a homage to Homer's epic myth, The Odyssey. War hero Odysseus faced many obstacles on his journey back home. One of them involved passing through a strait that has two monsters on either side. One of them was Scylla who would cast its heads onto ships and eat 6 men at a time. The other was Charybdis, which was a giant whirlpool that pulled down entire ships killing everyone aboard. Both monsters were immortal and could not be killed. He was advised to row past the Scylla side, “for it is better to lose six of your men then your entire crew.” It is believed that we get the phrase "between a rock and a hard place" from this story.

We sometimes have to make difficult choices when there are no good options, only degrees of damage. One example: someone we know is engaging in destructive behavior and is unwilling to change. Do we enable the behavior or walk away from it? Charybdis in the situation represents the insidious force that drags us down  into codependency. Scylla is that part of us that is devoured when ending a significant relationship.

Adults are sometimes caught between rocks and hard places. This is why Peter Pan did not want to grow up. Although we have to, the trick is to continue to experience magic in the world in the midst of such difficult decisions. Art is a wonderful platform to do just that! Perhaps our most significant choice is what to do after facing the monster.

You can follow us on Google+ to get the latest information on blog posts and art projects. Comments related to this post are always welcome!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Can creative projects give us hope?

Photo courtesy of Mike Pach
Can creative projects give us hope, inspire new ways of thinking and help us get through the darkness in our life? For Colorado Springs photographer Mike Pach, the answers found in his work shout a resounding yes. His project, “Same Tree, Different Day,” not only inspired me but has positively impacted many other people as well. Mike photographed a tree behind his house each day for a year and posted them on his blog found here:
https://sametreedifferentday.wordpress.com.  He recently gave a slide show presentation of all 365 photographs at Pikes Peak Library 21C. His presentation inspired students from the Colorado Springs Conservatory to write the music that accompanied it. 

These photographs, while stunning, are much more than a beautiful collection of work. They became alive because of their story telling power.  They created a conversation about overcoming personal challenges, the universe providing for your needs and how a single moment can become a universe in of itself. This gave Mike a voice for what he wanted to say and encourages us to find our own. What project do we need to start today that creates dialogue that is important to us? My further thoughts about Mike’s project can be found in my poem below:  

Photo courtesy of Mike Pach

365 Stallions
©2016 by Jon Sargent

Capture the 365 stallions
Who go out to ride in the burning mythical dawn
What grows out of the screaming chasm of prints?
That their thunderous gallops leave behind
The tree, so wild, once dim
Now brightly swimming in fiery flint
Peel back frost bitten limbs
Tree skin with white crystal gems
Lightening sparks between dreams that thaw
Stirs the universe's provision within
The moment to leave dark shadows behind
Mirrors with open hourglass eyes
One tree electrified the viewfinder sees
I stand with it: it becomes me


Photo courtesy of Mike Pach
 “Same Tree, Different Day” is currently running a crowd campaign to fund a framed gallery exhibit of the project. For more information, visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/same-tree-different-day#

Feel free to share your thoughts about “Same Tree, Different Day,” in the comments section below. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking on the follow symbol in the upper right. 



Sunday, April 17, 2016

Are we dancers making love to the loneliness of the wind?

Among the Orchids
©2016 by Jon Sargent

Your skin creases as it flutters
Where does the wind caress you?
Could you not find a flower to lie next to?
Its pedals within brazen reach
Now follows behind you
I see you write letters of surrender
Upon the wrapping coil of branches
Trapped in the vein of every absent leaf
Stabbed by the daggers that breach

Caught between worlds, this ghostly figure
I can hear its moans calling out to me
Are we dancers making love to the loneliness of the wind?
Who ravishes the morning dew
Or squelches moonlight on your naked back
The bramble hurricane spiral
Draws me into your eye forever
Above expectations that rotate furiously
Find the center that unwinds my twisted perception
To discover the secret of apparitions
That darkness does not shade the maelstrom aperture
Being ever present breaking forth
The sunlight streaming nectar
Piercing shadows with whisper voices
A song that beckons me to lie down
Among the orchids

The inspiration behind the poem


I find watching plastic bags caught in trees to be compelling,  because they're such rich metaphors for struggle and beauty.  Poetry, like all art, helps me to break out of the loneliness that I sometimes feel.  This is because I'm connecting with something larger than myself, rather than focusing exclusively on my own needs. "Make Art, Not Loneliness" might be a worthwhile slogan for our generation, don't you think? 

Feel free to comment below or subscribe by clicking the follow button in the upper right. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Do we recognize others for their contribution or their disability?

Girl Envisioned Anew
Photo courtesy of The Arc
Her gaze sees every nuance in our souls. Her earring reminds us that her value as an individual is beyond compare. But there is a fantastic twist to Johannes Vermeer’s oil painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring. This work of art, along with other iconic images of artists, has been recreated using people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as professionals in the disability field. This formed the basis of the 2016 calendar, Portraits and Masterpieces by The Arc of the Pikes Peak Region.

I recently met the calendar’s artistic creator, Craig Severa, during a local art expo. His inspiration for the calendar in his words is that “everyone has something interesting or beautiful about them.” For the Arc and Severa, they want to celebrate diversity by focusing on “what people can do and not what they can’t do.”

This is apparent when you look at the models that are stand ins for the likes of Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, and Jim Morrison. While we know these famous artists had challenges, we don’t define them based on their limitations. We look at them for their tremendous contributions. This is the way we should see all people and the calendar is a beautiful metaphor for that.

Model Kevin Van Ness channels a Rock Icon
Photo courtesy of The Arc
My meeting Mr. Severa was rather fortuitous.  My last project involved refining labels, in this case masculinity, through photography and poetry. My next project will involve redefining disability through a sci-fi novel. It seems that “disability” is largely defined by the context in which the person finds themselves in.  For example, ADHD is largely regarded as a disability in a school setting, but we now know that it is a strength in other environments. The same can be said of autism and a whole host of other labels that define people by their difficulties.  In light of this, it may be fair to say that the truly disabled are people that can’t see beyond a person’s challenges. They are blind because they chose not to see the individual for who they are. Do we recognize others for their contribution or their disability?

Photo courtesy of The Arc
Per their mission statement, “The Arc of the Pikes Peak Region works to create a community where all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are embraced and respected.”  For more information about their services or obtaining a copy of their calendar, visit www.thearcppr.og or call (719) 471-4800.

Feel free to add your voice by commenting below.  Thanks for reading and your contribution! You can also subscribe by clicking the follow icon in the upper right of the blog page.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Are we missing the beauty that is all around us?

They would put an Olympic ice skater to shame. Whether jumping or turning, they create momentary galaxies of spiraling and elliptical color. The wind ignites an electrical firestorm as their morphing shapes orbit around a motionless solider. Their playful dance suggests that no matter whether you're looking at life or death, everything will be ok in the universe. A few notice the power of this moment and stop to take note of it. Others are seen walking by, uninterested in the beautiful spectacle around them. They seemed to want to get to their destination and  probably out of the wind. This theatrical presentation staged by nature can be seen in this short YouTube video here.

Will we open our hearts to the beauty around us?
This video reminds me of the plastic bag scene in the movie, American Beauty. A young man invites a girl into his bedroom and asks if she wants to see the most beautiful thing he’s ever felt. Defying the expectations of this set up, he proceeds to show her a video he took of a plastic bag dancing in the wind on a street corner. The idea was that beauty is all around us even in moments others may think mundane or ordinary. The world invites us to be a part of this beauty and have a dialogue with it. All we have to do is just slow down and notice it.

I would challenge us to slow down and see the art in seemingly ordinary and mundane things. Observe the nuance surface patterns in sidewalks, the struggle of trash caught in trees or the shapes created by the movement of clouds. These are things that children naturally do but many adults have lost in the busyness of their handicapped imaginations. Since April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., consider writing a poem about what you see and experience in these moments. We may soon discover that there is no such thing as mundane and ordinary.  Will we behold the beauty that is all around us?

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Should we throw away labels or redefine them?

People's faces always tell a good story.  Some quickly looked away as if they just committed one of the seven deadly sins.  Others resembled cats in doorways: They like looking from afar, imagining what’s on the other side of the door but happy for the moment not to find out. Then there were  people that came up right away and wanted to know what it’s all about.   Such were the reactions when my fine art nudes were on display during an artist expo at a recent professional networking event. One of those “cat” individuals actually crossed the threshold by coming back to my table after he had pursued all the others. On my display board it mentioned my solo show and ebook, “Hero Myth of the Masculine Journey.” He asked, “What do you mean when you use the word masculine? That’s a loaded word.” 
Looks told stories that night

It became clear during our subsequent conversation that he was referring to the gender stereotypes that this label caters to. Society projects what men should be like, how they should act and dress. I told him that the title reflects my attempt to redefine masculinity. Through the use of haiku, myth and photographs, I created a story that asserts that men define masculinity for themselves through their life choices and attitudes. There comes a time when we must decide whether to live life as an adventure or play it safe and level out at mediocrity. This choice boils down to whether we chose to answer our calling in life or not.

I was thrilled that he asked the question, because it meant that he responded to the work. By the end of the conservation, this gentleman said that I was defining the word “masculine” in a different way than he imagined. This conversation got me thinking about labels in general. Should we get rid of them entirely or refine them? We know some groups have taken the hurtful labels of the past and reshaped them into a new positive identity. “Queer” is one such label that comes to mind. Still others labels have been thrown out.   I think ultimately the group that the label attempts to categorize should answer that question. Because I am a man, I wanted to use art to redefine masculinity.     What are we doing to either redefine or throw away the labels that box us in to what others want us to be? 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Do we believe in limitless possibilities?

They chatter like texting clicks on teenage smart phones. They like to go out to eat together, and sometimes display terrible table manners by throwing their food into the air. Their playgrounds are the final frontier of our planet. These are orca whales, also know as killer whales.

Films, like any art form, have the power to change our way of thinking. The 2013 documentary, Black Fish, explored the detrimental effects on captivity on orca whales after the death of a Sea World trainer in 2010.  On March 17, 2016, the CEO of Sea World and the CEO of the U.S. Humane Society announced together that Sea World would no longer be breeding or keeping orcas.  While there was already a movement in society toward ending performance animal acts (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced they are ending elephant shows by May 2016), there is no question that this documentary sped up the cultural momentum to end this practice.

Like a new dawn, art offers limitless possibilities.
At the 2016 Academy Awards, we saw another example of the power of film. A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness won best documentary short. The film recounted the story of a young 19-year-old Pakistani woman who was shot but survived an “honor” killing attempt by her father and uncle after she eloped with a man they disapproved of. After seeing the film, the Pakistani prime minister expressed support to change the law that allows the murderers to go free if forgiven by the victim’s family, which often happens as the result of coercion.


While we can acknowledge that art can inspire change in the culture, it can be harder to see how it affects our daily lives. But art for me has done just that.  Art has given me a confidence in the last six years that I didn’t have before. It’s allowed me to articulate a vision of what I want and put my ideas out there irregardless of what others might think. When you believe in yourself first rather than seeking approval from others, you can accomplish great things. Dreams suddenly have no limits, as they are no longer tied to other people’s expectations. This mindset  can have a profound impact on changing us and others.  Do we believe that changing our world and ourselves has limitless possibilities?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Is it time for us to get slammed?

Let your words be heard
As their feet hit the ground coming forward, little did we know that their words would strike the earth like boxes wrapped in tears. Each of them shed their story in different ways.  One used rich metaphors that drew lines of experience like a constellation on a star chart. Some presented their life experience like a comedy routine; others, like a rap artist. Through these various voices, they recounted how they were sexually assaulted, rejected by their family because of their sexual orientation and grew up in foster care after losing both parents.  What took place that night didn’t happen in a  counselor’s office.  It happened at a poetry slam.

Hear Here is a local organization that uses poetry as a way allowing others to freely share their life stories and to build inclusive community relationships. They conduct multiple monthly workshops, open mic nights and poetry slams for all ages. They are part of a broader national poetry slam movement, in which poets read their original work and are judged by selected members of the audience or by a panel of judges. On the night I went, they were conducting a youth semi-final poetry slam consisting of high school and college students. These poets where competing for a chance to go to a national competition in Washington, DC.

During the slam, each poet recounted personal, community and national tragedies. The dark themes of the evening were relentless and disturbing. One may question the benefits of such story telling, as no solutions or ways of moving forward were presented.  

It’s a mistake to conclude that hope is about knowing what to do next. Instead, we can be encouraged when people demonstrate tremendous courage by sharing deeply personal tragic events in their lives. There is hope when people understand that they are not alone in facing certain life circumstances. There is power in using your voice to cast the dark issues in a society into the light. There is hope when community members can be real with each other and not hide behind the facades encouraged by our culture.

Hear Here’s mantra is, “Someone is always listening.”  It’s possible we may be the only person positioned in a person’s life to hear what they have to say. Is it time for us to get slammed and listen  to each other’s stories?  One wonders how many tragedies could be prevented if we as a society did just that. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

When’s the last time you saw a shooting star with someone?

The magic of shared experience
I can make mountains rise and erode within seconds. My voice is the vibrating scythe that harvests the wind of the valleys. I sit before a sponge like projection that will drain away the ocean of spoken words.

Check. Check. The monitor lines peak and dip on the sound control board. Within my imagination, I had the powers of Zeus so long as my voice didn’t crack due to my cold. “Hello everyone out in radio land…This is the Photo Show.”

When I was interviewed on the radio about my upcoming solo show, I was asked if I was looking forward to seeing my work for the first time through someone else’s eyes. It was a great question, because it points how something that becomes too familiar can lose its impact over time. Now that I’m writing this blog two days after my show’s opening, I can say that seeing others react to my work has made it magical again. It reminds me of the tremendous wonder I felt when first capturing these images.

When I create art, it’s like I’m seeing a shooting star from a hillside. If I see it by myself, it’s unquestionably a beautiful thing. But if I’m with someone else and see it through their eyes, it exponentially becomes a bigger experience.  This is why art builds community, because the true joy lies in sharing ideas and experiences with others. When’s the last time you saw a shooting star with someone? Maybe it’s time to embrace the night sky and find someone to climb that hill with you.  

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Are we sharing the found treasure from within?

Photo courtesy of Shutters for Shelters
He pushes the shopping chart up and down the aisles like a dance! He stops to consider the mental list in his head:  Toothbrush. Check. Oranges. Check. Suddenly he stops in his tracks and wonders where in the store are the dog treats. But he has an even bigger question on this mind once he finds it. He turns to us and asks, " Won’t you let me unpack my groceries in your new forever home?”

It is amazing the stories that can be brought to life by photography. It is even more astonishing the narratives of animals captured by the non-profit known as Shutters for Shelters www.facebook.com/ShuttersforShelters
"Won't you let me be the princess of your castle?"
Photo courtesy of Shutters for Shelters

This non-profit in Southern Colorado advocates for animals by capturing their personalities. They work with shelters to provide quality photographs at no cost. These photographs are a critical piece in helping animals find forever homes. The more animals that are adopted, the more space these shelters have and thus more lives are saved.

The hero’s journey in mythology involves developing your talents, finding a treasure and then sharing it with others. I believe this group fits this description. These are talented photographers whose treasure is their found love of animals. They use their skill, time and creativity to positively impact a serious problem of homeless pets. 

We can do the same thing in whatever arena that touches our heart. Like King Arthur, we need to pull the sword out of the rock. The sword, like acts of compassion, doesn’t do anyone any good unless we take action.   Will we take hold of all we have learned and use it to help better our community?

Feel free to share in the comments section your own hero's journey or those you've noticed doing amazing things. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Have we lost our inner child?

Has a critique early in life broken our creative spirit?
It started with a feeling. That is what I wanted to capture. As we cut out our eyes, trunk and ears, it was time to put them all together. I looked around and everyone was placing them in just the right places. But I knew better.  I glued them on the construction paper out of place, angled in the wrong direction and bent in some places. What resulted looked like a collaboration between Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Because I did not follow directions in art class, I received an NI, which stands for “Needs Improvement.” I was taught that doing it like everyone else was right and being different was wrong. I eventually started doing art like I was supposed to and that destroyed my interest in it until after high school.

No one ever asked me why I made my construction paper elephant that way. I made it that way because the elephants I saw at the zoo were sad and I was like them. This art project was about expressing an emotion and connecting another creature on this earth with my experience growing up. That connection was dismissed by adults that didn't take an interest in what this project meant to me. It makes me wonder how many young creative talents have been broken or destroyed by the critique of an adult?

In some ways, I still feel like that child. Many around me really do not understand what I’m doing with my art and sadly won’t take the time to ask me. They instead look at it with wandering eyes if they look at it at all. Some make prejudgments about it and me. That’s why I’m grateful for those that did take the time to listen to what I’m trying to say. I have my first solo art exhibit coming up and have a radio interview about it.  I’m happy to report this show will be different than the other figurative works people may have seen!

I believe we are all artists in our own way. The exploration of our talent  can be be a difficult road because it opens us up to ridicule and critique. But it also offers a tremendous opportunity to invite people to look at the world and themselves in a different way. Have dismissive adults caused us to lose the inner child: the one that allows us to use imagination to create beauty from deep within ourselves?  Like all lost things, our inner child can be found again. It might take a patient mentor that encourages us to start up again. Are there people in our lives today that need us to do just that?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Will the camera or the heart be our Valentine?

I would slowly reach for one branch after the next.  There was sweat dripping from the brow as bits of bark somersaulted to earth. When I hoisted myself to the top, I knocked on the door. A muffled voice behind it call out, “What’s the password?” I gave it and was let into the tree house club.

Today, photographers are also trying to get into the tree house. They have been led to believe that having expensive cameras and equipment will gain them entry into the professional photographer club. As Ansel Adams once said, "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it."  

Where will your heart take you?
With that in mind, my advice to new photographers is this: before you spend lots of money on equipment, start off by taking pictures with your cell phone camera (which can take good pictures). Since people usually take their phones everywhere, you can photograph anything during your day.  See what kinds of subject matter you become drawn to. You can then experiment with different ways of approaching your subject, such as camera angles and perspectives.  You will develop a vision  over time for what you want to capture, be it a mood, story or call to action. If your vision is being hampered by the camera you are using, you can make an informed choice about buying a new one that meets your needs.

The lens that really matters is the one deep inside us. Our creativity and vision makes a great photograph.  Will we learn to open our hearts before our wallets?

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Does nude photography promote stereotypes of the human body?

On the eve of the Super Bowl, I am reminded of the phrase, “football player build.” One could argue that such a build is necessary for the physical demands of the game. But is there a required body type for the nude model?

When artists like myself photograph models that are physically fit (in my case, males), some may ask if we are promoting stereotypes of the human body. I believe this is a legitimate question asked by sincere people. It does make an assumption that someone is chosen to model based on their body type. While I cannot speak for other artists, my view is that a fit body is merely a by product of the most important quality for a model to have: body awareness.

In modeling, body awareness is key
For someone to be an effective nude model, they need to have a great sense of themselves. This means knowing their physical capabilities and limitations, how their feelings affect their body and how to express themselves. Many gain this awareness through physical activities that they are passionate about. Still others push the boundaries of sensory experience in their lives through lifestyle choices.  These things put people in touch with themselves in a way that make them ideal models. They are able to take a concept presented to them by the artist and interpret it with their body at a moment’s notice. This is why models that have no previous modeling experience are able to come up with great interpretive poses. All I have to do as the photographer is articulate a clear vision of what we are trying to accomplish together and beautiful images emerge.  

A person can develop body awareness in a number of different ways.  It has just been my experience that the physicality of the models posing for me has been key in achieving effective images.  There is also the practical consideration of being able to hike for miles to reach the outdoor shooting location. Does nude photography promote stereotypes? I think the answer to that depends on how you approach a project. If you are interested in photographing the nude figure, ask yourself some questions: What is your project about? What level of body awareness do I need from the model to accomplish this? Am I basing my choices on superficial qualities that society promotes or my own authentic vision?  It's all about the artist knowing what they want, why they want it and the model's ability to render it.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Who decides what is good art?

If John Lennon was a singer on a reality TV show today, what would the judges say about his music? This question was explored in a recently viewed YouTube video. The video intercut scenes of John Lennon singing with snippets of footage from a popular reality show. It was put together in such a way to make it look like John and the judges were having a conversation during a critique of his performance. John was criticized about pitch, rhythm and melody. The video ended with John saying, “I’m just beginning” and one of the judges repeating that statement in a mocking tone of voice.

This satirical video seems to ask the question, “Who decides if something is of value and considered art?" One can reduce art to judgments based on criteria.  We know that some of this criteria is influenced by the culture of the time. We see this when artists never find acceptance of their work during their lifetime, but are later held in high esteem after their deaths. It’s very likely that John Lennon would be received differently if he appeared today instead of the 1960s. And of course, the music itself wouldn't be the same.

People will always judge what they like or do not like about art. But that doesn’t mean we need to impose a label of “good” and “bad” that ghettoizes everything that’s ever been created.  With so much fakery that’s in our culture today, we need less superficial criteria based judgments and more authentic based responses.  Why does something make me feel the way I do? How does my life experience influence my thinking about it?  Can I channel my own inner artist by simply keeping it real?  These questions are more meaningful ways of looking at art. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

"Doggone it, people like me."

The messages we allow into our head
Before he became the senator from Minnesota, Al Franken was an actor on Saturday Night Live. One of his trademark skits involved the character of Stuart Smalley, whose daily affirmations included the line, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me."  It made a joke of the idea that looking in the mirror and saying positive things about ourselves made them true.

My new film, Self Talk, is not a satire. It explores the damaging effects of the negative messages we tell ourselves.  These messages can become ingrained in our thoughts due a variety of circumstances, including bullying, societal prejudices or our own thinking errors.  It can destroy our self worth, and leaves us vulnerable to the world, just like a baby.  This baby metaphor found its way into the film. We hear the music, Good Evening, Good Night by Johannes Brahms playing, with a mobile of negative messages twirling in the air.  We see a nude figure in the corner rocking back and forth trying to sooth his baby soul.  Then the figure is seen walking down a hallway and stops at a door. The door represents whatever we need to step into in order to quash these negative messages.

The door to a positive self image
For me, my door was art. For someone else, it might be counseling by a licensed professional. It involves ongoing, often challenging work and isn’t easily achieved by talking into a mirror for 2 minutes out of our day.


What we tell ourselves is powerful. It can determine the outcome of a sport’s game, a business and our very lives. Talk might be cheap but a positive internal dialogue can be worth its weight in gold. What are we doing to secure this sound investment?

You can watch the entire short film by following the link here.  You can also join this blog by clicking on the follow link in the upper right corner next to Google +.. 



Sunday, January 17, 2016

Can art help improve the mood of cynical gym rats?

Research continues on how art affects our brain
I often hear cynical talk about the state of our country in the men’s locker room. This particular day I decided to interject and say “good morning.” When I was asked “how’s it going,” I responded, “Did you know it’s free day at the art museum?”   The resulting facial expression reminded me of the cover of a dragon storybook with flared nostrils minus the smoke. 

I was inspired to ask that question by a news report of a study linking art to improved mood. I decided to investigate the research on how art affects the brain. The University of Westminster in a 2006 study showed lowered cortisol (stress) levels for workers going to an art museum. Bolwerk in 2014 looked at retired folks in Germany using MRI scans and resiliency questionnaires. It showed that those that actually produced art had higher connectivity in the frontal and parietal parts of their brain, as well as higher resiliency scores. A 2010 review of research published in the American Journal of Public Health looked at the positive “Connection Between Art and Healing” for those with serious medical conditions.


There’s ongoing research about how our thoughts affect our bodies. We are just beginning to realize how art can make a difference in people’s lives. I know that art has personally helped me through the most difficult times in my life.  Can art help improve the mood of cynical gym rats? Exercise certainly isn’t doing the trick. Art is likewise not a magic panacea for people who choose to be unhappy. At the same time, it never hurts to promote the idea that art matters.  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Are the dynamics between dominant and submissive a paradox?

Thanks to a trashy novel and equally horrendous film adaptation, dominant and submissive traits are being discussed. These words that bring many things to mind. Some may think of gender roles and responsibilities within society when thinking about them. One person works while the other stays home raising children. Others may look at the power dynamics in a relationship between two people, with one exerting psychological and/or physical control over someone who has consented to it.  The aspect I was interested in exploring in my art had to do with dominating our egos and submitting to something greater than ourselves.

Dominate yourself and submit to the universe
The internal relationships of being dominant and submissive greatly intrigue me. We all have things we need to dominate within ourselves: We need self control over things like our passions, what we eat and our thoughts.  We need to be able to reign in our fears that cripple us from taking needed action. We need to produce instead of always consume. Without this self control, things can quickly take over our lives in a negative way.  On the other hand, there are things in life that we submit to and yield control. We must submit to our own mortality. We submit to our employer and the law (if we want to keep our job and stay out of jail).  We submit to something larger than ourselves to affect positive change.  We find our calling that the universe has put before us and hopefully accept it.

Given these realities, are the dynamics between dominant and submissive a paradox?  Is every dominant also a submissive; every submissive, a dominant? While these labels are useful to define current relationships, actions or states of mind, no person can ever truly encompass just one of these aspects. This presents an even bigger question: what areas of our life do we need to dominate and which ones do we need to submit to? The answers to these questions blaze the trails of our individual journeys.  May we experience many blessings with them.

Dominance and submission are explored poetically within the story arc of the ebook, Male Nude: Hero Myth of the Masculine Journey. You can visit www.figurativearc.com for more information.  Thanks for reading and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Is the struggle to achieve our dreams ever futile?

Relic of  the past
Nathaniel Herrick was a Canadian entrepreneur that had a dream. He envisioned creating a saw mill to supply lumber in 1877 for the nearby silver operations in Silver Cliff and Westcliff, CO.  He hand built a road where he hauled up a boiler and flywheel. Newlin Creek would supply the power for the operation, as well as a water source for the cabin he built next to it. After completing all of this work, he suddenly died. His dreamed died with him, as the operation was abandoned, along with all the equipment.

Will we take hold of our dreams?
The flywheel and boiler now sit at the end of the Newlin Creek Trail.  I took a number of pictures of the flywheel on a hike, and returned again to do some figurative photography. The wheel itself symbolizes time in my mind and by extension, a dream. This is why the model holds onto it, which poses all kinds of questions. What does this moment in history mean? Was all the effort put into this enterprise pointless? Are our dreams futile?

These questions remind me of Alfred Tennyson’s quote, “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” In this context, I would substitute “dream” for the word “loved.” While Herrick’s dream was never fully realized, he was nevertheless successful in my judgment. He went after something that was bold, risky and innovative. What better way to spend your last days?  It certainly beats drinking in a saloon and thinking about what could have been. The struggle to achieve is just as important as it is to realize it. What will we strive to achieve?  


If you’d like to share your dreams or other thoughts on today’s blog post, you can comment when you subscribe to this blog. It’s free and super easy. Just click on the follow link in the upper right corner next to Google + and comment below.  Happy New Year!