Readings from the North Sea

I had the wonderful opportunity to contribute to this amazing project by Allen Shelton and Nathan M. Peracciny.  It’s a book trailer for Allen’s book, Where the North Sea Touches Alabama.  I also manage the blog, Soft Arcades which showcases the work of Allen Shelton.  Check it out.

Allen Shelton’s “Where the North Sea Touches Alabama” (On sale by University of Chicago Press: is a work of sociological fictocriticism that explores not only the author’s relationship to the artist but his physical, historical, and social relationship to northeastern Alabama, in rare style.

“In Christ there is no East or West, North or South, and the North Sea touches Alabama.” Part of the sermon by a Sand Mountain preacher, 1979.

This utterance by a preacher inexplicably came true when the dead artist Patrik Keim’s coffin may have been uncovered two hundred miles from where it was interned in an ancient beaver swamp in Alabama by dozer operator who quickly reburied the miraculous coffin. The artist Keim was obsessed by the North Sea.

The report of the investigation into the event is titled Where the North Sea Touches Alabama by Allen Shelton, University of Chicago Press, 2013. The fictocritical account is part memoir, part steam-punk theory, and a hard edged psychic materialist analysis of the possible return.

Book Trailer credits
Directed & Edited by Nathan Peracciny

Readings by:
Lesley Stern, author of The Smoking Book.
Michael Joyce, author of Foucault, in Winter, in the Linnaeus Garden.
Donna Haraway, author of A Cyborg Manifesto.
Kathleen Stewart, author of Ordinary Affects.

Special thanks to:
Anne Costello, Molly Jarboe, Lesley Stern, Michael Joyce, Donna Haraway, Kathleen Stewart, Ruah, Nadja, and Tyree Shelton.

Artistic contributions by:
Julian Montague, Molly Jarboe, and Patrik Keim’s archives.

Happenings: Art site updates

Check out the recent updates to, my art site.  I’m excited about some new work I’m in the midst of now, and I’ll be adding some examples to the site soon.  As for now, I’ve given the overall look an upgrade and changed the home page image.  I also added some additional images to The Pencil of Nature


Tangled Narratives – Work by Debra Eck and Molly Jarboe

“Tangled Narratives” will be showing at the Octagon Gallery inside the Patterson Library in Westfield, NY from September 7 – 21, 2012.
It’s a lovely drive to Westfield. Please join us for an opening reception on Friday, September 7 from 7-9pm.
Octagon Gallery

Sometimes (from the archives)

Sometimes I’m awake as I lie sleeping,
Winding still images around my fingers like string.
My dreams are filled with moments I’ve forgotten.
Certain objects in my heart shift for my peace of mind. – MJJ

Sunflower KC, MO – Lomo by MJJ

(from the archives – Originally posted on 12/31/06 on a former site)

Ophelia: In Search of a Metaphor

Every time I come across this 1852 rendition of Ophelia by John Everett Millais, my mind starts searching for a metaphor to relate back to my project Tangled.  I’m drawn to it almost entirely because of the abundant detail and intense colors Millais used, which are typical of the complex compositions of the  Pre-Raphalite painters.

The story behind Millais’ painting is interesting and strangely aligned with the story of Ophelia.  Elizabeth Siddal modeled for this mysterious Shakespearian death scene, in a bathtub with lamps beneath to warm the water.  On one occasion, the lamps went out and the water grew icy cold.  Siddal became ill, apparently willfully, for she remained in the water without protest as Millais painted on for hours.  She eventually died of a drug overdose that is widely held to have been a suicide.

From Gertrude’s speech about the death of Ophelia we learn that she accidentally fell into the water and then simply neglected to save herself from sinking. This passiveness is very much in line with the way Ophelia lived her life throughout the play – always going with the flow, doing what she was told to do, never making a decision for herself.  What is intriguing to me beyond the sublime aesthetics of the painting is how Ophelia’s story takes a turn with Gertrude’s further observations that Ophelia’s death seemed natural and that she was mermaid-like or a “native” creature in the water.  This is something she had never shown an inclination toward in life.  It’s almost as if the flora of the river and the riverbank, so beautifully depicted in Millais painting had the power to seduce Ophelia to surrender her life to the growth and decay of the natural ecosystem.

I’m still searching for my metaphor.  I feel it very much within reach.

When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death


A Walk in the Woods

I went walking in the woods the other day, and I was delighted by the beautiful light for photographing that I encountered on this mild November day.  I’m gathering source images for a Fall chapter in my ongoing series entitled Tangled, and I’m not sure if any of these will work, but I was pleased to capture them on my walk.  I’m amazed at all the colors I observed even in the midst of the stark, bleak death always associated with this time of year.

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About my new project, Tangled

It’s been a while since my last post and the main reason for this is that I’ve been busy making new work.  This is a good thing, so I’m not feeling too terribly bad about falling behind on my blogs.  But it’s about time for an update, so I thought I’d share some of the work.

My new photo project is entitled Tangled and it’s now up as part of a two person show with Maria Pabico LaRodonda at Studio Hart in Buffalo.  Here are three images from the project followed by my artist statement.  I’m really excited about the new work and It’s already expanding in new directions.  I’ll have a solo show in October at The Backroom @ Hardware too.  More news to follow…

See more images from Tangled and other projects at

Tangled is set in wooded areas where the natural landscape is photographed, then digitally altered.  Fantastically lit thickets and felled branches serve as backdrops to a cast of characters that seem to possess clues to secrets existing just beyond view.  No specific story line is spelled out, leaving the viewer free to wonder about and imagine a narrative of his or her own.

For me as the artist, Tangled represents the most recent chapter in an obsessive retelling of a story from my past about a child who has lost her favorite toy.  She imagines the toy has come to life and she longs to go out into the world in search of it. Tangled gets its inspiration from various children’s books and fairy tales, and seeks to awaken in its viewer the kind of unquestioning sense of adventure that can thrive in the imaginations of children.

Across my body of work I consistently explore themes of loss, memory, imagination and dreams.  Photography can freeze and eternalize what would be fleeting moments in time, but there is no mechanism for this in dreams. We rely on memory.  The moments and scenes represented in my work exist in a mysterious space somewhere between the real and the imagined.  There is no way to photograph dreams.