Reaching

“Too low they build, who build beneath the stars.”

Edward Young said that. I have no idea who he is or was but his quote resonates with me. It is an attitude that my father has impressed upon me for most of my adult life. I have ample time to reflect on my life and ask myself, Is this as good as it gets? The answer is always no. That’s when I sit down behind my inkwell and begin to draw up a list of where I am, where I desire to be, and what steps I need to take to get there.

In December I had some more note cards printed up. I really like the quality of work my supplier provides, and I especially enjoy seeing my images used in such a practical way. I can’t remember the last time I walked into a Hallmark store.

When I look around our home and see my work displayed, I am grateful for the opportunity to achieve what I have with a camera, albeit humble achievements. If ever I detect a hint of jealousy towards artists who have gone further in their endeavours, I remind myself that I set the ceiling of my photographic ambitions and reached them all. If I wanted more success, I should have set the bar higher.

When I read over journal entries from when I first began to take photographs of kaleidoscopes, I wrote that I want to create cards, but I would never want to have my work in a gallery. Don’t believe me? And I quote: “Now, there have been suggestions of going beyond this. That is, thrusting my images into the scary and subjective world of framed art. What a suggestion! Imagine walking into a gallery and seeing my work on the walls. Kaleidoscopes are intimate creations, and thus, so should they be observed.”

Wow, Carla. Well done, me, for keeping my eye on the prize and not giving up until I crossed the finish line. But just think what I might have achieved had I set my eyes a bit higher. It’s not too late. If not in photography, perhaps in something else. I must learn from this. No regrets, just, dream bigger next time, Carla.

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” Robert Browning

A favourite card of mine, cropped from a larger image.
Scope made by David Kalish.

The Problem with Hobbies

22I don’t have a job. I have hobbies. The good news is that I’m always busy. The bad news is that I don’t make money. Take my piano playing, for example. I have played since I was seven years old. Most recently, I was using my love for making music during Communion services in our church. I loved it. We had to leave that church, however, and the church we attend now uses professional musicians, so I just play for my dog at home these days.

And then there’s writing. I love to write. I take every opportunity to write, whether short stories, letters to friends, or blogging. I’ve been published several times (magazines) but nothing really noteworthy. I just like to write. I don’t write to be read. I write to write.

Sailing. I love sailing. But my father, at the age of 82, decided it was time for the boat to go. Buying a boat isn’t in my future, so my sailing days are most likely over. I will, however, be able to remain in, on and along the water by other means.

Art. I love art, in almost all its forms. I’ve enjoyed my camera and overcoming the many challenges of fine art photography as it relates to kaleidoscopes, but I’ve hit a bit of a ceiling. It took me some time to be able to master what I do, and now that I can do it, jadedness is setting in and I’m so ready for the next thing. The problem is, it’s just a hobby, and in order to break the ceiling on my work, it’s going to take more time. More patience. More money.

I’ve taken my work to several galleries in my city over the years. Even though Hamilton is known for being a steel town, there’s been a shift, and the downtown area has become a serious hub for artists. I remember one gallery I handed my portfolio to. I was well acquainted with the owner and curator as I frequented their opening nights. The conversation went like this:

“So?”

“I will never show your work in my gallery.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because your work is shit.”

“I don’t understand. My work is unique. It’s never been done.”

“Someone can shit on a plate and nail it to the wall because it’s never been done before, but that doesn’t make it good art.”

Right.

Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of doors closed on me. The owner of the gallery responsible for framing my work said my photos are “magnificent”, but he’ll never show them because he doesn’t do photography.

Got it.

Two weeks ago I went to a highly respected artist who owns a local printing studio to show him what I do and inquire how he would take the photos to the next level. He strongly encouraged me to leave the negative space behind and work with the subject itself, transforming it into something completely new and different. In other words, when I’m done with it, nothing of what makes it a scope image will remain.

Ok.

I suppose I’m at an impasse. I can continue doing the same old same old but that’s not me. And going in a completely different direction is a huge commitment for someone who only dabbles in photography in her spare time. And in the end, the only person I’m really doing this for is me. My aunt’s still dead. So if I’m going to go through with exploring the next thing in kaleidoscope photography, It’s going to be so I can have original art on the walls in our home.

Time for me to get a job.

Yes.

green monster
“The Green Monster”. Scope by David Kalish.

Bio

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My Smooth-coated Collie, Laddie.
As in, about myself, and not the study of life sciences.
Carla Groen, a 40-something wife and mother from the Great White North. A total misnomer, by the way, the whole Great White North thing. Where I live is on the same latitude as northern California to the west, and Milan, Italy to the east. While it is -35 degrees celcius for several weeks in the winter, it is also 35+ degrees celcius for all of the summer which, if we’re unfortunate enough to skip spring and fall, can last from the end of May until mid-October. And it’s humid. Very, very humid. Hamilton is on the western-most tip of Lake Ontario. It’s a 45 minute drive east to Toronto (pronounced Trona north of the border), a 45 minute drive south to Niagara Falls, and a 2 hour drive westward to the Michigan border at either Port Huron or Detroit. 
There are three things about Hamilton I like: The bay, the steel, and the “mountain”. For those who view the Rockies out their front window, I apologize, as the mountain in Hamilton is actually an escarpment with an elevation of 300 feet. (Can you say, “fault line”?) Really, we just call it a mountain to more easily determine where one is located in the city.

 

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A photo I took from the east Hamilton mountain looking down towards the bay and Stelco Steel.

As the daughter of a Dutchman, living by water and sailing boats of all shapes and sizes is as normal as planting tulips and eating droppies (salted licorice, eaten kilos at a time). I have enjoyed sailing on the bay for the whole of my life. As for the steel, Hamilton is a steel town. My only employment before we started a family was in metal fabrication, so I’ll always have a place in my heart for all things iron and ore. I grew up in the factory, starting on the floor when I was 12, only stopping when I was 5 months pregnant at 23. Needless to say, I had a much different life experience growing up than the kids I went to school with.

Hamilton is the home of famous funny men Martin Short and Eugene Levy, both from west Hamilton (but not the mountain). Justin Bieber’s hometown is an hour away in Mennonite country, for those who care.

After my life of steel came a degree in Psychology, a Certificate of Teaching English as a Second Language, and many (many) years of volunteering in the areas of Palliative care and teaching ESL.

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In front of a real mountain, Pikes Peak, in Colorado Springs.

Everything I’ve laid out about myself in this post means nothing to me when compared to what means everything to me: faith and family. My faith defines who I am (or more accurately, Whose I am). And being a homemaker, surrounded by my husband and children, as well as my parents and siblings throughout the week over koffie en lekkers, fills my heart with so much joy. But every once in a while I find time to slip into my studio and take a hundred photos. (I must say, the digital camera is efficacious in this regard.) It’s all part of a day in the life of me.