4/7/16

Welcome Page


Welcome to The Departing Landscape website
    Steven D. Foster
                 


"Visual Poem" for The Departing Landscape Project 


_________________________________________________________________

~ ~ Recently Added Project Links ~ ~
September1 , 2016
Signs, Veils & the Symbolic Photograph
August 2, 2016
featuring the poems of Hafiz and other Poet-Saints
July 1, 2016
June 1, 2016
May 4, 2016 (Four Parts)
   April 7, 2016

_________________________________________________________________

~ Click on all images to enlarge ~
~ Click on Blue Hyperlinked Words to Open Links ~ 
  
THIS PAGE WAS LAST REVISED: August 2, 2016
                                        

Introduction
Welcome to my Departing Landscape website which is dedicated to exploring, and sharing with you, my creative process in photographic picture-making.  The work collected and presented here includes all of my photography projects dating back to the mid-1960's through to the present time, March 2016.  I began constructing this website in 2010, three years after I retired from teaching and exhibiting my photographs.  I wanted it to serve as a visual archive for all of my past work, and because I had grown discontent with exhibiting my work in commercial galleries, it was my intention to use this website as a public forum through which I would share my new work as well.



  The Sacred Art Photography Projects



From the project:
The Center of Being


In 2011 my wife and I traveled to Turkey.  Upon our return home I began working on a project, "An Imaginary Book" which explores questions regarding "sacred art" and the possibility of the sacred within a contemporary art practice.  The "An Imaginary Book" project was a turning point in my creative process.  After the completion of that project in 2013 all of my subsequent photography projects, up to the present moment have been focused on what I call the "Sacred Arts Photography Projects." 

The Sacred Art projects strive to transmute the apparent world through the power of the symbolic photograph.  For it is the symbol which unveils the sacred presence, the Imaginal world which lies just below the surfaces of the sensible world.  It is the symbolic photograph which conjoins divinity and humanity, Creator and the created; the symbol transcends the differences between inner and outer, subject and object thus making it possible to experience the Unity of Being.  It is through the symbol that we return to our divine Origin, the Truth of the divine Self.




The Sacred Art Projects List    

Here is the list of the projects that belong together under the sacred art category.  The projects are listed from the most recent at the top to the initiating project "An Imaginary Book" of 2011-13.

Studies : Sufism  2016  Signs, Veils & the Symbolic Photograph
Illuminations : Photographs & Poetry  2016  featuring the poems of Hafiz and other Poet-Saints  
The City of Souls  2016  
There Is No Thing To Know   2016
The Blue Pearl   2016
The Center of Being   2016   
Field of Vision   2015  
As Above, So Below ~ Mirror in the Temple   2015  
Photography and Yoga   2015  
Snow : Photographs from the Silver World   2015  
The Photograph as ICON   2015  
The Angels   2014 
The Space Between Color and Black&White   2014  
The Creative Process   2014  
"An Imaginary Book"   2011-13



_______________________________________________ 


The Morton Feldman Music Inspired Projects
Between 1999 and 2012 I created three large multi-chaptered projects inspired by the music of American composer Morton Feldman (1926-1987):   

The Departing Landscape Project  2007-12   

The Triadic Memories Project  2003-07
Garage Series  1999-2000    



                                     The Departing Landscape  2007-12                                                  


                                  The Triadic Memories Project 2003-07                                      

            

                                Garage Series 1999-2000                                    


About My Website's Title 
The first project, and this website, was named after a phrase American composer Morton Feldman used, "the departing landscape" to describe how sound leaves us in our hearing as it decays into silence.

Both the project title and the title of this website, reflects not only my fascination with Feldman's music and ideas; it also reflects my deep and growing concern for the safety and well being of our Planet, and all of its many forms of life.  The Departing Landscape could serve as a  metaphor for how the planet is leaving us as it decays into silence.  Please see my brief essay, below: Saving the Natural World  


Besides the music of Morton Feldman, my creative process has been influenced by Jazz composers-performers Thelonious Monk and Steve Lacy; and other contemporary composers such as Charles Ives and William Bolcom.  To learn more about these and other musical influences in my photography visit this link: Other Music Inspired Projects.  



_______________________________________________  


The "Studies" projects:

Studies 1994-2000
Studies II : Monk's Quirky Music 1994-2000
Studies III: Color Photographs 2006 - June 2013
Still Life Studies IV 2013
The Creative Process Studies V 2014
The Space Between Color and Black&white Studies VI 2014
Babysitting Photographs Studies VII May 2016
Studies 8 : Sufism 2016 Signs, Veils, The Symbolic Photograph


In recent recent years I have returned for renewed inspiration and refreshment to one of my earlier, favorite projects, entitled Studies 1994-2000. Theses snapshot sized miniature photographs, which in the beginning were inspired by short piano pieces, seem to have a magical power for me. They exude an enthusiasm for invention and spontaneity that excites me and refreshes my attitude toward picture-making when I need it. 


The six Studies projects listed above share in the qualities of an intuitive, direct, spontaneous approach to picture-making. The photographs are "little" "brief" "seeing pictures" of cryptic or unknowable conception, intention, or meaning. The images represent a disregard for a tightly defined and disciplined approach to creating, one that holds tight to specific thematic ideas or a particular subject matter.  When I am making Studies photographs I open myself as wide as possible to the guiding spirit of my creative process; I enjoy a feeling of freedom--a feeling that is unique to the studies--that allows me to simply receive the grace-filled pictures which come to me of their own volition. The process of making these photographs allows me to watch in surprise and amazement at what happens when I give myself over to a creative power greater than my intellect or mind. ~ I enthusiastically encourage you to view this work in the same spirit with which it was created. ~ The three last Studies projects are transitional projects. They were made after "An Imaginary Book" and as I look back on the way they fit into my creative process I can see that they served as preparation for the intensely focused, large multi-chaptered "sacred art" projects that followed; I am thinking especially of The Angels, The Photograph as ICON, and Photography and Yoga.








Saving The Natural World 
In the summer of 2011 my wife Gloria and I became aware that the Finger Lakes area of New York State, where we now live, was on the brink of becoming an industrial wasteland.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State's Department of Environmental Conservation seemed determined at that time to force New York State to fold under growing pressures from the the natural gas and oil industry to initiate in our state a new drilling technique known as horizontal high volume hydraulic fracturing. This technology, known as "fracking," has the potential for poisoning huge volumes of our state's valuable fresh water with toxic industrial chemicals and waste which could ruin our states's organic faming, Finger Lakes tourism, and our unique regional wine industries.  

Hydrofracking is a violent and toxic process that contributes significantly to the growing threats of climate change, and in general the health and well being of the residents, farm land, animals, and the wild life many states in this country which are using the process. Hydrofracking produces huge quantities of methane gas, now understood to a be a very potent contributor to Climate Change, and dangerous in so many other ways as well.




On the morning of October 14, 2011, after seeing a rainbow hovering over the beautiful meadow behind our property, I decided to begin creating a website which would contain essays, environmental websites, senate testimonies, newspaper articles, science reports . . . any important real, factual scientific information that would help myself and others to understand the dangers of hydrofracking to our environment, our health, and which would negatively impact the value of our personal property. Here is a revised, edited version of what was at one time a very aggressive and rapidly changing website:  NoToHydrofracking.blogspot.com/
 


As an artist I had in the past consciously avoided making art that addressed social issues. But my wife Gloria and I felt it our duty to speak out against the greed and power of an industry, and the governments buying into their propaganda and their bribes, that was threatening our very life and personal property in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. We participated in many rallies and hearings, I created the "hydrofracking website," then I became inspired to create an unlikely and surprising series of related art projects which together formed. . . 


The Hydrofraking Suite  


On December 17, 2014, Hydrofracking was finally banned in New York State, 
Click Here to learn more , however . . . the residents of the state continue to be under threat in many ways. For example, in October, 2013 we learned that the New York DEC was trying to fast track new regulations for gas infrastructure, and in particular a very volatile product known as Liquified Natural Gas or LNG. These LNG facilities would then be the precursor to jusify opening New York State to hydrofracking.  And there is an ongoing battle over the storage of dangerous natural gas products on the shores of Seneca Lake, largest of the Finger Lakes, which provides drinking water in over 100,00 people. If a leak were to occur in the storage area, the lake could be destroyed forever.


Hydrofracking and the use of fossil fuels like natural gas, oil and coal is literally a matter of life and death for all of us and the entire planet. (I highly recommend Sandra Steingraber's work, also visit EcoWatch.com) Sustainable energy options such a solar and wind are viable alternatives to the toxic fossil fuels we produce and use in this country. It is a matter of education and political will. Please participate in the protection and the well being of this planet, and the state you live in, any way that you can to transition immediately to sustainable energy alternatives. It is up to all of us to get our politicians to do the right thing. They may not do it without our threats to their political careers. 




_______________________________________________  



 A Short List of My Favorite Earlier Individual Projects
Though many of my projects can be placed into thematic groupings (Sacred Art, Music Inspired Projects, Studies), and more recently several projects consists of multiple parts or chapters, some of my very favorite projects do not fit into such groups; rather, they are stand-alone, strong individual projects.  Thus I am presenting here a short list of some of my favorite earlier projects in the hope that the list, the images, and their titles will capture your attention and spark your curiosity.  The project titles below their representative image are hyperlinked; all you have to do is click on the title to view the project.







 




_______________________________________________  



Influences ~ Epiphanies
It seems I have always had a certain aptitude and interest in the spiritual.  The photographs I made in my first years in college, and the photographers that attracted me most then, and have studied with, reflect this tendency.   While I was living in Rochester, NY and going to school at Rochester Institute of Technology as a photography major (1963-66), I studied with Minor White, and I also took two home workshops with Nathan Lyons (at that time he was Director or Exhibitions at George Eastman House; he would later become the founder and director of the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, NY.) 

I then went to Chicago and studied with Aaron Siskind and Wynn Bullock while completing my undergraduate degree at the Institute of Design (1966-68).  In graduate school, at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, I studied with Van Deren Coke, Beaumont Newhall and Ray Metzler.  In 1974 I was also fortunate in being able to spend three days with one of my mentors, Fredrick Sommer, who was visiting Atlanta at the time to present a lecture.

Photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, and painters like Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Morandi have greatly influenced my work; in fact I have created projects directly inspired by Morandi and Klee.  I have also been influenced by writers and scholars like Carl Jung, Henry Corbin, Tom Cheetham, Gaston Bachelard; and poets like Robert Bly, Rainer Maria Rilke, Francis Ponge and Joseph Donahue. ~ I have already mentioned, above, how important music has been to me.


When I was a Graduate student in New Mexico I became close friends with a fellow photography student, Dick Knapp, who introduced me to the ideas and writings of depth psychologist Carl Jung.  I then took a class in Mythology which emphasized Jung's psychological-archetypal perspectives.  Indeed, the archetypal power of the material covered in that class, the teacher's passion for the material, and Jung's profoundly insightful view of the world and the psyche persuaded my to devote my MFA written thesis to an examination of my creative process in photography in relation to Jung's ideas, especially those regarding the symbol and the archetypes, his study of alchemy, and his theory about synchronicity.  I came to understand that synchronicity is at the very heart of the power of the symbolic photograph and my creative process.  This has remained as true for me today as it was in the early 1970's.  I titled my thesis :  The Symbolic Photograph : A Means to Self-Knowledge ~ A Jungian Approach to the Photographic Opus.  click here to learn more    

Despite my spiritual leanings, and my fascination with Jung's ideas, I became discontent with myself as a person.  Even though I was doing well in my career as a teacher and exhibiting artist I began feeling deep inside that these things in themselves were not fulfilling me in the way that I had hoped they would.  I was longing for something more, and intuitively I sensed that I needed a teacher, a true teacher, and I secretly longed to find one . . .  but I could not quite consciously admit this to myself, nor could I even imagine how I would find such an enlightened being.  




The Epiphany of 1987
Nonetheless I have learned that life has a way of giving us what we need if the longing is deep enough and pure enough.  I was eventually led--reluctantly at first--to Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, the living head and meditation Master of the Siddha Yoga Path.  After I met her in August, 1987, I experienced a series of amazing, life-transforming encounters with the sacred which left no doubt in my mind--and in my heart--that I had found the teacher I was longing for.  Gurumayi, and the practices of Siddha Yoga have had a profound influence on my life, including of course my creative process in photography.  I have come to understand that photography, for me, is a form of spiritual practice, a kind of meditation in action.  I have written about my epiphanic experiences with Gurumayi, and the relationships between my practice of photography and the practice of Siddha Yoga in full detail in my multi-chaptered project Photography and Yoga


The Epiphany of 2011
In 2011, while my wife Gloria and I were traveling in Turkey, I had another series of mysterious experiences, what Henry Corbin would define as intuitive, visionary experiences, psychic events, or encounters with the sacred, all directly related to Islamic sacred art.  Probably the most important of these experiences took place in the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum in Istanbul.  As I was looking at a collection of old, magnificently illuminated Qur'ans, one of the books seemed to come alive.  I experienced this beautiful, sacred book as if it were "breathing."  It seemed radiant with a self-luminous presence.  The book seemed to emit a palpable sacred energy which flowed through my body.  After I left the museum I felt an excited, renewed enthusiasm for art-making.  ~  In the yoga I practice, this sacred or divine energy that I experienced in Turkey is named shakti.  I have no doubt that my practice of Siddha Yoga, and the grace I had received from Gurumayi, had prepared me, "opened" me to the sacred  presence within that illuminated Qur'an. 

After I got back home and started working on a blog about the trip, it occurred to me, with stunning surprise, that I did not understand the true nature of what is commonly called "sacred art."  A deep desire, a strong inner conviction, arose within me: I needed to know what "sacred art" was and what it must mean to me, for I became obsessed with the need to know and understand.  I strived to gain both an historical perspective, but also, more importantly, I wanted to have a more deeply personal and conscious relationship with the idea of sacred art through my creative process in photography.


So many questions came up for me: could sacred art be manifested through a contemporary art practice such as my own?  Was sacred art possible today? in a world so tarnished by fear and anger, corporate and political corruption, the rapid decay of the natural world and the increase extreme weather events associated with Climate Change?  These questions sparked an intense period of study about sacred art in various religions and cultures; and of course I was particularly interested in Islamic sacred art since it was my experience in Turkey of the illuminated Qur'an, and other forms of Islamic sacred art, which had awakened me to these questions.


My studies led me to the writings of many wonderful scholars, but the most important ones, for me, was Henry Corbin and his writings on Sufism, the mystical aspect of Islam, and the writings of Tom Cheetham, whose four contemplative books on Corbin's work helped me to see more clearly the deeper nuances of Corbin's ideas and motivated me to read Corbin directly.  What had begun as a simple travel blog of Turkey slowly blossomed into the very large, ambitious, multi-chaptered project, "An Imaginary Book."  This project, which took nearly two years to complete, then unfolded into the continuing series of related sacred art photography projects which I have already introduced and listed above. 


I think you will find that much of my earlier work, all that preceded "An Imaginary Book" also contains the presence of the sacred or the "spiritual" for this had always been at the heart of my creative process; however, I simply chose not to address the subject as explicitly and consciously then as I do now, in the Sacred Art Projects.  When I was teaching and exhibiting my work in commercial galleries, I was shy and extremely careful about speaking openly on matters of the spiritual in my work.  It was only after meeting Gurumayi, and after I had been practicing Siddha Yoga in a committed enthusiastic way for many years, and had many palpable, profoundly transforming experiences of the sacred energy known as the shakti, that I began to feel some willingness and confidence to speak from personal experience about my relationship to the sacred through my creative process in photography.


"An Imaginary Book" and the website that I was constructing at the time was a turning point in my creative process.  The website gave me the forum through which I could more publicly contemplate, visually explore, and verbally articulate the theme of the sacred within my creative process.  Also, important was the fact that I had by that time retired from teaching and exhibiting, and I had also moved from Milwaukee, where I lived and taught and exhibited for 33 years, to a new town, Canandaigua, NY.  Clearly, the time had come for me to speak openly about what was most important to me, and I found the process of creating projects online very satisfying.  It is for me an intimate way to express my ideas and experiences publicly, and if not to a large public audience, at the very least to my my own self.  It came to feel as though it was my duty, my responsibility to make the Sacred Art Photography Projects and make them accessible to anyone interested. 



The Epiphany of 1955
When I was nearly ten years of age I had a profoundly important moment of self-recognition that directed me to my life's work in photography.  One day, in the summer of 1955, my cousin came running excitedly toward me with something he wanted to show me.  When I saw the batch of snapshots he held out to me in his hand, I knew instantaneously that I must become, I would become a photographer.

My dad was in the hospital when this happened; he would die that summer, a few weeks later.  In fact actually experienced his death, in a feverish dream-like state, the night he passed away. . . but that is another story.  A few months later, after I received the Christmas present I had asked for, I was developing my own film and printing my own negatives in my makeshift darkroom in our basement.


It is quite clear to me, now, that photography had come to me as a sacred gift.  It was destined to become a photographer and teacher, I have no doubts about that.  Indeed, photography not only filled the space of my absent father, it took me out of a small town in Ohio and into an unlikely world of art galleries, museums, and universities.  It seems to me the death of my father and my creative process in photography was an integral part of my destiny that finally brought me to my teacher, Gurumayi and my practice of Siddha Yoga.


See my online chronology A Personal History of Photography for detailed accounts of my 1955 epiphanies.



*

If you explore at least some of the projects in this website you will note that I have been graced with many intuitive "visions" which have influenced or inspired my creative process.  Henry Corbin, in his book Creative Imagination, wrote that such visions are a "supreme gift" which enables one to know one's own "eternal predisposition."  I believe that the majority of the photographs you will see throughout the many projects on this website are radiant with the intuitive grace of my creative process.  For me the images are visual equivalents of my experiences of the sacred.  I think of my photographs as gifts which contain and also transmit a sacred creative energy.



Gratitude

When I look carefully, contemplatively at my life, the experiences that have graced me over the past seventy-plus years,  I have an overarching sense that everything that happens is in some way a gift.  I am eternally grateful for the love and support I have received from wife Gloria and my children, my friends and my students, my photography and my relationship with Gurumayi and Siddha Yoga.  I know it is difficult for most people to understand what a true teacher, a yoga Master, like Gurumauyi, can mean in a person's life, for indeed it is relatively unusual, and false gurus have surley led their students astray.  One can only proceed if their experience feels True.   Thus I am grateful beyond saying for Gurumayi's presence in my life.  Her presence, her grace is a great and wonderful mystery, a Supreme Gift.  Ultimately yoga is an alchemical, creative process which consists primarily of transforming, purifying the ego so that the heart can be open.  Though its not an easy process, and the transitions one must face and move through are very challenging, I believe that this purification process is essential to any true creative process. 

Finally, thank you for visiting my website and viewing my projects and the photographs.  Your participation in the work is an important and integral part of my creative process.  I Welcome you with the same respect and enthusiasm that I welcome the sacred into my life, into my creative process, and into each of the photographs you will see presented here.


Steven D Foster  

March 6, 2016


_______________________________________________



Contact Information, Resume, Bio, etc.
I have provided my contact information, resume, biographical articles, interviews and more at the bottom of this Welcom Page, and at this link: Steven D. Foster  Bio. 

I invite you to visit this link, A Personal History of Photography which offers a chronological narrative, including a visual sampling, or links to, all of my photography projects. When one surveys the nearly fifty year history of my work presented here, it become quite apparent that I have not been the type of artist who has early on established a stylistic mode of working, a particular conceptual thrust, or favorite subject matter, and then proceeded to spend a lifetime embellishing that singular theme with but gradual variations.  Rather, I have followed the impulses of my intuitions and personal interests and thus have explored a broad range of ideas, attitudes and techniques over the years.  The complete list of my photographs provided below will surely prove this to be the case.   SF


  
             
*               *               *

The 

Complete List 
~ Photography Projects ~
Dating back from the mid-1960's to the Present

  click on the blue hyperlinked titles 

to see the online projects

~ click on the images to enlarge them ~


_____________________________________________________



Studies : Sufism
Signs, Veils, the Symbolic Photograph
"records of encounters with God
in the details of everyday life"
September, 2016



Part I : Introduction & Photographs
Part II : Text Excerpts from William Chittick's book: Sufism  [forthcoming]
 Part III : Commentaries on the photographs and texts

~


Photographs & Poetry
featuring the poems of 
Hafiz 
and other Poet-Saints
August, 2016



~


Zoo Photographs
July, 2016




~

The City of Souls
June, 2016




~



Babysitting Photographs

May 4, 2016



Sleepy Baby Stroller Views & Dreamscapes
On the Ground Floor
Symmetrical Constructions
Commentaries & Epilogue

~



There is No Thing To Know 
April, 2016




~


The Blue Pearl
March, 2016




~

The Center of Being  
Thing-Centered Symmetrical Photographs
January-February, 2016 




~

Field of Vision
December, 2015

  


~



As Above, So Below ~ Mirror In the Temple

  November 3, 2015




~



Photography and Yoga
June-October, 2015 





~

Snow : Photographs  from The Silver World  
January ~ May 2015 







August, 2014




~




Still Life
Photographs Inspired by Giorgio Morandi  
July 2013- April 2014



   2006 - 2013 




~



"An Imaginary Book"  
2011 - 2013
The Complete Collection of  Projects 
inspired by Islamic Sacred Art & Sacred Knowledge


  
The Nine Core Projects:
Also:

The Hydrofacking Suite  
2011-12





The Departing Landscape Project  
2007-12 





  2005-09



~


  2008-09




~


  2010




~




  2007-08




~



  2007





~




Triadic Memories Project  
2003-07 





  2003-07  / 1992-93







  1999-2000 




~



  Studies II   2011 / 1994-2000  





~   



Studies I
1994 - 2000




~


  1990-92







  1988-89 / 2011




~

  1985-88




~


City Places 
 1984-85 






Images of Eden
  1983-84




~


Dream Portraits
  1982





Lake Series
  1981-82




~


Intimate Landscape Series
  1980-81






Negative Print Series
  1978-80






Steve Lacy Series
  1977-78 / 2011




~


The Persephone Series
  1976 / 2011




~


In The Woods
  1974 / 2011





~


~    


Early Book Project
   1966  / 2013





~               


  
Videos 
in which my images are used






_____________________________________________


                                                                                                                                      

Contact Information:
Steven D. Foster                                                                      
3906 Chatham Lane                                                            
Canandaigua, NY 14424                                                         
Tel. 585-394-2769
Email: sf@uwm.edu   
 





This link takes you to the Program Archive.  To find my interview
simple type in Foster in the Guest or Keyword search window.

 A Personal History of Photography 

This is an illustrated chronology about my involvement in photography, including personal stories, images from projects, much much more.




Thank you for visiting my Departing Landscape website.


SF




*
End of Welcome page

*



  


.