Monday, April 12, 2010
A Conversation With Photographer Dale Goodvin
I love a sweet, unexpected surprise and on Saturday was given one by photographic mentor, Dale Goodvin. As you can see from this photo of a bald eagle, out for a bite of lunch, Dale has the breath-taking eye of a wildlife photographer. When I first asked him what he tries to do with his art he replied simply, "To stop time." In talking to this delightful, complex, Thoreau-reading, Dylan-listening, recently-retired man...time did indeed stop...though the hours sped by. I had asked him to pick out four of his photographs, to talk to me more about what his statement meant. I was expecting to see pictures like the Great Blue Heron flying across Filucy Bay, mirrored in the rippling water, or any of his spectacular nature shots to be brought out for discussion. Instead he surprised me by going abstract to show, in his own words, "...something beyond the repetition of the common moment."
The first photo Dale brought out was taken Dec. 30th., 1978 and he picks it as the best of "space evoking a sense of wonderment," for him. It's a beautiful picture, taken at Union Station in Tacoma, when it really was a train station. The lines of the doors, the ethereal, hardly-seen train outside in the snow, the vinyl bench popping with colour; I (the viewer) was caught up in the potential of what might happen next. As Dale explains, "A foot might be just about to enter the picture...someone might be about to run through the doors. The picture doesn't dictate what's going on, therefore, doesn't dictate any response. It's not the subject matter, the content...but something about its composition." I found my brain humming with this new revelation about Dale. I was so drawn to the picture and its potential for stories. I don't like to be led by the nose through art, and this photo, "certainly doesn't tell you what to think!" he said, laughing. Instead, one can spend time in its space and see something new with each sitting. I love the warm lines of the doors in front of the snowstorm...and that expectant, colourful bench. There was to be a common touch from the warm end of the spectrum through each photograph.
The second photo is called "Intimate Glow," and I felt the warmth inside my musician heart. In the black and white of written music, there's a space for what each musician brings to a performance. That's what makes flesh atop the notes' bones. In this photo, the glow shows in sensuous golden skin curling into the music, captured flame from the heart reflected in clarinet and just at the corner of the page, again a wee spot of red within the clarinet's workings. I climbed inside with my own love of the music made flesh and stories of performance. Hours dissolving into our conversation, Dale the story-teller leaves plenty of space for his listener's interpretations. A conversation over art brought us into the moment with one another as we have never had a chance to do before, moments being liquid and gone in the tidal flow of days.
Next came "Mysterious Lady In Red." (Here I must apologise, for my photo of Dale's photo does not show how the triangle of red pops) My eyes began with the design on the table top and traveled to the glass, then printed page. Only upon completion of circle did the red dress begin to speak to me...a scene set...a movement unknown and mysterious. There is a coolness in this picture that unsettled me somewhat, the coolness of public places and their anonymity. But fire in that piece of dress accomplishes Dale's wish to, "evoke emotion from the daily...to take uncommon pictures of common objects." We discussed how titles can help draw the viewer into a story, and there was definite agreement that titles were difficult...that even Bob Dylan might have some trouble with titles!
His fourth picture quickly warmed and drew me in. "Red Tulip" is bold Modern Art in masterful strokes. The bulging red-purple tulip pops out in its full ripeness, ready to open, made even more dramatic by the bright gold behind. What would Royal Robes be without their gold trimming? Below the burning gold, the pale, jagged stroke of possible change, of possible movement. It's strong and beautifully balanced, both as photograph and painting. I thought this was the last picture of the day, but Dale smiled and told me he had a fifth picture, bringing out the final surprise.
I was looking at the movements of a day, of life, sometimes soft and reflective, almost still though nothing can be. The atoms dance for something to be seen, a table, a chair...and here before me seemed the dance of days, the river we flow in. We dream, reach and grow in these spirals, sometimes gentle and sometimes fiery-white. What the objects were, behind the light and movement, is unimportant. I just love the colours, light and depth of this photograph. It sums up the moment I was allowed into this photographer's journey. Time had stopped, though tides and day flowed on, and we were within the beauty of an artist's bliss.
Like good chefs stir love into a recipe, Dale Goodvin looks through the lens of a camera with his love of both worlds, natural and man-made. I did not expect to journey through the abstract in our conversation...but I certainly was not disappointed. With these five beautiful pictures, "something beyond the repetition of the common moment," Dale had tricked the clock and created beautiful art, requiring me to pause and reflect. As he says, "You can't get it if you don't pause." I walked out into the same day but, as with all good art and conversation, I was somehow changed.
Some of Dale Goodvin's photographs are hanging, for sale, in the Metro Coffee Shop/Gallery, University of Washington, Tacoma Campus. Do also check out his website...