This year, one of my resolutions was to spend more time with art. So, last Saturday, I saw photographer Michael Kenna’s retrospective exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum. I’ve long been a fan of Kenna’s work and knew I’d love seeing the actual prints—not on a computer screen or in the pages of a book—but I wasn’t prepared for how they transported me within just a few minutes of entering the gallery.
His black-and-white fine art prints are small, intimate, inviting the viewer in. Yet the landscapes they capture are vast, lonely, evocative. The images are stark, yet somehow transcendent: the delicate branches of a single tree in winter, 50 fences in a field of snow, pilings rising up out of a serene sea. His images aren’t just of the natural world; he also shows the beauty of rain-slick streets and city skylines lit up at night, the stunning architecture of bridges and, in one of his most evocative images, nuclear reactors with their halos of steam.
Because these images invite reflection, many are, fittingly, called meditations. But these prints are anything but static, capturing in deceptively simple images the complexity that is our natural/human world. Because I wanted to linger in their spacious complexity, I used Kenna’s photographs as my contemplative practice this week, each morning choosing an image to respond to. Here’s a short one:
Posts suggest stasis, clouds motion.
Who says we must decide?
Like the horizon balancing between
We can live in both worlds.
You can do this, too. Of course, you can find many images online, but even better if you can visit a gallery, stand in front of the work and be transported. Choose a photographer or artist you admire and respond to a photograph or painting as your morning practice this week.
If you write a poem, you’ll join the time-honored tradition of ekphrastic poetry. At the Poetry.org website you’ll find some famous paintings and the poems they’ve generated.
But it’s fine to just use the image as a meditation, with no pressure to produce a poem, just to let the image take you where it will.
For those in the Seattle area, consider attending the Hedgebrook Salon offered by poet Susan Rich and playwright Amy Wheeler at the Seattle Art Museum next Saturday January 12 1- 6 pm. You can find the registration information here.
With gratitude for all the artists who transport us,