Monday, October 4, 2021

Sean Tucker - The Meaning In The Making

Sean Tucker, The Meaning
in the Making (2021)

Photographer. Filmmaker. Author. Sean Tucker is also a musician, a former minister, and an autodidact. I know him from his YouTube channel. He explores the "why" of making with just enough grounding in technical details to remind me that it's about how technology is used. Sean takes us along with him on his journey as he finds meaning in making. He learns by doing as well as from study. He creates lush scenes that nurture our senses and our souls.

The first 90 seconds of this video on the liminal times in our lives is magical.

The book, The Meaning in the Making, the why and how behind our human need to create, was written mostly during the pandemic, shortly after he turned 40. It parallels what has been on YouTube, though from a different angle and with more backstory. It's an engaging read, a seemingly small book packed with insights and compassion. At 319 pages, it not all that small. It definitely stands on its own, without the videos, and without any photographs other than the cover image.

A few points:

Meaning and Making - Humans are makers and we get meaning in our lives through our creative activities. We also understand our lives better through our making. It's a process of discovery and invention.

Chaos and Order - We live on the edge of chaos. The world is and has always been falling apart, whether from the the intimacy of a life from birth through death or the vast abstraction of thermodynamics, the continuing threat of thermonuclear war, the already present disruption of climate change, the many cycles in the rise and fall of civilizations. It is in confronting the chaos and making order, however transient or limited, that we grapple with the essence of our lives.

Mourn for Humanity - We must learn to mourn for humanity. It's a suggestion made to Sean by one of his seminary teachers. It's a lesson that I come back to again and again. Teju Cole talks about it as hospitality offered by those who are tired to those who are exhausted. We all have many wounds which need healing. From that place of humility and personal openness, we can take action which is helpful.

Follow Your Blisters - Joseph Campbell may have popularized the instruction to "follow your bliss", though Sean says he later wished he'd said to "follow your blisters". I find that in the winding trail of what I have done, what I keep coming back to, what my actions say more than my words, is where I found my own meaning in making. Searching around, I learned that Kate Sanborn in 1892 popularized the phrase “genius is inspiration, talent and perspiration," predating Edison's "2% inspiration, 98% perspiration" by a few years.

Shadows - If not for the shadows, there would be nothing to see. It's in the contrast between light and dark, in the changes in light, that we see form. It's from the shadows, from the periphery and the depths, that new things come - the wellspring of creation from the dark places of our being. And there's the counter story of hiding in the shadows, of fears of all kinds, to things denied or pushed aside, if only for the moment, before they become unavoidable. Embrace Your Shadows 

Benediction - Sean is still a minister, though his flock is now artists and his scripture is from a broad sweep of wisdom, not a single doctrine. (See his How I Write Scripts for my YouTube Videos)

The whole book is a blessing offered to us from his attempts to make order from chaos, to heal his own wounds, to find his own meaning. Following his lead, I offer my best wishes for Sean, the book, and all of us on our journeys. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021


Harold Eugene Edgerton, Atomic Bomb Explosion Before 1952

 Harold Eugene Edgerton

American, 1903-1990

Atomic Bomb Explosion before 1952

About 1952, printed later

Gelatin silver print; edition 23 of 25

This uncanny, amorphous ball represents the initial detonation of a nuclear test blast, arrested for one millionth of a second. In the 1940s Harold Edgerton devised the rapatronic camera (short for rapid action electronic), and the United States Atomic Energy Commission contracted his lab to use it to capture the various stages of atomic explosions. The rapatronic camera employs two polarizing filters and a Faraday cell-a coil that acts as a magnet when it comes in contact with an electric current. The cell, activated by a pulse emitted by the bomb just before it explodes, momentarily changes the polarization of the filters to let light pass through and reach the film inside the camera.

Gift of the Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation, 1996.568

Label Text from the exhibition - Art Institute of Chicago: The Human Landscape

J Robert Oppenheimer - We Are Death

I'm reminded of the concern of the Manhattan Project scientists that they might literally undo the fabric of the universe with the first test blast on July 16, 1945. Oppenheimer was quoting the Bhagavad-Gita about becoming Death at the time of that first explosion. It would have been a curious moment, had it happened. The end of the world, from an experiment gone awry. All life unraveled with no warning, other than the eons of genocide reaching their endpoint. Instead, we have more of the same. A new weapon used in all the old ways. Or the threat of its use, our mutual assured destruction. A new technology that has changed things and yet not. Neither the greatest fears nor the greatest promises.

Notes on Edgerton Atomic Bomb Explosion Photograph

The exposure was made 7 miles from the atomic explosion using a 10-foot lens.

There is a 4x5 copy negative at the Harvard Art Museum

In addition to the Art Institute of Chicago, several other museums have copies of this print (MIT MuseumSmithsonian American Art MuseumDetroit Institute of ArtsPhiladelphia Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American ArtNelson-Atkins Museum of ArtMinneapolis Institute of ArtNational Gallery of Canada). They are gifts of The Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation.

This page includes a diagram of the rapatronic shutter

See also this informational document at the Nevada National Security Site

And this about the "end" of nuclear testing at the United Nations International Day Against Nuclear Tests

Cataclysm - Definition and Etymology

a large-scale and violent event in the natural world.

a sudden violent upheaval, especially in a political or social context.

early 17th century (originally denoting the biblical Flood described in Genesis): from French cataclysme, via Latin from Greek kataklusmos ‘deluge’, from kata- ‘down’ + kluzein ‘to wash’.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Folie à Deux

Cover Photo: H G Berger

When lovers play together, it is most beautifully a madness that's shared, an intoxication, a loss of boundary. Are we one? Are we two? Something new?

Hans George Berger and Herve Guibert shared such a madness.

We had built up a story, not yet completely revealed, of true moments and absurd stories, of pretentious falsifications and complicity, of sincere affection and reciprocal attraction. ... 

Hervé too had a Rollei 35; we often swapped cameras and film (always 400 ASA). He made as many photographs of me than I did of him. Only few of these photographs have been published so far. We lived together and mixed our images, we even had a certain pleasure imagining that one day gallerists, publishers and heirs would be in trouble to find out who was the author of a particular image. ... 

We believed that art was friendship, complicity, a shared vision of the world, against a background of a common conviction that questioned the truth of the substance of what you transmit and what you understand when you first look at something. We realised that we should not trust in easy answers; that behind the facade there are always secret rooms to explore.

Bianca Laura Petretto: What remains from art? Interview with Hans Georg Berger in Town of Waters. The photographical work of Hans Georg Berger. Edited by F P Campione and A M Montaldo, Aisthesis, Milan, 2001 

Book Photo

Cover Photo: Hans Georg Berger, Arnaud, Herve, and Huges collecting herbs, Casino Taddei Castelli, Elba 1982."

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Queer Typography

Paul Soulellis, What Is Queer Typography?

Queer Design Chats: What Is Queer Typography?

Looking for queer anything often feels lonely. 

1993 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick ... "Intellectuals and artists of color whose sexual self-definition includes 'queer' ... are using the leverage of 'queer' to do a new kind of justice to the fractal intricacies of language, skin, migration and state."

I'm looking for a the messy mix of criss-crossing connections and intersections ... wandering and searching ... opening space for community and conversation ... an inquiry and an invitation ... a need to connect with kin ...

... the stories of struggle and oppression and liberation that can be found wherever power is doing its thing. Heteropatriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy, and settler colonialism - this is the matrix of domination, as named by Patricia Hill Collins in Black Feminist Thought (1990).

Jack Halberstam, borrowing from his book The Queer Art of Failure (2011) ... "the failures we might build upon in order to counter the logics of success ... failure is the map of political paths not taken ... failure's byways are the spaces in between the superhighways of capital"

borrowing Saidiya Hartman's work on waywardness ...  those in-between spaces ... maybe not legible at all ...

Dennis Grauel ... some of the ways that the type design industry participates in these logics of success ... shifting value from a production-based paradigm to a maintenance one, using care as the framework for type design and distribution... 

At the core of typography, as it's been taught and practiced for centuries, is control, precision, preservation of standards, the idea of perfect legibility, and the myth of the lone type designer as genius author.

Robin Mientjes ... "an attitude in the face of conformity, an attitude in the sea of passivity, an attitude to say yes when others say no. And that's poetic and abstract, but that's fine for our thesis today."

Dan Rhatigan ... research into gay publishing ... that began circulating in the 1960s and 70s ... for the first time ever we see typographic decision-making happening specifically in relation to a gay male audience ...

... focus on gay and lesbian liberation ... language like that rather than more inclusive terms ... to acknowledge context and how language operates in such limited ways ... and the fact that this language sometimes reflects the limits and inequities of the movements themselves.

These radical publications were all very different from each other but there is a kind of approach and some fairly consistent design and typographic methods that are in direct contrast to the slickness and corporate control of mainstream graphic design ... 

... activists and other fringe communities and movements could only publish because of access to cheap printing ...

Looking back from more than 50 years in the future ... I really hesitate to identify these designs themselves as queer. This is not a queer aesthetic ... 

In this very broad sense, queerness can be located in the radical, outsider status of these publications and their designs. This is queerness as an underground alternative way of creating networks of care. Queerness is the scrappy, ad hoc, and sometimes homemade designs that were directly related to the urgency of protest and activism and survival. 

Queerness has a close relationship to secret languages... hanky codes... Polari... 

In a recent conversation with Nat Pyper, an alphabet artist, ... and nichole killian ... "there is no queer history, only a history of queer acts, and I wonder how that might be mapped onto typography, like: there's no queer typography only a history of queer ___" ... and after a few seconds it was so obvious to us - queer reading and queer writing. 

There is no queer typography, only queer acts of reading and writing.

[from Paul Soulellis, What is Queer Typography?]

Queer Alphabets

Nat Pyper: A Queer Year of Love Letters

Robert Ford

Martin Wong

G.B. Jones

Women's Car Repair Collective

Ernestine Eckstein 


Be Oakley: Protest Sign Fonts 

Mother Nature Is A Lesbian

I Am Your Worst Fear I Am Your Best Fantasy & First Gay Americans

ACT UP Protest

Black Trans Lives Matter

Say Their Name

Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR)

An Action For Trans Youth

Tre Seals: Vocal Type








The Neue Black


Du Bois


Dennis Grauel


Type With Pride



Future Fonts


People Referenced

Paul Soulellis

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Patricia Hill Collins 

Jack Halberstam

Saidiya Hartman

Dennis Grauel

Robin Mientjes

Dan Rhatigan

Buddy (Buddie) Esquire 

Nat Pyper

nichole killian


A Few Queer Archives 

Gerber Hart


Paul Soulellis, What Is Queer Typography

Monday, August 23, 2021

We Make The Path By Walking

Paulo Freire - Reading the Word to Read the World

Nat Pyper, Conscientização Hole 1, 2, 3 (2021)
Photo: Larry Wolf (2021)

Nat Pyper, Conscientização Hole 1, 2, 3 (2021)
Photo: Larry Wolf (2021)

Moving from natural landscape to the cultural, we encounter scenes from Francisco Brennand's 1963 illustrations for Brazil's Paulo Freire literacy program in Nat Pyper's new felt wearables. We witness the transformation between nature and culture, reality and imagined, and body and text. In their splayed open fabric books, a mouth hole is left in the center, where viewers might digest and conceptualize the visceral ways our bodies become text.
Survey 3: I Sense Something Has Changed, Exhibition Guide 
Curated by Cristobal Alday, Yi Cao, Joan Roach 
Chicago Artists' Coalition, 2021

Nat Pyper, Contribution to Library of the Senses (2021)
Photo: Larry Wolf (2021)

Freire was very famous in Recife for his literacy program and his political work with the workers. The idea of educating the illiterate was so simple but so dangerous and Freire made many enemies. The company owners and elite did not like the idea of literacy programs. They feared the workers would want more say and more Money. Everything was political. Freire approached me to make art that symbolized culture, reformation, literacy, and self. I studied the program, the situation, and I began to design the works. I paint on tiles. I work with clay. Clay is from the earth and is a part of humans and we are part of it. Freire's goal was for the viewer to under stand the relationship of self to the world and that people can make change for the good. I produced the works and Freire was very pleased. The political situation became unstable and we began to realize that the literacy program and the connection to culture and the arts of the people were targeted by the elite and others. When the military coup occurred, many people were in danger and others easily talked to save themselves. Freire we the targets because of his work with workers. My art was seen by the dictatorship as dangerous and it was one of destroyed. There are no reminders of that work. No photographs. Freire was not yet beaten. He asked me to make another set. I said no Paulo. They will be destroyed also. This time was hard for everyone but especially those who had dreamt of a different Brazil. I was fortunate. I continued to be an artist.

Literacy activities require research on what Freire calls a "minimum vocabulary universe" among literacy learners. It is through work on this universe that words become chosen to integrate the program. These words, more or less seventeen of them, called "generative words," should be phonemically rich words and necessarily ordered in increasing progression of phonetic difficulty. They should be read within the widest possible context of the literary learners' life and of the local language, thus becoming national as well.

Decodifying the written word, which follows the decodifying of a codified existential situation, implies certain steps that must be strictly followed. Let us take the word tijolo (brick), used as the first word in Brasilia, in the sixties. This word was chosen because Brasilia was a city under construction at the time, in order to facilitate the reader's understanding.

    • The generative word tijolo is presented, inserted in the representation of a concrete situation: men at work at a construction site.

The word is simply written: tijolo.

The same word is written with its syllables separated: ti-jo-lo. The "phonemic family" of the first syllable is presented: ta-te-ti-to-tu.

    • The "phonemic family" of the second syllable is presented: ja-je-ji-jo-ju.

The "phonemic family" of the third syllable is presented: la-le-li-lo-lu. The "phonemic families" of the word being decodified are presented: ta-te-ti-to-tu

ja-je-ji-jo-ju la-le-li-lo-lu

This set of "phonemic families" of the generative word has been termed "discovery form," for it allows the literacy learner to put together "pieces," that is, come up with new phonemic combinations that necessarily will result in words of the Portuguese language.

    • Vowels are presented: a-e-i-o-u.

In sum, the moment the literacy learner is able to articulate syllables to form words, he or she is literate. The process evidently requires deepening; that is, a post-literacy component.

Ana Maria Araújo Freire and Donaldo Macedo
Introduction to The Paulo Freire Reader

Thursday, August 12, 2021


The root of contemplation is templum, Latin for the place one clears to communicate with the gods. The person at the temple is an augur, observing the motion of birds, to interpret the divine messages. 

Larry Wolf, Birds at Temple (2021)

Larry Wolf, Birds at Temple - detail (2021)

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Open and Playful - John Daido Loori

Zen art is open-ended. The enso or Zen circle, a symbol of enlightenment, for example, is almost always left open. The missing piece is to be supplied by the viewer. In completing the brushwork, the viewer gets involved and experiences a sense of completion to the art. Haiku only presents a glimpse, yet its emotional impact can be enormous because the reader has room to enter and create the full picture. The poet only provides the seed.


Whether serious or playful, witty or evocative, Zen is alive because it is spontaneous. If you want to experience this spontaneity in your own life and work, don't waste your energy on judgment or reflection. This is a good photograph, this is a bad photograph. I like this, I don't like that. That's just the brambles, the entanglements that keep us from really getting in touch with our creative heart.

Naturalness, spontaneity, and playfulness are all aspects of the ordinary mind that catches a glimpse of the world of things just as they are. To live this life fully means to see all of it. The doorway to this experience is the creative process. Please delve deeply into it. Give it a chance to do what it is capable of doing. Engage it fully with the whole body and mind. If you do, sooner or later, this limitless way of being will be your own. It will never make sense, and you'll never be able to explain it to anybody, but you will experience it, and by so doing, you will make it real.

John Daido Loori, The Zen of Creativity, Cultivating Your Artistic Life (2004)