Celebrating January 2014 & Art Connections 10 Exhibition!

Opening Reception: Sunday, January 26, 2014, 2:00-5:00 pm
Montclair State University – George Segal Gallery, Montclair NJ 07043

I can thank my parents for January being the month of my birth, and Curator, Marilyn Symmes, for choosing two of my images, Peeling Back the Layers and Endangered Oakley Stoll House  to be in  ‘ART Connections 10’ at the George Segal Gallery, Montclair State University in NJ. This marks the first exhibition that represents my gender fine art photography along with my architectural series of endangered houses. Both images record historical moments, measured not as isolated fragments of time, but as tangible and intangible exposures, revealing the narrative arc of my subject’s life/capturing past, recording present and projecting into the future.

Peeling Back the Layers

Peeling Back the Layers. Montague NJ, 2012, 27H x 18W inches,
Framed 31H x 23W inches,  Fine Art Digital Inkjet Paper with Archival Pigmented Inks

Endangered Oakley Stoll House

Endangered Oakley Stoll House. Walpack Twp. NJ, 2012, 27H x 18W inches,
Framed 31H x 23W inches,  Fine Art Digital Inkjet Paper with Archival Pigmented Inks

For Peeling Back the Layers, gender performance artist, Fred Koenig, clad only in panties, stockings and high heels, is framed by the antique peeling wallpaper and decaying wood molding of the historic Hornbeck/Roberts House in Montague NJ. Owned by the National Park Service, this eighteenth century farmhouse along with the Endangered Oakley Stoll House are located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These historically important houses are now sadly vandalized and trashed.

Whether I shoot a portrait or an endangered architectural site, what haunts me is finding the essence of the visible and invisible timeline. I look for the quintessential moment that can be revealed in the stillness of a decaying wall or in the expression of gender duality. Perhaps both Fred’s openly exposed gesture and these two endangered houses lay bare a beautiful and similar vulnerability.

ART Connections 10
Montclair State University – George Segal Gallery
1 Normal Avenue, Montclair, NJ 07043
Gallery Hours: T, W, F, Sat 10:00 – 5:00 pm & Thurs 12:30 – 7:30 pm
Opening Reception: Sunday, January 26, 2014, 2:00-500 pm
Exhibition Dates: January 26- February 22 2014

Early Works

Autumn has become a time for reminiscence. Two of my older art works that have captured profound biographical moments are in exhibitions on the East and West Coasts.

‘CHILDHOOD MEMORIES’ opened on October 19 at the historic Mills Pond House Gallery in St James, New York. ‘Thoughtful Eyes, Fanciful Dreams’ is based on a 1979 iconic photograph of my niece, Jaimie, when she was six-years-old and staying overnight at my NYC studio. Jaimie, her sister Lani and their brother Scott, spent many weekends with me in my downtown loft as they were growing up.

‘Thoughtful Eyes, Fanciful Dreams’ records a moment, measured not as an isolated fragment of time, but suggesting the narrative arc of childhood/ capturing past, recording present and projecting into the future. Jaimie, cocoon-wrapped in a feathered cape, appears like a chrysalis emerging in the moment of becoming. Her wide-eye gaze draws the viewer into the enigma of childhood dreams.

The presentation of the printed image on cotton voile adds to the fluidity of the work. It can appear as a tangible portrait of a young girl, or depending on where one is standing in relationship to the piece, the image can become intangible, and disappear into the back light. ‘Thoughtful Eyes, Fanciful Dreams’ reflects not just the fleetingness of memory, but the evanescence of childhood itself.

My brother, Al and his children, Sean and Amanda came to the reception. The Rosen Clan also included my brother, Michael, his wife Roberta and my nephew Scott with his wife, Laura, and their baby Nico, attending his first art exhibition.

Thoughtful Eyes, Fanciful Dreams_Art Opening.Reception.10.19.13

My second art work, ‘Syd and Jacki at Summer Camp’ was included in the exhibition, ‘EARLY WORKS’ at the RayKo Photo Center in San Francisco, California that  opened on October 17th. The entire gallery of early photos can be viewed online .

This photograph dates back to 1961 when I was 14-years old at Cejwin, a summer camp in Port Jervis, New York. EARLY WORKS’ is an exhibition that examines the naive imagery made by contemporary photographers when they were children.

Syd and Jackie-V3

The curators asked for “early images that often reveal surprising talent, visual intuition, and honesty. Kept for many decades in shoeboxes and faded albums, the images are often cherished belongings that play a key role in defining the self as artist. This exhibition,” they said “will be a close look at photographers’ earliest works, paired with personal narratives about the images and their role in each photographers’ development as an artist.”

The photograph of Syd and Jacki, my two best friends that summer, was taken with a plastic Brownie Starmite camera. I had been in the same bunk with these girls for five summers. I was lucky to have had a camera, and took pictures of my bunk mates during our days and nights together. This was the summer when I began to realize that while some of them were showing a big interest in boys, I was thinking more about girls. I was also very serious about my drawing and dreamed about living in NYC and becoming an ‘artist.’

In the photo ‘Syd and Jacki,’ I can see how aware I was of Syd’s gesture in her body language as she is lying down and looking at me, and how I also captured Jacki in the background obliviously looking into a mirror and doing her hair. This picture depicts a naïve eroticism and reveals what was both hidden and suggestive in our first bloom of teenage sexuality. I also remember how much I didn’t understand about myself and what I was feeling, other than I seemed different than the other girls in my interests and desires.

This picture reminds me how scary it was to not have the support of family and friends, or the vocabulary to be able to speak the words that became one of the defining elements of my life, my fine-art photography and my future career as a socially concerned photo-journalist.

On the night ‘EARLY WORKS’ opened, I decided to try to locate the girls in this cherished photograph. Thanks to FB, I found Syd within 30 minutes and we were soon excitedly chatting and recollecting our adventures as old friends do. In the next week, Sydell located Jacki and the rest of our 1961 summer bunkmates. We are planning a reunion in NYC.

So, find some of your own old photographic images and perhaps rediscover what they mean to you now!

A Kalinga Village Journeys through Time

It is October 1986, and I’m on a narrow metal footbridge suspended high above the rushing water of the Chico River.  On my back is a pack of heavy photographic equipment — two cameras, multiple lenses and more than 50 rolls of film.  I grip the handrails, trying to stay in the center of this suspension bridge. My gaze is focused dead ahead – don’t look down. The rickety footbridge swings, tilting wildly with my every step.

Ahead lies the Kalinga village of Luplupa, one of several isolated Tinglayan barangays built on a steep mountain slope, placed strategically across he river so that its inhabitants could see their enemy’s approach.

Built in 1915, Luplupa is nestled deep within the hand-carved rice terraces of the Cordillera, a landscape untouched by modern times.  Climbing up and into the village, I saw many octagonal houses perched on wooden posts. Walls are of wood or split-and-plaited bamboo, topped with cogon grass roofs.  Women, intricate tattoos covering their arms and chests, balance pots of dishes and clothing on their heads to be washed in the Chico River.  Roaming freely around them are chickens, dogs, native pigs and dozens of little children. The elders squat in small groups smoking tobacco.

It’s impossible to realize at this moment the radical transformation this village is about to experience — a change that within a quarter-century will radically restructure this tribal landscape.

(to see slideshow- click – http://wp.me/p1t7ls-me)

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Fascinated by the story of this ancient indigenous culture, I returned to Kalinga in 1993, six years after my first visit. I was witnessing the birth of the province’s extraordinary metamorphosis, and knew immediately that what remained of Kalinga’s significant vernacular architecture must be documented before it was irrevocably lost. I had spent those intervening years as a photojournalist and a historic preservation photographer in New York City.

To pursue this quest I returned in 2000, 2002, and in March 2013, thanks to the generosity of donors – http://www.usaprojects.org/project/a_kalinga_journey_through_time –  who funded my trip.

During my first visit in 1986 and 1987, while working on a photo-essay for a newsmagazine, I met Virginia “Virgie” Puyoc, a Kalinga representative at peace negotiations between the new Cory Aquino government, the Cordillera tribes, and the local underground rebel forces. It was her invitation that brought me to Luplupa and we became lifelong friends.  After eleven years away, I was looking forward to seeing Virgie and her family, and revisiting  Luplupa and Bado Dangwa, the barangay located outside Tabuk, the Kalinga capital, where she had settled.

When I arrived in Manila, I joined my colleagues from Bakás Pilipinas, historic preservation architect Roz Li, anthropologist Pascale Montadert, and conservator Cristina Paterno, to present a lecture ‘Dialogue on Historic Preservation.’ The all-day workshop was sponsored by TAO-Pilipinas and the Mapua School of Architecture, Industrial Design and the Built Environment. It was attended by close to 60 participants. My presentations included a slide show of images from my proposed book, ‘A Kalinga Village Journeys through Time’ and a short how-to lecture on ‘Photographic Documentation of Historic Sites and Structures.’ Roz, Pascale and I arrived in Tabuk the following week to continue our lecture series on ‘Cultural Heritage Preservation: Preserving the Traditional Culture of the Cordilleras’ at a dialogue/workshop sponsored by the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) and the Provincial Tourism Council. BakasWorkshop

Pascale joined me for next three weeks and together, we visited Bado Dangwa and travelled to Luplupa.  I continued my photographic documentation and taught Digital Storytelling classes in both places to the village youth.

Since my last visit, both Luplupa and Bado Dangwa have become densely populated, sprawling landscapes.  Villagers had constructed larger houses, some with five or more rooms. On this trip, I had my choice of bedrooms, whereas on earlier visits I stayed with the unmarried women—grannies, aunties and teenage girls—who slept on a bamboo floor in one room where they cooked and ate their meals.

Virgie feels little nostalgia for the older village houses. “As far as the old houses, baliwala,” she says, we are not attached to them.” Compared to a hut with a grass roof that must be replaced every five years, new metal-roofed homes require less maintenance and are much more spacious and comfortable. But Virgie still displays a profound connection to her vibrant Kalinga culture – to the language, festivals, music, singing, dancing, foods, cooking and storytelling. She delights in sharing with me legends and folklore that were told to her as a child.

I showed a group of Kalinga youths my photographs of their village as it was 27 years ago, and taught them to take their own photographs of traditional artifacts still found in the villages. Their pride in their artistic and cultural heritage was evident. They could see that even when tangible things are mostly gone, photographs can provide a historic record of the heart and soul of the tribal traditions, and of their ancestors who built and sustained Kalinga culture over many centuries.  (end Part 1- to be continued)

A Kalinga Journey Through Time

I am very excited to share my project A Kalinga Journey Through Time with you.

In 1986 I was a freelance photojournalist living in the northern Philippines. An invitation by an indigenous Filipina from the Kalinga tribe to visit her village, nestled deep within the hand-carved rice terraces of the Cordillera Mountains, brought me into an isolated landscape that appeared to be untouched by modern times. Fascinated by the images of an ancient people beginning the process of a contemporary metamorphosis, I returned many times over 25 years to visit my friends, and to photograph their rapidly changing historic landscape.

I’m sharing this project with you because I’m hoping you might be interested in supporting the completion of this historic work. I’m aiming to raise $8,900 by mid-February 2013.

With support from this funding I would return to the Philippines for six weeks in March 2013. I’d bring with me earlier photographs that would be used as points of departure to trigger memories among the family members, photograph portraits and conduct video interviews and, with the guidance of the local population, would document the rapidly perishing vernacular architecture as I also record the newer buildings. After returning home, I would apply your support to cataloging the documentation, printing photographs, digitizing older film and editing my video recording. I would also be arranging for future lectures, exhibitions and a book project, A Kalinga Journey Through Time, that would aim to preserve the material I have collected. Photographing the changes that have impacted this community will also reveal much about how a tribal society evolves into the 21st century.

If you can support this project with a donation, in any capacity, together we can make this idea a reality! Sharing the project with others and sending me your thoughts are also very valuable ways to show your support.

Want to learn more? Click here:

About USA Projects:
Founded by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson and Prudential Foundations, United States Artists has supported the work of individual artists since 2005. Donating through USA’s micro-philanthropy initiative, USA Projects, supports the work of accomplished artists all across America and is tax deductible.

The Sexuality Spectrum

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I am very proud to have two of my fine art photography projects included in the groundbreaking exhibition The Sexuality Spectrum at the Hebrew Union College –  JIR Museum in New York City.

Opening Reception:
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm ∙ Program at 6:30 pm
RSVP & Photo ID Required: hucjirmuseum@huc.edu or 212-824-2298

FAUST’S STUDY                                 
1997, Edition 3/9
Archival Pigment Print
13.3 inches x 16 inches
Framed  24.5  x 26.5 inches

Enter into Faust’s Study, a trompe l’oeil painted room, and be confronted by a fearless man who is empowered and transformed by the duality of his sexuality. His starkly lit, painted face and figure emerging from the shadows are a tantalizing contrast to the painted Adam and Eve on the rear wall. Faust’s Study directs the viewer’s attention to the relationship between the interior details and the subject, suggesting a narrative in which the gender performance artist, Frédéric Koenig, who can so naturally appear both handsome and beautiful, dares the viewer to cross over boundaries of imagination and desire. Faust’s Study, like much of my gender imagery, blurs the traditional definitions of maleness and femaleness.

2012, 36 inches x 26 inches,
Archival Pigment Print spot mounted on black plexiglass

ABOMINATION: WRESTLING WITH LEVITICUS 18:22 is my first artistic collaboration with Susan Kaplow.  Our installation explores the damage done by this biblical passage (“Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination”) and its homophobic legacy.  The first to wrestle with the meaning of this verse were the early Rabbis and so the chosen text here is the Talmud page where their commentary is recorded.

Because this abhorrence of her lesbian sexuality made Susan feel “dead,” she had the Talmud text printed on fabric like that used in the traditional Jewish burial ritual and then hand-sewed it into shrouds (tachrichim).  Susan asked me if I would photograph her in these shrouds and, together, we began the process of exploring the physical and emotional dynamics of being enclosed in the garments.  We came to realize that the images represented our own commentary on the text, reflecting the impact on those who suffer this curse.  Through the constitutive role of photography, we transformed and transcended the pain, ultimately retiring the shrouds to a geniza, in which sacred texts and objects which have outlived their ritual use are placed.

The Sexuality Spectrum is a groundbreaking exploration of diverse sexual orientations through the creativity of fifty international contemporary artists. The exhibition explores a broad range of subjects, including the evolving social and religious attitudes toward sexuality; issues of alienation, marginalization, and inclusion; the impact on the family, child-rearing, and life stages; violence and persecution; AIDS/HIV; and the influence of the LGBTQI community on the Jewish and larger world. This exhibition exemplifies the spirit of the College-Institute’s and the Reform Movement’s commitment to free and open inquiry, inclusivity and outreach, and advocacy on behalf of human rights and the eradication of sexual discrimination.

September 6, 2012 – June 28, 2013
Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion Museum
One West Fourth Street (between Broadway and Mercer Street)
New York, NY 10012-1186
Curator: Laura Kruger

TREASURED: Honoring Precious and Vanishing Worlds

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TREASURED: HONORING PRECIOUS AND VANISHING WORLDS is an exhibition at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center in Solomons, MD that features three prints from my fine art portfolios: Bet Hayyim (House of the Living) and Endangered Historic Houses.
The art exhibit opens on June 15 and continues to August 26 2012.

Title: Hands of the Kohan.  Medzhybizh, Ukraine, 2008, Edition: 3/10
12 x 18 inches, Fine Art Paper with Archival Pigmented Inks

Title: Kohans, Levites and the Star of David.  Chernivtsi, Ukraine, 2008, Edition:3/10
12 x 18 inches,  Fine Art Paper with Archival Pigmented Inks

In 2008 I crisscrossed the heartland of the Ukraine  to photograph historic Jewish cemeteries and hand-carved tombstones in cities, towns and shtetls. Every site had a story to tell and each stone was an artistic treasure filled with iconographic beauty and mystery. The headstones of the Kohanim, descendants of the Biblical priests, had hands joined in a gesture of blessing. The pitcher pouring water represented the tribe of Levites, the assistants to the priests. Some epitaphs were intricately carved, the stones decorated in an elaborate Jewish script covering the entire surface; others held only the most minimal outline of the Star of David. Other friezes depicted symbols of lineage and gender. These gravestones, some dating from the 1400’s, depict a visual history of the once vast community of Eastern European Jews, and serve as reminders of the people who lived in this place and died.

Title: Shattered Spaces. 2012
Edition: 3/10
12 x 18 inches, Fine Art Paper with Archival Pigmented Inks

Less than two years ago the Shoemaker-Houck Farm was in excellent condition, one of the premier structures located within the New Jersey Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area that is owned by the National Park Service. The front portion of the house was built in 1822 while the rear portion was built in the eighteenth century. This National Register Site has no protection and has now become vandalized. The back door is wide open and window glass is missing, sadly revealing the ruins of neglect. These scarred elements are key to understanding the rural development of northwestern New Jersey and the significant role that area played in American history.

I am drawn to the timeless nature of historic architecture because it is a repository of collective memories – a record of our heritage, the builders and the people who once inhabited these spaces. There is an urgency about what I photograph because each derelict site is a reminder of our inadequacy as cultural stewards. I look to the architectural details, to the deeply etched memories in the stones, the walls and the structures as a window to remembering our past.

Brown Memorial Baptist Church

I was invited to attend the New York Landmarks Conservancy “Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards,” on April 25th 2012 by my colleagues at Li-Saltzman Architects, PC who were receiving a “Lucy” for their restoration work of the Gothic Revival sanctuary, the Brown Memorial Baptist Church. The Awards, nicknamed the “Preservation Oscars,” are the Conservancy’s highest honors for outstanding preservation of historic structures. I was proud to have taken the photographs that documented their project and to know that those images helped Li-Saltzman receive the recognition they deserved.

It was Roz Li and Judith Saltzman who had encouraged me twenty years ago to shoot historic preservation assignments. Roz had praised my commitment to the documentary series I had produced about the Philippines, and hoped I would bring a similar passion to historic work.  One of my first architectural assignments for her company was documenting the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City. I photographed the “before and after” restoration, floor by floor, over several years, until the project was completed.

The Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards ceremony served as a joyful reminder of why the company of historic preservationists is such an honor, and why I view the profession as the “human rights” work of the architectural world.  “The time and care that went into completing these projects demonstrate New Yorkers’ commitment to preserving the entire range of the City’s historic architecture,” said Peg Breen, president of the Conservancy to the audience. When John Belle, FAIA, a founding partner of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, LLP, received the Preservation Leadership Award for his four decades of acclaimed work (including the South Street Seaport, Grand Central Terminal and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum), he humbly described how working in preservation is a “team effort.” Roz Li told me that historic preservation work is “a labor of love,” because projects like the Brown Memorial Baptist Church can take a decade to complete due to the complexity of financing. And when Rev. Clinton M. Miller and Mrs. Aquilla Middleton from the Church received their “Lucy’” award the Reverend spoke about the importance of the restoration of the Church to the community it served.

Indeed, photographing this assignment I was inspired by the work of my colleagues and by the spirit of the congregation. I sought to creatively balance the light from the sconces, chandeliers and LED bulbs so that their combined glow could reveal the divine beauty of this historic sanctuary as well as find the perfect composition to record the architectural details.

Congratulations to Roz Li and  Zach Rice of Li-Saltzman Architects, and all the other “Lucy” Award Preservation winners including my friend, Lew Gleason, of Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, for his restoration work on the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage.

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