Category Archives: Journal

Daniel Shea, 43 – 35 10th Street

Making room on the top shelf!

Daniel Shea’s 43 – 35 10th Street.

This is a massive brick of exciting imagery. Everything from the images, to the design, to the conflated shifts and changes of pairings, mood and materials is nothing shy of aesthetic celebration. Some artists just nail it everytime. Shea’s work is a courageous, elated blend of artistic license and stern visual gaze at our hand hewn social landscape. It’s hats off to the man-made, while at the same time conjuring up a layered lament. The journey we’re given and left bedazzled to decipher is entrenched in the mire and magnitude of Shea’s rapidly modernized neighborhood of Long Island City. Unlike so much urban-based work, we’re not abandoned, simply left stranded in some ironically delivered, witty claustrophobic mayhem. Instead, we bounce and swirl in the frenetic psychology of an artist hyped up on surface, texture, color, sound and tattered cacophony. This adventure dwells far outside the urbane at times, in the ethereal workings of the pliable mind. Somehow, Shea manages to calm the adrenaline and present it in such delicious form.

Published by Kodoji Press, 2018 (signed)

Daniel Shea, 43–35 10TH STREET, photobook, kodoji press

Daniel Shea, 43–35 10TH STREET, photobook, kodoji press

Daniel Shea, 43–35 10TH STREET, photobook, kodoji press

Daniel Shea, 43–35 10TH STREET, photobook, kodoji press

Daniel Shea, 43–35 10TH STREET, photobook, kodoji press

Daniel Shea, 43–35 10TH STREET, photobook, kodoji press

Daniel Shea, 43–35 10TH STREET, photobook, kodoji press

Daniel Shea, 43–35 10TH STREET, photobook, kodoji press, book signing

45th Birthday Commences

Ended the first day of my 45th year happily pulling this etching off the plate.

Edition of 5, on BFK Rieves, 115 gsm

Habana, Havana, Cuba, La Habana, scaffolding, photo etching, intaglio, printmaking, photogravure, bfk rieves, 115 gsm, print, etching, , printmaker, Charbonnel et Walker, Charbonnel, inked, pressed, hand-pulled, Michael Ast

Habana Vieja, 2018

Back in the Studio – Havana Photographs

Finally getting into the studio, to the production and possibilities of intention with my Havana photographs.

Imperfection is the perfection I’m after . . . .

Vedado, Havana, Michael Ast, photo etching, intaglio, artist proof, analog photography, Cuba, printmaking, bw photography, Hahnemuhle, charbonnel

Vedado / Havana (artist proof) © Michael Ast, 2018

Another Edit Commences . . . . Havana (January, 2018)

Another edit commences after my 2nd travel to Havana in 5 months. It’s been an enormous inspiration and education getting to intimately know Cuban people, building friendships, experiencing their music and seeping into their welcoming culture. The moments have been profound, invaluable examples of resourcefulness, courage, individualism, optimism – all attributes under the overarching principles of thriving, in a place of much hardship and poverty, separated a mere 90 miles from the richest mainland.

How rich is a country, where smiles are hard to find on the streets, in the homes, in the air? What’s being deposited in the bank? What’s been borrowed?

In Havana, I’m learning the human spirit cannot be defeated. I’m certain this journey and engagement has only just begun.

basketball, Havana, La Habana, Cuba, score, jump, leap, thriving, La Habana Vieja, game

Seawall, Havana, La Habana, Vedado, Malecon, Malecón, Cuba, Gulf of Mexico, wave crashing, wave, waves, spray, strong winds, weather, thriving

Photographs © Michael Ast, 2018

Upended, Dec. 5, 2017

I have been incredibly distracted by late Autumn’s treble of light, lost deep in the woods of mind and briar.
This gray day comes on and upends all discovery. I feel stunted and dumb, dragged out from the underbrush, bungled.

bungled, gray day, late autumn, tree carvings, woods, melancholy, upended, journal, prose

Green Lane, Nov. 2017

If You Have a Secret – Irina Popova

Irina Popova, If Ypu Have a Secret, photobook, Russian photographer, Dostoevsky Publishing

If You Have A Secret by Irina Popova © Dostoevsky Publishing, 2017

I don’t even know where to begin in spotlighting the brilliance that is Russian photographer and publisher Irina Popova (Ирина Попова). I can say this – the newly released, 2nd version publication of her ambitious body of work If You Have a Secret embodies all the courage and intellect of the young artist. I had the great pleasure of meeting and spending some time with her in Lisbon last year during the Lisbon Photobook Fair. Her active mind and doings are ever present. Where does such ambition come from at such an early age, with immense experience and execution of it already present in the foreground? If You Have a Secret exemplifies her intensity. Demonstrated again in this elaborately designed book, we see Irina in a league all her own, an absolute original, with not one trope, but her own brave, authentic gaze into the world, and her point-blank exposure of it. The book is both elaborate and intimate at the same time.

Printed in an edition of 400 English copies and 100 Russian copies, under her imprint Dostoevsky Publishing (August, 2017). If You Have a Secret arrived in my mailbox last weekend. A week already with it, I’m understanding there’s a life of secrets inside its covers. The design alone, incorporating double-folded pages and translucent broadsides, with “ghost text”, commands forensic-like investigation and uncovering. A major feat, this book!

Every Day in October . . .

Every day in October I set out to make photographs that were as much inward looking as outward. I visit the same spots year after year in close proximity to my home. They are little corners, paths, intersections, back lots, woods, groves, pastures of dying meadow grass. The locations are of no particular importance but for the magnetic pull they perform on my psyche. I love making these pictures year after year in these same spots of inexplicable allure.

What is it, the human condition, that makes it fragile and pliable to such thickets?

Green Lane, October, thicket, prose, hike, woods, Autumn, Michael Ast

Green Lane © Michael Ast, 2017

New Moleskine / Oct. 2017

moleskine, collage, black walnut

New Moleskine / Oct. 2017

The First Shed Skin of Autumn

(Sept 17)

Today in Clinton my children stepped on the first shed skin of Autumn.

She’s around now. In the evening you can hear her gown dragging across the grain. I swear my wool sweaters crawled into the bedroom armoire yesterday when we were at Emmett’s ballgame. I did not see them in there all Summer.

How lovely the word senescence sounds on the tongue when I utter it to myself. How the temple scatters its failure to better enshrine the entrance.

The brown filigree turns to ash under the children’s shoes. It disintegrates into dust on the concrete sidewalk, nearly resurrected in their autumnal joy.

Cuban Spirit – A Week of Surprises in Havana (Aug. 2017)

Habana Vieja, old Havana, Havana, Egrem Studion, Cuba, cabaret, dancer, fan, yellow, Afro Cuban, Cuban, Estudios Areito, Michael Ast, journal

Dancer / Habana Vieja © Michael Ast, 2017

I miss the surprise and energy of what I experienced last month in Havana so much. I won’t go into a tirade on my boredom with the U.S. and its overarching dismal character pervading the airspace. We all know, this ship is anchored in mire. Instead, I’ll tell a story.

We had just gotten downstairs after witnessing a Cuban jazz recording at Egrem Studios, notorious for the multitude of international acts from Josephine Baker to the consummate sessions led by Ry Cooder, producing his all-star Buena Vista Social Club cast of ambassador musicians. It was to be a surprise like so many that spontaneously occur in the beat of a second in Havana. Tony Leal Rodriguez, current trombonist of the Buena Vista Club, had invited us the night before at dinner to come watch how things are done. Feelings of being in such a sanctuary are inexplicable. In any case, the gentleman at the bar next door, who unlocked the door to let us in earlier, and up the 3 flights of stairs, was now gone. No trace of anyone to let us out of the building. Vira wandered off in search of assistance down a circuitous hallway. A couple minutes later, “I found someone! I found someone!”, she exults from down the hall. She rounds the corner. “Wow!!! You really found someone!”, I blurted. Urszula, Britt and I erupting into praise of beauty. Another surprise. The radiating dancer of course is happy to strike a quick pose for some pictures. She was in the middle of a cabaret performance. She hailed the club manager. He comes. He motions to follow him. We pass nondescript doors, seemingly apartment efficiencies. He unlocks a door. There’s a crowd in a dimly lit room around small tables mesmerized by the choreography of dancers. The four of us stay with the lady in yellow and the manager, cutting through the performance, and led to another door behind the stage. Bright light. Rum, beer, drizzle, afternoon locals on the bar terrace, where we first began our dip into Egrem. Salida. Entrada. A microcosmic moment of the Cuban way. How one doesn’t long for more of such to escape the daily muck? I plot already my return.