Time Passing - Cross/Walks, Bi Squares



From my earliest days as an artist I have been interested in the manifestation of the passage of time. The piece I consider to be my first work as an artist is a family portrait, an etching. In it I have drawn my grandparents and my father as a toddler, columns from an early 20th century photographer’s studio set and a New England landscape. Winter and spring are depicted simultaneously. There is a melding of locations, and even eras and continents in a single picture plane - the Europe of my grandparents’ and father, the window sill of my room, the winter and spring outside that window sill. Time passes from inch to inch in this etching, from corner to corner, from foreground to back. I have continued over the years to be interested in this depiction of time passing, through my years as a printmaker and then as a painter, and now as an artist with a camera.


My book, SILVER SCREEN, published in 2015 by Daylight Books, presents images of the TV, shot with my iPhone, broadcasting the movies that my mother loved. The cinematic quality of these images of the stars of the golden age of movie making, both in and out of focus, along with the design of many pages of the book in sequential gridded format, produce the sensation of watching time pass.


With Silver Screen:Dancers I have continued this look to the past, to the era of the Silver Screen, and brought it squarely into the present, while still working with the idea of marking time. This project continues my exploration of the flickering image on a screen, manifesting the grace, beauty and, particularly, temporal lapse of a whole spectrum of dance.


In my subsequent portfolio to the Silver Screen work, the Legacy Portfolio, I continue to use images of Garbo, my mother’s favorite, or Gish, or Crawford, and blend these stars with images of shorthand. My mother was an expert. I have also blended images of my family - parents, grandparents and children - with the lace-like forms of trees. The blending of these two entities, forming an image and a scrim, presents another kind of time lapse in a single picture plane. As part of the exploration of the blended image I produced three banner pieces I have called Legacy I - IV. These Legacy pieces incorporate some of the individual blended images and place them in an insistently vertical format. The vertical demands one take one’s time to look, starting at the center, where one’s eyes rest naturally, then moving up and down to scan the entire piece. They lay among fields of text, enlarged shorthand shots, images of windows and notebooks belonging to my father.


Cross/Walks takes this idea of documenting the passage of time even further. I take these photos on my daily walks, passing through space, and time. They document my view at any moment or the moment after. These crosses, constructions of nine individual aluminum prints, continue the time lapse that occurs with the grid but in a concentrated way. They are portraits of trees, portraits of the self, portraits of moments in succession.

The notion of Cross/Walks has multiple meanings; beyond the taking of the photos on my daily walks, documenting a cross section of my view, the crosswalk is also a common place to get from one side of the street to the other, safely. Clearly the cross has very significant meaning in Christianity, the deepest and most basic significance; but for me, as a Jew, it has strictly art historical resonance. My introduction to art history, again in college, was in an Italian Renaissance Art class. I remember being stunned, deeply moved, in my first art history class at Brandeis University looking at Giotto’s Crucifix. And Cimabue’s. And Duccio’s. All of these master’s works were my very introduction to the activity of looking at, deciphering, being moved by, art. These images, these objects, have stayed with me for years. 


The Christian Cross is the first cross one would be reminded of looking at my new work. But in fact, the symmetrical nature of my crosses move one away from these religious symbols. The cross-shaped sign greatly predates the introduction of Christianity and may have signified, in early civilization, the representation of the apparatus used for kindling fire. Or for the sun, denoting its daily rotation. Or of lightning. I am moved by the notion of the cross being connected to light, in one way or another. How apt that the very element that makes photography possible is the symbolic armature of my presentation.


These pieces are both representations of the here and now, as well as of the past and the future. A cross denotes many other things as well; latitude and longitude; x and y axes; turned 45 degrees it is the female chromosome. The shape is loaded with meaning. It is now the structure I see in. 

The crosses I present here are all of trees. The tree has a great significance for me. My name, Hochbaum, translates to Hightree, and in fact my first email address used hightree as its main component. The design/photo company that I established 30 years ago, is HighTree Photo and Design. It is my user name for various sites. My first name in Hebrew is Tamar. The translation of Tamar is date or palm tree. There is no doubt that I am a tree. These images have the overriding sense of being, finally, wholly, self portraits. 


The newest portfolio, the Bi Squares, continue this exploration. One is aware of the 8 separate squares that make up the empty frame as one is aware of the time it takes to view the whole; one’s eye moves from frame to frame, making the viewer aware of the process of seeing itself, the time it takes to see.  The voided center creates a squared circle and one’s eye moves around and around, intent on making a whole of separate parts.