For most of my life, I’ve kept drawing journals in which I experimented with ink, pastels, various forms of paint and printmaking. My journal work focuses on the interior life of women, with themes such as “The Inward Astronomer,” “Lovely Inarticulate Woman Goes into the World” and “Drawing Fertility and Pregnancy.” I juggled my journals and professional illustration work with my career as a journalist and writer until 2004, when I became the publisher and editor of Moment Magazine. This led to new visual creative outlets such as magazine art direction.
In the fall of 2008, I launched into fine art photography and photo collage with my iShadow Project, which began while I was on a reporting trip to Ukraine. In addition to researching two stories, I visited three ancestral communities in Ukraine. (All four of my grandparents were among millions of Jews who once lived in cities, towns and shtetls that were at various times part of Poland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russia.) While walking down a street on a cold day in Kyiv on the way to interview a former dissident, I caught a glimpse of my shadow—hat, miniskirt, fake-fur trimmed boots and all—on the gray sidewalk. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my ancestors, who had fleetingly called this land home. I reached for my brand new iPhone, and began to chronicle the ways in which my body blocked the afternoon sunlight. I needed to capture the fleeting shadows.
I had to rush on to my appointment after a few shots. But a few days later I was in Sofiyivsky Park in Uman, covering the pilgrimage of religious Jews to the burial place of the Hasidic mystic Rebbe Nachman on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. To escape the fervor of the 30,000 or so men gathered in the town to pray (women were not included, but I had managed to be invited), I had strolled to the park, designed as a 19th-century English-style garden. On one path, my eye was drawn to shadows of draped fence chains and then to fallen leaves in my shadow. I vanished into what I can only describe as my first iShadow trance. That was the day I learned that time stops when I shoot shadows, just as it does when I draw: I can go on for hours because there are infinite permutations to explore—until the sun goes down. And even then, there is lamplight, streetlight, starlight and moonlight.
In the years since, I have been fortunate to take photographs throughout the world, including at many sites of historical significance. The project blends human geography with cultural, environmental and spiritual overtones. Textures and surfaces, natural and man-made; the time of day, the weather; the climate; the topography; the wind; attire; hair; bodies of water—a puddle or the moisture in the air—all are variables when combined with the unending line and movement of the human shape, not to mention the filter of light, soul and experience.
As time has passed, I’ve come to understand that my art and photography work share the same lines, shapes and colors, along with a deep feminism. They both transform what is fleeting to permanence, leaving a mark, a testament to the female soul and body. This show at the Moment Gallery includes pieces from both my drawing and photography journals.