Listening to nature whisper through my landscape photography, led me down the path of writing poetry. Hear how my new book came about.
What does an outdoor, landscape photographer do when organizers cancel photo trips and governments issue stay-at-home orders during a global pandemic?
I decided, “why not revisit my catalog of images.” Hundreds of images from past trips reside in my catalogs and have not been exposed to the touches of digital processing. I figured there must be a few forgotten gems waiting for discovery.
Before I could begin thumbing through the innocent, untouched files, many of my seasoned portfolio images started calling out to me. Their calling touched my heart and it listened.
You see, my heart hurt as I attempted to coop with the chaos and uncertainty surrounding the global pandemic. But, my heart stilled while listening to the whispers from nature captured within these images. Nature captured within my photographs spoke to me, offering comfort and solace, as long as I listened with my heart.
Each day, my morning began with our conversation. I opened my heart to listen while my eyes joined nature contained in an image. My hands wrote down the words whispered through my heart. The words came forth as poetry, a new creative outlet.
chaos all around distracted mind confusing patterns look inward still thyself calmness awaits seek the light feel the energy stay centered rise with the sun sunrise sunday
Each morning, I posted my images along with its associated poem to social media with limited tagging. Most of the images had been previously posted so they were not new to my followers but the poems were new. They were born and released to the world each morning. Fresh. Raw.
Days into my daily practice (listening, writing, and social media posting), several friends and viewers started commenting about the comfort they, too, received from the joint posting. Then weeks later, I realized I could create a book that combined the image and the poems on accompanying pages (a spread). Again, several people shared the same idea with me.
After 73 days, I decided to pause the morning dialog practice and focus on a book. Creating a book and publishing it – what was I getting into? But I knew it was the right the step to take. So, I began consuming everything on the Internet about self-publishing a book. I watched YouTube videos, I read blogs, I downloaded templates, purchased desktop publishing software, and even took a weekend workshop on poetry.
Since June 1st, I digitally assembled my photo-poetry book, edited and re-edited the poems, adjusted and re-adjusted page layouts, created several book cover designs, sought out printing estimates from 3 book printers, and built book mock-ups. Book design, another new creative outlet learned.
There is still more to be done. I’m seeking copyright permissions to use a few quotes as section dividers, courting someone to add kind words as the book’s Foreword, and working with some people on sponsorship to defray the printing costs and boosting the print run size.
Watch my Instagram account for the announcement to pre-order.
It was 10 minutes before 5 pm. The invitations said ‘Opening Reception begins at 5:30 pm.’ We were still sticking labels next to the art pieces; the caterers were unloading the food; gift packets and beverages hadn’t been moved out to the tables; I was still trying to remember what I wanted to say; but guests were arriving really early – “This is really happening!” I thought.
200-250 people came to the Opening Reception–traveling from all parts of North Dakota and at least 14 other states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming) to see our collaborative art work.
Wow! What a night!
Thank you to all who attended as well as those who wanted to attend but couldn’t make the trip!
Jessica and I have been floating on cloud 9 ever since.
Around 6 pm, Gallery Director David Borlaug kicked off the event introducing Shelley Larson – Starion Bank representative and our friend. Shelley shared how she has known Jessica since a little girl and how Jessica and I met at her place (read more). Jessica spoke passionately on the power of looking at life through the lens of connected, she shared our manifesto, and revealed how her paintings are her prayers to the world (read more).
I owe a huge thank you to Ms Jessica. She has pushed me to go beyond my traditional photographic art creations. She has been such an inspiration, a true mentor, and my artistic partner. As she mentioned, we’ve discovered some points of connections.
Thank you Shelley and Craig Larson for allowing the Cat in The Hat (me) into your home. Thank you Starion Bank for adding the extra bits for this wonderful display. A special thank you to David and The Capital Gallery, for inviting Jessica and me to showcase our artwork throughout the entire gallery for the next 3 months!
Welcome friends – those who live locally and those who traveled to be here tonight. Welcome to my local Burkhardsmeier and Kress clans. Welcome to the French Family!
I want to shout out to 3 fans: my daughter (Britni), son (Derek), and daughter-in-law (Lauren).
Many of my pieces would not be possible if were not for my business and life partner, Susan. We travel together — she makes sure we have coffee and snacks during our early morning sunrise shoots plus wine, cheese, and crackers for our sunset sessions.
For those that don’t’ know me, I grew up here (Bismarck). I went to Saxvik Elementary and Simile Jr High. I graduated from Century High School. I played hockey; ran track and cross-country. I’ve walked or rode my bike on almost every street in town! (Well pre-1980 Bismarck streets.) That is when I moved away for college. Since leaving I have lived around the world. For now, we live in South Florida.
While I was discovering points of connection throughout the world, I always stayed connected to here –North Dakota! The wide openness of ND is prevalent in much of my work.
Since this exhibition is the first time my work has been shown in ND, I’d like to share a little bit about my art.
When I go outdoors with my camera – I breathe. I am connected. Before I set up my gear – I look and I hear. I am connected. As I make an image – I learn and I feel it. I am connected. When I print a piece – I welcome it into the world. I am connected. Through my images, I offer peace, serenity, calmness, and space. Through my artwork, I reach out.
We are connected!
It would have been easy for us (Jessica and I) to never have worked together. We are different in so many ways (gender, age, background, mannerisms, color, approach, style, medium, etc.)!
Yet, we chose to be connected! We were willing to discover points of connections. We continue to uncover them. And each time something better comes afterwards.
Through art, we choose to express what it means for us to be connected. This gallery of our work is a manifestation of discovering points of connections. Our talents are interlaced into the art pieces. We are connected, period.
I cannot tell you how to feel or what to look for as you walk around the gallery. But I can share my approach. As I walk through the gallery, I Breathe to be present, I Look to see, I Hear to understand, and I Feel to connect. I am willing to discover more points of connections.
When I depart through those exit doors, I depart informed. I Welcome and I Reach Out. I am willing to discover points of connections with others, especially those who are not like me.
To be connected is an action, nota state of being!
To quote someone I know, admire, and respect:
“When people are connected, they feel woven into each other. You are a part of me, and I am a part of you. I can’t win if you lose. The goal is for everyone to be connected.”
That is what enables Jessica and me; that is what motivates us; and that is what inspires Jessica and me.
That is our goal!
To view Jessica’s work and our joint pieces currently on display, click here >>
The story how two artists from different mediums connected to co-create new art and put on an exhibition.
Jessica Wachter, abstract artist, creates large and vibrant paintings primarily using oil on canvas.
Kent Burkhardsmeier, photographic artist, captures vast and intimate landscape images primarily using a digital camera.
We met 3 years ago at a Halloween themed cooking party hosted by mutual friends. She was dressed as Helen of Troy whereas I was disguised as the Cat in The Hat. My friends had invited me to join them at the cooking party while I was in town visiting family. The party hostess had asked Jessica to help her host the party and serve the guests.
Several beautiful pieces of art hung on the wall, which I admired while sipping wine and munching on appetizers. When I inquired where they found these amazing paintings, they introduced me to Helen of Troy, aka Jessica Wachter. Jessica had painted them! We talked further that evening, sharing with each other our individual passion for art.
Through the world of art we connected.
Jessica and I grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota. She lives there as a thriving artist. I live in South Florida, having left ND decades ago when I went out of state to college pursuing my career in engineering and technology.
After our initial meeting, each time I returned to Bismarck to visit family and friends, we’d talk further about each other’s art. Each finding energy, flow, and admiration in the other’s work.
During one fall visit, Jessica brought me out to her family’s ranch along the Missouri River so I could photograph the area. The river, as we referred to it while going up, is a defining natural feature for this area – respected, enjoyed, celebrated, and feared. Their ranch on the river is a very personal place for Jessica.
Through our North Dakota roots we connected.
Jessica is a single millennium living in rural northern plains of America pursuing her career as an artist. She returned back to Bismarck shortly after graduating from NDSU.
Kent is a married late baby boomer living in urban south of America re-careering as a photographic artist. He left Bismarck after high school, living around the world.
During one of our conversations, Jessica mentioned she’d love to paint on one of my images. Whoa! What did she mean paint on my image? Whose art would it be – mine, hers, ours?
Jessica’s an energetic, abstract artist using vibrant colors – I’m a subdued, nature artist photographing quiet landscape in a de-saturated color palette. How would this work? Would my images be lost? Questions and trepidation filled my head, but it felt right and magical.
From this initial conversation, we began discussing putting on a joint exhibition. Both of us knew it couldn’t just be an exhibition with only our individual body of works. We’d have to be different; challenging ourselves, pushing each other, exposing ourselves, respecting each other’s ideas, and honoring the other’s art.
Jessica was just finishing up a very successful exhibition at The Capital Gallery. The Gallery had recently opened up in Bismarck- a non profit foundation dedicated to “Celebrating History, Art, and Culture!” We approached David Borlaug, the gallery’s Director, with the idea of a joint exhibition. He liked the idea but asked that we schedule the exhibition to be held towards the end of 2019, 2 years out!
Through our passion and enthusiasm to co-exhibit our idea connected.
Jessica creates art in a local studio. She paints on large canvas usually measured in feet.
Kent creates art outdoors in nature around the world. He prints his images on paper measured in inches.
With a green light from a gallery, we needed to figure out the art to fill out the gallery’s walls. And we had to decide what kind of art we’d co-create. How would oil paint react with my digitally printed images on fine art paper? Or would it be better if I printed on canvas? Was digital print canvas the same as Jessica’s normal canvas material? Would her paints adhere to images if printed on metal? So many unknowns!
There was also the question on how to logistically co-creating art? We lived 2200 miles apart! We decided that we’d experiment first, so I sent sample prints on all types of material for Jessica to paint on. Nothing worked. The oil bled out. The ink ran. The material fell apart.
These failed attempts forced us to think differently; we were determined to overcome and leap across the barriers within our current art worlds. During one of my return visits, we decided on some other ideas and approaches that worked for us. Next, we needed to figure out which images could be the basis for our joint art pieces. How would we manage all the moving parts putting on an entire gallery exhibition? We had a year to go, we needed to be organized.
Luckily, Jessica’s done several large gallery exhibitions before as well as her recent show at The Capital Gallery. And my business career provided me with tons of organizational and technical skills. Together, we began putting all the pieces in place, creating checks lists, setting up collaboration calls, enabling technology to assist us, and scheduling face-to-face working sessions.
Using our experience and skills, our art connected.
Jessica randomly free flows ideas.
Kent processes ideas sequentially.
During this year, we scheduled several weeks to work together in the same location. Since Jessica’s work is large and she has a great studio space, we decided it would be best for me to fly up to Bismarck for our working sessions.
This spring, we did a brainstorming session. As visual artists, it worked well for us to brainstorm on large sheets of paper taped to one of the studio’s walls (as shown in the lead photo). We created gallery plans to visualize the art pieces on the gallery walls, laying out wall sizes to art size, envisioning the flow of the art, and identifying all the tasks required.
Before each trip, I’d prepare prints in my home studio and ship them to Jessica. Then we work with them in her studio. While in town, I had some items printed locally. We’d test out our ideas and try new ideas before committing to larger pieces or working on the ‘real’ piece.
We reached out to all the people who could help and started meeting each of them; sharing ideas, reviewing designs, getting quotes, and procuring work.
Through this process, Jessica and I have pushed each other out of our comfort zones. We’ve evolved and changed as artists. The body of work has changed – some of our initial ideas worked while others didn’t. And new ideas came forth. We settled on the exhibition theme and purpose.
Part of this journey has included hours just talking and sharing our individual stories, ideas, craft, and background, allowing us to better know one another. Over the past 18 – 24 months, Jessica and I have uncovered many points of connection between us beyond our ND roots and artistic passions.
By taking a chance on each other; listening to one another; learning from the other; welcoming the other’s ideas or point of view; and reaching out to embrace our diversity we discovered the theme for our show:
The exhibition runs 5 October, 2019 through 8 January 2020 at The Capital Gallery in Bismarck, North Dakota.