What is the Curious Basement? by Ron Cowie

When I’m left to my own devices, I’ll be in the basement making prints or outside making pictures. It’s where I’m happiest and most creative. I’m also passionate about the community of artists who use photography. The Curious Basement refers to the fact that most home darkrooms are located in basements. It is the place for the most creative exploration in my life. The Curious Basement brings all this together.

I’ll be selling photos at affordable prices on my site here and sharing the process on my instagram channel.

I’m tired of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. My work and passion involve making things with light and precious metals.

For your consideration. by Ron Cowie

Art history is full of people who lived and created in obscurity only to be discovered later (like hundreds of years later). They had interesting and connected lives and made stuff for the joy of creation.

A lot of artists who enjoy(ed) fame in their lifetimes are/were real assholes to the people around them.

All social media is one gigantic status game.

A sense of style is not about doing one thing over and over.

Wanting validation for your efforts while doing them is a great way to get nothing worthwhile done.

God blesses effort.

Lack of Curiosity Kills by Ron Cowie

The example of an overflowing teacup to illustrate my resistance to learning is apt. I’m so full of everything “I already know” I become unteachable.

On the second day of my material and processes class (M&P), at the New England School of Photography, I was talking with the teaching assistant about film and specifically which film was “better”. I had my brand and he had his. When he challenged my brand, I could feel the grandiose “lizard-brain” rise to protect me. The next thought I had saved my academic and professional career. Instead of doubling down on what I “knew for sure”, the idea of acting “as-if”  I don’t know anything about photography arrived. I gave myself permission to be a beginner. I had the chance to actually learn stuff I already thought I knew.

The freedom and ease from not having to keep up the “know-it-all” act saved a lot of energy and stress. What I missed in grandiose posturing, I gained through humility. I also had a lot more fun.

I will never be entirely free of this self-defeating behavior but, every day provides new opportunities to learn and practice the alternative. For this, I am grateful

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Process Not Perfection by Ron Cowie

I attended Fotofest in 2001. I had the chance to talk with with Burt Finger of Photos Do not Bend Gallery. He and his wife Missy sold me my first piece of art: Keith Carter Dog Ghost.

We were talking about life and art during a break. I was 31 at the time and very much into being a deep and profound artist. Burt was patient, kind, and quick to laugh. Still is.

I’ll never forget what he said, “When I came back from Vietnam, I swore I’d never be petty. I’d never take anything for granted, Every day will be a gift. You know what, Ron, it didn’t take too long for me to get right back to being petty and taking everything for granted.”

In 2001, my first wife Lisa Garner, was still alive and in the next room. I felt I had the world at my feet. The only really painful stuff I had experienced could be chalked up to witnessing the normal progression of life: deaths, breakups, 8th grade graduation.

I’ll be 49 this year. I’d like to say I’m more more reflective and less petty. I have experienced a portion of joy and pain associated with being on the planet and loving people while I’m at it. I take it all for granted more often than not. It’s part of being human. No one among us can maintain perfect spiritual balance all the time. That isn’t my  problem. My problem is thinking that I can’t function until such is the case.

I’m a 48 year old confused artist who hasn’t really made anything of comment for a while who says “I’ll never take anything for granted.” while watching movies about a dead artists who couldn’t take anything for granted.

However, just for today, I’m not going to take it for granted (fearful) and say “I’ll take pictures or write tomorrow.” Today, I remember that conditions are never ideal to work. Creativity needs something to work against.

Keith Carter, wrote on one of his cameras “It’s your job”. Just take the damn picture and forget how you feel. The obstacles and distractions are not there to punish you for having an idea, but there to direct your actions to the parts that need more attention.

In that spirit, have a great day.

Getting back to basics by Ron Cowie

Art-making has been about confronting personal issues that stand in the way of whatever message moves through me. The creative roadblocks are self-generated. Admitting I need to relearn film, I’m bringing myself to right size. I’m slowing down and being mindful. I’ve never been very good at outrunning the process, so I might as well align my pace with it and trust that the lesson I need to learn will reveal itself in due time.

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Art and Meditation by Ron Cowie

I make better, and considerably more images when I'm just taking a walk with my camera. I see things, make connections, and worry less about whether or not I'm wasting time and money.

Now, a little about what meditation is and isn't. I used to think successful meditation was sitting someplace and having a completely clear mind, at one with the universe. This is not true. Meditation is having all the thoughts that run through your head still existing, but you don't engage them.

Making pictures is a form a meditation for me. I still have those corrosive thoughts, I just try to keep them in the back row. The real challenge in making art isn't in the physical production of work, but not engaging in distracting thoughts.