When I was a Senior at MILLS College in 1988 I saw an exhibition at SFMOMA that altered the course of my life:
William Wegman: Polaroids and Videos.
Wegman's large scale Polaroid photographs and videos of his dogs, Fay Ray and Man Ray dressed up or placed in ridiculous situations had me laughing, crying and drew me into an art medium, photography, that I knew less than nothing about. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a large scale Polaroid camera, it was love at first bite!
These whimsical colorful photographs were the first photographic art anything I could relate to --the dogs, weimaraners also a breed I knew nothing of were staring directly at me, wrapped in foil, doused in powder or dressed up in Fairy Princess clothes seemed to be saying "can you believe what this guy has done to me?" The artist, William Wegman took all the liberties, his dogs just did what they were told.
Aside from Wegman, the only photographer I knew and typically saw around the Bay Area were Ansel Adams which were everywhere and I am sorry to admit (she says sheepishly) but they always left me cold.
Looking for a Wegman print brought me in to my first photography gallery where I always saw more photographers I liked. I let the gallerists teach me about them which eventually turned into purchases and lasting friendships. Fine art photography became a nice obsession and I began attending shows at Wirtz, Haines and Fraenkel Galleries in San Francisco and Craig Krull (then Turner/Krull on Melrose) and Paul Kopeikin in Los Angeles learning a lot more about then relatively unknown photographers such as Michael Kenna, Catherine Wagner and Mark Klett. As a rule, I tried to loosely stick to one major photographic purchase a year and there were many lean years and some fatter years.
It was right around this same time that friends invited me to go see an unknown British born visiting artist Andy Goldsworthy speak about his work at the Headlands Center for the Arts in a very low tech and modest slide show.
Oh. My. God.
This was another magical art moment that is permanently embossed in my memory. Andy Goldsworthy blew us away with his modest storytelling of spit welding ( a term I believe he invented) thorns with leaves, rolling large dirt snowballs only to watch them melt leaving dirt piles on gallery floors, friendship stone fences built by his own hand, his love of all things science and coming round to photography as a way to document all his forays deep into the natural world as his art was temporary in nature.
If I was obsessive about photography I was particularly obsessed with Andy Goldsworthy. I knew both his US galleries, Haines in SF and Gallerie Lelong in NYC and visited both as often as I could.
If you have not seen the documentary film "Rivers and Tides" yet, I highly recommend it. It is humbling and quite meditative to watch this man in Arctic climes with frost bitten fingers building sculptures of icicles only to see them collapse repeatedly before completion in real time. Trailer below.