Liz Doles

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I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old. I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health. I am of the nature to die.... read on
   
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Biography

I am of the nature to grow old.

There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health.

There is no way to escape ill health.

I am of the nature to die.

There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings.

I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.

My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

- The Buddha’s Five Remembrances

Thich Nhat Hanh’s version from The Plum Village Chanting

I am of the nature to grow old.

There is no way to escape growing old.

Near the end of my time as a Fulbright grantee in 2012, one of Sri Lanka’s most respected and beloved prognosticators, Mr. De Fonseka told me I was entering my “double Jupiter phase.” Uncle Fonny, as the friend who brought us together calls him, explained that this would be the most creative period of my life. Mr. De Fonseka also told me that he wouldn’t have bothered casting my chart had he not thought I had a long life yet ahead of me.

At a time in life when age discrimination relegates so many to society’s ice floe of neglect, I have more to offer than ever before. As a street photographer, age is certainly an asset. I remind people of their grandmothers and that sparks willingness to trust me, to help me find what I am after and to permit me access to their lives.

I am of the nature to have ill health.

There is no way to escape ill health.

In my early forties, I was diagnosed with acute ophthalmic illness. Everything changed.  I lost my design business. My art practice needed to be altered, and I didn’t know how to do that. My curriculum vitae evidences this with a gap of several years during which time I underwent multiple surgeries to correct my condition all while raising a young child as a single mother. But disability became my teacher and showed me a way for calamity to become the catalyst for a new mode of expression, pinhole photography. The dreamlike effect of this type of photography led me to places of which I had barely been aware. Rather than cloud my sight, my limitations made visible new horizons. 

I am of the nature to die.

There is no way to escape death.

There may be no escape, but Uncle Fonny had also given me a reprieve when he said that he wouldn’t bother casting a fortune if were I not destined for longevity.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change.

There is no way to escape being separated from them.

Gail Sheehy may have elucidated this for Westerners in her book Passages, and we may call one of the “passages” the “empty nest” syndrome but for me, the bittersweet end of responsibility for a dependent opened new and perhaps scary spaces. Renewed health released stores of energy as I move forward in the certainty that this is the time of my life to fulfill the artistic ambitions I have always had.

My actions are my only true belongings.

I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.

My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

The actions of my life have been art making and teaching. From the vantage point of three score and some change, I can look back and see the pivotal moments and experiences when my life, my art and my teaching were altered in ways I could not have planned or anticipated.

Most recently, two years out, I see how being hosted in Sri Lanka transformed me as an artist and colorist. First, the impact of the textiles and color of South Asia has propelled me to undertake a body of work very different from what I had done before, using garment labels (those tiny bits of information that speak volumes about the global garment industry) and scraps of silk and cotton to function on the picture plane as bits of color and texture, something like a brush stroke.

My Sri Lanka Fulbright experience made me appreciate more deeply the potential of my simple, straightforward working method both in pinhole photography and street photography. When I returned to the States, I relocated to Trenton New Jersey, a mid sized post-industrial city. I had lived here in the 1980’s. My daughter was born here. Two decades of physical deterioration of the businesses and homes, some rare examples of mid twentieth century domestic architecture of New Jersey’s capitol city, along with exacerbated racial tensions alarmed me. Trenton suffers from much the same travails as Detroit in that it once was a vital manufacturing town but has been in miserable decline for the past half century. As in Detroit, there is great beauty in Trenton’s dereliction and potential for renewal. I saw that I could photograph this city and its residents as I did Colombo, Jaffna and Batticaloa.

Underlying all the techniques in which I have worked is a deep love of the physical world we have created and what that world says of our aspirations as well as visual evidence of our spiritual selves.