Commentary by Barbara Bullock-Wilson

As a third-generation Californian born and raised along the central coast, I feel deeply connected to the diverse landscapes of this region: the rocky shorelines, fog-shrouded mountains, spacious redwood forests, and oak-studded meadows…. All these places signify home to me.

Twin Oaks, 1956 is an intriguing image of one of these landscapes, and I remember vividly the first time I saw this photograph. One evening while Mom and I were cleaning up after supper and my three-year-old sister Lynne was playing in the living room, Dad had trekked down the series of outside stairs to his tiny darkroom attached to the rear of our one-car garage. Some new prints had been rinsing and were ready to be squeegeed and spread on his homemade racks to dry.

The next thing I knew Dad was in the kitchen again, cradling a photograph still limp with dripping water. It was not an unusual practice. If Dad made an image that particularly excited him, he was eager to share it.

He asked me what I thought. This also was not unusual. Even though I was only 11 at the time, he had already begun communicating with me about his creative journey, what he was exploring and discovering. Discussing new images was part of the process. Whether I responded positively or negatively, he wanted to know why. Simply saying, "That's great" or "I don't like it" was never enough, and I relished the challenge.

There were times when I just wouldn't get what he was after, and it would take awhile, even years, before I would begin to really understand and appreciate a given image. Other times, we would have differing emotional responses due to unique personal experiences and associations. Mostly, however, our assessments were in accord and, even when they were not, I always felt my thoughts were considered and respected.

Looking back, I find Dad's regard for my abilities to engage with him quite amazing and wonderful. Our discussions, not just about particular images, but about all aspects of his journey as an artist, often became very intense and they grew ever richer and more encompassing as I moved into my late teens and twenties.

Viewing Dad's wet print of Twin Oaks that evening so long ago, I responded with an excitement that matched his own. I immediately recognized that it wasn't just a photograph of a beloved landscape. Something much more exciting was going on. Not only were living trees shown above ground, the growth and energy that take place below the ground were also powerfully evoked.

How he achieved this latter depiction I can no longer remember. I have a vague memory of Dad referring to a partial double exposure. It could have been that or it could have been the result of sandwiched negatives, a technique he used to great effect later in his development to enhance the expression of what he believed to be the ever-changing, multi-dimensional, process character of the universe. I can't say for sure, and the original negative sleeve with any notes he might have made no longer exists.

Regardless of the means he employed, we both knew that fall evening in 1956 that he had created a keeper, an image that provided a glimpse into the dynamic nature of life itself.

Talking, laughing, sharing our pleasure and excitement, we had a joyful time. Then, it was back to the dishes for me and out to the darkroom for Dad. A few hours later, I drifted off to sleep while California oaks sang me an ancient lullaby.

~ Barbara Bullock-Wilson