Commentary by Barbara Bullock-Wilson

At heart, my father was an intensely curious being, and the focus of his curiosity was nature.

One of the most vivid memories from his youth was of a visit to a desert in southern California. Walking over the dry, gritty landscape, he came across pieces of old glass that glittered with prismatic colors. Although he couldn't have articulated it then, he later recalled having a sense that only light - the radiant power of the sun - and time could create such beauty. He brought some of the bits of glass home with him and continued to wonder.

For Dad, bringing home tokens of nature for further contemplation and appreciation became a life-long practice, and the keepsakes that had the most meaning for him were things that testified to universal forces and the essential processes of life, death, change, and transformation. I grew up in an environment filled with a fascinating assortment of found objects and, from early childhood on, I became an enthusiastic contributor and fellow learner.

Our family home at 155 Mar Vista Drive, Monterey, California was situated on a sloping quarter-acre lot on the north side of Carmel Hill.

From the street, there was a fairly long walkway up to the house past some large redwood trees. Nestled amongst those trees were some beautiful pieces of driftwood gathered during family outings in the backcountry of Big Sur and along coastal beaches.

More driftwood was positioned beside the potted plants on the front stoop. Once inside the house, there were other items to delight the eye and mind - sea-polished stones resting in a bowl of clear water; a hawk's feather placed in a hand-carved wooden bud vase; a set of nested abalone shells keeping company with a cluster of green and purple urchins.

The studio above the garage and darkroom held additional treasures. On the tops of painted plank and concrete block bookshelves lay arrangements of various tree cones and river rocks. Sculptures of twisted and flattened wire found along country roads formed a wall display. A chunk of fossilized plant life served as a paperweight on the desk. And hanging from a window sill was a multi-twigged branch that cast intriguing shadows on the surrounding walls and floor.

Some of these objects were only temporary visitors, while others became permanent residents. Whether transient or long-lasting, however, all were welcomed into our home as gifts from the wider world. Not only did they contribute interest and beauty to our lives, they also had the potential, if one paid attention, to inspire and connect.

It was in his home studio that Dad spent five years making his abstract color images such as 1075, our Featured Image for this month. In two significant ways, 1075 shares a kinship with the cones and rocks, roadside sculptures, and branches that were present at its creation.

Many of the materials Dad used to produce his Color Light Abstractions were themselves found objects. Chunks of fine optical glass salvaged from a discarded telescope lens on the grounds of Palomar Observatory; shards of stained glass collected from an artist's trash heap; bits of sea glass picked up from a pebbly beach; and fragments of antique patterned glassware retrieved from an abandoned house.

Although all of these treasures had their own special stories to tell, they also were wonderfully useful at reflecting and refracting light. In addition to their individual gifts, they became part of an ensemble of resources for a new and different kind of image-making.

Working with his homemade apparatus, various sources of illumination, and assorted resource materials, Dad was able to fashion a world of energy and light he could access through his specially adapted camera equipment. Peering through his viewfinder, he became absorbed hour after hour, day by day, in exploring this dynamic world of macrocosmic and microcosmic dimensions and the images he created while he was there marked both his wonder and his discoveries.

Like the swirl of driftwood on the front stoop and the sea-washed stones in the bowl of water, Color Light Abstraction 1075 and its fellow images are testaments to the play of universal forces and the fundamental, essential processes of existence. They are gifts Dad brought home from his journey into the depths of light and the mystery we call life.

Text © 2017 Barbara Bullock-Wilson. All rights reserved.