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You would think that after 20 plus years of marriage, collaboration would be easy. It is not. As a couple, we have shared work, parenting, taxes, death of parents and not unlike many other couples- creative ventures. Whether we were choosing paint color, wallpaper patterns, fabric swatches or installing a spiral staircase, we are as one saleswoman called us “a one-two punch”. We have found a way to collaborate without becoming the third artist “Luchie” (my husband’s name is Lucas, mine is Kathie). It’s not easy. It’s not complicated. It’s a full time job!

We have always critiqued each other’s work, be it photography, portfolios, e-mails or an outfit to wear to an opening . It is comforting to know, that I have a safety net who will always tell me the truth and I keep that in-mind as I change into the third dress or make a 4th revision to a photograph I thought was perfect. It must be the same with Lucas. as I feel him wince when I start cropping his well thought-out compositions as he sees his carefully crafted white-space become victim to my crop tool. I’ve seen many of our artist friends blanch with ashen faces as they watch our editing weapons turned upon each other.

We know of a couple who paint on the same canvas- Simultaneously. My brother and sister-in-law dress alike. Some pairs finish each other’s sentences or nod in complete polite agreement at every spoken thought. I like to think of the two of us as a duet, each singing our own part in harmony. Romantic and beautiful, but completely unreal. If a twosome wants to create something that is the best of the brace of them, they must remain true to themselves and their vision.

Lucas has a recognizable style. With one glance, I can distinguish his work. I cannot copy his approach to a subject nor can I create the same results. He can pre-visualize a black and white landscape, invert a negative or create a visually powerful panoramic photograph. My results with his methods are less than terrible. I can create colorful hues that enhance a black and white photograph and I can replicate a palette. Together we remain separate.

I’m not ready to give up Kathie and I would not expect Lucas to change his way of seeing the world. Working together has given us the opportunity to lend, not blend, our special talents to this series of handcolored panoramic portraits of artists in their studios. We still maintain separate careers but we have joint visions, dreams and schemes for the future. Just don’t call us Luchie quite yet.

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Before having the chance to visit all of these artists studios, I never really thought much about how “low tech” most art is. For painters, the basic principles can be traced all the way back to our caveman days. The first people to paint a picture, inside caves, were using the same basic tools painters use today. Sculpting is the same. Once the principles of carving rock, and later poring metal, were understood by our ancestors the technology stopped. In fact, we may have even lost some knowledge along the way.

Recently, I was reading an article about the restoration of the Parthenon. Some of the work requires hand tools to be used for the shaping and carving of the marble columns. It is thought, that the hand tools they used to build the Parthenon were better than what we would use today. But, what they didn’t have was the long history to draw upon.

What I find fascinating about the low tech nature of art is it rarely looks low tech when finished. Even the way art is defined; Contemporary, Avant-garde, Cutting edge, makes it seem new. Yet, the processes involved are usually pretty tame. It is the mind of the artist that makes the work look fresh, different, and modern. Even when replicating a style done hundreds of years ago, the artist can’t help but to modernize and update it – just a bit.

Artists are always able to stand on the shoulders of those who came before and re-interpret the world. At their best paintings, sculptures or photographs make us react emotionally. Art is capable of making us mad, angry, happy, and can cover a range of emotion. But, in the end, it is just canvas, metal, or a photograph. A static piece of art that moves us.

In the panoramic photos I take, I try to remember it isn’t always about the artists artwork. My photograph is a poor representation of their original artwork. The photograph is meant to allow you to see the baseball collection, the stuffed goat, the pets. The things the artist uses to produce work isn’t the paint brush, the clay or the camera, it is his view of the world. Often they collect things that show us their point of view. Sometimes, the room is close to empty, my guess is, they are creating everything in their mind. And I find that just as interesting.

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We are Lucas and Kathie Cichon, professional photographers who had the pleasure to live and work among artists, in Taos, New Mexico. We learned that the provenance is part of the art experience. Summoning our minds to invoke “a place” where our favorite artwork was created, we typically have romantic visions of artists working in controlled chaos, wild-haired, indigo stained fingers- captivating studios smelling of turpentine, or amongst sweet-smelling pristine landscapes, perhaps the nightclubs of Paris. We get pleasure from the belief of the uniqueness of artists at work, in their workspaces. So, was our feeling before starting this project. Every artist has a story to tell and many can talk about their work for hours, so given the slightest opportunity to visit and photograph an artist at work added an new dimension to this series. Using a wide-angle lens and shooting in a panoramic format, Lucas may take up to three-dozen side-by-side photographs and paying special attention to the views out windows and into other rooms he digitally matches them on his computer to make a seamless black and white print. Applying color in a most subtle and elegant manner, Kathie traditionally hand-colors each to create an original, one-of-a-kind work of art. The fusion of the two processes create a mysterious timeless portrait of the artist at work.

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