The Muse

carol sternkopf image copy

“Taking Off”

I was invited to create a piece for the fabulous Muse Conference that happens here in Bend, Oregon every year. I did this piece last spring, and now it stares at me every day in my work space. At 30 by 40 inches, it is quite a presence in my peripheral vision!  Wanting to create something outside the more literal way I usually work, I began playing around with photo layers. It seems that the stars really have to line up for it to all work. It’s an odd combination of instinct, and rolling the dice.

I am enormously interested in creating images that beg to tell a story, and I know this can only happen for the viewer if they feel moved enough to fill in the narrative. So, it’s important to move people! As a photographer, I’m susceptible to human emotion playing itself out. Scenarios or a singular facial expression always make me wonder what the larger story is, or better yet – what it could be?

My daughter Ana was the model for this piece.  Like many artists, I’m inspired by love. Ana is a true gift to me. Her entire being is compelling to me as an artist as well as her adoring parent. She has always allowed me to use her authentic presence in my art, which I think is big of her! Imagery I have created of her has always held the story of her deep and gracious soul. If that isn’t a true muse, what is?

Behind the Curtain


If you took me to a magic show, I would believe everything I see to be the honest-to-god truth. I would never suspect the guy who is randomly chosen out of the audience and quickly hypnotized on stage to be a plant, and that he’s “acting” as though he’s falling down drunk or speaking in a foreign language. These things would not cross my mind. And after the magician wakes him out of his unconscious state with a well rehearsed snap of the fingers, the guy swears he has never before spoken Hebrew in his lifetime. And if you don’t believe him,  ask his wife sitting in the audience – he’d never even left the Iowa state boarder! I would applaud for a bit too long after the show and assume the hypnotist was some kind of genius.

So, when my computer broke down last week and my excitable IT husband dismantled it within an hour, spreading hundreds of tiny electronic parts across the dining room table, it came to no one’s surprise that I was not the least bit interested in the details of how it was all going to be put back together. I was completely confident in the magician at hand. Gregg would somehow wave a bright colored handkerchief over the heap of metal pieces, a sudden cloud of smoke would blind us all for a few minutes, and we might even catch a white rabbit hopping across the kitchen floor just within peripheral vision. And presto, the computer would be fixed and in one piece again!

In reality, it took a week. No smoke. No bunnies. I overheard countless phone calls to Best Buy Geek Squads, and devoted Mac store employees. Terms like adding terabytes and replacing memory boards were discussed. Hard sells were attempted, and outright laughter at trying to fix a “relic” could be heard through the receiver. In more hushed tones, I overheard the phrase “could be the motherboard” – followed by a long pause. I sensed this is something that  should never again be mentioned, even with immediate family members.

But finally, my husband did in fact work some magic. And if you didn’t witness the week long process involved with the repair and simply popped over once it was all put back together again and working faster than ever, well….you might just think Gregg is a magician. Because you didn’t see the process ‘behind the curtain.’  You saw the finished result of someone who is highly trained and, as stated earlier, someone who gets very excited about broken stuff.

As I most gratefully sit down to edit some photos tonight, I think for a second, “Did Gregg just say goodnight wearing a black cape?”

I rub my eyes and don’t doubt any of it.