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Profile: Felice Willat: The Zen of the Land

July 4, 2014 by Phil Tarley in Art with 0 Comments

FOR FELICE WILLAT, the zen of the land unites a visual trilogy of country people, their landscapes and lifestyles in humanist, spiritual, pictorial harmony. Willat brings a centered, thoughtful and organic approach to photography and to the living of a purposeful artist’s life. The serenity in her images is both pensive and evocative; mirroring her contemplative intellect and ebullient personality. The artist’s best works percolate with a Mandala-full of life forces that emanate from her subjects, which she shoots in situ. Her most interesting pictures linger in the mind’s eye. They move the viewer into spaces where we breathe deeper and slower harmonizing with those who inhabit the visual world that Willat creates. 

“I can get lost in the moment. The shutter seems to click on its own when I’m fortunate enough to capture someone at one with their environment. My favorite shots are not portraits and they’re not landscapes. I like to shoot people going about the living of their lives within their lands. They become defined by how and where they live. That’s what I’m known for.”

Jemmaa El Fna, a cityscape of Marrakesh’s town square, is a pageant of humanity where horse drawn carriages, push carts and shoe shine stands are readying the famous marketplace for day’s end. It perfectly expresses the inter- changeability of Willat’s desire to characterize those she shoots by the places they inhabit and to portray these places by the persons who populate them.

Felice Willat - Killarney Lakeside, Ireland

Felice Willat – Killarney Lakeside, Ireland

In Cardinals, a flock of robed novices, young monks in training, become design elements. The robust reds shot against a field of white, a crumbling temple Willat uses as a background element, brings her arrangement of crimson birds into stark relief. In another graphic grouping, she renders her Master Koi, by bisecting its composition into highlight and shadow, catching us up in the wiggling of fish. 

“I have traveled a good part of the world but Burma is the country I most revere. After a brutal repression, they have endured with a sense of tranquility. These people have accepted their lot in life. Even when things do not go well they are devoutly patient. I am patient, too. It’s my Buddhist quality. I feel one with them and Burma’s countryside speaks to me. The mountains have their own language.”

The dome-shaped peaks in Halong Bay Village do seem to be softly whispering. Against a brooding sky, the floating village inhabitants take shelter from an impending rain as a ferry boat drifts lazily eastward towards the end of Willat’s frame.

The photographer has published a book of images, The Quiet Between, Song of Burma; a portion of each sale is donated to Burmese charitable organi- zations. It has poetry by Lark, which punctuates the emotion tones throughout its plates.

You can see her solo show at Photo Independent, an international pho- tography fair that opens on April 25, 2014 at Raleigh Studios, in Hollywood. 

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Phil Tarley

About Phil Tarley

Phil Tarley is a fellow of the American Film Institute, an artist member of the Los Angeles Art Association and writes about contemporary art, pop culture and photography for Fabrik Magazine. He curates at the A C Gallery in Los Angeles and founded Round Hole Square Peg, a biannual, international survey of LGBTQ photography shown at the Photo LA. Tarley is also a critical essayist for Katharine T. Carter & Associates, an art advisory service that  helps artists obtain museum exhibitions. His personal series of political and ethnographic videos is housed in the permanent collection of the New York Public Library and has screened in film festivals and museums like the American Film Institute,and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In 2009, under his nom de porn, Phil St. John, Tarley was inducted into the Gay Porn Hall of Fame for his 20-year producing and directing career. His writing and photography have also appeared in the LA Times, the LA Weekly, The WOW Report, Adventure Journal, the Advocate, Frontiers, Adult Video News, Genre, Instinct and American Photo Magazine. His book, Going down On Cuba: Notes from An Underground Traveler,  is slated to be published later in the year by Fabrik Press.  

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