Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Midweek post: the photo shoot

When I photograph by myself, I tend to find the experience unsettling and sometimes, upsetting. Monocular vision seems to intensify the way I see the world, especially the more disconcerting aspects of it.

Group photo shoots are a completely different story, though. Group photo shoots that involve a community of models, actors, assistants, scouts, and photographers (often all my friends) provided some of the most memorable and fun experiences of my life. Successful photo shoots, I’ve discovered, require a lot of unmentionable things, like trust between participants, patience, and good timing.

I am currently looking for actors (this is not a solicitation), locations, and stories to tell for an upcoming photography project. I do not wish to rush this process, so I am looking backward at some of my favorite shoots.

I always wanted to do a "behind the scenes" showcase of my thesis exhibition. For my thesis, Bringing To Light, I montaged several self-portraits in Photoshop. Some viewers asked how I created the images, as I do not have a twin. Well, below you will find some comparison shots that will illuminate how helpful my friends were for this project.

The top photographs are the final product. The bottom image is one unedited slide (out of two or three) that includes a comrade. My good friend Lindsay always came through to help. You can see in her hand a bulb shutter release in my "Pick Yourself Up Now" photo. Thanks Linds!

No one has noticed yet the barren tree branches in the background of the final version. This photo shoot was FREEZING. It took place in January. I had to recreate a childhood memory of summer and was on my second re-shoot. Acting, I say. Holding my hand is my friend Tracey, in a winter coat and boots. Patty was behind the camera.

Not so much an exact comparison but you can see my friend Patty sitting still while I take some test shots. Thanks Patty!

And then when everyone else was busy, I did a lot of shoots with my free standing mirror because it was close enough to a human. I love that mirror. I still have it.

This post is dedicated to my friend Patty, who always had the most fun with her photo shoots. Here she is, with Pedro.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

stop motion (to show how rope unravels)

I have entered the realm of stop motion animation! After a rare critique in 2012, I showed artist Brad Biancardi my rope drawings and he suggested I utilize my photography and drawing skills to make some video work. Pretty good idea.

I immediately thought about creating a stop motion video of my drawings to highlight the drawing process. While I hate showing works in progress, here’s a snippet of an 8 minute (yes, eight minute!) video I am making. I also wrote a script for the piece. The full video is tentatively titled, “Undrawn” and I plan to finish it by late fall (probably earlier.)

In graduate school, I worked with photography AND cinema students, so many of my artist friends are filmmakers. I always marveled at my friend’s work, especially their stop motion animation pieces. Check out my friend Aygul’s work and Kate’s work. I really admire Aygul and Kate. I expect big things to come from them.

I also decided to check out what the Internetz has to say about stop motion and found this.

If short on time, I recommend the chess stop motion video (very good), Human Tetris (a crowd pleasure but obviously took a lot of coordination), and Sia’s Breathe Me video.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Black and white photography in the juried exhibition

I found out one of my photographs, Skylines (Illinois), will be in the “Architecture and Landscape” online show at Black Box Gallery, a gallery based out of Portland Oregon.

This is exciting news. I admire Black Box’s mission to promote contemporary photography. Goodie!

Now is probably a good time to write about black and white photography and its place in the contemporary art scene/world/market/whatever you want to call it when people get together for all things art. My perception (meaning no concrete evidence except a few strained critiques) is that non-photographers (yes I say that) believe black and white prints are dated. Or, that black and white imagery is a superficial trick artists employ to make photos look more “artsy” aka more sellable.

Sure. I have seen and even represented artists who knowingly create gimmicks to make their work seem more artistic/good/interesting/palatable/whatever. It IS annoying. My biggest pet peeve: the artists who apply the “paint” filter (in Photoshop) to their photographs. It’s a bad idea but people tend to love it so what do I know.

Anyway, it has been a struggle to get some of my Wanderlust photos in contemporary art exhibitions. Grant it, people may not enjoy the imagery, which is fine. I accept that. But, I can think of two other reasons. First, it is fair to say that only certain galleries are going to show black and white photography and it takes some research to find those spaces. That’s why I am glad to have found Black Box gallery.

The second reason may be the juried exhibition format itself. When I do see black and white photographs in juried exhibitions of “contemporary” art, the photo’s subject matter ranges from obscene to sardonic. And usually, the photograph tells an obvious story about a person, place, or thing.

Artists who create a series of works struggle to find a place within the group, juried exhibition format. I am one of those artists. Wanderlust is an example. It is a photo-essay and the images should be displayed together, in a specific sequence. In short, the images needs to be exhibited together to adequately do the job of saying what the project intends to say. The Wanderlust project is about modern travel; how dizzying it is, its rhythm, shapes, and patterns. These things are hard to describe with just one photograph.

I call the opposite type of image-making, “one-note” meaning you can see only one piece and get the gist of what the artist wants to communicate. One may be enough and it has to be for juried group exhibitions where an artist is likely to have only one or two works included. That piece must encompass who the artist is and what the artist does. I believe in the corporate world this is called “branding.”

It is fascinating how capitalism affects every social interaction, even exhibition formats. In our boom and burst economy, privately funded galleries stay afloat by juried, group exhibitions where artists seeking exposure pay for entry. Don’t get me wrong; the format is mutually beneficial for galleries and artists. But it seems these exhibitions are largely comprised of the “one-noters,” the pieces I hope (but don’t strive) to create so that I have something to enter into juried exhibitions. This has been my experience.

This crowdfunding strategy is popular for art galleries as state-based support wanes more and more. In the latest news, crowdfunding has generated a lot of attention and even controversy as a business model. For instance, the potato salad affair:

For the time, I am pursuing a solo exhibition of the Wanderlust project so that all the photographs may be exhibited together. Until then, I’ll enjoy the increased exposure via the juried, online show format. Cheers.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Home Studio (with pictures)

Many artists and writers reflect on the need for a space to create. Virginia Woolf’s statement: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” is probably one of the most quoted and a favorite of mine. Recently I saw this post on Flavorwire about famous artists and their studios. Georgia O’Keefe’s is the studio I want to emulate the most, but I do not work in an adobe structure with New Mexico light, and I am way too cluttered. Her studio is austere and elegant-the light fills it perfectly:

Being a photographer, I have grown accustomed to sharing (meaning I must clean up after myself) workspaces such as darkrooms in order to work in them. I enjoy spending my Saturdays in the darkroom-I like the physical removal from home so I can go to “work” at another location. I anticipate that I will need to return to a photography lab soon but for right now I have been setting up and working at my home studio.

In the home studio, I needed a space to review my prints and drawings. I put together large corkboards to pin up the prints because no landlord wants hundreds of holes in their walls from push pins.

When I hang my art together on these corkboards, I find associations between pieces and concepts begin to solidify. Then there is editing. One of my photography professors gave my documentary class a book to read (cannot remember the title at all) where the writer claimed the most difficult thing for a photographer is to edit her work-so much so that she should never edit her own work. Our eyes glide over mistakes and we fall in love with images that, frankly, don’t do much for other viewers. Feedback through critique is difficult to come by (an expected aspect of being out of school) so a corkboard helps me edit.

When I get the urge, I will pin up work I’ve made recently (or a long time ago) and let it remain on the corkboard until I think I am done looking at it. Usually I have some sort of revelation. For example, with my last project, Wanderlust, I figured out how I wanted to exhibit the 30 plus prints as a result of hanging them together.

Up on display now are 16 x 20 inch prints I made in mid-June for the Wanderlust project as well as a recently finished rope drawing. You can also see, in process, a video project I am working on where I am essentially doing stop motion animation. I started the video after moving back to Illinois but the drawings themselves have been in my head since 2008. Time to get ideas out of my head, onto paper, and then onto the cork board.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The c (re)(ur)ator in me

The creator in me

Life changes and other things

I quit my job as a gallery director at a university and decided it was time to pursue life as a full time artist. There were many reasons for this decision but one idea always stuck with me.

A friend (and former artist/academic) once told me, “Medical students learn how to practice medicine in school to become doctors. Law students learn how to practice law so they may become lawyers. Art students (pursuing graduate degrees) learn how to make art so they may become professors-professors who teach an unbearable amount of classes at subpar colleges in the middle of nowhere. And, in the end, they never/rarely make their art.

Few artists, after school in the “real world,” possess jobs that facilitate a balance between maintaining creative practice and making enough money to pay the bills.

The lack of paid work for artists is a whole different series of posts. Some have managed it. I spent a portion of my former career advocating for artists so they could make a living on their creativity.

For my part, I am fortunate to make the change to full time artist. Now work has a new meaning because I will be hustling, but not for other people and other organizations. Instead, I will be working harder than ever before on my own creative work.

This is my blog about art. I will write about my art and also, my curatorial work. I loved curating exhibitions and want to continue to do so, in some capacity, even if just online. And I plan to write about the art world in general, along with my attempts to make it in this art world as a creator.