Archive for the ‘Blog Authors’ Category

Studio Visit: Rachel Styer

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Recently, I spent the afternoon with one of my favorite humans on the planet, the talented artist Rachel Styer, in her studio talking about the therapeutic quality to making art, levitation, and falling in love. Rachel and I recorded our conversation, and despite the quality not being awesome thanks to the hum of the AC and my shoddy equipment, we wanted to share parts of that conversation.

From "The Weekenders," photo by Rachel Styer

From “The Weekenders,” photo by Rachel Styer

Rachel started out as a writer before realizing that visual art, and specifically photography, better expressed her thoughts and ideas. In this audio clip, Rachel explains why she found writing to be limiting:

on-writing

Her love of writing led her to start a blog, and that led to taking pictures for the blog and buying her first camera, the Canon AE-1, and learning how to process and print black-and-white film at the Harvey Milk Recreation Center in San Francisco. Here Rachel describes printing at the Center’s darkroom amongst other beginning photographers and her shift into working with color:

starting-the-shift-to-photography

From "The Weekenders," photo by Rachel Styer

From “The Weekenders,” photo by Rachel Styer

Around the time she made the shift to digital color images, Rachel met her now husband Dave Richard (who is also a super talented artist) and began shooting s series of staged self-portraits with Dave out in nature on their weekend day trips around California. “The Weekenders” feels like a grimy tattered paperback copy of Pablo Neruda’s love poems that you’d find at a garage sale. The photographs are beautifully composed and the sometimes blurry focus and lens flare act as a metaphor for the blinding drunkness of falling in love. In this audio clip, Rachel and I discuss “The Weekenders,” photographing long-term relationships, and how grad school can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to our own engagement with our work:

the-weekenders-part1

From "The Weekenders," photo by Rachel Styer

From “The Weekenders,” photo by Rachel Styer

Rachel and I both started grad school in 2009 at SVA’s Photography, Video, & Related Media MFA program. A year into the experience, Rachel was diagnosed with lymphoma and spent the last two years of her three years in that program going through cancer treatment and recovery while also working on her thesis body of work, appropriately titled “Treatment.” For anyone who has been through the physical and emotional trauma of cancer or the obviously far less intense but still stressful rigors of a masters program, the fact that Rachel did both at the same time is an impressive feat in and of itself. The fact that Rachel made this beautifully inventive project that not only comments on her own treatment, but that also helped her heal and come to terms with this experience, thereby becoming its own form of treatment, is why she is one of my favorite artists around. In this clip, we discuss the theme of flight and levitation in “Treatment”:

treatment-part1

From "Treatment," photo by Rachel Styer

From “Treatment,” photo by Rachel Styer

“Treatment” explores the paradoxical relationship between the physical body and the self through self-portraits in nature, photographic records of organic sculptures that represent both the body and a state of mind, as well as light-exposed damaged negatives that resemble blood cells seen through a microscope. There’s a performative and physical element to the work that Styer has describes as her attempt to visually represent the biological battle raging through her body and her emotional state during that time:

treatment-part2

From "Treatment," photo by Rachel Styer

From “Treatment,” photo by Rachel Styer

Now in good health and cancer-free, Rachel’s art process really helped her put that experience into perspective. While talking about the crumpled film images and pantyhose-as-muscle fiber sculpture images, Rachel talks about her anger post-treatment and sympathizes with Martin Short’s character from the movie “Innerspace“:

treatment-part3

Two images from "Treatment," photos by Rachel Styer

Two images from “Treatment,” photos by Rachel Styer

Rachel and Dave were recent artists-in-residence at C-Scape where they lived in a shack on the beach and made art. During that time, Rachel began making artist books, including a handmade book documenting her treatment with a page to represent each day. Similarly, her latest work continues her exploration of the physical nature of photographic film. Through a camera-less process, she crumpled and damages negative film and exposes it to light to see what results. As a finalist in CCNY’s Darkroom Residency, she was given access to their darkroom facilities to continue this work. In our final clip, she offers that rare glimpse into the trials of making new work:

new-work-in-progress

Photo by Rachel Styer

Photo by Rachel Styer

For more by Rachel Styer, please visit rachelstyer.com. You can also follow her on Tumblr & Twitter.

“A Different Kind of Order” – The ICP Triennial

Friday, August 9th, 2013

 

Last weekend, after visiting CCNY’s Zine and Self-Published Photo Book Fair, I wandered over to ICP for a visit to their bookstore.  I walked over with the intention of picking up a signed copy of Todd Hido’s new book “Excerpts from Silver Meadows,” which I did, along with the new 3rd edition of Taryn Simon’s new classic “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” that had been on my photo book wish list for a while. But as I walked there, I remembered that the fourth triennial was on display and decided to see what it was all about.

The exhibition features 28 artists working in photography, video, sculpture, collage, and related media.  The show’s curators Kristen Lubben, Christopher Phillips, Carol Squiers, and Joanna Lehan have crafted a collection of work that captures the instability and violence of our time, as well as the way we consume the gluttony of images around us.

Elliott Hundley's "Pentheus"

Elliott Hundley’s “Pentheus”

In Elliott Hundley’s “Pentheus” that avalanche of images takes the form of an immense photo collage / sculpture that really must be seen in person to be appreciated. Gideon Mendel tackles issues of destruction and flood quite literally with his portraits of people standing in flood waters from locations all over his “Drowning World.”

Gideon Mendel's "Drowning World"

Gideon Mendel’s “Drowning World”

Other highlights for me included the deceptively gorgeous and sublime drone photographs of Trevor Paglen, Michael Schmelling’s photographs of hoarders’ nests, and Mikhael Subotzy and Patrick Waterhouse’s three towering lightboxes made up of tiny photographs that resemble the South African residential tower and depict all the television sets, front doors, and windows of each unit of the tower.

Subotzy & Waterhouse "Windows, Pont City (detail)"

Subotzy & Waterhouse “Windows, Pont City (detail)”

But the piece that really got under my skin was Thomas Hirschhorn’s “Touching Reality.” Set in the back corner of the ground floor behind a heavy semi-opaque plastic curtain, this video plays in a dark room and feel like a secret. When I first walked in not knowing what the piece was about, I was met by the furtive glance of the only other person in the room, who left as soon as I entered. The video is a single-shot of an ipad that displays a slideshow of horrific images of death and mutilated bodies from sources that seem to range from war zones to terrorist bombings to crime scenes and car crashes. The images flash before the viewer’s eyes with the flick of the female finger operating the ipad. Her finger flies by some images, scrolls back to others, and zooms in on particularly gruesome details of some images. I stayed watching these images for longer than I thought I would, which is part of Hirschhorn’s intention. He wants us to look at the effects of violence and confront the very scenes the media hides for fear of upsetting viewers and think about our methods of image consumption since the only place I’ve seen images this violent is online. We live in upsetting times, and “Touching Reality” jarred me out of my pleasant Saturday reality to remind me of that.

Thomas Hirschhorn's "Touching Reality"

Thomas Hirschhorn’s “Touching Reality”

CCNY’s Zine & Self-Published Photo Book Fair

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

This weekend at CCNY is The Americas: CCNY’s 4th Annual Zine & Self-Published Photo Book Fair.  Stop by this Sat. and Sun. 8/3-4/13 from 12-6pm to browse tons of titles and support DIY art books. As stated on the CCNY site: “The curators – Jade Berreau, Lindsey Castillo, Victoria Gondra and Erik van der Weijde – each have backgrounds in publishing, with close ties to artists from all over the Americas. They have curated a wide range of work that reflects the region’s great diversity in art and culture. As in past years, all proceeds from the sale of zines and photo books will go directly to the artists or small publishers.”

Photo by Sara Macel

Photo by Sara Macel

I stopped by the fair this afternoon to check out this year’s featured work.  Personal favorites included Alyse Emdur‘s “Prison Landscapes” and Carl Gunhouse‘s “Falling Apart” road trip photo book. Both books are for sale and there were still copies left as of late Saturday afternoon, so be sure to check it out tomorrow if you missed it today.

Photo by Sara Macel

Photo by Sara Macel

I love that CCNY has been doing this fair for 4 years now and hope that it continues as a venue for self-published works on paper to be seen and supported. It was great to see such a wide range of different examples of binding and publishing represented. In a time where it is so easy and affordable to make your own books from places like Blurb or Lulu, I really appreciated the variety of physical objects on display.

Photo by Sara Macel

Photo by Sara Macel

That said, I singled out Gunhouse and Emdur’s books because beyond appreciating their design, the content of the work stood out for me in its cohesiveness and execution.  It is easy to fall in love with a book on a pure design level, especially when the artist is making something in a small edition made by hand that pushes the boundary of what a photo book can be, but personally I want to be as drawn to the images themselves and the story told through sequencing to get excited about any photo book. I saw some great examples of this at the fair that made it worth the trip to midtown on a weekend, but not as many as I’d hoped. I remember once hearing a photographer at a photo book club meeting in San Francisco say that he often makes artist books as a means to essentially package outtakes and random images into some kind of tangible art object.  His implication being that if he didn’t make a book out of those images, however disparate those images might be, they may never see the light of day. As a photographer, there’s something great about this idea.  It takes the pressure off a bit to be able to work on an idea and make a book out of it quickly and move on to the next idea. But I guess the critic in me questions: sure you can take a group of okay photos and make a little book out of them, but should you? I think there’s a case to be made for both sides of that discussion and plenty of examples to argue both sides on display at CCNY this weekend.

Photo by Sara Macel

Photo by Sara Macel

Artist Spotlight: Andrew Miksys

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Recently, I was checking in with the great online blog Ignant, and I ran across a series called “Bingo” by photographer and artist Andrew Miksys. The bingo halls and eccentric cast of characters in Miksys’s images struck a familiar chord with me having spent time every summer as a kid in the bingo halls of Jupiter, FL with my Grandma Macel. I caught up with Andrew to ask him about the project and what he’s working on now.

Photo by Andrew Miksys

Photo by Andrew Miksys

SM: First off, I just recently came across your “Bingo” series and felt an instant connection both to the subject matter and your style of shooting.  My grammy takes no prisoners when it comes to bingo or poker, and it was a big part of her social life when she lived in Florida.  What first brought you to the bingo table and when did you decide to start this project?

AM: I started the project in Seattle.  For 25 years my father had a bingo newspaper there (Bingo Today).  When I was in high school, I delivered the newspaper to all the bingo halls in Western Washington.  Later I came back and began photographing in the same halls.

Photo by Andrew Miksys

Photo by Andrew Miksys

SM: To be a bit of a tech nerd for a minute, what camera did you shoot this series with and what lighting did you use?

AM: I use 6×7 medium format cameras, the Mamiya 7 and the Pentax 6×7.  The lighting is mostly with a battery powered flash (400ws) on a stand with an umbrella or bounced.  
Photo by Andrew Miksys

Photo by Andrew Miksys

SM: The people portrayed in your photographs are quite a cast of characters.  How did you approach your subjects and how many different bingo joints did you photograph?  Did you have a favorite subject or interaction?
AM: I knew all the regulars and managers so it was very easy to gain access.  I was also living in New Orleans at the time and did a lot of photographing all over Louisiana.  Then I started taking trips around the US to different parts of the country.
My favorite place to photograph was at the St. Stevens Catholic Church in New Orleans.  Really great people there with fantastic style. Some of the women wore Mardi Gras beads year round.  The best person to photograph is the woman wearing the pink hair curlers.  I photographed her several times.  In this pictures she’s getting ready for bingo, drinking a beer and fixing her makeup.
Photo by Andrew Miksys

Photo by Andrew Miksys

SM: Tell me about The Tulips Project.
AM: TULIPS is a project I’ve been doing in Belarus (White Russia) the last 4 years.  Super interesting place.  On the TULIPS website (www.thetulipsproject.com) I’m starting to post videos, photographs and text from the project.  It’s kinda a “making of” site.  Hoping to make a book of this work next year.
Photo by Andrew Miksys

Photo by Andrew Miksys

SM: Lastly, what is your idea of a perfect summer day?

AM: Making pickles and drinking vodka.

Don’t Look Back: The CCNY Staff Show

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
Photo courtesy of CCNY

Photo courtesy of CCNY

Last week, I attended the opening reception of the CCNY staff group show titled Don’t Look Back that was co-curated by I-Hsuen Chen and Alexander Perrelli. The show is up through this Saturday, July 27th.

It is always interesting to me with group shows where each artist is only showing 1-2 pieces to see how curators weave a story out of the show’s theme. In this case, Chen and Perrelli open their show with three images that instantly set a melancholic tone and place the viewer in limbo. First, we see Car Pelleteri’s Heather & I, Brighton Beach 16×20 print of an old snapshot of the photographer and her friend in bikinis with their backs to the camera looking over their shoulder at us. The time code on the snapshot says “91 6 28″. The next piece by John Stanley of his In a Hidden Place series shows a clearing in a wooded area with ropes or ties between tree branches. It is clear someone was here, but there is an ominous ambiguity about what we are looking at that is only amplified by the snapshot as evidence we just saw. With the third image, we meet our witness. In Michael J. Dalton II’s Untitled #13 a teenage girl lounges on a tree branch looking us in the eye with a bored expression like she knows what we’re thinking. We can have the past, because all she cares about is the future.

Photo by Car Pelleteri

Photo by John Stanley

Photo by Michael J. Dalton II

As the show progresses, Chen and Perrelli play with their title Don’t Look Back in a variety of interpretations that feels fun and ambitious. Ryan Foerster’s Hurricane is listed as a “unique chromogenic print with debris” – essentially a photo damaged by a storm, if we are to believe the title, creating a one-of-a-kind piece. Chen’s contribution to the show was also my personal favorite. His artist book In Between challenges the viewer in its placement of photos in the book where the central point of our attention is lost in the gutter creating a sense of frustration on the viewer’s part. It feels like Chen wants to share these moments with us, but is holding back hiding the best parts to keep for himself. Don’t Look Back also takes itself literally where we see our subjects from behind, including in Perrelli’s own work, or looking back as in Christina Thurston’s Untitled image of a young girl posing for the camera, trying to be present in the moment, but can’t help herself from turning back to see what’s been left behind.

Photo by Christina Thurston

 

 

Photo Book: “Road Ends in Water” by Eliot Dudik

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
Photo by Sara Macel

Photo by Sara Macel

 

I first came across Eliot Dudik’s incredible self-published photo book Road Ends in Water at Carte Blanche Gallery in San Francisco where both our books were featured in a show curated by Larissa Leclair of the Indie Photobook Library and Darius Himes of Radius Books.  And thanks to a suggestion by Jennifer Schwartz of Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, Crusade for Art, and Flash Powder Projects fame, we were recently reconnected to discuss our adventures in the world of first-time book publishing.

Having grown up on the outskirts of suburban Texas where the strip malls meet the farmlands and having spent my entire adult life living in New York City and Brooklyn, I tend to gravitate towards work dealing with the American landscape.  In this body of work, Eliot Dudik chronicles the spirit of the South Carolina Lowcountry: its swamps and dirt roads, its weathered porches and ramshackle churches, and the people that are as much a part of this landscape as the giant oak trees that tower over it all.  There is an ebb and flow to the sequence of images that rolls along like currents in the deep waters it portrays.  This book feels like a baptism.  I spoke with Eliot about the two years he spent working on this project while traveling from Charleston to Savannah, Georgia where he was a graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design and his experiences turning this project into a beautiful book.

Bud, Russell Creek Road,  Photo by Eliot Dudik

Bud, Russell Creek Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: First of all, it was such a pleasure sitting alone in our apartment today for about an hour slowly going through the book and then re-reading and re-looking a couple times.  It’s a really great meditation on a certain place and time and on large format photography as a medium.  Large format photography is a long tradition that is becoming increasingly difficult for photographers of our generation to afford or even have access to processing. To that end, I’m going to kind of get ahead of myself and ask: how much does the slow, somewhat antiquated nature of large format photography factor into your process documenting a place steeped in its own deep traditions and slower pace?  Was that something you thought about during the making of the work?

ED: The use of a view camera factors into my work quite extensively.  It is the effects of the view camera on the land, my subjects, and myself that dictates my using this type of camera.  Above all else, I enjoy the slow, contemplative and methodical steps associated with camera.  It helps me to remain within the landscape.  I see it as penetrating into a bubble, whereas I sometimes have difficulty piercing the surface tension with other formats.  When making portraits, I enjoy the interaction between the subject and the view camera.  They often have a look of pride and confidence in their expression and the way they carry themselves that is sometimes lost when looking down the barrel of an SLR.

 

SM: Road Ends in Water is such a great title.  I know it comes from the road sign you photographed that appears in the beginning of the book.  Did you take that photo knowing it would become the title or was that a decision you made once you were in the editing process?

ED: I took the photo for its symbolism and because I thought the sign was funny.  It didn’t become the title of the series until the final editing stages.  A professor and mentor, Jenny Kulah, suggested it as a title, and it made perfect sense.

Snuffy in Salkehatchie Swamp, Broxton Bridge Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Snuffy in Salkehatchie Swamp, Broxton Bridge Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: What I love about the title is the symbolism of “road” and “water” that appear throughout the book.  Both are metaphors for the cyclical nature of life and death.  All of the titles of the images refer to their location as being either a river or a road.  There’s a definite sense of a journey or being in between things.  It feels to me that this body of work operates on many levels: it is a documentary of a little seen pocket of America that is disappearing in the wake of government projects and economics, it is a metaphor for your life being in a somewhat transitional stage being a grad student during the project’s making and this new focus of your life in photography, and it has far broader themes of death and lost traditions.  That’s where my head is at, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

ED: You pretty much hit upon everything.  The landscape in this region of the country is renewed, flushed, and emptied by a multitude of rivers and tributaries heading toward the ocean.  The rivers bring folks together here as much as the roads do.  Generations of families have persevered here, living off of the land and rivers.

The Word, Ivenia Brown Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

The Word, Ivenia Brown Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: Your portraits have a lived-in quality.  Yet, having grown up in rural Pennsylvania, you are an outsider to this community.  How did you approach the subjects of your photographs?  “Tom & Tommy, Prices Bridge Road” and “Rob & Ricky, Near Martins Landing” in particular feel like people you know or were mid-conversation with when you set up your camera.

ED: I had lived in the Lowcountry for about six years at the point that I made these images.  The landscape and the way of life had initially drawn me to the South.  I felt very comfortable with it, yet at the same time, in a constant state of awe.  Focusing on this series, I allowed myself the time and solitary peace to traverse the roads and waterways throughout this region for hours on end.  I often met folks by happenstance and we would often converse for long periods of time.  In the example of Tom and Tommy, I had passed Tom’s house three or four times very slowly, taking in the landscape, and eventually he stopped me and asked if he could help.  I explained who I was and what I was doing, and he invited me in to see his framed photo within a newspaper clipping about a local barbeque chicken cook-off.  We talked for a while with a couple of his friends, including Tommy, and they asked me to take a photo of them with their barbeque cooker and confederate flags, which I did.  We later made the image down on the dock that is in the book.

Rob and Ricky came flying into a river landing in their pick-up truck, spitting gravel everywhere, and came to a halt about 15 yards from where I was set up to make a photograph.  They jumped out of the truck and proceeded directly into the swamp near by.  I continued about my business, and soon looked up to see Ricky calling to me to let me know that they were going to fire off some guns.  I waved to him, packed up my things, and headed into the swamp.  They were shooting at tree stumps.  We talked for a little while, and they agreed to make the photo that’s in the book.

I sometimes had longer relationships with some of the folks I photographed, seeing them on different occasions as I drove through the area.

Rob & Ricky, Near Martins Landing, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Rob & Ricky, Near Martins Landing, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: The book contains 3 poems, one of which was written by your father.  What is your relation to the other 2 authors and why did you decide to include these throughout the book?

ED: Brianna Stello is a friend of mine from Charleston, South Carolina, who is also a photographer.  I had read some of her poetry years prior to making the book, and when the time came, I sent her some of my images and asked her if she would be interested in writing something to pair with them.

Dr. E. Moore Quinn wrote an essay that is included in the book.  She was one of my Anthropology professors when I was an undergraduate, and continues to be a great friend.  She had shared my work with her friend, poet Jerri Chaplin, and Jerri wrote a piece to accompany my photographs as well.

I found the writings to help expand the reading of the photographs.

 

SM: I definitely see the Alec Soth and Joel Sternfeld influences in your work.  They are big influences of mine as well.  What other artists were you looking at in relation to this specific body of work?  The South is so steeped in incredible writers and musicians- did that offer inspiration?

ED: William Christenberry, Richard Misrach, and Stephen Shore were a few other photographers I was interested in at the time, and still am.  I would have to say photobooks were my biggest inspiration during the time I was making this work.  All sorts of photobooks, I just gobble them up.  I am a big music fan as well, and my taste in music is much like my taste in photobooks, it runs the gamut.  Although it would have been a great time to draw inspiration from music while in the car, traveling through the landscape, but I chose to instead mostly listen to NPR and chew sunflower seeds.

Carew Rice Painting,  Back of Old Drive-In Screen, Highway 63, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Carew Rice Painting, Back of Old Drive-In Screen, Highway 63, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: Let’s talk about photo book publishing.  Roads Ends in Water is self-published, right?  And what influenced the decision to make a book?  Did you always envision this project as a book?

ED: Yes, it is self-published.  I find photobooks to provide a viewing experience much different from a gallery setting.  Often a photobook is enjoyed in a quiet, private, and comfortable space, giving the reader the capacity to fully engage with the work.  It also lends to the narrative nicely, which can help endow the work with new meaning.  I did always envision this work as a book, even before I knew how the work was going to turn out.  The self-publishing process was something I was researching during the entire time I was photographing the area.  Not only does the photobook provide a more intimate viewing experience, but it also helps me to get the work out to  a larger audience than I can solely through exhibition.

 

SM: Is Saga Publishing your own brand, like Alec Soth’s Little Brown Mushroom?

ED: Yes, Saga Publishing is my own brand.  I came up with it at about two in the morning when I was trying to finish a mock-up in time to take to a photo conference.  It seemed fitting at the time.

Marietta & Jim, Wimbee Creek Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Marietta & Jim, Wimbee Creek Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: How did you raise the funds to publish 1000 copies?

ED: My Grandmother helped me to fund the printing of the book.  This is only one of many reasons the book is dedicated to her.  She is a great woman.

 

SM: In our past conversations, we talked a bit about the inevitable mishaps that seem to occur with every printing experience.  The advice is always to be on-press, but for me it was so expensive to make the book at all that the additional cost to travel to press wasn’t affordable.  What was your experience with printing with a press in Iceland?

ED: I wanted to travel to Iceland to see the book coming off the press more than anything.  I tried to come up with a way I could make it over there, but alas, I was in my last quarter of graduate school, and had several things to pull together in addition to the book.  Oddi, the Icelandic printing company I worked with, was terrific.  They sent me a physical proof to study, and after that was signed off on, they then sent me a digital proof just to make sure everything was laid out and ordered the way it was supposed to be.  Typically, they would send two physical proofs, but because of my time restraints, they sent one physical, and one digital.  They sent me some advanced copies in time for my book release and thesis exhibition, and the rest showed up on a pallet a few weeks later.  They have a representative here in the States that helps to translate the job to the printing house in Iceland.  Everything went smoothly.

Rouse, Bennetts Point Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Rouse, Bennetts Point Road, Photo by Eliot Dudik

 

SM: We’re both adjunct photo professors.  I remember being an undergrad photo students and always wishing there was more real-world advice for how to get your foot in the door in any area of the photo world.  It’s the same thing I hear from my students now, which I make a point of devoting at least a whole class to answering those kinds of questions.  What is the best advice you give your students?

ED: I treat all of my students as artists, and hold them to the same expectations they will encounter after graduating.  I discuss marketing strategies with them in every class.  I encourage, and sometimes require submissions to publications, calls for entry, juried and solo exhibitions, internships and apprenticeships.  Most importantly, in my opinion, I encourage them to, and mentor them through attending events and conferences like the Society for Photographic Education.  I find these kinds of events to be invaluable for emerging artists for a number of reasons, but especially for the networking possibilities.  I think we had 12 students or so attend the SPE conference in Chicago last year, and I think they would agree that the experience was remarkable.

 

SM: What are you working on now and do you see it as a continuation of or departure from the themes or methods of working that you established for yourself in Road Ends in Water?

ED: I recently began working on a new project that explores the American Civil War, especially as it exists in our consciousness today.  Fortunately, this work is coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.  There are a few different components to this project so far.  I am creating landscapes of battlefields, both well known and obscure, with an 8×20 inch view camera.  However, instead of using black and white film within this camera, I am using two sheets of color 8×10 inch film.  This creates a separation in the image, which I am quite fond of, and lends to all sorts of symbolism.  I am also traveling to reenactments to capture the essence of war among some of these battlefields.  Additionally, I have begun the portrait component of this project this past weekend at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  I am very excited about these.  They are quite unique in their construction, and I think they will lend nicely toward my interests in the cyclical nature of repeatedly reproducing such a bloody war.  I am also collecting sounds as I move through these landscapes and episodes that will permeate the photographs.

I would think this new project is somewhat of a departure from Road Ends in Water in technique and construction, but in many ways its also a continuation.  I think it retains the sense of a journey, an investigation into life, death, conflict, and varying perspectives on an important subject.  Although the equipment I am currently using to interact with the landscape is different, I am still working by the same principals: see, feel, think, create.

 

Battle of Antietam, Maryland, 2013, Photo by Eliot Dudik

Battle of Antietam, Maryland, 2013, Photo by Eliot Dudik

SM: And lastly, what’s your ideal summer day?

ED: Ideally:  Air conditioning, coffee, images, music, ham and cheese on rye, loved one/s, cards or darts.

 

To purchase a copy of “Road Ends in Water” please visit http://eliotdudik.com/ and click on “Book.”

In Tribute: Sarah Charlesworth (1947-2013)

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
Photo by Matthew C. Lange and Nick Shepard

Photo by Matthew C. Lange and Nick Shepard

Sarah Charlesworth left us a week ago today. I didn’t plan on beginning my run as CCNY’s guest blogger on such an unexpectedly sad note, but here we are. I guess I should start by saying that I had the great honor of having Sarah as my thesis crit teacher at SVA’s MFA Photography, Video, & Related Media program from Fall 2010 till graduation in May 2011. Over the past seven days, I’ve shared a lot of somber and loving texts with my fellow crit members and read every tribute to Ms. Charlesworth that I can find online. These articles tell of Sarah’s amazing accomplishments as an artist and speak of her as a loving mom and good friend. What also get mentioned, but not nearly given as much attention as I think it deserves, is Sarah’s role as a teacher and mentor and her devotion to her students. Matthew C. Lange, my friend and former classmate and Sarah’s assistant, said it best: “I think that the influence she had on younger artists was not only a large part of the legacy she always wanted to leave behind, but also an important part of her practice.”

As a teacher, Sarah had a reputation among the students for being tough, and she was. Like a mama bird in a pencil skirt that pushed her babies out of the nest whether they thought they were ready or not. The work being made in our class was all over the map, but somehow she was able to lead us each down our own path. Before grad school, I had trouble finishing projects. I was a terrible editor of my own work. While working in Sarah’s class on my project that would become “May the Road Rise to Meet You,” Sarah once met privately with me and we laid out over 250 small 3×5” photos along the edge 4 big tables. She circled the table a few times, pushing certain photos up into the center of the table, while I followed behind her arguing for certain images that didn’t make the cut. It took us over an hour, but eventually we had a final edit and sequence for the book. Watching her edit and seeing my project come together through her eyes taught me how to tell a story through sequencing. Then, she sat with me helping me tape them together and fold them like an accordion while explaining that she saw this project wherein I followed my dad on his travels as a telephone pole salesman as “eulogizing and celebrating something.” That phrase struck me so much that I wrote it down. I’m looking at it in my notebook now. Boy, she was good. I could go on with more stories, but I’d like to open up the discussion. If you are a former student of Sarah Charlesworth and have something to share, your comments and stories are welcome.

Thank you, Sarah, for giving me and all your students something to eulogize and celebrate.

HISTORY IS NOT THE PAST

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

By Jorge Alberto Perez

For Nona Faustine the restitution of her sense of wholeness as an African American woman and artist manifests in the guise of a restoration of the past, emphasis on guise.  Although we see her marching up the steps of City Hall in Manhattan with nothing on but her white Sunday shoes and a pair of shackles in her left hand…she is not really trying to restore anything. It took me a while to realize it.

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Her on-going photography and installation project Reconstructions is precisely that – reconstructions that attempt to replace something that was lost in the history of Blacks in America.  This should not be confused with an attempt to relive the past through reenactment. Faustine’s images are more like markers that indicate a place, an institution, an event or a person so that with her presence on that spot she does not merely remember them for the sake of remembering, she rewrites a new history for them. There on the steps of City Hall’s Renaissance Revival facade that abuts a slave burial ground or standing on her soap box at the intersection of Water and Wall Streets where a market once trafficked in humans, she is the fearless daughter of them all, the new Venus of Willendorf reborn to reconstruct a history, the ultimate act of fecundity.

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Faustine easily acknowledges the impossibility of getting at what is essential with this task she has set for herself, because to reconstruct a history is an altogether different action than to restore one. Hers is not an attempt to historicize the present but to re-write the past. She did the research, discovered who bought and sold black slaves in colonial New York, and where, and how they were transported in and out of the city. But there is no Aushwitz or Treblinka for the victims of slavery in America despite the common knowledge that an estimated 10-12 million Africans died in the Middle Passage alone, and countless others succumbed to starvation, physical abuse and disease once on these shores. In a way the images function as memorials that she makes herself, one at a time, with her body, the naked truth of its blackness braced against a cold city, reconstructing a narrative where the enslaved has dignity and is not afraid.

http://nonafaustine.virb.com

http://jorgealbertoperez.wordpress.com

www.jorgealbertoperez.com 

 

 

 

THE POSITION OF THE SUBJECT

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

By Jorge Alberto Perez

In Roberto Vietri’s ongoing project, Trabalho, there is a distinctive visual vocabulary in action that is easy to recognize but vague in its message – and I like that. It is not just that individual images are “open-ended” – the project itself is porous. He photographs marks and traces just as fastidiously as places and spaces with the potential to be marked, to have a trace put upon them. Some images are only straight-forwardly documented where in others he has ‘intervened’ with an action to alter the position of the subject – and consequently, how we will see it. In other cases he is the agent of the mark on the surface of the photographic print itself. It becomes difficult to know which is which except with time and very careful looking – which might be precisely the point. Vietri wants us to know and not know what we are seeing, to question what is true and which is, well, less true. He wants to make us aware of the act of looking and how we make meaning – especially when that moment occurs when the image shifts from document to arena for a mark. Like a seamless conversation, each functions as a springboard to the next, and back to a previous one.

 

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http://www.robertovietri.com 

http://jorgealbertoperez.wordpress.com

www.jorgealbertoperez.com 

 

 

 

THE ORIGINAL CHAOS

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

By Jorge Alberto Perez

It is rare to meet an artist with so much talent in so many mediums as Gloria Duque, whose extreme modesty and humility is equally impressive. She is just as comfortable working with you-name-it, a camera, paint, scratchboard, bronze sculpture, or even what any of us might consider trash  - all to satisfy a workaholic drive to interpret her world.  And what an interesting world it is, where permanence feels fragile, and impermanence is palpable, where clouds drop down from the sky heavy as sack of laundry and dollar bills appear to have been dipped in technicolor rainbows. She lives and works in a small apartment in Spanish Harlem in what can only be described as a state of original chaos where only the process of creation matters and materializes endlessly. Obessive, check. Cumpulsive, check.  Talented, check. I have always been fascinated by artistic practice, artists’ studios and the process that feeds artistic hunger.  Duque does not disappoint.  When we first met she mentioned that she can only have one guest at a time in her apartment, so long as one of the two remains standing. I was intrigued.  The explanation went on to include a list of materials covering every surface of her apartment: a democracy of things like…egg shells, branches, chop sticks, corks, wires, rubber bands, candy foil, beans, seeds, pods, feathers, dried orange peels, and lot of completed art works stacked everywhere… I thought she was joking, or at least exaggerating. She wasn’t.  Her apartment is itself an amazing work of art, impossible to take in, overwhelming and yet calming somehow. I sat down (actually we both stood) with her recently to discuss the nature of her work.
Photo by Jorge Alberto Perez

Photo by Jorge Alberto Perez

What is your education/training in?

My training is in architecture and product design.  As per my training, my professors encouraged my unique language of observations and motivated me to think beyond the parameters of any dialogue. Understanding the materials one chooses to work with is the most important thing but not just their potentiality but their ability to fail.  I was challenged by my tutors to solve riddles, to come up with design answers to almost impossible statements (enunciados), to materialize ideas like The House of the South Wind, to be open to interpretation without representation.  During my years in architecture school, I discovered that my hands became more useful tools for expressing ideas than words had previously been.  Anything I could perform with them was a magical transformation of ideas into objects… free or mechanical drawing, model making, ceramics, watercolor and later painting and illustration.

What role does photography play in your artistic practice?

Photography is the most magical aspect of my work, the convergence point where ideas begin to develop.  Taking a picture of something in the world that corresponds to a feeling or notion that is still embryonic is the best way for me to move forward with that idea.  It is the first step in what might be a long series of steps of process leading to a finished artwork. The camera was my first creative tool of choice to see the world differently. I established my first creative dialogue with this medium while studying architecture. It became a pivotal way to create new interpretations and points of view and at the same time it helped me to keep records and tell my stories, for the safekeeping of my history and memory as many others had done before me. Photography, by its very nature is an invitation to explore the world beyond the common and make fluid our perceptions. Digital has also made it possible for me to indulge even more with its instantaneity. I freeze time, virtually as time is/was, and yet I continue the exercise of observation and as images accumulate the storytelling begins, a destiny I seem to have chosen, I relate it, I take it, I retrieve it … later I transform those conversations mediated by the camera into objects, another translation.

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for "Cloud Project"

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for “Cloud Project”

From the Series "Cloud Project" by Gloria Duque

From the Series “Cloud Project” by Gloria Duque

What is your preferred medium?

My preferred medium is objects, so long as they are palpable with my eyes or my skin, perhaps heard or smelled in connection to their visual presentations. To me, they exist to be placed, misplaced, read … or ignored. Taken in account or not, objects simultaneously offer a proposal of possibility and the challenge of three-dimensionalizing them. This challenge has to do with meaning, with reference. Their purpose is changeable, transmutable. There is an unexpected beauty in each of them and in its relationship with its environment, its context.  There are an infinite number of possibilities for the untold significance and impressiveness of each of them. We choose one of their possibilities to transform them into storytellers, messengers of some sort … to provoke a reaction, identify a purpose… a catalyst… a trigger, short or long-lived, who knows. At this point, each object has its own destiny. Objects of desire, I call them. 2D, 3D, B & W, color, palpable by one, two or all of your senses; objects in any sense of the word … as per in the goal to be achieved too … where the object, besides of being what it is, has a purpose … In doing so, something that has no movement of its own, no mind, obtains an intention, it has an objective, a mission. It acquires an imperceptible movement to the eyes and transcendence in other levels. It becomes philosophical in some way.  In my eyes it separates itself from interpretation, individual feelings and imaginings; it becomes a proposer. I call that OBJECTIVITY and it all begins with ideas nascent in the process of image capture.

How many projects are you currently working on?

Do you mean at the actual moment?  Time behaves oddly in my studio. Well, besides designing a living space for some friends, there are a few projects I play with constantly and intermittently. Their scale and the time I can dedicate to them are determined by their gravitational pull, my choice, and the emotions seeking for a place in which to be invested. The smaller projects are currently the most visited.  They are smaller in scale, but not vastness (cloud project, cows, bodies and constellations, mas allá, after dark, joy and despair, I had it, every thing talks to me, twos & ones). The larger projects, the ones that require more of my full attention, efforts and dedication include: architecture of dreams, canvases, Explorations, grafted graffiti, quilts of guilt, ugly is beautiful, filtered visions, seven, güevonadas and the philosophical component of I had it. Most of my series intersect with one another, or overlap at least, or branches out of each other and back together. I can say all my work is part of a web, a fabric, invisible strings in the middle of which I reside.

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for "Bodies and Constellations"

Photo by Gloria Duque, Study for “Bodies and Constellations”

From the Series "Bodies and Constellations" by Gloria Duque

From the Series “Bodies and Constellations” by Gloria Duque

What is your relationship to the materials you use?

I will say extreme. There is no one thing I use that I am not in a deep relationship with. I get immersed into perceptual and verbal conversations with each material I use. We become extensions of each other, and in so doing, we both become storytellers, simultaneously both being the witnesses and that which is witnessed.  We become timeless and time makers, meaning that we fuse past, present and future in one existence were the first two components have more and stronger identifiable characteristics than its unpredictable companion.  No material that I encounter is exempt from being a candidate for use in art.  And I mean anything.  I have many collections of things: rubber bands of every shape, color and size, used tea bags, tangerine peels carved into figural shapes, all kind of metallic wrappers rolled into balls, the list is endless… I rescue, recycle and reuse a lot in my practice.

From the series "Twos & Ones"  by Gloria Duque

From the series “Twos & Ones” by Gloria Duque

How does your home as your studio influence your practice?

My home as my studio… I certainly can say that when I make art I feel at home. Whereas I like austerity, cleanliness and the elegance of minimalism – which currently shows more in my designs and photography, I also love abundance and the generosity of the infinite possibilities of interpretation. I could easily live with both, but the city imposes on me one condition: limited space. I could say, I live within the complexity of my thought process and ideas. Of course, they coexist in harmony and with a structural order inherited from my architectural and design practices and processes … I have my own galaxy, perhaps a complete universe of my own to coexist with.

http://jorgealbertoperez.wordpress.com

www.jorgealbertoperez.com