Saturday, March 12, 2011

Books by Blurb

Well, I finally got my book from Blurb, and I must say I'm a bit disappointed. Their print quality was fine and I got my book in time to present it, however they left 2 entire pages out! Also, they let me know AFTER I had uploaded my PDFs that there were further formatting issues. Overall, not a very efficient site. They'll be hearing from me soon and perhaps I can corrected re-print.
As far as my project is concerned, I'm pleased with the way it turned out. My models were fantastic and, thanks to all those who I mentioned in my previous post, all the lighting and cropping details turned out flawlessly.

As much fun as this project was, I don't see myself continuing it any time soon. The next subject I'd be interested in looking into would be the idea of self image and a more up-to-date examination of how our society places value on perfection. At the moment, I think that will result in a portfolio of self-portraits, but we'll see what inspiration some (fingers crossed!) warmer weather brings. Congratulations to all my classmates on projects well done!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Poetry in Motion

As you know by now, I have sent in my book to have it printed. I'm hoping that paying for expedited shipping has done the trick, but I guess I shall soon find out. Also, to anyone looking to publish, Blurb is a fantastic site to work with. They have step-by-step instructions, templates for every book size, as well as a built-in pre-print file check. A very streamlined operation, so definitely check it out. Also, on the topic of the project, my instructors Julie and Johnny have instructed us to craft, instead of an artist's statement, a haiku that summarizes our project. I am no poet, but here's my attempt:

Peek at glory past.
If only marble mouths could
move, what would they say?

While I was wrapping up this project, I decided to see if what I was doing was original or not. This also gave me the opportunity to draw inspiration from other artists. I ended up finding the photographer Eugenio Recuenco. Biographical information was in short supply, but the professional work done by this Spanish artist is extensive to say the least. He's done high fashion shoots for every major event, magazine, and designer. Don't believe me? Check out the client section of his website.
The obvious difference between Recuenco and myself is that he chooses to depict well-known fairy tales in some of his work. He also chooses a discreet moment of the narrative that is easily identifiable. With recreating statues and portraiture, I didn't really have the need to contextualize the works, as they are already out of context by being in a gallery rather than our mind's eye. Overall, I found Recuenco's work very inspiring, but it didn't lead to any significant artistic breakthroughs for myself. I also found it a little odd that the only work he considered "fine art" was his Untitled. It's interesting that a person with such success would classify their work that way.
In regards to the Kristin Boehm lecture, I was a little underwhelmed. Perhaps it was in the way that she presented, but it didn't sound to me like she had been attempting to network with other artists until well after she had graduated. Having an internship at a summer camp is not something that I would look forward to and not have a post-camp plan. I feel as though Kristin really missed an opportunity to emphasize the importance of networking well before we are faced with the real world.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Don't Get It: Portraiture and Propaganda

Clare Bohrer as a peplos kore.

As my winter term at Lawrence University draws to a close, the final touches are being put on my term project I Don't Get It: Portraiture and Propaganda. This work, which is based on my previous series of photos by the same name, expands the notion of the meaningless nature of decontextualized propaganda. In this 40 page book, I put my favorite 9 portraits on display accompanied by the originals from antiquity. Thus far, I have 8 of the 9 photos taken. Due to one of my models being ill, we had to postpone the shoot multiple times. However, that should be happening within the next two days. Otherwise, I'm completely done formatting book and it's all set to be sent off to Blurb for publishing soon. Also, a quick thank you to Julie and Johnny as well as Ali Scattergood for all their help and guidance with photography.

Just as a teaser, here are a couple of my favorite works from the book. Can't wait to see the final product!

Allison Bjork as an aristocratic Flavian woman.

Collin McCanna as the Apoxymenos.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hold on, I gotta take this...

This week I explored the origins of the World Wide Web through the readings of Jorge Borges, Bill Viola, and Tim Berners-Lee. I was happily perusing their works when I started reading a chapter of Alone Together by Sherry Turkle. I found it difficult to put down and even harder to return to the other readings. Maybe I took to her work so much faster because it addresses the immediate issue of technology and how it takes over our lives or because the possibilities theorized by Berners-Lee have been realized. Whatever the reason, I found Turkle's work to be a train wreck synopsis of our society: our social interactions are too atrocious to watch, but we can't turn our backs on them. I personally find it very disheartening that we are reducing our interactions with people down to words, as opposed to quality time and actions. On the Colbert Report Sherry describes to the satirist the dangers of this new obsession with social media.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sherry Turkle
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

I've been brainstorming a few ways in which to promote my upcoming photo book based on my previous project, I Don't Get It. I'll probably put up some flyers and posters with a propagandistic feel to advertise for the event as well as making a Facebook event. Before any of that happens I need to come up with a better title, but other than that I've chosen my book format and am working on finishing the covers and artist statement. Vivant proficere!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nothin' from Nothin' Leaves Nothin'

I think everyone would agree that a 1,000,000 piece jigsaw puzzle is hard to figure out. You have to put all those tiny intricate pieces together to understand the big picture. Now, imagine the same puzzle, but with a few thousand pieces missing and the remaining pieces scattered around the country. Then you have Ray Johnson. Ray was an enigma, but not like Joseph Beuys or Allan Kaprow. He simply didn't let people into his psyche in its entirety. He would let individuals see different parts of his life occasionally, but he never let anyone far enough in to make any real sense of the big picture that was his persona.
His mail art is what eventually allowed people to network together to try to make sense of his life.  He also did highly impressive collage portraits using silhouettes as well as his performances pieces called (in obvious mockery of Kaprow) "nothings." Overall his pieces were really done for himself rather than for his friends or audiences.
Ray's personality of disregard for his audience is in distinct opposition to a speaker I recently heard, Mary Jane Jacob. Her work, from curatorial to public to philanthropic, is strictly about the audience. Her process for creating begins not with WHAT she wants to create, but WHY she is creating something. She then moves on to find other artists who she can collaborate with to make her work happen, plans the work, and then executes it. Her supreme ability to tap into what a community desires and values in terms of public art has really and truly made all the difference when it comes to her success.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Vaporous Art and Allan Kaprow

As a pioneer of performance art, Allan Kaprow freed art from the white box and marble pedestal of the gallery space. He was able, by making the art the performance (or happening) rather than a permanent physical object, to fight the age old idea of the object as art. Below is a video of a recent recreation of his interactive installation piece, Yard.
I feel that Kaprow has a way of capturing the beauty of simple acts and just bringing them to life. If you don't know what I mean, then you should try looking up some of his instructions on how he performed some of his own Happenings and try them out with a friend. After participating in a recreation of Routine, it's even more clear to me how difficult it is to understand the significance of performance art without the benefit of experiencing the act.
Now, I know that I tend to harp upon the importance of context for art. In fact, context is still very important. However, Kaprow's works are experience-driven and personal. He gives the participants guidance, but then sets them loose to shape their interaction with the piece. In this way, Kaprow writes off the need of political, social, or historical context because each individual possesses their own context.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

But is it Art?

I must say that, like many people, I do not quite understand the work of Joseph Beuys. Like any other artistic movement, it needs to be explained within a certain context or given relevancy before the viewer can comprehend it. Perhaps the difficulty I'm experiencing is because we are so far removed from his time or maybe that Beuys chose subjects, displays, and actions that are difficult to interpret. Whatever the case may be, I find his art very difficult to discuss simply because it is so baffling. Therefore, instead of talking about it, here is a video of an installment that Beuys did by living in a room with a coyote.
No matter how hard it is to grapple with Beuys's art, I can still draw a few parallels to my own work. Within my project I Don't Get It, there is an undercurrent of confusion. If the context is not understood, the art cannot be completely understood. Perhaps that is part of my issue with comprehending Beuys and his works.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Herzog and I

After watching Stroszek in its entirety, I have realized that Werner Herzog and I are almost artistically polar opposites. Herzog uses the genuine nature of the people he encounters as his inspiration. He takes a material and crafts the most natural form from it. I am, for all intents and purposes, the antithesis of Herzog. My current project, I Don't Get It: Portraiture and Propaganda, is all about fabricating a situation and a character. Even my fabrications are based on fabrications. My work further abstracts from an already abridged image of a person. I create the setting, select the props, and tell my models how to pose. They may as well be fleshy coatracks. Herzog and I seem to have the same mission: to recreate a believable image. However, it's much easier to assume an expression for the amount of time it takes to take a picture than for a two hour film.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ecstatic Reality

When someone says "craftsman", the image that comes to mind is that of a carpenter, metalworker, or the painters and sculptors of the Renaissance. Werner Herzog, a well-known German filmmaker, doesn't necessarily fall into our notion of a craftsman. After viewing portions of his work Stroszek, I feel that the title of craftsman is, in fact, quite befitting for him. Craftsmen master a medium, work with (not against) their materials, and still push the material to its limit. Very similar to Michelangelo's famous quote about freeing the figure from the marble, Herzog casts his films not based on acting ability, but rather on real life experience and the applicability of a personality to his plot line. One prime example of this practice would be Herzog's employment of one Bruno S. After enduring an emotionally and physically abusive childhood and spending the majority of his life in psychiatric hosptials, this good hearted street musician brought the reality of his suffering and struggle to his on-screen persona. I love this practice of Herzog's because it means that fabricated personalities are rare in his work.
Another aspect of Herzog's artistic personality that I greatly appreciated came up in Herzog on Herzog, a book by Herzog and edited by Paul Cronin. Werner goes to great lengths to explain his influences and contextualizes his work. This leaves no wiggle room for interpretation, but also ensures that the intended message of the film remains intact.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Factory Factory: The Over-Production of Images

How many times have you seen an image of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, the Parthenon, or Michelangelo's Creation of Adam? Probably too many times to count. We all know that these are historically important works of art, but HOW do we know this? Is it because we realize the full gravity and impact their productions had on the world? Or is it simply because we have been told that they are significant?
American Gothic by Grant Wood. You know this work, but why do you know it?

Along that vein, does the ready access to reproductions of these works cheapen their significance? I honestly feel that sheer number of copies of such famous works, although being great for spreading the availability to viewers, also dulls some of their impact. Instead of picking up on the subtleties of the piece, we glaze over. I've seen this a million times already. Geez. With the spread of media and the advent of Web 2.0, it is easier than ever to view almost anything and everything worldwide. The main issue I have is the complete removal of the work from its original context. And, as a consequence, we become blind to the intended function and significance of the works.
For centuries, artists have been using the idea of assistants and workshops to produce high-demand items in a timely fashion. On top of that, artists have almost always produced as a means of making money. Essentially from the ancient world on, artists and guilds would accept the task of completing a commissioned piece. In a modern setting, you have artists like Andy Warhol with his Factory, Lady Gaga with her Haus of Gaga, and Jeff Koons all had or have teams (upwards of 100 people, in Koons's case) working with them. Of course all artists working on such a scale as to require a workshop are looking to make a profit from their work. It just seems of late that there is dual saturation. There is the immediacy of an online or print (newspaper or magazine) reproduction of works. On top of that, artists are making multiples of these works in various sizes, colors, and media. Is the work we create now bound to the same fate as the great art and artists of the past? Or can we find a way to preserve the artist's (or patron's) intent in conjunction with the image?
The Capitoline Wolf 13th Century. How many of you see the reference to the Roman foundation myth?

These are some of the topics I hope to address in this blog. I'm still grappling with how, or if, this basic concept of keeping art contextualized and preserving its meaning is possible in the world today.