Monday, May 21, 2007

Tamarack Photography Exhibit, up through July 8th

Sorry for the delay, but my iMac's hard drive decided to rewrite itself in a most inconvenient way. My computer is back up and running as am I. Yesterday, I attended the opening reception for opening of the West Virginia's Photography exhibit at Tamarack. It'll be up through July 8th, so if you are nearby, please go see it.

The gallery director, Karen Lilly, has done a fantastic job in setting up the show, an exhibit that does a nice job of showing the wide-ranging interests and subjects of West Virginia photographers. Everything from traditional landscapes to digitally manipulated abstracts are represented. Some of my favorite pieces were by Steve Payne, Paul Hartmann, and Paige Dalporto.

Besides the quality of the pieces in the show, I am especially excited about this exhibit since I have more pieces in it than in any other show I've been in. Here are some of the photographs I have on display currently:

This picture is of a traffic mirror I saw in Budapest, Hungary. It was the only photo I took while there that I knew was a keeper.

This photography is why I don't understand people who only take black & white photographs. The colors in this image almost make me ache they are so vibrant and powerful. I really do have a strong physical reaction to this photograph every time I look at it.

This is another example of my fascination with creepy dolls and mannequins. Interestingly, there are many who look at this picture and see the doll as cute or nostalgic. It gives me nightmares, but in a good way.

This might be the photo I've taken that I like the most. Hardly anyone else has liked this image as much as I do, but I feel like I stumbled up this great tableau or still life and really like the composition of the shot. Artistic prerogative I guess.

I found this scene on a beach in Menton, France, and it spoke to me on many subliminal levels. The creepiness of the face mask, reminiscent of a death mask with the broken glass eyes, really begged me to shoot it. I obliged. I like the very limited color palate of the scene as well.

This is a crop of a picture I took of an old manual typewriter. I have taken many pictures of this typewriter, but none I was happier with. The rows of metal arms looking like a row of teeth give the typewriter a real personality.

This scene is from a VW junkyard north of Parkersburg, WV. I was very excited when we stumbled onto the scene and planned to take many, many photos and sort them out later. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera died about 10 shots into the shoot. I put in my back up batteries and they were already dead. *sigh* I plan to stop again on my next trip to Columbus. I love the colors of the yellow and green bugs, so vibrant next to the rust of the ramshackle hulks.

Please let me know what you think of any of these photos. If you get a chance, be sure to stop at Tamarack too. Thank you and take care.


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Artistic Statement Response

Matt Morris responded to my Artistic Statement post with some interesting comments. I'll go ahead and quote them in full:

"Good to know your artistic vision. I wonder if you could comment on the reason you take photos, what you want to give your audience, what you want the viewer to come away with."

Interesting questions, questions whose simplicity mask the difficulty I have in answering them. I thought I would take the opportunity of this post to publicly struggle with them. I'll post a sample picture to use as a concrete example of one of my photos to anchor the discussion.

Here is another photo I took at the University of Charleston, one of a series I took in their practice lab for the nursing program. I call this picture "Patient X3"

Taking Matt's questions one at a time, it's hard for me to answer the generic question "why do you take photos?" because it's just an urge that I'm not sure is analyzable. I see certain images and know that I want to save them. I can't draw or paint, so the camera as the most democratic of all art tools is my only option.

A corollary to that question though, and one that is only slightly more answerable, is "why did you take *this* picture?" What is it that drew me to this room full of mannequins dressed up like hospital patients? I remember walking down the hallway, going to teach a class when out of the corner of my eye, I saw this hospitalized dummy staring at me with those dead eyes and I felt a chill run through my body. It was a very eerie image just glimpsed with my peripheral vision. This is how I often find my best pictures, from the edge of my vision, unexpected and unbidden. Why I feel drawn to creepy, disturbing images is a topic for another post, but I think that these unsettling images speak volumes about cultural taboos and what we hide from ourselves as a society. That unfocused eeriness--it's only a mannequin in a bed, why should it be so disturbing?--is what drew me to this image.

I'll take Matt's second and third questions as one since they ultimately deal with the relationship of the artist and the viewer. What do I hope to communicate with the viewer and what do I want them to take away from this image? In an certain way, I never think about the viewer when I'm taking a photograph, unless you count me as a viewer. I take pictures of images that I'm drawn to, so I guess an unspoken assumption behind my approach is that others will have a similar pull towards these images and a similar interest in exploring the disturbing and creepy.

What do I want them to take away? I have to say, this is another issue that seldom enters my mind in a conscious way. Partly this is because it touches on a very vexing postmodern dilemma. If as Barthes, Foucault and others say, the author (or artist generally) is dead, then what position is that creator in to dictate what the audience takes away from the artwork? As I've already said, I'm not always able to fully articulate what message or meaning *I* take away from this image, so in a world where the viewer/reader is fully in charge of finding meaning in/from art, how am I going to be able to communicate my "take-home message" to people who look at this photograph? I would love to hear how others view this image. One of the best things about art photography for me is how many different ways viewers can react to it. So I find Matt's questions both interesting and frustrating because like most good questions, I don't have a definitive answer. The discussions, the back and forth, is all we have. Take care.