painting with light

Artists I Like- J. M. W. Turner

I first became aware of the power of art when I was in my early twenties. Prior to that, I of course had seen art before, but I had never thought much about it. But when I started taking art and music history classes, I began to realize that a sculpture wasn't just an inanimate 3D object, a building wasn't just a form that provided shelter, a musical piece wasn't just a bunch of notes strung together, and a painting wasn't just a canvas with paint on it. The idea that an artwork could contain an entire universe of thought and meaning was a revelation to me, and I dove with great enthusiasm into exploring as many different types and eras of art as I could in order to learn more. It's been interesting to see which artists have risen to the top of my own personal list of favorites over the years. One of the painters who rocketed to the top and has stayed there is 19th Century English landscape painter and printmaker J. M. W. Turner. Looking at his seascapes, in particular, is like listening to a Beethoven symphony.

Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps

No one else used paint the way he did at that time. Very few painters saw and conveyed light in the way he did. His paintings exude energy and vibrancy- they are almost alive in their shimmering atmospheric presence. Many of his paintings contain historical references, both ancient and contemporary to his time, but in ways that are visually atypical for a 19th Century painter.

Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway

I have been thinking a lot about his work recently because a film, "Mr. Turner", has come out that has Turner as its main character and which has been recommended to me by many friends. (Note to self: Put that on my list of films to see when it comes to town...)

The New York Times published a review of the film by critic A. O. Scott, the last three sentences of which perfectly sum up one of the reasons that I make art:

"By the end [of the film], we may not be able to summarize Turner's life, explain his paintings or pass a midterm on British history. But we may find that our knowledge of all those things has deepened, and the compass by which we measure our own experience has grown wider. Only art can do that, and it may be all that art can do."

And isn't that amazing??!! That an art object can lead to that kind of self-knowledge??!! It's that kind of knowledge that not only enriches us, but that can lead us to act, and therefore live more meaningful lives. Any artist whose work can do that for others is worth knowing about. And because your work has done that for me, I thank you, Mr. Turner.

Death on a Pale Horse

Seeing With Photography Collective

The recently-closed show at Prairie Gallery in Cincinnati showed work by the Seeing With Photography Collective. This is a group of photographers based in New York City who are either visually impaired, sighted, or totally blind. Their work is powerful in that it uses painting with light techniques to effectively create metaphorical meaning. jessica_with_lens I really like the fact that their work is so collaborative. Whether in color or black and white, this is work that is well worth seeing.

Art & Science- Caleb Charland

Caleb Charland is a photographer whose images inspire awe and wonder, particularly when you realize that all of his images are multiple exposures shot on film and then printed straight. Photoshop is not used in the creation of these puppies, which makes them even more amazing. calebcharland00In an excerpt from an interview, he explains his process: "Silhouette With Matches (see left) was a simple process of multiple exposure. I shoot all my work with a view camera on 4x5 film. Basically, I took one exposure during the day for the background, then one at night while lighting and tossing the matches. This process left the outline of my body without the use of Photoshop."


Charland's pictures are magical, taking me back to a time when I would make science fair projects in elementary school. Most of the time, I didn't really care if the project worked out, I just wanted to play with the stuff I was using to make the project with. Most often, that "stuff" had to do with matches and flashlights and things that moved through space.

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But they are also metaphorical, such as Footprints with Matches (see below). This image implies as much as it tells, and leaves this viewer thinking about how much damage mankind has left behind in its frenzy to build and develop the land. Technically brilliant, visually arresting, and wonderfully thought-provoking, Caleb Charland is a photographer to watch. matches



Art & Science- Niko Luoma

I've always been interested in the connection between art and science. I sometimes wonder if they aren't really one and the same, just different ways to understanding this universe we inhabit. The photographs of Niko Luoma refer to math, geometry, light (i.e. physics), and end up creating a magical universe that exists only on the photographic paper he prints on. He works with traditional analog photographic materials, making hundreds of exposures on one negative. The control he has over his materials is amazing.

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He says about his work: "My material is light. The work focuses on energy rather than matter. My work is about the process as much as about the result. ...Working only with light and light sensitive materials, I am fascinated by the fact that this process leaves nothing behind- no debris, no ruin- just an exposed negative."

Here's my favorite image of his to date:

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