Artists I Like

Same Object - Different Uses

If you give each of 5 different artists the exact same object to use in her/his work, you are guaranteed to get 5 different results. I've always been interested in this idea. Take for example, band-aids. I recently saw this picture by Eric Klemm, which used a lot of band-aids: "Laura"


What I see in this picture is vulnerability, sadness, a fierce barrier that has been put up between the world and this child. The fact that the application of the band-aids was so deliberate and purposeful makes it the antithesis of playful. They work as a defense against some unseen threat, and imply impending injury of some kind to me.




Compare the use of the band-aids in that photo to one that I took, which is from the "Shadowing the Gene Pool" series:

"Muscle Girl"

In this picture, the band-aids serve quite a different purpose. Rather than being a barrier, they are used almost like tattoos, markers of power and strength. The body English of the little girl adds to that effect. They say, "Yes, I am vulnerable, but that's irrelevant."

I'm sure if I searched the Web for "children with band-aids" I would find countless pictures which would use the band-aids to express different things. That's why no photographer should ever shy away from photographing anything. It's not WHAT you photograph, it's HOW you photograph it that will make it fresh and exciting- or not.

Artists I Like- Timothy Archibald

Timothy Archibald is another artist I've discovered in Art Photo Index's (API) new online exhibition titled "Fear & Loathing", which was curated by Katherine Ware, Curator of Photography at the New Mexico Museum of Art. Although most of the work on his website is quite humorous in nature (and worth checking out!), Archibald has done a project called Echolilia, a beautifully conceived and executed series of pictures that examines the power and vulnerability of his son Elijah, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5. (Echolilia is also available as a book.) Echolilia is the "automatic repetition of words or phrases just spoken by others", and is often a symptom of autism. The New York Times has published an article that goes into more depth about this project.

For me, the following picture is the perfect expression of this exploration of Elijah's world and of the vulnerability that his father Timothy saw in it:

Timothy Archibald

Humor in Photography- The Tutu Project

A friend of mine sent me a link about The Tutu Project, and I instantly fell in love with these pictures. A project of the Carey Foundation, "The mission of The Tutu Project™ is to support the fund raising efforts of The Carey Foundation for women with breast cancer. We strive to bring laughter and understanding to a community that has endured far too much."Unknown Photographer Bob Carey's wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. Having lost his mother to the disease, Bob needed something to distract him and started to photograph himself in various locations around the world. Working on this project has become a form of therapy for him, and I can see why.

images-1Using lighthearted humor and the visually unexpected (an overweight, middle-aged man dressed only in a pink tutu!?!) are great tools for getting the viewer's attention and prompting them to ask questions about what they are seeing. Add to that Bob's outstanding sense of composition and you have a body of work that is eye-catching and funny/whimsical. Add to that the fact that these photographs are being created for a greater good, and you have a slam-dunk success. images

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.

Artists I Like- Myoung Ho Lee

Sometimes I ask myself why I seem to take the most complex, difficult route towards creating my work. Then I see the work of someone who has also taken a work-intensive route towards their work and I am gratified that I am not alone. Myoung Ho Lee, a Korean artist, created his "Tree" series by constructing a custom-built white panel that is set up behind a tree of his choice, and then photographs the tree and its surrounding environment. This approach requires a team of people and equipment that would stop most people in their tracks before ever getting started. large-mhl-06His pictures confront the viewer with the reality of the tree and its environment, but because the panel separates the tree from it, we are challenged to regard the tree differently than we would if the panel weren't there.tumblr_lzwowdUPxR1rply5po1_500 lmh0501 022 It's an outstanding example of how every single thing in the frame is important. Take away the panel, and the photograph is unremarkable. Include more or less of the surroundings, move the camera closer or further away from the tree, or choose to shoot at a different time of day- make any of those changes and the photograph would be less powerful. These pictures are a great reminder that what we include or exclude in the frame before clicking the shutter, in other words, how we edit the picture BEFORE it is taken, is critically important to the result.

Artists I Like- Francis Schanberger

Looking at the work of Francis Schanberger is like diving into the secrets of the universe. How is it that he can show us something from the natural world that we can see everyday, and yet make us see it with new eyes? The first time I saw this photograph of an apple, I actually thought that he had artificially created some kind of galaxy or star image. It wasn't until my second look that I realized that what I was really seeing was simply an apple. apple001s4That perhaps doesn't come across online, but in real life, this Van Dyke almost pulses with depth and life. Francis is a master of hand-applied emulsions and shares his techniques and methods on his blog. Anyone interested in alternative photographic processes would gain a lot by checking out his work. 617-9635808-7

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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Challenging Yourself

"The challenge for me is to make the painting I don't know how to make." The above quote by painter Frank Herrmann is one that I find incredibly exciting. It's like throwing down the gauntlet in front of yourself, daring yourself to succeed or fail. It's a thought that demands that you be ok with so many of the things that cause artists anxiety:  with not having a clue as to what you are doing, that you might not know how to get to where you want to go, that you might end up with artwork that wasn't what you had initially envisioned, that you are leaping into the unknown without a parachute.

But, as Bart Simpson would say: "Cowabunga!!!!"

Why let our fears hold us back??? Trying to make what you don't know how to make - I'm going to tattoo that on my brain.

Artists I Like- Matej Peljhan

This week's horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon left many people with terrible leg injuries. It left me thinking, among other things, about how those victims will cope into the future with the loss of their limbs. So the issue of physical disabilities and challenges were already on my mind when I discovered today a series of pictures by Metej Peljhan made for a 12 year old boy named Luka who suffers from muscular dystrophy.

Luka longs to do things that are physically beyond him, so Peljhan created photographs that depict him doing those activities, things like playing basketball and breakdancing.prince-5

The beauty of these pictures lies in their simple, low-tech approach, and in their whimsicality.They are utterly honest, and therefore compelling.

They are a good example of how photographs can touch the heart, and of how a little imagination can go a long way.

To see more, to go Peljhan's website.


A Book on Wood Carving

In the March 16th issue of the Economist, I read a review of a new book by woodcarver David Esterly. The title of the book, The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making, immediately caught my eye and the review made me want to read it. Here's the part of the review that spoke to me most: (The book) " a meditation- on "beauty, skill nature, feeling, tradition, sincerity", all now art-world anachronisms, he fears. But above all, it is a song to his medium, the wood itself, its grain, the way it answers to the blade, the conversation to be had with it. "Making" is the word in Mr. Esterly's title, and it is the nub of his book. He is in love with the physicality of his art, the flowing together of hand and brain, of chisel and creativity. The idea that the artist should both master and be mastered by the medium clearly fascinates him.

Lovely! Will have to read it ASAP.

Humor in Photography- Nina Katchadourian

When I first saw the  series by "Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style" series by Nina Katchadourian, I laughed out loud. And they still make me laugh every time I see them. Not many photographs can make me do that, but how can you not?! IMG_4825-lores IMG_4726-lores






Here's how the project started: "While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror using my cellphone. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. I decided to add more images made in this mode and planned to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight. I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory's own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone."

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Here is what I like about these images: Katchadourian looked at an everyday object, saw what it might resemble when photographed, took the nearest camera at hand and went to town. Who says you need high end cameras and fancy sets and tons of lights to make a photograph that has an immediate impact??!! I also like the references to Dutch portrait painting, similar to the work of Hendrik Kerstens. Kerstens and Katchadourian have similar impulses and influences, and it's really intriguing to see how differently they express themselves. The next time you see a painting like "Girl With a Pearl Earring"  (see below) think of them!

Girl With a Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer

The Photographs of Hendrik Kerstens

Simple, eloquent, resonant, complex, fun- all these terms describe the photographs of Dutch photographer Hendrik Kerstens. Whenever I find myself looking at his work, which is often, I am constantly finding new things to enjoy and appreciate.  Hendrik-Kerstens-bag-2009 This photograph of his daughter Paula, whom he photographs a lot, is a good case in point. Technically, the image is brilliant. Well lit, well posed, everything about the way it was set up and shot supports the concept. Anyone familiar with Dutch portrait painting of the 17th century will appreciate the connection he makes to art of that era. At the same time, it is totally contemporary in its use of the plastic shopping bag instead of some kind of fabric, and a simple turtleneck instead of a satin dress.

hbz-march-2013-hendrik-kerstens-comme-de-garcons-deAnother image of Paula finds her in a quite different getup, although the pose, background, and lighting are similar. It would be easy for her to look ridiculous, but she doesn't. I find great humor in Kersten's approach to photography, and love the fresh, crisp look and feel that his images possess. They ask me to consider the relationship of photography to painting, and to think about how photographs can transform everyday objects into something metaphorical. Kerstens doesn't try to hide anything in these photographs and revels in making the ordinary extraordinary.


"Daylight" Books & Magazine

Anyone interested in photography that explores the elusive boundaries between conceptual fine art work and documentary should check out Daylight, which is a "non-profit organization dedicated to publishing art and photography books." Daylight's writers include Kirsten Rian, whose ongoing "Alphabet of Light" articles count among the most eloquent, thoughtful writing on photography that is being done today.

A talented writer/painter/musician/photographer, Rian makes connection between the

Kirsten Rian

photographer, the photograph and our internal and external world in ways that are extraordinary. I always end up feeling like I have learned something new after reading one of her pieces. A gift to the world....

Humor in Photography- Ivo Mayr

It is not easy to make pictures that are humorous. I can count on the fingers of one hand the photographers who have made me laugh out loud when looking at their work. Elliot Erwitt has done it with single images, while Duane Michals has done it using multiple images in a series. German photographer Ivo Mayr does it, too, and in a fresh and exciting way.

What I find humorous about them is that the human being relates to something in her/his surroundings in a way that is either unexpected or imitative- and it's presented visually in such a way that it makes me think/laugh/wonder about it in a way that I never would if the person weren't placed and posed in exactly the way he/she is. All the elements come together perfectly for me in these. Love his work!

Thoughts on How Creative Interests Change Over Time

Having gone to the "Emmet Gowin and His Contemporaries" show up in Dayton recently inspired me to do a little more research on him. I came across an interview with him by Sally Gall (a great photographer in her own right) that appeared in Bombsite magazine back in 1997. When asked by Gall about his transition from family pictures to landscapes, Gowin said: EG: "...I always knew that it wasn’t going to last. You can’t be an artist and have your identity reside in only one thing. The thing that you master will become a stranger to you, and you will outlive it or you will need to live into something else. You will always need to be educating yourself to the complexity of your feelings as they grow, and you don’t want to do something twice, really. Everything that makes you an artist in a sense is the way things are understood; how they fit together in ways that have not been understood before. How can you discover the inherent value that’s hidden in things that you haven’t yet seen? It’s in that sense that you want to do something new. And you know that it’s chance that’s going to put those things together. Only chance can bring together new combinations in a way that is revolutionary. No one ever discovered anything really important intentionally."

SG: "You can’t will it into being."

EG: "If there were no problem there would be no discovery. But also, there has to be the confrontation with something inexplicable, something you didn’t intend to do and that has so much presence you say, “Okay, I don’t expect you to go away, but I don’t know what you’re good for.” Chemistry and the sciences are full of this kind of thing. And that’s what’s underneath the creative life for artists, how to grasp the interrelationships that exist in the world in a way that hasn’t been done before."

EXACTLY! This perfectly expresses my experiences in moving from one project to another over the years. I discover them, or they discover me. Sometimes an idea appears suddenly, seemingly out of the blue. Sometimes I think about an idea for a long time before I do anything about it, and sometimes I tackle it right away.

But there is always an element of unexpected awakening whenever an idea comes to me, a question in my mind as to what to do with it, and a sense of danger inherent in the risk I would undertake if I choose to actually address the idea. It's both exhilarating and scary, all at the same time.

FotoFocus Shows I've Seen- #3

Here are two more FotoFocus shows that I found memorable: "The Evolution of Photo Bookmaking" at the Mercantile Library downtown. This show, curated by author and artist Nancy Howell-Koehler, was a look at the art of the photographic artist's book from the 1970's-2012. It included books that were both commercially and hand-bound, and which ranged from serious to humorous in content. Books by Bea Nettles, Les Krims, Diana Duncan Holmes and Timothy Riordan, Cal Kowal, Nancy Rexroth and Duane Michals were on view, along with those of many others.

Part of what made this show so great was that it was housed in the Mercantile Library. The books were, for the most part, laid out on tables in the center of the library, which made them both accessible and secure.

The walls of the space were of course lined with library books, which made me feel like the exhibition was right at home. Viewers could page through almost all of the books themselves, which does not always happen at artist's books exhibitions.  A real treat!




Another exhibition that was the perfect marriage of location and art was "Light Castings" at Voltage Gallery. Located on the second floor of a contemporary furniture store, this gallery featured photographic installations by Jordan Tate and Anthony Pearson. Although their work is very different, both artists pose questions about the role that reproducible processes play in today's world. Because of this, their work coexisted comfortably throughout the space.


Although a wall separates the gallery space from the store, having to pass through part of the store in order to get to the exhibition set the viewer up for a certain kind of visual experience that did not disappoint.

FotoFocus Shows I've Seen- #2 (Sheilah Wilson)

Another show that made a big impression on me during FotoFocus was "Sheilah Wilson: If Becoming This" at the Herndon Gallery at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH. This exhibit contained a variety of work by the Nova Scotia native, who currently teaches at Denison University. She states that her "...photographic, video, social practice and performance work is interested in narrative and how to create ruptures in our understandings of narrative." That perfectly describes the work in this show. To that, I would add that she is interested in how history and memory are intertwined. One example of that is  "The Invisible Inside the Visible". This piece consists of one photograph, a written piece, and a sound recording. The large aerial color photograph  shows a bit of ocean, the shoreline, and a piece of farmland that has meandering white lines (cow paths) through it. The eye is drawn to another white line, this one a large, regular oval that disappears as it gets close to the shore. This is what remains of a racetrack that used to be there. The written wall plaque explains how Wilson found the racetrack, and on the sound recording, you can hear the voices of  the locals who are describing how she could find it. The combination of sound, writing, and visual evidence compels the viewer to think about the shifting nature of memory, and of how the land itself can be a powerful repository of memory.

Another piece, made for the series "You Are My Favorite Photograph", was the result of a performance that Wilson did when the show opened. Viewers wrote down a significant memory on a piece of paper. Wilson then laid down a piece of traditional light-sensitive photographic paper onto a bed she had installed in the gallery, put the written sheet under it, and slept on them overnight. (Multiple prints from this series are seen below.)

The resulting crinkly print, when developed, revealed mysterious shades and streaks of black, gray and white, which suggest the nebulous nature of memory itself.

I could write far more about other works in this show that were entirely different than the ones described above and just as powerful, but suffice it to say that the work of Sheilah Wilson is inventive, thought-provoking, and entirely alive.

The show is up at the Herndon Gallery until November 16. Go if you can!

FotoFocus Shows I've Seen- #1

Of the over 70 photography exhibitions being shown in Cincinnati and surrounding regions this month, I've been able to see a little over two dozen. Not nearly enough! But with only 24 hours in the day, that's all I've been able to manage. Here is one up in Dayton that I found memorable: "Emmet Gowin and His Contemporaries", at the Dayton Art Institute. Housed in the wide hallways of the lower level of the DAI, viewers first encounter the work of Gowin's influences and contemporaries, including Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Frederick Sommer, Minor White, and others who formed the canon of great, primarily white male photographers of the mid-to-late 20th century. (It should be noted that the work of two women, Linda Connor and Olivia Parker, was also included.)

The first hallway curved around to reveal the work of Gowin himself. One wall had pictures he took of his family during the years they were in Dayton (1967-71). This body of work was one of the first to legitimize one's personal life and family as a legitimate source for subject matter by serious photographers. It paved the way for the work of later photographers such as Bea Nettles and Sally Mann.

The other wall included other types of images Gowin had taken during the Dayton years. This wall also held prints by his DAI students, which was totally unexpected, and which were fascinating in terms of trying to see how much Gowin's style had influenced that of his students.

Just beyond the final images in the hallway, one could watch a moving 20 minute documentary film that included interviews with Gowin and his wife Edith. Made just for this show, it confirmed the impression one gets from his photographs that Gowin is a deeply caring, compassionate person.


Anyone seeking to understand the major impulses of photography in the mid-to-late 20th century, and who wants to learn more about Gowin's work in particular, would not go away from this show disappointed.


Kudos to curator Tracy Longley-Cook who drew all the various threads of the show together to create a powerfully felt experience.