Archives for the month of: September, 2007

Check back soon for my famous pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe…

Wow, it is some week for me, one of my favorite images is featured a today at www.flakphoto.com

There is some great work on Flak right now, I am especially impressed with Mickey’s Smith’s “Volume” series. I guess partly because Abelardo Morell’s “Books” (www.abelardomorell.net) is one of my favorite bodies of work, I really responded to the project. While it certainly references Morell, Smith’s relationship of text to the visual, and eye is so different, the work is really fresh. And they are just quite beautiful to look at… He is definitely one of the current crop of Midwest talents.

www.mickeysmithart.com/index.htm

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From “Books”

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The universe seems to be trying to tell me something today. I have been working hard (ok – really, really, really hard) on getting my photography career going and today I got some news that means I have to wait a little longer. So I was in a local art supply spending more money on supplies for my portfolio, when a very nice woman approached me and asked me, (as I had bag in hand) if I had just come from Alkit. I won’t bore with the specifics, but it turns out she had another career and saved up & quit to try and figure out the photo thing. At one point she asked me straight out, “Can you support yourself doing fine-art photography?” She had decided that being a professional photographer was not for her, that by doing it for a job, her love of it would be destroyed. It struck a chord with me in many ways.

Somehow, I am just getting around to reading John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing.” I am up to the chapter on oil painting and the rise of art as commerce. In it he talks about the multiple function of the oil painting, that they are objects depicting objects. And how the rise of the middle class created the art market we have today. Berger says: “What are these paintings? Before they are anything else, they are objects which can be bought and sold. Unique objects. A patron cannot be surrounded by music or poems in the same way as he is surrounded by his pictures ”

As an artist today, you cannot escape the reality that your work must be marketable. If you want to be able to make work, you the need support of market. You need to earn a living from commissions and from selling work at shows. Or you must be lucky enough to have a large trust fund, or find a job that will allow you freedom and time to do your work. I think these are not easy choices. I know that my work thus far has all been spurred by desires within me to confront and explore an issue that incredibly important to me. Making personal work for any other motive seems certain create more banal, mediocre and uninspiring work. I know it’s a bad sign when PDN magazine devotes an issue to breaking into the fine-art industry. I’ll leave up it to John Baldessari to sum up:

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Well, I am excited to say one of the images from my “Objects of Beauty” series was featured on Conscientious. Joerg’s blog is full of interesting work and a cornucopia of photo related stuff. For one month of being online, I feel great to already be a part of the online community. And, Joerg is especially sweet for forgiving me for getting his name wrong. I never do things like that, and of course the one time I do, it is to someone who keeps having it happen to him. (http://www.jmcolberg.com/weblog/2007/09/should_i_just_give_up.html) I vow to spread the correct spelling of his name all over the internet – I invite you to join my fight. 

http://www.jmcolberg.com/weblog/

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I am always trying to find a way to get more vegetables in diet, this seems like an especially yummy way to do it.

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http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2007/09/a_piece_of.html

Chocolate & Zucchini Cake

- 1 1/2 C (180 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 C (60 g) whole wheat flour (of course, you can just use 2 C / 240 g all-purpose flour, I was just trying to be good)
- 1/2 C (40 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 C (110 g) butter, softened
- 1 C (160 g) light brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp instant coffee granules (the Nescafé type, the stronger the better)
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 C zucchini, unpeeled, grated (about 280 g, two medium)
- 1 C (170 g) chocolate chips

Topping :
- 40 g light brown sugar
- 1/2 C (70 g) hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

(Serves 10.)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Grease a 3 quart (3 L) springform cake pan, and flour it or sprinkle with cocoa powder : this is to help the cake unmold easily, especially if you’re not using a magic non-stick pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In your food processor, combine the sugar and butter, and mix until fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and espresso powder, then the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition.

Spoon in the flour mixture, reserving the last half-cup of it. Mix thoroughly, the batter will be thick.

Add the grated zucchini and the chocolate chips to the reserved flour mixture, and toss to coat. Fold in the batter, and blend thoroughly, it’s fun. Pour into the prepared cake pan, and flatten the surface with a spatula.

In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients, and sprinkle all over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Turn out on a rack to cool for half an hour, then unmold.

http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2004/04/chocolate_zucchini_cake.php

Another great site for yummy things is http://cupcakeblog.com/

What I like most about the cupcake blog, is the photography. The lighting and framing is creative and unexpected. Most food shots tend to be kind of the same, no offense to food photogs (there are some great ones out there.) I actually think some of the food blogs have better images than many over-produced magazines – the exception being Gourmet.

There is so much imagery in the world these days, much of it very good, it makes me consider what it takes to be a visual artist now. I think depending on your visual aesthetic and acumen is not enough, anyone with a good eye for color and basic tech sense can get pretty great images with a good digital camera, good light and good subject matter. The only way to elevate your work is through conceptual framework. But again, there is a lot of exceedingly well shot and conceptually valid work out there, that is where punctum comes in for me. While my understanding of it is slightly different than Roland Barthes, I know I respond more to work that hits me deeper. It is often hard to describe how or why some images hit or miss, and I certainly do not think all images need to function this way. Photographs must have a lot of things going for them, to make them go from good to sublime.

Some shots from the Cupcake Blog.

Blueberry Cupcake


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I just came across a write up for a show in Munich at Monika Sprüth Philomene Magers, UNEASY ANGEL / IMAGINE LOS ANGELES: An Exhibition on Intersections Between Reality and Fiction. It features a line up of some great and interesting conceptual artists including John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, and Doug Aitken. What caught my attention was new work by feminist artist, Barbara Kruger. I love her art for it’s straightforward and clever manipulation of found images. She definitely understands how media culture uses women as commodities while targeting them as consumers. Her use of whimsy and humor, while tackling serious and controversial subjects is wonderful. I also admire the way her earlier collages play with the relationship between the language and images.

I notice that her new work tackles consumer culture and how women are pressured to spend money on their appearance. The language is more direct and I wonder if these are as strong as the other work. Working in this format, it is a challenge to balance political content with visual expression. “Feminist Art” often struggles from being swept into a corner. It is only relatable to a small audience. I like the idea of work that can resonate with a specific audience but also speak to others. When doing work that deals with social or political ideas, it seems like artists must work much harder to balance form and content. I recently had to re-write my statement for my new website and I found to very difficult to balance the two. For more info on the exhibit visit the galleries site:

www.spruethmagers.com

Some of my faves of Kruger’s

Knowledge is Power

Not Ugly Enough

Your Body is a Battleground

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Some of Kruger’s new work from the Munich show

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Face It Green

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Face It Yellow

Recently, I have had the chance to take a closer look at Robert Polidori’s Katrina work. After the Flood, is a remarkable body of work. It’s scope and visual potency is remarkable. Not only are the images unremittingly beautiful, the devastation it document’s, paints a picture of the consequences of mother’s nature’s wrath. It is easy to see how the work has become an environmental statement. Like his Chernobyl work, After the Flood, portrays a post-apocalyptic world, devoid of humanity, where only the vestiges of human endeavor remain. Polidori is giving us a concrete and heightened view of the results of what we have sowed. I know there has been some controversy over the lack of people in his images, but I think with portraits the work would lose its strength. The lack of human presence provokes us to think that if we continue on our path, there may no longer be people to photograph. It is a cautionary tale, to borrow from the literary. Polidori brings up the issue of how we are treating our planet using a very particular visual language.

In contrast is Joel Sternfeld’s last body of work, Sweet Earth. Sternfeld is also very much concerned with the state of our planet, but his uses very different language. His work usually is realized on the most subtle and reductive level. (no small feat) The images often hang on a tiny detail, that points to the idea that we are universally human. Sweet Earth attempts to rouse us from our consumption driven lives by offering a view into the strange worlds created inside of our own of Utopian communities. There is something about their sacrifice and commitment, and the futility of their efforts, which makes us question our own mindless habits of modernity.

I do not think either approach better, or more effective, what makes art and photography a wonderful medium is each person’s ability to express their individual voice. I am sure different people respond more or less to either body of work depending on their own sensibilities. But both are very important, especially at this crucial time in the world.

After The Flood

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Sweet Earth

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9/11 – Remembering one off FDNY’s finest.

Manny Del Valle, one of the first people who helped me believe I could be a photographer, even a very small way. On this day I just wanted to honor his life, even though I only knew him very briefly.  It was my first B&W photo class at SVA’s continuing education, and when I saw an old building burning during a blizzard by my house I ran out with my Nikon 35mm.  But I was too shy to take pictures.  If Manny had not come over, eating a chocolate chip cookie in the middle of a 3 alarm blaze and asked me to take photo’s of his crew, I would not have felt the courage to take photos that day.  When they used those photo’s for his missing poster after Sept. 11th, and I saw them all over the city, I understood how a photograph can have a life and meaning far beyond its first intention.

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Today I launched my website. It has been a long road to get here. This summer has been an endless stretch of scanning, dusting, color correcting, printing and reprinting for my portfolio and the minutia of designing my site. It has made me think about how much of an artist’s time is spent on post-production. In fact, as hard as I worked on making my images, I have worked equally hard on all of this. But by looking at my images in this context, I have developed a healthy distance from them. I am now able to both critical and positive. While creating them, I am completely unable to separate myself from the work – I can be harsh. But having time to work with them, as outside objects, gives me the necessary time and distance to evaluate them in a more productive way.

It has also made me consider the process and work of artists that relies on post-production or is process-driven. I have tried to imagine the experience of creating the image not in the camera but later? I am printing digital and using photoshop, but my image is still made, or not made, in camera. But there are many artists whose process continues or begins after the image is made. Gregory Crewdson’s last show was a good example of this kind of work. While the work was exceptionally crafted, there was something about the ‘created reality’ of the image that was not reconciled for me. While there are many artists who make great conceptional work that explores ‘process’ as its subject, there does seem to be work out there that seems caught up in conceptual ideas, or exploration of medium. I will admit to having a bias for work that has some emotional meat, but I open to how someone gets there. There is a very delicate balance bet thinking about making work, making work, and making something of your work, I am still trying to find my way.

Gregory Crewdson

Image from the last Crewdson show, wonderful to look at for sure…
Gursky

Gursky is the forefather and king of photo-manipulation. He somehow makes use of post-production to make us question our culture, our habits, sensory perception….

Jeff Wall

Jeff Wall in his best work, stretches the bounds of a photograph to fit his own historic and conceptual framework, but the result is magic and translates both on the highest and most simplistic level.

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And then there is Wolfgang Tillmans, who I often don’t quite get, but he seems to always be interesting and able to make a photograph out of anything.

Well, after days and days of toil I finally managed to upload an

image. I figured I’d start with one of my own images and then

start in on other people’s work. It’s an exciting time in gallery world,

I think there are more openings this week then any one person could

want or try to attend. I will hopefully be heading out there tonight

and have more to report later. For a list of openings, head to:

http://www.artcal.net/openings/week

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