On Blog Exhaustion

It was funny for me to read Joerg Colberg’s recent post on blogs,  I myself have had a half-hearted post about the state of blogs lingering as an unfinished draft for some time. But not surprisingly with my current life, I never got around to posting it. My general feeling about photo blogs has been a bit negative lately–that is not against other people’s blogs, but towards the overly insular and self-contained universe that it created. While I think some incredible things came out of it, and I have made some real friendships, ultimately it was not satisfying the true need I had to be more engaged in the photo process with my peers. In fact, it started to feel like an impediment to my own creative process. The amount of energy and time that was going into Ground Glass, was sucking me a little dry–leaving very little time or energy to make pictures.

However after my recent experience of having a meaningful, engaged dialog with my peers in person, I left re-energized and brimming with ideas. In a way, not blogging has helped me finally really edit of my Singular Beauty work, it gave me time to finish my book and actually start sending out my mock-up, and it gave me time to make room for a new project. So as much as I loved blogging, I realized for me right now, I had to choose. And paying my bills and my own photo work has to come first. Followed by Women in Photography. There is not a whole lot left over after that. I wish I could be super woman, but sadly I am not.

But at the Young Curators New Ideas, II opening, I got into a conversation with two woman who are still actively blogging. I will admit I was a bit negative about the entire “blogoshpere,” but the next day I got a google alert and went to PalmAire, (WIPNYC artist) Tema Stauffer’s blog and realized that is it me that is currently experiencing blog exhaustion. Both Tema, and Tethered’s, Elizabeth Fleming, have really engaging, personal and intelligent posts. And other blog’s, like Horses Think, and Nina Corvallo’s blog, and others, have continued to be really great reads. I think at the heart of the blog, is the personal voice. For me, blogs that stay like personal online diaries, and have an certain intimacy and that focus on sharing information about a subject they truly love, work best. When blogs move into the professional media territory, they start to lose a bit of soul.

Once blogs become “professionalized,” to me they are less interesting. The internet is the great equalizer, it is a place where major news organizations compete with small individuals for market share and audience. Something that was impossible when you had to pay to publishing costs.  So I understand the temptation to step up your game, but there are so many blogs now from the mainstream press, why not keep the individual blog more personal and less concerned with blog stats.  Unless you want to become a mainstream media outlet, with advertising etc. Which, by the way, I am not against.

Yet blogs like PalmAire and Horses Think, remind of what a valuable part of the photo community a blog can be–and perhaps now that my first solo show is close to being completely framed and delivered to the gallery, I will again be drawn back to share some of the amazing things that have happened in the last few months. But until then, there are a lot of wonderful voices out there, you just need to find the ones you care enough to listen to.

Two Reasons I Love What I Do

While I know I have been not blogging very much the last 3 or 4 months, I have been immersed in my own work, in Women in Photography and in my day job. While I miss you all very much and the blog community, I have had so many great things happening I have decided to be ok with letting the blog go a bit until I can redefine its next incarnation.

But just so you know how I am spending my time here are two of the things I am happily immersed in.  More soon on my own work….

The loss of Polaroid has been pretty devastating to many photographers, it has had a big effect on my UV work, and I am still trying to figure out how to do it without type 54 or 55.  So when they said they were doing a piece on the loss of Polaroid at work, I was immediately excited to do something.

We put together an online gallery of the incredibly varied work made by photographer’s who use the instant film. And we asked them to tell us why they chose to work with Polaroid or what made it special. This meant that I got to speak to Chuck Close and David Levinthal about working with the 20×24 camera and email with Philp Lorca di Corcia.  Suffice to say, it was a fantastic experience.  You can see the gallery and read the quotes now on newsweek.com.

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And today a new WIPNYC show went up with Lynne Cohen.  She has a new book out of all her color work, which is fantastic. This show is personally very exciting for me because Lynne is one of my favorite photographers.  I will never forget a few months into what would become Singular Beauty, my photo teacher Joel Sternfled, looked at my empty spa room and said, “I think you should look at Lynne Cohen.”  Of course after seeing her extraordinary work, I almost abandoned my entire project.  But after some time and thought, her work made me realize how important conceptual framework is to a body of work, and I also began to see how despite the similar subject matter, how very different our approach and ultimate goals were.

If you have a chance check out her show here.

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Lynne Cohen | Untitled (Submarines)


Check out at New York Photofest

Panel Discussion at the New York Photo Festival

Brooklyn, New York

Artist-Publisher:
Mass Produced for Mass Dissemination
Panel Discussion

Thursday, May 14, 2009
5:00 pm

FREE with Festival Admission

New York Photo Festival
St. Ann’s Warehouse
38 Water Street
Brooklyn, New York
(718) 254-8779

The panel discussion series, Aperture Presents, premiers with acclaimed NYPH08 curator and Aperture publisher, Lesley A. Martin, moderating the discussion Artist-Publisher: Mass Produced for Mass Dissemination. Participants will include Jason Fulford and Leanne Shapton (J&L Books); Richard Renaldi (Charles Lane Press); and others to be announced.

Photographer Jacob Holdt Friday, May 15, at 3PM.

St Ann’s Warehouse.

We are pleased to announce the participation of the following artists in the ”New Documentations” Special Screening scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 16th at 8pm, in St. Ann’s Warehouse during the upcoming New York Photo Festival 2009.  Many of the artists will be in attendance and will participate in a Q&A immediately following the screening.  There will also be a panel discussion on Sunday, May 17th at 2pm, entitled ”New Documentations”, featuring many of the same artists.  Tickets required.

Participating Artists in the “New Documentations” Special Screening are:

Dawoud Bey

Jodie Bieber

Edward Burtynsky

Elinor Carucci

Lauren Greenfield

Robert Hornstra

Pieter Hugo

Ed Kashi

Gerd Ludwig

Joshua Lutz

Jehad Nga

Eugene Richards

Paul Shambroom

Alessandra Sanguinetti

Mikhael Subotsky

Donald Weber

A Special MediaStorm Presentation of “Driftless: Stories from Iowa” by Danny Wilcox-Frazier

and…

A Special Presentation by the W. Eugene Smith Fund

The Nature & Purpose of Photography

Brian Ulrich had an excellent post recently on why photographers are not recording the the current economic crisis.  His post has generated 47 comments so far and it seems to have struck a nerve.  I find it interesting that on one hand there is a debate raging over whether we should incorporate unfolding current events into our work, and on the other, the Andrew Kreps Gallery current exhibition To Be Determined–focuses on work that deals directly with the medium of photography. While several of these artists I individually admire, collectively, at this moment, having a show about photography, does seem out of step.  Time Out New York said this:

The cerebral queries posed here spring from pioneering 20th-century photographers (Moholy-Nagy, James Welling, Richard Prince), but fail to break any new ground themselves. One has to hope that this current generation of photographers will ultimately choose to define itself by means other than a few tired lines of inquiry. What form those fresh ideas might take is clearly still, as the title of the exhibition suggests, to be determined.

Ouch!  This genre of work has been championed by Blind Spot, which coincidentally is hosting an event for this show this week.   In the last 5 to 7 years, this type of work has dominated–one name says it all–Roe Ethridge (however, the Soth-style {aka Sternfeld/Shore/Myerwitz} of portrait-scape has also been a force, but it has focused more on the set-up Crewdson stylistic version, which is also less content driven.)

In an age of cultural complacency, during which we elected GW twice, and few of us took to the streets to protest, Iraq, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, or the dramatic and rapid disparity which expanded between the rich & the poor, work that doubles back on itself and shied away from engagement with the world made sense. But we are in a new era, and maybe Brian’s battle cry, which is being sounded by many major art critics in slightly different terms, has something to it.  As artists, it is our responsibility to be continuously questioning what makes a photograph art, especially in a world not only filled with copious amounts of commercial and amateur imagery but that is also overflowing with fine-art photography.  It is important I think at this moment to pause and question, what is more important–making a photograph that will be deemed “art” or making a photograph that can be powerful and that affect how people view the world.  Will post-post modernism mean that we can re-unite these concepts?

Many photographers currently worry about getting stuck in the “photo ghetto.”  Meaning once your work is represented by a photo gallery, you are stuck as ‘just a photographer.’  The insinuation being that you will be considered ‘less of an artist.’  Photography still hovers in a strange place in the art world.  If your work is photo-based, it is a good way to differentiate yourself from the rank & file.  However, if this is done merely as a way to get ahead in the art market, most likely the result will be all surface.  The best work centering on the photographic process, often incorporates multiples levels of engagement.  For instance Penelope Umbrico’s appropriation work , not only plays with authorship, it includes complex cultural critique, and an exploration of human desire.

With all this ruminating in my mind, I came across these photos on National Geographic.com of an 1908 National Geographic article on the survey of Alaska.  What I like about them, is that they remind me of the incredible power of the photograph to transcend its original purpose.  These images were taken to record a scientific exhibition, yet 100 years later, they could just as easily be a meditation on the landscape genre.  Grainy, muted and strange, they are quite beautiful.  Sometimes, perhaps we try so hard to imbue meaning and concept into our photographs that we actually close down this process, and in fact make them more empty.  There is a fine line between too much content and too much concept.

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Radcliffe Hordern

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Photographs by E. R. Martin



Will Obama Bring Back the WPA?

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Dorothea Lange | Shorpy photo archive

The art world is a-twitter with stories about the possible resurrection of the depression-era public arts project, the WPA.  The program resulted in some of America’s finest photography. However, according to the blog post below, some Congressman do not think “artist” is a job, and therefore they should not benefit from the stimulus package.

What I find so interesting is the the recent Holland Cotter NYtimes article accused the art world of being overly commercialized and seemed to suggest that “artist” had become too much of a job.  Hmmmm….. where does that actually leave us?  Maybe if there was support for artists, they would stop making over-produced commercialized work, designed to sell and you know, pay their rent.

From the blog: The Artful Manager

Do arts jobs count as jobs? Scott Lilly at the Center for American Progress floats a timely reminder to the good folks in Congress currently bristling about the stimulus package: arts jobs are jobs, regardless of your opinion of what they produce. He quotes Rep. Jack Kingston’s (R-GA) remarks when complaining about the NEA funding (now removed) from the bill:

“We have real people out of work right now and putting $50 million in the NEA and pretending that’s going to save jobs as opposed to putting $50 million in a road project is disingenuous.”

Which suggests, of course, that artists, cultural managers, stagehands, gallery staff, technicians, costume designers, and anybody else involved in artistic pursuits aren’t actually working, or earning a paycheck, or supporting their families, or any of the other productive things road workers might do. Or, to put it more bluntly, arts workers are not ”real people.”

It’s perfectly fair to challenge the ”stimulus potential” of any line item in the massive bill. And there are legitimate arguments to be made that one form of spending or incentive works more quickly, more effectively, more efficiently than another. But this particular line of attack, suggesting that the arts don’t involve people doing jobs, is staggering in its ignorance.

Before we go railing off on conservative politicians, however, we might look for the same bias and blindness among ourselves. I was at a conference panel recently, for example, in which an architect from a well-respected firm with extensive cultural facility projects to their credit made an astounding admission: up until their most recent project, that involved direct discussion with a wide range of practitioners, they hadn’t thought of a cultural facility as a workplace. A performance/display space, an audience chamber, and a public venue, to be sure. Even an administrative office tucked away in the back. But the entire building as a daily workplace for professionals and tradespeople? A novel idea.

Perhaps that explains why so many cultural facilities have spaces that can’t be cleaned, lightbulbs that can’t be changed without massive machinery, and offices and common spaces that cramp and confound the folks who come to work there every day. Somewhere between our lofty rhetoric about the power of the arts, and our mechanical arguments about social and civic benefits, there seems to be a disconnect in our message. The arts are people. They don’t just serve people or help people, they are people. It’s astounding that anyone would understand otherwise.

When Did Chicken Little Become a Prophet??

Today on my morning subway commute, I noticed some EMT workers walking past me with all their gear.  I did not pay too much attention, I was in a hurry to get to work, however as I got to the other end of the platform, I was met with the overpowering smell of bleach.  I looked down and discovered an MTA worker moping up a red substance.  It took my brain a split second to process that for the first time in my entire NYC subway travels, (10 years and counting,) I was seeing blood getting wiped away.

This this might not seem very dramatic to some,  NYC is a big city and certainly stuff does happen here – and in this particular occurrence, with no sign of police on the scene, I assume the blood was not the result of an act of violence. But it spooked me nonetheless, especially considering just last week on the same platform, I watched a man escape from the clutches of a transit cop, and handcuffed, jump down onto the R/W track and disappear.  He was soon  followed by about 10 bewildered looking cops.  The escape managed to shut down the entire N/S subway traffic for a good 20 minutes.  In my 10 years of subway riding I have seen some strange things, but in Giuliani & post-Giuliani NYC, this level of mayhem is rare. But I have noticed a chance since the collapse of Wall Street this fall, things are no longer just frayed around the edges, but starting unravel.

In the past 2 months, I personally have had several rather intense and fraught encounters.   And several people have told me stories, that have really made me question if we are on the verge of a collective breakdown.  One story, involved a person leaving an incredibly hostile, threatening phone call,  fueled by professional jealousy.  The anonymous caller felt the need to tell her, she was ugly and other choice expletives, which no matter how much you may dislike a person, are never appropriate to use.  Another friend had someone take the time to send them an email, basically just to tell them that they thought their photography sucked. This person did not even remove their name from the email.  Another person received an email that was an angry, three  paragraph tirade, and by anger, I mean personal, venomous, attack.  What is going on people!!!!!  When did this type of behavior become acceptable?  I cannot ever remember so many negative, random acts of hostility.  However, considering the current economic horror show, I am not surprised.

To me, one the first priority’s of the Obama administration should be to institute a qualified non-political commission to investigate the incredible malfeasance in Wall Street and in banking which has led to this global recession/depression. Because as much as we should focus on recovery, most people are suffering from feelings of incredible anger, and a sense that they are powerless to do anything about it.  When you read that the wives of  mega hedgefunds managers, CEO’s & investment bankers, are struggling to make do with their housekeepers coming 5 days a week instead of seven, or buying one pair of $700 Manolo’s, instead of three, it is hard to not want to burn down the whole of Greenwich, CT. Perhaps this is why so many people are acting out on strangers.  Someone must take the brunt of our collective anxiety, fear & anger.  Of course, these feelings are destructive and the exact opposite of what will help to lift us out of this economic disaster.  I think most of us, would feel a lot better, if we considered pooling our resources and supporting each other to survive this period of instability.

The art world has been particularly affected by the economic crisis.  One could easily argue, that when a roof over ones head & food on the table become issues, art tends to drop down on list of importance. But abandoning art and artists at this moment, could have a profound effect on how we interpret and think about this moment in culture. So now more than ever, it seems crucial that the art world pull together to make it through the storm.

On great example of this is the the Humble Arts Foundation. They just released their Collectors Guide, which they are in the process of distributing to the art industry and collectors.  (full disclosure my work is featured in the guide.) And while artists did pay a fee, once they were chosen to be included, it was modest, and was paid in two installments.  Humble footed almost the entire production bill themselves.  And by distributing the guide in the art world, they are giving every artist in the book incredible exposure.  Now, they very easily could have used the guide as a way to make money for the foundation, but they are choosing to use it as a tool to showcase artists, just like their group & solo shows do.

What impresses me most about this choice is that we are all in extremely difficult positions.  Gallery owners have incredible overhead to meet, artists have fewer outlets and opportunities, and non-profit’s donations are drying up.  So if there has ever been time to consider how we can work together, this is it.  If not, when this crisis is over, there will be dramatically fewer players left on the field.  Some may argue that this is a good thing, but keep in mind, that fewer galleries, museums and organizations mean fewer opportunities for artists.  And while yes, the art market has been over-hyped, over-saturated and over-indulged for sometime, leaving it to starve to death now, is no panacea.

So if you find yourself feeling like venting, take a few moments and consider what you could bring to the table rather than what you can knock off of it.


One Less % Point

I just came across this exhibit, opening tomorrow.  As a car has just come into my life temporarily for the next few weeks, I am going to plan a day trip.  Because, if we go, they will give us more….

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Kiki Smith, Getting the Bird Out , 1992

GREAT WOMEN ARTISTS: FEMINIST ART FROM THE PERMANENT COLLECTION

In her epochal essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” (1971), feminist art historian Linda Nochlin explained that myriad historical circumstances, principally lack of access to training, exhibitions, commissions and critical forums—not genetics—had limited women’s artistic achievement.As these circumstances changed rapidly in the period after World War II, so did the relative prominence of women in the ranks of the most progressive and visible artists in the West.

This permanent collection exhibition, organized as a contemporary complement to Hannah Wilke: Gestures, surveys work by some of the most influential artists of the last four decades who drew on the insights of critical feminisms to advance artistic practice, in part by addressing precisely those social, political and economic factors that have supported and continue to support gender-based discrimination.

Among those represented are Jo Baer, Lynda Benglis, Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, Patty Chang, Chryssa, Patricia Cronin, Agnes Denes, Ilse Getz, Nancy Graves, Eva Hesse, Deborah Kass, Loren MacIver, Marisol, Elizabeth Murray, Catherine Opie, Beverly Pepper, Judy Pfaff, Adrian Piper, Niki de Saint Phalle, Howardena Pindell, Anne Ryan, Carolee Schneeman, Collier Schorr,  Beverly Semmes, Judith Shea, Kiki Smith, Joan Snyder, Jessica Stockholder, Kay Walkingstick, Hannah Wilke, and Daisy Youngblood.


Great Women Artists is on view November 23, 2008- February 22, 2009.
Support is provided by Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management Office of Diversity.
The exhibition is curated by Thom Collins, Director with Camilla Cook, Curatorial Fellow, Purchase College.

Neuberger Museum of Art
Purchase College
State University of New York
735 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577-1400

914-251-6100 Monday – Friday, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
914-251-6117 Saturday – Sunday, 12 noon – 5 pm

LOCATED

10 minutes from White Plains, NY
10 minutes from Greenwich, CT
45 minutes from mid-town Manhattan

OPEN

Tuesday – Sunday, 12 – 5 pm