Winter Walking: A Question of Endurance

December 24th, 2008 § 3 comments

Perhaps in winter I should become a devoted photographer of interiors…

In a recent fit of exasperation I was going to write a long diatribe entitled what is wrong with winter?, on the value of having a winter, suggesting that the beauty of seasons—real seasons—is that they provide contrast and therefore appreciation of ones environment. I was spared writing this post, however, by an amusing turn of events. Places (and people) that rarely see snow or truly cold temperatures, such as Southern California or Las Vegas, received a good amount of cold weather long before we did.  A cousin of mine took some lovely, although surreal, images of the Las Vegas strip covered in a light layer of snow, and T-shirt wearing west coasters were holed up for days because of closed roads. All this, happening before it even snowed in Gotham, seemed to lessen the necessity of my argument. There is, obviously, nothing wrong with winter, but now that it has come to stay in Gotham, I remember how problematic it can be for “wandering” photographers.

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Idle Hands

November 21st, 2008 § 1 comment

When I met with Susan before leaving Richmond she said, jokingly, “you probably could work fulltime and still make a lot of work…!” I laughed at the time, but the last few months have tested that statement—a test proving that while it might be possible, it is highly impractical. I used to laugh at the people who would say, major in something “practical” (I smile broader now that “practical” majors are, or soon will be, as “useless” as my own) and to pursue other interests as a “hobby.” This loosely translates into how you can give up your real interests without losing all self-respect while doing it. Practical major or not, however, life after school involves a great deal of juggling. From my current perspective I am glad I used my time in grad school the way I did, essentially I bought two years of time from vcu leaving me free to make work; now I am slightly envious of those who are still in grad school if only because they are still at liberty to make, and are expected to do little else.

It has not been a problem to make work with images already taken, such as those I shot over the summer and early in the fall. The Oregon City images were a good place to begin, editing felt new because I have hardly had time to glance through them since the summer—the Holgas have yet to be seen in positive form. An idle scanner on my desk at work has prolonged the inevitable purchase of my own, but has sped up the process of making and printing. Taking new images, however, has been the real challenge, not simply because of the time it takes to go walking, but also because time of day has a lot to do with my ability to wander with satisfaction. If only I could gather together remnants of time from each day, and could compile them together into a whole day.

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Pallet-Knifed Ambition

October 29th, 2008 § 0 comments

“We love our children, and we long for the children we used to be.”

marla olmstead

Though My Kid Could Paint That (2007) is a documentary that follows the story of a little girl, Marla, who became an art world darling in 2004 when she was four-years-old, I would venture to say this film has little to do with children or art. The main themes deal instead with parents, their children, talent, and society’s encouragement for the former to exploit the latter two. Marla alone, the painter and artist in the film, emerges with her integrity—she is protected from her own grubby story by her innocence, childhood, and her strong refusal to be a pawn in adult games. Do you want to talk about your paintings? NO. Do you like riding in limos? SILENCE. It is not really clear if Marla’s mother Laura knew or not that her husband helped her daughter paint, though it seems she didn’t in the beginning and gathered as much in the end. The director, Mr. Bar-Lev, states that he saw his documentary as a film about “modern art,” though in the end he saw it more as an exploitive disaster he had not intended to make; however lovingly he edited his footage of the Olmstead family, he leaves little doubt that this child did not paint those paintings. As A.O. Scott states of the director, “he has made an excellent documentary, but it would have been better if he had not made it at all.”

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Philippe Petit’s Gesture

October 19th, 2008 § 0 comments

The most inspiring fairytale, as it turns out, does not involve a prince, a castle, or a kiss, but is simply a gesture beyond the rationality of “why.”

philippe_petit_01

My only complaint with Man On Wire would have to be that the creators of the documentary forgot at times that no matter how they told, filmed, recreated, or edited the story Petit himself would still remain far more interesting. French men don’t tend to have excessively extroverted and magnetic personalities; they are almost too French to have that smiles-at-nothing charm of American celebrities—if you are inclined to think that is charm. Petit, arguably the world’s greatest tightrope performer, has the combined presence of an actor, a performer, a dancer, a lover, a comedian, a poet, an acrobat, and an artist. In 1974, after years of obsessive planning and preparation, he managed to string a wire between the newly erected WTC, walking back and forth across it eight times on a cold and foggy morning in Manhattan—the art crime of the century. The opening of this film shows the towers under construction, grainy images of steal beams stacked like toy blocks, creating hugely ugly towers. In light of the now gaping hole in the financial district, full of dozers and dirt, his “crime” seems more like the perfect memorial for all those towers could have stood for, and what they metaphorically stand for now.

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The Curse Of Craft

October 1st, 2008 § 0 comments

Trying to pick openings of interest from the vast number taking place every month is a hard task. For my reviews I want to find something unique, but with little knowledge of galleries my base for judging that is faulty. I want to find something I know about, perhaps the medium, a few of the artists, the genre, as part of my advantage seems to rest in my knowledge as a maker. Overall, as far as it has gone, my goal has been to choose shows dealing with issues that are concerned with topics or events outside of the “art world”, thus dragging art by its reluctant collar into a larger context. After Nature was loosely tied in subject to the environment and our current relations with it, my second proposals were political and, I could say, eventful–the latter being the one I fought for.

The reopening of MAD in Columbus Circle has been discussed outside of the art context because of its location, and new york seems to love architectural openings and evolutions. Though I spend a decent amount of time in the area, I read about the building long before I noticed it. A white pillar of clever design, it now stands out in the circle, perhaps because its white exterior contrasts sharply with the deep black of Trump’s phallus. It was almost an afterthought to write about the opening of the new building and museum, but the more I thought about it the more appropriate it seemed. I have, dare I say, a personal investment in the discourse surrounding art and craft, and certainly a good working knowledge of those possible distinctions. Though the six material studies grads (including myself) tried our best to remain outside the shadow of “craft” and its reputation, it is none-the-less a subject I have considered to almost annoying lengths.

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