Tag Archives: art

This is totally normal family bonding in my house.

Dad and I spent the last few days working with our skeleton friend who has appeared in a series of wet plates from the Studio as well. This is the first time all break I’ve really had enough light and time to mess around with the cameras. It was nice to work with Dad on these. We had a lot of fun, and I think we ended up with some cool shots. Irving enjoyed being studio cat again too.

Here are the two keepers from yesterday:

I love how I live in a house where this is commonplace.

These were the second day’s efforts:

It’s always nice to spend the day doing what I love with those I love.

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Filed under Art, Irving, Photography

Wet plate, Monsters, and Gators

Friday, for first time in months, I took my cameras out into the field. I am working on a project with a sculpture MFA student here. She creates these fantastical creatures, monsters to some, the “friendly unknown” to her. I am shooting some of her creations in wet plate to hopefully add to a growing exhibition idea involving hoaxes, faux taxidermic specimens, and a lot of imagination (details will come as they develop). Check out her work here.  Jen and I really get along well artistically and as friends. I really loved working with her Friday and look forward to much more of it in the future.

This whole concept of the “friendly unknown,” as she calls it is, really fascinating and beautiful. It’s meant to push people to expand their minds and be brave about what they don’t know. Jen believes it is arrogant to think that we are completely alone in the universe, that there are no such things as Big Foots (Feet?) or Nessies, and even that there isn’t some greater being guiding it all. We just don’t know, so it’s silly to shut down and say that “there is no such thing,” when there is no way to know. It’s much more fun to be open and pleasantly surprised than close-minded and embarrassed by previous assertions of absolutism. As Jen pointed out, all those people who said the world was flat hundreds of years ago, still look pretty dumb today. I like her philosophy.

We shot on the prairie in Micanopy on one of the observation decks. Jen got down in the brush (which is probably not allowed but there were no signs saying not to), and we had a blast despite heavy cloud cover and crazy winds. The weather, while not ideal for traditional pretty, pristine plates, sort of suited my approach to this project perfectly. I was tasked with documenting an inanimate object, which is meant to look like a living, wild creature in a wild environment as if he belonged there. The plates needed to be slightly out of focus, grainy, gritty, and slightly rushed, as if someone was actually trying to quickly document the rare sighting before the creature lumbered off. They were pictures of proof, I suppose. The nature of Jen’s concept, though, also made me thing of her creature as a gentle giant character, something perhaps fearsome or unnerving at first, but gentle and sweet beyond the odd exterior.

From these concepts I looked to these bits of inspiration when photographing the monster:

The Barbapapa children’s book series by Annette Tison (especially Barbapapa’s Ark).

Did anyone else read these lovely books as a child?

Maurice Sendak’s classic Where the Wild Things Are:

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss:

Despite the fact that this book, and all of his other books for that matter, scared the bejesus out of me as a child.

And finally the Patterson-Gimlin hoax film:

The plates we made are far from what would be considered a “good plate” in the wet plate world. They are dark, overexposed, blurred, and have spots and specks, but that’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted them to appear as if they were produced in haste, as if trying to capture the creature before it wondered on its way. I think they turned out really well. Here are some:

Being two gals not from the land of gators, we had no clue that they would hang out in areas without water (silly us). After we were done with the shoot, and Jen was finished tramping around in the tall grass, we found this guy in a storm drain by the parking area:

He would have had to crawl in via the prairie. There was no other way for him to enter the drain.

Yeah, I’m glad we didn’t run into him out on the prairie.

Yesterday we had the pleasure of doing an engagement shoot for one of my friends and fellow museum studies student, Courtney, and here fiancé Brad. The weather was kinder and less windy and the location (their neighbors’ backyard) was perfect for this sort of session.

Here are the best shots:

I feel satisfied for the next few weeks, but I can’t wait until I get to go home for the holidays and play with my cameras again.

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Filed under Art, Photography

What do I do?

Someone offered to pay a fair sum for some of my artwork for the first time over the weekend. I was just made aware of this tonight, by the way. Now, I am not a stranger to selling my photography. I do a lot of that, but I make a huge distinction between the commissioned cheap, whored-out portrait work I do at events and the plates I make for myself. Talk about a foreign feeling. I have never made art with the intention to sell EVER. I used to think this was because I had some high moral ground to tread, but now I’m not sure.  Now I feel like I’m faced with the sell-out dilemma. Am I still being true to myself as an artist if I sell the work that has a little piece of me in it, that I originally made for myself? I’ve never thought about being a full on professional artist. Yes, I know I own a studio. I know technically I am a professional, but, as I said, the work I do out of the studio for others, I don’t really consider art.

This is causing me to question my stance. I need to think on this more. Hmmmmmmm….

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Filed under Art, Just Me

Meditations on the beautiful

I am enjoying the absolute gratification of doing nothing this Labor Day weekend. Well, I’m not exactly doing nothing. I am just doing the quiet things at home that do not really constitute as major affairs but bring pleasure and satisfaction nonetheless. When I have this sort of free time, especially after a long week such as the past one, I often watch films. I’ve done a bit of this over the past three days. There has been a theme to them this weekend, however.

Friday night I was speaking with my parents over Skype and my father was lamenting the fact that there is nothing of value to watch on Netflix’s instant streaming service (I strongly beg to differ, but I’m a bit more cinematically adventurous than he). I, having watched a broad gamut of the available selections, offered to suggest a few. I did, and he was lukewarm, but then Mom and I got on the subject of documentaries. I love documentaries about anything and everything, really, and Netflix has a great selection. I then recommended a title that promptly had me lightly ridiculed. It was Gary Hustwit’s 2007 release, Helvetica. Yes, as in the font. Granted, at first glance this probably sounds supremely boring. I assure you, it’s not.

On a side note, interestingly enough, NPR ran an article about typography today. Read that after you read this, if you are still interested.

Helvetica, examines the importance of the typeface in its (at that point) fifty year existence, and its impact globally. It’s really an ode to the simultaneously subtle and overt beauty of Helvetica. It also showcases the hidden stories, aesthetic implications, and even emotional ties behind the creation and use of typefaces. It very effectively takes the viewer into the world of typography, one that is not hidden, just overlooked or unrealized by those outside of it. We fail to realize how much is behind the creation and use of something so seemingly ordinary and insignificant, and really, as Helvetica demonstrates, typefaces are neither ordinary nor unimportant. There’s also a surprising Helvetica vs. anti-Helvetica debate which the film addresses. It seems that, for those who are aware of and care about typography, one either loves or hates Helvetica. Love it or hate it or just don’t care about, it is EVERYWHERE. For me personally, I like it. It represents  everything visually pleasing about modernist design, clean, direct, and bold. It looks good practically everywhere, especially on book covers.

Photo by liikennevalo

I really love its use on the NYC Subway signage as well.

Photo by tracktwentynine

Helvetica is the first in a trilogy of documentaries by Hustwit, which focus on design and its importance in our world. After speaking with my Mom, and convincing her that Helvetica was really worth watching, I rewatched it. Then I decided to watch Hustwit’s second documentary in the trilogy, Objectified (2009), which focuses on design and the role, both realized and unrealized, it plays in our day-to-day existence. It really showcases, at least the way I viewed it, the legacy of the birth of the modernist age in which mass production became a reality and a very real problem was also born: how can visual appeal be preserved without the personal touch of the craftsperson and how can the mass-produced object appeal personally to the consumer and the human need for individuality. Although, modernism has arguably come and gone and been replaced by a number of other movements, this problem is still one that plagues designers just as much today as nearly a hundred years ago, thus making design a relevant and vital part of our world. Objectified, unabashedly conveys that sentiment.

Watching those two documentaries got me thinking. Design truly is an important part of our daily life. The sense of sight, for most of us, is arguably the most dominant. So much is conveyed within the visual appearance of something. Our brains, upon viewing something, instantly begin processing its appearance and almost instantly begin processing information about the object just from its visual attributes. Assumptions are tacked on to the object via our visual perception. Emotional responses are elicited, just within the first few seconds of visual contact, a large percentage of what we need to know about the object has already been conveyed. In short then, all those who say looks don’t matter, are incorrect. The way something looks matters immensely, proven just by examining the way our brains respond to visual stimuli. This then renders the job of the designer a necessary one. As humans, we naturally gravitate to what we find visually appealing. The designer’s job is to anticipate this and create objects that invite this appeal. A large portion of the identities we attribute to ourselves are based upon how we make ourselves look and the objects with which we surround ourselves. In short, design helps form the way we see ourselves, each other, and the world around us. This is also completely ignoring the other important factor in the work of the designer: creating useable objects. This post is about the visual, though, so I won’t get into that.

The third film in Hustwit’s trilogy, Urbanized, comes out later this year, and I can’t wait to see it. Since this was not available for viewing, I decided to complete my visual triptych, by rewatching what is the most beautiful and possibly the most disturbing film I have ever seen, Antichrist. I love Lars von Trier’s work as a filmmaker. I’m not such a big fan of his recent comments at Cannes (Lars, it’s never cool to say you sympathize with Hitler-ever), but I do think he is a brilliant director, and I am looking forward to seeing his latest work Melancholia.

Antichrist is what I like to refer to as a “deliciously fucked up” film. It is not particularly graphic in a gory sense, which I appreciate. I think gore, 99.9% of the time is unnecessary when it is used in most films and actually detracts from the film’s effectiveness. There are a few scenes which are slightly bloody, but not in a gratuitous way. I think von Trier has enough confidence in his story-telling abilities to convey disturbance without resulting to cheap tricks and buckets of blood.

I cannot say enough for the cinematography of this film. It is sumptuous, luxurious even. Everything-camera angles, lighting, scenery- is gorgeous and perfect, but an amazing contradiction is paired with the film’s visual beauty. The film’s subject matter is so disturbing that watching it is like putting on a mink coat only to find the inside is riddled with straight pins.

The opening sequence, or “Prologue” is the most exquisite piece of film I have ever watched, but also the most horrifying. It was watching this again, and having watched Hustwit’s two documentaries on design earlier, that I began to think again. The visual is so important to us, and we seek out the beautiful, this is true. How then do we reconcile the simultaneously beautiful and terrible? *Spoiler alert*  Antichrist opens with the death of a child, probably one of the most horrific events imaginable. Unimaginable to watch in real life, and very difficult to watch in the imitation of reality that is film. However, as I said, this opening sequence is the most visually stunning I have ever watched. But it is such a mindfuck, if you’ll pardon the phrase. It creates a disconnect in the brain: while appealing to me aesthetically but repulsing me emotionally creating a jam in the cognitive process thus rendering me  intensely uneasy but entirely captivated. Beautiful is supposed to be good, ugly is supposed to be bad, that’s how we’ve been conditioned. Turning that way of think on its head, challenges and fascinates, and I think that is amazing. Von Trier is ace with that, which is why I love his films so much.

I don’t know if I should recommend watching Antichrist. It’s not for everyone. Unless you are a sociopath, you will be extremely disturbed and made uneasy throughout the entire watching experience. I also debated whether or not I wanted to post the opening sequence I’ve now spent a great deal discussing. I decided that I would, but with a major caveat.


This clip contains images that are not for the faint of heart. A kid dies. That’s pretty hard to watch. There is also very graphic sexual material in the clip, which is definitely not appropriate for children or those offended by genitalia. If you do watch this after reading my post and all I have said about this scene and are offended to the point of shock or outrage, DO NOT BLAME ME. You have been warned, and it’s not my fault you are not aware of the extent of your sensitivity. 

With that said, here it is:

Most of what we make of the world is based largely on how we see it. Beauty is relative, but everywhere. Really look, and you can appreciate the elegance of a vacuum or the exquisiteness of a subway sign. Pay attention. Know why you like things. See.

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Filed under Art, Film

Doubleshots, Old Photos, and Jazz

I am so unbelievably glad that Friday has come at last. I always hate midterm season because the profs somehow manage to pile them all into one or two weeks. I’ve had more Starbucks Doubleshots in the past week than any human probably should, and there are holes in my memory that are probably a direct result of five days of staying up until two or three in the morning and then turning around and getting up at seven. I sort of feel like Will in that one episode of The Inbetweeners where they’re all preparing for their A-Levels, except I chose espresso over energy drinks and found time to bathe.

I am currently sitting on my bed watching episodes of 90s shows on Netflix and ignoring the fact that I have to clean, do laundry, reserve a cab, pack, and generally get ready to make what is most likely my last flight from Rochester to Nashville tomorrow. That’s a little weird to think about. (Have I mentioned how insane it is that I’m graduating in a couple of months?) I will miss the ROC security people. They’re the nicest I’ve ever dealt with. I think all people in Rochester, on the whole, are nicer than people anywhere else in the world, actually.

Enough about me, though. Today I would like to share the work of a photographer I really love, Irina Werning. She has a series of photographs in which she has recreated adult (not in the dirty sense) versions of people’s childhood photos. She is pretty meticulous about detail, so the photos she takes are astonishingly identical to their original versions. All of her series are wonderful, but this one in particular caught my eye. Check it out here. I think my favorite is of Nico on the skateboard.

On a side note, I am very grateful that I took an intellectual history class about 20th century Europe this semester. It is introducing me to so many thinkers that I will purposefully avoid reading for the rest of my life. Today we discussed Theodor Adorno’s “Perennial Fashion–Jazz.” Let me just say, I love jazz, and, therefore, my gut reaction is to hate Adorno’s views. Apparently he is one of the great names in musical criticism, but I think he spoke a great deal about things he didn’t fully understand. I must say, though, I was very pleased that two of the other students in my small class also knew enough and were passionate enough about jazz as an art form to vehemently attack Adorno’s piece. I breathed a sigh of relief that there are others of my generation out there that appreciate the historical and aesthetic importance of said genre.

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Filed under Art, Miscellany, Music, Photography

Have you met Ogdred Weary, or perhaps you know him as Dogear Wryde? I prefer to call him Edward Gorey, though.

Edward Gorey is easily my favorite artist of all time. I was first drawn to him when I saw his animated intro to Mystery! on PBS for the first time. This was many years ago and way past my bedtime in those days. The dark pen and ink drawings heavily influenced by the Edwardian era (something else that fascinates me) appealed strongly to my inner morbidity, even as a child. As I got older, I began collecting his books and fell madly in love with his stories like “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” and “The Doubtful Guest.” Gorey’s special brand of whimsy will always be dear to my heart, and that is why I was quite delighted to happen upon a NPR interview with his old friend Alexander Theroux. The interview is sweet and gives some interesting insight into the late artist’s character. If you’re a Goreyphile like myself or someone reading this and wondering “Who the hell is Edward Gorey?” give it a listen here.

This is my favorite picture of Gorey. Cats, books, and naps, that's the good life.

The cover illustration for the Gashlycrumb Tinies

A page from The Doubtful Guest (gotta love the hightops)

(As always, these are not my images and I am not putting them here for commercial use, thanks.)

This is, however, my picture of the tribute to E.G. I painted onto my bookshelf years ago. I think if I ever decided to get a tattoo, it would be one of Gorey's smiling sweater cats.

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Filed under Art, Miscellany

This is Exquisite

The Ice Book is a very interesting piece of performance art that combines several different mediums created by a husband and wife duo. It tells the story of a lonely ice princess who lures a young man into the woods where she lives so that he can keep her company. I love the concept of a pop-up book brought to life, and the McGuires’ work is absolutely gorgeous. I would really like to see it performed live in its entirety. The website for the The Ice Book can be found here.

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Filed under Art, Miscellany