Today, is the final critique of my first semester at CCAD working on my art. I have chosen to use my camera/lens and Photoshop as my primary image making tools for this semester. Next year I will focus primarily on large scale charcoal drawing. During my 3rd and 4th year I want to integrate them (somehow). This whole semester has been about discovering my process in making art because I have not been actively doing it for 25 years. What do I want to make? Why? To what end? Is it sustainable?
I have always been fascinated with surreal art and have studied it for the majority of my life. Some of my favorite past, surreal artists/photographers are of course, Brassai, Phillipe Halsman, Andre Kertesz, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Man Ray, Jerry Uelmann, and many others. I added ‘hotlinks’ so you can explore them more if you are not familiar with them. Some contemporary surreal photographers/artists using Photoshop as their tool for image making that I enjoy following are Lara Zankoul, Martin Stranka, Ronen Goldman, Tommy Ingberg, Katerina Plotnikova, Sarah Ann Loreth, and of course Erik Johansson (among many, many other inspirational photographers from all over the world).
Ric mentioned in my second critique that my work reminded him of the “fairy photographs” which are the Cottingley Fairies. Though my work definitely creates its own set of rules and reality, I am not actively trying to deceive anyone. The Cottingley Fairies were the culmination of a couple of 10 year children playing with their dad’s camera, intentionally trying to create the hoax. To present something that was real and merely documented. My work enters the contract of fantasy. People who view it will know it is not real, but instead a visual fiction. My purpose is to make visually interesting /complex stories by combining disparate elements, creating new meanings for myself and the viewer by their interaction. Though I have an underlying theme in what drives the concept of my work, that theme is not important to convey to my audience. The artwork should stand alone without my “message” being the message that a viewer will decode. The viewer will decode it with their own visual cues biased by how they see the world.
At its core photography is more about omission than inclusion. Most lenses remove 85% of our field of view, the shutter omits all time except for the moment that is captured, f-stop choice reduces/enlarges what is in focus, three dimensions are distilled to two, and sometimes color is removed. The act of photography is creating an altered image at the moment of creation. Using Photoshop as a creative tool is just taking that altered image concept a step further. However these are not an arbitrary combination of random images, but have been chosen specifically by me. Through my filter because raw data is not meaningful until it is filtered somehow, given context. We are the best filters to put between our lens and the world. We, as photographers point the camera both outward and inward at the same time encompassing the complexities of our physical, mental and cultural environments. Photoshop allows me to take this a step further, to create my own reality and imagined worlds. What we see changes what we know and what we know biases what we see. My work highlights this process and phenomenom. Also, I have been drawing and painting on my images too. I will have a couple of those new directions to share.
Having worked on this series, I have become more humbled. Art making is a perishable skill. If you don’t use it, you lose it I have found. Focusing on the quantity of output, to help drive me towards quality, has been my primary focus to learn my ‘process’. I met with my mentor 3 weeks ago to show him 25 newly created variations of a new idea which has been reduced to just one from that series. For it, based on his recommendations, I removed all form elements and tried to be more subtractive in my approach instead of additive. The results are interesting. Also, I have been experimenting with different output and presentation methods. For output I have printed on metal, canvas, wood, photo paper, watercolor paper, etc. Then for presentation I have mounted on hardboard, luan, plywood, gaterboard, etc. Trying to figure out the sweet spot of cost, weight, logistics of production. Even in this process, I have been experimenting with various types of adhesion methods, from wood glue, 3 different kinds of spray adhesive, cold tack paper (in sheets and rolls). I have learned a lot about the mechanics of the process. My cheapest mounted print (not framed) is about $150 in cost to reproduce. That means if I want to have a 15 piece show, then I need to expend a minimum of $2,250. My most expensive piece that I am showing would cost $375 to reproduce. That 15 piece show would total $5,625. These are staggering figures when it is not my goal to become a sustaining/income earning artist. Remember, I do not have unlimited resources…these figure would support a 10-14 day family vacation and it would likely be an either/or situation of choice. Then if I were to show it, where would I store it (assuming it did not sell). So I am trying to figure out the why. Why am I driven to make these surreal images? Why are they so dark? Why can’t I make “pretty” work? What is the purpose? My ego? Personal edification?
Professionally, there are a couple of great reasons why I am pursuing this MFA and I am glad I started it. Personally, trying to find my way in making art, that I like, has been very difficult for me. This process has opened up more questions; than offered answers. Circling back to the questions of … What do I want to make? Why? For my own entertainment or someone else’s? To what end? Is it sustainable?
I am excited to show what I have been working on.