Wednesday, May 28, 2008

From The Archives I

I've been working on everything except art since finishing school for the year. I've been doing lots of yard work, reading, riding my bike, even some dreaded housework. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm not suffering from artist's block, I'm just taking a little time away from the studio while taking care of a lot of other things I've ignored while teaching and on sabbatical. I actually feel too busy right now-I wish there wasn't so much that needed to be done.

I don't have any new work to show you, so I'm starting something that I've been thinking about doing for several months. Every once in a while, I'll post an old piece of work and write some comments about how it was made, what I was thinking about, etc.

Changes During Growth was made in 1999, a few months after I moved to Chicago. It’s the first of about a dozen pieces made the same way, by collaging colored paper onto black and white photographs.

The body of work that Changes During Growth is part of is a further exploration of ideas I was working with while still in graduate school. Much of my second year at Cranbrook Academy of Art was spent exploring the potential in appropriation. In particular, I was appropriating images from 1950’s-1960’s ‘Dick and Jane’ type children’s schoolbooks, exposing the propagandizing function of these archaic educational materials by ‘uncovering’ a new, previously hidden agenda. While at Cranbrook, I altered these images as little as possible. I photographed the pages of old books, and recontextualized them by arranging them with similar illustrations. No other alterations were permitted; to alter the images would destroy the hidden messages I felt they contained.

When I started the work you see above, however, I no longer felt it important to leave the images unaltered. I was interested in communicating similar ideas as before, but I wanted to break from pure recontextualization into more expressive, even autobiograpical work. I had become interested in traditional ideas of color symbolism, and had also returned to an interest in the basic rules of collage as practiced by the Dadaist artists. In the old Dada collages, quotation plays an important role, as does the friction created by placing unrelated elements in close proximity. In this new work, I was attempting a deliberate layering of image and content. I achieved this by copying illustrations from old textbooks onto colored paper, cutting them out, and collaging the resulting solid color shapes onto a black and white photo. The photographs, most of which were also appropriated, have some illusion of depth or mass, which contrasts with the deliberate 2D flatness of the colored paper shapes.

These ideas kept me busy in the studio for quite a while. I made similar work in a variety of mediums, eventually shifting focus to work which asked questions and challenged assumptions about photography as a medium. But that’s best left for discussion about another old piece of work.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Photo links

My studio work is still progressing slowly. I have ideas, and am working, but don’t have anything finished enough to show. In the meantime, here’s a couple of artists doing photographic work I think is interesting.

Yeondoo Jung has made a series of photographs based on children’s drawings. They’re a little surreal, but with a pop sensibility that keeps the mood light.

Jan von Holleben is a German photographer who did a fun series titled Dreams of Flying. The idea is pretty simple: He has children lie on the ground, surrounded by various props, and shoots them from above. The result is lighthearted photographs without a visible horizon line, giving an obviously fabricated, yet visually believable illusion of depth.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Pineapple Baby And Friends

Here are three cyanotypes I made really quickly earlier this week. They are greatly enlarged scans of parts of small collages I threw together quickly a few months ago at school.

The original collages, and these prints, are meant to be a joke and not serious work (although I kind of like the faux Dada look of these cyanotypes) . This semester, myself and a few of my students have been making collages out of notepads bought at a dollar store. These note pads are decorated with tacky-creepy photos of babies dressed as pineapples and grapes (a sort of bargain basement Anne Geddes look). As the collages are made, they get taped to the computer monitor in the photo classroom at school, to the delight or annoyance of everyone that uses the computer.
I’ve been working with a few independent study students on alternative photo processes this semester, and we had end of semester critiques of their work on Wednesday. I made these prints and put them with the work being critiqued as a joke.

So, my first semester returning to teaching post-sabbatical is nearly at an end. Final exams are next week, then I’m off for the summer. It’s been a busy semester, with my exhibit last month and my usual teaching duties. I’m looking forward to a relaxing summer, and a return to focusing on studio work, which has been pretty much nonexistent for the past month or more.