Artists


Two of my submissions were selected for the upcoming  Alternative Processes exhibition at the SE Center for Photography in Greenville, SC.  The opening will be May 5th (6:00-8:00 p.m.).  The juror for this exhibition is Jill Enfield, an internationally known alternative process artist and educator, who teaches at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City.

Jill has written and lectured extensively on photography.  She recently published, Jill Enfield’s Guide to Photographic Alternative Processes:  Popular Historical and Contemporary Techniques.  She will attend the opening reception and is scheduled to give an albumen printing workshop at the SE Center for Photography on May 6-7.

For this exhibition, Jill selected “Tintype Portrait of Vanessa,” and “Tintype Abstraction #2.”

Tintype Portrait of Vanessa. 19th century wet plate collodion process.

 

Tintype Abstraction #2: archival pigment print from a tintype.

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Got to meet Sally Mann at a book signing at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC

Yesterday, I was so pleased to meet Sally Mann, one of my favorite artists.  She was at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC to read from her recent memoir Hold Still, and she signed copies of it afterwards.  For over a decade, two of her beautiful photography books, Deep South and What Remains, have been in my collection as points of reference, and I got Hold Still as a gift last year.  It is superbly written.  Most people don’t know that Mann’s first love was writing.  She has an MFA in creative writing from Hollins University.

I have admired Mann’s photography since first seeing it in books, and then seeing it exhibited in New York City galleries.  In a time when most photographers have abandoned film and fully embraced digital image making, Mann remains staunchly analogue in her approach to the medium.  In fact, for much of the last 20 years, she has used the 19th century wet plate collodion process to create her images.  It is a labor-intensive, chemical process that is subject to accidents and contamination that Mann refers to as “serendiptious.”  Each emulsion on glass or metal must be hand-poured.  It is often the accidents of the process that, to use her words, “miraculously transform” an ordinary scene into something incredible.

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The line outside Malaprop’s to see Sally Mann.

Mann has a passionate following among artists and those interested in photography, and this was on full display yesterday.  Her reading at Malaprop’s was standing room only, and many people (myself included) had to wait outside for the book signing.  The line to see her was out the door, stretching down the block and around the corner.  It got longer as the evening progressed.  Driving up from Greenville, SC, my wife and I had been delayed by a traffic accident on I-26, not arriving in Asheville until twenty minutes before the event was to begin.  It was clear from the long line that we had little hope of gaining admission.  Through Malaprop’s window, I caught glimpses of Mann as she read, and could hear parts of what she was saying.

After an hour online, when the Q&A session ended, we were allowed to move inside and form behind those already in the store to have books signed.  I’d brought Hold Still, as well as What Remains and Deep South.  When my turn came to speak with Mann, I told her that I thought I’d overdone it with my enthusiasm.  Mann was gracious enough to sign all three books, and we talked a bit about the wet plate process.  We also talked about a few of the people we know in common  through this archaic process.  It was the sort of thing I wish could have been done over coffee with her for an afternoon!  But as long as the line was and with as many people as there were still behind me, I moved on.

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As an MFA student in photography at Parsons School of Design, I did my thesis work at Gettysburg.  I had been studying the images of the Civil War and was haunted by their tonal quality.  The optics of 19th century lenses, especially Petzval designs, and the time-based aspect of long exposures also interested me, the way a sudden movement would render someone ghostly, or the rush of wind would move tree limbs to change a scene entirely.  It was through seeing both the 19th century wet plate images as well as Mann’s exquisite and emotionally powerful contemporary work with that process that I became interested in learning to do it myself.  I took  a wet plate workshop with Eric Tubman through the Center for Alternative Photography (now called Penumbra Foundation), and later took a workshop with wet plate master John Coffer.

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Image by Sally Mann from Battlefields.  Wet Plate Collodion Glass Plate Negative.

The idea of working very close to home has always been important to Mann, as well as working with the land to which, being Southern, she has always had a very strong connection.  In What Remains, the 2005 documentary about her life and work, she says, “I’ve nothing be respect for people who travel the world to make art, who put exotic indians in front of linen backdrops.  But it’s always been my philosophy to try and make art out of the everyday and ordinary.”  It is no wonder that one of my other favorite artists, photographer William Eggleston, shares this view.  I also agree wholeheartedly with another of Sally Mann’s philosophical points:  that if you cannot photograph the things you love, then you cannot make good art.  This is something I’ve thought about a lot and put into practice in my own art since returning to South Carolina after a sixteen year sojourn in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Emily Bicht recently showed some of her Ready to Rumble series at Fountain Art Fair in Miami (Dec. 3-7).  This mixed media series explores the power dynamics of gender through male vs. female wrestling depictions.  Fountain Art Fair is an alternative exhibition venue that is willing to show artists who do not fit the conventional gallery mold and who are willing to take risks with their work.

 

The Takedown (Mixed Media on Panel, 24" x 24")

Ready To Rumble: The Takedown (Mixed Media on Panel, 24″ x 24″)

 

Pieta by Emily Bicht (Mixed Media on Panel, 24" x 24")

Ready to Rumble: Pieta (Mixed Media on Panel, 24″ x 24″)

 

Set against a decorative backdrop, the male and female adversaries in Bicht’s panels occupy a rather compressed space, which intensifies the struggle at hand.  After seeing her work online, I recalled attending the Sigmar Polke retrospective at MoMA in 1997.  He achieved the same sort of compressed space in his ballpoint pen drawings and paintings from the 60s.  One of Polke’s drawings from that retrospective was Damen-Ringkampfe (“Lady Wrestlers”), which assumes the vantage point of the male gaze (looking upon women combatants for entertainment).

 

Damen-Ringkampf by Sigmar Polke (1968).  Ballpoint Pen, Watercolor and Silver (11 5/8 x 8 1/4")

Damen-Ringkampfe by Sigmar Polke (1968) Ballpoint Pen, Watercolor and Silver (11 5/8 x 8 1/4)

 

Bicht’s work is more compelling in that subverts the expectations of the gaze.  Male and female are engaged in a contest that is just as much symbolic and psychological as it is physical.  Will one gender or the other prevail; or will some equilibrium ultimately be achieved – a draw?  Jungian psychology, which has been informed by alchemical  texts, suggests that each person’s psyche has both masculine and feminine attributes.  We seek balance, which is only achieved after a long struggle of our inner opposites.

 

Engraving from an 18th century version of the Rosarium philosophorum.

Male/Famale Unity: Engraving from an 18th century version of the Rosarium philosophorum.

 

Ready to Rumble taps into the theme of physical struggle for power that can be dated by millennia, as the depictions below from ancient Egypt and Greece demonstrate.

 

Egyptian Depiction of Wrestling (2500 B.C.)

Egyptian Depiction of Wrestling (2500 B.C.)

 

 

Depiction of Wrestling from Greece (500 B.C)

Depiction of Wrestling from Greece (500 B.C)

 

 

The Greek forms look similar to those in Bicht’s Domestic Wrestling animation below.

 

 

 

 

Bicht’s work also reminds me of Wrestling Ladies, a theatre piece developed by Tory Vasquez and performed at P.S. 122 back in March 2003.  Vasquez received a supporting grant for her project from the Creative Capital Foundation.

 

 

Wrestling Ladies Promotional Photograph (2003)

Wrestling Ladies Promotional Photograph (2003)

 

 

Project Description from the Creative Capital Website

 

Wrestling Ladies transforms a theatrical venue into a wrestling ring. In a visual style inspired by contemporary underground comics, the work depicts characters as combatants, superheroes, and saints who all struggle to transcend their given and created identities. The audience is witness to both their public battles and private histories. The primary character is an eleven year old girl Chasity a.k.a Devilish Angel who is obsessed with wrestling. The other characters include: Her mother, Maria Elena Vazquez, a ruthless champion; her soon to be stepfather, Louis, manager/coach of the ring; and her friend Lizard, a wrestler who keeps her company and protects her from evil. The action moves fluidly from fight scenes to surreal dances to moments of unexpected tenderness.

 

 

 Fountain Art Fair Press Release 


Fountain Miami, the alternative art exhibition known for presenting cutting-edge and independent art galleries, sets up shop in an industrial warehouse located at 25th Street and North Miami Avenue for its latest installment this December. Fountain is a guerrilla-style art event, dubbed by many as the “Anti Art Fair” for its brash, off-the-wall offerings of non-traditional art exhibitions in the art fair environment.

Recruiting avant-garde galleries who showcase progressive primary-market works, Fountain breathes fresh life into the Miami Beach “Basel Frazzle,” giving gallery-goers and art enthusiasts the opportunity to see new works without traditional booths or selection juries. While most fairs have fallen into the hands of corporate management, Fountain remains independent, and as such presents work in a forward-thinking manner. Unencumbered by the strict presentation guidelines and parameters found at other fairs, Fountain preserves the visions of galleries and dealers to provide an environment reflective of the artists and their works.

Fountain’s venue, a large and dramatic 16000 square-foot complex with both interior and exterior exhibition areas, is adjacent to all the major Wynwood fairs. Participating galleries receive approximately 1200 square feet of exhibition space, so visitors can expect massive installations of contemporary painting, sculpture, performance and new media art.

Artnet – the most widely read art site on the web – describes Fountain: “Likeability and chutzpah used to be what art was about. That, and a little guerrilla mentality, which you had at Fountain in spades. This is the place where you reminisce about the good old days, when you did it yourself, when inspiration and magic struck like a bolt from the blue. Here at Fountain, the artists and dealers are hungry and they welcome all visitors warmly. They are having fun and that’s the vibe. I felt like sitting down, having a beer, and hanging.”

Fountain Miami 2008 participating galleries include:

Glowlab – New York
Leo Kesting – New York
Open Ground – Brooklyn
Radau – Miami
Jonathan Shorr Gallery – New York
Yum Yum Factory – Brooklyn
Dada Art Gallery – Philadelphia
Briceno Gallery – Miami

Fountain was launched in March 2006 in New York in an effort to leverage support for independent galleries overlooked by the larger, corporate-sponsored art fairs. The name “Fountain” is a nod to Marcel Duchamp’s controversial sculpture which shook up the art world when it was rejected by the Society of Artists’ exhibition in 1917. Similarly, in defiant contrast with The Armory Show, Art Basel Miami Beach, Pulse, Scope and the numerous other international art fairs, Fountain has received wide public support and critical acclaim for its experimental slant. In form and spirit, the artwork exhibited at Fountain reflects the avant-garde attitude of the Dada art movement, while attracting the attention of the international clientele and top collectors who attend the more traditional fairs.