Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama's first 100 days and an artist's response

Yesterday this painting was unveiled on the South Plaza of New York City’s Union Square. Artist Michael D’Antuono work, "The Truth" is a politically, socially and religiously charged statement on our current political climate. This image has received a firestorm of controversy since it's inception and the unveiling has just increased the volume of the voices.
As posted in a PRNewsire article:
D’Antuono insists that this piece is a mirror; reflecting the personal opinions and emotions of the viewer; that “The Truth” like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. D’Antuono expects that individual interpretations will vary as widely as they do in the political arena. The work will be seen by one viewer at a time behind a voting booth-inspired public installation.

The website Artbistro, published the article and allows for view comments. Most of the comments are a resounding negative. It seems that the tone of the comments is clearly divided among conservatives and liberals. The conservative comments are either agnry with Obama and how he has handled his first 100 days, or upset that the image has blatant religious overtones.
One comment by a person listed as Lsf754 stated:
I'm insulted, this is not right. GOD said, " man should not make images of anything on the earth, or the heavens above.......

Where another comment whose name is listed as artifacts said:
This makes my heart hurt. God forgive us.

The more liberal of the viewers were a bit more open with their views. They may have not liked the image as a piece of art, but understood what the artist was going for.
The part I find interesting is that the more liberal comments were much more subdued and calm, whereas the more religious and conservative views were angry, sniping and rude.
Art has always been the social conscious of a nation. The artist can spotlight to the world what is actually going on around us. This painting is a depiction of a man who inherited a country in extreme disarray and in only 100 days has show us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Do I like this painting, yes. It is a bit preachy and obvious but I understand the artist's point of view.
What's your?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Censorship takes a toll

For many years I have complained about being censored for art exhibitions because of my content. Just ask my wife, she'll tell you how well I play the artistic victim. Nude photographs have their limited audience as far as gallery and exhibitions go. Some galleries will not show photography, some are conservative and won't show nudes. So when I was given a solo exhibition slated for August at the ArtHouse Lounge gallery in Harrisburg, Pa, I was thrilled. The gallery owner is giving me complete freedom to show whatever I like. The theme is going to be a focused on my more erotic work. And since the exhibition isn't until August I have time to create more work. The problem is what do I shoot? I mean I thought I knew what I wanted to shoot and I had a couple models who were open to the idea, but I stopped short. When people ask me about the show I am hesitant when I speak about it. Isn't this what I have wanted for so many years? Isn't this my opportunity to show that erotic images of the human body can be art and not just slammed as pornography. (Not that I have anything against pornography) So why do I feel stifled when I am shooting or tongue tied when I speak about the show?
Have all the years being censored and trying to shoot what will show gone to my head? I feel that now that the handcuffs have been released and I can no longer bitch about being shut down that I have nothing to say. I feel like a bird that once the cage door has been opened doesn't leave, it's safe in here.
The artistic opportunity of my career is only months away and I feel like I am about to blow it because I can't get out of this cage.
When I first starting photographing nudes I was a college student and took all sorts of artistic risks, but after over 20 years in the real world I think the edgy side of my brain withered from lack of use.
Maybe electric shock therapy would help, or a few new people to work with who will say "Shoot me anyway you want."
The next couple of weeks are going to be quite interesting to see if I can break free of the social stigmas that have kept me back.
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Art and our view of the world

I recently watched a multi-part series on how art has changed the world. From as far back as we can remember, there has always been some sort of art;cave drawings, sculptures and carvings to today's digital imagery - art and images are all around us. The conquerors of their time new how important an images was. we remember the strong jaw of Caesar, one of the first portraits to grace a monetary system. Gates and walls with carvings of heroic deeds to keep the peasants in line and scare off would be invaders. Yes, the image changes what we think of the world around us. Now a days we see something on the news or in a magazine and assume it's real. Even though we know about digital manipulations, in the back of our mind we know Brittany gained 100 pounds over night, or that there really is a Loch Ness Monster. The visual image is that powerful. So when the Obama administration lifted the ban on hiding the images of the flag draped coffins coming back to the US it was a very big deal. For years we have not been able to see this and without the visual proof the statistics of the death toll this war has taken are just that, statistics, numbers. 12 soldiers die by a road side bomb just racks up the death toll tote board. But seeing the metal caskets with the American flag draped over them, coming off the plane at Dover Air force base makes us realize that they are not just numbers but soldiers, people and in a lot of cases, just teenagers, loosing their lives in a war that we shouldn't be in.
The Obama administration has lifted the veil that for far too long has hid the horrors of war from our site. Art is powerful, art is inspiring and hopefully art and the photographic image makes us think. This war isn't over, realize what is happening and don't forget to voice your oppinion and get it to end.
The photo is from the US Department of Defense by the AP

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring into Art

As an artist and an art lover I had the opportunity this week along with my wife to go to 4 different and wonderful exhibitions.
The week started off with my photographs being featured as part of a group exhibition in the ArtHouse Lounge in Harrisburg, PA. It was First Friday and the exhibition was wonderful, I was honored to be among the artists displayed. This exhibition runs through the end of the month and I welcome anyone in the Harrisburg area to view it and let me know your thoughts.
On Saturday night, we stopped by one of our favorite galleries in New Hope, Sidetracks Art Gallery. We are always surprised and pleased at the collection of art that Ricky and Paul pull together is such a small space. The owners are wonderful people who make you feel very welcome and love the artworks as much as anyone could. I highly recommend anyone interested in contemporary art to visit Sidetracks Art gallery in New Hope, PA and this Saturday the 11th is Second Saturday, so there is always something fun going on.
After Sidetracks, we went over into New Jersey to see the opening of 2 artists who are also friends of ours. The exhibition entitled "Natural Dimensions" features the sculptures of Ron Bevilacqua and the paintings of Christine McHugh. The exhibition runs through April 30th with a meet the artists afternoon this Saturday from 12 to 3pm at the River Run Gallery in Lambertville, PA. Both Ron and Christine are accomplished artists with their own unique views. I am sure there is something for everyone to enjoy in this exhibition so I recommend not missing it.

Finally, on Wednesday, we played hookie from work and went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the Cézanne and Beyond exhibition. My wife and I have seen many exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum but this by far is the finest exhibition we have seen. This exhibition explores the vital role of Paul Cézanne in the history of modern art. Not only are Paul Cézanne's works on display but the works of other great artists whom he inspired were along side his. Including such fantastic artists as Pablo Picasso, Giorgio Morandi, Henri Matisse, Jasper Johns and many others. The shear size of the exhibition was breathtaking with over 100 images, but to see such paintings as "The Large Bathers" together with the great artists that he influenced was simply a wonderful experience. This exhibition runs through the end of May and I highly recommend it to everyone. You don't have to know a lot about art to enjoy this exhibition. The audio tour guides you through it with great clarity and you really get to see things from another perspective.

Spring is a wonderful time of year where flowers are blooming and trees are budding, why not let your mind bloom. Take in an art exhibition this weekend. Whether it's a small gallery in your local community or a national museum. You'll come away with much more than you bargained for, art is inspiring, insightful and beautiful. What better way to spend a Spring day.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My Photographic Top 10

Ten Photographers Who Have Influence Me

I have been behind a camera for more than half of my life. My vision has changed throughout the years but has always been influenced by those brave pioneers who came before me. Here is my Top Ten list of influential photographers.

1. Eugène Atget (1857-1927)--a French photographer whose images of city life and architecture were more than mere representations but gave the city new life, depth and beauty.

2. Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946)--an artist and entrepreneur who brought photography into the 20th century by showing the world that photography was an art form not just a tool. "The Steerage" (1907) is thought to be the first art photograph.

3. Edward Steichen (1879-1973)--originally a fine art painter, he used his pictorial approach in photography before World War I. He later moved to more straight photography and became a master of magazine portraiture, fashion photography, and advertising imagery. He brought out in the subject more than just the surface. His 1928 portraits of Greta Garbo are recognized as her defining portraits.

4. Edward Weston (1886-1958)--known for his close-ups of vegetables and nudes. In photography he was a "purist" who believed that photographs should be direct and sharp. He is know for waiting hours for the sunlight to be just right often to the spoils of his fruit he photographed.

5. Paul Strand (1890-1976)--was a photographic modernist who along with Stieglitz and Weston, established photography as an art form. Some of this early work, like the well-known "Wall Street," experimented with formal abstractions and influenced artists like Edward Hopper. He also thought photography should be used for social reform and was a founder of the Photo League, an association of photographers using their cameras to promote social and political causes.

6. Ansel Adams (1902-1984)--who not only captured the splendor of the American West but he helped increased the public's appreciation of the art of photography. He also developed the zone system, a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. The resulting clarity and depth characterized his photographs. A system that is still in use today even with the advent of digital imagery.

7. Minor White (1908-1976)--who captured things usually considered mundane, and transformed them into something special. These "equivalents" made us look at things in a new way and turned the realism of photography into more of an abstraction. It made us see where we normally only look.

8. Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908- 2004)--who instead of the big box cameras of the day used a small 35 mm camera to capture everyday life and transform these slices of life into beautiful scenes. He really pioneered street photography, a style that has influenced many a photographer and film maker.

9. Jerry Uelsmann (1934- )--created surrealistic images composed of many negatives all blended together to create an allegorical story for the viewer to see. Uelsmann has a suburb skill in the darkroom which many attempt to reproduce digitally today.

10. Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989 )--was as an American photographer who is known for his large, highly stylized black and white portraits of flowers and the nude figure. Often delving into the fetish world and thus becoming controversial.
When one actually looks at a Mapplethorpe image you are taken by the tonal range, beauty of the form and how it relates to things around it. After his death his exhibition "The Perfect Moment" became the lighting rod for censorship. The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. agreed to host a traveling solo exhibit of Mapplethorpe's work without making a stipulation as to what type of subject matter would be used. Once the curator saw the body of work that included homo-erotic images, they refused to go forward with the exhibition. After the Corcoran refused the Mapplethorpe exhibition, the underwriters of the exhibition, then went to the nonprofit Washington Project for the Arts, which showed the controversial images in its own space from July 21 - August 13, 1989. Unfortunately Mapplethorpe is known more for the controversy than the art, but being one of the lucky ones who was able to see this retrospective exhibition in New York City 1989, I can only say that his work profoundly changed the way I see and shoot.

So that is my list of photographic influences and brief reason why. There are other artists who have also lent to my development as a photographic artist but that list would be much too long for this blog.