Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pae White at the Art Institute of Chicago

I feel like I should be working for the tourism board of the City of Chicago. There are so many cool goings on in the city.
Last night I attended an event at the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. I had never been to the restaurant, Terzo Piano, and the setting took my breath away. The terrace, with spectacular views of Millennium Park and Michigan Avenue, is encased with a site specific work by artist Pae White titled Restless Rainbow. She has wrapped the space with an abstracted rainbow. While planning for the installation, White wondered... what would happen if a rainbow fell from the sky?

You could go see for yourself.

While we are on the subject of rainbows, here is a stitched iphone photograph of a double rainbow.

© Alden Griffith

Who even knew they occurred in nature?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chicago Theater ~ On Rothko and The Pitmen Painters

Everyone knows how fabulous Chicago Theater is. There is always something wonderful to see. I am passing along 2 suggestions for anyone reading this blog who resides in Chicago. The Pitmen Painters at Time Line Theater is about a group of men who work in the coal mines who hire a teacher so they can learn about art. When the teacher learns they know absolutely nothing about the history of art, he suggests they pick up a paintbrush and start creating their own art. What follows is an insightful and delightful discussion about art.

I jotted down these quotes to share...

"Art isn't about finding's about asking questions."
"Art is not about technical proficiency, it is about feelings."

A nice article about the book that the play was based on, The Pitman Painters: The Ashington Group 1934-1984 by William Feaver is HERE.

Last night I saw Red at the Goodman Theater which is by American writer John Logan about artist Mark Rothko. I was deeply moved by the play as it touched so many of the themes in my life. Happily, I bought a copy of the play in the lobby to more fully consider it's riches. One thing Rothko asks his assistant was if he had every read Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy. (I haven't but just downloaded it onto my kindle).

He goes on to discuss his concern for building up the luminosity of the painting, (something I am currently struggling with and am at the point of being discouraged but not defeated). "I do a lot of layers, one after another, like a glaze, slowly building the image, like pentimento, letting the luminescence emerge, until it's done."

The Rothko character also states, "These pictures deserve compassion and they live or die in the eye of the sensitive viewer, they quicken only if the empathetic viewer will let them. That is what they cry out for. That is why they were created. That is what they deserve."

For more information on the NYC production, there is an online interview with Charlie Rose HERE.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday Morning Musings

"We shall not cease from our exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time." T. S. Eliot

I thought of this poem this morning as I was listening to the Grateful Dead. It was if I had never really heard the music before.
Amazing how we often gloss over things that we "think" are so familiar. I keep wondering how to keep my mind and heart open to the infinite world of possibilities.

This was a self portrait I did years ago in the darkroom by sandwiching negatives together....I look at it now and think "did I really do that?"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gregory Crewdson

I have been aware of Gregroy Crewdson's work for some time now but just recently read on twitter that he will be teaching at Yale University in their photography department. It peaked my interest in him so I decided share some of his work.

Crewdson is best known for elaborately staged scenes of American homes and neighborhoods and often has up to 40 crew members helping him to create that perfect shot. There is an interview I found on you tube where he describes his process, which I am including at the bottom of this post. I am also including a few quotes from the interview which I found inspiring.

"What is important is trying to make this one moment as beautiful and mysterious as possible."

"In a lot of my pictures there is a preoccupation with what is beneath the surface of something."

"There is a tension between the ordinary and the strange that really attracts me."

"I like the twilight, the magic hour, but I think my pictures are very much about the moment between moments, between before and between after."

Here is the interview. What is amazing to me is the effort involved in creating the photograph. It is staggering.

Monday, September 19, 2011


If you ever wondered how art factors into mental health and healing, you have to check out this movie, Marwencol. It is the riveting story of how Mark Hogancamp overcame a vicious mugging that left him severely impaired with extensive brain damage. It is remarkable how the photographs he took of his work conveyed the deep emotion and drama of the scene. There is a fusion of what is real and what is imagined which gives the work an immediacy and extraordinary power. The filmmakers of this documentary were also masterful in how they told the story.

You can stream the movie thru Netflix. Also, Marwencol is the name of his imaginary town. You can learn more about the entire project HERE.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Dorchester Project ~ Theaster Gates

I don't know if you have seen the movie the Interrupters, but if you did, it may have left you wondering what you could do. The arts have always been a vehicle for healing. I just read this article in the University of Chicago Magazine and instead of trying to paraphrase it, I thought I would just share it. The project is truly inspired and reminds me of how some artists have transformed Detroit neighborhoods.

Culture Wares

Theaster Gates hopes to transform a neighborhood through art.

It's as if he wants to get this part out of the way first: Theaster Gates knows that the South Side of Chicago has long been burdened with a bad reputation—and that the reputation is at least partially merited. "We know there's violence, and we know there's gang activity," Gates says. "We know there's not a strong economic core."

What Gates most wants to talk about, however, is the potential that gets lost in the discussions of the problems. "What we don't consider enough is the rich cultural legacy," Gates says, "the kind of cultural curiosity, the alternative histories. ... There is a deep intellectual reservoir that has never been fully tapped. And if it has, its voice has never been amplified loudly enough."

© Lloyd Degrane

Gates, a University resident artist, visual-arts lecturer, and director of arts-program development, has dedicated himself to amplifying that voice.

His Dorchester Project is the most ambitious example of his goal to find run-down spaces in struggling black neighborhoods and transform them through art and culture. Although the South Side's Grand Crossing neighborhood serves as the locus of his movement, Gates's art has been the subject of exhibitions in other cities, including St. Louis and Seattle. He has purchased property in St. Louis with the idea of transforming blighted spaces there, as well.

Gates, a West Side native who has arts, religion, and urban planning degrees from Iowa State University, has accumulated an eclectic body of work from pottery to music—his Black Monks of Mississippi ensemble includes musician Leroy Bach, formerly of the alt-rock band Wilco. The ongoing project in Grand Crossing, however, promises to be his magnum opus.

The Dorchester Project's centerpiece is a once-abandoned two-story house at 6916 South Dorchester. To create what he hopes will become a South Side cultural hub, where artists and other visitors can congregate both informally and for planned events, Gates went on a bargain spending spree. He purchased the property for $16,000. Then he bought 8,000 vinyl albums from a Hyde Park record store, Dr. Wax, which was closing. He added to the mix approximately 14,000 used books and thousands of photographic slides that the University of Chicago was planning to discard. Every item serves a double purpose—arrayed throughout the home, each one becomes part of the overall decor while also providing cultural material for artists and other visitors, a conversation piece unto itself.

The house is the first of many spaces on the block that Gates, who has also purchased two vacated foreclosures nearby, plans to transform. For stigmatized neighborhoods, he says, art can be the springboard to renaissance. "There's dignity everywhere," Gates says. "It's easy to overlook because the people who write about culture in the city live north. The people who have the capacity to create new cultural opportunities usually create them in a place that seems economically viable, where you can bank on a certain kind of person going to a certain kind of thing."

For Gates, who joined the University in 2007, his job is an opportunity to bridge the gap between the campus arts culture and the surrounding neighborhoods. He intends to connect the two even more, developing a role with the University under the working title, "Director of Arts and Public Life."

"I'm having this conversation with my friends at the University of Chicago," says Gates. "How can our students become more cultured? How do we get our students more embedded in the cultural life of the city? How do we ensure that our students have a voice and are engaged in the community? ... How do we make sure the community has access to the cultural life of the University? ... Is there a way I can help contribute to that?"
With his Dorchester Project, Gates is leading the discussion.

The link to the article is HERE.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Waste Landscape ~ Elise Morin and Clemence Eliard

WASTE LANDSCAPE - Centquatre 104 - 21-07 // 11-09-2011 from elise morin on Vimeo.

A project by Elise Morin and Clémence Eliard

"WasteLandscape" is a 500 square meters artificial undulating landscape covered by an armor of 65 000 unsold or collected CDs, which have been sorted and hand-sewn. It is well known that CDs are condemned to gradually disappear from our daily life, and to later participate in the construction of immense open-air, floating or buried toxic waste reception centers.Made of petroleum, this reflecting slick of CDs forms a still sea of metallic dunes: the art work's monumental scale reveals the precious aspect of a small daily object. The project joins a global, innovative and committed approach, from its means of production until the end of its "life"."WasteLandscape" will be displayed in locations coherent with the stakes of the project: art role in society, raising consciousness to environmental problems through culture, alternative mode of production and valuation of district associative work and professional rehabilitation. Over the course of multiple exhibitions, "WasteLandscape" will go through quite a few transformations before being entirely recycled into polycarbonate. The roaming will allow both artists to pursue new awareness-raising activities.

"The installation has been developped by Elise Morin and Clémence Eliard in collaboration with the 104"
"The building has been refurbished by atelier Novembre: Marc Iseppi & Jacques pajot"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Memory of 9/11 ~ Quelling the Violence

It was unintentional but on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 I went to see the movie The Interrupters. I had been trying to seeing it for some time but it took a while to open in Chicago and then I was out of town for all the sold out record breaking performances at the Gene Siskel Film Center. I was pleased to see they had another short run in a theater near me. I have been tracking this movie for some time because I had at one time considered working on a photographic project on gun violence. At the time of doing the research, I learned of this film in the making. I was so pleased that the extraordinary filmmakers, Kartemquin, of Hoop Dreams, were tackling the issue. The film focuses on universal themes of hope, compassion and love while following people in a south side Chicago neighborhood as they interrupt the cycle of violence. The model of intervention that the program Cease Fire uses could be applied world wide. The film has won multiple awards and should not be missed. Please, please, please go see it. You won't be disappointed.

Another person tackling the subject of epidemic gun violence is photographer extraordinaire, Carlos Javier Ortiz. He is giving a lecture about his work at the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago on Wednesday, October 12th at 7pm. Make your reservation HERE.

© Carlos Javier Ortiz

© Carlos Javier Ortiz

Friday, September 09, 2011

On Blogging

I have been thinking about my blog as of late, and have decided to post only "when the spirit moves me". I am thus abandoning my photo of the day project which I enjoyed for the first several months but has recently felt more burdensome. I continue to think of this blog as a place where I can share information that will inspire and support the creative life (with some self promotion on the side).

I have been reflecting on the state of photography in relationship to the internet and to my life. It has been amazing to me how much networking is done thru the internet and how much time we all spend trying to "connect" and be seen. Having been away from it for several weeks was truly refreshing. I wish I could say I have a definite answer for how to navigate all the social networking and informational sites but I don't and am stuggling to find the fine balance myself.

What I do know is that being in the state of creating is where it is at. The is what I value most.

On another note, there are several things happening in the Chicago area you should know about. The first is that this weekend is the fall opening of many exhibitions. It is a great time to see art and be inspired. There will be free trolleys running tonight in Chicago to get people to the various gallery districts. Should be a fun time. For more information, click HERE.

Tomorrow night is the opening for Christopher Schneberger and Anthony Iacussi at the Perspective Gallery in Evanston. Another great venue of a cooperative artist run gallery. Click HERE for more information.

The Filter Photo Festival is fast approaching and is offering a wealth of information and networking opportunities for photographers. Again, I will be teaching a workshop on Developing your Personal Vision on Wednesday, October 12th. Be sure to check out the wonderful lectures portfolio reviewers who are coming into our windy city.

And finally, if you love to read and have some extra cash and would like to support the place where so many wonderful books are written, the Ragdale Foundation is having their annual Novel Affair fundraiser at the end of the month. You can read more about it HERE. The 2 night affair includes having a dinner with a best-selling and award-winning authors including Lisa Genova (Still Alice), Ron Hansen (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Helen Simonson (Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand), Meg Wolitzer (The Position), Suzzy Roche (singer and new author), Heidi Durrow (The Girl Who Fell from the Sky), Sue Miller (The Good Mother), and Malachy McCourt (author and actor).

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Checking In

I woke up this morning to an email from Yvette stating how she was looking forward to my updated posts. I must say that I have been thinking about this blog and how much I enjoyed taking a break from writing. However, with her nudge, I decided to share a photograph I took that really pleased me from my time in Northern Wisconsin. I was considering how we, as photographers, tend to be drawn to the same image over and over again. After I took this photograph with my iphone, I was immediately reminded of an earlier image from the 1990's.

I poked around in my storage boxes and found the "matching" image. This earlier one was a "constructed" image which I set up (as opposed to the one I took this summer). I had such a difficult time in the darkroom dodging the sheet so I just made another print and tried the cut and paste method! Needless to say, this is the very first time this print has seen the light of day.

And then there is the quintessential boat. I have photographed this boat every summer and find it endlessly fascinating in its character and poetic possibilities.

In thinking about the change of seasons, our comings and goings, I thought I would share an amazing poem by Mark Strand...

From Dark Harbor

"It is true, as someone has said, that in
a world without heaven all is farewell.
Whether you wave your hand or not,

It is farewell, and if no tears come to your eyes
It is still farewell, and if you pretend not to notice,
Hating what passes, it is still farewell.

Farewell no matter what. And the palms as they lean
Over the green, bright lagoon, and the pelicans
Diving, and the glistening bodies of bathers resting,

Are stages in an ultimate stillness, and the movement
Of sand, and of wind, and the secret moves of the body
Are part of the same, a simplicity that turns being

Into an occasion for mourning, or into an occasion
Worth celebrating, for what else does one do,
Feeling the weight of the pelicans' wings,

The density of the palms' shadows, the cells that darken
The backs of bathers? These are beyond the distortions
Of chance, beyond the evasions of music. The end

Is enacted again and again. And we feel it
In the temptations of sleep, in the moon's ripening,
In the wine as it waits in the glass."

--Mark Strand

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Square@Birmingham Exhibition

An exhibition of square goodness will take place at fotofilia gallery, Regent Parade, Birmingham B1 3NS, UK, from 6th Sept to 1st Oct. Private view on the 6th Sept, 7 till 9 featuring works from: Mark Voce, Elodie Fougere, Patricia van de Camp, Alain Greloud, Jane Fulton Alt, Sylvestre Anasse, Olivier Despicht, Benjamin Juhel et Phil Bebbington.

It promises to be a very interesting exhibition. Wish I could be there!