Wednesday, December 3, 2008

3 Word Artist Statement

Environment(al) (Self-Portrait)

Parenthesises if I could have added one more word

Monday, November 24, 2008

Marc Asnin

His work named "Uncle Charlie" is about his uncle and godfather, and how he feels that he is the only one to embrace him as family. The series depicts issues of isolation, drug addiction, mental disorders, anorexia, and the result of failure in life. His images are stark, real, dark, and have a sense of fear to go along with them as well. Marc Asnin went to school for photography at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. He was influenced by his father, an advertising photography, to pursue photography. His work is dramatic strong and very closely tied to his own life.


Gallery: No gallery representation but has shown
Photo New York, New York, New York, 2006
Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow, Russia, 2004
International Festival for Photography, Rusia, 2003
Houston FotoFest, Houston, Texas, 2000
SF Camera Work, San Francisco, California, 2000
Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, Paris, France, 1999
Portland Museum of Art, 1998
Houston FotoFest, Houston, Texas, 1996
Ansel Adams Center for Photography, 1994
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, 1992
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland, 1992
Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, 1991

Interview: not an interview, but an article

Friday, November 21, 2008

Did anyone critique my work:

Yes, the whole class did. it was very constructive, i feel, and it offered a good amount of constructive criticism. The biggest critique of myself was that I really need to be able to talk about my work better and have a better defense. Which i completely agree with, because, at times, i cannot articulate very well. The Images where i don't confront the camera might be stronger. That will add a better sense of mystery and narrative, and make it less of a portrait, and it will help people read into the scene better. Add symbols or at least create more personal meaning through symbolism. About the new mixed-media collage, it was too muddy, needs to be brighter, needs more balance, more meaning, less abstraction and more form and more self-relation to the piece. John made a good point, it kind of looks like trash art, and i can see that. I need to clean it up a bit, and add more meaning to it, and make it less than it is. but, it was a good act of self destructive process. The elevator piece was it seemed everyone's favorite piece. It was moody, sad, separated, isolated, disconnected, and had an inside/outside dynamic that could be utilized. People were also saying that the blur is another strong point in the new work, by juxstaposing the out of focus with the in focus. it also adds a sense of dream/nightmare and gives the feeling of everyone besides myself. People also wanted me to make a reconstruction of the whole reality, make the scene even bigger and encompass the viewer. People also wanted me to reshoot these spaces and shoot them as deadpan without me in them.

motivational or creative moment:

The motivational moment this week was to get my show complete without anyone worrying about me. I mean, I appreciate it and all, but no one needed to worry about me. Thanks.

Achieve in studio:

Well, I have two weeks left in the semester and I just got a bunch of good advice, so I will take that advice and apply it to my work and make some productive new pieces of work... i hope.

This week's studio:

Critiqued my work and alma's work, and we both seemed to have productive critiques so that's good.


I wouldn't go as far as saying I had a failure in studio this week, but some things sure need improvement. That's for sure.

Profound Thought:

Mixed media collage

Visiting Artist:


Sunday, November 16, 2008


Paul Thulin has read your blog up to this point/entry. Your blog is currently up to date and complete.

Anna Druzcz

Anna Druzcz was born in Poland in 1979. She eventually moved to Canada to go to school at the Beal Arts Secondary School’s Vocational Art and eventually ended up going to Ryerson Polytechnic University where she studied a whole variety of art including painting, sculpture, etching, lithography, film, ceramics, and photography. She eventually settled on photography and the use of digital manipulations to create landscapes, portraits, still lives and most of her work. She went to RIT to get her MFA in photography .

interview: unable to find one

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Did anyone critique my work?
Yes: my work was too in your face, all that could be seen was david hockney, couldn't get past the style, i am spinning my wheels, where's the content?, what does it mean?, not abstracted enough, why didn't i tilt my camera to the side?, Too calculated, let go, break out, think about what, and the thinking is missing.

this is what i was told.

motivational or creative moment?
this critique, i want to prove sonali wrong on everything. if she is doubting me, I will succeed TRUST ME!

Achieve in studio?

my work must get DONE SOON!!!!

this week's studio?

Critiqued stephanie and cindy's work and realized that my work needs more work!


According to sonali, my work isn't going in the right direction, so i see that as a failure.

profound thought?

omni-gel ink transfers.

visiting artist?


Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Word: Narrative

1. a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.
2. a book, literary work, etc., containing such a story.
3. the art, technique, or process of narrating: Somerset Maugham was a master of narrative.
4. consisting of or being a narrative: a narrative poem.
5. of or pertaining to narration: narrative skill.
6. Fine Arts. representing stories or events pictorially or sculpturally: narrative painting. Compare anecdotal (def. 2).

Nar"ra*tive\, a. [Cf. F. narratif.]
1. Of or pertaining to narration; relating to the particulars of an event or transaction.
2. Apt or inclined to relate stories, or to tell particulars of events; story-telling; garrulous.
"narrative." Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 11 Nov. 2008. .

My reason for choosing this word is because I really want to explore this topic of depicting and showing an event that has happened. I want, for next semester, to begin doing a project that incorporates depicting events and or transactions in my photography. I want to start doing stuff, like the people from Yale. I like that deadpan sort of narrative tableaux that they are producing so well. The formal shots, the events that took place, the implied narrative that goes along with all of that. I feel that I want to do something that involves people and to make the viewer really question and explore the photograph to find subtle clues to things that have transpired in an image. I think I may be jumping the gun, but I feel that, in all honesty, this is where my work should go and should develop into.

Artist 1: Nathan Baker

Image 1: "Ashes", 2006. 60 x 75 in. Digital Inkjet?
Image 2: "Bath", 2006/7. 48 x 60 in. Digital Inkjet?

I like his work because of this sense of stillness that of an event that just happened. The event seems to have just happened and we are the witnesses of whatever it is he is depicting. This eerie sense overcomes the viewer as we dissect the image and its messages. I feel that this aesthetic is something that I can get into and want to aim and shoot for in my later work at VCU.

Rupture, Part One

In Being and Time, Heidegger describes the “Present at Hand” as a situation that arises
when things break down; when the routine of life pauses and the door is opened for basic,
unmediated humanity to step in and replace the automata of contemporary rigor. Such
moments are inflections on how we function on a most basic level, without the societal
and psychological influences that we have grown to rely upon.

This work, titled Rupture, Part One aims to portray this idea visually. Consisting of Large
Format Color Photography, Video, and Sound Installation, the work approaches this idea
from multiple angles. Two distinct veins of photographic work describe both a first person
perspective that presents the viewer with a representation of Present at Handedness, and
a voyeuristic perspective that allows the viewer the spectacle of watching another in the
thrall of this experience. Thirdly, a meditation on the context of this moment – a direct
comparison between before, after, and during the experience that defines the banality that
exists outside of this moment, is provided by the video work.

Separated into two distinct groups, the photographs provide a shift for the viewer between
experiencing the moment themselves and the ability to witness another in the same
situation. The pictures sans people focus on the confrontational aspect of a common
accident. Objects that are “ready to hand” (defined as things, often taken for granted,
that exist as a standing reserve for use) have taken on a new role – one that beckons us
to disregard our context of comfort and react innately to the loss of this ready-to-
handedness. It’s almost as though the objects we have put into servitude have decided
to form a coup d’état against our normality and force us to realize the futility in
contriving our lives in this manner.

The next group of photographs depicts scenarios in which people are in this static state -
after being presented with a stimulus, yet before a conscious reaction. This is the moment
of the Present at Hand, when the things we have taken for granted step up and remind us
of our humanity. The pictures present a perfectly eerie stillness – one that pervades
throughout the scenario and represents the shattering of one’s assumed identity in
relation to their constructed context.

Lastly, the video work takes on the responsibility of providing a comparative context in
which to deconstruct the scenario. We plainly see the normality that precedes the event,
and, like a real experience, are hard-pressed to actually witness the fleeting moment that
transforms our context from the Ready at Hand to the Present at Hand. We are left with
the aftermath of the accident – an entrance into understanding the phenomenon that is
our only path to realizing the experience.

(I found reviews for his group shows, but found his artist statement more interesting.)

Artist 2: Bradley Peters

What I liked about this guy's work is its decisive moment that is captured. This is from his series of work "Family Plan" and his portrayal of staged yet almost real/surreal is what is striking to my eye. The composition and the questions that it raises in my mind are what attracted me to his work. He is also a recent (2008) graduate of Yale.

Image 1: Unable to find title, date, and medium (2007 or 2008)
Image 2: Unable to find title, date, and medium (2007 or 2008)

I came across the work Family Plan by Bradley Peters today which immediately stopped me in my tracks. The tensions between spontaneity and theatricality are just one of its obvious strengths but I also really enjoyed reading his rationale behind the project. It is always fascinating to hear how photographers try to pull together their ideas and influences as they strive for a single, clear vision. It is those blind alleys, unforced errors and final steps before a new direction which led to key turning points and revelations about one´s own work that I find so intriguing. So here is Bradley trying to steer a path through different, and often conflicting, interpretations that have arisen around his personal photography:

"In an attempt to make things clearer for myself, I have been trying to figure out why exactly the work feels like it does. But my understanding is slowly evolving and shifting, which is making a clear definition difficult. Sometimes it feels like the fragments of the distorted stories that I grew up listening to my father tell — but then again, it also feels like an investigation into how neurosis translates itself into gesture and body language; how my mother's distress influences the particular manner in which she holds her dinner fork. Sometimes it seems like it's trying to deal with ideas of materiality — what things people love, and how they love them; how they think they need them because of what they represent. Sometimes it feels like it's about the idea of how everything is connected and pulling on everything else, or how destruction is just really transformation — where there is a change in form but not in energy. Sometimes it seems like it's dealing with some kind of pseudo-faith and the false relief that is gained through ritual; the strategies we've established to ease our souls through habitual distraction. And sometimes it's the feeling of pure desperation in trying to communicate something that is outside the senses; a hybrid moment of the indescribable personal, and the accessible everyday — the failures and miracles of human perception.

It is kind of like hearing a strange sound coming from another room that seems both at once recognizable and unfamiliar. It is the compulsion to discover its source. Although this pursuit may seem to be inevitably elusive and fruitless, I am hoping to gain whatever understanding I can through the process."

Bradley Peters was born in Columbus, Nebraska, in 1979. He received a BA from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln in 2004, with degrees in both Psychology and Art. In 2002 and 2003 he was awarded the UNL Creative Activities & Research Experiences Grant. He is also the recipient of the Jean R. Faulkner Memorial Award, the Gold Award from the Midwest Society for Photographic Education, and the Richard Benson Prize. He is a 2008 graduate of the MFA program in Photography at the Yale University School of Art.

Artist 3: Katie Kingma

What drew me to her work was the sense of wonder that I get from these images. This idea of questioning all that is presented in the photograph is something that I am really interested in. This sense of mystery and the suspense that is present in her work, challenges the viewer to figure out the meanings that is inherent in all of her photographs. There is a sense of child like wonder that is present as well, and it's relationship to memory that I also try and figure out for myself as well.

Image 1: "Bog: Old Stage Coach Lane", 2007/2008?, C-print. dimensions unknown
Image 2: "Kensington Stables", date ?, C-print. dimensions unknown

Katie Kingma’s photographs create a dialogue between the fears of grown women and the fantasies of young girls. Kingma often pulls references, in her imagery and compositional elements from horror films and fairy tales. The mood of her photographs is strongly dependent upon the interaction of the subject with the environment. The subjects in her photographs, i.e. the girls, are oftentimes dwarfed by the environmental locations they inhabit. The environment acts as a character rather than a place; she wants the subject and the environment to coexist. Kingma uses multiple frames to illustrate her narrative and allude to different events. She challenges the viewer to engage with the image and search for a meaning within the narrative. The strength of her narrative is dependent upon the information that is excluded from the photographic frame as well. Ultimately, Kingma’s goal is to force the viewer to make a conclusion based not only on the elements of the photograph but from their own personal experiences.


Now, her work is a bit different to what I've previously showed, but what I was intrigued about in this series of work, was the questioning without people. Where we have to draw our own conclusions to why the food is still left out and eaten. I think that these are nice narrative still lives that one must pick apart to find clues into the photograph.

Image 1: "I did not Remember I had Forgotten #60", 2002. C-print. 29.2 x 37in.
Image 2: Morning and Melancholia #32, 2001. C-print. unknown dimensions

Laura Letinsky
YANCEY RICHARDSON GALLERY 535 West 22nd Street, 3rd
Floor September 15–October 27

R. B. Kitaj once wrote, in a foreword to a book of Lee
Friedlander’s work, “The religion of photography rather insists on
remembrance.” Nowhere does that notion seem more resonant
than in Laura Letinsky’s luxuriously lit still lifes, in which what
asks to be remembered always occurs before our witness. In
this exhibition, titled “To Say It Isn’t So,” Letinsky moves her
elegiac images of abandoned tables after a meal, formally
reminiscent of classic Dutch and Flemish still lifes, out of their
domestic sphere and into the studio. This time, rather than using
religiously fraught objects such as decaying fruit and dead
flowers, Letinsky chooses contemporary detritus (crushed
Styrofoam cups, paper plates, white gift boxes) to populate her
tables, with the aim of shedding the burdens of symbolism.
These white or neutral-toned objects, bathed in natural light,
challenge our sensitivity in perceiving them, not only against
white tables but also against the gallery walls. A monochromatic
decision like this could easily come off as overly self-conscious
or academic, but Letinsky’s averts such a fate with the images’
stark evocations of loss and temporality. Indeed, these painterly,
large-format photographs are saturated with the quietest
nostalgia: Gifts have been opened, cake has been eaten, and the
cast of characters has vanished, leaving behind its debris.
According to the artist, this new series is intended to do away
with both symbolic inferences and narrative; but it is the lost
narrative—implied but, finally, irretrievable—that infuses the
work with a depth and lyricism beyond its formal concerns.
Those familiar with Letinsky’s work will not be disappointed,
though they may balk at seeing a Target bag and a ripped
McDonald’s cup included in her otherwise unassuming
repertoire. Suddenly, brand associations—louder, it would seem,
than any earlier religious ones—threaten to upset the decorum of
Letinsky’s meticulously considered aesthetic, reminding us that
even the richest, most private pleasures often take place at the
periphery of the banal.
—Debora Kuan

Artist 5: Marian Drew

Now, these may be a little bit harder to sell as narrative, but the quality that makes me feel that they are, is the images are so bizzare that one has to try and make sense of it. Her images are haunting and beautiful. Her work puts a dead animal on a place that looks like it is set for eating and allows you to raise questions and your eyebrows at her work. For a still life series, this just seems to fit the mold of narrative tableaux.

Image 1: "Wombat and Watermelon", 2003. 70 x 90 cm, archival pigment on hahnemule cotton paper
Image 2: "Marsupial and Protea", 2003. 70 x 90 cm, archival pigment on hahnemule cotton paper

Melbourne, the large city that doesn't have its own Biennale, lays a lot of store by its biennial Art Fair. It's more than the sum of its parts, which on their own would be a host of discrete galleries from near and far, some great and some mediocre. Instead, the aggregated galleries that make up the Art Fair constitute a veritable festival, a cultural event in its own right, with a character that transcends the individual member-galleries.

A part of this celebratory air is due to the mix of participants, which includes commercial galleries of sundry complexion and some non-profit exhibiting organisations as well. So, attention is sought not simply to show off wares but to promote the visual arts as a living entity, with interlocking commercial and public constituencies.

I was allowed in yesterday while the various galleries were still unpacking, so I could experience the excitement from the inside. You have to imagine the neatly partitioned spaces containing the most vibrant chaos, crowded with bubble-wrap, crates, tools and mobile phones. Some of the galleries are installing site-specific work or creating ephemeral displays, painted directly onto the walls.

Galleries have to make some tricky choices as to what to display in the allocated space. Some opt for a solo exhibition, sometimes dedicating the whole space to only one work. Other galleries show two or three artists, while others again show a large selection of their stable.

Given that there's a fair amount of spatial and visual competition, opting for a solo has unity and simplicity to recommend it. The gallery makes a statement. But the disadvantage is that the buying public doesn't get to see the other artists the gallery represents.

The quest for the major statement is always somewhat stressful at an art fair; and a certain pressure is visited upon the installation at the centre of the Royal Exhibition Building. This year, spectators are greeted by the flank of a large inflatable bunny rabbit (two storeys high) occupying the transept crossing. You have to make a point of going around the building to get an adequate view of this cute Koonsian monstrosity, which also recalls the work of Australian artist Christopher Langton, which was featured in previous years.

The bunny was created by major New Zealand artist Michael Parekowhai and possibly reflects upon the ecological burden that plagues colonial history. But this impudent non-indigenous creature is self-consciously kitsch and also reflects upon the more recent neo-colonial history in which our part of the world is equally plagued by cartoon and marketing stereotypes from the northern hemisphere. Perhaps it is coincidental that the media rascal raises its whi
For overseas and even interstate galleries, the Royal Exhibition Buildings can only be treated in universal terms: a stall is a stall, in Melbourne much the same as in Basel, Chicago or Cologne. But, for local artists and audiences, the imposing Victorian edifice has special connotations upon which some of the installations reflect. The sensitivity to the site is especially expressed in the non-commercial galleries.

The installations in the stalls for Linden Contemporary Arts (Valerie Sparks) and Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces (Helen Johnson, Michelle Ussher) both explore Victorian architecture in relation to the artificial nature of the garden and the uprooted landscape of pre-colonial times.

Along the lines of paradox and melancholy, the exhibition that Parekowhai's gleeful bunny literally overlooks is the sombre photography of Marian Drew at Dianne Tanzer gallery (see main picture). In these grim photographs, indigenous road kill is presented in a sacramental language of high European art.

These juxtapositions of the grand and the horrid feature throughout the Art Fair but especially, I sense, among Australians who have special reasons to explore some delicate discourses related to the history of displacement in our part of the world. As always, the international work helps you see local production in a context; though the examples from overseas tend to be the more marketable and less deconstructive, and so provide a slightly misleading comparison.

Audiences from other suburbanised countries would understand a work by Kate Just. Giant, three-dimensional block letters spell the word "love". Their surfaces are made from knitted wool. On the front and sides the texture resembles a particularly lush carpet, or perhaps turf, given that a green of such intensity would be unusual in a carpet. The colour is mottled in light and dark zones, spreading across the faces as if they were clusters of grasses enjoying wet patches in the lawn.

On the rear of the giant typeface, however, the vibrancy fades to brown and grey, as if a mould has insidiously taken over the carpet, where the dampness is corrosive and putrid. This other side of the domestic - cynically inscribed onto the word "love" - poetically explores the corrupted ideal of the contemporary family unit, where love is primarily invoked to sell or buy things.

Spores of this subversive feeling can be detected in several works in the Art Fair, such as a painting by Del Kathryn Barton at Karen Woodbury identifying "my inner television". If you have an eye for it, there's plenty of art with a bitter-sweet edge, a wry comment and meaning beyond the decorative.

With an Art Fair, you can't expect a unified sense of a curator's question or research topic, as you get with a Biennale. What you have instead is a marvellous air of diversity and bustling enterprise that lets you wander from space to space to enjoy unexpected encounters.msical face in capricious appeal to the critical non-commercial spaces on the balcony.
-Robert Nelson

artist 6: Susana Raab

Off Season is the series that i want to focus on, and even though they have a slightly more documentary style and feel to the images, I feel that they all have a story to tell, some more obvious than others. She captures the real life it seems, little moments that embody a sense of wonderment and quite possibly even nostalgia. They are quiet striking indeed.

Image 1: "Al Capone's Dinner Theatre, Kissimmiee, Florida", 2007?. c-print, 20 x 24
Image 2: "Elvis Fan Club, Kissimmiee, Florida", 2007?. c-print, 20 x 24

Susana Raab is a documentary photographer who began her career as a photojournalist in Washington, DC covering politics. She worked for the New York Times Washington bureau for four years before attending graduate school at Ohio University’s School of Visual Communications. Her two long-term projects: Consumed: Fast Food in the US; and Off-Season: America at Leisure have received recognition from the White House News Photographers’ Association, The Ernst Haas/Golden Light Awards, PhotoLucida’s Critical Mass, American Photography 28, The Santa Fe Center for Photography and Photo District News. Her work is widely exhibited, both nationally and internationally, most recently at the Arts Club of Washington, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in Madrid, and the Noorderlicht Photofestival in the Netherlands.

About the Photograph:

No one quite understood what I was trying to do, driving from Athens, Ohio to Orlando, Florida to explore tourist venues that market history, perhaps least of all myself. But this is often part of the process of any journey. At the Medieval Times, I enjoyed a leg of mutton-type repast with the P.R. lady, who waxed poetic about the queries she received from prospective patrons of the dinner theatre, which recreates a medieval battle for damsels’ virtue and knights’ honor. “Once someone called me and wanted to know if we actually killed people, ” she said, non-chalantly, while taking a sip from her stein of ale. As the crowd roared at the theatrics on the floor below, I got up to discover the allure of the battle. I was reminded of a girl I interviewed at a NASCAR event who said,” I love the smoke, the gas, the noise, the danger. Everyone loves it when they crash. Except, of course, when it’s Junior.” More about Off-Season: America at Leisure

The convenience of modern living has allowed us to enjoy unprecedented amounts of leisure time and methods through which to spend that time. Off-Season explores our modern preference for the marketed moment, the pleasure purveyed.

It began with a set of brochures found in the lobby of a Gainesville, Florida motel. “Visit Jerusalem in Orlando!” was the unlikely announcement on the Holyland Experience’s handout. “Step back in time to the dawn of the Middle Ages” offered the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. “Be Petty” was the succinct tagline for NASCAR driver Richard Petty’s Driving Experience. The exchange of cash for the opportunity to enjoy free time well spent. That’s how it seemed to me.

I started the project with those venues, and by continuing to photograph festivals, celebrations, and events I seek to unravel one aspect of our modern malaise, one amusement at a time. Despite a surreal start at the Holyland Experience theme park where the passion of Christ is re-enacted daily, save for religious holidays (when for obvious reasons it would be inappropriate), there is much sweetness in America. Throughout Iowa a generosity of spirit and love of family prevails, witnessed by the large extended Iowan families who park their RV’s and camp out at the state fair campgrounds for weeks at a time. In Chittenango, New York, devoted Wizard of Oz fans preserve the spirit of the 1939 movie. A fan club of aging baby boomers in Orlando bonded over Elvis Presley while raising money for needy children.

The images also reflect how these good times have diverted us. In the hustle of our lives, leisure time can be as stressful as work. But it does prevent us reflection, from finding a moment’s contemplation. The bright lights of the fair can be a darker siren’s call. We are lost, wandering through an interminable off-season. The festival is ongoing, but the party is over.
Geoffrey Hiller


What really got me going about Rocky's work is the sense of mystery. How everything is shrouded in this dark fog and how the figures are pretty much black and anonymous. This is what is intriguing about his work and the locations that he choses for his shoots. Everything seems to work for this images and really gives that narrative quality that I like.

Image 1: "Promenade", 2003. silver gelatin, 16 x 20
Image 2: "Mischief", 2004. silver gelatin, 16 x 20

Poetic Photos: Rocky Schenck’s new photographs at Paul Kopeikin Gallery borrow heavily from Symbolist, Pictorialist and Surrealist forerunners but still muster a life of their own as moody, brooding tone poems. Schenck, who works as a writer and director of music videos in L.A., pays overt homage to Edvard Munch’s charged landscapes in one picture of dark, leafless trees against a foggy gray ground. Another, of trees casting heavy shadows onto the marshy foreground, looks uncannily like an early Edward Steichen.

The deep, dense blacks in these toned silver gelatin prints endow them with a tactile beauty that is consistently seductive, even when the imagery itself is cliched. Schenck’s best efforts invite a narrative–but gently, by giving the suggestion of human presence through cast-off evidence or surrogates.

“London Dress Shop” is striking in this regard, a cousin to Eugene Atget’s haunting Parisian storefront photographs of the 1920s, which were embraced by French Surrealists for their dream-like atmosphere. Schenck’s image shows two headless, armless mannequins, one luminous in a white gown, the other a shadowy specter, seeming to watch the first from afar. The emotional dynamic that emerges in the scene is palpable, though constructed entirely out of absence.

In another of Schenck’s prints, an empty hotel room’s wrinkled bedding and gleaming television evoke a recent presence. In a photograph of empty conference chairs askew around a table, the image’s soft focus and dramatic tones make the scene appear like a stage set, not altogether empty.
Leah Ollman

artist 8: Ken Rosenthal

What attracted me to his work was the darkness and mystery infused with the child like memories that he displays in his work. He depicts images of family, friends, strangers, landscapes, dreamscape, and animals that seem to appear in dreams or in memories. He adds a narrative structure to this unstructured dream-like state and allows the viewer to openly follow in the path of his memories.

Image 1: # ROL-52-9, 2007?. silver gelatin, 16 x 20
Image 2: #DOF-46/46-4, 2007?. silver gelatin, 16 x 20

Artist Statement:

Artist 9: Caitlin Atkinson

What initially drew me to her work was the atmosphere that was presented in her work. The colors also brought me to pick her work as well, with the inviting pallete of nice earthly tones with the added mixture of mystery and wonderment. The social contrustructions of these farbricated images again bring me to her work, with the ever present sense of human nature.

Image 1: "Chapter 11", 2003. 30 x 40. c-print
Image 2: "Chapter 14", 2005. 24 x 30. c-print

Artist Statement:
A few nights ago, I locked myself out of my apartment for the third time this year. While I sat trying to decide what to do, I was overwhelmed with the thought that my life seems composed of one mistake after another; that I am living through a seemingly endless series of disappointments. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get it right.

Whether it is an awkward public interaction, unreal crisis, or moment of social disconnection, ordinary life is full of abrupt occurrences that create discomfort and isolation. It is often shocking and painful to discover how unsympathetic and harsh the world can be when we fail. The consequences of our transgressions, however small, leave us feeling inept and alone.

The photographs I create are all constructed scenes inspired by my own encounters with this fear and failure. My interest is focused on these breakdowns of everyday life and the subsequent relationship with defeat. The sad humor and vulnerability in the situations I stage allow viewers to identify with the character I portray. In exposing my own shame and seclusion, I am giving name to the anxiety that plagues us all. The images then serve not simply as an illumination of the feeling of embarrassment, but as representations of undisguised human nature.

Artist 10: Gregory Crewdson

This really seems to be obvious why I chose him, his work is quiet possibly the most cinematic work I have ever seen. His lighting and subtle details that are implemented into this work add this eerie sense of mystery and suspense that i wih to add into my work. But seriously, his lighting techniques are just awesome. It's probably because he uses lighting company to help with his work. If only I were so lucky and well paid...

Image 1: "Untitled (Clover Street from Beneath the Roses)", 64 1/4 X 94 1/4 inches, 2003, digital c-print
Image 2: "Untitled (Maple Street from Beneath the Roses)", 64 1/4 X 94 1/4 inches, 2003, digital c-print


'Beneath the Roses'
Luhring Augustine
531 West 24th Street, Chelsea
Through June 18

The shabby, blue-tinted small-town America in Gregory Crewdson's big dour photographs evokes the movie ''A Wonderful Life'' without Clarence, the intervening angel. Jimmy Stewart's character has succeeded in killing himself, and the world is a desolate, unjust place, where everyone hits rock bottom by one route or another.

All Crewdson characters are shown in a state of shock and crisis, the point just beyond the point of no return. A small, bent man in a trench coat stands on a rain-soaked street in the middle of the night, staring at a closed liquor store as if it were a mirage. An older woman sits in a clean nightgown on the edge of her bed, having recently, it seems, dragged an uprooted rose bush through her house and wrangled it onto the pillows.

Mr. Crewdson's images compress the melodrama of an entire movie, or soap-opera season, into a single, elaborately constructed scene. They represent art imitating popular art, which means that they have the clarity, for us, that a stained glass window would have had in the Middle Ages.

But Pre-Raphaelite paintings may be a better analogy. These photographs have become ornate, hollow, implicitly academic exercises, so freighted with telltale omens and contrivances and so monotonously joyless that they start to seem light, almost comic.

Some details suggest horror movie kitsch, like the filthy pink telephone in a hotel room where an older woman stands naked in the bathroom. The blood dripping down her thigh pushes the narrative toward overload: is she sick or not as menopausal as she thought? Has she checked into a room where something horrible has happened and might happen again or was the maid in a rush? With so much going on, the sets themselves become the main events, and the characters often assume a proplike woodenness. The woman who stares fixedly at a roast beef so rare it may have driven her husband from the dinner table might almost be a store mannequin.

Mr. Crewdson's outdoor images are less overwrought and more mysterious. The play of natural and artificial light (learned from the images of O. Winston Link) gives him more to work with, and the open space helps. But even here the same catatonic, blasted blankness afflicts the people, and the limited emotional range precludes genuine depth.

Mr. Crewdson needs to discover some new feelings or reinvent his medium, because theatrical craft has overtaken his art. This has come at the expense of the imaginative uses of color, scale or space -- in short, form -- that both balanced and heightened the creepiness of his early set-up photographs. It makes sense that he has said that his next project will be a film. It may be time to tackle the challenge of duration with characters who can move, speak and stand up to their surroundings. Either that, or Mr. Crewdson might consider dismissing his superbly skilled crew and taking up street photography. The REAL real world has it merits. ROBERTA SMITH


Atkinson, Caitlin. Artist Statement. 11 Nov. 2008.

Baker, Nathan. Artist Statement. 11 Nov. 2008.

Gallery 10G. Sitting Pretty. 11 Nov. 2008.

Hiller, Geoffrey. Verve Photo. A New Breed of Documentary Photographers.

Kuan, Debora. 11 Nov. 2008.

"narrative." Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 11 Nov. 2008. .

Nelson, Robert. The Age. Melbourne Art Fair 06'. 11 Nov. 2008.

Ollman, Leah. Los Angeles Time. Art Review. 11 Nov. 2008.

Smith, Roberta. New York Times. Art in Review; Gregory Crewdson. 11 Nov. 2008.

TIM CLARK. 1000 Words Photography. Contemporary Photography Magazine Online. 11 Nov. 2008.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jeff Bark

I chose Jeff Bark's work because I thought that the dark romantic narrative that was being presented in his series"Woodpecker" was very powerful. He constructs all of these scenes in his studio in Brooklyn. His images are incredibly cinematic and can almost look like an old painting from the around the times of the romantics. His work shows some ideas of youth, in oddly constructed narratives showing teens doing drugs, being involved in violence, disillusion, and sexual behaviors. I haven't found much of a bio on his, except that he was born in 1963 and works in Brooklyn and is represented by a gallery in London.

Interview: cannot find

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

that weekly stuff for thursday

Did anyone critique my work this week?

Sonali did last thursday, she felt that my anti-portraits weren't turning out like they were supposed to and that she wanted me to follow what i had stated previously with my hockney-esque portraits. But with that, she wanted me to make a huge collage of the environment that i live in. Where i put myself, fragmented up, in the the photograph (i think just once) and create a diverse landscape of richmond around me. Where only a few things match up, like there would be some grass, but that would turn into sidewalk, which would turn into dirt. The skyline would be of the buildings at first, then meld into the canopy of some trees and then some blue or cloudy sky. Etc. That's something i felt was a very productive idea. Then she wanted me to take the print outs that i already have and send them through the paper shredder and then put them back together, they don't have to be in the same places either. She then had this other idea that she wanted me to do, and it involved magnets, Where i take a nude of myself, then photograph clothing items and apparel and have it displayed to a piece of metal. then let the viewers decide how they want to dress me up when on display. This is a good, idea but i am not sure how plausible it is.

Motivational/creative moment?

It would have to be that critique last thursday, it gave me many good ideas and is forcing me to expand my work and put myown spin on things.

Achieve in studio?

This is easy, WORK!!!! Our show is on the 21st!!!!

This past week's studio?

i shot a lot of scenes that i am piecing together and making collages out of.


Well, i guess it was my anti-portraits, since sonali wasn't much of a fan of them.

profound thought?

ummmm, realizing that now we only have like two weeks to get ready for the show!!!!

visiting artist?


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Self Portrait Article

What's stronger in the world of art, body art or self portraits?

This article talks about art and the self in two ways. One, being the self-portrait and the other being body art. It primarily focuses on body art, but that subject covers a broad range of art. Many of these artist that were mentioned used themselves as the canvas for their art, but photographed it and put that up for display. The differences are very slight, to the untrained eye, but they do exist. Marcel Duchamp's "Tonsure" 1919 was one of the beginnings of body art, where he became the canvas and ManRay's photograph was the art. But, what is stronger? Self-Portraiture or body art? I want to say self-portraiture is stronger, but it really all depends on what the body art or the self-portrait is of. I see body art as more of a performance, while self-portraiture is more like self-documentation, in a way, but it can also be surreal and not a document, but rather a play on documentation. I enjoy the performance aspect of body art, because one must do something to one's self in order for it to be body art. But, then again, I enjoy the self-portrait as well, like Samuel Fosso, Sam Taylor-Wood, and Mike Parr. I really can't decide, but I am glad that I read this article and found out some differences that I had no idea existed.

This article made a few references to the "Elementary" in order to communicate, why?

This article was mentioning that a a few times, such as elementary symbolism, I want to know why and is it even elementary? I don't think when you get into the art world and into the sub genre of body art or self-portraiture that there is really anything elementary about these ideas that they want to explore and reveal to the viewer. They mentioned that things should be elementary to communicate with the broadest range of people, but in art I don't think that you're reaching that broad of a range regardless so what's the point of making it elementary. First, I want to say, that these references to the "elementary" aren't even that elementary, they make one analyse the photograph completely and deconstruct it entirely. Unless you're showing a big corporate logo or something that everyone will understand right off the bat, i don't think elementary exists that much in art. And secondly, why be elementary in art? There's not really that much of a point. They said it was for communication, but when you're showing this art, you're only showing it to a select few in a gallery or something. You will be able to communicate with the people that understand art, and that's who they should be talking to, the ones that give them money. I feel that you can make your messages easier to understand, but to describe them as elementary is unnecessary.

Artist Statement, 50 words.

The idea of self and that of being fragmented offer an intriguing duality in our visual reality. At first glance, one breaks down an already intermittent image, leading the viewer to pose questions of identity. The image itself is autobiographical and suggests a feeling of the broken and lost.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Masumi Hayashi

Masumi Hayashi is a photographer that I have selected to do because her use of photo collages. She photographs American Concentration camps from World War II. Her work comes with interviews of people that survived the American Internment camps and she also collects found objects from the internment camps as well as from the people she interviews to make photo albums and collages. She teaches photography at Cleveland State University and has done as for over 22 years. She has been published in many magazines and journals and has also exhibited internationally including Europe and Asia. I chose to look at her work because the process that she uses can be said that it is similar to mine. I really like how she composites her work and the great colors that come from her work as well.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

week in review more

Did anyone critique my work?

Kind of but not really. I showed you (Paul) a photograph or two yesterday, but I wasn't too pleased with them and pretty much dismissed them quickly. I will need to re-shoot that photograph with probably about ten big macs instead of one. With ten, the image will be come more appealing and help fill the frame and composition better. Although, tomorrow, Sonali will be critiquing my work.

Motivational/creative moment?

It has to be when i started to shoot all of these anti-portraits. I've shot six rolls of film, and plenty more are going to be shot. I just ordered 20 rolls of Kodak Portra 160 nc because I was running out of film. But, I just found a stash of some older color film that was hiding underneath a bunch of crap in my room. So i have some film to shoot with until that arrive. When I was shooting my work, it was the most motivational and creative time, because I had so much freedom and everything I was shooting looked really good in the frame. I just figured out how to meter better, or at least for what I am going for, so I can't wait to shoot again.

Next Week's Studio?

I want to achieve production. I want to shoot a few things everyday. I need to keep shooting, because it's almost November and I need to keep producing work. Seriously.

What did I achieve in studio?

I achieved shooting a bunch of film, running out of film, and critiquing John H, Jennida, and Hassan's work. I need to achieve more of shooting though.

Artistic Failure?

My first big mac shoot. The frame wasn't strong enough. I scanned in the film and I just didn't really like what I saw. I need more more moer. At least 10 big macs and a bunch of McDonald's bags to go along with it.

Most profound thought?

I'm not too sure. For some reason, when I nailed a couple of beer cans to the wall. My thought was about framing and how simple and strong the framing looked with those beer cans. Although, it's not a completely profound thought, It did look really good in my head. I'm waiting until the film is ready so i can make more judgements about the work.

Visiting Artist?


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gary Schneider

Gary Schneider is a South African Photographer who has been photography the portrait since the mid seventies. He earned a BFA from the University of Cape Town, in South Africa, then he made his way to America where he enrolled into graduate school at The Pratt Institute in New York City. His portraits are surreal to say the least. He uses long exposure of his subjects with mini spotlights to illuminate their bodies. His work mostly involves portraiture, he has recently done a series on self-portraiture called the genetic self portrait, where he got access to many different scientific microscope and equipment and photographed himself "genetically" with that equipment. That series was a critique on the Human Genome Project. Most of his portraits seems to add a sense of unreal to them, but the photograph are very real, they play with the idea of how we visually interpret someone and how one can reveal a person to us in such an abstract way. I wanted to research Gary Schneider because he works with portraits and self-portraits. Although, the biggest reason was how he was framing his photographs, they reminded me how i was framing my hockney-esque photographs and that's what really drew my attention towards him.

Interview or Review:
website: can't find an official website

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Week in Review again

Did anyone critique my work this week?

Why yes I did get a critique this week and i felt that it was very informational. People were saying that they enjoyed where the work of self-portraits were headed but they needed more information about the subject. Currently, I was presenting a hockney-esque collage of myself, fractured and put back together. They were saying that it needed to be more abstract and even more fractured to get the point across of being broken down, lost, out of place, and again fractured. People were also saying that the photographs needed more environment to be shown to help place this sense of lost that i am experiencing while living in RVA. I completely agree, i definitely need to show more of the space if i want to get that message across stronger. They also pointed out that in most of my portraits that my facial expressions don't seem to change that much and that i should explore a more diverse range of emotions and expressions. They also wanted me to explore a landscape of myself in my environment, which i would like to do, but i just haven't really found that certain area that i could explore that topic and concept yet. All of those were the strongest concerns of my recent work. But, everyone did seem to enjoy the idea of going into an anti-portrait way, by showing how I can make a self portrait of myself by using commercialism to represent me. I do plan on engaging in that concept further.

The Most Motivational/Creative Moment?

Well, the most motivational moment this week was getting my shit together for critique, that motivated me a whole lot. But, the most creative moment came to me during the fall break. It was when i got the idea for making my self-portraiture about commercialism and identity. I believe it came to me on friday, i was sitting in the studio editing and just thinking about random shit in my life when it dawned on me. I had been looking at this book i checked out on contemporary self-portraiture, and Mike Parr's anti-portraiture gave me this idea of identity through commercialism. I feel that this is a strong topic that I can spearhead really soon and intend on it.

What do I want to achieve in next week's studio?

I want to achieve this new idea of mine, the commercialized self portraiture. I also want to nail some food that can possibly represent myself into the wall and either photograph it or just leave it as an installation... sort of. We will see. There was also this one other idea I had floating around in my head. I wanted to use "intimate" photographs from the previous relationship, and combine them with other photographs of me and make this weird hockney-dada-esque collage with them. I have gotten permission from my ex-gf that it would be alright to do that so there is no ethical concern. But I think that that piece could really be hard hitting in my personal life and may be a good outlet for my self-expression.

Artistic Failure?

I guess that would be in this one photograph of myself where i was trying to show more environment in the portrait, but i didn't shoot it correctly, and with the use of my wide angle lens, it had too much distortion and just didn't work out. So, that was my failure of the week.

Profound thought?

Again, I hate to beat a dead horse, but it is the idea of the anti-self-portrait shown through products and commercialism.

no visiting artist.

Article About Claude Cahun and Marcel Duchamp

1. What is it about the looking glass that imprisons men?

When this question was first posed by Marcel Ducamp / Rrose Selavy, the times were very different and the social constructs have certainly changed. But i feel that in our culture today, style and attitude are certainly factors that go into this, but i don't think that it is the main reason. The idea of Self Image may be another factor now, with facebook and myspace and all of these online social networks, self image is a big issue these days and is making narcissism more apparent than before. The idea of the ego seems to be more prevalent these days as well, so men reflecting on themselves through the looking glass is more acceptable these day. I think that men are more fascinated about their image and identity because it's an ongoing trend as well. The idea of metrosexuality, means that men are becoming less grungy and more acceptable or well dressed. This idea was instilled in us during the early 2000s and has been taking off ever since. So all and all, i don't really know why men are becoming imprisoned by their looking glass, but they are and it seems like it's here to stay.

2. Duchamp made a point on saying that men do not know how to look at themselves and require women to tell them how to look at themelves, is that true?

Ummm, I don't know about this. i know that women can see things in men that men cannot or chose not to see in themselves, but I don't know if all women have this ability. But, in all honesty, I have met some dumb women. Regardless, I feel that this is more true than not. I am not talking about in a fashion sense, but in a way of seeing what's good about a person. Men thnik completely differently then women, so it only makes sense that each of us can see different thing more clearly. I feel that women can see things that are less obvious to a person, they can analyze a personality better, but I feel men can tell who is a more genuine character, if that makes sense. Men can stop, i don't know how to say it, but they can see something different about people, they can get through an outter layer of a person and connect well. But, women just have better intuition. So, I feel that this question didn't really go anywhere, but I dunno, we'll see what happens.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I am choosing the word "Self." I feel that this word is a really good word to chose for what my work is, i.e. self-portraits. My last word was portrait, so going to self feels right. My work focus's on myself, and by finding and researching more artists that have done similar things with their art, will help me create a stronger presence and deeper meaning in my work.


1. a person or thing referred to with respect to complete individuality: one's own self.
2. a person's nature, character, etc.: his better self.
3. personal interest.
4. Philosophy.
a. the ego; that which knows, remembers, desires, suffers, etc., as contrasted with that known, remembered, etc.
b. the uniting principle, as a soul, underlying all subjective experience.

Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody. ~Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, 1894

Artist 1:
Samuel Fosso

Image 1: "Chief, The One That Sold Africa to The Colonists" C-Print. 1997. 105 x 105 cm
Image 2: "Pirate" C-Print. 1997. 127.5 x 104 cm

I chose Samuel Fosso because of, obviously, he takes self-portraits, but also of his elaborate stage presence and set up. He started composes images of himself in his studio in Central African Republic in the 1970s and has been working on portraits of himself ever since. Commenting on social, political, identity, and western cultural issues.

Born in Cameroon in 1962, Samuel Fosso lived in Nigeria as a small child but was forced to leave at the end of the Biafran war in 1972. He moved to Bangui, in the Central African Republic, where he found work as an assistant photographer. Six months later, aged 13, he opened his own photographic portrait studio. The 21 untitled self-portraits included in this show were made between 1975 and 1980. Taken at night, after he had already worked all day photographing clients, the images were discovered by French photographer Bernard Deschamps who happened to be passing through Bangui and saw Fosso’s studio.

In every photograph the beautiful Fosso is subject, object and creator. Occasionally he includes other people, but their posture and placement relegates them to a secondary position. In one stagy, understated and slightly bizarre image, for example, Fosso, in large sunglasses autographs a book for an anonymous man, who inclines deferentially towards him. In other photographs, like an indifferent, latter-day and urbanised Narcissus, he’s pictured sitting or standing with himself through the magic of a double exposure. The shallow depth of the studio is transformed with flowers, cane furniture and patterned cloth into a parody of a genteel boudoir. Unlike Narcissus, however, it’s impossible to separate the reflected Fosso from the original - like a happily married couple, one ‘self’ co-habits comfortably with the other. It’s interesting to compare these double images with 19th- and early 20th-century ‘before-and-after conversion’ double-portrait photographs distributed by European missionaries as proof of their ‘civilising’ influence on various African colonies. Fosso’s playful fragmentation of the self-portrait creates a clever counterpoint to the continent’s history of photographic colonialism, a form of aesthetic Euro-centrism, which reduced indigenous cultural and social complexities to convenient one-liners.

In some photographs a crudely painted backdrop alludes, rather surreally, to Bucharest, capital of Romania, an apparently popular signifier for ‘modern’ society in the socialist Central African Republic of the 70s. In others, Fosso plays with the hallmarks of both nascent socialism and artistic adolescence - freedom slogans. In one photograph, for example, he poses wearing nothing but his underwear and a blank smile against the backdrop of a patterned curtain with the words ‘La Vie c’est Liberté’ stencilled around his head. It’s an image that transforms a platitude into a louche, cryptic and - when you think of the upheaval and dispossession of his childhood - heartfelt axiom. This countering of written statements with visual ambivalence results in images that are subtle, non-propagandising and ambiguous. Neither Bucharest nor aphorisms are ultimately more significant a sign of individual or cultural identity than the blankness of his sunglasses, his glacial stare, or his experiments in duality.

Fosso’s combination of a secretive, almost child-like delight in dressing up, doubling and role playing, reiterates the idea that the self is somehow more than simply the sum of one’s more obvious parts. The mocking, secretive self-consciousness, and restless self-absorption of adolescence represented in these images makes them extraordinarily compelling. It’s this exploration of the slippage between personality and type, disguise and displacement that links his work to many of the theoretical and aesthetic issues that concerned photographers in the late 70s and 80s - Cindy Sherman’s ‘Untitled Film Stills’ series, made at around the same time, most obviously springs to mind. Her work has a similarly anti-naturalistic, theatrical quality, that is more about the anticipation, or creation, of meaning than it is about the stating of concrete truths. Photography for both Fosso and Sherman is a medium they can trust to reflect reality’s vicissitudes precisely because they know how appropriately fallible, how malleable it can be.

Jennifer Higgie

Artist 2:

Martin Kippenberger

I Chose Martin Kippenburger because of , although not all of his work were self-portraits, the ones that he did are very powerful. I like his work because of his complete style of ranges that he can put into his media/medium (he did many different things in art). According to many he was very provocative, jocular, and a heavy drinker. He actually invented an art club or secret society called the "Lord Jim Lodge." He invented it in a bar in Berlin. He was known as one of Germany's up and coming artists and became well known quickly, but unfortunately he died in 1997. One other thing that is cool about him is that one of his sculptures was condemned by the Pope as being blasphemous.

Image 1: "Self-Portrait" 1988. Oil on canvas. 200 x 240 cm
Image 2: "Lonesome?" Oil and Spraypaint on canvas. 1983. 120 x 100cm

A WICKED sculpture at the entrance to the retrospective exhibition of Martin Kippenberger's work at the Museum of Contemporary Art crystallizes the manic tone that made the German-born Conceptual artist such an influential force, beginning in the 1980s. Then, in the show's first gallery, a thoroughly flat-footed installation also demonstrates what made his work so maddeningly uneven. Kippenberger died of cancer in 1997, at age 44, so we'll never know whether his early achievements would have been multiplied or divided over the long haul, but MOCA's sprawling, 250-work show gives a welcome overview, warts and all.

The sculpture, "Santa Claus Lamp" (1994), is a carved Styrofoam figure, bulky in profile and more than 7 feet tall, cast in silvery aluminum. The torso twists so the blocky boots below point in a different direction, making the otherwise upright figure visually tipsy. Jolly old St. Nick is crossed with a lamppost, the crimson lightbulb glowing inside its lantern head suggesting both the red nose of reindeer Rudolph and of a cartoon skid-row drunk.

Smeared brown paint dribbles down over Santa's pompom cap, turning it into a scatological crown. And, as if this were some dowager empress in drag out for a lovely night at the opera, a gloved hand holds up an incongruous pleated fan. The sculpture embodies a sense of childish excess and morbid yearning, innocent generosity soiled by aristocratic noblesse oblige. Its overall wretchedness elicits a wide grin, but the laughter is akin to whistling in the dark.
Call me crazy, but Kippenberger's hot-Santa-mess encapsulates the nausea of the social meltdown being splashed across the front pages of America's newspapers better than anything I've yet seen-- and it was made 14 years ago. The sculpture's pitch-perfect tone, deep and profound abjection, ricochets off the work of such other seminal artists as Mike Kelley, while Paul McCarthy's varieties of Kris Kringle madness followed soon after in performances, installations and graphics, which continue to the present. Kippenberger's work is an art in conversation with other artists, which makes for a bracing dialogue.

Then in the first room, a large, dull installation makes you wonder where Santa could possibly have come from. Surely not the artist responsible for this.

Twenty-nine tall tubes wrapped in imitation birch-tree paper are propped up on metal stands, like a wobbly amusement park forest. Gigantic pills carved from wood are scattered in their midst on the floor. MOCA has also mingled a few other Kippenberger sculptures among the trees, perhaps to juice things up.

Alka-Seltzer, along with many unidentified medications, mixes with Castelli Seltzer, named for Leo Castelli, the gallery owner perhaps most responsible for launching the contemporary American art market. The wince-inducing 1990 escape down Alice's rabbit hole looks like noisy student work.

Antacid marked with a Castelli imprint certainly signifies a conflicted feeling about art's place in contemporary society. That conflict -- art as a refuge for brilliant misfits, all the while humming at the centers of conventional wealth and power -- is an engine that drove Kippenberger's practice.

It wasn't entirely new; when Diego Velázquez painted tender Baroque portraits of the buffoons and dwarfs who amused the king of Spain, he was also reflecting on his own queasy situation as a court diversion. But it was new to the American art world; and it was also new to the German art world, busily reassembling itself a generation after Nazi crimes against both humanity and modernity. Kippenberger's best paintings are a group of self-portraits in which he shows himself as a portly Picasso, his artistic genius mercilessly mocked by the fact that he's dressed only in oversized underpants.

Something of the self-portraits' insouciance is seen in an early, 1981 project, where the artist employed an anonymous movie-poster painter to reproduce photographs and pictures Kippenberger selected. (A similarly commercial distancing device to remove the artist's hand had been used by John Baldessari in 1966.) The diverse selection looks like a group show. My favorite is a view into a tweed sport jacket's pocket, seen as if one were resting chin on chest and looking down into it. A nerdy row of six ballpoint pens nestles in the pocket's dark and cavernous womb, while a seventh is eccentrically affixed across the front with a rubber band, like a daring, acrobatic writing tool.

The project is emblematic of a Kippenberger problem: Conceptual art is language-driven, wary of painting and sculpture and cautious of the art market. However, inspired by such diverse countrymen as Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter, Kippenberger struggled with the flexible possibilities of making salable Conceptual sculptures and paintings. The results are mixed.

"Blue Lagoon," eight sheet-metal sections of a blue Ford Capri, welded to hangers and suspended on the wall, is a sophomoric joke. It tweaks the transcendent beauty of the watery Italian grotto referred to in the car's model.

The anxiety of the dilemma, however, is nicely evoked in 1985's "The Modern House of Believing or Not," a six-panel picture painted in the colors of stomach bile. It shows Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum, founded as an American tribute to the spiritual power of European nonobjective art. Kippenberger's cobbled-together work sheds any pious idealism, depicting instead a monstrous factory, or perhaps some bizarre "death star," ringed by storm clouds.

His doubts about the limitations of Modernist art were widely shared. So a 1987 series of paintings making fun of an abstract grid -- the iconic Modernist format -- by portraying it as a variety of gingham plaids seems little more than coy. He could be very funny, but intentionally bad painting was already a 1970s fad; this insertion of the idea into the roaring '80s art market doesn't add much.

By contrast, Kippenberger's modest drawings made on simple sheets of hotel stationery are his most sustained body of work, representing the disconnected nomadism of contemporary art-life in myriad ways -- poignant, perverse, matter-of-fact and daydreamy. During his brief career he lived and worked in Hamburg, Florence, Berlin, Paris, Cologne, Los Angeles, Seville, Madrid, Frankfurt and Vienna. Which is to say, everywhere and nowhere. The solitariness of looking at scores of small hotel doodles keys right into their disengaged motifs.

MOCA curator Ann Goldstein has split the big show in two, with most of it in the museum's main building and a few works in Little Tokyo's Geffen Contemporary. It concludes with "The Happy End of Franz Kafka's ‘Amerika,’ " a soccer-field-size 1994 installation. The customized found-furniture transforms a bleak Midwestern employment office into a Mad Hatter's tea party. Negotiations over individual human dignity and worth are undertaken in such places, and it's not a pretty sight.

The work is also clearly a meditation on the place of artists in the often vicious spectacle of contemporary society. Like in "Santa Claus Lamp," a ghastly desolation thrums within Kippenberger's field of brutal play. Its Dickensian timeliness reverberates.,0,744098.story

Artist 3:

Yasumasa Morimura

I have selected this artist because I've been looking at him for a while. His self Portraits that are put into art historical context are powerful and represent this mostly western art that he is critiquing and putting his own asian and eastern spin on them. He sets up elaborate scenarios that puts him right into that time period of the paintings that he is recreating. I feel that he is possibly one of the strongest self-portrait makers of our time.

Image 1: "Daughter of Art History, Princess B" 1990. C-Print. 210 x 160 cm
Image 2: "Daughter of Art History (Theatre B)" 1989. C-Print. 180 x 246 cm

"Art is basically entertainment," says Yasumasa Morimura, "Even Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were entertainers. In that way, I am an entertainer and want to make art that is fun."

There is plenty of fun in the 60 photographs, sculptures, videos and "print club" machines that make up Morimura’s "Self-Portrait as Art History," now on at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, in the city’s Koto Ward.

Osaka-based Morimura, 47, burst onto the international art scene about 10 years ago with his "Art History" series, computer-aided reconstructions of great Western paintings that featured the artist’s big-nosed face replacing the faces of the works’ original subjects. The high-tech Japanese kitsch was embraced by a Western world passing through a period of growing interest in sushi, economic miracles, and things Japanese in general, and Morimura became somewhat of a superstar both at home and abroad. His more recent work has featured the artist made-up as Hollywood starlets, and has won the Osaka-based artist solo shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Yokohama Museum of Art, and ensured his inclusion in major group shows at scores of important galleries and museums around the world. The MoT exhibition is the most complete collection of the artist’s original "Art History" series ever presented.

While the masterpieces of Western art history have rewarded scrutiny with dynamic impastos or intricate brushwork, Morimura’s pictures offer none of this depth to viewers who walk up to and inspect the works more closely. Instead, using a palette tool and acrylic lacquer, Morimura has streaked a parody of brush-strokes across the surfaces of his tableaus. The treatment also reduces glare from the flat surfaces of the works.

At the well-attended opening, many of the guests who approach the works recoil quickly, as if from a ghost, for the hand of the artist is almost nowhere to be seen.

"I don’t do my painting on a canvas," explains Morimura, foppish in a pair of silver-sequined sneakers, orange scarf, and body-hugging long white sweater "I do my painting on my face." A crowd mills around a video that features Morimura demonstrating the application of his elaborate make-up.

Most of Morimura’s larger works, such as "Playing With Gods," are almost four meters tall, and make good use of MoT’s high ceilings, holding the walls well. Here is a show that works rather nicely when the one walks briskly through the center of the museum’s exhibition rooms.

It is easy to dismiss Morimura’s work as little more than a punch line delivered to the point of overkill. How can the viewer seriously consider a work such as "Portrait (Futago)" (1988-1990) as much more than a visual gag seeking a cheap laugh? Fortunately, the artist is intelligent enough to realize this, and as novelty begins to wear thin halfway through the show, the artist wows us with a couple of clever video loops that parody Gerhard Richter and Andy Warhol’s work. Morimura is a great showman.

Marcel Duchamp shocked critics 35 years ago with his "L.H.O.O.Q.", a print of the Mona Lisa on which the insouciant Frenchman had penciled a wispy moustache and goatee. In a similar way, Morimura’s Mona Lisa series brings the viewer to a re-assessment of the sanctity of Western art and the concepts of artistic creation and originality. An estimation of the value of Morimura’s art may hinge on whether there has been a qualitative development from Duchamp and his contemporaries’ work - an issue Morimura seems content to skirt by declaring that his art serves only to "entertain." On this level, "Self-Portrait as Art History" succeeds.

Ultimately, whether Morimura will stand the test of time is something only time will tell. For the moment, it is little more than good fun.

Artist 4:

Tim Noble and Sue Webster

I have selected this pair of artists, from England, because of their self portrait sculptures they create out of seemingly scrapes. The pieces alone look like really bizarre and abstract sculpture, although, when a flood light is illuminating the piece, the shadow cast by the sculpture creates a self portrait of them in silhouette. I feel that this is incredibly creative and ingenious and represents themselves very well.

Image 1: "Kiss of Death" 2003. Made from a lot of dead animals and metal. 180 x 80 x 50 cm
Image 2: "HE/SHE" 2004. Welded metal. HE= 185x96x148cm SHE= 114x100x186cm


This collaborative show, entitled ‘British Rubbish’, consists of two mechanically animated installation works, a number of unframed drawings (of the fashionable, automatist Biro style) stuck to a wall and a 40-page catalogue. The works have an intended cartoon or joke quality, the artists taking pleasure in both ridiculing and celebrating the usual stage props of popular culture: the Union Jack and working class domestic aspiration as represented by B&Q, baked beans and the mucous lappings of transient English seaside sexuality. To these, various social and personal dysfunctions (often relative to the enduring class basis of all things English) are introduced; material that has been well covered by, at least, The Who and The Kinks through to Blur.

Sue Webster and Tim Noble further extend these dysfunctions, in a traditional, English, mocking, punk style, to describe actual or latent violence toward the principal human concerns of work and love in relation to the cultural absolutes of baked beans and Union Jacks. This extension of disorders takes the form of sundry tortures, violent confrontations, self abuses, surrogacies and displacements, damage to property and the ridiculing of other artists’ works - as well as the destruction of nature, the vilification of knowledge and the general spreading of shit according to the theories of Sid Vicious.

In the catalogue and drawings, Noble and Webster make frequent reference to themselves as a couple, describing themselves, à la Gilbert & George, as ‘The Shit’ and ‘The Cunt’ respectively. Six or so of the drawings show The Shit decapitating and abusing The Cunt, although none show The Cunt dismembering The Shit. In a number of other amputations and dismemberings reference is made to the notorious mass-murderer and rapist Frederick West, to whom Noble, as celebrated in the drawings, bears a striking physical resemblance.

The two installation pieces are apparently distinguished on a gender basis, although both artists collaborated on each work. One is about nature and the home, corresponding to the vagina and the female principle, and the other is about received ideas of mechanistic masculinity in the workplace. This piece, Idealistic Nonsense (1996), shows several pristine white boxes, of a high Minimalist art value, around which a number of motorised identical male mannequins industriously saw, hammer and paint. These one-third scale, humorously inane figures originated in the windows of old fashioned repair shops, where they represented the stolid dignity of working-class labour, but here they have a high ironic pop value in relation to the Minimalist art on which they work. This piece takes as a counterpoint one penis joke, not worth explaining, and has as its punchline the excretion of faeces. One of the figures, the one furthest away and hidden from us, is defecating - a glistening turd soiling the pristine white art in a cheeky pollution of, or militant opposition to, the collective workplace activity.

The female work, Everything Was Wonderful (1996), begins with a large plastic topiary hedge spanning the width of the space, which may only be entered via a small aperture. The pubic hedge and its hole are a representation of the external female reproductive tract. This leads to an idealised garden of nature in the form of a stylised diorama, within which mechanised toy rabbits copulate, birds tweet and water runs. In the centre of this is a nest, an ovarian home, containing three eggs. One of these is larger than the others and moves as if about to open. It is the egg of a cuckoo - a bird which has reproductive ethics and family values indifferent to received notions of morality held by BMA ethics committees, newspaper leader writers, the church, or social workers. There is an imminent violence to the idea of the familial home: the fecund heartland of natural goodness turns out to be in Frederick West’s back garden.

In this show, Webster and Noble are engaged in a sometimes enjoyable, sometimes adept, but very confused, struggle with material that is, unsurprisingly, overly potent for them. They are unable to reconcile their cheeky, cuntier-than-thou, class fuckoffism with their art career aspirations and the powerful demons of hatred they have summoned. The statutory 100 years has not yet quite elapsed before West’s tortures of women have become as cheerfully celebrated in their ‘Englishness’ as, for some reason, Jack the Ripper’s.

The works, by being claimed as a collaboration between a male and female artist, in which the female is frequently maimed and tortured, seem to imply a judgement by the artists of a contributory willingness on the part of the victims. If this is not so, we may kindly, if priggishly, wish to give Noble and Webster the benefit of the doubt, regarding the artists as having simply got themselves out of their depth - intellectually, spiritually and artistically.

Neal Brown

Artist 5:

Mike Parr

I wanted to use Mike Parr because of his series entitled, "We Are All Monochromes Now". In this series, he displays his blazers and other suit coats in an exhibition. I feel that this is a comment on capitalism and self identity. This has inspired me to do capitalistic or commercial self portraits for myself and i feel that i really want to show his work to everyone else that hasn't heard of him. His use of self mutilation in his performances has brought this Aussie to headlines across the art world.

Image 1-3: "We are all monochromes now" 1-27. 2003. 99 x 74cm. Photograph.


In 1977, Mike Parr splattered blood everywhere and shocked his audience as he pretended to chop off his left arm. In 2002, Parr sewed his lips shut in a politically charged performance that criticised Australia's treatment of asylum seekers. For 35 years the Sydney artist has sliced, scarred and tortured his own body in radical works of performance art.

Acts of self-mutilation and endurance have made Parr infamous, but these gory performances are part of a larger self-portrait project.

Since he decided to transform himself into an artist, Parr has been probing the meaning of cultural and personal identity. The retrospective exhibition Volte Face: Mike Parr Prints and Pre-Prints 1970-2005 investigates his ongoing autobiographical obsession.

Volte Face concentrates on Parr's shattered and distorted self-portrait prints, but fans of his performance work won't be disappointed. The video 100 Breaths is a multiple self-portrait and endurance test. Parr covers his face with 100 different drawings of himself. Using his mouth as a suction cup, he sucks them on one at time, then blows them off, gasping for air.

In his self-portrait prints, Parr takes his own image and twists, stretches and defaces it. He seems to treat his prints like his own body. They are scratched and scarred; marked by acts of aggression and violence.

In Parr's self-portraits the concept of identity constantly shifts and mutates. His images are tricky and slippery. Just like a face reflected in a mirror, they refuse to stay still.

Artist 6:

Tracey Rose

I have selected her to be one of my artists because of funny and completely upfront self-portraits. She is a black artist from South Africa and actually uses "White-Face" in some of her photographs. She tries to identify with her culture and heritage and upbringings through her photography.

Image 1: "Bunnie" 2001. Lambda Print. 118.5 x 118.5 cm
Image 2: "MAQEII" 2001. Lambda Print. 117.5 x 117.5 cm


First showcased on Harald Szeemann's 'Plateau of Humankind' exhibition at last year's Venice Biennale, 'Ciao Bella' uses a familiar technique already well entrenched within contemporary visual art. For want of a better term it can be described as "insertion", a term I have borrowed from critic Salah Hassan. As Hassan observes, insertion describes the complex manner in which an artist inserts the image of their body into a work of art. "The term 'insertion' embraces all the multiple layers of meaning inherent in this word, sexual or otherwise," writes Hassan, further observing that insertion serves as an act of counter-penetration, an assertion of one's own subjectivity in response to objectification.

It is a technique that has already been skilfully employed by artists such as Cindy Sherman, Yasamasu Morimura and Yinka Shonibare, artists whose output in some way resembles that of Tracey Rose. Like Sherman, Rose enjoys the narcissism of using herself as the perpetual subject, and like Sherman again, Rose's work is an intriguing and exquisitely crafted musing on the twin subjects of womanhood and art history. Similar to the Japanese artist Morimura, Rose's 'Ciao Bella' also draws the viewer into a landmine field of intertextual references. And as with Shonibare's 'Diary of a Victorian Dandy', Rose has created a work that cleverly inserts her image into European history, thereby creating her own narrative play between truth and fiction.

Having mentioned the likes of Sherman, Morimura and Shonibare as reference points, I by no means wish to suggest that 'Ciao Bella' is derivative or unoriginal. It is neither of these. 'Ciao Bella' is an exhibition that takes shape around a series of large-scale photographs and a triple-screen DVD video projection. The large format lambda photographs are carefully executed portraits of 13 female characters, all of them Rose hidden beneath layers of disguise. The photographs serve to introduce the audience to a series of feminine archetypes, refracted versions of womanhood that range from the coquettish Lolita to the oppressed object of wonder Saartjie Baartman, the self-neutered nun, and the ever-reliable mother figure standing at the gates to her Parktown mansion, among others.

Rose's photographic works however only truly gain import when viewed in conjunction with the action that unfolds within the baroque-styled picture frame that surrounds her video installation, a tripped-out re-enactment of the Last Supper. The action in the video is at once anarchic and fun, haphazard and absurd. On the left screen Bunnie, a rubber-clad bunny girl, jumps up and down ceaselessly, while a black, Afro-styled mermaid sits contemplating her bubble-wrap tail. In the middle Marie Antoinette slices a chocolate cake and doles it out equally onto various plates. Confrontationally poised next to her is Cicciolina, the porn art vixen. Also competing for attention, on the left screen, is a very adult-looking Lolita, the perpetually hunched Saartjie Baartman, as well as a character ceaselessly punching herself in the face with her boxing gloves.

The totality of the action unfolds against a backdrop of changing colours. Starting out with red velvet curtaining, the colour bleeds, meandering through changing intensities of blue, followed by a black and white stencil-type backdrop, before ending with the red curtains again. The red curtains are quite apt. The first words spoken in the video are Shakespearian, a quote from The Merchant of Venice, which references that well-known adage about the world being a stage, all the men and women on it merely players.

Having set up her classical milieu, Rose allows the action to meander playfully. Characters disappear and reappear, the visible parameters of the stage merely one of their playgrounds. The visual discord finally gains momentum when Bunnie executes some of the players with her shotgun. It is left for the primly dressed Mama character to clean up the mess, including giving the bloodied screen a wipe-down.

On one level it would be easy to simply say that each of the characters represents a fractured archetype of womanhood, and leave it at that. As critic Tracy Murinik however observed in her Venice Biennale catalogue essay, the various characters also "taunt one another's historical time zones and scoff at one another's histories and politics". Nabakov's Lolita confronts Jeff Koons' Cicciolina confronting the haughty Marie Antoinette, while the ghost of Saartjie Baartman flitters around the edge of the screen before suddenly sprouting wings and magically disappearing.

There are many reasons to regard 'Ciao Bella' as an accomplished piece of art. It deftly confronts its audience with the multiple legacies of oppression, be they sexual, racial or political. Rose successfully achieves this without tending towards self-conscious sentimentality. Her video installation remains mysteriously playful while pointed in its function. The artist has also managed to achieve a subtle interplay between genres, her photographic portraits buttressing the action that unfolds on the video.

Having viewed the photographic portraits first, and then the video, it was insightful to reappraise some of the portraits a second time. Marie Antoinette's act of slicing and apportioning sections of the chocolate cake suddenly obtained new meaning. The photographic portrait of her depicts this imperious monarch standing in front of an RDP settlement. Then there is also that character punching herself throughout the video; the photograph offers an unsettling portrait of a woman whose face is a mere formless mass, raw like sculptor's clay.

Not all the portraits suggest this linked dynamic, and I doubt they would all carry their own in isolation. Certainly Regina Coeli, Bunnie, Silhouetta, MAQEII and Venus Baartman are the standout photographs in the collection. Silhouetta is particularly beautiful, reminding me of the fashion photographs of Nick Knight, as well as American artist Kara Walker, who recently showed her cut paper silhouettes at the Barbican Gallery in London.

Overall 'Ciao Bella' is an accomplished achievement. It may present ideas that have been seen before, but this does little to lessen the impact of the lyrical video installation. It is to Rose's credit too that her work is underpinned by an undeniable professionalism. The production qualities throughout her video are astonishing. 'Ciao Bella' is an intriguing solo show, and offers suggestive hints of a talent about to soar to great heights.

Artist 7:

Sam Taylor-Wood

I really wanted to use Sam Taylor-Wood because of these seamless c-print photographic self portraits. I feel that there is really craftsmanship in the quality and presentation of these photographs. I am actually uncertain of how she shot these photographs, and my curiosity is getting the best of me and i would really like to know. How do you shoot a self-portrait with a film camera of oneself contorted and suspended like this? I don't know, but i really like what she is trying to say.

Image 1: "Self Portrait Suspended I" 2004. C-Print. 135.6 x 162.8 cm
Image 2: "Self Portrait Suspended III" 2004. C-Print. 135.6 x 162.8 cm


Sam Taylor-Wood is sitting on a yellow sofa in her Clerkenwell studio, fidgeting. She fidgets quite a lot. "You'll see next month in The South Bank Show," she says, referring to the programme that has made her its latest subject. "I get very fidgety and very twitchy, both physically and in my more general life. One week I'll be doing an exhibition and then a film and then something else. I get really restless if I'm not challenged all the time." She grew up not far from here, on a Peabody estate, and likens her decision to re-settle in the area as a prodigal return. "I made good," she says.

We meet two weeks after Taylor-Wood and her husband Jay Jopling, the director of the fashionable White Cube gallery, announced that they are to separate after 11 years of marriage. Taylor-Wood's "people" request that I don't ask about the split, so I don't; but her empty ring finger speaks volumes, a glowering third presence in the room.

Taylor-Wood has offered herself up for interviews, which she once likened to root canal surgery, to promote her latest outpouring of work, to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public in the coming months. It is testament to her twitchiness, to her perpetual forward-motion, that she continues to be so prolific. "It's been an insane year," she says. "When I was pregnant I took the year off and did nothing and I think everything builds up and then there's this vomiting forth of ideas."

There is the short film she made with the late Anthony Minghella, Love You More, to be shown at this month's London Film Festival; there's the exhibition at White Cube, called Yes I No; there's the single produced by the Pet Shop Boys, a cover of the Eighties' hit "I'm In Love With a German Film Star"; there's the aforementioned South Bank Show. And last but not least, Taylor-Wood has also produced a special limited-edition of one of her photographs, the latest in our occasional series of art offers available to readers of The Independent.

"When I was asked if I had anything that might be right, I immediately thought of this print," she says of the new edition, After Dark (With Lights) (2008) – see offer below. "When I took it I knew it was a really beautiful shot, but I couldn't use it in the White Cube exhibition because it wasn't quite right."

Although the picture looks simple – a clown putting on his make-up in a large warehouse, part of a series of clown pictures that will make up the Yes I No exhibition – it was one of the most technical shoots Taylor-Wood has attempted. "It was really difficult to get the light coming into the warehouse: we did that with trucks and big lights and smoke machines. It looks so simple, but it took a lot of effort. That was the biggest production I've done in terms of lighting and rigs, but it was great fun."

The musical collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys might seem a little more odd, but in fact it makes perfect sense. The Boys rent a studio from Taylor-Wood ("my joke is: Neil is my Tennant") and they have all worked together before. She has produced videos for their Somewhere concerts at the Savoy Theatre and was a guest vocalist on the PSB's reworking of Serge Gainsbourg's "Je t'aime ... moi non plus" and their cover of Donna Summer's "Love to Love You, Baby".

"I'm not exactly a professional singer but I love karaoke," she says. "I'm a show-off and I always either do The Clash's 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go?' or Crystal Gayle's 'Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue?'. Why that one? I don't know, but I do know I can sing it reasonably and once I'm up there you can't get me off."

Taylor-Wood even dragged the South Bank Show crew along to a karaoke bonding session in Cleveland, Ohio. "The crew were following me around for eight months! I thought it would be more interesting, and make better telly than having Melvyn Bragg just looking retrospectively through my work. They were great fun but I got slightly ratty with them being there all the time.

"The South Bank Show is exciting for everyone else but totally traumatising and terrifying for me. The thing I'm most worried about everyone seeing is my bum!"

In person, Taylor-Wood is so lively and engaging that it's hard to believe she has endured so many hardships. She is almost as famous for her recovery from cancer – of the colon in 1997 and of the breast in 2000 – as she is for her famous friends (she was one of the few guests at the civil partnership of Elton John and David Furnish). She endured a six-month course of chemotherapy and then fought her way back to health with a combination of acupuncture, a hardcore no-meat, no-dairy diet and sheer willpower. She refused a course of drugs, because they would have made her infertile, and was rewarded with another baby, Jessie, now 17 months old.

"The only reason I don't mind talking about it is because when I was going through it I found it really useful to know about other people who had been through it and come out the other side all right. Generally you only read about people who haven't come through it...

"I thought that if I went down the road of melancholy and misery I was going to lose the battle – just to get in through hospital doors you've got to summon up all your strength from your boots. Having been through that makes you fairly fearless. My biggest fear, even now, is walking through hospital doors. I just stand there and hyper-ventilate – and then you have to go in.

"Suddenly your body is no longer your own. You have to very quickly become a professor of your disease; you need a crash course of understanding because you're offered so many different thoughts."

Taylor-Wood's practical, keep-on-moving attitude to her life is reflected in her instinctive approach to her work – ideas bubble around in her head and become all-consuming until she realises them; that, she says, provides the impetus for her perpetual forward-motion.

"Praise really isn't that important to me from anyone other than the people whose opinion I respect. I don't crave it – and I never read reviews any more. I know people say that, but I really don't read any of them. I have done in the past and it affects you so fundamentally that you know in the future that just one wrong word in an otherwise nice review can be really upsetting. I remember one particularly bad one after a show that I thought had been the best in my life. It blights everything – and yet it's just one person's opinion."

The Young British Artists, or YBAs, of whom Taylor-Wood was a leading light, may not be so young any more, but they are still significant players in world art markets. Damien Hirst's record-breaking sale of his works at Sotheby's last month showed that while all the financial world was losing its head, the modern-art market is one sector keeping its value. "The sale happening like that, at that time, will go down in history as one of the most insane days, ever," she laughs. "It was extraordinary."

But, as far as Taylor-Wood is concerned, it's all just here today, gone tomorrow. "I've got a total phobia about anything financial," she says. "As long as I've got some money in the bank and I can buy a new pair of shoes, it's OK." It might sound disingenuous coming from a woman who has made a small fortune for herself from the art world. But the funny thing is, after all Sam Taylor-Wood has been through, I believe her.

Artist 8:

Francesca Woodman

Although she has already died, her work that I am talking about was created in the 70s and i feel that it is a strong way to present oneself. Her work is highly performance based, and explores issues of sexuality, gender, and being young. She died very early in her career, at the age of 22, the same age that i am right now so i feel that this is a good example of work to research.

Image 1: "Self Portrait Talking to Vince, Providence, Rhode Island." 1975-78. Silver Gelatin Print. 20.3 x 25.4 cm
Image 2: "From Space2, Providence, Rhode Island" 1975-76. Silver Gelatin Print. 20.3 x 25.4 cm


The impetus for this round table came from the desire to extend an informal discussion following a screening of Elisabeth Subrin's The Fancy, an experimental film addressing the work and figure of the photographer Francesca Woodman. A student at the Rhode Island School of Design in the late I970s, Woodman produced a strikingly mature body of work before committing suicide in 1981 at the age of twenty-two. Although during her lifetime she participated in a number of exhibitions in alternative spaces in New York and Rome, Woodman's first significant public exposure came posthumously, through a 1986 exhibition coorganized by the Wellesley College Museum and the Hunter College Art Gallery. An accompanying catalogue featured essays by Rosalind Krauss and Abigail Solomon-Godeau. These texts, particularly the latter, which situated Woodman's work in relation to the postmodern feminist practice of artists such as Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger, played a determinate role in her initial art-historical reception. Indeed, it was through this lens that I first encountered her photographs in the early 1990s, and it was, in part, my sense of the limitations of Solomon-Godeau's analysis of Woodman's art as a strategic appropriation and subversion of stereotypes of femininity that motivated my own writing on Woodman.
Consisting mainly of self-consciously staged self-portraits or images of female friends acting as surrogates for the artist, Woodman's photographs exude a profound ambivalence-a simultaneous refusal and yearning to be constituted in the field of vision as an object of desire. The ideological orientation of Solomon-Godeau's text foreclosed the exploration of precisely this messier, less obviously "critical" but also potentially rich feature of Woodman's art. But while pointing to a model of subjectivity too complex to be adequately encompassed by 1980s feminism's politicized use of psychoanalytic theory, the ambivalent nature of Woodman's project also renders it susceptible to being read as a precedent for (and, by implication, a validation of) the pseudocritical examination of feminine identity taken up by a number of women photographers in the late 1990s. To reconsider Woodman's work in 2003 thus involves, on the one hand, a reassessment of its reception, both by art historians and artists, and, on the othe r hand, a reevaluation of the work itself. What, if any, is the critical potential of Woodman's art? To what extent and in what ways do her photographs resist their existing interpretative frameworks? If certain features of Woodman's work have been obscured or overlooked in prior readings, how might they be most productively illuminated and how might their elucidation alter our understanding of Woodman's art-historical significance? These are the questions that this discussion seeks to raise and begin to answer.

Artist 9:

Ana Mendieta

I chose Ana Mendieta, the cuban born artist, because of her use of self-representation and her issues of gender topics. I am focusing on her facial hair transplant photographs, because i think that they speak strongly to todays culture of issues of gender and female and male roles in society. She studied at University of Iowa in the early 70s as well, and i know for a fact that that school, during that time, was pretty much the best art school in America and i want to learn more about people that came from that program at that time as well.

Image 1: "Untitled (Facial Hair Transplants)" 1972/1997. Suite of seven C-Print photos. 23 x 49 cm
Image 2: "Untitled (Blood Sign #2/Body Tracks)" 1974. Super 8 Film. 1:20min.


Boil down art, all and any art, to its purest essence, and it's nothing more than a gesture that affirms a human ego. You do something to something, and thereby leave a mark upon the world. All of art's other goals, functions and aspects -- pleasing gods or creating beauty or crafting a commodity or exploring an idea -- come after that blunt fact. Any masterpiece, and every piece of schlock as well, has at its heart the graffiti artist's tag: "Yo, I'm Michelangelo." "Picasso was here!" "This is Pollock's turf." Or even "Feast them eyes on Grandma Moses."

Few artists have ever captured that fundamental, peculiar essence of art as powerfully as Ana Mendieta, whose performances and installations are the focus of a comprehensive retrospective that opened Thursday at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum.
There's no point beating about the bush: Mendieta is still best known to most newspaper readers for how she died. In 1985, the 36-year-old artist fell 34 stories from a New York apartment building; her husband, Carl Andre, the great minimalist sculptor, was tried and eventually acquitted -- in court, if not necessarily in the public mind -- of her murder. Mendieta's posthumous notoriety certainly helped spread word of her art. But it took this show, organized by Hirshhorn curator Olga Viso, to make me fully lament her the notoriety of her death. I left the Hirshhorn wishing she'd had a duller but longer and more productive life. This exhibition finally gives us the chance to take the measure of the art, and leave the tabloid story of the artist out of it.

Which doesn't mean Mendieta as a person isn't present in the show.

Throughout her work, Mendieta sets her body down in nature and then records its simple presence on the planet. There are photographs that document her lying naked on the ground, almost hidden by the wildflowers stuck between her legs and clutched between her arms and body.

A three-minute color film, shot on the modest Super 8 stock Mendieta always favored -- and now preserved on digital video -- shows the naked artist floating in a burbling creek.

Other pieces leave the artist herself out of the picture, but record a trace she's left behind.

In one series, begun in the early 1970s when she was still a student in the experimental "intermedia" program at the University of Iowa, she dipped her hands in red paint mixed with blood, then dragged them down the wall or along a piece of paper stuck to it. This is art's fundamental proclamation, "I was here," captured using everyone's most basic tool, the hand, in our most immediately available and instantly impressive pigment, blood.

Mendieta also had a branding iron made that mimicked her handprint, and used it to burn her mark into the ground or onto the blank pages of a book.

Eventually, Mendieta developed a kind of surrogate for her own presence, which she called a "silueta." It was a generic sign or icon of the supine female form, just legible as marking the contours of a human body. It was a shape Mendieta could cut into mud, or outline in wet sand, or carve into a cave wall. She could render it on the ground in burning cloth, or build a kind of silueta scarecrow, cover it in fireworks and splash her body's outline across the evening sky. With these silhouettes, it's no longer a case of "Here I am." It's not even "Ana was here." It's the less specific "Someone has been by."

The silueta, now almost a generic form, begins to distance the artist herself from the mark she leaves behind. Mendieta's no longer acting as a kind of distillation of the heroic Jackson Pollock, whose ego-laden drips she had reduced to a single, bloody, hand-shaped smear. The siluetas aren't much about the person that made them. They're more like the prehistoric human hands we find outlined in pigment on a cave wall. We don't take pleasure in these kinds of ancient markings because of how they look or even for what they tell us about their makers. We just marvel that they're there, and love the way they point back at the absent ancestor who made them.

And now a caveat: My reading of Mendieta's work has nothing to do with how she billed herself or with how she's almost always talked about. She was often inspired by portentous talk of timeless human symbols and unchanging psychic archetypes: The pseudo-anthropology of Carlos Castaneda was a favorite source, along with the so-called "central" (read "vaginal") ideology of early feminism, with its mumbo-jumbo about earth goddesses and a mythic, rosy past when women ruled the world and men were not yet sexist brutes. Mendieta and her fans have also cited sources for her art, and explanations of its meanings, based in the "traditional" native cultures of Latin America. Mendieta's trips to Mexico, and her study of various Afro-Cuban rituals, are supposed to have infused her art with potent insights into her ethnic roots -- even though she was born into the well-off Cuban middle class, whose links are arguably closer to Columbus and his butchers than to the island natives they exterminated. Her roots are even further from the very different Indians who managed to hang on in distant Mexico or to the blacks imported to Cuba as slaves. And then, of course, there's the fact that Mendieta came to the United States when she was 12, studied with some of her adopted homeland's most advanced artists, and didn't even return to Cuba for another 20 years.

I prefer to give all this mess a miss -- after all, it has turned many serious art lovers off Mendieta's art -- and insist that a work's inspiration, wherever it comes from, can be miles from its meaning. We ignore the wild Rosicrucian ideas of the French symbolists, and the obscure Theosophical beliefs of Mondrian and other early abstract painters, so it seems fair to look for meaning in Mendieta without worrying too much about where she may have thought it lay. Mendieta's work is, I think, best understood in terms of the peculiar traditions and preoccupations of the modern Western avant-garde, rather than in terms of distant ethnic origins, of her personal history, or of some "authentic" Latina self looking to express itself.

Not that a Mendieta silueta is just a neutral record of some generic human's presence.

In this art, that human being is specifically a woman.

From muscle cars to the Taj Mahal, the world is full enough already with the markings of male ego. On a recent visit to the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, I got to see the famous "oxidation paintings" Andy made by having young men pee onto metallic-painted canvas; you could say that it's a stand-up example of what Western culture has mostly been about over the last few thousand years. Mendieta corrects the gender balance by imposing a distinctly female presence on the world.

In some of her siluetas, the outline of her wide-hipped woman's body gets so reduced, it's just a kind of narrow almond shape: It's woman as vagina, the thing that marks her off most clearly from the men who've ruled in art until now.

In one installation, Mendieta rendered her silueta as a dark, cement-lined gash in the ground, filled it with gunpowder, then set it ablaze. (The concrete form has now been set into the Hirshhorn floor, alongside a video of the piece in action.) It's a gesture of female self-affirmation that is so aggressive, it's got a kind of dark Don Rickles comedy to it. This is Freud's man-eating vagina dentata, happily baring its teeth.

But then there are also Mendieta silhouettes that show a figure with hands raised so they sit beside its head. Simplify that form enough, as in one Mendieta silhouette whose rough outline is traced by 47 candles standing on the floor -- the Hirshhorn will be lighting the piece once a week -- and you get a long shape with two bulges at one end. There's now a phallus where the female "essence" used to be -- the ancient Venus of Willendorf, that tiny prehistoric sculpture that's an icon of woman's fertility, gets turned on her head and reimagined as a bulging sign of masculinity, her fecund hips now recast as testicles. It's as though Mendieta's interest in who we are is flexible enough to let her undermine the whole idea of unchanging gender essences.

Mendieta wants to assert the possibility of a female presence in the world, but that means also insisting that the "feminine" can include the kind of macho, ego-boosting gesture that has been the preserve of male artists. If there's no choice but to spell it out in old symbolic archetypes -- and that is just how art has almost always spelled things out -- the vagina has to be allowed to have its phallic side.

A very early series of photographs shows Mendieta trading genders with burly poet Morty Sklar: She clips off his hippie beard and glues it on her tiny face. The piece insists on the possibility of gender-bending, while acknowledging the vexed issues involved.

Walk through this show and watch Mendieta make her mark, again and again but always with a subtly different twist, and you find impressive toughness mixed with wit; something close to rigor mixed with something not too far from comedy. The almost compulsive exploration and re-exploration of a single set of themes makes Mendieta's finest work measure up to any of the best examples of conceptual art. And yet there's always some subtle underlying sense of how ridiculous, even pointless, the whole enterprise of making an artistic mark -- any artistic mark -- turns out to be. Though she's poker-faced as she lies down in her creek or covers herself in flowers, there's always still a sense of how absurd and meaningless those cryptic actions are. (I bet there were sometimes outbreaks of giggles before the camera began to roll.)

In Mendieta's work, art becomes the sheer, absurd impulse to impose your presence -- which can include a female presence -- on the world. Art becomes a kind of accidental side effect of being born to act, and of being conscious of your special presence as the person acting. Like consciousness itself, artmaking may be just another byproduct of our having evolved such massive brains; they're cognitive machines so huge that some of their power gets blown off as creative steam.

Look at Mendieta's work, and you sense that art at its most basic isn't the noble assertion of a unique human self, as a romantic might insist. And it's not about the arguments of metaphysics or morals that we go on to find in it. Art is just a funny thing we humans do -- like styling our hair or humming a tune -- because of an obsessive-compulsive disorder that's bred into us.

You also sense that this impulse, concentrated in Mendieta's art, also underlies even the most fabulous objects produced by an Old Master.

No matter how powerful and full of meaning a great artwork turns out be once it's complete, it starts life as some dumb human simply doing something for the sake of doing it. It begins as action performed simply to prove agency: a bloodied hand dragged down the wall; a woman floating her own body in a brook.

Artist 10:

Cindy Sherman

Now, I know that i have been avoiding her for a long time, but i feel that i guess i really should address her. I mean, she has doesn't a lot for self-portraiture for many years now. So why i am choosing her is because I want to know what she has done for self-portraiture. And I do know that is a lot, but i want to experience it for myself and try not to be in a hating mood when i look at her work.

Image 1: Untitled (bus riders) 1976. Silver Gelatin Print. 18.26 x 12.7 cm
Image 2: Untitled (bus riders) 1976. Silver Gelatin Print. 18.26 x 12.7cm

To describe Cindy Sherman as a photographer is to invite a look of questioning or of derision from some other photographers. Yet as the exhibition of a selection of her work at IMMA between November 1994 and February 1995 showed, Cindy Sherman's concerns and her physical output place her firmly in the twin (and overlapping) traditions of artist and photographer.

Briefly put, she is a self-portraitist. She uses her own face and body as subject matter, as medium, as vehicle for expression and as the starting point for an interrogation of styles and fashions, techniques, ideologies and grammars of narrative . She chooses to use photography both to record and to collaborate in that interrogation. In order to continue that process she has had to familiarise herself with many techniques and competencies so as to know how the grammar or syntax of, say, lighting or depth of focus can be used and manipulated in different contexts. For example, in her early series Untitled Film Stills, she portrayed herself as the protagonist, sometimes heroine, sometimes victim, in a series of tableaux that evoked the mood of certain film genres or (less frequently) of specific movies. It is not enough to say that she was able to ape Kim Novak in Vertigo or Monica Vitti in any one of a number of Antonioni films, for mere transcription or pastiche was not her aim. She essayed beyond the mimetic, showing that the apparent ability of any lens based medium to create a palpable and 'realistic' universe was based upon the juxtaposition of a number of readily understood and applicable elements. With the Kim Novak she captured the camera angles, the depth of focus and the edginess of composition that one finds in mid-1950s Hitch. The Monica Vitti proved that Antonioni's urban angst was in part explained by a lack of depth of focus and by flattening the characters in a wide screen Sartre-like 2D hell.

In showing that she could understand these components (deconstruction) she was no different than the average Media Studies student who can "explain" Hitchcockor prove that Antonioni was an auteur. The difference arose when she demonstrated her ironic transcendence of the originals. By adding agenda items such as questioning both the role of woman and of the starsystem; by juggling with so many precious styles associated with directors, cinematographers (a sort of James Wong Howe Do They Do That ?) and actors; by refusing to give her photoworks any titles or captions Cindy Sherman infuriated those for whom the creative process is seen as (literally) unique and semi-divine.

INTERLUDE: in which post Renaissance and Romantic notions of the artist are adumbrated. The artist learns from his (yes, HIS) predecessors but transforms the earlier forms and techniques into a (yes, A) personal and coherent style. The artist who can turn his hand to any style is at best a pasticheur (yes, -eur, not -euse) and at worse a mere impersonator. This is not to be confused with an Impressionist. Authenticity eschews bravura playing with styles and techniques.

PART TWO: In fact all that Cindy Sherman was doing was what would have been both acceptable and expected of a (male) Baroque painter or 18th Century architect. They would have taken it for granted that their work could be in any style or manner requested by the client and that such work had to demonstrate both a technical/formal mastery of the earlier exemplars and a kind of ironic distance from the originals as if to say "Don't believe all you see". In our century we expect the lonely artist to hew out a difficult and highly individual path. The fact that Sherman shows it all to be a trick, and to show us the mechanics of the trick as well is to mount nothing less than an assault on the integrity of the artist as auteur as solitary genius. Dammit all, the woman (!) is no better than that chap Rory Bremner. Later she moved on to tableaux where she went further, recreating by the use of the kind of artifice that would have been understood in pre-Romantic times, the look of historical and allegorical portraiture. In these she made up her entire body through the use of prosthetics and makeup to give us photographs such as Leonardo and Jean Fouquet might have used had such technology been available to them. From that period (c1988-90) she progressed to works in which she, the recognisable Ms. Sherman is herself deconstructed into parts no different from the sexually explicit dismembered mannequin parts that surround her in some of the shots. These latter works in particular, seen in IMMA alongside the work of the painter Sarmento, reinforced the view that like Madonna, Sherman is a post-modernist whose work re-invents itself on a regular basis and which lays bare subject, object, history's products and processes in ways that are clever and yet actually really quite modest too.

Mike Catto


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