Thursday, August 13, 2009

culturehall news

It feels like summer is winding down, and I am making one last trip to Michigan before I return to New York for the fall. David Andrew Frey will be launching some new developments to culturehall in September, and we will be fully back in action looking for more exceptional artists to add to the 320 members who have already contributed work.

David and I were excited to learn this week that one of culturehall's members whose work was discovered on the site recently landed a commission through a major corporation to install one of his pieces in an office space in Stockholm. It's great to know that the site is playing a role in helping artists realize substantial opportunities in their careers.

One of my focusses has been to spread to the word about culturehall to international arts blogs and websites and to share our enthusiasm for the information they are contributing to the arts in the ARTIST RESOURCES section of our homepage. We have recently listed some new sites we like including Artcards, Light Journeys, OPENWIDEpdx, Peek, and the newly revamped blog by my friend and colleague, Barry Stone, YES YES YES. Barry has been sharing recent images as well as some wonderful images from his archives.

While David is communicating with artists working in various media, I am primarily concentrating on adding photographers to the site. Two photographers whose work was featured this summer on culturehall were Zack Seckler and Francesca Romeo, with whom I exhibited work at Daniel Cooney Fine Art this past spring. Francesca has recently been shooting some intriguing self-portraits in hotel rooms around the world or sometimes in her East Village apartment, like the one included above. Some of her newest work can be found on her culturehall porfolio: Francesca Romeo/Culturehall.

Theodore, from TRUE LOVE series
copyright Zack Seckler

Monday, August 10, 2009

Critical Mass (08) Top Profiles

Jurying for Critical Mass 2009 is underway, and you can find some picks by juror Ruben Natal San-Miguel on his blog, ARTmostfierce. I opted out of submitting work this year, primarily because I wanted to spend more time developing my current portrait series before I attempt to get it published in book form.

I was one of the fifty finalists in last year's Critical Mass and was recently interviewed by Shawn Records about my work and my experience with Photolucida.

You can find an illustrated version of the interview on Photolucida's blog: CM (08) Top 50 Profiles: Tema Stauffer

• Name, location

Tema Stauffer, Brooklyn, New York

• Is photography your day job? If not, do you want it to be?

Part of my income comes from photography, both from sales of fine artwork and some commercial jobs. I also teach photo classes at The School of the International Center of Photography, and I recently started a position as Assistant Curator for a new website for the arts called Culturehall, which promotes artists and arts writers through an online community and list of resources.

• Can you remember/describe the first print you ever made? Why photography? Why do you do this?

I remember the first roll of slide film I shot for my first photography course at The Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts. I shot some portraits of my best friend in high school on slide film sitting in a cemetery. As corny as that sounds, the light was gorgeous, and my teacher was impressed, which gave me some encouragement. I immediately responded to the medium for the experiences and adventures it inspires one to pursue. Photography is a reason to go somewhere and to develop a relationship with somebody or something.

• How did your project develop?

The images I submitted to Critical Mass are part of an ongoing project exploring the character of the American landscape. This series, American Stills, began with an image of a lonely gas station under a blazing orange sky in the year 2000, and I don’t know exactly when it will be complete as a body of work.

• It's early yet, but have you had any concrete opportunities arise from your participation in Critical Mass? Shows? Publications? Print sales? High fives at a party?

Since my participation in Critical Mass last fall, I have exhibited work in a two-person show with Francesca Romeo at Daniel Cooney Fine Art Gallery, and a group show at Sasha Wolf Gallery organized by a collective of women photographers called NYMPHOTO. However, neither of these exhibitions came as a result of my involvement with Critical Mass. Perhaps, though, some of my peers became more familiar with my work as a result of the combined exposure through Critical Mass and Flak Photo.

• Who are your favorite photographers, images, websites, projects, or blogs, etc. that inspire?

Recently, I have been particularly interested in portraits by Rineke Dijkstra and photographs of the everyday in America by Paul Graham. Some of the photographers who have deeply informed my relationship to photography are Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Joel Sternfeld, William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, and Richard Billingham. I have also listed blogs on my blog and websites on my website which reflect work by peers in the arts that I follow and admire. There are too many to list here, but feel free to take a look.

• Do you have a favorite youtube video that you'd like to share? It doesn't have to be photo-related.

A writer and photographer friend who lives in Virginia, Mark Burnette, once posted a link on his blog, Conditions Uncertain, to a music video for the song, “Kiss” - a duet by Will Oldham and Scout Niblett. I loved the video and watched it over and over again on lonely winter nights and eventually bought Scout’s album. The video is playfully dark, whimsical, romantic, funny, and sweet.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Phoenix and Agnes

Happy birthday, Phoenix!! Phoenix was born in August last year to my friend, Agnes Dahan, the same night that my beloved dog, Paris, left this earth - living proof that when one amazing and beautiful creature passes, another comes to life.

copyright Agnes Dahan

Phoenix and Agnes are visiting New York from their new home in the West Indies, bringing some much-needed joy to my anxiety-ridden life in the city. Agnes will be contributing a print of her image above to Daniel Cooney's next Emerging Artists Auction which will be available on-line this month.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Field of Sad Trees

Field of Sad Trees
Spanish Fork, UT
April 2008

Thank you to Andy Adams for featuring one of my images on Flak Photo today. I made this photograph during a trip to Utah in the spring of 2008 to explore the setting of the Gary Gilmore murders in 1976. The search for a sad tree was inspired by a passage in The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer.

One Sunday while she was digging away in her garden, Gary carved their names on the apple tree. He did it with a pocket knife, real nice, real neat: GARY LOVES NICOLE. Nobody had ever done that before.

Next day she had a lot of things to do, and kept wanting to get back. When she finally reached home, she cleaned out his car first, then climbed up the tree to a place above where he had done it, and carved out: NICOLE LOVES GARY. Then she went into the house just in time to meet him.

He came out into the backyard with a beer and she told him to look at the apple tree. He didn't see anything and she finally had to point it out to him. Then he was happy as a kid, and said she had done hers better than his. Told her it was a beautiful heart she had carved around the names.

excerpt from The House in Spanish Fork
The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Young Curators, New Ideas II

Untitled, Potash Mine, distant view
Wendover, UT
copyright Victoria Sambunaris

I've discovered a lot of great work by women photographers on Women in Photography's site - recently, some very strange and quirky or unsettling interiors devoid of people shot by Lynne Cohen. One of my favorite series on WIP consists of American landscapes made by photographer, Victoria Sambunaris. I've never met Victoria, but I have a romantic notion of an amazing woman traveling the highways and backroads of this country with a dog and a large format camera. She is one of my living photo idols, and I am excited to see her print tonight in Young Curators, New ideas II at P.P.O.W. Gallery in Chelsea.

This exhibition examines new voices in contemporary art through the perspective of seven New York-based curatorial teams including good friends Amani Olu of Amani Olu Projects and Cara Phillips and Amy Elkins of WIP.

Young Curators, New Ideas II

511 West 25th Street
Room 301

opening reception Thursday August 6th, 6-8pm

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Craig Prehn

Cowboy, 16 x 23in, pen on paper
Craig Prehn

from Mobile Homes
Craig Prehn

I've been back in New York City now for nearly three weeks, still trying to settle into my life here and to reinvent things just a little. I turned thirty-six two days before Cancers turn into Leos, and have been contemplating the relentless sensitivity and melancholy that makes us what we are: open-hearted or broken-hearted brooders, for better or worse. I almost believe it since I know one when I see one.

I am also making efforts towards putting a twenty-year addiction to cigarettes behind me, which means I am clutching my coffee cup in the morning, sweating, crying, staring into space trying to focus my thoughts, sucking nicotine lozenges, chewing toothpicks, and furtively bumming/buying smokes from strangers on the street when I can't hang in there all the way. Asking everyone I know who might have some wisdom and experience how anyone does this, and some make it sound too easy and some make it sound too hard, but all advice is welcome.

My old friend from Chicago, Craig Prehn, who has succeeded in this area, was visiting this week from his current base in San Francisco. Our earliest memories together consist of printing in the darkroom at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and cooking bbq and fries in the cramped kitchen of Smoke Daddy's on Division Street in the mid-90s. Our art lives have arrived at many junctures, including a photography exhibition at the Butcher Shop Gallery in the summer of 2000, A Great Midwestern at Heaven Gallery, and Best Midwestern at Jen Bekman Gallery in the summer of 2004, also including work by Peter Haakon Thompson, Alec Soth, Justin Newhall, Deborah Stratman and Susan Boecher. In fact, Craig and Pete took me out for sushi for my thirty-first birthday after we installed that show while I was still living in Minnesota and making trips to New York a half a decade ago.

Craig's "Cowboy" drawing above will be available in Daniel Cooney's next Emerging Artists Auction, and you can find a lot more cool work on his website: Craig Prehn. Besides his recent series of drawings, An American Western, which reference photographic snapshots and depict the sense of independence, severity and stark beauty of the American West; I am also a fan of his Mobile Homes. These simple snapshots of the exteriors of these colorful vehicles bring to mind the everyday Americana that seduced Photo-Realist painters in the 1970s - some of the only artwork I love as much as I love photography.

On that note, there are some fascinating observations about the art-historical context of the Photo-Realists and their influence on photographers in an essay called "Keeping It Real: Photorealism" by Philip Gefter in the recently released collection of his critical writings, Photography After Frank.

It is worth noting that Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, pioneers of color photography in the early 1970s, borrowed, consciously or not, from the Photo-Realists. Their photographic interpretation of the American vernacular - gas stations, diners, parking lots - is foretold in Photo-Realist paintings that preceded their pictures. (page 42)

"Not only do these artists have great technical skill, but they are the great depicters of pure Americana," says Barrett White, a former contemporary specialist at Christie's who is now the director of the New York branch of Haunch of Venison gallery. "This is not a gimmicky art but in fact a very important movement. It is the conclusion of Pop art in the same way that Color-Field painting is the conclusion of Abstract Expressionism." (pages 42-43)

If I were to win the lottery and to become an art collector, besides adding more work by artist friends to what I have traded with them over the years, I could imagine myself living with Photo-Realist paintings and not much else, except maybe some books and sunlight and a sexy hairless sphinx like the one I just cat-sat in Cobble Hill. It's a nice fantasy, in any case.

In the meantime, I am happy to report that I scraped up just enough funds through some much-needed labor last week and can finally take my film from my trip to Texas to the lab for processing tomorrow, so please keep your fingers crossed for me on all fronts.

The Butcher Shop exhibition postcard, 2000: Ian Adams, Aaron Brewer, Liza Queen, David Smith, Craig Prehn, Dara Greenwald, Tema Stauffer, Katherine Syroboyarsky, Sheila Manson, Suzy Poling, Tom Colley, Joeff Davis

Craig Prehn
Brooklyn, NY
August 2009