Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Interview on GRAYPIGEON

Maria and Yasmine
Austin, Texas
December 2009

A short set of interview questions I answered over the course of a few winter nights in January 2010 for GRAYPIGEON was recently published on their site. GRAYPIGEON describes itself as a social networking site whose sole purpose is to bring together a collective of artists. The site is under transition and will be relaunched with a new name at some point in the near future.


Why do you do what you do?

I write and take photographs in order to search for a meaningful understanding and expression of life experiences and to participate in a dialogue with a community of peers who share similar passions and values. Being wired for a creative path often feels like a condition or affliction – it is inescapable. I can’t imagine a life for myself outside of the arts.

What are the works you are most happy with? Why?

If I were to choose one image that best represents my photographs of American spaces, it would be the White Horse. I spent a week in the winter of 2007 driving around Florida swamplands chasing an elusive dream and felt like I actually captured it in that image. I think some of the qualities that exist in much of my work – the quiet tension, melancholy, mystery and beauty – come through vividly in this photograph.

More recently, I have primarily been shooting portraits – the young men in Binghamton in the fall of 2008 and other subjects I have found since in Texas, Michigan and New Jersey. I’m specifically interested in searching for people whose lives exist on an edge and exploring their expressions, emotions and stories.

What themes are hot on your mind right now?

Love, loneliness, vulnerability, uncertainty, sexuality, dreams, broken dreams, internal and external struggles.

You seem to have your hands in just about everything. Highlight some of the things you are up to besides making photographs.

I teach photography courses at William Paterson University in New Jersey and The School of the International Center of Photography in New York. In addition to teaching, I work as a curator for an arts website called culturehall founded by artist and curator, David Andrew Frey. culturehall is a curated online resource for contemporary art where selected artists can share their work with curators, gallerists, collectors and other artists. My role has been to invite artists, feature and write about their work, and build our list of resources that includes international blogs, websites and organizations devoted to the arts. The goal of the site is to build a sense of community amongst artists, promote their exhibitions and events, and provide greater exposure for their work. It’s a great job for me because I thrive on developing relationships with other artists and supporting work that I think merits attention. I also participate in online discussion of the arts and share personal work-in-progress through my own blog, PalmAire.

Why do you teach? Does it help you as an artist?

Teaching is one of the most rewarding ways I can make a living in the arts. I love teaching. Teaching is about communicating ideas and forming relationships with students. It gives my life more structure and purpose. It motivates me to be more informed, organized and articulate. I like the kind of conversations that transpire in critiques, and it is satisfying to watch students develop an enthusiasm for photography and grow in their work.

How would you describe the process through which a talented young artist achieves professional and financial success? Is that even the goal?

Professional success, understood as visibility and accomplishment in the art world, doesn’t necessarily lead to financial success. Most of my peers, even those who have achieved some substantial recognition for their work, are still struggling to make a living as artists. As far as I can tell, professional success comes from a combination of talent, hard work, commitment, perseverance and a supportive community. Financial success is exceptional. Artists who recognize and utilize the power of the Internet as a forum for networking, promotion and creative expression are probably more likely to receive exposure and succeed in their careers.

I recently finished reading the biography and journals of John Cheever which describe the financial challenges of one of America’s great writers even while his stories were regularly being published by The New Yorker. Making art tends to cost more than writing, and many visual artists whose work is shown in respected galleries often spend more on the expenses of producing work than they receive from sales of the work, especially during the current economic climate.

Developing a career in the arts is a tough path and one that requires a great deal of sacrifice and endurance. The majority of artists I know support themselves through teaching or other jobs related to the arts – and those jobs are competitive as well.

Any gallery shows or events you’d like to talk about?

I will be exhibiting thirteen photographs – made from 1997 thru 2008 – in a group show called Whatever was Splendid at the Houston Fotofest Biennial opening in March 2010. The show, curated by Aaron Schuman, explores the influence of Walker Evans on contemporary American photographers. Walker Evans has been a significant figure in shaping my understanding of who and what is worth photographing, and it will be interesting to have my work viewed in that context. Other participating photographers include Will Steacy, Michael Schmelling, Greg Stimac, Jason Lazarus, Jane Tam, Richard Mosse, Craig Mammano, Todd Hido, Hank Willis Thomas and RJ Shaughnessy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Met a Unicorn

Austin, Texas
copyright Barry Stone

Since I couldn't make it to Texas (and I'm just about over that now), I'm happy to report that Texas is coming to me. Well, not just me. Good friend and photographer Barry Stone is exhibiting seven photographs in his third solo exhibition at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery opening Friday March 26th. Originally from Texas, Barry spent some years in New York teaching at the ICP. He currently lives in Austin near my favorite place to swim, Barton Springs, and teaches at Texas State University in San Marcos. Barry is also the author of a beautiful photo blog, YES YES YES, as well as a new blog specifically devoted to images of Texas, O EMPIRE WIDE AND GLORIOUS.

According to the press release for this upcoming exhibition of his recent work:

Barry Stone employs a wide variety of practices as a means of generating singular images. His approach includes "straight" photography, rephotographing, computer-rendering, and manually reworking, and does not value one method above another. Instead, Stone takes an egalitarian view of image-making. At a time when an explosion of photographic imagery can seem to dilute the medium to an infinite stream of information, Stone displays a considered selection which exemplifies his varied approaches. Through the seven photographs, he has slowed the eye to focus on points within his photographic practice.

In two photographs—one of a "unicorn" at a children's party, the other of a woman pointing her digital camera at a sunset—the conceptual focus of the image is enclosed in the framing of a scene observed by Stone through the lens of his camera. Another work in the show is a rephotographed image of an oil painting, an image within an image. In a third piece, Stone employs the conceit of the self-referential image again by spray-painting an arc on a photograph of a corner space and rephotographing, collapsing the pictorial space back into abstract elements.

The image Alan Greenspan as a Rainbow in Washington D.C. on October 23, 2009, 12.20.2009 was created by sampling the colors of a Washington Post press photograph of Greenspan testifying in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and creating a gradient rainbow from those colors, a nod to the connection between photography and currency, neither of which is tied to a gold standard that delineates a definitive value.

Stone's photographs deal with the problems of description in photography, and can reflect our perceptions of reality as we acknowledge the factors which inform their production and interpretation.His aesthetic in this regard is as indebted to the language of painting as it is to the language of advertising as it is to capitalist production.

I Met a Unicorn
Barry Stone

Klaus Von Nitchtssagend Gallery
438 Union Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

March 26 - April 25
opening reception Friday, March 26, 7 - 9pm

Monday, March 15, 2010

Telegraph features WHATEVER WAS SPLENDID

Telegraph (UK) features WHATEVER WAS SPLENDID: NEW AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHS, curated by Aaron Schuman. The feature closes with this powerful commentary:

As much as Evans’s precedent has provided both the inspiration and reinforcing framework for this exhibition, WHATEVER WAS SPLENDID is first and foremost the manifestation of the intelligence, ingenuity, and multiplicity of voices and visions that can be found within current US photographic practice. Yet consciously or not, all the photographers represented here have, in their own distinct ways, expanded upon many of the themes, strategies, clues, symbols, ‘certain sights, [and] certain relics of American civilization past or present’ first glimpsed in American Photographs. They all inherently possess a somewhat familiar ‘burrowing eye’, and share a determination to record, testify, and salvage what they can of their own precarious age for its survivors. And just like Evans, they have both reinvigorated American photography and redefined their country—conceptually, aesthetically, culturally, politically, historically, photographically, and so on—within very contemporary terms, celebrating both the United States and its photography, as Kirstein put it, ‘with all [its] clear, hideous and beautiful detail, [its] open insanity and pitiful grandeur.’

Please see the full feature: Whatever was splendid: New American Photographs

And a slide show of selected works from participating photographers: Whatever was splendid: slideshow

Aaron Schuman has kindly sent me shots of the installation of some of the work that I contributed to the exhibition.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Arriving from Texas ...

While I was home emailing my pen pals and trying not to feel too terrible about the fact that I couldn't make the trip to Houston for the opening of Fotofest last night on account of my often terrifying state of being financially stuck, I received this very sweet and pretty hilarious snapshot of the installation from photographer Carolyn Monastra. In between the women on the bench and the gang at the Minnesota State Fair on the wall, that is photographer Dana Miller on the left, who I met and exhibited work with along with Mara Bodis-Wollner in the inaugural opening of Jen Bekman Gallery in 2003. Keep your fingers crossed for me that my life can become less virtual one of these days.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Houston Fotofest 2010 Biennial

Thirteen photographs I made between 1998 - 2008 are included in an exhibition at Vine Street Studios, one of five exhibitions in the Fotofest 2010 Biennial in Houston, Texas opening tonight. Whatever Was Splendid: New American Photographs explores the legacy and continued influence of Walker Evans on contemporary American photography. The exhibition was curated by Aaron Schuman - a photographer, writer, lecturer, curator and founder/editor of SeeSaw Magazine. Other participating artists are Will Steacy, Michael Schmelling, Greg Stimac, Jason Lazarus, Jane Tam, Richard Mosse, Craig Mammano, Todd Hido, Hank Willis Thomas and RJ Shaughnessy.

Also at Fotofest is an exhibition, Road to Nowhere?, including work by one of the contemporary photographers whose spirit I admire the most, Victoria Sambunaris. I had the opportunity to meet Vicky earlier this fall before she left on a long journey to make new photographs in the southwestern region of the United States which finally winds down in a couple of weeks. Her beautiful and politically-charged images of the American landscape will be shown along with work by an exceptional group of American photographers: Sheila Pree Bright, Jeff Brouws, Tim Davis, Myra Greene, Eirik Johnson, Jason Lazarus, An-My Le, Nic Nicosia, David Oresick, Trevor Paglen, Greta Pratt, Michael Robinson, Jason Salavon, Christina Seely, Paul Shambroom, Greg Stimac and Brian Ulrich. Road to Nowhere? was curated by Natasha Egan, Associate Director and Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.

For a complete list of Fotofest exhibitions, please see: Fotofest 2010 Biennial

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March Photo Frenzy

copyright Deana Lawson

Station Independent Projects
Scope Art Fair NYC, booth A30
March 4-7

Exhibiting Artists: Juliana Beasley, Brian Getnick, Miles Ladin, Deana Lawson, Leah Oates, Ruben Natal San-Miguel, Kari Soinio and Pierre St-Jacques


The Concrete Jungle
Ruben Natal- San Miguel
Kris Graves Projects
111 Front Street #224
March 4 - April 10
Opening reception: Thursday, March 4, 6 - 9pm


At Sea
Dan Estabrook
Daniel Cooney Fine Art Gallery
511 West 25th Street, Suite #506
New York, NY
March 1 - April 24
Opening reception: Thursday, March 4
Lyle Rexer in Conversation with Dan Estabrook: Saturday, March 6, 4pm


31 Women in Art Photography
Humble Arts Foundation
Affirmation Arts
523 West 37th Street
New York, NY
Opening reception and dance party: Saturday, March 6, 6 - 9pm

Exhibiting Artists: Erica Allen, Amelia Bauer, Claire Beckett, Gilda Davidian, Jessica Eaton, Naomi Harris, Carmen von Kende, Anna Krachey, Yvonne Lacet, Erika Larson, Jessica Mallios, Alison Malone, S. Billie Mandle, Paula McCartney, Rachel Mozman, Yamini Nayar, Sarah Palmer, Kristine Potter, Heather Rasmussen, Justine Reyes, Lisa Robinson, Irina Rozovsky, Sasha Rudensky, Victoria Sambunaris, Robin Schwartz, Emily Shur, Bea Shouders, Rachel Sussman, Kirsten Kay Thoen, Carson Fisk-Vittori and Ann Woo

copyright Ruben Natal-San Miguel

Monday, March 1, 2010

NYMPHOTO Art For Haiti Auction

I have donated a small print of the cars in the desert above to NYMPHOTO Art for Haiti: Benefit Print Auction. Proceeds from the auction will support the relief effort through Partners in Health, a non-profit organization that has established 12 medical facilities in Haiti.

Other work in the auction has been donated by Keliy Anderson- Staley, Nina Busing Corvallo, Jeff Cate, Rona Chang, Cameron Goodyear, Candace Gottschalk, Laura Heyman, Geoffrey Hutchinson, Hee Jin Kang, Michelle Kloen, Yijun Liao, Minette Lee Managhas, Tiana Markove-Gold, Stephen Meierding, Maria Passaroti, Suzanne Revy, Jon Shireman, Emily Shur, Brea Souders, Juliana Swaney, Jane Tam, Hidemi Takago and Jennifer Williams.

Please preview the artwork here: ART FOR HAITI

Bids on work can be placed on ebay: PRINT SALES TO BENEFIT PARTNERS IN HEALTH