Last week Friday, Karina and I made a flying trip down to Orange City, IA to my opening at Northwestern College. It was a great opening...a good turnout, time with family and friends, seeing former professors, and of course seeing ones art in a new space. As I said that night, any solo exhibition is a great event as an artist but the opportunity to do so in a community that has been so formative in my own life is extremely special. I am so thankful for this opportunity, for family and friends who came to the show, and for Emily Stokes wonderful help in hosting.
I've waited to post anything on Barton for a couple of weeks because I have not known what to say. Barton's death on May 30th caught me by surprise...and yet it did not. I knew he had aids...I knew he had been ill for much of the past year...and well...all people die eventually. But I guess I was just not prepared to say goodbye to someone I felt I had just met.
Before coming to ND I had no idea who Barton was, but was quickly introduced to his work by fellow students and faculty. While Barton had friends and collectors across the country no doubt, peculiarly he had a pocket of friends, admirerers, and acquaintances in the Red River Valley of North Dakota. It is through these connections that I had two opportunities to meet him. First, on our print trip to NYC in the fall of 2011, we stopped in to his apartment and studio for a few hours and chatted with him. It was such a remarkable space filled with art and artifacts that bespoke of Barton's imagination, creativity, sense of humor. He welcomed us in to his cramped home as if we were long friends.
The second visit (from which this photo was taken) spoke more to me about the man than I could have expected. Sundog Press, here at UND, did a print for Barton...a prayer rug made from stamps. It is a beautiful peice. I was headed to NYC to speak at the College Theology Society annual conference and it worked that we could meet up and I would assist Barton in signing and dividing up the prints. It was a great 3 hours or so. Not only did we snoop around his place, look at the artifacts again, see his new work, but he bought us dinner, answered my silly questions, and even discussed religion with me (I have in mind to do a paper on Barton's religious imagination some day).
I will be the first to say that I did not know Barton well. But it is strange how in the course of two short visits, this man came to impact my life in such a unique way. His sense of humor and hospitality was remarkable as was his generosity. I am truly thankful for those brief hours with him, it was the highlight of our trip to NYC, and those memories will linger on shaping my life and art practices from here on out. Thank you Barton for your courage, humor, challenging us with your work, and your gracious spirit.
For more about Barton, check out this recent article by the NY Times.
Well, the show has opened and the reception went off well. If you want to see pictures check out the link below.
The past week has been a little surreal. Going through this process as a culmination to a degree program is certain to make me reflect not only on this degree, but also to my BA reception back in 1998. Last week as I was putting the final touches on the show, I was listening to Toad the Wet Sprocket, one of my favorite bands from my time in college. I dont listen to them as much these days but would still list them among my favorites. It struck me as one particular album came up in the rotation that I was listening to the same album as I prepared my BA exhibition some 13 years later (how can it be 13 years ago?).
I have also been thinking about the ephemerality of art and the art show. UND has but one gallery and this time of year...really for the past 2 months, shows are churned through weekly. Roughly 2 BFA shows share a week and ideally MFA grads get one week to themselves which generally means you install the show on Friday afternoon or over the weekend after the last person has torn theirs down. While setting up the show is stressful and time consuming, it is a tremendous relief to see, in my case, the piles of work, transform the space and begin to embody your ideas. The review came and went without a hitch as did the reception. But already I see Monday, the end to this show coming all too quickly. The show represents the culmination of 3 years of work. For many artists, the work spans their last year or two in the program depending upon the speed with which they work and their medium. For me, this body of work was not begun in earnest until January...41 pieces made in 4.5 months. While many have are more minimal I still had to learn significant skills to reach my vision...namely frame-making and book binding. The center pieces to the show were 2 handmade books...something I had never made before.
I've also been thinking about what pushed me down this avenue of work. While there are many reasons, I've come to see the impact of my time in Cyprus with PKAP upon my work. The whole of the archive idea comes my time in the back of museum in Larnaca washing and photographing pottery. Their methods of cataloging and forms of storage (in what in my memory is simple pine trays) became the fundamental construction pieces for the show. My time in those off-limit areas re-affirmed the exclusivity of archives for the trained experts...Something that I tried to bring into the work...and by my own observance in the gallery, it seems to have worked.
The title says it all. One week from now I will be at a BFA opening downtown having just escaped my final review and oral examination. Yesterday I fought with wood to make shelves for nearly 8 hours...im still not sure if they will hang. I will find out tomorrow. After that marathon session, I didn't want to think of spending another night in the studio. So I am at home, working on title card formatting (fun) and planning a menu for the reception next Wednesday (actual fun).
Tomorrow I hope to test the hanging capability of the shelves, print my show posters, and finish my last two pieces. Sounds like an ambitious day...but with less than a week to go...they must all be ambitious.
Well it has been some time since my last post on Valentines Day. I have been busy nearly every day since working on pulling this show together. I am now less than 2 weeks from my oral defense (Tuesday 26th) and reception on Wednesday the 27th.
Above is mock-up of my postcard which should arrive tomorrow and hopefully get turned right back around into the mail.
Pictured is one of 10 drawers of thematically grouped photos designed to draw attention toward Modernity's archive methodology.
In April, I will be presenting my MFA exhibit here at UND. It is the culmination of 3 years of work and research narrowed down into a cohesive show and theme, defended to ones chosen committee, and then (assuming you pass your final review) opened to the public. Well, I have taken a route I do not recommend. As of days a week before Thanksgiving last year, I changed my topic anddirection for the show from large cyanotype landscapes to considerations of the archive and vernacular photography. While I still love the large scale landscapes, I was unmotivated by the work and I wanted to push on something more conceptual...and it ended up on the idea of the archive. Essentially it will explore the way we think about objects...any historical object really, but I am using the vernacular photograph as an expression of this. The show will illustrate...exhibit...suggest (not finding the right word right now) the different approaches towards said objects between modernity and postmodernity. Over the past few months I have built an archive of vernacular photos with the help of Ebay...2 venders in particular have been of immense help selling their wares to me at decent prices.
For the past week and half I have been making frames...21 to be exact. These function as frames, but are meant to recall less framing and more specimen trays. Inside, I will mount a singular photographic object on a white back ground with a lithographed archive label that will be filled out by hand in pencil. These pieces will be one aspect of the "modern" direction of the show to suggests modernity's drive for isolating objects for objective readings.
In preparation for my final exhibit coming at the end of April, I've been picking up a few books to help guide some of my thoughts on the project. I've been thinking a lot about the photographic object itself...its history, lost images, how they are used etc. Too often we tend to look "through" the photograph to the referent, subject or what is imaged. And yet, the object nature of the photograph cannot be separated from its subject.
The Art of the American Snapshot is a fabulous collection and history of vernacular photography. This is one of the first books I bought in this direction and it is definitely my favorite because of its diversity of photo techniques and essays, and sheer volume of images.
Another similar, and much smaller text is In the Vernacular. This book also functions like a very select group of images from an exhibition. They also break the images into various categories of archive, proof, surrogate, and yardstick. The images and their functions are explored through these categories.
I've also picked up a few texts on the photo album and its histories and functions.Suspended Conversations is the most recent text that I have purchased. More essays than photos, it looks to be a helpful guide. Snapshot Chronicles: Inventing the American Photo Album runs the other way with photographs of and interpretations of various antique photographs. The book itself invites touch with its green embossed felt cover.