Author Archives: blog814

Whitespace Top 10: Edition 2 | March 10th, 2017

Whitespace Top 10

Female Artists

Casa Azul, Mexico City, home of feminist artist Frida Kahlo | March 2017

Dear Friends,

Since Wednesday, March 8 was International Women’s Day, I couldn’t think of a better topic for the whitespace Top 10 list than my 10 favorite female artists (+ a bonus artist…I couldn’t resist. What can I say? Females are strong as hell.)

These women have pushed the boundaries of art making; they have made me think, brought me to tears, made me uncomfortable in my own skin, awed me with their intelligence and beauty, inspired me, and given me moments of serenity, I hope they are some of your favorites as well.

While I’m writing, I want to shout out to the wonderful women I work with, Emily and Virginia and the female artists I represent at whitespace: Meg Aubrey, Laura Bell, Robin Bernat, Ashlynn Browning, Benita Carr, Teresa Cole, Stephanie Dowda, Didi Dunphy, Sara Emerson, Nancy Floyd, Wendy Given, Bojana Ginn, Elizabeth Lide, Beth Lilly, Kathleen Loe, Ann-Marie Manker, Adrienne Outlaw, Suellen Parker, Vesna Pavlovic, Sandra-Lee Phipps, Seana Reilly, Teresa Bramlett Reeves, Cassidy Russell, Mimi Hart Silver, Whitney Stansell, Ann Stewart, Constance Thalken, Zipporah Camille Thompson, Yukari Umekawa, Marcia Vaitsman.

I also want to mention that I have two amazing daughters who make me proud everyday; Caroline, my political activist who keeps me in line with a capsule of daily actions to take to make the world a better place and Susannah who started her own non-profit, SOUL, to help re-forest New Orleans.   All of you are Phenomenal Women and if you don’t believe it, just listen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkYh2BYONms

So much love,

Susan

1. Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois was a conceptual sculptor, installation artist, painter and printmaker. Her art is anything but pretty; it’s disturbing, very sexual and deeply interesting. Bourgeois was very close to her mother; her giant spiders are an homage to her mother. Bourgeois said, “My mother was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.” Once I understood the concept behind Bourgeois’ iconic spiders, I had the privilege of standing underneath one. It was there I became fully aware of the inherent feeling of protection the giant sculpture revealed to me. I got it! Seeing one of those monsters at a distance tells you nothing, walk underneath one and it’s a different story – it is amazing. Another reason Louise Bourgeois is my #1, is because she was an important initiate in the feminist art movement that has flourished and continues to influence feminist-inspired work and installation art today.

Louise Bourgeois, “Maman,” 1999 | Courtesy of Sala 17 Louise Bourgeois | Courtesy of The Tate, London

2. Agnes Martin

I love Agnes Martin’s white paintings, particularly the ones at Dia Beacon.   I love them because I believe they reflect the light and the ethereal presence in New Mexico. The white paintings contain no recognizable form, just an abstract field, I like to think that maybe this obsessive work was a method to calm Martin’s mind, a way for her to make order out of chaos. As someone with an active mind and very active life, the serenity I find in her paintings offers me a quiet moment to think about nothing, a moment of peace.

Agnes Martin, The Peach| Courtesy of Artnet (left) Agnes Martin, On a clear day | Courtesy of Artnet (right)

3. Sally Mann

Sally Mann is a photographer who is fearless, one who is not afraid of controversy. I was first drawn to her dark, brooding landscapes. As a Southerner, I can feel those landscapes because those images are in my blood.   Then, there are the photographs of her children. As a mother, I get where she’s coming from with these works. I think I read somewhere that she said she had a feral childhood, so that explains a lot. I see Mann’s work as dealing with the brevity of life, the ephemeral images of childhood. Even the photographs from the body farm exude a dark beauty generated by the death and decay littering the surrounding landscape.

Sally Mann, Southern Landscapes | Courtesy of Sally Mann (left) Sally Mann, Family Pictures | Courtesy of Sally Mann (right)

4. Tara Donovan

Tara Donovan is a sculptor and installation artist. Her massive constructions are made from commonplace materials; drinking straws, disposable cups, toothpicks and index cards. Her structures embrace a minimalism that could be representative of geological forms or cellular growth. Donovon says her process is completely organic in that she chooses the material first and then decides how it will unfold later as an installation. Each time I see one of Donovan’s installations, I leave in wonder…how can she make these beautiful sculptures from things I see and touch every day? I think she’s amazing.

Tara Donovan | Courtesy of Pace Gallery                                               Tara Donovan | Courtesy of Ionarts

5. Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist who moved to New York in 1957 and has been making art ever since. She is 87 years old and busier than ever. Although she is known for her colorful polka dot installations and infinity rooms, I love her beautiful white on white paintings, called Infinity Nets. They consist of layers and layers of acrylic paint. Even though the process is somewhat obsessive compulsive, the result is peaceful, elegant and serene. I like the push/pull of meditation through obsessive creation, serenity through repetition.

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Nets | Courtesy of Abstract Critical (left) Kusama in Yellow Tree room | Courtesy of The Whitney Museum (right)

6. Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems works with text, textiles, sound, photographs and video installation; however, more important than her proficiency with her chosen media, she is a storyteller. Her work is conceptual and philosophical and deals with the serious issues of race, gender and class. In order to illustrate her stories, Weems often appears in her staged narratives. I saw her exhibition, The Louisiana Project, 2003, at the Newcomb College of Art Gallery, Tulane University. It was groundbreaking for me because of the depth and breadth of the project and the beautiful way she chose to deal with the serious and complicated matter of race in the plantation era South.

The Louisiana Project | Courtesy of Carrie Mae Weems (left) Kitchen Table Series | Courtesy of Carrie Mae Weems (right)

7. Julie Mehretu

Julie Mehretu was born in Ethiopia and now lives and works in New York. Her paintings are very large scale – huge! She works the canvases with layers and layers of paint; then, she begins mark-making with pen, graphite, ink and more drips of paint. The compositions feel very architectural and geographical, and if you stand in front of one, they seem to break apart into tiny universes. Mehretu’s work is large and exciting and let it be said, I love BIG sexy paintings.

Julie Mehretu, “Excerpt (suprematist evation),” 2003 | Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery

8. Petah Coyne

Petah Coyne is a sculptor, photographer and conceptual artist who is well known for her elaborate installations. Coyne’s sculptural forms may include many incredibly varied materials including: wax, ribbons, artificial flowers and birds, dead fish, mud, sticks, black sand, old car parts, birdcages and horsehair. Much of the work references memory, nature and psychological issues. Some of her environments, or habitats, in which single objects act and interact with each other, are entangled in space to compose imagined, fantastic worlds. I saw <em>Vermillion Fog</em> in NYC, 2008, one black sand encrusted sculpture tumbled from the ceiling like an gigantic, magnificent Victorian heart. It was a truly awesome experience.

Petah Coyne, Buddha Boy and earlier sculptures | Courtesy of Petah Coyne

9. Shirin Neshat

Shrin Neshat is an Iranian filmmaker and photographer who lives in the USA and Iran. Having lived in both countries, her work centers on the contrasts between the East and the West. The first two-channel video I saw of Neshat’s was titled “Rapture”. In one video, placed on the left wall, Muslim women were dressed in solid black, and on the right wall Muslim men were dressed completely in white. Both images began moving towards one another in a crush of humanity. I was caught in the crosshairs. The feeling was turbulent and thrilling at the same time. Her photographs are equally compelling – a great combination of violence and beauty.

Speechless | Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery (left) an image from Rapture Series | Courtesy of Mutual Art (right)

10. Chakaia Booker

Her work is fluid, beautiful and elegant regardless of her chosen materials. I heard her speak to a sculpture class at SCAD and was so impressed with her intelligence and honesty regarding her art. She said she began working with automobile tires because it was an economically feasible choice for her as a recent art school graduate who was broke. One day she looked out of her apartment window and saw abandoned tires all over the street and decided those would be her medium. I also love that she wears her art. I remember she said, “Every morning when I wake up and look in my mirror I ask the question, ‘Chakaia, how will you adorn yourself today?’” I think she’s got that down to a fine art!

Chakaia Booker | Courtesy of Santa Barbara Seasons Blog (left) Holla | Courtesy of Art Observer (middle) Raw Attraction | Courtesy of The Met (far right)

11. Magdalena Jetelova

I am already breaking my rules by adding a bonus artist, but this list would not be complete without Magdalena Jetelova. Jetelova is a Czech/German installation and land artist who often deals with the subject of dislocation. One of her most stunning pieces, Domestication of a Pyramid, refers to the way Westerners take important pieces of history and drop them into a museum. This piece is a fragment of a pyramid that is constructed out of mounds and mounds of volcanic ash and looks as if it came directly from the Egyptian desert. In another work, the Iceland Project, the artist used lasers to visualize the local landscape in order to expose hidden artificial or natural structures. She documented these through very dark B/W photography. Translocation is the one and only Jetelova scupture I have ever seen in person. It was constructed in memory of a talented student and adjunct architecture professor at Carnegie Mellon University who tragically died in the TWA Flight 800 in 1996. The piece was stunning as it provided viewers with a visualization of the victim’s architecture studio and was built down into the ground to give one the sensation of falling into the piece. It contained light elements that reminded me of a James Turrell light room. I saw it on a freezing cold day in Pittsburg when it was covered in three to four feet of snow. My son, John, and I had a couple of museum catalogues that we used as shovels and uncovered this amazing piece of work. Sadly, it has since been vandalized and is currently covered by a plywood tent.

Domestication of Pyramids | Courtesy of Public Delivery

Whitespace Top 10: Edition 1 | February 10th, 2017

Whitespace Top 10

Earthworks | Environmental | Land Art

Dear Friends,

This first Top 10 list highlights my favorite pieces of earthworks, environmental, and land art. For me, this type of art is transformative due to its scale and its disruption of the landscape. The pieces on my list have allowed me to feel the smallness of my humanity, which has led me to a place of introspection and self-awareness. These same pieces have allowed me to recognize the transformative power of art. Because of the focus and dedication to their craft, many of these artists have spent years, if not lifetimes, living and building their art, and these artists, these pieces, inspire me to keep discovering.

One of my all-time favorite land artists is James Turrell. I first became acquainted with Turrell’s work when my friend, Elizabeth, invited me to visit her hometown of Pittsburgh in 1999. We went to an exhibit at the Mattress Factory where I was able to encounter one of Turrell’s skyscapes in the flesh. It changed the way I saw space, light, art and the world forever. After that experience, I set a goal to see all of Turrell’s pieces, wherever it led, all over the world.

James Turrell’s work led me to discover, and seek out, other artists who traded their paint brushes for tractors in order to create art in, and within, a natural landscape that did not, and could not, confine their vision.

Here are my Top 10 favorite pieces.  I encourage you to grab a pickup truck or at least a four-wheel drive and seek these out on your own. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Have fun!

Love,

Susan

 

SEEN

1.  Lightning Fields, Walter de Maria, Pie Town, NM

Image courtesy of the Dia Art Foundation

Image courtesy of the Dia Art Foundation

An immersive, massive sculpture (1 mile X 1 meter) located in the isolated, high desert of New Mexico. An experience with light that proved life-changing for me.

 

2. Double Negative, Michael Heizer, Clark, NV

Image courtesy of artspace.com

Very difficult to find even with the best directions but “getting lost” is part of the wonder. Reductive, gouged earth that feels like a narrow street in an ancient city or that of a cathedral. Either way, I experienced a sense of awe as I tried to understand my place in the world.

 

3. Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson, Great Salt Lake, UT

Image courtesy of Dia Art Foundation

Image courtesy of Dia Art Foundation

Walking onto/into the work is a little like walking a labyrinth or wandering along the inside of a chambered nautilus. For me, it was a contemplative, solitary experience.

 

4. 15 untitled works in concrete, Donald Judd, Marfa, TX

Image courtesy of the Judd Foundation

Viewing Judd’s work outside of the white cube is a little disconcerting at first, but seeing his concrete geometric forms placed on the low, grassy Texas landscape reminded me of a modern Stonehedge.

 

5. The Wave, Maya Lin, Mountainville, NY

Image courtesy of Storm King Art Center

These undulating, grassy mounds are so high that I actually felt like I was floating between waves in the ocean.

 

6. Schunnemunk Fork, Richard Serra, Mountainville, NY

Image courtesy of Storm King Art Center

I love this Richard Serra sculpture. Previously, I had only seen Serra’s free-standing work inside museums and galleries. To see these beautiful cor-ten steel pieces in the open is to witness art merging with the natural world. The steel punctures the rolling fields at Storm King to emphasize the various drop offs in the landscape. It’s very unexpected and thought provoking.

7.  Storm King Wall, Andy Goldsworthy, Mountainville, NY

Image courtesy of Storm King Art Center

Years ago, on my first trip to Storm King, I saw Andy Goldsworthy’s Storm King Wall. Previously, I had only seen Goldsworthy’s work in films and books. This lovely serpentine rock wall winds itself, like a snake, through a grove of dense trees into, under and through a small pond to emerge on the other side and continue its ascent upward toward the crest of a nearby hill. For me, this is an installation that embraces nature to the fullest and cannot be transferred into a stagnant image. It must be seen in person to be appreciated.

UNSEEN

The three sites on the Top 10 that I have not seen, but are on the list, are The Roden CraterThe City, and Sun Tunnels.  The first two works have required almost a lifetime of commitment for their respective pièces de résistance. The final artwork on the list is Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt which took Holt three years to complete. It is currently open to the public, unfortunately, Holt died shortly after this work was completed.

1. The Roden Crater, James Turrell, Northern Arizona

Image courtesy of rodencrater.com

Image courtesy of rodencrater.com

 

2. The City, Michael Heizer, Garden Valley, NV

Image courtesy of The New York Times

This project began in 1972 and is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

3. Sun Tunnels, Nancy Holt, Lucin, Utah

Image courtesy of Pinterest (Artject)

Image courtesy of Pinterest (SFAI Blog)

Check out our Instagram and Facebook page as we highlight specific parts of the listing. Tell us about your favorite earthworks, environment and land art using the #whitespacetop10.

 

“Fitting in ‘Slant-Wise'”: An Interview with Photographer Russell Cambron

During a torrential downpour two Saturdays ago, I spoke with Atlanta photographer Russell Cambron about his debut solo exhibition, Boy, Owl and Raven, in Whitespec at Whitespace.

—Whitespace intern Nathan Blansett

Nathan Blansett: Your new show in Whitespec seems to show an interest in the conjunction between childhood and nature. What about your work specifically is portraying these ideas differently?

Russell Cambron: Some of my influences are Sally Mann and Wynn Bullock, who definitely show childhood in nature. In my own take on the matters—the work is semi-autobiographical. It’s about my coming of age but it’s also about my coming out as a gay man, a queer man. In the artist statement, I talk about the child being “different,” and so that can be taken any number of ways. You know, Sally Mann, Wynn Bullock, they’re heterosexual families, white families. This is kind of showing a different perspective on that.

NB: Absolutely. The Sally Mann influence is so striking. I think a lot of people are really influenced by her—the intimacy of her photographs, which I think comes across in your work with this child that sometimes isn’t clothed, that is out in the wilderness. It’s interesting to me that you talk about the work’s relation to sexual difference. I think a lot of times when we’re thinking about queer art it’s cosmopolitan, urbane…I wanted to know if you feel there’s a connection between queerness and nature, or if your work is creating a connection between them, and why?

RC: I definitely hope it’s creating a connection—because it’s my own story. I grew up as a queer child in the South, in the rural north Georgia mountains about an hour from Atlanta. Definitely a lot of queer art is cosmopolitan—some fabulous work—from Catherine Opie, Robert Mapplethorpe, Tom Bianchi, people like that—and I love their work, but there was always the sense in which I didn’t quite connect with it, though I connect with work like Sally Mann, Wynn Bullock, or people like Keith Carter, for example, whose work is in nature, Sally Mann and Keith Carter specifically in the South. I connect more with their work. So this project was in part an attempt for me to come up with my own story and bridging those gaps that I saw there.

NB: I was wondering if or how mysticism or magical realism function in the work? There’s a photograph where the boy’s touching the mirror, and there’s a blurring between his hand and the glass.

RC: My undergraduate work was in religious studies, and I did graduate work in that as well, and I also completed an M.A. in psychology. So that’s really coming more so from that theoretical background than a purely artistic background. Of course those approaches influenced my approach to art.

NB: And I like that, that art can be based not just in personal experience or something that’s emotional, but it can also conceptualize the intellectual. In what particular tradition do you see your work operating within? It’s photography, so there’s the photographic tradition, and it’s queer art, and there’s the tradition of queerness and visual art…but formally and conceptually, how do you see this work operating in those traditions?

RC: I feel like my influences are all over the map. I would hope to see it in the tradition of queer art, but maybe in the tradition of queering queer art in a way, because it’s not something we traditionally see. I hope there are a lot of people out there with similar stories. Part of the benefit of focusing on childhood is that it doesn’t have to be just about sexual identity. It could be any difference; it could be racial identity, gender. It could simply be being an artist. Growing up in the South, even being an artist, was a big thing as well. So I hope it would end up in that tradition.

NB: I’m curious about certain formal choices you made when pursuing the project and also putting the show together, that arrangement. What were some of those formal questions?

RC: One of the first decisions I made was to shoot in a 4×5 aspect ratio. I guess you can’t say 4×5 format, because it’s digital photography, but it’s a 4×5 aspect ratio. I started off with a kind of beta version of this, shooting with a 4×5 camera and also an 8×10 camera. At that point I was referencing things that were more specifically film. But when I moved to this project I was no longer trying to be specifically film. But I liked that format. It maintained that photographic feel while allowing for some of the flexibility of digital photography, which was especially important working with the kid, with all the energy he had. There would have been shots I would have missed had I been working with film. So I had the best of both worlds in that case. Coming across Whitespec as the location for the installation was perfect… because of its existence as the cellar or basement in a house. I think the second image in the series is the boy going down into the basement. And that comes from this theorist Gaston Bachelard, who wrote a book called The Poetics of Space. One of the things he talks about in that book is the descent into the basement—the house, the psychology of the house, and even the mythology and the poetics of the house—and going down into the basement is the symbol of going down inside oneself, the psyche, one’s history. Having that image and that poetic figure mirrored in the actual space itself—it’s just wonderful.

NB: Where does this work fall within your artistic life?

RC: Helping me find my own voice. I was struggling to find my own voice, artistically and then also as a gay male. I had this feeling of wanting to tell my story, and that story being about my coming out, but also more broad—about being an artist, even being liberal or leftist or queer. Just being simply liberal in the small town South was a big deal. Even that was a coming out process for me. A lot of gay art or queer art was cosmopolitan, it can be in-your-face—and I think that’s good, and I think we need that—but it didn’t match my own personal style. I started to realize some of the queerness inherent in my own inspirations, from Sally Mann to Wynn Bullock to Keith Carter. I read a book one time called Queer Phenomenology, by a theorist named Sarah Ahmed, and she talks about being queer and being in the world as not just about sexual identity, but about fitting in “slant-wise”—she goes into the roots of the word queer, and she talks about her gender identity, her racial identity, her ethnic identity. That stuck with me. And I was listening to an interview with Keith Carter, who’s a heterosexual male artist, but he talked about how when he takes a picture he slants the horizon just slightly. So I connected with the idea of “Oh, he’s fitting into the world ‘slant-wise.’” This was his own kind of queerness, if you will. So I was able to move from this idea of, If I’m a queer artist or a gay male artist, and I want to do queer art, that I have to do something that specifically is about sexual identity.

Russell Cambron’s Boy, Owl and Raven is in Whitespec at Whitespace until February 11.

Traces by Stephanie Dowda / Jan 6 – Feb 11

“And With The Pain The Fog Clears,” 10 x 10 inches, gelatin silver contact print

The world of Stephanie Dowda’s new show at Whitespace, Traces, is one irrevocable. Traces is divided into two acts: 33 Marks and Evoco, a conceptual decision perfectly suited to the halved space of the gallery. Traces itself has an inherent twoness, or, perhaps more accurately, an inherent simultaneity. Its photographs are both formally conservative and yet strikingly manipulated; it is both corporeal and necromantic; it is both present and nearly vanished.

Dowda’s project was composed in both Vermont and Virginia but singularly in the aftermath of a long event: the illness and death of Dowda’s mother. But nowhere in Traces do we see an explicit nod to disease, death, or even burial. It is only alluded to in Dowda’s artist statement. Instead we see a world irrevocably marked by loss. I use the verb “marked” consciously. The first room of the gallery is devoted to 33 Marks, the section where Dowda privileges the photographic negative as its own object. During her process, Dowda would fold or deface the negatives before using them in the shoot. The result are silver gelatin prints of pastoral scenes marked by blinding, lit folds—the dark, square object contained tightly in a white frame. At its most dramatic, the object seems mutilated; at its most neutral, it is simply altered.

“Listening,” 24 x 30 inches, archival print

In Evoco, Dowda has unprecedentedly reintroduced the eighteenth-century Claude glass. Named for the French landscape painter Claude Lorrain, these small, convex mirrors were painted dark so as to diminish and abstract light, and thus were rich instruments for painters. The Claude glass has the unique quality of permanent distortion. Dowda’s Claude mirrors hang against the surface of her large prints, which in Evoco are indecipherable forms captured. Many of them are not traditionally framed, but are held by glass hooks—the prints gently levitating before the wall, occasionally pressing against their restraints with a cycle of air or a body passing. How unexpectedly Dowda gives us access to her changed vision. She enters the invisible as if it was always meant to be seen.

Whitespace intern Nathan Blansett

Stephanie Dowda’s Traces will be at Whitespace until February 11.

“The way that I remember things”: An Interview with Photographer Matthew Terrell

"You're a Mess," Matthew Terrell (2016), 12 x 31, archival ink on duratrans polyester film

“You’re a Mess,” Matthew Terrell (2016), 12 x 31, archival ink on duratrans polyester film

The Atlanta- and San Francisco-based photographer and writer Matthew Terrell currently has his sensual second show, “The Exquisite Corpse of Film Photography,” featured in Whitespec. I sat down with Terrell on a windy Saturday in mid-November to speak about double exposure, memory, and Surrealism—a conversation frequently interrupted by our fascination with the autumn light and shadow moving across the gallery floor.

—Whitespace intern Nathan Blansett

Nathan Blansett: Your current installation, which is in Whitespec, is a series of photographic works. How did you arrive at the formal process specific to this work? Could you name that process and talk about what it involves?

Matthew Terrell: Well, I’ve never really had a nice digital camera, like the Canon and the Nikon, the big ones that everybody uses these days. I’ve always had a Pentax K1000, which I’ve had since high school. So I’ve been shooting film for a very long time and I’ve been keeping it up.

Probably about 2012, something went wrong with the winding mechanism of my camera, and it wasn’t winding the film back all the way, so it was causing some of the images to be double exposed on each other. And I really liked the way that looked—it was such a surprise, and I thought the images were just so dynamic and so interesting that I decided to recreate it myself. And at the time I also really wanted to take a lot of pictures but couldn’t really afford to use up a lot of film, and so if you double expose film, it’s a way to take twice as many pictures [laughs] and only pay for one roll of film, which is a really silly thing to think about, but it lets me take more pictures. So it really just developed as a fun practice, a way for me to develop my skills.

I really think about just what is the most beautiful thing that I can take a picture of. How can I frame it, crop it, light it, in order to bring it to its…whatever it is. Whether it’s a fire hydrant or a Corvette or a Schnauzer—how can I take the most perfect picture of it, knowing that it’s going to get double exposed over, so I don’t really know what it’s going to look like […] and that’s freeing. It allows for some play and some fun and I’ve kept it up ever since.

I think what’s really fun about it—what you see in this show—is that they end up basically being long strips of continuously double exposed images. So I get to scan those long strips and print them like that, which is really interesting. […] You don’t see a lot of that.

NB: How do you think that complements the thematic aspects of work?

MT: I think that it’s really interesting to see it the way it’s printed, because I’ve got it with the frame breaks, I’ve got it with the sprocket holes and it’s got numbers on it, so it almost looks like a movie reel. I call them little cinematic stories. It shows the process because you’re really seeing my progression, usually on foot, through an area as I’m exploring a subject—whether it’s like the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco or if I’m just spending an afternoon with my friend Brigitte Bidet. You get to see all those sorts of things that I see through my lens as I progress through it because it really doesn’t matter the order in which I see it, because you see it in the order on the strips of film. But then you see two different moments exposed over each other. I would almost compare it to, like, you’re going on vacation, and you have these memories of, “I did these series of things in one afternoon and I did these other series of things in one afternoon,” but everything kind of starts to blend together in your memory.

NB: Yeah, memory is not that linear.

MT: Yeah, it’s linear and not linear at the same time. It’s reflective of the way that I kind of remember things. Both series and things start to blur together. So that’s a reflection of what’s going on inside my mind as well. With these images here […] sometimes I’ll add color lenses or prism lenses to my camera, but I didn’t in this show. These are all pretty straightforward. The composites that you see, they are taken directly from the strips of film. I’m not going into Photoshop and laying them over. Pretty much it’s just scanning them and doing a little color correction, and then sending them to the printer.

NB: I’m curious as to who your direct influences are—not just for this work, but as an artist, who you’re turning to, who you think is informing your work and your process?

MT: Definitely Arthur Tress. He’s actually a friend of mine, and I was actually with him when I was shooting some of these photos. He is what I would call a “surrealist documentary street photographer.” He had actually encouraged me to print the work like this and have a show like this, with the long strips of film, with the sprocket holes and everything. So he’s definitely my first influence. When you look at Arthur Tress’ work, there’s definitely a surreal undertone to it. He’s got a very surreal photographic eye.

And Keith Haring—he’s just a really awesome artist. I don’t know thematically or technically what kind of an influence he has on me, but whenever I see a Keith Haring piece of art, I’ll photograph it, and there’s actually two separate pieces in [“The Exquisite Corpse of Film Photography”] that have Keith Haring objects in them. One’s got the Keith Haring altarpiece from Grace Cathedral, and another is Dancing Figures, which was in front of the de Young in San Francisco.

Duane Michals, for sure. He came actually for Atlanta Celebrates Photography, and I regret not getting tickets. But he’s definitely a photographer that I look at because he actually has series of images that tell a story, like four images in a set that tell a story. And I think about that sometimes when I’m choosing images—how does the progression of what I show tell a story somehow?

NB: How would you see your work, not just this project but your work as a whole, engaging with a particular tradition in visual art, not just photography, perhaps a queer tradition or an aesthetic one?

MT: You know I think I’m definitely a Surrealist. Surrealism is not taught right now, but it comes and goes in waves every once and awhile. I think we’re actually kind of due for a new wave of Surrealism. I feel like with photography right now, it’s what I call “hyperrealistic documentary photography”—it’s very political, very theoretical, very theme-driven. But what I’m interested in with Surrealist photography, it’s really about the process, it’s really about the aesthetics of it; making, for me, something that’s just beautiful to look at, something that’s interesting to look at. When you look at a Surrealist work, it’s really interesting because you can look at it time and time again and see something new every single time. That’s something that I want in my own work. I will walk by the photos and notice little details that I have never noticed before. I find that a very interesting quality for artwork. I find it something that makes me want to enjoy it and produce work like that more.

Definitely, I look back more towards older photographers. Both Duane Michals and Arthur Tress are queer photographers from the ‘60s and ‘70s who did black and white and traditional photography. So I think there’s definitely some queer and classic influences in there.

I’m very interested in the artisanal archival analogue processes, simply because they’re just different—and this is a silly thing to say, but even though you know it’s really expensive for me to do it, when I pay to have [the work] developed, I get prints back. So I have prints of everything I’ve done. And I know a lot of photographers who have fancy digital cameras and they don’t have a single print. I’ve got scrapbooks, thirty scrapbooks on my shelves of photos, and boxes and boxes of prints. It’s really important for me to actually have the item, for the item to exist not just digitally, not just on my computer, but in some sort of real world context.

NB: Absolutely—it’s an object, not just a file.

MT: Yeah. I’ve always been someone who very much values giving people prints. Usually at the end of every year, I do this huge project where I will go through all my photos from that year and pull out the ones that I want to give to people. I have, like, all these giant piles, “Camille” and “Ted” and “Jason.” I go through hundreds of photos and sort them out and I’ll sign them all on the back, and I really try and label them all on the back as well. So I’ll say when it was taken, what it is, where it is. That’s usually my Christmas gift for the year. That’s another reason that I do film-based photography, because I get to do that.

I’m always really surprised by the different things people pick up on, the different things people are drawn to. Different people like the words “Hot Cookie,” different people like some sections that are more formalistic, they’ve got ferns and fountains on them, they have very strong lines. Some people really like that because it’s more graphical. Some people like the more soft elements, like the candles. I think that part of the fun of the process is that I sort of get to allow graphic elements and soft elements, things of design and things of color and shape, all these things that—you know, if I was just what I would call a “straight photographer,” just regular photography, you might not get to play with all those different elements in one. But in this case, in these photos, you can have all of them, all the different elements. So there’s something for everybody. That’s something I like—something for everybody and you can constantly look at it and find something new. That’s really fun.

Matthew Terrell’s “The Exquisite Corpse of Film Photography” is at Whitespec through Saturday, November 26.

Run Rampant by Laura Bell | whitespace gallery, October 21 – November 26

13_rutstag
How appropriate that autumn is the season in which Laura Bell’s new exhibition, Run Rampant, appears at Whitespace. The evening of its opening, white-dark rabbit feet in a ceramic bowl were given like amulets to the partygoers, and as dusk passed into night, the wind outside chilled and dried. The weather’s tone was both strange and elegant—perfectly matching the work being studied.

Run Rampant, an artistic realignment for Bell, is an impressive, multimedia tableau vivant. Its diction is foremost Victorian, though invaded. One enters the gallery and, on the right wall, sees two intensely intricate pen and ink drawings of a stag and a boar. On the left, seven framed portraits of mammalian decay—the paper cut with an x-acto knife, then pinned behind glass. These initial works are hung against walls of dark mauve like insects pinned to felt.

The back wall is centered by the taxidermied bust of a deer. A sleek dark mask slipped over its face—with slits for eyes—is erotic in its evocation of BDSM, and is strikingly dotted with off-white pearls. A mobile of rustic ornaments hang from the bust’s antlers.

In the second room of the gallery, Bell has installed lavender wallpaper. In a design reminiscent of steampunk, the single faces of opossums, pigeons, rats, wolves, and rabbits emerge through illusionistic frames crenellated with beetles, buds of flowers and tufts of grass, and pulsing cicadas and butterflies.

The exhibition has a marked interest in taxonomy and classification. Beneath the deer bust, a marble shelf protrudes from the wall, and on its surface one sees an egg with a round lacuna in its shell, which reveals a decorative figuration of an owl inside—this whole scene protected beneath a glass bell jar flanked with two animal skulls. These details that ornament the exhibition have the astute role of converting the gallery space into its own realm, a separate one, just as the animal world is, layered with its own secrets and rituals. Bell’s work, too, has secrets. A second viewing is almost imperative to capture pieces in their fullness of detail.

These are just some of the exhibition’s highlights, or at least the installations that are most prominent. While the project’s assemblage may behold the distance between our natures and others, never does Bell’s work feel emotionally detached from us. Its energy is palpable and amorous, like a dark European fairy tale. But there is something about the intenseness of the project’s cataloguing and observations (note the exquisiteness of the stag’s hair, quill-like) that also communicates fear. But I believe I am registering the ramifications of Bell’s study. To view her prickly work is to confront the possibility of a realm completely ungoverned by us, by our truths, even our hands.

Docking on the Orphic Shore: Interview with Artist Seana Reilly

Seana Reilly

(from left to right) ProfferedStone, ChthonicCourse, FrozenCadence, 2016, Seana Reilly

Seana Reilly’s latest show at whitespace is a cross between a library and a church, temple, or cathedral. With gothic and other architectural influences, Eastern and Western religious motifs and a quieting quality, Docking on the Orphic Shore is reverential. For this blogpost, we decided to interview Seana to get a better understanding of the materials, her process and the creation of the show in whitespace.

Hilleary: Your show feels absolutely sacred and spiritual. Docking on the Orphic Shore is a representation of that place we all seem to be trying to get to, whether it is heaven in Judeo-Christian religions, or Nirvana in Buddhism, the Orphic Shore seems to be that place as well.

Seana: It’s about trying to lose your edges and connect with something larger than yourself. It expands outward beyond the physical limits of your body. Sometimes religions will help people do that. Sometimes science with its endlessly evolving frontiers can help people get there. Poetry can as well. There are so many different paths – it’s whichever suits you as an individual. One expression for me of this dissolution of the self is in the piece titled OrphicSonnet. It’s a transcribed Rilke poem – as I moved down the surface losing myself in the writing, three lines behind me the words were starting to migrate and change, losing themselves. Once the piece was done I found it kind of interesting that the image was very recognizable as text-based, but at the same time completely unreadable, illegible. I don’t think you can put this larger experience into words, so it’s rather fitting.

H: You and I have spoken about the materials before, but how would you describe working with them and your process?

S: My process is more participatory practice than ritual. It’s a communion of sorts. I’m always trying to balance control and chaos. When working with the graphite there are a few things I can control and make decisions about, such as the viscosity, the substrate, or the scale. That’s where my architectural background asserts itself… the defined space, the pristine edge, the square format. But once those decisions are made and the material is released into that framework, I surrender control. The graphite can be prodded a bit – in the service of broad aesthetic decisions – but it has certain inherent qualities that produce particular kinds of affects or patterns. This is what fascinates me… how the material mimics planetary-scale processes in nature. Some of the works read as landscapes, but any representational aspects of the work are accidental and unbidden. I neither erase nor encourage these. More than anything I’m intrigued by them.

H: What about the gray walls in that room? How did you decide to create that as part of the exhibition?

S: The two rooms are different. Works in both spaces are graphite, but graphite in two different forms and applied in two different ways. I kept all the tactile hands-on paste graphite in the first room because I wanted a grounded place to enter into first. It’s also a very bright white room and sets up a contrast with the other darker space with the liquid graphite pieces. It’s markedly different when you step up and across that threshold into the room with the books. In thinking about this room I kept coming back to both a sense of drama and stillness. I spent some time at the Carlos Museum. They do it well – I think it’s all in the value shifts in color & lighting. I chose the mid-value grey walls to tone down the space energetically, and in a practical sense it helps to set off the white portions of the works which get lost on white walls.

H: There is a rhythm to the whole space something that ties it together as a whole, could you speak on to that?

S: Obviously, there’s consistency of palette and material. That helps. I also like working in series, so there’s a rhythm built into that. There’s a consistency of presentation as well. The series of vertical paintings between the books, for example, sets up a repeating rhythm that leans toward religious architecture and also toward museum presentations of ancient tablets and scrolls. Then you intersperse the books, also done in series… Books of this size are usually reserved for deep records of knowledge or spiritual guidance, so they lend a certain weightiness to the room, both visually and atmospherically. The intent and presentation is consistent. At least that’s what I was shooting for. One other thing that may help is the continuity of visual language throughout the show. Every piece in the show is an expression of the way the earth was formed – not in some abstract way, but a physical manifestation of the laws of gravity and fluid motion. The books are not full of alphanumeric symbols or pictorial allegories pointing to things outside of themselves. They are full of nature itself, as are the paintings.