Hidden Color And The Utility Of Art

PRINTS AND MERCHANDISE AVAILABLE HERE
– – –
When I was at university, one of my mentors said something that has stayed with me. It was obvious to me the he realized how the photography program was utterly failing its students by providing zero instruction on career development, small business management, or information on how to navigate the gallery system. I had a sense that he was as disappointed with the department as I was (and continue to be), but it was equally obvious how passionate he was about the craft with the time and attention he paid to those students who demonstrated a genuine interest in fine art and photography.

As innocuous or even silly as it sounds, I remember him saying that “everything you make is a self portrait.”
Everything you make is a reflection of your sensibilities, your attitudes, your appreciations, and your conflicts.

I don’t know why, exactly, but that sentence had a marked impact on how I began to approach each new project. Rather than trying to make the most beautiful print, or try to imagine what my audience might want, I began to think of each painting, each photograph, each mono-print or lino-cut as a part of myself – a thumb-print on a skyscraper, small and forgettable, but unique – rather than a ‘product’ or an attempt to fulfill some arbitrary notion of what other people may value as great art. The tension between commerce and art has always existed, and compromises almost always need to be made in creative professions. But that doesn’t prevent the artist from taking time out of his day to make something in the privacy of his home or studio, make anything, for no other reason than he thinks it’s interesting or beautiful.

I liken the creative process to meditation. It’s where I find my center after a hard day. It has navigated me through troubled relationships. It has connected me to other people and helped create very fruitful and lasting relationships.

A frustrated piece is only ever the result of having an idea in your head, the vision of exactly how you want it to look when it’s complete, and getting to that point can be hard – sometimes impossible. But just as often, tinkering with a sketchbook or fooling around in the darkroom – having a glass of wine and slapping some paint onto a canvas when there is no pressure to achieve a specific goal – and the artist is free to improvise and embrace their own intuition and stream-of-consciousness. And that’s when real magic can happen.

Wasn’t it Picasso who said that every child is born an artist, the problem is how to remain one as we grow up?
I think there’s truth to that. Going to school, memorizing dates and spitting out correct answers for the test, learning the formula to a successful job interview, paying bills and raising children, taking the car into the shop and watching tragedy after tragedy unfold on the nightly news – these things can tamp-down our artistic impulses, distract us from our Selves.

Art is a magic trick. A therapy. A language without syntax. I absolutely love it.

Now do me a favor and try to enjoy this stupid picture of a glass bottle, will ya? And while you’re at it, think about picking up a paintbrush or photographing the sunset, making a collage out of old magazines or designing a scrap-book page to commemorate last Christmas – it certainly won’t hurt you. Find an excuse to smile, and enjoy your weekend.

With much love,

-joe

Advertisements

That Long, Old, Forgotten Project…

PRINTS, COFFEE MUGS, STICKERS, AND OTHER ITEMS HERE
– – –
I don’t even know how to advocate ‘art for art’s sake.’ The notion has always felt like a total cop-out, at least to me, for creative types. You know, somewhere along the line of “you just don’t get what I do” as a deflection when audiences don’t respond positively to a body of work. I am hugely of the opinion that artists don’t just make work for themselves, quietly hoping that other people like it. People who crumple and flee, screaming “you just don’t get it,” would do better painting a mural on their van. Creative types are always – whether consciously or unconsciously – concerned with the attitudes and opinions of the people that might see their work.

An artist, ultimately, isn’t really an artist without an audience.

At the same time, I have boxes upon boxes upon boxes of photo prints, sketch books, illustrations, and paintings – things I made because I had the free time, the tools, and was indulging in doodles, exercises, and free association. I have an avalanche of compositions that I made ‘just because.’ It can be exhausting trying to justify every composition, every brush stroke, every print. Sometimes an object or color or concept strikes my fancy, and I would be hard-pressed to find a precise explanation why.

I know I could completely b.s. my way into a reason why I made the above image, and I have several hypotheses. But this is an image made on instinct, without specific intent. I celebrate the idea that my audience, on occasion, might bring their own ideas into the mix, providing their own interpretation. That’s the beauty of working in an abstract, or semi-abstract style.

Sometimes the analysis is better left in the hands of the critics, the philosophers, and the psychologists. Nobody asks a five-year-old why they painted something, but there will always be a team of people who will have a theory. And hell, I’m interested in your insight. Feel free to tell me what you think this image is all about. Maybe I’ll learn something about myself.

May 09, 2017 – The Blue Door

FINE ART PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE
– – –
OTHER ‘IMAGE OF THE DAY’ PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE

This is a building on Subway Street in Bisbee, Arizona, a small town that used to be the most productive mining operation in America. The mine isn’t fully operational today, and the town was in danger of becoming a ghost town after the mine shut down several decades ago. Low property values motivated an influx of artists, hippies, and dropouts, and it has become something of a vacation destination. It’s a beautiful town with a service industry, hotels, and local markets – one-hundred miles from Tucson, and one-hundred years away from modern life.

Sadly, this doorway is now obscured by a metal gate, and has been repainted several times. Famously, even though there’s no solid proof, this building is the oldest structure in Bisbee. It was supposedly once owned by screen actor John Wayne, and is currently a residence available for rent; I used to live in the small apartment next door. It’s a simple little building with few windows, dark inside but built to remain cool in the Arizona heat without the advantage of modern air conditioning. I managed to photograph the outside of the building before a gate was erected and a metal door was installed. It was genuinely beautiful.

But like so many beautiful things, it had to be covered, protected, and removed from the public eye.
I’m just glad I got there before it disappeared.

SEE YESTERDAY’S IMAGE OF THE DAY
– – –
SIGN UP FOR THE LENSEBENDER NEWSLETTER

May 04, 2017 – The Spanish Trial

FINE ART PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE
– – –
OTHER ‘IMAGE OF THE DAY’ PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE

The Spanish Trail was a famous hotel during the 1960’s and 1970’s in Tucson, Arizona. Live comedy and music shows drew an eclectic crowd. The professional staff lived on-sight in duplexes north of the main hotel and resort (an area that is currently a steel yard). In fact, most of the northern end of the resort is completely gone. There used to be a golf course, lagoon, running track, and cactus garden.

This was quite the place to see – in its day. I certainly never got to see it with my own eyes.

The Spanish trail is where movie stars often lived – and some visited – while working at Old Tucson Studios. John Wayne and Michael Landon were regulars. The large area that still survives, a space-aged-looking concrete rotunda, was the dinner show lounge. Little else of the complex remains.

In fact, the word ‘Trail’ depicted in today’s photograph is gone, too. The whole tower is just a giant frame now. It isn’t likely many people are going to ever know, or remember, the kind of glamour and grandeur that once existed on this site.

SEE YESTERDAY’S IMAGE HERE
– – –
SIGN UP FOR THE LENSEBENDER NEWSLETTER

May 03, 2017 – Enter Here

FINE ART PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE
– – –
OTHER ‘IMAGE OF THE DAY’ PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE

If there’s one place you want to see old broken signs in front of defunct businesses, it’s the southwest – Tucson is a treasure trove, if you take the time to drive around and open your eyes. This sign is outside an old auto mechanic, long-abandoned with plywood for windows and newspaper blowing through the car bays like tumbleweeds in an old Spaghetti Western.

Adjacent is an old shuttered hotel – I’ve been told a hotel that was once considered a very posh, must-see place – called The Spanish Trail. This is all right off of I-10 East, five minutes from Downtown Tucson. The highway is screaming, and these creaky old buildings just sit, gathering graffiti and squatters, and an unusual amount of abandoned shopping carts.

I’m not even saying that it’s tragic. I find a beauty in these remnants. I guess the only thing really poignant, to me, is that these places are chilling reminders that things don’t ever stay the same for very long.

SEE YESTERDAY’S IMAGE OF THE DAY
– – –
SIGN UP FOR THE LENSEBENDER NEWSLETTER

April 30, 2017 – Abstract April Finale

FINE ART PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE
– – –
OTHER ‘IMAGE OF THE DAY’ PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE

“Quit trying to find beautiful objects to photograph. Find the ordinary objects so you can transform it by photographing it.”
~Morley Baer

This months blew by quickly; I can’t believe that Abstract April is coming to a close. I had a lot of fun putting these images out there, even though I know that abstract photography can be difficult for some people to appreciate. I do like looking for interesting compositions, strange textures, and random objects – this kind of photography is like a scavenger hunt, and it motivates me to play closer attention to the world around me.

I think to start out next month, I’ll be taking a step back from a lot of the macro photography that dominated this month’s images. Rather than surfaces and textures, I think the them of May will be ‘Places.’ I think that’s a sufficiently vague theme to give me decent breathing room. I hope you’ll join me.

SEE YESTERDAY’S IMAGE OF THE DAY
– – –
SIGN UP FOR THE LENSEBENDER NEWSLETTER

April 28, 2017 – Red White Blue

FINE ART PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE
– – –
OTHER ‘IMAGE OF THE DAY’ PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”
~Imogen Cunningham

Nothing tells the truth – not even the camera.
I know it’s a popular expression – “the camera never lies” – but that’s a lie. The camera has been used by governments as early as 1860 to create fictitious tableaux to galvanize opposition to political parties and rulers. The tools of photographic manipulation are more democratized, and much more easily accessed in today’s digital culture, but photographs have been manipulated since the very beginning.

And it’s not that it’s all lies, really, is just that the medium can be used to deceive as much as it can be used to enlighten. It’s a tool, not a philosophy. Tools can be used in many different ways. In a media landscape where an increasing number of people are becoming savvy to photographic and digital manipulation, it’s harder to tell the lie.

That’s why CGI in feature films ages poorly – the more people are aware and engaged, the more they are aware of the deception. The same thing is becoming true of still photographs, and scandals abound in the popular press of news photographers manipulating their pictures to try and make the scene more emotional, more beautiful, more dramatic than it actually was.

Can you spot the manipulation in today’s “Image of the Day?”
Double trouble, because it’s a purely aesthetic, ‘abstract’, composition. I’m confident that only trained eyes and other media professionals could even begin to peel this one apart. Give it a shot in the ‘comments’ section.

SEE YESTERDAY’S IMAGE OF THE DAY
– – –
SIGN UP FOR THE LENSEBENDER NEWSLETTER