That Long, Old, Forgotten Project…

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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.

April 29, 2017 – Painted Bricks

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“If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up.”
~Garry Winogrand

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April 28, 2017 – Red White Blue

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“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.

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April 21, 2017 – More Red White and Blue

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“Works of art, in my opinion, are the only objects in the material universe to possess internal order, and that is why, though I don’t believe that only art matters, I do believe in Art for Art’s sake.”
~E. M. Forster

I believe in ‘art for art’s sake’ too. I think that obscure and abstract art objects embody this ideal. There may not seem to be a lot of thought or sense in it, but that isn’t really the truth. There’s action and intention, and there are reasons why people make things. And it isn’t necessary for all of us to know exactly why – sometimes the idea is to wonder why.
I really dig being a part of this.

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April 07, 2017 – Abstraction In Red, White, Blue

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“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.”
~Dorothea Lange (1895 – 1965)

This is an image that would fit well into a series I started (and abandoned) a long time ago, consisting of abstract photographs in red, white, and blue, usually of broken, decaying, or aged surfaces. The idealism attached to the colors of our nation’s flag, contrasted against industrial patterns, chipped paint, and scratched surfaces seemed, to me, to represent what we were enduring during the early days of the great recession.

After the housing market crashed and local economies began to suffer, jobs began to evaporate. Construction projects in metro Tucson stopped dead in their tracks. Rent-a-fences sprung up around half-completed housing projects, graffiti proliferated, and I was laid off from my job at a local photography lab and retouch studio. I had some time on my hands, so I started making something of a documentary about the death of the American Dream, and it eventually evolved into something a little more aesthetically pleasing and less overtly depressing.

With this image – and with the image I made for April 1st – I might consider finishing the series.

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April 01, 2017 – Abstract April

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Another month has begun, and I’m excited to start working on some new images. I had a lot of fun last month digging through old, neglected, previously unpublished images from my many journeys to Mexico, but this month gives me the opportunity to start making new images. No more dusting-off the old – I intend to bring my camera everywhere I go and make brand new pictures every day, beginning with this one.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and abstract art doesn’t necessary stimulate everybody, but I thoroughly enjoy looking at the world through the camera lens, studying the details that would otherwise go completely unnoticed. That’s what this month is going to be about – peering through the macro lens and looking for the textures and details that we often never notice. It should be a pretty good time.

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