Monday, May 28, 2012

Letha Wilson: The Photograph as Sculpture

I re-discovered Letha Wilson's artwork while perusing through the Higher Pictures website of their latest exhibition Photography Is.  My eternal quandary is how much do I integrate sculpture into my photographs and Wilson's work is a welcome addition to the group of artists I have been thinking about that are interested in this process (Amanda Ross-Ho,  Sara Vanderbeek, Jason Urban, and Adam Thompson to name a few).

Check out Letha's website. There are so many amazing works that it was hard to choose the following. I wish I could see the Photography Is exhibition but no trips to NYC scheduled this summer.  

Letha Wilson, And So On (California), 2007

Letha Wilson, Colorado Prop, 2010

Letha Wilson, Right Back at You, 2009

Letha Wilson, Rock Face, 2011

Letha Wilson, Two by Four, 2011

Letha Wilson, Vertical Horizon (White Sands), 2010

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Once upon a time....

.... I completed this.

Last week in the mail I received this:

I can't wait to see the rest!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cat Scrapbook Portfolio Prints

Now there is only one thing left to complete with A Tale of Obsession: Arline Conradt and the Cat Scrapbook. I shudder to think how much time it is going to take. That is what June is for (in addition to a couple self-published books and more work on the Autobiography series). Ah... progress.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Cat Claws (and Paws)

This is the punctum in this entire cat scrapbook project that puts it in the same strange category as David C. Nolan: Smoky's DNA from the early 1940s (62 year old claws and a paw signature).

These are prints of the three cards and the magazine clipping that will be displayed on two scrapbook covers. I am still working on how this will look in the installation - it will be separated from the wallpaper perhaps on a glass covered pedestal or an altar of some sort in another part of the space.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Tale of Two Obsessions Part 2: Arline Conradt and the Cat Scrapbook

Part 1 of the Wallpaper Installation. There are thirteen 89" x 44" panels.

Part 2 of the Wallpaper Installation.

Detail of the greeting card section on left and the gradual shift into newspaper and magazine clippings.

One of Hannah's students who thankfully posed as my scale model.

War cat on bottom right (Peake of Chesapeake Railroad).

The weird cats nursing other animals section (skunks, squirrels, bunnies, etc.).

There are also lots of children looking like they could be strangling cats.

The last panel that includes drawings, a letter from the cats to Arline, and the end papers.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"The 'Quiet' Photographer"

I recently finished The Pleasures of Good Photographs by Gerry Badger after having checked it out from the library and it residing on my kitchen table for 364 days. There are many essays that caught my attention but "The 'Quiet' Photographer" was compelling enough for a blog post. The three quotes below are from Badger.

"Like anyone else wrestling with this tricky medium, the quiet photographer is totally assured of the fact that a 'simple,' 'straightforward' act of recording is anything but. The quiet photographer, however, will not draw undue attention to that process, nor, for that matter, to the process of apprehending the resultant image by the viewer. The goal of the quiet photographer is an elusive one, the illusion of transparency, but not a dumb or mute transparency. Quiet photographs do not lack a voice, but that voice is always calm, measured, appropriate, reasonable - even when at the service of strongly held political opinion."

"The quiet photograph is not necessarily a cool photograph, though its warmth may take a little time to emerge."

"... quiet photographs also require work on the part of the viewers in order that their subtleties might be fully appreciated. The quiet photograph is neither document nor aesthetic object nor simulacrum nor fictional tale, but a combination of all four, a different combination in the hands of every individual photographer."

The first person whose photographs I thought of when reading the essay was that of Collin Avery. 

Collin Avery, 13 Holes and a Wire

Collin Avery, Bathtub

Collin Avery, Wall Illusion

From Actual Colors May Vary: "My photographs are about a particular process of observation which I acquired during adolescence. As a child, I was afraid of confrontation, so as a way to escape difficult mental and physical situations I had designated hiding zones located throughout the house and yard where I could disappear. During these times of self introspection, I became fixated on certain physical details of the space. The subtle nuances and intimate moments of silence were mine alone. It is this way of seeing which has influenced my personal photographic practice. Observation has become my new way of escaping. My images are not about finding the extraordinary in the everyday, but instead are about finding the everyday extraordinary."

Orit Raff's White Series also exudes elements of "quietness." From the Julie Saul Gallery: "Raff created her earliest mature work, the White series (1997-1999), primarily within the domestic confines of the home. She intensified neutral objects such as a toilet bowl, bathroom drain, bed, bar of soap, and a mirror, by introducing clues about the body that occupies these spaces."

Orit Raff, Untitled (Glass on Paper Towel), 1997

Orit Raff, Untitled (Soap), 1997

Orit Raff, Untitled (Bed), 1997

Perhaps I am interested in this topic because I very rarely (if ever) make a photograph that Badger would deem "quiet." For one, quietness and observation go hand in hand. Silence and the manipulation of the subject through arrangement or creating something just to be photographed are not synonymous. I will never be a quiet photographer but I welcome the sense of calm found in the work of Avery and Raff. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Big Prints

It's like I'm standing on a busy street in a town far larger than Muncie looking up at a tall building OR

Because I had to stand on a step ladder and there was no one around to lie next to my print, the broom was the only object for scale I had at my disposal. This print is large enough to cover the Wicked Witch.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"A Brief History of John Baldessari"

Wifi passwords!

and what's this at the end... a 602 address? When's my next trip to CA?

Unexpected Mail Art from James Luckett

I mention my friend, James Luckett, on this blog a lot and that is because he is one of my favorite artists. Not only am I fortunate enough to live within 100 miles from him, his amazing wife and four cats, I am often the recipient of wonderful objects in the mail. The top three images that arrived early last month are no exception.

I am thinking of a James-centric postcard to create just for him. How could I not when his most recent Postcard Collective entry sent to 30 others was a note to me?

I have a reply to Ken in your studio, James. Hope it arrives before August.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day Courtesy of Arline's Cat Scrapbook

Mysterious Found Photo

I found this in an old scrapbook when I was cleaning the studio last week. I would love to know where it was taken, what objects those are on the rim of the fountain, how deep the said fountain is, and whether or not this is the person selling the water available on the left.

The Not So Fun Part

Math. I don't necessarily mind math but I would rather be making art than calculating scale for my mock-up documentation of A Tale of Two Obsessions Part 2.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Do-ho Suh, Who Am We? 1996/2001 [Images via.]

I first saw this piece at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston ten years ago. It consists of 40,000 yearbook photographs and was printed on 25 sheets of 4-color wall paper. It changes radically with distance away from the wall.

From the artist: "I reduced the scale of the portraits as far as I could because I wanted to find out the exact point at which both the human eye and technology could identify individual traits. In the title I wanted to underline the distinction between singular and plural. In the Korean language, there is no such distinction." 

Takashi Murakami, 2002

Brian Forrest took this photograph of Murakami's retrospective at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in 2007. This (and the Louis Vuitton store within the exhibition) was the most memorable work in the entire show. I didn't care much for the paintings on top of the wallpaper but could look at the background all day long.

Penelope Umbrico, Detail of 4,335,921 Suns from Flickr, 2008 [via]

Penelope Umbrico, Suns from Sunsets from Flickr, 2006-ongoing

While Umbrico's suns are not exactly wallpaper, the method in which they are installed resembles it. The most recent exhibition numbered 8,730,221 Suns from Flickr (Partial) 02/20/11.

From Umbrico's website: "This is a project I started when I found 541,795 pictures of sunsets searching the word “sunset” on the image hosting website, Flickr. I cropped just the suns from these pictures and uploaded them to Kodak, making 4" x 6" machine prints from them. For each installation, the title reflects the number of hits I got searching "sunset" on Flickr on the day I made/print the piece – for example, the title of the piece for the Gallery of Modern Art, Australia, was 2,303,057 Suns From Flickr (Partial) 9/25/07 and for the New York Photo Festival it was 3,221,717 Suns From Flickr (Partial) 3/31/08 - the title itself becoming a comment on the ever increasing use of web-based photo communities, and a reflection of the ubiquity of pre-scripted collective content there."

Whenever I think of transforming the cat scrapbook into wallpaper, these three artists come to mind. Today, as I figure out the scale and method of placing the pages together, I keep coming back to the sheer mass that each of the above examples provides. There isn't any breathing space between the parts and it is all seen as one continuous flow from a distance. My problem is that there are so many details in the cat scrapbook that I want the audience to see, shrinking the individual pages would not assist in understanding the contents and chronology of the book. Where is my fine line between too large and too small? That is a question I hope to answer very soon.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Anatomy of a Cat Scrapbook

Last year at this time, I was immersed in discovering details about David C. Nolan through his handwriting on the back of Marilyn Monroe photographs. This week, I'm trying to do the same with the cat scrapbook. Who is this woman who owned it? What could I find out about her? Is her address anywhere in this book? Could I visit her place just like I did Nolan's last summer? Those were a few of the questions I had as I started reading as much of the text that I could open without ruining any of the cards.

Here's the set-up in the newly cleaned and organized studio: previously existing notes taken during a lab night in Photo 1, sketchbook for new notes, scrapbook and laptop. What is playing on that laptop?

Why the most important live feed I could watch while researching this project: the Kitten Cam.

I am still convinced the woman who assembled this scrapbook is named Arline. Though some of the cards were addressed to her mother, Arline could have acquired those later in her mother's life (or after her death). Her mother is once referred to as Mrs. Conradt, therefore, I can presume that Conradt was also Arline's last name. There is no mention of Arline ever being married or of any male in her life. She does have a daughter named Paula though. She could be a widow or a divorcee. That is not really known.

The dates referenced in both the greeting cards and the newspaper clippings include: 1940, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1955, and 1956. The majority of them are from the 1940s, therefore, they were collected over a long period of time and assembled in the mid 1950s at the earliest. 

Pauline, eventually revealed to be Arline's sister, sent the majority of the cat cards. Pauline is married to Bob and they have two children named Maude and Duncan who often make an appearance. Pauline is a teacher and there are a number of Dear Teacher cat cards. They are adhered well to the backing so the writing is unavailable. Maybe Arline was also a teacher or Pauline sent her some of the cards she received from her students? In any case, there are a number of significant references to that profession throughout the book.

Sometimes Pauline addressed cards to Arline's cats. This leads to the question, how many cats did a woman who amassed this gargantuan scrapbook have? There was a Smoky (also called Smoke), Teat, and Goldie. Smug is cited once (while the other cats are mentioned multiple times). Smug could be another nickname for Smoky.

The name Yama starts to appear frequently: "A Valentine note for Teacher from Yama," "Love Yama and Smoky" (in Mother's handwriting), and "Love Smoke, Yama, and Arline." This was the most confusing aspect of the information I gathered. Was Yama another cat? I finally concluded that Yama could be a nickname for Mother (abbreviation for Grandma from one of Pauline's kids or Arline's daughter Paula perhaps?).

Here is another full page letter Pauline wrote to Arline in the voice of her sister's cat Smoky (complete with magazine clippings).

This was one of the most interesting cards from Pauline to "Yama and Arline"  in terms of the information that it revealed. It in Pauline writes: "... the artist author who panned modern art is amusing to us because he is the artist who uses the abstract forms of modern printing in creating furniture..."

"The sculpture panel discussion went off O.K. Dr Stafford and Dr. and Mrs. Williams came over from Denton to see the exhibit and hear the discussion. We were pleased to welcome them and everyone of the art group were a flutter over them!"

So Pauline is a teacher who is also interested in art.... Hmmmm.... At one point, Pauline writes to Arline: "Smoky's Christmas card is wonderful - so good in lights and darks, in composition and in likeness, too. We all do like it, Arline and Smoke."

I remembered that there were some interesting drawings in the back of the scrapbook and upon returning to them after reading this information, I was happy to discover that they were drawn by Pauline.

The shapes initially reminded me of Fernand Leger.

Other observations:

1) There is a cat birth announcement. In 1942, a woman named Louise sent Arline a note featuring: "the birth of three lovely babies to Tippie Louise Tainbaim on September 15, 1942. Mother and children are doing well. Visitors welcome! We are considering naming the babies Connie, Gussie, and Lennie."

2) Arline sent greeting cards from her cats:  "With Love to Mother from Teat."

3) Mother only signed her cards and very rarely did she use the word "Love." She often uses quotes around "Mother" as if she didn't really believe in that name. She would have liked to have received correspondence from daughters more often than she did by the sheer amount of "Haven't heard from you in awhile cards" that were sent to Arline.

4) There are many references to Chessie and Peake who I knew nothing about prior to a couple weeks ago. From 1939-1945, the Ohio Chesapeake railroad system had a "We are in the war" campaign and used their "Sleep like a kitten" mascot in supporting the soldiers overseas. Judging from the dominance of clippings (other than greeting cards), from this era, it reaffirms that the majority of this collection came from the 1940s.

5) This scrapbook was purchased at a yard sale in Western Oregon. Locations (aside from Denton mentioned above) are predominantly from the Beaver State: Seaside, Cooston, and Portland. Unfortunately, there wasn't one address featured in over 300 pages. Alas! No residential comparison photographs from decades later on my part.

6) The scale of this beast of a scrapbook is 16.25" x 13.5" x 4".

I don't have any grand conclusions yet other than handwriting has been a key to both of the projects in A Tale of Two Obsessions.