Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Art Department: University of Arizona, Photo Area, Room 14


I have been writing on chalkboards and dry erase boards in Art Departments since May, telling the stories that took place in those very same rooms years ago. This one refers to teaching my first semester (and what a horrible job I did of it). It is the tamest of the group - or the one that I am most likely to admit I made now.

I follow specific rules when taking these photographs. I do not plan what I am going to write. I accept any spelling and grammatical mistakes. I take the photograph quickly because more often than not, it feels like I will be caught (and I was once at Boise State). Most of the time, when looking at these images later, I regret the words that were written, wishing for something more.

Returning to the University of Arizona photo area for the first time since 2001 was jarring. It looks far more run down than I remember with stains on the linoleum, scuffs on the walls, warped homasote, and outdated furniture. I was happy to see that the color processor was in full swing - wishing I still had access to that room and all that I could make with color film.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Breaking Out the Binoculars in Tucson

I finally saw a rare cristate (I wasn't convinced they existed outside 1940s postcards prior to this weekend). There are over 25 in the park and I wish I could have seen more.

All photographs were taken at Saguaro National Park East in the Rincon Mountains home to 1.6 million saguaro. I visited Tucson over fall break to knock off another water destination on my list, visit old friends, and photograph my old art department. More photographs soon.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Landfall" - Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet

Last weekend, Hannah and I drove to the Wexner Center to experience Landfall. My previous encounter with the Kronos Quartet was watching them behind a screen with Phillip Glass as they performed Dracula in Houston, Texas. I once saw Laurie Anderson perform Live in New York in Vancouver, Washington where not a face in the crowd had dry eyes as she described NYC post 9/11. I could not imagine an event more worth traveling to despite it being a hectic time of the semester.

Surprisingly, Hannah and I were two of the youngest people in the audience (though I envied the ten year old boy who was there with his father). The performance was beyond description and I am still trying to find the words to process what we saw. The core of the story featured Hurricane Sandy and one of the most memorable parts was the finale when Anderson described walking into her studio basement to see keyboards, archival papers, and photographs of her dog floating in brown, murky water. These three sentences were projected on the screen above the Kronos Quartet moments before the show ended: "How beautiful. How magic. And how catastrophic." Those words describe many of Anderson's stories whether or not they are related to a horrific event.

Anderson spoke of a list of millions of animals that are now extinct. As their names and locations last found (remains discovered) scrolled by, one cannot help but think how many more in our lifetime will be added. I am mesmerized with each story Anderson tells of animals, as they often feature disaster. Once, I created an artwork based on her description of birds and I keep wondering if anything will come from this event.

Jacinda Russell, From The Lost Photographs, 2003-2005

Laurie reminded us that human beings were not the only ones that lost their lives the day the airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center. Birds, burning, their bodies seared, also fell to the ground amidst the flesh and debris.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ofili and Sidibé

Chris Ofili in Malick Sidibé's studio

To say I am behind on my New Yorker subscription is an understatement but I happened to finish a recent issue and was enamored by Calvin Tomkins' profile "Into the Unknown." It is highly worth the read and can be found here. Of course I am a sucker for any photograph taken in Malick Sidibé's studio in Mali which lead me to research the above image, wondering if Studio Malick was still in use. 

Malick Sidibé's studio photographed in March 2013

Malick Sidibé's negatives (both images from this fascinating slide show).

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cape Horn Road, Bayview, Idaho: 1955 & 2014

Something must be done with this (an 8mm film my uncle recently emailed featuring my mother pointing at the sonar barge in Bayview, Idaho). I have a brick of 13 year old past expiration slide film, a newly repaired Pentax K1000, and a local camera shop that is willing to cross process. If my first trial (expecting lots of errors) works, this may be the key to approaching all the photographs of Lake Pend Oreille taken in May.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Skeleton in the Drawing Closet

Once a few weeks before obtaining my undergraduate degree, I borrowed my father's keys to the art department. After midnight, a friend and I removed the skeleton on the right from the drawing classroom and installed it into the art gallery exhibition. It was placed prominently in the center of the space and was well illuminated the moment the gallery director turned the lights on the next morning.

When returning to Boise last month, I requested to photograph the skeleton in the drawing closet. It lives in another building now and is missing an arm. I was surprised to see that the once white anatomical man on the left was still in use. Its presence was often featured in drawings displayed in the hallways. It, too, was missing its right arm but I found it on the shelf above and reattached it for this photograph.

I was a child when I first encountered that skeleton. Back then I wondered who that person was before they died and how their bones came to live at Boise State. Last month these thoughts persisted: what does one do with an aging and decrepit skeleton in an Art Department? Can it be discarded or repaired? How long before its life after death has run its course? Many years later, I no longer recognized it as human and it felt as false as the model on the left.