Precious Stranger on Instagram

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 4.53.18 PM

Things are moving forward! I’ve filed my taxes (early!). I’ve finished a third version of my book maquette, Precious Stranger, which combines my own contemporary photographs of Peru with family archive (a secret trove of letters from my father, a ne’er before seen wedding album, etc) to create a family album of a magical kingdom that never was but might be. For Instagram I am including more archival material and less of my own photography to share with you a deeper backstory than I elucidate in the book.  If this speaks to you, please follow along as I retrace the mystery of my history. Next, I’ll be putting together a proprietary website.

I’m heading to NYC for the NYTimes portfolio review on Saturday and then the DF with one of my great friends to celebrate our mutual birthdays in Mexico next Saturday.  If you’re going to be in either of those two locales and want to hang out – drop me a line.  Oh, and it’s Spring! Onward!!

The Artists Guide and other a related books: A Bibliography and Reading List

Eudora Welty's Library, Jackson, MIssissippi  © Susana Raab from the series A Sense of Place

Eudora Welty’s Library, Jackson, MIssissippi © Susana Raab from the series A Sense of Place

So the ICP Library Blog published a good bibliography of photographer/artist related books. I’m reading the Artists Guide by Jackie Battenfield right now and it is a good resource.  I’m putting the rest of the list here so I have something to refer back to, thanks to ICP intern Sadie Hope-Gund for compiling this list:

Vocational Guidance for Artists

  • Art-work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue your Art Career, by Heather Darcy Bhandari. (Free Press, 2009) [N6505.B53 2009]
  • How To Grow as a Photographer, by Tony Luna. (Allworth Press, 2006) [TR154.L85 2006]
  • The Real Business of Photography, by Richard Wiesgrau. (ASMP, 2004) [TR581.W45 2004]
  • Taking the Leap: Building Your Career as a Visual Artist, by Cay Lang. (Chronicle Books, 2006) [TR581.L352 2006]
  • A Practical Handbook for the Emerging Artist, by Margaret R Lazzari. (Harcourt College Publishers, 2002) [N6505.L39 2002]
  • Photojournalism, by Fred S. Parrish. (Wadsworth/Thomson Learning 2001) [TR820.P37 2001]
  • The Photographer’s Assistant Handbook, by Matt Proulx. (Focal Press, 2000) [TR154.P76 2000]
  • The Truth Needs No Ally: Inside Photojournalism, by Howard Chapnick. (University of Missouri Press, 1994) [TR820.C43 1994]
  • Letters to a Young Artist, by Gregory Amenoff. (Darte Publishing, 2006) [TR154.L47 2006]
  • Writing the Artist Statement: Revealing the True Spirit of Your Work, by Ariane Goodwin. (Infinity Publishing, 2006) [TR581.G66 2002]
  • The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers, by Peter Krogh. (O’Reilly, 2009) [TR267.K76 2009]
  • Creating Connections: Museums and the Public Understanding of Current Research, by David Chittenden. (AltaMira Press, 2004) [TR183.C452 2004]
  • Publish Your Photo Book: A Guide to Self-Publishing , by Bill Owens. (Morgan and Morgan, 1979) [TR147.O93 1979]
  • Teaching Photography: Tools for the Imaging Educator, by Glenn Rand. (Focal, 2006) [TR161.R35 2006]
  • Photography: Foundations for Art and Design, by Mark Galer. (Focal, 2007) [TR147.G35 2007]

Creative Thinking and Inspiration

  • Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style, by Alain Briot. (O’Reilly Media, 2009) [TR179.B75 2009]
  • Artist Communities: A Directory of Residencies That Offer Time and Space for Creativity, by Deborah Obalil and Caitlin S. Glass (Allworth Press, 2005) [NX110.A78 2005]
  • Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity, by Lawrence Lessig. (Penguin Books, 2004) [TR187.L471 2004]
  • Chic Clicks: Creativity and Commerce in Contemporary Fashion Photography, by Fred Aufray. (Insitute of Contemporary Art, 2002) [TR679.C45 2002]
  • Visual Thinking: Methods for Making Images Memorable, by Henry Wolf. (Rizzoli International Publications, 1988) [TR179.W651 1988]
  • Photography Q&A, by Zack Arias. (New Riders, 2013) [TR147.A73 2013]
  • The Joy of Photography, by Eastman Kodak Company. (Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1991) [TR147.J69 1991]
  • Reframing Photography, by Rebekah Modrak. (Routledge, 2011) [TR161.M63 2011]
  • The Creative Photographer, by John Ingledew. (Harry N. Abrams, 2005) [TR146.I35 2005]
  • Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs, by Ansel Adams. (Little Brown,1983) [TR161.A32 1983]
  • Experimental Formats.2, by Roger Fawcett-Tang. (RotoVision, 2005) [TR147.F38 2005]

Business & Marketing

  • ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography, by American Society of Media Photographers (Allworth Press, 2001) [TR581.M]
  • Artists’ Books Creative Production and Marketing, by Sarah Bodman (Impact Press, 2005) [TR179.5.B64 .A78 2007]
  • How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist, by Caroll Michels. (Henry Holt and Co., 2009) [N6505.M46 2009]
  • Marketing and Selling Black & White Portrait Photography, by Helen T. Boursier. (Amherst Media, 2000). [TR581.B68 2000]
  • Photographer’s Market 2004: 2000 Places to Sell Your Photographs, by Donna Poehner. (David & Charles, 2003) [TR12.P46 2004]
  • Photographer’s Market Guide to Building Your Photography Buisness, by VIK Orenstein. (Writer’s Digest Books, 2004) [TR581.O73 2004]
  • Publish Your Photography Book, by Darius Himes. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011) [TR145.H55 2011]
  • The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love, by Jackie Battenfield. (De Capo Press, 2009) [TR581.B37 2009]
  • Print-On-Demand Book Publishing, by Morris Rosenthal. (Foner Books, 2004) [TR581.R674 2004]
  • The Professional Photographer’s Management Handbook, by Ann Monteith. (Marathon Press,1999) [TR154.M65 1999]
  • The Photographer’s Market Guide to Photo Submission and Portfolio Formats, by Michael Willins. (Writer’s Digest Books, 1997) [TR690.W55 1997]
  • The Business of Studio Photography, by Edward R Lilley. (Allworth Press, 1997) [TR581.L55 1997]
  • Professional Photographer’s Survival Guide, by Charles E. Rotkin. (Writer’s Digest Books, 1992) [TR690.R68 1992]
  • The Photographer’s Assistant, by John Kieffer. (Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, 1992) [TR690.2.K54 1992]
  • Mastering the Business of Photography, by Tony Luna. (Allworth Press, 2014) [TR581.L85 2014]
  • Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, by Lawrence Lessig. (Penguin Press, 2008) [TR187.L471 2008]
  • The Photographer’s Guide to Negotiating, by Richard Wiesgrau. (Allworth Press, 2005) [TR581.W45 2005]
  • The Real Business of Photography, by Richard Weisgrau. (ASMP, 2004) [TR581.W45 2004]

Legal and Financial

  • Demystifying Grant Seeking, by Larissa Golden Brown. (Jossey-Bass, 2001) [TR581.B76 2001]
  • Licensing Photography, by Richard Weisgrau. (Allworth Press, 2006) [TR581.W45 2006]
  • Licensing Art & Design, by Caryn R Leland. (North Light Books, 1995) [TR581.L45 1995]
  • Business and Legal Forms for Photographers, by Tad Crawford. (Allworth Press, 2002) [TR146.C73 2002]
  • To Be or Not To Be: An Artist’s Guide to Not-For-Profit Incorporation, by VLA (Volunteer Lawyer for the Arts, 1982) [TR822.T63 1982]

Book Review: Bad Boy My Life on and Off the Canvas – the Eric Fischl story.

A Funeral by Eric Fischl (original in color)

A Funeral by Eric Fischl (original in color)

Eric Fischl is America’s foremost [living] narrative painter, according to the book jacket on his autobiography, Bad Boy, co-written with Michael Stone (brackets mine – hello Edward Hopper!).  I have to admit that I have never heard of him (I don’t wear my ignorance of art history proudly – but it’s more the drawback to being an erstwhile polymath).  I have been reading a bit tooo much of certain types of books lately, so I decided to pick up an artist biography instead, for inspiration . . . and was recommended this one. I’ve always been one to want to know about the backstory behind an artist or writer, the psychology and experiences that inform the creation of the work.  I think one of my greatest teachers, English Professor Dr. Jean Cash, did not appreciate my obsessive need to know and understand, and yet, it has been a compulsion that has taken me far afield and provided me with a joy that I have not experienced anywhere else, – to know and understand.  I guess, it’s part of my lifelong quest for a common ground where empathy can be nurtured and thrive.

So with that said, I had high hopes for inspiration and transcendence.  Plus he is a narrative painter fighting against the tide of abstraction and conceptual art.  So I was already on his team there.  He came of age in the 70s and 80s and after a few years finding himself while teaching in Nova Scotia, a move to NYC on the cusp of the 80s positioned him to become a superstar among the likes of the oft-mentioned Julian Schnabel.

What is the Fischl backstory?  A severely alcoholic and narcissistic mother, who eventually commits suicide, and a dysfunctional early family life (what artist doesn’t? I’d say Thomas Kinkade, [creator of blockbuster candy-coated confections] but his well-documented alcoholism would prove a less than healthy coping system, most often attributed to attachment disorders and early childhood experiences). Fischl doesn’t dismiss the importance of those experiences to his work.  His parents very open nudity amongst their children in the free-for-all 70s is also something he credits with his obsession with the nude form and I find that all informing and unfortunately, very relatable.  He opens up the book with an anecdote about the nadir of his substance abuse, coinciding with the climax of his career as an artist (to date at the time), a retrospective at the Whitney when he is still in his early 40s.

He glosses over his recovery from drug and alcohol abuse (probably because he just went cold-turkey and thus had no psychological recovery – at least not off the canvas – that he is willing to relate) and this is where it starts going downhill for me.  It’s not that I want to know the details of his recovery- especially as there was none – it’s just that the book loses all emotional resonance.  Most of the emotion comes from vignettes about Eric supplied by his family – his siblings – and then from friends and contemporaries – (Julian Schnabel AGAIN).  The most poignant being from his sister, Laurie, who writes of the transcendence she received from Eric at her father’s funeral:

Eric spoke of Dad’s awkward ways, defining with twisted hilarity who our father really was.   . . I came away feeling uplifted from the sadness that was sure to be mine.  I forgave Dad that day. Ever since then I have often wished I could return the favor to Eric, so he could forgive Mom.

And while the book focuses a lot on his process – his early fight with and against abstraction (it just was not him), Cal Arts back in the heyday with Ravi Shankar strumming on campus, and then making it in New York – it becomes a bit too much about the ego and who is top dog.  To be fair, Fischl is never denying of his massive ego (and unmet childhood needs that create that crap), but honestly, even as he is pulling in $1 million a year in gallery sales with Mary Boone he is just pissed because Mr. Pajama Bottoms is setting all the world records for contemporary art sales.  And boy, does he hate Mr. Pajama Bottoms.

I cannot relate to that at all.  First off, I couldn’t name a thing Mr. PJ painted to save my life (see opening paragraph), though I am a HUGE fan of his movies.  Secondly, whilst in my wayward youth – I did have publication envy and what-not to other photogs, but as soon as I found my voice – I was quite content to just pursue the work and RELIEVED – and happy to see ALL succeeding, (except for the real dickheads – but that is just because they were dickheads, not competition) because I had found something to do that gave me JOY.  I don’t pull in 1/10th of one million dollars, in a year, and I care not, because I get to do what I love SOME of the time.  And those photographer making slick post-produced work and building fancy homes and driving expensive cars from the proceeds, more power to them! I give them not my gaze.  I care not.  And I would care EVEN less if I was making a million a year.  Oh boy, I really would not care at all then.  I think I’d be walking around with a shit-eating grin most of the time.  Because wow, I could build my own friggin’ pop-up gallery then.  Probably could even do that w/o a mill, so here’s food for thought on the to-do list.

So to read Fischl going on and on about whose selling what for what and Julian, Julian, Julian (spoiler: they kiss and make up and Julian even writes a vignette to show how Kumbaya they are with each other), and with the loyal April Gornik at his side, sucking it up, being marginalized, overlooked, used by people who want to get to Fischl, he manages to become sober and spends the rest of his time talking about the decline of the art market from the 80’s stratosphere and his famous friends, John McEnroe (they trade tennis and painting lessons!), etc etc.  To be sure, some of his friends are the ones I would want to have : Steve Martin – my polymathic idol; and Mike Nichols.  And they all talk about his humor. It’s just not in the book.  That voice isn’t there.  I have no doubt, Fischl is a funny person and a great friend, just don’t look for that in the book.

I give it a C+.

As for his work, the piece that resonates with me the most is this image painted from a snapshot on the day the Fischls scattered their mother’s ashes in Arizona.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence it was made from a photographic frame.  Raison d’etre folks, raison d’etre.

So You Wanna Be in Pictures?

While recovering from a minor but debilitating ear infection, I have had the chance to catch up on some night table reading. One I must share with all you aspiring fine artists is a recent publication called: Art/Work: Everything You Need to Know(And Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career by Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber. This well-written book covers all the groundwork: submission materials, cv’s, artist statements, residencies, packing your work, gallery courtship, representation, agreements, AND it is even entertaining thanks to quotes by the likes of Ed Winkelman, Washington Project for the Arts’ own Kim Ward, Andrea Rosen and more.  For less than the price of three lattes you can figure out how to package that 3-d installation affordably (with only three peices of tape, please! always thinking about the guy/gal on the other end!) while making Larry Gagosian want you more than life itself.  Ok, perhaps I embellish on the latter.

No, I am not a paid flack for the book.  It is just very readable and informative.  I particularly enjoy the chapter on the gallery relationship (it is not only acceptable it is required to be polygamous! and noone will call you an s-l-u-t).  If you are interested in a serious art career, do yourself a favor and get yourself this book.  Because if I must service multiple gallerists, I really need to be on top of my game.

Who the #@$% is Jackson Pollock?

The work that Teri Horton says was made by Jackson Pollock. She bought the painting for $5 in a thrift shop in the early 1990s and now says she will not sell it for less than $50 million.

The work that Teri Horton says was made by Jackson Pollock. She bought the painting for $5 in a thrift shop in the early 1990s and now says she will not sell it for less than $50 million.

Just watched this fabulous documentary detailing former truck driver Teri Horton’s $5 purchase in a thrift shop of a painting that might be a Jackson Pollock. The film was co-produced by the legendary Don Hewitt of 60 minutes fame, and came to being after a legendary and felonious former art dealer, Ted Volpe, approached the film’s director, Harry Moses, about collaborating on a 10-hour documentary mini-series about corruption in the art world, a subject he said he knew well.

According to the New York Times: “Mr. Moses said he thought the idea was too outlandish and that it would never sell in the American television market. But he was struck by Mr. Volpe’s account of Ms. Horton, especially after learning that she, with the help of a Canadian art restorer named Peter Paul Biro, had found a fingerprint, in paint, on the back of her canvas and that Mr. Biro said he had matched the print to one he found later on a paint can in Pollock’s Long Island studio, now maintained as a museum.”

It’s a great documentary, part detective story, part art-world expose, with compelling character actors. One, Thomas Hogan, a former director and curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, comes across as particularly elitist and full of himself. When asked to inspect the painting he surmised,
“There are a lot of second rate experts in the world. I am not. Now if I had been a night watchman at the Metropolitan Museum of art for ten years, instead of a curator and director for 18 1/2, then you might say that my expertise is not so good. My expertise is very good. . . . My instinctive impression which I always write down was neat dash compacted which is not good. It’s pretty, it’s superficial and frivolous and I don’t believe it’s a Jackson Pollock. It’s dead on arrival.”

Teri, herself, offers some great soundbites on her opinion of the Pollock (which btw, remained in her hands because the friend that she originally purchased it for thought it too ugly and it didn’t fit through the front door of her trailer). After she learned of the prices that Pollocks sell for she said,” “Knowing what it was worth just blew me away. Something so ugly to me . . . that anyone would pay that kind of money for this type of artwork, if you want to call it artwork.”

Well, as Barney Frank said paraphrasing W.C. Fields, “The public is no bargain either.”

All in all, a great amusing, and (for me at least) eye-opening peek of the business of art.

Related reading: Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word

What’s on your nightstand?

William Faulkner’s Bedside Table, Oxford, MS 2007

William Faulkner’s Bedside Table, Oxford, MS 2007

Despite my beloved’s and my newfound obsession for “The Wire” which has glued us to our tv and furiously checking our netflix cue to make sure that returns have been logged in a timely fashion – a situation that makes me frankly uncomfortable and worthy of help from Bill W., i’ve managed to down a few books worth mentioning.

I’ve just re-read Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” which recounts nearly forty years later his time in Paris in the 1920’s (with juicy tidbits concerning Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein). Warning: Do not read this when hungry or thirsty. Papa had me reaching for the glass of port at midday with all this talk about delicious wines and cheap Portugaise oysters. You learn a lot about Hemingway’s work ethic and personal ethos regarding selling out, with which I commiserate. One of my favorite quotes is attributed to a writer friend of his is paraphrased thus:

“Most underrated thing in the world is an unambitious writer and a mediocre poem. There is not enough of either in the world. There is of course, the problem of sustenance.”

It was refreshing to reread this work after spending a year in college devoting myself to the “search for a clean, well-lighted place in the work of Ernest Hemingway.” Devoting may be too strong a word, but without the portugaises and crisp vinho verde, it was rough going at times.
The second book I just finished reading was Ewan McEwan’s Atonement, which takes place before and after World War II in England. After a slow start it had me in the gut, and does an excellent job of conveying the effects of the war on the people of England, and the soldiers in the trenches. Quite pertinent today even though the modus operandi has all changed. The unsuspected twist at the end had me upset for days.
Now I’m just starting “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, A year of food life” by Barbara Kingsolver, wherein her family lives off the food they grow or buy locally. I myself would love to try this experiment, but city living being what it is, i’m afraid that even with my amazing green thumb, the fruits of my container would not be able to sustain my little family of three. Perhaps if a Big Mac Attack counts as buying locally? ; )

Speaking of Big Mac Attacks, just road-tripped to a Dairy Queen in West Virginia, where a local country musicians get together for a bit of a jamboree. Look for new work soon. Would love to hear your literary inspirators. Do tell.

ART is not a four-letter word

Favorite of the Emir, 1879 by Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant, French (1845-1902)

Favorite of the Emir, 1879 by Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant, French (1845-1902)

One of the best things about living in Washington, DC is the art & culture that is so accessible and it’s free.

(Brief aside, when crossing the Cumberland Gap and stopping by the visitors center I asked an 8 year-old boy if it was worth going in, and the charming imp answered with a thick southwest Virginia drawl, “Oh yes. They got a thee-ater inside.” And with a flourish of his arm he gestured : “And it’s fureee!” Hence, a new favorite phrase was born, but you must say it with an exuberant flourish of your arm.)

One of my favorite things to do is to go down the National Gallery of Art and cruise through the modernism in the I.M. Pei designed East Building before heading to the classical galleries of the West Building. I am not ashamed to admit that I love representational painting and doric and ionic columns. It’s even more exciting when one gets an assignment to play tourist in Washington as I recently did and had the opportunity to find a couple of new delights at the National Gallery.

I have to admit, I am much more inspired by painting than I am by photography. Travesty, though it may be. I find myself feeling too comparative when I look at other people’s photography. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy other people’s photography, because I do, very much. But I am more inspired by a painted color palette or landscape than that of the photoshop, and I love the textural quality of oils on canvas. And if one is going to be conceptual about a scene, I have to admit, I much more enjoy the “concept” of the painted canvas, than the wizardy of a well-lighted set.

Odalisque, 1870, Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Odalisque, 1870, Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

How great are these ladies? Is Odalisque not the original Bohemian? And she’s not afraid to look confident with a little meat on her gams. (Or perhaps it’s just her baggy clothing.) At any rate, she doesn’t need to feel sexy by giving it all away, if you know what I mean. I really admire her.

Todays Book Club Book: The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe

Wolfe’s small treatise on the NYC art scene in the 70’s brings to mind one of the best artist statements I’ve ever read. I saw it on the fantastic New Orleans photographer William Greiner‘s website: “It doesn’t matter what I say, all that matters is what you see.” Here, here William Greiner!!! A hearty Huzzah to you.

(Sorry for the turn-of-the-last-century slang, but I’ve become obnoxiously affected by P.G. Wodehouse‘s The Misadventures of Charlie. Fantastic light reading.)