Sunday, July 22, 2012

Complete View

(To learn more about the "Viewfinder Project" see the original post.)

For many of us we are conditioned to see life framed by a screen. We spend hours in front of the computer, phone, tv, etc. Content is created quickly for these ever changing platforms and artist/creators now have more sophisticated tools to compare and edit visual material. Because of the widespread use of graphic content, it may seem to passive viewers that organizing visual content is natural and without precedence. In the early nineteenth century (prior to the invention of photography) compositions had to be devised by hand in a deliberate way. In this earlier era a graphic presence in culture must have seemed less diverse and also by comparison less pervasive.

When making my print about the viewfinder, I imagined the eighteenth century artists' milieu and thus featured characters I associated with this time. In the latter part of the twentieth century the the traditional viewfinder used in art class has become both a relic and a reminder of the struggle to find a perspective.

Relief Print by Kip Deeds (Size: 6" x 4 1/4")

Approaches to arrangement such as collage have also influenced compositional thinking. Rather than focusing attention on the picture as a window that reveals the illusion of a figure or a scene, artists have been combining diverse content as part of larger layouts. Unlike a traditional collage, on the computer screen the layout is unfixed. Images and icons are moved and ordered according to convenience or whim. In this realm notions of aesthetic permanence seem less significant. This shift in the way imagery is approached and created has changed art making and partially account for the variety of "Viewfinder" images I received.

Even though finding the most relevant view still requires great scrutiny, I am learning to set the traditional viewfinder tool aside. We have an abundance of tools, technologies, and platforms to help us see but often the greater problem is deciphering the glut of visual messages we are exposed to on a daily basis. In this regard our greatest assets are critical thinking and a knowledge of design. These skills will allow us to filter content so that we can focus on what is local (e.g. our friendships and our immediate surroundings) and enriching (what allows us to see the complexity that life provides).

Portrait of the author making a viewfinder with his hands.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I wrote a 200 word review for Title Magazine; take a look. It highlights the artwork of Mark Stockton now on view at Vox Populi Gallery in Philadelphia.

Title Magazine's home page

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dawson Weber: An Unfolding View

(To learn more about the "Viewfinder Project" see the original post.)

Dawson Weber sent me a thoughtfully and thoroughly packaged "Viewfinder". Actually, it seemed like he sent more than one. He titled the artwork Double Viewfinder and it consists of part I and part II.

Front of packaging sent by Dawson Weber

Unpacking Dawson's "Viewfinder" could be considered a metaphor for the way we have to take apart or consider each part of what we see in order to receive a more complete view. Because of Dawson's note about "handling with care", I saved his work for my last "Viewfinder" review. I did not want to risk shifting the delicate pastel drawing.

Dawson Weber: Part I of Double Viewfinder as found carefully packaged

Dawson Weber: Part II of Double Viewfinder as found carefully packaged

Dawson's projects usually have a rich conceptual origin (for more information visit his website). In this case his style of his drawing reminded me of his background in classical music. I connect the joy of movement, color, and material I see in Dawson's work with the artist Wassily Kandinsky (Kandinsky was interested in abstraction and its connection with music). The packaging and the delicacy of the pastel are parameters that seem to heighten the aura of the work. It is as if you know the experience can not last because of the fragile shifting nature of the pastel. The drawings remind me of the way we want to hold onto a song we love but can't because it keeps moving or the way we know that the color of a flower will not stay the same.

Dawson Weber, Double Viewfinder Part I,  Pastel, 15" x 11", 2006

Dawson Weber, Double Viewfinder Part II,  Pastel, 6" x 4 1/4", 2006

Double Viewfinder Part II placed on top Double Viewfinder Part I 
(set up to give a sense of scale and connection between the two parts)

Finally, what I have learned from observing Dawson Weber's artwork and other work that commands my attention is that investment must be made. When consideration is given then the world can be seen with greater depth. To see life and recognize its complexity is surely an amazing gift.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Glimpse, A Fragment, A Monumental View

(To learn more about the "Viewfinder Project" see the original post.)

The three "Viewfinders" presented in this post seem to me like short summaries for a larger narrative. When each image is given a focus, a more monumental view can be found. Because each reveals accessible details about daily life (some perhaps overlooked), they remind me of  words by Josef Albers:
easy - to know
that diamonds - are precious
good - to learn
that rubies - have depth
but more - to see
that pebbles - are miraculous
Below is another kind of list that Elijah Gowin saved from a religious meeting. It could have easily been discarded, but it also has a resonance involving reflection, order, and a concern for others.

Elijah Gowin, Viewfinder, 4 1/4" x 6", Photocopy, 2006

When making requests for "Viewfinder's" I was certain Elijah would return an example. However, I was less certain about what Emmet Gowin (Elijah's father) would produce. My suspicion was that it would take Emmet a while to consider the problem. The opposite was true. Within about an hour of me suggesting the project, Emmet had taken some pictures at a neighborhood picnic, dry mounted one to a "Viewfinder" card, and returned it to me. In the photograph below, a flurry of activity yields an image of humor and vitality.

Emmet Gowin, Viewfinder, 6" x 4 1/4", Inkjet Print, 2006

I have been unable to track down the author of the last piece (the envelope it came in was miss-placed). However, the image of the open sky seems to be about freedom and a realm beyond the self. In the context of the universe at work, when I look up at the sky, I am reminded that my problems are small.

Anonymous, Viewfinder, 4 1/4" x 6", Ink and Digital Print, 2006

Monday, March 26, 2012

Detailed Views: Brant Schuller & Dawn Clements

(To learn more about the "Viewfinder Project" see the original post.)

While I taught printmaking at Princeton University, both Brant Schuller and Dawn Clements were visitors to the printshop and both agreed to make a "Viewfinder". Brant came to give a demonstration and made a print and Dawn produced an etching and a lithograph. Brant made his "Viewfinder" during his visit and I observed the drawing as it was being made. The drawing was produced by tracing the outline of a changing shadow. The shadow was cast by a leaf on a work table and was studied throughout a day (see the drawing below). I appreciated how natural and automatic the process appeared and how exact the recording was. The drawing unfolded while Brant was leading other printmaking activities and this allowed me to see him as a juggler and a master at multitasking.

Brant Schuller, Viewfinder, Graphite,  6" x 4 1/4", 2006

Dawn Clements work often revolves around drawing as an expanding activity. She has made drawings of interiors that start with one object and continue outward until a more completed view of the space is realized. These panoramas provide an excess and contain more than the eye can take in at once. An extension of this project has been drawings based on interior spaces in classic films. Because the camera does not catch every part of a room, Clements pieces together what is available from the film footage. This leaves patches where litteral interpretations become impossible and in the drawing this becomes white space. With regard to the "Viewfinder" Dawn sent me, it seems I received a careful rendering of part of the puzzle that makes up a film. Faintly written in the hair of the figure is the name "Karin Thimm". Thimm is a character in the motion picture The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.

Dawn Clements, Viewfinder, Ink, 6" x 4 1/4", 2007

Since I worked with Dawn, she has had important developments in her career. In 2010 Dawn was selected for the Whitney Biennial and more recently she had an exhibit in New York City that was reviewed by the Huffington Post (great images of Dawn's large scale drawings here).

This winter I also caught a glimpse of new artwork by Brant Schuller that inspired me to double down and work harder. Schuller's work is diverse and often combines printing techniques with sculpture. Seen below is a recent installation involving the screen-printed image of an ax and a sicle. The multiples are wedged into logs creating a virtual sense of the repetition involved in splitting timber. Irony is also not lost on the fact that redundancy aligns the printmaker with the lumberjack.

Brant Schuller, Screenprint & Sculpture, Winter 2012 Installation

Friday, March 16, 2012

Paul Schumann and Viewing Contrasts

Spring is not officially here, but in Pennsylvania the colors associated with spring are starting to arrive. It seems like overnight the cherry blossoms have appeared and soon apple blossoms will follow. I am seeing the ending of winter contrasted by the start of spring. Below is an image from one of my walks through my neighborhood.

Cherry Blossoms, March 2012

I feel like my blog went into hibernation over the winter because of my less than frequent posts. Here I am highlighting another "Viewfinder" and the artwork of Paul Schumann. I think of Paul as a thoughtful and serious person, but he also has a sharp if hidden sense of humor.  Although he was educated as an artist and printmaker, he later went through training to become an army chaplain. Paul has a patient and steady personality that has allowed him to handle the stresses of recent tours in Afganistan. His patience is also evident in his artwork which merges observation with other worldly visions.

An image from Paul Schumann's website.

Paul sent me a "Viewfinder" that seems to focus on observation (for information about the first "Viewfinder" and this project click here). However, what I found compelling was how it was juxtaposed with an ad for ornamental hunting knives that he also sent me. Of course he was joking about making this kind of object but it does point to a kind of conceptual chiaroscuro. This is also compelling because in a more literal way Schumann does focus on contrasts between light and dark values in much of his other work (example above). Wether it is the push and pull of seasonal change or the shift between contrasting color, seeing these extremes allow us to appreciate all that is between.

The ad that Paul sent to me.

Paul Schumann, Viewfinder, 6" x 4 1/4", Graphite, 2006

Monday, February 6, 2012

7:00 a.m. Start

I awoke this morning at 7:00 a.m. with acute anxiety (not exactly panic but likely related). My exhibit at Saint Joseph's University is set to begin in 20 days. The opening is the first Thursday in March. Although tired from restless sleep, I was also jolted by racing thoughts. Building on earlier plans, I began to recall unrecorded details (Why didn't I write this down sooner?). Now at 7:00 p.m. the picture frames have been ordered, artwork has been chosen, and a delivery plan has been considered. It's a start, and now the postcard has arrived. Below is an image of my morning notes (a grab at order) as well as exhibit details from the postcard.