Monday, May 31, 2010

In the Abstract

I like abstract art. I like collage. I like pieces that use letters, words, portions of words, torn paper. I like this piece.'s actually a photograph of a window in an abandoned store front that has had posters adhered to it then ripped away.

Still, I like it very much. It's accidental quality, curated by me with a digital camera, makes me like it more, maybe, than a painting in a gallery. Or less.

I love collage. Not every artist, of course. I've been a fan of Lance Letscher for a long time. We didn't discover him until he was famous and expensive. But we did recently acquire a piece. It's small, but that's OK because we would have had to give up some other art work if we had gotten a large one. We don't really live large any longer. Except in our heads, of course. Or reaching out into the World Wide WEB to fill our heads with news, facts, images, opinions. And we couldn't have afforded a large one anyway.

I also like Laurie Frick. She created a collage that is in the lobby of our condo. At the recent 5x7 fund raiser for Arthouse at Jones Center, I spied a couple of pieces that Laurie had donated. You aren't supposed to know the artist before buying but I identified the work by its style and, when I bought one of them and turned it over, saw I was right. (Someday we have to explore this whole thing about how we identify an artist's work, people's images, etc. again.)

I want to create collages. I sometimes make homemade greeting cards that are collages of sorts. I put them together with rubber cement which makes for easy work but fragile ephemeral results. I don't know anything about physically making collages that last. I have made some digital collages. I made one of photos I made of assemblages of stuff. I have made simple ones layering on the scanner. I have made them by manipulating ephemera on the computer. I've made them manipulating letters and words and colors and shapes and ephemera on the computer. Not that I consider any of this art, really. It's more practice looking, learning what I like free of the influence of others. It's not unlike looking at work and seeing what I like about it and learning something new about myself.

I'm constantly learning, really. What I like, how I react to art and what art work I might someday is constantly evolving. Can you be unfinished, still, in the year when you plan to apply for social security checks? I don't know if you should be, but I think I am. I think I'm growing and changing every day. And learning. And finding out what I like. Maybe that's how I cheat death until, like everyone else, I don't.

I have been trying to finish this for days. But, I looked up Laurie Frick for the hyperlink (does anyone call them hyperlinks anymore?) and ended up having to look at everything on her site, friend her on facebook and have a chat over there before I could wind up writing this. Then I look it over and I haven't really said much. So it goes. But there is the 'artwork' up top.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

It's Right In Front of Me

Sometimes the answer to all your dilemmas is right there. In front of your face. Sometimes the answer is as simple as this: do your own thing, let others do theirs. That might take the form of not going along with FFP to workout at the country club and rather pretending to workout across the hall in the condo gym and really sitting here and working the Sunday NY Times magazine crossword and then blogging. It might be more complicated than that. Not trying to make others love what you love and not trying to be more than the audience for others' efforts, rather than a cheerleader and promoter. Not trying to be all things to all people, to be every place at once and to get people together who can allegedly help one another.

The head picture today was shot on South Congress at Uncommon Objects. I like it, particularly the way my face is pretty distinct except obscured by the ornate candelabra.

I was trying to work the aforementioned crossword puzzle in a printout from the Times digest (rather than in the magazine itself). There was a typo that caused puzzlement. (Or, you know, extra puzzlement.) Last week there was one also. Why always look for other people's typos? (Even if, as in this case, it interferes with your pleasure?) Mother's Day is driving me crazy as people keep saying "Happy Mother's Day to all the mother's [sic] out there." I had an e-mail the other day where an accusation on a heated topic used an adjective where and adverb belonged. For some reason, both FFP and I leapt on that. Just like we always do with something in print. Ignoring the meaning, ignoring the accusations, going for the syntax.

But I digress into my digressions. We were talking about art (were you here the last few days?) and what it represents and I mentioned we might discuss the delicious whiff of criminality that some art carries.

Today's picture has triggered my discussion above about things that are right in front of you or "as plain as the nose on your face." I was looking at how my obscured but recognizable face is an element of the 'meaning' of my 'art.' When I made an artist's statement back in 2006, I initially used a picture with the reflection of people, but absent myself. My partner in artistic pretending, SuRu, offered that the artist often makes an appearance and I added this revision. I appeared in that shot, although you have to look twice since the (non-reflected) person and shop window are so distracting. And, my face is obscured by a camera. (My jeans, hiking boots and black blazer are recognizable, though. My tramping about in other cities outfit. Paris in this case.)

What happens to obscure my face, what interferes with a pure mirror image, is important to the messages of the pieces. I love this picture because the whimsical irregular painting on the wall obscures the face. (It's reflected in the window of the sales center for the W condos, with part of the model building.) Whether obscured by folds and sparkles or partly by the camera and a pig's head or by light streaming from an opposite window, it's me. For sure. I love this one where my hubby is completely recognizable (to me) from the back with his head turned slightly.

To loop back around to the whole criminal element of these shots: I have actually been approached by a security guard at least once (at the fancy Domain shopping center) about it not being 'allowed' to take pictures of shop windows. This is the merchants, shopping mall people not wanting competitors to rip on show windows, I think. Because he said that it was OK to take pictures of people or the art work (outdoor sculpture, etc.). He really didn't know how to respond when I said I was taking a picture of myself in the window. Of course, when passersby appear, I (almost) never ask their permission. Photographers take crowd shots or details or full-on individuals. Sometimes they have permission, often not. With my shop windows, the art of them and the things they reflect may well belong to someone else. As does most everything but the sky and plants. Even domesticated animals are a 'possession' of someone else. Like graffiti artists putting their work on things, photographers and even painters take away images of things.

For all that I feel like this work is mine alone. Especially when it's stamped with an image of me, however obscure.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Art, cont.

No, you aren't getting off that easily. I'm going to keep hammering on these ideas until I bore myself silly. Which may be before you lose interest but more than likely will be well after. We like to listen to ourselves talk. We can take more of ourselves than others can tolerate. At least I can. I have just this instant decided to call this picture 'More of Me.' This reflection was shot in April at a fancy downtown apartment building. It was cropped and retouched for the header. There is me, recognizable as always. I'm looking especially, um, robust partly due to the backpack and jacket (still cool in April, sigh) and partly due to the full head-to-foot image. But it's me, three times. Really, there is no question, right?

Below is the picture again, after the crop, before the retouch. I now think I like this one better. I am definitely more recognizable but the loss of detail to the darkening above really didn't do that much harm to one's ability to identify me.
Since last I wrote I received a notice through social media that there was a show at a local gallery. The work intrigued me and I also thought how it meshed with this discussion. The work is at Big Medium and is by Jason Urban and I thought 'Wow, this idea of making pictures and then rearranging them on three-dimensional objects. Cool. I could steal that." Not really. But it is a little like my idea of printing my reflection pix and putting them in shadow boxes lined with reflective material or objects. Jason's work has that element of art that is the whole 'idea of it' that we so often see these days. Oil painters? Well, you can move beyond the medium and have an idea of it but often it's one someone else already had. (Lump up the paint, drip the paint and make friends with Peggy Guggenheim, add non-paint to the canvas, paint mostly all one color, etc.) Anyway, how much of art is the idea and how much is the execution? There's always some of both.

I promised that today we would trudge through some old reflection pictures and my comments about them. If you don't feel like linking, then stop reading now. Sometimes words without pictures are so boring.

Going back over four years, I want to call your attention to a picture replete with meaning and unintended consequences. There we are, of course, obscured and reflected (mirrors! yeah, more layers) but ourselves. I weighed eight or ten pounds more. (Don't ask how I know. The answer reveals an occasional streak of OCD.) The shop window is one at Uncommon Objects, one of my favorite places to shoot because I can rip off the fun objects they put in the window. The church across the street provides a shape and, in this case, a religious symbol, too. Pointed to by the hand of, well, of something. There are many 'frames within the frame' on this one. That is an attraction to photographers according to some words I've read from great ones. (Maybe they said amateur photographers.)

That church across from Uncommon Objects has appeared in so many shots, for so many different effects. Here is just provides a shape, cutting the corners of the photo. Here some shape and texture. Here it once again plays a church sort of straight up.

Some of the work also evokes an idea of a place that isn't Austin. In this picture there is an icon of the city I was in at the time, reflected in the distance. But somehow I like this self-portrait one at the same spot better.

Here's a shot where I intentionally (nah, probably accidentally) reflected something in the window object with my stance, hand up with camera, sort of evoking the statuary. I don't usually try to imitate the objects, but hey it's an interesting idea.

That's all for now. But after slogging through so much of my old 'work' I'm thinking of addressing this issue: why, when there is already so much writing and so many photos (a bunch of it your own), why create more? Now here is a (free idea alert) notion: a novel about a society that decided that there were enough texts and images and that no more could be created for purely artistic purposes until the collection had been adequately studied and cataloged. This would mean that texts would be limited to news stories, government documents, technical papers and that images would be purely for historical or personal identification. Naturally people would start trying to sneak the invented and inventive into the mundane. Doing art illegally. Which always makes it better somehow. Maybe tomorrow we will talk about how the whiff of crime can enhance art and how that applies to my 'work.'

Friday, May 07, 2010

More or Less Art

Today's picture (taken over on W. Sixth a couple of days ago) is not an all-time favorite. But it does represent a couple of the topics I'm flogging here.

I contend that the reverse images of FFP and I are recognizable although reflected and therefore backwards (note position of wedding ring if you take a closer look at me) and with parts obscured by objects in the shop windows (e.g. most of my face). I liked this better after I cropped it and adjusted the saturation to make us more black and white in contrast to the pink car (which was actually brighter pink in the real shot). Whenever you see those bank robber pictures in grainy security photos with caps pulled down, etc. don't you wonder how anyone would recognize them? But if you knew them well, I bet you would. Often when I'm on the tennis court I catch sight of someone on another court or walking by, not facing me, etc. I know immediately who it is from tiny clues. This line of thought makes me wonder if anyone ever appropriated those bank robber photos to make art. Wouldn't interest me, but who else is interested in my line of inquiry?

You can pluck and pick from the images in your camera, of course, taking the parts that fit your vision, the parts that give coherency to the things you are trying to say. Another person might eliminate self reflections (by the angle of the shot or in the computer). Here is an example of a another picture, taken from the same original. It could be used by an illustrator for an article about how we are running out of time to save energy. To me it's not art, but to someone else? Maybe. Also, it doesn't have the same coherency with my other 'work' as the head picture. This coherency is important in our response to art whether it's in the comfort of recognition or the upending of expectation. ('LB was in her shop window self portrait period during the early part of the 21st century.")

That's all for today, folks. Thanks for listening. Blathering on about this stuff makes me feel less adrift from the arts which I love so much. I should probably eschew active participation in this world, but because of blogs I don't have to sit on the bench. I can assert my art even to an audience of one. (Me, later.) Tomorrow maybe I'll create pointers to a gallery of old photos that illustrate some of my points. Hmm, what were those points again? Ah, yes. Layers, recognition, art and appropriation.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

So Sue Me

This whole intellectual property thing is interesting, isn't it? (And, really, don't sue me. Please. I can't stand the paper waste lawsuits cause.)

Yesterday I talked about all the ownership problems with my reflection photos. Today, let's talk about an artist poet named Austin Kleon. He makes poems by redacting articles from The New York Times. He has published a book (Harper Perennial) of these poems. It's a fun book and it addresses the ownership of ideas in a couple of ways. First it's clear, of course, that the articles, word for word belong to the NY Times. But redacted to words and letters? Well, they don't really own them, do they? Second, he addresses all the accusations about his 'idea' of selecting words from newspapers for art not being 'original' by talking about similar ideas he found with research. So, go buy Austin's fun little book and enjoy some poems. Make some yourself even. He encourages that, too.

And now I'll steal his idea and talk a little bit about how that felt. Here's my first effort:This came from an NY Times obituary. If you like poems about death (or marriage and children) I would recommend using obits. I learned a couple of things doing this one. First, I was tempted to destroy it by simply blacking out every word. (Sort of the blank page poem equivalent of wadding up the paper and tossing it toward the trash can or deleting your file on the computer.) Second, I learned that although the page was full of words, I didn't want to use most of them. I found the blacking tedious at first and then sort of satisfying.

This is my second effort:
I clipped the crossword from The New York Times Digest that I receive on my computer each day. (I print the puzzle sometimes instead of doing it in the actual paper, which I also receive.)

I had worked the crossword. I wish I printed 'SANE' and 'JOVIAL' a little neater. But so it goes. I didn't get the idea to use the puzzle until after I'd been scribbling the answers in while sitting at a lunch counter eating hash browns and a sausage wrap. I didn't get any ketchup on the paper or that could have been part of the charm. I managed to sign this terse work by selecting my initials, conveniently arranged in yesterday's answer.

Is this art? Did I rip it off from Austin K.? First, yes, it is art. But, I'm thinking not great art. I didn't sense in myself the enthusiasm for the medium and the joy in the result that would make me defend it as my art. I must say I had a great time trying it out, though. You should try it. Or, you know, take a shop window reflection self portrait. It's fun to try stuff others suggest. It's much easier, in this case, to defend Austin's efforts as art. Is this just because I started with his technique? No. I simply haven't selected a technique which gives me the satisfaction of, say, collage or reflection photos. Those techniques are ripped off from practitioners aplenty, too. If you doubt this, type 'shop window reflections' into Google Images or study any modern street photographer. But I find myself expressing something with them that is deeply felt, like art is supposed to be, and unique to me, ditto. I freely admit their reductive nature. All art is reductive. Even the abstract painter uses shapes and colors that recall something else.

So what are we to think about the issues of art vs. not art and originality vs. plagiarism? I say we make what we respond to most deeply, that we look at and buy what moves us, that we listen to ourselves not the critics and, you know, wait to get sued. It's a litigious society, you know.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Exploring Creation

I've been silent in this forum for a while. Sure I've been tweeting along and commenting on facebook things and firing a picture a day into the City Daily Photo mist with my helpers. But Visible Woman is where you are supposed to keep up with me, dear readers. Few though you are, I'm supposed to write here and you are supposed to read it and confirm that I'm still here and still not crazy. Well, still here anyway.

I have written down some writing topics that I've gone over in my head, but at the moment I can't find all of that. Was it in a paper journal? A sticky note? An iPhone note? Maybe the sticky note app on one of these computers?

Well, never mind. I'm just going to start dumping out a few thoughts a day here while looking for my own notes and other inspiration.

One thing I really want to talk about is art. I've been supporting the art of others a lot lately and honing my ability to be the critic. (Read: "I know what I like. So sue me.") I've also been thinking about my own art and taking it more seriously. But, what, you ask is that? What art have you produced?

Well, if I may be so bold, this blog is my thing. Its words and pictures. The neglect I've been giving it is representative of how I think I've been neglecting my own creative juices, subsuming them to others.

Of course, I don't consider myself a great artist or writer. I can't draw or paint. My work is largely the act of appropriation with digital photography and collage. I fully understand that it isn't going up in galleries to be oohed and aahed over by the in crowd. Since anything that might be my visual art is going to begin with some derivative work, some appropriation, we are going to be covering that ground. Of course, I'll be arguing for the side that says everything is appropriated and some people try to hang on to things as theirs alone that are themselves appropriated.

My 'art?' (Maybe we should always use the quotes around it since if the artist isn't sure and confident, and I'm not, then it's certain no one else will be.) Most of it consists of quickly shot reflection pictures. Usually of shop windows, although any extra lens will do. I also dabble in digital collage. There are three ideas I'm exploring. The concept of life in layers, most unlike sharp photo portraits with simple unobtrusive backgrounds. The realization that we recognize other humans (and indeed objects) with the tiniest visual clues and yet have trouble describing people (or things) if they aren't in front of us. The notion that the appropriation that occurs in photography and collage leads to the breach of the intellectual property rights of others.

For example, today's lead-in picture. I have given it a title: "Self-Portrait, Spring 2010." However I haven't used a field of Bluebonnets with me in the middle, smiling at a time release shutter. No. I have shot my reflection in a window with fancy spring clothes that I'd never buy. The clothes were no doubt designed by someone. They are on mannequins designed by someone. In the play of layers in this reflection shot, you have a bit of me and my camera. Enough to recognize me. (At least I could do it even if I didn't remember taking the shot.) The shape of the head and hair. The stance. There are layers here. The reflection of the 'architecture' of the strip center and self storage across the street. The street itself. I chose a shot without a passing car (though I shot several versions with one). No other people are obviously reflected as often happens in these pieces. I didn't do much 'work' on this in the computer. But I sometimes do.

Is it art? Does it explore the idea of Spring? The ideas of transparency and opacity and layers? The idea of recognizing people from small cues? Does it toy with the notion of what is my work, my vision and what belongs to someone else?

Anyway, that's all for today. We will be exploring this further in the days to come unless it is like most of my projects and I run quickly out of steam.