Show is Up

The Harvard show of my work is called "American West" and it is up and opens tonight!

Assistant Jillian Tam and I brought the work over to the gallery on Tuesday and with the help from friend John Rizzo, unwrapped it and positioned the work. The Ed Portal's Art and Culture Director Beth Plakidas hung the show.

It looks terrific. This afternoon/evening from 5-7 pm. 

See you there!



Permalink | Posted June 27, 2019

Packed

This just quick: the new show is printed, wrapped and packed. The last three of American West prints was framed yesterday with help from assistant Jillian Tam and then wrapped in foam... thank God for foam! What did we do without it all those years?

Install day is June 25 so there is plenty of time to tweak signage, print a show statement, make labels, etc.

24 in all. 8 big (@ 46 x 31 inches) and 16 small (30 x 23 inches).

My aging Epson printer, a 9900, has been on and off problematic throughout this printing cycle. I made one big print that showed banding and so am now reprinting it. This then needs to go the framer to be mounted before being brought back to the studio to shove it in a frame. I will generally test strip until I am sure I've got a clean image:

The banding was very subtle but I could not allow it to go up and be seen, even though most might not notice. 

Try to complete shows before their due date. This to give yourself a breather to look and think things over, to tweak and refine, to reprint if necessary. I have even edited some final framed prints out just before delivery, as past experience has taught me that I tend to show too much. Lean and mean is better. 

Part of what I stand for as an artist is very high quality, both aesthetically and technically. So a show from me, wherever the venue, needs to represent those values. At this later stage in my career, this is no time to let those concerns slide. 

Hope to see the 27th!

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted June 13, 2019

Some New Work

Martha's Vineyard. South Shore. Early spring 2019. Park car. Gear up. Walk out to beach. Turn left. Go down there a ways. Small stream, running from a spring back behind the dunes on the other side of Moshup Trail across the beach and down to the ocean. Classic.  The fresh water turning orange and gold below its surface. A world in the sand and rocks. Sunlight reflecting in the ripples of the water. Stop and look, for a miracle is taking place in small scale at my feet.

What to do? Shoot it, again and again, and again.

Witness. It's all that is needed. Yes, there is a camera involved and yes, it is me standing there in bare feet reaching out and pointing the lens down, so simple really.

Try it all different ways.

Timeless. Not trendy or current. Not necessary to build that logic, that rational. I don't have to make a case for these as I am just a witness, a conduit to the miracle. These could be made 40 years ago, although God knows photography is almost a different language now. It is that good.

Just pictures. Of course, that's like saying a Mondrian is just lines or Keith Jarrett's solo piano at the Koln Concerts is just notes. Hey, not boasting. I did very little here.

Look: farther back than making "art", farther back in the frame of references like student or professional or accomplished or expert, farther back than motivation or reasoning, farther back than any logic or system you may have, there is this: do you need to make things, to create? Do you have a requirement to make work?  Is that in you? Is making pictures the defining characteristic of your life?

All kinds of categories here. Hobby, pastime, pleasant activity, entertaining, pretty, decorative, passive, intense, driven, compelled, obsessive, aggressive, uncompromising, possessed, willed.

What do you want? Fame, praise, approbation, sales, acknowledgment, acclaim, admiration, a lasting legacy? And are these the kinds of things that motivate you to make art? I've written about this before but do you make your work by calculation or make it because it's in you, part of who you are?

I recognize aspiration, the desire to be something you are not or haven't arrived at yet. I get that. But what is there in you that you haven't found yet? And how are you going about discovering and using your creative self? And watch out: tread lightly here because there are many false prophets, looking to take your money and your heart.

I think you need to know who you are, comfortable in your own skin in order to be an artist. Not to say there isn't torture, angst, doubt, guilt, recrimination, insecurity rising its ugly head from time to time. 

Last, I believe we live in an age and place where art is not revered or respected, it is misunderstood and maligned. At least in this year 2019 in the US of A. More: not paid attention to, not important, not acknowledged. Terrible.

A topic for another time, perhaps.

Be well. 

Next:  the finishing, transporting, hanging of the American West show the 27th and then the 29th, a ten-day trip to shoot Wheat in Washington. Hope you will read along. Should be good. Looking forward to the "same but different" out there, this my 20th trip.

One more:

and one more:

the beautiful walkway to the beach.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard

Permalink | Posted June 9, 2019

Reunited

The second blog I wrote, now seven years ago, concerned some 8 x 10 photographs I had made in 1982 from Mt Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA I lived in Cambridge from 1975 until last year.

Ostensibly about a wall covered in vines, the work has been shown many times over my career. There is only one set. They are 8 x 10 contact prints on Kokak Azo paper, toned with gold chloride. Azo paper is long gone. They are, simply enough, irreplaceable.

In 1982, married and with a new baby (and a new job), my wife and I traveled to her home town of Lugano, CH where she grew up. We stayed with her parents and I gave them a print from the Mt Auburn series as a house present, inscribed "To Isabel and Fernando w/ love, Neal Rantoul, 1982". I never saw the image again. It was not included in any subsequent shows the work was in. Now, 37 years later, it has come back to me, reunited with the ten others to make an eleventh after all these years.

Micaela and I divorced in 1986, her father Fernando died of a brain tumor about ten years after that and Isabel died a few years ago. The work I gave them during those years came back to me recently (see Swiss Portfolio), thanks to my ex-wife and my daughter, Maru.

The post on the blog is: here.

Funny how things happen sometimes, isn't it? The full circle nature of this image being in Europe all these years, sitting in some drawer or on some shelf in a case, insignificant and probably neglected, no ripple of consequence or recognition at all, to be shipped back across the pond to Boston and to me, to be joined with its partners and collaborators, the set incomplete all these years, now made whole. 

Let me place the making of this work in context. This was a breakthrough time for me in terms of my own work. I was immersed in the making of all kinds of photographs but the effect and power of forming bodies of work that would narrate was new and fresh. In many ways, these were the first bodies of work that established that I had my own voice, that shrugged off the effects and influences of graduate study and where I was making my own statements. In this period I made the Nantucket series, the Yountville series, Boats, Mountain Work, Southshore and Fences and Walls (all on the site along the bottom row in the Gallery page). However, though I had begun working in 8 x 10, I was not making series work in this format. For the most part, the concept of making series work in 8 x10 ran counter to my practice. There are really only two using the large camera. The Mt Auburn pictures and another set called "Cambridge" from quite a bit later, in 1994.

Just this week in the studio, we have framed the long-missing image the same as the others as though there was never anything lacking from the set. The series is now complete. This creates a tremendous sense of well being in me. 

Topics: Northeast,Analog

Permalink | Posted June 6, 2019

Boats

I just added a very early series of mine from the 1970's to the site. Called "Boats" the photographs are black and white photographs made in 1978 and 1979 from two marinas: Martha's Vineyard, MA and Berkeley, CA

They are here on the site.

I made the pictures two years before the Nantucket pictures (1981) and as such, they don't have the emphasis on sequencing and narration that later works did.

Made six years after getting my MFA degree from the RI School of Design the prints show a predominant concern with design and have a full tonal range from 2 1/4 inch negatives. I almost always used Kodak's Rapid Selenium toner. This is evident in the Boats prints' neutral to cool blacks. By this time I  had devised a unique system for agitating the film during developing. This resulted in exceptionally smooth tonalities in areas like open sky. The prints are in perfect condition after all these years and are about 12 x 12 inches.

With so many photographs made over so many years, I tend to categorize my own work in a couple of different ways, mostly as A work and B work. The Boats pictures are solidly in the B column, meaning I believe they are important, but not seminal. To my eye, the concern is clear to see. This was a time of continuing development, as I was refining my own approach and deepening my understanding of the quality of light used to make my pictures. The pictures are about quality, with no interest in boats as a subject whatsoever, simply as surfaces to reflect or absorb light from the sun on early morning bright days. 

Made long before those of us in the photo art community thought of editioning prints, the photographs in my studio are the only ones in existence. If you'd like to see them please email me directly: nrantoul@comcast.net

Topics: Black and White,Northeast,West

Permalink | Posted May 31, 2019