Topic: Black and White (92 posts) Page 2 of 19

A Loss

No, I haven't lost a loved one to Covid 19, although I know some of you have, and I am apologetic about citing my loss at this time of such incredible human pain and suffering. So, my apologies at the outset.

My loss is of some work that is leaving the fold of being in my ownership and possession for the past 21 years. This coming Friday Maru and I will take three bodies of work to the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, MA to be added to their permanent collection.

I  am giving the Gallery two selections from larger portfolios: 6 Paradise CA prints 

and 4 aerial Potash Evaporation Pool pictures from Salt Lake, Utah.

Both of those are digital capture and inkjet prints, meaning I can make new prints easily if needed.

But the third group of photographs are something else entirely. They are a loss for I am giving them to the Addison, original analog prints of images I made in 1999 of some unique rock formations and petroglyphs in Bluff, Utah. There are 17 photographs in the set and there are no other prints if this work in existence.

This must be what a painter or sculptor feels when parting with an original piece. I have friends that do this all the time and they cite that along with the loss comes the sensation of being freed from the weight of something made in the past. I hope so as I am having a hard time letting go of these.

I wrote a post about this work a few years ago: 

https://nealrantoul.com/posts/bluff-utah

Why would I want to give away my art? What possible purpose could it serve to let it go, to donate my work to museums? Another way to think about this is what possible reason is there to hang onto it? Better for works of mine to be in a permanent collection in a climate controlled environment than in a flat file case in my studio. Yes, we are speaking of a legacy. In this case mine. 

Why the Addison? I showed my work several times there, the first time  in 1978! Also, there is older work of mine in their collection from 1982, so this is a chance to update what they have. Finally, the Addison Gallery is a wonderful museum with a rich collection and a long history of featuring photography. Right now they have one of the only sets of prints from Robert Franks' "The Americans" on display.

Additionally, there is this. There is freedom in no longer being encumbered with your artistic past. What you did then that is now gone means no baggage in future efforts. And yes, no less important, you have now externalized your work, put it out there in the world along other works from your colleagues and peers, from a community of artists. That feels good to me. No longer will good work be hidden away. And Bluff is good work.

Long ago, I had this thought that when I got old, I would spend much of my time still alive on work I had made already, hoping that museums and collections might be interested in collecting my photographs. That has come to pass, thank goodness. What an honor to find that museums are interested in having my work. Yes, of course, it would be great to find that they would purchase work, but that is not happening, for whatever reason. So be it. Not to say that in the future my work will remain a freebie. But for now, it is fine.

Last thought in this somewhat loaded post. It is not enough to make the work. Yes, that is crucial, but you need to nurture it, to massage it so that it is the best it can be. Then shepherd and manage it to see that it is respected, valued, and placed with an eye to its longevity.

Maybe someday you can go to the Addison and see some of my work from the collection.

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Topics: Black and White,Analog,Southwest

Permalink | Posted February 3, 2021

MT View Estates

Mountain View Estates: what comes to mind? A series of Tyrolian style cottages nestled in a pasture looking over the Swiss Alps, perhaps? Or a gated community of high-end homes with a grand view of the snow-capped Colorado Rockies?

Not at all. Mt View Estates is a housing development sitting on a hill above a gravel pit in White River Junction, Vermont.

I found it in 1991:

It blew me away and became an obsession, as these things do, for about a year. Here are a few more:

Hypothetical: local builder gets word that the old gravel pit up the hill is going on sale. His uncle is on the town planning board so they cut a deal that will allow the builder to buy the land cheap and put houses on it around the perimeter of the actual pit. Rules are bent. There is only a passing discussion about whether some of the new homes might slide into the pit. They both make out like bandits.

Last picture in the series:

A dead bird. 

Prints are about 12 inches square and are analog, printed by me, and archivally processed. They are in A+ condition. There is only one set.

Box where the negatives are stored.

The full series is on the gallery page of the site: Mt View Estates

Wishing you a warm, safe, and excellent holiday. May 2021 bring us all relief from this godawful pandemic. I do believe things will start to improve on January 20th.

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Topics: New England,Northeast,Analog,Black and White

Permalink | Posted December 20, 2020

1978

1978. A very long time ago. 42 years as I write this in 2020. Wow! Funny about time, yes?

Last week I wrote a blog about going through old analog work and throwing away most of it: Cold Wet.

In one of those boxes, I came across some work I haven't seen in over 20 years. 14 x 17 inch black and white unmounted prints from Martha's Vineyard that were in a two-person show I had with my mother in an earlier iteration of the Granary Gallery  on the island. (The full show is now on the site: MV Show 1978)

She and I showed together a few other times, but always in group shows. I remember one show in the 80s that included my two sisters and two brothers-in-law.

But this one in the summer of 1978 was just she and I. My mom was a career painter, moving in and out of making work when she could while bringing up three kids and working. One of the things I learned from her was that change was good. From watercolors to oils to acrylics to woodcuts to cut paper she liked to shake it up. The show we had at the Granary was cut up paper, specifically Color Aid, which were silkscreened color pages you could buy as a kind of book with perhaps a hundred or so beautiful colors. She made landscapes out of them layering the colors to take you through to a horizon and a sky. I wish I had one or two to show you. They were beautiful.

My work in that show? I thought you'd never ask. Black and white (that was all I did until about 2002), square pictures, of things I'd found of interest on the island the year or so before.  Not much cohesion except they were all made on the island.

I don't remember the opening very well but am sure it was primarily friends and family. I was single then and hadn't a kid yet, teaching at New England School of Photography in Boston and would begin that coming fall teaching at Harvard.

The photographs are quiet and contemplative, smart in that they are of things that render well as photographs, juxtaposing visual elements with at times a sense of humor or irony but also real love for what I saw.  My response to seeing them now, so many years later? They hold up all right. These were made a few years after graduate school by a young artist still working to find his voice and shirking off influences. I believe your work is your work. To put down earlier work because now you're " so much better"  denigrates and diminishes rather than simply looks at art from the time in which it was made. Context is all.

This one, the last in the show, needs a little explanation. About 1976 the Fogg Museum at Harvard had a show of some recent photographs by Robert Frank. Rough, blurry and scratched, many of the prints were from Mabou Mines where he spent time with his wife June Leaf. It is where he made several of his films and by then he no longer considered himself a photographer as he'd moved on to making films. One set of pictures in the show were of a post, some gray sky, some land, and the ocean. Minimal and spare.

These from Lines of My Hand, photographs by Robert Frank

He made them in response to getting the news that his daughter Andrea had been killed in a small plane crash in Guatemala. It was her winter coat he placed on the post. I had been moved to tears when I saw his pictures that day at Harvard. When I saw this single pole sitting on the bluff near a lighthouse at the Vineyard I thought of Frank's pictures right away. So I made a picture in tribute and out of respect to him and the tragedy of losing his daughter (Thanks to Michael Hintlian for setting me straight about this).

***

Finally, as I write this in November 2020, I am beginning work on a new show of my work to be at the Martha's Vineyard Museum in late January 2021. These will be color aerials, some made in 2012 and 2013 and some made in 2019. The work I donated to the Museum this past fall will also be included in the show. More details to follow soon. 

So there are three generations of my work from the island: the show in 1978, the work I donated this fall to the Museum shown in 1995 and this new show coming in January. How cool is that?

Topics: New England,Martha's Vineyard,Black and White,Analog

Permalink | Posted November 19, 2020

The Show Addendum

In The Show 1,2,3,4, I gave some perspective on photographic prints I was donating to the Martha's Vineyard Museum from a one-man exhibition I'd had on the island in 1995.

In this, the addendum, I'll share with you the handing over of the 21 prints to the Museum. 

On a bright, sunny, and very windy day in early October 2020 my daughter Maru and I arrived at the scheduled time, prints in hand, and masks on. As it turns out the Museum is open but restricting the number of visitors.

Photos are by Maru:

We put the two portfolios out on white tables and went through the prints one by one with Bonnie Stacy, the Museum's curator.

Taking masks off for a second, we held one up I took of Keith's Field in 1993.

We then went upstairs to the library for me to sign a donor's form.

This gave me a chance to ask some questions of Bonnie: how the prints would be stored, whether they would show them, and so on. She showed us a couple of galleries that would be suitable for my work and said they were considering some ideas about putting them on display.

I then signed the "Deed of Gift "form ceding the prints to the Museum, giving permission to use them in any way they wished, including selling them, but I retain the copyright. This simply means that while they now owned the original prints from the show 25 years ago I retained the rights to use and own the imagery.

Then we left. Thanks to Maru for her help throughout this project

So that's the end of the story of donating prints I made 25 years ago to a museum on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.  

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Topics: New England,Martha's Vineyard,Analog,Black and White

Permalink | Posted October 8, 2020

The Show 4

This post will conclude the series of articles about a show of my photographs at the Martha's Vineyard Museum in August 1995.

I applied for and was granted a sabbatical leave for the fall semester in 1994 and chose to spend it on the island. I rented a place just a few miles from the family   home,  choosing independence over staying with my mother. It was a good decision. Up early each day, out shooting all day, back as the light died, unloading and loading film holders when it was dark, only to repeat the next day. I was in heaven. One of the lessons I learned that fall was that if your source for making pictures is close by you can get more done.

By this time I had finished the VOLF project and was photographing on my own, knowing the show was coming up the next summer. That fall I probably shot 500 or 600 sheets of 8 x 10 film.

All that work edited down to 21 prints for the show in 1995. No way is that representative of what I did over the years 1988-1994. Just the very tip.

Finally, after the show I worked over the next couple of years to process and print my best images of the island from that period with the intention of getting the work published into a monograph, to no avail. One publisher said that the book was of "regional interest-only" and felt there would be too small a readership for a national press. Another didn't buy the tie-in with Atget's work of Paris in the early twentieth century. It was never clear to me that he'd ever heard of Atget's work.

Now the 21 prints from the show will go to the MV Museum for their archive. I have hopes for stewardship that will care for them, that will respect the work and my intention to make photographs that showed the island at a certain time in its history and development. I also hope they will store them well. I will mourn the loss of this work from my collection but, as we age, it is incumbent on us to part with work that can have a life under others' care.

Thanks for riding along on this journey about my work shown on the island of Martha's Vineyard in 1995.

Any comments welcome: Neal's email

Topics: Black and White,Analog,Northeast

Permalink | Posted October 1, 2020