Topic: Profile (21 posts) Page 2 of 5

The Past 1970

So, now that it is really cold out (I am writing this in December in New England) and photographing outside is not so appealing I am printing work shot but unseen from the past year or so, including mining the five week residency in Iceland last summer for more work. You hope a residency will open some creative floodgates and the time in Iceland was major for me. But I also have been going back into my own deep past as a young artist when I was a student  in the early 70's. 

The result will be a few posts over the next month or so but this first one will key on something I noticed as I've been going through this earlier work. It looks different. Not better, but just different. This, of course is due to it being made with film and printed in a darkroom.

I want to reference this with one photograph, a print I found in a stack of my own work, unseen for years. In the midst of a group of 120mm square format mounted prints was a smaller 11 x 14 inch print by Susie Hacker, now Susan Hacker Stang. I don't know about if or when you were a student but we traded a lot in those days. Like someone's work you saw while printing in the lab? Wish you owned something pinned up in the crit session last week? Trade for it. A print for a print. We did it all the time.

We used to do that with Aaron (Siskind) too, one of the teachers in the grad program at RISD. "Hey, Aaron, can we trade prints?" Unbelievably, he'd say yes. This was early enough in his career that he wasn't that famous or sought after yet. That would come later. I would trade too over the years as a teacher. I felt that if a student had the stones to ask me I would usually trade with them. 

At any rate, I came across this print by Susan:

made in 1970 when we were both seniors at RISD. It's clearly 35mm and, if I knew the photographer back then, and where she was shooting I'd be willing to bet it was shot with a SLR,maybe a Nikon, a Canon or a Pentax K1000, or maybe even a range finder Leica as a few of us used them, with Kodak's Tri-X film which was rated at asa 400, and developed in D-76 for about 9 minutes, printed on Dupont Varigam or maybe Agfa's Brovira. It's a very good print, open in the  shadows with that lovely flat-yet-full look good printers get, with deep blacks where they belong below the counter and whites that are luminous without being harsh. We had good teachers in Paul Krot and Harry Callahan and Bert Beaver (yes, his real name) and we learned to print well. The picture pays clear homage to the work of Danny Lyon and Robert Frank in many ways, although Susan's is perhaps a little more empathetic in mood. 

I was able to reach Susan and asked her for permission to publish her photograph. She said yes and sent this along as well:

The story is that this past September I was in New York and found myself photographing on Times Square, where this photograph had been taken back in 1970. It was, I think, a Hebrew National Deli or Diner, something like that, full of chrome stools and tile walls, really classic. Because Times Square is now so built up and built upon, it is hard to picture what among the cluster of new buildings were the actual boundaries of old Times Square. I was trying to locate where this diner had once been and asked two policeman (who had grown up in New York) if they could pinpoint the spot. They remembered the establishment, but couldn't figure out exactly where the location would have been. I then noticed a bit of sidewalk 'architecture', a certain curvature, and realized that I had found the location. Funny thing, it was a building that currently, for whatever reason, had a Marilyn Monroe poster on the outside. Different, but still classic.

The print struck me as a strong advocate of all that is film. Funny that this was the look then as we had no way to compare it to anything else and knew nothing of the impending and momentous change that would be digital. For my own work I was never much of a fan of 35mm. It seemed too small, too restricting in print size, too grainy and too soft. But in the hands of someone like Susan, miracles were made. 

Sitting or standing at a counter, eating lunch in isolation from others doing the same thing, facing a dull stainless steel wall that failed to even reflect you back at yourself but looked like water with small waves rippling above the standing man's left hand. So cool.

Love photography and this use of it. 

Susan has had, and continues to have, a rich career as an artist and educator. You may see her work at: http: Susan Hacker Stang.

Thanks, Susan. I have no idea what you got from me in trade but I can only hope it was this good.

Topics: Past,Black and White,Analog,Profile

Permalink | Posted December 17, 2013

Profile: Jane Tuckerman

As many of you you know, I have written a series of profiles on artists. A few former students, a couple of studio teaching assistants, a colleague or two. All are special but this one is very close for me personally as it is of an almost life-long friend and colleague: Jane Tuckerman. If you don't know her work, hang on as this will take you around the world and back home again.

Jane and I first met in graduate school at the RI School of Design in the 70's. Later we both taught at the NE School of Photography (NESOP)together in Boston, then she was hired to head the program in photography at the Carpenter Center at Harvard University for many years and and asked me to teach there too. After thirteen years at Harvard we both moved on, Jane to teach at the Art Institute of Boston and by this time I had been running the Photo Program at Northeastern for several years.

Jane photographs, paints, makes sculptures and a great deal else.

These are from recent work concerned with rituals as, she says, "trying to better understand the meaning of religious devotion." She has always been interested in ritual, devotion and ceremony in her work.

As these are so long and thin, you might find them easier to see by clicking on them to see them larger.

Jane travels a great deal to make her pictures and she, somewhat like the photographer Linda Connor, seems to always seek to find the significance of a place, to imbue it with a deeper meaning or perhaps more accurately to find it's deeper meaning.

I regard Jane as an unsung hero (or heroine) in that, while she is very active creatively and has explored many paths of expression in her career as an artist, showing, publishing and marketing her work has been, I assume, of secondary importance. What I am trying to say here is that the making is the thing, not the showing or publishing. To someone like Jane, who has a very full personal life as well as a career as a photography teacher, there isn't much other time.

Recognizing that the above images are difficult to see in a blog like this I asked Jane to provide me with some others:

This above comes from Benares in India and is more typical of Jane's earlier work which was in black and white infrared.

Since then, she has, as always, moved on.

To dolls. This involves finding them, purchasing them and photographing them.This one is titled : Charlie with Bullet Hole.

This one: "Dancer". The doll pictures are from about 2008.

This one is titled: "Mary and Bettina".

Jane will retire from teaching soon. She's been at the Art Institute of Boston for many years. I am looking forward to seeing what she does when she isn't so invested in teaching. Jane's work is remarkable, just as she is. In the next few years we have much to look forward to. I can't wait.

Jane's website is here

Topics: Profile

Permalink | Posted December 9, 2013

Iceland: Scott Johnson

( I  wrote much of this profile on Scott when I was still  at Baer in Iceland. I am finishing it now and have been home a little over a week.)

Scott Johnson is the fourth and last Baer resident I will profile while here in Iceland. There are only two months a year when artists are in residence here, June and July.

And there are only five studios so only five residents, meaning ten a year. It is a good number as it means we are a small enough group to become close, share our work and collaborate if we wish. It also means we are easier to transport and feed as we’ve been taken on weekly day trips to surrounding areas by Steinunn, our host, and our meals are provided by a chef, two a day. Tough gig, eh? If you’re thinking of applying, you should, and if you’re not you should spread the word about this most wonderful of residencies to others that would apply. But know this: next year is an “off” year, where Steinunn and her family take a break from inviting the residents into their home for meals and taking care of their needs, and from providing the most glorious of environments for artists to work.

Scott Johnson lives in Colorado with his wife and young son and teaches at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He was just tenured last year and in that system he is eligible for and it is pactically assumed that a new associate professor will take his/her first sabbatical leave after tenure and Scott did just that. He deserved it as tenuring is an exhausting, exhaustive and rigorous process of scrutiny by your colleagues and peers. At a school of as high a caliber as CC, he’s been put through an academic ringer of the first order. Sabbaticals are times to recharge and to get back to the reasons we started to make art in the first place. Pairing his leave from teaching with this residency was brilliant. Scott and I have talked about finding his expressive core here, after some real soul searching and long nights (where it never gets dark!), he has. Scott wears a few hats as an artist: installation seems to be at the forefront, with a strong leaning towards sculpture,video and photography pulling close seconds. He really prefers to just be called an artist.

We all have made slide presentations to each other while here and Scott’s was the last, just a few nights ago. In it, Scott is revealed to be a man working across disciplines to find an expressive foundation in creating two and three dimensional pieces that are an eloquent demonstration of how he thinks. I have learned that his installation art relies upon a trust in the process of letting a piece unfold and evolve as he is making it. How cool is that? And how loaded too. Yes, there have been disasters, but out of the smoking ruins has been born new projects and new ways of seeing things.

At any rate, let me show you some of his work. Keep in mind we are seeing installation art rendered by photography, which, as we well know, can only mimic the real, not depict it:

Inversion 2


The Museum, Kitchner/Waterloo, Ontario

The No Plateau


The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

These large pieces, commisioned by the two museums, are glass and mylar with a thin layer on the bottom that is dried out dessert dirt.

Scott brings an intellectual's rigor and discipline of research to an intuitive process and depends on a multiple of perceptions to arrive at a finished piece. He also counts on things changing and being sensitive to different stimuli as he works, plans, builds and finishes his installation pieces, be they in a museum, in a public space and so on. 

You might assume that all this thinking would result in a person who is hyper sensitive to his/her surroundings, someone who is keyed up and"charged" all the time. Scott's not like that at all, but clearly he works at tuning into places and phenomena that have the potential for becoming something later or can be used to feed into something down the road. To that end he photographs a great deal but not so much to use the photographs he makes as an end product but as a way to grab at three dimensional representation two dimensionally and through 4D in time lapse sequences that show changes in light and temperature.

The Alluvium Room (Detail)


The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Fata Morgana


The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

I don't want to belittle Scott's past accomplishments as they are large and significant. But I have a unique opportunity to show you something new that he has just finished. So please go to his website where his past pieces are fully documented: Scott's Website

       • • •

As I am now writing this after the residencies ended I can show you what Scott made when we were in Iceland. For the first couple of weeks we were there, I would wake up in the middle of the night and look out at the daylight at, say 3 am, to find Scott was outside, photographing something, drawing something, hammering on something. I would get up at 5 to begin my day when Scott was usually just going to bed. It seemed he'd laid claim to a certain place right outside the studios: a concrete slab at the end of an old foundation that looked due north.

and here it is as a crop from another frame shot from the window of my studio:

Looking back, this was not an easy time for him. He wasn't able to settle down to just one thing. This was the period where the idea hadn't jelled yet. There needed to be experiments, false starts, failed ideas. What did he finally arrive at? What did he make? What came of a grinder with a diamond blade and some intense days of measuring, grinding, wearing one grinder out, getting another?

This one above showing his cuts facing north west and with water in them that reflects the light. And here facing due north:

He made a sort of sun clock and compass, an elegant reminder of how time and position could be told in the past. The shadows fill and empty each slot as the sun moves through its path. Every other installation artist that had been a resident at Baer had made pieces that were positive projections into the landscape. Scott made something that lived in a negative space, was a form created as an absence of, in this case, concrete. Beautiful.

He says that what he hopes is that lichen and moss will form in the grooves he's cut. I look forward to seeing future documentation of this, life growing from something cut into stone in the summer 2013.

What a simply elegant piece, a demonstration of functional beauty and form following function in an installation that should serve well over time and will presumably be enhanced by natural forces.

Scott was brought up in ski country in Colorado, west of Denver. He trained as an Olympic skier as a young man. I don't know that I've ever met anyone like that: someone who comes from an upbringing as a competitive athlete to be an artist. But what his background brings to his practice is a life-long relationship with the outdoors and how we relate to landscape and nature. He cares about the history of visual representation of natural forms. Finally, and this is a quote," I am mainly concerned with the way affective experiences in artworks can lead to a mixture of wonder and  critical thinking." Love that, this way he has of analytically looking at our immediate and often everyday surroundings.

Scott at the site:

This is the last of the artist profiles from the time in Iceland at the Baer Art Center. As I am now reengaged in my life at home, and Iceland fades away a little I need to write that being given a residency and the honor of working studio by studio with other artists is about as confirming an experience this artist can have. 

Thank you to Olof, Mahala, Sarah and Scott for taking the time to be interviewed by me. It was, in turn, a pleasure to be a resident with you.

Next up? An announcement of a two night studio viewing event with Panopticon Gallery in September.Stay tuned.

Topics: Profile,Iceland

Permalink | Posted August 13, 2013

Iceland: Ólöf Einarsdóttir

Ólöf Einarsdóttir is a textile artist and the third resident artist working this July at the Baer Art Center in Iceland that I am profiling. Ólöf is from Iceland and lives in Reykjavik.

I spoke with her in her studio at Baer a few days ago, which is right next to mine. I learned that Ólöf studied textiles, tapestry and fabric at the Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts from 1980-1985. By the time she was a second year student she had decided to major in tapestry but had also was very interested in graphic design. I asked her if she knew then that she would be an artist rather than a crafts person and she said yes, emphatically. She knew right away that she wanted to work with fabrics expressively, abstractly and artistically.

Most of Ólöf's work references Iceland and its traditions, culture and history.

By 1988 a few years out of school she began working with horsehair as a way to make her pieces which involved intertwining horse hairs to make flat and later three dimensional pieces. She also used sisal, a natural fiber used to make twine, which she would separate out into individual stands and then reform into her pieces.

This is a highly labor intensive process, requiring patience and a steady hand. Her constructions are vey often very spare in look and yet, on a closer view,  they reveal many layers and are very intricate.

Quite early after school she began to use several forms as a kind of foundation to her work, the most prominent being the triangle:

The pieces are large, perhaps 3 to 4 feet in their longest dimension. Although hung on a wall, they are not, strictly speaking, flat but have some depth.

Most of her work pays homage to Icelandic culture and traditions and is a reflection of the unique character of Iceland, its spare and minimal landscape, but also its turbulent volcanoes and huge glaciers. It is a primal place and her work speaks to that with restraint but also with a quiet power as well.

By this time she had begun showing her works, most often in textile shows in Iceland or in small group shows where she represented the fabric arts along with painters and sculptors.

During this time she combined materials, including horsehair, and made braided bands using an ancient Icelandic technique.

In 1988 Ólöf began making three dimensional pieces that hung from a support above and were displayed so that you could walk around them:

These seem to me like a logical extension of the wall pieces and are enriched by having real form as opposed to being primarily a flat surface. These pieces also have a wonderful quality of the top half sitting on a reflective surface as in water with the bottom half sitting below the surface.

Her intent here was to allow for different views and to engage the viewer in the piece more interactively.  As a logical evolution of her this work, she started working   collaboratively in 2002 with her sister Sigrún Ólöf  Einarsdóttir, a prominent glass artist in Iceland ( Planning their pieces together they made a series of combined flat floor-based structures, wall hangings and free standing forms that were glass that utilized horsehair as well:

This piece aboce is about 4 feet square.

As they continued,  the pieces became less flat, initially geometric 

and then, with some new techniques learned abroad, more organic:

The collaboration continues to this day. In early 2002  the two sisters worked to create a large body of work for an exhibition in Denmark called "Glass Threads"with Sigrún's husband Soren Larsen, who died in 2003. Ólöf continues to work on her own as well and currently has several works on display in France.

Ólöf  at work in her studio this week. 

It has been a real pleasure to work side by side this past month with such an accomplished, disciplined and prolific fabric artist. I have learned a great deal about her practice and Ólöf has shared her love and passion for her country with all of us at Baer as well.  

Ólöf's website is: here.

Topics: Profile,Iceland

Permalink | Posted July 25, 2013

Iceland: Sarah Slavick

Sarah is the second artist I am profiling while at the Baer Art Center in Iceland. Sarah lives in Boston, is American and teaches at the Art Institute of Boston(AIB) at Lesley University. Go here to see her website. Sarah is primarily a painter but draws and makes mixed media pieces as well, particularly making grids out of small wood panels.

Sarah is an accomplished artist with now a long career teaching and exhibiting her work. I had a conversation with her the other day in my studio in Iceland.

In asking her about her early career path as a painter I learned she studied at Wesleyan with a stint abroad in Rome through Tyler, and did her graduate work in painting at Pratt in NYC. She cites early influences as being Van Gogh, abstract expressionists Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, etc. I added that I felt that seeing those artists early in one's career could be a way to understand that there are possibilities and/or careers that could go down a similar path. She agreed and said that those artist's work informed her that there was a far bigger world out there than simple representation and/or figurative work. Sarah was the daughter of a teacher and an American literature professor and  grew up in Portland, Maine and has several sisters who are either full time artists or have been in arts related fields their whole lives. She is married with a teenage son and lives in Jamaica Plain, MA which is a neighborhood of Boston.

Sarah is also a career teacher with stints at Carnegie Mellon, Tyler, Oberlin, Holy Cross and Wellesley. 

We have been making slide presentations of our work while we are here and Sarah presented her work a few nights ago. I'll show you a few pieces from her slide show:We learned that night that, while earlier works usually came from something she read or something going on with her (pregnancy, breast feeding, etc), more recent work over the past several years came from a more intuitive place

with some repetitive themes such as the painting above that uses scorched wooden panels. Because she works on smaller wood pieces that then get assembled on the wall as a larger piece, many of her paintings are quite large, sometimes as much as 8 or 10 feet across.

These are difficult to show here because they are large in reality. They are shocking when projected on a big screen and I can't wait to see some real pieces when I get back home. There is a level of detail and depth to this work that is wonderful as they seem to go back and back and back.

The painting above is shown full size. And below is a detail from that painting:

I was blown away by her work, her work ethic and her quiet force not only as a painter but also as a person. It is an honor to be a resident here in Iceland with her.

Sarah at work on a new painting in her studio at Baer:

Sarah's work is represented in Boston by Ellen Miller Gallery.

Topics: Profile,Iceland

Permalink | Posted July 20, 2013