Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Otherworldy Images of Ray Caesar

(Above) Wallflowers © all rights reserved Ray Caesar (click for larger view)
(Above) Wallflowers Study 2 © all rights reserved Ray Caesar (click for larger view)

(Above) Wallflowers Study 3 © all rights reserved Ray Caesar (click for larger view)
(Above) Wallflowers Study 4 © all rights reserved Ray Caesar (click for larger view)
(Above) Wallflowers Study Above © all rights reserved Ray Caesar (click for larger view)

(Above) Sidesaddle © all rights reserved Ray Caesar (click for larger view)
(Above) Mourning Glory © all rights reserved Ray Caesar (click for larger view)
(Above) Harvest © all rights reserved Ray Caesar (click for larger view)
(Above) READ ABOUT RAY’S DIGITAL TECHNIQUE. No, they’re not paintings!
(click for larger view) © all rights reserved Ray Caesar
(Above) Daybreak © all rights reserved Ray Caesar (click for larger view)
(Above) Consort © all rights reserved Ray Caesar (click for larger view)

RAY CAESAR CREATES FANTASTIC, GRIMLY HOPEFUL, AND GRAVELY whimsical images of wizened children who radiate an enigmatic serenity. Sprouting bio-mechanical limbs and appendages, the figures are otherworldly, a melding of sci-fi fantasy, lush landscapes, and Victorian sensibilities. Working for 17 years in the Art and Photography Department of The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto, Ray documented things such as child abuse, surgical reconstruction, psychology and animal research. The artist explains, “I often awake in the middle of the night and realize I have been wandering the hallways and corridors of the giant hospital. It is clear to me that this is the birthplace of all my imagery.” These experiences continually haunt and present themselves in his dreamy images, which draw inspiration from the works of Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, and Paul Cadmus.

Ray’s work is most astonishing in the fact it is all digitally created; most people assume they are looking at paintings due to the seamless blending and “painterly quality” of the work as well as its unique emotional impact. Creating models in a 3D modeling software called Maya, he then wraps them in painted and manipulated texture maps. Each model is set up with an invisible skeleton that allows him to pose each figure in its 3D enviroment. Digital lights and cameras are added with shadows and reflections simulating that of a mysterious and strange “real” world.

The above copy is from the Jonathan Levine Gallery, who represents Ray Caesar. All Caesar images are © of the artist, all rights reserved Ray Caesar.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Polaroid Lovers Unite!

(Above) Image © All rights reserved: Franck: from Polanoid “Shot of the Day: Spray*****
(Above) Image © All rights reserved: uncleslappy38: from Polanoid “Shot of the Day: Rabbit
(Above) Image © All rights reserved: Nicole: from Polanoid “Shot of the Day: In the Air...
(Above) Image © All rights reserved: Primenumber: from Polanoid “Shot of the Day: Garage Window”
(Above) Image © All rights reserved: pola_risiert: from Polanoid: “Snow Harbour”
(Above) Image © All rights reserved: Lazyeye: from Polanoid “Shot of the Day: Bait Shop Owner: Dungeness
(Above) Image © All rights reserved: Nimano: from Polanoid “Shot of the Day: Nimano
(Above) Image © All rights reserved: Pepite: from Polanoid “Shot of the Day: Vitrine
(Above) Image © All rights reserved: John Counts: from Polanoid “Shot of the Day: 4
(Above) Image © All rights reserved: Polatina: from Polanoid “Shot of the Day: “Running Away” Click on any image for larger views.

MOST OF US HAVE SEEN, USED OR HEARD OF THE POLAROID INSTANT photography process, developed by Edwin Land (1909 - 1991). To refresh your memory, the first Polaroid picture was presented to the public in 1947, and was launched to the masses in 1948 (with the Model 95). I personally remember the fantastic SX-70 that came out in 1972. It was that model where the emulsion could be moved and manipulated—creating some outstanding artistic effects.

When I discovered this site a few days ago (www.polanoid.net) I immediately signed on to learn more about what they are doing. Created by four guys from Austria, WM, Doc, Andi and Wongsi—“Polanoid” is the go-to site for polaroid lovers, collectors and artists from all over the world. It is an invaluable resource for artists and collectors. I’ll report on new things from these folks from time to time. If anyone can save the Polaroid genre of photography—these guys will do it.

All of the images shown here are original Polaroid photos from their Web site, created by various photographers from around the world.

And, you can read more on this at this site: click here.

All images posted here are © All Rights Reserved by the individuals listed, members of Polanoid.net and may not be reproduced without prior permission.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ed Reep: A Combat Artist

(Above) Ed Reep: The Morning After
(Above) Ed Reep: Orderly Room at Anzio
(Above) Ed Reep: Soldier Taking a Bath
(Above) Ed Reep: Bombing the Abbey
(Above) Ed Reep: Pack Train
(Above) Ed Reep: We Move Again
(Above) Ed Reep: Soldiers on Patrol
(Above) Ed Reep: Tanks Ready to Roll

I WANT TO TELL YOU A STORY. I WAS BORN IN 1951, SIX YEARS AFTER THE END OF WWII. As a boy in the 1950’s and early 60’s, the Second World War as I knew it was so glamorized, every kid wanted to be a soldier. I grew up watching war movies and TV shows like “Combat,” and spent hours drawing tanks and airplanes on notebook paper. Throughout grade school, I was constantly “playing Army” with my neighborhood buddies Ross and Doug. One of my earliest memories was playing in their basement when we happened to open the door of the old coal bin. There, in plain view, was their father’s dusty M-1 rifle, helmet, ammunition belt, bayonet and foot locker. Their father Joseph, who was wounded in the war, came back to become an outstanding individual of what Tom Brokaw called “the greatest generation.” He is alive today—part of the dwindling number of WWII service men.

Running head on into this “glamorized” idea I had about WWII was another war going on, a dirty little war in a place called Vietnam. By the time I was 13 in 1964, Vietnam was ramping up. By the time I was 18 years of age in 1968, the war was at full tilt. Vietnam raged throughout my teenage years—not to mention the monumental and tragic assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK. Two of my friends in high school were killed there, and another was wounded. The draft was fully in force, and only by staying in school was I able to avoid the service. My naivete about war was ending. Eventually, when the lottery was initiated, I drew a number high enough to avoid the war by the time it finally ended.

I started art school at East Carolina University in 1970, the same year that an artist named Edward A. Reep (b. 1918) arrived as the school’s “artist-in-residence.” He was just 52 years old. Young people at the time were overwhelmingly against the Vietnam war, and long hair, bell bottom jeans, beads and tie-dye T-shirts were common. I had heard somewhere that professor Reep was an important artist, and I was a bit in awe of him. I had also heard something about him being an artist during WWII, but wasn’t sure. What I did know was fact was that Reep was a winner of the Guggenheim—so he was a really big deal for the art school. The work he did after the war was largely abstract—and nothing like his documentary work of the war.

It wasn’t until last year that I learned the extent of what Edward Reep did as an artist/soldier. What I have learned, with the help of the internet, was that my instructor was one of just 7 artists selected by the Department of Defense to paint their war experiences on paper and canvas. Just like war photographers, I learned that Reep was deep into the front lines of the war—at his own request. Carrying his watercolors, paper and brushes, young Reep saw death, fierce and engaging battles and he saw the worst of what war had to offer. Yet he continued to draw and paint.

I read one story recently about how Reep had been with his unit when they took a break late one night to watch a film... a special break for the soldiers on the front lines. The soldiers had dug a hole deep enough to hold about a dozen soldiers, and covered the hole with dark canvas so the light could not to be seen by the enemy. Reep recalled in the interview I read that he “had just left that hole when it took a direct hit by a mortar round. Most, if not all were killed.” Reep was lucky. His painting above, The Morning After, depicts what he saw at first light.

My classes with Reep didn’t begin until 1972, and to the best of my memory, Reep never spoke to my class or me about his wartime experiences. That is the way it is with most soldiers. And by this time in my life at age 21, my childhood idealism was either too tainted by Vietnam, or I was just too youthfully dumb and self-absorbed to ask Reep about his experiences.

My research found this quote by Edward Reep about his wartime experience: “I fought the war more furiously perhaps with my paintbrush than with my weapons. And I always put myself in a position where I could witness or be a part of the fighting. That was my job, I felt.”

I will tell you, Reep was not an easy teacher. He demanded a lot from his students, and he could be absolutely brutal during a critique. I saw many students cry because of his critiques, and he could smell in a second a flimsy excuse for not having an assignment completed on time. In hind sight, 35 years later, I finally believe I know why he was so tough. Reep knew that being an artist is not easy. He knew that it is a lifelong struggle to create something different and worthwhile. He’d seen war, death and horrible things and he didn’t have time for diletanttes or hobbyists. For a man who survived being dug in for months at Anzio Beach and being shelled day and night, he was at East Carolina to teach young people to be professional artists. He taught us to think, to work hard, and to see. Maybe instead of saying his critiques were “brutal” I should have said they were “brutally honest,” absolutely the right thing to do in a life too short. Thinking back to those days, I can’t say that I was ever able to be close to him, or really even liked the man—but as a teacher, he taught me a lot.

Thanks, Mr. Reep.

If you would like to see Ed Reep discuss his war time art, you can watch a short video interview he did with PBS’s Charlie Rose in the year 2000. It’s really good and worth the time.

And Ed Reep wrote a book of his experiences, A Combat Artist in WWII. The publisher was: University Press of Kentucky, c.1987. ISBN: 0813116023

PBS did a wonderful film about combat artists entitled They Drew Fire that is quite worthwhile to order from their Web site. Mr. Reep is interviewed quite a bit— and his war paintings showcased. If you want, you can call and order the DVD at 800-440-2651.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Damned Fine Lampshade

Definitely click any image for a larger view!

WWW.UNICAHOME IS A WONDERFUL ON-LINE STORE FOR DESIGNER furnishings, lighting, all kinds of stuff. I have just started to tap it’s deep resources of products. Last week I stumbled upon this cool, limited edition lampshade that I thought would be cool to share with you. I considered buying it myself, but with a sticker price of $47,650, I decided to wait just a bit... until maybe my next life.

Here is their description:

“The Fall of the Damned” lampshade - limited edition of 40 pieces, by Luc Merx

“This lampshade appears as a hovering mass of ornaments, opulent and bombastic. When viewed more closely it dissolves into single bodies, which are twisted in fear and seem to be frozen in mid-fall. Their rhythmic order becomes slightly perplexing and finally renders the bodies an ornament. Softly, the fleshy parts of the bodies, legs and stomachs reflect the light. Because of the shadows the bodies cast on themselves, only parts of them appear in the foreground. Only fragments of the lit interior of the lamp are distinguishable. The aspects of the lit core change dramatically whenever the observer changes his position. These movements of the observer transform the stiff bodies into dynamic objects. The association with the ‘fall of the damned’ - a metaphor for guilt and punishment - gives the lamp a certain amount of ambivalence: is it a moralistic message, an act of formalism or both? The design of this lamp undermines several taboos imposed on design in the 20th century: it is figurative, ornamental and narrative.”

Color: white
Dimensions: 26”w x 11”h x 25”d

Unica Home has lots of fab stuff and offers over 20,000 modern designer products and furnishings for the home and office including Alessi, Flos, Herman Miller, Kartell, Vitra. Those of you where money is no object, you can read more about how to buy “The Fall of the Damned” lampshade by clicking here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Artwork of Nicolas Lampert

Click any image for larger view.

NICOLAS LAMPERT IS AN INTERDISCIPLINARY ARTIST AND AUTHOR based out of Milwaukee and Chicago. Primarily, he is best known for his collage art - the “machine-animal” series, the “meatscape” series and numerous images that address political and environmental issues.

Over the past 15 years, his collages have been presented in various formats including digital prints (from framed images to fourteen-foot tall images), 16mm animated films, outdoor murals, stencils, silk screens, posters, and gallery installations.

His art work has been included in the museum shows “Becoming Animal” at the MASS MoCA (North Adams, Massachusetts), The Idea of the Animal at the RMIT Gallery in association with the Melbourne International Arts Festival (Melbourne, Australia), and the Maltwood Art Museum (Victoria, BC) and is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Center for the Study of Political Graphics (Los Angeles.)

Collectively, he works with Just Seeds/Visual Resistance Artist Cooperative, the Street Art Workers and the Cut and Paint ‘zine project.

As an author, he was a co-editor for Peace Signs: the Anti-War Movement Illustrated (Gustavo Gili / Edition Olms 2004). Other writings include “Recent Struggles at Haymarket: An Embattled History of Static Monuments and Public Interventions” that was included in Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority (edited by Josh MacPhee and Erik Reuland, AK Press, 2007). Currently, he is working on an extensive book for the New Press that focuses on radical art history in the U.S.

Nicolas Lampert received his B.F.A. from the University of Michigan - School of Art (Ann Arbor) in 1992 where he majored in painting and printmaking. For his graduate studies, he received his M.F.A. in 1995 from the California College of the Arts (formerly C.C.A.C.), majoring in sculpture and drawing.

He teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts.

Learn more about Lampert on his website here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

When Words Matter

(click either image for larger view)
ONE OF THE REASONS SNAPSHOTS ARE SO FASCINATING is that they provide the best, most thorough documentation of our culture and way of life. Imagine this fact. In our past and recent 20th century, most homes in America had a camera at one time or another to record family events. The camera was brought out and used to record birthdays, weddings, babies, new cars, the new house, vacations, parades, all kinds of things—mostly happy events. The camera was also used (though less frequently) to record funerals and cemeteries, but not so often sad family events. Perhaps it was out of respect for privacy and respect that family members or neighbors did not intrude on others grief.

Which is why this snapshot is so important. In terms of history, young men leaving for war is a scene that is quite common—that moment when a young man learns he has been called and has three days to report for duty. But to have that moment captured on camera is ultra rare—that moment of clarity and shock and sadness of the reality of leaving loved ones. In fact, I cannot remember seeing a photo like this and I have looked at hundreds of thousands of snapshots.

This snapshot is WWII vintage, and it’s the words on the back of the picture that make this photograph so rare and special. Indeed, the picture of two lovers in passionate embrace is passionate and strong, but without the story on the verso—this image would not be as important. This photo sold last night for $124.00 by India Paper on eBay (part of Ampersand Vintage). I think the lucky buyer ended up with a really powerful image.

If you have any trouble reading the back of this photograph, I have transcribed it for you here:

“I had just phoned Chas. Rex that his papers had arrived and he had only three days left at home. One of Charleen’s friends had Chas. Rex’s camera and she caught them in their grief. If ever two kids hated to part they were them.”

Makes one wonder how the young man fared in the great war, and whether the lovers ever united again. It’s a beautiful documentary image.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Some Real Beauties

(Above, click for larger view)

Documenting one girl from early childhood through graduation;
Inscribed: To my dearest Aunt Mattie, from Eileen
Circa 1935; Photo Statue Company, NYC
Photograph mounted on board. 4” x 10” each
[this item sold]

(Above, click for larger view)

Circus banner: created by Bob the Signist, Bangor, Maine
Mid-20th Century
69-1/2” x 36”

(Above, click for larger view)

Unknown Carver, possibly African American
Mississippi, circa 1910-1930
This carver had a unique ability to convey both a primitive and highly sophisticated interpretation of human and animal forms. Depicting with great detail specific hand gestures and employing delicate construction methods the carver reflects an imaginative and highly personalized expression of the human spirit.
[this item sold]

(Above, click for larger view)

Strip quilting, flying geese improvisation
Cotton. Red, white, blue, salmon and beige
1st half of the 20th cent, St. Louis, MO
80” x 72”
[this item sold]
(Above, click for larger view)

Willie Freeman
Greer, South Carolina, Circa 1930
Idiosyncratically hand carved and incised oak retaining the original stained and varnished surface. Double Bed, Vanity and Wardrobe
(Bed measures: 57” x 75-1/2”).

(Above, click for larger view)

Painting on Masonite
Butcher shop sign
1936, CT
93” x 42”
[this item sold]

HAVE YOU EVER GONE INTO A PERSON’S HOME, LOFT OR APARTMENT and seen an object so cool and mysterious and special that you end up blabbering something like “where did you GET that? That is SO-o cool!” These are the kind of objects that Andrew Flamm and Michelle Hauser of Odd Fellows Art and Antiques in Augusta, Maine sell. The pair have long been part of the vanguard of antique dealers who are redefining the antiques industry.

Check out their Web site for available objects and look for them at the best antique shows.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Photographer to Note

(Above) A recent piece by Jefferson Hayman.

JEFFERSON HAYMAN IS A RISING STAR IN THE PHOTOGRAPHY WORLD. I was fortunate to catch up with the New York photographer about his work.

1) Hi Jefferson, I really like your work. I am drawn to the way you create your images. They are so dream-like and warm, and there is a certain personality of your art that is uniquely yours. I want to get inside your head and give more people the opportunity to learn about you and your work.
I understand a portfolio of your work was just acquired by MOMA. Tell me what they acquired and how that feels.

A) Thanks John. 21st editions published a book on my NYC series. It’s titled The New City and it features 17 of my photographs printed in platinum. I consider it one of the best renderings of my work on what is also one of my favorite subjects. MOMA acquired it in the summer of 2008 and I am still on cloud nine. I must admit however, that I never like to rest on my laurels – it’s on to the next project for me.

Here is a link to the book: 21st editions.

2) What type of camera and processing techniques do you use?

I use a Leica M7 for most of my work. There is nothing I can say about these wonderful cameras that has not been said before. It is perfect for what I do - easily carried when I prowl the streets of NYC and always able to capture a low light moment for my still life work.

I do all of my own printing and use a variety of darkroom filters to help soften the edges of my work. I also use a toning solution of my own creation that mimics the effects of age and patina so my prints have a warm glow to them.

3) Your work has a beautiful 19th century aesthetic about it—especially your New York photographs. Are you inspired by any 19th century or early 20th century photographers?

A) I am inspired by anything and everything. Being a self taught photographer, I studied the 19th century masters relentlessly when I was just starting out, especially their subtle compositional skills. But to be honest I am just as moved by a Wolfgang Tillman’s image as a Steichen. There is so much talent out there.

4) I see that framing your work is a big part of what you do, and I must say they are beautiful. Tell me more about this process in your work.

A) When I was in art school, I took a job at a frame shop so that I could get discounts on frames and supplies. It did not take long for me to realize the importance and effect a frame has on any work of art.

I use antique frames a lot on my prints, I have been collecting them for years now and they enhance the time capsule like feel of my aesthetic. They also ‘lend’ my black and white prints color as well as making each print a unique statement since every photograph of mine gets its own antique or artist designed frame.

5) You still-life’s are equally as wonderful as you NYC pictures. I especially love your pictures of the envelopes. You have the unique ability to elevate the design of an ordinary object to a whole new level. Do you prefer still-life’s to landscape?

A) Thank you. The envelope series is a good example of my still life work being a visual diary. These are letters that I receive in the mail or occasionally a vintage letter that I purchase in an antique shop. I very much enjoy the process of finding poetry in overlooked, commonplace objects; I must have photographed my coffee cup a hundred times so far.

I don’t prefer still life more than my cityscapes or my figurative work – I enjoy creating visually engaging images in general no matter what the subject. My style unites all of my imagery and allows me to document my life with the results being a cohesive unit. This also allows my work to have a dialogue within itself. A still life image by itself on a wall means one thing, but paired with a cityscape it takes on a new context where the viewer can begin a personal narrative akin to completing the chapters of a book.

6) If you could meet any photographer from the past—who would it be?

A) I am going to substitute the term “artist” for “photographer” and say Andrew Wyeth. Since he passed away recently it has renewed my early interest in his work and he is the artist I am thinking most about these days. His compositional skills are amazing – the way he accomplishes so much with so little and also the way he simply works with what is close to him. I don’t think our time deserved him.

7) What are you working on now Jefferson? Are there any big changes in your work?

A) I am finishing up a new series on NYC and also many new still lives. I plan to start working with the figure again next month as well. A book is in the works and will most likely be available this year if all goes well.

8) Where can collectors buy your work, or get in touch with you?

A) Arcadia Gallery in NYC has a great inventory of my work as does Andrew Ward in Los Angeles and Modernbook Gallery in Palo Alto. Collectors who have questions on my work or who wish to follow my exhibition schedule can email me at: jeffersun@gmail.com

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