Revisiting the Photographs of Marvin Morrison

8/19/13

Cotton Stomper, photograph by Marvin Morrison

Cotton Stomper, photograph by Marvin Morrison

My first solo exhibition and biggest show thus far opened last week at Art Intersection. One year in the making, the show featured 17 prints on the walls from scanned slides, negatives, and prints, with creative writing text below them. A hard cover handmade artist book, and a commemorative platinum/palladium print also sit together in a clamshell box set, on display.

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The photographs are from a local farmer named Marvin Morrison, who passed away in 2007. His son, Howard, came to Art Intersection and to me looking to commission a project and exhibition based on the remaining photos from his father. In an ironic turn of events I found out that in my previous project Arid Zone Utopia I had actually been photographing in some of the exact places Marvin had been, only 60 years later.

When Howard brought the images to me I was struck at the unique stories I felt the images told. For a lifelong farmer who surely would’ve never considered himself a photographer or artist, there were some amazing images! They had a quiet and telling beauty to them. I felt a connection to the intimacy of many of them and decided this could definitely become something great.

I spent the next year gathering stories and memories from Marvin’s sons and wife, June, while learning all of the players in the family dynamic and getting to know the people individually. In doing so I also got to know Marvin, the man I would never meet. In these verbal descriptions of him, being in his lifelong home, and in the revelations of his photographs, I understood who he was.

...It's 5 am on a chilly Fall morning and the dew is just beginning to settle. Father and son plow ahead bailing 100lb packages of cut alfalfa, their machine shooting them out in perfect blocks. The two have been at it since the early morning hours. The son does his work and remains quiet; his shouting wouldn't be heard over the grumbling John Deere engine anyway. He knows his labor will be rewarded by his comrades in the barn later that day. He will rule as king of the Lego brick fort that the gang constructs when he returns with the goods, and it will be glorious...

…It’s 5 am on a chilly Fall morning and the dew is just beginning to settle. Father and son plow ahead bailing 100lb packages of cut alfalfa, their machine shooting them out in perfect blocks. The two have been at it since the early morning hours. The son does his work and remains quiet; his shouting wouldn’t be heard over the grumbling John Deere engine anyway. He knows his labor will be rewarded by his comrades in the barn later that day. He will rule as king of the Lego brick fort that the gang constructs when he returns with the goods, and it will be glorious…

To compliment the edited down images, I created captions based on family memories, and while sometimes channeling Marvin himself and putting myself in his shoes, based on what I’ve learned of him. The lines of text sit just slightly underneath the image and run as an accent to the pale-colored vintage feel of the prints made from his photographs.

The book is perhaps my favorite part of the project. For the past few years I’ve loved book-making and tried to use it in my work when it makes sense to. When looking at Marvin’s photos, I saw a distinct difference between more general farm-life pictures and between family-oriented photos. One of my favorite images is one of all of the women in the family wearing matching nightgowns, obviously homemade gifts from Grandma, and posing together for a picture on Christmas Eve.

Morrison Book-by Gina DeGideo

I knew I had to use these wonderful pictures in some way, which lead me to the reworked family photo album book. I wanted the book to be fun and also to be something that could be displayed in the gallery in a 3-dimensional way, so I chose the accordion style construction. I unified the many different image styles from different eras, from black and white to color, and printed them all digitally with a uniform sepia tonality. I’ve been dying to make an accordion book with handwritten photo captions (like you would see if you turned over an old photograph; yeah, when people still printed them!) on the back for some time now, and felt this was definitely the project to incorporate this into. June was the natural choice to illustrate the captions. Her fabulous cursive scribbles were done in pencil, scanned in, and digitally printed on the backs of the images. I love how this book has become a sort of unknowing collaboration between Marvin’s photos and his wife’s captions.

Morrison Opening 1

In the end, I am extremely happy with the artwork and so glad I had this unique opportunity to create something wonderful from someone else’s found photographs. I can now continue on with more of my personal projects, but I am so thankful for the experience and I’d like to think that Marvin likes it too 😉 .

Morrison Opening 2

Morrison Opening 3

Save the Date… for ART!!!

2/25/12

You’re invited and I hope you can make it to the opening reception on

Tuesday, March 6th from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Gallery 100 in Tempe, AZ

I have definitely been slacking on the blogging lately, but never fear all, I still have a big mouth and a lot to say and explore! The reason is because of my upcoming show CLICK!!! My BFA in Photography show is happening next week. I’m a little stressed, but definitely excited about the culmination of my work for the past year. This project centers around my Utopian Landscape project and I am excited to finally share some of it with the world. The group show will feature a variety of photography and video projects and will not disappoint… see you there!

Happy Birthday Arizona!!!

1/17/12
Arizona is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I was born and raised here and have been exposed to the lay of this land for my entire life. Almost every day I am still in awe of the beauty I find here. It is a spiritual place in which you can be one with nature. I remind myself how lucky I am to be surrounded by pre-historic mountains and gorgeous starry skies.

It is astounding to believe that such a phenomenal place is still only a baby to our country. This year AZ celebrates its centennial anniversary into statehood. In recognition of its 100th birthday, many local artists and galleries are exhibiting Arizona shows. One of which must see shows is Arizona Re-Viewed at Art Intersection in Gilbert.

“Arizona Re-Viewed” at Art Intersection in Gilbert, AZ

This exhibit curated by Carol Panaro-Smith, comes full circle with a variety of Arizona-based art from historical postal productions to stunning contemporary art in the photographic medium. I fully enjoy photographing this unique place myself and truly appreciate work being made about what I consider to be my land. For more information on Arizona Reviewed, visit http://artintersection.com/exhibitions.html.

Gold in the Desert

1/6/12
Update on Leave Nothing, Take Only Gold Hearts

My environmental-ish Gold Hearts project was launched a couple of months ago and although I did not get as much of a response as I had anticipated, it was a great experience and helped me to understand the nature of my target audience now. I learned that the expectation of the viewer is instant gratification; that I must relay the message in seconds, not minutes. Also, I may have underestimated the nature of hikers in the desert to NOT take something found. The old saying does say take ONLY PICTURES, leave nothing behind.

I am thankful to those who did participate. Thanks for making my day and look out for other artistic ambushes in the future!

Utopian Reflections

A few months ago I began a photographic project based around the idea of Utopia and the Utopian living being created in certain neighborhoods near where I live. I‘ve been shooting a lot and have a large pool of photographs. During in-class critiques I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from my peers, but it seems like more questions of me and my intentions are being asked. A lot of suggestions for where other people would like to see my work have been brought up, but I do not want my ideas to be misinterpreted.

Because of this, I’ve been reflecting on my desires for this work a lot lately. I’ve been re-grouping, which is sometimes needed for artists like me who can deviate from the plan. Some blurbs I want to covey: Approaching this place/questioning conformity, under-workings, expectations of the American dream, dream-like/fantasy land, use of space and highly-manicured dead space. I still have so many tangents of this work I want to explore soon, but I need to remember to complete one project at a time. I think now I am back on track for completing this work and I can’t wait to get this work up.

Welcome to Gilbert!

11/14/11

Art Intersection is a wonderful art space new to Gilbert, AZ. This place is packed with goodies: a large beautiful gallery space, full wet lab dark room, digital photo lab, artist lounge, and lecture room. Art Intersection offers bi-weekly workshops on a variety of techniques such as book-making and digital photography, regular artist lectures, and monthly critiques/discussions for community members. There are also summer programs for children to learn a new art-making technique and to explore their own creativity.

As a member of the East Valley community, I realize that there’s a serious lack of community engagement with the arts here. For the past few years it has been a passion of mine to one day open my own art gallery/lounge/café which also gives workshops for local artists to come together and support each other. This is not something I will financially be able to do anytime soon, but I am thrilled that someone else finally also came to this conclusion. This is the reason I am more than happy to be an advocate for Art Intersection. Everyone, especially people who leave East of Phoenix should be supporting this hot spot! Sign up for their newsletter by visiting ArtIntersection.com.