Working the Land… and Curating

2/7/16
In September I began working on an idea for an exhibition to have in February for PhotoTapas – Arizona Photography Month! Generally, I have found with curating I go through phases of meeting people or looking at their work, and naturally I begin drawing connections between ideas and artists, based things I have already been thinking about.

For the past few years, I have been fascinated with the new food movement to grow your own, responsibly source, eat organically, and just plain give a shit about what you put in your body! It is pretty impressive to me that most people (in the US) now care, at least a little more than they did before. You go to other countries where quality and tradition are the most important aspect of food, rather than the emphasis on a bulk of production. Here, that has never been the case – we have no history or ancient traditions, just the aspiration of prosperity.

Lucy for Web

Image by Jill Ison

 

One of the artists who really made me take a closer look at the idea of how each person can change food, is Jill Ison. She is a mother and incredible photographer who I’ve known for a few years now, and she is especially gifted when it comes to photographing her family and in portraiture. Her father purchased a farm several years ago and is invested in growing the best possible food, because it is more to him than a paycheck. Mostly he grows organic oats and ancient grains, which are delicious by the way! The idea of reviving ancient grains, and recovering lost strains of food, is really cool in my nerdy brain. Jill has been visiting her father’s farm regularly and photographing every aspect of the operation, as well as shooting her three beautiful daughters in their day-to-day activities there.

Scott T. Baxter_Working the Land

Image by Scott T. Baxter

Another artist who I have been working with for some time at Art Intersection to make prints, also got me thinking about the history of food, farming, and ranching. His name is Scott T. Baxter and for Arizona’s centennial in 2012, he completed a 10+ year project titled 100 Years 100 Ranchers, in which Scott spent a lot of time alongside ranching families who had been operating in the state for at least 100 years. He made beautiful portraits of them, while also photographing what was happening throughout a typical day in their boots. This project and his experience with it made him a tremendous cowboy photographer, and it sheds light on the incredibly hard-working men and women who still move cattle, and work with the animals we usually only see packaged in the meat section of our supermarkets.

Scott lives and works at an amazing facility called Cattle Track, which was established by Philip C. Curtis, one of the founders of the Phoenix Art Museum. This facility is an artist compound with local businesses, residential units, operating artist studios, and an art gallery, of course. The gallery, which I had visited many times, seemed like the perfect funky place for the show I had brewing.

Ken & Cattle_DeGideo

Image by Gina DeGideo, with original photograph by Marvin Morrison

To flesh out the show, I included the work from my Revisiting the Photographs of Marvin Morrison project, which was an insider’s view of farming life photographed by an actual farmer, shooting literally out in the field. I also invited well-known Western photographer Jay Dusard to show some work from his collection of esteemed images he’s made over the years. In the gallery hangs two gigantic black and white cowboy portraits from Jay, and also a colorful grid of action shots he made while photographing commercially.

Jay Dusard_Working the Land

Image by Jay Dusard

Our exhibition Working the Land: Arizona Farming and Ranching Families is up now through February 14, 2016, with a Closing Reception on Sunday, February 14, from 1 – 4pm. It is free and open to the public! In the end, I feel this is a well-balanced and intimate show, invested in the lives of the people who are still doing the things we might think of as being from the wild wild west and times past.

This exhibition is also part of PhotoTapas: Photography Month in Arizona! To learn more about all of the February events happening around the state in February, visit phototapas.com.

phototapas logo b&w

 

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Muscle Men on Exhibit

7/27/12

Although this side of me is so vastly different from some of my other styles of working, I find collaging to be an interesting method of making work. I see a similarity between styles of collaging and photography. As the artist, you have to deal with what is present, what is tangible; this takes a certain eye to make connections. Collaging, like shooting through a lens and printing, allows for manipulation of the found objects after the fact.

There I sat bored, flipping through the pages of the school newspaper on campus, looking for inspiration. I was mostly interested in the ridiculous cover story featuring a student who draws similarities between himself and Batman. He was posed flexing his muscles in his dark knight get up. I moved along through the paper and found a feature of a student athlete who just placed in some event, also showing off his guns.

I cut the photographs from the newsprint and cyanotyped them. Naturally, I felt the blue of the chemistry would resonate with their boy-ness. I loved the interaction between the two figures, the oddball and the jock, both in their silly poses. I wanted many more, so I set out in search of found pictures.

In the end I’ve created many of these limited edition prints, which are now on stone tiles. Eventually I would like to get the collection to at least 100. The emphasis on this repeating movement and the connection to gender identities are overwhelming when the little men are all together in a large group. My Muscle Men will be on display for the first time in installation form at Art Intersection in Gilbert from August 4-25, 2012. Join me at the opening reception Saturday August 4, from 7-9 pm.

The Memory vs. The Experience

5/27/12

I remember fragments of this day with family building the brick wall in our family’s front yard, 1993, Age 6.

If you are a photographer like me, you must get tired of the monotonous questions, “where is your camera?” at family functions and questions of if you can take pictures of peoples’ babies or weddings or birthday parties (no offense family and friends 🙂 ). Firstly, let me say that I do enjoy looking at old photographs and being able to create and imagine a sense of the world I was too young to remember, or from a time before my existence. Memories are things that are intrinsically tied to visual images and photographs. Perhaps I am an oddball photographer, but it seems to me that the human psyche relies much too heavily on this photographic form for memory recognition.

This cubby made the perfect hiding spot for toys, lemonade stand profits, and other important items throughout my childhood, 1993-2011. This photograph was taken 1 day after the forclosure of my family home.

I know as a photographer, that’s not what I should say. I believe people expect me to say the camera’s image is a holy form of reality, while in fact it can never even be that… reality. Simply, it is a reference to a particular reality; one in which only a mechanical box can interpret. While this “box” can be a magical tool with endless other benefits, I believe it cannot replace the human body/mind experience.

I much so prefer to live in the moment rather than to struggle to capture every detail on film. I aim to feel the breeze on my skin, to create a sensory memory of the place’s smell, and to see through my eye’s lens. There is something much more spiritual and simplistic about this way of life; a unique experience that cannot be confined or recreated to reflect one 2-D perspective.

In the end will we have our memories, or the tangible objects to represent them?

One Man, One Tutu, One Goal

5/24/12

I had the privilege of meeting the world renowned tutu man, Bob Carey and his wonderful wife Linda a couple of weeks ago. I learned about their ambitious goal of publishing a book to promote happiness. Linda is a breast cancer warrior and Bob is a long-time photographer. He began a project focused on an alter-ego of a happy-go-lucky hairy man in a tutu (my own interpretation) while examining issues of body consciousness. His photographs appeal to everyone’s inner-child and you cannot help but to feel joy when viewing them. Aside from their comical oddity, the images feature gorgeous landscapes and wonderful decisive moment shots. The pictures become even more astounding when you realize the vast shots and impeccable timing are controlled by Bob Carey himself via cable release, and are self-portraits.

As Bob tells it, the idea for the project began when Linda shared the amusing photographs with other women as they waited for chemo treatments. It brought a smile to the women’s faces. This prompted Bob to create a book Ballerina filled with the images, which could be in every hospital and cancer treatment center in the country… or even the world!

What was born from this is The Tutu Project! Bob and Linda are raising money to publish the book by selling pre-orders of the books with a print inside, t-shirts, separate prints, and by taking donations. After the book is published on September 1, 2012, the proceeds from the book sales will be put in a foundation that the couple is starting for financial assistance for things like medication and transportation for breast cancer fighters. Help me in supporting this cause, visit TheTutuProject.com for more info.

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!

Angela Ellsworth at Lisa Sette Gallery

12/28/11
Over the weekend I visited Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. This quaint gallery space lies in the heart of the Art District of Scottsdale. As I walked up I immediately saw the bright and colorful images filling the wall space and the odd stand-alone objects viewable through the glass walls enclosing the gallery. The gallery was light and airy. The beautiful off-white aged wood floors complimented the work’s contents nicely. The show on display through December 31, 2011 is the work of contemporary interdisciplinary artist Angela Ellsworth. The exhibition title is they may appear alone, in lines, or in clusters.

Ellsworth is an accomplished artist in the fields of installation, drawing, and performance. Currently she is exploring her cultural and religious background in her work the Plural Wife Project. Ellsworth recreates the emotions and lives of women in her Mormon ancestry by focusing on a series of multimedia pieces revolving around the life of her great, great grandfather’s 9 wives and their experiences. As a child, Ellsworth was raised in the Mormon lifestyle in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her great, grandfather was the 5th prophet and the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and practiced plural marriage. Although the Mormon Church no longer endorses Polygamy, it is rooted in the religion’s history and was a way of life for some members in previous generations.

On display at Lisa Sette Gallery

When I entered the gallery, Ellsworth’s Seer Bonnets and c-prints immediately reminded me of the Warren Jeff’s fiasco made public in 2007 and the chaos surrounding the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints Church. The photographs that hung on the walls featured the repeating image of a woman (Angela Ellsworth) in a light pink dress and bonnet reaching from what appears to be the heavens. She is delivered as a romanticized version of how a typical FLDS plural wife would appear in some specific sects of the religion. Her flowing drapery against the cloudy backdrop seems somewhat ridiculous, yet communicates a dramatic iconic representation of the Virgin Mary. The woman’s shadow on the backdrop enforces the idea that this is unreal. The idea of this set-up prop is again re-enforced on the North gallery wall where Ellsworth backs out of the shot to reveal the foot pedals and podium she stands on for the photograph.

"Seer Bonnet" on display at Lisa Sette Gallery

The most striking visual pieces were the Seer Bonnets generously spaced throughout the room. The 3-dimensional objects were exquisite! Their gorgeous pearl embellishments drew me in for further investigation. Intricate spiral designs and floral patterns adorn each unique headdress. Excessively long pearl-lined straps dangled from the bonnets to the floor. An unexpected twist to the beautiful bonnets, are the sharp silver pins lining the undersides of the garment. The artists used pearl-tipped corsage pins for this result. Lisa Sette Gallery describes Ellsworth’s objectives in these pieces as being intentionally individualized, while unexpected and confronting at the same time, but I see something much deeper. These bonnets evoked a sense of severe pain when I viewed them. For me, the bonnets are a powerful statement of Ellsworth’s view on the immense pain and pressure that would have been put on the wearer’s of these hats, the wives. Perhaps this is also revealing an idea of concealing true torture with pretty clothing.

The method by which Ellsworth creates these unique bonnets exemplifies the domestic lifestyles of the woman she is examining. The headwear is displayed on posts of varying human heights scattered through the space. Their positions were set as they would be worn; only their bills were downward-facing. This arrangement creates a representation of actual people being seen, rather than just floating bonnets in space. The repeating shape and color emphasize similarity and togetherness. Ellsworth also uses the bonnets’ straps to make relationships between pieces. Two bonnets can be seen together. A slightly lower height bonnet is positioned looking upward towards its taller counterpart, while the linen straps are connected to one another. This engagement reminded me of a mother-child interaction, but in the context of the work, this may also serve as a “sister wife” bond. The bonnets are attractive and command the attention of the viewer within the space.

Further back in a small corridor of the gallery a video of the angelic woman from the photographs is played. In slow motion she poses and moves through the space, taking on different personas with each gaze. She subtly emulates different characters and emotions, from godly and strong, to seductive, to scared and lost; all of these identities portrayed in successive moments of film. She appears to be falling as well in some seconds of the looped clip. Here Ellsworth conveys the emotional uncertainty and instability these women must have faced. An odd camera shot moves right past the woman, through the fabric of her shawl, fully zooming onto the painted background. Through all of these emotions, the woman is ultimately looked right past as if invisible. This begins to address issues of gender and power within the religion.

My analysis of this show was in part influenced by some of the other work of Angela Ellsworth which I had only seen small parts of, but most of it was visual. The white walls, bright lights, open spacing, and facial expressions presented in every direction are void of any explainable emotion. An eerie sense of conformity and disillusion is felt in the space. With no artist statement to be found, interpretations are mostly left to the viewer. My conversation with a gallery worker led to the discovery that the color photographs on the walls were stills from a performance piece Ellsworth did this year. He also let me know that another part of the project is still on display at the Phoenix art museum, which I will gladly visit in person as soon as possible.

This work is embedded in the past, but remains relevant. It can relate activities and emotions of the current FLDS wives and their lifestyles to others outside of the faith. Plural marriages and their mystery have been a hot topic for the past few years. With events like the Warren Jeffs trial and popular reality shows like Sister Wives popping up, this work adds as an essential layer to the conversation. People are judgmental of these lifestyles, but are still curious of their dynamics. Angela Ellsworth’s creativity in bringing these stories to life and speaking for the women who can’t is a fascinating way to re-discover her ancestry and to address women’s issues.

For videos of live performances in the Plural Wives Project, please visit Angela Ellsworth’s website: http://aellsworth.com/works/solo_sisterwives.html

Find Lisa Sette’s information to go see the show IN PERSON: http://www.lisasettegallery.com/a-ellsworth.htm

Join me at the Phoenix Art Museum for more on this project: http://www.phxart.org/exhibition/Campbell-Ellsworth.php

Hero of Photography

10/24/11
As a photographer and artist I think it’s important to realize where our roots come from. Bill Jenkin’s Understanding Photographs course at ASU is really great. Its lecture based discussion helps us to realize the unique artistic style that photography brings to the world and how we as the photographers can harness its infinite and distinctive powers of relaying messages.

One man, whom I consider to be a hero of photography, is someone who helped me going to school to study photographic art even a possibility. The godfather of artistic photography, Alfred Stieglitz led an artistic reform based around the novel concept that taking a photograph was more than just simply recording what was blankly in existence. This is still something that a lot of unsuspecting people cannot overcome; the idea that the camera and a picture reveal truth.

Alfred Stieglitz

My position on the subject is more of one that the photograph shows us what is there and what is possible. It can illustrate light or motion too fast or too slow for the human eye to register, to tell of what is true, but maybe not seen by us. Photography is so appealing because people assume that what is shown must be true, must be real because it was not fabricated with paint, but registered with a machine! This is the advantage I am in love with! Forget Photoshop for a moment; forget dodging, burning, and multiple exposures! Sometimes even an interesting angle or vantage point can alter reality and convey the message of the artist. At this point in my work I am so interested in the straight photography that is telling of our times and the human way, without any trickery.

Hats off to the founding father for working so hard to make photography an independent form of expression, and for adding a much needed layer of thinking to the human experience.