Duality (Part Three)

Duality is a fine art, self portrait series, about identity, my path to self awareness. Initially created out of the need to express internal conflicts, it has developed into a work dedicated to the interpersonal passage of becoming whole. My desire to produce images that represent this stage of the project, the present, has lead me to make changes while retaining the significance of it’s original intent.

I use photography to help me maintain my personal balance. Self portraits are a way to document and gauge my progress and share it with my viewers. Making art gives me a drive to grow and create, all the while providing stability in my mind. The evolution of the project mirrors the evolution of my self, from manic depression to a stable center.

My process captures real emotions, when I am aware of my present state of mind. I use these significant moments as a foundation for my photographs. I write down my feelings and any related ideas into my journal. While I am processing the reactions I am having, I start to produce my scenarios and shoot my images before the mood flees. By capturing these images in the moment, I am actively working through my consciousness and understanding their value.

The use of film represents the raw nature of the human psyche and the use of double exposures allows me to illustrate the division and re-merging of the ego with the self.  Each image emphasizes a present mental state, not always unified, sometimes unbalanced. As I learn to be conscious of my inner self, this work can be a mindful role model for those whom struggle with their own imbalances.

 

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The Space Between

 

This body of work was created out of the need to express myself and where I am at now. My sadness and grief, over the loss of my friend, overwhelmed me at points. Causing me to wake up and see what I am doing as an artist, a parent and a photographer. I questioned myself in each of these areas. Creating a rift between my past and my present. Since this awakening, I’ve used my time to nurture my relationship with my son and with my art. Living each day in the present, trying very hard not to think about the future or the past.

I made the decision to place my Duality project on hold while I sort out my new direction in life. I continued to shoot myself, but decided it was time to shoot in the present mind frame. My transient life, so very temporary and delicate. Each emotion I have is contradicted by my environment, creating a new space of where I am and where I belong.

When I left Cali, I was dead set on living in New Orleans, near my best friend and in the city I left many years ago. I made the assumption that it was the same and I’d be able to take part in the art community to build a business. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop the memories of my best friend flooding my mind each time I was in the city. So I stopped looking for my place there.

I began creating images based on the instability I was feeling. I wasn’t comfortable in the South, I wasn’t looking forward to living here. I started to create images that illustrated how I felt inside. I felt like I was in between, in transition from one life to another but no longer in either. It was this space that I created in order to make sense of my mind’s ramblings.

These days I’m trying to remember that the moment is more important than the past or the future. So often I get caught up with where I’ve been or trying to get to, I forget to stay consciously in the now. I forget to stop thinking. I forget to breathe. I forget to enjoy the moment, lengthen it for as long as possible.

This work is about the now, this space in my life. I was torn between my West coast life and the South. My mind was never still, always anticipating the future and how I was getting there. The more and more I was around my son, the more I realized I wanted to enjoy the moments we were having. I had to learn to quiet my mind, so that my son could enjoy our time. As a kid, there is only the now. They don’t think too far ahead and he can’t remember much of his short past.

This project has challenged me to shoot photography that represents who I am today. They are self portraits, created with double exposures. I shot images of myself and my environment, then combined them digitally. They express the transient qualities of seeing in between the moments, pausing to breathe. Over the Summer, I plan to become one with my medium format camera in order to continue the project in film.

The images I am presenting are the ones I find most cohesive, in line with my thoughts and each other. They blend together two perspectives, two places in time. The double exposure brings a plasticity that allows the mind to float back and forth in the picture plane. The senses are allowed to absorb the colors and the shapes, distracting the mind from straying away from now. Essentially, the images allow my mind to rest, lengthening the space between.

The progress I have made since I left California is great. Now, I have a group of images that have set the tone for the direction of the work. I have figured out what types of images I am blending and how to shoot for them. I’ve thought about what I want the audience to feel and have found it in the equivocal space.

By using tactile plasticity as a technique, I am creating a particular feeling. By blending images together, I can let the viewer’s mind play around the plane. The mind’s eye can move back and forth, in and out of the images. Seeing them separate and as a whole. The images distract the mind from intruding thoughts. The act of figuring out the two images gives the mind a break. No longer are the thoughts of tomorrow or yesterday clouding the mind. The only thing is the now, whats inside the picture plane. It’s a fun way to play with the eyes and the mind.

Being always in transition is hard. I am always worried about the future and sometimes depressed about the past. I get caught up in preparing myself for the next move, when I needed to just be in the now. I’m slowing down to see what these in between spaces have to offer for personal growth.

For the direction of the project, I am trusting myself and the process of evolution. As I shoot more and with film, I understand the aesthetics may change, but the subject and plasticity won’t. I will continue to shoot daily and create a data base of images to work with. I understand I use the cameras as tools to create art, express my ideas. So I will allow work to evolve and unfold, showing me the way.

Where I am and where I belong

That is a double edged blade in words. I’ve moved across the nation to be with my family and reassess my business and organize my thoughts. It’s been heart wrenching. The city of New Orleans has changed so much. And without my best friend Lance there, it seems pretty pointless. I didn’t realize how much I was depending on him, his friendship… just being alive. I think his death is still one of the hardest things to deal with. I am glad to be home during all this. I wouldn’t be able to do it alone in Cali. At least here I have my family, my son and support. I know Lance is here. Or at least I tell myself that.

These images are a few double exposures I captured last week in New Orleans. You know I’ve been combing them, looking for any sign of Lance. We used to walk these streets every weekend as high school kids. Talking about living together one day, writing down numbers to rentals. That was a lifetime ago. I can’t seem to shake the memories, as clear as yesterday. I hope he’s adjusting and knows how much everyone loves him. Still can’t believe he’s gone. That city is empty without him, like a broken heart.

 

Somewhere In Between


Self portraiture has been a long standing theme in art, not just photography. From Ancient Egypt to modern day’s digital selfie, the self portrait has been a meaningful and shallow way of expressing one’s self. As a youth I recall seeing Van Gogh’s self portrait. I understand it to be a useful way of studying one’s art. Whether it is painting or photography, the self as a subject has a place in historical reference and as a genre of it’s own merit.I had been introduced to Cindy Sherman during my undergrad and enjoyed her film stills, but self portraiture had no depth until I learned about the life and art of Frida Kahlo. It was a self taught painter, with a disability, forced to use her own image in order to express herself… her torment. Her self portraits document her physical and psychological pain as well as serving as a visual journal of her life with Diego Rivera.

I align with Frida because of my own physical and mental disabilities and living with someone whom was manipulative and destructive. I too painted from within, showing the world what I felt, not just what I saw. For me, the significance of Frida’s influence in my early self portraits trumps that of any photographer. I did not use my own image because I wanted to, it was because I had no other option. I was debilitated with depression and agoraphobia, I could not even leave my bed at times. I connected with Frida on mental level, something I have not found elsewhere.

When it comes to influential photographers in my current work, I look to the work of James Welling and Richard Tuschman. While both artist’s work has been recently introduced to me, I can see how their use of color and light move me to create my own personal pieces. Warmth of the light, coolness of shadows, it’s natural. The introspection of their work is encouraging and moving. Reminding me that not all photographs need to be visually appealing to hold meaning.

Not originally creating work as a photographer, James Welling began his art career in drawing and watercolor. He, like Tuschman, have been impacted by Edward Hopper’s reflective work. In his paintings, Hopper depicts ordinary scenes with an isolated figure in deep thought. His use of

light, color and architectural influence define his style and continue to influence artists today. When I first learned to paint, I referenced Hopper’s use of light and shadow.

I consider Welling a well rounded artist. Not limiting himself to one medium, but making an effort to learn about the different formats of art in order to shape his own. I, myself, have studied art in a similar way. Learning not only about photography, but drawing, charcoal, painting, video editing, acting, set building and jewelry making. All of which have contributed to my own craftsmanship.

I look to James Welling as a diverse pioneer of art. Like Man Ray and Andy Warhol, he isn’t afraid to attempt what others shun. He started working with long exposure Polaroids and tested unconventional methods to intensify colors, such as adding heat. There really is a science to it all and I appreciate the initiative to step outside of the set boundaries to create a niche for himself.

Welling explores color, shapes, textures, mediums and light through unorthodox techniques. His work was stated to be a critical evaluation of photography in contemporary art. His untitled Photograms (1988-2014) are meditative and mood altering, simply by color saturation, lines and gradients. I find his work very organic even though they employ geometric shapes and fractals, which are a part of natural geometry. When I perceive my current work, I make use of shapes, lines and color in a similar manner, to evoke moods and narrate emotions.

In Welling’s architectural images, I find solace and reflection. Each empty room of Wyeth, (2010), give thought to the many rooms of my mind, places I’ve been, lives I lived. They reveal a little bit about myself as a viewer, forcing me to contemplate my past. All of Welling’s work seems to be a study, a form of research. Each time, creating a series of images worth sharing, allowing other artists to grow from. They remind me of my own experiments and how much I enjoy the alternative aspects of photography. I enjoy being hands on. If it is too immediate, the gratification is null. I feel I must work for my art, finding new paths of expression, deviating from the norm.

When I think of my own work, I look back before the Academy. I recall the adventurous attitude I had about photography, the thirst for learning. It was refreshing and now that my work has changed, I am feeling this sense of rejuvenation in my art. I have a firm comprehension on why I love photography and art in general. It’s not just the expression of myself, but the adventure in learning, the

investigation of new and old techniques, science and hands on creation. Just exploring inventive experiments and finding new methods of making art, adding to my tool box, it allows me to experience a bit of personal transcendence. I’m stimulated by the research and my mind is engaged, therefore ideas flow and my work evolves.

In contemporary art today, I had the notion that everything had already been done. It was pessimistic of me, I grew weary of my chosen path. I felt turned off by what I was seeing and questioning myself. After coming to the revelation that I do indeed enjoy creating art and being introduced to artists that I had never seen their work before, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to “see” again until I grew past that. I had to get out of my rut and recall why I started making art in the first place. I enjoyed the study of art and creating hands on.

Being able to mirror contemporary culture, it really opened my eyes to what rethinking the familiar meant. It allowed to to be open and receive new ideas, new to me and once I created art and added my experience to it, it became new to the world. No longer did I hold contempt for the contemporary, I embraced it. I am exploring ideas and concepts and questioning the past, expressing the present, so that I may visualize the future. My art is contemporary in the sense that it is expressing today, the present. I am a part of a larger movement, one day it will help define our past.

Part of what makes my work successful is that willingness to try new things, go beyond photography to experiment and bring forth different aspects of the art culture. I use the skills I learned from charcoal drawing to better understand light and darkness, chiaroscuro. While sure I can read about it, I actually learned it hands on, the way master painters learned. I took craftsmanship from my jewelry making class and physical expression from my acting classes. My video editing interests taught me about camera angles and color of light, how both can lead to dramatic changes in the way one sees.

As I learned the technical side of photography, I used myself as a subject. I explored less and worked harder at doing things the right way. I followed the rules and attempted to please my instructors for the sake of a grade. Doing this allowed me to learn many new skills from lighting, to photographic language and marketing myself. Unfortunately it lead me away from my eagerness to learn and experiment. I lost the initial interest of photography, I misplaced it burying it under technique and assignments.

I discovered my interest in psychology and how to communicate with a camera. I took on the project of Duality, exploring the mental side to my photography. I chose to use what I knew as a subject, me and my depression. It was the only way I knew that I could separate my work from the work of other contemporary self portrait artists. Even though many of the methods were the same, compositing and tableau vivant, my work was personal. I learned how to take personal experiences and express them through photography.

Duality eventually became redundant to me, visually and in context. I was creating new images, but nothing was inventive or innovative. I was acting out my life on a constructed stage. I grew tired of seeing myself and telling the same sad story over and over. I became negative and stopped shooting for personal reasons. I only forced myself to shoot for assignments, leaving my work un-exhibited and un-printed outside of the Academy, I fell into a rut. I did not have the enjoyment of photography and stopped considering it as a career.

It wasn’t until my current directed studies class, that I started voicing myself. Previously I tried to do the right thing, or make images according to the Academy’s direction. Trace listened to my venting and read into my posts. She encouraged me to not continue to do what isn’t working. Trace “allowed” me to experiment in order to make changes. These changes started small, making use of color of light as a focal point. I realized that I enjoyed using color to help narrate my images. Then I experimented with changing the aspect of Duality. I took away the one element that had previously defined my work. Like taking off training wheels, I felt liberated and scared.

It was the reconnection with research and experimentation that drove me to really make changes. I abruptly shot an assignment solely for self expression, deviating from the Duality project all together. It was meaningful, if only to me. It was aesthetically pleasing and it helped me navigate my new direction. I was able to visualize a body of work and in put it into terms that were relatable and professional. I had created a new path. I was invigorated, re-energized and loving the medium again.

I am still shooting self portraits, and enjoying the process. I am engaged with my art and considerate of my audience. I am striving for context that is meaningful and content that is aesthetically pleasing. I am active in my art again and exploring the use of medium format film as well as continuing my digital studies. With the introduction of James Welling to my stock of inspiring artists, I am breathing life back into my work.

My latest addition to my thesis, is a reflection of now, I am expressing what I am today. It’s a blend of the constant flux or transition. I seem to be in tune with the optimistic sense of things to come. The use of multiple layers to look like double exposures, replicating my feelings of flux and instability in change. I make use of equivocal spaces to create a tactile plasticity for the viewer to experience that feeling of movement and fluctuation.

My “self” is no longer a clear view of what I look like, but how I feel. It is obscured as if I am unsure of my identity. It allows the viewer to step into the image as the literal subject, allowing them to feel the ambiguous state of being. In conjunction with shapes, color plays a large component to my narrative. It sets the mood whether it is conflicting or harmonious, a combination of colors and shapes will naturally let the viewer navigate through my images, without hesitation.

All of these attributes help define my work as modern. I have a respect for the classics, learned from the Masters and contribute to the contemporary. I am realizing that everything I have learned up till now are allowing me to be a part of today’s modern movement. Blending together the past and the present is what Contemporary Art means to me.

My self portraits are not a part of a trend in contemporary art, like the selfie. My work in self portraits has been established as a reputable genre, a source for inspiration. Like those whom have come before me, I too am becoming a testimonial for self portraiture. I address the question of why with an explanation of changing answers, from necessity and control to the enjoyment of creating autobiographical images to share. My self portraits have been a performance of documenting my psychology to a study of form in nudes. I use myself to create art because it is what I know best.

 

References:
http://jameswelling.net/biography http://jameswelling.net/categories
Themes in Contemporary Art by Gillian Perry, Paul Wood