Layers

The self and the ego

Who I am

Who I was

Who I will be

where I am

Where I was

Where I am going

The self and the ego are entwined by memory and illusion. The memory of who you think you used to be, the memory of who you want to be. The illusion of who you used to be is based on the memories you hold onto, which are a mix of pop culture, photographs and stories people tell. The person you project is often the illusion of the person you wish to be. But it’s not usually the same person when you peel away all influences, layer after layer. The core. The self.

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Tapping into the human condition

I spent the last 10 years hiding away from people. I am awkward in social situations. I spent so much time alone thinking, that I forgot what it was like to connect to people. I may have even lost my empathy and compassion for people outside of my family. I’m not sure what happened to make me disconnect.

 

Now, all I think of is how I am going to turn my camera around and capture all the things about being human that I’ve been missing. How can I tap into humanity, connect with people again, on a whole new level.

All of these feelings I have are essential for empathizing with others. It’s basic emotions that bring people together… longing, love, pain.

If I had never experienced pain, would I have empathy? I f I had never been alone, would I know what it’s like to long? How can I use my past experiences to connect to people genuinely? How can I create a portrait of a human condition with the tools I have been given?

Then I wonder if all of this is out of some selfish need to feel relevant in the world, satisfying the unconscious.

What is really important to me now?

My son, my parents, my friends and their families. Teaching my son culture and humility, humbly. Helping people in need, not with money, with kindness and my two hands. Being genuine, real and not living through my ego. Building bridges and relationships with people. Being kind and having good intents..showing my son how to be transparent with his actions.

How can I use my own life experiences to bring awareness to causes that I hold close to my heart?

After speaking with Ed Kashi, something clicked. Was it his words or his tone? I think it was his genuine desire to understand my situation as we talked. He had questions to better understand me and where I was coming from. Then, he shut his mouth, and allowed me to speak. He listened. It was a moment in my world where I felt like someone was hearing my voice, I longed to be more like him… more human.

Finding my voice in photography has been a journey. Chasing my dreams, one after another… never giving up completely. I have had a very diverse path in getting here, and it’s taught me a lot about life, myself and relationships. I am learning to have the courage to let go and allow myself to enjoy the small moments along the way.

Art Making

I’ve been making more art these days. I have always enjoyed the hands on process. Finally I’m falling into my own niche with my photography. I used to think I wanted to be a commercial photographer, but in reality, that ship has sailed. Perhaps later in my career when I am a little more developed. For now, the photograph serves as a means to make art.

I decided to allow my creative process to develop on it’s own, stop forcing myself to do things I don’t really care for. Since I love to build things with my hands, I have been using mix media and collage work to share my inner workings, what I find beautiful. I feel like I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and one thing is leading to another, no need to look up and try to figure out where I am.

In college, we called this the creative spiral. Every so often I would look into it, but never really dove in head first. Maybe dangled my legs over occasionally. Worried about landing on my feet. I have come to learn, it’s easier to just let go. After all, it is what it is. And it’s much easier this way.

Right now I’ve become enamored with this translucent pearly gold. I’ve always enjoyed gold leafing, but now I am playing with different mediums. The layering over a deep crimson red has pushed me down a different path, somewhere I’ve not been before. It’s rather intoxicating. The way the gold shimmers, the pearl plays on the refraction of light… bouncing around in the depth of the medium. It’s a beautiful thing up close.

All of these iridescent colors mixed with golds remind me of the Art Deco movement,  luxurious colors and materials, modern clean lines. I have always loved this era, the rebellion that came right before it. Pulling away from the garish, over stated highly ornamental designs of the past. Simplifying and reforming the perception of splendor and opulence.

Here’s something I’m working on, something that makes me smile and inspires me to continue my course in this sumptuous direction. It is reminiscent of religious art, the gold and as Ashley staed, the downward gaze. It really is a encouraging piece. It makes me impatient for my supplies to come in. Ahhh, but the wait is good for me. It’s a little torturing but gives me time to put my thoughts together.

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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

Longing to Be Me Again

Longing

Longing to be me again is something I often catch myself doing. Reminiscing the days when I was social, when I wore make up and cared about what people thought. Sometimes it’s nice to just dress up and be complimented. These days there is more quiet in my diet and less chatter. I introvert some times of the year, reflect on my growth and think about where I want to go from here.

Duality has taken me to many places in and out of my mind. I always end up back where I start. Some call it full circle, I call it refueling. Gathering my-selves and estimating our worth. I’ve learned so much and feel like I’m just beginning. Not starting over, just moving in a different direction. Changing my sway, my swagger… but still to a beat. The music never stops for me, it just changes tempo.

 

Duality: A Visual Essay

Here’s a mini essay about my Duality project. It’s been a challenge and a blessing. Through my project, I have done so much inter-personal work. It’s been an eye opener about myself and people around me. You really get to understand the human psyche and see through peoples actions and intentions. It’s left me feeling raw and humbled.

du·al·i·ty : the quality or state of having two parts

du·al·i·ty

noun \dü-ˈa-ləә-tē also dyü-\ : the quality or state of having two parts

Duality is my long term, photography project falling under the fine art genre. The intent is to create a series of self portraits, that speak to the viewer both visually and mentally. I intend the images to be reflective and reveal meaning behind the evolution of the “Self”.

     “I am conscious of myself and become myself only while revealing myself for another, through another, and with the help of another…”

~Bakhtin

In my own journey of becoming a self aware subject, I look into the works of 20th century Russian literary theorist, Mikhail Bakhtin. Bakhtin’s theory on self realization through the use of a another is key to giving meaning to ourselves and our art. As I produce my duality self identifying images, I have gotten to know myself better. Through playing multiple roles of myself, I can explore the meaning of this quote.

I hope you enjoy my images as much as I enjoyed the journey that brought them to life.

du·al·i·ty noun dü-ˈa-lə-tē : the quality or state of having two parts

 
Duality is my long term personal project falling under the fine art genre. The intent is to create an image to make the viewer reflect, experiential. These images are self portraits depicting my internal struggle, scenes from my everyday life. I’ve found a way to bring light to a dark subject with my love for cinema and surrealism. In this series of images, I’ve created real scenarios with a touch of duality magic, showcasing both sides to my personality.

She’s Like Day & Night

Day & Night

 

This is my second image from the newest Duality series. There’s a lot more going on in this scene, I’ve illustrated my own day and night habits.

I try to think logically in the mornings, it’s hard to wake up but I know I need to get my work done early before my distractions start chiming in. This side of my brain has loads of common sense and tends to be straight forward, well organized and rational. I tend to be a little more OCD in this mindset. It’s how things get done around my house. This is the stress inducing Melody, she speaks her mind and isn’t afraid of offending anyone.

While the night time is for my right brained activities. I stay up very late and work creating until I’m exhausted and pass out. I research projects endlessly, brainstorming my ideas for the week. I work without concern for organization or logical thinking. It’s all imagination and vision when I am in this mode. I tend to be more emotional when I am creative. I reminisce and use my past experiences to drive my work. This Melody is more prone to stay inside for a week while she creates her newest masterpiece. She doesn’t care for the general public and finds the inside of her home and her garden a bubble from the rest of the world.

For this image I was inspired by Dave Hill. His composites have been pushing me to try harder. Occasionally I look back on the photographers that have influenced me over the years, and I find something new. Some new technique I never noticed before… it was confidence this time. The confidence to create an image that I am not experienced at. This was my first transitional composite. Going from day to night in one frame is exciting for me. It shows me how far I’ve come in the last year. My concept is evolving and all I have to do is work hard and maintain this balance.

Thank you for checking out my progress. It’s going to be a fantastic fall, stay tuned for another installment of Duality by Melody.

Duality Film Still #1

 

Split Personality

I’m just an average man, with an average life
I work from nine to five; hey hell, I pay the price
All I want is to be left alone in my average home
But why do I always feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone

Rockwell is all that is going through my head as I edit this image. Rad. I am working on the Duality series again. I figure it needs a little closure or a end of some sort. Since I go through life like a movie still, frame to frame, I thought it was on;y right to shoot these in wide screen format. Duality as a movie…. treatment and more stills to come!

Sneek Peek

 

la sucia (dos)

 

I’ve been working on a bedtime project for the past two months. This is a peek at part of it. The other part is a collaboration from a fellow photographer. He shoots bright airy nudes and I’m keeping it on the dark side. Once we get our location on lock, I’ll give up more. Anyways, here’s a peek bitches.

Newsflash

a little good news

While I was roaming the aisles of nerds and celebs for Comic Con San Diego, 2013….. I came across a newspaper. Inside is a picture of a girl, taking a picture of my work at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. It totally made my day, week and just made Comic Con actually cool. I’m always surprised when others relate to my work. It’s actually pretty scary. The work is titled, “Searching”, it’s a really dark scene. About searching for someone after they have left us for good. Some days the search never ends in my little hollow heart. I love you Makai and still find myself searching for you out of the corners of my eye.

Nude Collection

Hall_M_01 Hall_M_02 Hall_M_03 Hall_M_04 Hall_M_05 Hall_M_06

I am a firm believer in learning as many new tools as possible, in order to convey my work. During the last few months, I was exposed to a handful of new printing and experimental processes that have helped find voices for my photography. I studied painting, charcoal and all aspects of photography, in order to be a well rounded artist. It has given me new avenues to explore and sheds new light on old work.

In this collection of images, I have taken my digital study of the nude and created one of a kind pieces of tangible art. These nudes, taken in ambient light, are traditionally printed, using Van Dyke Brown chemistry and the sun. Once they have dried, I infuse Batik wax and a warming pigment with heat, also known as encaustic. This makes the paper translucent and the ink feels sealed and protected.

My goal is to provide original mix media art in a classical style, with a classic subject. Once matted and framed, they look as if they were made a hundred years ago. Each one has it’s own subtle differences, brush strokes and blemishes. They all smell like the batik wax, “spices from the New World”, is where my mind takes me. I think the scent and character of the flaws adds to the overall feel of the presentation. Old world techniques mixed with modern ideas and tools.

The Sea, She Moves Me

poop pool 3 1200 w children's pool 5 1200  14_4_Hall  
The Sea is one of the most beautiful elements in nature, something to be respected and preserved. I grew up near the Ocean and it has been a part of my earliest memories from childhood. It scares me, soothes me and sings me to sleep. It can be strong and nurturing like a mother or cold and lonely as the night. The Sea is where we got our start and it is where my obsession lies.

In this collection of digital images, I capture the movement of the sea after the sun goes down. During these magical moments, the long exposures allow the water to change into a mist.  The effect of the misting water around a stable item like a cliff or pier, the viewer can see the magic and emotionally relate to the environment. As they journey through my images, the viewer can see how moods are affected by the environment and weather.

My goal is to show the power and beauty of the ocean, after hours. Most people leave after sunset and don’t get to witness the beauty after dark. The ocean and reminiscent light leftover from the day, put on a magical show that can only be captured in a camera.

West Coastin’

Crystal Pier Right Crystal Pier Left Coronado Bridge

 

Hi Ya’ll! I’ve been working on a water obsession of mine and am coming up with some keepers! I love the movement of time captured in a single frame. I’ve been visiting local piers in the San Diego area. Here is Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach. The last one is of the Coronado bridge, all I can think of when I drive over it… Ron Burgundy. You stay classy San Diego.

In The Pink

Last year I was flipping through Flickr and came across some of Brooke Shaden’s images. There’s one with red fabric and in the tags, she wrote “a square piece of fabric”, or something like that. Instantly I wanted to know how she did it. So instead of researching the web like a smart person, I just grabbed one of my prop fabrics, some clamps and ran outside. I got this on a ladder and on my first set of shooting. The amount of images is so many layer, but it was a great learning experience. I got so involved in the post processing and kind of pushed myself out of my normal quick edits.

I have always been wanting to shoot a Bouguereau inspired image. I love the flowing materials and softness in his skin tones. I think it’s a personal project I will have to maintain after graduation.

Figure-scaping

legs

This image is another in the series on figure-scaping. It is all relative in the theory of Equivalents. Mr. Minor White, besides having a great name, had great ideas.

*** This image was taken by Melody Hall and is copyright.

Gunshots on Laguna & Eddy 2007

With last night’s shooting fresh on my mind, I dig into my archives.

The first time I heard someone screaming at me, “Get Down!”, I lived in San Francisco off Laguna & Eddy St. I recall 5 shots then, no victims this time. I was there for the aftermath, as usual. But not for long, the shots were related to gang violence and not a place for me. These are a few of my shots from the “do not cross” tape, provided by SFPD.

*** All images have been taken by Melody Hall and are copyright.

KPBS Art Blog – Culture Lust

BFA_2C_Nude#7_MelodyHall
My image nude #7, is gracing the pages of Culture Lust. I shot this is a series simply labeled “nude”. “>www.MelodyInk.com.

You can view the KPBS blog here.

*** All images have been taken by Melody Hall and are copyright.

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