Sincerely, Carol McCusker PhD
(reprinted with kind permission)
First, Andrea Modica. She "has been photographing a group of children in her rural town in upstate New York. It is here, through a young girl named Barbara and her extended family, that Modica creates her work. Transforming reality into fantasy, Modica creates narratives that seem to have no beginning or end, yet present endless scenarios.
In a fictitious town called Treadwell, Barbara and her friends pose for the photographer, who creates images with an 8 x 10" view camera. Like Faulkner's Jefferson County or Cheever's Shady Hill, Modica's Treadwell is a place where anything is possible. Through intense collaboration and trust, events unfold before our eyes, questioning our sense of reality." (from www.edelmangallery.com)Then there is the late James Fee (www.jamesfee.com) whose work is more varied, from celebrity portraits to fine art photography to photojournalism. Like McCusker's letter says, I couldn't really put my finger on what it was about his photographs, that thing, that thing which ties them together, makes them stand out, makes them so good. But his work definitely looks nothing like Modica's work. And there is, in all his varied portfolios, that thing McCusker describes as "something deeply personal, heavily thought through, years in the making, and content-driven" throughout. Then, Tuesday, my brother and I went to the MOMA to see the Avedon exhibit. And again, through all the various photographs of people, celebrities staring into space, politicians posing, models flipping their hair about, carnies, drifters and other folks looking at you big as life out of the flat surface, I could see an underlying aesthetic driving each piece, a particular way of seeing the world and of trying to convey that world to the viewer. His work is striking, exuberant, a world idealized, as in this marvelous photograph...but also utterly real, especially his later work, with every detail we're used to seeing airbrushed away right there for us to stare at.
Looking at so many photographs, and paintings (by Georgia O'Keefe) I also, all the while, kept thinking of my own work. Do I have an underlying aesthetic? I...think so. God, I hope so. But what? I mean, I feel the urge to paint something so I go ahead and paint it. Or I see something compelling before me and I go ahead and snap a photo. As much as I like to over think things, as much as I love the sound of words, I usually avoid analyzing the why's and how come's behind each of my pieces because this is where I go to to avoid thinking. It's my meditation. Oh, I may in a day dreamy sort to way think things like, This painting by C. R. Cruz is a brilliant and touching allegory of the human experience, etc. etc. some fawning future art critic will write. Thoughts that keep me motivated. Yes, I have daydreams of grandeur. Oh, like you don't!
deeply personal, heavily thought through...
I've written many an artists statement before. But they're always total crap. Gobblydygook about inspiration, influence, a love of color and shape, et cetera. Most artist statements I've read, except the Modica one above, make no sense. And when taken into consideration alongside the work I usually think, so what? Usually because the work itself doesn't interest me. But, the Modica statement, that actually does makes sense. It illuminates the work and makes me think, oh! I see!
And, thinking of McCusker's advice, I can also see the value of having a clear artistic aesthetic driving my work. Because otherwise, as she sensed in my photography portfolio, I'm just making a haphazard collection of nice pictures.
Some things to think about...
To get me started...the words self reflective, moody...narrative...a telling expression, a dramatic moment. Character studies. The colors red, gold and cerulean blue. Children, for all the cliche'd reasons which are still really good reasons. Wrinkly faces and misshapen bodies because I can imagine the heroic lives they might or might not have lead. Cupcakes. Churches, metro stations, food, store windows and museums. Hmmm, there is an underlying thread there somewhere...