I feel the universal essence of Rania Matar new work,we can see a connection to growing up most of us share .In each of these pictures these young women have created an image of themselves they are willing to share at least at the time the photographs were taken/given.
I should mention these photographs were taken along the east coast of the United States and in the middle east mostly Lebanon .Sometimes it is not easy to figure out which is which, so look at the pictures closley for the details.A book gives the luxury of time to look and see. In this book Rania has made some grouping of rooms as if they are collages and there is a wonderful essay by Anne Wilkes Tucker from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
When I was about 14 and got my first bedroom , much to everyones surprise I painted my walls and most of the furniture black. There were black drapes and many magazine photos with bad painting and drawing created by me . I should say I was not being goth, I was being me at the time daring. That was my thought when looking at these photographs.The subjects seem to be saying this is me for now,but you just wait. To paraphrase myself from another post "Why do we close our eyes to see,to dream,to decide what to become "
Most dictionaries define the word odalisque as a female slave or concubine in a harem.The roots for the word is Turkish and French. I thought of this word while looking at these photographs because of a painting by Ingres. Ingres was an outsider depicting a world he had no access to.
The painting let the viewer, also an outsider see into a private world of luxury tempered with the idea of helplessness and waiting. The seraglio is a place of protection as well as a prison. You sit lay around, wait, you drift into reverie ,you stare within and without. Waiting for something to happen, to be call . To be who you will become, to make your mark, to escape the enclosure of childhood.
Why do you do photo reviews, when the most you can get out of them is a 20 minute conversation ? This question came to mind as I was looking at a new book by Rania Matar called A Girl and Her Room. I met Rania at Fotofest a few years ago and saw the beginning of this project, just a bunch of pictures in a black portfolio and an idea. Now it has grown into a fascinating book,that amazes me with its depth .I never think much of teenage girls way too much energy but looking at them in the cocoons they create to become women is a different story.
Some of these rooms are severe and plain while others are bursting with stuff that become the bits their minds feed off of to make the great transformation into womanhood. The pictures are so detailed that if you look closely you can almost see the parents hand trying to control.The best pictures are the ones where you can feel and see the child making choices and claiming new freedoms. I have decided to do these in 3 series of 5 .The first reflect the girl in the mirror.
Rania will be in Houston tomorrow for a book signing and seminar by Mary Virginia Swanson with Loli Kantor at DoubleTree Hotel, Houston Downtown, 400 Dallas Street, Houston TX
I feel photographic images can be used as language about experience, time, place and memory,These five images of the Warehouse in Hale County Alabama were taken by different artists.The top one by William Christenberry as part of a series done over a period of time. The second photograph is a couple of pages that shows Christenberry's many views of this piece of architecture that he has help to make iconic and a place of pilgrimage. It and the third image were taken by Hai Zhang a photographer born in China who has spent a good deal of time in southern Alabama.The final two images are by Jane Robbins Kerr who was not aware of the Christenberry project was passing by on her way home and stop to make her photograph.The seductive and historical nature of this site has had such an impact on Ms Kerr that many times she has returned and stopped to take a new memory. I would like to thank Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta for the original , Hia Zhang
www.oceanmate.com and Jane Kerrwww.janekerr.com.I am still looking and listening .
"Why do we close our eyes to see, to dream, to imagine paradise." These words came to me while thinking about Keith Carter's new body of photographs.there was such a strong reaction I had to call Keith to ask questions.
Keith Carter and my history with him began in the early nineties,with a photograph that the world would come to know as Fireflies. As a young collector I walked into the Witkin Gallery in New York to see an exhibition by a guy name Keith Carter,whose work I was unfamiliar with. At that time three books had been published. FROM UNCERTAIN TO BLUE :1988 ,THE BLUE MAN :1990 and MOJO : 1992. I bought The Blue Man book because of the intense color of the cover as well as the photographs
The Witkin Gallery's exhibition of images from Mojo was intoxicating. Keith's photographs were defiant to what was being shown in New York at that time.The New York Times in their review mentioned a new southern form of magic realism. I saw the show and wanted it all, many of the images have over time become signature statements about Keith's photographic art.
The next day I went out and put a deposit on Fireflies a decision, of no regrets,it was the most expensive image I had ever bought.
1996 was the year I met Keith Carter. After I spoke about Fireflies I was told he was in New York for AIPAD and had heard about the speech that was part of a panel decision called " The Joy of Collecting ". When you, meet Keith a connection is made instantly that here is a man that enjoys life, enjoys the human experience, enjoys making photographs. He gave me a nickname that I liked,a bond was made.
Over the years I have talked about Fireflies ,but enough of that.I am using the contact image recently printed to open this post. Wanted you to see a little bit about the process the choice
that became one of the most recognize images taken at the end of the last century .
Recently Keith and I were on the phone, being best buds.Me trying to be delicate about the eye surgery and the visual changes in the work. Keith being aggressively uplifting about life from day to day.Keith describes the effects the operation on one of his eyes has on his sight.I understood because I am also suffering from issues of vision that requires treatment.One of the side effect is sudden burst of light,like fireworks.While taking notes abandon I stopped only to listen.
I do not review at best I hope that my words and choice of images allows you to feel and see what I am feeling.If photography as an art form is supposed to be about the immediate the directness of artists and viewer.then that should be all that is needed
When viewing Keith's new images,I felt something was being given to me. A question that always seem to linger in the back of my mind came forth. How do we see? what is the difference between looking and seeing? I sometimes think we fail to see with eyes open and I do not know why.
I had realization about Firefiles a few days ago when I went back to look at it again .I can see how that picture of childhood wonder is connected to Imagined Paradise, Keith Carter's latest body of work.
Looking at Keith Carter new images I immediately thought of a nineteen century French artist named Odilon Redon whose drawings and prints were celebrated by Joris-Karl Huysmans in his book titled, rebours (Against Nature). It is the story of an aesthete. Rebours became a symbolic guide of what an artist with out bounds could achieve.It dictum was live and experience it all Life should be art for art's sake's
I also went back to look at the first photograph created by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 this small almost little known image became a part of that conversation ,as well japanese calligraphy and brush painting.
There is a passionate energy almost like a storm bursting across Keith's new photographs.
Striking scratches, brush strokes and pools of darkness on the paper with maybe the purpose of revealing what can not be seen .Forcing you to look to see,to think about what is paradise,how do we see it?
I asked for one direct quote and was given this, "I am beguiled by the quirkiness and majesty of ordinary people, places, and things."I have know him since 1996 but we really met in in 1995 when I saw Fireflies and fell under its' spell. Keith has moved forward from this quintiseniual image but there is line to his new work that can not be dismiss.
Keith is preparing for a new exhibition to open at McMurtrey Gallery in Houston Texas on March 24 2012
One of the best things about reviewing portfolios is the chance it gives you to see new work and of course meet artists. Usually it is like a cattle call and nerves can be on edge. For me, I find it hard to do 20 minutes of reviews , and then let go.
Which leads me to remind all photographer that don't have them to create a website dedicated for their art. When I reviewed at Serenbe last week it was one of the top things I asked ,where can I see more ? Without at least a functional website,the answer becomes mute.There was an artist at Serenbe named Mark Caceres who bought 20 images taken in Brazil that I was intrigued by,but after going to his website I had to ask if I could use this photo called Changing of the Guard. It seem the perfect image to use as a bridge between my last and my next posting.
I love music, many an early morning or late night has been spent with me wearing headphones and screaming my head off to a variety of music that have words and emotion .I have often thought I could drown in the way music made me feel. Some people open the bible or a self-help book .I turn to my stereo.I love music, I can not sing but then again I can. Music is like breathing some can make art of it. Music defines so many of our remembered moments.T hat is why I am sharing this link to a blog by one of my favorite poster who I met last year at LOOK3, John Edwin Mason , I totally admire his writing and I get it.
The other image attached to this post they is by Odilon-Redon a nineteenth century french artist who created many beautiful and fantastical images, remembered from my youth and they have stayed with me for a very long time .
This past week was a rush . I was down south to speak before a really great crowd first at Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta.Then the next day at a new town called Serenbe also located in Georgia.I was doing my Vivian Maier Tour.I did some portfolio reviews and got a chance to meet some new artists it was so cool. While in Serenbe I had lunch and coffee at The Blue Daisy Cafe .Looking out of the cafe's windows reminded me of the diverse ways artists interpret what seems to be the same image, how mood is conveyed. I like the quiet tension in these photographs.The one with the coke bottle and phone is by Vivian Maier. The other one is by Mario Algaze . I like the soft light and the mystery that appears in both images. It seems that there was a single person at the table and the question that comes to mind are they waiting maybe for a friend or lover . I don't think of cafes as family hangouts.The pictures interest me because of the lines in the background that create the stage for a meeting to take place.I go back and forth between the perfectly placed demitasse and the crumple napkin.
I am trying to post more to this blog so these bits will come every few days