This image titled, “I’ve Just Seen A Face Series ~ Metropolis (Tape residue on metal)” I was only able to notice and then photograph because of my exposure to a varied and eclectic array of creative artists from many genres. I’m often asked how do I see what I see, or why do I notice something that most wouldn’t pay any attention to? I honestly don’t know, and usually replied that “I just do.” Chalk it up to a uniquely wired brain. When I first went to Art School after some very intense time spent in my high school darkroom, I was often asked what drugs I took to be able to create the images I was making. I replied truthfully “none” and that I just had a very vivid imagination. At that time I was still very influenced by the work of Jerry Uelsmann, and doing very advanced darkroom compositing. Although I went to an “Art School” in name, it was not geared towards the fine arts, so I never formally studied “Art” or “Art History” as many schools do.
My education in “the arts” came from my own interests and curiosity. This all gets to the question of who are your influences? As with many things that spark our interest, one thing leads to other things, and you can soon find your way going from photographers to painters, to sculptors, and even musicians as your view of the world opens wider. It’s said that once a mind is stretched open, it will never go back to its former size and shape, metaphorically speaking.
I’d have to say now, if I had not become visually educated by Swiss artist Paul Klee and his unique way of seeing, I would not have created the “Metropolis” image, let alone even noticed it most likely. It wasn’t that I created the piece to “look like a Klee”, it was simply that having absorbed Klee’s visual language, I was able to notice it first and then photograph it as it intrigued me. With very little and simple processing, the more I looked at the image, both holistically as a head/face, and in the smaller details, I notice in those smaller details elements that remind me of other Klee works, in particular his ink and watercolor works like “The Twittering Machine.”
If you study Klee’s work and get into his often whimsical use of lines and colors, you begin to realize a new language of visual sensibility is forming in you. In fact all of this is exactly like learning a new language someone else is both speaking and making up as they go. I have created many works using photography (and the iPhone in particular) that when I was done, I was surprised how it reminded me of something Klee might have done. I do not intend the work to be like his, but after playing with and exploring my natural creative process, it’s amusing to see how subtle and unconsciously an influence appears in your own work.
Now as I’ve said, one thing leads to another, and so on. I did not discover Paul Klee and his work until after I became aware of Picasso, who was a contemporary, and you can’t be aware of or study Picasso and his work without bumping into Georges Braque and Matisse as well. Picasso and Braque were of course the inventors of Cubism, a whole new “language” in painting they were inventing as they went. In fact they created several languages of Cubism as their creativity demanded they keep taking it further. Picasso often described those times as feeling like he and Braque were artistic mountain climbers tied together as they scaled the Cubist Mountain alone. Braque brought many unique ideas and techniques to the genre, often pushing and inspiring Picasso to greater heights.
It is because Braque was so influential in creating this new language that I titled this piece, “Au Bon Pain ~ Aprés Braque.” Again, I did not set out to create a “Cubist photograph.” I was sitting in an airport lounge, having just finished a lunch courtesy of the Au Bon Pain in the food court and I was bored. So I pulled out my iPhone and photographed the bag my lunch came in, and challenged myself to create “something interesting” from it. It still amazes me what you can create on an iPhone with the apps available! As I was just playing with multiple apps, this image finally emerged, and it reminded me of works of Braque I had seen and assimilated. Just as he and Picasso created great works of Cubist art incorporating bits of newspaper and words and even wall paper patterns in what became known as “Synthetic Cubism”, I used that sublimated language and created something extraordinary from the most ordinary thing.
While Picasso is certainly the more famous of the two artists, we wouldn’t have the incredible body of work in this new language without both of them together. It amazes me when creating my work that I see the visual influence of an artist whose work I’ve admired and studied, and sometimes a direct homage to an artist is a tip of the hat to their influence.
This image, created all on the iPhone and part of my :: FIVE :: gallery is titled “Knives, Forks, And Spoons ~ Picasso’s Cutlery” is an homage to that other Cubist Mountaineer.
Sometimes a mere line, a squiggle, a combination of colors is enough to remind you of another artist’s work. I confess, although I’ve seen this piece by Braque in the past, it wasn’t until researching and writing this post that I noticed the simple lines that make up the eyes I now see in this other image of mine titled,
“I’ve Just Seen A Face (Broken bathroom floor tile) ~Ole Blue Eyes.” Coincidence or was it something in other creative images that I had once seen that has so permeated my psyche in such a way that I’m able to see things in a more unique way? Have I absorbed a language that many years on, subconsciously like Jason Bourne, I can recall it in a way that I didn’t know I could speak it? It’s not mere conscious recall to copy what I’ve seen before, it’s like a way of seeing that is more than if my mind had remained small and uneducated.
Besides Braque, Picasso, Klee and many other great painters, I also studied and learned from great photographers, including Man Ray who created the portrait of Braque above.
Although he preferred to be seen as a great painter in the Surrealist tradition, it’s as a creative and experimental photographer that I learned the most from Man Ray. One photographic technique he used quite often was known as Solarization such as he used to create this self-portrait and his portrait of Braque.
And where it’s appropriate and creatively useful, I too have used solarization, usually in addition to other techniques to create unique, on-of-a-kind portraits.
I have experimented with the technique myself as far back as in high school darkroom days with analog materials when I first became influenced by Man Ray’s work, and use it to this day using digital post-processing techniques. Most of the mobile phone images I currently use the solarization technique on I title with a reference to Man Ray, such as the image above I titled, “Spanish Guitar ~ Played for Man Ray.”
“Café Solar I :: Waiting for Man Ray”
Even a number of my Café images photographed on an iPhone and post-processed with a digital solarization technique pay homage to the artist/photographer who embodied the same insatiable spirit of experimentation and exploring of the medium as I always had since first picking up a camera.