Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Beyond Knitting

Lest you get to believing all I think about day and night is Knitting and Spinning, let me show you some things that have my attention lately.

First up, a photographer named Richard Barnes with a new series out on National Geographic wherein he photographed mummified animals; these were sacred pets of the Egyptian Pharaohs and kings. These are eerie and fascinating at the same time. There's a slide show over on the NG web site worth checking out. Tell me what you think.

Earlier in his career he photographed starlings in Rome, look at this, it's amazing. If you head over to his web site you can see a whole series they are fascinating.

I am always interested in depictions of animals. The taxidermy photos on his website are also compelling. They draw me in but repulse me at the same time. I guess that's what he wanted.

I have the same reaction when I look at Walton Ford's paintings. He had a show at the Brooklyn Museum nearly two years ago and it still resonates with me. I've been a Walton Ford fan since forever, and made sure to see his show at the Paul Kasmin Gallery when it came through.

His paintings are huge, super saturated in color and lurid. They harken back to Audubon, but they also tell the story that lies beneath the surface. The terrible history, the one that no one wants to believe happened. There's an impending doom in Ford's paintings and that's what is so fascinating.

Again, this tension of fascination and repulsion. I love that so much about both these artists. They both straddle that edge; they make art you need to experience with your brain and your gut; the work goes way beyond mere decoration.

Lots of people call themselves artists these days. It's so easy! I'll never forget, back when I was heavy into Photography (you'd never know, would you), I remember a guy rolling his eyes and saying "Everybody calls themselves a photographer these days". Today it's 'artist". I think it debases the true meaning of artist when anyone and everyone can appropriate the title. It's almost offensive. But for nothing else, it certainly forces me to put some effort into discerning who is and who is not an artist. Not that I am the world's leading authority on who is and who is not an artist. But sheesh. Come on, this age of entitlement does not mean you can just call yourself and artist and poof! You are one!

There's a book I saw today in Barnes & Noble, I'd love to have it someday: Bird, by Andrew Zuckerman. Gorgeous photographs of birds. Go have a look at the slide show, it's interactive so be sure to pop it into full screen mode and then tell me what you think. See? Now, it reminded me of Walton Ford and of Audubon, and it reminded me of another book I have in my collection already - Survivors, by James Balog, in which animals on the verge of extinction are photographed against white backdrops.

Oh and did you see the crow photograph? Recent chatter on the subject of crows got me curious, so I ordered up a book called Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Now, when I ordered, I thought it would give me more insight into crow behavior. I've always been a Raptor fan but paid little mind to the Corvids. Well, this book did connect a few dots, but it was more than that. Haupt's story of the crow was a way to weave us into the larger framework of humans, animals and the urban environment. From the crow observations and her stories, Haupt reminds us that we don't need to travel for miles to observe nature. It's all around us.

I still want to learn more about the Crow behavior and there are other books that can show me the way. Okay so the thread here, about art, about photography and about the natural world and the urban environment. Mostly it's about the observing, the seeing, the links to the visceral and to the cerebral. No real conclusions but for my whine about 'artists'. Just more about keeping it real.


Umiko said...

Your comments about self-proclaimed artists is spot on. I know many people who are "artists" and create nothing. It's sad that the term is so over used that it no longer carries any weight!

Umiko said...

Oh, and in my haste to submit my comment I forgot to mention that you may like the art of Liz McGrath.

yahaira said...

I love learning about new (to me) artists. those taxidermy photographs are amazing

and yeah, I'm pretty tired that someone buys a camera and poof they're a photographer! why did I bother with that mfa again? sort of like someone doing the math for a sweater and bam they're a knitwear "designer".

Lyanda said...

Thanks so much for mentioning my book, Crow Planet, on your beautiful blog. I just wanted to mention that I'm also a knitter and spinner. How fun to find such varied, connected interests in one place!