Monday, February 2

Wooden Indian • Wooden Future

For over a century he's stood in front of the original Rhinebeck Smokeshop. So I took his picture. It felt mandatory. So did the shop window's wooden frame. Okay, so there we have it. Form, shape, texture and... and.... Meaning?  Now there's the rub. I notice that images demand to be made. 
Have noticed as you review your day's catch that there are dozens of inexplicable things that drew your attention but you've no memory of what lured your lens? Some will sport a magical palette but no subject. Others have strong form, strict framing and yet... no concept... no story arc... no meaning quivering to be released.

I envision every image that I work through to an end... Envision them as prints. Ideas or feelings to be hung and lived with. Stories to be expanded each time my eye returns to them. Of course there's no room for all of those framed feelings and narratives. So, what to do with them? A book perhaps? Or just slid into folders that gather digital dust inside of cavernous HDs. Is it miser's pleasure we get from running our fingers over the value, pulling out this or that to enjoy? I mean is it like the miser who gets kicks as handfuls of gems drop from his fists under a single light in a darkened vault-room?

When Degas finished a watercolor, what then? Did he care about anything that carried the punctuation ... 'finished'? What about Whistler? Or Hopper? For some years I did daily TV commentaries. We recorded a week's worth all at once. I never watched them when they aired. Why? Because that guy up there on the screen could affect my life. By the time of airing, there was no further opportunity to edit, change, or fix the product. 

Viewer mail pointed out any errors... So in a lot of ways I was trained to release my creation into the wild, and go off on another hunt. The process became the challenge, even more than the result at the moment of broadcast.

 I wonder if I'll revisit the indian up there? And if I do, have I already sucked all of the surprises and meaning out of the thing? My friend Cedric Canard tosses his images away. I'm guessing he's not got a cigar box full of prints? Neither do I anymore. Not since I left my wet darkroom, never to return. Instead the box exists on a cloud where it's filled with wriggling binary strings. 


Cedric Canard said...

Isn't the art of creating all that matters? Isn't the finished product nothing more than an ego boost if it works out or merely a disappointment when it doesn't? Actually maybe that's just me. Or just us now.
I do keep my pictures a little longer than I use to these days and some I've loaded up to the cloud will last forever I suppose but I can't help wonder the point of keeping something I will never look at again. Maybe someday, when I'm too old and decrepit to shoot a camera I might regret not having kept more photos but I doubt it. I'll be too busy looking at the work of others.

Ted said...

My images are randomly popped up as desktop images. They stay up for about five minutes then dissolve into another. No question that some I've seen so many times that I've sucked most of the feeling from them. And yet it's surprising how often I'll notice an image will tug at my imagination and fill me with wonder.

A necessary condition of art is that it offers more to a viewer each time it is viewed/experienced. I wonder, at the point an image no longer communicates with my imagination, has it ceased to be art?

Hmmmml..... Or is it only art to others who've not yet experienced negative returns from an additional viewing?

Is there art which is immune to the law of diminishing returns? There is no question that most symphony musicians find playing The Bolero to be a painful experience, even though it resonates with new audiences as powerfully as ever. Are those musicians, with all of their discomfort, still artists? Can you be an artist if your art is uncomfortable to you?


Cedric Canard said...

Ah, this is a whole other matter that you bring up. For me, The only art that is of true importance and significance is contemporary art. All other artworks remain art but only within their own historical context. When it comes to my own photography, I consider my entire portfolio of photographs (regardless of whether I've kept them or not) as cotemporary. In other words I call contemporary whatever has been created in my lifetime within my life's context.
In other words I rarely connect with anything created before I was born beyond the aesthetics. For example I consider Van Goth's work as beautiful but I am unlikely to connect with it beyond the superficial level of beauty. Same for Ansel Adams, Minor White, Man Ray etc. I still enjoy their work but for the most part their work is silent. This is not to say that I cannot be influenced by the works of past artists, on the contrary.
I do not believe that a condition for something to be art that it must offer an ever increasing offering. As far as I am concerned it only needs to offer one, tiny, fleeting emotion or feeling and it has done it's job and still remains art. And in that context, I have never seen art that is immune to diminishing returns. As I said before, art for me can only hold an emotional significance if I can connect with it within the context of my life.
Like everything else however, there are exceptions. There are pieces from another age which can have a deep effect on me and I have often contemplated why that might be. My only conclusion to date has been that we each carry ancestral memories in our DNA and somehow these memories can be triggered by outside events. I may not recall the memory specifically but the result is the same as if I remembered something in my own life. Anyway, I am going into crazy territory now so I'll stop.
Music by the way, is an entirely different matter and would take far too long for me to get into that topic. Suffice to say that rules for music are different and none of what I write here applies to music.
Oh, and yes, I have read of artists who were uncomfortable with their art. They were often victims of violence who felt they had no choice but to face their demons through their art. In every case, I believed them to be true artists.
I would invite you to be very sceptical about everything I've just written Ted. These thoughts are just that, thoughts and opinions and you know my view on those. The reason I would ask that you be sceptical is that art, by its very nature, can be whatever you want it to be, whatever you need it to be. Definitions, reasons, rhetoric, none of it matters to the viewer unless they come from the viewer. Going by my own experience I would encourage you find the answers to all the questions you raise, even if you have to make them up. I'd be sceptical about that last statement too by the way.