A slideshow about a class at Allegheny College that is about the science of home brewing beer.
Words in art. Well, I guess there was a time that throwing words into a painting or drawing was sort of considered cheating. That pictures were meant to use symbols to lead the viewer and not tell the viewer. Words seem to tell.....or do they? I've been using words in my work for years. In old paintings I would use devices like putting in a chalkboard in which the words would be placed. Then more abstract compositions gave me more freedom to use words in a different way.
I remember my high school art teacher Tom King asking me if I could say peace without using the peace sign. That was a good lesson, though I didn't know how at the time(perhaps still don't). But it is important to push the idea and meaning of words, phrases and symbols beyond their meaning--both the meaning to me and the meaning they have in a universal sense.
I realized a few years ago that the world was far too big for me to understand and far too complicated for me to make commentary on that I'd then have to defend. I know my limitations and I know how clever wordsmiths are at making ones statements seem convoluted--even to oneself. Words is hard! I do stand behind that statement.
Then another professor began explaining art to me in a sense of poetry and even though I often interpret poetry wrongly(at least according to scholars) - I seemed to understand that. Our personal poetry is our personal look, our personal thoughts and our personal expressions.
In these we can make broad social or political statements, but when it comes down to it is within us and what can be interpreted by others is really only a small part of what it is ultimately about.
I discussed the other day with a student, in fact its a reoccurring discussion I've had with several students who get confused by how meaning comes into their work. "I came up with the idea because I thought it would look cool!" Or 'I made the piece and then I had to decide what it was about!'
These students felt frustrated because they thought this was wrong.
The creative process is something that does not have a point A or a point B. It is, like religious belief... there are so many approaches and ways of accomplishing the same basic thing... no one solution is 'the way!'
I'm always skeptical of artists who spend days and days thinking about the project without acting on it. Then when they do the work its basically illustrating what they thought of instead of working with the process and evolving the idea into something greater than the thoughts. These are illustrations of an idea, and not seeking the poetic experience that only comes from making and failing and fixing and making something really well only to ruin it and then fix it and then turn it into something good again.
Our way of coming up with ideas shouldn't be a burden to us, we should accept our way of making and allow this to aid us in making more.
I tell my students---if you come up with an idea and think that it will look cool--great. I'm sure you didn't come up with the visual completely void of knowing where it came from, you just have trouble understanding that where it came from is connected to some experience. You have to just understand that those experiences, your history, everything that you have come into contact with...most definitely has influenced how you came to think of your image or creation.
I think we often spend too much time as art educators talking about other artists, political and social agenda and not enough time talking about life around us, the subtle things...music, birds, rats collecting food and storing it away, our dogs, our friends and family and all those things we take for granted that are so influential in the way we think and act and breathe. From these things is where we get our creative process.
Another thing I try to remind students is this---getting an education in art does not make one an artist. You don't need school to become an artist. However, take advantage of being among people in art to understand how to discover within yourself your art. Don't copy, but take from others their knowledge and grow from it. Uneducated artists, those who don't study art and understand how to study based on personal needs(study an artist to learn what we need to know to make our own work) will have large spells of stagnation because they don't know how to find what they need to go to the next level in their work.
Art education at least allows us, if it is done correctly, to understand how to find the resources we need to move on with our work. How to understand the craft and application of the craft in our own work.
The best professors don't tell us what to make, or how to make it, they observe the work and try to offer ways to improve the work and when an art student is working well and really motivated--we try to not become a road block to them--and no---this is not easy. Often in trying to be helpful, we can get in the way.
Recently i've really wanted to draw. I find some old things, I look at more recent things and it just really makes me want to sit down for like a month and do nothing but draw. A couple days ago I decided to sit and try to learn how to use a pad made for computers that can simulate working with a pen or pencil. It turned into using layers in photoshop and making marks and shapes and playing with opacities and really just learning how to construct an image in a different way. One of my former students, Matt Reilly is making his work in this manner and when I chat with him about the work its always about the mark-making, the composition and the drawing. I couldn't speak to him at all about the process because he was already far ahead of me on that end of it. My first attempt at this sort of work (below) came from just messing around and then it began to seem like I was working on a self portrait I did this summer and then it seemed like it was referencing work I did years and years ago. I have no idea if this is work I'll continue to do, but it is a tool I supposed to understand a little more what I might be able to do. The combining of drawing and photographed images over the last couple years might become even more layered with this approach. Well see. Its fun to try new things though--that is for sure!
"I'm so tired of men with cameras getting girls naked to take pictures and calling it art!"
I put this in quotes because it was how I remember the quote from a friend of a friend of mine. One of the weird little lines I walk is the one between commercial photography and art. In my mind I don't really think about the distinctions much. To me they are clear, but to the viewers not so much. I have a photography business where I make photographs of and with clients. They are very much a part of the process and I'm smart enough to not control everything so much as to not allow for serendipity(if you know me you know how much I respect the unexpected!). But this isn't my "art." Its work. And then there is newspaper work. This even harder to really define because its work done for an employer, but not with the employer in mind as much as the subject---and the subject cannot be in control of the photograph, simply just documented within it. And I need to be as much removed as one can be given that I am a person with my own ideas, emotions and perspectives. Its hard, but in this work I work very hard to keep myself out of it. This is not my "art."
Recently my work with models--commercial work--was defended strongly by a colleague who said that we cannot tell an artist what he can and cannot create. I laughed because I didn't consider it art, but the argument was a valid one none-the-less. Another colleague embarrasses me regularly saying I'm a 'true artist.' I laugh at this to because I simply just work and feel quite lucky to be able to live my life this way.
What I do consider my "art" is the stuff I can't define a purpose for other than my own personal growth. It is what it is whether someone else sees it or likes it or even understands it. Its work that no matter what scrutiny it ever comes under only affects me and no one else. Many good artists have closets and attics full of their "art" never seen by anyone except the inner circle.
This work I do commercially I think I use my technical and artistic experiences to help me perhaps be a better commercial photographer, and some of it has an 'artsy' look to it, but I'm not going to worry about whether or not we call it 'art.' Its just something else that I do.
Sometimes I get a kick out of the pages and pages written about art--and sometimes the art looks a little like this photo taken of a wall in Meadville. Now I know there is more to most things than just what we see--and this too can have deeper meaning and be a cause to pause and relax and think. And I did that and still it comes down to it being a photograph of a wall in Meadville. That right there is why art is so damn cool! Photograph by Richard Sayer
I decided to start up this secton of my website again to discuss my latest work. I still post a daily photo at sayermotterphotography.weebly.com, This site will be for further explanation of my personal work.
I've never really delved into surrealistic imagery. I was influenced(and still am) by a former professor Enrico Pinardi who comes from the Metaphysical school of painting--which is an off-shoot of surrealism. This image above came from my thinking about Enrico lately and started out simply as a pice where I photographed boxes. I've been working with this idea of boxes --they are containers, cells(not like confinement cells, but cells that hold things or are spaces like a room, or a hive---not necessarily a bad space). Within these boxes we hld our lives--sometimes literally with old photos and trinkets etc... I was thinking a while ago about how as we get older we have a lot more boxes. So in working through this one piece thinking about Enrico(we called him Henry) I saw this road for some reason and felt a need to put the three boxes above this road. Its not a finished piece, but it led me to this piece and I've sort of been consumed by this in my free time. In thinking about Henry I also remembered his drawing of three nails. This drawing back when I was learning to draw was very important to me. I found myself using the nails to support things like fruit to a wall(long story, but I drew endlessly fruit nailed to my studio wall back then).
Then I had a brief discussion with a student of mine who was using money in one of his pieces and I asked 'ever try to drive a nail through a penny?' So felt a need to try it myself fearing it might be somewhat dangerous! I drove through fairly easy actually. I had been photographing this one banana peel and I drove the nail through the penny on the same board and suddenly had new wrinkle on that piece. When I made the piece with the boxes and the road I played around with decorative borders and the next thing I saw was this banana peel becoming a figure on the road. My mind began spinning with how I felt this became symbols for many many things. I then created this sort of parade of them, perhaps a platoon, perhaps just past memories. I tried to even put myself in the composition but felt ultimately that I wasn't needed.
I think the road imagery might be a bit cliche' and over used, but its something that led to one thing and then another and I've got this whole idea working out now that may or may not go somewhere. We'll see.
I'm posting regularly at sayermotterphotography.weebly.com in the featured picture of the day. Its more in line with what I always have wanted to do.
Please visit there!
I started making some images with a Holga. Not sure where these will go, but they are frustrating when you spend so much time making an image that may or may not come out. This one above I liked, but I really manipulated it by burning and dodging. Not sure if I'll get into that sort of manipulation, that sort of overdone W. Eugene Smith thing(without the W. Eugene Smith talent that is!). But I figured its good fodder for this blog entry. Plus its a nice picture of Harmony Motter.
I intended a dialogue to go with this slideshow for the Meadville Tribune website, but it hasn't come together due to time mostly. But I posted the 2008 images finally and already think I should've included a couple others and edited out several of these. Maybe another version will come in the future.
and below is a link to my 2007 pictures at the paper.