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Posts Tagged ‘portrait’

Art: Caleb Cole
“The Teacher,” exhibited at a Montserrat College of Art show, is a portrait of unnoticed dedication.

Cate McQuaid’s recent Boston Globe review of an art exhibit really spoke to me. I liked the idea of portraits that have meaning beneath the surface, and I especially liked the portrait of a teacher devoting extra time to his job. Anyway, that’s what I saw here. McQuaid saw woe.

McQuaid wrote, “With portraits, the subject tries on one face, the artist may capture another, and the viewer may see something else. Your projection, my projection. It’s all dreadfully nebulous, but if it weren’t, it would be pat and dull.

“ ‘Observance: As I See You, You See Me,’ an exhibition of photographic portraits at Montserrat College of Art’s Montserrat Gallery, examines what these shifting valences tell us about identity and societal assumptions. Many of the artists and subjects, people of color or queer, have experienced the walls strangers throw up based on appearance alone. …

“Woe is a keynote in Caleb Cole’s series ‘Other People Clothes,’ elaborately staged scenes in which the artist creates fictional personae. Cole is small and balding, with a peak of red hair, like Tintin. In ‘February Is Dental Month,’ the artist, surrounded by file folders, looks down at us from behind a large desk. We can find a story here, but the expression tells more: alienation, tenderness, perhaps disdain.” More here.

As much as I like abstract art, representational art that stirs the depths can be fascinating.

My Struggle, by Karl Ove Knausgaard, does something like that. The seemingly endless minutiae of the author’s life and thoughts flow along the surface, but something compelling emerges that is hard to describe. The writing is cinematic. The author sees everything, and observing him observe everything creates a powerful connection.

Interestingly, in the part of My Struggle that I’m reading now, Book 5, Knausgaard gets a tip from a successful novelist about having the “hinterland,” or backstory, of all your characters in mind when you write fiction. As with the Cole portrait of the teacher, the observer will sense things that are not spelled out.

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When I saw the headline at Wired, it didn’t really compute.

“Artists Create Portraits on Live Grass.” What? I don’t get it. Did the artists set up easels and paint with oils? Did they paint directly on the grass?

Writer-photographer Jakob Schiller explains.

“It all started, as these things sometimes do, by accident. In 1990, before they worked in photography, [Heather] Ackroyd and [Dan] Harvey created an art installation that covered an entire room with grass. As part of the art piece they had left a ladder leaning against a wall and when they went to remove it they saw that the ubiquitous and fast-growing plant had been imprinted with the shadow. The grass had stayed yellow where the ladder had prevented it from receiving any light.

“ ‘We didn’t know straight away what we were looking at, but we knew that we had observed something important,’ Ackroyd says.

“They began playing with the idea of manipulating the light that hits grass and by the next year were projecting light through an old 35mm Kodak projector onto a swath of grass on the wall.”

What to think as the grass withers and dies? It’s kind of a Dorian Gray scenario.

Read more about the project at Wired‘s Raw File, here.

Photograph: Ackroyd & Harvey.
Myles, Basia, Nath and Alesha, The Big Chill Festival, Eastnor Castle, between the Cotswolds and the Welsh Marches. 2007

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