Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I wrote this blog over a month ago, but I got a major case of the lazies, and made you all wait it out. So, finally, you can exhale and cool your blue balls on this indulgent piece.
When I was hitting the snooze button repeatedly this morning, I was having the most whacked out dream evs. I dreamt I was in a nail salon about to get my nails done(bizarro! I know!) It seemed scarily similar to the place I spent working in that week back in February(The Linda Fields Salon and Spa if anyone's curio). In my dream, I was sitting in a chair next to a window admiring all of the art and sculpture places throughout the tiny space. The owner was explaining to me that it was a show about American History, thus every wall was covered with paintings of George Washington crossing the Delaware, sculptures of tall ships, antique urns, and all manner of paintings depicting scenes from any history book you've ever looked in ever. While we were all sitting around looking like bored assholes whilst getting our nails done, I started staring at one particular painting. It was in the middle of the room on the wall, let's say the south wall, because in my dream, there was a window facing Millenium Park(which is east for people not from Chicago), and in the painting, there was a scene of soldiers surrounding another man who was bound in what looked like a burlap sack. He had a rope around his ankles and his neck, and his hands were tied behind the chair(Goya anyone?) The soldiers had their guns and bayonettes pointed pointed at the man, and all of of a sudden, the man started breathing. In the painting, the man started breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. The breaths started getting bigger and almost like he was the wolf trying toblow down the little pig's house. The burplap was moving up and down with every breath, and we were just staring at it. Hypnotized. We couldn't look away. The breathing continued until all of a sudden, bag collapsed, and an enormous cloud of thick, black smoke billowed up into the night scene. Then the smoke turned into a giant bear. If you're trying to place an image of what this might look like, remember that part in Aladdin where they go to the Cave of Wonders? It looked like that. I remember the room getting larger all of a sudden, like we were in the painting. Then, I remember running and hiding behind a wall. Every angle of the room became distorted. Like that part in Beetlejuice where he tries to marry Lydia, and the fireplace turns into a doorway, and that weird little man comes out of it. Kinda like that. I kept peeking out to try to see the smoke bear, but I was afraid, and I didn't want it to see me because I was afraid of what it might do. I remember it was talking about something, but I don't remember exactly what it was saying. The I work up short of breath and weirded out by what my subconscious had manufactured. The moral of this story kids, is that you shouldn't drink a bottle of wine before you get in your bed and then don't fall asleep watching Pirates of the Carribbean pt 3. I watch too many movies.
Later, when I was on the bus on the way to work, I started thinking about presidents. Mostly presidential portraits. I am obsessed with presidential portraits, and anytime I can find old janky paintings or prints of men in wigs, trousers and ascots, the Pavlovian drool response kicks in, and I just can't help myself. A woman left a biography of George Washington at the salon entitled "His Excellency," and let me tell you what...it belongs to me now!
I realize that today, it's all photo op and photo shop, and that creativity, and the real imaginative spirit of art is lost on people what with inventions in technology that make it possible for everyone to be able to take a crappy photograph of someone famous looking bored and uninteresting.
What I adore about presidential portraits, or portraits of the monarchy, is the elaborate staging of the entire operation. What I love more that the thought of a person standing in one place for hours holding a taxidermied bird, is the construction of a scene straight out of the artist's imagination! Thses men and women were so revered that scenes were made up about how awesome they were! Allow me to present to you distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the court, my portrait of George Washington slaying a drago while whistin' at the ladies, picking up Taco Bell drive-thru, and fluffing and folding his whites! He really COULD do it all!!! Also, I heard something about a wig for his wig.
I want us to think about the subjects we see in portraits today and how very few of them are very exciting. We see these people, celebrities and heads of state alike on television mostly, which is the eqivalent of passing someone you sort of know on the street, but you don't say hello because maybe it isn't them, and you don't want to embarass yourself. We don't ever really see them in what would be their equivalent of crossing the Delaware. Michelle Obama was in Vogue. That is the closest we've gotten. Now, I realize that Vogue is heavily phototshopped, but it is the only place you will find portraits comparable to paintings. Feel free to light a candle next to your Anna Wintour shrine and thank her for appreciating art for you. I just did.
If you are an amateur at life, you might write off a portrait as a boring piece of fluff, but if you really take the time to study an exceptionally crafted portrait, you will leave the space feeling like you have known that person your entire life. A well adjusted allows you to see into that person's soul, and that is a feat not all photoraphers are capable of achieving. Some truly are boring, but some, painted or not, capture a person at a very specific time, and with a very specific.
If you've looked into a magazine at any point in the twenty years, or visited a museum in your life ever, you will have seen a portrait by Richard Avedon. We see or even hear the name Avedon, and immediately we rmemeber a classic portrait, but what is often forgotten about is the fact that he was one of the forefathers of fashion photography, and of aiding and abetting the lifestyle associated with Fashion and the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. His portraits were sexy and provacative, and then he did The Americans. Before we were reading about "Who Wore it Best" in the pages of US Weekly, we were staring at portraits of the poor and unfortunate. Nothing about Jacob Riis' photographs were glamourous nor were they noble. When you run into those photographs of children taking a break from the factory all covered in dirt and suffering from the black lung, you don't want to keep looking. You want it to stop. You want them to stop, and all of a sudden you care about humanity. Photography is awesome!!!!
When I see a photograph by Nan Goldin, I cringe, and find no romance in the photographs on her face marred by two black eyes, and the broke down drag queen working the stroll. I do, however, feel the heartbreak, and for whatever reason, and however photographs are able to do this to me, I get emotional. They make me emote. I. Get. EMO! Even though I have absolutely nothing in common with Nan Goldin, except maybe my penchant for drag queens and working the stroll, I feel a kinship with her. We've all known someone in her situation before, and if she were sitting beside you sobbing on your shoulder for the fiftieth time after fiftieth time of her boyfriend beating her ass, you would still put your arm around her and tell her he was an asshole and that she should leave his broke-off ass because she deserves so much better. Thumbing through the pages of any coffee table book of her's feels like my arm around her shoulder everytime. I love and respect her and her willingness to share her uncomfortable situations with me. Cue the Saves the Day cuts.
Before we were watching TMZ every night, and reading every gossip blog we could get our eyes on(some people start their days with a brisk run, I start it with Dlisted), social and political leaders gave us serious face time. In these troubled times, celebrities are our royalty, and we foam at the mouth the get close to them, and to see them not looking like us on our days off, but instead looking like the stuff our dreams are made of. I bought Details because I wanted to see Aleksander Skarsgaard all greased up looking like he's been ripped from a Danielle Steele novel, not because I wanted to see what the average Swede looks like douche-in around the flat.
Annie Liebovitz(El Broke-o Loco), David Lachapelle(tastes like neon lube), and Mario Testino(my future wedding photographer) have had beautiful careers photographing celebrities, so, we've flipped things a bit. Although, maybe we haven't. Before we could photograph, in order to bring an image to the people, artists were comissioned to paint the likes of popes, monarchs, and outlaw, all of which would have been considered celebrities of the time. NOw, since all we do is look at photographers, and also because of the evolution of the portrait, we've traded Royals for Rihanna, and for all our dumbasses know these days, Rihanna might as well be the Princess to Beyonce's Queen B.
There are a million photographers I could ramble on and on about, but I will leave you with these few. Also, if you are so inclined, and have Thursday or Friday off, I strongly suggest you hit the Mdern Wing of the Art Institute and enjoy the William Eggleston retrospective. Give your eyeballs a day off from staring at the computer screen(All of YouTube's videos are NOT awesome), and spend the day with sweey Willie Eggles! Portrait photographer. Purveyor of the deliciousness of Americana. Made me wanna start a revolution.
You know I love you, and have missed you all of these days.
P.S. Columbia College's graduation is this weekend. Congrats you guys! All 10 years of undergrad finally paid off!!! My slow clap this week goes out to my homegirl Kelly who will be getting up in front of the Art History department to present her thesis on William Eggleston and Wassily Kandinsky. Good luck home-bro. I am starting the slooooowwwwwwweeeeeeesssssssstttttttt clap evs.
P.P.S. I think awkward segues are the champagne of conversation, so here's an interview involving two things I like, one I'd like to do in my spare time: Derrick Beckles interviewed by WOOOOO! Magazine!