Monday, August 31, 2009

North Dakota Elevator Series

As I've noted several times recently, my fall work will further explore photographic and architectural abstraction of a particular kind of building...the grain elevator.  This is in one sense is an expansion and narrowing of my previous work.

The work will narrow my focus on one form of architecture but will simultaneously expand from the flat formal shots of the Threshold series to include angles, as well as the black and white photograph itself from the previous color work.  

By relying upon black and white, I feel like I am able to push the natural abstraction of the architectures angles, shadows and light as they pass over varieties of tin and other metals.  Though our goals are different, I feel like I am working more in the tradition of Lewis Baltz and perhaps even more towards Charles Sheeler.  I hope to do a little more comparison to Sheeler in the coming weeks.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A New Semester

A new semester is upon us...and we are already one week in. This semester may be my busiest yet with increased credits and expected work. My plans include 10 credits (3 History of Landscape, 3 Mixed Media Photo, 4 Mixed Media Printmaking). By the end of this semester I will be 1/2 way though my program which is hard to believe.

My project for the semester will in many ways continue work done previously. My photo work, as noted earlier this week, will explore abstraction and the North Dakota grain elevators. In printmaking, I will continue the exploration of mapping and place, though this will be attempting new methods (photo litho and silk screen). My last class is a supervised reading/independent study in the history of landscape arts. I am really excited about this last one as so many of my ideas come through my readings of history and theory. My hope is to post frequently on these topics over the semester. I've listed the some of the texts which I will explore selections from for the course.

Andrews, Malcom. Landscape and Western Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Blauvelt, Andrew, ed. Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2008).

Buttner, Nils. Landscape Painting: A History (New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 2006).

Casey, Edward. Representing Place: Landscape Painting & Maps (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002).

Cosgrove, Dennis. Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998).

DeLue, Rachael Ziady and James Elkins. Landscape Theory (New York: Routledge Press, 2008).

Markonish, Denise, ed. Badlands: New Horizons in Landscape (North Adams, MA: Mass MoCA, 2008).

Rogoff, Irit. Terra Infirma: Geography’s Visual Culture (New York: Routledge Press, 2000).

Rosenblum, Naomi. A World History of Photography, 4th ed. (New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 2007).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New/Finished Prints

I've finished a print from last semester with the new embossing. See the detail in the first image and the whole print in the middle image.

The second print, "Choke," is a new one suggesting the importance of recycling and the potential dangers to animals that soda and beer six pack rings might cause.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Architectural Abstraction

Last year I began to notice a trend in my of abstraction. Last year I began the Threshold Series, of which I posted on quite often last year. Over the summer I started thinking about looking at a particular kind of structure. Growing up in the Midwest, it is hard not to have had some connection to the many grain elevators sprinkled across the region. My hope is to begin a series of photographs that look at these historic agricultural facades in a slightly different way...less as a landscape and more as a tightly focused work abstracting the buildings geometry highlighted by shadow and light falling across its angles and planes.

The first image is reminiscent of the Threshold Series. However, the second image is more like the series I am envisioning for this fall. In part, I think this series is partially indebted to some of my summer reading on the precisionist Charles Sheeler. Watch for more to come on this project and its connection to Sheeler.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Topos/Chora: PKAP Artist Statement

Topos and Chora

“The Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project (PKAP) has investigated the 2 sq. km coastal zone of Pyla Village in Cyprus since 2003.  The project is a transdisciplinary, landscape-oriented investigation that has drawn upon an international team of archaeologists, historians, geologists, illustrators, and other specialists to produce a vivid, diachronic, archaeological history of a significant coastal site.”

 “Since its inception, photography has played a key role in archaeological research. Tendencies to view the camera's eye uncritically as an objective representation of material reality have gradually given way to more sophisticated understandings of the camera's role in producing the kind of illusive objectivity that formed a compelling foundation for archaeological knowledge.  While photographs of artifacts, architecture, and even topography will continue to appear as evidence for archaeological arguments, there has been less attention to work of photographers in creating the same kind of dynamic, discursive landscapes that archaeological knowledge imagines.  By incorporating an experienced landscape photographer into a landscape archaeological project, we seek to problematize in an explicit way the role of photography in the creation of archaeological knowledge.”                               From the PKAP A-I-R Invitation

Ancient conceptions of place varied widely between Aristotle’s preference for topos and Plato’s emphasis on chora.  Aristotle’s topos suggests objective point on a map that exerts no actual influence upon those who enter.  Whereas Plato’s preference for chora, which draws upon the etymological root of “choreography,” as the reciprocal dance between humanity and environment. While topographic mapping and Global Position systems are remarkably helpful to research and convenient for day-to-day living, it is through continued presence and interaction in the landscape that allows the intimacy of chora to emerge from the plotted points and coordinates. While archaeological work relies upon topos, it cultivates chora.

My work for the PKAP residency functions on several levels: documentary, landscape, and archive of topos and chora.  By drawing upon both ancient conceptions of place, I was keenly aware of our contemporary presence in the landscape as researchers. This reflexive stance guided my efforts to document this emerging diachronic perspective of the historical landscape. As human presence transforms topos to chora it becomes archaeological evidence. Similarly, the photographic project provides a document of ongoing human presence and an archive of evidence of the 2009 PKAP field season and this Mediterranean landscape.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

N.T. Wright's Heaven Is Not Our Home Article

Yesterday I posted two prints that owe their origin in some way to an article by N.T. Wright published by Christianity Today back in March 2008.

What I have read of Wright's work I have really appreciated. This article, in particular, hits on several key concerns for me (namely sacred space). Often my artwork spins out of my prolonged wrestling with such ideas. As I search for understanding, I often try to find visual images that help me make sense of such complexities. Have a look at Wright's article and take a look at the 2nd and 3rd print.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Summer Printmaking Finals

Over the past few weeks my posting frequency has been sporadic at best. Below is the reason why. For the past two weeks I have likely averaged about 5-7 hours a day in the printmaking studio. This is the first time in 11 years that I have worked with a press and has been such a refreshing change from the technological distance of digital photography. I had forgotten how great it is to work with ones hands to produce something. Each of the polyester plate prints are parts of editions of 3-10 prints.

This semester I came in with an overarching idea of mapping, whether in a literal fashion or conceptual/philosophical maps that we use to orient out lives. Ideas range from Platonic dualism to the Hudson River School and their Pantheistic outlook, N.T. Wright's ideas on the bodily resurrection and its significance for the mission of the church today, Simon Schama's idea that we project our cultural ideas upon topography first, a simple imitation of Christ in through the stations of the cross, and the idea of poly presence or a fragmented self. Others involve the literal ND map of missile silos and the irony of the peace tower, as well as an image from PKAP and Cyprus with plotted points to suggest the Topos and Chora.

Speaking of Topos and Chora...My artist statement from PKAP is nearly ready and should appear here and over at Bill Caraher's Archaeology of the Mediterranean World sometime this week.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Contested Spaces: UND's OKelly Hall and its Graffiti

Today I heard some disappointing news that Dean Martha Potvin recently discovered this wall commissioned by the Integrated Studies Program (ISP) of a UND graduate and well-known 80's graffiti artist from NYC. Her reaction is to paint over it because it apparently is not fitting to an academic institution. This is the 3rd or 4th of such pieces the artist (I cannot think of his name right now...I think its Rich something.) has done for the deparment. The painters are working down the hall and as I snapped a few photos of this street art, the one quipped, "We're gonna paint that."  This event only secures in my mind that graffiti is a potent form of protest and art.  This small hallway is now an ideological and aesthetically contested space. 

 The ISP department is a creative educational process that flourishes in the face of traditional academic isolation.  This creative work appropriately marks the space of this non-conventional program.  A simple text panel could be added to the hallway to help educate passersby on the gamut of what is currently considered art and highlight, rather than alienate, the creative work and inspirational story of an alumnus.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

International Peace Gardens

On our way home from Canada last month we made a stop at the International Peace Gardens which rests on the US/Canada border. Dedicated in 1932 as a site contending for world peace and promise of peace between the two nations in which this park rests.

Walking around the park that beautiful day the strange liminality of the place struck me. This site and this channel of water symbolizing the national borders leads up to the two vertical towers and eventually the doors of an architecturally modern chapel bathed in orange light.

The non-sectarian chapel, constructed of concrete and marble, echoes horribly. The slanted walls are inscribed with memorable quotations about peace from men and women around the world.

And while the park is beautiful, and worth the $10 entry fee, it struck me that the state with more nuclear weapons than most countries has this place dedicated to world peace. This is not the first time the North Dakota's nuclear arsenal has left me with an uneasy feeling. I was impressed at the irony that only miles away were nuclear silos embedded in the ground. I wonder, do other people recognize this irony? Do they dismiss the presence of the weapons in light of their privileged patriotism? And I wonder about this site and its dedication to peace around the world. Does it's peaceful dedication ring hollow as nuclear silos buried across this prairie landscape? Or could it be that it's proximity to these profanities of space offer an alternative way of thinking and being? Anyway...just some random thoughts this Tuesday morning.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sacred Sites at Sacred Destinations

I ran across this site some time ago but had forgotten about it until today.  Take some time to explore some of the sacred sites of the world at