Tales of inspiration and creativity, behind-the-scenes glimpses at art-making, in-depth arts features, and narrative portraits of LAL artists.
Frank Doring was born and raised in Frankfurt, Germany where he received his M.A. at Freiburg and Berlin in Germany and then in the U.S. received his Ph.D. at Princeton University. His first career was a cognitive science researcher at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, France. Then he became a philosophy professor at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Cincinnati.
During the time of both these jobs, Frank realized there was something missing in his pursuit of an academic teacher and researcher, so he started a new career as a freelance photographer. He mainly photographs landscape, architecture, and people.
LAL (Lexington Art League): What is your background as an artist? What choices or influences in your life have led you to pursue this career? Did you always know you wanted to be a photographer?
FD (Frank Doring): Photography first touched me when I was a teenager. I had the good fortune of meeting someone twice my age at a jazz concert who turned out to be an Associated Press photographer and took me under his wings. I soon announced to my high school German teacher that I wanted to become a photographer too. She told me I was crazy. So I became a philosophy professor instead. I kept taking pictures on the side, built my first darkroom with my academic paycheck, spent too much time there, and twenty-five years after my pronouncement took the plunge.
LAL: What inspired you to create this piece? Is there a story behind it?
FD: I was out stress-testing a new lens under real-life conditions. A scraggly winter landscape in harsh, contrasty sunlight works well for that sort of thing. I had decided to pay Weisenberger Mill a visit because I was low on bread flour and curious to see how they had fared during the recent floods. The flotsam was easy to spot but quite hard to reach. I kept breaking knee-deep through what looked like reasonably firm ground.
LAL: What made you choose this title for your piece? Are you a fan of basketball?
FD: Who wouldn’t think of March madness when discovering an abandoned basketball in Kentucky in March? I am no fan, but that craze is hard to ignore.
LAL: How have other cultures impacted your work as a photographer?
FD: If academia counts as another culture, as it probably should, then it has taught me great respect for clear thinking and intellectual honesty. The kind of philosophy in which I was involved is somewhat technical. Its arguments and proofs can be more or less clumsy, elegant, or even beautiful. These abstract aesthetic qualities find their counterparts in photography.
LAL: What is the one thing you hope for people to take away from viewing “March Madness 2014"?
FD: I hope they enjoy their visual experience and perhaps extract a worthwhile thought (e.g. about Kentucky, plastic waste, basketball, the climate...) from the flotsam. Oops, these are already two things.
LAL: How would you describe your style?
FD: Deadpan tongue-in-cheek.
LAL: What type of cameras do you shoot with?
FD: Digital mirrorless, DSLR, 4" x 5" view camera (with sheet film), depending on how hard I am willing to work, how large I might print, whether the subject holds still, whether I might have to beat a hasty retreat.
LAL: What advice would you give to new artists/photographers?
FD: Before you write your next artist’s statement, google “artspeak” or “artist statement generator” and mull over some of the results.
Check out Frank's website: www.doeringphoto.com
Dobree Adams is a contemporary fiber artist in Frankfort, Kentucky. Her one of a kind works have been featured across the world. Her weavings have not only been shown in New York, but also Japan, England, France, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, and other places in the United States.
Her process in creating these beautiful fiber art pieces is very precise and intricate. She uses a rare breed of wool that she spins and dyes. She uses different natural colors to black of hand spun yarns as well as paints the dyed yarn by hand.
LAL (Lexington Art League): What choices or influences in your life have led you to pursue a career as an artist?
DA (Dobree Adams): My background includes almost 30 years in the scientific field. Slowly I was learning to weave and spin and I was raising sheep. As the children began to graduate from college, I began planning to leave a successful information systems management position and pursue a second career as farmer and artist. In 1986 I made a big leap: I enrolled in a two week class at Penland School of Craft in spinning and dyeing. On the way there driving alone I had the sense that what happened in that class might be a defining moment, I would know if I really wanted to give up computers and go to the loom. On the first night at Penland, even before classes started, I realized that I was on the right path.
LAL: What got you started in working with this medium?
DA: Jonathan gave me a book called Off Loom Weaving our first Christmas together. I built my first loom with four sticks and a handful of nails. I purchased handspun natural colored wool yarn from Paula Simmons on the West Coast. We purchased a spinning wheel from a single mother who wanted to buy her little boy a puppy. The wheel was still in its box. My daughter and I went to Pine Mountain Settlement School to a gathering of the Fleece and Flax Guild. She was 12 and learned how to spin in an hour. I still could not make yarn at the end of the weekend despite everyone’s help, but I set up the spinning wheel in our apartment and worked at it every day until I could spin.
LAL: Can you remember the first piece you created?
DA: My first project was a tiny rug which I still have. My second project on that loom was a purse for my mother from the same first batch of yarns.
LAL: What helps you to focus and “get in the zone” for creating?
DA: I do a lot of gathering of ideas, words, thoughts, and images. When it is time to focus for the next project, I start pulling out and playing with all that stuff I have gathered on scraps of paper, in journals, in my photographs, in notes from books I have read. Deadlines help to get me in gear. I have many passions and never enough time.
LAL: What or who inspires you to create artwork?
DA: That comes from within, the need to share what I am seeing and feeling.
LAL: What was your inspiration for this piece specifically?
DA: In several series I have created a large collection of work that was inspired by travels in Japan and by design aesthetics which are an inherent part of Japanese culture as well as guiding principles for the traditions of art and craft. SHI (Passion for Poetry) is in the YUGEN Series which comes from the Zen concept of paring down to the essence. YUGEN, which means ‘subtlety or mystery’ refers to the beauty below the surface.This piece called SHI, Yugen Series #10, is the second tapestry in the series with this name. SHI Yugen Series #6 was purchased by a collector in France.
LAL: What is one thing you would want viewers to take away from this piece?
DA: One thing: not everything in a design can be complex. Here the complexity comes from color palette of rich, jewel-like hues and the dyeing by hand painting the skein with a Japanese brush. The basic design is simple; the weaving technique is basic. The simple brushing of the surface during the weaving process adds a degree of three dimensionality.
Check out her website for more of her beautiful pieces: dobreeadams.com
"My work explores the deluge of ephemeral text and imagery presented by media and how this cacophony of imagery has altered our understanding of the globalized landscape it presents. The bombardment of information that streams on social media sites and news outlets create a sense of urgency that is intensely focused on the NOW. The often haste and theatric nature of media information elevates the impulsive reaction and dissuades from proper reflection."
"Instead of representing a traditional narrative the consumption of information blurs from one source to another flowing from Facebook to Wikipedia to Reddit and other sources of information. This presents us with a fragmented narrative that is layer with preference to what is liked or voted up. Rather than representing this information as ephemeral my print and installation work uses this information to build a physical history built in the layers of information that makes up my visual aesthetic. Blending issues that are viewed as “serious” with the vernacular of Twitter and Facebook I seek to create imagery that is indicative of contrast between what is considered trivial and significant."
LAL (Lexington Art League): What influenced you to become an artist?
JM (Jonathan McFadden): When I was an undergrad student at Texas State University I began taking studio art courses as electives and means of a creative outlet from the course work for the computer science degree I was pursuing at the time. After a couple of semesters I found myself more interested in studio courses and had decided I wanted to pursue a career in art.
LAL: What is the motivation for you to create art?
JM: This is hard to explain. For me it is more of a need to create imagery than a motivation.
LAL: What media do you typically work in? What appeals to you the most about those media?
JM: I typically work between various print process and large installations. In both instances it is the ability to merge digital and analog processes along with the indirect nature of mark making that is central to printmaking.
LAL: What was the specific motivation for you to create this piece?
JM: This piece was created as part of a series of work created during a residency in Berlin, Germany. The work pulls from various pop culture references at the time ranging from the fighting in Eastern Ukraine to images of Alec Baldwin after his twitter rant against George Stark.
LAL: Where do you feel Now He Has Taken Full Responsibility For this II stands among your other works?
JM: Conceptually this piece continues to work with similar ideas that are in the screen print based works I was making prior to the work I made in Germany. However, this piece and the other works in this series are a departure from the more abstract and text based aesthetic of the screen prints. Photogravure allows for a wider tonal range than screen print and since this series my work has become much more representational.
LAL: Does it fit in thematically with your other works?
JM: Thematically it fits within the same narrative driven commentary of media and pop culture as my previous works.
LAL: What kinds of research do you carry out for the creation of your works?
JM: The research for my work varies a lot. Photogravure is a very technically driven process so a far amount of my research has been learning the process and reading a lot of technical manuals on the process. I also am constantly looking at the work of other artist working with similar ideas, visiting galleries and museum archives to look at works relevant to my research, and of course reading anything I can find that conceptually can help me inform my work.
LAL: Were there any interesting or surprising things you’ve learned through your research?
JM: As a process photogravure can be very finicky. It requires that the room have a certain humidity and temperature range, and chemicals be stored at very specific temperatures. I surprisingly have found the technical complexities of the processes to be something that holds my interest much more than screen printing did.
LAL: What goal do you typically have in mind whenever you create a new work?
JM: When I’m creating imagery the main goals I am thinking about is: Does it successfully communicate the concept to the viewer? And, is the work visually compelling?
LAL: Do you have any artists that inspire you? What about their work inspires you?
JM: I often look at artist like Claas Gutche, Christiane Baumgartner, and Peter Kogler all three artist work an a way that merges photographic and digital aesthetics with analog and hand rendered techniques.
LAL: Do you have any advice for new artists?
JM: Get your work out of your studio as much as possible. I find having a rather extensive exhibition schedule forces me to stick to deadlines and constantly create and thing about how to move my work forward. If I wasn’t exhibiting often I think there would be less incentive and internal drive to create.
Check out his website: www.jonathanmcfadden.com
Coming from a family that has always encouraged and inspired him to tell stories through visual art, Daniel Graham began his career studying at the University of Florida in Printmaking and then earning a Masters Degree from the University of Georgia. He has been trained in printmaking and traditional furniture making.
Not only does Daniel Graham have a love for art, he also has a love for teaching it. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Art at Georgetown College located in Georgetown Kentucky. He teaches various classes such as Sculpture, Printmaking, 3D Design, Ceramics and Package Design and he loves helping his students prosper in their work.
Lexington Art League (LAL): Is there anything that inspired you to create “The Cleaving of Two Brothers from a Foreign Land”?
Daniel Graham (DG): Yes, the work is a translation of a biblical narrative into a contemporary context. The story is found in Genesis 14 and is the story of Abram and Melchizedek. It is a story of a man that leaves his country and meets two strangers in the desert. He shares a meal with one after taking the spoils of war from a town. This story although only a few sentences over the past year I have found myself extremely interested in this short encounter. This story has created a turning point in my approach towards the role of people in the larger Christian narrative.
LAL: How long did this piece take to create? How did you know when it was “finished”?
DG: The boats are quite a process to make; each one takes about 3 weeks. The pulleys are handmade as well. There are 5 boats in total in the entire work. So this in a way is a detail of a larger conversation. In terms of finished I think it is when I can walk into the gallery and have the feeling that the work belongs there and that it exists there naturally. I have always been inspired by the idea of the window washer. It is their job to not be seen. If you know they have been there they did not do a good job. I feel that applies to my work as well. If there is one thing that stands out or seems unnatural it is not finished.
LAL: What kind of research did you carry out for the conception of this piece?
DG: For me personally research in the traditional sense makes honest work seemed forced. I had never built boats or pulleys before and never dealt with gravity suspension. So there was a lot of experimentation and technical research in terms of construction and form.
LAL: What is your favorite thing about teaching art?
DG: I think my favorite thing about teaching art is seeing someone’s imagination and conceptual development transition from an internal existence into a physical one. Being apart of seeing students grow in their craft and artist development is a real honor.
LAL: What is the most important thing you want your students to take away from your classes?
DG: A way of seeing things differently. A way of reaching forward beyond what is comfortable into a place where they are not only challenged but are excited to take risks.
For more information about Graham’s work, head on over to his website http://jdgraham.net/
Born and raised in New Salisbury, Indiana, Holli Schulz currently lives in Lexington, where she graduated from Transylvania University with a BA in studio art. Her main focus is in printmaking, drawing, and currently is learning how to work with animation.
Holli's inspiration derives from old family photos, vintage magazines, old TV shows and movies, Pop-Culure, cartoons, and humor. Holli feels that she is more successful when she focuses on things that interest her instead of trying to be similar or mimic the style of other artists. Most her work starts out as a sketch: some take on a different life outside the sketchbook and some do not.
LAL (Lexington Art League): What made you decide to become an artist?
HS (Holli Schulz): I don't think I purposefully made the decision to be an artist. It never felt like a choice. I always loved drawing and really treasured my crayons as a kid by keeping them pointy and trying to never tear the paper. When I was in grade school I always looked forward to art class because a place where I felt really confident. And that feeling continued into college where I graduated with a studio art degree. I'm still drawing, painting, printing now. I just never stopped. So as an adult, I'm an artist.
LAL: Why did you decide on drawing as your main medium? What drew you to it?
HS: Drawing has always been my favorite way of recording things. In a way, it replaces words that I can't get out because I'm never been a good writer, speaker, or storyteller. But I can draw anything I like in anyway I like.
LAL: What went into creating your work for the Here and Now show?
HS: I like to focus my work on lighthearted and kind of humorous subjects. The two drawings I have in this show are part of a series of fast food and flowers. The decision to make these came from the realization that I was making things that other people would like. I was never really happy with the end result so I sat down and thought...what does Holli like? And I answered flowers and junk food. Which are two things that do not go together, but they do. Because I really like both things. So I began drawing my favorite things whether they "go together" or not. I'm personally happy with the result.
LAL: What inspires you to create?
HS: Inspiration can come from so many different places. Like, the random assortment of objects that end up on my desk, Maria Bamford, my dog, flowers, vintage magazines, kawaii, beautifully designed packaging, bar-codes, anything I like.
LAL: Does the rest of your artwork follow along the same lines as this one? If not, what themes are usually present in your work?
HS: My other work is similar in context. Which essentially means I have a catalog of things I love about us humans. It's all kind of silly and a little outlandish, but sometimes totally common too. I recently illustrated some dogs but gave them new, maybe more accurate breed names because people often ask dog owner what kind of dog they have. Does it matter? You can make up anything. So I did. I also make gestural monoprints that start with a basic idea or image and from there my only rule is add color! I love the resulting liquid movement given to the base image.
LAL: What do you want the audience to take from your work?
HS: I want my work to give the viewer a little humorous lift. Our world is full of garden flowers and hotdogs and that's ok and everything will be ok.
LAL: Is there any advice you could give budding artists?
HS: My advice to budding artists would be: 1. Only create things you really want to be creating 2. There is no hurry to finish projects, give them whatever time they require to make you happy with the result 3. Keep it up.
Check out her website: www.hollischulz.com
Marianna McDonald, originally from Louisville, KY, moved to Lexington, KY in 1977 after living in Germany, Ohio, and West Virginia. She received a BS degree in art with an emphasis in painting and graphic design from Murray State University in 1971.
After working in oils and watercolors, McDonald discovered the versatile world of soft pastels in 1982 and has concentrated on developing her expressive coloration to the landscape with pastels. She is most interested in light and shadow as it falls across the land illuminating shapes and atmosphere. McDonald participates in 12 outdoor art fairs per year. Her work is carried in 4 regional galleries and she teaches pastels to adults.
“I'm a landscape artist using either soft pastels and oils. My pastel work is created on sanded pastel paper and for some work I use an oil wash for the underpainting before applying the pastel,” states McDonald.
"I prefer to create pieces larger than 24"x30" in oils. I create images from actual places preferring to use nature's information and inspiration for my resource. The Appalachian landscape is so variable and beautiful that I never tire of depicting scenes from Kentucky and West Virginia. As I travel this country and the world I enjoy depicting scenes from the new places I have visited. I paint what I see, but distill the details of nature to focus on the essence of the landscape, adjusting the color to emphasize the light and shadow. I hope the viewer connects to the sense of place that attracted me to the scene.”
LAL (Lexington Art League): What inspires you to create art?
MM (Marianna McDonald): Nature
LAL: What media are you typically drawn to use? What appeals to you about those media?
MM: Pastels because of the brilliant colors and immediacy of the media
LAL: What inspires you the most to create new works of art?
MM: Scenes in nature with strong light and shadow creating dynamic compositions
LAL: For Backroads Hayrolls, was there any specific inspiration for you to use this setting for your work? If so, what about this setting inspired you?
MM: Backroads Hayrolls was a scene on a Backroad in TN to avoid the traffic around pigeon forge. Movement in the composition for the eye to go from the hayrolls through the field and up into the mountains, even the little road and electric poles moved the eye through the scene.
LAL: Does this work match thematically with other works you have done? If not, what makes Backroads Hayrolls stand apart from your other works?
MM: This work is my usual theme of nature.
LAL: What was the process that went into the creation of Backroads Hayrolls?
MM: In this instance there was no time for Plein air, so good reference photos were essential. Then a black and white thumbnail to study the values and composition. After a smaller version as a study, and then the large one.
LAL: Do you have any artists that inspire you? What about their work inspires you?
MM: Wolf Kahn for his color and Susan Ogilvie for composition, technique and color
LAL: What goal do you typically hope to accomplish whenever you create a new work?
MM: To interpret nature. I Don't just copy what's in front of me I want to bring some emotion to the scene.
LAL: Are there any pieces of art that you are the most proud of?
MM: I'm most proud of my series of "Nearby Creeks-End of Autumn." I created 12 in the series of which one was accepted to Pastel Society of America annual exhibit and another won 5th place in landscapes in Pastel Journals "Pastel 100"
LAL: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
MM: To work at your art every day, even if there's only time to sketch for 15 minutes - do it. In Malcolm Gladwells book "Outliers" he talks about working 10,000 hours in your area of interest before you can hope to obtain a level of proficiency.
Visit her website to see more of her beautiful artwork: mcdonaldfineart.com
Robert Dickes is a photographer and artist in Kentucky. He has shown nationally and internationally including at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center, Ormandy Memorial Art Museum, Marin Museum of Contemporary Art and the International Video Art Festival in Varna, Bulgaria. He is currently a lecturer at the University of Kentucky. His piece Boy With Hand Grenade is currently featured in the Here and Now exhibition.
LAL (Lexington Art League): What choices or influences in your life have led you to pursue a career as an artist?
RD (Robert Dickes): I began photography in high school and knew that is what I wanted to pursue. I worked as a commercial photographer in South Florida before becoming an educator. Then I returned to school to get my MFA and this is when I discovered that I was an artist.
LAL: What inspired you to move away from more traditional photography?
RD: I still do a good bit of traditional photography but my art currently deals with how the digital revolution has changed photography. As part of this digital era the biggest changes that have effected photography are accessibility to images (online), loss of ownership of the image, and how everyone is a photographer (twenty years ago only a small percentage of people took pictures.
LAL: What inspired you to create this piece?
RD: I was researching historical references in photography and painting and thought about how the histories were so closely aligned with a very large time variance, photography's history is less than 10% as long. Within photography the grain of an image has become pixels and most people will never see most of the historical images the way they were originally intended. This represents these changes and the way we view photography now.
LAL: What was the process for creating Boy With Hand Grenade?
RD: I pixelated a classic image, Diane Arbus’ Boy with Hand Grenade, and then select a small area of the original to represent. Each pixel is separately printed onto canvas and then reassemble on another piece of canvas. The pixel swatches continue to deteriorate and curl, as with the grain and prints of the original photographer. The canvas is used to represent that connection to painting's history and more specifically the pointillist period.
LAL: What is the one thing you hope for people to take away from viewing this piece?
RD: I hope that people can see that photography is more than a straight image and that can hold meaning beyond the aesthetic.
LAL: What advice would you give to new artists or photographers?
RD: Make work that you are passionate about and have a personal interest in.
Check out his website to see more of his pieces: www.robdickes.com
Robert Bridges, originally from Los Angeles, graduated from Cornish College of The Arts in Seattle with a BFA in Fine Art. His unique style in illustrative art is to be described as a "timeless feel with a dark and whimsical edge." Bridges' interest in illustrative art became known by his father, also an artist, who encouraged him to read his school books by drawing pictures on the books' endpapers. Though it did not get Bridges to grow a love for reading, it did grow his love for illustrative drawing.
His art tells stories through a place Bridges calls The Thousand Weed Marsh. In this whimsical, dark, and dangerous world, Bridges creates art that gives the viewer a feel of, as he would describe, "illustrations cut from worn and dusty children's books from years gone by."
LAL (Lexington Art League): Your work has a children's book feel to it. Why do you think that is and what drove you to create art in that way?
RB (Robert Bridges): That is intentional. I honestly believe that what I am doing now is what I was meant to do with my life. It feels natural to me and I have always thought along narrative visuals. When I was a young boy my father drew pictures of Disney characters on the end pages of my school primers in order to get my attention and hopefully get me to read the books. The drawings caught my imagination and it has been a developing process my entire life.
LAL: You have talked about how your work comes from a place called The Thousand Weed Marsh. Can you explain when and how did this place come about? And did Vagabond Milliner, come about from that place?
RB: The Thousand Weed Marsh came about organically, by a slow process. It really didn't come into being until about a year and a half ago. I started developing these characters and I thought that they need some sort of home, some sort of place to build a mythology off of. I had always liked Winnie the Pooh and The Hundred Acre Wood and The Thousand Weed Marsh was sort of a play on that. Where the Hundred Acre Wood was light and endearing, The Marsh (which really isn't a marsh per se), is playful, a bit odd, slightly broken, at times wild and sometimes a wee bit dark. A year ago we moved onto 5 acres of land in Scott County. One morning I stood out on my back deck overlooking a wooded pond and it struck me, I now lived on the edges of the Marsh I imagined in my mind. It didn't feel like coincidence to me. And The Vagabond Milliner, yes he's from that same place; he's a vagabond by nature, but travels through the Marsh area plying his trade from time to time.
LAL: What would you say is the inspiration that drove you to create Vagabond Milliner?
RB: This piece was originally created to be a part of a solo show I had at LexArts. All the pieces were characters from the Thousand Weed Marsh. As I don't have my book out just yet, I was exploring creating interesting characters to populate this place. I wanted to create characters who were living their lives and going about their daily activities. Samuel Puddle seemed like an interesting character to explore.
LAL: If there was one message that you wanted your viewer to receive from Vagabond Milliner, what would that be?
RB: I don't think there is any deep, grand message I am trying to get across. I think with most of my work, when coupled with their short stories I am generally hoping to catch the viewer's attention. My little stories give just enough information to have you ask, "What happened next?" I like the viewer to use their imagination to continue the tale.
LAL: Why do you think animals are a huge part of your artwork?
RB: I find them more expressive and interesting to illustrate.
LAL: Is there a certain person throughout your life that influenced your style of art?
RB: I am a big believer that as you go through life you grow and change and so do your tastes and influences. I don't think there has been one constant throughout my life that has influenced me, but rather a successive line of influences that have helped to shape my vision over the years.
LAL: What was your process in creating Vagabond Milliner?
RB: I generally don't create test illustrations or sketches. I tend to work by intuition. Once I have my idea I prep my illustration board, lay down my background base color and draw away. I sometimes spend too much time erasing, sketching and re erasing. Once I am happy that the drawing works, I'll paint in heads and faces first and paint out from there. When I am happy with what I have, I will treat the piece with a sealant and then slightly age, and stain the piece with a short series of paint washes.
LAL: To me, coming up with a capturing title to match the capturing artwork would be a challenge. How do you come up with your artwork's titles and why did you choose Vagabond Milliner as the title for this piece?
RB: Sometimes it almost seems like the titles and short story for them write themselves. I like to think about how the characters fit into this world. What is he or she doing and why? The style of the language of the Marsh is obviously influenced by English Victorian slang. It's a bit of a mish-mash of American wording and a badly cobbled together British vocabulary. So the words I use and the titles I give my pieces have to fall along these guidelines. Samuel Puddle (The Milliner in question), came about by an idea of a classic children's book called Too Many Caps. In it a hat vendor is accosted by a group of monkeys in a tree who steal his caps and won't give them back. The absurdity of this idea came to me one day and the visual of a pigeon with a tower of hats came to mind. I thought and wondered as to why he would wear so many hats on his head. I sat down at my computer and started typing a short 1 to 2-paragraph vignette about the image. The rest just sort of comes naturally to me. In this case he happens to be a vagabond who makes his living selling his wares from town to town. Being hard up for money and without a means of transportation he and his assistant have to carry their merchandise themselves. He just chooses to do so on top of his head. Being a pigeon whose head bobs to and fro when he walks makes it a frustrating endeavor to keep the hats on his head.
LAL: In a lot of your work, you have animals posed doing human activities and dressed in human clothing. What significance and meaning does this have for you?
RB: I am really fond of the illustrative art of the past. My work is a throwback to the illustrators of old. The likes of Arthur Rackham, John Tenniel and even recent illustrators like Maurice Sendak. There is something magical and timeless about using anthromorphosized animals in my work. The tradition of using animals as stand-ins for the folly of human condition dates back as far as ancient Egypt and Greece. It just resonates with me. What I am doing with these characters isn't outwardly fantastic, but like the everyday lives of most people they go about their hum-drum activities of life. But sometimes this includes land pirates, or mythical, giant black wolves or giant spiders who haunt the woods. Well, maybe it is a little fantastical at times...
LAL: Roughly how long does it take you to complete these detailed drawings? Particularly how long did it take to complete Vagabond Milliner?
RB: That's a good question. I don't really keep detailed logs of time on my art. I get lost in the process, if I were to guess, I would think that for The Vagabond Milliner it took about 10 - 12 hours to create. These aren't normally done is one sitting but are broken up into chunks during a week and I sometimes go back and rework areas I am not pleased with.
For more about Robert and his work, visit his website: http://robbridges.com
Also, check out this article in the Herald Leader that featured Robert Bridges' work: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/08/31/4013724_scott-county-artist-and-his-fox.html?rh=1
Artist Keith Barker, received his masters in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Currently, Barker is teaching photography and chairs the Art Department at Asbury University in Wilmore, KY. In 2013, Barker was selected for an incredible artist workshop in South Africa to explore how the country's history, culture, and religion shapes how art is formed there.
Barker's work grasps the history and spirituality of places. He captures the contrasting concept of both history and the present time. In his most recent work, he has been in his hometown photographing the universal realities of certain people and places.
Outside of Barker's immense talents for photography, he is a family man who loves spending time with his wife and three children.
Lexington Art League (LAL): What experiences/influences drew you to photography?
Keith Barker (KB): My Dad has always been a gadget guy, and when I was a kid, an avid photographer. He let me use his Nikon body and lenses back in high school and I'm afraid I sort of took over the equipment because I loved using it! My best friend in high school got me even more interested, and we would work on projects together and develop film in my basement. I later decided to take it up seriously while in college.
LAL: What inspires you most in your work, specifically with Lengthening?
KB: I am energized by places and things that show the effect of time and a little history. This tree is not grand or important but it shows a particular faithfulness to what it was made to be, and to where it was planted. In these images, we watch it literally weather the storms and wind, yet remains green and, well, a tree! I have for years explored different ways of working with multiples and sequences, figuring that they could say more than individual images alone. The comparisons between the images are what interest me the most – what is in this image is not in that one, and so forth. The "Rephotography" work of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe in which they re-photographed scenes of the American West 100 or more years after the pioneering photographs of Timothy O'Sullivan and others; Nicholas Nixon's Brown Sisters series showing the same four sisters posing enigmatically but consistently and annually for almost four decades. There is also Michael Wesely's work entitled Open Shutter - pinhole images exposed for over two years, depicting the construction of the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan almost from start to finish. It spans from the summer of 2001 through late 2003, so, in a sense, all the events that took place during that time span, in a sense, are in that single image. These kinds of "then vs. now" comparisons have always fascinated me. Lengthening is not specifically about the same kinds of passages, but becomes more about what happens on a much smaller, personal scale. It is profound to me - that photography, and all good art not only shows us, but alludes to events and truths beyond itself.
LAL: The detail and layout of Lengthening is breath taking. Can you walk me through your process of making a piece like this?
KB: The main work was simply in remembering to go out everyday to photograph the tree. After that it was about picking the most important or most interesting image of those I'd made that day. It was a discipline, really. It started partly as something that would just keep me photographing through the cold days. Not fun at the time, but the payoff of seeing the images accumulate as I went was what kept me going. I tried to keep the tree about the same proportion within the frame, regardless of my position in relation to the tree. That meant changing focal length (i.e. zooming in or out) to keep the tree about the same size. I also had to adjust my settings so that the tree did not dominate the exposure decisions. While the detail in the tree is important, the detail surrounding the tree is equally so, and having a big dark blob in the middle in certain lighting conditions can make it hard to render adequate detail in both the tree and surroundings. So some images were more technically challenging than others.
LAL: It looks like the different photos were maybe from different seasons of the year. How long did it take you to complete Lengthening?
KB: This series depicts forty consecutive days of winter and spring 2015—one image for each day. There were over 400 total images that I shot and these were the selections from each day that I felt were most compelling and fit with the overall group. There are at least two different snow storms evident in the images.
LAL: Did the location where these photos were taken have any specific meaning to you? If so, what was it?
KB: For this project, I wanted to do a series of images of the same object and from differing vantage points over a span of time. So really, I picked this tree out of convenience as much as anything! The tree is so familiar to us that it has become virtually invisible.
LAL: As an artist you want your viewer to take something away from your work. What message do you want your viewer to take away from Lengthening?
KB: It's really about the quotidian, the small, daily things that start to become more important as they accumulate — because they accumulate. Think of the habits we commit each day – what we eat and how we exercise, etc. Some are good and some not so good. They are rather insignificant as individual acts, but they add up and make a difference long-term when done consistently and faithfully. These images were taken during the lengthening days of spring – where we get the word "Lent," as in, the traditional Lenten season of fasting in preparation for the Easter season. So this time period of forty days defined the structure for my project. In the same vein it became for me an almost liturgical exercise (partially from the Greek –ergos meaning 'work'). The different vantage points in the photos show variety but there is also consistency. On the front end, it was about the discipline to stay faithful to the project. On the viewer's side, it is about change, and what remains through it all.
LAL: What brings you the most joy to photograph?
KB: A most gratifying byproduct of this piece is that it has become sort of a chronicle of my family's life. That brings me joy! My kids can be seen photo bombing some days, but other times insisted that they not be included in any images. Sometimes they were just in the yard blithely walking through. Our geriatric black Lab can be seen curiously walking around the yard with me, sniffing the grass and the snow. She has since passed away so her personality and the memory of her life lingers in this piece. There is one image that features her lit in the sun almost like a halo, front and center in front of the tree. That one image is a tribute to her. My son had his ninth birthday party and so that event transpired during this piece. All the things that bring me joy - that sense of time passing and time's effect, as well as including my family and my home, and the always changing weather – all is wrapped up in this piece for me. Most viewers would not pick up on all that, I know. But I think meaning can be sniffed out by those who spend time and apply their own experiences, and so I trust that it will speak to at least some.
LAL: Out of all the different facets of art, what made photography stand out to you?
KB: I certainly enjoy the process though sometimes all the new digital possibilities of the last twenty or so years can be daunting to keep up with. But I like to try it all, and be as flexible as I can. As an educator I feel energized by my students' enthusiasm, when they learn new techniques, but most importantly when they find ways to use it as a means of expressing themselves. Photography is a very technical, mechanical (and has become a very electronic) medium. But it fascinates me that when it is done well, the artist's vision comes through, and has the potential of affecting others.
LAL: How do you choose where you are going to photograph? Do you carry your camera everywhere just in case you are inspired or do you plan it out carefully?
KB: This is a hard question to answer, and it is part of the reason I started the Lengthening project, because it forced me to work during the darkest, coldest time of year. I think though that places that inspire me hold history and a sense of time. Whenever I can get in such a space I feel inspired. I used to take my camera everywhere and document everything in sort of a "more-is-better" approach to exposing. But I don't as much. I try to switch channels in a healthy way from doing and not doing. Always looking for possibilities, but not burdening myself into working non-stop. An immediate medium such as photography can do that. I also look for opportunities to photograph people who exemplify history and time. My kids, for example, are always changing – it's what children do and is less evident in adults. I do not consider portraits my strength but I like to be ready for it.
LAL: How does your family inspire you in this piece and in your work in general?
KB: My family factors into what I do since I have to fold my work into my family life most times. My dear wife and partner, Bethany is a huge inspiration to me as she helps me keep grounded, and find that sweet spot between making images challenging but accessible. She is a gift. Our three kids do indeed appear in different places in these images. Without them this would just be about a tree.
Visit Keith Barker's website: www.kbarkerphoto.com and his artist archive today!
Growing up in Michigan, and then moving to the bluegrass later in life, Erin Eldred is currently a fiber artist based in Lexington, Kentucky and is inspired by the various artists who live here. From the moment she learned how to sew, Erin discovered a love for fiber art and she has been doing it ever since.
Lexington Art League (LAL): What is the one thing you hope for people to take away from viewing this piece?
Erin Eldred (EE): A sense of calm and order.
LAL: What inspires you to create your pieces?
EE: A lot of what inspires me are the materials themselves. I'm constantly learning new things when it comes to technique, and with each piece I learn something that sparks an idea for another piece. I have far more ideas than time to actually create them all - the inspiration seems never ending.
LAL: What made you choose this title for your piece?
EE: The title is simply a description of the work - a multicolored geometric pattern.
LAL: Are there any artists that inspire you?
EE: There are so many artists that inspire me, I could obviously never name them all - Shelia Hicks, Kay Sekimachi, and Alexandre da Cunha, to name a few of the more well known fiber artists. There's also a great weaving community on Instagram - Lucy Poskitt, Sarah Neubert, and Liz Robb are a few inspiring artists that I follow.
LAL: What advice would you give to new artists?
EE: Work, work, work. Don't overthink it, and always be open to trying new things.
Be sure to check out Erin’s website www.erineldred.com and her Artist Archive http://www.lexingtonartleague.org/erin-eldred/erin-eldred.
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