Thursday, December 27, 2012

WSJ Article: Where Painting and Photography Blur

Article: Where Painting and Photography Blur
By: Richard B. Woodward

Quick, interesting article. Artists mentioned include Wade Guyton, Gerhard Ricther, Alfred Leslie, & James Welling.

"Several New York shows in the past six months indicate that painting and photography remain locked in an uneasy, codependent relationship but have also learned to feed off each other in the digital era as never before."

"Debates about the sway of machines on picture making are not new. Nor are they ever settled. Photographers and paintings have borrowed freely from each other - there were hand-tinted photographs in the 19th century and photorealist painters in the 20th century - even as they struggled to establish their own artistic identity and supremacy."

Books on the reading table

Busy reading month!!!

For Research:
  • Beckley, Bill. Sticky Sublime. New York: Allworth Press, 2001. Print.
  • Hickey, Dave. Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy. Los Angeles: Art issues. Press, 1997. Print.
  • Beech, Dave. Beauty. London: Whitechapel, 2009. Print.
For Critical Theory 2:
  • Merewether, Charles. The Archive. London: Whitechapel, 2006. Print.
  • Perec, Georges, and David Bellos. Thoughts of Sorts. Boston: David R. Godine, 2009. Print.
  • Spieker, Sven. The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2008. Print.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Consuming Paradise Time-Lapse Video

This is a recent project where I captured 11 hours worth of images (1 image every 20 seconds) outside the famous Ala Moana Mall on December 1st, 2012. In thinking about the consumption of "paradise" by both visitors and residents, I wanted to experiment with time-lapse video of the mall parking lot. It is also possible to make out the busy water traffic in the upper part of the frame which I feel works well with the idea of commercialization and consumption. The version below is a condensed video file of over 1700 images processed to fit within a minutes time-frame. The quality is poor when viewed full-screen so it's best to view it small.

Prints in Progress

Prior to leaving Hawaii, I spent much of December preparing final prints of night landscapes and final "anti-paradise" postcards for the upcoming January residency in Boston. Here are two photos showing various prints in progress. I love being able to use the Canon 8100 printer at the UH Pacific New Media print lab - such a valuable resource for local artists and students.
5x7 "Anti-Paradise" Postcards, double-sided

12x18 Night Landscapes Test Prints

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Framing Paradise

Unfortunately, I only had about 15 minutes to check out this exhibit "Framing Paradise: Photography and Waikiki" before the UH gallery building closed. I must get back before the show ends on Dec 7! This subject matter is related to much of my semester focus. Luckily, I was able to check out he Daido Moriyama wing but hope to return to see the vintage postcard selection and archival photographs. Worth checking out if you are in the area and haven't seen the show yet!

Here's a blurb from the UH Manoa Campus Events Calendar:

"Millions of tourists flock to Waikīkī annually with cameras at-the-ready. Such travelers have been lured to and by Waikīkī for over a century—it is a place that has shaped the very idea of tourism. Early photographers snapped images of Waikīkī’s natural beauty, water sports, beaches, and cosmopolitan man-made structures. The amalgamation of these images created a visual mythology and iconography of Waikīkī that tourists sought to experience and capture for themselves. Through the medium of photography, "Framing Paradise: Photography and Waikīkī" explores interactions and encounters with Waikīkī.
"Framing Paradise: Photography and Waikīkī" features selections from "Hawaii," a portfolio by internationally recognized photographer Daido Moriyama, and from "Waikiki ’73," a portfolio by established Hawai‘i-based photographer Eric Yanagi, as well as over one hundred archival photographs taken by professionals and amateurs from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s. Written contributions by a number of local individuals bring a variety of voices and perspectives to the photographs on view. The education section of the exhibition provides visitors opportunities to compare significant events in the development of photography and Waikīkī."
Image from UH Manoa exhibition "Framing Paradise: Photography and Waikiki"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Reconciling Beauty with Criticality: New Landscapes

For December's paper, I was tasked with a semester summary. I've been thinking a lot about my night long exposure landscapes (beauty) and how these images might connect with my non-paradise postcard project (conceptual). Here is a written section pulled from my semester review:

In general, the long exposure night images range from abstract studies of luminosity and color to more precise renderings of Oahu’s coastline. For much of the semester, the long exposures felt like a separate project from the postcard series. However, over time, some connections between the two projects have emerged. For one, many of the most interesting long exposures are the ones that capture human-made light illuminating the water or skyline. The images that at first were made to represent a more authentic, pristine, or natural “paradise” are in fact affected by city lights, streetlights, or in some cases bold and direct ocean spotlights.  A number of images also display trails of light caused by air and water traffic. Is it possible that the strongest long exposures, both aesthetically and conceptually, are the ones that display the intersection of the natural environment with the artificial? Perhaps the “real” Hawaii is more accurately portrayed by the combination of its stunningly beautiful natural landscape amidst its manufactured counterpart? 

I am also interested in considering the long exposures as entirely separate entities from Hawaii. What potential do they hold in moving beyond the idea of paradise specifically in Hawaii and in instead representing larger ideas about human interaction within the natural landscape?

New Non-Paradise Postcards

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Daido Moriyama

Looking forward to seeing this artist lecture by Daido Moriyama next week at University of Hawaii!

Daido Moriyama
Lecture: Wednesday, November 28, 6-7pm @ ART auditorium
Photographer Daido Moriyama is well known for his experimental and gritty images of postwar Japanese urban life. His Nippon gekijō shashinchō book depicts lesser known parts of Tokyo in all of their mystery, with techniques that exploit the grain of the film and offer surprising perspectives. He has over forty photo books and has shown world-wide, including a recent exhibition of his black and white photographs at LACMA (2012), and an upcoming show at the TATE Modern (2013). Moriyama’s visit will be in conjunction with the Art Department’s Framing Paradise: Photography and Tourism show, which includes his Hawaii portfolio. His visit is cosponsored by Center for Japaese Studies, Hawaii Council for the Humanities, SAPFB, SFCA, and Parc Hotel: Hospitality Sponser for the Arts.

Monday, October 22, 2012

South Park Pokes Fun at Hawaii

South Park recently aired an episode about Hawaii. I decided to post a link from a local news station discussing the episode since the show actually brings up a few of the points I am considering in my research - the push and pull of the tourism industry and the tension between what visitors expect to find in Hawaii (paradise) and the reality of place. Watch the episode for a humorous look.

Article link:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Current Paper: Escapism

I'm reading Yi Fu Tuan's book titled Escapism. In my next paper, I'll be looking at Tuan's notion of escapism as a basic human quality in addition to what role photographs play in the concept of escape. I'll also be tying in portrayals of Hawaii in the travel industry and the implications of people "escaping" here. I'd like to eventually bring in ideas on my recent projects since there is a lot of overlap in the themes I hope to address... we will see how much I can fit in the essay.

Tuan, Yi-Fu. Escapism. Baltimore. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. Print.

2 Documentary Films

I recently checked out 2 interesting art films. 

The first titled Press Pause Play reminded me of some of the discussions brought up in my June residency elective seminar titled "Visual Remix" with Oliver Wasow. While the documentary mainly discusses how the film and music industries are changing with the digital revolution, other forms of art are discussed as well. The film is viewable free on Vimeo at

A synopsis on idmb reads:
The digital revolution of the last decade has unleashed creativity and talent of people in an unprecedented way, unleashing unlimited creative opportunities. But does democratized culture mean better art, film, music and literature or is true talent instead flooded and drowned in the vast digital ocean of mass culture? Is it cultural democracy or mediocrity? This is the question addressed by PressPausePlay, a documentary film containing interviews with some of the world's most influential creators of the digital era.

Another film I viewed is titled Jean-Michel Basqiuat: The Radiant Child. I've wanted to watch this documentary on Basquiat for a while now and it finally came up on my Netflix cue. I learned more about this young artist, his work, and short-lived career. I enjoyed learning about his collages and extremely busy but strategic canvases, especially as I am testing out collage in my own work with postcards. It's difficult to make collage work, but when it does it's impact can be quite powerful and make the various elements feel as if they were always meant to be together. I also learned of Basquiat's friendship with Andy Warhol and his time spent in Hawaii.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Recent Reading

The Inward Eye: Transcendence in Contemporary Art
Herbert, Lynn M, Klaus Ottmann, and Peter Schjeldahl. The Inward Eye : Transcendence In Contemporary Art. Houston, Tex.: Contemporary Arts Museum, 2001.
I enjoyed Lynn M Herbet's essay in the introduction titled "The Inward Eye." In trying to find a digital version to perhaps link here, I instead found a quick quote by her on the PBS Art 21 website. “Spirituality is such a vibrant and integral part of our lives that even our changing times and all the apparent obstacles have not stifled the powerful partnership of spirituality and art in the modern era,” writes Lynn M. Herbert in her essay for the Companion Book to the "Art in the Twenty-First Century" series. “The realm of the spiritual is mysterious and inviting,” writes Herbrt, “It is a place where we are encouraged to explore the unknown.”

Artists represented in the book and its exhibition included Vija Clemins, Ann Hamilton, Jenny Holzer, Roni Horn, James Turrell, Bill Viola, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Qiu Shi-Hua, Rachel Ranta, Gerhard Ricther, Charles Ray, and Ernesto Neto to name a few. Here are a few examples of work featured.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Recent Night Horizons

Postcards of Paradise

These postcards are an idea I'm experimenting with using my numerous collected cutouts from tourism brochures and Hawaii travel magazines. The backgrounds show places that I have photographed around the island that you are unlikely to see in advertised or highlighted in a travel mag. I've been focusing on mundane sites like shopping centers and parking lots. I have also been drawn to any sites that include signs with warnings like "No swimming, no fishing, no trespassing or kapu (forbidden)." I like the idea of placing the stereotypical tourist icon against a mundane background or near a warning sign - the opposite of what you would expect on a flashy postcard. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Visions of Paradise Collected

I'm posting a quick selection of various cutouts and collages showcasing stereotypical images of Hawaii - hula dancers, surfboards, sunsets, mai tais, palm trees, dolphins, the list goes on. I initially thought these might work as a large, chaotic collage (eventually mixing in less desirable elements of life here like trash, homelessness, and traffic)  but I've decided to wait on that plan. First, I'm enjoying mixing and matching the pieces to create different canvases.  Second, I am scanning each piece to have a digital copy. This has proved beneficial as I create my own postcards and bring in some of the cutouts to juxtapose stereotypical icons with the background of my choice. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Film: Rothko's Rooms

Just finished watching this documentary. I enjoyed it and learned more about Rothko's personal biography and how his ideas progressed during his life.  

Rothko's Rooms, made in 2000.

4 Rothko Quotes:

“I'm not an abstractionist. I'm not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I'm interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.” 

“We assert that the subject is crucial and only that subject matter is valid which is tragic and timeless.”

“The myth holds us, therefore, not through its romantic flavor, not the remembrance of beauty of some bygone age, not through the possibilities of fantasy, but because it expresses to us something real and existing in ourselves, as it was to those who first stumbled upon the symbols to give them life.”

“The romantics were prompted to seek exotic subjects and to travel to far off places. They failed to realize that, though the transcendental must involve the strange and unfamiliar, not everything strange or unfamiliar is transcendental.” 

Looking at Ad Reinhardt

In the last month, I've been thinking about and studying the concept of representation in art.  In regards to my own practice as a photographer, I have been moving towards more abstraction in my work. Even at last June's residency, I was quickly labeled a "painter's photographer." One project I am currently working on is making long exposures of Oahu's shoreline at night. The images are less about what they literally represent and more about the emotions evoked. At the same time, however, I am aware that they are still representations of Hawaii in a sense. They are, after all, made on Oahu’s beaches and depict the horizon line as seen from the shore. They are OF something even if that something is not immediately deciphered visually. My hope is for the emotion evoked to be representative of the spirit (perhaps "mana") of Hawaii… for the abstract images to still have a sense of place.  I would like for the abstractions to portray a sensitivity to the elements that are embedded in daily life here - light, air, and water.

My mentor, David Ulrich, suggested I look at the work of Ad Reinhardt during our last meeting. He loaned me the book below. It was informative to review Reinhardt's work and to learn more about his ideas, especially as I explore both long exposure abstract work and more literal collages juxtaposing representations of Hawaii. I've selected a few images and quotes from the text below. 

"The paintings in my show are not pictures....The intellectual and emotional content are in what the lines, colors, and spaces do. - Ad Reinhardt 1944

Lippard, Lucy R. Ad Reinhardt. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1981. Print.

On Collage: "At the same time, expanded use of the collage medium brought Reinhardt dangerously close to fusing two aspects of art which he considered permanently opposed - the pictorial, or picturesque, and the abstract; or life and art....Yet Reinhardt was an obsessive clipper of reproductions, art and otherwise, from magazines, books, and newspapers, a collector of the most picturesque of the picturesque - humorous, evocative, grotesque images for which he later found an outlet in the PM cartoons, and still later, in his teaching methods. One of the major challenges of the abstract collages, therefore, lay in the rearrangement of highly charged representational images in order to divest them of just those effects for which they might have been chosen...In figure 22 (Collage), what shapes can be discerned are only parts of a patterned whole. The pasted papers had to be small in order to be cleansed of associative imagery; this gave them an anonymity rare in geometric art at the time, and the disintegration of both form and image paved the way for the black paintings." (34)

"The expressive and structural meaning of color space in painting is my main interest." 
- Ad Reinhardt

Another quote from Lippard's book citing the English writer David Thompson: 
“Radical extremism in art tends to be thought naïve in Europe. In America it tends to be thought necessary; hence that extraordinary ability of American painting in the last twenty years to drive through again and again to what appear to be ultimate conclusions. ‘It’s too obvious’ or ‘It can only be a cul-de-sac,’ the anti-Americans have said in turn of Pollock, Rothko, Newman, Johns, Louis, Noland, recoiling from the idea of being so uncompromising.

Extremism is both romantic indulgence and the strictest of disciplines. Perhaps that is why, being a paradox, it is not a bore, but a challenge, and why American painting can derive so much strength from it. Reinhardt is the embodiment of such a challenge, a sort of logical counterpart of Duchamp." (123)

“The separation, definition, compartmentation of all that affects how art is seen occupied Reinhardt wholly apart from the process of making art. He considered art a social responsibility and saw himself as an imperative force toward the formation of a type or class of American artist opposed to the current image. A certified liberal in regard to ‘life,’ i.e. all that is accidental and uncontrolled (including personal relationships), he was a dogmatist or a “conserver” in regard to art because art was, finally, what counted.” (130)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Myths of Paradise According to One High School Photo Class

 In thinking about portrayals of Hawaii, I’ve included my high school photography students in the conversation. We’ve been discussing the role images play in shaping reality. My readings of Camera Lucida and On Photography have helped guide our discussions about representation, reality, and truth. With these larger concepts in mind, we’ve discussed how Hawaii has been portrayed via photographs in the media, pop culture, the travel industry, etc. I asked students to list 10 myths or stereotypes of Hawaii and then for each myth, find one image via the Internet that perpetuated (or “proved”) the myth and one image that debunked it. An example that came up repeatedly is the idea of Hawaii as an endless stretch of pristine, empty sandy coastline.  You know the postcard – gorgeous white sand, turquoise water, swaying palm tree. While this striking scenery does exist, the stereotypical image of paradise certainly doesn’t include the daily commute of H1 traffic that both my students and I travel on everyday nor does it include the beaches overflowing with homeless makeshift housing. What other myths of paradise exist? Which ones are true, partly true, or entirely inaccurate? What we found is that many of the stereotypes were in fact embedded in some sort of partial truth. For every image available to debunk a myth, another photograph was available to validate it. When we worked to compile all of the images in a venn diagram (3 categories: true, false, sometimes true or false), we discovered that many of the images fell into the sometimes true/sometimes false center section. (Image below is not the final display but I wanted to show an idea of what we were working with.) Sorting and organizing the images was an engaging process but also somewhat problematic depending on how the stereotype was phrased. (Words like "everyone" or "all" tended to automatically be false given their absoluteness.) Nevertheless, the activity did provide interesting debate about topics ranging from identity, island culture, food, family, and local political issues like affordable housing, traffic, and environmental issues. We still have a number of images to sort…and I hope to eventually involve more classes on the venn diagram project.
Draft of Venn Diagram: Images that perpetuate/debunk myths of Hawaii

Next, I am most interested in working with my students to consider what role images play in shaping the perception of Hawaii.  And in the context of their own practices, as photographers, what is their responsibility in portraying a subject authentically? Is this even possible? Is it important?

Tomorrow, I am taking this class on a field trip to Haleiwa to the legendary North Shore. They are each doing independent projects but I’ve asked them to keep our recent discussions on the myths of paradise in the back of their minds as they shoot. I’m looking forward to seeing their work on these concepts, as there will be ample opportunity to explore them tomorrow.

Below is a compiled list of my students’ thoughts on the myths of Hawaii. 
  • We live in grass huts.
  • It's always sunny, beautiful weather in Hawaii.
  • Everyone can dance hula and hula dancers exist everywhere.
  • There is no traffic on the islands.
  • The beaches are deserted and pristine.
  • Everyone is happy, has no problems, and in "permanent vacation mode."
  • All water is clean.
  • People from here don't go to college.
  • People wear grass skirts and coconut bras.
  • Everyone can surf and goes to the beach everyday.
  • We walk (swim, surf, or paddle) everywhere.
  • People are laid-back and "super-chill."
  • We go barefoot everywhere.
  • Volcanoes exist everywhere in Hawaii.
  • Everybody is rich with beach front property.
  • We only eat Hawaiian foods like poi.
  • Everyone is beach blond surfers.
  • Everyone is Hawaiian.
  • Plumeria flowers are native to Hawaii.
  • Everyone knows how to play ukulele.
  • Everyone speaks Hawaiian on a daily basis.
  • All women in Hawaii are ugly.
  • All women in Hawaii are beautiful and exotic- looking.
  • Everyone has a hula dancer car dash ornament.

Lastly, this week marks the 50th anniversary of Blue Hawaii starring Elvis Presley. We watched the beginning of this film to see how Hawaii was being portrayed in the 1960’s. Some of the stereotypes (both racial and sexual) were offensive. However, in general, as a learning exercise, it was informative  and fairly entertaining to critically examine this film in the context of Hawaii stereotypes. It’s serendipity that the film’s 50th anniversary is this week.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Barbara Probst: Exposures

I've been looking at the work of Barbara Probst in relation to my current paper topic - photography's role in understanding time, reality, and truth.

In 2008, I had the opportunity to see Barbara Probst's New Photography exhibit at MOMA in NYC. I loved the work when I saw it then and now I am bridging the concepts in her work into the paper I am currently writing. In her series titled Exposures, Probst photographs the same exact moment in time using multiple cameras placed at different vantage points. The image below is an example of one diptych. I'm interested in how Probst forces the viewer to recognize photography's limitations in showing reality as a whole, yet simultaneously acknowledges that all images are, in part, an accurate replication of a specific time and place. 

In an interview posted on her website she says, “What I am interested in, after all, is not what is represented but how it is represented, the potential and the effects of representation. My purpose is to examine what photography can produce out of what was there.”
 Check out her website for more work:

An informative interview on Vimeo discussing and showing an installation of her work:

Probst, Barbara. Exposure #39: N.Y.C., 545 8th Avenue, 03.23.06, 1:17 p.m. 2006.