Friday, September 14, 2012

Writing Three - Group C Reaction

Writing Three - Group C Reaction
Ramon Riley

I found James Battistelli’s description of his work fascinating!  Is there a blog with pix?  The idea of science fictions impact opens a new discussion that I hope the book gets into further.  I think how we are portrayed in science fiction sometimes tells us more about our culture than movies based in reality or even based on true stories.  Battistelli say’s, “What I plan to do in my work this semester is incorporate body extension and performance into these new creatures I am creating,” which hooked me in based on the concept alone. 

I found Michelle Coulbaugh’s take on the chapter and the impact of branding and labels compelling saying “Specifically, my paintings focus on creating new representations and relationships between the spectator and the fast food industry. I strive to break down the industry’s power over our buying choices by removing branding from their food packaging. What is left is a stark, blank slate upon which we can apply a fresh judgment on what and why we are buying.”   After seeing her current pieces in Kipp Gallery, I realize my mind had added the labels to the product. My mind completed the picture.  There is a difference in a McDonald’s yellow and a Wendy’s yellow.  My mind immediately saw that paler Wendy’s yellow and filled in the blanks.  These big companies are watching us and directing us.  We are the market in market research.  Repetition fosters familiarity, which is difficult to resist even if the result is unfulfilling.  I am trained to go back again and again.

Crystal Miller’s point that the scale of her work is very important to addressing/engaging people was well stated.  Having worked on illustration size drawings for the past five years versus putting work in a gallery environment is a daunting task because how it will ultimately be received  is dependent on variable I had not been considering.  The intimacy of holding a book is very different from luring viewers in to see you work.  What I thought was large can be dwarfed by the context of a wall.  Having been in class with the artist, I wanted to hear more about how she chooses her subjects for her photographs.  I wonder what makes something worthy of this creative treatment of printing and scaling to turn it into art.  I wonder is it being at the right place at the right time, or is there some part of the plan that is consistent when you are looking?

Crystal’s paper addressed the sexual undertones of the “gazing” process that I focused on in my writing, but I thought  Eric Brennan’s stating “Men may like to imagine they are in control but women love knowing they DO control men’s gaze,” was addressing the elephant in the room.  As he states in his blog, (we are) “Surrounded by people and society that are always trying to influence us,” I am finding I grow impatient with people who are unwilling to take a stance, state an opinion or aren’t willing to acknowledge their emotions and feelings.  Ironically, many art students try to adhere to unreachable standards of purity.  I feel this is out of fear of having to defend one’s self.  Brennan’s paper also references the the repression of feelings seen as inappropriate.  My question is inappropriate by who?

Why do we have this standard that any and every question is worthy of answer?  Group C re-evaluated their work based on Mulvey.  Why?  I would have to commit time to see her work as a filmmaker before I put so much stock in her criticism.

She instead stated that she intended to use Freud and Lacan's concepts as a "political weapon." She then used some of their concepts to argue that the cinematic apparatus of classical Hollywood cinema inevitably put the spectator in a masculine subject position, with the figure of the woman on screen as the object of desire...
Mulvey argued that the only way to annihilate the "patriarchal" Hollywood system was to radically challenge and re-shape the filmic strategies of classical Hollywood with alternative feminist methods. She called for a new feminist avant-garde filmmaking that would rupture the magic and pleasure of classical Hollywood filmmaking. She wrote, "It is said that analyzing pleasure or beauty annihilates it. That is the intention of this article..."

That just sounds sterile and bitter.  Are her films void of beauty and pleasure?Why would I want that for myself?  Before I punish myself, I will consider and analyze the source.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Writing THREE - My Visual Pleasure

Writing Three - My Visual Pleasure
Ramon Riley

I am guilty of looking...  

Mulvey’s article proclaims that it intends to destroy pleasure and beauty by analyzing it.  Nice try.  Not even close.  

This week I combine the writing of Mulvey “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” and Chapter Three, “Spectatorship, Power and Knowledge”, of the Sturken and Cartwright book “Practices of Looking...” to discuss my own practice and process.

In my work, I am driven by muses, or goddesses of inspiration.  My earliest memory of this was seeing the replica sculpture of Nike of Samothrace at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, who, like the origin of the word “muse”, is also Greek.  The female body draped with thin fabric clinging in a way that accentuated her curves, especially between her thighs, motivates me still to seek out moments of visual pleasure in life, thus blurring the line between art and life. That this sculpture in its current form is headless is reason for some to criticize me.  Oh well.  

Nike of Samothrace,
 2nd century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike

A sculpture, even more than a painting, because it is three-dimensional is the highest form of looking because every curve is studied and touched intimately.  In my latest works, I wanted to bring my drawings close to this level of intimacy and study.  I treat the graphite like a chisel to reveal the image from the paper.  This involves a long hard look.  My intention is to get the viewer to also take a long hard look.

Ramon Riley 2012

The concept of the “gaze” in both articles was well presented and focused on the voyeur having power, at least at first.  The negative connotation it puts on instinct to look as an abuse of power, however, causes me to distance myself from such a definition.  To look is powerful.  One does not have to make another weak to make one’s self powerful. Mulvey talks about a world of sexual imbalance between the “active/ male and passive/ female”.  Reading this article conjured feelings from my youth as the sympathetic male who was missing the boat.  I spent too much time listening to insecure self-haters who want others to hate themselves too.   

I seek to articulate the power the muse already has, so one may be inspired as I am.  The Winged Nike of Samothrace is powerful.  She is the symbol of victory for goodness sake and not just in title.  She is not passive.  Her stance is strong and assertive. That she is actually an object immortalizes her, and makes me wonder who was the muse that inspired the sculpture. To see her image, likeness or qualities in women is cyclical because I am not sure which came first.  
I do believe there is a vast difference, despite subtle distinctions, between the look, the gaze, the scope of an individual predator or the panopticon theory as discussed in the Sturken and Cartwright chapter (p. 96 -100).  The distinction is in the access and motive of discovery.  It should not be a violation of ownership.  The half-cocked can argue that they are one in the same, but I argue in the subtle distinction... there is the art.

The metamorphosis of our capitalist culture to give cheap (not necessarily inexpensive, but cheap) easy access to everything, lowers our standards despite the illusion of “high definition” being the so-called standard.  Putting cameras in everyone’s hands and convincing them they are photographers and directors sabotages the artist, model and potential audience because the work and the venue is tainted.  This results in poor representation of a given medium.  But it makes me more confident and determined as an artist.  I like being me, though it comes at the price of constant self-examination.  I constantly ask myself difficult questions.  My art work stems from the remaining questions I am unable to verbalize that probably have no set answer.  This process makes me the proud co-owner of my discoveries and my art.  

I believe in muses, and I appreciate beauty.  I will not surrender my passion to follow the uninspired nor the uninspiring .  Karen Rosenberg wrote in an article for a Matisse gallery show, “Matisse and the Model,” about the power the model had over him quoting the artist’s words from a 1939 essay:  ‘“I depend entirely on my model, whom I observe at liberty, and then I decide on the pose which best suits her nature.” He continued, “And then I become the slave of that pose.”’(1)  Coincidentally, Matisse’s Large Seated Nudes were inspired by Michaelangelo’s “Night” sculpture at the Medici Chapel in Florence, which was not a flesh woman, but Matisse understood the power of the model was the first critical part to the art work, stating about Michaelangelo’s sculpture:   “Forgive me, I’ve been completely ensnared by a woman.”

Henry Matisse Seated Nude [lithograph and sculpture] 1925-1929

 on the Medici Tomb

(1). Karen Rosenberg, "Matisse and the Model". The New York Times: Art and Design November 17, 2011–