The photos included with this post are from a shoot I did with a model in and around the gallery during our stay.
A while back my family was asked to take part in a residency for artists at the
Kolva-Sullivan Gallery here in Spokane. The residency was entitled "MONTH" as it would take place over the entire month of March. During the course of the month each artist would take up residence in the gallery for a period of 24 hours. During their 24 hours they were to create. There were no hard and fast rules as to how or what they were to create, they were simply to do what they did as artists.
I won't give you a mass of details about our stay in the gallery as others have already done that. Sara over at Glorified Love Letters and Tiffany PattersonWhat I will do, though, is tell you why something like this is important to me; and why I think that any artist who is given this sort of opportunity should take advantage of it.
The tendency of artists, like all people, is to segregate themselves. We step back from those of do things differently than ourselves and we tend to spend time in small groups of like-minded individuals. Photographers hang out with other photographers. Painters hang out with other painters. Musicians hang out with other musicians.
While I'm no different from most people in this regard, I have found that it is important for me to break that cycle every so often. MONTH was a spectacular opportunity for me to do just that. While I wasn't spending the 24 hours with artists from around Spokane directly (though many artists stopped by during our 24 hour stay) I was with them in essence. Their art was on the walls of the gallery. Literally on the walls. Artists were allowed to paint, draw, and generally create directly on the walls of the space. This turned the room itself into an art piece. To spend 24 hours inside that, inside of a space filled with the ideas and emotions and strengths and weaknesses of other artists, was a truly unique experience.
While Chris Dreyer's giant brain/eyeball with tentacles stretching across the largest wall of the room isn't something that I can directly transfer into a photo (at least not without some serious digital manipulation), it is something that can influence me. His use of contrasting color to create a semblance of texture in the brain matter is interesting.
While Thuy-Dzuong Nguyen's time machine and related text on the walls isn't going to go directly into an editorial, it will influence the way I look at my surroundings. The concept of lost words and the altering of human perception over time may end up informing a long exposure series in the future.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is important to surround yourself by varied influences. Both photographically, and from art in general. I can't explain how much the Pre-Raphaelite paintings are affecting my lighting right now. Comic books and movies were the origins of my visual style before I knew what a visual style was. It is all of our duties as artists to push ourselves by becoming informed of what has come before and what is happening currently. You don't have to be an expert on existentialist writing and post-modern sculpture, but you must surround yourself with art. But don't just surround yourself with other types of art, try your hand at creating them. If you're a portrait photographer who has never attempted to sketch a portrait, you've done yourself a disservice. Pick up a pencil and a piece of paper. Try it.
Every child is born with this need to create. It's why children love crayons. No one loses that need, some of us simply stop fulfilling it. Somewhere along the way we become too concerned with whether or not our creations are "good enough" based upon some arbitrary comparison. We need to stop caring so much. Certainly, we should always strive to be better, but we must remember it is ok to create for creation's sake alone. Surrounding yourself with art of different varieties can help with this.
While surrounded by all of the art at MONTH, I picked up a pencil and paper and sketched a couple of quick portraits for the first time in over 5 years. They weren't the best portraits in the world, to be sure. But they weren't horrible either. And more importantly, it got me to think about shadows and layers and light in the shape of someone's face.
Art is like food. You can't eat the exact same thing every day and be as healthy as possible.
Consume art, create art, consume art, create art. Repeat as needed, and it's always needed.