By Jen Fuentes
I started my internship with Dot expecting to learn a lot about oil painting, and I ended up learning so much more than that. Not only did Dot show me the steps she takes to create a painting, from preparing a surface and planning her image to varnishing and framing a finished painting, but she taught me a tremendous amount about drawing and composition as well.
Through Dot's drawing, painting, and color theory classes, I honestly feel as though I have progressed in my understanding of form and my ability to control value and color. The mark of a great teacher is someone who inspires their students to want to keep learning. I think the single most important thing Dot did for me was inspire me to keep learning and improving my skills as an artist. It has been a privilege to learn from Dot and see her work process up close. Her technical ability and mastery of color allow her to transform scenes of everyday life into moments of beauty.
One of the best parts about this internship has been attending events and classes that Dot has hosted over the summer. There is such a supportive community of artists that gather at Red Stone Farm Studio. It was amazing to have had the opportunity to meet and learn from so many talented, wonderful artists in one place. I am grateful for the experience I have had working with Dot and her husband Tom at Red Stone Farm Studio, and I will miss everyone I have met there. What I have learned over the course of this summer has already improved my art and will stay with me as I enter my senior year at school.
Below is the progression of my landscape and still life paintings which I am currently working on.
To learn more about Dot Bunn, click here.
"Dogwoods" 18x24 in. Drawing (top), underpainting (middle) and the most recent version of painting (bottom).
Elmina is a town situated on a south-facing bay on the Atlantic Ocean coast of Ghana, and the first European (Portuguese) settlement in West Africa. In the old days, the location of Elmina made it a significant site for provisioning ships headed south towards the Cape of Good Hope on their way to India.
It was some years ago when I was passing Elmina on the way to another country, Benin, to take some pictures of a celebration there. While crossing the bridge in Elmina, I was seduced by the view of the bay and the hundreds of fishermen with their boats. I cultivated this image in me for months and months, and couldn’t get over it, so I collected money, and a year later I traveled to Elmina again for five days to look closer at this magic place.
It was my very private project. I wanted to experience that place which once left a strong impression on me, looking like one big anthill, with hundreds of people, including children involved in fishing. Today, even with a population of 33,000 people, Elmina remains a fishing town.
Regardless of the modern technology in the fishing industry, and especially due to the aggressive behavior of Chinese fishermen, the people of Elmina are bravely fighting for survival and for their existence. They support themselves by creating small cooperatives, where profits are shared equally between the members of these communities. This is the kind of grassroots work, without any state aid.
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Is graffiti art? One court in Brooklyn has decided yes, ruling for spray paint over New York real estate.
On Monday, a judge ruled that a real estate developer who whitewashed dozens of graffiti murals at the 5Pointz complex in Queens violated the Visual Artists Rights Act, "which has been used to protect public art of 'recognized stature' created on someone's else property," according to the New York Times.
Jerry Wolkoff purchased the 200,000-square-foot former factory building in the 1970s for $1 million, according to NBC. Graffiti artists approached him the 1990s, asking if they could display their art on the vacant five-story building. Wolkoff agreed.
5Pointz artist Jonathan Cohen started curating the space in 2002. "I said, '... Let me start this place up, let me have a wall where no ego is involved, and artists could come paint.' Favoritism doesn't really float," he told NPR in 2013. "If you do a good job and your piece comes out amazing, it could last longer. If you don't, then it goes."
In Nov. 2013, Wolkoff decided to demolish the site and build new stores and apartments. By then, 5Pointz was loved and known by New Yorkers and graffiti artists worldwide alike.
The developer contracted painters to whitewash the decades of graffiti away under the cover of night. He told WNYC that he did so to avoid conflict. "It's like a Band-Aid, I just wanted to take one rip off in one time. I felt it was best for them and I," Wolkoff said. "I had tears in my eyes when I painted this morning."
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Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Edgar Degas. These artists are not only some of the most famous painters in art history, but they also share a common experience—copying the works of Old Masters in the Louvre. A long tradition dating back to just after the French Revolution, each year Paris' premier museum grants 250 permits to amateur and professional artists, allowing them to copy the masterpiece of their choice.
Post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne once said, “The Louvre is the book from which we learn to read.” This poignant thought sums up the traditional practice of learning by copying the work of previous masters. Indeed, as far back as the 15th century, when Italian artist Cennino Cennini wrote his artist handbook, The Book of Art, this task has been deemed essential for artistic growth. Cennini wrote, “When you have practiced drawing for a while… take pains and pleasure in constantly copying the best works that you can find done by the hand of great masters.”
The Louvre opened its doors to copyists in 1793, just one month after Marie Antoinette was beheaded and Louis XIV's palace transformed into a public museum. It was then declared that any artist would be provided an easel free of charge to take up the challenge of painting a masterpiece. This still holds true today. But while the easels are free, artists around the world can wait for up to two years in order to be granted one of the limited permits.
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Diana Markosian is a photographer, writer, and filmmaker who creates work exploring her Armenian heritage and concepts of memory. In June 2016, she was announced as one of the newest Magnum Nominees. Below, she speaks with LensCulture Managing Editor Alexander Strecker about the development of her photo projects, her experience with Magnum thus far, and her breakthrough series, “Inventing My Father.”
LC: Your introduction to photography came in journalism graduate school. What resonated with you about the camera—about image-making rather than telling stories through words?
DM: Photography allowed me to be myself: I didn’t have to force things. I could take the time to learn things about the people and place I was in and then transmit my feelings in a way I couldn’t with words. My relationship to writing was always a bit different—it never came naturally to me.
LC: You could say you caught a “lucky” break when your work attracted the eye of a Reuters editor while you were in Russia. But I also think we make our own luck. Can you talk about the role chance plays in photography (and in life) and also how we can learn to take advantage of opportunities that are presented to us?
DM: I am not sure if it was luck. I’ve been fortunate, for sure, but I’ve also put myself in situations that most photographers wouldn’t want to find themselves in. I lived in the North Caucasus, away from everyone, for several years at a time when the region was experiencing an insurgency. It was unsafe as a woman. In retrospect, I am not sure what compelled me to be there. And yet, this is where I honed my aesthetic and had a chance to create my first body of work.
I was never commissioned to make any of it, especially the early stuff. I just went and did it. I didn’t have money, but somehow I made it happen. Not much has changed in that regard.
LC: A lot of people commend your work by speaking about the vulnerability it shows. Is that a conscious decision? Can you say more about how you get into a vulnerable space with yourself and your subjects?
DM: Being present is being vulnerable to me. I don’t need to be in pain, but I do need to care about what I am photographing. That’s the basic requirement. This goes for both assignment and personal work.
LC: To that point: your breakthrough series, “Inventing My Father,” was an incredibly personal work about your connection with a man you hardly knew. What did making such an intensely intimate series teach you? Did you have trouble following such a unique body of work with other photographs that were inherently less personal?
DM: I tried to shake it off, to move on from it, but I couldn’t. It felt like a movie clip. All I wanted was to turn it off, to do something else, but I found myself coming back to it. I think the experience broke something very deep in me, which has changed the way I see myself and my role as an artist. But it’s one of those things that has become a gift, you know?
Everything I’ve done since has touched upon the subject of memory through routes of the aesthetic, the ideological and the personal.
LC: What is it about Magnum that compelled you to go through the nomination process? What have you learned so far?
DM: Most of my time is spent on the road, away from everyone. I’ve found myself without a real home, or community, and I wanted to change that. It’s still so new, so I am not sure I have perspective on it yet.
LC: Finally, a lot of great photographers say that to pursue photography, it must be the most important thing in your life. Meanwhile, you’re more open-minded. I loved your quote, “I understand that this is what I’m interested in right now and that could change in five years.” I think many creative people feel that way about what they’re doing. Do you still find yourself so open to change, or are you beginning to narrow your focus?
DM: To me, the medium is irrelevant, especially when it limits you, your vision, and your growth as an artist.
I guess from the beginning, I knew that I wanted to create. That was the motivation for me. I’ve been fortunate with the projects I’ve taken on. They’ve allowed me to see the world, to understand myself a bit better, and to give back in a real way.
I am now on to something completely different: filmmaking. It’s terrifying. I know nothing about it, and yet here I am, directing. It’s this sort of feeling of not knowing that excites me. I guess that’s what I am most interested in. If I get too comfortable, if things start to become routine, that’s when I know things are off. I need to change it up, rethink a few things, or just do something else with my life.
—Diana Markosian, interviewed by Alexander Strecker
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What has your journey as an artist been like? Have you benefited from rich and vibrant relationships with fellow artists? Or have you struggled to find your tribe of peers who you can collaborate and travel the journey with? My guest, Karen Offutt was kind enough to open up in our conversation about the impact that her fellow artists have had on her, struggles she’s endured along the way, how she’s navigated relationships with galleries, how parenthood has impacted her art career, and much more! I can’t wait for you to hear from Karen’s dynamic perspective!
Early challenges with galleries and finding the “Right one.”
What has been your experience connecting with and featuring your artwork in galleries? If you are anything like most artist’s I’ve spoken with, you’ve had your fair share of challenges and successes. Figurative artist, Karen Offutt experienced some difficulties early on as she tried to navigate her way through interacting with galleries that wanted to feature her paintings. She looks back at those early opportunities with gratitude due to the positive experiences she had before some of the more negative ones that came along. A big takeaway from Karen’s story and a maxim that I often repeat when it comes to good galleries is to cherish them and treat them like gold because they can be hard to come by!
Navigating the ups and downs of parenthood and life as an artist.
Trying to figure out life and balancing your art career and parenthood can be extremely difficult. I’ve had the privilege to speak with many artists, both fathers and mothers who have told their story and how challenging this balancing act can be. I believe there are some really helpful lessons to be learned by taking the time to hear from our fellow artists who navigate this path with grace and endurance. Karen Offutt took the time to describe her journey and unique challenges that she’s faced along the way as a parent. I hope you feel as inspired as I was by the tenacity and passion that Karen exudes for both her family and her artwork.
For the love of figure painting.
What do you love the most about the type of artwork you create? Is it the landscapes that draw you in and make your imagination come to life? Or maybe it’s the abstract colors and shapes that spark your creative pursuits. For Karen Offutt, it’s the idea of figures coming out of her paintings and the various ways she is able to play with different images that excites and animates her as she approaches her canvas. Karen was kind enough to describe her process and her deep love and passion for figurative artwork in our conversation. I know artists like you will get a lot of enjoyment out of the way she talks about her process and her creative journey. Make sure to check out images of Karen’s artwork located at the end of this post!
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Artist Emma Sulkowicz Wore Asterisks—and Little Else—to Protest Chuck Close at the Met (and Picasso at MoMA) by Sarah Cascone
By Sarah Cascone
Emma Sulkowicz, an artist, best known for lugging a mattress around Columbia University in protest of the school’s handling of rape allegations, is making headlines again. On Tuesday, Sulkowicz, accompanied by photographer Sangsuk Sylvia Kang, staged a series of performative protests in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and a Second Avenue subway station.
The performance’s main target, the New York Times reported, was the work of Chuck Close, who was recently accused of making crude comments to his female models. Clad in a pair of black underwear and asterisk-shaped pasties, Sulkowicz stood in front of Close’s work at the Met and at the 86th Street Q station, which features mosaics by the artist, including a colorful self-portrait.
Sulkowicz also hit the MoMA, pausing at Pablo Picasso‘s celebrated painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. “Picasso’s main conceit are these lines that chop up women’s body,” Sulkowicz told artnet News. “It’s kind of dismembering bodies to rearrange them as more visually appealing.”
A few days before Tuesday’s action, a story in the Times had explored the possibility that museums might soon offer disclaimers about the objectionable behaviors of artists alongside their work. Such contextualizing notes, marked with asterisks, sometimes appear with controversial portrait sitters, but to add them for artists would be entering new territory.
“I was just so appalled by what the museum directors were saying in the article,” Sulkowicz said. “One guy said something like, ‘if we go down this road, all of our museum walls would be bare.’ I was like, ‘are you only showing work by Harvey Weinstein?'”
“An asterisk is such a small punctuation mark compared to the magnitude of how sexual abuse affects these women,” Sulkowicz said. “That museum directors weren’t even interested in speaking about it on those terms was really abhorrent to me.”
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By The Guardian
A pre-Raphaelite “soft porn” painting removed from a Manchester gallery to start a debate about sexuality on canvas has been rehung after a public outcry in which the venue was accused of po-faced censorship.
John William Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs, which depicts a handsome young man being lured to his death by a pond full of topless young nymphs, was taken down from Manchester Art Gallery on 29 January.
It was removed as part of a project the gallery is working on with the contemporary artist Sonia Boyce ahead of a solo exhibition of her work at the gallery that opens on 23 March.
This weekend it rehung the picture, thanking the public for a “fantastic” response to its removal, saying it was only ever going to be taken down temporarily.
Amanda Wallace, the gallery’s interim director, said: “We’ve been inundated with responses to our temporary removal of Hylas and the Nymphs as part of the forthcoming Sonia Boyce exhibition, and it’s been amazing to see the depth and range of feelings expressed.
“The painting is rightly acknowledged as one of the highlights of our pre-Raphaelite collection, and over the years has been enjoyed by millions of visitors to the gallery.
“We were hoping the experiment would stimulate discussion, and it’s fair to say we’ve had that in spades – and not just from local people but from art lovers around the world.
“Throughout the painting’s seven-day absence, it’s been clear that many people feel very strongly about the issues raised, and we now plan to harness this strength of feeling for some further debate on these wider issues.”
Jonathan Jones, the Guardian’s art critic, was among those who did not appreciate the idea. “To remove this work art from view is not an interesting critique but a crass gesture that will end up on the wrong side of history,” he wrote, saying of Waterhouse: “Even a kinky old Victorian perv has his right to paint soft-porn nymphs.”
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Rachel Johnson said: “We are already in a living nightmare of political and historical correctness, but to retrofit ‘artistic correctness’ on top is a step too far back to the neo-Victorian age.”
Visitors were invited to respond to the removal by sticking up Post-it notes where the painting had once hung. One read: “Feminism gone mad! I’m ashamed to be a feminist.” Another accused the gallery of “po-faced, politically-correct virtue signaling.”
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Following accusations of sexual misconduct, Washington’s National Gallery of Art has indefinitely postponed an upcoming exhibition of Chuck Close, one of this country’s most celebrated portrait artists and Seattle University removed his “Self-Portrait 2000” from display citing concerns over “potential student, faculty or staff reaction.”
The anger directed at men like Close, who are alleged to have abused their power to abuse women (Close acknowledged he made crude comments about women’s bodies in the past and apologized for doing so), is not surprising. The outrages of the old regime have been exposed for all to see. The people are marching on the Bastille of male privilege. But it is one thing to call for the punishment of men who may have committed despicable acts, and quite another to condemn their art to oblivion.
There have long been moral monsters among artists, much as we don’t like to think about it: Leni Riefenstahl yielded her integrity to totalitarian power when she celebrated the Nazis, Ezra Pound spread virulent anti-semitism, DW Griffith produced racist epics. Artists have often used and abused their wives, lovers, and models. They have murdered and betrayed.
And yet they have produced art that audiences have found inspiring and thought-provoking, often beautiful, sometimes sublime. Would that villains were only capable of villainy.
In 2016 there were protests over two exhibitions in Washington DC associated with Bill Cosby after he was accused of sexual assault. Both shows went on as planned. But 2018 is different. The categories are starker; the middle ground? Gone.
Is it an inconvenient time to take a step back and think more carefully about the consequences of this purge on the culture at large? Many may say that, in the middle of a revolution, as we bring down abusive powerful men, we cannot afford to dwell on ambiguities. But, if that is true, it also means that we don’t need art – because the very essence of art (as opposed to political propaganda) is to do just that.
To remove art because it is tainted by the sins of its maker sets an impossible standard for art institutions, a standard that would demand they act as enforcers of moral orthodoxy. The work of every artist whose life was morally tainted by today’s standards would be approached only through the lens of that taint – and, if they fail the test, their work would need to be removed.
No more marveling at Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro, his lovely and sensual young models. (The artist’s favorite model is apocryphally known to be “his owne boy or servant thait laid with him” and, to add to his sins, he was also, probably, a murderer.)
No more Picasso, who lived up to his infamous slogan “Women are machines for suffering”; no more of the tortured expressionism of Egon Schiele who was accused of sexually abusing his teen models; no more Eric Gill, who produced sculptures for the stations of the cross in Westminster Cathedral, but also sexually abused his daughters; and so many more. Museums will need more space in storage than in galleries.
As the revolutionary narrative goes, the newly bare walls would be filled by the work of those who have never found their proper space in powerful art institutions: women (unless, like the rising American art star Dana Schutz, they have dared approach a racially sensitive subject), people of color (unless they are Raghubir Singh, the celebrated photographer who has been accused of rape), or artists that are transgender or gay … unless they are Caravaggio?
Individuals must face the consequences of their behavior. But if the art they have made transcends the squalor of their misdeeds – and so it must since it has been so meaningful to so many – it should remain accessible.
In these politically polarized times, we need to value art institutions as places where we can think about complexity – including about how artists of such creative gifts can be such awful human beings - rather than treat them as churches obligated to issue judgments about who merits salvation and who doesn’t.
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Taking its point of departure from the idea that every person on Earth is connected, at most, by six degrees of separation, this series of photos depicts human relations throughout the city of Copenhagen.
The set up is that Jens Juul portrays random people that he engages with on the streets. These chance meetings end up with him taking highly personal photos of the people he has met in their homes. At the end of each session, his subjects then send Juul to another person in their network. He goes on to capture them, who then, in turn, give him the name of one person more. And so on…
Fascinated by this simple yet immensely powerful concept, LensCulture managing editor Alexander Strecker reached out to Juul to find out more about his project and his work in general. Below is an edited transcript of their exchange:
LC: Can you describe to us the origins of this project? Where did it begin, how did it develop?
JJ: I like to photograph people whom I don’t know beforehand. It begins when I stop people in the street. Still, I like to have a context, some kind of storyline to follow. When I fell upon the intriguing thought that every person on the planet is connected by, at most, the sixth degree, I had what I needed.
Although the idea seems almost obvious in our age of social media, the notion first surfaced in 1929, when Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy wrote a short story called “Chains.” In it, he prophetically described how new ways of communicating and traveling had made the world shrink. All of a sudden, having acquaintances in other parts of the world became more common. Thus, Karinthy wrote, you could point to a complete stranger on the other side of the planet and realize you were no more than six levels of connection away by virtue of chains of friends.
This was the basis for my project, “Six Degrees of Copenhagen.” I did not approach the idea scientifically but rather saw it as an almost magical way to travel through the city and meet its inhabitants. So, each person portrayed here is part of a chain of acquaintances, simple as that. I began by approaching a stranger on the street, and after photographing them, they recommended someone else in their network which I could portray in the same way.
LC: The way you describe the project makes the process seem very organic and natural. Can you say more about the specifics of producing the work?
JJ: For those strangers who accepted to be photographed, things progressed quite directly. I would invite myself to their home so that the session could take place in the comfort of a familiar, safe environment. A visit could last from a couple of hours to much longer, depending on how long it took to break the ice and get just the right shot I was looking for—raw, yet intimate.
Still, despite some differences, I should say that everyone I worked with was incredibly open. Although the pictures were highly personal, the fact that each subject was recommended by a friend meant they felt taken care of.
What I loved was how the people I photographed came from all walks of life, old and young, and carrying on ways of being immensely different from one another.
LC: Many photographers describe the camera as a passport to take them to new and strange places around the world. Meanwhile, you used it as a key to access local people’s interior worlds. Can you say more about how the camera grants you a doorway into very private and unexpected places, that are just around the corner?
JJ: I genuinely believe that what makes me able to take the pictures that I do is not so much the equipment I bring, but my ability—and more importantly desire!—to speak, ask questions and do a lot of listening. Meeting people I don’t know and getting to take in their life stories in generous gulps really gets me.
LC: We often relate street photography with the decisive moment, with moments captured in 1/1000th of a second. Do you consider your work “street photography” in any way? If so, how does it relate to the more commonly held notions of it?
JJ: Photography is all about decisive moments, whether it’s about documenting what’s in front of your eyes or, in my case, working on a project where you are portraying people. In the latter, it really comes down to a feeling, an interpersonal decisive moment: does my subject seem approachable or not? When I approach people in the street, I am faced with the challenge of having 10-30 seconds to read them and become intrigued. Once the connection has been made, the decisive (photographic) moment comes much later.
The kind of photos I take demand letting our guards down. This naturally brings me quite close to the people I photograph within a few hours (or even faster, sometimes).
My series “Six Degrees of Copenhagen” has its starting point in the streets and that is important. But the photographs are taken in the comfort of people’s homes. So, in themselves, they probably aren’t street photographs as such. But I do like to more classical street photography as well. Recently I was at the biggest Scandinavian music festival, Roskilde Festival, and I spent six days wandering around the camp area with my camera, capturing all the laidback craziness going on. With photographs like that, it is often the 1/1000th of a second that counts.
LC: You work in a very idiosyncratic black-and-white style. Who are your visual influences (not just photographic) that helped foster your aesthetic?
JJ: ”Frankenstein,” the one with Boris Karloff, left an irreversible impression on me as a boy. So did the films of Luis Buñuel: his images of life as seemingly pretty and normal, but in fact, filled with distorted, twisting harmony as the story progresses. Finally, I must mention my fellow Scandinavian, Ingmar Bergman, whose cinematic genius so clearly explains life’s despair, confusion, and ultimately dark (but beautiful) existential humanism.
I believe my need to re-interpret or distort my own reality is rooted in a fascination with darkness: it felt terrifying, yes, but to me, it was also strangely beautiful. I suppose I’m fascinated by all those stories that lurk in the dark—those which require time and patience to bring out into the light.
My first photographic inspiration was the Danish photographer Jacob Holst, who became a household name in Denmark after traveling around the United States and producing a mammoth survey of all sorts of people. I remember being blown away by his pictures in my early teens. I was inspired, not by the technical skills or the talent behind the pictures, but by what made him able to work with his camera in so many different environments and to get so close to so many different kinds of people.
Besides him, there are, of course, many impressive and fantastic photographers. If I had to mention names, there are many: Diane Arbus, Antoine d’Agata, Nobuyoshi Araki, Miguel Rio Branco, Anders Peterson, Ferdinando Scianna, Alex Webb, Jerome Sessini, Dominic Nahr, Alex Majoli, Richard Kalvar, Jacob Aue Sobol, Boris Mikhailov and many, many others.
But more generally, I always find inspiring those photographers who are able to bring a camera in a room where not many cameras have been before. I am moved when a photographer gets so close to his or her subjects that you almost get embarrassed on their behalf. I also love it when pictures become mysteries, and you are uncertain about where you are, what is going on, who these people are.
—Jens Juul, interviewed by Alexander Strecker
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