Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Moving Forward

Ron with his Polaroid, Photograph by Satch, 11/23/2011
As I begin to move forward with a new direction for my photography, I have been attempting to clarify my thinking about my work.

When I am photographing I feel and sense the spirit of what I am seeing.  The "design" of the subject or scene (natural or manmade, intentional or incidental) becomes an integral of the final composition.  I examine and present nature's and/or man's mark, the combination of which is often society's response to my subject.  The resulting photograph shows the condition and existence of the subject within a context, literal or metaphorical.  That being said, trying to recreate my feelings and perception through a lens and onto film via this machine, the Polaroid camera, is incredibly difficult and at times more than frustrating.

I photograph within the environment that I know or find myself in - the world in which I live.  I do not find it necessary to travel to a specific locale to make photographs that present something exotic, unfamiliar or detached from my day to day existence.  Rather I endeavor to delve into my surroundings within the scope of where I live my life.

Noblesville Grain Elevator 1

Sunday, November 27, 2011

More New Work, Videos and Thoughts

There is plenty of new work to see on the 2 Photographers Works in Progress blog.  And we have our own domain -  Please check out the new posts.  Thanks!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kyle Ragsdale's Costumerie and First Friday

Sunset, Mass Ave
(Please note:  Click on the photographs to enlarge.)

This past First Friday Satch and I headed out early to The Harrison Center for the Arts! to view Kyle Ragsdale's new work before the crowds showed up.  We had an excellent evening up and down Mass Ave taking in several exhibits.

We really enjoyed Kyle's new paintings.  Revisiting themes from twenty years ago this new work is a departure from his recent work.

The exhibit is consistently strong.  The palette used for each painting seems perfect.  I'm hardly an art critic, but I know when art moves me and many of these new paintings did indeed do that.

The scale of the paintings varied.  The large works were impressive.  I will point out two paintings that I really like.

The first is a young girl from Kyle's Fountain Square neighborhood.  She is in a red cape that reminds me of Little Red Riding Hood, or is she a Superhero?  Her pose is exquisite and Kyle catches her in a beautiful light.

The second painting is a large piece that features a Koshare, or a Pueblo Clown in the upper right corner.  I wonder if this is a nod to Kyle's past in New Mexico.  In the painting, the Koshare is the only figure that is looking directly at the viewer.  I suppose the armor-clad Knight could also be looking directly at the viewer, but we will never know

Photographs of these pieces, along with other views of the exhibition are directly below this writing.  If you missed opening on First Friday, I heartily recommend that you make the effort to get to The Harrison Center of the Arts! to take in Costumerie - New Work by Kyle Ragsdale.

Kyle Ragsdale

Also at The Harrison Center for the Arts! is Continuous, A Gallery Show - Illustrations by Herron School of Art + Design students.  I especially liked "Continuity" by LorieLee Andrews.
Satch at "Continuous"
"Continuity," LorieLee Andrews

At the Anthenaeum, the A Cause for Elegance fundraiser for twenty local non-profit causes drew an impressive crowd.  The art was refreshing and exciting.  The detail found in the art showed that the artists are very dedicated to their vision.  Dan Grossman wrote a feature article about Outside The Box and the incredible work that this organization does on a daily basis and about what A Cause for Elegance is all about.  I invite you to visit this link and read Dan's article.
A Cause for Elegance (Dan and Satch in discussion)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Formations 2011, Kewanna, Indiana

Diane Tesler's Studio/Gallery
On this past gorgeous Saturday (October 22, 2011) Satch and I made it to Kewanna to catch "Formations 2011," the annual exhibition that artist Diane Tesler presents in her studio/gallery.

Diane on the Right
We had a nice visit with Diane and Wade Bussert and enjoyed seeing all of the art work.

Wade Bussert with his Paintings and Satch

We also photographed and made a short video at that late artist James Spencer Russell's house.

Musicians Surrounded by Art
Promo Display for the 2014 Russell Exhibit
at the Indiana State Museum
The Late James Russell's House

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Genesis of the Exhibition

Style, Elegance and Wit:
The Artwork of James Spencer Russell

January 26, 2014 - July 14, 2014
Indiana State Museum

James Spencer Russell
This is a post about how the Indiana State Museum’s James Russell retrospective came to fruition.

The artist James Spencer Russell of Kewanna, Indiana passed away in November of 2000 leaving over 2,500 pieces of his art in his home.  The work was incredibly varied and was made over the course of his life.

After inventorying the work the estate called upon Dennis Jackson to hold a series of auctions to sell the work.  At the auctions everyone that I spoke with about Russell’s work agreed that it was very, very good.  The art was sold to several collectors and to some dealers.  Among those collectors were Steve Conant and Tom Kuebler, both of Indianapolis.

Some time after the auctions had concluded I received word that the idea of holding a retrospective exhibition was in the works.  Satch and I were really happy to hear of this.  We were excited that arguably one of Indiana’s greatest contemporary artists, James Spencer Russell, who was virtually unknown in his home state, would get recognized and the public would have a chance to experience his art.

Over the past three years, out of his personal collection, Steve Conant has made donations  to the Indiana State Museum of many works by Russell including drawings, small sculptures, paintings and assemblages.  Steve hoped that by having this work in the museum’s collection the Board of Directors would see the quality of the work and would eventually be more likely to consider the exhibition as a worthwhile undertaking.

Thanks to Steve Conant’s slow but steady urging of Rachel Perry, Fine Arts Curator for the Indiana State Museum, to approach the museum’s committees charged with exploring the feasibility of the exhibition, the idea for “Style Elegance and Wit” came to fruition.

Steve then discussed this with Tom Kuebler and subsequently Tom made a trip to Kewanna to meet Wade Bussert, Russell’s close friend, and to see Wade’s collection of Russell’s work and biographical archive.  The connection to Wade Bussert was accomplished previous to this during a visit that Tom and Steve had made to the Midwest Museum of American Art in Elkhart, Indiana.  Brian Byrn, the museum’s curator was aware of the Russell estate and suggested Tom connect with Wade.

Sometime later Steve and Tom visited Kewanna to view Wade’s material which Steve later outlined to Rachel Perry and Chris Krok, one of the people involved the the Indiana State Museum Foundation. This resulted in a third trip to Kewanna by Rachel, Steve and Tom.

Tom Kuebler archived and went through the materials regarding Russell’s estate that he received from its executor and Wade Bussert including many photographs, slides and additional material.  At this point Tom wrote a monograph, which was presented to the Indiana State Museum that contained a brief history of James Russell and photographs of a selection of his art.

The “exhibit process” at the Indiana State Museum involves presentations to two different committees of peers - an “Exhibit Focus Committee” and the “Leadership Team.”  The committees evaluate the feasibility of the exhibition proposal by examining such things as audience, funding, available space, cost of insurance, etc.

Thanks to Rachel Perry’s continued efforts at the Indiana State Museum and the accomplishments of Steve Conant and Tom Kuebler the exhibition has become a reality.

There is a ton of work to be done.  Additional historical materials have been gathered and are being processed.  The next step is to, through historical documentation, reconstitute the incredible life of Indiana artist, James Russell.

By James Spencer Russell
Thanks to Steve Conant for providing a big portion of the information contained in this post.

And, thanks to Rachel Perry for additional details.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Photographs That Changed Me" - #2

Redding Woods, Connecticut, 1968, Paul Caponigro
This is part 2 of a series of posts about a selection of photographs that influenced my perspective of photography, or simply inspired me.

Over the years in several locales I've had the opportunity to see and examine many of Paul Caponigro's prints. Over the years I've studied his work via books and because of his book, Seasons: Photographs and Essays, I was inspired to do work with Polaroid materials .

Sometime in the mid 1980's at Photography West Gallery in Carmel, California, I first viewed Paul Caponigro's photograph, Redding Woods, Connecticut, 1968. From across the room it drew me in to explore the depths and spirit of the composition all enveloped in a quality of light that was exhilarating.

This photograph opened my mind to more closely seeing and appreciating nature's abstractions within my environment.

The spiritual essence contained in Paul Caponigro's work always enlivens me and artistically reassures me.

Links to other posts in this series:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

First Phase Complete - Truth From Perceptions and Changes Coming

As of this evening I have completed the first phase of Truth From Perceptions. There are about 135 photographs from which to cull the exhibit. I have made over 500 negatives during the last nine months. Now the editing begins. In some cases I will be presenting differing perspectives and "contact prints" that will show the process by which I came to the final image.

The work continues as I am exploring the use of Polaroid cameras to make photographs. Some of this work will be shown as well. I will continue to blog about the making of photographs up until, during and even after the exhibit.

This project has caused my thinking about my photography to be more focused and I foresee big changes coming. Final decisions and discussion about these changes will come after the exhibit.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Marshmellow Tugboat

I'm departing from my regular posting regimen of art to post about something that I think is pretty neat. Click on the photographs to enlarge.

On a recent Saturday my wife Julie and I were hitting garage and rummage sales and as usual I was digging for records. I came across a 45 by The Marshmellow Tugboat - Michelle, Be My Girl b/w Please Don't Go, on the Blue Coral Productions label. This looked like it could be a real nice find.

After we got home I hit the omnipotent internet to find out about The Marshmellow Tugboat and the record. I couldn't find anything, not one thing. This was pretty rare. I typically have no trouble finding scads of information about almost any record that I look into. Julie had the idea to try to find the songwriter, Eddie Sandas. After some googling she found a lead. So I sent an email to an Eddie Sandas and sure enough he was the songwriter from The Marshmellow Tugboat! He is still in the entertainment business representing artists and various venues.

Being a record/music freak and not a music writer it is difficult to put into words what I think, but I'll give it a try.

Recorded in The Summer of Love, 1967 this record, to me, is a 100% classic. This record and band epitomizes what was happening in that incredible era, the golden era of Rock and Roll. Rock bands were popping up in garages and recording in studios all over the USA. There was so much great music happening that there was no way that every worthy band was ever going to get discovered and make it big. But that in no way takes away from the talent and ability that so many of these amazing regional and local bands had. The Marshmellow Tugboat is the perfect example of this historical phenomenon. Michelle, Be My Girl has all the great elements of a hit record. I like this record so much that I will be contacting Sundazed about this blog post and I hope that they give the record a listen. They've reissued some incredible "unknown" bands' records, so who knows…

Michelle, Be My Girl is an upbeat, straight-ahead rocking pop love song. The horns set the stage and the vocals kick right in with a Wall of Sound thing happening, but the mix is detailed enough to hear the separate instruments. The piano detail adds a cool little flourish and the drumming is dead on, always keeping a solid beat and adding in runs where they fit. The bass holds everything together with a sturdy melodic beat.  The lead vocal fits into the mix and the surrounding harmonies are sophisticated yet simple and somewhat Beatlesque. I love the high "oooooooooohhhh" that finishes off the two breaks and the ad lib scatting right before the trumpet solo. The trumpet somehow reminds me of Penny Lane.  I'm not saying that Michelle (another Beatles reference?), Be My Girl is a Beatles derivative. That is definitely not the case. The lyrics, music and way cool production are their own thing and the song has it's own unique character.

Please Don't Go kicks off with a drum and horn intro and then gets right to the point. This is a classic slow-dance love song melody where the guy is pleading for his girl to stay with him. The drumming is rock solid; the transitions into and out of the piano and horn(s) solos are quite nice. The bass again holds down the beat in a bit of a counter point to the drumming. Again the production on this song is way cool.  All of the instruments meld together to make the perfect accompaniment to the lead vocal. I love the piano and horn(s) solos and how the horns lead back to the lead vocal. And the guitar arpeggios, again way cool. For a group of young men, The Marshmellow Tugboat really had it going on.

Via email Eddie Sandas sent along some great information about the band and the record, including a scan of a poster! (He is the young man on the right in the striped shirt.) I thought it would be best to post his words rather than do a rewrite so you could hear directly from the group's songwriter. Here is the email:

1) The band was formed in 1966 and based out of Merrill Wis. 4 guys (originally lead, rhythm, bass and drums) with 3 lead singers. Guitar player doubled on trumpet and the bass player and myself doubled on Tenor and Alto sax. The first member change was in 1967 when one of the guitar players was drafting for Vietnam. At that time I switched from drums to keys and we got a new drummer. Over the next 4 years several other member changes were made until the group broke up around 1969-70.

2) The session that you have was recorded in 1967 at the Kennedy studios in Milwaukee. At the time the group was called the Poor Boys but by the time the record was released the band's name was changed to Marshmellow Tugboat. We did one more session in 1969 at a studio in Valparaiso Fla. which was owed by Shelby Singleton of Harper Valley PTA fame.

3) I always thought this was pretty cool for a 16 year old, I wrote the horn parts in the van on the way to the session which were all performed by the guys in the band. The horns parts were never played or rehearsed until we got to the studio that day.

4) Blue Coral Production was just a name that I made up for the label. We only cut 500 records which were mainly sold in a 50 mile radius of Merrill. I find it very interesting that you found a copy in Indy. Someone from Merrill must have moved!

Wausau, Wis bringing together numerous old bands from the 60's over a 2 day period. We performed with all but one of the original members and it was a hoot! We actually ended up sounding pretty darn good.

A couple of days after I had traded emails with Eddie I got this note from Bruce Kanitz (he is second from the left on the poster):

My name is Bruce Kanitz and I am(was) the drummer for the Marshmellow Tugboat and did the lead vocals on Please Don't Go and harmony on Michelle Be My Girl. I had a discussion with Eddie yesterday about your emails and what you are doing.  I think this is awesome and very interesting. Eddie did send me a copy of your emails and I opened an account with Soundcloud, clicked on your link and enjoyed every minute of our recording. I do have a copy of our 45 on my jukebox and selectively play it for family, friends, etc. Those were definitely some of the best times of my life playing with that group. After that group I continued playing with various groups for approximately 15 more years and still have my drums just in case.

It is excellent that Eddie and Bruce took the time to write up share this information. Big and huge thanks to them.  This has been great, great fun.

P.S. I'd love to hear the music from the session in Florida!

Click here to listen to Michelle, Be My Girl b/w Please Don't Go by The Marshmellow Tugboat.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Photographs From Kewanna Visit

Kewanna, Indiana
(Click on the photographs to enlarge)

Monday, September 12, 2011

2 Photographers Works In Progress

Please head over to the 2 Photographers Works In Progress blog for a new post about my "Truth From Perceptions" project.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Kewanna Visit August 31, 2011

Here is a short video by Satch from our recent visit to Kewanna as referenced in the post regarding the James Russell retrospective exhibition.  The video is made in Diane Tesler's studio.  (Of course Satch had to be a little different and make a vertical video; I like it.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Photographs That Changed Me" - #1

Ansel Adams, Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, 1927
It seems like every day we are inundated with the best of this, the best of that, vote for the best, photographs that changed the world, the list of the best whatever, etc., etc., etc., ...etc. (in my best Yul Brynner voice).

I've grown weary of this ranking thing.  Let's face it, it is nothing more than a crutch for many that are not interested in seeking out interesting material for themselves.  But it gave me an idea for a series of blog posts ("Photographs That Changed Me"), so I thought why not join the fray.

In no particular chronological order nor importance, I'm going to make a series of posts about a selection of photographs that influenced my perspective of photography, or simply inspired me. That being said, I am going to start at the very beginning.

Many of us that photograph were influenced by Ansel Adams.  I mean, how could we have not?  For years his images and books were everywhere and his persona was larger than life.  The first photograph of Adams' that moved me was, "Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, 1927."

This was Adams' first photograph where he utilized "visualization."  He was only 25 years old when this glass plate negative was exposed; the zone system was in the future.  In his mind's eye Adams saw this scene as a"brooding form, with deep shadows and a distant sharp white peak against a dark sky."  Utilizing a red filter he was able to put onto the negative, and subsequently onto the print, what he had visualized.

I first saw a print of"Monolith" in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1986.  Studying the history of this photograph opened my mind to the possibilities of visualization and further down the road to the Zone System.  Having this knowledge, and subsequently learning and applying the associated craft, has been paramount to my ability to make photographs, even when using plastic cameras.

Links to other posts in this series:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Style, Elegance and Wit: The Artwork of James Spencer Russell

Updated September 5, 2011

The Indiana State Museum will be hosting a posthumous retrospective exhibition of the artist James Russell. Who, you might ask? Exactly.

The exhibition is entitled, "Style, Elegance and Wit:  The Artwork of James Spencer Russell" (January 26 - July 14, 2014).  To the left is a photograph of these words written in Russell's hand. He believed art had to contain those three elements.

Russell, an Indiana born contemporary artist, led an incredible life that is virtually unknown except to a few collectors. Satch is one of those collectors. Russell made art for himself and never sought the spotlight. Yet Russell was unbelievably prolific. He exhibited in the finest galleries in NYC from the late 1950's until late in his life.

Realizing that Russell's work was of importance this small group of collectors felt that a museum show of his work should happen.

Recently we had Steve Conant and Tom Kuebler, two collectors of Russell's work, along with Rachel Perry, Chief Curator, Arts and Culture and Susannah Koerber, V.P. Arts and Culture both of the Indiana State Museum, to our house to view Satch's collection of Russell. Shortly, after that afternoon we were informed that there indeed would be an exhibition!

Earlier this week Satch and I, along with Tom, Rachel and Susannah headed up to Kewanna, to meet with Russell's good friend Wade Bussert and to view a portion of Russell's personal archive - what an incredible experience.

It is so exciting to see a contemporary Hoosier artist get proper recognition.

There is so much to be told about Russell's life that I can only begin to scratch the surface in this note. I plan to blog about the exhibit adding information as more is revealed and learned. It will be exciting to see how all of this progresses. Now that we have an exhibition, the hard work has just begun.

On a purely personal note, it is great that I can finally share this information as we've needed to keep all of this process quiet for the past five years!

And on another purely personal note - I need to recognize Craig Smith, owner of Craig Smith Gallery, who represents Satch. Craig curated a fine exhibition, Text as Art at the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph, Michigan in the Fall of 2008. Craig recognized that Russell's work was exceptional and chose three pieces from Satch's collection to be included in the exhibition.

Monday, August 22, 2011

2 Photographers Works In Progress

Please head over to the 2 Photographers Works In Progress blog for a new post about my "Truth From Perceptions" project.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Truth From Perceptions

The project that I am working on that is a part of 2 Photographers Works In Progress started sometime around February of this year.  It's genesis came at me from two directions.

First - one day I read this poem that really knocked me out:

Societal Instincts
Edward Henry Satchwill III

To separate truth from perceptions
Is to remove all its coherency
Yes, absolute truths do exist in man
But their comprehension is beyond us.
Happiness, envy, love disgust and hate,
All ideals which are never to be matched,
And for this reason, clich├ęs are needed:
"Love is exactly what you think it is.
If you don't know what you think, then you are
Lucky, for you can find love anywhere."
Such are the I.V. drips that keep us here,
Below enlightened, but above insane.
Not reaching full potential, but also
Not falling to our deepest depths of life.
So, in this way, do we oppress ourselves?
Or engage in paternalistic aid?
The fallacy of minds trumping the mind
Seems understood by none but you and I,
The weight of all mankind now upon us.

© 2011 Edward Henry Satchwill III
(reprinted with permission)

The concept of separating truth from perceptions and the poem's examination of the human condition continued to bounce around in my mind.  Many times in today's world truth is ignored and calculated perceptions are melded into one mass marketing scheme; yet in reality we all must end up dealing with truth rather than the perceptions that we are bombarded with every day.  These notions led me back to thinking about and revisiting particular photographers works that are important to me - Minor White, Alfred Stieglitz (especially his Equivalents), Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind.

Second - very shortly thereafter I met Matt Lafary and Angi Skaggs in Fountain Square.  After getting to know them it became very apparent that they had a passionate affinity for film photography.  Their knowledge and love of cameras was impressive.  This rekindled a notion that I should take a look back at some of my cameras.

Thanks to Satch, I have used rudimentary plastic cameras (Holga and Diana+) for the last several years.  I had completely let go of the science and process of photography and embraced seeing and perceiving my environment.  But now I felt that the time was right to explore the possibility of using a more precise camera again, for a specific project.

I started to put all of these things together and got the idea to do an ongoing project. Conceptually, the poem would be the inspiration to see and perceive. Off of the shelf, I pulled an old Leica SL2 (35 mm), that had an excellent wide angle lens.  This would be the project's tool.  Using a hand held cameral was important.  Wanting to be mobile and photograph at will, I did not want to be saddled with a tripod.  I ran a quick test roll to see if the camera was in working order and realized that I would need better metering, so against my better judgement, out came the spot meter - a light meter that measures the reflectivity of a tiny spot within a scene.  Employing no metering or through the lens focusing since using the plastic cameras, all of this kind of jolted me a little bit.

So, out of all of this the project "Truth From Perceptions" was born.  One of the first photographs that I made came from the wall of Satch's studio.  It seemed like an appropriate starting point.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Polaroid 420

(click on photo to enlarge)
The day that I met Angi Skaggs and Matt Lafary at Square Rootz Deli in Fountain Square, Matt had a little Polaroid 100 camera that uses pack film.  I guess I just don't keep up with current offerings from photo companies because I had no idea that Fuji made pack instant film that would work with these fabulous old cameras.

I have been in Polaroid depression since they quit making Type 55 which, for years, was my bread and butter film for my Speed Graphic.  So I was pretty stoked to find out about what I had been missing.

With help and advice from Angi and Matt I began looking for a Polaroid camera that would work with the Fuji pack instant film.  I figured I could run across something when out looking for materials for Satch's art.  I did find a few for decent prices but the condition was not to great and their shutters didn't seem to work well at all.

After another conference with Angi and Matt I was informed that these cameras have an unusual battery that makes the shutter perform correctly and that the batteries could be purchased online.  Aha!

So, again I began searching and came up with nothing even after visiting what seemed like hundreds of places looking for Satch stuff.

One morning while, at the behest of Satch, we were cruising the rural countryside for yard sales, on the fringes of being in the "sticks," I found it - a Polaroid 420, brand new in its case - there were even some flash cubes!  After procuring the required battery it was time for a test to see if the 420 could do its thing.  Having a couple of original packs of Polaroid film was also a bonus, so we loaded one pack and made a test photograph in our little garden.  Voila!  Success! - with big thanks to Angi and Matt.

Afterwords as I looked at the test photograph it occurred to me that the test photo looked exactly like an old Polaroid photograph that my Grandmother may have taken of my Grandparent's (Ralph and Edith Kern) garden.

I look forward to seeing where this new camera takes my photography.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Have "we" been good stewards of photographic art? 

I think not.  The proliferation of the digital imaging, easy manipulation and social networking has taken photography down a path that I am not fond of.

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Photograph

It has been a while since I posted a new photograph.  This is from the new series Truth From Perceptions.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Satch Exhibits Recent Work - Paintings and Assemblages

Nine to Five
During the month of April the artist Satch presents her annual exhibit at Henry’s on East Coffee Bistro.

For her entire life Satch has been making art. Painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry making and assemblage are all directions that she has explored.

Weary of the corporate world that was an unrelenting series of glass ceilings, Satch took her leave and began pursuing her artistic vision.

Employing abstract painting and assemblages, and combinations thereof, Satch creates art as an autobiographical release and to process perceptions about life’s path.

Satch’s art is in many private collections and she has shown in numerous solo exhibitions as well as group exhibitions in London, Chicago, Indianapolis and Union Pier, Michigan.

Satch says: “I am delighted to be exhibiting at Henry’s on East Coffee Bistro. This is the second year that Henry’s has hosted my work and I truly appreciate the opportunity. This exhibit will showcase recent artwork and assemblages, most of which will be shown for the first time.”

Friday, April 1 at 7:00am – April 30 at 12:00pm

Henry’s on East Coffee Bistro
627 North East Street
Indianapolis, IN

M-F 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sat. 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sun. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Social Currency, The Shared Photograph

Ron and Andy Chen discussing our piece (photo by Satch)
Since the Social Currency, The Shared Photograph exhibit will be coming down this Friday I thought that I would post the artist statement about the exhibit and its concept.  Soon I will be posting photographs and a description of our piece.

Social Currency, The Shared Photograph - Artist Statement

The concept of this exhibition, photography as social currency, challenged me to take a closer look at the contemporary state of photography.  Social currency is information shared that encourages further social encounters, increases one's sense of community, helps form one's identity and potentially provides status and recognition.

The digital age has ushered in a period in history where the "visual" dominates nearly every aspect of our day to day life.  The incredible ease of producing a picture and making it immediately available for 24/7 viewing on social networks, photo-viewing websites, PDAs, etc. is transforming the very essence of photography. 

Historically photography has been an analogue print medium.  Today it is primarily a digital medium that has unique parameters and a transformed aesthetic; the computer screen emits light where a printed photograph reflects light.

This new aesthetic combined with instant access is propelling photography into internet parameters that both broaden and restrain it.  The democratic culture and psychology of cyberspace certainly affects the work that is produced.  Short attention spans and the consumer’s ability to interactively click through a series of images nearly requires the picture maker to bring forth bold, high-powered photographs.  This is not a favorable tenor for investing time required to create and appreciate meaningful images. 

The case could be made that these new circumstances are merely a result of high-tech contrivance and the hyper-democratic philosophy of social media.  The vast numbers of individuals easily producing millions and millions of photographs, all of which are vying for attention on various networks, have revolutionized picture making, but it also has resulted in a fuzzy line between public and private imagery.  While these images strive to create social currency the question must be asked, what is the constructive and quantitative effect?  With the immense amount of images constantly bombarding the social network collective, it is hard not to envision a future meltdown calling into question the value of their social capital.

The portrait is so ordinary in contemporary life that it is nearly impossible to conceive of a time where it did not exist.  The advent of the printed portrait photograph on paper, the carte de visite (1857) and the cabinet card (1866), resulted in the extensive exchange and collection of personal photographs thereby giving the general public the ability to seek a social identity.

Today, the explosion of the digital age’s easy-to-use cameras and social networks has ushered in history’s next watershed moment of using portrait (and self-portrait) photography as an integral element in forming one’s identity within a social dynamic.

Ron Kern, February, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pete Brown at Kellar Mahaney

Pete Brown at Kellar Mahaney
During the month of March The Kellar Mahaney Gallery in Zionsville is exhibiting Pete Brown's stencil and aerosol based art.  Full disclosure, Pete is a friend of mine and is a fellow artist represented by Lolly Mahaney.  And, I am by no means an art critic.  I like Pete's work so I thought I'd post about it.

It's terrific to see art shown in Zionsville that is somewhat out of the norm.  Pete puts his own unique stamp on pop cultural icons and subjects as diverse as oompa loompas and exotic wildlife.

I especially like the pieces in the show that are on wood.  There's something about how the paint works into and around the wood's grain that makes the work feel organic.

Never Shoulda Left
My favorite work in the exhibit is Never Shoulda Left which shows Barney Fife in a place a lot less friendly than Mayberry.  He has blood on his uniform's pants and hopefully has more than one bullet for his revolver that he's holding in his hands.  The wood grain makes for an ominous sky.  Hand drawing by Pete and a piece of (real) police caution tape across the bottom complete this piece.

Check out the exhibit.  Kellar Mahaney is easy to find; it is directly north of the Friendly Tavern.

(Click on the photos to enlarge)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Social Currency, The Shared Photograph, Opening Reception

Here's a short video from the First Friday, March 4, 2011 opening reception for Social Currency, The Shared Photograph at the StutzArtSpace:

Dan Grossman's Article on the Exhibition (Nuvo)

Dan Grossman's Review of the Exhibitions (Nuvo)

Carmel Artists Ron Kern and Satch Exhibiting at Stutz Art Space

Ron Kern and Satch collaborated on a conceptual piece that is a part of the critically acclaimed group exhibition, curated by Andy Chen, “Social Currency, The Shared Photograph.”

Intertwining historic carte de visites and cabinet cards with contemporary portraits from Facebook, along with other contemporary and historical elements including a self-portrait made by Ron, the piece compares and contrasts the historical and contemporary use of portraits as the means to develop social currency.

Satch - “This is the first time that we have collaborated on a project of this size.  It was very exciting to see the piece come together.  This exhibit examines picture making as a part of our daily lives that we rely on which to communicate and create social interaction.”

Ron Kern - “The exhibit’s concept challenged me to take a closer look at the contemporary state of photography.  The incredible ease of producing a picture and making it immediately available for 24/7 viewing is transforming the very essence of photography.”

Social Currency, The Shared Photograph
Monday - Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment
Cost - Free

Stutz Art Space
Stutz Business Center
212 W. 10th Street, Suite B110
Indianapolis, IN  46202

Friday, March 4, 2011

It Is About Time, The Time Is Now

I have been struggling with finding the words to write this blog entry about Thornton Dial's new exhibit, "Hard Truths," at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  So, I've decided to go with more of a stream of consciousness and simply begin writing, see where it takes me and attempt to follow myself.

Joanne Cubbs Addresses the Reception
First, about the exhibition's well attended opening reception - It was our good fortune that we had arrived early as the documentary by Alabama Public Television, "Mr. Dial Has Something to Say" was playing in IMA's Davis Lab.  Satch knew about Mr. Dial and his work but I was unacquainted.  Being able to watch the entire program helped me begin to comprehend Mr. Dial's work and his long and complicated journey.  The film was also a good introduction to the passion and dedication of Bill Arnett of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Maxwell Anderson
Satch and I had been speculating as to whether Mr. Dial would be present, but we were hopeful.  Very soon after we emerged from the Davis Lab, we realized that, yes indeed, Mr. Dial and his family were present.  And, almost immediately, we recognized Bill Arnett.

IMA's Director Maxwell Anderson, as well as the exhibit's Curator Joanne Cubbs made terrific comments about Mr. Dial and his art and how the IMA's exhibition finally delivered to Mr. Dial his long coming acknowledgment as a master (my word).

There was a lot of hubub around Mr. Dial as the pleasure and delight of the evening's significance was palpable.

Hubub Around Mr. Dial
Satch and I sought out Mr. Arnett to offer our congratulations.  He was quite cordial and we had a short chat about the exhibition and its importance.

We enjoyed a nice visit with Kyle Ragsdale and Jean Easter.

It was time to visit the exhibition.  We had an inkling of what we were going to experience as IMA had purchased one of Mr. Dial's works and they had displayed two works as an exhibition preview.  But we were not prepared for the amount of work (70 pieces) that displayed the skill of a artistic genius.

Photographing Mr. Dial and Family
Mr Dial's work transcends simple interpretation, it engages and challenges the senses on many levels - spiritual, political, aesthetic, emotional, intellectual just to name a few that immediately come to mind.  It addresses the human condition in an unfiltered way that is free from academia, expectation and stereotype.  It is contemporary art of the purest form.

I will leave to you, the reader, to do a little research and learn about the culutural origins of Mr. Dial's work.  I do recommend that visitors to the exhibition take the time to watch the previously mentioned documentary before viewing the art.

Secondly - Satch and I wanted to briefly meet Mr. Dial but he was obviously getting tired and he was trying to finish his dessert!  So rather than impose ourselves we briefly spoke to his son who assured us that our message would be delivered to Mr. Dial.

Bill Arnett (on the left)
Thirdly - The next morning we went back to the museum so we could spend more time with the art.  At the top of the escalator that comes up from the garage entrance we ran directly into Bill Arnett - we had a nice long talk.  He was very generous with his time.  Arnett's passion and dedication to Mr. Dial and African American art is immeasurable.  Throughout the last thirty years he has taken a lot of hits, but how anyone can question what this gentleman has made possible and what he has preserved for history is beyond my comprehension.
Satch and Kyle Ragsdale
In closing this long entry, I want to attempt to briefly explain how I see Mr. Dial's art.  His work examines and makes meditative statements about the human condition and the historical role that humanity has played, and plays, in our journey.  Ultimately his work requires me to look inward and think about what my responsibility is in the world and, in many ways, suggests a path, but a path that I must discover for myself.  The physical construction of his work is complicated yet seamless.  It relates to the subject matter in a way that challenges the imagination.  In other words, the art and its message are in absolute harmony.

It is wonderful that IMA has curated this exhibition that presents Mr. Dial and his work in the proper light and context.

Big and Huge kudos to Maxwell Anderson and all of the staff at IMA.  It is exciting to see our "little museum" step up to the plate and make a difference.  Between "Hard Truths" and the 2010 La Biennale IMA is having quite a year.

Satch and I plan on making many more visits to IMA to view Mr. Dial's work.  I may have more to say about it on another day.

Below are three videos and three links.

New York Times

Time Magazine

Indianapolis Star

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Yesterday Satch and I were able to hang our piece, "Life in the Present Connected to the Past," without incident.  After getting a preview, the exhibit, "Social Currency, the shared Photograph," promises to be excellent and the opening should be a blast.

Here are a couple of photographs from yesterday, one made by Satch of Andy Chen (exhibitor and the Director of the StutzArtSpace) and I discussing the piece and one that I snapped of Andy after he was finished hanging the exhibit!

There's going to be a live Twitter feed during the exhibit's opening so those that cannot attend will be able to check it out.

Andy Chen and Ron Kern

Andy Chen

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Indiana Small Towns Project

On my website I have posted the Indiana Small Towns exhibition from this past January at The Harrison Center for the Arts!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stutz Exhibit Pt. II

So Satch says that I am not allowed to post anything else showing the piece, which now has a title - "Life in the Present Connected to the Past."

She would like everybody to see the piece during the exhibit's opening at the Stutz this coming First Friday.  (Scroll down to see updated description of the piece.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Social Currency, The Shared Photograph

Stutz Art Space - Opens First Friday March 4, 5 to 9 p.m.

Satch and I are collaborating on a piece for the Stutz Art Space exhibit, Social Currency, The Shared Photograph, curated by Andy Chen.

Intertwining historic carte de visites and cabinet cards with contemporary portraits from Facebook, together with other contemporary and historical elements, the piece compares and contrasts the historical and contemporary use of portraits as a means to develop social currency.

A recent self-portrait of Ron made with a Polaroid SX-70 was scanned and then printed, combining the two historical modes of photography, analogue and digital.  This photograph is displayed next to a red velvet Victorian photograph album cover featuring a mirror.  By looking into the mirror the viewer may create their own transitory self-portrait enabling them to become a part of the piece.  Encased by a computer screen frame these two elements of the piece are mounted onto an easel.  The easel  would have presented an album of carte de visites and cabinet cards in a prominent place in the Victorian home.

The intertwined photographs are shown in an accordion-like manner so that when viewers are looking at the various photographs they will be somewhat facing each other, rather than simply standing next to each other.  The hope is that this will engender viewer interaction that will create social currency. 

I will be updating the blog with more information as we get closer to the exhibit.  Below is the conceptual sketch for the piece.

Conceptual Sketch
Satch constructing the piece

Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Photograph from the New Project

Working title of the project - Truth from Perceptions

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Two New Projects And Their Inspiration

Currently I have seven projects that are all good ideas and need to be pursued.  Over this last week a couple of events crystallized the direction that I have chosen - I am going to concentrate on two projects.

The first one is a continuation of a new direction that I am very excited about.  The second project is an expansion of a past inspiration and direction - I will be pulling out an old camera and putting it back in service.

The inspiration for these two projects come from different paths.  The first project is inspired by the discovery of an interior element within an existing photograph and my ongoing study of light and how it reacts within simple forms.

The second project is inspired by my nephew's extraordinary poetry and Matt LaFary's and Angi Skaggs' exploration of various vintage film cameras.  The result of this project will be a collection of small intimate prints.

The Harrison Center for the Arts! exhibit from my archive, Indiana Small Towns Project, will be coming down this next Monday.  It was a privilege to exhibit at the Harrison Center and everybody there was and big help and more than a pleasure to work with.  Big and Huge thanks to Kyle Ragsdale for showing this work.  The Harrison Center show has spurred me on to dig through my archive to find all of the project's photographs.  Work is ongoing for an exhibit of the expanded collection.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

First Friday at The Harrison Center for the Arts!

What a great crowd last evening at The Harrison Center for the Arts! Seeing old friends, meeting new friends and having such an excellent opportunity to share my work made for a wonderful and memorable evening.

Congratulations to Tim J. Harmon, all of the participating artists and the patrons for a successful Sign Show which raised money for the Horizon House.

Big and Huge thanks to everybody at The Harrison Center, Kyle Ragsdale, Joanna Beatty Taft and Pam Allee - it is a privilege to exhibit at The Harrison Center for the Arts!

Crowd at The Sign Show Opening

Here's a short video made by Satch