Collaborations and Investigations, Part 2

One of the more interesting aspects of putting together the Collaborations and Investigations exhibit is how it has challenged me to consider my working relationship with those I work with.  For so many years I have insisted on keeping it separate, perhaps as much to protect myself as it is to avoid acknowledging how much of me there might be in my client’s work.  It has always been impossible to compete with the totality of my 20×24 collaborations, it is what it must be like to be the “unknown Beatle”.  And yet while my client work has been all over the place aesthetically and technically, my own work has managed to pursue a consistent path, albeit slowly and at times haltingly.
Much of my aesthetic was determined quite early in my career.  Studying with Michael Teres at the State University College of New York at Geneseo, I was greatly influenced by his open approach to photography. Michael believed that photography was like any two-dimensional medium, subject to manipulation and transformation.  My earliest work explored the transformative aspect of photography working primarily with the figure.  An equal influence was the philosophy of Michael’s wife, Rosemary Teres. Rosemary taught painting and art history at Geneseo and it was through her that I developed my combination of painting and photography.  She also influenced me in seeking the “mythic reality” populated by a “hero” character.  The notion of the hero (or heroine) is a constant in art history but one perhaps diminished in the era of minimalism and conceptualism when I began in the early seventies.  In those schools of thought the artist remained the hero by decrying the purity of thought and execution but the notion of the hero was banished from the content of the work.  So I began my journey against the tide of thought but it allowed me the freedom to pursue my own vision without much regard for whether I was current or not. I usually regard the birth of my present day work to reside in my SX-70s from 1975 to 1980.  I was given a Polaroid SX-70 in late 1974 and my work was never the same.  I  was able to achieve in it the control over context and character relationships that I could only touch on in my black and white work.  Combinations of painting and photography which I had hinted at  previously came into full fruition in  these  reconstructed  SX-70s.  These pieces were actually photomontages contained within the  frame  of  an  SX-70 – “instant” image.  While  they  were  anything  but  instant  they actually played off the notion of immediate feedback.  It was here that I learned to work intuitively with the process and go with what chance would give me.  I was never certain about the narrative path an image would take in advance, it was always determined in process.  One sort of manipulation would yield an expression in a face that would then determine the colors or collage pieces to go with the central figure.  If I were to repeat the  image  with  the  same  elements  again  it  would invariably come out differently.  It set me up to create images  by   assembling  the  elements  and  then learning from their juxtaposition where the essence of the image would lie.  It is a methodology I have used ever since.