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Posts by: Miss Rosen

Dawoud Bey’s Black-on-Black Masterpieces of American History

Untitled #14 (Site of John Brown’s Tannery), 2017.

Untitled #1 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse), 2017

In 1926, poet Langston Hughes (1901-1967) published “Dream Variations,” a poem that imagines a time and place where African-Americans could finally be free. For Hughes, this could come when the sun had finally set, when “the white day is done,” when the cover of darkness illuminated by the twinkling of distant stars, gave him a feeling of ecstatic peace made possible by “Night coming tenderly / Black like me.”

These words spoke to African-American photographer Dawoud Bey, the recent recipient of a MacArthur genius grant. As Bey approached his 60th birthday, he decided to make a fundamental change in his work. Moving away from the urban scenes of and people that had documented for over four decades, as magnificently catalogued in the new monograph, Seeing Deeply (University of Texas Press), Bey began a new series of work that offered the artist a new way of exploring Black history through the photograph.

In Night Coming Tenderly, Black, now on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through April 14, 2019, Bey imagines what American landscape looked like under the cover of night to those who followed the Underground Railroad to freedom in a series of 25 prints. His photographs, a lush symphony of blacks on blacks, pay homage to the work of Roy DeCarava (1919–2009), whose mastery of dark tones illustrates the exquisite sensitivity to his subjects, who have largely gone unseen or overlooked.

In reimagining how the American landscape looked to those fleeing slavery, Bey invites us to consider the story of this nation from the perspective of those who built it. Here, Bey shares his journey.

Rolling Deep with the Black Cowboys of the Mississippi Delta

You wouldn’t know it from the films or the television shows, but the Lone Ranger was a Black man by the name of Bass Reeves. Born into slavery in Crawford County, Arkansas in 1838, Bass won his freedom during the Civil War by beating up Colonel George R. Reeves, a member of the slaveholding family.

Bass fled north, living among the Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians until 1865. His knowledge of Native languages made him highly desirable to the U.S. marshals who were expanding west, and in 1875, Reeves became the first Black deputy U.S Marshal west of the Mississippi. Over a period of 32 years, Reeves nabbed 3,000 felons, and is said to have killed 14 outlaws in self-defense. By the time he died at 71 in 1910, Reeves was a legend — though his legacy was whitewashed and stolen.

Reeves is one of countless great Americans whose contributions have been rewritten, revised, or erased to fed the voracious appetite of those who craft self-aggrandizing tales to cover up their darkest sins. Yet, the beauty of history is that the truth will always out, and those who have inherited the great traditions of the past continue to practice and elevate the culture to this very day.

Hailing from Maine, photographer Rory Doyle headed South and set up shop, working as a freelance editorial and commercial photographer in Cleveland, Mississippi, the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Here he began a series of work titled Delta Hill Riders, a portrait of Black cowboys today. Here, Doyle shares his experiences creating these photographs, portraits of a way of life whose history is still being told.

Photographic Stories of Love and Loss, As Performed by Hollywood Stars

Jennifer Jason Leigh

Noomi Rapace

Julianne Moore

It has been said that if you want your story to have a happy ending, you have to know exactly where to stop. Except, life is not a novel or a film — nothing quite so neat. Even the best of endings can be a source of grief.

The end of a love affair is a heady subject, one that has long been exalted as subject for exploration in the arts, as well as an experience the informs and transforms countless lives: each story a tapestry of details that are uniquely fascinating for the complexities they reveal about the human condition.

Photographer Caitlin Cronenberg and art director Jessica Ennis decided to explore the subject in their new book, The EndingsL Photographic Stories of Love, Loss, Heartbreak, and Beginning Again (Chronicle). Here, the true stories of the final moments of a relationship are recast featuring some of Hollywood stars including Julianne Moore, Tessa Thompson, Kiera Knightley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Danielle Brooks, Paz de la Huera, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Here, in each photographic vignette, we are drawn into the raw, vulnerable moment of transformation. These tender moments of awareness allow for the profound shift from the past to the present through the actualization of the present moment. It is, as Mary Queen of Scots had embroidered on the cloth of her estate while imprisoned by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, awaiting her death: “In the end is my beginning.”

Here, Cronenberg and Ennis share their journey creating this evocative and enigmatic body of work.

Moments of Splendor and Repose in Evelyn Hofer’s New York

Three boys at the front door, 1975

Arteries, 1964

There are moments when you find yourself gazing upon a photograph feeling as though you were there. In the silence of the still image, you can feel the breeze caress your hair as the steady of flow of traffic hums along. The sun warms your back as you take it all in. It’s like you are there; of course, you are not, but the image gets transferred into your memory anyway. You now have a memory of witnessing something someone else saw, and all of the attendant emotions it caused. Can you be nostalgic about someone else’s life? It’s the question that comes up time and again in Evelyn Hofer: New York (Steidl).

The monograph itself, begins with a reference to an older time, drawing inspiration from the classic 1965 book New York Proclaimed, which features an in-depth essay by V. S. Pritchett and photos by Hofer before moving on to include a selection of previously unpublished photos made during early ‘70s throughout. Evelyn Hofer’s New York is the city of one who knows it well, who traverses its streets, parks, and bridges. It is the landscape of a True Yorker who loves it all: the glass and steel, the flesh and bone, the lives to be found everywhere you look.

Facing the Complex Truths of Addiction & Recovery

JUNE 24, 2017 – BALTIMORE, MD: Colin came to Earl’s Place in 2012. He was at one time an assistant to acclaimed photographer Annie Leibovitz. Now he is clean and sober and nurtures his relationship with his daughter.

AUGUST 14, 2017 – BALTIMORE, MD: Earl is 54 years old. He used drugs for 30 years and was in numerous recovery programs before coming to Earl’s Place in 2006. Earl believes the structure of Earl’s Place, including curfews and chores, helped him learn how to be neat and clean, and how to respect others. “I have 12 years without drugs. I have my own place. I go to church. I have a job, a sponsor, and I’m the sponsor for two men,” says Earl. 

The conversation around addiction and recovery is a minefield filled with a wealth of disinformation, misinformation, sensationalization, exploitation, and victimization, poisoning our understanding of issues — and the lives at stake. For addiction rarely harms the addict alone, but extends into the lives of families and friends.

Photographer Andrew Mangum understands this firsthand, his mother having suffered from addiction most of his life. Although she is now clean and sober, Mangum continues to bear the pain of trauma that has informed his life. Photography became a path to healing through conversation and communion, centered in the vital, necessary act of human connection with the people he met at Earl’s Place in Baltimore.

A transitional housing program for homeless men in recovery from alcohol or substance abuse, Earl’s Place provides long-term housing and support services for up to two years. At any given time, 17 men are given the basic support and care needed to help them continue their education, get a GED, secure job training and employment opportunities that will allow them to re-enter mainstream society.

Through the process of creating these portraits, Mangum was able to have conversations with these men that were too difficult to have with his mother. The depths of his understanding is profound, as his portraits stand in silent testimony to the toll addiction exacts on those who fall into its perilous clasp. Yet there is none of the hand-wringing, holier-than-thou, condescending contempt or voyeuristic thrill seeking that pervades so much coverage of addiction in the press — there is simply a knowledge of the struggle and mutual respect. Here, Mangum shares his experiences creating this intimate body of work that humanizes the face of addiction.

Inside the Curious World of Reborn Baby Dolls

Girl and doll

Going for a walk 

Sabine and her doll, Emely

Joyce Moreno (1942-2015) was a nurse, specializing in neonatal intensive care, an ordained minister, and a renowned reborn artist. A master of sewing, Moreno began her practice in 1989, when she had the idea to separate the head of her Berenguer brand baby doll from its body, then completely recreate the baby’s face and body as she envisioned it.

“Reborning is taking an unpainted doll and hand painting and detailing it to the point of realism that it is difficult to tell that it is not a real breathing baby/infant,” Moreno explained. “I try my best to add that little something extra, that little bit of true baby essence that makes a big difference in the outcome of what makes it look like a real live baby.”

Her practice was extremely thorough, taking the craft to an art, detailing, “I started with a blank form without paint. His vinyl baby soft skin, is then prepared to receive the delicate layering of paints I use. Layer after layer of my own unique blend of paints are carefully applied, until he began to take on the look and feel of a real newborn.”

The results caught on as these reborn babies spoke to women who could appreciate the work put in: from replacing plastic eyes with glass and hand painting barely-there eyebrows was complemented to the intricate addition of micro-rooted, premium Angora mohair to effect the silky, delicacy of a newborn’s hair. The baby’s limbs were filled with sand, transforming once rigid plastic dolls into mobile, cuddly creations weighted just right, so that they nestled like real newborns might.

For more than three decades, a thriving subculture has been quietly flourishing. For the past two years, German photographer Lena Kunz has been found her way into this world, traveling from referral to referral, and discovering the happiness these unlikely dolls bestow on their owners in her series Artificial Reality. Here Kunz speaks with us about what she has found photographing grown women who still take exceptional pleasure from playing with dolls.

Exploring a Century of Photography and Abstract Art

Maya Tochat. Meta Love 2018,
from the series A Rock Is A River, 2018. Variable techniques and dimensions

Daisuke Yokota. Untitled From Abstracts series, 2014.
Pigment print, dimensions variable

The history of painting and photography has been infinitely, intricately intertwined, ever since the camera first introduced a new way of looking at the world. In its first century, the impact on painting was much more pronounced, as artists like Edgar Degas began cropping his scenes of daily life as a photographer might, while Claude Monet discovered that act of chasing light ultimately brought about a shimmering mirage of sensations, much as they did inside the darkroom when exposed to silver gelatin paper.

But it wasn’t until the advent of abstraction that painting and photography operated in concert, each pushing each other forward with the constant exploration of style and technique. In celebration of the first century of this fascinating dialogue, editors Simon Baker, Emmanuelle De L’Ecotais, Shoair Mavlian have put together Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art (D.A.P./Tate), a catalogue for an exhibition of the same name on view at the Tate in 2018.

The Destruction of the American Landscape, in Photos

Silver Bow Creek/Butte Area, Silver Bow/Deer Lodge Counties, Montana, 1986

Northwest 58th Street Landfill, Hialeah, Florida, 1986

Baxter/Union Pacific Tie Treating, Laramie, Wyoming, 1986

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap,” the Bible warns in Galatians 6:7. But in 2018, we must recognize it is the Earth whose destructive powers will soon be unleashed through the horrific destruction we have enacted.

“Out of sight, out of mind,” is the old refrain, as though ignorance could ever be bliss when it’s really just failure to avert a catastrophe. That is why David T. Hanson’s aerial photographs, just published in Waste Land (Taverner Press) are a break through. The truth cannot be denied.

In 1980, the U.S. Environmental Projection Agency created “Superfund” to address the catastrophic problem of toxic waste sites.  From a list of more than 400,000 contaminated sites throughout the country, the EPA identified 400 highly hazardous locations in dire shape, wreaking ecological disaster on a poisoned landscape.

From this list Hanson selected 67 sites in 45 states, representing a cross-section of American geography and industrial waste activities, including nineteenth-century mines, smelters, and wood-processing plants, landfills and illicit dumps, large petrochemical complexes, aerospace water-contamination sites, nuclear weapons plants, and nerve gas disposal areas.

With the support of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985, Hanson made these photographs, which he presents in the book using a triptych structure. The book provides a U.S. Geological Survey topographic map that he modified to indicate the site within its surrounding environment, his aerial photograph, and a contemporaneous U.S. Environmental Protection Agency site description that details the history of the site, its hazards, and the remedial action taken.

The texts illustrate the bureaucratic nature of hazardous waste regulation and reveal some of the elaborate legal strategies that corporations and individuals have used to avoid responsibility for the contamination and the cleanup. Suffice to say the passage of time has seen no progress made.

Waste Land is part of Hanson’s quest to document the destruction of the American landscape, revealing the dystopian horror that underlies the naïve faith of Alexis de Tocqueville’s belief in the “triumphant march of civilization” that fuels the delusional mythology of the United States.

Waste Land is a haunting meditation on a ravaged landscape. Although the pictures were made in the 1980s, they seem even more relevant today, given our growing concerns about energy production, environmental degradation, and climate change. Here Hanson shares his experiences and insights, reminding us that the power of photography to reveal that which is hidden from view, exposing what are lies and what is truth.

The Magical, Mystical Muses of Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas. Racquel Reclining Wearing Purple Jumpsuit , 2015.
Rhinestones, glitter, flock, acrylic, and oil on wood panel. 96 x 144 in.
The Rachel and Jean-Pierre Lehmann Collection

Mickalene Thomas. Racquel: Come to Me , 2017.
Rhinestones, acrylic, oil, oil stick, and glitter on wood panel. 108 x 84 in.
Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

Look, but don’t touch, just imagine how it feels as your eyes caress the surface of a work of art by Mickalene Thomas. Painting, photograph, and collage commingle effortlessly as sequins, rhinestones, and glitter every hue imaginable make their way across the picture plane. Spellbound, you stand there and breathe it all in, taking refuge in the infinite glory of the sublime.

At the heart of Thomas’s work is an intoxicating sense of intimacy, a sensual embrace that that seems to embody the very air we breathe. One is immediately seduced and disarmed, overwhelmed by the feeling of being welcomed into this milieu, a space that suggests a boudoir filled with velvet and lace, with veils that cover and reveal, of secrets to be shared.

At its very center, it is about relationship, about the dynamic that exists between artist, model, and viewer that dances into the timeless sunsets of an infinite land. It is rooted in the connections Thomas holds with the women who inspire her to create a wonderland.

Honoring Those Who Give Their Lives to Fight the Power, in Photos

2015, Justice League NYC’s “March 2 Justice” from New York to Washington, DC,
in protest of police brutality.

Congressman John Lewis at Justice League NYC’s “March 2 Justice”
from New York to Washington, DC, in protest of police brutality in 2015

On November 27, Ferguson activist Bassem Masri was found unconscious on a bus in suburban St. Louis. Just 31 at the time of his death, Masri is the latest untimely death of local activists who have passed in sudden and mysterious ways.

Many will remember the murder of Deandre Joshua, just 20 years old, when his body was found with a gunshot to the head inside his car, which had been set on fire during the height of the protests against the extrajudicial assassination of Mike Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson.

Then in 2016, the body of Darren Seals, 26, was found — the same manner of killing exacted upon one of the most prominent activists in the movement. But the deaths did not end there. In 2017, Edward Crawford, 27, was found shot to death in the backseat of his car, and just as recently as October 17, Ferguson activist Melissa McKinnies discovered her son, Danye Jones, 24, lynched in her backyard.

On December 3, HBO premiered Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, a documentary film that asks, “What really happened to Black Lives Matter activist Sandra Bland?” In her death, Bland became a symbol of all that the government has done — and the ways in which the true story is hidden from view.

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