Over the centuries, still-life and object painting have always done more than depict something as it is. The subjects in the images can tell a story, represent an idea and be used as symbols.
As I hunt around for objects to add to my collection, I always make sure that they somehow fit into the narrative I am pursuing in my overall work. For example, in the painting “Still & Moving,” I have a still camera and an 8mm film camera — one takes still images, the other moving. Anyone who has been using social media for the last decade knows that the advances in cameras have shifted us from still images to videos. Instagram, an app that initially was about sharing photos of what you were doing at the moment, used heavy filters to “age” the images and make them appear aged and somehow “authentic.” But now, here we are, with Instagram becoming all about the moving pictures. We have entered the phase of brief and trivial videos that one can sit and view for eternity.
As someone who has used social media in all its forms over the last 20 years, I have often wondered if I will eventually be left out as I feel no need to move on to the next iteration. You are reading this on my blog that I have published since 2007 — an ancient medium as far as many would be concerned.
I draw inspiration from my work from centuries ago (see the last post), so I have a bit of a “long view” of what I am doing with my work. Focusing on the minutiae of now isn’t my game.
These two paintings will be part of my upcoming exhibition at the George Billis Gallery in Los Angeles.
I just put the finishing touches on this commission, and soon it will be off to a collector’s home.
Painting at the peak of summer has always been a challenge. The warmest days make me actually lethargic and groggy. I’m fortunate to have air conditioning in my studio. An addition that came a few years ago. And during this summer, with the extended endless days of hot sun, I cannot fathom working without cooled air at the touch of a button.
Every subject I paint has a built-in history. This Kodak Petite camera was made from 1929–1933, precisely during The Great Depression. The little pocket camera is sitting upon a stack of paperbacks from the same time and leading up to WWII. I always find myself thinking of the people who used these objects and what their world was like. Perhaps they were not so different from us.
This painting will be part of my upcoming September exhibition at the George Billis Gallery in New York City.
This will sound sentimental, but who cares. I like the thought of how exciting these cameras would have been to a kid who received it as a gift. Back when photography took time, it would have seemed magic. I like the thought that these lenses were the eyes on so many events.
And then there is the fact I can present these objects in such an orderly way. The four cameras are all 3/4 turned, facing to the right. These black cubes, such simple shapes, with the circular flash from the unique Spartus camera. The stack of ten cameras makes a small architectural structure, each with a different facade. The box cameras with their shining brass art deco designs, the different materials used. Composing the cameras this way adds a structure and order.
The materials, their designs, the history and story, their utility as image making tools, cameras are deserving of a portrait.
Kodak, Bencini, Leica, Yashica. USA, Italy, Germany, Japan.
Learning about these cameras is like a 20th century world history lesson. The makers of these cameras have all been affected by world events, the economy and changing technology. Even though they are obsolete, they still have avid collectors and enthusiasts.
With the Kodaks painting above, I composed an arch with the lenses and flashes, giving the painting an architectural feel.
We have had PHD (Push Here, Dummy) cameras in our pockets for a hundred years, but it’s the ones that look like they were pieced together by watchmakers that are fun to paint.
I like that they were all used to make art, to document holidays, travel, weddings and so many other happy events. What’s strange is that the photos from the cameras are all missing, lost or hidden. It really makes me wonder what will happen to the billions of photos we upload from the cameras on our phones now.
These elegant and finely detailed antique Kodak cameras are works of art on their own. They have a patina about them. Cameras are now and always have been ubiquitous – but some were made to stand out. These cameras have lost their function, but now exist as sculpture and ideals of craftsmanship.