Some shared thoughts and words, and a bit of art news. Poems here and exhibition news here. My work is moving slowly – for the time being still hobbled by cast and brace, but not for much longer. I explore Walker Evans’ Polariods with great excitement and share some images and observations below, followed by a few thoughts on my world and our world, then a brief recovery update.
Walker Evans’ black and white depression-era photographs had of course been well known to me, but it was was Janet Wormser who introduced me to Evans’ Polaroid images, done late in the photographer’s life. Given a camera and unlimited film supply by the Polaroid Land company in the early ’70’s, Evans made use of the immediacy of that new photographic technology to create a huge body of spontaneous photographs, documenting – or maybe collecting is a more accurate word – images of many categories of subjects; everything from close-ups of garbage, detritus on the streets, deteriorating surfaces and signage, abandoned houses, as well as portraits of women, of men, of groups of people – all impromptu observations, moments caught with his eye. The coloration of the now obsolete technology added its own enhanced strangeness to Evans’ idiosyncratic choices of subject matter. Here are just a few examples:
selection of Walker Evans’ Polariods:
I was struck by the impulse and sense of immediacy shared between these works and my ongoing phone shoots (see here, here, and here) and felt the interconnecting threads of scrutiny; of the insignificant, the discarded – life’s detritus in every sense of the word.
selections from my “On the Ground” photos:
It’s all about the looking; the discovering of noteworthy visual information in the overlooked, the ignored. Many artists take that same path of scrutiny evident in work by Evans; it can be observed in the décollage works of three French artists of the Nouveau Réalisme group of the ’60’s I’ve already written about here: François Dufrêne, Raymond Hains and Jacques Villeglé.
Raymond Hains Jacques-Villeglé
Now a bit about my world and our world, updated in real time.
The abandoned garden unleashes its power wildly – vegetables entwined with wildflower vines, embracing happy blossoming weeds, each plant shooting upwards and outwards, offering a profusion of seedpods with glorious fecundity! It’s frustrating not to put my hands to work forming a shared creation, instead watching all from a distance of safe immobility. The unexpected surprise is that this burgeoning natural power is a joy to observe!
At the same time, summer slips and seconds tick percussively as focus shifts imperceptibly, continually, as the world turns with grating gyrations slow and fast wet and dry hot and cold and who knows what tomorrow brings? Is it retribution – of a despairing God giving up again on its creation, wiping the slate clean? Or is nature simply reasserting its equilibrium by allowing a deranged animal bent on destruction to do itself in?
Around the globe we witness astonishing torrents, deluges, skies smudged with ash from afar, hellish temperatures, melting ice fields, wild raging fires, rampaging variants and anti-vaxing? selfish? survivalist? neo-fascist? covid victims finally getting their due. A bit merciless perhaps, but had everyone rationally taken the vaccine when first offered, there would be no massive Delta death, no world careening off its axis with mad unmasked protests or sordid insinuations of lunatic conspiracies. Is there some basic flaw in the human species, causing so many to flip to monstrous denial rather than shared self-preservation? Is it human nature, itself mutated to a character variant so utterly lacking in humility and asserting such a craven sense of entitlement, that has brought us to this sorry state? What on earth are people thinking? What about the common good? Imagine smallpox polio now, I think, watching it all from my front porch in semi-seclusion surrounded by relative quiet. Birds, squirrels, bugs and the occasional human appear as I sit waiting to see what drops next.
Meanwhile week six out of eight and counting, waiting for two bones to mend. This week has begun a gradual release from the leg brace’s grip and next week the wrist cast is cut off! Till then, I remain clamped, cramped, confined, desperately, gratefully, prayerfully, patiently, testing patience testing strength testing silence stillness, every minute shared alone, bearing witness.
– Diane Sophrin