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FFOTO's Five Quarantine Questions for Cynthia Greig, Sara Angelucci, and Michael Kenna

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Michael Kenna's boxes of work prints awaiting reviewMichael Kenna's boxes of work prints awaiting review.

FF/QQ 10 brings us commentary from three photographers whose creative flexibility sees them choosing to pivot to other aspects of their art practices while working from home. Cynthia Greig checks in from Detroit, Sara Angelucci responds from Toronto, and Michael Kenna talks to us from Seattle.

- Craig D'Arville

 

 

Cynthia Greig, Artist (@cynthia_greig_not_studio)

"Deck of Cards", 2001, by Cynthia GreigDeck of Cards, 2001, from the series "Life Size"

Craig D'Arville: Tell us about this photograph. 

Cynthia Greig: This photograph is from a series I titled “Life-Size.” For this body of work, I collect and make tiny replicas of everyday things and ask my friends and family to act as if they're really using tiny sunglasses, a camera, life-preserver, grenade, hypodermic needle as if they were functional objects, and photograph their absurd acts so the objects take on a scale close to life-size. It's important to me that I show adults rather than the expectation of children playing with such tiny toys since the magnified proportions of the photographs reveal the flaws, scars and wrinkles of mature and real flesh. I often make the objects look like they've been worn or broken from actual use or time. As a surrogate of the original, the miniature implies the existence of some kind of alternate universe where we are like gods, omnipotent and in control. 

When I was going to grad school, I lived beneath a woman who had built an exact miniature replica of her and her boyfriend’s house (I was renting from them at the time), it was perfect in every detail. Then a year later the boyfriend discovered she had been cheating on him and it was over. It’s this kind of disconnect between representation and reality that fascinates me — how adults, too, pretend, fantasize, and project desire, and can believe something that isn’t true. I use miniatures as a means to rethink our sense of natural order and explore this dysfunctional side of idealized perfection and the illusion of being able to control everything around us.

CD: How is physical distancing affecting your art practice?

CG: Before our Governor called a "Shelter in Place" order in Michigan, I'd been printing and preparing work for the exhibition, Breathtaking, that was to open at the New Mexico Museum of Art in May. Although the exhibition will be delayed, I’m grateful the museum is moving forward with organizing the installation and opening at some future date.

I haven’t been able to work in my offsite studio for a couple of weeks now but I’m fortunate enough to have my printer at home. However, space is limited as I live with two other adults and that time between printing, prepping and shipping work out has been a bit stressed for us all to say the least — I had over 50 of my prints laid out on the floor, bed, table and sofa last week. Other than that I’ve been revisiting works in progress that focus on making visible the otherwise unseen or near-microscopic. It’s something that has continued to fascinate me but I feel this current context of living during a global pandemic and its impact on humanity has really heightened my focus. 

Test prints laid out in Cynthia Greig's living roomTest prints laid out in Cynthia Greig's living room

CD: What are you doing to stay engaged with your community during this strange time?

CG: I’ve been talking, texting and emailing with different friends — both here and abroad — brainstorming ideas for work, shows, and collaborating together. It calls to mind how after 9/11, when faced with such devastation, there’s an urge to create and recreate as acts of affirmation.

CD: We're all spending a lot of time on social media right now. Whose work is getting your attention right now?

CG: I’m a big fan of Vid Ingelevics’ (@artinfact_0052) photographs and have been following his instagram posts as he walks the city, capturing the current state of affairs in Toronto's public spaces emptied of their usual inhabitants (and consumables). Vid has a great eye for the framing space and has an ironic and a dry sense of humor amid all the firsts we’re experiencing right now.

I continue to enjoy Beth Yarnelle Edwards' (@bethyarnelleedwards) posts from her daily walks recording the Tech Corridor’s impact on housing in the San Francisco Oakland area.

I’ve been taken for some time with the work of Welsh artists like painter Gareth Hugh Davies' (@garethhughdavies)—his brilliant, dramatic landscapes suggest some impending storm —as well as Peter Finnimore’s (@peter.finnemore) wry and timely photographs that look for humor and signs of humanity in our crazy world order.

I’ve also been enjoying Jennifer Rose Long’s (@jenniferroselong) "artist residency in motherhood" posts. Her vision has always been so pointed and poetic to me, with such finely tuned attention for the intimate, subtle and tactile — things that really resonate during this period of social distancing and, for some, physical isolation.

CD: Any advice you’d like to share to help others coping with working from home, or in isolation?

CG: I read the other day that seismologists have observed a previously unimaginable decrease in the din and rumble on the planet while a global population is in "lock-down.” If I have one thing to share it's to find a place to take time and really appreciate the silence, people and Life — in all its big- and small-ness. I know many nurses who are on the front lines and am deeply in awe of the sacrifices they make on a daily basis to care for others and now are risking their lives and health in trying to combat this deadly virus. So, I feel it’s incumbent upon the rest of us to take action and be resourceful and creative in the face of this local and global crisis.

I try to focus on what's positive and appreciate this newfound quiet and slowed-down pace of life. It’s the kind of perspective I embrace in Gallery Horizons or Threshold — stepping back and taking a longer, more distant view of the familiar. I like spending time viewing others' work that gives me pause and asks questions or offers some hope or lightness with humor or beauty to reflect upon the present and see again — now more than ever — they refresh my perceptual abilities and lift up spirits.

This self-quarantine experience has also given me the opportunity to spend more time with my family, taking walks (practicing the 6-ft rule of course), catching up on Larry David’s "Curb Your Enthusiasm," listening to more music — right now artists like Iris Dement and Madeleine Peyroux — and watching the outside creatures who pass by our rear door wall. Also, it’s so funny you picked this particular image from Life-Size. We’ve been playing a lot of 3-handed Euchre these days too! 

Read Tatum Dooley's essay about Cynthia Greig's art practice

Shop FFOTO: Cynthia Greig

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Sara Angelucci, Artist (@angelucci803)

"Coppley Patterns (DM)", by Sara AngelucciCoppley Patterns (DM), 2017, from the series "Piece Work"

Craig D'Arville: Tell us about this arwork from you series "Piece Work".

Sara Angelucci: This image was created using scanned pattern pieces of a vintage man's business suit I found in the basement of the Coppley Apparel factory. Coppley employed my mother as a seamstress when she first arrived in Canada in the mid 1950s. I was looking for archival materials to work with when I discovered these beautiful hand cut patterns. To make this series I layered the scanned pieces and played with them like cubist compositions. Kurt Schwitters was particularly inspiring to this work.  

CD: How is physical distancing affecting your work flow?

SA: I haven't stopped working on projects, but I've had to postpone some things I wanted to shoot (ironically in Italy) and move other things forward. I usually have a lot of images to sort through so this gives me time to do that. I also do a lot of research and reading for every project, so I'm engaged in that right now. Still, it is hard to put things aside that I *thought* I was going to be shooting this spring and summer! I have been thinking a lot about Lars von Trier's film The Five Obstructions and how every obstruction he gave Jorgen Leth led to a really interesting and unexpected creative solution. Sometimes I think NOT being able to do things can lead to really interesting outcomes, if you give over to it. We'll see how the summer unfolds!  

CD: What are you doing to stay engaged with your community during this strange time?

SA: A lot of FaceTime and ZOOM chats! Also watching lectures online and reading articles. I recently had a virtual curatorial visit. The conversation was really rich and inspiring and I was so grateful to the person for taking the time. I hope to offer some studio/feedback to other colleagues in the weeks ahead. I also host a FaceBook Group for Ryerson Alumni and we are constantly sharing artistic resources there. We're lucky to have the internet as a way to connect - but it is sad to be physically distant from people that I love and events, exhibitions, and openings I was looking forward to. I will never complain about having to go to an opening again...! 

CD: We're all spending a lot of time on social media right now. Whose work is getting your attention right now?

SA: My interests are quite broad-ranging, and while I love photography, I also love painting, installation, and many other art practices, and literature...! I love the work of Paul Mpagi Sepuya (@pagmi). I think it's brilliant, and stunning. I also look at historical work. I'm not an Instagrammer...I tend to research on the internet (old fashioned...!). Recently I discovered the paintings of Margaux Williamson  (how did I not know her..?!); watched a fabulous dance performance by Joan Jonas called Mirror Piece 1: Reconfigured, and am reading three inspiring books: MAKE INK by Jason Logan, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Float a collection of Anne Carson's writing

CD: Any advice you’d like to share to help others coping with working from home, or in isolation?

SA: Everyone's situation is so different. Here are some things I have been trying to do:

1) Check on people regularly. Especially people who live alone.
2) Make phone/cocktail/chat dates with friends.
3) Do yoga and go for walks, everyday. Do something physical.
4) GET OUSIDE! Be in nature as much as possible.
5) Cook good food. Try new recipes
6) Read good books.
7) Watch great movies and TV series. 
8) Trying to figure out a new thing I want to learn (once my grades are submitted). I might take an online botany course! 

I guess with so much out of my control, I'm trying as much as possible to be proactive with the things that are. I'm still probably NEVER going to clean out the basement though!

Read our 2018 interview with Sara Angelucci

Shop FFOTO: Sara Angelucci

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Michael Kenna, Artist (@michaelkennaphoto)

Full Moonset, Chausey Islands, 2008, by Michael KennaFull Moonset, Chausey Islands, 2008

Craig D'Arville: Tell us a bit about this photograph.

Michael Kenna: This image was made as part of a commission to photograph the Chausey Islands, an archipelago, 15km from Granville in France. At low tide there are 365 islands and at high tide, only 52. I made three visits to the islands and was able to photograph during the day and night. As a result, I was able to track the moon rises and sets, and photograph them using long time exposures with the camera on a tripod. This particular image was probably about an hour exposure. I went to the location, early in the morning, that I had scouted the previous morning, set the camera so that the full moon was in the top left corner of the frame, and began exposing. I waited until the moon was almost set behind the rocks and stopped the exposure at that time. There is always some unpredictability to photographing at night - which is one of the reasons I particularly enjoy the process. There is also something wonderful about being in nature and experiencing an unrepeatable phenomena. Of course, the moon will rise and set again, but it is never quite the same. As my mentor, the photographer Ruth Bernhard would often say, "Today is the day"!

CD: How is physical distancing affecting your work flow?

MK: I have been fortunate to have photographed in many countries throughout the world. Travel has been an integral aspect of the work that I do. As of early February, that abruptly stopped and I have since cancelled my scheduled engagements in Canada, Croatia, England, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Russia, Slovenia, Thailand and USA. Photographic projects, book signings, exhibitions and lectures have all been postponed. Now I am essentially at home, working on my computer. From time to time, I am able to print in the darkroom, but it is two hours from where I currently live with my family, so I am keeping that to a minimum. 

One of the things that I am doing in this socially distanced time is organizing my archive of 46+ years work. I just discovered boxes of work prints from the eighties onwards and it has been fascinating going through them. There are more than 6,000 prints. So, no work space per se, but here are some of the boxes at least! 

Michael Kenna's archive boxes containing work prints going back as far as the 1980sMichael Kenna's archive boxes containing work prints going back as far as the 1980s

We each have to make the best of our own situation and I am finding that, in this unprecedented time of social distancing and bad news every day, patience, understanding, compassion, and good humor have become, more than ever, absolute necessities. In my personal art practice, output of new images, prints, etc., has ceased, or at least paused. Production has been replaced with a degree of introspection and contemplation. I feel that I am in an interval between scenes with little idea of what will come next. Perhaps, in these moments, we are all being forced to prioritize what is most important in life.

CD: What are you doing to stay engaged with your community during this strange time?

MK: My art practice remains very important to me and I hope to others. I believe that we all derive inspiration, hope and inner peace from the contemplation of beauty, wherever and whenever we can find it. Artists are very fortunate to be able to create. This is a fundamental aspect of our profession that we should be constantly appreciative of. I feel that as part of a community, those working in the arts should, particularly at this time when we are all online, accept the responsibility of disseminating their images, regardless of personal fame and fortune. Personally, I have had little historical interest in social media. However, I am now posting more than I ever have: new work, old work, work prints, accidental prints. I am also spending more time doing interviews, replying to emails, trying to keep in contact with friends, family, colleagues and the general public.

CD: Any advice you’d like to share to help others coping with working from home, or in isolation?

MK: I suppose we all need to take comfort that we are in the same boat, and will sink or swim together. Rational sense says that we will reach the other side of this mess. We don’t know when or in what condition, but we will certainly get there. Life has taught me that we learn and develop most, academically and physically, when challenged. I am sure that we have all read or at least heard the aphorism: “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. It may be a cliche, but it has some fundamental truth. I am also quite fond of the motivational words: “Keep calm and carry on”. We have to take each day at a time and make the most of it. I never thought I would say it, but we are extremely fortunate to have the internet! We can do this together.

Shop FFOTO: Michael Kenna

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