The artists of the People’s Biennial:
Haverford-area artists -
Messages in Motion
“We must document where we are, so we can articulate where we want to be, and begin to imagine how to get there.”
Messages in Motion (MIM) is a blue van. It’s a creative process. It’s a model of communication and exchange. MIM believes that media can be independent, community-driven and representative of diverse voices, perspectives and styles that reflect our uniqueness as individuals and speak to our needs as communities. However, most of what we see, hear and read comes from corporate media, the dominant communications system in the US, where the focus is on making money and selling products. Corporate media does not reflect the interests of people or our daily experiences.
MIM supports first-time media-makers in the production, distribution, and exhibition of short video postcards that express their ideas, concerns, and questions about themselves and their world. The postcard framework leads the users to communicate a succinct, personal or social message, while documenting their environment.
The videos are created by participants in a 5 to 8-hour workshop, and then shared with other communities through screenings and in subsequent workshops. They are also tagged to a growing online map where viewers can sort videos by theme, reflecting on similarities and differences while seeking inspiration from one another. By networking people and places, Messages in Motion activates relationships and promotes self-expression as a step toward social change.
I document visual moments of humanity, particularly of people whose lives would otherwise be bypassed by art and history. I study people. I like to know where they are, how they live, who they’re with, what they do, and what type of persons they are. I try to blend in and remain unnoticed as I work to capture the decisive moment that will encapsulate a person’s life story in one image. That moment, saved from oblivion, will never repeat itself.
It is important to me as an artist to present the viewer with soul-searching images that will spark a conversation. What is this story about and how does it relate to your own life?
My goal is to portray my subjects’ environment, lifestyle, sorrows, triumphs and values in a dignified manner. If my pictures concurrently evoke compassion, admiration and introspection, I’ve done my job well.
Furthermore, my photography is an agent for social and historical action. Most of the people I photograph have no one to record their stories; they have seldom seen a picture of themselves. I take the essence of their spirit and engrave it permanently in a tangible memory. Now I have something to give back. I present them with a visual moment of their lives—a timeless gelatin silver print. This is the most rewarding part of my craft.
I created Men are Much Harder 2 in anticipation of an exhibition that I organized in 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky, entitled Oh Boy: Men and Masculinity. I was inspired by a study conducted by Beth Eck of James Madison University who researched ways in which men and women responded to images of the male and female nude in pornographic, medical, and artistic contexts. Oh Boy featured photography and video by several contemporary artists who depicted men in various states, from bodybuilders to patients undergoing sexual reassignment surgery. One week prior to the opening of the exhibition, I invited people in to the gallery where Oh Boy would be held, and invited them to preview reproductions of the works in the show. I interviewed and videotaped the participants on their subjective reactions to the artwork. After recording the volunteers’ responses, I edited the footage and presented it as an audio-visual introduction to the exhibition. Participants returned the following week, some with family and friends, to attend the opening and to see their interviews.
In her research, Eck stated, “Heterosexual men respond to men in two ways—with overt rejection and with stated disinterest.” If this is true, then is it possible that some of these individuals create a hostile environment for others to look at and respond to images of men? While Men Are Much Harder 2 is an attempt to generate increased public interest in art through conversation, it is also a reflection of my desire to create an environment for people to talk openly about the male body.
My collection of works can easily fit into the category “living arts,” a group which to me also includes “multimedia,” or conceptually driven motifs in the format of film, sculpture, performances, staged events, environments, diagrams, conscious post-figured fine arts pieces, music, writings, and inventions. All of these pursuits would appear to the general audience, the regular public-at-hand, and even to my closest friends and art associates, as disconnected things. But they all should be considered as units that help in the format of my biography, working and readjusting amongst themselves in the three-DVD Howard-set world.
This work has been formatted to pinpoint the middle of an ongoing timeline that began with the documentation of my work in 1996, with a single film clip from Kutztown University. Seph, a friend, decided to pick up the pieces and continue the story of my life, as he began working on a second film, Howard2go. This led to the idea of a larger collage-like, three-part film series.
The accompanying diagrammatic sketches and samples of my work formatted to drawings are direct and indirect references to the film’s content. I felt it was appropriate to capture a glimpse of my elusive works. However, I still have ever-burgeoning clouds of thoughts, and I will continue gathering and sculpting experiences and objects into the reality I see fit for the final film of the series.
Most of my drawings were made between the ages of 11 and 14 (over 30 years ago) when I was consumed with daydreams as an avenue of escapism from divorcing parents and later adolescent insecurities. I would spend hours devising dialogues and storylines as I drew characters. Some fantasies were about “nice, normal, stable” families that I wished I had. I notice that many drawings feature red-heads and believe this was influenced by my childhood best friend and her family who epitomized a traditional family to me, with Friday night rituals of hamburgers and milkshakes dinners followed by TV programs—Tom Jones and The Brady Bunch. One recurring storyline was about an older couple, Henry and Henrietta, who bickered but remained inseparable partners. These scenes were set in ordinary places, like a kitchen or beauty shop, with Henrietta always in curlers and a house-dress.
I much preferred to draw women than men, and with time, my drawings were almost exclusively of women. I loved to draw different women’s faces, some movie-star beautiful, some frighteningly ugly or with exaggerated features. I spent a lot of time watching old black-and-white films and was inspired to draw women with 1940s hairstyles and wardrobes, creating similarly dramatic storylines and dialogues. I particularly liked the vamp characters and would usually start with those.
My father was the biggest supporter of my artwork. He believed I had real “genius” and sent drawings to The New Yorker magazine. He found venues for exhibitions of my drawings and several pieces actually sold. We aspire to collaborate one day—with him writing a story and me illustrating it.
Pavement Cracks and the start of the Line compositions:
Sometime in 2007 I started to photograph pavement cracks, documenting an extensive catalogue of beautiful decay. Each photograph was a compositional study using the joints of the pavement and the crevices as compositional elements. I began to look at these photographic compositions as a starting point for further compositional explorations, seeing the joints as lines and the tonal qualities of the pavement as color fields. I then reinterpreted these in collages which quickly took on a new direction.
The collage work in this series is a tangent from this line of exploration. The compositions are informed by this process of discovery, from the pavement crack that first caught my eye to the rough line found in a magazine used in the collage to represent it. Lines, shapes, colors, gradients are found and captured, brought together and released. They are no longer representations of found compositions, but instead, they are self-referential compositions that found themselves in the generative process: the first line, color, or shape then informed the next, and the next, until the composition felt complete.
I began painting and drawing in 2003. My early interests were strong or forced perspectives and surrealism. From my early work of imagined objects or landscapes I looked at the symbols that are around us. The subject of my work is the presence of objects that exist on their own, outside of our imagination and our mind. This is to say they can be seen by us without our illusions, our thinking or cultural references interfering.
Art can be mostly about illusions and commentary but I believe that art can also be a place where the mind can pause, and seeing can become an action by itself.
I have been trying very hard to see beauty. I know I have seen it before but it is vague and exists as more of an idea than a reality. The world hasn’t changed but I guess I have. Beauty was always in the act of making, which for me often meant seeing each part of something and recording it like a needle measuring the movements of Earth. Looking at things and finding what color they are (it is always surprising what is found) I always expect something brighter or more brilliant than what is. Painting corrects these expectations.
When you stop looking for beauty you find yourself searching out what is interesting or engaging in the world. Interesting things and topics slowly become your personal idea of the beautiful.
I am a native Philadelphian, born in 1949, and a multi-disciplinary artist. I am a musician (I play saxophone and percussion). If I were to give a reason for my work, I would say that my main motivation is to raise the level of consciousness in people of the good in using the gifts and skills that God has given us. I am talking about serving humanity in whatever capacity one has. For example, as a musician, I simply play my heart out if I see that one person is listening. This sometimes opens up a situation that allows for conversation with that person, at which time sharing can take place on any level.
My wood carvings consist of both functional and non functional art. I make staffs and canes, address plates and all kinds of things, much of which can be customized based on people’s suggestions. One of my specialties is carving images including portraits into wooden conga drums (with which I also provide instructions on how to play). But I think one of the things that brings the most joy to my heart is when I carve a portrait of someone’s deceased loved-ones (family or friend), and when I see the look in their eyes as they see it and they are able to hang it somewhere in full view. To me it’s about encouraging others in a time when they really do need people.
Other artists in the People’s Biennial -
Rapid City-area artists