The Creative Process
An Analysis of content and Medium
4. Learning Languages
I became interested in photography and learned all of its processes at Hunter College, where the late photographer Mark Feldstein taught me to shoot, process, and develop film of all sizes. He taught me how to print on many kinds of paper and how to sensitize various materials such as fabrics, wood, or stone, and to process photographic images on such materials. I learned how to use old cameras, how to control the number of exposures on each frame. Mark Feldstein was an incredibly gifted teacher.
At the same time, I went to the Blackburn Printmaking workshop and learned the techniques of photo etching and photolithography, which back then were very toxic. I learned photogravure at Lothar Osterburg Studio in Chelsea, New York. After graduation I worked as the monitor of the printmaking workshop at Hunter College, where taught myself the newer and safer techniques of photo etching with polymer film, which I first heard about from Deli Sacilotto and Michael Pellettieri. Back then very few people knew anything about that process, so I just experimented and kept making plates until I developed a satisfactory result and procedure. A year later I taught a course on these techniques at Hunter College. I learned how to make liquid photo emulsions, and how to use non-silver processes such as gum printing, collotypes, and cyanotypes. I was driven to know all these languages of light and darkness. By 1995, when I started to teach printmaking at the Art Students League, all of my work concentrated on combining photography with printmaking.
The Concept of Abstraction
In 1992 I asked George McClancy, a painter and professor at SUNY Empire State College in Manhattan, to introduce me to the artist Vincent Longo, a professor at CUNY Hunter College. I had heard of professor Longo while inquiring about graduate schools, and I wanted to print for him so that I would learn about his work and improve my own. I became his master printer for the next nine years. I sometimes printed for Vinnie at the Hunter College printmaking studio, but mostly I printed at my own studio. Vincent Longo, a reputed abstract expressionist painter and printmaker first known for his outstanding woodcuts, had studied with the painter Max Beckmann and with Louis Schanker, a tremendously influential printmaker who was at the center of the New York “woodcut revival” of the late 1940s. Vincent Longo’s art, wit, intelligence, everlasting presence in our artworld and utter continuous talent will probably outlive most of us. Both Vincent Longo and Mark Feldstein were my mentors during my time at Hunter College, where I earned an MFA and briefly taught photo etching and experiments in graphics.
An Abstract World
Printing for Vincent Longo opened my world to pure abstraction. I went numerous times to his studio in SoHo to bring some prints and see his latest paintings. His recurring theme of the circle in the square, the grids, the flat layering of colors so that light would glow from within the painting, the search for simplicity through elaborate processes, and his observation of pervasive designs everywhere in nature were of great inspiration to me, and still are.
My interest has gravitated back to gender and sexuality. In recent years, in the Passages Series and Naked Man in the Woods I portray the metaphors and passages of our being and in the Eros Series the sexual and emotional intimacy between men and women. In my work I am after the temporal, vulnerable, and random nature of our being, which is defined by gender. I, the artist, am also the voyeur. In a way, I recreate the subject in a spatial and multiple fragmentation with the use of multiple exposures. In my recent work I upset the stability of representation, by working with constant movement, dissolution, repetition, and multiple layers. It is as if I wished to render representation abstract.
In the three series Maternity, Dances, and Naked Man in the Woods, created between 1994 and 1996, I reproduced an image many times to multiply its meaning until there was nothing left but the simple concept of being there and being gone. Both photography and printmaking permit me to multiply exposures of whole rolls of film, repeat the frames during printing, and make multiple prints of many images. Most of these images portray our sexual gender in various situations: The obvious physical reproductive powers of a woman in Maternity; the weight of a dance performed not to seduce but to reclaim a masked identity; and the grace, vulnerability and gentleness of a Naked Man in the Woods simply caressing and touching trees.
Good, Bad, Life, Death
My choice of pluralistic viewpoints in these repeated frames is an attempt to challenge a Western representational system, which usually privileges only one male vision, the sexual subject. On another level, I am also interested in what we consider technically and aesthetically acceptable as a work of art; I printed whole rolls of film and included the bad shots and the missed moments of light, alongside the good ones to force the viewer to reevaluate what we consider good or bad. An obscured print is part of the whole, very much like life and death, and is enhanced next to a clear print. With that in mind I used the different techniques of etching/aquatint, photo etching, photolithography and photogravure as if I was adjusting the focus of a camera, as these various mediums offer different grades of sharpness and quality in the printed result. The use of aquatint, halftones or continuous tone film on zinc, copper or aluminum plates was to achieve yet another level of visual plurality.