Instinct Vs. Obsessiveness

Found cardboard box/masking tape art on Hoffman Road
Found cardboard box/masking tape art on Hoffman Road

Rochester Contemporary asked if I would talk about the piece I submitted in the annual members show. I was given a ten minute limit and I quit when I found myself saying something for the third time. They typically do these talks in person with the artist standing in front of their work, But this year RoCo plans to assemble a video of the artists who talked and share that online. I will be interested to hear what I had to say. I’m am not sure I offered anything at all.

I entered a large photo print last year. It sold and won the Light Impressions award. So I upped the photo presentation this year by bringing my old iMac downtown, tricked out with black duct tape framing the monitor. It plays a slideshow, called Abstracting Spain, in a big loop. It won the Axom Gallery Award. The 143 photos were all taken in Spain over a ten year period and to me there is a clear pattern. My favorite shots don’t document a monument or people. The best ones are constructions, like modern art paintings. They reference the two dimensional, horizontal grid of a landscape, 4×3 or 3×2 with my later cameras. They are compositions, sometimes before they even announce their subject. And to drive this point home I included my photos of a few paintings in Spanish galleries.

I use a pocket camera, a Sony RX100, and I rarely zoom. I walk up to what I want to photograph, sort of plumb the horizontals and verticals, and compose in camera. I do this instinctively and then wonder if it was done obsessively.

I didn’t prepare any notes for the talk and I didn’t mention the one thing I intended to say – that I pictured people sort of holding their breath as they scooted through the show during the pandemic so I cut the time each photo stayed on the screen down from 20 to 10 seconds. I thought I would just look at the pictures in my piece and talk about them but I don’t remember doing that.

The photo above was taken yesterday. A flattened box in the middle of Hoffman Road with a window cut out of it and surrounded by blue painter’s tape. What is there to say about that?

5 Comments

5 Replies to “Instinct Vs. Obsessiveness”

  1. Congratulations Paul! Excited to see the video of your talk. Meanwhile, I have something to share about your photo of a a box with a square emptiness in it.. it is from my former friend’s poem ONE TRAIN: (said friend: Kenneth Koch):

    One friend may hide another, you sit at the
    foot of a tree
    With one and when you get up to leave there is another
    Whom you’d have preferred to talk to all along. One teacher,
    One doctor, one ecstasy, one illness, one woman, one man
    May hide another. Pause to let the first one pass.
    You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It can be important
    To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.

    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57327/one-train-may-hide-another

  2. I liked all your pictures. I’m also glad you cut the time down to ten seconds. With the time between photos I stood there what I think was a little over thirty minutes. I wish they had a chair or two by the display. I saw you and Peggy in a couple pics. Anyway, a really nice presentation, thanks for sharing.

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