Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Following in Grandma's Footsteps

I had my moment in the sun as an artist's model as well.  (Please see previous post.)  Below is a series of photos John Lesnick did in homage to Duane Michals, entitle "Exit the Photographer."  I believe John took at least one class with Mr. Michals at a workshop in Venice.  John asked my friend Larry and I to pose for him on this project.  He wanted to use Larry's apartment, which Larry had just moved into and which, being on the top floor of the building, had good light.

As far as I know, John only printed this one series.  He presented it to me as a gift about a year later.  (He complained that creating the mat for the sixteen pieces was more work than he usually did for photographs.)  I then gave it to my friend, Jack Bayer, as a birthday gift one year.  Jack passed away about 10 years later of heart-related causes.  Again, the family swept in, but this was one piece they didn't care about, so it landed back in my hands.  After cleaning 10 years of cigarette smoke residue off of the glass and frame, it turned out o.k.  Here are the full series and one of the individual scenes:



The photos are fully mounted on acid-free cardboard.  Each individual photo is 4" x 6" and the framed work is 33"w x 26"h.  The work is dated 1980, and signed.

Why I like this piece:

Apart from all of the narcissistic reasons, (I mean, who doesn't revel in their faded beauty?) this is a good homage to Duane Michals.  It follows his artistic MO, but it follows John's particular way of translating that method to his own uses.  I suppose one could infer that the photographer leaving the scene of his own creation to join a scene (imaginatively) being created elsewhere is clever.  Perhaps too clever, but John was early on in his career (1980) and so perhaps this represents his working on an issue rather than actually resolving an issue.  

That is one good thing about art.  If it is done with the idea that the questions are more important than the answers, than it is at least done in the spirit of art.  The questions engender more questions, and that is why art often reflects its era more accurately than the carefully recorded history of the same era.  

What this piece reminds me of:

First, it reminds me of how the Lower East Side has changed so completely from those days.  You may remember that I mentioned a friend who was mugged 3 times in as many months.  That friend was Larry, pictured above.  He left New York defeated by the danger.  New York, supposedly, is less dangerous these days, but it could easily revert to the late 70s and early 80s, when you had to know where and when you could be on the streets.

Mostly it reminds me of Jack.  Jack had this over his desk in his studio apartment in Chelsea.  He liked it very much.  Jack was a very ruggedly handsome man.  He had served in the Navy during the late 60s, and ended up in New York with a career as a freelance graphic artist. He made a good, if modest, life for himself in the city.  He also made no excuses for his vices.  In today's world of political correctness, he would have smoked his cigarettes and over-indulged in food and drink because the practice of self-denial in such things would have smacked of hypocrisy to him.

Jack and I carried on a brief affair about a year after Terry's death.  He was one of Terry's trio of caregivers.  We became closer because of our shared grief I suppose, but the affair only lasted a few months.  It is one of the signs of how time had changed such that when he passed away a few years later, in the late 90s, I hadn't spoken to him for over a month.  I had to track down a close friend of his to find out that he had died of congestive heart failure.  He had programmed all his phone numbers into the phone, and no one thought to listen to his message machine.

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