Synchronicity and the Art of Photos
Synchronicity: — noun, an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar or identical events that are causally unrelated. Coined by Carl Jung from synchronic + -ity.
I received a picture via email from a friend back East who attended UW-Stout with me. The picture was of his caller ID and the name showing was Jasper Johns. We both had several art history classes together and had seen many of Johns works in our study of 20th century artists. The email was “CCed” to several other people we went to Stout with and we all had a good laugh and were impressed that our friend had made such influential friends since he moved back East. That night as I was watching CSI Las Vegas, I discovered the new character on the show is named Debenkorn, another 20th century painter I had not thought about for the last 25 years. Synchronicity?
Since these two random events happened on the same day, I thought it was well worth doing some web research into these two artists to see what the cosmos were trying to tell me. Was there some inspiration to be found there for future photographic work, or was it simply happenstance and just a friendly nudge to take a look at some artwork long forgotten? Oddly enough, Jasper Johns is still alive and living in the New York City area, so it may have been him on the phone. My friend should have answered. Maybe Mr. Johns saw my friend’s last exhibition and wanted to impart some profound wisdom, maybe not. Through my research I uncover some interesting similarities. Richard Debenkorn and I share the same first name, we both lived in Albuquerque, and we both looked for some outside influence in southwestern art and culture.
Ok, so now I start to cross-reference contemporary artists of Johns and Debenkorn, and I run across a sculptor named Robert Rauchenberg. Sculpting was my major in grad school. In his work, Rauchenberg combined objects and photographs to create “combines”. These often took on the look of bas-relief. They would hang on the wall and tell a story much like a photograph. After witnessing the launch of Apollo 11, he created a set of lithographs combining drawings, NASA diagrams and space photography.
One of Rauchenberg’s artistic influences was Mark Rothko, a bit older but cut from the same abstract, expressionist school of painting, sculpture, printmaking and photography. Rothko was a Russian immigrant who arrived at Ellis Island in 1913 at the age of 10. He moved to Portland Oregon and eventually to New York City, where he would work with William de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and David Smith, among others. But it was Rothko’s color field paintings that caught my eye and got me thinking about trying to create that look with a photograph. So, here is my take on Rothko with a photograph. What do you think? (See below.)
I know this is a rather convoluted way to get to this image, but by letting my imagination and life experiences guide me through a series of random happenings in my life, I was able to produce an image I am very proud of. Inspiration can come from many sources. Now get out there, find your muse and make some pictures.