Thursday, September 1, 2016

Close Up

"Close" Up", Self Portrait - Kevin Imper  August 2016

Artist Chuck Close's career was (and is) an endless reinvention. His attention to detail and the minutiae of production itself is part of what attracted me to him in the first place. His incorporation of the framework grid into his finished work particularly intrigues me. As a Photorealist painter he was skilled at using a grid layout to accurately transfer his source photos onto a large canvas.  In his early graphics works he started allowing the grid itself to become part of the artwork. Eventually it evolved to all but take over completely, but this early mezzotint image of Keith Hollingworth is a good look at the beginning of that evolution. Still pretty subtle at this point in his evolution.


Keith, Mezzotint – Chuck Close 1972
The look of that period when he had just begun to show the “underlying structure” in his finished work is what I am trying to duplicate in a “Close Up” series of photos. In my introductory image the grid has been laid down on top – it does not rise up out of the image itself. I will have to work on that.

Closer Still

Here is a rework Of "Close" Up in an attempt to get still closer to Close.

Kevin Imper
"Closer" Still, Self-Portrait - Kevin Imper September 2016


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Stumps, Logs, Pigs: Connecting the Hemispheres North and South

Yes, I like stumps. And trees. They are subjects I have trouble resisting when I come across them with my camera at hand. I am not alone in this fascination. Andrew Wyeth immortalized a downed tree on Ground Hog’s day in 1959 at the Kuerner farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. 

Ground Hog Day - Andrew Wyeth  1959
It is not just a painting of a log. Everything has an extra dimension to Andrew Wyeth. Especially on the Kuerner farm. In his biography of Wyeth, Richard Meryman notes that the log is poised to drive through the window like a great battering ram. “Jutting from its end are vicious splinters, like wolf fangs.”  Wyeth loved working an implied menace into his images. The juxtaposition of that menace –- outside, with the domestic internal setting is actually Wyeth’s interpretation of the complete Kuerner household at the time. The roughness of Karl and the fragility of Anna. The wall paper and supper setting reflect the presence of Anna Kuerner in her domestic role, and the single knife indicates that the table is set for Karl, as it was his habit to only eat with a knife. Even the wolf-fang splinters on the log bring another element of the household into the painting – the Kuerner pet; an apparently ill-tempered German Shepherd. Other paintings and studies of the log done in preparation for this image actually include the pet.

Wild Dog – Andrew Wyeth  1959
In his biography the log is identified as a cedar log. But it was actually a gum tree. Wyeth sketched and painted many versions of both the stump and the tree before it ended up in “Ground Hog Day.”

Gum Tree- Andrew Wyeth  1958
A gum tree in Chadds Ford, PA? Go figure! Everyone knows to go to Australia to see gum trees. But this gum tree provides an interesting connection to another great artist, the Melbourne painter, Fred R. Williams. He is an Australian national treasure. My introduction to Williams’ work came at “The Art Gallery of Western Australia” in Perth. They were exhibiting a collection of his paintings of stumps. Caught my eye. 

Stump I - Fred R. Williams 1976

Stump IV - Fred R. Williams 1976

Stump V - Fred R. Williams 1976

Big oak – Water Color – Andrew Wyeth 1978
This is my opportunity to add a couple of my own favorite logs and stumps.

Cannon Beach Oregon – Winter - Kevin Imper - 2015

Cannon Beach Oregon – Winter - Kevin Imper - 2015

Lyme Park - Peak District, UK – Kevin Imper - August  2015

Dales Way - Grassington, Yorkshire Dales UK - Kevin Imper - July 2015
If you scroll back up and look at Fred Williams’ first two stumps (Stump I and Stump V) and look closely at the backgrounds, you can see that Williams has subtly tilted the plane of the picture. It is subtle in the detailed stump portraits, but is a very common feature in his imagery. Like in this one: 

Burnt landscape Upwey No 1 - Victoria Australia – Fred R. Williams 1968
Again, it is not obvious, but the artist has put himself into an elevated point of view. In some of his works he also tilts the horizon, making it look like he is viewing as a passenger in a banking plane. Compare the “Burnt Landscape” image above with this one of Andrew Wyeth’s:

Snow Flurries – Tempura – Andrew Wyeth 1953
Lifting the horizon by raising the viewer’s point of view is a technique that Andrew Wyeth often employed as well. Note the similarities in the following examples.

Lysterfield – Fred R. Williams 1965
(Sold at Christies in London for $1.18 million in 2013)
Hoar Frost – Andrew Wyeth  1995

Evening Sky Upwey - Fred R. Williams  1965

Long Limb – Andrew Wyeth  1959
For five years, from 1951 to 1956 Fred Williams worked and studied in London, not too far from Francis Bacon’s haunts in South Kensington. After his return to Melbourne he turned his attention to the question of how to interpret the flat Australian (very non-European) landscape creatively on a two dimensional canvas. Tilting the landscape up against the picture plane was his unique answer, a technique also used by Aboriginal artists. So, rather than the European tradition of foreground/background separation showing perspective, there is very little in his work to indicate horizontal recession, often only a horizon line. The horizon might be just a line separating earth from sky or a line of trees. Andrew often combined an elevated point of view along with foreground objects; like in “Long Limb.”

Another Chadds Ford Link to the Antipodes

Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, is also home to Andrew Wyeth’s son, Jamie. He has been farming and painting there since his 1968 marriage to Phyllis Mills. In 1970 he painted a portrait of a pig he “sort of rescued’ named Den Den. Looking at Den Den you can see that this is no cuddly pet. She bristles with stiff scratchy looking hair, having much in common with the dry straw on the barn floor around her. This is no generic pig. Jamie, like his father, does not paint generic subjects. Although a benign enough pig, the size, brute strength, and prickly hair, illustrate that intimidating Wyeth edge, that can be found in both Jamie’s and Andrew’s work.

Portrait of a Pig – Jamie Wyeth  1970
Here is a photo of Jamie with Den Den, ca 1970.

Jamie Wyeth With Den Den – Chadds Ford 1970
So here is the antipodean connection: This past February I was a close neighbor of this friendly pig in Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands, in Northland, New Zealand. Like Den Den, my neighbor was a little off-putting due to her size and rather scary dental work. The similarities were striking enough that I christened her (or him) Den Den for the duration of our stay.

Portrait of Den Den of Kerikeri – Kevin Imper - February 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Kenmore by the Lake



The Logo

The city of Kenmore, Washington, cannot be faulted for its dreams. After its incorporation in 1998 it adapted the tagline “by the Lake” to let the public know that it resides close to the north end of Lake Washington. It might be considered a smart move, since without that notice, you may never know there was a lake there. But the city does have hopes for a future that will feature the lake. Planning began for a mixed use waterfront development back in 1989, long before Kenmore became a city. The development, called “Lakepointe,” was adopted into King County’s Northshore community Plan in 1993. After twenty-three years this dream of a 45 acre lakeside community with shoreline access is still just that – a dream.


The Big Pile of Dirt – 2006
For the moment it remains the domain of concrete and gravel trucks, dust, noise (sometimes at deafening levels) with intermittent bouts of hammering pile driving equipment spreading the joys of industrial zoning into neighboring residential and nature reserve areas, routinely beginning before 6:00 in the morning, waking even the soundest sleepers. To be fair, the loud hammering did stop a while back when the pile work was completed. But this was only to be replaced with the equally loud and early hammering of concrete residue from metal forms for use in the construction of the precast deck panels for the SR520 Bridge.

175th Street Just East of 68th Ave – 2006      (much improved in the last ten years)

The good news - in 2014 the city changed the zoning of the Lakepointe property to exclude industrial use. The bad news is that state law allows (demands) existing industrial use to continue as long as no expansion occurs and no new industrial uses are allowed. So it may be a long time before Kenmore is actually “by the Lake.” 

But Kenmore has patience as well as its dreams and has been outlasting detractors for a long time. An opponent of Kenmore Village once made the argument against redevelopment by saying, “If people wanted to live somewhere nice they would live in Kirkland.” The city did not listen to that argument and Kenmore Village is becoming a reality.
NE 175th Street Just East of 68th Ave - 2006

The 2011 environmental evaluation of the Lakepointe site for use as a bridge deck construction and staging area makes for interesting reading.  It points out some of the dangers of putting hopes for a mixed use neighborhood improvement within an existing industrial zoned area. Having walked the future Lakepointe area for seventeen of the twenty-three years since first proposed back in 1993, I am pretty familiar with its recent history. At the eastern edge of the property is a parcel that early on was the home of Custom Industries. Occupation of the building stopped years before the current owners purchased it in 2006, and it has been derelict ever since. The roof has now collapsed and blackberries have taken over.  The County Assessor's record shows some sort of contamination and still identifies Custom Industries on the Assessors record, but with Lakepointe Inc. as the taxpayer. The unkempt property is used as open storage for scaffolding and miscellaneous piles of construction equipment. In the 2011 environmental study it is pretty much ignored as a part of the Lakepointe property and the documented use was shown as light industrial manufacturing. Of note though is mention of a 2001 consent decree that bars anything other than industrial use, until clean up is performed. That report states that all of the property within the Lakepointe boundary is contaminated.

Here is some detail from the report:

Soil: Petroleum hydrocarbons (diesel and heavy oil) and metals (arsenic, lead, barium, and selenium) are present in the soil at low levels throughout the Pioneer Towing property.

Groundwater: Petroleum hydrocarbons (diesel and heavy oil) and metals (lead, barium, and arsenic) are also present in groundwater in the interior of the Pioneer Towing property; concentrations of these substances are currently below regulatory cleanup standards in groundwater at the Pioneer Towing property shoreline (Washington State Department of Ecology 2001a).

Looking For the Lake - 2016

Looking For the Lake - 2016


Lakepointe Development, Kenmore by the Lake - 2016

The County records have this building identified as a “sheltered workshop” and describe the quality as “low/average.” Possibly an optimistic assessment.

Sheltered Workshop at Lakepointe Development, Kenmore by the Lake - 2016

The current state of these, and neighboring properties, may not yet reflect the long term wishes of the City of Kenmore, but on occasion can provide some interesting photo images “by the lake.” But getting a photo of the lake itself can be a daunting task.

Missy on Location at Lakepointe


On Location, Missy Looking for the Pointe of the Lake - 2014

Missy Enjoying the Integrated Land Uses at Lakepointe - 2014


From the City of Kenmore Website:

"Lakepointe is intended to integrate different land uses and activities in a complementary manner to minimize the conflicts and integrate the usage among residents, shoppers, vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The mixed-use nature of this development will provide almost a mile of Lake Washington and Sammamish River channel shoreline access."


On Location, Missy Contemplating Integrated Mixed Use - Kenmore by the Lake    2016

Please don’t worry about Missy and the photography crew trespassing during her photo shoot. There are no fences, and as of June 27, 2016, there are no posted trespass warnings. Maybe there should be?

The Current Face of Mixed Use Zoning - Lakepointe - 2016


Kenmore by the Lake - View Towards the Lake     2016



 Pointing Generally Toward the Lake at Lakepointe - 2016



The Pedestrian and Bicycle Environment on 68th Ave NE - 2016


Is that a glimmer of lake surface back there? - 2016 


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Photographer Stephen Benine

Henri Cartier-Bresson commented about his creative method, “There are no rules. One should not try too hard to explain the mystery. It is better just to be receptive, a Leica within easy reach.”

Bresson could easily have been describing Seattle photographer, Stephen Benine, right down to the “Leica within easy reach.” Steve knows his Leica well, taking full advantage of its exceptional capabilities. He shoots with a fine eye for composition and can be found rambling about Seattle with his camera. Receptive, just waiting for the moment.

Lake Union – Photo by Stephen Benine      June 2016

Lake Union – Photo by Stephen Benine      January 2015

Fisherman’s Terminal – Photo by Stephen Benine      January 2015

Seattle at Night – Photo by Stephen Benine      November 2016

The next photo by Stephen is a jewel with a really strange kind of loneliness in it. It is like a LA lonely. "Missing the party" type of lonely. 

Waiting for Someone - Photo by Stephen Benine  March 2016



Friday, May 27, 2016

Different Points of View

I found this scene in Morocco. There is an older gentleman sitting, a younger man slouching, and a cat. Some might surmise that the older man is a wise man – maybe imparting some wisdom to the younger. (He does have his mouth open) And, he is sitting in the doorway of a shop in the Fez Medina. Possibly a man of substance. Maybe the owner of the shop. But - might the fact that he is talking be a clue pointing otherwise? True, the young man is listening. But his slouch tends to make you think he is not all that interested in what the older guy is saying. That is not, “rapt attention” showing on the young guy’s face. So maybe HE is the wise one – the older guy might be talking some old person’s gibberish, or giving him the grocery list for his trip home. Can’t be sure. It does look as though the young man is obligated to listen to the older guy. Certainly, if we were to determine relative power between the two, the seated gentleman wins from body language alone. Youngster doesn’t look like he has a stake in the business, and he is an even less secure character in the scene than is the cat.

So, let’s discuss the cat!  He shares the seated guy’s naturalness in the scene. But, can we guess anything else about the cat? He is obviously not listening to the old guy. He could care less. However, he is hanging in pretty close. He is also comfortable with the slouchy young guy. So that probably says something about the relationship between the young guy and the old guy – not a casual relationship, or a one-off. The cat is familiar, not just with Mr. Fez, he is familiar with slouchy, too. In the Medina, you would never see this scene with a dog in it. Cats are favored. Or, at the minimum, tolerated. But this kitty here is  especially favored. Might be used to some caressing from the old guy. Or more likely, food - like when times are a little slower. Granted, they look a little slow at 11:28 in the morning. I propose the cat may be the wise one in this scene. First; he is a cat. Second; he is humble. No ego here! Look at him, he is not trying to press his wisdom on anybody. If the snacks don’t come out pretty quick, he will wander down to the butcher shop. I am not saying that cats aren’t narcissistic, they are, but they are so comfortable in their narcissism that they don’t feel any need to prove their value to anyone. They are not neurotic. (Like most of us monkeys) Of course there are some cats that exhibit symptoms of neurosis. But clearly the cat in the photo is not one of them. This is one self-assured cat.

There may be more to say about the scene, or, there may be a totally different story here. Looking for wisdom is only one way to look at it. I alluded to the power relationships in it – that is another way to analyse the photo. Of course, I consider myself a photographer, so the photo can be viewed as a work of art – composition, etc. But there is a story indicated in the photo. I suppose it could even be looked at as a comment on the melding of cultures – west and east. The young man with his western dress, the older man in his traditional dress, the crates of Coca Cola in the background and the cat bridging the two.



Fez Medina - Morocco  2015


Chefchaouen - Morocco   2016

Photo of Dale

Posting a photo of Dale may seem odd in a collection called "Different Points of View," that started out in Morocco. But Dale is a longtime nomad and has experienced much of the world. He fits in wherever you find him, and that is apt to be anywhere.

Dale - Seattle    July 2016


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Photo or Two

A close friend, Sherry, said I should post a photo from each county visited on my 'around-the-world trip.' I don't know if I am organized enough to actually do that. But, there are a few I would like to share - some countries with no images, but others with multiple.

So, I will offer up a few of my favorites, and continue to add them as they rise to my attention.

Chefchaouen, Morocco  2015
Chefchaouen, Morocco  2015
David Imper, Cannon Beach, Oregon  2016
Installation - Split, Croatia  2015
For those who enjoy serious black and white photography, I would like to recommend a website hosted by Ernie Flowers, called "Seattle B&W Gallery." His latest posting is a series he took in Vinegar Hill, North Carolina. The link below will send you there. But be sure to check out his other postings. Another artist featured on his site is Jim Coley, also based in Seattle. His series titled, "Stories From the Street," is pulled from his years of documenting the pulse of everyday life found in the heart of Seattle.

http://www.ernieflowers.com/Ernie-Flowers/Vinegar-Hill/