civilized ku # 4042-43 ~ the earth is flat

window light ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK

canoe straps ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK

About a month ago I viewed an exhibition of the work of Ellen Phelan on display in the Adirondack Museum. While the range of her work - technique, presentaion, subject matter - is quite diverse, the work on display was photo-derived - gouache, watercolor, pastels on paper applied over photo images. I found the work to be well suited to my eye and sensibilities.

With that in mind, I purchased the book, Ellen Phelan Encylopedia of Drawing, at the museum book store. In the book, a writer - an Assistant Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard - goes to great lengths (in discussing Phelan's work) to (seemingly) impress the reader with his knowledge and grasp of art history, movements, technique, et al, all of which he employs in his effort to inform the reader regarding Phelan's pictures.

After several readings of the essay / introduction, I have yet to find any indication that the writer has any interest in Phelan's work other than to disect and describe it in purely intellectual / academic terms. Nowhere can I find how the writer feels about how the works touch his emotions. If art is not about reaching a viewer on an emotional (gut feeling / perception) level, what's the point.

That written, I did find 2 interesting tidbits in the essay. One from W.H. Auden, an English poet: "It takes little talent to see clearly what lies under one's nose, a good deal of it to know in which direction to point that organ."

Another from the writer himself: "Phelan can draw. Whatever than means in our current atomized age. Perhaps it means an at-home-ness, a familiarity with the translation of three dimensional into two and an ingrained compositional sureness that lurks behind even the foggiest pictures (the "trained eye" as Phelan said recently, discussing the photographs taken by painters)."

I write all of this because I believe that very few picture makers, Photography Division, really understand the intrinsic characteristic of the medium by which there is a translation of three dimensions into two. Or put another way, that photography is not a 3d world.

Most viewers of photographs, to include most picture makers themselves, view pictures only for what they depict, completely oblivious (consciously) to the purely 2D relationships of shapes, tones and colors as organized within the frame imposed upon them by the picture maker. However, iMo, it is those "hidden" qualities, when found in a picture, that make a good picture as opposed to a merely pleasant picture.

That written, I do believe that many picture viewers when confronted with a "foggy" picture - as in, they are in a "fog" regarding the idea of why make of picture of this - nevertheless find themselves liking the picture for reasons they can not explain. It is my experience and belief that the reason they like the picture is because, on a subconscious level, they have been affected by those "hidden" non-representational 2D qualities to be had in good pictures.