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Image courtesy of Taubman Museum

This is a guest post by Sam Krisch, a John Paul Caponigro Next Step Alumnus who lives and works in Roanoke, Virginia. He has curated an exhibition entitled Paul Caponigro and John Paul Caponigro: Generations which will be showing at the Taubman Museum of Art through March 28, 2015. An exhibition of his work Sam Krisch: Elements will open at Virginia Tech’s Center for the Arts on December 5, 2014.

             About 18 months ago I was asked to join the staff of the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia as an adjunct curator of photography.  The position was part-time and my job was to act as a proposer and organizer of exhibitions and to meet with others in the curatorial staff to discuss and plan our future programs.  The Taubman Museum opened in 2008 and was a successor to several art museums in Roanoke, a small railroad heritage city in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The facility consists of nine galleries, an exploratory gallery for children, a theatre and an auditorium. It shows all kinds of art including painting, sculpture, ceramics, decorative arts, film, folk art and photography. In recent years it has exhibited works by Dorothea Lange, Edward Burtynsky, Alan Cohen, Civil Rights Photographers of the 1960s, Roanoke Times Photojournalists and several local photographic artists. The notes for one of its current exhibitions “Beg, Borrow and Steal” states that photography “plays a significant role in much of the work, which is represented in the exhibition by artists John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, Richard Prince, David Salle, and Cindy Sherman; all of whom are using manipulated photographic images to create dense collages or appropriating stereotypical portraits in humorous ways.”

           It has been a valuable experience. I have learned that curating is a basic skill that all artists need to use in evaluating their work. We need to examine our artistic influences, create collections and bodies of work, see their evolution over time. Peer review also is vital in artistic growth and again is another data point in the personal curating process. Professional curating is an extension of this skill.

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The Speed Curators

For the past several years I have taught workshops in digital creativity. We use mobile phones as a basis for this practice, but we always start with an exercise in “speed curating.”This is valuable because people start to learn the elements that attract their eye and verbalize those aspects. Recently, I have had the pleasure of participating in leading continuing education programs for art teachers at the Taubman Museum. Some of it has been adapted from my mobile photography courses, but the speed curating exercise is a vital part of the day.

The exercise begins with about 200 5”x 5”of my iPhone prints spread out on tables in the library. I tell the group “I am setting a timer for 6 minutes. During this time you can look BUT YOU MAY NOT touch the images. Don’t touch. Your assignment will be to choose between 6-8 images that work together and that you will present as if you are a gallery or museum curator. After that you will have 6 minutes to collect your images and then we will take them in the next room.”

It is always interesting to see the personalities at play. Some aggressively grab images and others hang back only to be disappointed that some of their favorites have already been taken. They have to either rethink their collections or find similar images. This mimics a curator’s dilemma of sometimes not being able to get all the works he or she wants and having to substitute work.

In the board room we talk about why we have chosen our images. The art teachers are used to talking about their own work as well as the work of their students. Each has a different idea and a different style. Some strictly look for artistic elements such as composition, contrast, color and form. Others use the images to tell a personal story or struggle that they are working through. Some even use song lyrics or musical references. All bring their own creative views to the collections. The act of rejecting and culling is as valuable as the act of inclusion. The same is true whether curating personal work, a personal collection of other artists, or for an institution.

Campbell Gunn, a fellow alumnus of John Paul Caponigro’s workshops, has created a portable collection of curated work. He finds photographers that he admires and organizes them in a collection on his iPad. Campbell says: “I simply create a dropbox master folder with subfolders for each photographer I am interested in and then as I find images that I think are instructive for my own visual reference library I copy them across. Then I have a Lightroom catalog that I use as a database which then syncs with an iPad app called PhotoMgrPro. The theme is developing ‘visual literacy’ or a ‘pattern language’. As with all languages, if you have a basic vocabulary and understand grammar, you can combine words or phrases to create new sentences (or in this case images) – without falling into the trap of being derivative or repetitive. It helps you find your own voice by understanding what it is in others voices that resonates most.”It is important to note that you should only copy low res images for this collection, keep them for your private use, and don’t copy images from books. Copying images from books is against the law in some countries.

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From Two Generationsto “Generations

When I started curating I had a number of ideas for photography exhibitions and busily contacted artists and curators from other institutions to attempt to work up presentations for our curating committee. My projects were competing with space and scheduling of other exhibitions in other media. The Taubman Museum keeps variety and balance in its programming and even within each medium is careful not to overdo one type of painting or one type of photography. For example, a fine documentary photography exhibition that may of been available to us was discouraged by the committee because of recent documentary exhibitions. The committee was interested in the Paul Caponigro and John Paul Caponigro exhibition that had shown several times in other institutions and encouraged me to explore this work.

I was delighted because not only has the Caponigros’work strongly influenced my own,  but John Paul is my mentor and friend and there was a comfort level that was valuable in planning this exhibition. The Caponigros were very gracious in making their personal collections available to us and sent us a list of the works that had been exhibited.

We found a slot in our gallery schedule that worked and it was one of our larger galleries. Our Deputy Director of Exhibitions and I walked into the gallery and realized that we could have a very sterile show. It is a large room with almost 200 feet of wall space and is an average of 40 feet wide. I saw a long row of father on one wall and a long row of son on the other. The room would have very little flow, very little interest. We needed more work, we needed a better design.

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With help from the artists and our Exhibitions staff we came up for a design for the gallery that included temporary interior walls to add interest and variety to the presentation. The walls allow for a dialogue between the two artists. Some of the interior walls have images by father and son that are related, others have a single artist in direct contrast with the other.

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I am a fan of John Paul’s book Process and he had prepared some of the images in that book to form a framed presentation that was ready to display. We thought that it would be very useful for educators to have JP’s thoughts and illustrations on his show in its own separate section. Although the images were set, it became a challenge to provide text within our guidelines for display. Our solution was to take quotes from the book—under fifty words a piece—and let the images and text guide the viewer through that part of the exhibition.

           With the addition of the Process materials we had a show that embraced both the artists and the artistic process, the two generations of vision and work, and the generation of ideas.  We also designed the exhibition in a way that would help slow people down during their walk through the gallery and stimulate discussion—perhaps even argument—about the merits of each artist’s work and their use of two of photography’s main technologies. It has become an illustration of photography’s history, the creative process, and for many their first exposure to two major artists.

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Find out more about Sam Krisch here.

Find more Alumni Success Stories here.

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Photographer Eric Meola and I share our insights on the creative process in this three-part conversation. In the third installment we discuss the role of chance and surprise in creativity.

EM: In describing how he wrote “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan said that he found himself writing what he called “this long piece of vomit, 20 pages long.”

“And out of it,” he recalled, “I took ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and made it as a single. And I’d never written anything like that before and it suddenly came to me.”

If nothing else, Dylan has always been incredibly prolific. “Practice, practice, practice,” says Bruce Springsteen. And then one day there’s your father’s image “Galaxy Apple.” Is that part of what process is about … the yin and yang between chaos and discipline?

JP: Process is how you get there. It doesn’t just happen. And it unfolds through time. The final results may have come quickly, but it took a long time for Dylan to get into the specific state of flow that would produce his song. The same is true for everyone, including photographers.

This reminds me of a time when I introduced a friend of mine to my father. He said, “Oh, you’re that photographer. Gosh I’d like to have your career. All those 1/125ths of a second. What’s that add up to? A 20-minute career?”

Dylan’s statement, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now,” seems related to Picasso’s “It takes a long time to grow young.”

EM: And Dylan as a teenager in Hibbing, Minnesota, used to listen all night to Hank Williams and Little Richard on the radio—it was all part of the “process” of gearing up for “Bringin’ It All Back Home.”

You mention using a Spirograph as a child to make circles, ellipses and various radiating designs. And some of these patterns continue to show up in your latest imagery. How important is a sense of wonder to photography, or any art form?

JP: How important is a sense of wonder to a life well lived? I think it’s essential. Keeping our sense of wonder alive and well increases our openness, curiosity, sensitivity, perception, playfulness, passion, pleasure, and many other positive benefits. This is related to keeping our inner child or the childlike (not childish) aspects of ourselves active and vibrant.

EM: We’ve discussed chaos versus discipline in art. What about a happy accident—serendipity? What role does “chance” play in process? In the film Pollock, Ed Harris shows Jackson Pollock stumbling onto the process for his drip paintings. Do you ever look at something you’ve done or have been thinking about and suddenly make a leap to a concept that had not occurred to you before? I’m also thinking of Kubrick’s famous visual metaphor early in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the ape throws a bone that morphs into a rotating space station.

JP: There are two questions here. My answer to both is yes …

Read the rest of Part 3 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 1 here.

Read my conversation with Eric Meola about Eric Meola here.

Preview my ebook Process here.

Find out about my exhibit Process here.

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Enjoy two inspiring exhibits by internationally acclaimed artist John Paul Caponigro - Around The World & Process.

Around the world unveils new highlights from his recent international travels north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle with stops along the way in Iceland, Argentina, Bolivia, and Namibia Amid images of glowing auroras, crashing glaciers, colliding icebergs, thundering waterfalls, smoldering volcanoes, shimmering salt flats, shifting dunes, you’ll find the oldest desert, the largest salt flat, the windiest continent, the fastest moving glaciers, and more, all portrayed through the eyes of this unique artist.

Process displays many aspects of the artist’s creative process, both analog and digital – writing, drawing, painting, photography. John Paul shows how each discipline contributes to the completion of his finished works of art. This exhibit shows how artist’s get there is just as important as where they arrive and reveals that the creative process is a never-ending journey of discovery that offers many insights along the way.

The book Process is now available in print and electronically. It shows many more works than can be displayed and shares the personal insights of the artist. Preview it online at johnpaulcaponigro.com/store.

John Paul Caponigro’s Annual Exhibition 2013: Around The World and Process is a rare opportunity to view this artist’s work presented in his own private studio / gallery. The exhibit is open to the public for one weekend only – August 3rd and 4th from 10 am to 5 pm with a talk by the artist at 2 pm.

Come enjoy prints, drawings, paintings, books, and conversations with the artist during this very special event.

Preview select new works online here.

For more information including directions, previews, reviews, statements, audio, video, and press kit visitwww.johnpaulcaponigro.com or email info@johnpaulcaponigro.com.

Get directions here.

My TED and Google talks have a lot in common. Both discuss creativity as a dynamic process that we all engage in with our own unique orientations to. While there are classic operations we all perform, how we combine them and the uses we put them to. Experimentation and becoming more versatile is the key to turbo-charging your creative life. You’ll find dozens of tips and lots of inspiration in both of these talks.

Preview my eBook Process here.

Read more in my free creativity PDFs.

Learn more in my creativity workshops.

I spoke about the creative process at Google headquarters a few weeks ago.

I began with the stories behind a few of the photographs I’ve made that have changed the way I think and see.

Then I talked about game changing advances in technology that have expanded the ways I see and changed the way I make photographs.

And I spoke about how using other media (like drawing and writing) can enhance perception and the photographs we make.

Distilled into one line … How an artist gets there influences where they arrive.

Preview my eBook Process here.

View my TED Talk You’re More Creative Than You Think You Are here.

How artists get there is just as important as where they arrive. My new ebook Process examines many aspects of my creative process – writing, drawing, painting, photography, Photoshop, iphoneography and more. Thirty-three chapters are organized into five sections – Color, Composition, Draw, iPhone, Write – showing how each discipline contributes to the completion of finished works of art.

This ebook reveals that an artist’s creations are produced by not one but many activities in many media and that the creative process is a never-ending journey of discovery that offers surprising insights along the way.

192 pages fully illustrated

$12.99

$9.99 for Insights enews members

(Email info@johnpaulcaponigro.com for discount code.)

Buy the PDF here

Download a free preview here.

Budh, Goblin Valley, Utah, 1996

I knew instantly that something new had happened when I saw Budh appear on screen. A clear outline had been introduced to the symmetries I was creating, which were previously unbounded, changing planes into volumes. While many of my images have qualities similar to environmental sculpture, this image and the series of images that it started create sculptural forms made from the environment. I didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of a whole new series. I was working on another series when this happened. This could be a distraction or a breakthrough. So I was faced with an important decision to make, stay the course and finish what I had started, based on previous successes, or pursue a new direction, one I didn’t fully understand but might lead to new successes. Which would be the most rewarding course of action?

I walked away. I weighed my options. Though it might take some time, I could return to the other series later. This new work was unexpectedly fresh and exciting. I had a feeling that if I ignored this call I would not have been able to return to it later with the same intensity. I gave the decision some time. I slept on it. The excitement hadn’t faded. The mystery was still there. So I trusted my instincts. I moved forward and made new images. I continued to hold the question of how long to pursue this line of inquiry, until I had enough repeated successes to know it had legs. After six successes following similar lines, I knew I had made the right choice.

What I didn’t know then is that doing this new work would help me better understand the work I was developing; and much of the work I had already done; and the reason I work at all. Doing this work clarified ways of thinking and feeling that are essential to what I do and why I do it.

The landscape this image was drawn from had a presence. The symmetry more strongly suggested a presence – a living presence, perhaps one with a unique kind of consciousness. Many people see this image and feel as if the landscape is looking back at them – I do too. The working title for this piece Unseen Watcher lead to the final title Budh, the root of the word buddha, which means awake. Treating all of nature as something that is alive is my basic impulse and perhaps primary message of my life’s work. The sacred mindset this attitude brings with it increased awareness of, respect for, gratitude about, and wonder by being a part of it all.

It happens to me time and time again. I find that if I’m open to surprises and trust the process, I discover new things – properly guided, important new things. This is part of what it takes to move beyond conventional thinking and uncover new things about the world around us and as yet unclaimed inner resources.

One of the things I hear repeatedly from other artists is that the work that surprises them most is often the work that satisfies them most and the work that is most highly celebrated. The French writer Andre Gide remarked, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” The creative process is a process of discovery. You can’t have discovery without the element of surprise. As a defense mechanism we often resist surprise and try to reduce the number of times we are surprised; some surprises can be both unpleasant and unfortunate. Instead, we need to embrace surprise – and the changes it can bring. Surprises can be magical and transformative.

Questions

When is it best to pursue a new direction?

When is it best to stay with your current plan?

What can you do to evaluate the merits of both old and new directions to help you make the best choice?

Find out more about this image here.

View more related images here.

Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

March 28, 2013, 6:30 pm

New Hampshire Institute Of Art

Manchester, NH

52 Concord Street Auditorium

“Continuing the Distinguished American Artists Discussing Art lecture series, John Paul Caponigro details the many aspects of his creative process — color, composition, drawing, iphoneography, writing and more. He shows how each discipline and different modes of operating with them contribute to the completion of finished works of art. The resulting synergy is stimulating, enriching, and enlivening. While he shows you that you already know how to write, draw, and photograph, he also shows you how these seemingly separate disciplines and creations combine dynamically to form a single creative process that results in a life’s work.”

Find out more here.

Preview the book Process here.

Watch the TED talk here.

In this episode of Real Exposures, David Brommer and I speak about a variety of topics including the value of photography workshops, harnessing creativity, and integrating spirituality in your work.

View more B&H Real Exposures videos here and here.

View my presentations Process & Game Changers in the B&H Event Space here.

In this video (recorded at the B&H Event Space) I describe my creative process in detail and offer many useful insights some of which you may find personally valuable.

Preview my book Process here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


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