This semester, I’ve got a few students who are into horror. (The genre.) They don’t like actual horror, of course, but prefer to simulate the emotions through entertainment.
Personally, I don’t get it. Back in my early 20’s, I watched a few of the “Scream” films, but after “The Blair Witch Project,” I swore that shit off forever.
Lots of people love the experience of being scared to death, but I don’t understand the impulse.
Weird stuff, I appreciate. By now you know this, as I’ve shown any number of edgy portfolios over the last 5 years. Kooky, odd, discomfiting, strange, I can handle.
But the outright grotesque? Joel-Peter Witkin? There, I draw the line. In fact, I skipped his lecture at the Filter Photo Festival, when I was in Chicago, because I have enough of his images stuck in my head, thank you very much.
So with that as background, as I stood in front of photographer Rebecca Memoli at the tail end of the portfolio walk at Filter, at 10pm on a Saturday, I had little patience for being scared.
Next to none.
I reviewed Rebecca’s work at Filter last year, and then exhibited a few of her prints at the college gallery I was running at UNM-Taos. She had delicate flowers in hand-made vases of meat. The juxtaposition was engaging, and the students loved it.
But after Rebecca showed me a scary-monster picture the other week, when I was moments away from retiring to bed, I was a little put-off. It wasn’t that nasty, the picture, but my over-tired brain needed to shut down, not absorb DARK FORCES OF EVIL.
I politely told Rebecca I was done for the night, but she demurred, holding a red shoe box. (The following quotes are a paraphrase. It’s pretty damn close to what she said, but I’m writing it this way for narrative effect.)
“Don’t you want to see what’s in this box,” she asked?
“No. No, I don’t.”
“Sure you do,” she replied, and then she shook the box. Shake, shake, shake.
“No, I really don’t.”
“Yes, you do.” Shake, shake, shake.
“Listen, I really need to go to bed. I’m exhausted. I’ve seen 30 portfolios today. I’m done. And after that last monster picture, I really don’t need anything else like that in my head. No thank you.”
“I think you do.” Shake, shake, shake.
“I’m going to get rude here in a minute. I’m trying to be polite, but you’re making me a bit angry.”
Shake, shake, shake.
“I don’t want to see anything scary. Disturbing I can probably handle.”
Shake, shake, shake.
“Fine, give it over then. I’ll look, and then I’m leaving,” I said.
She handed over the box. Apparently, the “art” story is that they’re found materials, but since I know her, she admitted that it was all staged, and that the rabbit-woman was done up in professional makeup.
Now, my kids’ favorite movie is Wallace and Gromit’s “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” so I’m not offended by the idea of a human-bunny hybrid. But the set of 5 Polaroids I saw were like nothing I’ve seen before. (That will always get you written about.)
The rabbit-woman was on all fours, on a bed, with her ass popped up like she had just had rabbit coitus. In at least one version, the makeup smeared in her butt-crack to simulate blood was Just. Too. Much.
Those pictures burned into my retinas, as I was afraid they would. But Rebecca was right. It’s not a scary picture. Just depraved and wrong. (The so-wrong-it’s-right kind of wrong.)
Rob and I agreed that it was too NSFW to publish, but we’re OK with linking to it on her website. Right here. But be warned. If you are disgusted by the idea of a sexed-up rabbit-woman, then just keep on reading the article.
There were plenty of other artists to write about at Filter, and it was exciting to see so many different styles of photography.
John Steck, Jr was a Chicago photographer friendly with the Filter crew, and like Victor Yañez-Lascano last year, multiple people told me I had to see John’s work. He exposes photo paper in the sun, never drops it in chemistry, and then lets the resulting images fade away into nothing.
Unlike the Phil Chang project I wrote about earlier this summer, you’re not looking at straight black paper. Rather, we see colors and haunting imagery shimmer as they fade. Gorgeous stuff, without a doubt.
Lois Bielefeld showed me 3 projects that all had a conceptual hook. The first was actually portraits of families eating weeknight dinner in their homes. (M-Thurs only.) I thought the work was good, but not perfectly resolved in execution or concept. The last project I saw, in which she accompanies people on evening walks, was the best. They’re very cool images.
Stephanie Brunia had a couple of projects that had a nice blend of absurdity and pathos. In one, she mashes her body up against an ex-beau. The other, which focuses on her aging father, seemed to push in two directions at once. (Funny and earnest) I’m curious to see where she’ll take it.
Eva Kelety had the distinction of showing me pictures that I was not kind about in person, but like rabbit-woman, they stuck in my head after the fact. Eva, who is from Vienna, was shooting urban-scapes. I felt the style was a bit derivative, though I did complement her exceptional grayscale—rendered-in-color palette.
Right before I saw the rabbit-woman, Eva showed me a little booklet that had a different edit than the portfolio she showed me at the review table. It made more sense, and then the images stayed with me, so hopefully you’ll like them as well.
Finally, Daniel McInnis brought a set of tack-sharp portraits made of creative-types. I thought the work was good, and certainly the technique was strong. (Though I recommended he push the drama with some of his lighting.) He’s currently beginning a project looking at Syrian refugees re-settled in Ohio, and I think he might have something great on his hands.
That’s it for today. We’ll have one more set of Filter portfolios, and then I’ll have some thoughts from my trip to NYC. LA and San Diego are up next week, so lots of juicy content ahead throughout the Fall.