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Art Imitates Life... Life Imitates Art

Yesterday afternoon, I had the day off and spent a couple of hours at the contemporary art museum here in town. The latest exhibition showcases a raw, vibrant display of street art, including graffiti, photography, and a rare collection of Jean-Michel Basquiat scribbles/doodles done a year before he became famous.

 

Just a few weeks ago, I saw Julian Schnabel's film "Basquiat" at a local theater (on original 35mm, complete with snaps and pops and blips on the screen), followed by a Q&A panel with one of Basquiat's friends and bandmates who was also the screenwriter for the film, Michael Holman. Seeing the film this time around, after watching it 21 years ago when it first came out, was just as moving for me now as it was back then. (On a side note: David Bowie played Andy Warhol in it, which was a remarkable performance. All of the actors were remarkable.) Hearing Michael Holman's tales afterwards about Basquiat and the crazy life they led brought back a cloud of memories for me.

 

When I was in junior high/high school, I had lofty dreams of running off to New York to hang with Warhol and the Factory crowd and to immerse myself in the art scene. I knew such a lifestyle would come with a truckload of challenges, but it held a certain glamour for me, and the creativity that was being produced out there was alluring to my much-younger, naive self. I never made it to New York, and after Warhol passed in '87, there was little point in doing so. However, that itch to live a Bohemian, street-art lifestyle never left me. To some degree, I did live it, but my version wasn't glamorous or productive - just a lot of fucked-up. If nothing else, I walked away with some serious life experiences under my belt, and I met some interesting people along the way - some who didn't make it out, and some who did and are now enjoying successful lives. For me, the direction could have gone either way, but that's for another discussion.

 

So, this art exhibit yesterday compounded the influx of memories that had already been swirling around after watching "Basquiat" again. But, beyond the Basquiat exhibit itself, there was a whole floor of the museum dedicated to thousands of photos by a New York artist named Ryan McGinley. These photos, taken when he was in his early 20s, exemplify street-art life, with raw, realistic portrayals of himself and his friends - many art students, many living on the streets - shown countless times in very stark, unflattering situations (a post-punch bloodied mouth, someone snorting coke, someone passed out, someone naked and bruised, someone with cum-splattered pants, someone spewing vomit, and so on.) This entire exhibit is stark and in-your-face, similar to Nan Goldin's photos in the mid-80s, and seeing it brought flashback reminders of so many things for me, including people and circumstances that I could relate to.

 

The photo below, titled "Red Mirror", particularly moved me, because it embodies Ryan's sexual discovery about himself and an intimacy and energy that pokes at the heart no matter what your preference is. I can see myself in this photo. I can see friends in this photo. I can see many in this photo. Can you see yourself? 

 

In a new chapter that I'm currently working on for my story Dissonance, I mention art imitating life... or is it life imitating art? I feel that way often. Just last night, while attending an art opening for a friend of mine, I saw a man wearing the exact 1950s vintage western jacket that I'd just described in this current, unfinished chapter. I couldn't fucking believe it. The exact one. I had to go over and discuss the uncanny coincidence with him. Art imitating life... or life imitating art? The lines are blurred. The exhibit at the contemporary art museum perfectly illustrated that for me yesterday.

 

I feel more enlightened and inspired today because of it.

mcginley_redmirror.jpg

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Thanks for sharing, Mac. :hug: That's quite the coincidence!  I'm always amazed when things like that happen. I think art and life have a reciprocal arrangement. ;) And I love the photo.   

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Cool story Mac... I'm glad you found inspiration. I know I feel more fulfilled when inspired. 
 The moment with the jacket was meant to be. I know that sounds hokie... However, I do think the universe, people, moments are all connected. 

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5 minutes ago, BlindAmbition said:

Cool story Mac... I'm glad you found inspiration. I know I feel more fulfilled when inspired. 
 The moment with the jacket was meant to be. I know that sounds hokie... However, I do think the universe, people, moments are all connected. 

 

Absolutely. I believe it more and more everyday.

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A very interesting question. Without life there would be no art, but certainly art has an influence on life, as idol or as a fantasy one gets about a picture, which happens to be first in your head, but than becoming real, because you just have the fantasy of it. (I am not sure, if I could explain my thought well in English, never mind). :hug:

Edited by Lyssa

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I don't know why exactly but i dont like that picture .. it feels very wrong to me.

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15 minutes ago, Mikiesboy said:

I don't know why exactly but i dont like that picture .. it feels very wrong to me.

 

I am interested in your perspective. Perspectives are very personal - everyone is different. I respect that you have a different opinion about this, tim.

Edited by MacGreg
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12 minutes ago, MacGreg said:

 

I am interested in your perspective. Perspectives are very personal - everyone is different. I respect that you have a different opinion about this, tim.

To me, it's a trick.  The kiss and the pic ... they are tricks.. to lure the victim - the hoodless boy

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Ron

Posted (edited)

52 minutes ago, Mikiesboy said:

I don't know why exactly but i dont like that picture .. it feels very wrong to me.

I'm with you in not particularly liking the photo.

 

I feel like the moment is being stolen by the photographer. This is another notch in his belt; it's just another empty kiss caught on film. The photo represents a theft to me.

 

This is why context is important. Did the artist mean for the photo to represent the ideal that MacGreg reaches for? If so, for me, Mr. McGinley fails in his intent. It is said that 'context is everything,' but with art we are often left to draw our own conclusions, within reason. It is not unreasonable to dislike the photo.

Edited by Ron
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6 minutes ago, Ron said:

I'm with you in not particularly liking the photo.

 

I feel like the moment is being stolen by the photographer. This is another notch in his belt; it's just another empty kiss caught on film. The photo represents a theft to me.

 

This is why context is important. Did the artist mean for the photo to represent the ideal that MacGreg reaches for? If so, for me, Mr. McGinley fails in his intent. It is said that 'context is everything,' but with art we are often left to draw our own conclusions, within reason. It is not unreasonable to dislike the photo.

Art is subjective... Ask 10 people, get 10 different answers. With all answers providing some form of truth.

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I agree with everyone. Thank you @Ron and @Mikiesboy for sharing your thoughts on it. Because I was at the exhibition and had the opportunity to read about Ryan's work, his photography, and the subjects in his photos, I can assume that this was not a trick played on the hooded boy but rather a capturing of a moment. Ryan always had a camera on hand to capture everything and everyone in his circle of friends, and they were well aware and supporting of his photography. When he had his first solo show at The Whitney in New York in 2003, all of those people showed up for the opening. But... I can absolutely see your points of view. Without knowing any background, the photo is open for interpretation. Even with knowing the background, it's open for interpretation. Cheers.

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I like the photo very much. Without having read the background which you provided, explaining that he always had a camera with him, that photo comes across as an intimate movement in time. A kiss which would have happened with or without the camera. The fact that we see the camera that has captured the kiss only serves to show us the camera is the object on the outside - the camera is the observer, just like we are - we are looking in on that moment of intimacy, we are not part of it, neither is the camera.

 

Observing the embrace, makes it obvious to me that there is nothing contrived, it is very natural. The fingers are gentle, the chance is there, to click in the mirror, not really looking, by chance to capture the moment forever. I find the lightness of the touch on the camera and on the guy in the kiss, exquisite. The whole composition, camera and mirror, is superb. And if it never - by chance - worked out, then we never would have had the privilege to observe that moment.

 

Yes, I love it :2thumbs:

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Artists live in a shadowland, in between realities, each moment more real than the last. Where art begins or life ends, it's all just a blur of infinite shadows. We are privileged because, even amongst the company of sightless men,  we can see beyond the veil.

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On 4/29/2017 at 7:01 PM, Mikiesboy said:

To me, it's a trick.  The kiss and the pic ... they are tricks.. to lure the victim - the hoodless boy

 

On 4/29/2017 at 7:30 PM, Ron said:

I'm with you in not particularly liking the photo.

 

I feel like the moment is being stolen by the photographer. This is another notch in his belt; it's just another empty kiss caught on film. The photo represents a theft to me.

 

This is why context is important. Did the artist mean for the photo to represent the ideal that MacGreg reaches for? If so, for me, Mr. McGinley fails in his intent. It is said that 'context is everything,' but with art we are often left to draw our own conclusions, within reason. It is not unreasonable to dislike the photo.

Imagine that the photographer was not one of the individuals in the photo and the camera was not visible in the reflection. Does that change your impression of the picture?

 

if not, how is this different from any photograph taken by someone attempting to capture life as it happens. Would it be as invasive if it was two people sitting on the steps of a building with their eyes locked, each caught in the moment when a small smile breaks into laughter at something one has said or done? Or if it was a picture of two elderly people sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons, their faces lined with the joys and battles of their years together and between them on the bench rest their intertwined hands? These moments seem equally intimate, however they may not feel as intruded upon. Could the presence and placement of the camera be deliberate by the photographer to make you feel as if you are intruding on something so private and sacred?

 

Needless to say, I love art that causes you to think and question. And playing devils advocate to whip up a good, old-fashioned debate....

Edited by phoenix_0826
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This is the thing I miss most; with being blind. Photography and art were always my passion. Here you have an engaging conversation. With articulate and thought -provoking observations. I love this site, for providing me intelligent, artistic, and thoughtful people to engage with.

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2 hours ago, phoenix_0826 said:

Imagine that the photographer was not one of the individuals in the photo and the camera was not visible in the reflection. Does that change your impression of the picture?

 

You are asking me to imagine a photograph that doesn't exist and for the purpose of comparing it to one that does exist and for the sole desire of a needless disquisition. I'll pass.

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27 minutes ago, Ron said:

 

You are asking me to imagine a photograph that doesn't exist and for the purpose of comparing it to one that does exist and for the sole desire of a needless disquisition. I'll pass.

I've seen photographs similar to those I described in most shows and books. I think the point I'm trying to get to is how does any photograph of people not come across as stolen or intrusive unless the subjects are sitting for a portrait or paid models? I do agree that the presence of the camera and its prominence serve to make the viewer uncomfortable. I also think that is the intention. 

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On Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 3:57 AM, asamvav111 said:

Artists live in a shadowland, in between realities, each moment more real than the last. Where art begins or life ends, it's all just a blur of infinite shadows. We are privileged because, even amongst the company of sightless men,  we can see beyond the veil.

You should arrange this in verse format and post on your blog. I'll like it all over again :) 

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