Jack Visnaw is an up and coming photographer based out of Livonia, Michigan. For the past several years Jack has been experimenting with what is commonly referred to as the “artist’s gaze” and has produced many works that showcase his special brand of odd humor.
Jack is currently an MA candidate at Eastern Michigan University’s Creative Writing program and owes the program’s broad interdisciplinary structure to his start in photography.
The program has a strong interdisciplinary focus, and candidates are required to complete coursework outside of Creative Writing courses. I originally took the Beginning Photo course offered at EMU on a lark, mainly because I’d always thought photography was an interesting subject. Then I took another course. Then another. Then another.
Jack’s passion to his work has taken on new levels of dedication as he grows and expands his photographic endeavors.
I’ve found a creative experience that excites me that I obsess over, and that brings me fulfillment on an orgasmic level.
When Jack speaks of his work there is no sense of an arduous trial. He completely embraces the complexities of his chosen medium and finds enormous pleasure in the challenges. Whether there is a concern of subject, placement, lighting, or any other number of issues that can crop up for the artist, Jack allows for the process to guide him through completion of a project, building on his range of techniques and experience.
I asked Jack to describe some of the challenges he has had in his work, and his modest response further articulated his love of photography.
In hindsight, I think that it would have been easy to look at any one of the hurdles as a barrier to creation. Somehow, however, I looked at the whole process as a puzzle I was trying to work out, making adjustments and moving pieces around to see what would happen. By embracing this mindset, the creative process never became about finding a final solution at any given moment but about playing around with ideas and experimenting until something clicked.
Jack’s work ranges from sophisticated to thought provokingly odd, with a focus on unusual perspectives and humor fused into many of his pieces.
One particular piece that resonates with me is Love Note (8×10”, Silver Gelatin print). I’m drawn into the tactile sensation that the piece provokes and am overcome by the space it envelops.
The massive foreshortening of the crumpled paper becomes a terrestrial landscape to explore while deciphering the obscured writing for clues about the subject. The stark black and white explores the spectrum boundaries of saturation with an incredible range of high and low tonalities. The simplicity this piece assumes is shattered by the adapt intricacies that build from the ground up in a distinctly architectural way.
A second piece, Untitled 2 (8×10, silver gelatin print with post-development manipulation) echoes many of the same qualities as Love Note.
I appreciate the intense interest in layered direction. Jack has created numerous lines from the cracked flooring to the reposed, male figure. Shadows intercede against musculature creating an arrangement of paths for the eye to follow as it sweeps up the elongated torso of the figure.
Similar to Love Note, there is a psychological aspect for viewers and the stark black and white tones moves the focus away from simple aesthetics towards the complexities of the psyche—an all together thoughtful piece.
Humor is also an important inspiration for Jack. He notes his fascination with Elliott Erwitt’s “light humor” and allows for this kind of subtlety to be weaved into his work. The medium of Lori Nix’s constructed dioramas is also a source of motivation in his work, which perhaps impacts the artist decision to incorporate layering, whether of light or lines, or color, into many of his works. As part of a series of children’s toys, Jack’s wryness manifests. Jack goes beyond presenting questions about consumer culture and subliminal messages in advertising.
The series is about how, when a toy is bought, it’s not just the physical item that comes home to the child but all the potential play outcomes as well.
Combining amusement and irony, works like Imagination Adventure (17×22” pigmented ink jet print) and Nature in High Definition (17×22” pigmented inkjet print) are indicative of this bold attempt at a frontal assault on the viewer. There is no apology for the unflinching likeness to marketing ads; in fact it is precisely this irony of ‘product as art’ the viewer should focus on. The humor invested in these pieces should not be overlooked either as the “children’s toys” present an ironic message themselves, an additional layer that creates depth beyond the subjects the artist chose for the series. This series was especially challenging for the artist, as he suggests there were many obstacles to overcome.
The challenge was in part because there were multiple aspects of the project that tested my abilities. I was challenged conceptually to come up with an approach that didn’t look like every other toy photo already out there while still referencing the issues I wanted to explore. Once I’d settled on the idea of toys in their boxes, I had to determine how they were situated in the image (ultimately leading to the gradient background in each image). I also had to learn to photograph clear plastic packaging so that there wasn’t glare blocking out the image.
It is attention to these micro details that will further Jack’s work as he continues to produce polished and studied pieces.
Jack’s work has been exhibited in Photographer’s Forum magazine’s “Best of College Photography 2010″ book, the Museum of New Art in Pontiac, Livonia City Hall, Bombadill’s Café (formerly of Ypsilanti, MI), the Dreamland Theater of Ypsilanti, the Art Lounge at the University of Michigan Union, and in the Art Gallery at the Livonia Civic Center Library as well as appearing in the 2009 and 2010 editions of the Arts and Literary publication Cellar Roots and the April 2010 edition of 52/48 creative writing anthology. Pieces are also currently up for consideration at the Ann Arbor Public Library as well as the 2011 edition of Cellar Roots. For purchasing inquiries, contact the artist, Jack Visnaw, at email@example.com.
All of the artists featured on the Made With Passion website are wonderful, passionate people, and you can feel good knowing that your money goes to support them directly. Show and share your love this year by giving something that is made with passion.
Thank you to all of our featured artists. We’re off to a good start, and we couldn’t have done it without the contribution of the fine artists that we love.
Thank you to our first featured food artist, Yankee Doodle Deli, and their Zels gourmet pretzels, which make a wonderful stocking stuffer.
Thank you to Grateful Grahams and their soft, chewy graham crackers, which I know for certain, people will be serving at their parties and putting in stockings this year. Rachel and Marilyn, we are excited to watch your businesses grow. Congratulations on a stellar year.
Thank you to the Unlucky Charms and their decadent Irish pub music that keeps us smiling and stomping through the Holidays.
Thank you to Jason Morgan and his wonderful blog about the self-sustaining arts, especially wine making and bee keeping. Thanks for having us out to smash apples this fall, and for that gallon of fresh apple cider that didn’t last the week.
Thanks to all of our fine digital artists. Niels Maclellan was our first, with his gorgeous and inspiring surrealist art. We also featured budding abstract artist Michael Burleigh and fantasy artists Kevin B. McBriarty and Jesselee Lang. Some of our digital artists offer prints, which would make a fine addition to any home or office.
Thank you to our first photographer, Josefine Jönsson, who’s fine art and eye for fashion really demonstrates her passion for her art. We were also introduced to the astounding portrait work from master photographer Edward Carlisle. Lilyana Karadjova‘s thought provoking and passionate works keep us engaged. Dawn Heumann‘s bold and sensitive eye tells us amazing, and honest stories. All of these artists have prints for sale. Also, some of our featured photographers could create beautiful and memorable holiday photos of your family. Josefine has a 2011 calendar coming out soon, which would make a great gift for anyone that would enjoy a little extra passion every month.
We had oil painter Daryl Urig who’s amazing plein air and subtly impressionistic paintings are just brimming with color, life, and emotion. Daryl’s insightful blog also teaches and inspires us. Daryl has original paintings for sale, which would look great over the fireplace or in any room of the house.
Visionaries & Voices is a community based outreach program that facilitates art among disabled artists. Original, beautiful, and highly collectible artworks from V&V artists are for sale all year in various galleries and exhibits throughout Greater Cincinnati.
Fab Ferments has some amazing, delicious, and naturally preserved foods that are easily gifted. Their gourment krauts, kimchis, and kombuchas are always well received. I am hoping that their pineapple and grape kombucha end up in my stocking.
We love Five Star Foodies‘ compassion and family spirit with their vegan assortment. Why not serve up their kind, delectable items for the holidays?
If you buy milk from the store, Snowville Creamery‘s traditional grass fed, healthy milk should be on your table for the holiday meals. Support local, independent bakers, and consider Cakes by Capano for your holiday cakes, and try their amazing chocolate cream cheese filling. Mindo Chocolate Maker‘s perfect dark chocolate would be the perfect gift for the chocolate lovers in your family. You can also pick up an entire gift basket of assorted Mindo chocolates at the Ann Arbor farmer’s market.
Soon, we will be featuring some more amazing, and passionate artists. Sweet Peace Bakery‘s vegan baked goods will satisfy your sweet tooth without breaking any hearts. HaloMiner‘s green-friendly fashions will keep you carbon neutral. Their fashionable, hip, and always trendy items make thoughtful gifts.
We also look forward to reading about local bee keeper and honey producer Green Toe Gardens. Locally raised honey goes great with coffee or tea. Lone Oak Vineyard‘s Gamay Noir and Pioneer White wines are delicious and affordable. Share them with your friends and family during your holiday meal or as gifts.
Thank you to our local food providers and artists everywhere. We love you. Please share the love and continue supporting your local markets, food, and art communities this holiday season and all year. Shop local and celebrate with your neighbors.
Do you know an artist whose work is made with passion? Send them our way. We’d love to share their story.
Paul Marquardt, a multi-talented artist that we featured in our “Whats So Funny?” article, has done the integral set design for the “Family Alter” dance performance at the beautiful WellSpring Theater in Kalamazoo Michigan.
The dance performance will be available this weekend and next, November 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, and 20.
Wellspring Theater is at 359 South Kalamazoo Mall, in Kalamazoo Michigan 49007. You can call them at 269-342-4354 for more information.
The Indian Hill Art Show is Friday, November 12 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. and Saturday, November 13 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The annual event at the Indian Hill Church in Cincinnati will feature works from over 40 local artists. Works from Cincinnati oil painter Daryl Urig and art from the acclaimed Visionaries & Voices program will be available.
Works are for sale, which means that you can take home some great originals and prints. A whopping 30% of the proceeds go to the Indian Hill Church outreach programs. Get there early and buy quickly or your favorite piece might walk out the door with someone else.
Daryl Urig, nationally acclaimed oil painter, and MWP featured artist, will be debuting some of his works at the show. The Indian Hill Art Show is also sponsoring an online auction, so even if you can’t make the show, don’t forget to bid on these spectacular pieces of art.
Daryl’s auction item is a beautiful, signed and numbered print, titled “Relax“. Place your charitable bid today for your chance to win a gorgeous reproduction of an original plein air oil painting. Daryl is providing a sneak preview of his works that will be appearing at the show, located on his Web site.
Visionaries & Voices is an outreach program in Cincinnati for artists with disabilities. The artists of Visionaries & Voices produce outstanding and highly collectible works of art. Featured V&V artists include:
- Barry Davis
- Rosie Petrou
- Joel Whitaker
- Victor Dambowsky
- Kevin White
Indian Hill Art Show
Indian Hill Episcopal-Presbyterian Church
6000 Drake Road
Indian Hill, Ohio 45243
Friday, November 12th
6:00p.m. – 9:00p.m.
Wine Tastings, Appetizers, & Complimentary Parking
$5.00 donation for adults
Saturday, November 13th
10:00a.m. – 3:00p.m.
Light Refreshments & Free Admission
The Ann Arbor District Library is celebrating the Day of the Dead in 2010 by presenting a set of diverse artistic events around the photography exhibit “Curanderas: The Heart and Hands of Coatlicue” by Juan Javier Pescador. In the best tradition of Day of the Dead celebrations in the United States by people of Mexican descent, the AADL will feature different aspects of Mexican and Mexican American cultures. On November 1st a presentation by Juan Javier Pescador on the history and transformations of the Day of the Dead will be followed by an Aztec Dance group performance from East Lansing, led by Estrella Torrez, a professor at Michigan State University. In addition Jacqueline Moran, cultural representative of the Mexican Consulate in Detroit, will inaugurate the photography exhibit.
The exhibit will be showing October 19 – November 29, with the opening reception on November 1, at 7:00pm EST. The Ann Arbor District Library main branch is located at 343 S. Fifth Ave., in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Information quoted from press release.)
MWP will be attending this event. Please say “Hi”, if you see us there!
Daryl Urig is a dedicated Cincinnati-based oil painter who offers tips and unique insights into art through his blog, titled “The Adventure of an American Oil Painter”. Reading his blog reveals that it’s been a winning year for Daryl. However, it also reveals that only a few years ago, things were a bit more “heavy”.
This summer, Daryl and his wife, Robyn, won the United States Tennis Association’s 8.0 mixed doubles sectionals in Fort Wayne Indiana. They will be competing at the USTA National Finals this November in Arizona. In addition, Daryl’s men’s team won the state finals this year.
When he’s not playing tennis, Daryl paints. He’s an oil painter, and his loose strokes and bright colors offer an impressionistic feel.
Last month, Daryl’s work was selected to appear in this year’s “Exposed” exhibit, which opened last week, and showcases the top 100 artists from the previous year’s Secret Artworks exhibit.
In addition, Daryl participated in the “Art at the Arnold” event at the 2010 Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. Arnold Schwarzenegger chose Daryl’s painting, titled “Body Builder 2″, as his favorite piece, earning Daryl the coveted “Arnold’s Choice Award”.
Daryl has accomplished a lot recently, however, prior to that, he had some struggles. Sometimes life is like a 300 pound bodybuilder sitting on your chest.
All that I know is that my life has been in an upheaval since I was divorced and I can see everywhere I go that people are hurting, and all for different reasons. Life can sometimes get heavy.
Daryl surrounds himself with friends and mentors and pushes onward. He is an accomplished plein air painter, and spends a lot of time outdoors with fellow painters and his new wife, and soul mate, Robyn.
En plein air is a french term that literally means “in the open air”. It consists of painting real objects in real time, using natural lighting, in the great outdoors.
Daryl’s plein air works don’t just consist of rural landscapes, though he does paint some beautiful and picturesque images of still life. I especially like his barns on top of grassy fields. However, Daryl also paints images of real, living people.
Finding a good model can be difficult. Understandably, sitting still long enough for someone to paint your image doesn’t sound easy, and doing this outside in the elements seems even more challenging.
Daryl was painting one particular piece in his backyard garden.
It got so hot we had to bring out a fan for the model to cool her down, as well as provide her with shorter posing times like 15 minutes to pose, 10 minutes rest.
So, you shouldn’t be surprised to find out that it’s an art in itself just finding the right kind of person, and Daryl’s blog offers some helpful tips on finding a great model.
In one of his blog entries, Daryl defines impressionist painting. He explains the techniques that he uses to create shapes and light through color, which is at the heart of impressionism. I admit that it’s a distinction I never completely grasped until Daryl explained it.
Daryl says that his most prized piece is “Dancing Light”, which depicts his wife Robyn. It’s a gorgeous piece that has received various awards.
At the heart of Daryl’s artwork is his inspiration.
I know it sounds simple, but life inspires me. All of my experiences and how they affect me as a person. My past thoughts, my present thoughts and my future thoughts all happening at once. No matter what I paint it is painted with passion from my heart.
Daryl prides himself in being mostly self taught, even though he did take a few courses at Columbus College of Art and Design.
I feel most of the academic study will take you off course or cause you conflict that you will have to eventually throw out. Art is a personal study and expression.
For oil painters, or those just curious about art, Daryl’s blog is an excellent resource. Yet, it’s more than that. In addition to technical details, Daryl offers helpful and personal insights that can be applied to anything that you’re passionate about, including life in general.
Daryl writes about personal challenges and overcoming them. He discusses drive, passion, and spirit. “The Adventure of an American Oil Painter” is an invaluable source of inspiration.
I was always an artist and painter from my earliest days I knew I would be an artist. It has been my life long goal and struggle. Encouraging teachers are helpful, but the self assurance must come from within and be unmovable and impenetrable to complete your task as a painter.
We can’t win at everything all the time, but that’s life, and life is inspiring.
Read Daryl Urig’s useful, insightful, and inspiring blog “The Adventure of an American Oil Painter”. To purchase his works or prints, request a private showing, or hire him for commission work and seminars, contact Daryl at his Web site DarylUrig.com. Be sure to subscribe to his blog and website to find out where he’ll be appearing next, as he continues his plein air sessions.
You can also find Daryl’s work in a variety of locations throughout Ohio. Daryl has two pieces hanging at the Hayley Gallery, in New Albany. You can see one of his latest works in the “Exposed” exhibit at the Artworks gallery in downtown Cincinnati, through November 28th, 2010. Two of his pieces are hanging in the collector’s corner inside the gift shop of the Toledo Art Museum, where you can purchase the works.
Click on the “I heart this” button to show your appreciation for Daryl Urig and to see more similar stories in the future. Don’t forget to like Made With Passion on Facebook to stay up to date on art and foods that are made with passion.
Gallery Project has put together a wonderful multimedia exhibit, titled “What’s So Funny?”, where artists were challenged to submit pieces of artwork that are “humorous”. The substantial exhibit showcases the works of 34 artists, many of whom are local, who answered the call. The art on display expresses humor along the spectrum of dark to joyous, and ranges from immature to intelligent.
You’re likely to stand in front of at least one of the pieces, asking “What’s so funny?”, while your friends walk away laughing hysterically. It’s obvious that not everybody cracks up at the same thing. Humor is a wonderful thing to explore.
Gallery Project, one of the few actual galleries in Ann Arbor, has a beautiful downtown space. Gloria Pritschet, gallery co-founder, says that the gallery is operating in its first year without guaranteed funding, as their primary backer had only promised funding for the first five years. They’re now operating into their sixth year. The gallery hosts nine collaborative, themed exhibits a year, with themes and submission requests offered well in advance.
I attended the opening reception ceremony with Jason Wright, our researcher, and Carrie Ann Knauss, our soon to be guest blogger, was our guide. As the three of us approached the gallery, professional painters were just finishing repainting the trim on the outside of the building in a dark teal color. There were wet paint signs stuck everywhere on the windows, and several passers by remarked that it seemed like a marketing gimmick, referring to freshly painted canvases inside.
We showed up right as the ceremony started, and had a chance to talk to the gallery co-founders and directors, photographer Gloria Pritschet, and painter Rocco DePietro. They were very friendly, answered our questions in abundant detail, were interested in our impressions of the exhibit, and were appreciative of our interest in the arts. As the artists arrived, Pritschet and DePietro were very helpful at introducing us while managing to also successfully greet each guest and hold many in-depth conversations.
As we wandered from front to back, the three of us couldn’t help but start a discussion about what we each found funny and not so funny. The show was obviously doing its job, and if you go, we recommend bringing your friends and discussing the pieces together. You’ll learn a lot about humor and what it means to yourself and others.
The only piece that we could all agree on was an oil painting by Nathan Boyer titled “The World As Will”. Actually, it wasn’t the painting itself, which was quite aesthetically beautiful while evoking a dark feeling of dread, but underneath the painting was a small 13″ cathode ray tube television playing a DVD. The video was of a very animated man, which we can only assume was the artist, dressed as the type of insect like alien you might see on a children’s show. His rambling was absurdly funny and he was greenscreened in front of a larger version of the painting.
I’m quite a big computer geek, so I was drawn to a piece of installation art by Anthony Fontana titled “#sculpturefail”.
Using the word “fail” after a word has been a frequently used Internet meme evolved from the term “epic fail”, to indicate a situation where an attempt at something has resulted in utter failure. I can imagine the artist trying to come up with the most absurd piece of modern sculpture to fit the name, finally settling on just grabbing a bunch of unsharpened pencils into a bundle, letting go, and thinking, “Art, lolz.”
The piece of art makes a social statement, and a funny one, making light of both the art and Internet cultures.
While I was photographing the scuplturefail, Jason and Carrie Ann had disappeared. I found them in the back of the gallery, in the area where set designer Vince Mountain and audio engineer Frank Pahl, had put together an eclectic combination of kinetic art, light, and sound with performance by actor Malcolm Tulip.
Carrie Ann was engaged in a conversation with Tulip, or at least was being engaged by the amusingly talkative actor. Tulip was dressed in a tuxedo and wore glasses, a fez, and multiple fake handlebar mustaches. While holding a brandy glass, and in a drunken English accent that reminded me of Dudley Moore from “Arthur” but with the posh manners of Mr. Belvedere, Tulip talked the three of us up while showing us around his lovely “Automatic Bachelor Pad”.
Never breaking character, Tulip told us about the wonderful inventions in his bachelor pad, giving us a drunken Englishman’s interpretation of the devices and decorum. He demonstrated the “Self-Emptying Ash Tray” to us with quite a bit of amusement in his voice, which was quite catchy and we all found ourselves laughing at the show.
At one point, Tulip invited our lovely Carrie Ann to sit down and read one of his fine books, which she took him up on. I was able to snap a picture of the two of them, with Tulip reflected in the mirror.
The chap was quite chatty, which can happen when one lives alone, but we managed to evade his small talk and headed back out to the main floor of the gallery.
Jason and I stared at the remarkably carved wood sculpture of a rabbit for quite some time, but the joke was over our heads. Unfortunately we didn’t notice the obvious shape of the piece of wood or consider one of the many names given to bunnies.
Just curious to see who had carved the beautiful piece, we looked at the program, at which time we saw the title. “Oh!” we exclaimed, as the punchline hit us. Jason and I found it to be quite a clever joke, and we quickly dragged Carrie Ann over to show her the sculpture, which had been carved by Todd Frahm. We told her about the piece and its title, and waited for the punchline to sink in. I think that Carrie Ann laughed more at our amusement than at the punchline. Another example of how we all find different things funny, and humor strikes us all in different ways.
In the basement was some fun art from Tim Péwé, like the piece titled “Gator Emporium”, and some rather creepy art by the same artist titled “Shasta”, which made me think of what a nightmare would be like if it was drawn by comic artist Mike Judge of “King of the Hill” and “Beavis and Butt-head” fame.
Before we left, we had a chance to talk to Paul Marquardt, a multi-disciplined artist with 35 years of experience, that had driven down from Kalamazoo for the opening ceremony.
The mixed media piece is constructed from a digital print on taut canvas and an electric rocker motor, and it highlights a social observation that people will use one word when they should be using the other word. Paul had a few words to say about his motivation behind the piece.
People will often use the word taunt when they meant taut. Very common. Very common mistake, and I have to say in my younger years, I did it a few times too. So it has some resonance with me, and it has resonance when i hear other people do it.
I actually had no idea that these two words were mistakenly interchanged so commonly. I don’t have many conversations where either of these words is used. I do often see people misuse the word “defiantly” to mean “definitely”. The piece has a motion element to it when it’s plugged in, so our photo doesn’t do it justice. You should check out this very smart piece for yourself, at this very fine gallery that deserves your patronage. There are a ton more pieces of fine art at this show, that we didn’t have time to highlight.
Humor is a personal experience. It strikes us each in its own way, which we seem to have little control over. We might be sore about something one day, and be ready to laugh about it the next, and we might be laughing more than our friend who never shared the same experience. Even if we can’t all agree on what’s funny, it’s more fun to disagree with smiles on our faces.
Gallery Project is located at 215 S. Fourth Ave, in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. The “What’s So Funny” exhibit will be showing through November 28, but we recommend that you go out and see it as soon as possible because you don’t want to put it off and take a chance of missing it. The gallery is open every day except Monday. Please give the gallery a call at 734-997-7012 for more information, or visit their Web site.
MWP would like to thank the gallery’s directors for putting together such a wonderful and thought provoking exhibit, and for being so gracious. We’d also like to thank the artists for contributing their time and passion into this collaborative event. Please click on the “I HEART THIS” button to show your love for the great “What’s So Funny?” exhibit.
Bulgarian photographer Lilyana Karadjova has a feature spread in the October 2010 issue of the new online visual arts magazine “Musetouch”. Just this week, Lilyana was the featured artist here at Made With Passion.
In the magazine article, we learn more about Lilyana, as she talks about herself and her art in her 12 page spread.
Making a good portrait is like traveling in one’s soul.
In the magazine article, readers are treated to some more of Lilyana’s recent, creative portrait pieces.
Check out the magazine in its entirety at Musetouch’s Web site. Lilyana’s spread starts on page 18.
Read more about Lilyana in MWP’s feature article on Lilyana Karadjova, and click on the “I heart this” button to show Lilyana some love.
Dawn Heumann is a portrait, documentary, and fine art photographer from the San Francisco and Northern California area. She is currently a graduate student, working towards her Master’s in Fine Arts at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, where her latest passion sometimes puts her at odds with the police.
Many of us have done it. We’re in someone else’s bathroom, and as soon as the door’s shut, we peek in the medicine cabinet. It’s normal curiosity. However, when Dawn’s in your bathroom, stealing a glimpse into that intimate, personal part of your life, you’re not home. You don’t even live there anymore.
Dawn grew up in Sebastopol, California, a small but charming little town, about an hour north of San Francisco. When she was young, Dawn and her two older sisters were frequently whisked away from the quiet town to all parts of the world. Her parents made their living creating travel films, an artistic endeavor that, while having a lasting impression on Dawn, was lost to her in those days.
I spent my young years chasing the morning light from Fiji to Alaska and beyond. I can hear [my father's] harsh voice shushing me to this day as he tried to capture the sweet song of the morning birds. I didn’t know it then, but image making was in me from the start.
When Dawn became older, her parents were reluctant to take the girls away from school for the duration of a film. Instead, the girls stayed at home while their parents traveled. Dawn and her sisters had been taught to think for themselves, and they enjoyed copious amounts of freedom.
As teenagers, we would often spend our evenings occupying abandoned farmhouses and barns. We would steel a few bottles of wine from the back of one of our parent’s cellars or a bottle of peach schnapps from their liquor cabinets, assuming they wouldn’t miss it. A few blankets, a flashlight and someone with a car were all we needed. I had my first kiss on a blanket sprawled in the middle of a dirt road near a local abandoned barn. It seemed as normal of a place as any for such a moment.
Growing up, Dawn felt grounded by her country lifestyle, yet exposure to other cultures created a desire to find her place in the world. In 2003, Dawn studied Philosophy and Religion, with an emphasis in Peace and Justice, at San Fransisco State University.
My pursuit of such studies was born from a determination to grasp the hugeness of the world and the oneness of the cultures I had observed within it as a child. For I felt that if I could understand humanity, culture, religion and the anthropological and social constructs of such ideals, I could also better know myself.
Shortly after Dawn earned her Bachelor’s degree in 2007, she bought her first SLR, a Nikon D40. She left to travel the world again for two years, this time alone. She packed her camera with her.
Dawn first traveled to India, where she observed the Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim religious cultures, all in a single country. After three months in India, she moved on to Europe, Mexico, and Africa. Photos of the Masai and other tribes in Africa, as well as candid shots taken during her long stay in India formed her first art show.
Photography is often thought of as a collaborative art form between the photographer and the world around them. To tell the story on the other side of the lens, you must first peer through it. The photographer, while reflecting the world, also reflects herself.
The lesson was immediate and invaluable, I realized that the creativity and self-expression that came from being behind the camera was a much quicker path to understanding the world and my place within it than philosophy was. The gift of those years was a form of self-expression through creativity, which lent itself not only to my own sense of freedom and expression, but also penetrated the lives of the people I photograph.
In contrast, Dawn’s thesis is a series of fine art photographs, titled “abandoned:rural”, which portrays sill life subjects such as abandoned buildings and cars. Still life art depicts inanimate, commonplace objects, often in beautiful arrangements.
Inspired by the memories of the old buildings that she haunted as a child, Dawn sneaks into abandoned homes, barns, and other buildings with her camera.
Sometimes I see a building and I say to myself, “I will get into that building”, and I repeat it every time I pass it, until I try, sometimes once, twice, three times until I am successful.
Once inside, like her father’s documentary fieldwork, Dawn documents the lives that lived within. Once cherished places are now nearly forgotten. The stories are in the details. Dawn is captivated by the nuances, which also bring back fond moments from her past.
These sorts of locations are comforting to me. Many of them are full of intimate memories. The smells of mold and rust that come with such locations are not foreign to me.
One house that Dawn had visited as a teenager left especially vivid memories. She still remembers how the dishes had been laid on the dining room table, as if the owners were in the middle of preparing for dinner, and then suddenly were called away, never to return. She also experienced exhilarating moments there with her friends when neighborhood teenage boys pulled pranks by hiding and scaring the girls.
That house sticks in my mind so vividly to this day I cannot even express it to you. Since the beginning of my series on abandoned buildings I have tried three times now to get into that house. Each time, a neighbor or a policeman catches me; I haven’t made it down that long driveway since that foggy night in high school…. I am still determined to photograph it before my thesis is finished.
Much like the clandestine peeks into the medicine cabinet, it’s the uninvited guest that gets the most compelling stories. We’re careful to blame it on curiosity, but in truth, we all seek the same thing — honest and intimate relationships with those around us. We want the stories behind the facade. It’s the pimple cream in the cabinet that shows us that they’re just like us — flawed, embarrassed, and human.
Dawn Huemann’s uninvited perspective into abandoned buildings and rural areas leaves us with a deeper connection to those around us. The photos tell stories through the things that we once cherished, and are now left abandoned. It’s a look into our future as much as the past.
The couches were once soft and new, windows clean and shiny. Now, what is left is peeling wallpaper, falling boards, displaced bricks and a book or a kettle here and there. Within the decaying walls and broken windows there lies a graveyard of forgotten importance.
Ultimately, Dawn Heumann’s photography thoroughly expresses her very own sentiment.
When I look at the world through a lens, I see only beauty.
Dawn continues to build up her thesis work and already has a few more locations scouted out, including an abandoned church in an actual ghost town. She’s excited and promises additional photos soon.
When asked who inspires her, Dawn cited Joyce Tenneson and Annie Leibovitz as professional influences, especially Leibovitz’s ability to let her subjects’ personalities come through. Both Tenneson and Leibovitz are renowned for their portraits and their ability to connect with their subjects. However, Dawn says that one of her largest creative influences has been her father.
He has been nothing but encouraging of my creativity since before I could speak. He has persistently managed to create a career and a life around the work that he loves the most.
Dawn says that her biggest accomplishment has been learning the art of real film photography.
Learning how to work with film, and understanding its beauty transformed me as a photographer. Making my first fiber print in a dark room was perhaps the most prized moment I have had as a photographer. I felt in touch with the ancestors of this art form and proud of myself for taking the leap.
You can see more of Dawn Heumann’s portrait, event, and fine art photography at her portfolio Web site. Also, check out her professional Web site, where you’ll be able to hire Dawn Heumann’s professional services for your portraits, weddings, or other events.
Let me know which of Dawn’s photos is your favorite. Click the “I heart this” button to show Dawn some love, then go follow your passion, wherever it takes you.
For those interested in taking snapshots similar to Dawn’s abandoned series, she offers a few words of advice.
I have been in all kinds of situations; from falling through the second floor of an old home to setting off motion detectors in huge warehouses, to being faced with police. Often the buildings are not safe and are not meant to be walked in. I try to use my best judgment and be safe with how far I will take my shoot in an unsafe environment.
If you get nabbed, don’t call us, but do send us your photos.
The Underneath squeezes 8, hand selected, short films from talented local filmmakers into a meager 2 hours, all for a measly $10 per ticket. How’s that for a budget conscious way to support the local art community?
The Esquire Theater is located near the University of Cincinnati campus, and is one of the best venues in the city for film.
Last year’s screening was packed with movie goers excited to see a variety of films from their community. The program was a huge success. This year’s lineup looks ever better, which is funny for me to say, considering one of my films was in last year’s program.
One of the most anticipated films this year is “Intangible”, a collaboration between local filmmakers Aaron Maas and Josh Flowers. The film makes its world premiere at the festival.
(dir. Josh Flowers)
A simple laundry day turns out to be a life affirming revelation.
Another notable entry is “Accidental Art” from long-time filmmaker Peter John Ross.
(dir Peter John Ross)
A suburban artist creates an unintentional piece of work while having an affair with the roof repairman.
Short films provide all the drama, action, comedy, and documentary edge that feature length films do, but they’re compressed into a shorter time span so your bottom doesn’t get sore. Don’t miss the festival, or your kids will think you’re lame.
Underneath Cincinnati Film Festival 2010
320 Ludlow Ave
Cincinnati, Ohio 45220
Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
7 – 9 PM
$10 per ticket