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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.