La Lupe....
aka............La Yiyiyi!

A CRAZY-GOOD Afro-Cuban singer who was somewhat controversial for Cuban television because of her unmistakeable style and I would suspect she would have raised eyebrows everywhere else as well, specially during the late 1950's when this performance was transmitted). The trajectory of her career was cut short because of the Revolution although she enjoyed moderate success in exile. Anyone who knows her work would agree....definitely a LEGEND!

Ahi na' ma!


The Infinite Space of the Possible

The Artist Studios Building (ASB) at the Boston Center for the Arts houses over forty artists working in a broad range of media and subject matter. Commonly shared is the value of workspace and a creative community within which to stimulate and exchange ideas.

The Infinite Space of the Possible, curated by Lynne Cooney, features seven artists with studios in the ASB. In this exhibition, through collaborative dialogue, the participating artists push the boundaries of their artmaking – either by materializing a previously unrealized project, forging current work into new territory or considering their work in an expanded context.

The Infinite Space of the Possible features work by Leika Akiyama, Jon Amburg, Aileen O. Erickson, Rebecca Rose Greene, Kathleen A. Kneeland, Lazaro Montano and Victor Ortale.

As an added bonus, a detail of my work was used for the invitations and PR for the show.


65 Degrees of Encaustic Art

I was lucky enough to be included in this exhibit on encaustic art. The title 65degrees refers to the temperature in which wax melts in Celsius degrees thereby allowing for encaustic work to be done. The curator for the show is my good friend Leika Akiyama, who trusted me enough to include me in the show despite me not having done much of encaustic work before. I was quite enjoyable to do, as it is when you are learning a new medium.


Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are

The review below was originally written 4/2011.
Slight disclaimer. I had no idea what this movie was about before I started watching it. I knew it was based on a children's book and contained a fantastical storyline but I never read nor grew up with the book therefore I have no nostalgic pining for its story.

What was that? Granted, I never read the book nor knew of its plot but this movie left me thoroughly confused. That could be a good thing for a movie to do sometimes especially if you are left to ponder on it for days only to discover its subtle meaning and redeeming quality, but alas, this was not the case with Where The Wild Things Are.

The acting was good and the costumes, setting and effects were well done. You can tell that this was a movie the director (Spike Jonz) cared very much about by the detail that is employed onto it. Plus Catherine Keener is always a pleasure to watch deliver believability with her understated acting. However the only thing I walked away from with this movie was praying I never have to confront another precocious child again lest I take out my wild beast frustrations on him. Those monsters should have eaten that kid from the get-go.

The Queen of Versailles

This is a must-see documentary by Lauren Greenfield, a documentary photography who tends to focus on girl culture. Here she documents the real life accounts of the Siegels and their attempt at building the largest single family home in America.
I originally wrote this review on November 2013.

All that glitters is not gold. 

You can now add the addendum to the age old adage, "Money can't buy happiness" to also include "it can't buy taste...nor self-respect....nor even a clue". The fact that someone would model a home after Versailles should have been foreshadowing enough. Yes, the real Versailles is a beautiful architectural masterpiece but its opulence eventually led to the demise of the French monarchy and quite ironically is almost lead to this family's as well. This documentary should be a must watch for people struggling with money, you will simultaneously be infuriated by and feel pity for these people. Anger because they don't realize what they have nor need (they have lots of crap, they need substance) and pity because despite all the money and wealth they probably live a poorer life than yourself. The fact that you would step on dog shit inside your million-dollar mansion's bedroom because you have no clue what to do with a dog is mind-boggling. Didn't anyone think of hiring a dog-trainer to train the dogs? Or perhaps they just rely on their indentured servants to tell them what to do. If it wasn't for the help, these people would be eating the crap on the floor. You can take the people out of the trailer part, but not the trailer park out of the people.


Book review: Porn from Andy Warhol to Xtube

The other day I did something that I hope other people do as well; I googled myself to see what comes up. To my surprise, up there in the search results was a review I wrote in Amazon.com in April, 2011. It turns out the review is one of the most read reviews for that book in particular and one who most customers found helpful. I decided to include it here for posterity's sake with a few edits.

A vintage image from the early years of modern day porn,
unfortunately the book doesn't contain that many more.

Great on Style, Weak on Substance (2 out of 5 stars)
If it wasn't for the title denoting something more than a vanity project for studio-produced porn stars I would not be as 
This book is filled with beautifully printed full-page photographs depicting some of the better-known porn stars of the past 30-odd years, however if you are interested in a book whose title suggests to be ABOUT porn rather than a book OF porn, you will be left disappointed. This is far from a pictorial investigation or a truly historical account of male erotica, it relies too much on the obvious and popular porn stars of the 90s and hardly illustrates more important images from the earlier period as the book's cover suggests. The book is divided categorically with certain eras of the genre, but it is far from being developed analytically. Case in point is how the anemic amount of text (which is really half of what it appears to be since the other half is simply its German translation) is saved for interviews of distinguished directors in the field, yet the questions directed to them are equivalent to "Who is your favorite porn star?" causing it to read more as a superfluous magazine interview than anything else.

From the book's front flap and throughout, the author and his sources repeatedly cite porn as being reflective of society it was produced, yet no one bothers to extrapolate how or why this may be the case. Yes, we know that the mustachioed hairy-chested macho man of the seventies gave way to the smooth athletic jock of the eighties, but was this a reflection of the cultural shift of the decade or a reaction to the rise of AIDS? It would have been interesting to note for example, the first film to incorporate safe sex (considering how the gay  porn industry led the way in promoting it more than any government agency) or maybe investigating whether porn's mimetic use of popular Hollywood movies (i.e. Saving Ryan's Privates) is an act of subversion or an attempt at inclusion (porn movie plot lines and fantasy is never addressed by the way)? Instead the author glazes over interesting observations and concentrates too much on his biased interpretation. For example, he includes Tom Bianchi's work in the mix. Everyone can agree that Bianchi's photographs are beautifully executed manifestations of male desire, but would one call it pornographic? And if we are to use that broad description wouldn't we also need to look at his equally important and successful contemporaries such as Christopher Makos, Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber. Isn't Weber's image of the Olympic athlete just wearing a pair of white Calvin Klein briefs towering over Times Square an important breakthrough of male erotic objectification into mainstream culture, certainly more so than Bianchi. Or even Robert Mapplethorpe, whose controversial work was important in contributing to the discourse between art and porn.

Of course, I am the first to admit that while perusing through this book and its images, the furthest thing from my mind was wondering what lies behind the popularity and demand of certain porn stars (is it aggressive marketing or synchronistic desire?). However, considering there is a unified voice in this book in depicting the subject as culturally relevant, one is simply left to wonder whether porn is imitating life or is life imitating porn? Perhaps pornography may forever be relegated to its intended goal but considering how it has been the only true narrative for gay men, it would be nice to see someone attempt to treat it as a source of collective self-reflection rather than a glorified skin mag.


One HOT Pepper!

Pepper, #30, 1930 by Edward Weston, Gelatin Silver Print

This image is one of a series of peppers made by Edward Weston. It is considered to be one of the early 20th century photographic masterpieces by one of the most innovative photographers. It also happens to be one of the most expensive images ever sold.

Regardless of this, it is one of my favorite images for several reasons, all of which make a strong argument as to why photography is such a great art-making medium. 

First, it proves that you don't need a special event or happening to make a compelling image, through photographic means this ordinary object is transformed into something extra-ordinary thereby affirming that anything can be seen as art. 

Weston used light and composition to convert a recognizable object into one that is abstract and suggestive. His use of a tight crop and low vantage point not only isolates the object but allows the scale of the object to be brought into question despite our better understanding of it. This makes this iconic image to become not just one of a pepper but one that allows the mind to wander. Similar to our natural tendency to see recognizable shapes in amorphous clouds, the soft tonal rendering of the organic shape takes on a sensual identity and transforms the vegetable into a seemingly human form. 

In doing so, Weston underscores the transcending power of photography and helped establish the medium's relationship to Modernism and art.


Garry Winogrand

Garry Winogrand is considered one of the masters of street photography from the late 20th century. His career was forged by John Szarkowski during his tenure as Director of the Photography Department at MoMA and it culminated in establishing Winogrand's place in photographic history. 

Winogrand is the author of many great images that give us a candid glimpse of the American social landscape of the 60s and 70s. This is partly due to the fact that he was extremely prolific.  At the time of his death he left thousands of undeveloped rolls of film along with even more developed but unedited ones.

Garry Winogrand, New York World's Fair, 1964; gelatin silver print

The image above, New York World's Fair, 1964, is perhaps one of his better known images. 

It is said that Winogrand depicted the social issues of his time, so the date the image was made is extremely important since it informs its content. At first glance, the image is a visual play of body language with a tightly cropped composition and strong diagonal horizon accentuated by a slight tilt of the camera. But the year it was taken places it during the early years of the Civil Rights Movement and thus gives the image an added interpretation.

On the left side of the image, we see an African-American man in conversation with a Caucasian woman. Directly next to them sit three young women engaged in a secretive conversation, what they discuss is left for speculation, however they do take on a comic nod to the classic see/hear/and speak no evil gestures.

Following them is two more young women drastically turning away looking towards the distance and finally the image is book-ended by an older white male reading the newspaper and almost outside the frame. 

What is most interesting to me is Winogrand's composition. As a street photographer, you have little if no control of your subject's actions, you must simply compose and capture the right moment at the right place from the right point of view (not an easy feat and one that distinguishes the success of good photo-journalists). Although Winogrand is shooting from the side which already gives him the diagonal nature of the horizon line, he also (purposefully?) tilted the camera. This simple gesture creates a sea-saw effect of sorts with the overly-crowded park bench and one in which can denote some social upheaval. Given Winogrand's sophistication in shooting, I would assume the depiction of a young generation in constant motion and unrest as they literally push a stand-in for the older white patriarchal establishment out of the frame, is no accident. 

The loaded question is whether Winogrand was celebrating, critiquing or simply overemphasizing the reading. If the image would have been directly shot at a level this reading would not be as clear, chances are the focus would have been mostly on the three huddled women at center. The question only arises with the use of the camera tilt, what it suggests and what the photographer was trying to communicate by doing so.


Fourth of July!

Nothing says U.S.A! like a Frozen Rocket Popsicle!
Happy Fourth!


Dovima with elephants by Avedon

And speaking about images I have a hard time deciding which to like best (see Little Joe both clothed and nude in previous entry), there are two images in existence of Dovima with Elephants, both shot by Richard Avedon during the same photo shoot.

Dovima was a 1950's 'supermodel' who pre-dated the term by about 10 years. She was perhaps a muse for Avedon and for many other photographers considering she is the model to some of the best fashion photography of the time.  Avedon made his mark as a fashion photographer by incorporating movement in the genre when the standard was to shoot stiff and posed models.

You can only imagine that in order for the images below to exist as they do, the model had to be attune and quick to the movements of the otherwise uncontrollable props (in this case, the elephants).

Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, August 1955, by Richard Avedon

In this great image above, Dovima's arched arm mimics the curved trunks of the elephants beside her. Her white and black Dior dress looking impeccable and contrasting with the otherwise general grayness of her surroundings.

And in the bottom one, she appears to be leading a band of elephants (her perfectly placed left foot front and center) while taming their charge with her delicately positioned hands.

Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, August 1955, by Richard Avedon
Again not a simple feat for either model nor photographer considering how quick they both had to be to capture the right moment.

And to add difficulty to the mix, Avedon is working with a large format camera which slows down the shooting process, there is no quick and rapid succession of shooting as with smaller format cameras using roll film.

We can tell what format Avedon is using here because of the black border around the images. The black borders come into play when the unexposed edges of the film are included in the printing and although this can be done with any format, the markings of these borders (notice it doesn't go all the way around the image) is evidence of the film holder edges one uses when shooting sheet film in large format photography.

The only visible difference in the achievement of these images is that because of the borders, we also know the bottom images is full-frame while the top image has been cropped from the top (the proportion is also not exactly in sync with the sheet film's size).

Yet both remain a testament to Avedon's talent (and Dovima's), I am sure I'm not the only one who can't choose which one is better between the two, it is no wonder they are both considered the iconic images that they are.


Portraits by Avedon

Another prized-possession of mine is this 'Portraits' portfolio by Richard Avedon.

I had become aware of Avedon's fashion photography work when I would browse through magazines. Avedon was still doing the covers for Vogue and was recognized for his early fashion work from the 50s in many photography books.

But one of the two things that make this book so special to me is how I found it. It was in the bottom shelf of a sales book rack in the Fort Lauderdale Main Public Library and cost $2! Yes, just TWO BUCKS!! It was in the mid-80s and I would normally have no money to buy anything, but this book was extremely affordable on my budget.

And the second reason (as if a great bargain wasn't enough) is that the book contains one of  his multi-panel spreads of Andy Warhol with some of his factory members.

And more specifically with 'Little Joe' rendered both clothed and in the nude, perpetually making me unable to decide which one I think he looks better in. The image of him in the left panel, hair pulled back and posed in classical greek sculptural glory...or dressed in all black and boots, hair loose, looking like the urban bohemian his demeanor exudes.
(needless to say, I've had a very long fascination with Joe Dellasandro's image.)

The images from the book were part of an exhibition and it was perhaps one of the first instances photographic images were printed this large in the pre-digital age.

I believe these images are from 2012 exhibition but Avedon (or at least his assistants) were printing  these gelatin-silver photographs in a traditional b&w wet darkroom in the mid-70s.

Avedon probably did this scale for several reasons and one of them was probably to create attention and overcompensate for photography's diminutive status in the art world during the 70s.

Just like Warhol, Avedon was very successful in the 'commercial' field at a time when it was rigidly separated from the world of 'fine art'.  He, like Warhol, wanted his work to be taken seriously, so he set out to make his portrait work. He received validation by being one of the first photographers ever given a solo show in a major museum outside photography-designated galleries.

Perhaps as a way to elevate these photographs in the context of 'fine art' he pushed their limits by executing them to the largest size possible at the time. There is no denying these prints deserve a certain kind of respectability and awe merely because of size and execution. But he also emphasized the image's minimalist language by creating a sense of empty space with use of scale.

Little Joe

Duane Michals -- Joe Dallesandro as Gargoyle

Summer 2013

chance meeting -- duane michals

Here's a photographic sequence by Duane Michals.
One of the reasons I enjoy his work so much is not only for its uniqueness in execution (his use of hand-written text and sequential images sets him apart) but for the subject matter and narratives he explores.

When I first came across this image, I was immediately drawn to the suggestive undertones the 'chance' meeting holds. 
And a frustrated encounter to boot.


Duane Michals

This is the work of Duane Michals. He is the first ‘art photographer’ I was introduced to at a time when I thought photography was either a document or simply vernacular. I had no idea that it could be an expression of something or even tell a story. He was introduced to me in my second year of college by a professor whose name I can’t recall and at a time when I was working in ceramics, frustrated and looking for a means to creatively execute my thoughts and ideas. One of our assignments in this beginning photography class, was to emulate Michals, and I did so by using a slow shutter speed to capture motion and using multiple images to create a simple narrative. Of course, it was deemed successful at the time mostly due to the technique and good execution, however when I look back at them now, I see the naiveness of a student who is new to the medium. 

Even though I now know of many photographers I like and find inspiring, Duane Michals is still a photographer whose work I love and admire. His choice of male models at times are a little too-perfect for my taste (some look like adult cherubs), but the way he works and the fact that he uses hand-written text right on the print still feels different and distinguishable from the many photographers out there. Part of my attraction to his work I suppose has to do with our shared affinity in sexual orientation, but years later when I came across an interview with him, I realized we also shared a fascination with death. He, like me, have always been obsessed with the idea of death and mortality since an early age. However he, unlike me, recognized early on in his career that the themes of loss, desire and longing are always ripe for investigation.

One of my favorite possessions is this small out-of-print book I came across in the 80s. It has Michals’ photographic interpretations of the poems of Constantine Cavafy. Michals visual eroticism paired alongside Cavafy’s poems of nostalgic longing and unrequited love with The Smiths playing continually on my record player is what composed most (if not all) of the angst that was my twenties.

                                                                                    ---Duane Michals


My younger days, my sensual life ---
how clearly I see their meaning now.

What needless, futile regret....

But I didn't see the meaning of it then.

In the loose living of my early years
the impulses of my poetry were shaped,
the boundaries of my art were plotted.

That's why the regretting was so fickle.
Any my resolutions to hold back, to change,
lasted two weeks at the most.

                                                                        ---Constantine Cavafy

This is it!

This is exactly what the world needs to become a better place.........…. 

another blog!