Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Double-Edged Sword

(All pics snapped on 11/08/11)

Although taking this most recent, two week break from self-portraiture and blogging has left me feeling awfully guilty about offering nothing new to my dear readers in that time - I'm grateful that it's afforded me the opportunity to start sorting out where to go next with my whole life in general, for that matter...  

Granted, I could've waited to check back in with you guys when I had something avant-garde or groundbreaking to share - but it's been hard enough as it is, to stay away for this long. And so, if nothing else - consider this entry a courtesy call...just to let you all know that I am still alive, I do have ideas briskly bubbling on the back burner, and I've every intention of returning to self-portraiture - once the Christmastime craziness at work dissipates...  

Unfortunately, I had no choice but to illustrate this post with the last bunch of current(ish) pics. still waiting to be plucked from the queue. And as I sit here luxuriating at my Mac indefinitely (for literally the first time in weeks, halleluiah) - I'm ambivalent about featuring photos that by now might be looked upon as commonplace, redundant, or run-of-the-mill. 

On the one hand - I hesitate to post this series, because they reiterate the likely possibility that I may have exhausted the two predominant themes seen not only here, but in many prior Big Ugly entries: (1.) my naked body (2.) in yet another forsaken structure...both of which (not surprisingly) also happen to be the two major issues that I've been grappling with (for much longer really, than just these last coupla weeks) in regards to the status quo of my work. On the other hand though, this does indeed make these images quite relevant, because they conjure the questions that I keep asking myself...things like: has the abandoned house motif become such a crutch that I've stalled (stunted?) my artistic growth? Is adding the nudity on top of all that - just some (not so) sly tactic to ensure that folks keep coming back, despite their probable boredom with every other aspect of this particular genre of my self-pics.? And if that's the case, then have I semi-subconsciously turned an idea that was perhaps interesting and savory when I first introduced it - into some sort of sleazy, "sex sells" schtick?

Ya' wanna know what I think? I think that there's definitely at least some element of truth to each one of the above concerns... 

...but there is something else (and I hope you won't take this the wrong way - since I do so appreciate that all you good people even bother to stop by my blog) - I was an artist long before I even owned a computer, but lately what I do has become so internet-dependent or driven(?) that I may have lost sight of something intrinsic to being (my idea of) a self-portrait artist - and that is that the entire process should be more about a desire to dig deeper into oneself, while satisfying creative cravings and urges, in (for me personally, at least) extraordinarily intriguing and inspiring settings (no matter how seemingly repetitive they might be to other folks)...and it should be less about striving to entertain, and maintain a captive audience...

One sage reader recently suggested that rather than over-think my shoots so much (as I've gotten into the habit of doing) - I should trust and follow my instincts. Seems simple enough, yeah? But if I adhere to such a self-centered approach to my work, it could mean that sometimes I actually don't end up naked...or that I continue to stage infinite abandoned house shoots...much to my own satisfaction, of course (and hopefully to the benefit of my work).........but maybe even more to my poor readers' chagrin...


  1. your insights are well founded. the fact that you can think outside yourself into what criticisms *others* might have ("commonplace, redundant, or run-of-the-mill") gives you some insight into your own concerns. if you truly didn't feel those things tugging at you, your natural reaction would be to defend those aspects of your blog. i've coached several people on effective blogging and one thing i always tell them is "you blog first and foremost for yourself". as an artist, you understand that. learn to think of your blog not just as a vehicle for your photos, but as a vital aspect of your art - as important as the lighting, focus, framing, setting, and poses in your photos. shoot and blog primarily because it allows you to express you - once you start trying to give the audience what it wants (be it staying the same or changing dramatically) you lose your artistic integrity. will a refocusing of the Big Ugly blog alienate some regulars? possibly, nay probably. but if, in doing so, you maintain the vitality of it for yourself, then it will be more than worth it. some will go, but others will come. keeping your audience fresh is just as important as keeping your art fresh. trust your gut, it's served you well this far.

  2. As a loyal fan, I doubt that I will ever tire of seeing a forgotten place inhabited once more by a beautiful creature. The contrast is compelling; it draws me back every few days. The abandoned barn, the lonely stand of trees, the rusty culvert; are all compelling and you capture them well.

    As a loyal fan, I doubt that I will ever tire of seeing you (clothed or not) bringing these dead places to life. You are interesting, talented, and crisp. You tell an interesting story about embracing art and bucking norms. In some ways I live vicariously through your boldness. I am much too cautious and safe. Your struggles with love and family and life and finances and time and work and art make you real and inspiring. And you are fun to look at as well. A fat, balding, hairy chested guy would detract from any photo. You, on the other hand, add to and brighten any one of them.

    As a loyal fan, I am still just a bystander. I am blessed by your art and effort. I am not the cause, nor justification of it. I contribute nothing to your canvas; I have no claim to the final product or the labors that produced it. The last thing I would want to do is effect your art or bend your creative expression. I am here to see you; not to see my version of you.

  3. Have you ever thought of adding a different and new element that works with the others? Of course, we like to look at your amazing body and some of the scenery is wonderful...but I wonder if perhaps some sort of story arc might be able to be told within several sets of photos?

    For example, and I am not suggesting that you do this... just meant to illustrate... connect some of the desolate photos with another set sneaking to a wishing well, to a third set as bright as the first set was dark..

  4. Also, as a PS - from this man's eye, you don't always need to be naked or end up naked in every photo or photo set. There is something to the tease, and since at the end of the day, this is your artistic expression, it comes down to what do you want to share or to say to the world, or to let people know about you or your soul....

    a voice in the wilderness

  5. IMO, you're suffering from the Necessity of Uniqueness. For almost all of human history, art was judged first by "is it good?" but in the past century or so, it has been judged first by "is it new?" This expectation that artists should bring something new to each work is a burden too great to bear, IMO.

    Here's another thing... you can only get really good at something if you do it many times. You say you were getting stale... I say you were just beginning to get good at a naked or partially clad body in a dilapidated building. There are so many things you haven't yet tried, options you haven't explored with this one genre of your work.

    And you have many genres. For example, the shoot in the machine shop where you were hanging from a giant chain in one shot has awesome possibilities of body against hard metal things. Would love to see you do a series of several dozen shoots (at least) in settings like this. And you have several more genres as well which you've only begun to explore.

    Sometimes it's when things look bleakest that you're closest to a major step forward. In construction, I call this the "messy phase" of a job, where many things are started but nothing is finished. I'd suggest you're at the messy phase of your career. The worst thing to do would be to quit now because you're so close to moving several aspects of your work to a higher level, IMO. Hope I'm right.

    As a side note, the rant at the beginning of this comment was from a blog post I did recently, and there are several other ideas there you might find useful as well:

  6. I can't speak about artistry but I've been following your blog since near the beginning and I just wanted to offer my opinion. I like your any of your settings, natural places, towns and houses, all of the houses. I think what you do really takes advantage of the setting in which we live. Someone should be valuing the falling apart houses and that someone is you. I appreciate that very much. I have also had a love of those sort of houses because there are so many around this area, and I grew up here and I've never explored them inside but I go to them and look around outside. Also, your nakedness is so natural, it's not sexual at all, not in the slightest. Your postures and attention to toe pointing and angles is just the greatest way to integrate your form into the landscape. Also, one more thing, your blog hurts my eyes. The contrast of the white writing on the black is excrutiating to me. It has this strange effect on my vision while I'm reading or just looking at the page. I know it's a good background for your pictures but it hurts to read it. Anyway, thanks for what you do and for sharing your creative process alongside of your creativity.

  7. It is funny Lauralyn as I sat reading this post I found myself in your words. The self doubt you experience and the harsh tones you use about your work could all be me too. I wonder why we hit ourselves up about this stuff so much?

    Maybe it is the tortured artist within us that fights to create that something we see as perfection but that always seems just out of reach but you see I have come to realise that it is when we stop reaching out for that perfection that it is time to shut up shop. You are only just learning to reach.... don't stop now.