Shrouded has been formulating for a long time. Most of the process has been endless thinking. I’m good at the long think. I enjoy it. These images are the first step in taking the concept out of my head. Usually when this process happens and I move from thinking to making there’s a good possibility something is working.
At the core, Shrouded are self-portraits. They’re not traditional self-portraits because I’m completely obscured, but they’re self-portraits. I’ve also begun to think of them as moving portraits, mini plays or dance pieces.
Shrouded has been shot using an intervalometer that’s built into my camera. The camera is set up on a tripod and frames a blank photography backdrop, I then activate the shutter and wander into the frame with a large chunk of material. As the camera shutter activates I’m draping and winding myself in the shroud and working to remain still every 5 seconds. I use two soft boxes for lighting, but their relatively low strength so the shutter speed is very slow. In the future a better studio lighting rig with strobes will be rented from Gallery 44. To get a more refined result I need more powerful and versatile lighting arrangement.
Shooting in this way creates static dramas. You can look at these images in succession and a distinct narrative can be seen. Because of this process Shrouded also feels like theatre or runway. There is also a relationship to the first historical instances of film and the zoetropes of Edward Muybridge made in 1878. I like this idea of using one of the most technologically-advanced, contemporary cameras to echo something from the birth of photography and film.
The shroud material in these first exploration varies. Initially I experimented with a poly-synthetic white construction tarp. I then bought a ten foot square of painter’s canvas. and in the most recent production opted to use both black and white photography backdrops as the shroud material. I think each material has a validity.
The “why” of Shrouded is a slow-brewing, nebulous things but in the last few weeks its been coalescing. For Shrouded I’ve surrendered to creating what I want to do first. I’ve opted to make what I have an unconscious desire to do. The plan has always been when and if it starts to work, I’ll start to figure out why I’m doing it.
The materials used for Shrouded are important to me and they have a history. Currently I’ve experimented with three different materials; construction tarps, artist canvas and photography backdrops.
I’ve been tarp obsessed for my whole life. When I was a kid we played under them and built shelters and forts with them. I remember the blue plastic of these things from 45 years ago. When I was a youth these became more utilitarian as my father would use them all over for covering wood piles, boats, and a multitude of things. As I got older I used them a lot in construction. I world a lot of construction when I was in my early 20s. At about the same time I was exposed to the work of Christo and Jenn-Claude. Ever since then I’ve had a desire to do things with the standard blue, orange, white and silver tarps, as well as try to locate red, green and camouflage versions.
Using canvas gets me closer to the last series of work I did in Construct. It takes me closer to a place I’m more and more fascinated with and that’s working with raw artist material. The painting canvas for me reverberates with one very strong message and that’s a personal desire to diversify my process. I work in photography. I think of myself as an artist, but I’m usually referred to as a photographer. I find that annoying. It’s childish, but photography is a medium. I’m more interested in the conceptual power of photography as a tool, or as a medium to simply record other forms or creating. So in this convoluted way the canvas represents my struggle with my own perceptions of me. It’s personal.
The photographic backdrop is working even better for a ton of reasons. This background works to tie this series into my last work in the Construct series. By using this photographic backdrop as the cloth that covers me for the Shrouded self-portraits I’m directly referencing the process and material of photography. In this way the pieces using this material meanings are compounded. Here I can continue my exploration into artist material themselves. I’m probably not explaining it very well. I’ll leave it at that and continue when I’ve thought about how to word it more clearly.
Finally the most recent image in this series is the headshot. The material here is borrowed from my spouse, and it’s simply packing material from some delivery she received. This has opened the door to trying similar materials and specifically very thin sheets of copper or brass or aluminum thats I am sourcing now.
In my youth I dabbled in the theatre. I was in a few productions that I would call serious drama. There was a one act play and The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter. I was so enamoured with acting that I wrote a letter to Harold Pinter and actually got an answer. Unfortunately I’m not overly sentimental and I never kept the letter. I would love to see what I wrote. This remembering is part of the work in Shrouded. I was also into dance back then, thinking it would make me a serious and rounded actor. I was almost as pretentious then as I am now. Lately I’ve started reading the letters of Samuel Becket and have a renewed interest in performing. Shrouded has the added attraction that although I may be “acting” or “dancing” under the covering, nobody can really tell and my inhibitions and self consciousness are eliminated. Finally in conjunction with drama and dance, I’m increasing interested in fashion. The Rei Kawakubo, Comme des Garçons show at the Met resonated with me, and frankly I’ve become a bit of clothes horse in my middle age.
Shrouded also introduces the figure to my work for the first time/. Up until now I’ve consciously omitted the human form in anything I’ve done. Opting instead to insinuate humanity by including objects and materials created by humanity.
This post is in danger of becoming super-long so end without explaining everything I’m thinking about. Without going into detail there are also influences or aspects of surrealism, emotion, sculpture, racism, androgyny and other things in Shrouded. For me it’s taking shape as an important step in my development and in an exploration of myself. Although this is personal I’m hoping that aesthetically Shrouded it will resonate with an audience and engage them in their own interesting discourse, no matter what the work may mean or is starting to mean to me.