Sunday, June 30, 2013

Steve McCurry Exhibition - Overwhelmed by Life

US photographer Steve McCurry poses next to his photos of the "Afghan Girl" named Sharbat Gula at the opening of the "Overwhelmed by Life" exhibition of his work at the Museum for Art and Trade in Hamburg, northern Germany on June 27, 2013. The exhibition comprises some 120 photographs taken between 1980 and 2012 in countries such as Afghanistan, the United States, Pakistan, India, Tibet, Kashmir, Cambodia, Indonesia, Burma and Kuwait. AFP PHOTO / DPA / ULRICH PERREY.

Steve McCurry's colour-rich photographs on view at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe

A visitor looks at the works of US photographer Steve McCurry during the opening of the "Overwhelmed by Life" exhibition of his work at the Museum for Art and Trade in Hamburg, northern Germany on June 27, 2013. The exhibition comprises some 120 photographs taken between 1980 and 2012 in countries such as Afghanistan, the United States, Pakistan, India, Tibet, Kashmir, Cambodia, Indonesia, Burma and Kuwait. AFP PHOTO / DPA / ULRICH PERREY.
 HAMBURG.- Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg is showing a comprehensive overview of the colour-rich oeuvre of photo journalist Steve McCurry. The American gained international acclaim in 1979 when he was one of the first to take photographs of the conflict in Afghanistan, which were subsequently published in Time Magazine, the New York Times and Geo magazine. In 1986, this multi-award-winning photographer joined the renowned Magnum Photo agency, which was founded in 1947 by photographic legends such as Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Steve McCurry claims he does not photograph war as such, but rather the “fringes of war”. He takes pictures in crisis areas, aiming his lens at scenes he observes on the fringes of the actual conflict, and at the people and landscapes war leaves in its wake. McCurry documents the wounds of war, disappearing cultures and their traditions, the consequences of globalisation and changes to the fabric of life. He sees himself as a traveller who contemplates the facets of human existence in his work. The exhibition comprises some 120 photographs taken between 1980 and 2012 in countries such as Afghanistan, the United States, Pakistan, India, Tibet, Kashmir, Cambodia, Indonesia, Burma and Kuwait. In addition, ten selected reportages from Geo, National Geographic, Stern and Need magazines are displayed, which demonstrate how the work of a photo journalist is applied.

Although McCurry plans his shots as a series, he succeeds in condensing scenes into individual images so skilfully that they tell entire stories. An example: He shows five women, completely covered by traditional burkas, in front of a market stall in Kabul. Above their heads hang pairs of modern trainers, a symbol of the assimilation of men’s and women’s clothing, of movement, of western mass production. Brought thus together in one picture, they clearly document the clashing of tradition and innovation.

McCurry uses colour as a powerful stylistic device in order to provoke the observer in his war images with the contrast between beauty and the horrors of war. An example of this is the portrait of the Afghan girl that appeared in National Geographic magazine in 1984. The photograph, one of the most widely published images of war, became a symbol of war and its consequences. The girl’s face is Madonna-like; only her sparkling, bright green eyes strike the observer, giving a sense of how much insecurity war has brought to the life of the then 12-year-old. With the combination of colours, McCurry draws the observer’s gaze into the image and emphasizes its symbolic power.

The shades McCurry uses in his work are not limited to countries like India, where colour plays a huge role. In his photographs of China and Bangkok he captures the bright robes of monks, and in Afghanistan oranges stand out in the midst of bleak, war-torn daily life, charging the situation with emotion. McCurry plays with the colour worlds of different cultures, which appear alien and fascinating to travellers as they break away from the sights one is used to seeing. In his photos McCurry skilfully condenses the intensity and forcefulness with which the foreign colours draw the observer in from outside.

In 1984 McCurry was asked to join the renowned Magnum Photo agency. The agency, which counts numerous war reporters among its members, sells images to magazines, publishing houses and museums. In contrast to other agencies, the photographers are not commissioned to produce certain works, but work independently and select their themes for themselves. McCurry’s works published in magazines such as Geo, National Geographic and Time Magazine are also the fruit of this tradition. As a photographer, McCurry aligns himself with Henri Cartier-Bresson, who claimed a photographer should be “always on the alert and ready to jump, decisively, to ‘capture’ life”. As a Magnum photographer, McCurry feels an obligation towards classic documentary photography and thus the truth, i.e., he sees himself as an eye-witness who produces images without manipulation. “If you want to call Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, André Kertész and Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary photographers, then I’d be proud to be called one,” says McCurry.

Steve McCurry was born in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied film and history at Pennsylvania State University in the Arts and Architecture faculty with the aim of becoming a documentary filmmaker. In 1972 he turned his attention to photography. Unlike film, this gave him the chance to be independent, to work without a team and a large budget. His desire to travel and to get to know other worlds and cultures led him to photography. Early on, he expressed his admiration for the works of photographers Brassai, Robert Capa and Diane Arbus. After completing his studies, he worked initially on the local newspaper “Today’s Post”. Having worked independently for some years, he travelled to India and Afghanistan for the first time in 1979. Disguised as a Mujahedeen fighter, he managed to enter into Afghanistan and supplied the first photos of the Afghanistan conflict to the western world, which were subsequently published in the New York Times, Time Magazine and Geo in 1980. McCurry has been awarded various prizes for his work, including the Robert Capa Gold Medal and the National Press Photographers Award.

To see the original article on ArtDaily click HERE

To see the museum exhibition website click HERE.

Please click on Steve McCurry to see more of his work.

 GREENWICH 405 Greenwich Avenue•Greenwich, CT•06830• 203.869.3664 
NEW YORK 15 East 71st Street, Suite 2a•New York, NY• 10021 • 212.570.4696
NANTUCKET 34 Main Street • Nantucket, MA•02554 • 508.325.4405 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ruth Orkin - American Girl in Italy

Originally published in 2011, NBC takes another look at the American Girl in Italy photographed by Ruth Orkin.

At 83, subject of ‘American Girl in Italy’ photo speaks out
By Laura T. Coffey TODAY contributor
6/29/2013 12:57:19 PM +00:00
Ninalee Craig with the photograph American Girl in Italy taken by Ruth Orkin, where she is the subject

You know the photo. You’ve seen it a hundred times. A beautiful, statuesque young woman is walkingdown a street in Florence, Italy. She’s clutching her shawl, and she seems to be moving swiftly. More than a dozen men are staring at her longingly. One of them is grabbing his crotch.

The iconic 1951 image “American Girl in Italy” turns 60 on Monday. As its anniversary approaches, the stunning woman in the photo — Ninalee Craig, now 83 — is speaking up about it. She wants to explain what the photo represents, and what it doesn’t.

“Some people want to use it as a symbol of harassment of women, but that’s what we’ve been fighting all these years,” Craig said in a telephone interview from her home in Toronto. “It’s not a symbol of harassment. It’s a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time!”

Back in 1951, Craig was a carefree 23-year-old who had chucked her job in New York and secured third-class accommodations on a ship bound for Europe. She spent more than six months making her way through France, Spain and Italy all by herself — something very few women did in the years following World War II.

She traveled as inexpensively as she could, so she was thrilled when she found a hotel right on the Arno River in Florence where she could stay for $1 a day. There, she met another adventurous solo female traveler: Ruth Orkin, a 29-year-old photographer who came to Italy after completing an assignment in

“She was living from day to day, nickel-and-diming it,” Craig recalled. “We talked about traveling alone and asked each other, ‘Are you having a hard time? Are you ever bothered?’ We both found that we were having a wonderful time, and only some things were a little difficult.”

In the course of that conversation, an idea was hatched: They would head out together the next morning, wander around Florence and shoot picturesof what it was really like to travel alone as a young single woman.

From about 10 a.m. to noon the following day, Orkin shot photos of Craig — who then called herself “Jinx Allen,” a name she invented and assumed because it sounded “exciting” — admiring statues, asking for directions, haggling at markets and flirting in cafes.

“We were literally horsing around,” Craig said, reminiscing about the bright orange shawl she wore that day.

Orkin captured her famous “American Girl in Italy” photograph during those two hours of silliness and fun. Her contact sheets from that day reveal that she shot only two frames of that particular street scene.

“The big debate about the picture, which everyone always wants to know, is: Was it staged? NO!” Craig said. “No, no, no! You don’t have 15 men in a picture and take just two shots. The men were just there ... The only thing that happened was that Ruth Orkin was wise enough to ask me to turn around and go back and repeat [the walk].”

Orkin died in 1985. Her daughter, Mary Engel, has devoted her life to protecting her mother’s photographic archive and promoting her legacy as a documentary photographer. Engel agreed with Craig’s account of what happened on that August day in Florence, and she added one more contextual detail.

“She told the man on motorcycle to tell the other men not to look at the camera,” said Engel, director of the Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive. “But the composition, it just happened. And my mother got it. That’s what she was good at. ... She didn’t take loads and loads of photos. She waited for shots.”

Of course, a good documentary photograph welcomes viewers into a scene and invites their interpretations. That’s understandable, say Craig and Engel — but both of them
stress the same point about “American Girl in Italy”: The photo is primarily a celebration of strong, independent women who aren’t afraid to live life.

“Men who see the picture always ask me: Was I frightened? Did I need to be protected? Was I upset?” Craig said. “They always have a manly concern for me. Women, on the other hand, look at that picture, and the ones who have become my friends will laugh and say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful? Aren’t the Italians wonderful? ... They make you feel appreciated!’”

Craig said she certainly did feel appreciated in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. She turned plenty of heads wherever she went because she was 6 feet tall and traveling alone. She knows the men in the photo appear to be leering and lascivious, but she insists they were harmless.

“Very few of those men had jobs,” Craig said. “Italy was recovering from the war and had really been devastated by it … I can tell you that it wasn’t the intent of any man there to harass me.”

OK, but how about the man committing that not-so-innocent-looking gesture with his hand?

“That young man is not whistling, by the way; he’s making a happy, yelping sound,” Craig said. “And where you see him touching the family jewels, or indicating them, with his hand — well, for a long time that was considered an image people should not look at. That part was airbrushed out for years ... But none of those men crossed the line at all.”

After she felt ready to end her European tour in 1951 — and after spending less than $1,000 on her entire trip — Craig returned home to New York. She taught school for a time, then got a job writing advertising copy, then married an Italian widower and moved to Milan. That marriage ultimately ended in divorce, so she returned to New York, worked in advertising again, met a Canadian man on a blind date and married him. She first came to Toronto in the 1970s.

Today, she’s a grandmother of 10, a great-grandmother of seven and an avid supporter of Toronto’s arts scene. She’s elated that her friend Ruth Orkin’s photographs and other works are on display at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, in part to honor the 60-year anniversary of the moments Orkin captured on that unforgettable day.

“My life has been wonderful,” Craig said. “I’m ready for more.” 

© 2013

To see more of Ruth Orkin's work go to our website or visit one of the Cavalier Galleries locations.
 GREENWICH 405 Greenwich Avenue•Greenwich, CT•06830• 203.869.3664 
NEW YORK 15 East 71st Street, Suite 2a•New York, NY• 10021 • 212.570.4696
NANTUCKET 34 Main Street • Nantucket, MA•02554 • 508.325.4405 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Donald Martiny - Artist Feature

My interest lies in freeing the gesture from the traditional rectangular shaped support and exploring its potential. Rather than having a painting full of gestures, the gesture itself becomes the painting.
-Donald Martiny

After years of formal study and artistic experimentation, Donald Martiny has created a new medium which successfully challenges our understanding of what is classified as a painting. Having removed the constraints of working on canvas, his free-form paintings encompass gesture, color, and texture, while creating a dialogue within the space in which they are exhibited.   Each of Martiny’s works are auto-biographical as they reflect both his physicality while creating the work, and are also titled with the names of places that have special meaning to him throughout his life.

Please read on for an inside look into the man behind these expressive paintings, as the artist himself offers insight into his process, influences, and inspiration.

How old were you when you decided to be an artist?
Martiny: I decided early on that art was what I wanted to do. I remember when I was five or six years old someone gave me an art instruction kit.  It had a few pencils and a little book on how to draw and paint.  I made copies of the drawings in the book and went around the neighborhood selling them.  A kind neighbor bought a few of them for five cents. Then when I was in the 7th grade I made a series of prints based on drawings I had made of sculptures by Wilhelm Lehmbruck . I took them to a gallery in Saugatuck, a nearby town, and they said, “bring us more of these”. So I had some positive reinforcement early on.

How did your art career start?
Martiny: Frank Stella said in his lecture at the Pratt Institute “there are two problems in painting, one is to find out what a painting is, the other is to find out how to make a painting”.  He is absolutely right and I was determined to learn.  When I was 22, I moved to NYC, with the idea that I’d spend as much time as I could looking at art and learning how to make art.  The first thing I did was I enrolled in classes at the Art Students League where I studied in the academic tradition: anatomy, drawing and oil painting from the figure.  In addition to that I made copies of old master and modern works that I saw in the museums.  One day I attempted to copy a painting by William de Kooning. That was eye opening.  It was far more difficult to copy than I thought it would be.  I was amazed to learn that every gesture, every brush stroke had a job to do. 
The gestures appeared to me to be as dynamic and kinetic as any dance performance.  The application of the paint looked like it was done quickly and freely. He made it look effortless like a talented trapeze artist, but it is not easy.
I made many de Kooning -style paintings and in that process, thought a lot about structure.  I gradually became aware that I was struggling unsuccessfully to resolve the corners and edges of the canvas. I found myself filling in areas around the important gestures, which diminished their strength and integrity. Those limitations began to feel to me like restrictive compromises.   At the same time, I chaffed at the idea of the rectangular shape because of its historical reference to a door or window.  These issues and dynamics are what motivated me to find a new way to experiment with the possibility of shaping my support, or even jettisoning the support altogether.
I knew I needed to find a way to completely free the painting from the ground. 

Who do you think was most influential on your work?
Martiny: When I was in my 20s I worked at Doubleday's bookstore on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York.  I managed the art book department there. A lot of artists used to come and talk with me there because they knew I would do everything I could to get books they wanted even if they were out of print. Among the many artists that visited was Ellsworth Kelly. He was surprisingly generous with his time and patiently answered my questions. Although it was a brief meeting, it was galvanizing because I already revered his work. To quote Kelly, “The form of my work is the content.”   What he was doing was so different and fresh.  His paintings involve the space around them. Unlike traditional rectangular, framed paintings that work more like windows and point in, Kelly’s work is collaborative with everything around it.  They point out.

Can you describe your process and medium?

My process has evolved quite a bit. When I first considered the idea of working freely with forms in my paintings, I tried to use epoxy resins. I had experience working with fiberglass and resins from when I built boats as a summer job while I was in school near Lake Michigan.   

But the resins didn’t work. The paintings were prohibitively heavy and brittle and I couldn’t control the color. Additionally, the materials were hazardous. One time as I was mixing a large batch of resin, I put too much catalyst (MEK) into the mixture and nearly set my studio on fire.

I’ve spent several years talking with chemists all over the world and have made myself a pest with virtually every art materials manufacturer in trying to perfect my paint and process.
I can finally say that I am happy with the materials I am using now. They are safe, water based, light-weight, and I can do just about anything I want in terms of painting. 

In terms of process, I draw and sketch all the time.  I am constantly experimenting with gestures and forms, relationships and color. I usually make small paintings first. I think of them as finished paintings but they also inform the larger works. My large paintings are a huge investment in time, effort and materials.  Some of them consist of 10 to15 gallons of paint.

One part of my studio is set up much like an arena. I paint on the floor walking around the work. I often make brushes out of large floor mops or brooms. The act of painting is much like a dance.

While creating a large painting, I am stretched to the limits of my physicality. The act of painting records my reach at a specific time and place. I suppose one could say, in this way, that my paintings are self-portraits.

Can you describe your relationship with color?
Martiny: Color is both mystical and concrete.  I enjoy the duality between the spiritual search for a transcendental experience and my intent to emphasize the object as a concrete reality rather than an illusion.
My current work is essentially monochrome. I have been working that way because my desire is to create paintings that offer a powerful, unified experience.
By painting in monochrome I avoid creating optical illusions of depth or other illusionistic devices.
Finally, I am not interested in political or social meanings associated with color. 

Is there an influence of nature in your work?
Martiny: My studio has two walls that are pretty much all glass. In the morning and evening hours I can often see deer, eagles and owls. There is an abundance of natural light. These natural surroundings provide a stimulus for my work, however I do not imitate nature. My paintings are not “of” anything. They are inspired by movement, rhythm, time, changing light, color, and mood.

Do you associate memories with any of your works?
Martiny: Many physical memories are imbedded within the process of creating each and every painting.  The creation of each work offers a unique journey for me.  I would say I feel very intimate with these paintings. I definitely look at the paintings and go “oh, I remember that little drop right there”. I remember everything about the making of the paintings. As many as I have made and I can still look at an early work and go “oh, I remember that”. In fact the titles of my paintings up until now have been streets that I have lived or places that I used to visit a lot as a kid. All of the paintings, Drums Road, Chart Hill was the name of the pool that I learned how to swim in. They’re all places that are very important to me growing up. They are not meant to look like those places. Pigeon Lake is not a picture of a lake or the shape of the lake. It’s just something that is meaningful to me and it allows me to give them titles that are autobiographical.

To see his work go to our website or visit one of the Cavalier Galleries locations.
 GREENWICH 405 Greenwich Avenue•Greenwich, CT•06830• 203.869.3664 
NEW YORK 15 East 71st Street, Suite 2a•New York, NY• 10021 • 212.570.4696
NANTUCKET 34 Main Street • Nantucket, MA•02554 • 508.325.4405