Rebecca Bird Paints the Explosion

March 30, 2009

I walk into Paul Kopeikin’s new gallery in West Hollywood and what do I see? I see the fantasies (realities?) of Iran and North Korea. I see Alan Greenspan’s testimony that he found a “a flaw in the model … that defines how the world works.” I see the value of my pension plan. I see the image everywhere I go, reflected in everyone’s shiny pupils. It’s as if it’s coming from inside them. I see the paintings of Rebecca Bird.

Rebecca Bird, Untitled, watercolor on paper: 12″ x 12″, Courtesy Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

In her current show, “Everything that Ever Existed Still Exists,” Bird delicately — even preciously — petrifies images of infamous nuclear explosions in paint. The names of the locations are erased, leaving the images just as anonymous as those civilian victims of the bombs or testing sites. While some of the clouds are recognizable, Bird’s interpretation of these events captures peacefulness and tragedy, past and present, personal and global, all at once. The show, curated by Fette, one of my favorite art bloggers, runs through April 18, 2009.
Rebecca Bird, Tree, watercolor on paper, Courtesy Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

Kimberly Brooks: Aside from picking up any newspaper lately, what was the inspiration behind this body of work?
Rebecca Bird: The impetus for my work usually comes from seeing something surprising, which leads to an inquiry. In this case the moment of surprise happened at New York Public Library picture collection, where I found a group of government photos from the National Archive of nuclear bomb tests.

From the national archive of nuclear bomb tests.

At the time, I was trying to create a visual representation of what an internalized trauma might look like, something hard to explain to anyone who hadn’t experienced it. I was looking for imagery that was violent or explosive. I had started working with the subject of explosions very generally. When I first saw these photographs of nuclear bomb tests I realized they had the same barriers to comprehension as any violent event seen from the outside. I felt like I was both the person who is unable to convey their own subjective experience, and the person who can’t understand it based on what they see.

Rebecca Bird, Small Problems Obscuring Big Problems, 2006, watercolor on paper, 26 1/2″ x 39″
Courtesy Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

KB: I’ve always found the images eerily beautiful too. Where does the title of the show, “Everything That Ever Existed Still Exists,” come from?
RB: There are two strains of content in the work, one which is about pain on a personal level, and one that is about tragic historic events. Using nuclear explosions as a metaphor for any smaller event is inherently out of proportion, but the lack of proportion is in turn a perfect metaphor for an event which ultimately cannot be measured or communicated. The removal of any indicators of scale or context from the images is important for this reason; the images could be enormous, or microscopic, or happening inside of you.
Everything about how these pictures are painted emphasizes the distance between seeing the images and understanding what they are of; they are hugely destructive explosions, but rendered in precise watercolor. The cool, watery pastel colors are beautiful or nostalgic, and the images are above all very still. It suggests that something can happen very quickly and yet happen forever.

Rebecca Bird, Omega, 2005, watercolor on paper, 38″ x 50″, Courtesy Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

KB: The work looks very layered and detailed. Describe your process of working.
RB: I work very close to the subject that I am painting, often with the object I am painting resting on the page as I work. I start from one end and go to the other, I put in one detail at a time: this means that I am never looking at the whole picture as I work, always at one tiny part of it. In these paintings I go through a process of examining every grain of the photograph without grasping the event pictured as a whole. There is something organic about the way the image grow on the page.

Rebecca Bird, P H, 2007, watercolor on paper, 30″ x 43 1/2″, Courtesy Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles

KB: Did you ever feel guilty about painting a devastating historical event in a way that is both beautiful and also personal?
RB: I am always confused when I see news photos of wars and disasters – does seeing a picture of a distant tragedy allow me to empathize with its victims, or does the shock actually numb my response? Given that these events are the sum of many smaller personal tragedies, is it even possible to empathize with every other person? You end up defining suffering in terms of numbers, and scale. Seeing includes a whole range of emotions including guilt. In the face of these events does any single person still matter, whether a victim or an observer?

In these paintings, I want to emphasize the distance between seeing and understanding. When using historical images — of the atomic cloud over Nagasaki or the attack on Pearl Harbor — the “name” of the event is not in the title, because giving something a name is another way of not going into the detail of what it means. There is no image that can lead to understanding.

KB: Is there a work of art that inspires you?
RB: This work was influenced by the use of explosions in movies and comic books to symbolize or simulate catharsis, particularly Katsuhiro Otomo’s epic manga and anime “Akira.” In “Akira,” the end of the known world is mirrored by, and brought about by, the gradual loss of sanity of a teenage boy. The gorgeous, monumental destruction of the climactic sequences are a perfectly overblown metaphor for self-absorbed pain.

Katsuhiro Otomo, from the comic book “Akira”, copyright Kodansha Ltd. Tokyo/ New York.

Rebecca Bird graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art in 2000. While a student she received the Ellen Battelle-Stoeckel Fellowship to the Yale Norfolk Summer School in painting. Immediately after graduating she was awarded a Fulbright to study traditional painting techniques in Kanazawa, Japan. She spent one year in Japan before settling in Brooklyn, NY. She has had work in solo and group shows in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Luzern, Kanazawa, and Beijing. Her solo exhibition “Everything that ever existed still exists” at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles runs from March 14 – April 18, 2009.

Dancing With Divorced Men: Allison Kaufman

March 23, 2009

My parents divorced when I was fourteen and I used to play evil tricks on my father for the years he was dating and I still lived at home. When a woman called and said “Is Lenny there?” I would say in the sexiest voice “No, I’m sorry, he’s busy right now” then whisper, ‘Stop it!'” then giggle and hang up. During high school, I often accompanied him to the symphony or an art show, and on more than one occasion he would have to explain that no, I was his daughter and not his date. My parents divorce was probably one of the most significant and difficult experiences of my life. Any one who has also been through a divorce would probably agree. It was even the topic of one of my first art shows. Until both my parents remarried, I always felt a bit uneasy until they settled down, as if I were the parents of wayward high school grads who hadn’t applied to college.

When I attended the Miami Basel fair this last winter, I walked by a booth that had a video showing an attractive young woman dancing in a living room of an apartment with a man. The clip would then jump to the same woman dancing with another man, then another. At first glance, I thought I was looking at an engagement announcement. There’s a happy couple surrounded by wedding photos. On closer inspection, it was evident that they didn’t look very comfortable together. And in reality, the couple in Kaufman’s “Divorced Men” series isn’t really a couple a couple at all. After Kaufman’s parents got divorced, Kaufman began to explore the void that is left when someone is removed from a relationship–both emotionally and physically in the sense that there is a real void in the emotional and physical space of the home.

Allison Kaufman, “From the Divorced Men Series III”, C-print, 16″ x 20″, A4.

In the “Divorced Men Series,” Kaufman traveled into divorced men’s homes and took portraits with them and danced with them. In the hours of their meetings, they opened up to one another. In the process of taking the portraits and filming the dancing, Kaufman taps into the emotional vulnerability found not just with the divorced men, but also with the artist and men’s mutual desire to explore a human connection. I find the work both humorous and deeply explorative and touching.

Allison Kaufman, “From the Divorced Men Series I”, C-print, 16″ x 20″, A2.

Kimberly Brooks: What was your inspiration behind this project? There are so many facets of experiencing divorce, was there a moment when it occured to you to make divorced men your focus?
Allison Kaufman: Visiting my newly-single father’s apartment for the first time was a very significant experience for me, one of many that led me to an artistic investigation of divorced middle-aged men, a demographic I am still working with. It’s very strange to visit the home of a newly-divorced parent and see what they choose to surround themselves with when they are living on their own for the first time in a long time, or possibly ever. Experiencing a major change, particularly in mid-life, necessitates forming a new identity to some degree. Vulnerability, disappointment, and hope, among many other things, are all part of that process and are emotions I’m fascinated with, both in my subjects and myself. In my work, I’ve been interested in the domestic–and its promises and failures–as a site of inquiry for quite some time, and seeing men navigate what is considered a predominately female domain is particularly poignant. The willingness of strangers to participate in the project and be documented in their homes reflected their desire for a sense of connection, something I was certainly looking for from this population for myself and what I believe the work ultimately is about.


KB: When I found out the concept behind the work, I saw you as taking the place of a phantom limb; as if you were proxy-wife/girlfriend or daughter filling in the void for that instant. What did you take away from the experience of working with these men?

AK: While working with divorced men, I came to realize that the most potent part of our exchange was the temporary relationship that developed during our shoots, which usually only last a few hours. I wanted to record this in some fashion, and to literally make myself part of the work, vulnerable alongside the subject and forced to negotiate issues of persona and performance inherent in all photo/ video. I asked the men to choose a song and style of dancing and I essentially followed their lead, creating an appropriate female counterpart from their cues, and made “Dancing with Divorced Men”.

The project is about the need for human interaction, the search for it and the insecurities around it, in an increasingly cyber-connected yet emotionally disconnected world. For just a few hours, I offer these men the opportunity for human connection and the possibility of feeling a sense of hopefulness, healing and forgiving that I, too, am looking for. Reflecting on the voids existing in my own relationship with my father, interacting with men that function as a surrogate allows me a sense of healing in some way. I realize that the act of meeting these men and dancing with them will not always or entirely fill my desires or theirs, and it is perhaps the tenderness in trying to do so, and the potential for the success or failure of the connection that I am interested in, for it mimics the potential success and failure of all of our most intimate relationships.

LEFT: Allison Kaufman, “From the Divorced Men Series II”, C-print, 16″ x 20″, A3; RIGHT: “From the Divorced Men Series IV”, C-print, 16″ x 20″

KB: How did the focus on divorced men take it’s form for you? How did it evolve as you got more deeply into it?

AK: I think like most artists, my process is conscious and subconscious simultaneously. Ideas and insights come from in-depth conversations and critiques with fellow artists and friends, and also arise at completely unforeseen, random moments when I’m in the middle of something I would think is unrelated. My work usually evolves over a long period of time and I try to look at a project from many angles–where I start is not very often where I end. I use the camera as a way of sketching, I suppose. When I need to feel creative and active I’m out with my camera making initial investigations into topics, and as I narrow my vision to what is most potent, I return with the equipment that seems most appropriate for that particular project.

KB: Is there a work of art that inspires you or that inspired this project?

AK: I’m drawn to a number of works, undertaken mostly by women, where artists form temporary relationships with strangers and attempt to illicit a genuine, emotional reaction. The pieces often use a relatively simple and sometimes light, or even humorous, structure that still seems to speak of complex issues of connection and loneliness. Prior to making “Dancing with Divorced Men” I was looking at a lot of this work and had not yet realized that this particular investigation of mine could function in that way. Examples of these artists and works are Gillian Wearing’s “Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say And Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say”, Shizuka Yokomizo’s “Strangers” series, and the video piece “Karaoke Wrong Number” by Rachel Perry Welty. All of these works deal with issues of the public versus private, our need to be seen or understood in some way, and our willingness to engage with strangers as a means of connection.

Gillian Wearing, “Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say And Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say”, 1992-93.
Images found at Tate Collection, courtesy of Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

Allison Kaufman is a photo and video artist living in New York City. She received her BFA in Film and Television Production from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2000 and her MFA in Photography, Video, and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts in 2008. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States at the Aqua Miami and Affordable Art Fairs, Broadway Gallery, ZONE: Chelsea Center for the Arts, Artists Space, and Brooklyn Borough Hall, as well as Galerie Scherer8 in Berlin. Kaufman is the recipient of the Paula Rhodes Memorial Award and an Alumni Scholarship Award from the School of Visual Arts and has been an artist-in-residence at the Constance Saltonstall Foundation of the Arts and Penland School of Crafts. She has taught at a variety of institutions and is currently an adjunct professor at Berkeley College. Updates on Kaufman’s work and exhibitions can be found at

America Still Screams: Paintings by Liz Marcus

March 16, 2009

I didn’t expect to laugh as hard as I did when I watched Will Farrell’s “Your Welcome, America” this Saturday night featuring himself as George Bush. It felt great.

It is almost the sixth anniversary of the start of shock and awe campaign of the Iraq war this Friday. I’ll always remember that because it happened on my birthday. And that day in my studio I just sat in front of a huge canvas and painted the word “war” with a blog sloppy dripping paint brush and left early. For pretty much all the artists I know, with their antennaes out there blowing in the wind, it was impossible to not let the war– everything–all seep into our thoughts and work. It was also almost impossible for me not to write about the election and view art in terms of of politics and what was going on in the world.

When Obama got elected, I felt as if my mother finally kicked the abusive stepfather out of the house and started dating a cool new guy that I actually liked. I still can’t quite believe that they live together, let alone got married. Yet in spite of finally feeling freed from the last administration and the politics leading up to its ouster, I welcome any kind of therapy I can lay my eyes on. So in addition to laughing at Will Farrell’s rendition of 43, I was just as relieved to discover the works of Brooklyn-based artist Liz Markus.

?Liz Markus, American Scream, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 inches, Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery

With rapid brush strokes and streaking paint, Markus creates images that bring humor and light to sensitive and charged subjects. Her restrained use of saturated primary colors prevents these images from being too candy-hued-psychedelic, and are instead bold and resonating. She pours paint onto her canvas and lightly controls the flow of the colors, resulting in haunting images that make us think we are sure of what we are looking at…or not. We wonder, “Have I seen this portrait before?” “My G-d, is that Nancy Reagan?” Calling images stored in our subconscious to the forefront, Markus engages viewers in an interplay between memories of the past and present, fact and fiction. You can catch her upcoming solo show at ZieherSmith’s New York gallery from March 19 to April 18, 2009.

Liz Markus’ moments of desperation and inspiration: George W. Bush and Markus’ Green Hippie, 2004

Kimberly Brooks: What was the single moment that led to this body of work?
Liz Markus: During the 2004 presidential election I would get up at 6am everyday and paint on paper in a very stream of conscious way while listening to Air America. As I became increasingly frustrated by the Bush administration as well as the corporate office job I still had, a hippie appeared in my work. It was an image that immediately resonated with me. It represented freedom, rebellion, down to earth values, in short everything that I wasn’t seeing or experiencing around me. This moment was the beginning of a very rich vein that completely took over my studio for the next three years. I was interested in the arc of the hippie experience, from innocence and optimism through psychedelia to the Manson murders, Vietnam and drug burnout. I imagined a burnt out hippie wandering around in Mexico with his motorcycle and painted those subjects in somewhat abstracted ways.

Liz Markus, Nancy 4, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 inches, Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery

KB: I think I met that hippie several times over. Definitely while growing up in Marin County and attending UC Berkeley. I think he lives in a lot of us. What inspired you to paint Nancy Reagan?
LM: Too young for a first hand experience of the 60’s, I was 13 when Reagan took office. My knowledge of Nancy Reagan was limited to her penchant for red Bob Mackey dresses, her just say no anti-drug campaign, and the obvious power she held in the white house. My parents ingrained in me a distaste for the Reagan administration but I didn’t think much more about Nancy until I came across a classic photo of her in Vanity Fair several years ago. I knew immediately that I needed to paint her, there was something about her face that was compelling to me. Initially I had hoped that she wouldn’t read as Nancy but as a generic WASP-y woman of that era. Nope. Everyone always knew she was Nancy. I’ve painted her many times and wondered why I have this attraction to her image. Looking back at Nancy now, I still absolutely dislike her politics and think she must be very tightly wound up inside. However, I can see that she was a strong and powerful woman in a time when there weren’t a lot of Hillary Clintons or Michelle Obamas around. She fascinates me.

Liz Markus, All These Things Were Way Beyond My Mind, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 72 inches, Courtesy of ZieherSmith Gallery

KB: How do you create your canvases, what is your process?
LM: I stain unprimed canvas with acrylic paint. They are often on the floor while I paint. I use brushes at times, but I often pour the paint on directly and tilt the canvas to control the movement and flow. The thing I really love about staining is the reliance on chance. I can control the paint to a certain extent, but as the paint is very fluid and seeps quickly into the cotton fabric, it does it’s own thing, as well. So there is always a wonderful but also anxious moment during the process while I wait to see how my intentions and fate interact to make the final image.

Liz Markus, Failed Target 1, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

KB: You’ve talked about the Hippies and the Nancy Reagans, but what about the other subjects that appear in your work, like Noland targets, taxidermy, Johnny Rotten and oranges, for example?

LM: It’s hard to describe in words, but visually, it all makes sense and I think that is an important point. I paint because I am expressing things that cannot be simply explained on a verbal level, I wouldn’t have to paint them if that wasn’t true. That said, I think the Noland targets reflect an intense interest in the cannon of modern painting. On a different note, I associate taxidermy with the classic WASPy interior. The stuffed animals had an uncanny resemblance to the residents of the houses and began to act as surrogates for them in my paintings. Johnny Rotten and oranges, well, I just thought they would be cool to paint.

KB: Is there a particular work of art that inspires you?

LM: I have always been a huge fan of art history and it has played an important role in my development as an artist. I grew up in Buffalo going to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and its strong collection of Abstract Expressionist painting is what originally inspired me to be an artist. De Kooning continues to inspire me. The attraction/repulsion he has for his subject in his women series reminds me of how I feel about Nancy. To me he is the ultimate painter.

Willem de Kooning, Woman V, 1952-53, National Gallery of Australia

Liz Markus is based in Brooklyn, New York. She received an MFA from Tyler School of Art and a BFA from School of Visual Arts. Her second solo show at ZieherSmith’s New York gallery will take place from March 19 to April 18, 2009. Her work will also be included in **ckheads: Portraiture for the Silicon Enlightenment, curated by Angela Dufresne, SCA Contemporary, Albuquerque later this year. Her exhibition history includes a solo exhibition at Galleri Loyal, Stockholm and recent group shows at Gallerie Opdahl, Stavinger, Norway; James Graham & Sons, New York; and Werkstatte, New York among others. Her work is regularly shown at various international art fairs including NADA, Miami; Zoo, London; and MACO, Mexico City.
Artist Liz Markus

Facebook and The Death of Mystery

March 2, 2009

I received an email recently notifying me that I was “tagged” in a facebook entry called “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me” from an old friend. We actually went on a few dates many many years ago and I haven’t seen him in about three years, but we’ve remained friends. Curious, I clicked on the link and learned twenty five things about him I never knew, like the rest of his four hundred friends. He’s a very witty guy, so it wasn’t quite like “I like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain,” but in another way, it was oddly close. By tagging me he was requesting, or essentially daring me, along with the other nine friends he had tagged, to do the same thing. I impulsively started to do it and then never posted anything

My facebook life started off about a year and a half ago with friends and people I know closely, then my family started dribbling in, and the next thing I knew my friends included that person from a job I had ten years ago, students I’ve taught at art school, that really weird guy from high school, and an old roommate in college… and on and on it continued. That was the first sign of “friend leakage”, where I had expanded beyond the scope of intimate friends and was venturing into people outside of my circle, but usually by only a few degrees — at least I knew them.
Then things started getting out of hand. It started with a friend who is a supreme animal rights crusader with a very sexy, come-hither thumbnail picture. I haven’t seen her in years but she wrote a book and is semi-famous for the cause, so because of her, I have about one hundred extra friends. I know this because when someone requests that they be my friend in Facebook, I can see all the friends we have in common. I kept seeing this one friend, and then I realized I had become a part of the save the animals movement because our mutual friends kept including the friends I had met through her. Honestly, I started to get a little loose about whom I would “friend”– that’s right, Facebook made me feel promiscuous– I would wait then say, “Oh what the hell, after all, we have mutual friends.” It was then when I truly appreciated the fractal component of the friending process.

“The Facebook Friending Process” (Illustration courtesy of Mandelbrot)

When I joined initially, I saw in Facebook something that resembled the early days of AOL when people were giddy about first sending emails and buddy lists and instant messaging were all the rage. Unlike many other people, who put videos of their kid’s first step, pictures from their recent barbecue and the details of their love life (options are “single”, “in a relationship”, “married” and “it’s complicated”), I try not to reveal too much — at least I don’t think I do — but even that’s getting blurry. At some point I must have made the decision that because I am an artist, my work is something I want and need to share, and I think of Facebook as one of many tools to do that. I’ve also come to consider one’s digital footprint to be, in a sense, another form of existence outside of the physical body. And it’s scope and appearance needs to be tended to so that it compositionally represents the portrait you want to present to the outside world.

But what struck me as so odd about the request for 25 secret things about me was I instantly envisioned that I could be creating a white paper on my entire spiritual, intellectual and life DNA. Imagine getting friended by someone who you’ve been set up with on a date, and he goes on your site to read what would ordinarily be doled out like pearls rolling down a pillow after an intimate evening over months or years of getting to know each other. If you fully fill out the profile questionnaire, you could let someone know every movie or favorite song you like, your favorite hobby and, along with your photos, video and baby pictures, it would read like a map of your very essence.

Kimberly Brooks. Detail from “Delivery” Oil on Panel. 2004

Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed that Amazon would close Cody’s Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, along with countless other independent bookstores; that I’d see a “going out of business” sign at the Tower Records down the hill; that bloggers and aggregators would somehow supplant (usurp?) journalists for news sources and that the New York Times (The New York Times!) would mortgage it’s building to stay alive.

I cannot help but to cast my mind forward. My ten year old son started a blog while we were at a dinner party. Now he wants to spend hours gathering cool content for it to show his friends. When he’s not begging me for a phone, it’s for me to blog about his blog so he can get a bigger audience. I wonder what they will call the generation who grows up with all this. I believe Time Magazine called mine “X” because it was right after the baby boomers and we hadn’t defined ourselves yet (well, we showed them). Then came “Generation Y” because it was after us. I would rename this one Generation “E” for “Exhibitionist”, (we can throw in “Exposure” and “Electronic” while we’re at it.) These social networking applications are grafted onto their gray matter and perhaps they might never know what mystery is. They’ll google or “friend” every classmate, teacher, co-worker, boss and know everything there is to know about that person. There will be no more boundary between “personal” and “professional”. Everyone will engage in wanton fractal friending and be connected with each other and Kevin Bacon. Maybe, if everybody becomes friends, this is how we will achieve Peace on Earth!

My husband is not on Facebook. I’m kind of jealous. He talks to a small group of people one-on-one via email. Because at the end of the day, and I mean that quite literally, Facebook has become another inbox for me to check. Maybe it’s because I always want to be mysterious or that as an artist, like Greta Garbo, “I just vant to be alone.”

Michelle Obama’s New White House Portrait

March 1, 2009

The White House revealed the new official White House Portrait of Michelle Obama today. I’m working on a series of portraits right now and am obsessed with the subject. Even though I love her signature bare arms, I found the blue curtain exploding directly above the center of her head a curious choice of composition, as well as the white rose blocking her hand.

Michelle Obama Portrait

It reminded of John Baldessari’s “Wrong”, a photograph he made in response to a photography book telling would be artists that strong vertical design elements sprouting from people’s heads in a photograph or painting is wrong.
John Baldessari, “Wrong”
While he was surely mocking the idea of there being a “right” when you make art, I think this White House photographer needs a spanking.

Vee Speer’s Birthday Party- Bring Balloons!

February 6, 2009

“When I have something to say that is too difficult for adults, I write for children. They have not closed the shutters. They like it when you rock the boat.” – Madeline L’Engle

During a time when we are passing bills the size of mountains that our children and children’s children will have to pay, the haunting work of photographer Vee Speers seems doubly fresh as well as beautiful. Celebratory children in costumed dresses, beehive hairdos, and wings along with images of children in gas masks and silent pleading looks on their are starkly celebrated on a plain backrop. The washed out photos appear aged and recall a sense of timelessness, that makes them feel removed, but haunting nonetheless.

With these photographs (her daughter mostly) at play or war, Speers invites the viewer to celebrate and experience as a child. We dress up in costumes, we laugh, we cry and we remember what it is like to live in a complicated time with explanations that do not always make sense. With grace and quiet simplicity, we are invited to play “make-believe” and explore Speers’ heightened reality. And just like children, we like it when she serves up the unexpected, whether playful or dire. She has two upcoming shows, one starting tonite at Act2galerie in Paris, Feb 6 – April 10, and Jackson Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta February 13th – March 28th.

?Vee Speers, Untitled #1, Cibachrome prints, 20″ x 24″

Kimberly Brooks: Your images are at once playful and disturbing. What was the seed of inspiration for these photographs?
Vee Speers: During my daughter’s 8th birthday party in Paris a few years ago, I closely observed the dynamics between the children, and the various levels of role-playing. It reminded me of my own childhood, and that anarchy and freedom of expression. I realized that as we grow older, we lose that sense of play and spontaneity so I decided to capture the last moments of childhood with an imaginary party.

Vee Speers, Untitled #2, Cibachrome prints, 20″ x 24″, 2007

KB: I was fascinated to learn that a majority of your photos was your daughter. My mother is a psychologist and her dissertation was “Successful Women and Their Female Mentors.” I grew up with her writing it and interviewing women as she got her Ph.D. She was the inspiration for my “Mom’s Friends” Series where I made paintings of my mother and her friends in the 70s. How did your mother inspire you?

VS: My mother was a singer, and we grew up watching her sing in public, so it seemed obvious that I should include an image of my daughter–who also sings–performing. For me, this photo is very poignant, as it captures the nostalgia of my own childhood. I photographed my daughter blowing a bubble with her hands as this particular image expresses creation, and captures the essence of “The Birthday Party.”

Vee Speers, Untitled #3, Cibachrome prints, 20″ x 24″, 2007

KB: Some of your works have a darker undertone than children at play as in “The Birthday Party” series. What about the images of your daughter wearing the nurses costume or gas mask?
VS: My daughter dressed as a nurse and holding a broken, dirty doll that was inspired by a scene from the war in Lebanon. I have used many symbols of war in this series (the child with gas mask is another) because we are exposed to the repercussions of war in everyday life, and sadly our children are also affected by this.

Vee Speers, Untitled #4, Cibachrome prints, 20″ x 24″, 2007

KB: So, then do you consider your works politically oriented or is it more so about the viewer’s response?
VS: I like to evoke an immediate response that triggers off an emotion or memory, and perhaps more precisely a kind of empathy with the character I’ve created.
Vee Speers, Untitled #5, Cibachrome prints, 20″ x 24″, 2007

KB: Tell us a little about your process.
VS: My work process is a very normal process–no magic tricks or ‘routines’. I keep everything simple, and work as quickly as possible so that I maintain the energy of the moment. Taking forever to take a portrait is a recipe for disaster. And in the case of “The Birthday Party,” the children wouldn’t hold the positions for long so I always had to work fast.

KB: Has one particular artist or genre of art influenced your work?
VS: Not one artist in particular–I have a broad appreciation of art, although I am particularly inspired by the cinema, and am a big fan of directors such as David Lynch and Peter Greenaway.

LEFT: Lost Highway Film Poster, Written and Directed by David Lynch, 1997.
RIGHT: Drowning By Numbers Film Poster, Written and Directed by Peter Greenaway, 1988.

KB: Goodluck with your opening this weekend. Give Paris a french kiss for me.
Vee Speers was born in Australia and has been living in Paris since 1990. Her portraits have been exhibited and published world-wide and are part of important private and public collections. Speers’s most recent work The Birthday Party, is a series of short stories linked by the theme of an imaginary birthday party. The concept is very streamlined and simple, as are the visuals–lone children against the same gray wall staring openly at the camera, the elements working together to create these timeless portraits. Speers is represented by: Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, Galerie Beckers, Frankfurt. Acte2galerie, Paris.

Artist Vee Speers

Sarah Palin First Impressions

August 29, 2008

Before I had even a moment to recover from the history making of last night and Obama’s incredible speech, my cup overfloweth with excitement about McCain’s vice presidential announcement this morning, a visual bonanza! So much to see, so much to chew on, I don’t even know where to begin!
I will try not to dwell about lame TV producers of McCain’s announcement this morning.. God knows what screens to the left and side of his head that made everyone behind him look like they were either shifty or channeling Ramtha. Nor McCain, whose peeps can’t get it together to use a teleprompter and look us in the eye. (Hello, McCain.. there’s new technology out there…Google much?) Today’s on screen gaffe was almost as bad as when Hilary had every member of the Clinton administration standing behind her when she was defeated in Iowa vs. Obama’s endless sea of admiring smiling faces.
Nor am I going to talk about the fact that Sarah Palin just plunked out a baby IN APRIL. This is the profile of pro-life “my friends”. How about being a pro-mother? I know people make babies and go back to work. I am one. But this ain’t no nine to five job. This is the vice president of the the United states whose running mate had cancer and just turned seventy two today. I can’t wait to see the debates and know she’s lactating and has cheerios in the bottom of her purse.
What I really want to talk about is her hair. Can someone please get this woman to a SuperCuts? What is that thing on her head? I admit, I am completely jealous of her flawless Linda Carter Skin. And I fully expect her to take out that plastic hair clip, pull off her glasses, rip off her blazer to reveal either Wonder Woman or Demi Moore in Disclosure. But the hair has GOT TO GO.

Story continues below

The choice is such a transparent attempt to get the Hillary votes. Some said that when Obama chose Biden, it was a sign of the party’s feeling Obama’s weakness on his foreign policy experience, but this is far more dramatic and cynical. No offense to older men, but sometimes they make bold moves just to let us (and themselves) know they’re still alive. I think this is the case with the with the Republican Party in general. Hey, let’s start another war!
She’ll probably do well in the debates. She’s likable, women rule in general and she’ll be underestimated. Having never seen nor heard of her before except her speech just now, even I like her…for PTA president. As a former Hillary supporter, I have to admit, the first thought when I saw Joe Biden up there with Obama, was “Darn… There’s no more girls up there.” While I love seeing a woman in the fray, this is indeed an unusual pick. I just learned that she’s a die-hard creationist. Can you imagine? Someone a heart beat away from the presidency who doesn’t believe in science? I’m dumbstruck.
All I know is that I’m more excited about television watching this fall than when Mel Gibson got outed as an anti-semite or when Rielle Hunter curiously declined to get her infant’s cheek swabbed (DNA test) twelve hours after John Edwards offered a paternity test to prove that he wasn’t screwing around on his wife. This is going to be the gift that just keeps on giving.
Don’t touch that remote.