Image x Image || "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"

A giant part of my life is comprised of answering questions, and many come concerning my artwork. Questions range from what one might consider as normal to really, crazy-out-there. The truth is that I really like answering these questions and having a dialogue about my work as well as most art-related topics, and it's pretty common knowledge that I can be a relentless questioner myself.

Keeping that in mind and paralleling my goal of writing more frequently and about differing topics, I've decided to blog about images or work that I am asked about often, so "Image x Image" seems appropriate, kinda like an old school Behind the Music/VH1 type thing except with some of my single images.  My work is absolutely connected to stories, storytelling, and so much learning - so many lessons. So many areas of art have been valuable to me: my English major coursework and the intensive study of literature and writing that went along with it and the continual practice of it. My English teaching part of life. My music obsession. Film. Photography and all visual art. Especially throughout the last three years though, talking about it and analyzing it has helped to open what I already thought was an open mind, has taught me about people, has helped ground me when not much else can, and has helped connect me to people and experiences, both wonderful and horrible, and I am grateful to have it all in my life. It has, at times, literally become a life-saver.

In light of all that, one image I field questions and comments about often is from The Yellow Glove Series and is a part what I see as the pared down narrative body: "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." 

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" | The Yellow Glove Series| 2016 

This bad boy right here: I get all kinds of interesting feedback on it. But I will address that as I incorporate what I can tell you about the image itself.

First, a lot went into the thinking and creation of images from this body of work. It was a true collaborative effort between Sam, who is the female (but actually male, yes) model and myself. Sam is amazing as an artist AND actor, which I think is quite obvious. This was a chance for him to showcase his passion for both things, and I cannot say enough about how incredible his artistic ability is. Some of the ideas for the shoots were more spontaneous than others, but at times we did sit down and brainstorm what scenarios we wanted to depict. The shoot that resulted in this image and a few others is one that was planned down to the clothes and props, location, the "husband," and the vignettes combined with the narrative itself.

One thing I do before a shoot like this involving models is to scout out locations for safety, the likelihood of getting into trouble if permission isn't exactly secured (which I am obviously tremendously careful about, but nothing is 100%), etc. I usually have a place in mind and fall in love with the idea of it, but sometimes I do have enough common sense and good judgement to decide it won't work. Usually heartbreakingly for me though. Not so with this place. I found it about 3 months before the shoot, just by keeping my eyes open and looking, and went through it very carefully. Because it was a home that had been partially destroyed from a fire, I was worried about the safety of the structure. Really, besides the smoke damage and the entire missing SIDE of the house, it was pretty safe, as far as being structurally sound, at least on the floors. The place had the feeling I was needing for this shoot, which was imperative. It is never a happy thing to see how a family's home, and obviously here a large part of their life, was destroyed by fire. But the message from this part of the narrative was obviously a little dark and the setting needed to fit. 

This brings me to the first couple of comments I usually hear concerning this image.

First: "Lisa, for some reason I love this one but it makes me feel uncomfortable."

Well good. It's supposed to! And it's supposed to make you think. A lot, hopefully.

Also: "Well. This is intense." 

It is. And shouldn't it be?  Isn't a situation where a husband is blowing cigarette smoke in his wife's face supposed to be intense? Yes. And yeah, it should make your skin crawl a little. Sam and Riley, who played the husband, did a fantastic job getting into character.

But we also had FUN during this shoot. I remember it as one of the best that we had overall because of the planning we did, the people who helped (Aubrey, Maggie, and Nikki!) the donuts and coffee we brought along and ate afterward, Riley's Pall Malls - for the sake of authenticity, of course!, and the weather. It was a little warm for April. I also didn't forget to bring anything along, which was a plus. I do have so many outtakes from many of the Yellow Glove shoots, and some capture some great moments. They really document the entire process, and taking those random photos have made it fun to look back. Case in point, here are a couple:

And so I explored and created some images of things that seemed interesting, figured out the best way to park and unload; all of those things that no one usually thinks much about when seeing the final product. It's hard work, but it's fun work.

From the scouting:

As long as I showed these images of the scouting, another question I get a lot concerns locations. Stuff like, "Hey. That place is incredible looking. What is it? Where is it? Can you take me there?!" 

Sorry, can't tell ya, and no, I definitely can't take you. It might be fun, but it is actually very stressful to bring people to a place when you aren't sure about how they will react to it, or when safety is a concern. This place is gone now anyway. Long gone. It was in McHenry County, and it was half burned down. Actually upstairs, the entire front part was completely missing. So in other words, the light was amazing! Ha.

This shoot resulted in many options as far what I saw as useable pictures, but there are a few in particular that I have singled out and shown, and a two others are some I feel a strong connection and liking towards; maybe a couple of others strike a chord with me too. I shoot more than 1000 images on a shoot like this, and I am happy when I get a few that work for what I am looking for. It's hard to get through them and to choose, but usually if I get 3-4 I feel good a bout working with, I am happy. 

These are shots that I have used in shows, as a part of the narrative itself, or considered using and the vignettes scouted beforehand. I liked for the settings to be used as found for the Yellow Glove shoots, and although we brought props, I didn't alter the places themselves. Because the abandonment is an essential symbolic component of the series, I wanted the settings to be as they were found. 

Vignette for "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"

Vignette used for below images. The pink walls, the chair, and the 1947 had me from the start.

I understand the images from this part of the body may be a little dark. Once a person who I did a some work with, whom I have known for awhile - since high school age - asked me a question a little shyly but honestly. He was curious about where this stuff comes from, like, how are these images becoming things? From me? He just didn't see that within me as a kid when he knew me. And he didn't see me as a "dark person." 

To answer that, I don't think I am necessarily "dark" although I have been called a "pessimist" at times. That's not really it either. I like to say I am realistic. Things happen all the time. And I am  interested in reality. I'm also very interested in the ideas of universality and collective memory and collective consciousness - always, always have been. So the work that I enjoy making - I want it to be important work. Work can be specific, but I do love it when it has a universal aspect so that people, whether I know them or not, can relate in some way to the tone of the work, and especially in The Yellow Glove Series. There IS a serious, and I think, important message there. Some people might understand it as it relates to ME and why I made it better than others, but that doesn't even really matter, and that's what I want. I want it to be something that carries a universality within it so that people, in general, can relate to it, and that relation may be different than another person's way, but no matter what, the feelings associated with and emitted from the work can "get to you" and be recognizable, by many, if not all, who view it. I'm attracted to art like that. So I guess that's one of the main reasons why I try to create it. 

Other shots, largely unused from this shoot:

I also had lots of inspiration from the shoot to experiment with mixed media - mostly image transfer, painting, and stitching. This is something I enjoy doing - working with my hands. These are framed and in my studio as a set of four. 

"Break the Cycle" 

Not all "Image x Image" posts will be this length. But so much came from this image, and because it is the first post of the bunch, it seemed like it needed a little … more. Anyway, thanks for reading!