artist

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!

The Sam Study

Yeah, I know it's understood that The Yellow Glove Series is the artistic project I devote most of my time to, and that Sam is my muse. But what's not understood is how much time it takes for this guy to transform in to Gigi Goode for these shoots; I'm not even sure I completely understood it. So I decided to do a Sam Study, to go to his house early in the morning on the day of our most recent shoot before he took off for school again and to photograph the progression of the transformation, which is pretty amazing, given that so many people still don't realize that Gigi is actually a man in drag until told because he looks so damn good. 

The Sam Study day ended up being a great shoot day. The image below is one a few that we ended up with by the end of the morning. 

"This Must Be the Place" | The Yellow Glove Series | 2017

"This Must Be the Place" | The Yellow Glove Series | 2017

This photograph is on display at Perspective Gallery in Evanston and also at D & A Salon + Apothecary in Woodstock and is one of my first editioned prints.  People have seemed to like this image a lot, but have had lots of questions about it because Gigi doesn't seem sad or suicidal like usual.  I've even been asked if we are going in a new direction. The answer to that, those of you who wish she would be happy, is NO! Gigi isn't happy. She can't be. She looks ridiculous happy and it doesn't fit the series. It's called "This Must Be the Place" yes, because I thought of the Talking Heads tune, but also because this place is either heaven or a dream for her.  Sorry to disappoint some of you. Ha. 

So, here is the study: from Sam who woke up in the morning to Sam who is Gigi Goode.

1. It takes Sam about 3 hours to get himself ready. That doesn't count the time it takes for him to style and set whatever wig in whatever style Gigi will be wearing for the shoot.  He has to get started early.

2. Sam is ridiculously skilled at applying makeup. Most people who know him already know this, but for those of you who don't, I completely see why girls are jealous that Sam is so good at this.  

3. There aren't any shortcuts for him: fake lashes, curling the fake lashes, perfect eyeliner and mascara, lipstick … everything.

The transformation was already pretty amazing, but hisdressing process is also more complicated than it seems. 

1. This guy has to wear four pairs of pantyhose. FOUR. I can't even handle wearing one, ever! This is like, extreme sacrifice for the sake of art, in my opinion. He won't shave his legs, and I don't blame him. He does this so that his leg hair doesn't show. That, and I don't have to get rid  of it while editing, so it is much appreciated. 

2. He sometimes wears a corset. Not this day - just a bra and the dress. But the dress was fantastic. It was vintage, blue with horses and stamps on it with a cinched waist. I'm thinking very Pony Express. He started out with his own heels, but ended up with a pair of Louboutins. Not even kidding. And my intern, Emmy, ended up with a sweet George Constanza poster that is going to make her the coolest senior at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

3. He has to make sure his wig and accessories are perfect. This time, we were heading to a long-closed salon, and we were excited because we had been looking for older hair setters and salon stuff for awhile. Also, we had permission to be in there when earlier that week we thought our only choice was in an abandoned and frightening mental institution that was so large we couldn't even FIND the beauty salon in the place. I honestly wasn't really looking forward to going back and scouting around for it alone that weekend, so this was a lifesaver, thanks to a good friend of mine (funny enough, who helped me because she didn't really want me going back there either!) So, we had to have some pink foam curlers and a head wrap. Later though, they needed to removed when moving to another location where they weren't necessary. 

This image is memorable to me because of Sam's mom reaching in to give him a little help. I love that.

And after a few hours, Sam was Gigi. I guess the way I can describe how I felt was impressed and really grateful that Sam and I decided to combine our creative thoughts and to keep going with them although some of our ideas are waaaay out there. I'm also grateful for the support of his mom and dad. Pretty awesome story of a continuing great adventure. Plus, Sam makes a beautiful man or woman - honestly doesn't matter which. But as many of you know, he is a very convincing Gigi.

From the shoot: at TWH and a longtime, unused hair salon.  Sorry. Semi-secret locations ...

The New and Improved Website?, Abandoned Craziness, and New Projects

So, this is my new webpage. I think I like it; however, I'm curious to hear some feedback from you guys though; what do you think? Is it easy to navigate? Is it visually appealing? What can be added or improved? Seriously. Let me know. You can leave comments on this blog page, which is different from what site I used before.

Hope everybody had a great Christmas, holiday, or just a good break. I love having some extra time, and I don't go back to teaching until January 9th, so I've been working hard on a few specific things, one being my photography and art, of course. 

The first abandoned excursion that I decided take was yesterday. It's been awhile, but I had two awesome new addresses, and as many of you know, I am always scouting for new locations for shoots. As I found my first location, which looked AWESOME, by the way I noticed I'd have to drive a little ways and turn around in order to park.  I was in the middle of nowhere. As I did that, I accidentally came upon ANOTHER great abandoned house with about 6 outbuildings. I LOVE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS. So, I stopped there first and was really pleased with what I found: lots of old coupons and pictures, so many pretty stained glass windows, and many open windows where the wind was blowing in along with gorgeous light. 

Huge barn. I have to go back. Didn't even go near it.

Huge barn. I have to go back. Didn't even go near it.

The late afternoon golden light was perfect, especially against these torn and gauzy curtains.

The late afternoon golden light was perfect, especially against these torn and gauzy curtains.

The upstairs was actually so much larger than I thought it would be.

The upstairs was actually so much larger than I thought it would be.

A view through the door of a large outhouse near the main house. This outhouse actually had a tub in it. Never seen that before. I think it is really old.

A view through the door of a large outhouse near the main house. This outhouse actually had a tub in it. Never seen that before. I think it is really old.

Now  THIS  was exciting. Do you know how long Sam and I have been looking for a real claw foot bathtub in an abandoned place that we could use for a shoot? FOREVER. This has been on our list of ideas for a long time, AND it is not really too dirty at all! 

Now THIS was exciting. Do you know how long Sam and I have been looking for a real claw foot bathtub in an abandoned place that we could use for a shoot? FOREVER. This has been on our list of ideas for a long time, AND it is not really too dirty at all! 

After a short time, I left because I wanted to go to the other two locations I had. This is where the worst part of the adventure starts. When I drove back to the next location, which was supposed to be my FIRST location, I had to figure out where to park, so I pulled off onto the side of the road. It looked fine. Yeah right. Half of my car was in grass and the other half was in about 2 feet of snow. Thanks to my huge scraper, I moved enough snow around to move my tires again, and three men who happened to be Good Samaritans in the middle of nowhere stopped and pushed me out. (THANKS!) It took over an hour, and I lost daylight. So, yes, I am going back to the other two locations this weekend, asap. The upside is that I now know where NOT to park.

Otherwise, I have been doing a lot of organizing around the house and experimenting with my art. Most people who know me understand that I love photography, but that I also like to use it to form multimedia pieces. I have so many ideas floating around in my head, so it's nice to have some time. I have about four new series ideas, and I have been continually experimenting with image transfers on many different substrates and with both oil and acrylic paint, oil pastels, graphite - you name it, I probably have tried something with it. I've only completed one major set of pieces, but that's because I started working on them in July … So here is some of the stuff I've been doing besides shooting daily. It's all unfinished, and I won't be explaining the ideas behind the work; however, here's some of the work. Some is not what I want exactly, but I'm stubborn enough to keep trying. 

This is the only set of pieces finished, and they are images from The Yellow Glove Series, all based off of one image commonly shown, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." These are all image transfers onto canvas paper and are embellished with some acrylic paint and thread sewn around certain parts of the image. Just an idea I had.

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BTC 1.jpg

Here's what else I've been working on:

 

 

 

This was a photograph of the rain and snow out of the side window in a taxi I took in Chicago which has now transformed into an oil abstract from an image transfer onto wood panel.

This was a photograph of the rain and snow out of the side window in a taxi I took in Chicago which has now transformed into an oil abstract from an image transfer onto wood panel.

Mixed media piece: an image transfer from an abandoned school painted with oil and with wooden pieces added for texture onto wood panel.

Mixed media piece: an image transfer from an abandoned school painted with oil and with wooden pieces added for texture onto wood panel.

This started as a photograph of an abandoned living room from the outside looking in. It went from image transfer to oil paint and oil pastel on canvas.

This started as a photograph of an abandoned living room from the outside looking in. It went from image transfer to oil paint and oil pastel on canvas.

Hugely unfinished transfer onto wood panel for an upcoming series - if it works.

Hugely unfinished transfer onto wood panel for an upcoming series - if it works.

Another transfer and oil onto wood panel, unsanded - it will be today - and hopefully will work out as a part of the series I have stuck in my brain.

Another transfer and oil onto wood panel, unsanded - it will be today - and hopefully will work out as a part of the series I have stuck in my brain.

That's all I got; yeah it's long, but I had to try this new blog out. I'm thinking I like it.