Pictures At An Exhibition

Though a desire to tell stories emerged in my earliest childhood, I’ve always had a strong visual side. In college, happy to get an A so long as it required little effort (and able to get a B with less effort still), I used the spare time to give myself a minor in Art History.

Over the final few semesters, I checked out some 450 books. But having no skill at drawing — I can barely write my name legibly — I’d never had an outlet for artistic visions. That is, until now.

Yesterday was the opening of a small exhibit of some of my fine-art photography at my neighborhood wine shop. There will be a reception next Friday, January 13, at 6:30, and NYC locals are invited to come by, check out my stuff, and drink some wine. Perhaps a little menswear meetup will emerge from it, as Ivy Style’s Golden Years columnist Richard Press is slated to attend. The shop is a two-minute walk from the Astoria Blvd. station on the N/W line, about 15 minutes total from 59/Lex.

The photo project came about by chance. I’ve always enjoyed clicking a camera now and then, but never felt much inspiration chronicling what’s around me compared to what’s within. Then a couple of years ago, while checking my coat and bag at the Metropolitan Museum, I was told that I had to carry all electronics with me. I happened to have my camera with me from an earlier menswear assignment, and begrudgingly shoved it in my jacket pocket to ruin the drape of my sportcoat.


Soon I figured that since I had with me it I might as well use it, and found myself shooting a number of statues in the museum’s collection — a few things by Rodin and some pieces from Greece and Rome. When I got home and imported them onto my computer, the muses sent down the light of inspiration, and I think I spent four hours in the creative zone.

I found that by cropping the images in unusual ways and tinkering with the darkroom settings such as brightness, shadows and exposure, the statues no longer looked like what they were and began to look like something else. It struck me as a rather postmodern exercise in using everyday off-the-shelf technology to create new art by looking at old art. And that’s how it began.

Woman And Satyr

As for my influences, I’ve long been fascinated by artists of the Symbolist movement, painters chiefly from France and Belgium active circa 1880-1900 who offered an alternative to the fruit bowls and frog ponds of the Impressionists. After two years of shooting mostly statues, I’m currently moving more toward staging allusive, allegorical and atmospheric tableaux vivants that make use of models and props, such as in the piece below, which takes its title from a line by Tennyson:

“My life is dreary, he cometh not,” she said

I look forward to developing the work and further exploring the themes and topics that have interested me for years, such as the struggle between paganism and piety (Wagner’s “Tannhauser” was my first opera), the rise and fall of civilizations, and the isolation of the dandy-artist in a philistine world.

Cracked Phone With Head Of John The Baptist

The exhibition includes 13 images, which are matted in 16 x 20 frames and priced at $120. I’m happy to frame and mail images to anyone outside of New York who’s interested in my work; you can email me and I’ll send over a PDF with thumbnails of the images available. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

19 Comments on "Pictures At An Exhibition"

  1. Inspired, insightful, thought provoking and well executed.

    Congratulations, Christian, on having a public forum to give others a chance to share your vision.

  2. Christian, the “15 minutes from 59/Lex” to your exhibit venue sounds good; but the additional 2,460 minutes of driving time (maybe more due to blizzard conditions along the way) that Triple-A informs me it would take to reach the opening event is, sadly, a bit impractical at this time.

    So please post a couple of shots of your exhibit in place so we can get an idea of what we missed.

  3. Mitchell S. | January 8, 2017 at 3:37 am |

    Love your taste in art, CC.

    By the way, you’re looking very regal in your signet ring and tank watch. It looks like Cartier.

  4. Nice photos. I recognize the Mary from the Anglo-Catholic Church of Mary the Virgin on 46th.
    BTW you could learn to draw – very realistically if you wanted –
    here… Like Ivy fashion, a lot of drawing techniques went out of style on campuses, but are still taught elsewhere- and new york is one of the best places for it: or the art students league on 57th. (norman rockwell and georgia o keefe, among others, studied there) – both are about 1/10th university tuition and better education.

  5. Mazama, if you think 2,400 minutes of driving is hard, try getting Manhattan people to come to Queens…

    Speaking of which, if there aren’t any party photos you’ll know why.

    Thank you, Mitchell. As for the watch, emphasis on “looks like.”


    Amazing eye that you recognized that Mary, given that all you can see is her face in black and white.

    There’s an orchestra that holds concerts there, so I stop by now and then for those.

  6. Hello Christian,

    lovely for you to share this with your wider audience. I quite enjoyed your quip regarding “the fruit bowls and frog ponds of the Impressionists”. I’d be curious to see that .pdf of your prints.

    Like Mazama, it’s a bit far for me to drive – about 3 939 km of from my place north of the border and east of the Rockies. My work colleague just returned from a Christmas trip to NY with rave reviews, perhaps one day I could convince my wife to visit, even if for a few days.

    I’ve greatly enjoyed this blog over the years and while I don’t comment too often, I’ve spent hours going through the archives, which has educated and entertained me to no end.

    Thank you for all the work you put into Ivy Style, and all the best for 2017.

  7. Minimalist Trad | January 9, 2017 at 12:53 am |

    Would the watch be the Seiko SUP880?
    If so, a very wise choice.

  8. | January 9, 2017 at 3:55 am |

    Congrats Christian to this “other face” of yours.
    I feel impressed with the fact that you are much more than the “Publisher” of Ivy Style…..
    Living in Paris I will unfortunately not be able to attend the reception on january the 13th but I wish you sincerely many inspirations for your further development as an Artist/photographer….

  9. Front Porch Life | January 9, 2017 at 10:21 am |

    Those are some very elegant and inspiring art pieces! By the by, nice bit loafers in the 1st picture!

  10. I appreciate that your artistic outlet came about both organically and a bit by accident. Very sound vision, looking forward to more of your creative images.

  11. Bit loafers by Oak Street.

    Watch by Sartego; the Seiko has a bit too much gold on the face.

    Thanks to all for the kind words.

  12. With all due respect, these look like the work of a teenager who still reads Ayn Rand or Charles Bukowski. Especially that one with the phone.

  13. “My life is dreary . . .” reminded me, in part perhaps due to its reduced size on my screen, of work by Fernand Khnopff, which ties in nicely with your taste for the Symbolists.

  14. What did Oscar Wilde say about his fear of NOT being misunderstood?

    Apparently I’ve been understood. Khnopff is my chief influence.

    I’d long known his work “I lock the door upon myself,” and he was fond of claustrophobic spaces. Some time last year I did some tests in a doorway playing with the lock chain and its possibilities (note the figure has it wrapped around her ring finger).

    I went searching for a poetic title, as Khnopff took his from Christina Rossetti, and found the line in Tennyson.

  15. Congrats, Christian. You should be proud. I think I can safely speak for many here at Ivy Style that we’re proud of you. A man of fine sartorial taste, writing ability and artistic vision. In other words a talented man.

  16. These are all digital correct?

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