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