Thursday, December 3, 2009

Assignment #9: Through the Looking Glass

Because our latest featured artist, Susan Silton, is also among the group of artists in our most recently featured exhibition, "I Feel Different" at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, we at I Make Picture thought we'd kill two birds with one stone to create an assignment that relates to both trademarks of Susan's work as well as the broad theme of the LACE show.

As you likely read in the earlier post, "I Feel Different" centers on the concept of feeling removed from society in some way. Appropriately, included artist Silton creates work focused on overwhelming concerns of modern society and frequently does so by playing with the public's perception. Merging the ideas of isolation and perception, Susan and I decided on a fitting assignment.

Assignment #9: Through the Looking Glass

Focusing on a personal trait (internal or external, physical or emotional) that makes you feel "different," create a unique self-portrait using any medium.

Since she has done a similar self-portrait project using digital manipulation (all circa 1995), Susan lent us these images as an example of an answer to this assignment.

I, too, tried my hand at the assignment. Using this amazing self-timer with my Polaroid SX-70 camera, I aimed to focus on physical characteristics that have caused me much insecurity and feelings of isolation, particularly by other women. My body (specifically its more childlike than womanly nature) has won equal negative attention and curiosity and has at times been a source of guilt and anger. Only recently have I come to accept the things I once viewed as flaws, but these images were taken to capture a voyeristic view of the image I have projected to others before this time of acceptance.

As always, you all are encouraged to try this assignment with individual interpretation. That is, you can't do it "wrong." The goal of I Make Picture is to provide a loose framework or guideline within which you can explore themes you might not otherwise have considered. Use video, use crayons, draw on a napkin, take a picture, it really doesn't matter. The important thing is to offer others inspiration and new ideas. I can't wait to see you all make picture. :)

Featured Artist: Susan Silton

Upon meeting Los Angeles' Susan Silton, I was unaware of her life as a well-praised contemporary artist. When it inevitably came up, I asked her, "What medium do you work in?" If only I had known what an impossible question this was for the multifaceted artist to answer (though she did, diplomatically). Over the course of her impressive career, which includes solo exhibitions at SolwayJones (where she is represented), Angles Gallery and the National History Museum in Los Angeles, and Feigen Contemporary in New York, as well as inclusion in group shows at San Francisco's MOMA and the California Museum of Photography, Silton's body of work has merged and tangled media to fully explore the breadth of art's physical boundaries yet always stayed true to a general central theme: our current sociopolitical climate.

The recipient of a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA, Silton presents culturally relevant issues using various methods of trickery. A motto of her work could be that "things aren't always as they appear." The artist taunts our sensory perceptions, making us question our instincts and inclinations. For example, her 2006/2007 series "The Day, The Earth" was comprised of giant compositions which at first glance were more reminiscent of Op-Art paintings by Bridget Riley or Minimalist works by Frank Stella, but were actually re-photographed stills of apocalypse-themed movies from the 1960s in which each vertical strip has been individually tinted to abstract the overall images into boldly colorful, stripey surfaces. In these photographs, the figures are discovered secondarily, becoming almost hauntingly inconspicuous. The series speaks to our current fear of world-ending disaster that looms below the surface of everyday life.

Under the same umbrella, Silton created a companion exihibition at the Pasadena Museum of Contemporary Art in which she covered the building in brightly-colored striped tarps, inspired by fumigation tents. Inside she coated the interior of the project room with manufactured items that used a similar pattern. The would-be happy, joyful palette and pattern was in marked contrast to the darker issues they represented. Susan also used photography and video in her "Twister" series, some of which is displayed in the current "I Feel Different" exhibition at LACE (see feature in previous post). In this series she explored themes of oppressed sexuality and the subsequent confusion and curiosity about the subject.

Silton is also currently working on an interactive project via the social networking site, Facebook. Commenting on the scripted nature she sees in such a forum, she created speaking avatars (Michael Richards, Trent Lott, Chris Brown) each apologizing for their various public mistakes. Learn more about the ongoing project, "BY THE CROWD THEY HAVE BEEN BROKEN; BY THE CROWD THEY SHALL BE HEALED" here.

Below are Susan's devilishly clever and brilliant responses to our "12 Questions" series. See if you can decipher the common thread to her answers. Thanks to Susan for her involvement in I Make Picture, and for once again discovering a new way to look at old things.

12 Questions with Susan Silton

Q: At what moment did you first feel like an artist?
A: I led a red nude by a day bed under a deli

Q: What has been your biggest art faux pas?
A: Tell a man I gave damn unatoned art as a trade, not an unmade vagina mallet

Q: Whose style do you most admire?
A: Bar crab

Q: If your work had a soundtrack, what would it be?
A: Crass orgasm regret: fast, sullen, it nests in an onanist sentinel, lusts

Q: What is your trademark?
A: Never odd or even

Q: Name your dream collaborative team.
A: Senile felines

Q: How does where you live affect the art you make?
A: L.A., Ed, is ideal

Q: If you could travel back to any era for its art and lifestyle, what time would you visit?
A: Are we not drawn onward to new era?

Q: Sum up your aesthetic in 3 adjectives.
A: Warming is a sign I'm raw

Q: What is your must-have when you're at work in your studio?
A: A nut for a jar of tuna

Q: If money was no object, what major project might you take on?
A: I roam as a Maori

Q: What work of art that you've personally seen has most moved you?
A: Do geese see God?

*Images appear courtesy of SolwayJones Gallery and X-TRA Magazine.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Separate but Equal: "I Feel Different" @ Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions

So much significant art has been born from its creators' inherent feelings of separation. This disconnect could be physical as in racial (Betye Saar, Kara Walker) or sexual/gender separation (Catherine Opie, Robert Gober) or more emotional as in the isolation of loneliness or mental disorders (Edward Hopper, Vincent Van Gogh). All things considered, the true nature of an artist is someone who finds ways to visually relate messages and emotions that may not have been previously explored. At their very core all artists could arguably be considered "different."

That said it seems only natural to center a group show around a theme of these feelings of awkwardness, self doubt, of not fitting in, being misunderstood or removed from society in some way, which is exactly what author-turned-curator Jennifer Doyle has done with the current group exhibition at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), "I Feel Different." Doyle has expertly chosen a selection of provocative artists, all of whom fuel their work with individual translations of what it means to be "different." And Doyle should know. Her text, Sex Objects: Art and the Dialects of Desire (2006) tackles the topic of sex in art specifically in terms of its perceptions and tendency to cause misunderstanding.

"I Feel Different" is located in the back gallery space of LACE, mainly confined to one area with additional work in an adjacent hallway and "microlounge." The place is alive with media including several videos, projections, sculptural installations, collage, and photography. The collection features work from Susan Silton, Lezley Saar, James Luna, Monica Duncan and Lara Odell, Nao Bustamante, David Wojnarowicz, Nina Yhared, and Ben Neill.

Beginnning clockwise from the entrance to the gallery, Los Angeles-based Silton introduces the exhibition with her trio of Piezo pigment prints and accompanying single-channel video. Upon examining the photos as entities apart from the video, the soft, grainy (much like silverpoint), abstracted images may subtly suggest sexuality, with their furry black clouds and sensual, organic and corporal shapes.

Titled respectively Twister 1, Twister 4, and Twister 6 (all 2003), these images are in fact digital manipulations of photos taken by storm chasers, as Silton aims to liken the juxtaposing characteristics of fluid sensuality and wild, unbridled force that exists in both sex and nature.

Whereas the artist gracefully eludes to sex in these photos, she awkwardly and humorously shocks with sexualized imagery in the video, twisted. The video depicts a succession of people, cropped to their facial expressions only, in their attempts to create a man made tornado by shaking a jar filled with various ingredients. Viewers do not get to see the source of the people's aggressive motion, just the body-thursting and face-contorting as Silton bluntly focuses on the actions' similarities to sexual expressions. Altogether the photographs/video are both a poignant and cheeky exploration of the tendencies of our perceptions, as well as our internal dialogues about such a taboo subject.

While Silton's work addresses the exhibition's central theme of difference in terms of general feelings of discomfort and misunderstanding about the topic of sex, Lezley Saar instead creates an homage to specific victims of isolation with each of her sentimental, assemblage works. Following in the footsteps of her mother, the aforementioned Betye, Saar combines mixed media in her altarpiece-like works in which the subjects are often sufferers of social alienation. Her glorious Dorothy Champ: Broadway Star and Bahai Activist (2002) is a massive hanging banner amid Saar's exquisitely crowded installation of acrylic and mixed media works within "I Feel Different."

Champ left her successful career as a stage actress in the early 1900s in pursuit of teaching her beloved faith. Teardrop-shaped crystals beautifully indicate the internal pain of the subject's difficult choice, one likely to have not been understood by many. The salon-style arrangement of Saar's works further shows the artists' penchant for respectfully, elegantly highlighting these otherwise isolated individuals.

With impossible-to-ignore inspiration from Edward Hopper, an artist whose paintings burned with themes of loneliness, Lara Odell and Monica Duncan's collaborative video, Living Pictures (2003) similarly creates portraits of isolated figures whose stillness and far-off gazes emanate sadness and solitude. Whereas Hopper's subjects are frozen in time, Odell and Duncan's work utilizes their medium to address the passing of time as the subjects motionlessly exist in each of the four, ten-minute-long videos. Projected on a wall in large scale, one by one the videos feature a lonesome figure (in a laundromat, at a picnic table) void of any signs of life, though we are reminded of life going on by external forces such as the sound of cars driving by or the graduation of natural light. Though the figures themselves make no noise, their silence deafens the movements that surround them.

Other highlights of the collection include a "radical craft" and mixed media sculptural installation by Nao Bustamante, whose playful Neapolitan (2003, 2008, 2009) is a dramatically decorated (neon macrame-covered headphones, Kleenex boxes) set wherein viewers see and hear video of the artist crying in a personal response to a film she related to culturally, and another installation/performance from Native artist James Luna. Luna's History of the Luiseno People: La Jolla Reservation, Christmas (1990) tackles stereotypes of Native people by including them in this piece in which an armchair sits across from a television screen amid cigarette butts and crumpled beer cans while the audio plays conversations in which the inhabitant of the scene (present only during performances) excuses himself from the holiday activities to which he has been invited.

"I Feel Different" will remain on view through January 24, 2010 @
Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions
6522 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

Photos appear courtesy of LACE's website, as well as some images from fette's

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Big Things Poppin'...

Hello IMP friends! And friends of friends, etc! I noticed I haven't posted in a while...maybe you noticed too....err...Sorry! Please don't think the lack of posts in any way indicated the slowing down of things at I Make Picture. We've actually got several pots boiling at the moment, so to speak, and we thought we'd take time to let our readers know what's in store!

#1: Twitter. It's frightening, I know. Nevertheless, we've started our very own Twitter @IMakePicture so you can see links to shows, art events, and anything cool and creative you might enjoy. I'll try to keep the tangents to a minimum. To sum up, follow us!

#2: New feature/interview: Today I have the great pleasure of checking out the current exhibit at LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), "I Feel Different," a group show that includes the amazing Lezley Saar (daughter of one of my personal favorite artists, Betye Saar), James Luna, and Susan Silton. Susan has also been gracious enough to accept of our offer of being the next Featured Artist, so we'll have some cohesion for the next posts/project! Please keep checking, the review should be up this next week.

#3: Keep making pictures! That is to say, just because we posted assignment from other readers, doesn't mean I'm not in need of more projects. We really like to show different perspectives and alternate direction each assignment can go. I Make Picture isn't about encouraging people to make many versions of one particular thing, but rather to plant a seed in your creative mind to get you to try something you might not otherwise think of. We want you to be using muscles you haven't flexed before! And on that note, please pass the word onto friends, co-workers, peers, family, neighbors, etc...anyone who might be interested in a creative outlet. We need you to help this idea succeed!

Let's end with some pictures, shall we? One of the things I (Ashley) have been working on in this little hiatus is perfecting my skills with my old 35mm Minolta and many old-school lenses. Here are some photos I shot of our partner in crime Lydia Hyslop ( Get inspired!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Assignment #8: I Make Monster

Remember that childhood game in which you (along with a small group of people) create a strange, fantastical figure by drawing a succession of body parts from top to bottom, each created by the person before who folds the drawing, segment by segment, so your creature remains a mystery to all until the end? In this game, known as Exquisite Corpse, your blind collaboration leads to endless creative possibilities. A two-headed baby with a snowman's torso and reptilian feet and tail? Sure! It's all up to your imagination.

Exquisite Corpse actually dates back to the Dada and Surrealist periods of art, and has been played by the likes of Andre Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miro, and Man Ray.

In thinking of an appropriate project to coincide with our recent feature on Portland artist Andy Kehoe, a painter notorious for the equally nightmarish and smile-inducing creatures which inhabit his compositions, Exquisite Corpse seemed perfectly fitting. The game not only inevitably results in kooky, subhuman figures, but also brings in the crucial Kehoe element of tapping into childhood imagination.

Assignment #8: I Make Monster
Create your own Exquisite Corpse with a small group of people (at least 3 is best).

Simple, right? If you're confused on how the game works, click here for a description. Work in whatever scale, medium, and materials you see fit. When it's complete, scan your creation or take a digital photo of it and send to I'll post the projects that catch my fancy.

For my own interpretation of the project I gathered a group of creative friends and with the help of a variety of materials that included vintage children's books, crayons, markers, magazines, and construction paper...and of course a little beer. :) I don't think any of us were prepared for the success and all-out hilarity of our resulting creations. Our host, Savita, supplied the lovely images. Enjoy!

Artists: Ashley, Karla, Dan, Savita
Assignment: I Make Monster
Materials: vintage children's books, Sharpies, crayons, magazines, ink & stamp, construction paper, Negro Modelo, Stella Artois

Featured Artist: Andy Kehoe

"Juxtapose" is my lucky word. Back in my A.P. Literature class we joked that you'd always get a high score on the frequent impromptu essays if you simply added the word somewhere amid the text. Maybe it was a fluke, but it certainly improved my grade in the course and I've used it as a lucky charm in writing ever since. Thankfully "juxtapose" is a word which lends itself to art criticism and art writing quite nicely. It seems particularly applicable to the work of our latest featured artist, Andy Kehoe.

Now based in Portland, OR, the former Pittsburgher (Pittsburghian?) walks the seemingly hypocritical line between childlike and sinister. His excruciatingly detailed, stylized compositions feature a cast of animal/human/monster hybrid creatures that wouldn't be out of place in a Little Golden Book authored by Tim Burton. Kehoe places his figures in desolate landscapes colored with somber hues. The artist's works are successful because of their dichotomy: a sincere, childlike sense of imagination and an ability to relay dark, complex human emotions.

Kehoe's blend of humor, darkness, and elegant beauty has earned him considerable success as an artist. The Parson's School of Design grad exhibits regularly with Thinkspace Gallery and Black Maria Gallery in Los Angeles and Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York and frequently participates in group shows such as the recent Blab! show at L.A.'s Copro Nason Gallery. Andy also sells prints of his work at Please do visit his website for the latest exhibition information.

12 Questions with Andy Kehoe

Q: At what moment did you first feel like an artist?
A: I'm not too sure. I've always drawn since I was a kid and even when I was drawing tons of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I felt somewhat like an artist. What's an artist really entail anyways except making cool shit that excites you and being able to express yourself... even with Ninja Turtles. Now that I'm older, people always want to know what I do for a living. It's pretty gratifying to say that I make art for a living. So in adult, grown-up world, I can tell people I'm an artist and be legit.

Q: What has been your biggest art faux pas?
A: Honestly, I think people should create whatever they feel like. I certainly have my likes and dislikes, but I usually keep it to myself. Who am I to say what's proper in art? I had one guy leave a comment about one of my pieces that said, "I don't know why anyone would hang this on their walls." Haha. So to each their own.

Q: Whose style do you most admire?
A: There are many artists that I really admire these days. My brother Ben, Evan B. Harris, Kathleen Lolley, Femke Hiemstra, Dan May, Jason Limon, Lola, Travis Lampe, Nathan Spoor, Travis Louie to name a few. I gravitate towards artists with grand imaginations that have strange stories to tell. I also appreciate work where you can feel the amount of care put into the smallest details.

Q: If your work had a soundtrack, what would it be?
A: Probably a mix of Neil Young, The Soundtrack to The New World, Animal Collective, a banjo and two mandolins all put through reverb and delay effects with the sound of shotguns and children crying in the background.

Q: What is your trademark?
A: I guess people most recognize my work by my assortment of beasts, trees, leaves and isolated environments. On the street, my trademark is the called the "Crying Judas Elbow" and many men have fallen to it's power.

Q: Name your dream collaborative team.
A: Me and Professor Dumbledore.

Q: How does where you live affect the art you make?
A: Portland is a very beautiful city surrounded by tons of nature and beautiful trees. It's hard not to be inspired by just walking around. And like Pittsburgh, the Autumn here is an amazing feast for the eyes.

Q: If you could travel back to any era for its art and lifestyle, what time would you visit?
A: I really like the present for it's art and lifestyle because it means I can actually have a life with my art. I couldn't do what I'm doing right now even a decade back. Although, the 70's were a pretty awesome time of unrestrained, creative mayhem... that would've been fun.

Q: Sum up your aesthetic in 3 adjectives.
A: Sad, Happy, Happy/Sad

Q: What is your must-have when you're at work in your studio?
A: The stereo is a must. Besides playing music, I listen to a lot of audio books while I work. There have been many times where I kept working just to hear what happens next in the story. It's perfect for those long stretches where I know I have a bunch of late nighters ahead. I thought audio books would interfere with my thought process, but I think it keeps my brain creatively stimulated instead of being free to wander off all day.

Q: If money was no object, what major project might you take on?
A: I would love to make an animated movie one day, but there's just so much to organize and put together. Plus it costs so much just to get something like that started. I also have some great ideas for video games. I thought about proposing them to a video game company, but I heard they'll just throw you under a bus and take your ideas.

Q: What work of art that you've personally seen has most moved you?
A: If I can use cinema as a work of art, I'd say Wong Kar Wai's "In The Mood For Love" has moved me most over the years.

All images courtesy of Mr. Kehoe himself. Please enjoy more of all things Andy at

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Art Imitating Life Imitating Art

Heather Cantrell's latest portrait photography exhibition may have closed August 15th, but her concept lives on. Miss Cantrell informed us that she hopes to take her portrait studio to the streets, possibly even in an upcoming exhibition in London this fall! We only hope she'll keep IMP updated on all her future endeavors. :)

Before we move on to our next feature and project (which we are VERY excited about!), we have one last shout out to Heather's wildly fun exhibition at Kinkead Contemporary. The photographer invited yours truly and a friend for a private portrait session and things got a little...scandalous. I can't say much, but a stuffed baboon, the Union Jack, and tequila were involved. We swiftly moved from more traditional-with-a-twist portraits, to daring, avant-garde shots. Check out the photos that were PG-13 enough to post below! Thanks to Heather and to Whitney for scanning and sending us the pictures! xo

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moore and More Portraits

Matt Moore is not only a friend of I Make Picture but a witty blogger in his own right! The Los Angeles-based comedian, writer, all around humorist (MM makes appearances at IO West and Upright Citizen's Brigade) created the weekly-updated Morning Light News, in which he takes oft-devastating real news stories and sarcastically looks for their "silver lining" in the spirit of The Onion or "The Daily Show" but with a decidedly original spin. Make sure to visit his blog often for a good laugh.

IMP was lucky enough to have Matt create another of our assignments (he also created an unforgettable UFO for #3: Out of This World). Below is his take on Assignment #7: Dress Me Up (see previous post for project information), a project designed after Heather Cantrell's recent collection of portrait photography at Kinkead Contemporary. Matt set up a table full of props near his Franklin Village apartment and invited passersby to pose with their choice(s). You have to give him props for that, no pun intended. Okay, pun VERY intended.

I've also included another adorable project from my old bestie, Anna Poston. Always gifted with art, Anna now uses her skills mainly as a wedding dress designer in Chicago, Illinois. She looked for inspiration at work when choosing a prop for the portraits she took her newly introduced beach volleyball teammates. Asking several young gentleman to pose with a tiara proved an interesting experiment in obvserving a little gender role playing. Come on, loved wearing it! It shows! Thanks again Matt and Anna!

Artist: Matt Moore
Assignment: Dress Me Up
Materials: clock, Union soldier's hat, christmas vest, 'Turbo' sunglasses, box camera, glove, home-made Simon and Garfunkel reel-to-reel

Artist: Anna Poston
Assignment: Dress Me Up
Materials: willing gentleman, camera, tiara

Friday, July 31, 2009

Assignment #7: Dress Me Up

Among my circle of friends, I'm notorious for using props in any photo taken of me. Case in point? See below. Sometimes it might simply be my drink. Other times I might make a prop out of a nearby stranger. If there's anything around (really, anything) I will put it on my head, hold it in front of my face, position it inappropriately, do nearly anything for a laugh or an interesting picture. I know I'm not alone in this and if you really consider it, we prop-users are likely pretty insecure in front of the camera. We use them because quite frankly, we're not 100% comfortable just being our regular-old (and might I add fabulous?) selves.

Cue the transition to discussing Heather Cantrell's new exhibition, A Study in Portraiture: Act 1, the subject of I Make Picture's most recent art feature. Click here to jump to our coverage of Heather's show. It is certainly interesting to note the transformation of Ms. Cantrell's subjects in front of her lens as they cling to the various props and costumes provided by the photographer as a means of appearing more dynamic in some way than they would appear without them. This sort-of social experiment inspired I Make Picture's latest assignment, one of our most fun and daring projects yet:

Assignment #7:
Using at least one prop, create a portrait of a person you hardly know.

Sound scary? Don't think of it that way! Look, Lydia Hyslop and I (of LadyGunn fame) tried it first to make sure you folks at home could handle it. Using a digital camera and various props including, but not limited to a fake mustache (LA cliche, I know), a wig, a flower, and a silver bowl and whisk. We used the breakfast spot where Lydia and I work as a location, and set up a make-shift studio in front of which we asked customers to pose with their choice of prop. Who knew so many people were dying to don a twirly brown mustache? Anyway, the project was a great excuse to step outside your comfort zone, to capture a feeling of a person whose personality you haven't yet discovered, and a fascinating exploration of other peoples' public insecurities or considerable lackthereof. So grab your camera and try it out. Send your results to Can't wait to see the pictures you make!

Here are the highlights of Lydia and my photo shoot. Thanks again for all my willing models, it was great to meet you!




Shannon Leigh & Steve


Artists: Ashley & Lydia
Assignment: Dress Me up
Materials: digital camera (and some Photoshop), funnel, apron, mustache, wig, whisk, bowl, carnation, helmet/goggles