Thursday, April 24, 2008

Whetstone Photos Cut to Heart of Matter

John Morton, contemporary collector extraordinaire, is bringing award-winning photographer Jeff Whetstone to the Birmingham Museum of Art tonight at 7 PM for a lecture. It’s a pretty simple equation – John understands that by having a commitment to generating discourses about contemporary art and photography we have an opportunity to understand these practices in a critical context.

This is incredibly refreshing. Whetstone has received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for his commitment and innovation in his chosen medium. Broadly photojournalistic, images such as his “Self-Portrait with Catfish” call into question the whole construction of southern masculinity.

This is obviously a unique opportunity. Whetstone's imagery is immediate, understandable and complex, all in precisely the same moment.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Straight Outta Bama...

If there is a Renaissance man in Birmingham right now, it must be Walt Creel. Part of the collective Quaint some years ago, Creel reemerged about a year ago with the most intriguing work being done in a long time. Using a particularly dangerouos method of composition, Creel basically draws pictures with bullet holes into pieces of sheet metal. His “aw shucks” faux-redneck subject matter – deer, owls, squirrels – all charm the heck out of the general public while scaring the hell out of everyone else with their intelligence and subtlety.

As a surprise, this weekend Creel will be the “Emerging Artist” at Magic City Art Connection. Kudos to Eileen Kunzmann for once again bringing quality contemporary art to the park, and for remaining committed to pieces that are challenging and unique. I’ll definitely be making a visit.

Then, on May 7th, Creel reappears with a documentary he has produced, to be screened at Bottletree. He describes it thusly:

I am screening Heart of Nowhere at the Bottle Tree Wed. May 7th at 9PM. For all that have to work the next morning, don’t worry, it is only 30 minutes long, but it is a powerful 30 minutes! There is no cover, so spend your hard earned cash on a few drinks before hand. Vague description below:

"From 2001 to 2003, with the help of Jason McMaster, Darryl Jacks, and Joey Mansfield, I carried a video camera to as many interesting and odd places in Alabama as possible. What resulted is a 30 minute video document that deluges the viewer with snippets, all less than thirty seconds, of random and peculiar footage.

From a Christian singer-songwriter at a backwoods karaoke bar having a drunken breakdown on stage, to a person being dragged behind a truck on a flaming couch, to a Goth suspension show where the hooks accidentally ripped out of the legs of a man too heavy to be supported by them.

Heart of Nowhere is not intended to be viewed as a complete record of the subjects featured in the film, but solely as a glimpse of people and places usually kept out of frame.

I’m pretty sure he’s on to something here, whether it is the enigmatic nature of his visual arts practice or the realization that in an image-addled world thirty minutes of interest is better than two hours of nothing.

Take a chance. Visit Magic City Art Connection. See the movie. Walt Creel is the real deal, he’s just not busy blowing his own horn about it.