Despite the world-wide political turmoil of late, 2017 has started off well in regards to my studio activities … this week I received a digital copy of the LandEscape Contemporary Art Review, Anniversary Edition and it generously includes 16 pages of text and photos about my abstract photography. The majority of the article consists of an interview I gave to curators Katherine Williams and Josh Ryder. Their thoughtful and engaging questions focused primarily on my approach to art and on what reactions I hope my work generates from viewers. Considering that each edition of LandEscape Art Review garners an average of over 300,000 readers it will be fascinating to see what feedback the article generates. If you would like to view the edition it can be found at: https://joom.ag/8gdW/p46.
Julia Dolan, Curator of Photography at the Portland Art Museum invited me to include my abstract photograph titled Tickled Fancy #44 in the 40th National Photography Exhibition, Larson Gallery, Yakima, WA. I’m very appreciative of her interest in my work. This photo has been very popular for it was featured in the inaugural issue of Create Magazine, selected as a finalist for The Royal Photographic Society’s International 2016 Print Exhibition and Stephen Perloff, Editor of The Photo Review selected it for the magazine’s 2016 Garden Party Invitation, an annual gala for collectors, curators, writers and artists. During the Spring, it was included in the national Luck of the Draw exhibition at the new, amazing Foundry Art Center, Saint Charles, MO. The exhibit featured work by 35 artists from 17 states each of whom use a contemporary approach to drawing. You can view the photo on my Photography page just click on the button above.
It is with great interest that I await the inaugural issue of Blended, a new collective art zine, for it will include an article about my most recent abstract photography series. Blended will be published on line and in print as well as shared on social media. It will be available soon.
I’m very happy to report that my abstract photography was featured during September 19-29 at the 9th Pollux Awards Exhibition and Aus Tree Bark #16 (left) was considered for inclusion in the London International Photography Festival … as the title implies it is a cropped photo of tree bark I found in Adelaide, Australia. Tree bark is one of my favorite subjects to photograph thus I have several Series about it. Joyous Misbehavin’ #10 (right) is one of the images that was in the 9th Pollux Awards Exhibition at Galeria Valid Foto, Barcelona, Spain . That Series has been featured in Create Magazine and LandEscape Art Review.
In August, construction began on our new home and my new studio . . . and Heidi and I moved into a small trailer sited at the far north-east end of the property. Thus, all of my studio supplies have been placed in storage. As a consequence I am not able to paint at all, but can use my computer each day to edit and finish many of the archived photos I’ve taken in the past few years. I enjoy the process, however, concentrating on images constantly strains one’s eyes so to give my visual cortex a break I’ve continued writing my second novel.
Yes, you read that correctly . . . my second novel. My first novel, Brushwork, a neo-noir murder mystery set in Los Angeles’ art community and consisting of over 78,000 words, was completed over a year ago. This second book features the same main characters involved in another murder mystery. At the same time I’m actively searching for a literary agent and/or publisher. I chose LA as the setting for these stories because of its history with this particular genre and because I lived there most of my life.
Sadly, in late winter, my blues loving, enthusiastic hiking and devoted studio companion Misty (right) passed away. I miss her dearly.
During fall the studio was closed for several weeks while Heidi and I were in Europe. We enjoyed concerts, plays, art exhibits and strolling around historical sites in Belgium, The Netherlands, France, and Germany then spent a few days in Berlin to participate in the Berlin Foto Biennale at the Palazzo Italia.
Biennale curator Julio Hirsch-Hardy (right: talking with visitors) generously showed me through the spacious galleries of the Palazzo during the installation of the exhibition and I was impressed with how his crew graciously handled all of the numerous challenges associated with mounting an exhibition of this scale for the finished installation consists of over 1200 photographs by more than 440 artists… perhaps the largest contemporary photography exhibit ever held at a single venue in Europe.
The large crowd of viewers at the Opening Reception was enthusiastic and eager to meet the artists. As one of the very few who specializes in abstract photography it was a treat for me to talk with people from all over the world who are interested in my work (left: visitors viewing my work) and I’m deeply grateful to Julio for acknowledging my creative approach to the subject in the exhibition’s handsome official catalog and other related material. The exhibition attracted hundreds of visitors daily for an entire month.
2015 – Searching for Elegance Within Chaos: Invincible Elements
Almost daily, Lee Musgrave experiments with the assortment of repurposed art supplies and trash that has accumulated on his photography work table. “I toss bits and pieces of it onto the light-pad just to see how it looks. If nothing grabs me then I shake the pad or add more stuff… or delete some… and look again,” said Musgrave.
Often the aesthetic elegance generated by the chaos on the pad ignites his visual cortex, sends a shot of adrenalin through his veins and he instinctively reaches for his camera.
“Fate is my unknown collaborator when I encounter the unforeseen ways chance has arranged and lighted the objects on the pad; striking combinations of colors and textures; conspicuous shadows; a remarkable edge to an exquisite form… I find the dynamics of spontaneity and the bravura of tensions to all be alluring.”
Thoughtful, comprehensive cropping of the photographs merges each images randomness with conscious creation, creating a balance between the forces of the rational and irrational.
Lee usually takes ten photographs of what he has tossed onto the light pad and he shakes the pad between each shot which gives every photograph its own unique composition. After down loading the photographs he makes three copies of each image, rotates them and crops out a singular image from each. This process provides him with at least 30 images to cull a new Series from. This is why each of his Series’ have a very cohesive look. After completing a shoot he remixes all or part of the materials on the pad back into the pile on the work table or discards it.
“I use chance in an almost figurative way and the expressionist results requires the viewer to think “chance” for objects are on top of each other, in many formats, and in surprising tints, tones, shapes, textures, gestures and moods,” stated Lee. “I love having options to select from.”
While chance runs counter to most people’s conceptions of art, it has been a vital component of art since its very beginning and the images Lee captures through cropping are evocative of that history.
“My success in photographing chance created abstract images comes from the fact that my interest in abstraction came long before my interest in photography… it has been a passion of mine since my childhood. I created my first abstract drawings when I was very young and made my first serious Series at 13… and I still have them. That devotion is what enables me to produce engaging abstract photographs from everyday common materials.”
Musgrave’s work gains visual force through tapping into the established strengths of Abstract Expressionism, Hard-Edge, and Color Field and their respective ideologies while pushing toward new forms and terrain with his own distinctive pictorial lexicon.
“To me the inescapable appeal of these images is immediate and expressive of spontaneous gestures that are based on insights gained from my many years of creating abstract work,” Lee mused. “Most contemporary photography has been occupied with recurrent narrative, political and gender-based themes… and probably always will be. When it turns inward to express beauty and visual aesthetic pleasure it usually drifts toward surrealism and fantasy, but still well within the representational genre. At the root of those creative processes is the sixth sense of instinctive intellectual drive. It flashes before our eyes, holds us and pulls us in and says ‘don’t miss this’. That trice is what abstract photography is all about. It goes directly toward ones inner thoughts, makes us pause and takes us beyond provocation and coincidence to a visual epistle that transcends our fundamental understanding of life.”
To view Lee’s abstract photography visit the Photography page.
The photo (left) is of three paintings Musgrave recently completed. He uses an impasto painting technique and often works on large canvases. The painting partially shown behind the step stool is actually 8′ h x 56″ w.
The primary inspiration for these new paintings came from Lee’s concern for mankind’s destructive alterations to the natural environment and the resulting excessive soil erosion.
Musgrave’s approach to both his painting and studio photography work has always been to “take advantage of chance”. That is to say, he uses a painting process that allows for his instinctual drives to tap into his subliminal mind.
Each of his paintings starts off with a paint and/or modeling paste impasto spontaneously smeared onto the canvas, rather than carefully applied. This creates a gestural abstraction that reveals his physical act of painting. After this initial step is dry, he then applies a thin wash of black acrylic over the entire canvas and allows it to seep into the low areas of the impasto. During this stage the painting is usually placed flat on the studio floor.
Staring at this raw image evokes emotions and feelings deep within Musgrave and “speaks” to him in a visual language about the nature forms he can render from within it. While listening intently to that intuitive language he then sets about delineating those forms… taking advantage of chance.
At the same time, Lee’s work continues to express his fascination with utilizing scale to challenge and shift how the world may be perceived. He does that by exploring the physical and conceptual characteristics of depth perception and assumed scale, from the monumental to the microscopic.
His concern for the environment and the future of humanity also emerges from each painting as an unsettling undercurrent of mankind’s cumulative impact on nature. This is most evident in how he depicts the inter-action between water and soil in each painting. “For me, comprehending scale and depth perception is essential in understanding and appreciating the natural world… indeed, the universe and ones place in it,” stated Musgrave.
When you study the above painting, From Here To There (60″x60″), does it depict an expansive landscape… or a close-up of a small chunk of planet earth? Do the rock-like forms represent huge boulders… or small pebbles… or both at the same time? Is the water a small pond or the edge of a mighty sea? To better determine the answer to these questions and much more, click on the painting to view a larger version.
These new paintings have been added to Musgrave’s Real Time Memories Series (see Paintings/Drawings).