The Week began with the third topic being about Problem Solving and exploring ways in which ideas can be resolved and developed. Essentially, ideas can be solved by progression and making conscious independent choices that will influence your work and the experiments you produce. Hendrick Kerstens images that refer to dutch styles of paintings (Vermeer) have their own essence of problem solving and how the artist has worked around his initial issues. By playing unpredictable sometimes, you allow yourself to experience new outcomes. John Smith’s film by the name of ‘Chewing Gum’ 1976 was also a project that was planned but turned out differently to initial ideas, inspiring the final edit. All these things lead to problem solving and effectively using the time we have to create work.
Ironically, this week has been a slow and dead one for me in terms of experimentation and development. My ideas still represent excitement to me and validity but i seem to have hit a wall because i have allowed my idea to block me in, leaving little room for experimentation and exploration. Therefore, i spent most of the week looking at artist works and films, including the abstract series of Netflix, and films with little reference to my current work at the moment such as ‘Wish you were here’. I used these to draw from them the beauty of film and shots each one is taken in. I also practiced camera basics and proceeded to update my knowledge on the kind of images i am currently shooting. There was also a group crit in which we discussed my ideas, and i began to look further into this community social aspect of social housing and photographing this hidden beauty aspect. This could include portrait images of people, the juxtaposition of beauty and purpose built and so forth. The idea was to play, therefore i planned a shoot for week 4 in order to inspire myself into beginning to photograph more for the project.
We began the week looking at research and what we need to progress in terms of artistry and work ethic. Essentially subject matter and primary and secondary research were the key points of discussion, collecting information and responding to these parts of our project in a way that will benefit our progression and final images/concepts. This experimentation and research also allows for valid design ideas and authority and knowledge of our work to be recognised through our outcomes.
We looked at advertising and the research behind these concepts that we see daily, an example of this would be Felix Baumgartner’s jump sponsored by red bull. We also looked at Miles Aldridge and his influences and research such as ‘Stepford Wives’ and Douglas Sirk’s melodrama’s from the 1950’s. Mark Gertler’s work such as the ‘Merry Go Round’ and how it inspired Miles’ work was also an interesting insight into how research can be a really important and experimental purpose of developing ideas. Films by Federico Fellini were also shown, such as La Dolce Vita, aswell as ‘Blue Velvet’ by David Lynch, inspiring me to look at the cinematic stills and explore within my own work the colours and angles shot. These film stills also have compositional values which can be really exciting in terms of moving image work aswell, allowing for extra framework to experiment.
My personal response to this criteria is the research i have done so far, for instance the study of ‘West Side Story’ and the beautiful cinematography by Daniel L Fapp, aswell as the experimentation of Tilt Lens and aerial shots. What was really interesting for me was drawing upon the key shapes and parts of these shots, put together like a puzzle, inspiring me to create sheets and experiment with previous shoots by blocking negative space and shapes. This week i also found an artist who has explored a really interesting aspect of Brutalist Architecture and the design forms behind it. http://popularuk.com/p/brutalHouse by Peter Chadwick is an intriguing response to the brutalist spaces within the uk, utilising graphic design and lens based work. His use of type and block colour is also really interesting, influencing me to create worksheets and experiment with my current ideas aswell as play with them. By manipulating these shapes i was also able to understand the compositions i want to create and look at within my own work, whether that be manually or digitally.
From the research developed in the week, i went on to shoot in my local town, exploring compositions and place and not restricting myself to the confines of the idea. This was really encouraging as the images that came out looked similar to work that has been an influence on me for a while e.g the Topography movement and Lewis Baltz. For the shoot i used a Canon 70D, in order to experiment with higher range cameras to create a clearer output of imagery. My crit with John also proved positive, linking ideas in order to progress aswell as suggestions like screen printing and film work. I also edited my images using inspiration from the artist research in order to play with graphical elements and how they can enhance my shoots and beautify the areas.
The final major project has begun, starting the week off by looking at ‘Context’ on Monday during the group lecture. We looked at work by Tim Burton and Anna Gaskell, observing the story and meaning behind their work. This was useful as Narrative, in all its forms, is important in all work i do, whether it be simplistic in nature or the key to the idea, so understanding how these artists and storytellers compose their work was a really interesting topic. I have begun by looking at artists who have influenced my work up to this point, including Lewis Baltz and photographers who influenced the topography movement. From the research i have painted their compositions, lines and details from the photos onto wood and cardboard in order to gain influence from their compositions and style. I have also looked at social housing and the architectural style, from brutalist to modern day developments such as work from Bjarke Ingels and Ernő Goldfinger. Work from Sergiy Barchuk has also been interesting to view, observing his unique eye for colour schemes and compositional practice within the book, Smoke Room 3. Essentially, this week has been exploring the artistry work behind my initial ideas, and looking at colours and compositions that i can bring in to my first experimental shoot for the FMP.
Working area, preparing images for interview process aswell as clearing area in waiting for FMP studies. Today im working on the graphical images, using masking tape to create clean lines aswell as paint and chalk (previously used technique, demonstrated light and dark). A1 worksheets also being prepared for analysis of work so far.
Recently at UCA we have been working on a number of different weekly projects, looking at Beauty, whether it be in its purest form or an abstract sense, Spaces and Places, and Narrative. I have looked at artists such as Lewis Baltz and Brian McDonald aswell as researching headlines in order to respond to them with collages and simple sketches. For instance, whilst researching the housing crisis, i began to look at Brutalist Architecture in and around London. This inspired a recent trip to two recognised brutalist area’s, the Barbican and Southbank. I would like to share some images from the shoot, documenting the space and brutalist area. The weather worked really well with the sky shredding this marvellous marmalade tint and of course, a few drops of rain (it is Britain after all).
Overall the shoot was really successful, moving forwards i’m looking to create graphical images, blocking out the space and transforming them into collage pieces using the colours and sketches i also documented whilst visiting.
All Writing and Images Rights Reserved to Miranda Spendiff
Weekly briefing on new project// Reality / Artists / Links / Videos / Idea Development
Ryan / Chris Landreth / 2004
// An 2004 oscar winning animation surrounding the life and downfall of Ryan Larkin, once an animator also. ‘Reality’ of his character portrayed through a 14 minute video, embarking on a swift yet deeply touching story.
Critical Essay Exploring Sex, Sexuality and Gender – January 2017 – Foundation Diploma – Miranda Spendiff
Sex, sexuality and gender have been a constant influence in works of art for hundreds of years, exploring and questioning the boundaries of the particular times in which people live. Many famous works of art through the ages have explored and worked within these themes, many containing new imagery, whether it be more obvious than the next, heavily influencing our own opinions on the effects gender and so forth have on our modern society today. Controversial opinions often arise from the context that is sex/sexuality as well as the gender roles and how these are perceived at the time. The discipline that is photography has helped explore and realise the possibilities in which we view these somewhat controversial images, bringing realist views to the public eye as well as overwhelming possibilities through time. From paintings and original pieces of art that first explored sexual behaviour in the 20th Century such as Modigliani up to the most recent innovative artists such as Grayson Perry. Three pieces of photographic work that stood out for me when looking at the themes and ideas surrounding sex, gender and sexuality are David LaChappelle’s portrait of his transgender model, Amanda Lepore and the blatant reference to the gender behind the photo as well as the contrasting imagery of Terry Richardson’s simple sexualised modernistic approach to raw sexuality with his commercial images for American Apparel. Lastly, the classic and less overtly sexual images by Helmut Newton, including his androgynous portrait from 1975 (1) which was centred around Yves Saint Laurent’s creation of smoking tuxedos for woman. From these images, I will be looking between the layers of sexuality, and the lengths that photographers go to portray the area that is possibly the most influential in most recent years.
Art and Design, and all its disciplines, over the centuries of work has explored the theme of sexuality fluidly, exposing different cultural beliefs as well as era-related key moments of importance. Each medium has explored the context with deep abandon, delving into the raw meaning and question’s surrounding our own sexual needs and behaviours. From Modigliani’s work to erotic self-portraits, encouraging and preaching feminism by Joan Semmel. Essentially, what is drawn upon most in all art forms within the context that is sexuality and gender, is the woman’s figure, a typical representation that over the years has become a statement towards breaking past conventions and limits within society (2). Art and design has allowed sexual boundaries to be further pushed, as well as informing society about different aspects surrounding the context in society e.g. gender ideals and stereotypical norms (2). Salvador Dali’s work expanded to many different mediums and concepts however he also explored the female and male forms in a variety of different ways, focusing sometimes on the sexual organs and translating his own frustrations into a raw depiction of sexuality. Exploitation can be seen in most consumerist work, such as adverts, magazines and so forth, although, in modern times, art and design boundaries and themes surrounding sexuality and gender are less impactful in their nature, showcasing a change in our perceptions of modern day sexuality. Art can be provocative when it creates pleasing, shocking or unusual aesthetics; works that can leave a lasting effect on the individual viewers, from exploration of gender and sex. Through art forms, we have been able to challenge what is pleasing about the aesthetic behind images of a sexual nature and question whether it is truly sexual in nature or whether we have been manipulated to believe this. What art also brings is a true important reminder of individualism and respect, regardless of the story behind the photo. Images that explore the ‘controversial’ view of sex and sexuality are portraying a realist view of the society we are in now, as well as significantly pushing the art world forward. From musicians like David Bowie, to graphic designers and visual artists, the theme that is sexuality and sexual nature has been fluent in being a core topic for art, having been featured in some of the most prolific pieces of our time. The world of art has allowed these themes to be challenged and recognised, pushing equality and reminders of respect for all sexes and practices around the world.
I would argue that no other art form has explored these ideas more than photography. Photography has enabled artists to show a graphic point of view on Sex, Sexuality and Gender. When first considering the topic, I immediately began to think about one particular photographer who really pushed the transitions of gender into the public eye. David LaChapelle is a photographer from recent times who often references art history as well as conveying social messages through his work (3). He Is widely known as a commercial and celebrity portrait artist, who celebrates fun and pop imagery through widely elaborate set designs, however he has caused provocative discussions to be brought forward and questioned, through his often use of sexual promiscuity. Some of LaChapelle’s most recognised works surround his ‘muse’ Amanda Lepore, a transgender model and artist as well as friend of LaChapelle’s. His photographs of Amanda, which include shoots with Courtney Love, Madonna and other iconic images such as ‘Milk Maidens’ explore the often taboo subject of sexuality and gender. The photo I have chosen features Amanda and truly explores all three themes within the context, looking at the theme of sexual nature within art and photos as well as the questioning of gender, however focusing on the theme of gender and how it is portrayed within photography (6). His often use of transgender women carry a commercial sexual essence that is more accessible to the public in terms of recognising the contrasts between gender styles. The work shown also explores the gender narrative, showing a male organ in front of the trans-model against the huge assumption that ‘sex sells’ regardless of gender and creates an obvious, clear what we really desire, whilst still suggesting small messages referencing a remote and a housewife stance. LaChapelle recently talked of his iconic documental work in an article stating “Just because she is different, what are you offended about? Are you offended about the breasts or the male genitalia?” (4). His images, videos and posters are there to create a reminder of equality within the world and how art can be an easy platform to showcase the brilliance and uniqueness of all genders and sexuality.
The next piece of work I have chosen is from another modern photographer called Terry Richardson whose work also focuses on commercial practices mostly, having worked for Tom Ford, American Apparel and many more. He is known as a seedy character, not only because his photographic work has portrayed the clear, overtly sexual exploitation of sexual acts, but as he himself has been accused of coercing models into acts behind the photos, often being accused of encouraging inappropriate behaviour in order to create shots that reflect this consumerist exploitation (5). The piece of work I have chosen from his American Apparel campaign is the image of a girl with her legs open, an obvious representation of sexual lust. (7). This image immediately reflects to me an acknowledgment of ‘sex sells’ as well as heterosexual behaviour, clearly showing the context of sex and the explicit and sometimes bordering pornographic and inappropriate nature of exploitation surrounding consumerism and art using women as a way of marketing. What is also interesting is the nature of images from the advertisement, all following presumed heterosexual women who are being used to promote a product. Some regard his work as purely vulgar and not artistic in nature, however some may say it is informative of the times. The image, at first sight, is a clear depiction of everything that goes against feminism, striking up a storm of modern day discussions surrounding feminism and how the sexual nature of women is often exploited. Is the message of the photo taking the stance that women often strive to look like sexual beings or can it be interpreted as questioning our modern views on sex and sexuality in a documental and informative way, additionally is it acceptable to still publish images that carry such a message?
The last image I have chosen is a classic depiction from the 1950’s and onwards of a key change in regards to sexuality and gender roles (1). Helmut Newton was ‘one of the most sought after fashion photographers of his time, often capturing images that at the time were revolutionary and challenging’ (8). His provocative images contained numerous components of sexuality, reflecting social changes and views of the time. Newton brought in his love of sexuality and androgynous looks through his shoot for Vogue Paris in 1975, using Yves Saint Laurent’s women’s smoking jacket to create an iconic image that reflects classical themes of sexuality. This image is one that has been used in many different ways within the art world, reflecting the context in such a mysterious way yet reinforcing the overall questioning of gender roles, from the stance of the woman to the hair and style that usually is associated with the male. The clear depiction of a woman in what is usually a ‘man’s tuxedo’ is one that reflects the questioning of women’s roles and even though is perhaps less overt than that of LaChapelle’s work or Terry Richardson’s, can be seen as an even more openly sexual image, truly portraying a social message and context of sexuality in those times. The image is referred to as ‘portraying and suggesting an idea that of the suit being a typical more masculine ideology compared to that of the femininity of the female nude, endorsing the idea that every woman has a feminine and masculine side’ (8). His exploration of gender through androgyny has enabled many artists to fuel their own work with contrasting views from the same nature. Newton also spoke of LaChapelles work and remarked “A lot of the nudity is just gratuitous. But someone who makes me laugh is David LaChapelle. I think he’s very bright, very funny, and good” (9). Newton referred to himself and his own work as being “Very attracted by bad taste–it is a lot more exciting than that supposed good taste which is nothing more than a standardized way of looking at things” (10)
Showcasing gender, sexuality and sex can be seen in all three images. They each portray aspects of each theme in their own stylistic ways, such as transgender and sexuality, androgyny and pure heterosexual sexual nature, however the one image that truly portrays all three of these themes within the context is that of David LaChapelle’s work. His portrait of Amanda Lepore responds to the issues and questions surrounding gender through the use of a transgender model (6), as well as the blatant sexual nature through the props used and the obvious glamorisation of plastic surgery and sex. What is interesting is the reference in his work back to that of Helmut Newton’s portrayals of classic sexuality and questionable gender roles. The images all have different stylistic approaches, Helmut Newton’s style from a classy and simplistic approach, whilst Terry Richardson’s images confront the question of sexuality head on. LaChapelle’s photo is an obvious yet styled image that focuses on the clear question of sexuality, plunging the theme into a clear representation of the art world and consumerism that follows the theme of sexuality.
(6) David LaChappelle – Amanda Lepore
(7) Terry Richardson – American Apparel Campaign
(1) Helmut Newton – 1975 – Le Smoking
Being able to recognise these forms of sexuality and gender, and put aside the prejudice against ‘sex’ allows us to truly appreciate the advances of opinions on feminism and equality. What is interesting is all three images I chose have largely consumerist aspects around them, reinforcing the idea that sex sells. From a historic and often philosophical point of view, the themes of sexuality and comparing it with an artistic discipline such as photography has shown how we have taken these views and expanded on these expectations over hundreds of years, developing a style that is less frowned upon and now celebrated in appreciating the differences in gender and sexuality. With recent films and books published the discussion of sex has become a more openly discussed topic in which can still be a very visibly provocative ideal or looked at as a way of connecting human beings and the future generation in order to feel less ashamed to speak about gender issues and opinions. “Sex hasn’t changed, the way we view it has and we must accept that” (11).