Saturday, February 24, 2007

Old Friends

Went last night to two art openings at Webster University. To be honest, I went to one, and then discovered that a second was also going on.

Martin Schweig has a retrospective show chronicling his long love affair with photography. Martin ran a photo studio and gallery since the 1950s. It was one of the few galleries in St. Louis at one time, and the only one at some point that focused (a pun) on photography. I showed there, along with many who were at the opening. So it became a kind of reunion, since many of us had a common heritage.

Martin not only loves photography, but loves traveling and animals. All this comes through in his well-seen and beautifully crafted images. He is not a modernist. His work is a tribute to many photographers, and to a medium that has now been changing because of both new technologies, theoretical constructs, and painters who leaped on the bandwagon. And we see in his photographs his tremendous enthusiasm for the world, from the animal kingdom to delightful images from many parts of the globe.

In the good old days Art (I'm capitalizing Art as some capitalize G_d) photography was just an ugly stepchild and no one sold photographs and if they did, it was for nothing. You did photography because you cared about it, and you didn't care what it would give back to you in terms of fame and fortune. Photographers stuck together because they understood each other, and they trusted each other, and they spoke the same language. Martin did make a livelyhood as a portrait photographer, and he was one of the best. But the majority of the exhibition is the other kind of photography. The kind that you'd do for one reason: that you are addicted to a well-crafted photographic image.

Before I leave Martin and the opening/reunion, I wanted to speak about old friends...childhood friends. With some, the connection is as strong as it ever was, and with others, well, life goes on and we change. The hard part is when it changes for one party and not for the other.

I dreamt last night about one old friend from college who was a great inspiration because of his thirst for learning. His Achilles heel was that he was a sociopath and ended up, after getting a PhD in computer science, in prison. I do web searches for him occasionally, and can't find him (especially hard because he has a common name). Maybe he'll contact me some day like he did in my dream.

In the dream he had popped up in my life, and I was very glad to see him. He looked great and appeared to be on the straight and narrow. I wanted to take him to Chicago so he could see a friend there that was also very close to him.

The second exhibit in the art building was the work of four French artists.

I grew up in art believing that almost all good contemporary Art is done in America, and have since learned how stupid is that perception. Still, I continue to be a little surprised when I see well-conceived and executed (and inspiring) work from other countries.

My travels to Italy, and somewhat to England, suggested that there is a lot more honor given to the past (and to religion) than to contemporary art and thought. It is refreshing to see artists, such as in the Webster show, who are willing to snub their noses a little on their traditional icons and artists.

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