We are constantly looking at still and video images through compressed formats, on smaller screens, on shrinking devices. I invert the approach to current media, by enlarging the minuscule detail of compressed imagery to a point of beautiful abstract distortion.
By breaking the image elements into enlarged color tiles, I strive to create two levels of viewing. I experiment pulling the eye of the viewer back and forth between the sterile smoothness of tiles and the composed depth of a lit portrait. It is a mediation of human emotion and experience contained from the perspective of the digital age. My subjects, who are poets – parse the human experience into measures of words, sounds, images.
The portraits are large in scale, evoking sacred items to be viewed with a sense of awe and wonder. One thinks of stained glass windows in cathedrals; upon close examination, the exquisite tiles break the image into astounding squares of colored glass. The abstract color tiles invite the viewer to explore the surface texture of the image. When you take a step back, the image becomes whole, the work illuminated, shining light on the subjects – poetry itself.
I make a statement on the nature of a poet – we can see these faces at a distance, but tiles prevent us from recognizing the subjects at a closer range. the sum of their work and voices touches us, but they are, as all people are, ultimately unknowable.
It was in 1995 when the photographer Steven Sebring met Patti Smith while on a shoot for Spin Magazine. Many years later they collaborated on a film Patti Smith: Dream of Life, a book, and an exhibition. And they collaborated again. to celebrate the opening of Sebring’s exhibition Illumination: Who Are Poets at the Milk Gallery in Chelsea (2011).
The exhibit featured a series of portraits Sebring did of Patti, Jim Carroll, Joey Ramone, Michael Stipe, Neil Young, Philip Glass and Richard Hell. To honor the subjects, Patti and Stipe sang and played. Patti shared with the public few lectures stories and songs about all of them. Her passion and devotion to poetry made her the perfect voice for a special New York night. She shared the stage with her long time guitarist Lenny Kaye and her daughter Jesse (magic on piano).