Sunday, December 03, 2006

Joel Truckenbrod ~ Dusk, Cascade River, Minnesota

In response to Ana's comment: From what I've seen of art-school culture over the past few months, I think there absolutely is an almost superstitious fear of formal beauty. It's a very interesting experience (in a tear-my-hair-out sort of way) to have gone from the NPN-like culture where my photography is considered to be quite ugly to the art-school culture where I'm constantly being beaten up for my love of formal beauty. Both of these extremes seem somewhat pathological. -

Having recently graduated from art-school myself (BFA in painting), I found myself having flashbacks to some of the very same issues. Specifically, the notion of formal beauty was a big "no-no". When pressed, my post-modernist professors would submit that there was nothing wrong with formal beauty (as it is different from "pretty")...But, virtually any work that went down this forbidden road was dismissed - unless something was done in the work that would directly challenge, diminish or (preferably) poke fun at the "beautiful" leanings of the piece. My conclusion was that formal beauty was perceived as a threat and was viewed as part of the visual lexicon of "lower" means of artistic expression. Of course, the irony to the whole situation was that the more I was told how formal beauty was boring, uninspired, cliche, often kitsch, etc...the more intrigued I became with it. Though I my paintings didn't really attempt to confront this "issue" (I actually wanted to graduate), I found photography and began to approach the camera as a way to come to terms with some of these questions that I had. I did this on my own time and of my own ambition, which is probably why it has taken a hold of me more than painting ever did - and why I spend all of my time with my camera rather than my paintbrushes these days. After photographing now for almost a couple of years (and also being outside of the school environment), I feel like I'm beginning to find myself in my photography. That's not to say my many questions have been answered. In fact, more have probably arisen, which is something I welcome. They are of my own choosing though, which seems very important. At some point, the choice must be made to pursue those things that internally trigger us, things that we know hold "truth" - even if various groups and cultural/artistic viewpoints tell us no. Even though my professors would probably be appalled with my change of directions, I have never been more engaged with my artwork than I am now.


Blogger Jerry said...


I have an image from the Smokies in November that is very close in design as this. I'm really drawn to the darkness and the blue shift from the very late light. Great job capturing the overall mood of dusk.

12/04/2006 11:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Michelle Parent said...

Having Art school so far behind me now, I thankfully have forgotten most of it (I graduated with a BA in 1989). I do sort of remember some of the issues described and I think that is why I took 3 semesters of photography and 3 of printmaking; to get away from the painting classes! Anyway, needless to say, I have hardly drawn or any other type of artwork other than photography since the mid-90s when I got of Active Duty Army where I was an Illustrator for Psychological Operations. I actually didn't even do photography much (seriously anyway) until the last couple of years.

As for your photo, I love the meandering puddles and deep blues. the shapes are the most interesting part to me in this made by the bedrock and water. The dusting of leaves and needles are a nice counterpoint.

12/05/2006 07:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel Truckenbrod said...

Thanks for the comments.

Michelle, I'm not saying that going through art school is a worthless experience, in fact it was a great experience that taught me a lot...rather I'm simply pointing out how polarized the viewpoints and ideas can become within different groups of people. It just seems that there must be some balance point within all of the talk of various ideals. I don't know that I'll ever achieve this even, but I'm priviledged and thankful to at least give it a try. As you kind of alluded to, putting some life between oneself and the world of academia can change one's perspective to a large extent. This seems healthy, as most of us are trying to make art while being a part of our larger world, rather than seperate from it.

We'll see, maybe in time I'll be singing a different tune.

12/05/2006 11:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Darwin Wiggett said...

Why do we spend so much time caring about what others think of our work (human nature, ego, validation etc??). I used to and in some ways still do (especially if someone has paid me to do photography!). Sure it is good to understand the history of what came before us, but I am finding photography (or art) is much more rewarding when I just go out, immerse myself in it and try to capture visually what I feel at the time (sometimes that is awe, sometimes sadness, sometimes overwhleming beauty). Can we overthink this stuff? Probably.

I like this image as it is contemplative, intimate, visually well-designed and has a quiet, somber mood.

12/06/2006 09:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel Truckenbrod said...

Can we overthink this stuff? Probably.

Perhaps you summed up what I was clumsily trying to get at with this post. I think your right, but at the same time, that doesn't mean we shouldn't think at all. It seems to me, that we care what others think simply because we are human - it's just part of how we're wired. It takes some serious effort to remove oneself from the criticism and praise of others since (as you elluded to) both can lead us to unproductive places.

At some point we have to just "do our thing" and let the chips fall where they may. But, figuring out what each of "our thing" is, seems to take some time and effort.

Thanks for the thoughts.

12/07/2006 04:36:00 AM  

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