Date of Award

12-2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Legacy Department

Visual Arts

Advisor

Wrangle, Anderson

Committee Member

McDonald , Todd

Abstract

LETTING THE LIGHT IN
Owen Riley Jr.
December 2010
ABSTRACT
'Forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.' Leonard Cohen
My thesis is a visual meditation on the transitions of life, death, love and emotion that come with age and responsibility. It is what I can touch and feel viewed through the frame of domesticity. It is a ballad of introspection, melancholy and hope redefining the beauty that has been masked by the fractures of time.
My thesis presents my self-created visions of the reality that surrounds me channeled through the 19th. century process of wet-plate collodion photography. The work is executed with a raw and haphazard disregard for the surface and with a worship of what lies beneath the facade. It is a method in which I defy perfection and embrace emotion. This artistic practice allows me to express what I feel in my work, rather than to document what I see in front of my camera. It celebrates the medium of photography as a means to get at the psychic emotions behind the living and the inanimate subjects that I photograph. It is an attempt to create contemporary icons that mark the stations of my life.
I make these photographs in rebellion against the boundaries of representation inflicted on photographic subjects via the software-generated perfection of the digital. These flawless images with their false and un-cracked surface of hyper-pixilated artificiality have become the standard that we hold ourselves up to as a culture. They have also created an art world of digitally created gloss that lacks even the hint of humanity. My work directly connects to art's history, not because I make a conscious decision to emulate an image from the past, but because I have immersed myself in art. This immersion gives the work a vocabulary of images, references and thoughts that come through my subconscious into the execution of the work. I employ a contemporary approach to picture making complicated by layers of historicity that I create when I impose antique memories on 21st. century images by using a historic process to make them. My work is not autobiography, but the subjects of my images are the people and objects that are familiar to me. The Vienna born art historian E.H. Gombrich once said 'The familiar will always remain the starting-point for the rendering of the unfamiliar...without some starting point, some initial schema, we could never get hold of the flux of the experience.'

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