Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Robert Mapplethorpe and His Photography

           Robert Mapplethorpe was born in New York in 1946 where his fame began. He began his studies at Pratt institute concentrating on graphic arts. His path as a graphic artist quickly came to an end as he dropped out of school without finishing his degree. After working as a fine artist for many years, his interests took a sudden turn as he developed an interest for photography. His unbelievable sense for photography seems as if it was a natural part of his everyday life.  In the mid-1970s he was edged on by many to pursue photography. Robert began his career by taking numerous photos of his friends, acquaintances, and other artists. His aesthetic took a bit of a change in the 1980s as he began to focus his photography on statuesque male and female nudes, as well as portraits of other artists and celebrities. Taking on his proud sense of homosexuality he took many chances with his artwork. His photography yet classical and stylish, it portrayed explicit homoerotic themes which both led to his fame as well as general controversy at the time. Before he passed away in 1989 he helped found the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. The foundation to this day helps promote his work throughout the world, as well as donates millions of dollars in the fight against AIDS and HIV infection.
            Mapplethorpe concentrated a lot of time on self-portraits to convey his messages to the public. The two photographs below are a strong example of his work. By placing the two self-portraits next to each other, the striking difference is exemplified to the viewer. At a sudden glimpse, the photographs clearly portray Robert. When paying closer attention to the detail in the pictures, there is more to them than just a common self-image. The photograph on the left portrays Robert, as the common person would call “masculine and tough.” The leather jacket, messy hair, the cigarette, and the powerful gaze give the photograph a common assumption of masculinity. In contrast, the photograph on the right has a subtle and soft appeal and generally seen as “feminine.” His hair is softly curled, eyes wide open with mascara, and the tops half of his body is bare.
             Through the two self-portraits Robert allows the viewer to see how subtle differences can portray a completely different image to the viewer. The two portraits are exceptionally prominent.  The direct eye contact is used to connect on an even tighter note with the viewer, and make us believe we know more about Robert than we actually do. The use of black and white creates a magnificent contrast between the lights and dark tints. The contrast depicts the images on a superior level while avoiding all the distractions color would bring. The background of the photographs is bare. Such a choice of background shows that Mapplethorpe wanted to mainly focus on the subject, in this case he is his own subject. The lighting in the left photo is dominating, giving it a striking look. The choice on the right is subtle lighting, making the photograph look soft and less defined.
In my opinion, though these two contrasting pieces Mapplethorpe strives to portray how just subtle differences in a masculine look can strive the people’s common assumption of feminine look or homosexuality in a man. I believe though these two photographs Robert wants to prove that just through minor changes people can perceive him as, either the “tough guy” on the left to the “soft feminine guy” on the right in just a matter of seconds. His example shows how people can be quick to judge and treat another just by their outer appearance. Paying close attention to detail, I believe Robert knew that the contrasting images would leave the impact he wanted to achieve. As an artist myself, the portrayal of the outgoing message in my artwork tends to become difficult. A photograph is such a simple idea, yet not many can achieve what they want through a simple photograph as well as Robert Mapplethorpe did though out his life. To this day Mapplethorpe remains a very important part of the world of contemporary photography.

 Mapplethorpe's  work...


Monday, October 18, 2010

By The Shore

Nature, the idea is so simple yet so complex. A part of life that is not easily replaceable. For myself nature is a getaway, a seldom run to freedom. A way to run away from the busy and complicated lives we live. There is no other feeling than being surrounded by unknown scenery, when nothing man-made is visible in the distance. As Thoreau said, “I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,--to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society.” Being secluded in a natural environment gives me a sense of solitude, rather than being a part of the human civilization as a whole. It appears to me that nothing from the outside world could possibly take away my thoughts or feelings at that given moment. When the fresh air fills up my lungs while surrounded by the sound of nature; my inner-self awakens.

September 25, 2010
As the warm mid-afternoon breeze strikes my body, I know it feels much different than earlier this month. The breeze occurs as a refreshing sensation rather than a burst of unwanted humid air. The transition from summer to autumn is simply stated in a small gust of wind bouncing off the water. Even though not yet in my sight, the water feels closer as my feet slowly dig into the sand with every step I take. The sand dunes surrounding my line of vision make the sensation of approaching the ocean even more of a pleasant surprise. The dunes vine up and down, like a line of humps resembling the Lockness monster, but in a lake filled with sand rather than water. The dunes are mostly irregularly shaped rather than taking on the perfect curves. The irregularity adds to the environment, making it seem more wild and secluded. Tall sea grass is overgrowing the slumping sides of the dunes. Some places appear greener than others depending on how dense the vegetation grows. The tips shimmer in the radiant sun, not a single cloud in sight. All the grass seems to sway in such a contained harmony. Every time the breeze tickles the sides of the flexible grass, it sways in a directed way. It appears as if the other vegetation follows the leader and sways uniformly with its neighboring grass.
Between the swaying greens appear lighter areas. From the distance, long curved lines are seen in front of my eyes. It looks as if someone took a giant pen and scribbled a sand colored line. Closer to my eyesight the scribble does not appear so out of the ordinary, but only as a man made path stretching all the way down the strip of dunes. As my feet begin to reach the top of the collapsing dune, the sensation of the ocean fells overpowering. A light smell of salt tickles my nostrils as the breeze begins to pick up at the top of the dune. This is my first time climbing over a dune, maybe not the first but I could not recall a different window in time where I had experienced such interesting wild scenery just to reach the shore. From past memories I could remember the beaches usually having parking lots and wooden paths made right into the beach. This time the expectations are lost in the breeze, what lays beyond the overgrown sand dunes appears as a mere vision of imagination and unknown. Finally the last step to the peak, nearing the top of the sand dune the view of the horizon slowly begins to come into my sight.
The reflection of the bright sun bounces off the pale waves and the seemingly endless body of water stings my eyes. Not one cloud is visible in the sky and the sun is as bright as ever spreading its rays over every part of the beach. The sun does not strike as resiliently as it did the last time I went to the beach. Just a few weeks went by since my last time here, but the difference is so signifying. The sand gleaming in the sun spreads into the distance as the water bounces around with a few waves here and there. Some spots on the surface of the water appear brighter than others in the beaming bright rays coming from above. This could easily be one of the last few days that will be enjoyed here, well at least for the next few upcoming months of cold and rainy weather. The warm environment brings together for one of the last times the last few, who tend to keep on to summer before the fall and winter months bring on entirely new color scheme and feel to the beach.

“The least movement is of importance to all nature. 

The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.”

-Blaise Pascal

October 2, 2010
On my second adventure the timing of my visit is dramatic in its appearance. I approach the dunes in the same sense of style that I had the first time. This time the travel through the dunes is a quicker adventure. The surrounding environment from a quick glance is similar to before. Rather than being vibrantly bright from the mid-day rays it seems mellowed out by the warmer tones of the late afternoon sky. The tips of the tall grass are in shades of oranges. My eyes actually feel open, not making a narrow slit while trying to squint from the bright sun. The sun is not even visible in the sky until I have the entire beach in sight. The glow of the sun is quite warm and welcoming. It guides my eyes and body closer and closer to the shore of the water. Even though the sun feels so close by, it lays far away in the distance.
The motion of the sun descending down below the horizon line appears fast, and within seconds the sun completely disappears. Gone as if though the cold water swallowed it all in one huge gulp. Now that the sun is no longer a distraction to the eye, what seemed as a bright sky before now is a welcoming array of warm electrifying colors. Near the dark horizon line lays a thin strip of purple, followed right above with an orange one. The separation between the purple and the orange is clearly defined, but after the orange tone the sky just disperses into a mellow tone of light yellow.
I spin my body around; the sky in the opposite direction is a beautiful deep blue. The two opposing sides, orange and blue, are like complimentary colors fighting to win the sky over. In the distance only a dark outline of the lifeguard chair is visible against the bright orange sky. The chair, now empty, seems more as a mere flat black line drawing than a real wooden construction. This moment on the beach means so much more to me than the first. This time, only a few passer-bys came by once in a while rather than settlers setting up permanent sites for the day on the beach. I cannot explain the amount of relief that just this quick trip to the shore brings about. With every salty deep breath through my nose a pound of stress seems to flow away with the ocean tide. The rebellion of freedom is quite possible being surrounded by such a refreshing environment.

The mystery of the beginning of all things 
is insoluble by us; 
and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.
- Charles Darwin

October 5, 2010
A day like no other recent days, one I can easily call a gloom fest. Chilly weather, rain on and off, a time to take out the rain jacket. If I hadn't explored the Horseneck shore a few times before today, I would find myself lost in the drizzly fog. The surrounding environment tends to look quite repetitive whichever direction my eyes gaze. Who finds themselves on a beach on such a disliked day, the answer to that is quite obvious; not many. The feeling of loneliness like no other, but it wasn’t a loneliness that you want to override. It is an appreciated sense of loneliness. A time for myself to feel what I want to feel, and think what I want to think, while avoiding any disruption or hesitation. There is no second-guessing here. It’s just my body, my mind, and the stillness of the surrounding gray atmosphere.
The sun is nowhere to be seen today, just a bare sky of light gray, looking as a blank canvas waiting to be painted. Perhaps waiting to be painted deep blue to bring back the beautiful dome covering the planet. There is no warm breeze, just a freezing one that leaves nothing but a bunch of goose bumps every time it dances by. This is not the conceptual view of the beach. Maybe it’s a good thing going places at unexpected times. The beauty of the beach now takes on a surprising new turn. At this instant the sun and the sky are not the main focus of my eye, the other feelings in my body feel more intact. I move my toes throughout the sand; the texture feels smoother than before. The amount of sand on the beach seems endless under my toes. The water line blends in with the beach. The grayness takes over the whole environment. The ocean water is uneasy as it splashes in every direction in the distance. Even when the small splashes reach my body they send shivers from my toes up to my spine. Some water manages to bounce in a certain way off my leg and lands on my lips. The slight taste of salt reminds me of those endless summer days when I was younger. Days spent constantly splashing around in the water, while sometimes getting an unwanted gulp of the salty ocean. The breeze coming from the direction of the cooling water hits my body forcefully, as to notify that the cold dusk is nearing. 

“My life is like a stroll on the beach...
as near to the edge as I can go.”


Butler, Judy. Oats and Fences. Digital image. Naturalistic Journal: Down The Nature Trail. 28 June 2009. Web. 15 Oct. 2010.

By the Shore, Horseneck Beach. Personal photograph by author. 2010.

Darwin, Charles. "Darwin Online: Introduction to Darwin's Personal 'Journal' (1809-1881). CUL-DAR158.1-76." The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. Jan. 2006. Web. 15 Oct. 2010.

Pascal, Blaise. "Nature Quotes, Famous Nature Quotes, Nature Sayings Quotations Verses." Famous Quotes, Famous Quotations & Sayings, Great Quotes. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.

Thoreau, Henry David. "Walking." Great Literature Online. 1997-2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.

Unknown. Beyond the Books. Photograph. Dartmouth. Connect. Web. 15 Oct. 2010.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Ouroboros

Some may think that tattoos are just an outrage, a chance for a teen to rebel against authority. For some it might be a sudden out of the blue decisions or drunken mistake. For many it is a way of self- expression and a symbol that takes on a meaning for the owner. I have always admired body art, and myself looking into getting a couple tattoos. It is not an easy decision, just pile of sketches and maybe if the wrong one is chosen, just a mark for the rest of your life. Not one person knows in an instant what the best choice is. Tattoos are seen everywhere is this modern world. Most my friends, have at least one tattoo if not more. One that caught the most of my attention was the dragon on of my friend’s shoulder. As and art student I always admire even the smallest designs,  as I have always admired Nathaniel Harper’s for it’s amazing craft. His tattoo is an example of tradition as well as personal expression. Not until recent the true meaning behind it was revealed to me.
     At twenty years, Nate is an artsy individual living in a small town in central Massachusetts. To a common viewer, a dragon circles around Nate’s right shoulder. So what lies behind such a dramatic decision for a tattoo? “My family has a long history for getting tattoos, so for my eighteenth birthday my parents asked me if I had anything in mind. Not too long before the question was asked, I had been looking at a mythology book when I came across the Ouroboros. Right away something about this picture stood out to me and upon looking more into the legend behind this creature I was so interested by its meaning of eternity. Right and then, I decided that’s what I wanted. A symbol of eternal return, as if this tattoo was a reminder of keeping what I learned and who I met forever.” Following the passed tradition Nate got his Tattoo, but the meaning went into a much deeper sense.
Nate Harper's actual tattoo.

Outlined in a dark black line, with evil eyes, sharp claws and spiky tail; the so-called Ouroboros is what actually rests on Nate’s shoulder. For those you who don’t know of such a monstrosity (so didn’t I until two days ago) Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a dragon or serpent eating its own tail. It can often symbolize cyclicality or self-reflexivity. According to an online source, not only is the dragon a symbolic meaning in religion and mythology, but alchemical illustrations. The dragon goes all the way back to 1600 BC in Egypt, the first drawings of such figure were found on hieroglyphs inside pyramids. According to Nate, the progression of Ouroboros is what intrigues him. The symbol passed on for years, meanings piling from all sorts of perspectives.
      No wonder why people sometimes perceive tattoos as just a body decoration or image. The meaning can’t simply be assumed through just the naked eye. Not until the owner releases his true meaning the tattoo comes to life. To my surprise at first I viewed Nate’s tattoo as just an intriguing drawing. After finding out more of Nate’s reasoning behind the tattoo and my own research, I began to appreciate the tattoo remotely more. Not only was it a form of tradition but a hidden meaning of eternity.  From that point not only do I pay attention to the design and color, but also the inner symbol anyone’s tattoo may posses.

Other examples of Ouroboros