Sunday, July 18, 2010
That Moves As You Play
Double Portrait Of Berdie, 1955 by Larry Rivers
Any photographer shooting their kids...or really their own family, is now aware of the NY Times story about the controversy surrounding the work of Larry Rivers and his daughters. Rather than quote it all, jump in and read it HERE. Photo bloggers are on it HERE. Bad vibes all around, with his daughter Emma Tamburlini essentially stating that it contributed to her anorexia and "wrecked her life". I'm not doubting it, just quoting it. Above is a celebrated painting by Rivers of his Mother-In-Law, naked.
Terry Gross interviewed Rivers in 1992. They discuss a controversy that occured when a nude painting of his son was exhibited:
Gross: Your son was very embarrassed. He was relieved when the police removed the painting. He says, to this day, he has a twinge of embarrassment when he sees it. Did you realize that at the age of fourteen it would be so embarrassing for him to have his nude portrait publicly displayed?
Rivers: No, no. He may have felt that way, and maybe I even thought about it, but I didn't think it was too much to ask of a child, truthfully speaking. And, you know, he did it. He knew I was a painter, that's what I do, and that he would be useful. If he was embarrassed, I'm sorry. You know, so what?
OK...so his attitude is harsh and uncaring and doesn't help things....but I suspect he enjoyed courting controversy. I feel that having kids is this thing that affects any artist who finds themselves in that situation. Making art about that experience is just a natural extension of what they are up to. Alot of times showing this work out of context, showing it before it is complete really throws people off to what it is all about. What are our obligations? I guess it depends on whom you are trying to please...is the art more important than the relationship? Did the subject have a voice in the process? I have no answers, but really anyone who has shot their kids has asked these questions of themselves and their work.
Here, I've got ECHOLILIA. It's in a physical book and I'm selling it and it's filled with images of my son...the whole project hinged on his involvement. There he is on the cover, head in a trash can. I must admit, I was a little gun shy when the book came in to the house. What if he has some negative reaction? Is he gonna appreciate this and still think it's cool? Is he going to care either way? And if he digs it, will that change as he gets older? The access one has to family is unlimited, but the power of the relationship is the thing that carries the price for all of this access. What's all good now might not really be that way at another time. There was a song by the band "X" that had the chorus This is the game that moves as you play. That line always pops in my head as I try to get a handle on these things.