Monday, April 27, 2009

Art Space Talk: LeRoy Howard (Part 3)

The Last Supper Project, 1-3 by LeRoy Howard

This is Part 3 of my interview with LeRoy Howard. To return to Part 2 click, HERE

BS: What are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current work?

LH: The Last Supper Project is ongoing. I have completed four pieces, numbering 12 images, and am considering one more piece, bringing the total number of images to 13, or perhaps 14. I model each piece after an existing work of art, some quite closely as in the Last Supper and others are more loosely built on the target image.

As I look at the classic paintings, sculpture and photography I hope to create a larger dialogue with them, bringing them forward in time and hopefully make them as relevant today as when they were first made. All my work is shot in black and white, against a black backdrop which isolates the action and abstracts the human interaction, which I hope offers a more universal reading to the emotional narrative within each piece. I have tried some in color, but am not convinced it would have the power I find in the black and white prints.

Yet I take my inspiration from personal experiences and it is that which brings life and power to the images for me. And all these pieces, in one way or another, explore a variety of emotions revolving around loss, grief, doubt, despair, and betrayal. Not the upside of human emotion, but perhaps it is the power of this side that holds my attention.

BS: What are your thoughts concerning the internet and utilizing the World Wide Web in order to gain exposure for your art? In your opinion, why is it important for artists to embrace the internet?

LH: Initially I thought of using the web, by creating my own web-site, as an extension of my portfolio in order to show people my work. Since that time the internet has become much more central in responding to calls for exhibition as well as sharing my work with galleries, curators and other artists. Then with the development of sites like MyArtSpace the chance came up to engage with other artists, viewing and discussing their work and in return getting their reactions to mine.

My main conviction in making art is the notion that it is a dialogue and that my job is not complete until I hear back from someone. I make the art, someone sees it and they respond. Then the circle is complete. There is that sense of connection that the internet makes happen in a way that is very difficult for most artists who do not have gallery representation to receive. Even when we get our work into a show, it is not often possible to gain a viewer’s thoughtful response, and so the internet has really changed things in this regard.

The Last Supper Project, 1-4 by LeRoy Howard

BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

LH: I certainly hope so! There are a number of calls for work I am responding to and I am also working with another Bay Area photographer, preparing an exhibition proposal for a two-person show.

BS: Do you have any concerns about the art world at this time?

LH: Looking at the photographic gallery scene I’d like to see things loosen up. There seem to be rather narrow ideas of what they expect to bring to the market and the sort of creative imagery that I work with doesn’t seem to elicit much interest.

In many markets the number of galleries you can approach are limited. However, in the East Bay (Oakland, Berkeley, etc.) there seems to be a renewal of the gallery scene with a lot of small scruffy galleries open to a great variety of materials, ideas and approaches. So there is hope.

BS: There has been several stories involving copyright infringement in the mainstream press as of late. What is your stance on copyright? Do you see strong copyright as a reflection of artist rights in general? Or do you feel that copyright restricts creativity? Do you have a stance on this issue?

LH: Honestly, I haven’t given it much thought. I think an artist should be able to protect their work and the marketability of that work, particularly in the internet age when often what one has is an image of that work. But I recognize that things get fuzzy when one artist quotes another, or borrows an image and reworks it, like the Shephard Fairey piece on President Obama. Since I do “quote” some of the classics maybe I’m wandering over to the other side of that issue.

BS: As you know, the economy has been hard. Have you had to change-- or should I say adapt-- your practice due to the economy?

LH: Well, Polaroid has gone out of business and I used a lot of their product working out my staging and angles and such. But Fuji instant film seems to be working to fill that gap. Oh, and I will dearly miss their Type 55 PN, which produces the most seductive B&W negative I’ve seen. I will mourn that! Other than that, I can’t say I’ve changed how I work or had to adapt because of the present economic situation.

The Last Supper Project, 1-5 by LeRoy Howard

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

LH: I try to focus on creating meaning by developing an emotional connection with the viewer. It is the human element that is most powerful for me and figures centrally in my images. I find the human figure creates an emotionally immediate connection, and I feel the nude presents a primal quality and a sense of timelessness.

In my more recent work I have been exploring the use of facial expressions that more directly present emotion and point to a narrative. My work has always suggested a narrative context, but now I purposely build that sense and open it up for the viewer to join. Perhaps I am inviting people to connect with one another, rebelling against so much abstraction in art or a coldness and alienation that comes from the “deadpan” school.

This is the conclusion of my interview with LeRoy Howard. To return to Part 1 of the interview click, HERE

You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- Feel free to discuss the interview and the art of LeRoy Howard on the Forum--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
Myartspace Blog on Twitter

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