In: Mark Walton

Mark Walton and Bart Gazzola – Spotlight
November 22, 2021

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Walker Evans – James R. Mellow
May 19, 2022

Walker Evans
James R. Mellow
Basic Books; Revised ed. edition (Oct. 11 2001)

Walker Evans is one of the most famous American documentary photographers of the past 100 years and his images will stand for another hundred at least. While every serious photographer is familiar with his work (the best known of which was shot during the 1930’s for the U.S. Farm Security Administration as per the examples below), there have been relatively few books that discuss Evans as a man. James R. Mellow captures his complexities in this eminently readable biography, published in 2001.

What makes particularly interesting reading is Evan’s evolution as an artist, from failed student in the Mid-West US, to failed writer in Paris, to acclaimed photographer on his return to New York in the late 20’s and early 30’s. The book quotes extensively from his letters and other writings. One can almost hear him speaking… I imagine his voice to be a low pitched, slow drawl; a mix of Henry Fonda, Peter Coyote and Alan Rickman (minus the accent).

Evans comes across as dour and fatalistic, yet strangely still likeable. Much of his writing describes his unhappiness with things as they are, whether it be his annoyance with his mother, his dissatisfaction with the quality of the prints made from his negatives or his despondence about his romantic relationships. Many of his friendships with other famous artists are discussed, including Ben Shahn, Steven Crane and Hanns Skolle.

The book offers details about the trips Evans made to do his photography and specifically the trips he made with author James Agee as they worked on the seminal Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Evans plays the role of aesthete opposite Agee’s sensualist, the collision of which resulted in a book acclaimed for its intimacy and realism… a strong documentary account of the lives of sharecroppers and their families in the American South during the Great Depression.

It is sad but somehow inevitable that Evans ends his days as somewhat of an alcoholic / academic recluse. Mellow’s reliance on Evans’ own words leave you feeling as if you really knew him, that you cared about him, but weren’t overly close to the actual man behind the photographs, because of his determination to keep people at bay.

Walker Evans by James R. Mellow is available from numerous online retailers.

~ Mark Walton

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Ana Žanić – One Breath – Femme Folks Fest Repost
March 15, 2022

The first time you see Ana Žanić’s watercolor and pencil artwork is like taking a sharp blow to the limbic system. Every one of your senses screams “I know this” but cannot figure out what “this” is or why it knows it. They take on the form of something both organic and subliminal, communicating to us of the past (back to pre-history) and our deeply troubled emotional state we find ourselves in through the pandemic.

Her colour palettes are very natural and gently reassuring… mother earth will take us back into her bosom and help us heal. The meticulous marks speak of long journeys past, and reach out to our future selves to remind us that we have struggled before and have overcome those obstacles… we can do it again.

I reached out to Ana and asked her a few questions.

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Stéphany Gagnon – Cinéma / Cinema – Femme Folks Fest
March 15, 2022

Stéphany Gagnon | Cinema

I am of an age where I remember receiving a copy of the Canadian Children’s Annual every year for christmas from my parents. I recently purchased a used copy of the 1976 version, the original lost long ago during a past relocation between cities. These books contained what were among the first artworks that I ever inteacted with… in 1975 with a cover by William Kurelek, in 1976 by Lynn Frank (Lynn Johnston of For Better or For Worse fame), in 1977 by Toller Cranston and in 1978 by Ken Danby. These were not lightweight artists. Each were on their way to becoming, or already were, prominent Canadian artists.

Leafing through, I was pleasantly surprised at the memories that were brought back by the illustrations in the book… I remembered every one of those images very clearly. Not only the images, but memories of the rooms, emotions and peoples that are forever tied to those images sprang my mind. It was an like instant recall machine.

The illustraions and paintings of Montreal’s Stéphany Gagnon seem to me to have a similar magic to them. Gagnon’s work is deeply personal, with great attention to detail. It can be ethereally dreamy, but also lucid dreamy, as shown by Cinéma (above) and Lemonade Stand (below). Both seem to tug at places in your brain, looking for memories to associate with them. They are in some sense, lost art, looking for a home.

You can view (and purchase) more of Stéphany’s work on her Instgram page @stephanylitchi.

~ Mark Walton

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Karolina Kuras – Romance, Flight and Fluidity – Femme Folks Fest
March 14, 2022

Karolina Kuras Romance, Flight & Fluidity by Mark Walton ~ Karolina Kuras The COVERT Collective is pleased to be participating in Femme... Read More
Kary Janousek – Connecting to History
March 11, 2022

Kary Janousek Connecting to History Wind - Kary Janousek Kary Janousek is a prairie transplant. She found herself living in Fargo,... Read More
I Say Tomato… Femme Folks Fest 2022 Repost
March 10, 2022

“They took it down and it said, you violated our community standards on nudity and sex… I objected and I clicked the “This is not what it seems” option or “not what you think it is” or whatever it was. They reinstated (the post) and they sent me a notice of reinstatement with a little thumbnail of the damn tomato… which I took a screenshot of and posted to say I’ve been reinstated… and they banned me again.”

Ruth Dick is a prolific photographer from Ottawa. She was one of our very first featured artists here at curated. where I wrote:

“Ruth Dick is a master at capturing the solitary. Almost every image she takes focuses intently on a single object, somehow stimulating a desire to engage in self-reflection… Like O’Keefe, Ruth is able to conjure up form and substance in abstract ways that deftly imbue her images with fresh import. A pepper is not a pepper.”

Things are still not quite what they seem. Her racy photographs have recently caused quite a bit of controversy, and have even been meta-banned. I spoke to Ruth about the implications of this in a recent conversation. You can listen to the podcast by clicking here.

More images by Ruth can be enjoyed on her Instagram account @photos_uncurated. ~ Mark Walton

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Put sunflower seeds in your pocket so they grow when you die | Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. 1889
February 26, 2022

Put sunflower seeds in your pocket so they grow when you die | Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. 1889

It is an understatement to say that many of us have Ukraine in our thoughts, right now. Historians have commented that coverage of many past conflicts have been defined by technological advancements (such as Vietnam with television, or the first Persian Gulf conflict, with it’s almost video game style graphics); the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has already become one that is being seen – and perhaps shaped – by the internet, with streaming and social media.

A recent exchange between a brave Ukrainian woman and Russian soldiers brought to mind the work we’re featuring here (Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers).

From The Guardian: “A woman is being hailed on social media after she confronted a heavily armed Russian soldier and offered him sunflower seeds – so that flowers would grow if he died there on Ukraine’s soil. ‘You’re occupants, you’re fascists,’ she shouts, standing about a metre from the soldier.”

She goes on to command them to “take these seeds and put them in your pockets so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.”

You can see the video of that interaction here.

If it seems a bit crass to cite Van Gogh here, it’s good to remember his work has become a symbol of hope against adversity, of beauty in the midst of pain and suffering, and – possibly – that there is more good than bad in the world. Or, perhaps, it’s more about defiance in the face of difficult odds, and how history – against our trepidations – can be an appropriate judge of contemporary events.

There’s a number of ways you can support the people of Ukraine here, and it’s worth noting that Canada has the world’s third-largest Ukrainian population, so our neighbours and friends are surely watching this with hope and fear. ~ Bart Gazzola & Mark Walton

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Lori Coulter – Diviner
January 27, 2022

Lori Coulter Diviner this piece is tilted... loose page by Lori Coulter When you view Lori Coulter's work, it's almost as... Read More
Liz Potter – Reference
January 11, 2022

Liz Potter Reference The Power of this Land - Liz Potter Liz Potter has a big personality that is inversely reflected... Read More