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Photographer's Showcase: Bear Kirkpatrick's Wallportraits

photo-eye Gallery Photographer's Showcase: Bear Kirkpatrick's Wallportraits photo-eye Gallery is pleased to announce a new portfolio, Wallportraits, by Kirkpatrick. The new series brings together exquisite studio portraiture and seminal paintings throughout art history. Kirkpatrick talks about the new images with photo-eye Gallery's Erin Azouz.

Ashley 3: The Triumph of Death, 2013 by Bear Kirkpatrick

Last year we released a portfolio by photographer Bear Kirkpatrick, whose series Hierophanies depicted nude figures in dark, wooded landscapes. photo-eye Gallery is pleased to announce a new portfolio, Wallportraits, by Kirkpatrick. The new series brings together exquisite studio portraiture and seminal paintings throughout art history. We asked Kirkpatrick to tell us about the new work.

Ashley 2: The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bear Kirkpatrick
Erin Azouz:     How and where do you find your models?

Bear Kirkpatrick:     Models come from different places. Some are friends and relatives, and some are friends of friends and relatives. Some I meet from ads I place on Craigslist, and others I connect with on Model Mayhem. They are often the most difficult to deal with. To be a model on Model Mayhem one must simply proclaim one’s self a model. You know, there’s no test or anything. Craigslist people and friends don’t ever make this proclamation — they are just curious and they like the pictures that I have made. They just want to come into the studio and play a bit.

EA:     How much of a collaboration are these portraits between you and your subjects?

BK:     Almost none. Or, at least if there is some collaboration they are not aware of it. I never ask them, never get their input about what to do in a shoot. But I focus a great deal on what they say to me during a shoot, the stories they tell. To have a person come into the studio, get naked and get painted with clay and decorated with seeds or feathers is an unusual place no matter how alternative you think you are. It creates its own environment in which they are the elevated and yet revealed center. Some real strong forces at work. And they tell me things about their life — they kind of open up about things. And I listen because sometimes later when I am doing the multi-layered composition I might use those stories. They can help provide the start of an atmosphere, an environment, a dreamspace. Sometimes they don’t help at all, though.

Kathryn: Burgoyne's Surrender, 2014 by Bear Kirkpatrick
EA:     I'm curious about the paintings you're incorporating into the photographs in this series. What was your process for selecting them? What significance do they hold (either personally or historically)?

BK:     The image that works as a background and also a veiling are chosen for several different reasons. They carry so much of the weight, you know? They must act as imagery that supports the emotion or expression of the person, and maybe even fight it a little, create some tension. They need, for me, to seem to exist both outside and inside the person. I would love for them to seem like a visible aura of some identity they are consciously cultivating. Or like that they were simply born with, like strands of DNA that encoded the right protein because of some environmental pressure. That sounds kind of heavy, but it’s really not. If you look at genetics you find this sort of event pretty common — variations in offspring and the culling by exterior forces. We carry so much old stuff within us, and mostly it’s pretty useless to our workaday consciousness. But to me these are the vestiges of the ancient elements that all else is created from. So, yeah, those paintings stand for me as memories that predate any cultural artifacts, despite the fact that the paintings were made much later than those vestiges, and the person itself was made even later. I think the paintings themselves are kind of beside the point.

Nicole: After the Master of Saint Veronica, 2014 by Bear Kirkpatrick

View the new portfolio by Bear Kirkpatrick

Read Bear Kirkpatrick's interview about the Hierophanies series

For more information, please contact photo-eye Gallery by email or call 505-988-5152 ext. 202.