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Creativity and Turmoil, part 1

Left to right: Mitch Dobrowner, Shiprock StormMark Klett, Moonset with Venus;
Edward Bateman, Antelope Island No.766


I would have never predicted the trajectory of news headlines that rapidly unfolded in early 2020. Since then, the world has been through a lot, resulting in forced change that has caused many of us to re-evaluate [everything]. I have made some changes, but my love and dedication to the arts have only grown stronger. I have concluded that while art is considered a luxury (you can’t eat it or put it in your gas tank), it has aided many of us in maintaining sanity during dark times. I believe that making art and being in the presence of art is healing. Art permits us to communicate and share experiences that can be difficult to articulate with words. 

As I write this in July of 2022, I feel like it is safe to say that we will not return to the life we knew in 2019; however, many of us have found ways to adapt – and if we were lucky, learned how to identify and lean into the things that make us tick. For me, a significant source of inspiration was finding new ways to share artists and their artwork, resulting in an ongoing series of “online exhibitions” and the video series “photo-eye Conversations."


As a result of the continuous digital communication in an otherwise "shut down" world, topics surrounding how the times were impacting art-making surfaced organically and frequently. I became fascinated with the range of experiences and viewpoints and discovered that many artists were at least looking for a silver lining.  


Recently, with a blog series in mind, I asked a few represented artists here at photo-eye about their thoughts regarding the following statement -- 

“Some people believe that having a little turmoil can be used as fuel in the artistic process." 

Today, I am excited to present part one of that two-part series – stay tuned for part two next week!

-- Anne Kelly, photo-eye Gallery Director

Mitch Dobrowner

The world is a crazy place right now, and that seems to be causing a lot of turmoil in people's daily lives. But the reality is that we all go through it at some point in our lives, we all just handle it differently. My personal experience is that going through some type of turmoil distracts me creatively - but only at that moment.   

How can I be creative when all I'm thinking about is what I read on social media, or see in the news, or worry about taking care of my family, paying the bills, COVID, kids, maintaining the plumbing in the house, etc. Those thoughts move me from the right brain (IE: the creative, imaginative, daydreaming) to the left brain (IE: the logical, mathematical, problem-solving side). So I just try to see the positivity in it; that turmoil can cause a reset in my thinking/focus. 

As it refers to my art and being creative, it has always made me aware of the good things those 'turmoil demons' distract me from; instead of being enslaved by them, it allows me to continue to grow and find greater self-knowledge of what I'm really about. I once read a quote that “an artist can create not because of their neurosis but despite it." For myself, I create only to the extent that I am alive inside, centered and aware of who I am. So I guess - yea, life's dramas can cause me a reset and thus allow me the chance to grow. But on the other hand, I know some amazing artists, whom I call "tortured souls," that are most creative when things are hardest for them. So I guess people just handle turmoil differently - so to each their own. 

Mitch Dobrowner, Lightening/ Cotton Field, 2021, Archival pigment print, 20x30", Edition of 25, $2500

As part of our new video series, photo-eye Conversations, photo-eye Gallery Director Anne Kelly asked Dobrowner about his practice and most recent work. Ironically, a thunderstorm rolled through the Santa Fe area as the interview was taking place — it could not have been planned better! Check out the blog post that features this conversation HERE or watch this stimulating conversation on Vimeo

Portrait of Artist Mitch Dobrowner

Mitch Dobrowner was born in 1956 in Long Island, Bethpage, New York. Worried about Mitch's future and the direction his life will take, his father decided to give him an old Argus rangefinder to fool around with. Little did he realize what an important gesture that would turn out to be for Mitch. After doing some research and seeing the images of Minor White and Ansel Adams, he quickly became addicted to photography. Years later, in early 2005, inspired by his wife, children and friends — he again picked up his camera. Working with professional storm chaser Roger Hill, Dobrowner has traveled throughout Western and Midwestern America to capture nature in its full fury, making extraordinary images of monsoons, tornados, and massive thunderstorms with the highest standard of craftsmanship. Dobrowner’s storm series has attracted considerable media interest (National Geographic, Time, New York Times Magazine, among others). He lives with his family in Studio City, California.

Mark Klett

I think turmoil can be an important fuel for the artistic process, but I also think the artistic process is inspired by many sources and changes for each of us over time. I wouldn’t personally seek out turmoil as a permanent source of inspiration. It may be my instinct for self-preservation, but I’ve always thought that being an artist was a long-term game.

Mark Klett, Car Passing Snake, Eastern Mojave Desert, 1983, Silver Gelatin Print, 16 x 20," $3,500

To see Mark Klett's online exhibition Seeing Time: A Forty Year Retrospective on the photo-eye Gallery website please click HERE.

As part of our video series photo-eye Conversations, photo-eye Gallery Director Anne Kelly and Mark Klett do a virtual walk-through of Seeing Time: A Forty Year Retrospective, his recent online exhibition. They also discuss the artist's prolific career and the making of his book. Watch this stimulating conversation HERE or on Vimeo.

Mark Klett is a photographer interested in making new works that respond to historic images; creating projects that explore relationships between time, change and perception; and exploring the language of photographic media through technology. His background includes working as a geologist before turning to photography. Klett has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Japan/US Friendship Commission. Klett’s work has been exhibited and published in the United States and internationally for over thirty-five years, and his work is held in over eighty museum collections worldwide. He is the author/co-author of fifteen books. Klett lives in Tempe, AZ, and recently retired from his position as Regents’ Professor of Art at Arizona State University.

Edward Bateman 

In its first months, the pandemic seemed to find a way to target each of our vulnerabilities, my own included. For about 20 years, I have been pondering the words of my literary hero, John Barth:  

“Of what one can’t make sense of, one can make art.” 

I think, for many of us, our art-making is how we understand and process what we experience. But our responses need not always be overt – and are possibly best when they aren’t. There is always a risk of pathos and melodrama when we are in the middle of things. Sometimes, simply making art can serve to show us that we can still act – we can still make a small difference in a world that seems determined to shut us down. 

My kitchen table landscapes (Yosemite: Seeking Sublime) reflected the stay-at-home isolation of covid, but that is not what they were really about. My leaf project (Reversing Photosynthesis) mirrored my mom’s approaching end of life – and was my last show she ever saw, but I wasn’t conscious of that when I started. Thinking back, almost every one of my projects has had some connection to something bigger than me that I couldn’t make sense of at that time. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, I watched a live Zoom of Sophie Calle talking to students. I believe she wanted them to be totally in the moment – since she requested that it not be recorded. She was asked: “What advice would you give to students in this moment of peril.” There was something very grounding in her reply – or at least in how I remember it. “Every moment is a moment of peril. We never know when tragedy will personally strike us.” Now is always the time to practice those things that support our well-being. 

Art is how I get through stuff, and I’ve learned to rely on it. When I have a tough day, I make art– it’s my refuge. On a good day, I make art to celebrate. And on the other days? I make art just to see what will happen next. Ideas come from ideas – and doing. My experience has been that the muses don’t cough up the goods until they know you are serious. 

Edward Bateman, Half Dome in Winter No.3, from At Home in the West, 20x20", Edition of 6, $1200

Anne Kelly joined Edward Bateman in an online view of his fantastic exhibition Yosemite: Seeking Sublime in our video series photo-eye Conversations. They discussed Edward's process in re-creating Yosemite among other things — at one point in the conversation, the artist found himself enveloped in a thick cloud of fog! Check out the previous blog HERE or watch this amazing conversation on Vimeo.

Portrait of the artist Edward Bateman

Edward Bateman is an artist and professor at the University of Utah. His practice often pushes the boundaries of photography with his use of uncommon processes and technologies such as 3D digital modeling. Through constructed and often anachronistic imagery, he crates alleged historical artifacts that examine our belief in the photograph as a reliable witness. 

In 2009, Nazraeli Press released a signed and numbered book of his work titled Mechanical Brides of the Uncanny, which explores 19th- century automatons as a metaphor for the camera, stating: “For the first time in human existence, objects of our own create were looking back at us.”

Bateman and his work have been included in the third edition of Seizing the Light: A Social and Aesthetic History of Photography by Robert Hirsch. His work has been shown internationally in over twenty-eight countries and is included in the collections of The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and Getty Research among others. 

Print costs are current up to the time of posting and are subject to change.

For more information, and to purchase prints by Mitch Dobrowner, Mark Klett, or Edward Bateman

please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly or Gallery Associate Jovi Esquivel

or you may also call us at 505-988-5152 x202

photo-eye Gallery Creativity and Turmoil, Part 1 Anne Kelly Is turmoil fuel for an artistic process?