Fire and rain

_C1_0718.JPGFireworks still work when it’s raining, if you ever wondered.

This Fourth of July weekend brought a little heat and more humidity to northwest Arkansas, but mostly it brought rain. I had hoped Monday evening to wander around my neighborhood and catch people putting on their own shows, but an approaching storm mostly put a damper on that idea.

_C1_0323.JPG

_C1_0265.JPG(Don’t hold Roman candles, by the way.)

Gentle, off-and-on rain lasted through Tuesday evening, forcing the crowd at Bentonville’s huge Orchards Park to clump under umbrellas, gazebos and their folding chairs.

_C1_0346.JPG

_C1_0338.JPGAfter half an hour of this with no slowing in the rainfall, the show began anyway, triumphantly exploding in the darkness without a preliminary word from the organizers. The bombs vaporized the falling water, shrouding their streamers in a dramatic cloak of steam and smoke. I like to evoke space or the deep ocean with firework shots, and this nebula of mist didn’t hurt.

_C1_0638.JPG

_C1_0847.JPG

_C1_0771.JPG

_C1_0681.JPG

_C1_0745.JPGIt was a great show as always, and these photos don’t do it complete justice. You might see a metaphor in the fact that it went on undiminished by the weather. In any case, I hope the country’s 241st birthday was a good one for you, too.

Thanks for looking.

The Big 240

_C1_6959.JPGLast year I called fireworks urchins and corals, but after trying out the zoomed-in schtick again for the show at Bentonville’s Orchards Park, the imagery I had in mind was more cosmic. Stars flashed in and out of existence and competed for space as short-lived comets drifted through smoky nebulae and inky darkness. The smoke from a thousand more displays hung like a veil over the entire drive back to Fayetteville. Happy national 240th birthday, everybody. And thanks for lookin’.

_C1_7182.JPG

_C1_6771.JPG

_C1_6577.JPG

_C1_6841.JPG

_C1_6536.JPG

_C1_6506.JPG

_C1_6797.JPG

_C1_6890.JPG

_C1_6745.JPG

Warhol, Wyeth and Co.

IMG_9411In Netflix’s Daredevil series, an art gallery curator tells the villain, “It’s not about the artist’s name or the skill required, not even about the art itself. All that matters is, ‘How does it make you feel?'”

I hung onto that thought while going through an exhibit of Andy Warhol’s nature-based work at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art up in Bentonville. The array of vibrant animal images is arresting, and the pink, symmetrically arranged blossoms of “Daisy” are pleasant. But this is Warhol, Mr. Pop Art himself, and that means some weirdness. The screen-printed image of a Great Dane named Cecil mounted next to its real, stuffed namesake is unsettling, and the room of pink cows — well, just look.

IMG_9425The only thing that matters is how it makes you feel. Art can crack open your mind and expose what you think and why by making you feel something. Museums talk about “challenging the viewer” so often it’s a cliche, but I think this is what they mean. A stuffed Dane named Cecil is uncomfortable because no matter how skillfully it’s made, it’s not the dog anyone loved. The animal portraits seem downright conventional by comparison. Still, Warhol saw the beautiful in the bizarre, and that’s something to behold on its own.

IMG_9437Warhol shares Crystal Bridges’ spotlight these days with another artist I’d never heard of before named Jamie Wyeth. He and Warhol were contemporaries and friends — they even exchanged portraits of each other in their own styles — but Wyeth tackles art very differently. He sketches, paints and watercolors with truly fantastic detail and color, and he wasted no time getting started; he made one portrait titled “Shorty” when he was a teenager with stunning skill, to my non-expert eye.

I usually meander through exhibits looking at a piece here and there, but with Wyeth’s I could hardly move until I had completely taken in the piece in front of me. I didn’t take many photos there. You have until Oct. 5 to see for yourself.

IMG_9475

IMG_9471A museum full of art always abstractifies my photography. I don’t want to take photos of the art because it feels like cheating. Instead I try to capture its place and how people act around it. I stupidly let my 1D Mark III camera die before going to Crystal Bridges last weekend, so I had my trusty old G10, a camera far less forgiving of low light and high ISOs. That meant I also had to find the stillness in the constant churning.

See what you think of what I came up with. Hopefully it makes you feel something.

IMG_9464

IMG_9404

IMG_9449

IMG_9473

IMG_9442

IMG_9490

IMG_9491I’ll end with a metallic visitor on my living room window: IMG_9400Thanks for looking!

Dan