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’.

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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.

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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.

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

Dan

 

Alight

_C1_9671Photographers better than me at my university’s student newspaper taught me lots of lessons, and one in particular stuck out this Independence Day: If something’s been seen and photographed a thousand times, get closer. Things always look different close up. I could only get so close this year, and a telephoto lens went the rest of the way.

A funny thing about fireworks: Zoom in far enough, and they start looking a little like sea creatures. Urchins, sea spiders and corals of fire lit up the northwest Arkansas sky Friday and Saturday nights. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many fireworks in one weekend, with a big show at Fayetteville’s Northwest Arkansas Mall (where the photo above was shot) one evening and an even bigger show in Bentonville the next. We somehow dodged storm clouds for two perfect evenings in a row.

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_C1_9394Last year I was across the highway from the mall; this time, it was up to the front.

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_C1_9729I moved around too much during some shots, but even those occasionally left a cool image:

_C1_9684The plan the next day was to go to the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers, but organizers wouldn’t allow a camera in there and had some other odd rules, so some friends and I ditched them in favor of the show in Bentonville’s massive Orchards Park complex. Shows are always more fun when everyone’s sitting, ooh-ing and clapping together on the grass.

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_C1_9866This guy was sitting by himself, right in front of the stage where a band was playing marches and other July 4th-type tunes.

Overall, I’d say Bentonville’s show was bigger than Fayetteville’s and had more colors, a nice display of chemical handiwork. Its finale was a blazing fireball of too much color to even capture.

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_C1_0105I ended the night with a few fireworks of my own; I’m too paranoid about misfires into my face to get anything big, but fountains look cool, right? Speaking of, I saw a lot of people around town holding Roman candles in their hands; if you do that, for future reference, it’s extremely stupid.

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_C1_0293Happy 4th, everybody! Thanks for looking.

Dan