Critique Collective

Critique Collective is your source for information and interviews about emerging and established contemporary artists.

Tag: film

David DiLillo’s Documentary Investigation of Nick Drake’s Hometown

David DiLillo’s multimedia artwork has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Calumet Photographic, Anthology Film Archives, Museum of the City of New York, State of the Art Gallery in Ithaca, Bottleneck Gallery in Brooklyn, Art Takes Times Square, Liverpool Lift-Off Film Festival, on SICTV, and in a wide variety of other galleries, festivals, and publications. He also works as an art instructor and as the Co-Founder/Co-Director of Aquehonga Cinema, a Staten Island community film series. During his interview on Critique Collective, DiLillo illustrates his recent trek to Tanworth-in-Arden, where he documented the town that cult-music icon Nick Drake lived in. Further images of DiLillo’s artwork can be found on his website.

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Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

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Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire


Paul Weiner:
When did you originally find your interest in working as a multimedia artist?

David DiLillo:
The exact point in time is hard to pin down. I’ve been shooting photographs since middle school and drawing long before that. I’m immensely lucky and proud to come from a family of photographers and painters on both sides. They taught me that visual art is not only an important act of expression but also a form of preservation. I grew friendlier with a slew of diverse artists during my time in school and beyond who fiendishly got me involved in film production, sculpture, humor illustration, and other mediums. I love creative collaboration, but I also have an often-overwhelming amount of interests and passions, so I try to have my hands in many projects at once.

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Three Hours From London; Wilmcote Station, Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Who is Nick Drake, and how has his music impacted you?

David DiLillo:
When a close friend first showed me Nick’s music years ago, I devoured it obsessively only to find myself continually rediscovering new layers up to this day. Nick Drake was born in 1948 in Burma and grew up in Tanworth-in-Arden, a small hamlet in Warwickshire, England. His music never gained the recognition or visibility he desired, and he was eventually stricken with depression. Nick mysteriously died from an antidepressant overdose at the age of 26.

You can read a lot about the details, either known or rumored, about his tragically short life, about how he didn’t quite fit into rigid British norms of the time. What speaks to me most is this: Nick had an almost mystical ability to communicate timeless meditations on love and nature, and I’m one of many who deeply relates to his thoughts and struggles. But I believe he was just trying to share his mind and heart with others in the best way he knew how. His music never gained the audience and response that it deserved, and he was eventually overcome with depression. His lyrics shifted between cryptic psalms and beautifully descriptive accounts, and his guitar style blended English folk, American blues, and even Eastern tonality later on. Nick’s fragile music and words of romance and universal connection have consistently given me new eyes to see myself and the world.

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Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Do you consider your Three Hours from London series to be a documentary, narrative, or more conceptual sort of project?

David DiLillo:
The phrase Three Hours from London comes from one of Nick’s darker songs about escape. Interestingly enough, it took me about three hours by train to get to Tanworth-in-Arden from the English capital. When I stayed in the village, I solely listened to Nick’s music and shot without a strict objective in mind, which was a bit non-academic and liberating. I was writing, too, but the series is a very personal visual journal of sorts. It can act as a narrative if certain lyrics of Nick’s are paired with particular images, and it can act as a documentary piece about the town and surrounding areas. I shot in black and white to evoke the time in which Nick lived, though – to use another of Nick’s lyrics, a time of no reply. By visiting Nick’s final resting place, I had the chance to bridge the chasm of decades and feel like I was meeting him.

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Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
I like the idea of trying meet a dead artist and experience the town he lived in. When you were in Tanworth-in-Arden, did you meet and discuss Nick Drake with any of the locals or was this more of an immersive experience of everyday life in the village?

David DiLillo:
I spent a large amount of time hiking the area in solitude, unplugged from most technology and my common distractions. I attempted simply to observe and document what was around me – the shades of leaves in the afternoon, the sounds of children playing in the distance, the brushes of wind from the hills. My immersion seemed sacred, familiar, and rustic all at once. It reminded me of Nick’s songs of isolation. This wasn’t a negative feeling but more a type of connection with the graves and green pastures and people around me. In a strange and welcoming way, this demystified the idea of idolizing a musician whom I’ll never truly know and instead helped me to deepen my understanding of him as a young man who lived a vibrantly creative but far too short life.

I was also completely warmed by meeting and talking to those who lived and worked in town. They were brilliantly and immeasurably kind-hearted, open-minded people. Many patrons at the inn heard my accent and might have assumed that I had come to visit Nick Drake, the singer buried among their many other loved ones and friends. One day, in the cemetery, I met a man sitting on a bench close to me where his wife and he used to sit together. He was there in remembrance of the woman he’d spent most of his life with, and I felt as if I were remembering a man I’d never met. We spoke for a long while, and it was a bond I’ll always cherish.

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Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Are there any particular songs that you used as inspiration?

David DiLillo:
Beyond “Three Hours,” the song “From The Morning” was especially resonant with me. It’s the final track on Nick’s third and last album released during his lifetime, ‘Pink Moon,’ and its lyrics are engraved as the stark epitaph on his tombstone: “Now we rise / And we are everywhere.” Nick’s music is poignantly spiritual, but there are recurring, naturalistic element and motifs without adherence to one single denomination of faith. I interpret this line as a beautiful and hopeful vision of the constantly cycling energy in this world, reborn again and again.

From a different angle, the song “One of These Things First” paints a very stark and grounded image of regret. It’s a perpetually fascinating song. As the litany of paths not taken and responsibilities unmet grows, Nick’s somber words float over brightly swung major chords and piano rolls. I view the piece as an admission and apology to those whom Nick might have neglected while still being an enlightened and wise acceptance of the choices he actually made. I sincerely relate and try to reach this awareness.

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Three Hours From London; Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Were you at all surprised by what you saw in Tanworth-in-Arden?

David DiLillo:
I felt like I had been there before in an old dream. The English Midlands are not unlike the hillsides of eastern Pennsylvania, but the newness of the scents and sounds gave a unique and raw experience. The passing of time, or my perception of it, surprised me. The days seemed long but ethereal and illuminated. I was rendered stunned by the emotional impact that one individual artist’s work and life could have on me, and I was taken aback by a town not frozen in history on the countryside but, rather, breathing with lives and stories that come and go.

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Three Hours From London; Warwickshire

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Three Hours From London; Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Was this series shot digitally or with a film process?

David DiLillo:
I shot with my father’s Canon AE-1 and used black and white film. I nearly forgot to request that the rolls be checked separately at the airport, an important reminder for all other picture makers and photo takers who still travel with film. I was also collecting digital video footage, but it was important for me to use an older process to shoot this project because of the investment of time and care required. There’s the inherent risk of not knowing the look of images taken until much later, but I put trust in my knowledge with the process and in whatever outcome I’d end up with.

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Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

Paul Weiner:
Has your project with Nick Drake affected your way of thinking when creating new works? Did you learn anything about your own practice either technically or conceptually throughout this process?

David DiLillo:
Going into the project, I knew it would be important for me to present the area around Tanworth-in-Arden from an observer’s point of view. Since then, I’ve tried to take the many creative influences I have and make work that can be seen as a reinterpretation of inputs instead of representation and reflection. The isolation of the project and the trip also had its significance and place, but I think I’ve become more drawn to collaborative work in any medium; exchanging ideas with others has become invaluable to me. And I’m still learning to focus less on how a photograph, or any other creative pursuit or piece of art, might fit into the greater whole of an outlined project and more on how I can best genuinely express my own thoughts through art.

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Three Hours From London; Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire


Please view David DiLillo’s work on hiswebsite and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Samuel Lopez and Portrait Photography

Samuel Lopez is a photographer living in New York City and working with film while developing his own prints. His work can also be found online.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you get into photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I grew up looking at the wonderful photos in Life, Look, and many well know newspapers during the late 60s and through the 70s. The images from Vietnam and other places fueled my interest. Photojournalism was my desire. I have always been an observer. I wanted to bring the world to everyone looking at my work.

Also, due to a set of circumstances, all of the photos from my mother’s life had been lost or destroyed. We only had one photo of her as a child and no photos of her mother, my grandmother. I wanted to preserve our family history by taking so many photos that, even if some got lost, there would always be plenty available for future generations.

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Paul Weiner:
Why do you prefer film photography to digital?

Samuel Lopez:
It is a personal preference. I love the entire process of making a photograph. Seeing the image come out on what used to be a blank piece of photo paper still fascinates me. I have always liked things I can touch and see. It goes along with my personality, also. I have always been a hands on, old-school type of guy. The process holds, for me, a certain therapeutic aspect. When I do prints I am in my own world. Knowing that I took an image from eye to camera, to film, then to print it and see it again before anyone else is, and always will be, magical for me.

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Paul Weiner:
Describe the sensation you get while developing your own prints.

Samuel Lopez:
When I go in for a printing session, I lock myself away for about 7 hours or until my chemicals are exhausted. I surround myself with all I need for that time. I even have a small refrigerator in my space for food and drink. I play my favorite music.

As I do each print it, takes me back to the exact moment I exposed the photo. I literally get a chill up and down the back of my neck when I see it first enlarged to the size I’ll be doing the print and secondly when the image comes out as it’s in the developing tray. There are times I’ve been moved to tears, not because I think I’ve created some masterpiece of photography but because, at times, the circumstances, the emotions, and feelings come rushing back to me as I’m reliving the moment all over again.

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Paul Weiner:
What are some challenges that you’ve found as a film photographer in the digital age?

Samuel Lopez:
I often feel a bit isolated. I’ve tried to network with other photographers, but because I work in film it’s like I speak a different language. The fact that I am not able to move into commercial work saddens me, but I realize it’s just the way the business is these days. I am also seeing more and more stores I visit for supplies making their film sections smaller and smaller with less choice for chemicals and paper. Archiving my work properly has become a challenge. My negatives and original Polaroid prints have to be filed away properly. I take great care keeping them dust and scratch free, as well as trying to control humidity and temperature. I recently moved from California to New York City, and I was terrified the entire time that my archive would meet some bad fate on the moving truck!

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Samuel Lopez:
Chemicals are becoming harder to find. Photo paper is becoming scarce also. The loss of Polaroid 600 film was a big loss for the photo community. Spare parts for my cameras when they need repair is getting very hard. Most of my cameras are from the 40’s to 50’s.

Paul Weiner:
Do you see yourself more as a photojournalist documenting the world around you or a fine art photographer?

Samuel Lopez:
Definitely a photojournalist documenting the world. Even when I do studio work, I prefer to work with models that can take a concept and move about freely within the idea as I document their journeys in the moment. I rarely use a tripod. I’m always in motion with my subjects.

Paul Weiner:
I can see how supplies must be limited nowadays. Are there any particular materials for film photography that you wish you could still find for sale somewhere?

Paul Weiner:
How do you find subjects for your photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I look on various model photographer sites, and, at times, I’ve put out open calls for free portraits for anyone willing to sit for me. Models will refer me to people they know that fit my work style, also. I will even ask someone I see that looks interesting on the street or subway to model for me. As a freelance photographer, I don’t have the budget yet to hire from agencies.

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Paul Weiner:
Many contemporary artists shy away from the male nude because of expectations and assumptions our society makes. Have you found it difficult photographing nude men, and have you ever received surprising feedback about male nude photography?

Samuel Lopez:
I have only found that finding male models has been difficult. Most are a bit more over-muscled for my choosing. As a former athlete, I formed an appreciation for both the male and female form. Therefore, the models I choose to work with are more lean and athletic, and I try to pose them in natural positions, also.

Photographing males, for me, is the same process as when I work with women. I try and represent the body as a whole, even in my abstract work. I haven’t had any surprising feedback so far. Mostly very receptive and positive.


Please view Samuel Lopez’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Personifying Color with Moisés Aragon

Moisés Aragon is a multimedia artist born in the USA who identifies as a Cuban because of his undocumented status and family history. His artwork explores his personal identity as it relates to his Cuban heritage while also personifying colors with the guidance of color theory. His work can be found online at http://threeturpentine.com.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you describe why you’ve gotten into making artwork that relates to Cuba?

Moisés Aragon:
To some extent, the entirety of my body of work relates to Cuba. It’s technically my native land. My family is from that great Antilles, so my bloodline resonates. I do remember the natural feeling of being cuban since childhood, and I’ve kept that identity ever since.

When I started with what would become my art career at the age of 8, my thought process of leaving a legacy of art was not of being a U.S. artist but a Cuban artist – somewhat rhetorical for an 8 year old, huh? It wasn’t until adulthood, 19, that my work truly reflected an intentional reflection of the nationality that I’ve always identified with. Withholding irony, this transition coincided with being shortly before my first visit to my country.

While on the island, I produced a brief series comprising of rubbled, corrugated sheet metal onto which I was painting with the now-faded characters of the P.Y.AL series including green and something else I can’t remember. Producing that series most definitely laid the foundation for the current incarnation of P.Y.AL. Aside from the P.Y.AL series, I’m currently focusing on quasi docu-style photography/video work, a mix between candid, surrealist, and architectural work.

The next transition is producing art, tangible or otherwise, in my country and having that work become part of the legacy in progress.

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Paul Weiner:
Explain the idea behind your P.Y.AL Series.

Moisés Aragon:
The current form of the series started in Chicago, circa 2009. At the time, the series itself was in purely abstract/conceptualist form with a strong emphasis on color theory and the relationship between Pink, Yellow and Autumn Leaves & Red and Payne’s Grey (occasionally brown and green). I had been developing the series for 10 years prior, so it felt right to transition to something explicitly figurative and to explore another relationship. This time it was between traditional media and technology. I have since embraced what I view as a concise merger between traditionalism in art and being a contemporary artist in the 21 century.

I decided to incorporate traits of myself onto each figure, and, as a trio, they do indeed encompass the artist as a whole. My love of nature, relationship with plants, and yearning to have my own garden are embodied in Yellow’s weaponry, a young avocado tree in a planter. Autumn Leaves’s needs to care for his companions during battle with no remorse for personal consequences is a trait that I certainly have with my companions. And Pink, well, Pink is an amalgamation of fantastical factions and the attribution there of but with a not-so-obvious conscious understanding of the reality surrounding him.

This series, in its current and past incarnations, offers the viewers or patrons a chance to understand intimately the psychology of the author of each painting, drawing or video.

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Paul Weiner:
Given your legal status, have you found that people in the art world discriminate against you or your artwork in any way?

Moisés Aragon:
Yes, absolutely. One of the major misconception about the self-taught artist is that any work produced by one isn’t refined or it’s not art because it can’t be justified without a BFA/MFA. How can I put this? Creating art is nonsense. Drawing a twi inch line and nothing else on a piece of paper could be and, for the sake of argument, is an exhaustive and satisfying effort. But it’s just a line. However, having a BFA/MFA facilitates doors being opened for networking opportunities, and, in turn, that line on a piece of paper has a 100% chance of, at the very least, getting exposure in a gallery.

Another issue that comes with being undocumented is that you are susceptible to having your work stolen and plagiarized. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. I’ve had gallerists, peers, and close friends who are getting decent exposure steal from me with their justification being, “well, he’s a nobody, so it doesn’t matter.” I mean it’s great that my work is good enough to be stolen, but it’s hard not being able to recover copyrights and lost profits.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you view your work as being conceptual?

Moisés Aragon:
I definitely have conceptual pieces in my portfolio, but, as a whole, I wouldn’t say that what I produce is solely conceptual.

Paul Weiner:
What art medium is your favorite to work with?

Moisés Aragon:
To be honest, I don’t have a favorite medium. Budget is a major factor that dictates how my work gets executed. The series itself, P.Y.AL, is ever-evolving from medias to dimensional incorporation, augmented reality, to concept.

Paul Weiner:
Could you explain your process for making video art?

Moisés Aragon:
I’ve only recently started to execute video art as an extension to my P.Y.AL series and for Cuba-related work. Video work that is specific to a series is more or less researched and planned out in tandem to 2-dimensional work. For example, the 2-D side of the P.Y.AL series showcases vignettes of battles and fighting scene between the protagonists and the antagonists – Pink, Yellow and Autumn Leaves versus Red and Payne’s Grey, respectively. The live-action side of that series, video work, emphasizes the down-time or, rather, what happens between battles and conflicts. In one video, I have Pink wandering through an abandoned warehouse or factory searching, exploring, reminiscing, and lamenting the moment after a battle. Currently, I’m focusing more on creating a sustainable amount of shorts that would explain the characters’ poses, fighting or otherwise, seen on paintings and drawings.


Please view Moisés Aragon’s work at http://threeturpentine.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

Subscribe to the Critique Collective newsletter for additional content, faster updates, art tips, and insider information absolutely free.

Cult Films and the Master Director Jeremiah Kipp

Jeremiah Kipp is a film director working primarily within the genre of horror. Holding a BFA from NYU, Kipp has worked on numerous films that have been featured in many international film festivals as well as commercial films for the Royal Bank of Scotland and Canon. His THE CHRISTMAS PARTY was met by more than fifty international film festivals including the Cannes and Clermont-Ferrand. Kipp’s work can be found online at http://www.kippfilms.com.


Paul Weiner:
How would you describe your role as a writer, director, and producer? How does your experience in each field impact the others?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I am primarily a director who puts projects together. Occasionally, I produce to help facilitate the work of another filmmaker who I believe in or write a project in order to film it. But I don’t consider myself a producer or screenwriter, rather a director who occasionally produces or writes. One project always leads into and informs the next, though, so I am sure my producing and writing has affected my directing. It is all the process of filmmaking.

Paul Weiner:
What genre of film do you prefer to work with?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I have found horror to be a flexible genre, very emotional and visceral. The roots are in fairy tales, where the heroes endure the unspeakable in the name of love or friendship, and their encounter with the witch pushes us into the realm of the uncanny. It could also be because I find the world to be an aggressive and strange place, where human beings have complex motivations. Drama can only take us so far, but horror and fantasy takes us beyond reality into something poetic.

Paul Weiner:
Do you have an ideal audience for your work or setting in which you would prefer the work to be viewed?

Jeremiah Kipp:
I know that the people who enjoyed my film DROOL tended to find CRESTFALLEN to be too mainstream for their taste; and those who loved CRESTFALLEN couldn’t make heads or tails out of DROOL.  Of course, you hope for that open-minded viewer that would be able to enjoy both films for what they are. Thinking of the audience while making the movie is critical for understanding what you’re trying to communicate to them. When I release the work, I allow the film to find its audience in its own way. They each have a life of their own.

Paul Weiner:

Describe your favorite piece you’ve worked on.

Jeremiah Kipp:
While I do not have an individual favorite piece, in the context of this interview I’d be happy to describe one movie to illustrate a point. THE CHRISTMAS PARTY is a project I made in 2003 about a little boy dropped off at a holiday party run by Christians, the kind who want everyone else in the world to be Christian too. I enjoy how the film polarized audiences. Some regarded it as a horror film, some as social realism. The French audiences took it as a satire of Norman Rockwell values, and the Christian audience viewed it as a cautionary tale. Ultimately, the film no longer belongs to me. It belongs to the spectator to interpret as he or she determines.

Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Jeremiah Kipp:
We are submitting a new movie to film festivals entitled THE DAYS GOD SLEPT, which has been described as a cinematic prayer set in a phantasmagoric strip club.

I also have a horror movie called BAGGAGE that plays out like an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents with a Grand Guignol twist. I was hired by horror personality Ro Dimension to direct his script. He played the tormented main character. Folks can either see the premiere screening at Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ or order the movie online at http://youvebeenrobbedfilms.blogspot.com/

Beyond that, I have a new episode in the second season of the Web series IN FEAR OF, and I am in development on several new short fix and a feature, working with many of my wonderful collaborators from THE DAYS GOD SLEPT. I like to work.

Paul Weiner:
How do you feel about the use of gore in horror films, whether excessive or more tasteful?

Jeremiah Kipp:
If they push the gore to the most extreme and grotesque, a la Lucio Fulci, I find it commendable. It becomes an act of morbid excess, where everything is permitted. That is total freedom. I also admire the films of Val Lewton, which depend on a subtle tone of lingering menace lurking just beyond the edge of the frame. It all depends on what is appropriate for the movie, and if it is told with integrity. It’s middle-of-the-road stuff that just doesn’t fly, or if the gore is there because the filmmaker lacks imagination or is clearly going for a cheap thrill; it feels compromised or timid. The good movies know what they are and are uncompromising in that intent.

Paul Weiner:
How do you feel about today’s indie art scene in the context of the great commercialization that has taken place in the film industry?

Jeremiah Kipp:
Commercialization, in some ways, has stifled the possibilities of what movies can be. Some blockbuster movies these days play up as if they were two hours of watching thirty second advertisements strung together. But there is always a counterbalance. Alternative cinema provides a way to tap into other stories, and making movies has become more affordable. When the music industry as we knew it blew apart, it opened up new possibilities. I suspect the same thing will happen with movies. But it has happened before, and all art moves through cycles – all crafts, too.


Please view Jeremiah Kipp’s work at http://www.kippfilms.com/and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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