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Studio visit: Wendy Richmond

All images © Jon-Marc Seimon, 2018

Wendy Richmond works with her hands. Her works are elemental. Like breath. Like salt. Every hand is hers, gnarled, forged by evolution and life, and tempered by her deep emotion and keen intellect as she gropes and claws her way through loss to whatever lies beyond.

I visited her studio a few days ago, to talk about her work and to talk about mine. I wasn’t quite prepared for the visceral impact of her prodigious output. My first impression was of an archaeological field site, racks of neatly arrayed and classified body parts—all hands and arms, it turns out, and all hers. Adjacent, a big table containing a rubble of fragments, waiting to be sorted. And a few other smaller pedestals, displaying particularly worthy artifacts. It was like walking into Pompeii, the bone fields of the Olduvai Gorge, maybe Cambodia… And yet, all these forms, literally petrified, nevertheless retain their vitality, the moment of their inception captured for a fraction of eternity.

Working these images yesterday, I entered a deep reverie—how could one not?—reflecting on my own mortality, the way that my own body is beginning to betray me (having endured a life of at-best benign neglect if not wantonly reckless abuse). The ascendency of the next generation as the generation that raised me fades…                                

>>>check out Wendy's website


Touchpoints:

• David Wojnarowicz’s visage emerging from the dirt (or is it being buried?).

• Robert Mapplethorpe’s final self-portrait, with death’s head in focus, and his resolute, defiant expression, already losing its sharpness, looming behind. 

• Percy Bysshe Shelley—Ozymandias (excerpt)

“…Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read…”

 

Getting greasy with Ben

Getting greasy with Ben

Okay, so not REALLY greasy. Ben Boerum is my son-in-law. He and Emma live down in DC with their two magical boys, Charlie and Finn. Ben is this well-educated, highly literate, creative guy—heck, he was Julian Schnabel's assistant for a few years! Sophisticated. And he's sort of obsessed with...LandRovers! I've never been able to figure this out. I don't even know whether to put a space in the name LandRover! Is the R capitalized?

We were down in DC this past weekend, and Ben asked if I'd like to come over to the shop to take some photos. Yes, the LandRover shop...

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Down

Bowery, NYC, 14 July 2009  © Jon-Marc Seimon

I was walking down the Bowery on Tuesday and was accosted by these fellows.  A moment early they had been all sitting on the ground and were frankly looking a little menacing but for the fact that it was mid-afternoon and glorious. Had it been a nastier day, perhaps, but anything unworthy of a lamb seemed pretty out of the question on this particular afternoon. They seemed to be lining up for some sort of a handout, although the Bowery these days feels like the last place you’d actually go for one.

As soon as they saw the camera, they hopped to attention. Lots of banter - I guess my camera looks expensive enough and my Domke bag tattered enough that they took me to be a serious photojournalist or something. I was fascinated by what they said to me: “Do something with this”. Okay, they also wanted a couple of bucks. But their main concern was that their image end UP somewhere. “Make a billboard,” said the man in the middle, and he was eagerly supported by the man in the houndstooth jacket.

Make a billboard. Make me famous. Make me look as good as the youths I see everyday giant in the ads, who’re all posturing to look like tough guys on the street. Like me.

They cheered me up. It’s not that I was down, exactly, but it’s just so hard sometimes to photograph the familiar, and even though the Bowery and Chinatown and Little Italy (what’s left of it) are intense, visually rich places that are constantly changing, after 25 years of walking these streets and poking my camera at people and things it’s difficult to take a picture that you feel like you haven’t already taken. And it’s difficult to take a picture that you feel like you haven’t already seen - if not yours, then someone else’s. 

Like this picture - I took essentially the same snap in Soweto, in 1986. A bunch of guys, younger than these ones, posturing and hamming and wanting me, through my camera, to make them “famous”. 

Same attitudes, same stares, same yearning.

60 Hours

Gallery: Mexico City >>

Last time I was in Mexico City was 13 years ago, with Duston. It was our first big trip together; you learn a lot about someone when you travel with them. We learned enough to know that we should keep at it for the rest of our lives. 

When my birthday rolled around last week, we decided to head back to down there for the weekend.

I’m trying to think of something profound to say about it, but really it was all visceral, sensational. So why don’t you take a look at some snaps, and I’ll just shut up. And hey - consider going there. It’s not that far (depending where you are), but it’s a long, long way from home. What a place!

Weightless

Weightless

I have this image of dying as viewed from outer space. The beautiful earth, blue and green and brown, spinning slowly against the black, and every time a person dies it’s as if a spark is being thrown from the planet, as the person who’s died escapes the bounds of gravity. Earth hurls them back into space – we are all stardust, after all – where they settle in the wake of earth’s trajectory for the rest of time. And earth, like a giant lumbering spinning ship, heaves on and leaves them behind. Time stops. That’s where you ended up...

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