DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2014/10/11

Reboot

Dance Shadow Drawing, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Dance Shadow Drawing, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

After five and a half years, 226 posts, and over 2800 images, with this post I bring Drawing Life to a close. Don’t worry – all the posts will remain online, and at the end of this post I’ll provide the link to a new site where I’ll share my work going forward. I’ve been going through a major transition in my life and it’s time for a kind of rethinking and spring cleaning of all my habits and practices.

The images accompanying this post are from an experimental drawing session I did last March with model/collaborator Kristin Hatleberg. I turned my whole studio into a cave of paper and covered the walls and floor with ink strokes tracing the outline or shadow of the body in motion. That was around the time my life transition was getting started, and this session was a sort of ritual for new creative possibilities.

Floor Figures, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Floor Figures, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

I rarely write about my own life here on Drawing Life. I avoid drama and so I imagine my life would be pretty boring to anyone not close to me. I devote much of my free time to drawing, photography, and other creative pursuits. While I show work and do events and performances fairly regularly, I’ve always maintained my art as an amateur practice. Of course the word “amateur” means lover, one who does something for the pure love of it. Since I work for a living, I don’t have to worry about creating work to please a market or to make it fit what some critics want to write about. I keep the work free, and I follow it wherever it leads me. To be honest, while I love a lot of living artists and their work, the international contemporary art scene as a whole, with its mega-wealthy collectors and ego-driven art stars, its combination of pretentious discourse and cheap gimmickry, bores me, and while I ignore this official Art World, it ignores me back. I’d rather treat my work as my own exploration of perception and practice. I do want to use it to communicate to a larger audience, but I’m actually more driven by the pleasure of sharing one on one, the special connection that develops between me and my models, the people I sketch portraits of and the people whose bodies I paint, the dancers and performers I collaborate with, and the fans of my work that visit my studio, sit with me on the floor and look through piles of drawings or photographs.

Tracing an Arc of Movement, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Tracing an Arc of Movement, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

For a very long time, I’ve lived a Bohemian lifestyle in New York, making my living through freelance photography, video production, film projection and other audiovisual work, with occasional commissions or paid gigs as an artist, teacher or performer. I’ve usually worked as little as I could get by with and kept as much time as I could for my creative work. The cost of living in the city has gone up and up in recent years, but I never had too much trouble finding paid work, though the older I got the more my lack of savings and lack of health insurance concerned me. So when I found the opportunity to take a job with good pay and excellent benefits, I went for it. I’m now a full-time film projectionist at the Museum of Modern Art, the first stable full time job I’ve had in over twenty years.  I’ve been a backup projectionist there since 2011, working full time hours since one of the full-timers retired last spring, and an official staff member since August.

Floor Figures, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Floor Figures, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

While I have been giving more of my time to paying work – even before my hiring at MoMA I’d been working an erratic but heavy schedule for the last couple of years – I have kept producing as much artwork as ever. While I haven’t been posting here on Drawing Life as frequently as I once did, this year I’ve done tons of drawing and photography, several live performances and film projects in collaboration with dancers, and have been developing a number of long-term projects that need time to come to fruition.

The job, with its demands, its regularity, and its security, changes everything. For a while I thought I could just re-arrange all my old activities into the new schedule, but it isn’t so simple. I’m determined that these changes will not diminish my creative life but will allow it to achieve greater depth. I could choose to keep posting here at Drawing Life as I have been. The list of yet-unwritten blog post ideas I maintain now has over 250 entries, some of which are sets of work that already exist and could simply be arranged for presentation on the blog. But I also want to devote some of my writing energy to a longer form, to a book or books that can develop some of my ideas in more depth. I think the internet is better suited to snippets and tweets and quick takes. Drawing Life’s picture essays have reached a small but appreciative audience, but they represent a sort of middle level of complexity, not enough for a deep read but maybe too much for the multitasking web surfer to take in.

Hand Stencils, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Hand Stencils, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

So I’m going to write a book. Wish me luck at achieving the kind of sustained discipline that will need. I’ve started a new blog, a Tumblr microblog called Inklings, where I’ll regularly share individual drawings, paintings and photographs, short films, and brief poems and paragraphs to inspire and please my fans. I’ve already added two posts there, a drawing and a four minute film about the wind. I expect to post there twice to thrice per week. What goes up there will also be shared on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter, so follow the stream at any of those places.

Some of the online book services have blog-to-book functions, so I’m also thinking of making a Best of Drawing Life collection that you can download as an ebook or, better yet, order in hard copy. This would have maybe 50 or so of the most popular posts that have appeared here. Does that interest you? Would you prefer, say, photography and drawing posts in separate collections, or everything interspersed as has been the way on the blog? Are there any particular posts you’d like to nominate for the collection? I’ll continue to check the comments here!

2014/06/16

Maidman’s Celebration

Cover of Poets/Artists, issue # 56, June 2014, curated by Daniel Maidman. Watercolor by Melissa Carroll

Poets/Artists is a limited edition and print-on-demand magazine published since 2008. On their Facebook page they describe themselves thus: “We publish figurative artists and jazzy poets….” That’s all – the ellipses don’t indicate any omission in their mission statement. Many of their issues are curated by invited artists.

The most recent issue, “Celebration“, was put together by painter and writer Daniel Maidman, whose own blog and whose writings mostly about other artists in the Arts section of the Huffington Post, are essential reading for anyone interested in art from a mostly figurative perspective. I am extremely happy to have my work included within Maidman’s expansive vision of the contemporary figurative art scene. Daniel Maidman looks at art with the same passion he brings to making it, and he will surely introduce you to brilliant artists you’ve never encountered.

Maidman gives each artist two facing pages and arranges them in alphabetical order so each one gets a sort of private space free of the biases of sequencing and juxtaposition. In most cases, he knew the artists’ work well enough that he requested particular works he found striking. It’s a great way to assert the curator’s taste while respecting the individual artists’ personal visions.

You can view the entire issue here – click the “view fullscreen” icon on the lower right and then the arrows to page through. Better yet, rescue these images from the endless image ocean of the web: Click “buy” and get a print copy you can own forever.

2014/04/29

In Memoriam

Prophet, 2002, by Fred Hatt

Prophet, 2002, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel Meyer (1944-2013)  was an intense and deeply eccentric man and an artist’s model who inspired me with his spiritual presence. As he posed, he prayed or chanted silently, his eyes fixed and his mouth moving ever so slightly. He embodied the human – mortal, frail, vulnerable – reaching out towards divinity. The quality of yearning was so powerful it could not help but manifest in drawings of the man.

Prophet study, 2002, by Fred Hatt

Prophet study, 2002, by Fred Hatt

I didn’t know him well. He was selective about who he would open up to. With me, he always spoke about great literature, refined music, serious cinema. In his last years he was involved in a deep reading of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, comparing English and German translations with the French original. Earlier obsessions included William Faulkner and Gertrude Stein.

Spring Studio, Minerva Durham’s beehive of seven-days-a-week open life drawing sessions in New York, where Yizroel modeled frequently over a period of twelve years, is hosting a memorial exhibition, with thirty-three artists’ depictions of this unique soul. The remainder of this post is Minerva Durham’s remembrance of Yizroel. Details on how to visit the exhibition are included at the end.

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Minerva Durham writes:

“A secret compulsion to touch strangers, sometimes realized silently, sometimes caught out, came perhaps from his having been born in December, 1944, in Heidelberg as the Allies advanced into Germany. He soon became an orphan. He could not have easily thrived, as is the duty of every infant, without parents and with little food.

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel quick pose, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Young Hans Meyer, original photographer unknown, photo of old photo by Kyunghee Kim

Young Hans Meyer, original photographer unknown, photo of old photo by Kyunghee Kim

“He was perhaps brought up by a perhaps Christian grandfather who had perhaps killed a relative with an axe years earlier. He was certainly bullied by more robust boys during his youth. A photo of him as a child shows his delicacy and intelligence and sensitivity.
Yisroel quick poses, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Yizroel quick poses, 2010, by Fred Hatt

“As a young man he came to the United States  to work in a publishing house. Years of heavy drinking and smoking ended suddenly when a friend took him to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. He converted to Orthodox Judaism and lived in an Orthodox community in Brooklyn, wearing the curls, hats and costumes of the community that he had adopted. But he was homosexual and he couldn’t really be himself there, and the clothes alone could not make him fit in. He slowly distanced himself from that community, but he still prayed as a Jew until he died.

Nigun, 2003, by Fred Hatt

Nigun, 2003, by Fred Hatt

“When he found nakedness working as a figure model he was at last content. How poignant that this man, born Hans Meyer in war-torn Germany, having been born again as an Orthodox Jew, could only become whole by stripping down and peeling away to the state of his original existence, unclothed and vulnerable. And no wonder that artist Jean Marcellino always felt happy when she saw that the model for the long pose was Yizroel.
Standing torso, 2004, by Fred Hatt

Standing torso, 2004, by Fred Hatt

“His last illness was brief. A year of liver cancer ending in pancreatic cancer and three strokes, each increasing in strength. His friend of many years, George Bixby, saw that Yizroel was taken care of in and out of hospital. Yizroel Meyer was given a proper Jewish burial by the Brooklyn Orthodox community shortly after his death on December 17 last year.
Bicameral, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Bicameral, 2006, by Fred Hatt

“Yizroel’s poses, as drawn by thirty-three artists, can be seen at Spring Studio at 64 Spring Street through May 11, 2014. The fifty drawings now on display show the intensity of his spirituality. Artist Pat Tobin called him, “my Saint Francis.” You may see the drawings on display Monday through Friday from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm or by appointment with Minerva Durham, Director of Spring Studio, 917-375-6086.
Temps Perdu, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Temps Perdu, 2010, by Fred Hatt

“Artists included in the exhibition are: Akiva AKA Ken Sandberg, Anonymous, Robert Bassal, Lynn Cooper, Robert Dunn, Minerva Durham, Janet Fish, Robert Forte, Audrey Cohn-Ganz, Lyle Gertz, Dan Gheno, Dinah Glasier, George Grammar, Kevin Hall, Susan Haskins, Fred Hatt, Jerilyn Jurinek, Karen Kaapcke, Robin Kappy, Gary Katz, Kimchee Kim, Kyunghee Kim, Mark LaMantia, Berryl Mallory, Jean Marcellino, Rebecca Odin, Denise Ozker, Eleni Papageorge, Alan Schlussel, Pearl Shifer, Jonathan Soard, Diane Van Court, and Bruce Williams.”

2014/04/18

Falling Water

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

There is a kind of holy awe in feeling dwarfed by nature, going where our habitual self-importance dissolves in the face of grandeur. We feel ourselves as mere specks in a vastness, and yet to know our minuteness is in itself a kind of expanded consciousness. In our limited everyday sense of ourselves we are great and important, but also limited and mortal. When we are even a little bit aware of the immensity of the universe, we know that we are nothing, but also that in some way we are that vastness, for it has manifested in us in the form of awareness.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Last year, as the warm weather was just starting to give way to the first chills of autumn, I took a drive up to New York’s Ulster County with my friend the dancer and teacher Mariko Endo. Mariko has a background in butoh, the postwar Japanese performance movement. She wanted to dance under a waterfall. My great friend Alex Kahan, who lives in the area, took us to Awosting Falls in Minnewaska State Park, where we shot this video.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Awosting Falls is no mighty Niagara or Iguazu or Victoria falls. It’s just one of hundreds of cascades in the ancient, eroded mountains of the Eastern United States. It draws much of its majesty from its natural amphitheater, a nearly perfectly vertical semi-cylindrical backdrop around its rusty-colored plungepool that seems to contain and magnify the roaring cataract. It is a perfect proscenium to make a solo dancer look and feel small.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Mariko entered upon this stage to feel the frightful power of the water crashing around her, and to channel that power through her body in dance. Both Mariko’s movement and my shooting were improvised. We hadn’t known enough in advance about what the falls would be like to really plan or choreograph something. I had to shoot from a distance and we couldn’t talk to each other over the thunderous waters, so each of us entered into our own experience of responding to the energy of water and stone.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Mariko and I worked together to edit the video, returning to it several times over several months to try to find some structure. Mariko approaches editing as a kind of choreography, selecting bits of movement and sequencing and manipulating them to create a progression of feelings and transformations.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

When I asked Mariko what the piece was about for her, she gave me this quote from Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986), the originator of the butoh movement in dance: “We should be afraid! The reason that we suffer from anxiety is that we are unable to live with our fear. Anxiety is something created by adults. The dancer, through the butoh spirit, confronts the origins of his fears: a dance which crawls towards the bowel of the earth.” Mariko added, “The wind and the sound of massive amount of water falling which occupies my whole body. Speed and movement is the energy itself. When you are there, Nature foces you to face yourself and where you really are. I wanted to make a film which the audience can feel the texture of the rocks and the speed of the water fall through me.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

I hope a little bit of that feeling of being surrounded by overpowering natural forces, and of surrendering to let those forces flow through oneself, is communicated in this brief video piece. We borrowed a piece of music by the great English composer Jocelyn Pook – I also hope this video will turn some people on to her wonderful music.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

If you receive this blog by email, or if you want to watch in HD (strongly recommended), you’ll need to click this link to see the “Awosting” on Vimeo.

Awosting from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

 

2014/01/08

Gallery Opening on the Web

A sample from Fred Hatt's new photo/video website

A sample from Fred Hatt’s new photo/video website

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on a major redesign of my website highlighting the photography and video work I do for clients, many of whom are artists and performers. Today it went online: Fred Hatt Photo/Video. Please check it out and let me know your thoughts.

I worked with the great graphic designer Michael LaBash, who also designed my art portfolio site. I had some ideas about how I wanted it to look – dark colors, horizontal scrolling photo galleries – and he figured out how to make it all work and look beautiful. There are some images that were on the old version of the site, but there’s also a lot of new material and a gorgeous new look.

There are twelve different photography galleries and five galleries of video pieces, covering the work I do for visual artists, performing artists, and my landscape and urban photography. Many of the photos link to the websites of the client or subject.

If I’ve shot you or your art in recent years and you don’t see it here, I apologize. It was really hard to sift through all that work and find a good balance of samples to convey the range and quality of what I offer. But the process of choosing work made me feel very fortunate to have worked with so many amazing creative people. I’m not ambitious enough as a photographer and videographer to seek out big celebrities and supermodels and high-profile assignments – I just want to work with those that inspire me, help them show the world what they can do, and make a little money to be able to pay my bills and keep doing my own artwork without compromise. But there’s some beautiful stuff here!

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