Art, // December 31, 2014
Larry Cwik – PHOTOGRAPHER
Interview with photographer Larry Cwik
1. Who are you and what do you do?
I am a visual artist working primarily in photography and drawing, with some occasional work in short films, painting, mixed media, and multi-media installations.
2. Why art?
Art is my life. It is essential to my being. Creativity runs strong in me. I need to express it. I love life, art, the world we live in, and the world we can imagine.
3. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be an artist?
I was offered art classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, where I grew up, when I was about 12 or 13 years old. Unfortunately I did not take them. But I did take some classes later. And I have learned a lot through travel, reading art literature, seeing decades of art shows at galleries and museums, and being part of galleries and an artist workshop.
4. What are your favorite subject(s) and media(s)?
My main photographic projects to date have been: The Far North, A Portrait of the Arctic; The Visitor, 31 years Photographing Mexico; Morocco; Industrial Districts; and Totems (stacked triptychs of gelatin silver prints). All of these projects have been ongoing for at least 11 years, simultaneously. I work on projects for long periods of time. I have been working most of my life on the Mexico project.
Favorite mediums include photography and drawing. Sometimes I paint, sometimes I do mixed-media work, as for five pieces combining painting, photography, and collage for an exhibit in my home city of Portland in December 2014. I also love working in short film. Lastly I have done two multi-media installations. One was The Happy General, a comment on militarization done in 2004 at Gallery 500 in Portland as a response to the invasion and bombing of Iraq. It had video, sound, word, interactive, and performance components. The other, Asia 2011, at Gallery 5 of Milepost 5 in Portland in 2012, included photographs, religious artifacts, a shrine, and a loop of Asian television commercials on a floor-mounted video monitor. The latter installation commented on the yin and yang tension between commerce and spirituality so prevalent in our society which seemed even more so in Asia during my visit there.
5. How do you work and approach your subject?
For photography, I let my subconscious influence where and when I photograph. Much of my work is place-based. It often has to do with place and time, and culture. It also is often influenced by my interest in surrealism, mystery, and transfiguration. I like work to be both beautiful and thought-provoking. My recent work has included nature and people more. For my short films, I usually use melange-style footage and often pair the footage with appropriate sound for the mood or feel I want to convey, normally music.
6. What are your favorite art work(s), artist(s)?
My favorite artists from art history are Georgio de Chirico, the metaphysical painter, Rene Magritte, the surrealist, Leonora Carrington, another surrealist, and Hieronymous Bosch, from the 15th century. Some of my other favorite artists include the contemporary photographers Cindy Sherman, Jo Ann Callis, and Gregory Crewdson, historic photographers such as Lewis Baltz, Man Ray, and Hans Bellmer, many painters, including Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon, Kerry James Marshall, and Gregory Grenon, the video artists Gary Hill and Nam June Paik, and many sculptors, including Manuel Izquierdo, Judy Pfaff, Fernanda D’Agostino, Keith Jellum, Buster Simpson, James Lee Hansen, Dennis Oppenheim, Bill Will, and others.
7. What are the best responses you have had to your work?
When someone has liked my work enough to write me about it or write about it or, even better, buy it for their home, business, or collection.
8. What do you like about your work?
I do not feel constrained by media. What I express has to come from within. I can not force myself to do art as it seems unauthentic.
9. What advice would you give to other artists?
Follow your dream. Take classes or get the training that you think you can benefit from. Learn art history. See lots and lots of art, in all mediums. Got to artist talks by artists that interest you. Get to know lots of artists. Be curious about yourself, your surroundings, and the world.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
As a better artist, continuing to grow, making more of a living from it, with more publications, exhibits, grants, and collections.
Web site: www.larrycwik.com
Short Film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e62P92zVqlI