Artist Portraits

On Art and Artists: Artist Portraits

This section of the On Art and Artists collection highlights a number of experimental portraits of artists, and documentaries about the artistic process, from intimate one-on-one close-ups and dialogues, to full studio production studies. These works do not follow a traditional interview format, but are often intended as artworks in their own right. The artists and makers of these Artist Portraits draw artistic inspiration and stylistic license from the collaborators and interlocutors they depict.

 

1981
Cindy Sherman: Crossover Series

Cindy Sherman received an MFA from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976, where she studied photography. During this time she was also involved with HallWalls, an alternative gallery space in Buffalo. She is best known for her black and white Untitled Film Stills, which she made in the late 70s and early 80s. In carefully designed settings, Sherman placed herself, using costumes, wigs, and makeup, in various scenarios suggetive of B-movies from the 1950s.

1990
Similar Differences: Betye and Alison Saar

This tape profiles mother and daughter artists Betye and Alison Saar. Both artists work with sculpture and installation, frequently using found objects, wood, and sheet metal to evoke sacred African-American rituals and images. Similar Differences was produced in concert with their first collaborative exhibition in a decade, Secrets, Dialogues, Revelations, which opened at UCLA’s Wight Gallery in January 1990 and toured nationally in 1992.

1982
Laurie Simmons: Crossover Series

Laurie Simmons’s photographs are brought to life in Laurie Simmons: A Teaser, MICA-TV’s portrait of the acclaimed photographer. In the early 1980s, Simmons focused on underwater photographs of women, which suggested the stylized tableaux of Esther Williams’s water ballets. Taping through a glass window in the bottom of a swimming pool, Michael Owen and Carole Ann Klonarides recorded Simmons while she was shooting her models.

1991
Alexis Smith - Life In America

For the past 20 years Alexis Smith's mixed media work has explored primal American myths: the open road, the bad/good guy/gal, the quest for romance, and the search for paradise. This portrait of the artist explores the roots of her thought and work, and was produced in conjunction with her exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, held in November 1991.

 

1999
Some Chance Operations

Shot in Naples, Vienna, and New York, Some Chance Operations explores the notion of an archival form, in this instance film, as an unstable memory receptacle that can vanish. History and how it is made is meditated upon as one of many chance operations. The filmmaker Elvira Notari, who had a film production company in Naples from 1906 to 1930, plays a significant role as an impetus for Some Chance Operations. Despite the fact that she was a prolific filmmaker, producing over sixty feature films, only three remain intact.

1990
Sphinxes Without Secrets

Sphinxes Without Secrets is an energetic and transgressive acount of outstanding female performance artists, and an invaluable document of feminist avant-garde work of the 70s and 80s. No Mona Lisa smiles here, as performance artists spill their guts about what outrages and delights them. Performers, curators, and critics unravel the mysteries of a new art form and ponder the world women confront today. Since its inception, performance art has provided a forum for artists who create work that challenges the dominant aesthetic and cultural status quo.

1988
Thank You You're So Beautiful

This tape is a media arts collaboration between Joe Leonardi, Cathleen Kane, and radio artist Joe Frank. It is a synthesis of three “dark humored” radio pieces adapted for video.

1978
Time and Space Concepts

This tape was produced by Artists TV Network, documenting a symposium that included composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham, writer Richard Kostelanetz, and video artist Nam June Paik with art critic Dore Ashton serving as moderator. This freewheeling symposium taped before a live audience ranges from individual reminiscences to discussion of then-current art community concerns about music, literature, theater, art, dance, video, and technology.

2008
Tony Conrad: DreaMinimalist

The latest in Marie Losier's ongoing series of film portraits of avant-garde directors (George and Mike Kuchar, Guy Maddin, Richard Foreman), DreaMinimalist offers an insightful and hilarious encounter with Conrad as he sings, dances and remembers his youth and his association with Jack Smith.

1986
John Torreano's Art World Wizard

Modeled after NBC’s long-running science program Watch Mr. Wizard, this tape features Torreano as Mr. Wizard instructing a skeptical boy on how to build a diamond out of pieces of wood. The boy remains unimpressed until Torreano uses a “video paintbox” to create flashy special effects. Painter John Torreano’s use of galaxy clusters as a reference for his fake jewel studded canvases and diamond-shaped sculptures suggested the nostalgic format of this video profile by MICA-TV.

1989
The Trial of Tilted Arc

The artwork on trial is Richard Serra's public sculpture, Tilted Arc, commissioned and installed by the U.S. government in 1981. Four years later, a public hearing was held to consider the removal of the sculpture from its site in Federal Plaza in New York City. In documenting the climatic General Services Administration hearing, The Trial Of Tilted Arc is a thought-provoking indictment of the state of the arts.

2009
Anne Truitt, Working

A short portrait of artist Anne Truitt (1921-2004). The film consists of an interview and 16mm footage made in and around her studio at the Yaddo artist colony, as well as footage from her home studio in Washington D.C.  Rather than an attempt to depict her art, which is in many respects un-photographable, the core of the film is found in Truitt speaking about the course and meaning of her work. Says Cohen, "I was honored to know Anne Truitt, and doubly so when she allowed me to make a short record of her presence and thoughts.

2009
tryphon: three sounds, the art of thomas h. kapsalis

tryphon: three sounds is a candid portrait of the artist Thomas H. Kapsalis (b.

2015

Founded in 1997, the Arab Image Foundation preserves the legacy and collection of photographer Hashem el Madani and the Sheherazade photo studio.