In the beginning, Peter Bellamy was a babe in the lofts. He didn't know much about art (he had been to the Whitney about once), but he astutely knew that a photographer needs a vehicle. If photography is a way of seeing, there has to be a consistent and cumulative way to see and be seen, especially if your goal is a book, and Bellamy has a substantial product between these covers in the manner of Robert Frank, Walker Evans, and Garry Winogrand.
Since the start of The Artist Project in 1981, Bellamy has taken over 10,000 photographs of artists. In the course of it he has become educated, and we have this record of the artists' lives. What is honest and resonating about the project is Bellamy's photography of all kinds of artists at all levels of success and notoriety. This democratic coverage wasn't mandated; rather the subject accreted informally and naturally as a network: future subjects were referred to Bellamy by those who had been photographed.
For such an important and unique record, there was a surprising modesty about Bellamy's conception and approach. He did not consider any one photograph to be more significant than the others; instead (and there is a mystical cast to this), each photograph embodied or represented the entire project.
The project's being organic and cellular required the eventual inclusion of more renowned artists not because of the cachet that stars would bring it, but because the presence of artists whom younger artists use as models heightened the authenticity of the project.
Peter Bellamy's way of seeing is absorbing. I have long thought that the most fascinating aspect of visual artist is their possession of emblems or surrogates - their works - which stand for them. Though the works can seem shields or buffers, getting acquainted with the work is one way to get through to the artist.
Sometimes the artist in the flesh appeals more than the work. And almost invariably, one is reminded that few artists are romantic, or noticeably less normal than you or I, though perhaps they are slightly more earnest.
In the photographs reproduced on these pages, the notion of the artwork as the artist's emblem is often evident. Connie Reyes' constructivist-like sculpture seems to enfold her in her Manhattan loft. But there is a sense of the confident artist dominating the work in the portraits of Jack Whitten and A-1. A-1's casual stance reflects the visual rhythms of the street, while Whitten looks triumphant, as if he has mastered his circular painting.
At the other extreme, Bob Yucikas stands with his sculptures arrayed like trophies beneath one of the paintings that engendered them, while Lee Sherry is forcing us to come to terms with her. However she is not stripped of emblem, for a shield-like painting hangs above her bathtub.
Another avenue into the art world is the capturing of time just prior to the event of art-making. Cindy Sherman is posed in a spartan way with photographic appurtenances, and Michael Goldberg has hedonistic trappings which prime him for painting. The attitudes assumed by Dale Henry and Nancy Arlen could reflect after-the-event. The two might be contemplating the turnabout Bellamy enforces: they usually make unique objects - here they are unique objects.
The project ultimately is a celebration of the artists' existence of choice and their desire to "make art" in our society. It constitutes the most extensive, interlocking survey of the New York artist that has ever been compiled, and it transcends the fact that it is essentially a collection of portraits of individuals; it has become, collectively, a documentation of a particular community and a recognition of their contribution to our culture. - William Zimmer
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Peter Bellamy has been a teacher at Pratt Institute since 1996. He has published two books: The Artist Project, Portrait of the New York Art World; and Addicts Damn, a study of urban homelessness, despair and renewal. He is currently working on a third book of wilderness photographs. He has been in residency at Yaddo and received two faculty development grants from Pratt Institute. He graduated from Pratt with honors with a BFA in photography.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Artist Project, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110962599417
Book Description Artist Project. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0962599417 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1481954