Saturday, March 28, 2009

Inspirations #6: Paintings

Although most of my photographic inspiration has come from other photographers and photographs, sometimes it comes from other disciplines.

After graduating from college I took several courses just to keep busy. One was a Gallery Management class at William Paterson College (now University). I enjoyed this class a lot. It involved everything that goes along with operating a gallery, from selecting artists and shows to marketing to shipping. My professor even approached me about a Masters degree where I would work the gallery and take other art classes in return for a Master's degree. I received opposition (I won't go there) about this offer and began my working career instead. Making $11,700 a year in 1983 was a lot more enticing than a free Master's degree. And, looking back on it now, I made the right decision.

One good thing that came from this experience was a painting. We were hanging the student art show and this one painting was hung at the end of the gallery. Up close it was purely abstract, but standing at the other end of the gallery I saw "the face". I asked the curator about the artist. He was a student at WPC, Sal DiBenedetto. I got his phone number and talked with him about the painting. He said he got the idea from a story that after Hiroshima was bombed in WWII there were reports of the face of Jesus being seen in the mushroom cloud. This was his interpretation of that story. As most people who believe in a Creator think that He created the Heavens and the Earth, Mr. DiBenedetto has titled his work "The Mapmaker". I now own this painting, which I bought for $250 in 1984 when Sal needed rent money. I can't tell you how many people who have seen this painting don't see the face.

The Mapmaker, oil on canvas, by Sal DiBenedetto, 1983

Anyway, fast forward a few months to summer 1984. I was working on the Ellis Island Documentation/Interpretation project with Montclair State College and the National Park Service. As I had mentioned in a previous post, I became fascinated with the peeling paint on the walls at Ellis Island. When I walked into this one room my jaw nearly hit the ground. From across the room... there was "the face" again. I could not believe it. And with the history of this place I can only imagine how many new citizens saw Jesus here. I set up my 4x5 and made the exposure. During this project I made a number of other images which I am trying to work into a small portfolio of 4x5" contact prints this year.

The Mapmaker II, Ellis Island, NY, 1983, Richard M. Coda

Below is a cover article I designed to go along with my images as part of my presentation for a grade.

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