Monday, March 23, 2009

The Gentle Madness Known as Abstract Photography

The "abstract" image to the left is what is "left" of a framed print called "Fractal Dignity" that was part of a one-man show in Coral Gables I had in Dec 2007. I had it (along with other prints remaining from the exhibit) sent from storage this past week to my mom's home in Sea Cliff, NY (Long Island), so she could hang it in my dad's old art studio on the second floor. Unfortunately, the shipment arrived in deplorable condition. Most of the glass is completely fractured, with many of the prints scratched beyond repair. Other frames that appear unaffected at first glance, contain broken shards and smaller pieces of glass trapped between an otherwise solid piece of glass and the matte underneath, hinting at frayed and broken edges of glass along the inner walls of the surrounding metal frame. The frames themselves have also been badly scratched, as though the package delivery service used them for an impromtu baseball game (or two, or three).

Needless to say, my mom and I were shocked when we opened the first of four (similarly configured boxes) when my son and I arrived for a short weekend trip for him to see his "Baba." The outer condition of the boxes betrayed a bit of what we soon found inside - the boxes were smashed, dented and had major tears and rips along the edges - but we were not prepared for the extent or severity of damage. It took about two hours to fully document and inventory the damage, picture by picture; with the bottom line being that fully none of the 24 frames are in "sellable" condition, and will have to be reframed. Moreover, at least half of the prints will have to be redone as well.

As for me, I quickly went through the Kubler-Rossian stages of grief over a "death of a loved one" (the "loved ones" being my prints): denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (did I mention anger?!? ;-).

I knew I finally had my emotions under (some semblance of) control when - though still miffed; good grief, I'm still miffed, as a write this a few days after the fact! - I found myself picking up my camera not to document the damage, but to actually start composing what appeared to me a rather nice little "abstract" (as you see documented at the top of this entry). Photographers - especially those whose "eye" is attracted to abstract forms - are strange creatures indeed. My 10yo son stared incredulously, dropped jawed, as his dad - who moments before was apoplectic with primal rage directed at the universe in general and the UPS delivery service in particular - suddenly quieted down, got "that look" in his eye, starting circling one of the open boxes with all of its exposed shards of glass and mangled metal, and started clicking away as if nothing at all was the matter. A lesson about how accidents can serve as catalysts for transforming representational art into abstraction? Perhaps; or it may just be another everyday example of the gentle madness known as abstract photography :-)

Postscript. Though the outcome of my claim is at this time unknown, the shipment was insured. Hopefully, that should defray at least some of the cost (though not the time) of reprinting and reframing these images.


Anonymous said...

This reminded me of Minor White's essay titled "Found Photographs".
A tragic tale for sure but an examplary display of going with the flow (for want of a better expression) in a situation which was out of your control (assuming anything in life is within our control). The sad destruction of your prints gave opportunity for new ones to be made. As fair a trade-off in life as one might expect. And as for the time to re-print and re-frame I do believe that some of your quantum colleagues question the existence of time so you could say it will take no time at all :) Sorry, I'm sure that doesn't help.
All the best Andy. Oh and your "abstract" image... simply brilliant if that's any consolation.

Andy Ilachinski said...

Cedric, thanks for that link! Hadn't seen that before (and here I go calling myself a Minor White afficianado). A minor classic ;-)

Diane said...

I just want to say how sorry I am to hear about the destructive journey of your photos. It must have been difficult to see your photos turned into "entropic decay" before your eyes ;-). But once again you have taken lemons and turned them into lemonade, and created an incredibly beautiful image in return. It sounds as if you created several images.....perhaps you'll share more of these with us.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking blog and for the Minor White reference.
I recently moved to a new computer, and during the move, deleted a series of folders thinking that I had them backed up on CD, only to find, later, that I had not backed up those particular folders!
But later I thought of the concept of transience in the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi and in Navaho sand-paintings, and for some strange reason that I've still not got used to, the loss of my files did not seem important any more.

Thanks for the reminder.


Diane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diane said...

Yey! I'm glad to see you shared another image with us! Very cool! ;-)

(sorry Andy, seems odd, but I needed to re-post my last comment.)

Seinberg said...

"Miffed" is a very mild description of how I'd feel. Unbelievable.

My first impression on seeing the images, before I read the entry and had context, was "Man! The images are great without that weird abstract broken glass...what gives?!" Then I read. Sorry about your "loss", and hope you can resolve it.