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Monday, April 27, 2015

Sandy Skoglund

Sandy Skoglund's best efforts. (Some are shown below in larger format.)

Sandy Skoglund
Normally when I write about a photographer, I do so in a somewhat different manner than I would a painter. Painters create a limited number of images over their lifetime. Artist-Photographers, on the other hand, often seem to create a virtually unlimited output during their careers. Simply selecting which of their photos to use is an excruciating task. Moreover, photographers are different in that they take their camera and go on hunting expeditions, taking literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of different images (especially with the advent of digital photography, from which they may cull one or two masterpieces. There's an old controversy as to whether photographers make pictures or take them. That of course, depends on the photographer. The "hunter-gatherer" type of photographer "takes" pictures as the mood strikes them or circumstances allow. However, photographers such a Sandy Skoglund fall into the more limited group of photographic artists who "make" pictures, often going to extreme lengths to capture the precise art image they visualize long before they drag out their new, state-of-the-art Nikons. I need to write about Skoglund's art as if she were a painter.
Cheetos Cocktail Party, 1992-95, Sandy Skoglund, live models and manikins all decked out in cheese curls. I'm guessing she couldn't eat a Cheeto now if her life depended on it.
Bacon, 1992-95, Sandy Skoglund
Actually, Skoglund spends more time and effort in planning and creating her art than do virtually all painters today--as much as six months. Then It all comes down to a single day of photography, often with specially dressed live models as seen in her Cheetos Cocktail Party (above). In a similar vein, the art material is raw Bacon, (right) deftly glued over a manikin and a live model (foreground). However, perhaps most distressing of all her works is her Walking on Eggshells (below). I know the people and the eggshells are real, I'm less certain of the serpents (I would hope they're fake.) Here we begin to find a fuzzy line between the conceptual installation and the photos preserving it. Which are the more important? Are the photos merely the canvas upon which the Cheetos and bacon are painted?

Walking on Eggshells, 1996-2003, Sandy Skoglund...both literally and figuratively.
Notice the footprints across the floor and the cute little bunnies protecting the bathers.
1978, Sandy Skoglund
Sandy Skoglund is a New England artist. born in 1946. She graduated from Smith College, an all-girls school, in 1968 with time out to study art history at the Sorbonne and École du Louvre in Paris. After graduating from Smith College, she went to graduate school at the University of Iowa in 1969, where she studied filmmaking, multimedia art, and printmaking. In 1971, she earned her Master of Arts and in 1972 a Master of Fine Arts in painting. With credentials like that you might expect Sandy Skoglund to be a college professor, and you'd be right. She was an art professor at the University of Hartford between 1973 and 1976. She currently teaches photography and art installation/multimedia at Rutgers University.

Revenge of the Goldfish, 1979-84,
Sandy Skoglund
Sandy's early work, during the 1970s involved shooting multiple images of identical vacation cabins, mostly from the 1950s, from all appearances. Later, she moved on to brightly colored pattern repetitions and subtle, low contrast tableaus. Later she set up contrasting shapes juxtaposed against low contract colors and patterns (above, left) followed by the more and more complex tableaus (top) and her Revenge of the Goldfish (right) from 1979-84. Then in 2001, Skoglund teamed up with artist, Ellen Driscoll to create functional art at Smith College's John Michael Kohler Arts Center. They chose the theme "Catching the Drift" involving sea creatures and plant life for the women's facility and "Liquid Origins and Fluid Dreams," dealing with various cultural stories of creation for the Men's Room. These themes are depicted in ceramic tiles covering the walls. The two artists collaborated with the porcelain artists of the Kohler Company (the museums major benefactor) to create distinctive fixtures for their creation.

Liquid Origins and Fluid Dreams, 2001, Smith College, Ellen Driscoll and Sandy Skoglund.
Happy Flushing
Sandy Skoglund's most recent works involve ceramic snowflakes (about 18 inches in diameter) upon which she fires custom-made decals featuring black snowflakes in the center of which she has carefully Photo shopped a single eye, that of a close friend or pet. In so doing, she brings together one of the oldest arts known to man with one of the newest, not so much to be photographed but to exist in their own spaces. Sandy Skoglund, is, of course a photographer (self-taught, in fact) but as this broad sampling of her work would indicated she so very much more, everything, in fact but a painter.

This series Skoglund calls simply "Winter."


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