by Bob MacNeal
Curation occurs peering into a viewfinder frame, or when applying pigment to a canvas.
Anything can be separated, can be made discontinuous, from anything else: all that is necessary is to frame the subject differently.Barthes observed that initially photographers made photographs of notable things. An early photographer was not unlike an entomologist pinning a rare butterfly into a frame. But soon a reversal:
― Susan Sontag, On Photography
In an initial period, Photography, in order to surprise, photographs the notable; but soon, by a familiar reversal, it decrees notable whatever it photographs.The mundane becomes notable, perhaps glorified, simply by our devoting our attention to it.
― Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography
One of the earliest art expeditions devoted to our desire to pay attention to the mundane and the notable occurred in the arctic during the summer of 1869:
American painter William Bradford, alongside photographers John L. Dunmore and George Critcherson, embarked on the first expedition to the Arctic devoted principally to art. In the course of the perilous journey aboard a 325-ton steamship called The Panther (previously used for seal-hunting), Bradford made hundreds of pencil drawings and over 70 oil sketches of the frozen North in preparation for the larger paintings he would complete upon his return.
– Zaria Forman on William Bradford
|Icebergs in the Arctic, Oil on canvas, 1882|
by William Bradford
On Bradford's painting Icebergs in the Arctic, artist Zaria Forman writes:
... he captures how uniquely dark Arctic waters can be. To me, many of his Arctic paintings seem to embody a sense of sadness and solemnity, as if somehow, even amidst the expansionist optimism of his age, he sensed the Arctic’s fate, as time marches inexorably forward, threatening not only the beauty but also the very existence of the ancient landscape and its inhabitants.Forman sailed up the northwest coast of Greenland in the summer of 2012 to retrace Bradford's 1869 voyage.
|Greenland No. 63, Pastel on paper, 2013|
by Zaria Forman
Comparing images from her journey to photographs taken during Bradford's, Forman observed the changes in the coastal landscape. Forman has documented the rapidly changing arctic landscape in stunning pastels of icebergs.
Art is always the replacement of indifference by attention.
— Guy Davenport
- Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, Roland Barthes.
- Gilead, Marilynne Robinson.
- On Photography, Susan Sontag.
- Zaria Forman on William Bradford, 21 March 2016, Painters on Painting.