a build-it-yourself (multi)verse

A few questions with Liz Sales about her thesis show:

a build-it-yourself (multi)verse
Opening Reception: Saturday, April 10, 2010, 6 – 10 PM
On View: Sunday, April 11, 2010, 12-5 PM

ICP Studio Gallery
24-20 Jackson Avenue, 3rd Floor
Long Island City, NY 11101

How did you come to title your show a build-it-yourself (multi)verse?
The title is an amalgamation of two of my favorite episodes of Radiolab: DIY Universe and The (Multi) Universe(s).  Both feature Brian Greene discussing the multiverse.  We generally think of the universe as everything that exists even though we know physicists speculate about the existence of multiple universes.  According to Green, it would ”only” take ”a tiny black hole, a dash of reverse-gravity and a lot of luck” for any of us to build one of our own universe, or at least he believes the laws of physics don’t rule it out.  This is how I think about making work, as creating a new universe or at least a new world.  A photograph exists outside our experience of space and time, similar to what it depicts but not the same, with its own laws.
I bracketed out ‘multi’ to delineate that it could be omitted leaving ‘verse’ as its own word. I wanted to draw attention to the relationship between images and text and to suggest the images in my exhibition be viewed as multiple verses in a single piece of writing. Plus, I love round brackets, they remind me of front and back lens elements both in shape and function.

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Review of William Kentridge: Five Themes

11 west 53rd (NYC)
William Kentridge: Five Themes
February 14 through May 17, 2010

The large exhibition William Kentridge: Five Themes was organized as a traveling exhibition by SFMoMA (San Fransisco, Fort Worth, West Palm Beach, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, and Jerusalem) and is currently at MoMA.  The exhibition spans nearly three decades of Kentridge’s work. Kentridge is most well known for his stop motion animations from charcoal on paper that he refers to as “stone-age animation.” Also included in the exhibition are prints, books, collage, and sculpture. As the title of the show implies, Kentridge’s work is exploring five themes: ubu and the procession (occasional and residual hope), SOHO and Felix (thick time), artist in the studio (parcours d’atelier), voice the magic flute (sarastro and the master’s), and the nose (learning from the absurd).

William Kentridge. Drawing from Stereoscope 1998–99. Charcoal, pastel, and colored pencil on paper, 47 1/4 x 63" (120 x 160 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, with special contributions from Anonymous, Scott J. Lorinsky, Yasufumi Nakamura, and The Wider Foundation

William Kentridge. Drawing from Stereoscope 1998–99. Charcoal, pastel, and colored pencil on paper, 47 1/4 x 63" (120 x 160 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, with special contributions from Anonymous, Scott J. Lorinsky, Yasufumi Nakamura, and The Wider Foundation

I am taken with Kentridge’s animations. MoMA has set up the show so that there is ample space dedicated to projecting these films.
This is done almost to a fault, since it often seems that the accompanying art was an afterthought.  This is unfortunate, as all of his works deserve equal time, space and consideration. His process of animation is hard to describe but beautiful to watch as a scene is continually overdrawn to create the motion, which often creates a ghosting from previous scenes to a wonderful effect.

It is hard not to compare Kentridge’s show to Tim Burton’s show, also currently a large show at MoMA, and wonder how much planning or mere coincidence is at work here. Both are known for their film, being wonderful illustrators, and dealing with dark issues. For Burton there is much less video included in the main exhibition space (as his movies are being screened in the theater at MoMA) but many small works pack the walls. It seems as though for the general public Burton is the main draw, but I can only hope that many will stop on the second floor for the Kentridge show and wander though this wonderful, challenging and engaging exhibition.

7 cell phone images and 7 images not taken

Curtis has asked that I take one and only one image a day with my cell phone “as though each day you only have one frame remaining on a roll of film”.  Many days I felt that I was trying to shoot off that one last frame so that I could get a roll developed only to be followed later by seeing a wealth of images that I wished had taken instead.

1/26/2010               I found myself walking to Starbucks for a cup of coffee, during the break of East Asian photography and video.  I kept looking up at the moon that evening, as it seemed to play with the buildings surrounding me.  Over the past few years, I have grown weary of taking pictures of buildings in my personal practice, as that was what I was doing at work.  I just felt like there was something special about the moon and its light that night.  I kept seeing the moon peeking out here or hiding itself there.  The images I wanted to take were similar to the image that I had taken earlier in the day for this project except that the night sky had grown black and the buildings were glimmering with light.

1/27/2010               I found myself in Chelsea that afternoon and kept finding images that I wanted to take.  I think the one I missed taking the most was one of a fire extinguisher against a white wall.  I had just finished reading chromophobia and, as I made my way through several galleries, I kept thinking about the white walls that we put our art on.  It made me think about all the other objects hanging on those white walls.  The picture was simple —  the extinguisher hanging on a sheet of drywall in the corner of a stairwell.  The corner was created where the drywall met the white painted brick of the exterior wall. The bricks thrust forward about 6 inches or about the thickness of the fire extinguisher and then turned again away, following the plane of the drywall.  The extinguisher was framed so nicely and was just hanging there waiting to be used.  It was hanging the same way the art had been hung on the walls of the galleries.

1/28/2010               the image that I made on this day with my cell phone was one that I had seen often for much of my life.  I found myself having dinner at Grey’s Papaya — eating a staple snack of UWS high school students.  As I ate my recession special (2 hot dogs with sauerkraut and an orange drink.) I could not decide which image I wanted to take to remind myself of this moment and many other moments like it.  Should I take a picture of the view looking out to find the apple clock over the intersection of 72nd street to discover what time it was.  Alternatively, was the picture going to be my 2 hotdogs as they sat on a small white paper plate surrounded by a mustard yellow counter with a small white styrofoam cup sitting right next to them.  The missed picture was the food one; as I realized that I am never quite happy with the images I take try to take of food.

1/29/2010               so I almost forgot today, I found myself in a cab riding home at 11:30 without having taken an image.  Sitting in the back of the cab, I realized that I wanted a picture of my ride but also realized that using the flash could bother my driver.  I have always wanted to take a night picture of the back of a cab driver’s head, with the meter centered at the bottom of the frame and a view of the drive going by.  Even if the view were a little blurry, the lack of focus would add to the image, reminding me of all the drunken rides home sitting in the back of a cab late at night.  There is something special to me about a drunken ride home in a NYC cab.  Having grown up in NYC, I knew that it was always able to avoid a drunk driving experience, by raising a hand and finding a ride for you or any friends who might have had too much that night.

1/30/2010               at this point I realized how limited I felt when I had to use my camera phone to take pictures.  There was a picture that I wanted to take but realized that without the “bells and whistles” of a SLR (or as I might call it actual control over exposure), I was not going to get the image that I wanted.  This evening I was walking up 6th avenue heading to the gym when I saw a bike chained up to a street sign.  There was something about the bike sitting there with the helmet attached to the lock that I wanted to capture.  After looking at my phones screen and discovering that this camera just could not get the focus right and that the on-board flash could not quite get the lighting right, I decided to just keep walking.

1/31/2010               http://www.adeepriver.com/hanger

2/1/2010                once again the image that I did not take has reference in the one that I did take.  The image that was not taken was one of my bathroom sink. For some reason, I was obsessed by shaving cream as a young child.  I am sure the reason is linked to watching my father shave in the morning. Actually, I am quite sure this must be a common obsession since my three-year-old nephew received a toy shaving kit for Christmas.  On the other hand, I have now grown a beard when I grew tired of the daily shave, and did not see the point of continuing it.  I started with a constant Don Johnson look but, when all the partners and art directors at the company where I worked did the same, I realized it was time to grow a beard.  Now instead of the shaving cream and hair that you usually find in a man’s sink, you will now find just dry clipped hair from trimming my beard.  I know it is a trade off but I only have to trim once every a couple of weeks, not once every day.  I was hoping to take a picture of this mess in my sink and compare it to the remains of shaving, but I realized that this image was just plane gross, and cleaned up the mess instead.

do (50) or do not (50) there is no try (5)


  1. dust
  2. color correct
  3. take multiple pictures
  4. compose
  5. set up
  6. be still
  7. re think
  8. re work
  9. think it could be better
  10. think about light
  11. think about color
  12. try a different angle
  13. think about what to edit
  14. think about what I can change
  15. change what I can
  16. fix what I can
  17. wonder if I can fix in photoshop
  18. think about the next step
  19. correct architecture for barrel distortion
  20. make verticals vertical
  21. use my wacom in photoshop
  22. shoot in raw (when possible)
  23. shoot in the best resolution possible
  24. use fine grain
  25. avoid noise
  26. procrastinate
  27. remove garbage
  28. remove garbage cans
  29. shoot in the lowest asa
  30. travel with a camera
  31. enjoy
  32. have a tripod (or mount)
  33. watch
  34. see what is pretty
  35. pay attention
  36. pay attention when not shooting
  37. allow for mistakes
  38. when in doubt shoot
  39. visit again
  40. get perspective
  41. ask how else
  42. experiment
  43. use digital at some point
  44. see what else is going on
  45. watch the light
  46. be present
  47. be patient
  48. stay focused
  49. simplify
  50. back up

do not

  1. crop in post
  2. take one picture
  3. am sure until I see it in photoshop
  4. shoot black and white anymore
  5. allow 3 point perspective
  6. shoot in jpeg (if possible)
  7. retouch with only a mouse
  8. shoot with a camera phone
  9. shoot at events I want to be a part of
  10. get bored
  11. use levels
  12. edit immediately
  13. shoot weddings
  14. play dress up
  15. make it fake in photoshop
  16. accept bad color
  17. keep a diary
  18. copy
  19. appropriate images
  20. shoot drunk
  21. alter image onece printed
  22. shoot past dusk
  23. shoot before dawn
  24. shoot when I am scared
  25. shoot macro
  26. use a tele-converter
  27. use only a camera flash
  28. shoot my mess
  29. loose my lenscap
  30. shoot my self
  31. mess with my prints
  32. use 90% of photoshop
  33. use cheese filters in photoshop
  34. shoot on my bike
  35. like camera shake
  36. accept my first shot
  37. use the eraser in photoshop
  38. apply an adjustment to a layer
  39. forget that you can undo in photshop
  40. think there is an easier way
  41. enjoy renting
  42. measure once
  43. sketch
  44. shoot concerts
  45. shoot rally’s
  46. shoot news
  47. shoot death
  48. shoot blood
  49. shoot disaster
  50. shoot drunks


  1. do not #33filters
  2. do not #19appropriate
  3. do not #28my mess
  4. do not # 8cell
  5. do not # 2only one


This exhibition explores the relationship between the United States and Cuba through photographs of the guayabera.  The inspiration for this exhibition is a piece by Milagros De La Torre piece titled “Guayabera” from her series “Bulletproof”.  The guayabera is a formal shirt that is common in Latin America, although its design roots are up for discussion, with many regions claiming it as their own.  The origin of the name guayabera too seems to be up for debate but in both instances it is believed that the name is Cuban.  Miguel Caballero, a Colombian famous for his bulletproof clothing, designs the guyabera in this image.  What I find so intriguing about this image and item is that the guyabera is a summer piece of clothing, light in weight and designed, it is hard to imagine this item of clothing being bulletproof or hiding armor under its seemingly transparent material.

Milagros De La Torre, Guayabera 2008

To start to get a handle on the relationship between the United States and Cuba one must first look at the Monroe Doctrine of 1821, which stated that efforts to colonize or interfere with states in the Americas, would be seen as acts of aggression requiring US intervention.  At the time Mexico had just revolted from Spain and creating its own government.  For the next century Mexico went through revolutions one of which having France place Maximilian I of Mexico (born Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph of Austria) as the head of state.  Because of the Monroe Doctrine, the US never recognized him.  Of note, the Monroe Doctrine did not stop the US from interfering with Mexico’s sovereignty (see Mexican-American war 1846-1848).  The first image we will look at is Francois Aubert’s Emperor Mazimilian’s Shirt.

Francois Aubert, Emperor Maximilian's Shirt 1867

Next we will consider the Spanish-American War or Cuba’s fight for independence.  In 1898 the United States went to war with Spain after Spain rejected American demands for resolution of the Cuban fight for independence.  It concluded with the signing of a treaty that gave the United States control of Cuba, the Philippians, Puerto Rico, and Guam.  It was the first time that the United States took on imperial power and had “colonies.” Although the United States had promised independence to Cuba the Platt Amendment, kept Cuba from true sovereignty, allowed for the US to “stabilize” Cuba Militarily and established an US Naval base in Cuba.

A company of the Cuban army, Pinar del Rio, Cuba - Strohmeyer & Wyman, 1899

There was a long pried of piece between the United States and Cuba for the coming years, so much so that some of Americas Greatest artist were know to spent much time there.  Famously Earnest Hemmingway and Walker Evans became friends from an original meeting in Havana, Cuba in May of 1933, Hemmingway moved there full time in 1939.

Hemingway at his home in Cuba, the Finca Vigía (now Museo Hemingway), circa 1947. JFK Library Collection

Walker Evans, starving cuban family 1933

On January 1, 1959 there was an armed revolt to overthrow Fulgencio Batista, a US backed dictator, by they 26th of July Movement led by Fidel Castro.

On April 17 – 19 1961 there was an unsuccessful attempt to over throw Castro by a US CIA trained force of exiled Cubans.  (on January 28, 2008 Mitt Romney wore a guayabera for a speech in Sweetwater Fl, to a mostly Cuban-American crowd,  the shirt was given to him by Luis Arrizureita one of the 1400 Cubans to storm the beaches at the bay of pigs)

Apr 21, 1961 - Central Press/Getty Images

Central Press/Getty Images - Apr 21, 1961

Mike Segar/reuters - January 28, 2008

On June 14, 1994 Castro appeared at the Cartagena de Indias Summit of Heads of State and Government, in the guayabera, for the first time shedding his official uniform.  This is the first public appearance Castro made out of his usual military uniform.

Liborio Noval - June 14th, 1994

In May of 2002 former President Jimmy Carter of the United States of America, visited Cuba.  Durning this visit Carter spent time with Castro.  This was the first time since 1959 that a current or former president has met with Castro.

GREGORY BULL AP - Monday, May 13, 2002

In my interpretation of this work, I stray from the Cuba-America theme and take a picture (in much the same style) of the shirt I wore when a stray bullet missed my head by a few inches, piercing the sliding glass door I sat in front of, crossing the room and embedding itself in a wall.

clark richard nelson, lucky bullet 2009