The Perfection of Gray Days

Winter days and monotonous grey skies hardly seem like ideal conditions for anything. Despite these conditions the process of image-making finds some unexpected advantages here. The sun, hidden behind clouds, can offer a diffuse light that changes the texture and nuance of surfaces. Looking up into the sky is easier without harsh light and reveals the world you pass by on brighter days. Under gray skies colour photography tends toward appearing black and white with very subtle hints of colour. Contrast can be high and skeletal forms are revealed. The gray of winter means you can see farther into the landscape in the absence of leaves. For anyone living at high latitudes getting out of doors during the winter is critical to health, so as an artist I try to frame the weather in terms of the opportunities it provides! Wake to a grey day? Get outside with your camera or paintbursh and watchful eye.

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The delights of a cloudy day – the appearance of skeletons.

Over the past few years I have had a chance to work with floor tiles in the Yucatan, Mexico. The experience altered my conceptions regarding pattern, repetition and how a “whole” is created. In the Yucatan the tiles are often laid out in rectangular areas in the middle of the room and surrounded by a border of tiles of a different colour or pattern – creating the appearance of a rug in the center of the room. This exists in contrast to the repeating designs found commonly in wallpapers and fabrics which lead the eye out into space with their infinite possibilities. Under what conditions do “parts” make a whole? How does prior experience inform? And how do the variations in repetition (number, relative position, orientation, colour, extent of array) affect what we see, either in part or as a whole? Engaging with the visual world and seeking patterns and anomalies with the intent of survival is as old as evolution itself.

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Pattern, Francis Bacon, and a critique of the war in Vietnam.

Back to grey skies and looking about.

Looking up not only orients you to a part of the world that may be escaping your purview but also offers an opportunity to isolate phenomena and frame them in novel ways. Of late, I have been capturing only parts of objects. This, because of how I treat these photographs, has trained my eye to dissect, to dis-assemble as I shoot, and to imagine what the possible outcomes might be. This mental re-configuration or “framing” means I am building as I am deconstructing. With practice, the world is fracturing before my very eyes, and I am encouraging its dissolution.

Dan Nuttall art
Enigmatic through dissection, waiting to be re-assembled.

The near black and white partial skeletons are (with thanks to Dr. Frankenstein) re-assembled back in my lab – ahem studio. And as many a scientist, ecologist or keen observer knows, there are some rudimentary forms of symmetry that repeat themselves in our natural world. You’re reading this aticle thanks to bilateral symmetry – one half of your body is, pretty much, identical to the other. For me, capturing the world and juxtaposing it with its reflected self provides some gorgeous narcissistic depth. In a world obsessed with perfection how can these new entities be anything but perfect? Is every form of self-reflection a form of obscuring, of blindness? Is information lost or gained?

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Self/Reflection/Narcissism/Double/Trouble

And intriguing. Once again our desire to comprehend the parts and the whole (and to survive in a increasingly strange world) has us scrutinizing what we’re looking at. Confusing. Surreal. Familiar. Is comprehension always the goal? Can confusion be an endpoint? Strangeness?

And the double, of course, can be doubled again or twice reflected to gaze at its own navel. This imparts something closer to radial symmetry.

Dan Nuttall the tower art photography
The Floating Tower

And although it was the monotony of gray skies that inspired my initial foray into these explorations it wasn’t long before open blue skies held the same appeal. Below, a visit to Coney Island, New York, and a capture of part of the “Wonder Wheel” ferris wheel results in my image “Wonder” which delights with its butterfly-like whimsy and its uplifting and engaging symmetry. 

So get outside, point and discern, comprehend and gesticulate, couple and twin, mirror and reflect, take apart and re-assemble normal.

You can see more of my work at: www.dandoesdesign.com

You can follow me on Instagram at: @dandoesdesign

And on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/torontoartist/

You can find out more about “Wonder” and its sale at auction here: http://snap-toronto.com/

WONDER by Toronto artist Dan Nuttall will be at auction at SNAP 2019 Toronto in early 2019.

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Giving Men Flowers: A Pansy for Jocks

In the wake of current events such as the Harvey Weinstein debacle and the #metoo campaign I catch myself thinking about the progress that needs to be made. And as an artist I wonder – what is the role of art? To ensure the equal representation of women and all “others” as administrators and creators of art but also to provide – to guarantee – a setting free from prejudice, threat and harrassment. And what of artworks themselves – what are they saying?

In sports, many aspects of “maleness” are underpinned by “femaleness”. Some men acknowledge these underpinnings while others eschew them. I find it hard to ignore femininity in a world of spandex, padding, cups, straps, clips and girdles. In and of themselves these design “elements” are “neutral” – materials, shapes, degrees of rigidity, support, protection and wicking. Historically, these neutral design elements have been sexualized when it comes to men thinking about of women. However, it is anathema to most men to think of them as erotic when applied to other males, especially in the locker room. In the gay world all these suspensory elements are celebrated – exploited as “hyper-male”. Many a well-swung gay fantasy has rotated around the fulcrum of a jock strap.

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Dan Nuttall, “Pansy For Jocks 1”, photography and digital manipulation

How is it that we fetishize in both positive and negative ways inert elements attached to human bodies? Here, in this piece, the strange attractor of flower, as pansy, draws the inquisitive bee of attraction in, offers its stigma, styles and ovaries. And releases the bee to rejoin its community.

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Dan Nuttall, “Pansy For Jocks 2”, photography and digital manipulation

 

In the male sports world I wonder if misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and the failure of men to accept “feminine” attributes contributes to violence against others and shaming of the self. This art asks men to question their relationships with their “self” and the “feminine” in the arena of sport. This art invites men to comment – but they rarely ever do. This art invites men to consider the constraints they offer to their partners, their children, their communities when they see the world as narrowly defined. This art asks men to accept femininity, to revel in it, to champion it all of the petals that make up this flower. This art invites women to send it to men they know and ask them what they think of it.

How would men respond to a world where art invited them to be more open minded? These pansies are comprised of jock strap cups and hockey girdle straps and clips. A pair, in black and white, would look great above your bed or in your living room where guests might comment. Erotic art that honours the continuum, not just the poles. Can anyone have a convincing and comprehensive strength if they cannot accept and appreciate the full spectrum of gender expression, of masculine and feminine, of weak and strong?

A gift of flowers is always appropriate, I offer these pansies to jocks and invite you to offer them too, in any form of your making.

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Dan Nuttall, “Pansy For Jocks 3”, photography and digital manipulation.

I was so very pleased that “Pansy For Jocks 1” was selected by jury to auctioned off on March 30, 2017, in support of the Aids Committee of Toronto. You can read about ACT and the amazing work they do here: http://www.actoronto.org/.

“Pansy for Jocks 3” will be auctioned off on March 22, 2018 for the same amazing ACT-SNAP event! This work was awarded one of 5 prestigious Awards of Merit by the Jury, who reviewed the works anonymously. The prize includes $500 and a ticket to the Gala Auction evening. The jury for 2018 included:

  • Cheryl Powers – Photographic Artist (Chair)
  • Chantal Stepa – Co-Chair
  • Jeannie Baxter – Managing Director, Toronto Image Works
  • Aidan Cowling – Photographic Artist and Head of Communications & Development, Gallery 44
  • Erika DeFreitas – Multidisciplinary Artist
  • Kevin Kelly – Commercial and Art Photographer
  • Patrick Lightheart – Designer and Artist

SNAP! 2018 is a Contemporary Photo Competition. A juried competition for all photographers, there are cash prizes for top entries. Selected images will be included in the SNAP! 2018 silent auction, part of Toronto’s most exciting gala celebrating contemporary art photography. This year’s gala takes place March 22, 2018, at the Bram + Bluma Appel Salon at the Metro Toronto Reference LIbrary, you can read about this venue here: http://salonrentals.torontopubliclibrary.ca/about-the-refe…/

There is a PREVIEW night for the Curatorial Collection of photorgaphs as well as those photorgaphs receivign Awards of Merit. The preview runs March 8, 9, 10, at Robert Birch Gallery in Toronto, more info here: http://birchcontemporary.com/

You can see this year’s winners on the web site for SNAP, here: http://snap-toronto.com/

Please share this post if you have a moment to support this critical agency. ACT provides support services that empower men, women and young people living with HIV to achieve self-determination, informed decision-making, independence, and overall well-being. ACT does this through programs such as counselling, information provision, social support activities and programs that help people with HIV return to work.

You can see my larger body of work here: http://www.dandoesdesign.com/