David Moog (b. 1944), Nancy Belfer, 2015; Archival inkjet print, 20 x 15 inches; Gift of the artist, copyright David Moog, 2015
Artists Seen: Photographs of Artists In the 21st Century A Project by David Moog
This project has now ended. Thank you to David Moog and all of the aritsts who participated!
The Burchfield Penney Art Center is partnering with photographer David Moog in a project we believe will be exciting and historically notable. In an unprecedented effort, Mr. Moog will attempt to make black & white portraits of all the working artists in Western New York. Painters, printer makers, sculptors, wood workers, potters, craftspeople, photographers, installation and performance artists, musicians, curators and gallery owners will be included. We are not only inviting you, but also encouraging you, to participate with us in this undertaking. If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Moog’s work, you can find an archive of over 130 images and a biography on our website.
Once the project is complete – the target is 2017 – we hope to have a unique and meaningful set of portraits which will add to our permanent record of the art community of Western New York at the beginning of the 21st century. We intend to periodically exhibit the portraits at the Burchfield Penney Art Center for decades to come and to include them in our online collection. The complete photo series can be viewed here, and a 2015 interview with the artist about the project can be found here.
In the decades to come, and perhaps centuries from now, when gallery visitors experience the art in our collection their connection to the works will be enhanced by these portraits. This is the Center's tribute to you and every artist who works to realize their personal vision.
The Artist on the Origin and Impetus of This Project
Over a half century ago – at least four years before I would make my first photograph – I saw a portrait by the great studio fashion photographer Irving Penn. I didn’t know anything about Irving Penn, and paid no attention to the name of the man in the picture. But I was riveted to it. There was this old man staring at me from the black & white page as though he could see me just as clearly as I saw him. Years later I learned that the man staring at me was the legendary left wing poet and prophet W. H. Auden.
My photographic journey has been for the most part about things, not people. Until now I’ve made images of people on a whim ... perhaps a dozen times. That’s it. But what has always stuck with me was the realization that portraits by Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Edward Weston and so many others were about much more than their subjects. Knowing the identities of the people staring into the lens isn’t at all important. Portraits by Diane Arbus and Avedon and Penn are about all of us.
So an idea began to nag at me. And it seemed uncomplicated enough to try out: photograph artists in the community. Artists pretty much understand their own space and, unlike many of us, project it. Easy. Right? But what looks good on paper is not always doable. Just who is an artist? The horizon line of the project expanded quickly. I explained to Tony Bannon, director, and Scott Propeack, chief curator and associate director, what I wanted to get done, and I explained that without the help of the Burchfield Penney to identify artists in the community, I couldn’t make the project happen. To make this composite portrait of artists working in the 21st Century, I need painters, sculptors, engravers, potters, ceramic artists, wood carvers, furniture makers, photographers, musicians, gallerists, curators, and critics. So that’s how the Artists Seen project percolated and became what it is now: an attempt to photograph every working artist in Western New York. We’ll see how it all works out over the next two or three years.