What are your thoughts regarding the exhibition medium and does the fact that you are represented by commercial galleries have an impact on your work?
“I always make pictures and I don’t consider the viewer, at all. While I am editing I am driven by the question “Was this getting what I want?” “Was this getting what I am interested in?” Somewhere down the line, hopefully it is distant, I wonder “Gee! Maybe there is a sucker out there that would buy this stuff?” And then I send it off, or don’t. Preferably I let it wait a couple of years and see if it still has resonance. So you make things and you let go of some controls and it really is a kind of addiction of a microsecond. Although, for a while I made long exposures so I got more fulfillment. There is a thrill there.”
©Jeffrey Silverthorne – Annunciation, 2006
‘Concerning the Spiritual In Art’ was published in 1911. In Kandinsky’s theory the artist is the leader capable of inspiring the mass to ascend and advance in the spiritual pyramid of humanity. A few great artists stand tall upon the pyramidion, but if the artist enters a decadent period, the soul will be dragged down to the bottom of the pyramid, where searches for external success pulls the soul in conflicting and destructive directions and silences the spiritual forces.
Viewers of a painting experience the artwork with their 5 senses, but according to Kandinsky, a work of art can also evoke a spiritual effect in which the colour touches the soul itself.
Quote from Introduction
“This all-important spark of inner life today is at present only a spark. Our minds, which are even now only just awakening after years of materialism, are infected with the despair of unbelief, of lack of purpose and ideal. The nightmare of materialism, which has turned the life of the universe into an evil, useless game, is not yet past; it holds the awakening soul still in its grip. Only a feeble light glimmers like a tiny star in a vast gulf of darkness. This feeble light is but a presentiment, and the soul, when it sees it, trembles in doubt whether the light is not a dream, and the gulf of darkness reality. This doubt, and the still harsh tyranny of the materialistic philosophy, divide our soul sharply from that of the Primitives. Our soul rings cracked when we seek to play upon it, as does a costly vase, long buried in the earth, which is found to have a flaw when it is dug up once more. For this reason, the Primitive phase, through which we are now passing, with its temporary similarity of form, can only be of short duration.”
Book available on Project Gutenberg here
You have been teaching at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island since 2002, becoming a full Professor in 2011. What methods are you teaching your students to guide them toward, I quote, “to convey the contradictory natures of making things”? (Quote from University website)
It is an interesting place to teach, but teaching photography is both simple and impossible. In the eighties I was teaching at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. At that time I was in frequent contact with the photographer Robert Frank and in one of our phone conversations I told him about one of my students. This young man’s work was sort of mediocre, but he told me about his father who was making weird and kinky films in his garden. I said to him: ‘That sounds great! Why don’t you bring them in and we will show them in class?’ I was discussing with Frank about how the kid brought in this borrowed courage into his own work. I think that people who are starting often need to borrow courage from some place, to be able to understand that they can do that and to start experimenting on their own. What is so great with photography is that on a 35mm roll of film you have 36 opportunities to fail; 36 opportunities to try something that you think you can’t do.
Read full interview – Jeffrey Silverthorne Interview Series Pt 2 – Desire, Struggle and Confusion
©Jeffrey Silverthorne Susan with a light bulb, 2006