About this project
Since early 2012 I have been photographing fine artists and inviting them to interpret those portraits through their particular medium. An artist’s work can act as both bridge and barrier; at once deeply personal and highly distorted; the lens through which we present our perception of the world, and the world that in turn interprets us.
As a full-time photographer I engage in a daily meditation on art as a spiritual and alchemical practice; that nevertheless demands relentless hustle and a pathological immunity to rejection. During the shoots I found myself asking the artists about their processes and motivations, and drawing comparisons with my own approach to photography and portraiture. But how best to surround and consummate the conversations, the artists and the Work?
The TEMPLE OF ART documentary will provide an insightful look into the lives of some of our favorite working artists by following the progress of the collaborations from conception to completion, alongside interviews with the artists themselves. Not to mention our panel at this year’s Comic Con, the opening at La Luz de Jesus, the Baby Tattoo book launch, and future events designed to gather the artists together to talk about what informs, inspires, and motivates them. And how they’ve hacked a life that is both sustained and intensified by making art.
Rarely are we given an opportunity to confront our perceptions of reality and self; this film will illuminate the universal tension between the pursuit of our vision and the demands of a critical and implacable world.” – Allan Amato
Including: Barron Storey, Bill Sienkiewicz, Brian Thies, Christian Shillito, Christine Wu, Coop, Dadushin, Dan Quintana, Danni Shinya, Dave McKean, Dave Stoupakis, David Mack, Dongyun Lee, Dorian Iten, Gail Potocki, Greg Ruth, Hueman, Jasmine Worth, Jason Shawn Alexander, JAW Cooper, Jenna Gibson, Jensine Eckwall, Jim Mahfood, John Malloy, Jon Burgerman, Junko Mizuno, Justin Volz, Karen Hsiao, Kellesimone Waits, Ken Garduno, Kent Williams, Kozyndan, Kurt Huggins, Kyle Stecker, Marc Scheff, Matthew Bone, Matthew Levin, Nicole Maloof, Ping Zhu, Rebecca Guay, Roman Dirge, Rovina Cai, Satine Phoenix, Scott Fischer, Shaun Berke, Soey Milk, Stephanie Inagaki, Teresa Fischer, Vincent Castiglia, You Jung Byun, Zak Sabbath Smith, Zelda Devon
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In February of 2012, I photographed David Mack, the visionary writer and artist behind Kabuki. The images that resulted were and continue to be some of my all time favorites, and we both got along fantastically due largely to our rugged, yet strangely vulnerable good looks. I felt compelled to do a little brushwork in photoshop to one of the shots, but thought to myself (though I believe I was moving my lips at the time) - how cool would it be if David painted over the image itself, thereby making it one of a kind, rather than an infinitely reproducible digital file? What if I could get him to paint dutifully on forty or fifty of my other portraits, then have a grand gallery show, and a book; and be revered not only as the best portrait photographer born on july 18th, but as a pioneer of an entirely new and undiscovered medium that combined both fine art and photography? Ok, so the pioneer bit references the fact that I like to pretend I’m the only photographer on the planet, like I Am Legend, only the zombie vampires are, in this case, my dutiful assistants. And clients as well, I guess, since everyone else is dead... Shortly thereafter, David brought the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz to the studio, and what began as an attempt to enslave David for the next decade as my indentured artist and all round valet, became the germ for Temple of Art, which has at last count enslaved and/or encouraged over 50 artists to sit for a portrait with me, then drawing, collaging, painting, etc on the final printed image. The brave men and women in question vary in discipline, as much as I do in weight class; pillars of the comics industry like Dave Mckean, David Mack and Bill Sienkiewicz rubbing hot glued and ink dusted elbows with fine art giants Kent Williams, Barron Storey and Jason Shawn Alexander. And many more creators so redolent of talent and audacity, you can smell it in outer space. By merging the objectivity of portrait photography with the subjectivity of drawing, painting, and sculpture, the artist is contextualized within the constructed reality of their own work.
Temple of Art already has an array of flourishing and highly mobile parts; an incredible co-producer for the book in Baby Tattoo, (which means as a standalone reward, you know you’ll be receiving a book of exceptional quality discounted from the retail price and shipped to you first) and a show in december at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, along with another next year at an undisclosed and thereby secret location in New York. Not to mention a sizeable presence at this year’s Comic Con. But despite the success of the project visually, I was still slightly obsessed with the conversations taking place beneath it, fueling the discourse between myself and my collaborators.
Risks and challenges
Logistically, this project will ultimately involve the filming and occasional tranquilizing of over fifty artists, ranging over both coasts and beyond. After dedicating over 2 years of my near eternal existence to TOA, thanks to a heady consumption of grass-fed butter infused, toxin free coffee, I have a pretty low valuation of my own time. But as with any cinematic enterprise, it takes a village. The village in question is doing what it can for fantastically “fair” wages, but we still need your help, your philanthropic bent, your desire to be the Internet’s Lorenzo de Medici, a true patron of the arts, to get this beautiful baby off and running, metaphorically speaking. Since babies tend to waddle and gurgle and fall over…Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
TOA is the name Kahlil Gibran used for a series of drawings he did of famous contemporaries in the 1920’s, long before he found his calling as a writer, philosopher and poet. These included therapist Carl Jung, Irish poet William Butler Yeats and the legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt. I’d stumbled across his drawings a few months into the project, and my own process felt eerily similar, excepting the additional step; subjects reflecting and re-interpreting my portrait of them. TOA is my homage to Gibran’s original idea, only taking a second step further, exploring the paradigm of artist as both Temple and Art.
Should we be fortunate enough to reach our initial funding goal, we already have some incredible opportunities lined up to augment and enhance the final film. Teaming up with Synaptic (http://synapticvfx.com), we’ve lined up VFX title treatments and sequences based on the original art. We are also planning to have immersive and even instructional shorts for some of your favorite artists, huzzah!
Depending on the timing of the second NY show, I’m planning to have the film in the can by April of next year, though many of the rewards will be available and out well before then. I will also be releasing full interviews with each artist as part of a weekly podcast, shortly after the filming process begins. This will be a great way to learn more about a given artist, to catch up on TOA news, and to hear how truly awful my recorded voice sounds.
All the music in the Kickstarter video is by electronic musician Shipwrek (http://shipwrek.com) who will also be composing the soundtrack for the full-length film.