Storm Tharp will be visiting the OCAC campus today (@12:45pm in the Centrum Studio) as part of a series of monday talks with visiting artists. Many of his recent works on paper appear in the 2010 Whitney Biennial. The subjects of Tharp’s portraits seem to come alive—captured in the moment before an implied act.
As the bio on the Whitney’s website attests, the viewer is placed in the difficult position of having to reconcile the implied narratives that often present multiple or ambiguous readings: for example, “Is the woman clutching a knife in Pigeon (After Sunshen) defending herself or is she a vengeful murderess?” (from here). Tharp’s portraits are strangely cinematic and draw attention to the intersection where portraiture and performance might meet.
After thinking about the work of Storm Tharp, the library has selected for this week’s pick a book that questions “why do we respond so powerfully to the images and pictures we see in everyday life? Why do we behave as if pictures were alive, possessing the power to influence us, to persuade us, seduce us, or even lead us astray?” (from the book jacket).
The book is What Do Pictures Want?: the lives and loves of images by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Mitchell’s broad gaze spans across Byzantine Icons, the mass media, American Photography, found objects, and aboriginal painting. Mitchell, like Storm Tharp’s work, challenges the idea that images are mere “signs” or “inert objects” conveying some particular meaning for a viewer’s consumption and analysis; rather, Mitchell argues that images have “lives of their own”(194) “as animated beings” (50) with “desires and drives of their own” (book jacket). This work has significant implications for picture theory, but, more importantly, it provides a new framework in which to interpret and to be interpreted by the images that surround us.