-This blog is dedicated to Dark Art, in all its myriad forms-

I make every effort to properly identify and credit each artist contained herein. Feel free to contact me about inaccurate information; or, suggestions about other artists to feature, including yourself.

NOTE: Click on individual pictures to access the larger formats.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Joel-Peter Witkin

Witkin is a photographer and artist who was born in Brooklyn, New York, 1939.

His twin brother, Jerome, is a well known artist as well, but chose painting as his medium of expression. Few, if any, people ever gaze upon a Witkin tableaux without strong reactions. He's been lauded as depraved, perverted, mentally disturbed; while others hail his work as divine, fearless and completely unique.

For three years he was a war photographer during the Vietnam war, later becoming the official photographer in 1967 for City Walls Inc. After studying sculpture at Cooper Union in New York, he became Bachelor of Arts in 1974.
Due, in part, to a scholarship from Columbia University, he became Master of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico.

While a small child, on his way to church with his family, an event occurred that altered his life forever. He, along with his twin brother, witnessed a horrific three car accident in front of his house. Immediately after the crash an object rolled across the street, stopping at his feet. When he looked down, it was the decapitated head of a little girl, her vacant eyes staring up at him. While attempting to bend down and talk to "her" he was carried away from the scene.

Subsequently, a large portion of his art deals with scenes of death and deformity. Some of his most controversial work includes actual corpses and cadavers (or pieces of them). Because of specific laws within the U.S., he was forced to create these pieces in Mexico.

Other themes and subjects in his art include dwarfs, hermaphrodites, hunchbacks, and various physical deformities--as well as images that
suggest bestiality, although never crossing that particular line. Much of his work hearkens back, or pays tribute to, famous classical paintings, mythology, and religious episodes throughout history.

Witkin creates his highly complex pieces using a variety of techniques. Some of these include scratching the negative, bleaching, toning the print, and what's called a hands-in-the-chemicals approach. He also employs the use of razor blades, pins, and other implements in the darkroom to achieve the final look.

While viewing Joel's art, a paradox often emerges as to what his "message" or intent actually is. Conflicting and seemingly unrelated objects and scenarios are conjoined in such a way as to appear to make sense. But as soon as one begins to form into words what that relationship is, it all falls apart, defying a rational explanation.

Witkin not only transcends categories, he does not even exist in one. He is outside of the box, and we, the viewers, are only allowed a peak, however briefly. There are many websites featuring Joel's work, a few of which I have listed here:

Edelman Gallery
Masters of Fine Art Photography
Tribute to a Genius

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