Photography and fantasy

A summer internship in Marketing and Communications affords me opportunities to write e-mail copy, manage publicity reports—and learn about the Museum and its collection.

Last week five other interns and I were led through the Contemporary and African art galleries by Curators Linda Dougherty and Kinsey Katchka. Before our tour we learned about the curators’ roles in the Museum and discussed the process of selecting art and displaying it in a museum setting. The curators intrigued me with stories of weekend trips to New York and Miami for various art shows, where they scout out up-and-coming artists. They answered our many questions and then proceeded to the galleries.

It wasn’t until we stopped at several photographs that I found a piece of art that really piqued my interest. Anthony Goicolea’s Still Life with Pig (2005) is pleasantly shocking. Two young boys huddle underneath a lean-to while a decaying pig lies lifelessly on a log before them.

Upon closer inspection I noticed blue and yellow war paint on the boys’ faces. Like Tom and Huck, the boys appear to be resting from adventurous explorations of the woods surrounding them. I almost lost focus of the photo when one of the curators mentioned a little-known fact: Goicolea’s photograph is actually a fabricated image, created with the help of Photoshop and a vivid imagination.

The objects in the picture are real, but the juxtaposition of them is not. Goicolea layered photos of the various objects on his computer, meticulously placing each layer so as to confuse the viewer into thinking that somewhere, somehow, this scene might have happened. Goicolea’s picture is indeed a work of art, a creation based on fantasy and reality. But in my world, Photoshop exists on fashion magazine covers and the advertisements that go inside them, not hanging in art galleries. Goicolea’s work, perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing as airbrushed starlets, had me questioning my perception of what is art.


  1. Posted August 10, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Because a work makes you question “what is art” dose not in itself make a work “art”. In most cases I find that if I have to question it too hard, it usually, in my opinion, is not art.

  2. Posted August 10, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    This comment is in no way a secific cratique of the image heading this thread, but just a statment in general regarding what makes a piece of work “art”.

  3. Brenda Poole
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    I don’t question what is art, because I believe I know. Even if Goicolea’s photo had been real and not manipulated to me it still would have been what it is; a raw gross picture and that is all. It is stuff like this that makes most people not appreciate curators and galleries taste in what they call art! It is shock and awe period! laziness and the unwillingness to choose real art that has been created to enlighten, or inspire is the norm unfortunately, how very sad. There is enough trash for the eyes to see in the world without the art world displaying it as though it were a prize they had found.

  4. Posted August 17, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    “Pleasantly shocking” – love your desription. I like to say it’s like a sore tooth you can’t stop licking, hurts so good kind of thing. I linked to and see that this piece is pretty large, especially for traditional photography; I bet it is quite as you describe. Will have to see for myself.

  5. Adam Robinson
    Posted August 26, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    I love this print. It’s lush and grotesque and fascinating. I had complex reactions when I stood in front of it in the gallery. And I was so glad it was there. Manipulated photos seem more like “art” than straight “found imagery” photos. Would it be more evocative if this scene was entirely staged in full rather than craftily pieced together? Not to my mind. To my mind, art is about intention … and yes, also about craft. And do I think art should exist to enlighten or inspire? Not at all … I like art to amuse, and shake me up, to educate me, but mostly to provide me with an experience that lasts. And this piece does.

  6. Posted August 30, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    What I dislike about the question “What is art?” is the pretentiousness of it. It’s forced. We all know how we interpret art…what we consider “artfully created”.

    This print was art to the person who took it. They were telling a story. However, to me it is forced and manipulative– clearly relating to Golding’s Lord of the Flies. In that sense, it lacks creativity and vision.

    But that’s just my opinion. In the grand scheme of “art” that doesn’t count for much. To each his own.

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