Photography Emulating Art

There are artists who have emulated artwork among us; some of this came to the height of it’s conception during photography’s modern/postmodern transition and the concept of reproduction; Andy Warhol, Sherri Levine, Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman to name just a few.

Sherri Levine’s “After Walker Evans” is an exact reproduction of his original image from the FSA photograph, and was so controversial it was considered to be the death of modernism.

For some like Sherri Levine and Richard Prince, the idea was copying the image itself, eroding the idea of copyright and originality. For others like Cindy Sherman, the idea wasn’t to “steal” artwork, but the idea that an image representation could become a stereotype, and recording herself as multiple female stereotypes in essence meant she could not in fact be any of those stereotypes.

Mining a limitless supply of images from movies, TV, magazines, the Internet, and art history, she captures herself in an astounding range of guises and personas—from screen siren to clown to aging socialite, using props, makeups, wigs, and prosthetics that she manipulates herself.

However, during the pandemic, there was a new emergence of emulation. Galleries and museums closed. How could museums get the public to engage with art if they could not view the art? Thus the art challenge was born. If you look up hashtags like #mettwinning, #tussenkunstenquarantaine #betweenartandquarantine and #gettymuseumchallenge, you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of people recreating historical paintings with household items. What was once the purview of overly educated art students has now become an entire subgenera of creativity for the masses–a truly egalitarian interaction with art.

One image from the getty challenge during the pandemic

It is incredibly difficult to recreate a photograph accurately; the lighting, angle, depth of field, lens etc are all challenging to nail down, and it’s very obvious when there are differences. But the beauty of recreating an antique painting is that you don’t have to recreate it perfectly; you need only recreate the essence of the image, the soul.

I think this one of the cat is my personal favorite, because even the side-eye from the cat is perfect.

So ask yourself, what’s important about the painting? The gesture? The colors? The mood? The lighting? Can toilet paper rolls take the place of old-timey wigs? Can your fancy tassel curtains take the place of a fancy robe? Part of the joy of this project is taking household items and creatively re-using them as props for your image. To see even more inspiring art representations, check out those tags from before, and you can also read this article with some great image examples.  I hope you’ll take on the challenge over the holiday, and have the best sort of fun with art and a simple camera. Sometimes, as artists, we forget about that…

Because your dog is exactly the same thing. I like the drawing of the vine taped to the wall too.

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