Art Chicago Next Fair 2011

Installation of J. Shimon and J. Lindemann prints in
Portrait Society Gallery's, Milwaukee, booth at
Art Chicago Next Fair's Preview Party, Thursday, April 28, 2011. 

Debra Brehmer's Portrait Society Gallery, Milwaukee, brought a selection of our prints to Art Chicago Next Fair April 28-May 1, 2011 (222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza). We've been doing a lot of photographs about death lately, but it's these self-mocking rural Wisconsin landscapes (below) that seem okay for public viewing at the moment. Perhaps due to what's going on in the world? Also on view are works by Boris Ostrerov and Bernard Gilardi.

© J. Shimon and J. Lindemann
Tomato Tower, 2008, 
Gum Bichromate Print, 36x30 inches

© J. Shimon and J. Lindemann
 Silver Queen Corn, 2010,
Tea-Toned Cyanotype Print, 36x30 inches

© J. Shimon and J. Lindemann
 Profile with Haystack, 2008, 
 Gum Bichromate over Cyanotype Print, 36x30 inches

© J. Shimon and J. Lindemann
 Painting Wheels, 2009, 
Tea-toned Cyanotype Print, 36x30 inches

© J. Shimon and J. Lindemann
 Screen Door, 2008, 
Tea-toned Cyanotype Print, 36x30 inches

Inspired by Weegee's self-portraits--with a heavy dose of Green Acres-ian ethos--we began making these pictures about summers isolated on our rural Wisconsin farm starting in 1996. In between raising most of our own food in a large organic garden and writing syllabi for the next year's courses, we stave off the inevitable decay of our place and ourselves. We stage the photographs in locations around our farm wearing "costumes" accumulated over decades of thrift shopping while reenacting the chores du jour.

© Weegee
Weegee and his Successor (circa 1948)

Still from Green Acres TV show
Oliver and Lisa with implement (circa 1965)

© J. Shimon and J. Lindemann
 Self-Portrait Rototilling, 1996,
Platinum-Palladium Print, 10x8 inches

Our YouTube video documenting the process of making the photographs, titled Too Big, has gotten quite a few views thanks to a shout out on The Online Photographer. Julie's 2006 digital snapshot of John posing with the home-made "big camera" is posted on flickr and has been oft "favorited" (geek out). Prints from this ongoing series, Self-Portrait in the Garden at Dusk (see below), and Making Hay While the Sun is Shining were included in Facing the Lens: Portraits of Photographers (January 21 through August 28, 2011) and Wide-Eyed: Panoramic Photographs (September 15, 2011-January 29, 2012) at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

© J. Shimon and J. Lindemann
 Self-Portrait in the Garden at Dusk, 1998,
Platinum-Palladium Print, 12x20 inches


Life Is Beautiful

Lucy was game to learn digital photography and bought a Canon point-and-shoot to take pictures of her life and to bring along on her travels. But before she could start making new photos, she had a legacy of snapshots to reconcile. In particular where the prints that told the story of her brother who died more than 50 years ago of cancer. Recently diagnosed with cancer herself, Lucy remembered her brother's attitude about the disease and how he faced death saying "Life is Beautiful" moments before his death.  We met Lucy working on the cancer survivorship project at the Kohler Art Center in July 2010. Staff at the Kohler helped Lucy scan and post her old snapshots on Flickr. Without captions, we read one of the black-and-white square snapshots  on flickr as a portrait of a mother figure clad in apron removing a turkey from the oven on Thanksgiving day not realizing it was Lucy's mother preparing the last family holiday supper for her brother. We made a video of Lucy telling the stories of her photographs.


Wisconsin Idea

Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette, Sr., 1922,
photographed by J. Lindemann's great uncle
John Glander at Glander Studio, Manitowoc, WI.
Wisconsin Historical Society.
By the time the Wisconsin Labor: A Contemporary Portrait exhibition opened on February 18, 2011 at the James Watrous Gallery in Madison, the political landscape had completely changed in Wisconsin and the nation. The Wisconsin State Journal covered the show and its uncanny timing and its focus on individual workers in the work place. Thousands of teachers, municipal works, moms, dads and kids had begun gathering at the state capitol building to protest the public union busting scheme of newly elected Scott Walker. Walker appeared to be the antithesis of everything about Wisconsin and the liberalism of people like "Fighting Bob" La Follette that many admired.

Richie "Wenzel" Krueger with Ice,
Manitowoc, WI,  2005
© J. Shimon & J. Lindemann

The Wisconsin Labor project was commissioned through a Wisconsin Arts Board Percent for the Arts grant in 2007 for the Wisconsin Department of Work Force Development building on East Washington Street in Madison. It's the place unemployed people go for help. Like us, most of the photographers were academics perhaps somewhat sheltered in the ivory tower. Dick Blau teaches at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Tim Abler at Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee, David Heberlein at University of Wisconsin River Falls and we at Lawrence University. Jamie Young left Madison after he finished work on the project for Syracuse, NY where he is a freelancer and his wife Harriet teaches at Syracuse University. The seven of us were selected by a panel of experts and work began on the project. Such a commission to photograph Wisconsin workers seemed a rare opportunity in 2007, a throw back to Roy Styker's Farm Securities Administration photo projects. We photographed throughout the summer and fall of 2007 and by the time our prints were made, framed and delivered in 2008, Barak Obama had been newly elected but the illusion of prosperity burst. Friends lost their jobs, real estate values tumbled and so did the value of stocks. The people we'd photographed experienced the downturn. The pizza place Amber worked at closed, Richie turned his liquor store into Wenzel's Perfect World, a night club because he couldn't compete with all the new franchise liquor stores, the yacht company laid off Dylan due to lack of sales of luxury yachts and so on. The exhibition opened first in Appleton in October 2010 to an ambivalent audience, but by the time it opened in Madison, the Wisconsin Arts Board's Percent For Arts Program that funded the project was on the verge of extinction and the capitol building was teeming with protesters spending days and nights rallying and inhabiting the capitol rotunda with hilarious signs expressing their views. We ran into friends handing out "Recall Scott Walker" bumper stickers and put one on our office door. It seemed the public once again cared about the lives of everyday people rather than the celebrities with ostentatious wealth displayed on high-def full color displays. Hummers and diamonds seemed vulgar  and wasteful as they had during similarly challenging times during the Great Depression and World War II when the average person struggled just to get by. A selection of the photographs made for the project are housed at the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison. We presented a well-attended lecture on the photographs that influenced our approach to the Labor project on April 3 at the Watrous Gallery as documented by Martha Glowacki for the academy and Troy Freund on his blog.


"Imperial Walker," Madison Protests, February 18, 2011
Wisconsin Labor opening at Watrous Gallery, February 18, 2011
"Stop the Attack," Madison Protests, February 19, 2011


Kodachrome and Root Beer

Lunch at Charlie's Place, Hortonville, WI, Summer 2010.
Kodachrome in the glovebox was not subjected to heat.
When small gauge film expert Toni Treadway of Brodsky & Treadway emailed with an offer of a few rolls of circa 1990s Kodachrome double 8 mm from her freezer, we knew what we'd do with it. While working on the Wisconsin Arts Board Wisconsin Labor Survey in 2007, we photographed a carhop named Elise at Charlie's Place in Hortonville. We wanted to make a short movie about the restaurant and the family that ran it. The owners were a brother and sister team who'd recently taken over from their retired dad who started it after buying an old A&W in 1965. Working together, they kept the place a viable summer business by orchestrating a self-described "shabby" Americana roadside atmosphere and offering up a selection of basic made-from-scratch food. The help of family-members and towns people was also essential. Patrons drink root beer floats out of frosted glasses (not styrofoam cups) and the sandwiches come wrapped in simple paper printed with the word "delicious" rather than the excess of multi-colored corporately-branded boxes. We filmed on classic car night during Elvis death week in August.  Carl showed up with bedazzled white jumpsuit and an armful of polyester flower leis he distributed generously as he hugged babies and greeted carloads of customers. Wife Tori, dressed as Marilyn, served sheet cake from the hood of a white Cadillac. We finished shooting by September and shipped it off the exposed Kodachrome Dwayne's in Kansas to beat the processing rush. Not only had the last roll of Kodachrome been produced by Kodak, but K-14 processing was scheduled to cease December 30, 2010 at the family-owned lab in Kansas.


Being There

Watch the full episode. See more In Wisconsin.

Being on TV is always odd and no less so last week when a Wisconsin Public Television segment on our Real Photo Postcard  Survey Project aired. We heard of the solid air date through a newspaper reporter named Suzanne Weiss at the Herald-Times-Reporter. She'd received a press release and wrote a feature story on our project and the upcoming TV coverage.

Television is random as it beams into homes and places sometimes unanticipated. For example, we didn't get around to visiting our friend Nigel at Fox Lake Correctional as we usually do around the holidays. A fan of public media, he anticipated seeing us on TV. After the feature aired on January 6, he wrote us a hand-written letter critiquing our on-camera fashions:
It was fun to see you guys again...one of the early shots showed Johnie while the narrator babbled on and it appeared as though he was wearing a black scarf and I was like Oh no! Pretentious indoor artist scarf. But then later on I saw it was the black camera cloak. So obviously I was relieved...
We received other various responses including an email from a cordial woman named Judith who attached a digital snap capturing her profile. She was at a hockey game wearing wearing pink cat eye glasses and had a pointy chin. She wrote: "Julie...I think we could have been twins...ha ha...I am just 200 pounds larger."

When Liz Koerner (producer/director), Brad Wray (sound engineeer) and Mike Eicher (videographer) visited our studio in June to shoot the segment, we were finishing an intense string of portraits and palladium prints for a project to open in July at Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee. Our studio was cluttered with the stuff of unfinished works-in-progress, yet the crew found order and a visual story. They worked around the sporadic clattering of beer bottles being emptied from a dumpster at the bar across the street and the tangle of lights and cameras only leaving behind one quartz light and stand which we still need to return. We invited our longtime neighbors Ryan Ackley and Rich Bouril to come by for postcard portraits. Ryan owns the Boarding House, a skateboard shop, around the corner from our studio. We've known him since he was nine when we first moved into our studio. Richie owns the Culture Cafe across town and we share rural Wisconsin roots and buy his fresh-roasted coffee. We photographed the crew too.
Liz Koerner (producter/director) interviews John Shimon
in the midst of our cluttered Manitowoc studio while
Mike Eicher shoots video and Brad Wray records sound (6.17.10).