Posted by Terri Thornton on April 14, 2016 - 2:49pm

Arne Svenson, Faggots series, 1994

Arne Svenson
A talk that hit all the right notes. Love his work and how he thinks about it. Facebook comment by Carol Ivey

Artist as Reporter and Lifeguard
Arne Svenson delivered a clear and heartfelt lecture on a few of his numerous series. Early in the talk Svenson established his project, stating that his series are divergent but connected in that he is “forever trying to make the unimportant important, and the unseen seen.” Considering himself “something between a reporter and a lifeguard, always looking for the decisive moment . . . or for a subject in need of resuscitation,” Svenson demonstrated his philosophy as an artist by showing us everything from his early Las Vegas “landscapes” to seriously photographed portraits of sock monkeys, consciously neutral photographs of gay men under the caption Faggots, beautiful and now controversial photographs of his neighbors, and troubling but touching photographs of forensic reconstructions. He shared that each series begins with what he calls a “secret sentence” that directs the project. While he declined a request to share his “secret sentence” for the Neighbors series, he did let us in on the guiding notion for himself and his printer as they create his current series: for The Forest, in which the artist explores “the sweet spot where perceived reality and fiction meet,” the secret sentence is “There is a little girl lost in the forest and she never gets out”—success being a final print that suggests that she “never gets out.”

The response to this lecture has been enthusiastic, as is the response to the showing of an early print of Svenson’s soon-to-be-released book Unspeaking Likeness, which gives an intimate look at forensic reconstructions that the artist clearly developed feelings for through his research of their stories and the photographing of clinical attempts to build a likeness. Svenson’s photographs are often presented in book form as well as framed for gallery walls, such as those recently acquired by the Modern. More images and explanations of each series can be found on the artist’s website, http://arnesvenson.com/

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