Friday, August 3, 2012

Passing It Forward

When my art career starting taking off recently, I felt proud, relieved, and excited.  I have been diligent and focused on creating new works, exhibiting my work, putting together beautiful frames, handling all of my own printing, creating websites, a personal facebook page, a fan page, and a twitter account.  I have taken studio lighting classes, am a member of Professional Photographers Association (PPA), and have entered numerous juried shows. The list goes on and on.  Creating art and running a business simultaneously has proven to be a huge challenge.

However, it occurred to me that all I really did was one thing:  I worked hard.  When I got honest with myself, I realized that I received a lot of help along the way.  My former partner Ferrell had purchased most of my camera equipment for me.  My good friend Jim Ferguson from Beaumont taught me most of what I know about lighting.  Don Strange mentored me on how to run a business.  Ken Maxwell helped me brand my name as an artist. I received loans to pay for the art exhibits I hosted.  I received emotional support from my mom and my brother.  Ellie Alonzo, an intern from TWU, has worked with me for several months, optimizing my website, calling on galleries for representation, creating new brochures, and entering my work in juried shows. 

The ONLY thing I had to do was try.  Did I have some talent.  Yes….some.  Do I have a good work ethic.  I do.   But could I have become a successful artist all on my own without the help of many others.  No way.

The reason I am acknowledging this is that most of us, if not all, get help along the way.  I believe that it is our duty to then pass it forward, and either mentor someone else, do volunteer work, or give back in another way.  As Zig Ziglar once said, “If you help enough others get what they want, you will get what you want.” 

So I want to thank the people who very unselfishly gave their time and effort in helping me get established in my art career.  It is now my commitment to pass this along to others in their careers and in their lives.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Although cliché, it’s worth repeating that life has its ups and downs, and for many people the sum total of their obstacles outweighs their capacity to succeed in life.  If you were born with a low IQ, came from a broken home, and suffered from bipolar disorder, the likelihood of you making it in life without any help from another person would be close to zero. 

Hence, we need each other.  Even those who are bright, charming, attractive and come from good families need help from time to time. We might not need help in the same way, to the same degree, or at the same times in our lives, but at some point we all need a helping hand.

Because many of us have forgotten this notion, our current sense of community is often fractured.  Instead of helping others, we sometimes tend to seek our own happiness through money, success, and pursuit of self-interests.  In doing so, a lot of helpless people are left behind.

When I worked at the homeless shelter in 2010, I saw some of the most painful images that have been burned into my mind forever.  I witnessed people suffering from bipolar disorder who had received little or no psychiatric attention; I saw war veterans who were crippled and who had received insubstantial medical care; and I met people who had been molested or beaten and were never treated for mental trauma.

I decided to create a body of work to address humanity, or the lack thereof.  Robbie Brown, one of my dear friends who happens to be homeless, became the subject for my show. He is kind, humble, and caring.  I have connected with him on a very basic human level without pretense, materialism, or inauthenticity.  When we’re together, our souls are in sync, just as souls are meant to be.  I see now more clearly than ever before that we all want to be loved, affirmed, and feel connected to each other.  Robbie taught me that.

I presented this body of work in a show dedicated to Robbie.  The show created wonderful conversation about humanity.  People who were opposed to the homeless shelter when money was being raised for it had new questions, and some had a complete change of heart. 

A portion of the exhibit was a triptych entitled Cypher.  The homeless are often perceived as a "cypher," as people without worth, influence, or weight…as non-entities.  But a cypher is also a symbol of something beyond its form, something full of meaning and substance.  Robbie is the perfect symbol for that: he is abundant in contentedness, spirit, and joy.

Cypher by Alex Remington. 2009, 70 x 42 inches.  

The Cypher series displays a wedding gown with yards of silk and lace, crystal beads and ribbon—similar to gowns that often cost several thousand dollars.  It becomes the perfect symbol of excess, superficiality, and a fake social veneer.  And weddings themselves, some costing hundreds-of-thousands of dollars, sometimes take the most basic and simple commitments from one human being to another and cloak them in pretense.  Although ceremonies full of love and joy do take place, I believe that many are solely about impressing others.  Presenting Robbie in the wedding dress signifies authenticity and contentment being enveloped and hidden by this “social fabric.”

Ecstasy by Alex Remington. 2009, 16 x 16 inches

After the exhibit, my father came to the shelter because he wanted to see first-hand the magnitude of our homeless problem.  The shelter deeply moved him and practically brought him to his knees with sorrow.  Because he lives in a different world, he had not realized the obvious severity of sickness, loneliness, and overall desperation within the homeless community.  He then went home and sent a mass email asking people to donate any clothing they could spare.  Cars, trucks and SUV’s came by the dozen and dropped off clothing to his front door. My dad then delivered a truckload of shoes, shirts, and pants to the shelter.  This random act of kindness made a tremendous difference in many lives.

Rock Star #2 by Alex Remington. 2009, 28 x 28 inches

“At any given time today in America, there are about half a million people who are ‘homeless’ -- they don't have a ‘permanent, safe, decent, affordable place to live.’ Around the world there are about 100 million homeless people, and many of them are women and children.”  Robert Alan 

Art can have impact as it did in the case of my dad.  But we don’t need art to make a difference.  Opportunities to give back are everywhere.  It takes just a small amount of awareness and kindness to help another human being.   

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Life in Drag

To a large extent, as adults we have already learned most of life's lessons .  For example, we already know to treat others as we want to be treated; that when you say you will do something, you should honor your word and do it; that we should commit random acts of kindness anonymously.  The list goes on and on.  We have been taught these notions most of our lives.

But why is it when we go out into the world, we forget many of these ideals so quickly?

Although I do not have the answer, I do know that art can have huge impact in keeping us true to life’s golden rules.

Art functions like church.  When you go to church, you may hear a sermon that hits you over the head with a message you already know, but have not heard in such a poignant way.  

Strong art, especially contemporary art with social commentary, offers messages that are often cliché, but with a fresh or unique perspective.  Art provides messages about life that can force you to rethink how you live your life and how you treat others.

I am finishing a new work about humanity which I hope will demonstrate this.  For example, we all wear drag in some form.  I wear preppy clothes; my friend, John, wears tight spandex (ewwww!); a bear friend of mine wears t-shirts and cargo pants; and my buddy, Clint, is a drag queen.  We all tend to wear what feels good to us, and what will allow us to fit into our group of friends. 

In this particular art piece, I have images of firemen, bartenders, “A-List” gays, pregnant women, newlyweds, doctors, drag queens, bears, cubs, otters . . . there are some 300 images of all kinds of people.

So essentially aren't we all in some form of drag—some kind of shell that both protects us from and integrates us into our worlds.  Are we being authentic in choosing the shells that we wear?  Or are we putting on clothes, doing our hair, and wearing makeup that we think will look good to those around us? Or do we choose jobs, like the fireman or policeman, that allow us to perform a role that is comfortable to us?

Art can force us to at least ask the right questions.  What we get from art is hopefully some awareness not only about what is going on around us, but also about what is going on inside our own heads.  This is the power of art.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Body of Work: Trompe-l'oeil

I have a new body of work that I will have a show for in the summer/fall that I wanted to describe in detail  for those of you who like photographic art with social commentary.  The premise of the work is that sometimes we are certain that we are looking at something specific, but our personal biases create filters which shape how we see the world.  Our eyes and brain fool us. In French this is called Trompe-l'oeil , which literally means "deceive the eye."  The exhibit with the same name is also about awareness.  It's not so much about what goes on around us, but our notions about ourselves and who and what we are.

I entertain this idea with props and models who appear to be one thing, but really are something else.  I believe as human beings that we often perceive ourselves as one thing (for example, we often like to think of ourselves as grounded and easy-going), but if we were to ask our closest friends how they see us, their description is often very different than ours.

One of my goals for the exhibit is to encourage people after viewing the scene to try to remove any filters they have and be honest about themselves and who and what they are.  The exhibit is as much about self-discovery as it is about the interaction of the models within the set that I have created.

The following individuals who are experts in their respective fields produced the set:
Jim Ferguson (lighting), David Radcliffe (set design), Shantel Davis (make-up and hair), Alex Remington (photography, production).

I will release a few images in the next month for a small preview of the upcoming show.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Enhancing Creativity

For those of you who are inspired by photography, and who not only want to enjoy photography as an art form, but who also want to create images...consider this:  learn your camera forwards and backwards. Become intimately familiar with the functions of your camera.  Then your brain and creative juices will be free to create beautiful imagery.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sameness Images

I created Sameness as a body of work that is meant to empower people of different race, religious background, sexual orientation, and gender identitiy.  I photographed various people who on the surface appear to have a myriad of differences.  Upon closer examination, however, everyone is quite similar.  We all pay bills, run errands, do laundry, and go to the doctor.  We all want to be included, we all want to feel loved, and we all crave intimacy.  Our paths towards obtaining these items might look different, but the goal is the same.

Through self-awareness and authenticity, we can first to accept and love ourselves, and from there we can love and accept others.
Inclusivity 2010, 30x30 inches.
Giclee Archival Print. Sameness Series.
Limited Edition of 12.