[WARNING: This post may be considered long and tedious by some …]
For the last several years, almost every day I could expect to see at least one email from Bill, typically with “Morning” as the subject line (changing to “Afternoon” or something else appropriate to the sent time, or if another round was sent later in the day). Looking back into my email archives, I can see that I have hundreds and hundreds of these things.
I was lucky enough to be one of several cc’d recipients, some of whom were photographers or artists I either knew or had heard Bill mention, some unknown to me. These emails almost always were devoid of text, but consisted of embedded images – maybe between three and ten, or even more, none seemingly related – Bill had apparently found online in the preceding 24 hours. Many were paintings (and heavy on the Impressionists and late 19th/early 20th century art movements) and some were photographs depicting anything from early silent movie film sets to glamour portraits of 40s and 50s Hollywood starlets to quirky, dada-ish or otherwise unusual and often absurd situations or subjects. Some of the artists and their images I instantly recognized, others were totally new and unexpected. And many, I was to learn, were of Russian origin (and some of you may appreciate Bill’s rather special Russian connection).
From Bill’s 4/13/2020 Morning post: An entry by Yves Lecoq in the World Antigravity Contest.
One of the ongoing quibbles I had with Bill was that he hardly ever identified the artists or authors involved, let alone the dates of creation or titles. I believed that this kind of identification should be made as a matter of principle, and told Bill so. And he became slightly, but only slightly, more fastidious about attribution. The problem for me was that I often saw works of considerable interest of which I was unaware, but had little to go on if I wanted to learn more about the artist or the work, save struggling with a Google image search or other reverse image searches available on the interwebz.
The thought also occurred to me that Bill was possibly just exercising his role as teacher, inspiring his students to conduct independent research. Or maybe he was just doing his kind of daily journal or diary. Perhaps all of the above.
Sometimes Bill sent me, as a solo recipient, individual images that he knew would be of particular interest to me, and might include a little more information. From time to time, Bill and I would get on the phone (usually precipitated by a questioning email from me) and discuss the art in question, with our call morphing into expanded discussions about … anything. Bill occasionally sent me items that reminded him somehow of me – like a John Singer Sargent painting that had triggered his recall of one of my early photographs. And he once presented the work of an obscure painter that I just happened to be aware of, as he had been on the faculty many years ago at a small college in my small Eastern Washington town, so we had to discuss that coincidence.
Anyway … the last “art” email I received from Bill was on August 1, 2021, with the subject “Sunday Morning” and a timestamp of 8:27am.
I was surprised to find that no email came in the next morning, nor the next one after that. I started thinking the worst, but it was not until a few more days elapsed that I felt it was time to reach out to someone, perhaps his sister. And the rest we know. And that means that I find myself looking at the email again, searching for clues as to what might have been Bill’s state of mind at the time; what was going through his head.
Bill’s last “curated email” included these pieces (somewhat more than usual):
Of course, I felt compelled to spend a couple of hours tracking down the unidentified images and finding more information on those few that I recognized. As usual, Bill had provided us with an eclectic mix of imagery, perhaps not revealing much more than his good taste, his imagination and and his openness to a wide range of potential influences.
In case you are interested, here is what I determined via Google Search, Bing Search, Wikipedia and a couple of other internet reverse image lookup sites:
01 – “Portrait of Ekaterina Popova”, 1918, by Popov Nikolay Niolaevich (Russian)
02 – location: Garden of the Gods in Colorado, unknown photographer, circa 1920-28
04 – More Bruce Riley, said to be “… a talented Chicago-based artist who creates beautifully psychedelic paintings of poured paint and dripping resin.”
05 – “Sisters of Charity”, 1956, by David Moore (1927–2003) , said to be “…one of Australia’s most renowned photographers. Promoting the appreciation and importance of photography, he played an instrumental role in founding the Australian Centre for Photography in 1974.”
06 – Work (date? title?) by Slovak artist Katarina Vovrova – https://www.katarinavavrova.sk (great site to visit with many wonderful images)
07 – Work (date? title?) by Bernhard Gutmann (German-American artist, 1869-1936), in the Japonisme style. “Japonisme (from French) used as early as 1851, is the influence of Japanese art, fashion and aesthetics on Western culture. It refers to the Japanese influence on European art, especially in impressionism. Japanese block prints, were a source of inspiration for many impressionists and later for Art Nouveau and Cubism. Affected by the lack of perspective and shadow, the flat areas of strong color, and the compositional freedom of off-center placement, with low diagonal axis to the background.” Visit this site!
08 – Instantly recognizable to me were James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor on a film set (“Giant”, 1956) https://flashbak.com/elizabeth-taylor-james-dean-rock-hudson-on-the-set-of-giant-in-1956-401385/frank-worth-james-dean-and-elizabeth-taylor-on-the-set-of-giant-directed-by-george-stevens-1955/
09 – Cowgirl Magazine (https://cowgirlmagazine.com/akhal-teke-turkmenistan/) tells us that “The Akhal-Teke is arguably the oldest surviving cultured equine breed. These horses hail from Turkmenistan and their origins can be traced back 3,000 years before Russia was even founded. They are the last pure strain of Turkmene horses.”
10 – Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner were immediately recognizable to me in this image that I had never seen, but I had to go online to learn it was photographed by Tony Vaccaro, date unknown, and that the subject had to do with the Polar Bear painting I wasn’t familiar with: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2015/dec/02/jackson-pollock-polar-bear-hair-great-art-mystery
11 – Knew this one. Many photographers would be familiar with the work of Jeff Wall. This is his 2016 “Mother of Pearl”.
12 – Another one from Jeff Wall, inspired by Ralph Ellison (think Invisible Man). The internet tells me it was done in the year 2000.
13 – I learn that this is a ceramic sculpture by Margaret Keelan: http://art-monie.blogspot.com/2017/01/margaret-keelan-ceramic-sculpture.html
14 – This seems to be a Kea Parrot, found in New Zealand: https://burrra.com/hash/discoverNewZealand
15 – Photographer not known, nor the date, but the subject appears to be Eve Meyer (remember the sexploitation filmmaker, Russ Meyer?).
16 – Wikimedia tells us that this is a 1914 self-portrait by Swiss painter Felix Vallotton. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%A9lix_Vallotton