before pulse was a magazine, it was a connection of artists and writers, musicians and actors who would collect at my home every month or so. they’d bring all their devils with them to be hashed out and reworked. it was kind of like the salons of paris in the 19th century. it was about art, conversation, discovery and celebration. everything was happening—though i still don’t know what happened to a certain professor in a certain bush behind the hammock.
pulse was born out of that time. in the years since, the contributors to those conversations have grown in number, scope and talent. they come in and out, leaving their fingerprints on our pages and sometimes, taking our smudges out into the world through their own work.
that’s what happened when photographer rick wenner got bored. wenner started shooting for us in 2012 and a few months in we tasked him with capturing a few art collectives, FRESH art long island among them.
“every year i try to find a personal project to work on… after i did the artists’ groups, that kind of got me thinking of what the next project would be. come december of that year i decided i wanted to… work with the artists that i’ve photographed and… there’d be some kind of mix-up between the two of us. a collaboration of my photography and their painting, their sculpture, their mixed media, their digital art, whatever it is.”
wenner stayed in touch with rob edwin and allen boulos, the founders of FRESH. the following year, when assigned to capture our series, 9 in art, he met a few more artists and brought them into the portrait project that was already taking form.
wenner, boulos and edwin weren’t exactly sure what the results would be, but they were clear on the direction and that was enough. “the idea of the national portrait gallery came popping into my head and everybody liked the idea and i thought it also represented what we were doing,” edwin said. “but we didn’t know what it was going to be so it was irrational.”
after close to two years, the wenner/FRESH production is now on display. boulos, FRESH’s bagman, cut the deal to have the show mounted at southampton arts center (the former home of the parrish art museum). it features wenner’s original 6-foot tall portraits of 21 long island artists who were given the prints to remake as their own.
it’s a collaboration between artists in the first degree. it’s also a statement. edwin points to the selfie-obsession and what a contradiction of self-image it is. “it’s one thing to have just a little picture of yourself. i think for a lot of the artists it was an interesting challenge to confront a really hyper-realistic image of themselves… i had my picture up all the time and i took it down probably five or six times because it was just so in my face and so me. and then sometimes you question, ‘is that me?’”
the irrational portrait gallery is of course extremely rational. it’s meditated, deliberated, measured and strategized. it’s the irony of forcing artists—who are often sensitive to swings of narcissism and self-loathing—to put their razor sharp lasers onto themselves. and when you stand before this exhibit, you will be forced to do the same.
the irrational portrait gallery will be on view at southampton arts center, 25 jobs ln, through july 20. for video and details, visit irrationalportraits.com.