Response to Jessica Eaton: Jay Vette

Jessica Eaton’s photography is impressive to me purely in a technical aspect: the way she is able to create her imagery using only large format film (was it 4×5?) and darkroom techniques, without any digital aid, is an awesome achievement. The way she applies her understanding of scientific and mathematical knowledge to her work, like color and string theory, is something to applaud. It is quite interesting (at least to me) to see an artist use a fascination with science and math to create art. To me, these two worlds are opposites: on one side, science and mathematics are about cold, hard facts with no wiggle room for anything, and on the other, art is a form of creative expression that is all about how we interpret the world, rather than just facts about how and why things are. I do not have a mathematical or scientific brain at all; I’m purely on the other side. Eaton’s attention to how these theories and facts work, and her execution of creating visual versions of them, is something that I think would be very difficult to pull off. I have the highest respect for her different knowledge and technical skill.

That being said, Eaton’s work does not engage me visually. It’s too abstract for me, too experimental looking…and I usually like abstract art. However, the abstraction I like is usually found in paintings or sculptures. The photography I admire most are photographs of the outside world and the impact people have on it, not experiments with light and color. The cube series (cfaal) and the other shapes/color wheel combinations were too “scientific” looking to me. As I said, I very much admire the mastery of the techniques used to create these images…I just personally don’t find them appealing. I don’t understand any of it.

However, when Eaton reviewed my work last Wednesday, she had very helpful input. I can see that her experience isn’t just limited to the style of work I saw. As a person, she is very likable. I just can’t say the same about her work.


Vette: On Wyse’s ‘Too Drunk to Fuck’

Mark Wyse’s ‘Too Drunk to Fuck’ essay seemed to me to focus on the extreme obsession two photographers have when creating their work–one obsesses over the meaning of the subject matter (or how she interprets the subjects she is photographing), and the other obsesses about the details that go into making a photograph: simply, one draws personal meaning from the message of the photo, and one draws meaning from the photo itself. What I gleaned from the discourses that accompanied the respective photographers’ view on the expressiveness capacity of the medium is that obsessiveness, or “neuroticism” as the author so keenly puts it, is the key driving force beneath all that makes good photography good.

Nan Goldin sees her photography as a way to chronicle lives and bring her subjects to a new life through the medium of photography. Christopher Williams sees photography as the final culmination of the research that went in to producing a photograph. It could be said then that Goldin’s photography has more of the archetypical sense of “passion” in it, as her desires (desire being another very important theme of the essay) are more about using the camera as a humble tool to record and enrich the subjects. But Williams’ photography is not without passion. It is just that his type of passion is in the unseen details of the shot, such as the history of the camera that took the photo, other materials used to create it, the background of the subjects, etc. His desire is to elevate the status of the camera and all the conditions that were involved in the creation of a photograph.

In my experience as a photographer, I would have to say that my personal take on these two contrasting views on what makes a good photo are both things I do regularly. I too become obsessed when taking a photo, or even thinking about taking one. I make up in my mind the type of subject I want and how I want to present it. While I may not want my photos to have the same sense of “meaning” that Goldin seems to inject into her work, I do like the viewer to speculate about why I chose to do what I did. Like Williams, I too am fascinated with the history and other facts of my subjects and the photographic tools I am using, and that is sometimes what drives my motivation to photograph what I do. I like to call what I do “creative quality control.”

I understand that “neuroticism” as the author calls it is an integral part of what makes a photo worth looking at and speculating upon. I agree wholeheartedly with Wyse and the explanations both photographers give in his essay.

The Chair!

This project was the toughest, but most rewarding project of this workshop. We were told to build a chair in three stages: a small paper model, a full-size cardboard model, and then the final out of wood, without using any bonding material (like glue, nails, etc.). Before we built anything, we did research on various types of chairs.

We got three planks of wood: two were 2′ x 2-1/2′, and one was 2′ x 3′. They were all 3/4″ thick. We then got scale pieces of paper, and had to draw out a design, then build a paper model. I wanted to make my chair a desk chair, so it could accommodate a laptop. The process for finding out how to build it to be a reasonable size and able to support the weight of a person and a laptop was the hard part. But I eventually figured it out, and was quite proud of my design.

Then came the cardboard model. The hardest part of this one was actually finding suitable cardboard, and then tediously measuring it out, so that all the pieces would fit together. I was able to do it though. Since the cardboard was so flimsy, it wouldn’t really stand up. This model was also destroyed before i could get a photo.

Then came the wooden piece. I transferred all the dimensions of the cardboard piece onto the wood, and measured out 3/4″ slots so the wood could be joined together. After this, it was on to the woodshop, where I learned how to use various loud and manly tools such as the band saw, the cordless drill, and this thing that looked like a sewing machine, but it cut wood. Woodshop was a really fun experience, aside from getting sawdust in my eye. I then sanded my wood and built the chair. With a few more tweaks, it was built! And it stood up on its own and held my weight and my laptop’s. So then i spray painted it silver and slapped an Apple Computer logo on the back, so that it would match my laptop.

And our final addition to the chair was a soft sculpture. We had recently learned to knit, but I was so terrible at knitting, that i didn’t want to include knitting in the soft sculpture. So instead, I learned to braid, which was a little easier. I then braided a “power cord” for my “iChair”, complete with a foam plug at the end.

Egg Armor

This assignment was rather fun. It reminded me of a 6th grade science project that I’m pretty sure almost everyone has done: build armor for an egg to keep it from breaking when dropped.

At first, all we were allowed to use for materials were 20 drinking straws and half a roll of masking tape. My first design consisted of a square parachute made of straws for the shape, and then woven over with tape. Then, I made a basket for the egg out of straws that started at the four corners of the parachute and came to a point at the bottom. This was wound with tape as well, and then I made a sort of harness for the egg to be suspended from. This first design almost worked, but the egg cracked just a bit when dropped from the required 15 feet.

In our redesign, we were allowed to use 10 more straws and the rest of our tape. So, i built more bracing struts out of straws and bent them back into the egg basket so that it worked as a spring to absorb impact. I also put an air hole in the parachute to channel air more effectively. This design, when tested at 15 feet, worked. I then tested it at 25. I was surprised when it still worked! At 30 feet however, the egg finally cracked, and my parachute broke. But all in all, a fun and developmental project.

Paper Sculpture

For this assignment, we had to make about 20 little sculptures made of notecards, manipulating them in any way possible, with the exception of any kind of adhesive. Some of mine were manipulated by cutting, folding, tearing, chewing, and even burning. Then we took these little sculptures into class to see which designs worked the best.

After we found out which designs worked well, we were told to partner up and make a sculpture out of a certain notecard design that had to be as tall as we were. My partner was Chip Crain…so naturally, ours had to be the tallest, because we’re both over 6 feet tall. However, Chip’s paper designs were among the simplest and most efficient to produce. good thing, because we had to fold over 300 of them. Then, because we weren’t allowed to use any adhesive, we had to hand-sew all the pieces of paper together. We decided to do it in cylinders. So, 12 notecards to each cylinder…I don’t even remember the math. But in the end, we were able to make the sculpture, which was self supporting. It looked a bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Group Project

Here, I present to you the culmination of all the hard work I, and everyone else in this class, has done. Remember that line I griped about? Well, now we had to do a project with 5 people in a group, combining all of our words together. As impossible as this sounds, we actually succeeded… at least I think so. We made a video. And it’s pretty awesome.

Jay Vette: Food – this word is represented as a woodsman (Jay) gathering food, and ultimately finding a pear, which perplexes him. The pear is then stolen.
Kait Boccardo: Taste – this word is represented by a woman in the woods scavenging (as opposed to gathering) food, looking for the best food to eat. She eventually finds the woodsman’s pear and steals it, biting into it and releasing a mass of fluid from her mouth.
Kathleen Rabe: Organic – this word is represented by the environment and the setting of the video. Also, the dirtiness of the woodsman’s and woman’s faces contribute to the meaning of this word.
Gloriann Langva: Black – this word is represented by the clothing worn by the emotion embodiment (Helene). Also the black and white film, plus the high black to white contrast, heightens the meaning of this word.
Helene Lumia: Hard – this word is represented by the overall theme of the video: a chase. Hard in this sense is interpreted as its synonym “difficult”. The chase that is represented by Helene’s actions embodies all that is hard, in a difficult sense. Helene’s character is an emotion, not really a tangible figure.

Jay – Woodsman, assistant editor
Kait – Woman, assistant editor
Kathleen – Photographer for stop motion sequences, assistant editor
Gloriann – Videographer, main editor
Helene – Emotion/runner figure, assistant editor

Word Focus

For this assignment, we were to take a word posted on a wall, and try to collect examples of that word, whether it be artifacts or ideas, literal or abstract. My word was “food”. So, i first collected things such as bottle caps, wrappers, grass, etc. Then, after we did that, we had to do a project, to make an art piece based upon a certain focus of our word. I chose to make a video, which I will try to upload…if it does upload, it will be available to watch. If not…there is a DVD copy of it. If you would like, I can burn another copy.

The meaning of the video is totally up to the viewer. Whatever the viewer wants to get out of it, they can do so. No one’s stopping you.


My word was “food”. The definition in the dictionary is “a substance comprised of various nutrients that can be eaten or drunk for nutrition or pleasure.” However, I decided to go beyond just standard human food in my collections. I did collect various items that relate to food that humans are used to, such as wrappers, bottles, caps, etc. But then I started to think…what about using things that weren’t commonly thought of as “food”? Things such as leaves, grass, and plants that animals other than humans ate popped into my mind. So I collected them. I even went so far as to collect rust. Oxidation occurs when oxygen “eats” metal…so isn’t rusted metal an example of food for oxygen? That’s food for thought.

As I was exploring the line, I took some photos (which can’t be seen because my computer continues to have upload problems) of various wrappers, bottles, banana peels, etc. laying around. The dorm at Alfred State was particularly unique, as each level seemed to smell of different foods. I guess that meant people were cooking. In the woods, there were many examples of a food chain, such as animals that ate insects, animals that ate those animals, and so forth. Wood from trees can be an example, as in the case of termites.

All in all, thinking abstractly continues to both confuse and fascinate me. I’m not used to it. But I’m never looking at a sandwich the same way again.

The Line

This assignment was all about exploring a line that was 5 feet wide and a mile long, and noticing things along the way. The catch? The line is invisible: it inherently doesn’t exist, and the only visible part of it runs through Harder Hall. Plus, about half of the line goes through the woods behind Ann’s House, which is an uncharted wilderness…if you don’t count the treehouses littered with beer bottles and cans.

So today, me and two of my friends in my group decided we should get up early and go take pictures and collect things, because this was the last day we could do it. We probably would have done it the day before, but the weather was not up to par. We had to break into the Alfred State residence halls to explore for the first part. It felt like being a group of ninjas. Luckily, no one from State noticed us, so we were able to escape unscathed. Next we had to cross a stream. We decided to go underneath the bridges, where there was some pretty cool graffiti. From there, it was easier, for we got to Harder Hall, where the line was actually visible. After that, we had to trudge up steep hills near other buildings on campus, and finally arrived at the woods. This was the hardest part of the trip. We were continuously pummeled by branches and spiderwebs, and almost got lost a few times. We felt like Bear Grills from Man vs. Wild. The only signs of civilization were a treehouse, some fire pits, and piles of empty beer and liquor bottles and cans. We eventually did make it to the end of the line, which was in a field…that’s when it started to rain. Thankfully, it didn’t last. We found a dirt road that we thought would lead us back to campus but it dropped us off in a neighborhood about a quarter mile from campus, so we were able to walk back. All in all, it took us about 4 hours. But I guess it was memorable. Not taking hikes for granted ever again.

Pick a Spot, Notice Things (aka Personal Territory)

this is my informative structure. the place i was at overwhelmed me with abundance of plants (emphasized here by size), surprising animal encounters, litter, heat, and an overall sense of being beaten or bettered by nature. the "make something" coming from the cigarette is short for "make something of this assignment...which we all knew we had to do.

this is my informative structure. the place i was at overwhelmed me with abundance of plants (emphasized here by size), surprising animal encounters, litter, heat, and an overall sense of being beaten or bettered by nature. the "make something" coming from the cigarette is short for "make something of this assignment...which we all knew we had to do.

i went to a secluded area today, September 2, at 2:00 PM to 2:45 PM. i have to go back at least two more times…

  1. the sun is harsh
  2. there is a swarm of gnats concentrated to my left
  3. the breeze is very light
  4. white-tailed deer just ran past me. no joke.
  5. harsh reflection off the window of the Honda Accord to my left
  6. hear branches cracking
  7. dogs barking
  8. reverse beeping off in the distance
  9. sound of wood being chopped (?)
  10. picnic bench is wobbly
  11. there is a truck coming
  12. there’s a cigarette butt on the table
  13. another one in the sign’s map box
  14. …which has a missing lid
  15. pile of dog poo behind me
  16. flowers are tall and vibrantly purple
  17. Queen Anne’s lace is  also prominent
  18. a cluster of a plant with large leaves has caterpillar holes in it
  19. there are footprints sunken into the mud near the beginning of the trail
  20. i can hear some sort of bug chirping
  21. …birds too
  22. i heard a leaf blow past on the road
  23. there are rust streaks on the observatory sign
  24. a car is coming…and passed me by
  25. there is almost no smell out here
  26. my head itches from the sun
  27. one of my sticky notes is gone
  28. i just heard a bee in my ear. it scared me.
  29. that dude has a really loud Camaro
  30. the tailgate on that Ford Ranger is open
  31. the wasps are bothering me
  32. i don’t know what animal just made that sound
  33. my right arm and neck are getting really hot…hope i don’t get sunburned
  34. there are two plastic bags in the trash can
  35. there is a fallen tree
  36. there are two huge rust stains on that lamp post
  37. there is a moth inside the trail sign
  38. i hear someone leaf blowing
  39. i just noticed some tall yellow flowers
  40. why is there a mound of dirt near the observatory sign?
  41. the trail seems to be made of tree roots
  42. there is a very large fly next to me
  43. muddy footprints under the picnic table
  44. clouds are few and wispy
  45. i can see the nails going through the sign’s roof
  46. there are people walking up…
  47. i can see what looks like a cell tower off in the distance
  48. the people walking up are the guys who own the blue Oldsmobile
  49. some trees are a lighter shade of green than others
  50. there was a white butterfly
  51. i have been sitting here for 45 minutes
  52. my butt and feet hurt

tune in next time for another exciting installment of “pick a spot, notice things”!