Larry Cwik Photography
Artist-Fine Art Photographer -Filmmaker
Portland, Oregon, USA
Larry Cwik PhotographyThe Walk
Larry Cwik Photography Artist Statement: The Visitor Series, 30 Years Photographing Mexico
The work in this series results from a cumulative total of six months spent photographing for this project in Mexico. I have visited annually since 1983 and gone to a different large city in Mexico each year. During the 29 years in the project I have walked an estimated total of 900 miles through the streets of Mexican cities looking for images, often walking ten or more miles daily. The images and scenes that I capture are often mysterious, simple yet enigmatic. I look for the magical scene that can be discovered by chance. As I speak Spanish, I can interact with the Mexican people without hindrance. My concept has been to let my subconscious influence where and when I photograph and allow the culture to assimilate into me.
I first visited Mexico briefly as a teenager, in 1977. It was the first developing nation I visited. Though I have since traveled widely nationally and internationally to both developing and developed nations, I keep returning to visit Mexico and am entranced by it. Larry Cwik Photography
Larry Cwik Photography
Frayed BannerFrom the series The Visitor: 30 Years Photographing Mexico
Door, Toluca, 2011
I first visited Mexico briefly as a teenager, in 1977. It was the first developing nation I visited. Though I have since traveled widely nationally and internationally to both developing and developed nations, I keep returning to visit Mexico and am entranced by it.
In April 2011, I experienced an example of one of the strong traditions and customs of Mexico when I unexpectedly, on returning from photographing in a different part of the city of Toluca, Mexico, encountered a Procession of Silence on the evening of Good Friday. This had dozens of blocks of thousands of marchers either proceeding in silence or with simple drumming with religious icons, capes, and lanterns down the two most important main streets of Toluca in front of an amazingly quiet and respectful crowd of tens of thousands of people. The solemnity and beauty of the custom mesmerized and transfixed me and I captured some of the scenes in my images.
Lastly, one other facet of my work for 30 years in Mexico is its diverse nature of scenes and unusual juxtapositions. Andre Breton, a founder of surrealism, said that Mexico is “the surrealist place par excellence,” and I agree. Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo also commented on the surreal nature of Mexico.
Rooftop, 1984 From the Series The Visitor: 30 Years Photographing Mexico
Larry Cwik Photography continues – ARTIST STATEMENT – TOTEM SERIES
After working for 15+ years in both single image photography and in Super 8 film, I visited and was profoundly inspired by the beauty and power of the Totem Poles of the first peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast. The poles inspired me to begin arranging my photographic images in a stacked manner to allude to a story or theme. Some use symbols or archetypes. The arrangement is intuitive, from my subconscious, like the individual images themselves.
Most of the works have a narrative. Totem 28 (Memory) speaks of memory, with the hand of my mother, now 82, with Alzheimer’s, in the center, a “memory machine” in the Alzheimer’s wing of an assisted living facility at the top, and an ancient tree in a now-modern suburb at the bottom. Totem 44 (Bellflower) has two images in an ethereal fog, one of a house, one of a forest. In between is an image of a beautiful but poisonous flower. In Totem 47 (Page) the top image shows my hand holding pages of text about artist Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), one of the last two living original surrealists, who inspired me. I enjoyed talking by phone with her each year from 2001 to 2011. Above the page with the text is a cloud reminiscent of a flame. The center image shows a pastoral scene of grass and high clouds symbolizing peace/serenity. The lower image shows the light of the sun breaking through dense artistic clouds. Totem 24 (Glass) has symbols of travel (at the top), dining (in the center), and nightlife (at the bottom). Totem 27 (Liberty) alludes to privacy in our contemporary society. A symbol of liberty is at the top, a symbol of light and possible surveillance is in the center, and a symbol of government is at the bottom. Totem 26 (Empire) is a socio-economic commentary and shows a parking sign, a jumbo jet in flight, and a homeless person pushing a grocery cart piled high with bottles and cans. Totem 23 (Balloons) has three images that together comment on urban density and life. Totem 49 (Perch) shows a dog looking forward peacefully on a beach, a bin of fish destined to be food, and a fisherman on a jetty above a driftwood piece with the design of a face, with the three together commenting on life and transcendence. Totem 41 (Family) shows a man, woman, and small child at the sea in the center image, a “family” of driftwood as an upright installation on a beach in the upper image, and what may be a plant family in the lower image, raising the question of what is a family, and what can be a family. Totem 11 (Helmet), the only horizontal Totem in the exhibit, has three images united not only by a compositional sphere in each of the three images, but to me through its representations of land (the helmet), sky (the clouds), and water (a satellite dish atop a boat on a river).
Larry Cwik PhotographyTotem 41 (Flower) From the Totem series
Larry Cwik Photography
Totem 27 (Liberty)From the Totem series
In 2008, I visited Alert Bay, B.C., a major center of Totem Pole building, to do research for this series. Totem 45 (Boat) is comprised of three images taken there. The top image, part of a boat, looks like a smiling porpoise or dolphin. The bottom image, a life boat, seems like a large-eyed fish. The center image appears to have a spirit figure hovering near a ladder in the midst of boat rigging. The three are all nautical images, but can signify different things to different people.
While the works in the series often have a narrative, I keep the titles short. I want the works to be open to a viewer's own interpretation. Similarly, a Totem Pole's narrative is open to interpretation even if its creator had a specific narrative in mind when designing/carving/painting the Pole.
Larry Cwik Photography Bio
Larry Cwik is an artist, photographer, and film-maker who has lived in Portland, Oregon since 1982. He has exhibited extensively in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the United States since 1983 including several solo shows in Europe and two group exhibits in Asia. Notable series to date include: The Visitor: 30 Years Photographing Mexico, Totems, and Industrial Districts. In 2011, Cwik completed an Asia 2011 project which resulted from a visit to five Asian countries to photograph during his first visit to the most populous continent in 30 years. That work was exhibited at Gallery 5 of Milepost 5 in Portland in 2012. Other 2012 exhibits with work by Cwik have been "Outside Notions of Antarctica," at Under the Bed Gallery, McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and the "Second International Contemporary Art Exhibit," Gallery Systema, Osaka, Japan. In March 2012 Cwik's Totem series will be featured in a solo exhibit at the Steven Goldman Gallery of the Art Institute of Portland. Cwik's work is in the collections of the Portland Art Museum, Bank of America, Levi Strauss and Company, and Bibliotheque Nationale de France. Cwik's films are represented by the Film-Maker's Cooperative, New York.Larry Cwik Photography
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