I was one of several artists who had the opportunity to give a 10 minuet talk on our art, some of which was on display. We were asked to talk on background, interests and inspiration. At the the Schweinfurt Art Center in Auburn NY.
FRED PRICE SCHWEINFURTH ART TALK We were asked to talk about our art and our backgrounds. I was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio at a time when it was a major steel producing area. I went into the peacetime army after high school.In 1959 as a 22 year old honorably discharged ex GI I was in New York City. It was jazz music that pulled me there.
Knowing almost nothing I lucked into a job in a commercial one man photography studio. Dave Sussman hired me as assistant, Darkroom man and gofer. I stayed 7 years. I had access to the darkroom and studio when ever it was unused. Dave was my mentor. He could do anything in photography but make a good living. I learned professional techniques and standards.
In that same building I met and was enticed to work as a darkroom guy for the artist Ralston Crawford. He was pretty famous in the 30’w and 40’s but was out of fashion in the fifties and after. Ralston was primarily a painter of oils. But he was also a film maker and lithographer and a still photographer. He became another mentor. I stayed with him almost a decade. From him I learned how to see.
Already working professionally I decided that I was only interested in the art of picture making. Ralston said ‘Look at everything. Whats good will stay with you.’ I went looking. There was not enough photography to look at in the early 60’s in New York City. I expanded my looking to any kind of print and all works on paper. From small real galleries on the upper east side to vanity galleries in Soho to 57th street where Rembrandt’s could be seen and bought to laundromat walls with three or four ‘art photos’ on them and to museums.
Beautiful black and white prints by the old masters of photography enchanted me. I became and remain a print maker. The physical photograph always gets my attention. The color and surface of the paper matter to me. For the first 25 or 30 years I did almost only black and white silver prints. I am now and have been learning color. I was not much interested in C prints but I like digital printing.
During prohibition and afterwards many artists drank. Peggy Crawford said ‘We all drank’. I don’t know when it started but by the late 50’s a lot of artists smoked pot. With my pals we would get high and while listening to jazz records we looked at art books,photography books and annuals. And ate pizza and drank beer.
The print became my major interest. Accumulating professional equipment in the striving for excellent results. Searching papers and developers and mat boards and making window mats and all that. I made a portfolio of a dozen or so prints that, following Ralston’s advice, I could not make better. Ralston said that you are showing to see if they can use your picture on not. You are not there for their approval.
Mostly I was ignored but every once in a while I would get a small show or get something published. Like most of my peers I seldom sold anything but we would sometimes trade.
Because I looked at a lot of pictures I have a lot of visual interests. I have portfolios of landscapes, portraits, still lifes reflections, jazz players, street scenes and so on. We make pictures to achieve feeling of satisfaction and pleasure. Those feelings can be had with any subject matter….if things go well.
It has been said that you’re not a real artist until you’ve had a picture printed upside down and had one stolen. I never had one printed upside down but I had one printed on it’s side.
We were also asked about our interests. Looking is my primary interest. I am imprinted with 20th century industrial shapes. Steel mills, rail yards, smoke stacks, box cars, I beams and so on. Brick yards and lumber yards and junk yards.
Grand pa had a farm where we spent time in the summer. Nature had an impact too.
I like things made by hand and the people who make them. I am attracted by those who grow and make food. I like reading and writers. I like faces and bodies and those who use them, actors, dancers and athletes. Music and musicians mean a lot to me. And picture makers. I like old friends and new friends and strangers. I like to travel both near and far and I like staying home. They all have their rewards. I also like jokes and jokers.
We were asked about inspiration. I don’t know where it comes from. I have never had a dry spell or lacked for ideas.
There are more things to do than time to do them.