Preservation and Documentation #2: Photographing the work

Ever try to photograph your own artwork? Seems easy. Isn’t. There are a million blogs, how-tos, YouTube videos etc. etc. online, but the task is onerous. Amos and I certainly tried our best when he was photographing work for college applcations. We did the lay-it-all-on-the-ground-on-a-sunny-day shoot (not bad, the lighting at least was perfectly even - too bad I can’t focus a camera), the “use an old copy stand” or “downshooter” as some people call it (not nearly big enough / high enough away from the larger pieces), the buy-two-lights-at-Lowes-and-set-up-a-studio-in-the-garage-with-a-tripod shoot (good enough to get into CalArts but still not perfect), but when it was time to create high-resolution, good enough for galleries, images, I gave up and called in the experts.

I remembered that Nick Stover, a former student of mine, had phenomenally crisp portfolio images he aquired from a super-secret-resource. Turns out the secret sauce was Simone Associates , a full-service studio in Lebanon, PA, that has an exceptional setup for food, fashion and still life work, and who were absolutely familiar with the constraints of shooting flat artwork. After photographer Pammi Schaeffer and I met, dried our eyes (she’s a mom) and took a long look at the work, we set up a fairly efficient system with the help of Paige McClatchie, our excellent ALBF intern, and Joey Strain, one of Amos’s best art friends, willing to lend a hand / arm / shoulder. Paige and Joey swapped out each piece and we shot from largest to smallest, with Pammi carefully focusing and lighting each piece to bring out the smallest details and textures like gold ink, impasto paint surfaces, transparent overpainting, and delicate linework. The results are so gratifying - to finally be able to zoom in and read all the tiny comments and intricate details on the paintings in absolute crisp focus. We narrowed the selection down to 64 works, and got them in camera in digital form by about 2 pm. These will be great resources for the website, first show, researchers and catalog. I highly reccommend not struggling with this task on your own if you can possibly afford a pro.

Pammi at the Simone Associates studio bouncing light onto a painting.

Pammi at the Simone Associates studio bouncing light onto a painting.

Pammi and Paige putting their heads together on color accuracy.

Pammi and Paige putting their heads together on color accuracy.

Preservation and Documentation #1: Securing the Ouevre

Ann Lemon

The first task of an artist’s estate is locating and preserving the existing work. After Lemon’s tragic death, family and friends helped to collect all available work with the idea of having the first public viewing of the totality of his output at his memorial service.

The result was overwhelming. Hundreds of images filled the sanctuary of Immanuel UCC, the church where Amos was baptized, attended nursery and Sunday school, and was confirmed as a teen. The sheer visual intensity of the volume and quality of work surprised us all. His art teachers had only seen the work in class; his friends had seen his sketchbooks - almost no one had seen many of the paintings in “his” studio in the barn at our home, or the recent works on paper created while in treatment and on the road in his brief period of homelessness.

For the first time, as work was unearthed, we began to group like images together. The result was a gradual realization of the way his work progressed through distinct phases, each one building on the previous phase.

Lemon continuously, restlessly experimented, generating a large volume of drawings and sketchbooks, then academic figure drawings, then his ultimate stylistic invention - the intensely colored pieces he called “zoetropes” where figurative underlying space is overlaid with multiple, intertwining “animations”. He photographed many of these miniature motion studies and animated them as .gifs on Tumblr and Instagram.

As his work was progressing, his mental health was deteriorating. The struggle, told by the work. as this young visionary tried to express and understand his interior world, is intensely moving.

A ceaseless observer of the quirks and oddities of the human race, Lemon’s wit, humor, and despair are all on display - if you look closely enough.