The Art of Mark Crummett: Assemblage Photographer

P: You had mentioned that you got to where you are with assemblage photography after the OKC bombing, and had lost a love or desire for editorial photography. Can we talk a bit about that?

MC: I was an assistant picture editor, and I was looking at the wire pictures as they came across with all of that. It just devastated me. I was appalled at that and got fed up with journalism and humanity at the time, frankly. It made me not want to look at news pictures anymore.

P: How long had you been working in journalism up to that point?

MC: I started doing photojournalistic work in the army. I did a lot of work for public affairs offices. That would have been early 80’s, I guess. When I got out of the army I went to school and got my journalism degree; graduated in ‘88. Got my first gig in Maryland that same year. I was working as a newspaper photographer for six to seven years. Then I got a job at Army Times as a picture editor and had been doing that for a few years.

Ya know, I used to be a real news junkie. CNN was on all the time, read a few papers a day, but I just got overloaded with the Oklahoma bombing.

P: So, how did you stumble upon this type of assemblage art that you do now? Was this a past hobby, an interest, or something you just happened upon?

MC: While I was kind of getting away from the actual taking of pictures and the editing, I was also getting more involved with assemblage art from found materials. My dad had done that for years, he was a big fan of Cornell. I had been around it for many years, and I loved my dad’s work, but I always looked at it and thought about doing something different, ya know? “Hey, that’d be really cool if that had a lightbulb in it.”

I started doing the same kind of work with found materials, but more technological thing; circuit boards, hard drive platters, etc. I did that as a creative outlet for about ten years or so. I would find and collect these things that were intrinsically interesting to look at, but I never really figured out a way to put them into an assemblage piece at the time. Then the little people came along when I got my first model railroad people for some other thing I was constructing that I can’t think of now.

I pulled them out and put them on a circuit board and was like, “Wow, these fit perfectly. This is no longer a circuit board. It’s an industrial installation!” I started taking pictures of these little guys on the circuit boards because I loved what it did to the scale of everything.

See more of Mark’s work at markcrummett.net

Get 50% off a 1-year digital subscription to Portland’s only ad-free bimonthly magazine when you enter coupon code NKTX62CT1OOL at checkout (just $1 an issue). Click here for a sneak peek at our current issue available in print later this month.

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Finding Micah Hearn

Loud, vibrant colors bounce off every painting that Micah Hearn puts a brush to. The canvas may be flat, but every layer and idea crawls up the walls and into the center of the room.

“What? That’s a piece of garbage. The painting is on the other side!” says Hearn as I gawk at one of his paintings. His Mississippi drawl comes through on canvas and in person.

What may seem like a warehouse with painted blue doors and concrete floors is much more to the six artists in residence. Modou Dieng is the founder of Worksound and professor at Pacific Northwest College of Art. He explains that this group of unified artists, who can take up a whole gallery, is better than one artist trying to somehow fit their work into an exhibit. That’s why he started Worksound.

This concept of artists unifying as a group, or collective, has the potential to transform the way artists produce and succeed with art as a profession.

“What’s so exciting about being in an art collective is that there’s a group of you with the same goal and the same broad idea. We carry it out in different ways,” says Hearn. “We’re all in it together.”

Dieng wants to bring a new aesthetic to the city with Worksound. That’s what they have to offer to galleries when marketing themselves.

The word conversation has multiple layers.

“How do you engage with the community? What kind of project do you want to exhibit in a gallery? What about an art school? How do you collaborate with other artists? What kind of publication can come out of it? All of those elements contribute to the conversation,” says Dieng.

Dieng sees the potential Hearn has to succeed as an artist. He explains that Hearn’s paintings will become him and vise versa. Dieng wants Hearn’s character to be plastered on that canvas. He knows it will happen and he wants to give Hearn the opportunity to do that.

“I want young artists to experience being an artist. They need to build their portfolio and need to produce work before they can actually start making money,” says Dieng. He provides a jumping-off point for artists to start succeeding.

Hearn is a rising artist in the city. While many of his Portland peers narrate a landscape of the city and their surrounding environment, he brings controversial topics to his canvas such as being gay and growing up in the Bible Belt in Laurel, Mississippi.

“My father’s side of the family is aware of an idealized life in Christ. That can be a little bit scary for me growing up, hearing about what damns people. Growing up gay in the South is really difficult,” says Hearn.

Painting was once solely therapy for Hearn until he graduated high school and started attending PNCA.

installing Kitchen Quilt for Sound Visibility“Most of the people in my family live from paycheck to paycheck. It’s difficult, but it’s beautiful. That’s the struggle that I deal with in my paintings. I connect the daily life and strange beauty of it,” says Hearn.

His style developed over the four years of school, and continues to form as he participates in Worksound.

He creates elaborate layers to each piece, telling a part of a story that always links his past and his present. His jewel-toned, bright palette pops your personal space and forces the viewer to embark on a journey that moves the eyes along from start to finish. On that canvas is Micah Hearn, his soul included.

“I’m processing a lot of things when I’m painting. It’s like finding the way to deal with things I don’t even know I’ve processed. I find things I didn’t even know I felt until I look back on what I’ve just painted when I’ve been immersed in painting,” says Hearn.

A quilt pattern, church window, water hose, and a road are just a few common symbols that tie together Hearn’s paintings. His most recent piece for Worksound’s show, “Surrounding Visibility,” is called Kitchen Quilt. This quilt pattern comes from a quilt Hearn’s grandmother made for him before he was born.

“All the women in my family are phenomenal and have been through so much,” says Hearn.

It’s difficult for Hearn to talk about his paintings.

“Different layers are in the painting, story after story… it’s a push and pull of what I’m allowing the viewer to see,” says Hearn.

Hearn plans to expand his medium into using sculpture and 3D objects in the near future, tying in and making his symbols a tangible environment such as the church window and quilt represented in so much of his current work.

The collective may help get a group of artists seen, but it also empowers them to grow through collaboration every day.
“Communication is key. Having peers come in and see your work helps you step back, look at it, see what you’re getting from it, and what the pieces are that drives the piece,” says Hearn.

“Surrounding Visibility” originally is created by the word incubation. The collective is intrinsically connecting the common theme of growing and sprouting from where they originally came from mentally, emotionally, and physically. In this respect, Portland may just represent the embodiment of “surrounding visibility.”

In Hearn’s case, his paintings represent his transitions of everyday life from Mississippi to Oregon.

Worksound is the beginning of a new art movement: collectively coming together as one unified and eager group of blossoming young artists. This is the start of an awfully exciting art adventure.

For more stories of Portlanders pursuing their passions or doing cool things, check this out: Poppycock Magazine

Where in Portland is Poppycock

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5 Reasons to be Stoked for WTF

It’s the best time of year: festival season.

It kicked off with Coachella, then came Sasquatch, and for the lucky Portlanders there’s Musicfest NW.

But if you really want to escape, there’s a festival that might just top them all: What The Festival.

Here are Poppycock’s 5 reasons you must go to WTF?! 2014:

The underground music While they have a few big names coming through this year such as Glitch Mob, Washed Out and Emancipator Ensemble, there are many smaller names participating. This festival introduces and gives a chance to local musicians. So, if you’re an electronic music junkie searching for the next breakthrough names like us at Poppycock, GO.

The film festival Aside from the four stages set up, there’s also an international micro-film festival. After dancing all day, fest-goers can chill out and relax in the forest with their Decked Out Cinema and watch independent films all night.

The illuminated forest It’s a forest that’s set up for your mind’s imagination. Once you enter this forest, you’re pretty much on another planet. There’s a jump wall. There’s a web garden in the trees. There are various sculptures, lanterns, and “puzzles” hanging through the forest. Intriguing.

There’s belly dancing, breakdancing, burlesque, and Bob Marley yoga classes. Enough said.

It’s an excuse for a massive pool party. But seriously, there’s a massive pool.

So there you have it, the best summer kick-off ever. OK, so you want a little detail, a line-up, something other than this cursory list of cool crap? OK, fine. Check this poster out below and commence drooling.

2014 poster

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Karl Kaiser Paints, Melts, and Etches in Encaustic

Karl Kaiser may have started as a hobbyist painting in acrylics, but it was when he found encaustics on a neighborhood art walk that he really began to take off as an artist. Now a full-time artist, Karl’s work sells all over the country and is on display all over Portland from the legendary Attic Gallery to Lovejoy Bakery and Peoples Art.

Watch the gallery below to see some of his process and be sure to check out Poppycock for the full story.

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Music: Magic/Science

The world for me is an awe-inspiring, wondrous place. Much of what is out there and what is real to me is amazing on par with a magic show. The crushing cold of space and the jaw-dropping reality of it’s expanse and the life cycle of a star wows me. I can watch in tense excitement every episode of BBC’s Planet Earth series and be floored. I am amazed by literature, art, biology, politics, history, science, and religion. As a jack of all trades and a master of none, the limits of my expertise make for a constant learning experience and roller coaster moments of learning and comprehension. Nowhere in my life is this any more clear than my childlike fascination and borderline obsession with music. Music for me, a man who would miss his cues on a slide whistle, is like watching a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat; I know there’s a trick and a way he does it, but damned if I’m not stupefied every time I see it done. But I’ve always wondered what it’s like on the other side of that coin. Does an artist, a master of the craft of music, still hold that infantile wonderment for the same trick, even though they have their own rabbit and hat?

When you really think about it, paintings, photography, writing, or any other form of art was something in the mind’s eye of one person, and they took the fleeting specter of form and function, wrestled it to the ground, and made it real. The artist took something from their brain, and translated it into the real world. They made the imaginary real, and this is perfectly exemplified in great music. A song, an album, becomes a link of our genome; it is now an identifying marker and a defining characteristic. Every track we experience is another layer of paper mache on the wire frame of our lives. A particular song can transport you to another time, place, and can bring memories and moments rushing back that you didn’t even know you stored away. Music will make you cry, smile, and want to tear the world down and rage, depending on the track you’re playing. This range of emotion can be experienced in the span of a few tracks in your iTunes. I cannot count how many times I have listened slack-jawed and breathless to a new album. It’s all sounds and words, same as any other song, but it was crafted and created to be something new, exciting, and something that speaks directly to me despite not having been crafted with me in mind.

People will travel hundreds of miles to see a band perform live. They will camp out over night for tickets and will stand in line for hours to get in the front row. Musicians hold as much sway as their music in our lives. You love these artists. You love the creators of what you love because, through their music, there is a visceral and human connection that spans the reality that the artist doesn’t know your name and has never met you, but for some reason you feel such a connection to what they have done for you through their art. How do they feel about it though? What is their relationship to that same creation that some will say might have saved their life?

MC Lars

In keeping with the idea of music that touches your heart, maybe something that got you through rough patches where you might have otherwise given up, MC Lars says, “The trick is to always be excited and make music for yourself.” Hmmm, seems to run contrary to the idea that you, the listener, took it and hung all your hopes and dreams on every note and lyric. Lars makes it for himself. Every musician I have spoken to says the same thing. POS said the same thing, almost verbatim, about making music he loves, and if other people like it too, then cool; but he’s not making this for anyone but himself.

Matthew Zeltzer

The best musicians, the ones that resonate with the audience, make genuine music from the heart, and some of the most hardcore fans seem to gravitate to this. Levon Helm said, “I ain’t in it for my health.” This might ring true, because this isn’t just a paycheck for the road warriors and independently minded few. This is a calling. Matthew Zeltzer explains,“There is a lot of pressure as a songwriter to write a hit, but my philosophy is to write first and market later… After spending a lot of time in the studio, you start to notice all the little details in music- how the acoustic guitar player is linking up with the drummer and where the bass player is laying his line, how high up the vocals are in the mix. For me, this really just increases the magic, because I’ve started to notice what goes into making a great record great.” So, maybe we’re getting somewhere. Understanding it is like opening up the back of a running watch and seeing what time looks like, mechanically. 4:30 means something completely different when you know about all the gears that went in to the design of a single second.

Amy Arani

We know that you’ve gotta be genuine to get the respect and the loyalty of a fan base. These kids listening to the music may not be able to rap, or play an instrument, but they still feel the music in their bones. How do the artists process that same feeling when they listen to music on their iPod? Amy Arani says, “I still experience music as magic. The only difference now is that when I love something or find myself feeling moved, I know how to take the song apart later and break it down.” So there is that wonder we all feel up front, in the moment, but she is able to take it apart later and understand WHY she loves it down to the chords and harmonies. So is this the heart of the thing? Maybe it is not that the magic goes away, it is the knowledge after the show that there was a false bottom in the hat where the bunny was the whole time, or that with a proper mechanic’s grip shuffle, the card was able to “rise” to the top of the deck. The trick is no less fascinating, but once you learn how the grip works you can gain that wonder from an audience of your own and feel that music…from the other side.

Dessa Darling

I thought seriously about learning to play piano or guitar months ago. I never did, and probably never will, because I fear that it will change what music means to me now; I can’t risk losing that feeling. Songs are the dog-eared pages in my book of life. I can relive those great moments of elation or tragedy any time that I want in my mind by simply selecting a track from my library. Like a child, I listen and am gripped by the magic of music. I don’t care much for the science of it; this is the medium where art and science blur together for something greater than what either side can achieve on it’s own. My mind and soul are lit up in a million strobing colors by music of all types; my catalog spans 8 decades and every genre. I have my fingertip on the button of any trip I want to take in my mind, and Dessa Darling seems to think that is the place where music creation, and experience, can reach it’s height: “Good music is magical, but perhaps it achieves the greatest heights in our imaginations. Musicians bodies are limited–our voices have only such a range, and our fingers can only move so quickly. But when we compose music, we’re governed by none of those limitations. The trick is to usher the idea into the world with as little damage as possible.” Now if that’s not a good answer to the question, I don’t know what is. Just press play.

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