So Bravo network has this new bottom-of-the-barrel reality TV show about truly abhorrent privileged girls with familial connections to the NYC art world. It’s called Gallery Girls, and since The Sucklord made an appearance, I tuned in for an episode. This is my thin excuse for knowing that “Chantal Chadwick,” a TV writer’s waifish wet dream of a Brooklyn hipster stereotype, doesn’t like photography because photography “seems easy”. With that idiotic opinion stashed in my brainpan for a future blogpost, I headed out to San Francisco’s Varnish Fine Art. Smoke and Mirrors, a show of photo illustration and portraiture by Ransom and Mitchell had recently opened, and I was curious. To come to the conclusion of this exposition: Ransom and Mitchell’s work is testament to the invalidity of Chadwick’s claim. Their photographs are amazing, and how they arrive at their final imagery is the opposite of easy. Perhaps Stacey Ransom and Jason Mitchell should have their own reality TV show…?
Ransom and Mitchell are artists who love artists. If I were to tell you that they met in the Artists Seeking Artists area of Craigslist, I’d actually be pretty close to the truth. They did meet on Craigslist, amid the dot com-induced roommate-seeking surge of 1999, and by 2003, they were married. Now they make collaborative art as Ransom and Mitchell and Purebred. Smoke and Mirrors is an extension of Ransom’s art-loving Ransom-Notes blog in that it features some of the same cast of characters–but it’s really so much more! With Mitchell behind the lens and Ransom behind the sets and props, the duo’s work doesn’t so much as “capture” their subjects, as it embraces them.
Smoke and Mirrors is photography for people who love process by artists who love art. Or, maybe it’s imagery for people who love artists by photographic illustrators who love process! Either way, the effect of seeing all their portraits on the gallery walls is nothing short of mesmerizing. I’m including some behind-the-scenes pics I nabbed from Ransom’s Instagram feed to help you appreciate a complexity that is no doubt lost on your browser. Above, handmade tentacles and other ephemera for Craola [interviewed]. Below, the artists.
Below, is one of two photo-illustrative portraits by Ransom and Mitchell of the artist, Scott Musgrove. I love Musgrove’s fanciful fauna, and clearly, so do Ransom and Mitchell.
You will probably need to click to enlarge the image below to understand what you’re looking at. Think you’re seeing elaborate Photoshoppery? Think again! While there are elements of post-production here, the lion’s share of effects are created in three dimensions at Ransom and Mitchell’s studio. For instance, the wall art for Musgrove’s portrait consists of meticulously recreated low-res versions of his paintings. (I wonder if the props are for sale???)
Ransom and Mitchell’s portrait has depth and intrigue, but you really have to look behind the scenes to see just how deep it goes. Amazing.
It’s interesting to compare Smoke and Mirrors to yesterday’s review of Laurina Paperina’s Bad Smell. Both art shows feature portraits of contemporary artists, but Paperina painted her subjects in comedic strokes and Ransom and Mitchell elevated theirs with celebration, smoke and mirrors. Beautiful work. Good people. The exhibit is open through October 27th at Varnish Fine Art. You should go see it. Availability of the pieces can be found here.
Click through for Charmaine Olivia, Alex Pardee, more Musgrove, and a “pin-up” for all my friends who fancy prosthetic limbs and pills in pretty bottles.