MICHAEL ray NOTT
ARTIST STATEMENT: Bettie Series
The images in the Bettie series are a recurrent part of my experience while photographing on the street. Each time I pass this dress shop, in particular, I always stop to take a few pictures of the mannequins in the window. Each visit is different: the lighting changes, the costumes change, creating, for me, a fascinating variety of compositions – imagery that compels me to return again and again to this subject. Taking photos in shop windows is a refined strategy of street photographers – from Eugène Atget to Lee Friedlander. The photographer employs a methodology to reveal, in multidimensionality, the psycho-perceptual experience of the modern city. The vintage mannequins in my photos appear to view urban life passing before them with a detached gaze. The flat photographic image is animated by building overlapping layers — reflections, transparencies and architectural detail. Unexpected juxtapositions, especially of foreground and background elements, give way to abstract fragments. Rendered in graphic black & white, the archetypal beauty of these period faces blur historical context. This is a series of portraits in which mute plaster sex symbols speak volumes about their role as fashionistisas and our own voguish, obsessive desires.
I began my art career in Austin, Texas where I became a well-known poster artist. My work appears in a number of poster retrospectives from that era, including the book, The Art of Rock (1987, Abbeville Press). During my time in Austin, I studied photography under the legendary street photographer, Gerry Winogrand. I observed up-close how Winogrand worked and absorbed his philosophy of photography, which has greatly influenced my current work.