Art in the Library

Mark Schermeister- “Elegance in Action”

Artist’s Statement

By Mark Schermeister

I once read that one should never begin an artist’s statement with the word “I.” (I also once read “Mistakes are one of our most effective teachers.”) It seems that we often take “experts” and “common knowledge” as truth, without examining the consequences of the assumptions that are often presented as “facts.” Historically, photography has been defined as “writing with light,” capturing what is before us.

I propose that the images we create are both representations of the world around us and (I believe more importantly) the way we see it. These images are our way of saying “here, look- share my world!” To do this takes time, attention, and a focus in the present moment.

Consider this thought by the poet William Blake:

This life’s five windows of the soul

Distorts the Heavens from pole to pole

And leads you to believe a lie

When you see with, not through the eye

 He’s saying our five senses are imperfect, distorting perception of reality; that we need to see through, not with our physical form. This is a spiritual rather than a physical approach to perception. It requires time, thought, present-moment awareness, and conscious attentional management.

Compare this to our present-day crazy-busy pace of life where, on certain social media platforms we spend less than one second on each image as we scroll and endless procession of invective, political rants, and selfies. I like to think of my art as an “alternative-to-social media” approach; It invites consideration, contemplation, and intentional thought through the eyes of another.

This was articulated by Marcel Proust in La Prisonnière: “The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is.”

With this we have a choice between a dictionary-prescribed, social media-ish abbreviated version of the world before us, or the option to look deeply and at length; both at our world and, as Mr. Proust proposed, “eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees.”

This opens for us a vastly expanded human experience; please take a few moments, perhaps look a little deeper and longer; welcome to my (and our) world!

Elegance in Action:

The Strength, Skill, and Style of Dance

George Balanchine once said, “Ballet is woman.” That may or may not be true, but in either case I believe it to be an enormous understatement; ballet (and dance in general) is much more: It’s been described as a form of personal expression, art, ritual, a series of movements, a form of communication; there seems to be as many definitions of dance as there are dancers.

At any rate, it’s much more than 50% of the world’s population! One thing common to all experience of dance, however, is its fleeting quality: Unlike art forms such as painting and sculpture, as soon as the dance occurs, it’s gone: Poof. Unfortunately, dance has historically appeared then vanished for want of a way to preserve it.

Now we can use photography to capture and preserve intentionally chosen moments and send them off to future generations. If we carefully choose and protect these moments, we’ll showcase the unseen beauty and meaning in dance and highlight the unique beauty of each, preserving them for years.

This project is my endeavor to depict the dance, to negate its fleeting quality by converting the activity from the performing to the visual arts. By collaborating and creating images that showcase the dancer’s unique attributes (tangible and intangible,) their beauty and grace is preserved, rather than slipping quietly into the past, and is given to future generations as artifacts that outlive us.