Isabella Myers' Archive

archive module 13

Posted on: May 14, 2010

Harry Callahan

Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago

gelatin silver print
19.5 x 24.3 cm.
Museum collection

Harry Callahan

Eleanor and Barbara

1953 / print ca. 1969
gelatin silver print
14.4 x 14.2 cm.
Museum Purchase

Harry Callahan

#108 (Eleanor)

ca. 1954
gelatin silver print
16.3 x 15.7 cm.
Museum purchase

Harry Callahan

Eleanor, Chicago 1953

gelatin silver print
20.2 x 25.2 cm.
Museum collection

Harry Callahan

gelatin silver print
20.1 x 25.2 cm.
Museum Purchase with National Endowment for the Arts support

image source for all Harry Callahan photos:

I chose to highlight Harry Callahan’s work because all of the subjects in these photographs are his wife, someone he is very close to. In my project, I am seeking to give a more universal look to my subjects, rather than just friends of mine. Eleanor, his wife, is fairly anonymous in all of these pictures. The photos are not about her in particular, but her existing in these different environments.

1 song

the vowels pt 2 by why?

1 video

Autechre – plyPHON

by Lucio Arese

1 new artist

Elizabeth Peyton

I chose her because she is a portrait artist who paints her friends and celebrities she likes. On the surface, these subject matters seem a little frivolous or cliche, but there’s a lot of thought that goes behind it. There is a way to take very personal subjects and make them relevant or interesting to society and that is what interests me in Peyton’s work. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Index Magazine:

STEVE: What do you find so interesting in a photo of someone that makes you want to have that moment? That there’s a certain candidness?
ELIZABETH: That doesn’t matter so much. I think the thing for me is just that the person’s not there. At some point the photo’s got to get lost.
STEVE: The series of Tony asleep is remarkable. It’s like romantic verité.
ELIZABETH: Well, Tony was the first person who let me look at him that way and not feel violated or think it strange. He just let it happen. It is a little weird, because I always feel like I’m getting so much.
STEVE: Strictly speaking, would you consider yourself a portraitist?
ELIZABETH: When cab drivers ask me what I do, I say, “I paint people.” But then I always want to qualify it a little bit. I don’t mind the portraiture thing, but I can’t paint just anybody. I wish I had that skill, but I don’t.
ROB: When was the first time you painted Napoleon?
ELIZABETH: When I was really young, after this bad summer where I never went out. I read his biography and it somehow made sense of the whole world, that this one person changed everything. Let’s make roads! Let’s everyone go to school! [laughs] Plus he was gorgeous and had star quality.
ROB: There’s the cliché about all portraits being self-portraits.
ELIZABETH: I don’t know. It’s like something I want to see in the world, and then I see it exists in another person. I get so excited that it actually is there. I don’t know if it’s self-identification as much as that’s what I want every second to be like. When I was really young and just couldn’t relate at all, and I was reading nineteenth-century literature —that was my world. They were my best friends. And then, Kurt. That was the first time I ever painted an American from roughly my own time. It was such a revelation —it’s here, that thing I’ve been loving.
ROB: And very personally. Not in a detached, Warholian way.
ELIZABETH: No, no distance at all. As in, this is what I want to live for. In a way, you can be much more intimate with people you don’t know. But the fan thing conjures up that something’s missing, that there’s an inadequacy.
STEVE: But pop music stars are kind of more like friends than other celebrities.
ROB: Yeah, and one thing about pop music is that you can drag it back to the nest and be alone with it.
ELIZABETH: It’s like John Lennon, you hear his breath. And you can have it. And if you really love that person, then you take them into your life and you make it better with them. In a different way Kurt Cobain is a good example. It was just his own fucked up life, but how many millions of people related to it? It’s a beautiful thing when a collapse occurs between our own personal needs and what’s in the air.
STEVE: Well, that’s what first drew me to your work. The clarity with which you present those sorts of emotions. And it’s so simple.
ROB: It’s all about these strokes, and you can look into the painting and see that they haven’t been muddled with. They’re really assured and there. I can never look at any of your paintings and see an area that even looks like you tried to correct something.
ELIZABETH: But that’s the thing —it’s all mistakes in a way. The overall effect just works sometimes.
ROB: I feel like you can’t really be pinned down. On the one hand you celebrate figures like Kurt Cobain, who would seem to have been his own invention. But then you also paint English royals, like Prince Harry …
ELIZABETH: The royals can be idiots, and I don’t know about all of them. But in particular, Elizabeth rose to the occasion of her life. Kurt Cobain could have just been a drug addict. But he wanted to make more, and he left it for us. It’s actually all the same, they’re not unrelated at all. One of my favorite things about Princess Diana is that her grandmother was Barbara Cartland. So she grew up reading her romance novels, totally believing in love and princes. And then she had to rise above the tragedy of going into the royal family actually believing in it. She was nineteen —she didn’t understand that it was a transaction. It was because she really believed in love that everything went wrong.


STEVE: Now you’re concentrating on these portraits of friends. Doesn’t familiarity with a person hinder actually seeing them?
ELIZABETH: No, I think it kind of gets easier, because there’s more in your head. You can feel everything more than you need to see it. With photographs you notice that you don’t even see people sometimes. There’s so much else going on that you don’t really know what they look like. But familiarity is the best for me, actually knowing them. And a lot of times people will say, “These men don’t look like that. There’s no way they have red lips like that, and such skin.” But they do.


The images are in a video interview of a survey of her work.

Link here:


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