Joel-Peter Witkinby Eugenia Parry, Joel-Peter Witkin, Joel-Peter Witkin (Photographer)
Joel-Peter Witkin is one of the most controversial artists working today, unsurprising for an artist whose career began photographing sideshow performers at Coney Island as a teenager and who cites his witnessing of the decapitation of a child in an accident as an influential childhood experience. Witkin's extraordinary visual sensibility produces shocking yet
Joel-Peter Witkin is one of the most controversial artists working today, unsurprising for an artist whose career began photographing sideshow performers at Coney Island as a teenager and who cites his witnessing of the decapitation of a child in an accident as an influential childhood experience. Witkin's extraordinary visual sensibility produces shocking yet undeniably compelling tableaux that enact macabre deviant dreams and that find beauty in the grotesque, the different, or the unusual. The 'thinking Goth's favorite artist; Part Hieronymus Bosch, part Texas Chainsaw Massacre'many definitions have been offered for Witkin's imaginative vision.
Witkin's photography both explicitly references and continues the tradition of the great artists of Western art history such as Bosch, Goya, Velazquez, and the Symbolists, by referring to the historical and mythological figures and symbols of these artists' paintings. The artist also reinterprets the nineteenth-century fascination with 'the circus freak' or, the 'other:' the bearded lady, the Siamese twin, and the giantess. His advertisements for models reveal the extent of his subject matter: 'pinheads, dwarves, giants, hunchbacks, pre-op transsexuals, bearded women, people with tails, wings, reversed hands or feethermaphrodites and teratoids (alive or dead), anyone bearing the wounds of Christ.' Witkin exalts his subjects by setting them in a fine art context, or offers up still-lifes featuring classic-styled arrangements of dismembered bodies or delicately posed cadavers, which create images rich with meaning that force us to examine the human condition.
This book is a fantastic and accessible introduction toWitkin's work, featuring 55 images that offer the full range of Witkin's subject matter and visual expression. An essay by Eugenia Parry explains Witkin's contribution to art history and discusses the influences on his work. Each photograph is accompanied by a commentary written by the author, which better enables the reader to understand the background of each image and reveals extra information about its individual subjects. JOEL-PETER WITKIN will fascinate both readers new to the artist, as well as those already familiar with Witkin's intriguing body of work.
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