Christian Brothers University Show
January 6, 2012-February 17, 2012
Norman T. Soskel
I believe that beauty can be found in many places and frequently resides in commonplace items. Nature is the ultimate art form and it may take some work to be able to appreciate and recognize the beauty in everyday things and common occurrences. Photographs allow us to catch these moments to view later.
I have coined two terms that represent many of my pieces, primarily my photographic pieces. One term is a glimpse, which represents a view of the world as seen through a portal such as the camera or a window. The other term, slice, is a piece of the whole that may or may not be recognizable and may even represent a microcosm within something larger. Slices allow the viewer to imagine the rest and therefore may provide more freedom of interpretation. These are not an end in themselves but provide a way to think about what we see every day.
This show attempts to demonstrate the gamut of artistic endeavors I’ve progressed through in the last few years. Photography is usually the basis for my works even though the final medium may be something quite different. Photography has allowed me to reproduce accurate images of what I see without having to be able to accurately draw. Then manipulation with other forms such as serigraphy, watercolor, or encaustics produces the final view. Addition of other dimensions such as music can bring in another of our senses while merging static and linear art forms. Thus, a painting or photograph presents the entire piece of art at one time to the viewer who then has to interpret at once what is visualized. On the other hand, a musical composition presents itself only over time so that the entire piece cannot be interpreted until the last note has been played and the last silence ended. Juxtaposition of such diverse art forms describing the same subject matter presents an interesting interaction for the viewer. Some of the pieces displayed here today attempt to demonstrate this.
Starting at the age of four with the encouragement of my photographer father, my interest in photography has evolved through three homemade conventional darkrooms into digital schemes. Application of the same basic photographic techniques allows me to explore nature, the ultimate art form, and to take glimpses or slices from it, displaying them in various ways in an attempt to provide some insight into it. After all, what we (as artists) attempt to do is represent nature in some medium and to portray all the emotion and sensuality (in terms of the five senses) that is evoked by experiencing it. Along with this experience often comes some intellectual commentary, implicit or explicit. Frequently my intent is to demonstrate that just about everything that is natural has beauty, and that everyday occurrences, as a part of nature, can exude those properties as well. Primarily, I am a photographer, however, in the last few years have branched out into watercolor, collage, printmaking and, more recently, encaustics. Watercolors helped me to see colors and translucency more clearly. Serigraphy allowed me to incorporate photographic images into a painterly art form. Finally, the encaustic medium allows me to combine all of my prior technical experiences into one art form, to bring in all the brilliance and translucency of that medium, and, thus, to open up a broad means for expressing myself (www.memphisthings.com, www.normansoskel.blogspot.com).
I was born in Norfolk Virginia, studied piano from age 8 until undergraduate school (University of Virginia) where I majored in biology with pre-medicine emphasis. I became a caver (member of National Speleological Society since 1967 and still current) and attended medical school at the University of Virginia, residency in internal medicine at Yale affiliate in New Haven and University of Virginia, pulmonary fellowship at the University of Utah, and assistant and associate professor of medicine at Universities of Utah and Tennessee with internationally recognized research interest in elastin related lung diseases. I entered private practice of pulmonary and critical care medicine from 1992 until the present. I was elected Fellow of the American College of Medicine and Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians. I have developed the non-profit internet-based organization Sarcoidosis Center since 1996 (www.sarcoidcenter.com) and am a member of WASOG (World Association of Sarcoidosis and Other
In this exhibit, one new presentation is the combination of music and visual art. This is what I say about that in the exhibit.
Music and Painting
Photography has allowed me to reproduce accurate images of what I see without having to be able to accurately draw. Then manipulation with other forms such as serigraphy, watercolor, or encaustics produces the final view. Addition of other dimensions such as music can bring in another of our senses while merging static and linear art forms. In explanation, a painting or photograph presents the entire piece
of art at one time to the viewer who then has to interpret at once what is visualized. On the other hand, a
musical composition presents itself only over time, so that the entire piece cannot be interpreted until the
last note has been played and the silence ended. Juxtaposition of such diverse art forms describing the same
subject matter presents an interesting interaction for the viewer.
With respect to the encaustics, I have been exploring ways to combine visual and auditory art forms.
Having played the piano competitively from age 8 until entering undergraduate school, I have recently
begun to record on the piano some pieces that I have portrayed visually as encaustic paintings. This is by
no means an attempt to convey synesthesia, but rather a means to express what one might visualize while
listening to a piece of music with one’s eyes closed, without the visual interference of sight.
In this way I have produced a series of 13 encaustic paintings representing the individual pieces of Robert
Schaumann’s Kinderscenen (Childhood Scenes). I re-learned the pieces and recorded them on the piano,
pairing each with an encaustic it represents, providing for the art goer a dual art form experience, visual and
auditory, linear and instantaneous.
"Meandering Line with Some Clarity" - encaustic on photograph on birch (see above). 1 x 3 feet.
Dedicated to Harold Protsman
Harold Protsman was my piano teacher starting at about my 2nd year of taking lessons.
Through his masterful tutelage I was able to compete and perform in and around Norfolk,
Virginia until I started undergraduate school. Although he was one of very few pianists
in Norfolk who had a master’s degree, he went back to the Cincinnati Conservatory and
received his PhD. Subsequently, he was asked to be the Chairman of the Music
Department at Old Dominion University, a position he held for many years. He was so
admired as a teacher and administrator that a permanent yearly piano competition is
named for him. It is one of the most sought after competitions on campus.
One set of pieces he taught me was Kinderscenen, Childhood Scenes, by Robert
Schaumann. I remembered a movie I saw in school and described it to him. He
recognized right away that it must have been Traumerei (Dreaming or Reverie) # 7 from
that series. That was the first of that collection that I learned before completing the rest of
them. Dr. Protsman (his piano students always called him Mr. Protsman when I knew him) made such an
impression on me not only regarding music, but also in many aspects of my life, that I’ve
dedicated that section of the show to him.
#1 - Of Foreign Lands and People (click on link)
#2 - A Curious Story
#3 - Blind Man's Bluff
#4 - Pleading Child
#5 - Perfectly Contented
#6 - An Important Event
#7 - Traumerei (Dreaming, Reverie)
#8 - At the Fireside
#9 - Knight of the Hobbyhorse
#10 - Almost Too Serious
#11 - Frightening
#12 - Child Falling Asleep
#13 - The Poet Speaks
The Encaustic Serigraph
Another new feature is the introduction of the encaustic serigraph. I believe this is the first show to highlight this technique. I've written a homage to the person who first used the term.
Homage to Jeanne Wiger and the Encaustic Serigraph
Having learned how to screen print from my daughter, Shira (BFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago),
I was delighted to be able to use my photographic skills and images in another medium. Screen-printing
provided some precision that I could not attain in painting. After learning about encaustic painting from one
of Shira’s former high school teachers (Mary Van Gieson), I started to incorporate photographic images in
to that medium also. I then wanted to be able to combine them all and try to print using wax. I found out
that Roy Lichtenstein had done just that. He called it Wax Type. I contacted GraphicStudio in Florida
where Lichtenstein began doing this and I was given specific information about the mixture of wax that he
had used. It wasn’t until I started digging around on the Internet that I found out that Donald Saff, who was
at GraphicStudio, had developed this technique and asked Roy Lichtenstein to do something with it. So
Donald Saff developed the technique that Lichtenstein used. However, I had believed that I had coined the
term encaustic serigraph, because I’d never seen it used before, nor had I been able to find it on the Internet
or in texts. Finally, I came across a Master’s Thesis written by Jeanne Wiger, entitled “Descriptive Analysis
of the Symbolism and Technique of Seven Prints in the Medium of Encaustic Serigraphy, “ dated July,
1968. After much ado, I was able to obtain and read the thesis. The mixtures she used were very similar to
those of Donald Saff. Ms. Wiger’s descriptions are very precise and organized and she describes the
technique as well as its pitfalls and ways to get around the technical problems. Thus, Ms. Wiger developed
the technique about 10 years before Saff or Lichtenstein, but is never credited with the discovery. Although
I wish I had coined the term myself, I want to give her credit for this development. Lastly, I’ve been in
contact with Ms. Wiger and she’s been very supportive of my work.
"Comes the Goat" - Encaustic serigraph on encaustic
Goat image uses stencil transferred by photo emulsion technique from photograph
"Demon Goat" - encaustic serigraph on watercolor wash. Goat image is same as that in above piece.
"Dino's" - my first encaustic serigraph, based on photograph
A few other items may also be of interest. The 9 photographs of the garage doors were made when the windows became apparent after painters came to paint the exterior of my house and taped the outside to protect the glass. The sunlight backlighting the tape and paper was striking and presented here.
Here's the striking view of all of the windows and below are two individual examples.
The piece below ("Deconstruction at the Denver Airport) is 48 x 72 inches and represents a multi month effort and development of means to mount photographs onto gator-foamboard, seal the photographs to protect them, glue them on canvas painted with extremely matt black that has been coated with a protective varnish and arrange them in a pattern devised on my computer. The entire image was taken from a single photograph.
My first serigraph, "Shiraflies" named for my daughter, Shira who created the stencil from which I printed.
"Charleston #4" - encaustic on lauan
"Meandering Line with Some Clarity" - encaustic on lauan, based on photograph (see below) of water path on windshield of van. 1 x 3 feet.
"3D Trespiral" - photograph - viewed with 3d glasses, 18 x 24 inches.
"Meandering Line with Some Clarity" - encaustic on photograph on birch (see above). 1 x 3 feet.
"i-con" - photograph
"Homage to Two Fauves and a Cube" - encaustic on birch, 2 x 3 feet.
"Blue Reflection" - encaustic on watercolor on birch - based on photograph of window reflections. 2 x 4 feet.
Yellow Reflection - Encaustic on watercolor paper on birch. 24.5 33 inches.
"A Shadow Came Over the Meandering Line and Spilled Milk" - encaustic on lauan with tea leaves. 12 x 12 inches.
Although I have been criticized for not declaring a predominant "style" or focus, I need to be able to pursue the many facets of my artistic interests. I therefore reserve the right to be weird.