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  • Perfection Personified in a Mapplethorpe

    Mapplethorpe Calla Lilly on linen in a black drop shadow frame I have just seen perfection personified.  I happen to wander into the Missoula Art Museum downtown to see the works of my buddy M Scott Miller who was a featured artist in one of the galleries.  I perused each gallery working my way up to his show on the top floor.  In the main gallery hung the most extraordinary work I have ever seen.  It was an image done by Robert Mapplethorpe of a solitary white calla lily surrounded by darkness.  It was printed on linen that was wrapped and then mounted in a black drop shadow frame.  I was utterly transfixed on the image for about 20 minutes.  Balance! Symmetry! Contrast! Perfection!  As I stood there I realize this is the panicle of perfection that brought me to photography in the first place.   It was by chance I had stumbled upon Mapplethorpe at a time when I was drifting in life and looking for a new direction.  I was working in theater at the time and had never owned a camera or really taken a picture when I stumbled upon his work.  I was utterly captivated by his ability to express himself through his imagery.  I ordered all the books I could find on his work and as I began to siphon through his immense collection of image a dream was born within me to somehow take up photography.  When the job I was working ended, I came back to Montana and enrolled in photography school; loved it more then anything else I had ever done, and strove to find my own balance within the frame.  My life suddenly changed and I found something that was purely about me, my feelings, my emotions, and my perceptions of how I viewed the world.  A teacher at the time told us to shoot what we knew.  I tried to shoot bridges, mountains, and rivers, but it all seemed lifeless, as if I was destined to fail.  It was the same as what everyone else in the class was shooting. I began to ponder and question what was the essence of my true identity?  Was my world acceptable to be on display?  Mapplethorpe had certainly taken us to the raw edge of his world.  I was a gay kid in the middle of what felt like Podunk nowhere, Missoula Montana.  The learning curve for a young artist is extraordinarily high.  We do not know what our sense of vision is or should become.  It’s a matter of learning to trust oneself and accept that trust.  Mapplethorpe certainly knew this early and fled to New York in search of his own expression and a community that would accept his point of view.  Now a day our community is the Internet as we search for acceptance among our peers of like-minded individuals.  I marvel at how much the world has changed since this simple beauty that stood on the wall before me was created; the techniques, the media, the struggle, and the acceptance of ourselves as culture.  I have seen many other Mapplethorpe images in my travels but none have captivated me such as this.  It completely came upon me unaware.  I realize now my life has somehow come full circle.  As I now stand where I only dreamed to be as a youth and am still humbled by the presence of perfection.

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