The independent photographer Robert Leutheuser began traveling in the Middle East in the 1990s. He found himself drawn to the region's stark desert landscapesas well as the welcoming Kurdish communities he met in Northern Iraq. These trips led Robert to what has become his main photographic for the last seven years: The Yezidis.
Dornith Doherty has been traveling around the world photographing seed vaults. There are about 1400 or so seed vaults in the world, and their mission is serve as a kind of back-up system for the planet's plant species. Should disease, climate change, or nuclear war wipe out our bio-diversity these seed vaults can function like Noah's arcs, and would give us a chance to bring lost species back from the dead. In addition to photographing the vaults, Dornith has been making X-ray images of the seeds themselves, exposing the elaborate internal structures otherwise invisible to the human eye.
For years Michael Light has been photographing the American West from above. He flies his own plane or sometimes rents a helicopter and goes searching for photographs that capture the vastness of the western landscape and the way humans have built their own environments within it.
This week on the show my guests are graphic designers Spencer Drate and Judith Salavetz. Their book is called 500 45s: A Graphic History of the 7" Record. The book is an anthology of over 500 examples of album sleeve design spanning the years 1950-2000. The book covers 7" designs from a wide range of artists including: Elvis, The Zombies, Nirvana, U-Men, The Beach Boys, Barbara Streisand, T-Rex and many more. Spencer and Judith are award winning designers who have designed album art for the Ramones, Talking Heads Joan Jet the Beach Boys and many others. I spoke with Spencer and Judith over the phone about their book and their prolific design careers.
Bradley Garrett is a photographer, researcher and accomplished Urban Explorer. About 7 years ago Bradley left his job as an archeologist studying ancient cities, and moved to London to do a phd on urban exploration. He quickly realized that exploring the hidden spaces of the urban present was a much more thrilling line of work than studying the ancient past.
Claire Carter is a curator at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona. Her new show is called Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns. It's a deep dive into the post 9/11 security state as seen by 13 contemporary artists.
Photographer Liz Nielsen works in a room above a boxing gym that is just as much a laboratory as it is an artist's studio. The room is filled with colored gels, fiber optic lights, stacks of photo paper and a box with a label that says "disco balls and rainbow machine." These items and more are what Liz uses for her photographic experiments, and the prints that result from her visual investigations into light and color are pinned up all over the studio walls. There are abstract photographs depicting colored geometrical forms floating against pure black backgrounds, circular images of what appear to be deep space, and an assortment of collages and other seemingly photographic works, some clearly successful experiments others still on the drawing board. Liz is interested most of all by color and specifically the physics of color, from the ways that colors can be manipulated in the dark room, to the ancient light from outer space seen only through deep space telescopes.
Matt Jones is an artist working in Brooklyn NY. His paintings and drawings are deeply influenced by the big mysteries of the universe --- from string theory and outer space to ghosts, spirits and the paranormal.
Brooklyn based painter Hiro Kurata paints hallucinatory scenes and portraits that revolve around a single character --- a baseball player wearing thick black and white pin stripes that he calls the Slugger. His works take the slugger through surreal worlds rendered in vibrant colors and populated by sumo wrestlers, samurai warriors and greek gods. Hiro grew up in Japan, but moved to Chicago as a kid. For him baseball was important not so much as a sport, but as a cultural bridge between his two homes.
The History of the Future in 100 Objects. You've probably seen a lot of these "History of .... in 100 Objects" books. they've become somewhat of a trend lately.  However, Adrian's is different. His book is essentially a kind of sci-fi thought experiment.
Chinese artist and free speech activist Ai Weiwei is famous for butting heads with Chinese authorities. In 2008 he accused the government of a cover-up after hundreds of children died in poorly built schools during the Sichuan earthquake. Online he's an energetic champion of free speech via blogs and social media.
This week on the show, Alex Handy talks about the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, a non-profit based in Oakland, California.The museum houses a growing collection of historic video games and digital ephemera. It's mission is to preserve these games and educate the public about how video games are made and why they deserve the same artistic status as films or painting.
In 1952 USAF Intelligence Chief Major General John Samford held a press conference to address a flood of UFO sightings above Washington DC. The press conference signaled a new kind of seriousness in the government's approach to unidentified flying objects. Behind the scenes, the heads of US Intelligence had decided that they had a role to play in shaping the public imagination when it came to flying saucers. According to my guest, writer Mark Pilkington, this role took shape, most shockingly, in the form of Mirage Men.
Los Angeles-based artist Aspen Mays uses science as a lens to explore the vexing and unanswerable questions of life: Questions about the the limits of knowledge, the nature of existence and feelings of cosmic loneliness. Many of Aspen's projects are realized with the help of scientists and other experts. She worked with the Adler planetarium in Chicago to send a lawnchair and a digital camera up to the edge of Earth's atmosphere. For another project called Sun Ruins she hung out with astrophysicists at an observatory in Chilie and made work using discarded prints and negatives she found in their abandoned darkroom.
Sage Field, Lone Pine Ridge,Idaho For six years, photographer Adrain Chesser travelled around the American West, living off the land. His adventure began when he met members of so-called "back to the land" communities: groups of modern day hunter gatherers who have gone off the grid in search of a more meaningful relationship with nature. They travel  seasonal routes through western states like Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon and for food they harvest roots, forage for berries, and collectively rear goats for their milk and meat. Adrain, attracted to the possibility of a freer way of living,  followed his friends into the wilderness to share their way of life and photograph his experience. In his new photo book, The Return, Adrain captures both the beauty of  living close to the land as well as the tension and loneliness that arise from rejecting the comforts of the modern world. Along with the images, the book features texts written and collected by Timothy White Eagle, a Native American ritualist who joined Adrain on his adventure. On the show I speak with Adrain Chesser about living off the land, the spiritual power of photography, and his pentacostal upbringing in Florida JP Hartsong, Stoneberger Creek,Nevada Burger King, Mesquite,Nevada Morning, Marble Mountain Wilderness,California Dispatched, Lost River, Idaho Cherries, Marble Mountain Wilderness,California Fannie Bird, Marble Mountain Wilderness,California Playlist 00:00 The Return 01:58 Back to the Land 03:08 Wild and Nomadic Life 04:49 Heartsong Portrait 06:30 The Hoop 07:51 Goats 10:18 Loneliness 12:16 Burger King, Mesquite, Nevada 15:31 Paying Witness 17:05 I Have Something to Tell You 20:31 Pentecostal Preacher 22:51 Photography as a Spiritual Technology 25:33 Finish
Photographer Laura Plageman is know for a body of work called the Response Series. The project is a collection of unusual landscape images that Laura makes by physically folding, tearing and crumpling her prints and then re-photographing the results with a large format camera. In the final photograph the creases, tears and folds warp the image to create completely new landscapes. Rachel has expanded her project to include seascapes, and an exhibition of these images opens this week at De Soto Gallery in Venice California.
For the last 10 years, photographer Rachel Sussman has been traveling the world to photograph the oldest living things on the planet. All the organisms in Rachel's photographs are more than 2000 years old, and among her subjects are a 9000 year old Swedish Spruce tree, a 2500 year old carnivorous fungus, and 5000 year old Antarctic moss. Other photographs show us organisms whose lifespans are hard for us to contemplate. A colony of Aspen trees -- over 80,000 years old -- was around during the time of the Neanderthals. Then there's the Bacteria living in the Siberian permafrost that pre-dates the human race. It was originally discovered by biologists looking for clues to life on other planet. They suspect the bacteria to be about half a million years old.
Phyllis Baldino is a video artist based in Brooklyn. In her videos and photographs Baldino explores scientific phenomenon like multiple dimensions and the end of the world as well as issues of privacy and technology
San Francisco based photographer Jin Zhu's new project is called Endless Stream. The project looks at California's Central Valley where Jin has travelled around taking pictures of the ways that water --- and lack of it --- transforms the landscape and the ways that humans live on the land.
In her new book Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild Obsessive Hunt for the World' s Rarest 78rpm Records music writer Amanda Petrusich immerses herself in the culture of 78 collectors, and explores the histories of mythic blues artists that these collectors champion.
That's photographer Andy Freeberg talking about his project called Guardians. It's one of two body's of work he has been working on over the last few years. Both of his shows depict people occupying space with works of art, but the worlds Andy documents in these two shows couldn't be more different.
Filmmaker Robert Fantinatto is the director of I Dream of Wires, a new documentary devoted to the history and recent resurgence of the modular synthesizer. Robert got into electronic music as a teenager after seeing giant synths and their mysterious rows of knobs and tangled patch cables on the covers of early synth album's like Walter Carlos' Switched on Bach. In his film Robert charts the development of these electronic music machines, from their origins as room-sized behemoths in the 1950s, to the musician-friendly Moog systems of the 60s and 70s to today as a new generation of electronic musicians have adopted the modular synth as their instrument of choice. On this week's show, I talk with Robert about the history of synths and why they've made such an impressive comeback.
Photographer Emil Hartvig is based in Copenhagen, but recently he came to the United States and traveled through the Midwest to photograph the Prepper movement. Preppers subscribe to an extreme kind of disaster preparedness. They're not setting aside a few bottles of water or a flashlight in case the power goes out. Preppers are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Whether its economic collapse, civil unrest, or a biological or nuclear attack, the Prepper movement is all about having the means to be self sufficient and protect yourself when the shit hits the fan.
Over the last few years Lisa Elmaleh has been driving her homemade, portable darkroom through the American southeast making landscape photographs of the Florida Everglades and taking portraits of traditional folk musicians in Appalachia. Lisa makes her images with a process called wet-plate colloidan -- a mid 19th century photo-technique that involves, essentially, making your own negative using a glass plate and a slurry of chemicals. The plates are then quickly exposed in-camera and immediately developed -- for Lisa most of the process takes place in the back of her truck which doubles as her darkroom.
Over the last decade Gregory Crewdson has become a household name in contemporary art for his large-scale staged photographs. The creation of just one Crewdson photograph requires the work of over 50 crew members including actors, electricians, set designers and a cinematographer. The artist shoots on location in sleepy towns in Western Massachewsettes, often shutting down entire city blocks to use as his set.
Artist Wendy Klemperer makes sculpture of animals. The creatures in her work are amazingly expressive and convey complex movement and emotion that reflects the hours wendy has spent observing animals in the wild, in nature films and in the works of other artists like the painter Delacroix and photographer Eadward Muybridge.
Photographer Craig Hickman has a new book out called Oxide. The book is a collection of images composited from Craigs own photographs, images from the US patent office, and historical drawings and lithographs. Together these fictional photographs document a strange post-industrial american town, one where people seem to have fled, leaving behind only signage, cryptic grafitti and the weathered facades of the city institutions.
Soldiers of an Australian 4th Division field artillery brigade walk on a duckboard track laid across a muddy, shattered battlefield in Chateau Wood, near Hooge, Belgium, on October 29, 1917. This was during the Battle of Passchendaele, fought by British forces and their allies against Germany for control of territory near Ypres, Belgium. (James Francis Hurley/State Library of New South Wales)
This week on the show a conversation Romke Hoogwaerts and Grace Leigh, the people behind the photography magazine Mossless. The magazine started as a blog in 2009, but has since morphed into a full on print publication. The third issue of the magazine is out this month and it's a 216 page epic called simply: The United States (2003 - 2013).
Sculptor Hannah Herr works with materials like hair, rubber bands, cell phone chargers, tinsel and animal flesh to create objects visually inspired by the adornments of voodoo dancers and the Masai people. Her work explores the Western gaze and the ways it perpetuates fetishized otherness. Hannah is also the co-founder of Daughters Rising, a non-profit that works with woman artisans in Nepal, Thailand and Mexico.
This week on the show my guest is Marie Lorenz. I visited her studio in Bushwick to talk about her ongoing project, the Tide and Current Taxi. For the project, Marie ferries people around the waterways surrounding New York city in her homemade rowboat, using the tidal currents to guide her. Marie documents these voyages on her website using photographs and a simple written narrative. These straightforward yet engrossing retellings reveal a whole new way of looking at New York City--- a place that most people experience through it's congested grids and street life. Marie's taxi also speaks to history in providing a first hand view of the waterways that were the original source of New York's political, cultural and economic power. The Tide and Current Taxi has inspired much of Marie's other work including drawings, sculptures and, of course, her handmade boats. I sat down with Marie to talk about her boat making, her first shipwreck and much more.
We've all been on Google Earth and used it's satellite view or street view tools to get directions, find our way around a new city or just explore. My guest, artist Jenny Odell, has taken these tools a step further to use them as the subject of her work. Odell scrolls around Google Satellite view collecting images of uniquely man-made structures — like swimming pools, parking lots and landfills — and arranges them on large prints, a way of re-examining the human-built landscape from the very inhuman perspective of a satellite's remote camera.
Landscape photographer Victoria Sambunaris talks about her new book Taxonomy of a Landscape.
This week on the how Portland-based artist Carl Deihl. Carl's work examines the intersections between folklore, the supernatural and communications technology. His projects take the form of video essays and pseudo-scientific lectures and invoke unexplained phenomena like Sasquatch and poltergeists to investigate the glitches, errors and unexpected aberrations of obsolete technology. These projects fall under a body of work called "Metaphortean Research" ---- a term Carl coined to describe his process--- and which he explains for us in our interview.
Imagine yourself on a roller coaster. You're towed up to the top of the first drop, over 500 meters off the ground -- taller than the empire state building. and you're presented with a button. If you decide you still want to go, you push it. As you fall nine times the force of gravity pins you to your seat and begins to force the air form your lungs. As you enter the first of seven 360 degree vertical loops the blood rushes to your lower extremities and you begin to experience tunnel vision. A sense of euphoria sets in, as your brain -- due to a lack of oxygen -- diverts its efforts to sustaining essential bodily functions. Color slowly drains from your vision, and by the end of the second loop you've lost consciousness. Five loops on the coaster remain, but by the time the third is complete, you're dead.
Michelle Grabner is an artist and, this year, one of the curators of the influential Whitney Biennial. Michelle was given the museum's entire fourth floor for her section of the show, and she's selected over fifty artists working in nearly every medium imaginable: There are large abstract paintings, ceramics, work made from fabric and yarn, videos, photography, sculptural installations, even notebook pages from writer David Foster Wallace.
In her work, artist Carmen Tiffany combines experiences from her childhood in rural Wyoming with the aggressively cheerful imagery of children's products, television and advertising. The result are funny, grotesque videos, installations and drawings that feature an array of characters including a rapping macaroni noodle and lisa frank characters with an unquenchable thirst for moonshine.
If you turned on the Today show on April 4th you may have been perplexed to find George W. Bush being interviewed by his own daughter, inside his own library about his new exhibition of oil paintings. The show is called The Art of Leadership and features oil paintings of various world leaders.
Photographer Accra Shepp is on a mission to photograph all the Islands of New York City. He took me along to visit Twin Island in Pelham Bay, one of more than forty islands in the little known New York City archipelago.
Photographer Brian Rose has been documenting New York City with his large format camera since the early 1980s. In his book Time and Space on the Lower East Side, Brian explored how we experience and come to terms with change, or lack of it, in the urban environment. It collects photographs taken on the streets of New York City's Lower East Side in the years 1980 and 2010. Now, over those 30 years, the Lower East Side has gone from being a symbol of urban blight and decay to a poster-child for urban renewal and gentrification.
Over the last six years French photographer Celine Clanet has been traveling to Mazi, a small village in Norwegian Lapland, to photograph the Sami people. The Sami are one of the only indigenous arctic communities of continental Europe.
This week I'm joined by Brooklyn-based painter Jamie Powell. Her paintings are playful abstractions infused with the color palates and high-energy of saturday morning cartoons and sugary childrens breakfast cereals. Along with the eye-popping colors in her work, Jamie also cuts into her canvases leaving holes and geometric shapes that some times resemble a pair of eyes, shattered glass or teeth.
Our guest this week is Frank Pavich, the director of the new documentary Jodorowsky's Dune, which tells the story of the greatest science fiction film never made
In 2008, physicist David Kaplan and the entire physics community found themselves at a pivotal moment. The world's biggest and most expensive science experiment, a particle accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider, was about to be turned, on and if everything went according to plan, they were poised to make a discovery that could change our understanding of the universe.
Did you know they used to give out Olympic medals for art? It's true! From 1912 to 1948 the IOC awarded officials medals for painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music. There was a rule that all submissions had to be sports themed, so a lot of the pieces have titles like "Ode to Sport" (a literature entry) and "Olympic Triumphal March" (music). Judging from the surviving artworks, a lot of this art wasn't very good, but there's still something absurd and fascinating about the fact that for nearly forty years you could win a gold medal for your epic poetry.
Bjoern Meyer-Ebrecht makes, collages, sculptures and drawings that draw on found imagery of post war architecture. Bjoern's work deals not so much with the architecture itself, but what architectural forms can tell us about society, politics and ideology.
The Photography of Modernist Cuisine is the new book from Nathan Myhrvold and the team at The Cooking Lab in Seattle. "We wanted to create a vision of food, and show people a vision of food, than what was out there," Nathan says.
Since Russian President Vladamir Putin made his bid to host the Olympics in 2007, The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia, have earned a reputation for being the most expensive and most corrupt in history. Today the reported total cost for the Sochi games is about 50 billion dollars and it's reported that a large amount of that sum has made it's way into the pockets of contractors and Kremlin officials in the form of bribes and kickbacks.
This week on the show, artist Jason Burch. Jason is known for his videos, photographs and collages that explore the surreal intersections between natural and man-made environments. This week Jason discusses his work and why he likes to set his projects in construction sites and around housing developments in New Jersey.
In 2009 artist and writer Sarah Trigg set out across the country to document the studio practices of working artists in America. At each stop Sarah asked artists to share stories about the important objects, rituals and tools that define their workspace and aid in the process of art making. Sarah's findings have just been published in a new book called Studio Life: Rituals, collection tools and observations on the artistic process.
On the heels of last week's Polar Vortex -- which sent temperatures across the country plunging to record lows -- it seems appropriate that this week's guest is artist Andrea Polli. Andrea's work deals heavily with climate and weather. For her projects, she frequently collaborate with atmospheric and other scientists to collect data, conduct interviews and make field recordings, which she uses in her work. These projects take the form of installations, video and sound works call sonifications.
Sharon Louden is an artist, educator and the editor of the book Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: 40 Essays By Working Artists. For the book, Sharon asked 40 working artists to write about how they make a living in the art world.