POLIS AMERIKANOS (2005)
(American City / American Polity)
I first starting making these "surreallegories" in imaging software then
available in the early '90s, and my first website in 1995 included several
that I had constructed a few pixels at a time pre-Photoshop. This mural is a digital "photo-collage" of several hundred pictures and picture fragments, constructed during 2 or 3 months in 2005 in Photoshop. The compressed image file comes to 636 megs--41,831 pixels by 5,318 pixels.
Why? As a boy in Kansas 65 years ago, I was fascinated by mural photos
to be found in lodge halls and church basements, portraying army
units, fraternal conferences, boy scout jamborees, and such, with
uniformed subjects carefully lined up across six-foot wide photos in
a geometry that I later came to associate with fascism and "total
institutions" (think of the panoramas in Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will,
a documentary film made at the 1934 Nuremberg congress of the Nazi
On the other hand, gigantic fifteenth century panoramic altar-pieces,
such as van Eyck's Adoration of the Lamb at Ghent, open up an "ecstatic space" of visionary
wonder with hundreds of characters, vivid detail and allegorical portent.
Both uses of the panoramic format invite an extraordinary subject-matter
and picture-plane composition.
I intend this picture--a sort of political "Where's Waldo?" by way of Bosch and de Chirico
--to be an editorial snapshot of urban American life in the infuriating first five
years of this century. I chose four buildings in Portland to define four satirical
targets--a hotel (sex and tourism), a bank (the power of commerce and wealth),
City Hall (the confluence of religion and politics in American government), and
an antiques store (the commodification of art and history). There are scores of "jokes" built into the image. If you have the patience to look, you'll find a large
number of public figures and celebrities, "quoted" paintings and movies, erotic
recreations, and more. Each building is constructed from a jumble of
disparate images. Each figure, shadow, and almost every reflection in every
window was inserted--indeed, the reflections in the bank windows are actually
30 sequenced photos of the actual construction of the building upon which
they appear. The goal was to manipulate, resize, color, and shadow
each image element to make a simulacrum sufficiently convincing in perspective
to let a viewer imagine that it could be one panoramic photographic image.
When all else failed, I simply drew in needed details.
To date, I have completed and printed four of these large-format works--
about one per year. Subsequent subject-matter includes France, New York
City (as Fritz Lang's Metropolis), and a massive family and friends "album"
of scores of characters in period costume in a parody of Diego Velázquez's
superb Las Meninas painting. Today's imaging software and storage capacities
make working with much larger images feasible. I print them on a professional
Epson roll-paper printer.
For closer exploration of the works, you can use non-pixellating zooming
software online at http://lightandvariable.com Just click on "Big Pictures" to
access all four images.
--Darrell Taylor (2010)
First darkroom built, 1946. Ph.D. in philosophy, 1966. Taught philosophy and film 25 years in New York and elsewhere (Queens College, Penn State, USC, Yale). Owner and founder of web development company from 1995 to 2003 in Portland (Eyemagic). Self-taught in photography, Photoshop, web development.