Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Behind Rocky Schenck's Recurring Dreams

Don’t know who Rocky Schenck is? You should. The film director William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist) collects Rocky's work and wrote the introduction to his new collection of fine art photography, The Recurring Dream. Rocky not only makes hauntingly beautiful hand-tinted photographs, he also makes films, music videos, and has worked with Adele, Francis Bean Cobain, Robert Plant, Ray Bradbury, Ellen DeGeneres, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, T-Bone Burnett, Nicole Kidman, Stevie Nicks, Patti
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Dionne Warwick, and John Prine. He says that many of these luminaries come across his work, feel an emotional connection to him, and reach out to collaborate.

Rocky Schenck has lived and worked in Hollywood since he left the University of North Texas years ago, but his childhood in Texas and his family's artistic heritage informs his work. The author John Berendt (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story) describes Schenck’s photographs as stills “taken from a movie that exists not on film but rather in one’s memory, with all the fuzziness typical of remembered impressions.” Schenck has talked to many media outlets about how he approaches his art and how he reflects on his ties to Texas. We've compiled some of the most interesting insights into his life and process to celebrate the publication of The Recurring Dream.

Don't miss Rocky Schenck's book signing and artist reception at The Wittliff Collections in San Marcos on Sunday, October 2nd. More information here. He'll also have an exhibition opening at the Fahey Klein Gallery in Los Angeles on Thursday, October 20th.

On growing up in Texas and his family's artistic heritage:

"I grew up rather isolated on a ranch outside of Dripping Springs, Texas, where I spent much of my childhood painting landscapes and watching old films on TV before and after school. I became obsessed. I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker, and I started writing, directing, and photographing little movies. My Dad bought me a twin lens Yashica stills camera, and I learned photography while shooting stills on the sets of my little epics.

My early films and photographs were all in black and white as I attempted to duplicate the look of the vintage films I saw on TV. I never had formal training as a photographer or a filmmaker. I also loved to draw when I was a child, so my parents enrolled me in an oil painting class. My ancestors were classically trained artists who moved from Europe to Texas in the 1850's, and I was a big admirer of their work. I suppose I wanted to learn how to paint in the rather romantic style of their paintings. I started selling my little landscapes around age thirteen.

— From a piece in KYKYLYKY; interview by Jan Walaker

Inside the Artist's Studio

On how his dream life informs his art

"I consider my images to be illustrations of my conscious and perhaps subconscious dreams, emotions, and longings. Many of the images explore positive and negative realities, which inhabit dreamlike settings."

— From a piece in Brentwood Magazine by Dawnya Pring

"To me there's something dark and disturbing in a lot of the landscapes. Maybe it's my constant journey to figure out why I am the way I am. It's like I'm floating in space, waiting to get to my final destination, whatever that is."

— From a piece in Aperture

"I'm an artist—with a quite vivid imagination. And I experience fantastical dreams when I go to sleep every night—and I tend to remember them, which I utilize in my work. I truly enjoy working in many different types of mediums, and thankfully I have been able to do this throughout my career. Is there a name for that tradition?"

— From a piece in KYKYLYKY; interview by Jan Walaker

Book Trailer Video

On his process for taking and hand-tinting his photographs

"When I shoot these images, they are usually not premeditated or contrived. I simply take my camera with me wherever I go and try to remain open to whatever life shoves, or gently places in front of me. When I'm shooting, I look for images which tell a story, or provide some element of a dramatic narrative."

— From a piece in Brentwood Magazine by Dawnya Pring

"Each print requires hours of hands-on attention. I do it in the privacy of my own home, sometimes with a margarita and an old film on the TV. If I am sad or depressed or melancholy, I can wander somewhere with my camera and usually turn my mood around by stumbling upon something unexpected and wonderful."

— From a piece in American Photo by Russell Hart

"Well, it's almost like therapy for me. It gives me peace of mind. I love going away by myself, just disappearing and being left alone with my thoughts and my camera. I look at it as a journey to find things out about myselfand in the meantime, I take pictures. . . . 

They could almost be manufactured landscapes, because of the way they've been manipulated. They're really landscapes from my imagination. I can manipulate them into almost whatever I want. They could have been taken anywhere. I just go by my instincts and keep working on the photographs until they have the right kind of emotional impact for me, and create the mood I want."

— From a piece in Aperture

On his relationship with The Exorcist and French Connection director William Friedkin, who wrote the introduction to The Recurring Dream:

"The film director William Friedkin and his wife Sherry Lansing, the former head of Paramount Studies, are collectors of my fine art photographs. Mr. Friedkin utilized many of my photographs in an opera he was directing, Bartok's "Duke Bluebeard's Castle", and he invited me to come down and see the rehearsals. . . He recently incorporated my new collection of color art photographs in an opera he directed in Florence, Italy this past November. It was the debut of my collaboration with Frances Bean Cobain—who has posed for many of my new art images."
— From a piece in KYKYLYKY; interview by Jan Walaker

On his collaboration with Frances Cobain Bean:

"Frances e-mailed me out of the blue. I had worked with a friend of hers and the friend told me that Frances was a fan of my work. Frances contacted me and said she wanted to work with me. We did a trade—I shot glamour photos of her and she in turn posed for my new fine art photographs. She's delightful—smart, sensitive, gracious, and a true artist. She's my new muse, and I just adore her. I put these photographs on my website and it went viral. I had no idea that so many people were interested in this young lady. It resulted in people contacting me from all over the world. My website suddenly had millions of hits. It was a very interesting experience for me and I'm sure it was for Frances, too. Who knows what it will lead to—if anything. I still have not allowed these photographs to appear in print."

— From a piece in KYKYLYKY; interview by Jan Walaker

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