Ben: And What is Your Reaction To the Small Space

Watercolor on paper

Inspired by the photography of Irving Penn’s “Salvador Dalí” and “Georgia O’Keeffe”

Close up of Day 74 and Ben

It was August of 2018, CognEYEzant had just begun. And I was collecting photographs of people’s eyes, strangers and friends and new acquaintances. While swimming around an old raft in a small lake, Ben Kostrzewa and I connected through his family, who are my neighbors—really fantastic neighbors. He was just back in the US after a trip through Asia and he was in the midst of a photography project. And in a dimly lit screened in porch in the middle of the woods, by the small lake with the old raft, we swapped portraits.

Whenever I drew someone for CognEYEzant, I would ask each person who their favorite artist was, for inspiration and to learn a little bit about the person. Ben shared that his inspiration was photographer Irving Penn, particularly Penn’s “Corner Portraits”, the subjects reacting to being in a small corner. Penn said of the portraits,

“Sometime in 1948 I began photographing portraits in a small corner space […] A very rich series of pictures resulted. This confinement, surprisingly, seemed to comfort people, soothing them. The walls were a surface to lean on or push against.”

Art Institute of Chicago, Irving Pen Archives “Portraits“.
Irving Penn’s “Salvador Dalí” and “Georgia O’Keeffe”

Similarly, Ben asked each of his subjects what their biggest life lesson has been. My response, apart from lamenting that I didn’t think I’d learned biggest life lesson yet, was Audre Lorde’s quote,

“The necessary ingredient needed to make the past work for the future is our energy in the present, metabolizing one into the other.”

From Audre Lorde’s speech “Learning from the 60’s”.

See Ben’s portrait of me here.

Ben’s piece has stayed with me throughout the project. From Ben’s portrait of me to Irving Penn to Audre Lorde, I cannot stop wondering about art’s potential to capture a person— their essence and story—in a single moment.

“Day 74” is currently on exhibit in Oliver Art Center’s 2019 Juried Exhibition from September 6—October 4th. If you are in the Frankfort area, visit the piece, take a picture with it and share the picture on social media with #cogneyezant.