I'm meditating a semi-big decision right now, and tonight it's got me thinking back on the things that have shaped my aesthetics, my approach to the world through image and word and my ways of trying to give the world back to itself through image and word. I'm not sure what put Brad Iverson's name back in my head just now, as I sit here (uncamouflaged) in my red and white flannel sheets, but I googled him just to see whether there was anything about him to be found--and lo and behold, he has his own website.
Brad and his wife Ellen are friends of my parents; Ellen taught with my mother in Detroit. When I was little, I loved visiting them because they were simply, wonderfully cool people. And they had a massive coffee table book about Walt Disney that had Mickey Mouse on the cover. When I was young, such things meant a lot. The last time I saw Brad and Ellen was when I had just finished my first year of high school and had just gone to my first concert, a B-52's show (for which Ziggy Marley opened). The Iversons had Mesopotamia on vinyl and made me a tape while we hung around their house. That's how cool they were. Also, Ellen had just started painting and showed us how she was exploring her new medium; she still sticks in my head as one example of how it's possible to decide that it's time to pick up a new art. She learned piano because she wanted to play Rachmaninoff. She learned painting because she wanted to. The narrative can always change, see?
Brad has had his greatest presence in my life through his photography; one of the reasons he and my father were such good friends, I think, is that they're both extraordinary photographers. Brad has done some beautiful work documenting Detroit. Several of the images on his website have hung in my parents' family room (and thus been the subjects and the locales of my imagination's many narratives) my whole life. I can't tell you much about what those narratives were: they passed as swiftly as they came, as swiftly as neglect eats some of the things these pictures represent.
This chair and this door, for instance, have been in any number of imagined houses over the course of my life, even as a print of this image has been hanging in my parents' house. These things have been on farms in northern Michigan, to which I imagined he must have traveled in order to get to a door and a chair that no one would mind his photographing. At one point, I know that I thought Brad had taken this picture in one of my parents' houses, while they still lived in Detroit. What I assumed, I know, is that no one ever goes into a house without permission--that all houses are occupied, that all objects are owned.
I can't remember any of the specific narratives I spun around this conservatory and these statues at Detroit's Belle Isle. The pictures still hang side by side just outside my parents' kitchen. The conservatory one moves me more and more, the older I get and the more I try to do with my own images.
Brad's most controversal piece is a photograph called "Belle Isle Men's Room." It provoked a lawsuit, along with all manner of other debate, when Brad exhibited it at the Detroit Institute of Arts back in the early 1970s. It's possible that I'll tell you more about it, and its maker, tomorrow, when I'm refreshed.
source for all of tonight's images: Brad Iverson's website.