Amy Bassin: “Bandages needed to aid in the recovery of a damaging embrace”

by David Lawton on July 2, 2016

The Careless Embrace of the Boneshaker front cover 1

Great Weather’s fifth anthology of poetry and short prose, The Careless Embrace of the Boneshaker,  arrives August 8 2016. Let’s start the drum roll by introducing you to the creator of our cover image, the provocative photographer, AMY BASSIN!

DL:  I understand that you studied painting before transitioning to photography. What is it about photography that makes it the ideal vehicle for you to communicate with? And what aspect of your painting studies has migrated into your photography aesthetic?

AB:  I transitioned from painting to fine arts photography and video when I became enamored with the freedom offered via digital cameras. It allowed me the mobility to reinforce a collagist’s mentality and continually incorporate and interpret found objects with a diverse point of view. In my photography I infuse a painterly aesthetic and concepts that focuses on interpretation rather than documentation. I like to create my own personal tableaus, like I did as a painter, but instead of using paints, I use light. By using my camera as an intimate confidant, I can juxtapose the ethereal and raw through digital transformations.

DL:  Your photo which is being used for our anthology cover is an arresting yet strangely benign image. I believe it was part of a series which riffed on the idea of the selfie. I personally find the selfie phenomena disturbing. Would you share your feelings about what you wanted to express with this image, and the selfie thing in general?

AB:  Agreed, the selfie phenomena is disturbing on many levels and that includes the careless accidents and deaths due to the physical danger related to those obsessed with capturing a selfie while in extreme and unsafe environments. My series, Selfie Fictions are selfies that are in essence anti-selfies because they are fictional self-portraits in response to the invasion of the nascent narcissism inherent in selfie culture that has permeated social media. Selfies scream out for individual attention, self-justification and often promote the ‘glorified’ self. I am creating fictitious selfies that are distinctly different than myself, though I suppose there is a real chance that collectively, my series may actually expose more of me than I could have possibly imagined by employing fiction’s credo of “lying the truth.” The cropped photo on the anthology cover was initially a Selfie Fiction, “Terminal Blue,” where I covered my entire face in blue tape with only one eye exposed. It referenced how people are often not being heard, which can lead to feeling emotionally and physically wrapped and trapped.

DL:  I also know that you have participated in collaborations with a writer providing you with text for your images, or in response to those images. How does that work, and how does it change the work you do collaborating in that way?

AB:  That’s an interesting question. Text based art collaborations with a writer reminds me of musical collaborations between composer and lyricist. With songwriting collaborations it’s often asked what comes first, the music or the lyrics and with most teams it seem to work within a set system. My collaborations with writer Mark Blickley jump back and forth concerning which appears first, the image or text. The photograph used on the anthology cover, “Terminal Blue,” comes from my Selfie Fictions series. The un-cropped photo is of a tightly wrapped head that exposes only tufts of hair and an unsettling right eye that stares directly at the viewer. It offers up a feeling of suffocation, entrapment. Blickley’s text, written in response to my photo, turned my portrait into a vehicle for satiric humor. Our collaboration changed “Terminal Blue” into a portrait of a patient suffering from a new 21st century illness, eMAD (Extreme Millennial Anxiety Disorder) disease. His text is superimposed upon an actual doctor’s prescription pad complete with this diagnosis and an RX for going to an airline terminal to purchase a ticket to a destination the patient always dreamed of visiting. So where my solo photograph promoted fear, the text-based piece promotes hope.

DL:  The title for our anthology which will appear alongside your photo is The Careless Embrace of the Boneshaker. What do you think of it? Does it change your perception of your creation at all?

AB:  I have to say that I love the book’s poetic title. My initial reaction of the image to the title was that of a mummy fragment, as I saw the tight blue tape as a shroud that wraps the contour of ancient bones. Earlier you stated that my cover photograph “is arresting yet strangely benign image”—I think that description also applies to the anthology’s title. Boneshaker connotes an arresting/alarming image while careless embrace is a somewhat benign phrase. I like the mystery of the title’s intent and feel that my photograph can be seen as something akin to a Rorschach test. My taped image can be perceived as an aid to help keep the shaken bones firmly in place, or it can be interpreted as the bandages needed to aid in the recovery of a damaging embrace.

DL:  Please tell us what is in store from Amy Bassin in the upcoming year.

AB: Excerpts from my collaborative text based art series, “Dream Streams,” will be exhibited July 7 – August 4 in DUMBO at Brooklyn’s Ray Gallery, 55 Washington St. “Terminal Blue,” the basis of the anthology’s cover, is one of the selected pieces. Another piece from this series, “A Heads Up Dream for Peace,” will be published this August in the Summer 2016 edition of NISA’s Open Minds Quarterly. Six unpublished Dream Streams will be featured in the next issue of Anti-Heroin Chic.

I’ve currently undertaken two new text based projects. Government Interventions is a satire on the virulent anti-government movement many Americans appear to have embraced during this 2016 Presidential campaign. The text that accompanies my staged photographs is all taken from U.S. Government Information Agency pamphlets. The second project is a series of artist books, Book Worms. I’m invading old bound books and redacting their texts by collaging cutouts from colored photographs and brittle newspapers that date back to more than seven decades.

DL:  Thanks for spending some time with us, Amy. We will all check out more of your work at www.amybassin.com!

Amy's original image for "Terminal Blue" Amy’s original image for “Terminal Blue”

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