Spotlight on an Artist
Richard Tuschman began experimenting with digital imaging in the early 1990’s, developing a style that synthesized his interests in graphic design, photography, painting and assemblage. His work has since been exhibited internationally and recognized by, among others, Photo District News, American Photography, Prix de la Photographie, Paris, and the International Photography Awards. Commercially, his work has been featured in publications and advertisements for clients such as Adobe Systems, The New York Times, Penguin, Sony Music, Newsweek and Random House, among others. He has lectured widely on his artistic technique and creative process, and has taught at the University of Akron Myers School of Art (Akron, OH), Ringling College of Art + Design (Sarasota, Fl) and Cuyahoga Community College (Cleveland, OH). He currently lives and works in New York City. Find more of his work here.
Hopper Meditations is a personal photographic response to the work of the American painter, Edward Hopper.
My images are created by digitally marrying dollhouse-size dioramas with live models. The sets I built, painted and photographed in my studio. A lot of the furniture is standard dollhouse furniture, but some I made myself. I then photographed the models against a plain backdrop, and lastly, made the digital composites in Photoshop.
I have always loved the way Hopper’s paintings, with an economy of means, are able to address the mysteries and complexities of the human condition. Placing one or two figures in humble, intimate settings, he created quiet scenes that are psychologically compelling with open-ended narratives. The characters’ emotional states can seem to waver paradoxically between reverie and alienation, or perhaps between longing and resignation. Dramatic lighting heightens the emotional overtones, but any final interpretation is left to the viewer. These are all qualities I hope to imbue in my images as well.
In other ways, my pictures diverge from Hopper’s paintings. The general mood in my work is more somber, and the lighting is less harsh, than in Hopper’s. I am trying to achieve an effect perhaps closer to the chiaroscuro lighting of Rembrandt, another painter I greatly admire. I would like the lighting to act as almost another character, not only illuminating the form of the figures, but also echoing and evoking the their inner lives. I suppose I would like to marry the theatricality of Rembrandt with the humility of Hopper. In this way, I like to think of my images as dramas for a small stage, with the figures as actors in a one or two character play. The characters, by appearance, are rooted specifically in the past, somewhere in Hopper’s mid-twentieth century. For me, this augments the dreamlike, staged effect of the scenes. The themes they evoke, though—solitude, alienation, longing—are timeless and universal.
This series of still-life montages digitally layers tabletop photography, painting, and assemblage. Though the process relies heavily on technology, it is important to me that the work conveys a sense of intimacy and emotional weight, qualities that one does not often associate with technology. I see the works themselves as mood pieces, exploring themes of loss, vulnerability, longing, growth and decay.
The fragile beauty of birds, flowers and small plants has always seemed an apt metaphor for the ephemeral preciousness and variety of life itself. In addition, for a long time I have been drawn to organic materials such as wood and oil paint for their primal physical presence. I had been working with these materials for many years before digital technology came along, so it felt only natural to incorporate them into my digital work. I also like the way the early photographic techniques left artifacts of the process on the finished print, adding both an abstract poetry and a reference to their creation. I suppose I am after a similar effect. The scanned and photographed painted textures in the montages are built layer upon layer of brushed, scraped, rubbed, and glazed oil or acrylic paint. One step leads to the next, applying the paint in one way or another, then responding to that, over and over. When I am compositing the scanned textures and photographs on the computer, the process in analogous. Instead of applying layer upon layer of paint, I am continually re-working layers of images and textures, trying different opacities and blending strategies, dodging and burning, etc. I see each new layer as analogous to an event in the life of the piece, one leading to the next. In this way, even those layers that end up invisible in the finished version, much like forgotten events in our lives, have somehow contributed to the whole.