News Column

Places, everyone: Richard Tuschman

June 6, 2014

By Paul Weideman, The Santa Fe New Mexican

June 06--The people who inhabit Richard Tuschman's beautiful photographs appear noncommittal, transitional -- not necessarily depressed but not happy either. Their bedroom settings may not exactly be ambiguous, but the contexts have a puzzling aspect. The fascinating solution to the puzzle is that these are real people artistically transposed into handmade miniature sets or dioramas. The other powerful element in these works is their tribute to printmaker and painter Edward Hopper.

Richard Tuschman -- Hopper Meditations, the inaugural exhibition of the new Photo-eye Gallery space at 541 S. Guadalupe St., takes place on Friday, June 6. (The gallery's previous location on Garcia Street is now the home of Photo-eye Bookstore + Project Space; a grand-opening exhibition, Devil's Promendade, with photographers Lara Shipley and Antone Dolezal, hap-pens there on June 29.)

The Tuschman show has 17 images, most from his Pink Bedroom and Green Bedroom series. Some, including two or three works in which a woman, sitting or standing, gazes out a window, are based on specific Hopper paintings. Others relate more generally to the Hopper milieu. "What I like about his paintings is their quietness, but they also seem very psychologically charged and they're very humble in a way. That all resonates for me," Tuschman told Pasatiempo. "And even though there's a lot of sunlight in them, there's definitely a sense of melancholy from the spareness of the settings and the gaze of the figures that depicts a sense of yearning."

In Pink Bedroom (Odalisque), Tuschman shows a naked woman on a bed smoking and regarding a man in the adjacent room, also naked, sitting at a table reading. Just where they're at in their relations is totally up to our conjecture. "I kind of like a little bit of ambiguity, letting people bring their own stories to the pictures. I have my own ideas but I don't want to impose those on the viewers."

Tuschman, an Ohio native, earned his bachelor of fine arts degree at the University of Michigan. Over the years he has been influenced by photo-illustrators Matt Mahurin and Amy Guip, photographers Duane Michals and Arthur Tress, and assemblage-art pioneer Joseph Cornell. The successes of his commercial art career show in magazine work, catalogs, corporate reports, and book covers. His clients have included The New York Times, Newsweek, and Adobe Systems.

His interest in commercial design is apparent in his biographical statement, which mentions book covers, magazines, and advertising before gallery exhibitions. "I sort of went full circle. When I went to art school and also after school, I was really focused completely on fine art, but I was forced by economic pressures to get into graphic design. I found I really enjoyed it, but not enough to want to do it instead of fine art. When Photoshop came along in 1990, I sort of synthesized what I was doing in the two realms and my commercial photo-illustration career was launched."

Tuschman has also made a series of photographic still lifes revolving around antique objects he's collected. He designed the book cover for The Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman, which shows a spooky house in the distance, framed by a raven and the rickety branches of a tree. That scene, for what the artist calls "a pretty quirky book about a necromancer who's also an alcoholic," came from one of his dioramas. "I used to do dioramas as sort of my main expression about 30 years ago, when I first moved to New York. I was inspired by my first job there, working in an architectural supply store. I also like the idea of doing almost like theater sets. I don't go to the theater very much, unfortunately, but whenever I do I love looking at the sets and the light."

He built the sets for the Hopperish pieces and outfitted them using dollhouse furniture, which he enhanced with painting and distressing. He photographs his models with a particular setting in mind. If a woman in an image is sitting on rumpled sheets on a bed, he might shoot the model sitting on them. That way, when he places the photograph onto the bedsheets of his miniature, the materials in both images blend more easily.

Photoshop is obviously central to this work, but he said he doesn't overuse the technology. Except for scaling and placing the models, he uses it only for subtle color enhancement and to fix elements within the dioramas. "Another thing about working with miniatures is that I have terrific control over lighting. It's all artificial light. For instance, in Pink Bedroom (Odalisque), the woman is lit by light from a window, but the man is lit from a warmer source in another room. If I'm going to try to emulate incandescent light, I'll use a filter to warm it up." Tuschman wants to do a few more Hopper-oriented pieces. He has also started a similar series of photographic-diorama works, but this time based on Eastern Europe, where his wife has family, in the period between the two world wars.

He remains devoted to photography but mostly as source material. "I used film up until the early 2000s. But even when I was shooting with film, I would have it developed and scan the images and manipulate them on the computer."

He took one darkroom course in high school, and that was enough of that. "There was too much chemistry, too much science for me. I like more immediate gratification," he said, laughing, "like painting. I actually sort of consider myself a failed painter. I just like the idea of playing with the paint; there's something very therapeutic about it. But I could never stop working on a painting. "I used to do a lot of collage and photo printmaking, but I never wanted to just work in a darkroom. I wanted to make things with my hands."


--Richard Tuschman -- Hopper Meditations

--Opening reception 5 p.m. Friday, June 6, exhibition through July 19

--Photo-eye Gallery, 541 S. Guadalupe St., 505-988-5159


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Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM)

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