by Jeff Bark
Eerie and brooding, the new Woodpecker series by Jeff Bark stretches the definition of romanticism to reference both the emotive paintings of centuries past, and the modern struggle with post-industrial malaise. Situated in a teenage wasteland that hovers between nature and urban decay, Bark's listless figures partake in skinny-dipping, huffing, and smoking marijuana. Every element in the composition is carefully constructed to create the illusion of realism, fused with painterly timelessness. The moonlit "swamp" filled with abandoned mattresses and other debris took over a month to construct in Bark's studio. His images have been compared to those of Caravaggio and mythical depictions of Leda and the Swan. Bark's artistic concerns, however, center on the emotions we experience today - longing, attraction and disgust. What are the boundaries between eroticism and despair?
"I've always been very sensitive to light, even in my house... It's all about how the light makes you feel. In my studio the light is very sexy, calming - it's warm from all the tungsten lights, and very comforting. In the brightness you can't see around you, so you feel alone, except for me yelling at you saying 'move your finger!'"
"More than trying to emulate a painting I wanted to create a kind of light I had never seen before. In my photographs you can see muscles under the skin. The light seems to come from the figures instead of bouncing off. I worked so hard at it... Photography is supposed to be all about light anyway - carving it out and being in control of it. That's why I shoot in the studio... I create nighttime by blacking out all the windows... There are certain things in life that are constant sources of fascination - light is one of them."
-Interview with Miranda Lash, January 9, 2008