The name for Vertigo's new show, The Cowboy Is on the Left, seems like a commentary on the stratification of rural culture, but it's not. "The designer who put together the card advertisement put the photo of the cowboy on the left, and she thought that was the perfect name for the show," says featured photographer Anthony Camera.
Camera, a longtime photographer for Westword (in addition to other national publications), hosts an artist's reception tomorrow night and took some time to talk about the confrontational aspects of his work.
Kara Duncan, owner of Vertigo, approached Camera to put together this show after seeing his work hanging in his studio on Santa Fe, which opens up to the back of Core New Art Space. The pieces were wheat-pastings, but Duncan asked him to try something different.
"Kara was saying that I usually put up stuff that is very dramatic," says Camera. "But she was choosing stuff that has a different feel than what I normally hang up. Usually, I want to get right in your face. Also, she wanted me to do something different than wheat-pasting, so I worked with plotter prints."
Getting in your face, for Camera, means taking pictures that affront the viewer. It's an approach that works well in advertising and editorial work, but hasn't taken off in the world of fine art just yet.
"There is definitely a confrontation in my work," says Camera. "People are looking right at the lens. People really like that aspect of my work, but it's not usually something they hang up. They're like, 'Don't know if I really want that in my living room.'"
That eye-contact confrontation is evident when looking at "Cowboy." The young bull rider in the picture looks straight at the camera, and upon closer inspection, there are a lot of disconcerting details.
"He's such an off-looking guy," Camera explains. "I think he's just really sick. He was either thrown from a bull, or I don't know. I asked to get a picture and he stopped, but he never spoke to me. And now that it's gone so big, 60 by 40 inches, you can see that he has a lot of cuts and stuff, which I didn't realize before, even when I was doing Photoshop."
One of the biggest departures for Camera in putting together this show is the size of his pieces. Camera, who took an interest in wheat-pasting and street art, decided to use plotter prints, and a lot of the pieces are 44 by 70 inches.
And that's a lot of space to put your bare bottom on. "I forgot to mention that I will have one image available for drunk people to rub their bare buttocks on before collapsing in a heap and urinating on themselves," he says, referring to the bizarre incident in January when a woman did just that to a painting at the new Clyfford Still Museum.
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After the show, Camera wants to continue his foray into fine art and street art. He says he's attracted to the idea of wheat-pasting. "I like it because it's temporal, and when it's gone, there's only the memory."
The Cowboy Is on the Left runs through May 12, and the artist's reception runs tomorrow night, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Vertigo, 960 Santa Fe Drive. For more information visit Vertigo's web page.