Art Walk Open House - J. Fredric May - Apparition: Postcards from Eye See You
Saturday May 5, 2018 – 5-9 p.m.
The California Center for Photography and Digital Arts
310 W. 5th St., Santa Ana, CA
J. Fredric May Partially Loses Sight, Gains Vision at California Center for Photography and Digital Arts
(Los Angeles, California) – Artist J. Fredric May’s story of perseverance in the face of a stroke inspires as he celebrates the coming year with photography awards, solo and group exhibitions and a forthcoming solo exhibit at Florida University’s Harn Museum.
In its current incarnation, May’s newfound visual style traces to 2012 following the onset of a stroke. May first encountered visual hallucinations in tandem with fifty-four percent blindness. Often, May reflects of CBS (Charles Bonnet Syndrome), “There are a whole host of characters, groups of people with their backs turned, skateboarders passing by, and others huddled” in his view’s periphery. Contrary to popular notions of hallucinating being characterized by anxiety, or induced by a drug, May’s hallucinations are regular and seamless with reality and relatively easygoing. May jokes “That is why I don’t wear my glasses in the car with my wife, because my brain is constantly miscalculating what is coming in and out of the scene!”
Jovial in nature and a tinkerer at heart, May is among a family of engineers and inventors. Since 1974, May has printed his own photography among steady career tracks as a photojournalist as well as film industry professional. In looking at his photographs, one can immediately pick up on a sense homage to both the history of film (May scours swap meets, garage sales, and thrift stores for the perfect antique portrait), and to the history of photography as well as the anonymous images of nameless people that flooded daily into the newsroom from other agencies along with the mail. Both experiences have given may a strong feel for crafting a character. With fascination and curiosity in the best photographs that May finds, each has a story that can be put back into focus.
May’s visual impairment did not do much to stifle his creative practice. While in the intensive care unit, he put his changed faculties to use with an iPad. His series later called Apparition: Postcards from Eye See You reflects a highly-cogent creative will to ascertain all aspects of his new reality. Expressed through data-corrupting photography apps, May processed his experiences one after another, manipulating photos into the software until the images more closely resembled the ones he was seeing. The initial sketches, rediscovered by May reveal a totality of the modern psyche. With facial features cut and grafted together, May evokes the aesthetics of Cubism, of David Hockney’s Composite Polaroids, or Robert Longo’s anonymous businessmen albeit, firsthand.
From 2016 on, word travelled. May’s work found traction in New York, Los Angeles, New York, and back again. In 2017, May was awarded a Top 50 and Solo Show Award Winner at Photolucida, a LensCulture Emerging Talent Top 50 and Juror Award, and the Grand Prize Winner in 2018 at FOCUS l.a. The activity was only the beginning. May will be a special presenter at Open Show LA on March 18th, exhibit in Compromised Perception, a two-person show at the USC Keck School of Medicine, participate in the Lensculture Emerging Talent Award Exhibition, and exhibit in FOCUS photo l.a. May will have solo shows this April at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon, The Lucie Foundation’s Month of Photography Los Angeles (MOPLA), and the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida.
May continues to imbue his images not only with visual but material substance. The photographs begin with walks in flea markets, swap meets, and garage sales, a process that is akin to letting oneself wander in the wild, wherein the longer one is out, the better the chances are rare encounters. As a collector of not only long-lost photos, but stories long discarded, May reanimates them digitally, in line with his constantly changing visual landscape. Once printed, May subjects them to the cyanotype process, uses bleach and tea to manipulate an image’s color and tonality. May re-scans the prints and prints them as archival digital prints.
May has larger plans in the works, both in the development of his technique as well as exhibits in their early planning stages. He comments that applying his work through this many photographic processes promotes elasticity in the brain, and ultimately aids in his recovery. May will debut his new technique at the Harn Museum this summer.
J. Fredric May Apparition: Postcards from the Eye See You Archival digital print