I create photographically illustrated books springing from my fascination with the book format and a love of texture in art. My imagery is inspired by the surreal and poetic moments of living in our fast-paced, modern world. I'm fascinated by how daily life in the 21st Century presents us with incredible experiences in such regularity that we no longer differentiate between what is natural and what is colored with implausibility, humor, and irony.
These hard cover books are hand bound with marbleized paper and displayed fully opened to a photographically illustrated two-page folio spread. Each book is framed in a wooden shadowbox and presented as a wall piece. I like the idea of making art that contains some imagery which can be sensed but not seen. The underlying pages contain my photographs, snapshots, and work prints that "gave their lives" for the imagery visible in the open spread. These images lie beneath the open pages like history.
Somewhere, a Man's Shoes Are Wet
Signs of Life
The Good Wife
Lake, Boy, Indian
Christina's New World
Little Pink Houses
Real Estate History
Our Thoughts Wander
Golf With Freud
Rapunzel Dries Her Hair
The West, Then and Now
The Art of Getting Lost
These landscapes are produced using the 19th Century Cyanotype and Gum Bichromate printing processes. I savor the tactile pleasures of making art by hand: building images with multiple layers of brush-applied emulsions. I believe that certain works of art created by a human touch may contain a resonance of that touch: a discernible, lingering aura.
Each print starts as a sheet of watercolor paper, coated by hand with a layer of Cyanotype emulsion. The paper is contact printed with a full size negative and exposed in sunlight for several minutes. After development, an image appears in rich Prussian Blue. The print is then coated with a layer of Gum Bichromate solution (containing green gouache pigment) and contact printed in sunlight. This second exposure rests in register on top of the blue image and the print takes on natural tones of greens. A third exposure is made in brown pigment and now reveals a landscape containing warm, natural tones of wood. A final exposure is made in black, deepening just the shadows of the scene. Four exposures are made over several days to produce these handmade prints. The resulting artwork is very archival, comprised of permanent Winsor Newton gouache pigment printed on watercolor paper.
TeePees, New Mexico
Desert Diptych Book
TeePee, Santa Cruz Mountains
Fallen TeePee, Santa Cruz Mountains
Vines, Villa Montalvo
Statue, Villa Montalvo
Ivy Covered Oak, Los Gatos
Rainbow Trout, Lake Tahoe
Chaco Canyon Ruins, New Mexico
Poems and Images
Photographers believe a picture is worth a thousand words, while poets hope the right word is worth a thousand pictures. Photographers labor over scenes while poets labor over syllables. I’ve poured over my images for years, coaxing each landscape and still life to say more. Poetry can be the looking glass we hold up to magnify the spaces between photographs, helping explain why they happened.
Photography and poetry each have their strengths and limitations, yet both attempt to make order out of the tangled, myriad thoughts and events we encounter each day. Poetry allows me to break free of photography’s reliance upon realism; the luxury of words grants me the freedom to travel anywhere and convey whatever I imagine, without the need to stand before an actual subject.
As Kafka wrote, “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Redwood City Pages Project
In 2017, Redwood City, California celebrated its sesquicentennial and commissioned a special, permanent public art project to commemorate this historic landmark in time. The Sesquicentennial Commission allowed me the opportunity to create a large, six foot tall photo sculptural “book” with 20 pages forming 10 open spread diptychs. Each pair of images serves as an iconography presenting a pervasive quality of the city. I began the narrative with a view of open space grasslands before civilization arrived, collaged with actual arrowheads attached to the foreground to hint that earlier people settled here even before Mexico and the later White culture arrived. Successive pages represent other key facets of Redwood City, such as the railroad, redwood trees, and today’s modern development. This was a period of true collaboration; it was a pleasure hearing from longtime residents and often incorporating their insights into this project.
This public art project was generously funded by the Redwood City Parks and Arts Foundation, the Sesquicentennial Committee, and the City of Redwood City. Redwood City Pages was curated by Lance Fung as part of a Fung Collaboratives Project.
Redwood City Pages
Redwood City Main Library
Brian and Lance Fung
Brian presenting his large "book"
Behind the Scenes
Here are a few glimpses behind the scenes as I create my handmade books and conjure up multi-colored gum bichromate images.