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Joe Finkleman explores why we make pictures...


Joseph Finkleman has enjoyed basking in the limelight since his birth in Hollywood, CA. These days he hangs out on stage performing two voice poetry or at galleries, where he shows both photography and watercolor. Joe has a BFA and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Before transferring to art school, he was a literature major with a journalism minor. Joe is a history buff with a voracious appetite for all sorts of books that exceeds even his appetite for gourmet food, much of which he cooks himself. After 20 years as a professional photographer, during which he taught photography and animation, these days Joe pursues the creative from behind the lens, the brush and the pen. Along with writing the novel, a number of short stories and plays, and a great deal of poetry, Joe has recently completed the libretto of an opera which will be performed soon at Sacramento State University.


September 6 to October 18, 2008


I have curiosities and passions. As a writer I frequently write about unrequited longing and loss. As a painter, a re-occurring theme is the stories that we tell ourselves. But is is as a photographer that I get to look at one central question: why do we make pictures? This isn't a casual question, nor is it a simple one. For me, it is a fascination with what constitutes a picture and what does not. We make pictures when we look up at a cloud, or inspect a textured wall; we make pictures out of nothing, and that fascinates me.

There are physiological explanations: that the brain is a self-mapping topography. We seek like patterns and create chemical pathways linking what we see as a pattern with what we have seen before as a pattern; thus the connection is made and the cloud becomes a turtle or the textured wall has a face hidden in the swirls. But I find that unsatisfying.

There is a connection in language formation: Noam Chomsky theorized that before we could speak, we had for a long time gathered in groups. We already had the ability to vocalize, so we made sounds; we would gesture; we would get together in small groups and make rhythms, vocalize and gesture.

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