In Nan Goldin’s work, it is, redemptively, one of its central themes. Goldin’s art is filled with a generous attentiveness towards the lives of its subjects. Although we might not be conscious of it at first, her photograph of a young and, as we discern, lesbian woman examining herself in the mirror is composed with utmost care. The device of reflection is key. In the room itself the woman is out of focus; we don’t see her directly, just the side of her face an and the blur or a hand. The accent is on the make-up she has just been using. It is in the mirror that we see her as she wants to be seen: striking and stylish, her hand suave and eloquent. The work of art functions like a kindly voice that says, “I see you as you hope to be seen, I see you as worthy of love.” The photograph understands the longing to become a more polished and elegant version of oneself. It sounds, of course, an entirely obvious wish; but for centuries, partly because there were no Goldins, it was anything but.
I met Nin Filip and two of his friends at Palo Alto Art Center, in Ehren Tool’s studio, recently.
He sent me this photo, typical of his current work.
It reminds me of my cousin in Los Angeles, the one who was bass player in a touring rock band, plus the fact that there are plenty pictures of me, some here but mostly unpublished of me holding a small black dog.
Nin Filip, who was born in Vietnam and is an MfA candidate at San Jose State mentions influence of Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton . I remember seeing a Nan Goldin show in New York, perhaps at Matthew Marks Gallery, then trying to gift a box of her prints to my host, although I never heard back from her whether she appreciated the gesture. It was probably too much to go ahead and push-pin a Nan Goldin shot to the wall of that Brooklyn apartment.
I do not know if Nin Filip is a given name or a non de guerre. (edit to add: it’s a long story, and his story — history — but you could probably say its both, or that he is a Filipino of a sort).
edit to add: this is classic example of the way by perhaps over-educated and hyper-erudite little gray matter works, but as I clicked on the Nin Filip photo, hoping to resolve whether the black organic mass in the man’s arms is, like Frida, a Cocker Spaniel or merely a cat, I had to click on George Caleb Bingham’s 1845 painting, you can see for real in New York, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, which apparently was also once known as French Trader and his Half-Breed Son.
The wiki article says that it is commonly known now that the black animal is a bear cub and not a cat. (And not to confuse this work with the one held by the DeYoung in SF).
edit to add, 3 days later: Terry and I hung out with Nin Filip at the Unity Church of Palo Alto, where Big Island roots legend Ledward K had a benefit event for his children’s welfare-oriented ngo — a very well-run event that featured a local collaborator named Fran Guidry of Walnut Creek, and an amazing raffle with a uke donated by Gryphon Stringed, among numerous other door prizes, and then ate at a local fave ethnic restaurant, which shall go uncredited, other than the appropriate fact that it features in its lobby gallery of dignitaries and celebrities posed with it’s founder and namesake. Terry showed Nin Palo Alto Studios. Nin also, at my direction, shot these two versions of what appears to be the 24 / 7 life-as-tailgate party of a football fan.
He also snapped a photo of Palo Alto’s mosque, which sent my synapses scrambling for a connection between the two abodes, for those who worship, say, Otis Sistrunk and for those, well maybe it’s in poor taste to complete the thought. (Eric Cohen and I got a tour of the mosque, weeks back, and believe that the building was facilitated so to speak by former Palo Alto council member John Barton and insider/architect Tony Carrasco. (oddly enough, and this is miles away, I would think, from a discussion of Nin Filip photography vision, but in my attempt to fact-check John Barton’s role in the mosque the search-injun instead offered me the fact that the Grateful Dead, on December 18, 1965, played a show at the current site of the mosque, at what was called The Big Beat). My understanding is that Palo Alto’s mosque will be the spiritual base of a group of worshippers who originate in India, not the Middle East, not sure if that matters or what it means. And not sure how to segue from here to a book by a Swiss Jew named De Botton, that Nin says is gaining material in academia — he is an SJSU ACT MFA. Le book: