I am always pleasantly surprised when Neal Rantoul stops by the gallery to show me prints. Often times I find that it isn't always new work, but work that he has done over his long career as an artist. It is interesting to see how an artist and the projects that they work on move from point 'a' to point 'b'. It's like marking a child's height on a door jam, watching the pencil marks gradually climb up the wall. Time is what each artist has, and over time, they grow, they learn, they share, and ultimately a sense of accomplishment is realized.
I received an email this week from Neal with a short statement that he wrote a few years ago on his thoughts on being an artist.
"Thirty-five years ago, when the concept of being an artist for the rest of my life first dawned on me, I had little to show; no skills, little education, no ability to define what it would be like to bean artist and few mentors. But my job seemed clear: I needed to learn my chosen discipline and produce work. This I proceeded to do, learning as I went, adding a series of photographs or a group of pictures that were an idea, concept or an interest on top of a stack of others that would grow over a whole career. This program entailed life-long learning. Parts of my process would change: my understanding of the medium would grow and evolve during these years. Photography too would change; movements in contemporary art and society would affect me in obvious and subtle ways. However, the requirement was to make the best work I could, to stay active, to produce work that was both quantitatively and qualitatively as consummate as I knew then how to make it. This I’ve done. As I grew and understood more about photography as an art form, and worked to master my technique and refine my aesthetic, I became more comfortable with my place in the discipline. I no longer was aspiring to be something. I was heavily engaged in the making. Finally, I have sought, quite simply, to make a contribution to the medium of photography."