Friday, April 15, 2011

Tim White - Photographer

Tim White

SpotArt Gallery Featured Interview
Opening Reception April 15, 2011 7-11pm
4/15/11 - 5/13/11

Name: Tim White
City/State: Minneapolis, MN
Website: profile:


Tim White is a Minneapolis photographer.

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects? I came to photography very recently. My past work was as a painter- doing the stereotypical tormented artist thing; working in isolation, rarely deigning to dirty myself with commerce or well-being. If I hadn’t become acutely ill from solvents, I’d likely still be poisoning myself in a garret somewhere. Photography not only gave me back a voice that I’d lost, the medium felt less self-indulgent, less diaristic. It seemed more urgently communicative because you’re engaging the world more often than your own imagination, and it takes you into the world with this evident instrument. That led me to people who were similarly enthusiastic about making images.

I’ve been working less on my own work lately than on building communities, like the “You are not a dinosaur” collective. We took a short story from Oregon author Bruce Holland Rogers titled “Dinosaur” as a means of exploring visually how people concede (or don’t) to becoming “responsible” adults. We’ve just finished our first group show and are looking for ways to carry that momentum further. Our flickr group ( has over 600 submissions from people across the globe who’ve come at this short story from varied and incredibly nuanced angles.

I’d ideally like to gather 100 or so of these impossibly moving images, and show them in an uncommon space in an effort- as we did at Vine Arts- to move the center for Twin Cities’ art away from the beaten paths. I worry that the public can be too intimidated by traditional institutions and venues, that they believe they have to approach “art” with a PhD, or an affected hipness when it should be as necessary and accessible as groceries.

"What is Art?" is certainly too big of a question to ask here, but what do you hope your audience takes away from your art? What statement do you hope to make?

I came to photography from a very dark place, during Bush’s second term where a sense of “how in the fuck could this have happened again” prevailed, and art reflected that malaise. It seemed that everyone was wallowing in entropy, decline, exhaustion. This aesthetic of the squalid took hold in America depicting a vapid wasteland of derelict signs, rusted trailers, and misanthropes. I think we’re rebounding from a place of profound pessimism, tempered by well-earned cynicism.

Photography is too often used as a cudgel to incessantly beat up the public with images of shiny things they allegedly lack, crap that once obtained will fill them. I love that people are making a universe filled with all the trivial wonders of their everyday lives that advertisers will fail to keep up with and pander to. I lean to photography that recognizes the here and now, that realizes temporality, impermanence, but that at the same time fixes moments- works that assert how your own discarded grapefruit can be as important as some airbrushed pneumatic bimbette, or an iphone.

I want to make work that lets other people see the value in what’s right in front of them, to abandon this futile striving to become something/someone else when they’re already here, or could be.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

My dad told me recently “If you’re not selling any pictures, you might want to make pictures people like.” That’s probably the best advice I won’t follow, and I’ll likely keep making pictures that people apparently dislike.

Tell me about your working space and your creative process?

My system has been so thoroughly compromised that I can’t do darkroom, so my workspace is a digital darkroom on a small desk cluttered with threatening letters from creditors, toys, cf cards, magazines (Shots, The New Yorker, Andrea’s copy of Whole Living), and a crippled pc with CS3. I try to reference film without parroting it. Digital images have an antiseptic quality that I try to mediate somehow by working with extremely low end gear, using inappropriate lenses, or shooting through filters.

That may be my painterly background, or an effort to reference tendencies I admire but can’t participate in. I’d like my work to have a certain ambiguity, to make things that compel a viewer to look into them thoughtfully, and to allow ample space for people to bring their own narratives to my work.

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?

Warren Mackenzie for the democratic spirit and stubborn utility of his work. It has been over 3 years since his studio closed and I’m still grieving at the way commerce trashed his Shangri La; or more accurately that it ruined the public’s ability to be a part of it. Garrison Keillor to me is a national treasure. Paul Wellstone was an artist in a wholly different medium. I’m in awe of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joel and Ethan Coen, Low, whoever makes the burger at Duplex, and Edwin Dawes. Dawes painted this iconic image of Minneapolis titled “Channel to the Mills” at the Minneapolis Institute of Art that is frequently interpreted as an expression of vast civic pride. I can’t help but see it as an acrid exit letter, and a warning.

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go?What would we see?

The MIA to see its growing pains as it strains to be less a mausoleum. The Walker reminds me of Radio K; you’ll be subjected to 100 things that anger you in a day, but 2 or three that utterly knock the wind out of you, like the recent Eiko and Koma performance. I go to the Weisman just to admire Frank Gehry’s gall, to Weinstein’s (Weinstein Gallery) on 46th (Mpls), anything mounted by Vance Gellert at IFP (but after opening nights), Franconia Sculpture Park … a pretty typical treadmill of places here.

I also enjoy just walking neighborhoods. Minneapolis has been gaining a novel culture of street art over several years; like work by whoever tags these emoticons with hearts, or the vintage comic panels. Currently, my favorite place to see art right now is the kiosk outside the Wedge. It’s a monument to much of the striving happening here.

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?

The New York Times “Lens” blog (,

David Alan Harvey’s Burn website (,

Inside Analog Photo podcasts- though the interviewer is nauseating (,

American Suburb X (,

I’m also lucky to have a group of friends on facebook that’s plugged in, passionate and that relays events and work they’re jazzed about.

Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?

I’ll be in a group show at SpotArt this April 15th. 2011 ( Just a great venue with scenesters, geriatrics, children, and that living carpet of a dog.

After that, from April 30- May 1, Andrea Cole ( and I will spend two days at potter John Onkka’s compound in Baldwin, Wisconsin as part of the Creative Drive . You can also keep abreast of ‘dinosaur’ as it takes its next steps at our website:

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