Friday, November 20, 2009

Go Frank!!

Grand Master Frank Frazetta's cover painting for the Lancer paperback, Conan the Conqueror by Robert E. Howard, sold this week to a private collector for a reported $1,000,000. The previous record price for a Frazetta painting was the $251,000 All Star Auctions fetched for the cover to Escape on Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 2008.

There has always been something of a mystique surrounding Frazetta's Conan covers; partly because they were the "first" successful Conan paperbacks and the first exposure to the character for the Baby Boomer generation of readers; partly because Frank got the assignment at the time when his painting skills had improved significantly and he felt he had something to prove; partly because the Frazettas had kept all of the Conan covers for the last 40-odd years (except for Conan of Aquilonia, which was stolen from Lancer's office when the publisher went bankrupt). Burroughs and Vampirella paintings came and went, but Frank and Ellie wouldn't even entertain offers from interested buyers for the Conans.

The covers only rarely followed Howard's descriptions or story situations and when asked if he had ever read the books Frank recently replied, "I didn¹t read any of it. It was too opposite of what I do. I told them that. So, I drew him my way. It was really rugged. And it caught on. I didn't care about what people thought. People who bought the books never complained about it. They probably didn¹t read them."

A little Frazetta swagger decades after the fact, but he was genuinely excited by the opportunity at the time (and relied on friend Roy Krenkel to feed him descriptions and plot summaries) and it shows in the resulting covers – with Conan the Conqueror perhaps the penultimate painting in the canon.

And, yes, people did read the books.

All of the Conan covers have been displayed at the Frazetta Museum in East Stroudsburg over the last decade. Whether the others will be offered for sale in the future isn't known at this time.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

This was a total surprise that made my day. A review of some of my photos from the Dreamland show.

Tom LeFevre


Dreamland exhibition

Fall 2009

Stroudsburg, PA.

Any new photographic voice is automatically suspect. The development of modern technology has left all photographers baking under the heat lamp of Photoshop, digitalization, image manipulation, and cell phone camera over use. Besides these contemporary tools, the shadows of Streichen, Strand, Adams, Witken, Mondotti, and Weston, respectively, are permanently lurking as perpetual influences. This said, the photography of Tom LeFevre attempts not only a reconciliation with the historical influences and an acceptance of modern techniques, but a break with the idea that the initial image is the final statement, something many of these past visionaries also shared and understood.

In photography it is difficult to establish a personal vision. It seems as if all of the images have been taken and reworked. LeFevre, however, has found an eye. He has developed within his series of photos a direction that warrants serious further investigation and development. Hidden in the series of typical beach scenes and animals (well done in their own right) is a true artistic statement. Focusing on the beauty of decay, echoed in the work of Strand and Matta-Clark, and connected further to the painted canvases of native Pennsylvanians Charles Sheeler and John Moore, LeFevre's focus on dilapidated buildings and the beauty evident in their decline becomes his work's epic moment. The buildings not only sit on the landscape, they sprout from it. The focal angle fits each building. And through the use of cutting edge photo-combination and manipulation he is able to present a history of the structure rooted in the present.

The image's details not only leap off the page, but shimmer in their presentation; the viewer is instantly captured by the splintering wood, rusting metal and broken glass. The ages of the structures are not important. The photos become examinations of not only the environment, but the history. LeFevre forces the viewer to confront the circumstances that have produced the decline. He stands outside the lines, and focuses his vision on the permanence of history, and the debt owed to those who have come before. He first loves the scenes he takes; they become art later. However, without the initial image, all the technology in the world could not produce the artistic vision.

The difference between Tom LeFevre and the millions of photographers taking millions of images is that between his eye and the shutter button leaps the instinct to produce images that speak to a deeper understanding of time and space, and the beauty evident in all things, at all times, in all places.

James Lansing


Tonight at the Jukebox, come on out and meet Earl Kessler an amazing artist who has over 40 pieces of his awesome work displayed for the month of November. Opening reception will take place from 7-9 pm.