For those of you who don’t know about Gallery 478 in San Pedro, California let me say that you’ve been missing out. The gallery is owned by photographer Ray Carofano who presents art work in a variety of media.
Ray’s photography shows are always a wonderful treat for anyone who is interested in modern photography. I wrote about his current show featuring the photos of Bruce Ecker on November 24 and have since had the opportunity to see the show at the opening reception. The work in this show covers a variety of themes but share the common thread that they are all self-portraits. I can’t remember seeing any other exhibition of any size by an artist in which every photo is an expression of his alter egos.
Bruce Ecker, who also answers to the name Dr. LaRue, is a local artist who has lived in San Pedro since 1985. Although this is not his first show, it is the first show featuring his self-portraits. Bruce brings a sense of offbeat playfulness to these photos. Each group of photos shows Bruce’s mastery of lighting. And each group presents the viewer with a look at rather odd moments in life.
The group of self-portraits that I found to be the most interesting are from the Son of Clownfaced series. I asked Bruce to tell me more about this series including some of his thoughts about it. Here is what Bruce had to say:
“The clown does not have a name; he is the son of a clown – the son of Clownfaced. He is not really a clown, in the traditional sense, since he didn’t go into the business and he has no traditional clowning skills. He does not know how to make people laugh. He is just like everyone else, except he doesn’t look like everyone else. Most people can tell that he is not really the thing that he appears to be.
I can’t explain why one day I decided I needed a clown nose. Things like this just happen. One year, and several grease-painted head shots after the nose arrived, a pair of clown shoes were purchased for a self-portrait in a jail cell. And there I was, I had the shoes, the nose, and no interest in wearing grease paint ever again. As it happened, the clown shoes were the only good shoes I had, so I started wearing them on occasions when good shoes were required. I was, both, surprised and relieved to find that usually no one noticed that I was wearing clown shoes in public. A friend, that had noticed, came to the studio one night with a suitcase containing a clown suit. I was not fond of it when I received it; I really did not want to keep it. The suit had come from a real (but recently deceased) clown. Though that was an appealing provenance, it wasn’t enough for me to want to make a commitment to it — every stitch of clothing I own is a commitment and I do not wear any of them lightly. To this day, when I open the suitcase, I am disturbed by the look, the smell, and the feel of the suit… until I put it on. It is not a pleasant outfit to wear. It is made of wool — it is hot, ill-fitting, awkward to move around in, and falling apart. But not long after the shoes are tied and the nose is taped in place, I start to feel rather comfortable…both, in the suit, and as is so rarely the case, in my own skin. The clown has become more than a prop, more than a persona…It is a tool to explore, to cope with, to poke fun at the normality and incongruence of everyday life.”
This is truly a show worth seeing.
Bruce’s show runs through February 25, 2011
Gallery 478 is located at 478 W. Seventh St., San Pedro, CA 90731
Gallery hours are Monday – Friday, 11 AM – 5 PM and by appointment. For visuals or additional information please call 310-732-2150.
By Jim McKinniss