E-Project: The Frame Game

June 2, 2010
By Reuel Golden

Photo Credit: © Gregory Scott/Courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago
A self-portrait of artist Gregory Scott.
Five years ago, the artist Gregory Scott was part of a group show of MFA photography students at Indiana University held at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago. Scott wasn't able to attend, so in his absence he made a life-size cut out of himself, painted it from head to shoes in the clothes he had planned to wear at the gallery opening; and most significantly given how his art would evolve, he also placed a small video screen in the center of his painting. The video loop showed Scott's hands holding up a sign thanking people for attending, a glass of wine and even a trash container for the galley attendees. Scott now describes his creation as "on the verge of naïve art." Nevertheless, it resonated with the visitors to the show, and with gallery owner Catherine Edelman, who now represents him. The project started Scott on unique artistic journey that seamlessly combines video, photography and painting.

His pieces vary in terms of complexity and reference, but perhaps "Echo," a piece he created for his recent exhibition at the New Orleans gallery Arthur Roger, is quintessential. Like all his pieces, it features the artist within the frame. Scott, a 53-year-old graduate from the Institute of Design, says he places himself in his work because it needs a human element and because he represents "Everyman."

A couple of months before the show, Scott went down to the gallery and shot the exact spot where the work was going to be exhibited with a Canon 5D camera. In the next stage, he made a painting of the gallery owner's dog, who would come to play a significant role in the video, and an abstract work that in the video Scott is seen hanging and moving around the space. Next, Scott shot the video from the same vantage point of where the photograph was taken. Most of the time he uses the same Canon 5D and a Canon Vixia HF S100. The finished work depicts a gallery within a gallery where seemingly still elements like the dog suddenly come to life.

The next stage is figuring out the size of the final piece and how large the video needs to be to fill the hole in the painting/photograph. Scott experiments with monitors of different sizes to ensure that the still image is enlarged to be in scale with the video and vice versa. Scott says, "Right before the last stage of video editing, I run some size tests with the video playing on the selected monitor. Adjustments are made to get the video to fit the hole," which he cuts into the images. "Some pieces allow a little slack, others require a perfectly sized fit."

Then Scott moves onto the video editing, which he describes as "tedious" but "crucial" in equal measure. It is the video's narrative that is grabbing viewer's attention and hooking them into the art. "Most video art is so esoteric and obscure that you have to spend several minutes to get to the point of the piece," says Scott. This is not the case here. Although he uses basic software programs such as After Effects, Final Cut Pro and Premiere, the five-minute-plus videos are tightly edited little gems packed with humor and narrative twists that "skirt on the edges of entertainment," in the words of Scott.

The final stage is mounting the work. Most of the video is 1080p HD, copied to a USB flash drive and run by a small media player to a monitor or TV.

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