up in flames

up in flames is a piece fueled by mixed emotions and unsure desires.  I envisioned this work as a gesture that is not permanent, and will only ever be viewed by those who see this documentation I have full control over.  The work plays with the idea of removable graffiti. In other words, I wanted to create something that allowed me to leave a mark, but then within moments remove all trace of that mark.  My desire to leave an untraceable mark arises from the same confusion I have when it comes to my relationship with a boss I had over last summer.  

George Lange is a well renowned photographer who’s shot the likes of Sophia Loren, Kate Hutson, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and many others.  I was given the chance to work alongside him from editing images, to creating business plans, and even rebranding his entire company to be contemporary and up to date.  

The downfall to our relationship arose once he informed me there would not be any monetary compensation for the entirety of the summer in which I worked for him 9:00am till 5:00pm each day.  After such a strong bond and once in a lifetime opportunity, I felt a complete slap in the face when he refused to follow through with his initial offer. Because of this, I could no longer sit aside and ignore my emotions.

Throughout my time with George, he mentioned this specific mural that he valued and almost idolized.  It’s a mural done by Judy Penzer, coined by the community “Brides Row.” As it is a very respected and revered work of art in the East Liberty community, it makes sense George, another Pittsburgh local, would have such admiration for it.  After looking deeper into the history of how the brick buildings burned down and the artist being killed in an airplane crash, I developed this removable gesture.

Throughout the application of the white tape, I played on repeat the Coldplay song “Up in Flames.”  A song discussing the way in which a relationship has disappeared and become nothing. I choose this song because it mirrors the way I feel about how George and my working relationship burned.  At the end of the song there is a single lyric that goes “Can we pour some water on?” To me, this line is crucial to the entire piece. Although George completely tainted my respect for him, I still recognize the importance of his stature and have a desire to see if we can rekindle a more fair and understood working relationship.  

Being able to remove the graffiti and burn the materials allowed me to get the retribution I needed, but at the same time take away any trace of it being there as it is important to me to respectfully work out the outrage George has caused.

up in flames

Preston Blair


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