This interview took place on August 17th, 2020.
Myles Kleinfeld’s work is currently on display at Siy Gallery in the SHAPE OF LIGHT: Intersection of Light in Life Abstract Photography exhibit. To see more of his work, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/myleskleinfeld.
What themes do you address in your work? Are there any motifs/symbols that you like to use throughout your work?
I like minimalism. I like removing extraneous visual information as much as possible and simplifying things into just shapes and colors. The older I get, the more I strive to simplify.
Can you describe the relationship between your work and mental health, whether it be your own mental health, that of viewers and consumers of your work, general concepts, etc.?
The agenda of the gallery, which is towards mental health, is wonderful, and unique, as far as I know. I think it adds a dimension to the gallery space—having a collective of artists that has that focus. Regarding my own work, I don’t think about it, in that it’s not a theme that runs through my thought process, except that maybe when I shoot, when I’m creating something, it does give me a sense of escapism from daily problems and stresses. But it’s not something I actually consciously think about, but in some regards I can see that it could be considered a therapy for me.
For me, [making art] turns out to be an escape because I’m so focused on it and I’m not focused on anything else. For other artists that I’ve talked to, it gets the demon out of their minds.
Vertical Stripes of Glass
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from contemporary art. I like to keep relevant in terms of the museum shows. I like to keep relevant in terms of First Thursdays in San Francisco, when the galleries open up at 5pm on the first Thursday of every month and show their wares. They’re putting out what they think is contemporary. When I go through these galleries, and I see what they think is contemporary, I collectively put that all together, and that inspires me. I want to keep contemporary, and I think the only way to do that is to continually immerse yourself with artists in your time, your geography, and your media. Then, on a museum level, seeing what the curators of these museums think is contemporary, what they decide to pick for the emerging artists shows—that’s also inspirational to me. I want to stay with the pack, so to speak.
My original inspiration came out of my early college-level courses in art history. I had to have a background in the great works, and that was my initial inspiration. They threw up slides, and you had to tell who the artist was, when the work was done; I had to memorize this stuff. That was the foundation for my minimalism, creative inspiration, the look and feel of the work that I'm doing. I really have to chalk it up to my original professors who created that foundation.
Can you describe your artistic process?
As I walk through life, I respond to patterns. Because patterns make up life, and we’re creatures of habit. I’m very comfortable with patterns. So as I walk through life, or I walk through a city street, or I walk through a parking lot, and I see a pattern that resonates with my visual experiences, then I say wow, I’m gonna photograph that, I’m gonna paint it. I also do digital painting. But I only paint when I can’t shoot.
I like digital painting. People seem to think it’s more valid. This has been going on since the Pictorialists; people don’t look at photography as art. To this day, there are people who don’t really consider photography art. They consider painting art, or watercolors, or sculpture, or light, fooling around with light patterns, or resins. And that’s fine. And that may be part of the reason why I might move more towards digital painting than traditional photography. But I don’t know, I haven’t reached that point; it’s something that I see on the horizon.
Pasted Stars on Plastic
I understand you shoot digital photography. What are your thoughts on digital versus film?
I went to college at Rochester Institute of Technology, which was at the time one of the greatest photography schools, only because Kodak was located in Rochester. The materials and processes that go on with film photography are very chemically oriented. It’s a chemical process. The chemicals are very toxic, and are also really bad for the environment. I spent I don’t know how many hours in a dark room, before digital, processing my film and printing it. My fingers were yellow from fixer.
So, having said that, the idea of the zone system, and Ansel Adams, and what the medium of film—or let’s say non-digital photography—can give you, the range in tone, the range in shadow, and the control, is, in my opinion, unparalleled. Digital photography has not been able to duplicate the aesthetic of traditional film photography. It has in terms of resolution—megapixels and that sort of thing, yes, I believe that the digital cameras of today rival 35mm negatives.
My own personal reasoning for going digital is the immediacy of it. I don’t have to go into a dark room, I don’t have to send it out, I don’t have to wait, and have to edit myself to thirty-six images per roll. I can crank them out, I can see them that night, I can process them, I can print them; I’ve got a piece at the end of the day and it’s done, it’s cooked, it’s beautiful, it’s fine, someone will buy it. If there was some sort of magical process where I could use film, and it didn’t destroy the environment, and I could get the immediacy of getting work and the idea of not editing the work the way that we used to in film, I would go with film. I think that film is much more elegant, much more beautiful, much more aesthetically pleasing, and you have a lot more control over subtle nuances.
Self Portrait 5
What is your most notable piece? As in, your favorite, or one with an interesting story behind it, or a piece that especially frustrated you, etc.
There’s a self portrait I shot at a recycling yard that had a mirror. I had to crouch down so tightly to get my whole body in this mirror that I hurt my back for like, a month and a half. I had to twist myself up to get my entire reflection in this broken mirror, and in doing so I was bent down for like twenty minutes in this weird position, and I hurt myself. It’s definitely not my favorite, but it put me in bed for two months. I learned my lesson.
Formations in Sand Stone
What do you hope that your work conveys?
Nothing. I really don’t want to get into politics, I don’t want to get into ego, I don’t want to get into pain, self-loathing, love—I don’t want to get into any of that. I just simply want the relationship between the objects and colors to speak for themselves. That’s where minimalism really comes into play, because the more I remove myself from my art, the more I like it. I reject the need to insert myself into any of my images. They speak for themselves.
I’m working on simplifying my vision. What’s actually next is to get out of the house, get out and shoot. A lot of the antique fairs and flea markets that I typically shoot at have been closed for five months, so I’d really like to get out and start shooting. But I’m working on my vision of simplicity, of color, of light, of texture, of shapes, and their relationships to each other. I’m continuing to move in that direction.