It’s typical in the art world to know and love an artist’s work without ever meeting the artist.
And if we are lucky enough to meet the artist, we can expect an interesting conversation at the very least.
But a love fest in the gallery? That is lucky indeed.
What the Nasher Museum advertised as a gallery talk by artist and photographer Burk Uzzle turned into a buzzing back-and-forth of happy energy between the artist and the crowd of about 60.
He inspired us and gave us a few things to think about.
“What I learned to do was break rules,” Burk told us. “What I learned the hard way was to throw myself into the middle of circumstances.”
Burk grew up in Raleigh and started taking pictures at age 10. He never went to college, but moved to New York and was hired as the youngest photographer for Life magazine in the ’60s. Over the decades, he became known for his iconic photographs of Woodstock and other recordings of American life. In 1997 he left New York and eventually found his way back to Wilson, N.C., because, he said, “What I really wanted to do was come back to the place that formed me and the people who formed me.”
Burk’s van has about 250,000 miles on it. He loads it up with cameras of all sizes and a sleeping bag, “And I just go.”
The artist prefers small towns and a sense of discovery. He relies on serendipity to come across situations that capture his lens. Sometimes he’ll visit a location more than once, like a certain “whorehouse” in Nevada.
His mind works more like a painter than a documentary photographer, he said. He does not listen to lyrics in a song, for example, he listens to the melody. “What I do is I see melody, I see songs in my photographs.”
Without getting too technical on us, Burk talked about his technique: straight photographs (no Photoshop), real film, slow F-stop, 8×10 camera.
He also talked about his clean style of living–no drinking, no smoking and plenty of exercise. “I’m purposely this dried up, skinny little runt because it works for me.”
Burk is headed back to Wilson, where he is renovating his dream studio complete with ballroom dance floor. We’re excited to follow Burk’s career.
Three of Burk’s photographs are on view now in the museum’s permanent collection.
IMAGE: Photo of Burk Uzzle by Dr. J Caldwell.
Works on view:
Burk Uzzle, “Orange Trailer, Arizona,” 2006. C-prints. Promised Gift of Charles Weinraub and Emily Kass.
Burk Uzzle, “Black Barn, North Carolina,” 2006. C-prints. Promised Gift of Charles Weinraub and Emily Kass.
Burk Uzzle, “Tree with Refrigerator, Washington,” 2006. C-prints. Promised Gift of Charles Weinraub and Emily Kass.