We're excited to announce the lineup of talented artists and makers for Week 1 of…
Each month, we will feature one of the talented artists that live and work in The Barn, and share with you their passions, projects, and thoughts on being a part of The Barn.
A conversation with Michael LaPorte:
What is the medium of art in which you work?
I started off years ago, after a stint in Schenectady County Community College as a Lit. Major, as a poet. I really had some quite romantic notions at the time of traveling across country a la Jack Kerouac, writing verse and generally raising hell. While I succeeded at the latter, the amount of verse I produced was negligible. Luckily, I landed in Santa Fe, NM., where I was able to find work in Native American Art galleries for several years, which sustained me for quite some time. It also gave me the opportunity to pursue my other passion, which is playing Blues Harmonica with local bands there, and more recently since I moved back East, my interest in Photography.
Who is your favorite artist/creative placemaker and why?
Boy…that is a tough question. I have so many artists I admire and respect. I would have to say, as far as my own work is concerned, for Photography, I greatly admire the work of the French Photographers Brassai and Henri Cartier-Bresson for being able to capture an essence of mystery and emotion in their still-life and street portraiture. I also am a fan of Dorothea Lange and Diane Arbus, who were able to capture people who might be living at the margins of society and infuse their portraits with grace and dignity while making social commentary at the same time. Lastly, I am a great admirer of the Rock Photographer Bob Gruen, who has shot many memorable photos of the New York City Punk scene of Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s from the late 1970’s. He was able to chronicle an important part of musical history, and his images of performers from that period seem to explode with energy when viewed.
For my music, there really is only one place to go for Blues Harp. I am greatly influenced by the musicians that made the trek from the rural Mississippi delta in the 1940s and ’50s to the more urban South-Side of Chicago. People like Muddy Waters, Little Walter, James Cotton and Junior Wells have all had a tremendous influence on my playing, as well as their devotee’s, such as Paul Butterfield and Mark Wenner of The Night Hawks. The script has pretty much been written by musicians of that caliber. I just am trying my best to follow their lead, and create Blues music that is real and authentic and does the genre credit.
Overall though, if I had to pick only one artist I would think had the most influence on me, I would have to say Andy Warhol. Not so much for his aesthetic (which I greatly admire), but for the ability he had to travel between and experiment in so many different art forms. I like the fact that he had that kind of freedom to explore and create.
How has your work evolved in the past 5 years?
I went through some major life-altering events in my life 5 years ago. Without going into too much detail, suffice to say, I literally had to start my life over again from the bottom up. It was an extremely difficult, humbling and dark time for me. Art literally was a life-saver for me. I began making photographic trips down to NYC to give my life some balance from all the intense personal things I was dealing with. Locally, I was lucky enough to hook up with a great bunch of friends and musicians to help me deal with and process a lot of the pent-up feelings I was going through. I think this ‘trial by fire’ really helped me by giving some real emotional content to the work I was producing on all fronts.
What is your favorite part about living and working at The Barn?
My favorite part about my Barn ‘experience’ so far are the amazing people that I have met living and creating here. There is such a wealth of talented artists from all backgrounds, age-groups, etc. that bring so much creativity to this place. I feel so honored and grateful to be here, and I’ve learned from everybody I’ve met. It is such a supportive environment, and Kristen and her staff do everything they can to help facilitate our dreams of trying to be successful at what we do. I don’t think I could have landed in a better place to follow my artistic dreams in Albany and turn them into reality.
What’s up next for you and your work?
My band, ‘The Andrew Wheeler Electric Blues Band’ is steadily making a dent into the local area Blues scene, so we are looking forward to the coming months to be playing around the area, and hopefully getting good enough to take our act on the road to hit some of the Blues festivals around the country. Also, since I have been recovering from some major ankle surgery I had last August, I have been somewhat of a hermit and recluse because of my recovery period. I’d like to maybe do some photographic road trips this summer. There is a lot happening in our country right now that needs to be chronicled. This is an important moment I think in our country’s history and I want to be there to witness and record it.