Jan 18, 2010 ellen leahy Uncategorized
Artist feels at home in the Salt City
Art is self expression; And, through the process of observing or creating it, one is often able to get a glimpse of the illusive self. Great art transcends the artist’s self and speaks to others deeply.
Now what if the artist is a twin? What differentiates one twin from another? Are twins duplicates? Or one half of each other? Or just as individual as anyone else? Where does one twin start and the other leave off? What if the twins are artists?
Meet artist Colleen Woolpert, whose life began in Michigan, the mitten state. She is a twin; both are artists. It was more recognizable in her sister Rani early on, and because people often need to label twins to differentiate them, Rani was “the artist.”
“My interest in various art forms became focused on my clarinet practice, thus I was ‘the musician.'” Colleen said. “Under the shadow of my sister’s talent, I didn’t explore the visual arts until we left for separate colleges, where I studied photography.”
Coming to Syracuse
Colleen came to Syracuse with her husband who was accepted into the English Department’s Ph.D. program. Her deep connection to Syracuse began when she opened a photography studio in the Gear Factory. Meanwhile, her husband left SU after one year and Syracuse, as well. Colleen literally stayed put.
As 8-year-old girls the Woolpert twins visited their father in San Francisco. “This is when dad took us to Musee Mecanique,” Colleen said.
This became her most magical memory, a visit to the Musee Mechanique at the Cliff House. Although, the memory was set aside until a return trip to the bay area decades later where she stumbled upon the museum in the midst of its move to the San Francisco pier.
She was transported back to that little girl and charmed all over again by the early mechanical machines especially the mutoscope — a precursor to Cinema film. Fast forward to Syracuse, where she discovers the mutoscope was invented and built in the building that hosts her studio.
That area of the city where Fayette and Geddes Streets intersect was once called “The cradle of invention” and is today a center of inventive, innovative thinking, she noted.
Before starting her study in Syracuse
After training as a classical musician, Colleen studied at Western Michigan U with a major in art and a concentration in photography. A year after finishing college, she started her photography business, working as a freelance photojournalist and editorial shooter for newspapers and magazines.
About five years into the business, she shot her first wedding assignment, which led to more than 100 such assignments in fifteen states and in Mexico over the next several years. Her unique approach brought national attention. Her work regularly appeared in national magazines including Modern Bride.
What sets her apart is her work is quite eccentric, often drawing a similar clientel. Her weddings are shot more documentary style than portrait, but also include the classic portraiture necessary to document a grand affair.
There is a definite voice in her work. It is sparse, clear captures that can often mimic classic art. Woolpert thinks this comes from her passion for art history. Her work literally speaks to the observer, as a visual language, a commentary on the subject. And where appropriate, there is often something quite amusing in her captures.
Before enrolling as a graduate student in SU’s School of Visual and Performing Arts, she did some teaching, which includes developing a photo program for a prep school in New Jersey. Since coming to Syracuse, she has taught photography to adults at Community Darkrooms, to a group of 12-year old girls (most of which were African refugees) at the Central Village Boys and Girls Club, to students at Syracuse University and guest lectured on photography at Onondaga Community College.
“My interest in teaching is to help students develop confidence and their own unique style,” she said.
Mastering her art
Her goals during the three-year masters program include the ability to talk about her photography comprehensively and to take advantage of the university’s resources to evolve her work.
“While I was technically adept with the camera when I started the MFA program, I am now learning new skills to integrate sculpture and video into my work,” she said.
Stepping out of her business role is enabling her to rediscover her passion for the arts and to experiment with her early fascinations–with the stereoscope and the mutoscope.
Her current work relates to twinship. Here she is combining her style with an original optical tool for viewing images in three dimension – the stereoscopic handheld viewer.
Focus on 3-D
She is in the process of experimenting with retooling that device for a different viewer experience. Although 3-D has been dabbled in for more than a century, she feels it will be the next technology focused on for the mass market. In fact, after she said this, there was a report on the national CBS evening news that the technology for 3-D screens similar to our High Definition sets were in the R&D phase. The technology was also rolled out at the National Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this month.
It’s cost prohibitive at present, similar to the early HD, with the additional concern of the need for the viewer to wear special glasses.
In stereoscopic capture, the photographer takes two images that are a precise amount off from each other – this creates the 3-D experience when viewed under a particular set of lenses. Colleen has done this combining two separate but similar images – one of herself and one of her twin. At present their hairstyles are different (see picture on cover).
Colleen has also been documenting ordinary Syracuse nightlife in 3-D, the resulting images are classic. The 2-D images become extraordinary as the third dimension elevates details that might not otherwise be noteworthy.
Keep an eye out for her captures and remember the name Colleen Woolpert, as she has fallen in love with Syracuse, her talent and practice gives Syracuse more than enough reason to return that favor.