Shane Guffogg Studio: July Newsletter
Behind the scenes look at The art of Art documentary series for digital streaming
July 24, 2021, marks the release of the first episode of The art of Art, which is a new program that delves into the creative process of visual and performing artists, hosted by Los Angeles-based artist Shane Guffogg and released on the newly launched independent arts hub HIERONYVISION. (https://hieronyvision.com/). There are multiple episodes for each artist which will gradually be released one by one. A few prequel episodes feature the host, Shane Guffogg, setting the groundwork for the look and feel of the show, introducing the audience to Guffogg’s art and perspective of living the life of an artist. The first series episode is with Laura Hipke, who shares the inspiration she gets from the photographs of August Sander and how she transforms his black and white portraits into her own narrative that further explores the human condition in her painting.
The visuals of each episode are a feast for the eyes as Guffogg takes the viewer for studio and gallery visits that set the tone for insightful discussions about the impulse to create and the techniques that are used, giving this series a rare, behind the scenes look into our human need to express and communicate through art.
VC: What are some of the key moments in the series that you found thrilling, and you are excited to share with your viewers?
Shane Guffogg: Oh, one great moment was Michael Lindsay-Hogg retelling the story of how and why he came up with the idea for The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. Also, how it all came about with him getting the Beatles onto the rooftop in London for their final live performance.
Another great part of this series for me is learning about each artist’s background. Stanley Dorfman’s life began in South Africa where he studied architecture. Laura Hipke reveals a very intuitive process she has created for herself to get to the essence of what she needs to see in her work. Suzanna Schulten’s story of growing up in Germany, working as an actress. The list goes on but what it comes down to is that we all have a story and for these people, their stories are embedded in their creative process.
V.C.: There is a great deal of change in the world at the moment, why make an art documentary now? And why is the artist practice so important to share?
Shane Guffogg: There is major change underfoot for sure, and it can leave all of us feeling displaced, confused, or anxious. Bottling those emotions up inside is not good for anyone. The artist’s role, as I like to say, is that of a shaman. Their job is to go within themselves and bring back their findings in share these findings in their chosen medium. This series gives the audience an inroad to the artist’s process and thoughts that, which I think, makes the art more accessible and meaningful for the audience.
|V.C.: Felix I found your media company, HieronyVision on Instagram, what was going through your mind when I proposed the idea of reviewing the series? Where you looking for an art documentary to be involved in?|
Felix Werner: It was a really pleasant surprise. I’m a little weary of social media sometimes but this was a nice instance of it working in a positive way. It also helped tremendously when we spoke to you both for the first time and realized how much your philosophies blended with ours…and realized that you were also really nice people!
For the HV hub, we create short documentaries on established and up-and-coming artists, musicians, and filmmakers. However, here it was nice to see something already shot that just needed some help to get it across the finish line. It was an excellent fit for how we can help creative projects.
V.C.: What were your first impressions after visiting Western Avenue Courtyard, Hollywood, where many of the show’s episode discussions were recorded?
Felix Werner: I loved the location and peeking into the artists’ studios that populate the building. It was clear why this would be welcoming to wonderful conversations about the arts. Our content on the site has a motto of it should provoke, inspire and entertain. The courtyard definitely inspired me!
V.C: What made you decide to take on the project? You have a long history of working in the film industry, actually, generations, do you feel art documentaries are important on a humanist level to inspire all platforms of creativity?
Felix Werner: My family and professional background is in filmmaking and the arts. My first job after graduating from UCLA was working in the Education and Film Departments at LACMA. It was incredible. I was able to work on some of the exhibition-related film programing, with some very talented art educators and curators.
Documentaries provide a wonderful way to enlighten viewers about art and artists, but hopefully, they also make them more accessible to those experiencing the creative process for the first time. Our goal with these brief stories is to give a little insight and inspire the viewer to learn more. Part of the process in this type of documentary is then for the filmmaker to get out of the way and let the artist speak for themselves. Billy Wilder famously said “…What movies can do, at their best, is let us in — they show us things, they don’t tell us.” I think viewers enjoy discovering.
V.C: Were there any films you directed in the past that made this series really ripe to work on now?
Felix Werner: I’m really more of a creative producer. Particularly with documentaries, one has to set aside any grand visions of being an auteur! It’s a lot about listening and collaboration. The timing and variety of artists in this series are wonderful and Shane is a really thoughtful interviewer and loves discussing the details of the creative process. It makes assembling the episodes a lot of fun. I hope they also resonate with a younger audience, who are maybe looking for something easily digestible but still a lot more satisfying than most social media.
V.C. James, to begin the editing process, there was a great deal of material to sort through, what was your plan of attack?
James Fields: It was important for me to get a good understanding of each artist. I watched all the interviews and quickly discovered that they all have very unique stories to tell. With so much material to sort through, I thought the best plan of attack would be to focus on them one at a time. This allowed me to really get to know each person.
As I’m editing, I’m very engaged with each subject. I smile as they smile, or I feel the pain of a struggle they talk about. And by the time I’m through, I feel like I know them; like they’re an old friend. I’m essentially taking on the roles of audience and editor, at the same time. Hopefully, that lends itself to a better story.
V.C.: Are there any films you made or edited in the past that inspired you to take on a bit of that theme or energy to feed this project?
James Fields: Yes. I started as a documentary filmmaker in 2001. My second film, Pipe Dreams, was a documentary on two Olympic-level athletes and their journeys to the Olympics. Similar to The Art of Art, we had mountains of footage. And through all that material we had to find the story.
Often times the story changes in the editing process. Things you didn’t know were there suddenly pop up and alter the direction. That taught me to approach each project with a blank canvas, regardless of whether I was involved in the filming process or not. I applied the same “blank canvas” idea to The art of Art.
V.C.: Based on the series format, is there a golden thread that is carried through from one episode to the next? Or is each episode format completely different? Did you try any experimental formats to convey each story?
James Fields: I would say that each episode is different. The golden thread that exists is really one of intimacy with each person. We discover that art can show up in many different forms and have many different meanings. But getting to know each artist allows their words to resonate with an audience.
V.C.: What do we have to look forward to for Season 2?
James Fields: Season 2 has some great artists. I know their stories are very cool, but with most of my focus on Season 1, I haven’t given them too much attention yet. But that’s actually a good thing for me. I will have allowed myself to be far enough removed from their stories, that when I revisit those interviews, it will be a great re-discovery. But I’m very excited to see them come to life. V.C: Brilliant! Thank you, Shane, Felix, and James for taking the time to answer my questions. The viewers will be so inspired to learn about the artist’s narratives through this unique series!