by Richard Tuschman on March 10, 2020
My images are created by digitally marrying dollhouse-size dioramas with live models. The sets I built, painted and photographed in my studio. A lot of the furniture is standard dollhouse furniture, but some I made myself. I then photographed the live models against a plain backdrop, and lastly, made the digital composites in Photoshop.
When I began the series, my plan was to base each work on a specific Hopper painting, and this is the case in the earlier works in the series. As the series progressed, though, I felt more freedom to create my own compositions that were inspired by Hopper's style and vision, but not based on specific paintings.
I have always loved the way Hopper’s paintings, with an economy of means, are able to address the mysteries and complexities of the human condition. Placing one or two figures in humble, intimate settings, he created quiet scenes that are psychologically compelling with open-ended narratives. The characters’ emotional states can seem to waver paradoxically between reverie and alienation, or perhaps between longing and resignation. Dramatic lighting heightens the emotional overtones, but any final interpretation is left to the viewer. These are all qualities I hope to imbue in my images as well.
In other ways, my pictures diverge from Hopper’s paintings. The general mood in my work is more somber, and the lighting is less harsh, than in Hopper’s. I am trying to achieve an effect perhaps closer to the chiaroscuro lighting of Rembrandt, another painter I greatly admire. I would like the lighting to act as almost another character, not only illuminating the form of the figures, but also echoing and evoking the their inner lives. I suppose I would like to marry the theatricality of Rembrandt with the humility of Hopper. In this way, I like to think of my images as dramas for a small stage, with the figures as actors in a one or two character play. The characters, by appearance, are rooted specifically in the past, somewhere in Hopper’s mid-twentieth century. For me, this augments the dreamlike, staged effect of the scenes. The themes they evoke, though—solitude, alienation, longing—are timeless and universal.
Like Hopper Meditations, my previous series, the images in Once Upon A Time In Kazimierz were created by digitally marrying dollhouse-size dioramas with live models. First, I built, painted and photographed the sets in my studio. I then photographed the live models against a plain backdrop, and lastly, made the digital composites in Photoshop. This way of working affords me control over the elements of set design, lighting, and composition. All of these aspects are significantly inspired by both theatre and cinema, as well as the artists I mentioned. While I strive to make the miniature sets as convincing as possible, they deviate just enough from reality to enhance the theatrical, slightly surreal mood.
In an attempt to both depart from and build upon Hopper Meditations, in which each image contained its own discrete story, all of the images in Once Upon A Time In Kazimierz are linked to a larger narrative arc. While I have a particular sequence of events in my own mind, I like to think of this story as open-ended, perhaps as movie stills from an unseen motion picture. Thus, each viewer is left to ponder and interpret each image, to fill in the gaps between the images, or to rearrange their chronological sequence. It is my hope that in this way, the pictures in Once Upon A Time In Kazimierz reflect the fleeting, fluid nature of both memory, and of dreams.
©2020 Richard Tuschman. All rights reserved.
Originally trained as a painter, Richard Tuschman brings a fine art sensibility to his commercial projects, always in the service of creating original, emotionally compelling imagery. In a decades long career as both an illustrator and photographer, he has created memorable images for clients such as The New York Times, Adobe Systems, HBO, Sports Illustrated, The NFL, Penguin Random House, and many others.