Inside My Big Fat Head
The title of the exhibition; Inside My Big Fat Head, gives us a clue as to what this exhibition of photographic works by Richard Stamps is about. Not shy about voicing his opinion about a wide range of topics, the artist is giving us a glimpse on what he sees in the world that attracts him; attracts him as in draws his wonder.
Stamps is a little like Valentine Michael Smith, not that the artist was born on Mars and raised by Martians, as presented in Stranger in a Strange Land, a 1961 science fiction novel by American author Robert A. Heinlein. Smith in the novel, who was born away, is unfamiliar with the culture and customs of earth, and when he returns, sees and experiences everything in a fresh and un-prescribed way, at least un-prescribed as earthlings would have it.
Stamps like Smith, the person brought up by Martians, is largely comfortable with the strangeness of the world. The artist and his camera capture the surprising, the ambiguous, and the foreign. Some artists intend to convey a message, sometimes political, sometimes social; aimed at drawing us into emotional or physical or intellectual engagement. It is the belief of this writer that this is not Stamps’ intent. Richard is simply on a trip, a road trip that is. There is no question that the images in this exhibition selected from hundreds, maybe thousands, elicit a response in the viewer; sometimes trying to figure out what is going on, and in others, discomfort, because what is going on is too clear. Dissembling the word “Disease” into two words, “Dis Ease” best captures my experiences of many of Stamps’ images.
The images range from the upside down portrait of Eyes Wide Open, to the back-lite figure with a top-hat, Carnivale II. Nose Candy aligns a term connected with cocaine sniffing with the awkwardly portrayed figures on a parade float. What is the nose up to? The stalwart trombone player in Split Personality waits while red and blue lights illuminate each side of her face; a young Dominican woman stares at you from the other side of a barbed-wire barrier, apparently with an expression of contentedness; two young girls look down, faces illuminated most likely from their smart phones. We are left, many times wanting more. Asking ourselves, “What’s going on here? Can someone give me a context? Why is the photographe presenting me with this image?” If I put myself into Stamps head, “yes, that “Big Fat Head,” I would say back, “This is what I happened upon that day and that’s all you get.” We are lucky we don’t get more. If we are comfortable with our “Dis Ease”, we are able to revel in a world of strange people, strange landscapes and strange activities. We are fortunate that Stamps is a stranger in a strange land because it is through his images that we too see things anew, also as strangers in a strange land.