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A Tribal War Dancer, a Beekeeper, a Slew of Artists and More at PechaKucha at the Parrish Art Museum

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Michael Halsband's photograph of Andy Warhol & Jean-Michel Basquiat #143 New York City, July 10, 1985. Mr. Halsband is one of 10 presenters from various fields who will present at PechaKucha Night Hamptons at the Parrish Art Museum Friday, June 13. Image courtesy of Michael Halsband.

Michael Halsband’s photograph of Andy Warhol & Jean-Michel Basquiat #143 New York City, July 10, 1985. Mr. Halsband is one of 10 presenters from various fields who will present at PechaKucha Night Hamptons at the Parrish Art Museum Friday, June 13. Image courtesy of Michael Halsband.

By Tessa Raebeck

When Michael Halsband announced, “I’m into photography,” to his parents at age 10, they promised to buy him a camera if he was still into it in a year. A few years later, he had gained admission to the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, photographed the likes of Andy Warhol, David Byrne and Klaus Nomi (the latter for his senior thesis)—and earned that camera. A year after graduating, he was photographing Keith Richards for the cover of Rolling Stone.

Mr. Halsband will be one of 10 presenters at the eighth edition of PechaKucha Night Hamptons at the Parrish Art Museum this Friday, June 13. The program, now in its third year, introduces the community to some of its most intriguing members through rapid-fire presentations about living creatively on the East End. Each speaker shows 20 slides for 20 seconds, sharing a life of creativity in six minutes and 40 seconds.

Organized at the Parrish by Curator of Special Projects Andrea Grover, who recently won a major award given for innovation, PechaKucha presentations began in Tokyo—PechaKucha means “chit-chat” in Japanese—in 2003 and are now given all over the world in over 700 cities.

Friday’s presenters include May Castleberry, who edits and produces hand-bound books for the Library Council of the Museum of Modern Art; artist Mirella Cheeseman, creator of the food and culture blog Santosha; painter Sabra Moon Elliot; Mr. Halsband; artist and educator John Messinger of East Hampton; Greenport oyster farmer Michael Osinski; Shinnecock Indian Nation member James Keith Phillips, who is a writer, celebrated Eastern war dancer and licensed clinical social worker; mixed-media artist and award-winning photographer Bastienne Schmidt; Ezra Thompson, a featured artist at the 2013 “Artists Choose Artists” exhibition at the Parrish; and beekeeper Mary Woltz, founder and owner of Bees’ Needs.

After his Keith Richards cover shoot, Mr. Halsband was asked by Mick Jagger to join the group as the tour photographer for the Rolling Stones’ 1981-82 “Tattoo You” North American tour. Several years later, he created his most iconic photograph, a portrait of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat wearing boxing gloves. He spent the next decades making album covers, photographing fashion and portraits, and working on international ad campaigns.

As of Monday, Mr. Halsband had not pinned down his strategy in fitting a portfolio onto 20 slides that spans more than three decades and the stories that would naturally come from going on tour with the Rolling Stones, directing a Li’l Bow Wow television commercial or creating a series of pin-up photograph and portraits of strippers and sex industry workers.

Raised in New York City but having grown to love the East End, Mr. Halsband is also a filmmaker and surfer. He founded Surf Movie Night in East Hampton and juries the Atlantic Vibrations film program at the Parrish, which premiered last summer. On Friday, however, he will focus on the hobby he found when he was 10: photography.

“I’ve taken on such a big monster by just even trying to encapsulate my life into six minutes and 40 seconds, so I feel like I would be cheating people if I started showing any film,” he said, adding he would give “background stories of the images and how I came to take them, the adventures I had.”

The portfolios and areas of expertise of the presenters are as varied as the roster itself. Mixed media artist Bastienne Schmidt works with photography, drawing and painting in her Bridgehampton studio.

Ms. Schmidt’s presentation will focus on “the sense of personal space that we create,” she said Monday, adding she will speak of her latest book and accompanying exhibition, “Topography of Quiet,” opening June 28 at Ille Arts in Amagansett.

“I grew up in Greece, Italy, Germany and the United States, so for me it’s always a very important concept to really be in a place and to be inspired by it. And to take something with me from that place, but also to create topology to compare things and structures, because every place is so different,” she said.

The rapid-fire format of the PechaKucha presentations, Ms. Schmidt added, “really makes you revisit how you want to present something, because it’s not necessarily about, ‘Oh, I want to show my 15 most beautiful paintings. It’s more like, you take the audience onto a journey.”

“It’s a great way to introduce somebody from the community, to know what they’re really about and it makes you curious to know more,” she added.

There is much to learn about each of the 10 presenters Friday. Beekeeper Mary Woltz calls “the girls,” her bees, the hardest working members of the food chain.

“Powwow season is in full swing,” tribal dancer James Keith Phillips said in an email Monday. A member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, which has one of the 10 great powwows held in the United States, according to USA Today, Mr. Phillips is also a writer and social worker.

Artist John Messinger grew up in East Hampton and was the Watermill Center’s 20th annual International Artist in Residence. His recent works include “Facebook Makes Us Lonely” and “Learning to Meditate.”

To answer the first question he ever heard, his father’s panicked, “Is he breathing?” when he was born in a Volvo in Midtown Manhattan traffic, Mr. Messinger went on a trip exploring the country, resulting in “Learning to Meditate.”

“Throughout the course of my trip, I learned, and have been relearning each day since, that meditation, like art, will never provide me with the whole picture,” Mr. Messinger said on his website. “Notions of truth, like our views of self, are too big, too mercurial, too slippery to hold. Instead, our thoughts, like images, must be accepted as fragments, that when considered and held together in light, can sometimes offer us an alternate perspective.”

Perhaps those fragments will be in 20-second intervals Friday.

PechaKucha Night Hamptons, Vol. 8 at the Parrish Art Museum is Friday, June 13, at 6 p.m. For more information, visit parrishart.org or call (631) 283-2118.

More Than Just Photos

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John Messinger doesn’t want to talk about his photographs, about their locales or their subjects; he wants the narrative of his work to remain a mystery.
“I can talk about each place, about what makes it unique, about the culture,” said the 24-year-old photographer.  “But I think the place is unimportant.”
Messinger’s belief is that by removing the story behind the image, the viewer is able to identify with it more easily and see it the same way he does, as representative of the overall human experience.  His first solo exhibition, “Chasing the Wind: Underfoot, Overhead and All Around,” opened at Romany Kramoris Gallery last weekend, and is his attempt to capture the “serendipitous moments” that best reflect humanity, like a young boy holding up a fresh caught fish or two kites hovering over an old man’s head.
“In a way, we’re all flying a kite, or catching a fish, or chasing the wind,” said Messinger.
The images, 16 in all, were culled from trips to Salvador de Baia on the northeast coast of Brazil and to Court Vila, Vanuatu in the South Pacific. All of the photos, whether of a goat sitting amidst a dilapidated building or two kids lying down in the surf, have a child-like innocence to them. Children, Messinger mentioned, live life the way he would like to, without fear and expectation.
His exhibit is unique in that the photos have no titles and his signature is nowhere to be found. Without the small sign taped to the gallery’s window, no one would even know it was his work. That though, is exactly what he was shooting for.
“A very small percentage of the world’s population looks at the name under a photograph when it appears in a newspaper,” he said. “In knowing that, I realize it’s the recording of human history, or human experience, that is important. It’s not my name or my existence. It’s not about me.”
His photos have a quiet, spiritual aspect to them. The silhouette of a man’s head in the foreground, while a soccer ball is suspended in mid air above, appears almost staged. A young boy carrying a stick twice his size on the beach seems so serious, the viewer is pulled into the moment, hoping he doesn’t drop it. They are all Messinger’s way of trying to portray more than simply a snapshot in time.
“There’s a guy, Wendell Berry,” said Messinger. “I’m paraphrasing, but he said that if we were to think about the human experience — history, evolution, the whole thing— as a container, most photos act as relics or ornaments within the container. But there are a select few who are able to create windows and doors that look through the container or beyond it or deeper into it, however you want to look at it. What I’m attempting is to create windows and doors.”
Messinger’s mother is Colombian and he spent part of his childhood growing up there before returning to the East End, eventually graduating from the Ross School. He said perhaps he’s tapping into that part of his childhood with this exhibit.
“Maybe that’s why I find myself in these warm places with warm people,” he said. “It does bring me back to a place in my past.”
Though not something he would readily admit to himself, he said, his travels might also be a type of spiritual quest.
“I had to have a friend point it out to me, but there is a purity there when it comes to living, like Dante’s ‘Paradisio.’ There’s a purity of priorities. That’s in a way what we’re all striving for. In our own way, we’re all searching for enlightenment.”
Chasing the Wind: Underfoot, Overhead and All Around is on view at Romany Kramoris Gallery, 41 Main Street, through August 7.