Nan Goldin: photography, pain and opioids

When you look at some of the recent greats: Robert Frank, Gene Smith, Diane Arbus (not my favorite) and Nan Goldin you see they all operate from a kind of compulsion. They were driven to do what they did, and what they each did is closer to literature than to “art”. As a young person I was so proud of photography that I thought it stood alone somewhere between Art and History. I still don’t buy much of what is written about the big shows that turn up at MOMA, where it is treated as “art”, whatever that is.
Here comes before us again poor Nan Goldin, one of the camera greats of our troubled times. She brings to mind Franz Kafka who among his serial masterpieces, wrote “The Hunger Artist”, a man on display in a cage at the entrance to a fair, that is starving (himself) to death. And “The Penal Colony” where a wonderful new machine is displayed by a prison warden to a journalist, a wooden contraption that carves into the inmates skin the nature of their crime. To display it, the warden gets into the machine himself, which of course runs amuck, and slowly kills him in a mix of blood and literature.
It is not really fair to use the term “poor” for a great artist. Nan Goldin has repeatedly been able to turn her own pain, real personal pain that endures within her own body and soul, into great photography and great books. The marvel is that she is still here with us. Nan is a survivor. She not only fights back, and makes art, she fights back for everyone.

Comments
2 Responses to “Nan Goldin: photography, pain and opioids”
  1. Kim Guthrie says:

    She is in a privileged position to fight back, being a lauded artist, I recovered from heroin addiction 30 years ago and still no-one pays me or my work any attention! lol

  2. Kurt Gasbarra says:

    Compulsive/ Composition —-
    Compulsive delusions…
    Humanity’s… thorn—-

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