Bear Kirkpatrick’s forbearers were an ad hoc mixture of adventurer-navigators, naturalists, whalers, Puritans, dissidents, judges, and witches. He was born in the American south to a mother raised in Brahmin Boston and to a father who was several days after his birth sent across the world to war in the jungles of Southeast Asia. His upbringing was scattered across the Eastern seaboard, resting longest on a farm in New Hampshire during his teen years where he learned the survival skills of tracking, fishing, and hunting. He was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, the University of Michigan, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has made his living by turns as a stone wall builder, roofer, bookkeeper, furniture builder, and video art installer.
Bear Kirkpatrick defines his imagery as evidence, documents of past and present human psychological states. He is presently working to develop a model to prove that acquired characteristics are not only inheritable as a result of natural selection and artificial selection, but also as the result of psychological selection as created by the environmental pressure of human memory.
His work has been exhibited at Daniel Cooney Fine Art, 555 Gallery, Flowers Gallery, the Center for Fine Art Photography, Corden-Potts, Rayko, photo-eye Gallery, Houston Center for Photography, wall space Gallery, and the Corey Daniels Gallery.
His work has been honored with the 2013 Critical Mass Finalist Selection, the NH Charitable Foundations Artist Advancement Grant, Amy Arbus’ Curator’s Selection at The Center for Fine Art Photography’s 2014 Portraits Exhibition, and with 3 International Photography Awards.
Bear Kirkpatrick lives and works in Portsmouth, NH.
555 Gallery Artist Talk: Bear Kirkpatrick, The Human Diorama
Wallportraits are an investigation of human visual response, a way to push against something and see what gets pushed back. More than “pushing,” though, the act is more like “pulling”; instead of adding, I am taking something away. To veil anything, in particular a human face, works on the imagination creatively (what’s hidden?), religiously (is this the face as God sees it, alone and unadorned?) and psychologically (can we negate anything without it rearing back stronger and thus becoming a sometimes dangerous obsession?). Each of these questions provoke responses: they create a flowering in the eyes, an elaboration of setting, and the shaping of a time and space the sitter seems to have carried with them into their birth.
The human eye struggles with blind spots, aberrations, and distortions—all of the awkward design flaws in the human visual system that the brain smooths over by creating additional data to fill in the gaps and so create for us a seamless picture. I think all consciousness works this way—it gathers what it can, creates a 3D picture, and fills in missing gaps to create a seamless experience of the world. And though parts are added, there is also much that is lost or just thrown away when data overlaps or just doesn’t fit or perhaps even conflicts with the rest. Those gaps and thrown away pieces are what interest me, and they are what I am using my camera to find. They are the ghosts of presence and memory, the vestigial elements we carry about us as invisibly as spirits.