October 27, 2005
For most of us that culminating last snapshot in the bathroom mirror, cursorily taken in preparation to face the
world, grants immediate answers. Is the hair coiffed correctly? The beard trimmed evenly? The blush appointed properly?
Are the teeth without blemish? Is the mask in place? Satisfied, weÂre out the door.
But for artist Christopher Ganz, his windows open upon the inner world of perception. His encounters with silver-backed
glass generate questions of self-image the likes of which only AliceÂ's looking glass can duplicate. GanzÂ's gazes unlock
layers upon layers of imbedded images, each to be contemplated then captured with charcoal on large sheets of paper and
This is not about narcissism. For centuries the genre of self-portraits has served both artist and audience. But here,
the artist purposely pokes the water, breaking the viscosity and thereby sending revealing ripples of self. His
explorations recall those of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman; they exude Persona.
"I try to capture the subjective - my self-image - in an objective way and thereby depict that conflict and the drama
that results in an image I hope affects the viewer in some way," the 33-year-old IPFW art professor explains.
His influences include not just the majors like Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Michelangelo, but he stays attuned to current
events and thinking with television sports and news. He reads mostly fiction - Martin Amis and Umberto Eco - and his
musical tastes range from Pink Floyd and Fugazi to Dvorjak and Bach.
"Part of the drama happens within the context of my tools as a printmaker - there are lots of chemicals, toxics and all
involved in the process - and I try to incorporate that danger and the human struggle to co-exist with the modern world,
Ganz's romance with the figurative world began as with so many other artists in the realm of comic books.
"Dare Devil, the Silver Surfer, I was fascinated by them all, and school became a great place to practice drawing," Ganz
confesses of his early youth outside Cleveland. "I filled dozens of notebooks, getting in trouble sometimes. It continued
later in high school when we moved to St. Louis. My life was filled with football and drawing." (He was a gritty cornerback
but recognized his future didn't lie in the NFL.)
"But it really wasn't until I went to college at University of Missouri-Columbia and I studied drawing under a teacher
named William Berry that I gained confidence. I discovered the works of Jim Dine, Michael Mazur, Lucien Freud and Mark
About the same time, Ganz developed an interest in printmaking ("I was drawn to it because of both its history and
craftsmanship") and decided to focus on it with post-graduate studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. It was there
that he began teaching foundation-level drawing and, later, printmaking. A fond memory of that period came when he was
chosen to assist Rudy Pozzatti in the preparation of a series of intaglio prints by the famous artist.
"I choose the over-sized sheets for their power," Ganz says. "There's something about bigness that is more inviting.
Plus, I gain more space and freedom to explore what'Âs happening around the figures. I can also make the outlines thicker
which is more comfortable when I begin to detail and diffuse with a chamois cloth."
Nowhere better does Ganz's flair for drama and introspection reveal itself than in his surrealistic, 56" x 74" Self
Checkout. Rendering himself at least seven times in various poses in the context of a supermarket, the artist is seen
simultaneously in the roles of shopper, clerk, observer, advertising model, product and shopping cart passenger, most
often in a striped shirt, sometimes under a vest.
One message might be about alienation, one that serves as an illustration for a caption that reads, "Do not buy, sell,
fold, staple, mutilate or otherwise dehumanize me."
In another, with perhaps illusions to the danger involved in his craft, Ganz plays at least 11 different roles. There are
elements of Rembrandt's Anatomy Lecture and the Cloth Maker's Syndicate from the early 17th century.
The reference is clearly Goethe's mythical character, Dr. Johann Faust, and the agreement between science (supernatural
powers of knowledge) and the "suits" (industry, government and the devil). A warning against development of weapons of
mass destruction perhaps or a message alerting viewers not to mess with Mother Nature, as in the funding of stem cell
Whatever your read might be, there's no disputing the sheer talent of Ganz.
Ganz's most recent show, "The Two-Way Mirror: Self-Portraits" at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, closed just this past
weekend. One can, however, access several pieces from that exhibition, along with earlier works, by visiting his web site,
Nappanee Apple Festival and more!