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Ctein, Art Guest of Honor

from the Armadillocon XXVII Program Book (2005)

Say his name "K'tine". Do say it; he's worth talking about.

He is one of our most original artists. While others draw interstellar ships, and dragons, he rouses our sense of wonder with photographs. Everything in his pictures has physical existence. Yet they have such a quality of marvel that his work is often found in our Art Shows, and in our homes.

When photography was first developed — perhaps I shouldn't make such jokes — people couldn't understand what it was, or anyway how it could be art. Didn't it record what was there? Where was the mind of the artist? Even today this notion circulates. You can answer these questions for yourself. Look at a photo by Ctein.

When he was Art Guest of Honor at Westercon LIII (Honolulu, 2000) he brought samples of an adventure conducted with Laurie Edison. They would drive round the country together, find someplace they both wanted to photograph, and shoot it. Then he developed his picture, she developed hers, and they mounted both side by side. They called it a collaboration, though I think they should use the Dutch art word diptych since neither did anything on the other's work. Sometimes the two photographers looked in alternative directions but sometimes both shot the very same thing. The artistic differences were breathtaking. Photography, like other art, is existence + artist. Ctein and Edison published eighteen of these in a limited-edition fine-art volume, or you can see them at Ctein's Website.

He is a science fiction fan, and his work includes astronomicals and space ships. You can see these at his Website too, or in two more limited-edition volumes Chasing the Sun and The Final Frontier. Here in the Program Book [not shown] are a 1981 shot of Space Shuttle Columbia, and a 1991 shot of that year's solar eclipse. Each is worth a thousand words, but I invite your attention upon two points. First, consider these photos as images, disregarding whether you as a fan like to see a space ship or sun. The best art works that way. Do these, think you? You know what the convention committee thinks. Decide for yourself.

Second, all the Program Book photos by Ctein were originally in color.

Pause for that.

While you catch your breath, I'll mention a little more. Ctein is a world-class master at the exhilaratingly beautiful and excruciatingly difficult color process of dye-transfer printing. It allows incomparable richness, depth, fidelity, and subtlety of tone and hue. Museums and collectors want it. It is so rewarding to the artist, as well as the viewer, that Ctein chooses and is famous for color.

The great 18th Century composer Bach wrote so his music could be played on many different instruments. But a hundred years later Beethoven wrote his Violin Concerto so particularly that when he transcribed it for the piano this was a feat.

Once every photograph was monochrome. Today there are few photographers working in color who can translate their images into first-rate black and white.

The best art, and the best artists, are bigger than their immediate circumstances. Actually I said that before, a different way.