The Disturbed

Sean and or Adlai Stevenson, United Nations, 1962

The books

My grandmother had a true talent for interesting stories about people in her family. They first came to Virginia in 1608 and, according to Grandma, did wonderful and horrible things. She had stories about her own life homesteading with her mother in Aspen. For example, for her 16th birthday, she asked the local cowboys to make a floor for their dirt floor cabin. She also had a family bible with notes on the side and in the margins. I took the information from this and other family books and attempted to make sense of it with a diagram family tree. It quickly became a tangle of fishing lines as the Virginia branch enjoyed marrying cousins. 

The 9 foot diagram

Detail

In my search for images of people in the chart, I found an image of President Chester Arthur's wife, Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur, and was amazed at the resemblance to my mother, 100 years later. This also happened with an image of my great-grandfather when he was 18. I compared the images in Photoshop to determine if the facial structure was similar, or I was nuts. This led to a disturbing hobby of replacing a relative with me. I have one rule; I can only use an image of a relative. This is an ongoing project with new additions periodically. I can’t explain the psychosis here, but I’m sure it points to some form of madness.

Below: The disturbing project

Below: the book version in process

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

Simple Language

Gene Thornton, by Robert Giard, 1984

I have an image of a distant cousin, Gene Thornton, that I love. I learned only recently that one of my favorite photographers, Robert Giard, made it. Giard's portraits are simple, unadorned, never tricky or clever, and subtle. What I love is that they are images of people as they simply are. The portraits are honest and humble. They are not images representing the subject as an icon or participant in a clever pun. The negative space, scale, and subtlety of light and shadow is flawless. His landscape images have the same humble and poetic tone.

Giard began this approach in 1985, after seeing a performance of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, about the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. The play influenced Giard to began documenting significant gay and lesbian literary figures in this straightforward and authentic way. 

A selection of these portraits was published by MIT Press in 1997 as the anthology Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers. In 1998, The New York Public Library mounted an exhibition of his work with the same name.

I feel sorry for my friend, Blake Little, who has photographed me for twenty years. Each time we shoot a new headshot, I bring along my image of Gene Thornton, and ask for the same thing. This is, no doubt, like when a client sits down and hands you a Saul Bass, and says, "Can you match this?"

Above: Left to Right, Top to Bottom

Bernard Cooper 1989: Donna Kate Rushin 1987
Charles Henri Ford with Indra. The Dakota, NYC: Eric Bentley, 1986
Irena Klepfisz, 1987: Charles Henri Ford
Allen Ginsburg: Brad Gooch 1986
Chris Soller: David Leavitt 1987
Dennis Cooper: Edmund White 1985
Essex Hemphill 1991: Marianna Romo Carmona and June Chan
Giard Bechdel: Sapphire, 1988

Bare Hedge 1981

Teeter Totter House

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.