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Hook Boy (2010) from the exhibition Matthew Rolston: Talking Heads. (Credit: © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art)

profile / exhibitions / alumni / photography-and-imaging
October 25, 2014
By Carolyn Gray Anderson

Face Book for Dummies

Matthew Rolston (BFA 78)

If you’ve seen photographs of Oprah Winfrey or covers of Rolling Stone, it’s safe to say you’ve seen Photography and Imaging alumnus Matthew Rolston’s work. His 2007 shoot with Michael Jackson is known as the singer’s “last sitting.” In fact, you almost can’t name a pop star Rolston hasn’t photographed or directed in a music video.

The faces that spoke to me most had expressions that I found enigmatic, pleading, Sphinx-like, hilarious and disturbing.

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Noisy Crachini (2010) from the exhibition Matthew Rolston: Talking Heads. (Credit: © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art)
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Pancho (2010) from the exhibition Matthew Rolston: Talking Heads. (Credit: © Matthew Rolston Photographer, Inc./courtesy Diane Rosenstein Fine Art)

Tapped by Andy Warhol early on to shoot for Interview magazine, Rolston this summer presented a series of monumental color portraits (5 by 5 feet) at Diane Rosenstein Fine Art in Los Angeles—not of celebrities but of ventriloquist’s dummies—adopting the square format Warhol was working in when the two first met.

Rolston discovered these unconventional entertainers at the obscure Vent Haven Museum in Kentucky (“vent” being short for “ventriloquist”), where he painstakingly selected from hundreds of figures in a collection dating back to the 19th century. “The faces that spoke to me most had expressions that I found enigmatic, pleading, Sphinx-like, hilarious and disturbing.”

Acknowledging the “creepy” nature of the subject matter, the Los Angeles Times credited the work with “holding a mirror up to the ways in which we categorize and stereotype.” Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits (Pointed Leaf Press) gathers 100 of the pictures, along with two essays. Creating another kind of impact here at his alma mater, Rolston established an endowed ArtCenter scholarship for students in photography and film.