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Michael Cina and John Klukas: She Who Saw The Deep

A collaborative show that combines photography with painting from two longtime Ghostly International artists

by Hans Aschim in Culture on 09 June 2014

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It's not often two artists combine their talents for a collaborative gallery show—especially when those artists have as strong visions as Michael Cina and John Klukas. Cina's career in visual arts, graphic design and art direction is a decorated one, having started three of his own operations (most recently Cina Associates, which boasts an A-list of Fortune 100 clients) and acting as an integral designer in the visual identity of Ghostly International. Meanwhile NYC-based photographer, John Klukas—a Ghostly regular and commercial collaborator with Cina—lends his surrealist style of photography. The resulting series, "She Who Saw The Deep," (on show now at Minneapolis' Public Functionary gallery) is a set of 20 original and purely collaborative works that meld photography, painting and graphic design.

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With 1,200 miles between them, the two artists relied on technology to make their collaborative works a reality. Klukas started out in his NYC studio by shooting models covered in black paint. The resulting blunt forms are studies in shape, suggesting universality in the human experience. In Cina's Minneapolis studio, he carried on in his style of communicative, simple visual communication via intricate brushwork.

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Using a digital scanner, Cina imported his painted work then deconstructed it down to each brushstroke. He then recomposed it to fit with Klukas's photo and to begin crafting what would become the final product. After much back and forth—tweaking every line, detail and shadow—a piece was finished. Over the past year, the two artists transferred countless digital files—each with a staggering number of layers, some adding up to 16 gigabytes for a single image.

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Cina and Klukas looked to the past for visual and conceptual inspiration—deep into the past. "She Who Saw The Deep" was inspired by what is largely considered to be the first work of literature in history (dating back to 2100 BC), the "Epic of Gilgamesh." Inspired by a heroine who is taken over by darkness, which gives life to beauty, the duo was touched by the universality of this tale of the human condition.

"She Who Saw The Deep" is on view at Minneapolis's Public Functionary gallery through 13 July. A selection of limited edition aluminum prints from the show are available for sale online starting at $200.

Images courtesy of Jenna Westrick/Public Functionary

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