Artist Profile: Most Exalted

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The Huntington art scene contains an array of individual communities, but some of them seem to be at the forefront of our attentions while others are left to the periphery.

Local groups that capture the most widely circulated and critically accepted material arts include Marshall University’s School of Arts and Media and The Huntington Museum of art.

The institutions have created a linear agenda for the arts, which includes a standard that is both professed and enforced.

This is not a criticism, but a side effect of their purpose in describing and refining the arts.

But what lies outside of the critical rite-of-way? Although these institutions cannot be expected to maintain and display it, there is a wild and growing movement of arts within our community that has yet to be exposed to the masses.

To gain a better perspective of our culture and environment, we should be encouraged to look deeply within the community to find raw and unfiltered expressions of art.

One photographer within our city has piqued my interest of late and he is professionally known as Most Exalted.

Most Exalted’s work is an inspiring mix of moody scenery and familiar sights. The emotions tied into sitting around with friends on the couch, speaking to someone face to face and seeing the hazy, crazed flashes of faces while dancing in tight spaces are all perfectly captured by his works.

“I guess portraiture would always be my primary interest and the other would just be the documentary way of shooting, street photography to a degree.””

— Most Exalted

His documentary and event shots are particularly striking, as they seem to transplant the viewer into the situation itself, whether you were a curious and detached observer or in the center of action.

I recently caught up with the local artist in his home studio, where we talked about his interests in art and his beginnings as a photographer here in West Virginia.

Most Exalted began shooting around 1996, when the digital revolution had not taken full swing and photo-taking was a much different concept as compared to today’s photographic world.

“There really wasn’t any software because I was shooting black and white film where you would process it in a two or three reel tank,” Most Exalted said. “And I pretty much knew that if I hand spooled my shots I could get maybe about 40 photos at the time.”

This process is what allowed Most Exalted to adapt into his current style, a style that places a heavy emphasis on documenting people and events candidly, building surrealistic portraits and coordinating fantastic light manipulations.

“I guess portraiture would always be my primary interest and the other would just be the documentary way of shooting, street photography to a degree,” Most Exalted said.

He also said that at the works of Robert Mapplethorpe and Diane Arbus were influential on his style, artists who’s work includes controversial surrealism and portraiture.

These artists represent the groundbreaking change and progress that photography can bring about, like Mapplethorpe’s publicized efforts in taboo breaking for the New York homosexual community in the early 70’s.

The works of Most Exalted inspire me at a level of non-traditionalism and counterculture that can’t normally be met and I think there is something exciting to be discovered for everyone through his pieces.

Ryan Fischer can be contacted at [email protected]

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