Photography teacher’s art featured at Atlanta Jazz Festival

Westminster photography teacher Michael Reese’s conceptual art piece Theories of the Lowest End was selected to be the official artwork of the 2021 Atlanta Jazz Festival. The festival took place on September 5 and 6 at Piedmont Park and featured Reese’s artwork on merchandise such as posters and blankets.

Reese has been photographing the Atlanta Jazz Festival for about 20 years. With the experience he gained from being contracted by the city of Atlanta to document the festival, he captured live music and translated it into a 2-D art form to create his piece, Theories of the Lowest End. His work, which features a bass player, was inspired by the hip-hop album “The Low End Theory” by A Tribe Called Quest that was released in 1991. It highlights the importance of bass as the foundation of music, and Reese applied that to jazz music. He intended to represent how the past and future influence each other by using a hip-hop album to influence his piece. 

 Reese intended to represent how the past and future influence each other through the hip-hop influence on a piece centered around jazz in addition to combining his two favorite music genres.

In addition to music, Reese finds inspiration in his role as a teacher. He sees the classroom as an extension of his artistic practice and a learning opportunity for both his students and himself. 

“I’m receptive to students and what they’re doing as well, and sometimes that opens up ideas within me,” Reese said. 

Reese’s passion for the intersection between teaching and art is obvious in the classroom, and his students appreciate his attentiveness.

“I’ve seen the care he has for his students, and I think he portrays that and is able to put that same care into his art,” said sophomore Alexandra Kent, an alumnus of his class.

With his piece, Theories of the Lowest End, Reese aims to communicate the sensation one can only experience while listening to or playing live music. His goal is to have everyone walk away from his piece with a newfound understanding and appreciation of live jazz.

“In my artist statement about Theories of the Lowest End, I talk about flow state, and flow state is a time where you’re doing something creative and time stops, and, with a musician, it’s just like the audience disappears, and there’s nothing going on but the music,” said Reese. “The musician becomes one with their instrument.”

Reese’s proclivity and talent for depicting music in his pieces made Theories of the Lowest End a prime candidate for representing the 2021 Atlanta Jazz Festival. His passion is evident in his work, and he hopes to share that with others. 

“Listening to live jazz music is like a religious experience for me,” he said. “And that’s something I want to share with everyone.”

As the official art of the 2021 Atlanta Jazz Festival, Reese’s piece has reached the entire city of Atlanta and the jazz community nationwide.