Ken Botto: Robot Portraits

Terminal 2

November 2012 - January 2013

Ken Botto: Robot Portraits

Ken Botto, a well-known photographer of staged tableau of toys and found objects, was born in Stockton, California, in 1937 and raised on his family’s cherry farm in the Central Valley. Encouraged by his high-school art teacher, he graduated from California College of the Arts with a bachelor’s degree in fine art and earned a master’s degree in fine art at the Claremont Graduate University in Southern California.

After teaching painting and drawing at Western Illinois University for over six years, where he discovered his passion for old toys, Botto returned to the West Coast, moving permanently to Bolinas, California. His obsession with toys, architectural models, and printed ephemera found him searching for treasures everywhere–from the Bolinas community free box to trips to San Francisco, Paris, and Berlin.

As his passion for collecting expanded, his artistic vision shifted from abstract painting to fine-art photography as a more accommodating medium for incorporating his treasured collectibles into his art. Botto constructed a garden studio and photographed his staged tableau using a Nikkormat 35mm camera. Using only available light or reflected sunlight through pieces of broken mirror, he created compelling shadows and cinematic lighting­ that became a trademark of his work.

Robot Portraits reveals Botto’s witty, childlike playfulness and his cultural commentary on life through the use of miniatures. Tin toys were ideal for Botto’s staged environments: they captivated his imagination; they were the optimal size; and, more importantly, they served as inventive stage props for his wry worldview.

©2012 by San Francisco Airport Commission. All rights reserved