The “botanical” exhibition juried by Wendi Schneider, was in the online gallery from November 25, 2022 to January 5, 2023. Wendi selected fifty five images from forty two artist. Jo Field’s images “Teneramente” received the Juror’s Award. Ryn Clarke’s image “Peonies Everywhere” received the Director’s Award.
Beverly Conley received the Juror’s Award in the “she” exhibition juried by Sandra Chen Weinstein. She is a documentary photographer living in Benicia, California. She finds true satisfaction in long-term, self-assigned projects that focus on individuals and contemporary society. Her quest has allowed her to enter the private worlds of people living in and around the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, Gypsies & Travellers in England, the Cherokee Nation in Northeastern Oklahoma, steelworkers in Weirton, West Virginia, and the Cape Verdean Communities in Boston and in the Cape Verde Islands.
Lesley N Blessing was the recipient of our Director’s Award for her image, “Floating, Twin Elements,” in the “she” exhibition, juried by Sandra Chen Weinstein. Here is what Lesley has to say by way of introduction:
Photography has been in my life since I was young. Street photography, editorial, commercial, non-profit, documentary, lifestyle and fine art are fields I’ve explored. After owning a fine-art photography gallery for a brief moment I came to recognize my passion for art. Like most artists my desire is to create work that tells a story and evokes emotion. People, relationships, and nature are my inspiration as well as the print. I discovered the platinum print recently and have dedicated a large amount of time printing on vellum. It has been an awakening in my work that I was in search of and I look forward to discovering more alternative processes.”
Her image, “Floating, Twin Elements” Is a wonderful example of creative alchemy. The disparate expressions on their faces — explaining two divergent personalities? The figures poised in midair – indicating the supernatural, unique place of twins in the world — objects of intense curiosity, exponentially more interesting, cuter than just one, and slightly mysterious. Folks generally love to tickle and bounce babies, twins even more so. I know, I came from a family of twins. Twinhood is much more nuanced and complicated than the two peas in a pod generalization. I think this image portrays that perfectly. The twins are printed in platinum palladium on vellum backed with silver leaf gilding. The effect if beautiful, outstanding.
Kevin: Lesley, your twin body of work is really wonderful. Can you tell us about your process of creating it technically, creatively and emotionally?
Lesley: First of all, thank you for all the very kind comments on my work! And for selecting my work, I’m honored. I’ll try my best to answer all of this!
My visual journey into twins started in 2003 when I selected a topic to photograph that was close to me. I am a twin and our relationship through the years has evolved. The project “Being a Twin” is a study on twins and their partnership as children. It was a project of nostalgia in missing the relationship I had with my own twin as kids; the uncompetitive nature, the laughing, every day activities, singing, eating, sleeping, watching tv, playing soccer and so much more. We were together, always together.
Change is inevitable in any relationship but as a twin the separation can be painful. Marriage, kids, moving across the country, other big life decisions, all of it has separated our friendship in ways that are difficult to understand. Around 2013 I started to create a photographic narrative showing our relationship as adults. Each art piece in Twin Elements illustrates some form of feeling or situation I’ve experienced.
After photographing twins in their natural setting for so long I craved something more extravagant, tangible and ethereal. I’m very influenced by the poses and mood of the Pre-Raphaelites and the romantic and ornate quality of the Art Nouveau period. I set out to create my own vision of our twin journey with twin models, nature, stylists, whimsy positions and completed with ornate detail.
I really enjoyed photographing the twins, posing them, manipulating the scene to mimic my intended feeling. The technical side was a bit trickier. My background in printing is silver gelatin. Wanting to explore more I started playing around with a few alternative processes. I chose platinum palladium for its quality in detail and lush appearance.
Transparency gave me the chance to incorporate texture and depth. I chose to print on vellum for its durability in the water and that led me to experiment with gold, copper and silver leaf as texture and shimmer. The size of each piece is determined how best it will look large and divided. I create a digital negative of each section, print, gild, varnish and then put the image back together. For me, the physical result is like a metaphor for our relationship…rich, complex, and no one person is the same.
Kevin: Lesley, I know as an artist that certain projects evolve with the time spent in creation. As a painter I never end up as I began. Very simply, the time it takes to apply paint or achieve whatever technique gives one additional time to reflect on the process and the concept. Has the act of leafing and working with the platinum palladium caused you to move in a direction not originally envisioned?
Lesley: Definitely, I’d say every stage has brought some sort of shift in plan but the platinum on vellum is what changed things the most. Because vellum has such a lovely transparency I was able to play with texture within the print and composition itself. At the very beginning of this project my first completed piece was a messy version of my final techniques for the series. I really love Harry Callahan and his work inspired the double exposure but I realized I could control this in the darkroom rather than in the camera. After experimenting with platinum on velum enough to understand the results I decided to merge the negatives in the printing stage instead of trying to manipulate the photoshoot and scene with the twins. I wanted it to be less literal, with some narrative detail but more natural and whimsical.
Kevin: Lesley you mention Harry Callahan. I think what gives much of his black and white work such immediacy is his use of contrast and black as an element of an image. I see this in your image “Floating.” Was that a conscious choice. Unfortunately, those viewing it online won’t get the full effect, but in person the wonderful silver leaf gilding both tempers and accentuates the effect.
Lesley: Yes, as a young photographer I loved high contrast in all my work, it was a bit much to be honest. I blew a lot of the detail out of the shadows and highlights.
The drama of the contrast in Twin Elements is something I aimed for especially in the printing stage. “Floating” is actually a straight single image with no double exposure or second negative. I photographed it in front of the trees because I wanted the girls to pop off the print. The contrast is definitely how I did it. At this point in shooting and printing I knew what would work and what wouldn’t. Sometimes I think my idea will be great and it just doesn’t print well. Each piece takes me a long time to put together. I have a million test prints b/c I tend to be a perfectionist. If the contrast isn’t right I’ll do it again until it is.
And yes, I agree with you. My work is best seen in person. The iridescent affect of the leaf that each piece has against the Pl/Pd and contrast has almost a three dimensional feel. You can see the pieces from different points of view and see unique detail that you couldn’t before.
I’m aiming to finish this project in the next few months. Thank you for asking me all of these questions about my work. It’s been interesting to think about why I do what I do.
Kevin: Lesley thank you very much for taking the time to do this. We look forward to seeing where you go next.
The “story” exhibition juried by Kevin Tully, was in the online gallery from September 2 to October 13, 2022. Kevin selected fifty five images from fifty two artist. Miglavs’s images “Homecoming” received the Juror’s Award. Catharine Carter’s image “Shadow” received the Director’s Award.
Posted in News on 09/19/2022 | Comments Off on “story” juried by Kevin Tully | GalleryTalk
Eddy Verloes is a Belgian photographer. I chose his image, “Apocalypse Now”, a dramatic, arresting black and white image of trees and clouds and water, for our recent exhibition, “Trees.” He first came to my attention with a black and white image he had in our “Life” exhibition, juried by Alyssa Coppleman, of Orthodox Jewish men playing on the beach. It was titled, “Losing our Minds.” Amanda and I gave it the Director’s award. It reminded me of the work of the French photographers Cartier- Bresson and Robert Doisneau, but it also had a bit of Monty Python in it.
As I was hanging the exhibit, I kept going back to it. It was truly joyful. It was a smile generator during the pandemic. In my opinion, it accomplished much of what a work of art should – it wouldn’t let you walk by and it proudly evoked an emotion. How many folks just walk by “Guernica” or can’t feel good looking at Wayne Thiebaud’s cakes?
Eddy is an award-winning visual storyteller. He asks us not to put him in a box on the home page of his website – not possible.
Kevin: Hi Eddy, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to photography?
Eddy: I am a Belgian photographer and started with photography about 8 years ago after I stopped as organizer of a big musical event “Leuven Plaza Proms” in Belgium. I studied literature, philosophy and arts at the University of Louvain (Belgium) and the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i.B. (Germany). I published four books: ‘No time to Verloes’ (2015), ‘Cuba libre’ (2016), ‘Zeezuchten’ (2020) and ‘Losing Our Minds/Buiten zinnen’ (2021).
The first time I felt like a photographer was two years ago when I took a series of ultra-Orthodox Jews on the Belgian coast who enjoyed their freedom in an unorthodox way in the storm (of their lives) and escaped the lockdown. This series has been traveling around the world for more than a year.
About my influences:
I really like the work of many photographers, and in some of them I see similarities to my style of photographing, especially when they have a kind of humour in their photographs. Martin Parr is one of my idols in street photography. He has been photographing beach life over many decades and in many countries. One of the reasons why I love his work so much is that his photographs have strong statements about society – and always has a certain viewpoint or critique. Many of his photographs are funny, interesting, or sometimes downright depressing. He interjects his own opinion and thought into his photographs and shows how he sees the world – and challenges us to see the world differently as well. When looking at Martin Parr’s photography, the viewer is often unsure whether to laugh or to cry. He finds the extraordinary in the ordinary. In some of my photos I found an inspiration in him. Other photographers I like very much are: Harry Gruyaert and the surrealism of his work. I love his book “Roots” about the banality of the beautiful, the beauty of ugliness of … Belgium. Stefan Vanfleteren with his book “Belgium” which is a subjective photographic documentary about Belgium in B & W. Josef Koudelka because of his unusual point of view, the magic of street photography of Saul Leiter, the importance of composition in the work of Martine Franck, the photographs of Jehsong Baak which are a reflection of his many travels and testimony of his incisive eye. His velvety ink-like images bring to mind artists such as Bill Brandt and Man Ray, where the night, the dark and the light are surrounded by a symbolist air.
About my practice:
To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.
First rule to be a photographer, you have to be invisible. I don’t need to have a kind of relationship with my subject and I don’t need to prepare my locations. I do a lot of street photography. The essence of street photography is about documenting everyday life and society on the streets. It’s a genre of photography usually done candidly without permission and without your subject’s knowledge. The most spontaneous photos are for me the most interesting. The important thing with street photography is to have fun and enjoy going out with your camera. My goal is to capture emotion, humanity and sometimes depict a person’s character. Perception and intuition are the most important factors. Perception requires a creative eye for detail. Intuition is immediate and is not duty-bound to any attentive reasoning. These two factors are combined to create the “decisive moment”, an amazing process that takes your images to the next level. To me, the greatest moments in life are the ones right in front of you. I agree with Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of my favorites, who says that photography is the simultaneous recognition in a fraction of a second of the significance of an event.
Kevin: You have had significant photographic accomplishments in just eight years. Reading what you said above – are you a musician? You mention Man Ray, a personal art hero of mine. He was a creative polymath. Did you study art at some point? If so, what non-photographer artist would best define your personal aesthetic?
Eddy: I have a lot of affinity with painters as Edward Hopper, Léon Spilliaert, Caspar David Friedrich, Leszek Skurski and writers as Samuel Becket and Franz Kafka.
Aloneness is a great theme in Hopper’s work and also in my photos. Though termed a realist, Hopper is more properly a symbolist, investing appearance with clenched, melancholy subjectivity. He was masterly as a painter of light and shadow, but he ruthlessly subordinated aesthetic pleasure to the compacted description of things that answered to his feelings without exposing them. He leaves us alone with our own solitude, taking our breath away and not giving it back.
Once you’ve seen a Hopper, it stays seen, lodged in your mind’s eye. I also see a connection between Hopper and Alfred Hitchcock. The emotional tug of many of Hitchcock’s characters and all of Hopper’s requires their unawareness of being looked at. Hopper shows how, exploring a condition in which, by being separate, we belong together.
I think my photos “My eternal love” and “Mother, why are we living?” express the same atmosphere.
The inside and outside world in the paintings of Edward Hopper is a permanent source of inspiration for my photography; they are a reflection about the relationship between our ‘interior’ and ‘exterior’ lives and emotions. With my deserted, misty landscapes and isolated figures in strange rooms behind worn curtains I try to capture the loneliness, alienation and mystery of modern life. And the pandemic has given my photos a terrifying new significance. The solitary figures or even couples in my photos are often only shadows of themselves. I mostly use shadows or silhouettes to ‘hide’ or ‘keep outside’ information about the subject. Being in a room, a place or a landscape is to simultaneously inhabit two worlds: the one before us and the one inside us. The relationship of the viewer with the landscape or the room isn’t purely one of the physical dependencies, but it’s also spiritual and emotional. During these corona times, we were confronted more than ever with ourselves and with the mystery of nature. Reflection is needed more than ever.
Kevin: Thanks for your thoughtful responses Eddy.
Posted in News on 09/09/2022 | Comments Off on Directors Award “trees” : a conversation with Eddy Verloes
The “animalia” exhibition juried by Henry Horenstein, was in the online gallery from July 22 to September 1, 2022. Henry selected fifty five images from thirty five artist. Rajan Dosaj’s images “The Last Leaves of Autumn” received the Juror’s Award. Christie Goldstein’s image “A Portrait in Blue” received the Director’s Award. Boris Keller’s image “Elephants” received the Visitors’ Award.
Posted in News on 07/30/2022 | Comments Off on “animalia” juried by Henry Horenstein | GalleryTalk
The “she” exhibition juried by Sandra Chen Weinstein, was in the online gallery from June 10 to July 21, 2022. Sandra selected fifty five images from fifty two artist. Beverly Conley’s images “Woman Plucking Chicken” received the Juror’s Award. Lesley Blessing’s image “Floating, Twin Elements” received the Director’s Award. Lori Pond’s image “Come Fly Away” received the Visitors’ Award.
Posted in News on 07/25/2022 | Comments Off on “she” juried by Sandra Chen Weinstein | GalleryTalk
Elizabeth Sanjuan is a photographer from Hollywood, Florida. We recently had her exhibition, “Hokkaido Land of the Ainu,” up in the gallery. This body of work is a pictorial etude, showcasing the home of the native people of Japan, the Ainu, without them being physically present in the photographs. The elegantly stark winter images of bare trees and bare structures in snow allow us to imagine life in the landscape, without the intrusion of even a single footprint.
Kevin: Hi Elizabeth, first I want to thank you for approaching us about having an exhibition of your beautiful body of work in the gallery and for coming all the way from Florida to the reception!
From our brief conversations and small time together I perceive that you have a social and environmental consciousness and are wanting the viewer to connect with your imagery in both an aesthetic and a visceral way.
Can you tell us how you came to photography and how and if your Cuban background, growing up in Miami, informed your worldview and your photography practice?
Elizabeth: Thanks, Kevin and Amanda for the opportunity to speak about my work and for the opportunity to exhibit in your fabulous gallery.
I think many factors influenced my Hokkaido work. I grew up in a very modest home, but with a brilliant abuela (grandmother), who instilled in me a fervent love of reading. I traveled the world through books as a youth. I also had a few exceptional teachers who taught me about the importance of our natural environment, and why we must exhibit care and respect for Mother Earth. The “Keep America Beautiful” campaign of the 1960s and 1970s had an enormous influence on me. I vividly recall the tears rolling down the face of Iron Eyes Cody in his iconic “Crying Indian” commercials as I write this.
Fast forward to being a teen and my first travels to Europe. I was enthralled with the marvelous architecture and breathtaking museums. Shortly after, I had the opportunity to work for an airline, and this furthered my ability to discover the world. The more I travelled, the more I wanted to document the experience to show my family and friends what a diverse and incredible world existed outside of Florida. The camera, therefore, became my constant travel companion. I would bring back rolls and rolls of film!
Having the women in my life run a strict and orderly home also influenced me. In my Cuban household, flip flops, sneakers and shorts were never allowed. Every outing demanded its appropriate article of clothing, hairstyle, and accessory. Order, cleanliness, and respectability were priorities. This was especially the case when it came to the home. An unconscious force seems to propel me to have a broom or mop in my hands at all hours of the day, an eccentricity that my husband only understood when he saw every woman in Cuba doing the same. I see this same instinctive drive for cleanliness and order directing many of my images. I naturally recoil from chaos and search for the serene.
There is similar respect and reverence for quiet order in the Japanese way of life. For me it is especially palpable in the winter. As I mature, I find myself drawn even more toward peace and introspectiveness. I would say the work is a culmination of self-reflection, my spiritual journey and a desire to see a world in peaceful, quiet and graceful way.
Kevin: Amanda can attest to the fact that I am certainly not a Cuban woman in my approach to housework.
Your gallery talk about the Hokkaido project was wonderful, folks are still talking about how moving and engaging it was. Can you tell us again about the images — your connection to the imagery, the single tree, etc.?
Elizabeth: I appreciate your comments about the gallery talk, as I am certainly not comfortable speaking in public. Fortunately, your hospitality helped me overcome my jitters.
The interesting thing about traveling to Hokkaido in the dead of winter, when the average temperature is 4 below zero, is that the conditions really encourage you to be laser-focused on what you want to convey. By now, you know that I love trees–not one specific kind or size—but all of them! I think trees are undervalued by our society. Most people really don’t realize the significant role they play in keeping us alive and the critical role they play in sustaining Mother Earth. Spring, summer and fall in Hokkaido are a buzz of activity as the locals plant, cultivate and harvest their crops. The land and the trees are working hard to produce and procreate. The winter is time to rest, recover and replenish. I find that images of Hokkaido’s trees deep in snow and silhouetted against grey skies speak eloquently about this process of serene renewal. The images of trees in this exhibition were made throughout the island. I photographed widely and frequently, constantly searching for trees that spoke most convincingly about the magic of this frozen serenity–courageous against the cold, unafraid of solitude and ready to shoulder the responsibility of jumping to life again next spring.
Kevin: Elizabeth could you tell us about the image of the skeletal greenhouse and the single tree and what thought process and or emotional connection you have with the images?
Elizabeth: Sure! With the image of the greenhouse framework I wanted the viewer to wonder: What is this thing and why did I photograph it? If we dig a bit deeper, the barren structure gives us time to ask ourselves: What do they plant? How do they cultivate and care for what they have planted? What is the result of their efforts? I think there is an analogy here that we can use to better understand the mental, emotional and physical aspects of our own lives. Given today’s fast-paced world where we live with a computer in our hands 24/7, we tend to lose connection with the inner self. We are so consumed with the “exterior” world that many of us have not done the work to feed and nourish our “interior” spirit. Having grown up in a difficult family dynamic, I learned from an early age that one needs to process and heal from the inside. It is a continuous journey of healing, self-love, and compassion that must go on for a lifetime. We must constantly “cultivate” what has been planted, remove the weeds, encourage the new growth, seek the sun and the healing rain. The framework within which this occurs can be bare and brutal, but with proper care, one’s life can bloom. The greenhouse frame is dark and forbidding in the snow, just as we all have had situations that have been challenging, and seemingly unalterable. Sometimes, we think it is easier to dismiss the situation and blame the framework, rather than to work though the challenge to come out ahead. You reap what you sow. Give yourself the gift to do the work–you are worth it.
After reading the book “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben, my love of trees deepened. If you have not read this book, I would highly recommend it, you will never look at a tree the same way again. As a young person, I thought I had to go at life alone, since I could not depend on anyone for my existence. I did not want to conform to societal norms or the pressure of a family engrained in what the “traditional” role of a woman should be in society. Usually, a tree needs other trees near them to thrive and survive, especially in harsh winter conditions that exist in Hokkaido. When I see a lone tree, I wonder: Was there a forest here at some point? Did humans purposely deplete the land of its natural existence, and leave one tree? I also ask myself how this tree has been able to survive and will it continue to grow and thrive given its current environment? The frigid temperatures, the accumulation of snow and the lack of protection from the wind are just a few things that may derail the tree’s ability to survive and flourish. I see my life mirrored in this tree. I reflect on the challenges of my youth and my growth as an adult and see a lot of similarities with this tree. I have realized that I am very capable of going at life alone, but it is much richer when it can be shared with others in this world.
Kevin: Elizabeth, thank you for being so open and personal with your responses. The making of art can be cathartic, transcendent, healing and also an emotional battlefield. As someone that paints, I understand completely the emotional release and toll of living with a work of art for an extended period of time. I have been in awe of photographers, the initial phase of creation taking seconds, imbuing the work with so much emotion and insight. Thank you for taking the time to do this. And thanks again for allowing us to hang your wonderful work in the gallery.
Elizabeth: Thank you Kevin, you are absolutely correct in your comments, as I said previously, I have learned after many hardships that it is best (for me at least) to be open to the universe, to accept the what life is trying to teach and where it is guiding you. I think photography is an incredible tool that can give you the opportunity to explore the exterior world and the internal one. When you bring the camera to your eye, it is for a reason—something caught your eye and sent a signal to your brain and in a matter of seconds you made the decision to click. Last week I developed an intaglio print that brought tears to my eyes. Even a decade after I took the photograph, it still evoked a strong and visceral response in me. I hope that our conversation will help people look a bit deeper into the reasons that they photograph, what moves them and what fills their spirit. For me, I photograph for my pleasure and if I am lucky enough to have folks like Amanda and you appreciate my work, then it is icing on the cake! I thank you for this opportunity and the wonderful work you both do at A Smith Gallery.
To see more of Elizabeth’s work, follow this link.
Posted in News on 06/13/2022 | Comments Off on Hokkaido, Land of the Ainu | a conversation with Elizabeth Sanjuan
Margaret Albaugh is a Chinese-American documentary and fine art photographer based in the Pacific Northwest. Margaret was the Juror’s selection from our exhibition “Light.”
Albaugh also studies psychology and that interest can be seen infused into her work. Her interest in human nature, identity and social constructs inform her personal projects. She aims to pay homage to the complicated nature of being human and escaping the comfort of duality. Much of her work includes her children and her development and musings as a mother often inspire her work.
Kevin: Hi Margaret, your Images look wonderful in the gallery. Thank you for allowing us to live with them for a bit. Having grown-up the only boy in a family with three sisters, it is like a walk down memory lane, with all the imagery of young girls at play — we had a swimming pool, a trampoline and a piano.
Feral is an interesting word — It can have various connotations. I had a friend years ago that was half Filipino. He was a poet and he intimated that he felt, and others did too, there was something wild, different (feral) about him as a person from a different land, the East. Yet he spoke Spanish and had an English last name.
After reading your various artist statements I get the feeling that using “Feral” as the title of your exhibition it appears that it may apply to you in some way, as well as to childhood and your children moving through it?
Margaret: As for “Feral”, as an artist in photography I have realized how little families take center stage in art. And when I think of my favorite fine art photographers whose work looks at family life, I think of Sally Mann and Alain LaBoile. Their work is gorgeous and they have both inspired me for years. For a long time though, I felt like I couldn’t create beautiful or meaningful work because it didn’t look like theirs – the setting is different, the children look different. These artists live in idyllic landscapes that would be impossible for me – I live in a rather typical suburban real estate development. But as I photographed my children, I realized that the idyllic landscape is in their imagination. And being feral is more about how free they are to explore their imaginations and less about the landscapes in which they play.
I do recognize also that my children don’t look like a lot of the children I have seen in fine art family work. And I think that was more of an inspiration to keep creating work so that there’s more representation.
Kevin: “But as I photographed my children, I realized that the idyllic landscape is in their imagination. And being feral is more about how free they are to explore their imaginations and less about the landscapes in which they play.”
I read the above and thought, yes indeed, that is also the definition of what many of us artists do in our studios, typically physically removed from so much of what we attempt to represent, actually and metaphysically. In your images we don’t know precisely where your children are playing, so we can place them in our memories of play.
I am generally consciously or subconsciously aware of the evocative nature of the art I am creating as I’m creating it. This way of moving creatively places me obliquely in the work, whether I am aware of it or not. Does this resonate with you?
Margaret: I think with my work, especially with fine art family work, I try to frame the composition in a way that removes any distracting specificity. By that I mean, I try to be cognizant of things in the frame that might be indicators of a really specific time frame – logos, movie references, children’s show characters. Depending on the work, I find that these details affect how one interacts with the work and how they connect with it. For the most part, I try to evoke a timelessness.
When I’m doing work that is more photojournalistic in style, I find those details necessary for understanding the specific people and time frame. But for this work about childhood, family, nostalgia, I’m aware that those details bring people into a cognitive space and prevent one from projecting their own experiences when engaging with the work.
Kevin: Margaret, a question I have wanted to ask a photographer that exists in both worlds, commercial and fine art, — Do any of your commercial clients that view your fine art work connect with it and request something similar for their projects? I think this question is about “style,” which many chafe at the mention of, but I feel is an important aspect of the photographic journey.
Margaret: I don’t think anyone has directly asked. I have a section of my website just for documentary family clients and the work there is fairly representative of what I do for families. I think the difference is more of an inclination towards humor with my family work. But I do try and weave in a more “fine art” approach when the opportunity presents itself. So, in the end my commercial family work may include a spectrum of what can be thought of as documentary – a photojournalistic approach to a fine art style.
Kevin: One last question. You have three images in the group you have up in the gallery that reference flying — your daughters with their arms outstretched, as if they are ready to take off. Are those also autobiographical images?
Thanks so much for taking the time to visit with us and all the best with your photographic journey!
Margaret: I think there’s some projection there with the wings. But I also think it’s part of our environment and life. We’re an Air Force family and when my oldest was a toddler, we lived right by base. She would run around with her “wings” outstretched all the time. Maybe she would’ve done that regardless of my spouse’s occupation but it was something I always noticed. Also, I think it’s just a beautiful allegory for childhood – to grow, to try out your wings, to find ways to take off, to not be burdened. I think I project a little of my own desires there – a desire to her unburdened, to feel I can spread my wings and explore all the time. To feel a sense of weightlessness…. I think it helps me remember childhood.
Aimee McCrory received the Director’s Award for her wonderful image, “Ghost Chair,” in our recent exhibition, “light.”
Amanda and I were fortunate to have a great conversation with her not too long ago. Aimee has a background in theatre and performance. It appears the performance side of her artistic nature is bonded to her photographic side. One appears to not take precedence over the other. Aimee is the intriguing and thought-provoking subject of much her photography. So, what we know first is Aimee and her story, then we may think of cameras and their progeny. She is very brave. There is an elegant rawness to her work — like dragging velvet across a chalkboard.
Kevin: Aimee your recent images include your husband as a co-conspirator or muse exposed. Can you tell us about where you have been and where you are going artistically?
Aimee: What is so constant in my practice is my desire to reveal my truth…to borrow a theater term it is like ‘pulling back the curtain’ for the audience.
Because I grew up thinking there was something very wrong with me, I put a great deal of energy into learning how to disguise my shame. I spent years meticulously applying a veneer that would camouflage what I perceived to be terribly flawed within myself.
As I grew, I began to seek creative outlets that would be safe places to express my emotions.
I channeled that creative current through every outlet I could find, be it theater, television, and most recently photography.
As I move through this last chapter of my life, I am even more compelled to pierce the veil and demonstrate what is real about life at my age. Life at any age is challenging, but life at this age is even more complex.
Currently I am deep in the throes of telling the story of a long and complex bond of marriage. I want to reveal what it looks like to share a relationship in the fourth quadrant of our lives. There is no window dressing…I hold a mirror up to others experiencing similar issues.
In our culture there is tremendous shame in growing old. Terms such as. ‘losing your wits’, ‘becoming irrelevant, ‘being abandoned’ haunt older individuals. Why not ‘come out of the closet’ and raise awareness to the joys and challenges of growing old together?
Interestingly, by appropriating our marriage as the subject matter for this work the project has added yet another unexpected dimension to our relationship
As of now this body of work does not feel complete because there are new stories to be told. As long as that continues, the project remains ongoing. I plan to fine tune the narrative sequence and create a book in the not-too-distant future.
This body of work is one that I feel is intimate, humorous, and hopeful. As for upcoming work I have a few ideas in the hopper. As of this moment my plate is full.
Kevin: Yes, much great art has been made out of a response to pain or abuse or loss, yet the hurt can also create comics and satirists. Talking to you I think I recognized a prankster lurking inside?
Acting can also be used as a mask and a dagger or a valentine. Cameras, SLR or video, are purveyors of intimacy, real or imagined. I love the Annie Leibovitz quote, “A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.” I would imagine working in theatre is naturally an intimate thing? Telling stories not your own with all the emotions earned and learned from living, so actually, telling stories that are your own. Am I digging too deep here?
I would think your experience in the theatre and having to present in public has also empowered and informed your photography practice. Behind the camera one can also be director, actor and script writer. Do you think of what you do in these terms or am I reading too much into things?
Aimee: Yes Kevin, I am one hell of a prankster, and I agree with the notion that all good artists are ‘tortured’ in some way. Angst is grist for the mill in good storytelling (in my opinion) and I have plenty of ‘angst’ and I use it to amplify an image. I am a storyteller at heart and, yes, you are correct in that my skills as a performance artist are an added benefit when creating an image. I embrace the lens as an extension of myself…a vessel in which to channel my emotions… my vision.
Something else we haven’t really talked about is my proximity to Death. It pervades everything I do in my creative world. Knowing where I am in the course of my life heightens the urgency and expediency of my work. I am so very ALIVE in this moment because Death is in the room with me all of the time.
Kevin:Momento Mori can be both frightening and freeing. I think I see that it has both compelled you to do work you may not have done as a younger person, more raw and intimate, but also unbridled your sense of play and wry, yet sensitive, farce – a visual inside joke of sorts.
Aimee: Kevin, I would agree with you. I think ‘Momento Mori’, (I like the sound of it), is a tremendous catalyst. It keeps my work fresh, provocative and sometimes uncomfortable to look at. I am flying without a net most of the time and that’s when really good stuff begins to happen. At the point at which I can no longer see the shore is the place where the work begins to flow. I work very hard. I am very disciplined in my endeavor as an artist. I do find that writing daily inspires me in my process and new ideas are born within those pages.
Kevin: Finally, thank you very much for supporting the gallery and going along with this interview. One last question, what film best captures your aesthetic, if there is one?
Aimee: I’ve been thinking about your question and the answer is that I do not have just onefilm that captures my aesthetic.
I do however have a director and filmmaker that captures my aesthetic and that is Alfred Hitchcock. He is everything to me. I read this quote somewhere:
“Hitchcockian style includes the use of editing and camera movement to mimic a person’s gaze, thereby turning viewers into voyeurs, and framing shots to maximize anxiety and fear”.
He exemplifies the mood I am attempting to create in the series I am currently working on. I have watched every movie to observe his genius. I am so appreciative of your willingness to do this on my behalf, Kevin. You might enjoy watching the Hitchcock series as well!