The Art of Photowork

Barrett Art Center kicks off the 2021 exhibition year with the 34th Annual National Juried Photography Exhibition Photowork, juried by Audrey Sands, the Norton Family Assistant Curator of Photography, Phoenix Museum of Art and the Center for Creative Photography. Sans selected 29 artists to exhibit 39 photographs, as described in her statement: “Against the background of an unfathomable year, photography has proven to offer solace, perspective, insight, hope, truth. The work in this exhibition addresses a number of urgent themes—patriotism, body politics, the safety and visibility of public space, and the possibility of hope.”

Sands included photographs that reflected on the question, what is America? The entry gallery shows photographers that captured images of the US Flag in a variety of aspects, from the underwater swimmer wearing bathing trunks embellished with the flag by Joseph Podlesnik; to the flag as décor, as seen in “Trailer Trashed 5” by Michael DiPleco.

Other themes noted in the exhibition are human’s ability to adapt to trauma. In consideration of the restrictions and stress that the pandemic has brought, rituals that soothe continue, such as a warm bath as seen in “Natalia” by Sharon Draghi. Photographer Norman Aragones exhibits two photographs that explore these rituals. In “Grandmother Praying,” we immediately understand the comfort of praying over rosary beads. At the other end of the life spectrum, in “Growing Up,” he captured a young girl costumed as a fairy princess complete with plastic tiara and magic wand. She appears to be lost in thought as she sits among a pile of trash that includes a cast away toy castle.

“Growing Up” photo by Norman Aragones

Public space is examined in the context of memory contrasting with the current landscapes, both rural and urban. Photographs such as Claude Beller’s “Shoe Shine Parlor NYC,” that capture a crowded shoeshine stand in New York City and Hank Paper’s “In the News,” depicting people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder waiting for a train and reading the newspaper remind us how public and personal space have changed in the past year.

Several of the public space photographs remind us of the isolation felt this past year, as seen in Tad Phillips’s “Poughkeepsie Rectangle,” a portrait of an empty drive-in that seems like an abstract composition. Public space is also seen as occupied by a sole person, such as Raymond Bonavida’s “Post and Mason no. 11” where a thick fog envelops a woman – she wears a mask and appears to be looking down at her phone.

Ray Koh’s “No Omakase” shows a restaurant table where the diners have recently left: the dirty dishes on the table at what must have been a sumptuous meal and the darkness surrounding the table all emphasize a feeling of abandonment. It also brings to mind communal meals with friends and family that seem like old memories.

“No Omakase” photograph by Ray Koh

The ubiquitous face mask is featured prominently in Julie O’Connor’s “Fashion in the Year 2020.” O’Connor’s photo is a mélange of patterns;from face masks sewn from lively prints on display in a store window to the brick building visible behind the photographer.

“Fashion in the Year 2020” photograph by Julie O’Connor

Barrett Art Center is located at 55 Noxon Street, Poughkeepsie. Photowork 2021 on exhibit through February 21, 2021. Barrett art center.org | info@barrettartcenter.org | 845-471-2550


This article originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal January 20, 2021

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