The Art of Sacred Places

Kenro Izu is looking back at a successful photographic career that has spanned more than 40 years and acknowledged that it was a fellowship at the Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW) that launched his career. Izu reflected on the opportunity and admitted it wasn’t just the money, but the importance of the professional encouragement of CPW’s founder, Howard Greenberg, and connecting him to opportunities to develop his photographic practice.

During January 2018, Izu displays a selection of his photography series “Sacred Places,” which has been internationally exhibited. The exhibit is up at Aaron Rezny Gallery in Kingston and is organized by CPW, with a portion of sales to benefit the photography center’s programming.

Izu uses a large-format camera favored by 19th-century photographers, stating that, “It captures air and the subtle nuances of tonality in platinum printing.” The 14-inch by 20-inch custom-made camera was purchased with funding he received from an NEA grant in 1984. Despite weighing 300 pounds, the camera has traveled with him during his photographic explorations, creating the platinum palladium contact prints that are included in this exhibit.

The photographer has traveled the world seeking out the places that are sacred to people, including areas of Tibet, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and India. Izu explained that he first traveled to Egypt in the 1970s and discovered he was especially drawn to the stone monuments. This has led to his photographing a number of places most would call the “Seven Wonders of the World,” including Stonehenge, Machu Picchu and Chichén Itzá.

While traveling in Hampi, India, Izu came upon a sight that he captured in “Vijayanager #15.” The elaborate shrine-like structure was built on a massive stone, designating a sacred place reachable by rock climbing. The contrast between the giant rock and the detailed architectural structure is surprising. In another human touch, the base of the stone has been patched to ensure its continued stability.

Blog Kenro Izu 1996 IND 15 Hampi
Kenro Izu captured “Vijayanager #15” in Hampi, India. 

 

In the image “Kanchipuram #638,” the photographer has placed himself within a sacred space on a pathway with the deity directly ahead. In the shrine’s low interior light, viewers can observe carved stone columns receding into the distance along a pathway alight with devotional fires.

Blog Kenro Izu 2012 IND 638 Kanchipuram
“Kanchipuram #638,” by Kenro Izu, depicts the interior of a sacred space in India.

 

In “Ladakh #49,” captured in Ramayuru Gompa, India, the photographer uses the light across the mountains to highlight the sacred temple built on a hill surrounded by a small village. Capturing the last light of the day, the spectacular shadows encircle the sacred place in a series of gradations, creating an abstracted composition of darks and lights.

Izu travels to and focuses on a region, becoming familiar with the local customs from there; he awaits inspiration to discover the sacred places. As his travels took him to the far reaches within Cambodia and Laos, he was moved by the children’s dire health conditions. On his return to New York Izu founded a charitable foundation, Friends Without a Border, that built a free pediatric hospital in Cambodia in order to give back to the people who have inspired his photographic journey.


All photos included in this entry are copyright Kenro Izu. More information on the photographer: http://www.kenroizu.com/

Link to the Friends Without a Border foundation: https://fwab.org/

This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal, Friday, January 12, 2018: http://pojonews.co/2EGRY7Z

 

Vagabond Time Killers

The annual summer exhibit at The Wassaic Project was inspired by a 1901 photo discovered by Wassaic Project co-founder Jeff Barnett-Winsby. The photo shows young adults posing holding a banner that reads, “VTK.” Handwritten on the back of the photo were the words, “Vagabond Time Killers, 1901, Wassaic NY.” The photo inspired the name of the exhibit, Vagabond Time Killers and this photo is on display at the entry of the 7-story grain elevator/gallery. The faces of the young adults in the photo show delight in the forest setting – allowing us to imagine the story we could weave about how this merry group met upstate at Wassaic every summer for summer fun.

The exhibit riffed off the feeling of freedom, the great outdoors, and the adventure of imagining something new. The first floor included Margeaux Walter’s Digital C-prints. Walter described the process as originating from large-scale installations inspired by consumer culture and domestic scenes. The patterning created by staging a floral printed tablecloth with plates filled with pastries and four diners posed in a four-cornered directional map created an embellished, balanced universe. In Bloom

Visitors could follow the music and sound coming from the back of the gallery, where Minhee Bae’s silk organza artworks hung like welcome banners to a world of experiential art. Haley Lauw and Erik Pedersen’s installation of “Junk Mouthpieces” paired with a loop of samples from the Music Masters basement created an environment inviting visitors to proceed upstairs. The installation of musical instruments continued on each floor and was viewable through cutouts seen as you climb the stairs.

Eleanor Sabin’s neon work “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” was installed a few levels above – the neon flame burned from logs placed in typical campfire fashion – the burned wood is a fitting melding of contemporary and historical. VTK-neonFLAMEContinuing upward, Jen Hitchings’ work is all about interpreting the summer camp out. “Red Forest” shows a camping scene with a dangerous sloping geography painted in neon blues and oranges. VTK-RedForest

Continuing up to the next level, Matthew Gamber’s images are inspired by “transcendentalist thought in the New England Landscape.” The artist created the images with a large format camera, printed as three-dimensional anaglyph prints that could be viewed with the 3-D glasses available in the gallery.

Upwards on level 6, see Tatiana Arocha’s captivating installation, “Impending Beauty.” TatianaArocha5The artist has reimagined the entire small floor as a parlor, perhaps inspired by the 1901 photo when parlors were a means of civil discourse. The walls have been papered in a moody dark forest scene with birds and forest plants – the settee has an elaborate snake coiled, ready to strike. The table has been set for tea with a tea set that has also been elaborately decorated with the dark, flora, and fauna of the jungle. The artists’ work is influenced by her native country, Columbia, along with the symbolism of 19th Century opulence and what it took from nature.

For the hardiest visitor reaching the top floor, Elias Hansen’s installation, “Looking Down the Tunnel for the Way Out” VTK-Elias-Hansentook over the entire space. The glass viewers placed in front of the windows invited viewers to look down over the scenery below – the glass created a funhouse viewpoint of the scenery below, reinforcing the idea of being in another world. VTK-glass-lens

Traveling back downstairs through eight floors of the grain elevator, visitors could appreciate the works placed on each landing by collaborative artists, Ghost of a Dream, where they used several iterations of romantic travel posters with cut out words, Forever. GhostofaDream03The artists shared this additional information about this work in their interview: “The stairwell allows for a slow and intimate reading of the work as the viewer ascends or descends the stairway. Repetition is a thread that runs through all our work, from drawings to installation. We feel that when you are dreaming about something you think about it over and over, sometimes for years.”


This essay is an expanded version of the original publication for the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy section Friday, August 25, 2017. Vagabond Time Travelers is up through Sunday, September 24, 2017. The Wassaic Project is located at 37 Furnace Bank Road, Wassaic, NY.

 

Appetite for Destruction

The title for Wassaic Project’s 9th Annual Summer Exhibition, Appetite for Destruction, is taken from an artwork of the same name by Robert Williams, a California-based artist that was at the forefront of psychedelic, apocalyptic artmaking. Williams’ painting was selected originally for the cover of a Guns N’ Roses album, but after its initial release was banned in record stores, forcing the album reissue with his art inside the album and a new image on the cover. Although that was 1987, apparently art still had the capacity to shock and provoke strong reactions.

Appetite for Destruction at the Wassaic Project’s Maxon Mills exhibit space takes a more measured approach. The works on display by contemporary emerging artists focuses on the artists’ interpretations of the untamed world – whether that world is the outdoor landscape, the built environment, or the imagined. The annual exhibit is important to present emerging artists’ work, building reputations and allowing artists to experiment and take risks with their art. Of the 56 exhibited artists, 45 are alumni of the Wassaic Artist Residency, where artists can live and make art in Wassaic during their residency period.

This year there are exhibits installed on the grounds that can be spotted before visitors enter the space. The exhibition space is a seven-story grain elevator with artwork installed at every level. On the first floor, visitors are greeted by David Grainger’s larger than life sculpture, “Dear in Headlights.” A manufactured forest and the sound of water encourage visitors to explore an installation by Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw, featuring a boat in a built stream surrounded by vegetation. The artist statement described the installation as “influenced by belief systems and how they related to visions of the future.”

Deborah-Simon-Flayed Rabbit-photo LMRMoving up the stairs to the next level, see Deborah Simon’s “Flayed Albino Rabbit” wearing a beautifully embroidered jacket depicting trees and interconnected root systems.

As visitors continue to move up the stairs, don’t miss the small wood boxes containing 3D digital animations created by Meredith Drum and works by J. D. Fontanella installed in the grain elevator shaft.

Natalie-Baxter-Warm Gun photo by LMRIMG_20160904_135650The third level is an installation of Natalie Baxter’s “Warm Gun” series. Natalie stated that she “learned from her Appalachian grandmother to create soft objects that challenge feminine ideals, gun laws, and violence.” The next level has an interactive exhibit by Gregg Evans featuring 12 photo panels on three shelves. The artist encourages visitors to rearrange the panels to create a new story, demonstrating how art can be re-interpreted by its surroundings.

Roxanne-Johnson-Run to the Hills photo  by LMR20160904_141651Next up are Roxanne Jackson’s fantastical creations – the exploding ceramic wall mask is a tour de force of design, color, and imagination. Don’t hesitate to enter and explore Sabrina Barrios’ installation created using UV light and string.

Sabrina-Barrios-Coup D'etat how they did it. Photo by LMRIMG_20160904_141144

Continuing up the stairs, Holden Brown’s “Stairway to Heaven” installation will invite you to ponder the pure white stairs cordoned off by a rope. The artist stated, “My work is about fantasy and unfulfilled desire. It addresses the human pursuit for utopic perfection and the images we associate with the idea of “Utopia.”

David-Grainger-Stairway-to-Heaven-LMR photoIMG_20160904_142427He used Google to search for images related to “Stairway to Heaven” and “Utopia.” Facing the installation, visitors could see an open door at the top of the pure white stairway, a blue sky with fluffy white clouds slowly moving, visible through the open door – a heavenly choir completing the utopian scene. Visitors may wonder if they will be allowed to pass beyond the blue velvet rope.

Appetite for Destruction at the Wassaic Project’s Maxon Mills is located at 37 Furnace Bank Road, Wassaic. Exhibit up through September 18, 2016. 

 

This essay (in an edited form) originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal’s Enjoy section, September 9, 2016.