The Art of Photography Now

Every year The Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW) invites a nationally known curator to create a contemporary photography survey exhibit utilizing their curatorial vision. This year they invited Elizabeth Ferrer, Vice President, Contemporary Art at BRIC, a major New York cultural organization to jury the exhibit Photography Now 2018: Still-Life, representing a variety of styles that contemplate a state of being, or a still-life. In her curator statement, Ferrer wrote: “Still-Life ventures into seemingly distinct territories – the realm of the inanimate, of things, and in tandem, of contemporary lived experience.”

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Rock, 2018; from the series A Place to Disappear by Pablo Lerma

Each of the thirteen artists exhibits several photographs, providing viewers the opportunity to see their vision and approach to photography. For instance, Pablo Lerma approaches his photographic practice by imagining what would happen if humans disappeared from the earth. His photo, Rock, from the series A Place to Disappear, shows rolling green hills, horizontal striations of the earth strewn with rock, where a single large rock becomes the focus of this landscape. Using a similar viewpoint, Cecilia Borgenstam photographed locations within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. These photos showcase the natural beauty of the park alongside the detritus that people left behind. For instance, in Perego Stroller. Red Flowers, viewers will see what was once a luxury baby carriage abandoned beneath the dramatic tree branches.

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Perego stroller. Red flowers, 2017; Archival pigment print by Cecilia Borgenstam 

Artists using the urban landscape for their still-life include Ken Dreyfack, who captures the facades of buildings with dramatic lighting, reminiscent of a movie set. His photography series,

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Rear Entrance, 2015; from the series Silent Stages by Ken Dreyfack 

Silent Stages, is featured in this exhibit and each photo has a narrative quality. Jarod Lew’s works use Detroit’s urban spaces as a stage for the inhabitants to live their lives. Lew’s photo, Belle Isle, is a surprisingly alluring image of a young woman – her direct gaze is softened by a slight smile as she stands in water with the cityscape behind her.

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Belle Isle, 2017; from the series, Maybe I’ll See You There by Jarod Lew
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Jonathan, 2017; from the series The Land of Illustrious Men by Daniel Ramos

Daniel Ramos exhibits four photographs from his series, The Land of Illustrious Men, a family narrative about life experiences between the United States and Mexico detailing vignettes of memory as still-life. As an example, in Self Portrait, 2002, the viewer can experience a room with objects in the artists’ home. A decorative mirror captures a portion of his face as if he is but a small piece of these narratives.

Ferrer also selected photographers using images of people as a way to explore notions of social responsibility. She commented: “Whether in work interrogating social issues or embodying a more philosophical reading of humanity, I am struck by the persistent desire to represent what is real, true, and beloved.” Laurent Chevalier explores self-identity of black men and brings social justice into the conversation. Channell Stone’s photographs strive to reclaim “the Black body as a recognized aspect of humanity.” Soohyun Kim uses traditional family portraiture photography to put faces on families faced with immigration hardships.

This photography survey shows that artists are at the forefront of opening a dialog that validates what is real in their lives from a variety of viewpoints and artistic practices.


This article originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal Friday, November 16, 2018. Photography Now 2018: Still-Life was on exhibit through January 13, 2019. Featured artists include Ruth Adams, Keliy Anderson-Staley, Cecilia Borgenstam, Laurent Chevalier, Evan D’Arpino, Ken Dreyfack, Leah Edelman-Brier, Soohyun Kim, Pablo Lerma, Jarod Lew, Daniel Ramos, Niv Rozenberg, and Chanell Stone. 

Artists retain copyright on all photos. 

The Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW) is located at 59 Tinker Street, Woodstock, New York 12498.

 

Documenting the Art of American Roots Music

During October, music photographers who have captured the essence of musicians from acoustic traditions exhibited their work in American Roots Music at The Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, New York. Roots music, also commonly called folk music in the United States, are musical forms created without the use of synthesizers and electronics, incorporating early blues, country, folk, rhythm and blues. Music journalist Frank Matheis organized and curated the American Roots Music exhibit inviting twelve prominent and internationally renowned music photographers in this exhibit of black and white fine art photography.

We are all familiar with the folk music tradition led by world renown king of folk music, Pete Seeger. Fine art photographer and artist, Bibiana Huang Matheis, captured images of Seeger in concert and at his home. In the photo on display, Huang Matheis caught the moment when Seeger has one hand on his beloved banjo and one arm outstretched to the audience. Seeger’s expressive face is framed against the inky black background, capturing him in song.

Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger in concert by Bibiana Huang Matheis. (2008) 

Bill Steber has documented blues culture in Mississippi for the last 20 years, chronicling the state’s blues musicians and traditions that gave birth to or influenced the blues. Steber’s documentary photography of guitar evangelist Flora Fluker perfectly captures her intense singing style.

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Bill Steber captured Guitar Evangelist Cora Fluker in Marion, Mississippi. (1996)

Many of the photographers that document the musicians also make music. Bill Steber performs with several bands and John Rocklin is the co-founder of the Honesdale Roots & Rhythm Festival, sings and plays guitar in several bands. Rocklin’s involvement with music started at a young age when his father took him to Washington Square Park exposing him to music. “I stood right next to Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.” Rocklin met and soon became friends with Little Sammy Davis, a blues harmonica legend. Inspired by his photographs of the musician, he pursued art photography and went on to capturing music legends such as B.B. King, Johnny Winter, and Odetta.5 LitteSammyDavisbyJohnRocklin

Douglas Baz is a freelance and fine art photographer residing in Dutchess County. The images in this exhibition are from a documentary project that he and Charles Traub photographed in Cajun Louisiana in 1974. A large exhibition and book of this work will be exhibited at the Historic New Orleans Collection Museum during 2019.

George Mitchell and Axel Küstner used a documentary approach to capture photography and field recordings of blues musicians; similar to a folklorists’ approach to documentation. Mitchell’s photo of Jesse Mae Hemphill on her porch shows that music was an everyday part of life. Axel Küstner is known as one of Europe’s blues experts. Küstner’s 1980 photo of Flora Molton sitting on a Washington D.C. corner performing to passerby depicts the essence of roots music – it is by the people and for the people.

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Flora Molton performing in Washington D.C., (1980) photographer Axel Küstner

The late Myron Samuels was a serious blues fan and photographer. Samuels was also a street musician playing blues harp at Portland, Maine area venues and farmers markets. His work in this posthumous exhibit includes photographs of Etta Baker, Ted Bogan, and John Cephas.


This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy!, October 5, 2018. American Roots Music was on display at The Howland Cultural Center, 477 Main Street, Beacon, New York;  October 6-28, 2018.

 

The Art of Eco Materialism

Unison Arts Center and SUNY New Paltz students have collaborated to create installations responding with ephemeral sculptural installations using an Eco Materialism theme. Inspired by Linda Weintraub’s forthcoming book, What’s Next? Eco Materialism & Contemporary Art, this exhibit responds to the urgent environmental neglect we witness in the world today. The exhibiting artists present their artworks as thoughtful responses, including the selection of materials.

The exhibit, What’s Next, also provides an ideal opportunity for a summer stroll with time to pause and consider each of the 29 stations where work has been constructed onsite, many times with items sourced from the Unison property. Michael Asbill, Visiting Lecturer at SUNY New Paltz involved students in his Collaborative Constructions course in this exhibit. Amanda Heidel, participated as a student and commented, “Starting with reading and interpreting Linda Weintraub’s text to form a proposal, to developing a list of artists to invite to respond to the text, contacting artists, reviewing of proposals, preparing the site at Unison, and assisting artists with installing their work, students were involved in every aspect of mounting this exhibit.” Visitors to the site will experience artworks that are about process, while some project a utopian viewpoint of beauty. At the gateway to the installation pick up a walking guide to get additional information on the artists’ process in approaching Eco Materialism in their pieces.

Enjoy! Moira Williams Matters of CareMoira Williams exhibits Matters of Care, featuring a stack of cannon-ball size soil filled with positive bacteria. The artist has researched Mycobacterium vaccae, known as the ‘happy bacteria’ living in soil and invites all who pass to take one home to share. Beth Haber’s installation To Be Written shows four paired slate tablets placed on podiums supported by the remains of four ash trees in a compass formation. Visitors have the opportunity to write messages, which will then be wiped clean by the natural process of rain, wind, or over-writing, suggesting that we have the power to start a new movement that considers nature first.

Enjoy! Susan Togut's Emergent Wisdom (1)

As you meander further down the path you might be drawn to the sound of water where Susan Togut’s Emergent Wisdom is installed above the Unison pond. Togut’s statement reads, “this environment seeks to evoke an appreciation for change, transformation, uncertainty, the magic of the unknown as in creativity, and the ephemerality of life.” Most of the pieces in the show focus on the transient, from the materials, used that naturally change over time, to the concepts presented in each piece. Jan Harrison and Alan Baer created Halcyon, a mythical nest-world for endangered and bird-like creatures that floats above in the tree limbs. The artists stated this is a “refuge and a place of rebirth in the global world of the sixth extinction, the Anthropocene.”Enjoy! Jan Harrison and Alan Baer's Halcyon

Exploring the exhibit heightens our sense of awareness towards the natural world. Perhaps this will extend our views on Eco Materialism as a life practice and new art movement that could change our world for the better, ensuring that we have a say in what’s next.

This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy! section July 27, 2018.

 

The art of Full Circle – a one-person exhibit

ARTBAR Gallery presented “Full Circle,” a one-person exhibit featuring Laura Gurton’s artworks inspired by the genesis of nature in all forms. The exhibit includes paintings, digital works on paper, reliefs, and sculpture relating to the continued exploration of her series, “Unknown Species.” Gurton focuses her vision on examining nature at the microscopic level using her signature circular forms. The artworks contain the common thread of concentric circular lines and colors that mimic pieces of agate, rings inside of trees, mold and other patterns in nature.

“Full Circle” is a perfect example of the value of a one-person exhibit, allowing viewers an opportunity to fully appreciate the artist’s vision. Gurton’s signature style comes through in all her artwork, echoing naturally occurring shapes that provide the rhythms of existence and life. For instance, Gurton’s paintings from the “Unknown Species” feature shimmering concentric circles with complex colors with organically shaped interiors. As in nature, all designs begin with the genome but manifest themselves in unique forms. These shapes and designs respond to artworks in three dimensions as the artist begins to expand the designs with dimensionality, recently expanding into sculptural objects and paintings.

ENJOY_In Three Dimensions.no.3, 300dpi (1)For instance, in “Three Dimensions, No. 3,” Gurton creates patterns that appear to be floating in space. The shapes have grown off the surface of the painting and could be a pearlescent colony of dwellings in another universe. Looking closer, viewers could see an influence of the traditional Australian Aborigine artwork with patterns of dots. In the “Mandala” series on paper, the artist has selected designs from her works to create a new circular form on paper, and similarly, created new compositions in the “Bits and Pieces” series using sections and details from previous paintings, creating artworks reminiscent of African trade cloth.

Visitors to the show could get lost in the dreamy paintings, some which seem like a vision of another universe. Enjoy_Unknown Species #198, Laura Gurton, 30_ x 60_ Oil. Alkyd, Ink on Linen,3oodpi“Unknown Species, No. 198” could be an unexplored galaxy or a microcosm under a slide. The lavender and blue in the background make the centered design in warm colors pop out of the painting. In “Unknown Species, No. 247,” shades of green, the horizontal composition, and elegant patterning bring to mind Gustav Klimt.Enjoy_Gurton, Unknown Species no. 247, Oil, Alkyd, Ink on Panel 36_ x 48_, 2018, 300DPI (1)

In “Unknown Species, No. 269” Gurton paints a mandala in more somber tones of black, white, and touches of brown, showing her artistic sense goes beyond color. The hypnotic design is painted on a 36” canvas with a larger than life presence. Viewers may have their own interpretation of the image, but the artist commented that she “sees the shapes with their concentric circles as a representative for time itself, displaying their growth like the rings in a tree which comes with age. When they overlap each other, they display the passage of time in layers.”Enjoy_Gurtron, Unknown Species no. 269, 36_ diameter, Oil, Alkyd, Ink on Canvas 300dpi (1)

Ultimately, “Full Circle” demonstrates that Laura Gurton has hit her stride. She continues to enlarge her vision using a highly expressive representation of nature’s beauty and captures the primary essence of these elements.

Full Circle: works by Laura Gurton was on exhibit at ARTBAR Gallery May 5 through May 26, 2018. ARTBAR Gallery is located at 674 Broadway, Kingston, New York

This article appeared originally in the May 4, 2018, Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy! edition. 

Photo Credits: Unknown Species #198, Debra DeGraffenreid, Photographer; Unknown Species #247,  Robert Hansen-Sturm, Storm Photo Inc., Unknown Species #269, Robert Hansen-Sturm, Storm Photo Inc.

 

 

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.

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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.

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“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.

 

Art & Catalytics

In science, catalytics speed up a chemical reaction while undergoing no permanent change. Recently this premise is actively being tested at the Arts Mid-Hudson gallery – two Hudson Valley curators Emilie Houssart and Xuewu Zheng are launching a series of artistic dialogues through group art exhibitions. Houssart explained that this is facilitated “by getting artists together so that we might ‘collide’ with each other in interesting ways.”

LMRblogJinkookAltogether, eight artists are exhibiting work that could be wildly diverse without this premise. For instance, in Jinkook Hwang’s “Sushi Nam Yeo” series, rice is seen as the object of happiness and love, stemming from his cultural background. In “Couple Sushi,” the artist draws a man and woman resting on a bed of rice that has been magnified to signify its importance in his life.

 

Hayoon Jay Lee, Silent Witness (detail)
Silent Witness I, (detail) Hayoon Jay Lee

Hayoon Jay Lee also creates work responding to food, which can be seen in many of her performance pieces and artworks. Hayoon said, “I try to communicate the tension points surrounding personal conflicts and social inequities. However, a central core and a function my work is an active collaboration by artists to inform and support underserved communities.” Hayoon exhibits “Silent Witness I,” where viewers can consider the artist’s rendition of a beautifully rounded spoon, filled to the brim with rice and contemplate the idea of what is enough.

 

Emilie Houssart and Xuewu Zheng both use their artistic practice to make sense of contemporary culture. With Zheng’s practice of rolling and tying newspapers, the work reflects his fascination with history and the idea that we create a new history as we live our lives. Zheng’s practice can be summed up in his succinct statement about his work: “My goal is to take the treasures of the people in my left hand and the masters of yesterday in my right hand and to clasp them together. I then want to blend them to create the Zheng Xuewu of today.” His installation “Century Text” placed in the center of the gallery features thousands of pages rolled and tied, reminding us that history is made up of thousands of tiny details from each day.Xuewu Zheng, Century Text

Emilie Houssart, Spaces
Spaces – Emilie Houssart

 

Houssart’s work “Spaces” responds to the different perceptions of value in society. Similar to Zheng, Houssart has a darkly humorous approach to contemporary culture, adding it all into the mix and allowing everything to exist side by side in a vaguely chaotic presentation.

Marieken Cochius exhibits her recent ink and shellac drawings on paper. The artist may be influenced by the natural world: her abstraction of color and bold line stands out as a direct emotional response articulated with paper and inks. While Cochius presents ethereal line and shading, Leigh Williams exhibits “Vessels,” two forms that can be viewed as positive and negative space. The hand-built wood-fired clay has delicate colorations that defy their dark, organic shapes.

Joe Radoccia’s larger than life portraits show a dignity and gravitas in each face. Each portrait features underpainting in the background that adds to the depth and nuance of each face. Radoccia places the soul of each person on display using a grand scale and the direct gaze of the subject.Joe Radoccia, 'Joe Weber'

Sumi Pak examines human emotions of happiness, sadness, fear, and curiosity through his daily portraits of his cat, Kopi. Pak’s gestural line and colorations describe the ordinary life of his cat, and perhaps our own lives as we go about our daily business.


This essay was originally published in print:  the Poughkeepsie Journal – March 10, 2017 Sumi Pak, Getting to Know You