Wednesday, January 29, 2014

WIDE ANGLE: American Photographs

WIDE ANGLE: American Photographs from the Collection opened Sunday, January 26 and will be on view through April 27. This photograph by Ralph Eugene Meatyard is one of the photographs in this exhibition.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s love of art, literature, and philosophy enriched his photography and was fostered by multiple associations with artists, poets, and writers over his lifetime, including Guy Davenport, Wendell Berry, James Baker Hall, Jonathan Greene, and Thomas Merton. However, it was his introduction in the mid-1950s to the Eastern philosophy of Zen by photographer Minor White that had the greatest impact. Once familiar with Zen philosophy, “Meatyard dedicated his photography to conveying the spiritual essence of existence, which he felt lay beyond the visible world,” writes curator and photography historian Barbara Tannenbaum.

Accordingly, Meatyard was not interested in the traditional notion of photography as a recorder or mirror of reality, but of something deeper. He used various props and experimented with multiple exposures, blurred movements, and a “no-focus” technique. Many of his best known images are of his three children and other family members, who pose in dilapidated structures in rural Kentucky and the surrounding countryside. As in the photographs exhibited here, they sometimes wear rubber masks that not only obscure the identities of the models, but create an ambiguous portrait, not of any particular individual, but of humanity itself.

Meatyard also used the masks to pull viewers in, to more deeply consider the possible interpretations of his photographs. Described as “charming stories that have never been written,” by Davenport, a writer who taught at the University, these unsettling dramas constructed by Meatyard deal with the complex emotions tied to childhood and aging, intimacy and distance, and loss and destruction.

image:  RALPH EUGENE MEATYARD American, 1925-1972 Romance of Ambrose Bierce#3 from Portfolio Three: The Work of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, 1964 (printed 1974)
Gelatin silver print
Bequest of Robert C. May

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Elizabeth Shatner

The Museum's most anticipated fundraiser, Art in Bloom opens this Friday,  February 21 thru the 23  featuring over 50 floral interpretations of art from the Museum's collection.The public is invited to see the Museum in full bloom Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 - 5 pm. Admission is $8.

Photographer, Elizabeth Shatner is the Art in Bloom 2014 Signature Artist. You can meet Ms. Shatner on Saturday, February 22 from 1:00 until 3:30 pm. The price for this Meet the Artist event is included with the $8 Art in Bloom admission.

You can also meet Ms. Shatner Saturday night at the Night on the Town Cocktail Reception,  from 7:30 - 10:30. Tickets for this event are $100 / $75 and can be purchased online or at the door.

Ms. Shatner didn't realize it but, before she ever picked up a camera, she had already spent most of her lifetime preparing to become a photographer.She began a successful horse judging career at the age of fourteen, and over the next several decades accumulated a body of work that included nine different breed affiliate cards. She spent those years honing a unique skill set: the ability to observe a horse-rider combo, compare it to an ideal, and then pick the competitor that suits that ideal -- all in a short period of time.

"As the horses in the class are passing, my brain takes a snapshot of not only the shape, manners and presence," says Elizabeth, "but also of how are they working as a whole. I'll have to remember that and compare it to the others as well as to the standard… so my mind is capturing impressions and stationary images for comparison, in both real time and remembered time."

A few years ago, while on a photo shoot in Israel with her husband, actor William Shatner, she was inspired to pick up the camera and quickly found that her judge's eye was the pathway to becoming an artist. "When I capture a moment in time, for recording beauty or history, I tend to categorize the subject, or the thought it inspires. Looking through the lens seems to stimulate the same portion of my brain and consciousness that it takes to ride or to judge." She finds in her subjects not only visual aspects, but also themes, stories and meanings.

Crystal Light 5, digital print
For Elizabeth, photography has led to a meditative relationship with time and permanence, the intangible and the tangible. What is at first a moment of reality in her eye, becomes a thought in her mind's eye, then becomes a reflection captured in her camera. Residing there on a chip, it is a ghost made of only potential, and will be lost forever should the image be erased. However, the ones that make it to a physical medium (be it hard drive, projection, or canvas) take on lives of their own. "To be moved by a sight, a thought, or a concept into taking a natural image from fleeting moment to archived "piece", is an action much like conception. To me, that's a form of miracle."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Edward Sheriff Curtis

The Museum begins each new year with a new exhibition. This week we are taking down the fiber exhibition, Innovators and Legends and will begin the installation of the photography exhibition, Wide Angle: American Photographs from the Collection which opens on January 26.

The works for this exhibition were selected by our curator, Janie Welker, from the Museum's extensive collection of more than 1300 images. Wide Angle is an exploration of the history of American photography with works by Ansel Adams Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank, Russell Lee, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Cindy Sherman, Aaron Siskind, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Doris Ulmann, and Andy Warhol. One of my favorite images in the exhibition is this photograph of a Papago girl taken in 1907 by Edward Sheriff Curtis.

As a teenager, Curtis apprenticed as a photographer and by the age of 19 had opened his own photography studio in Seattle. There he met Chief Seatlh of Seattle and photographed his daughter, Princess Angeline. Her photograph is reputed to be the first portrait photograph of a Native American. In 1898 Angeline's portrait was selected for an exhibition by the National Photographic Society and helped launch Curtis's career. He was given $7500 by J.P. Morgan to produce a series of Native American photographs. Curtis not only produced over 40,000 photographs of 80 different tribes, he documented tribal cultures and history earning a reputation as both a photographer and an ethnologist.