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Exhibitions: Past

The Photograph Now

Works by Reenie Barrow, Nadine Boughton, Millie Falcaro, Nick Johnson, Annu Palakunnathu, Matthew, Olivia B. McCullough, Jonathan Sharlin, Steven B. Smith, David Strasburger, Willard Traub

October 16 – November 19 2008

The Photograph Now The Photograph Now The Photograph Now The Photograph Now The Photograph Now The Photograph Now

A camera is a mechanical device able to capture and store visual information. A photograph is the means through which this recorded information is made visible. Cameras have been around in some form for at least 500 years. Artists, as early as the Renaissance, knew about an apparatus called Camera Obscura and some used it as an aid to painting. The device, in its earliest form, was a darkened room with a pinhole in one wall. If one sat in this darkened space and allowed one's eyes to adjust, the view from the pinhole could clearly be seen inside the room, projected upside down onto the opposite wall. With the development of lenses and the creation of smaller lightproof boxes the camera's basic form was established.

It took about 200 years of experimentation to develop the formulas for creating light sensitive coatings that could be applied to a flat surface such as glass or film. The alchemists, and later, chemists, discovered that silver nitrate and other liquids changed color when exposed to sunlight. Over time methods of applying the coatings to flat surfaces were developed and, essentially, photography was born. These treated plates were placed inside a camera and exposed to light through a lens. Once these plates were chemically processed, a photograph could be made.

Unlike traditional photography, digital photography is a reproductive process that utilizes digital technology to record images. These images can be displayed, printed, stored, manipulated, transmitted, and archived using digital and computer techniques without chemical processing. Evolving technologies make the photograph more receptive than ever to creative manipulation, and today, photographers have an ever increasing array of processes and means to work with and achieve results. The processes and various technological tools of photography are inextricably linked.

Emotionally evocative, photographs create compelling illusions of reality. Because of their implicit realism photographs feel immediately accessible. Photographic images represent time and place and can induce feelings of memory, of nostalgia. Often we feel a visceral connection to the subject recorded on film. If a photographer and her camera are a witness, the photograph is the evidence. Some photographers have documented realities of war, the nuances of love, and the solemnity of death; others use the process to express their creative visions.

The photographers in this exhibition employ a variety of techniques to make the images on display in the gallery. Some work with early photographic methods, such as collotype and palladium printing, while others rely on digital technology, and then there are those who combine several processes to express their views. But the methods, however, are only the means through which they convey their ideas. Their works are alive, vital, and provide insight into their notions of what it means to look upon the world. The shapes, objects, events recorded here are but windows through which we have been granted temporary access

Kathleen Hancock

The Artists

Reenie Barrow

The flower images I am showing reflect my interest in photographs as metaphors. My goal is to make my photographs work on two levels…visual and emotional… To make them visually compelling as well as serving as catalysts for the viewer to contemplate words, sensations, or memories.

I am giving the flowers Latin names as a nod to a series of delicate and evocative botanical pressings which hang on my walls. My grandmother did these as a senior project while attending Marzavan College in Armenia at the turn of the last century. Traditionally, assigning Latin names to flowers implies a scientific method of recording, but I am playing with tradition by translating, into Latin, words that come to mind when I look at the images---Memory, Elegance, Light Seeker, Passionate Dance…

Nadine Boughton

The Pleasures Of Modern Living
As a girl growing up in suburban, mid-century America, I was shaped by the women's magazines that arrived in our home each week. We were in love with all things "modern" -- frozen foods, sprawling homes and lawns, leisure time and the sheer array of new products to consume. My mother and I ran out to view the latest homes with their "atomic age" style. Suburbia appeared as an ordered universe, sleek and spacious.

As an artist, I am drawn back to my beginnings, to the imagery and cultural milieu of the postwar period through the early 1960's. Using vintage magazines and materials, I scan and compose digital collages. My intention is to blend the nostalgia for the past with the darkness beneath "the pleasures of modern living."

My work explores the portrayal of women and domestic culture; the illusion of security; food as an object of desire and comfort; and the power of materiality. I am piecing together fragments of memory into new narratives. Color often acts as an organizing principle.

I have been influenced by all of Pop Art, and the collages of William Wegman, John O'Reilly, Laurie Simmons, and Ken Brown.

Millie Falcaro

Desire is a one of our first instincts. In infancy it is grounded in the physical realm and is the primal force for our need for food and touch. As we mature and are socialized the sphere of our desire widens outside of ourselves. The objects in the form of people and things become incorporated into our ego system. Desire of objects is the bridge from our inner and outer selves and forms the fundamental bond to the world and the foundation of our emotional relationships. Like the poet Neruda, I have a fascination and reverence for objects. The sublime shape of an egg, the petaled perfection of a field flower, or the idealized feminine form of the Barbie doll all receives attention.

These images are made from familiar object s and are an attempt to look beneath the surface of things and explore the complex social, cultural and emotional symbolism imbued within the objects we desire.

My method has shifted to a direct, tactual approach which uses the photogram as a practice where I welcome unexpected and unpredictable results. The pictures are constructed in the darkroom, where no light is allowed to touch the medium before exposure. Objects are arranged in total darkness and I must rely on imagination, intuition and touch. Forms followed the interaction of the materials, chemistry and light and are integral partners in the process.

Nick Johnson

This work is created in the studio using rocks and flagstones. The flagstones are often cut into shapes, chiseled and sanded, and all of the stones are painted to remove color variations that can be distracting in the final print. The light source is one light bulb shining through a white sheet which is stretched over a wooden frame, much like a large soft box. I use no fill lights or fill cards in order to preserve the feeling of natural light and avoid the look of studio lighting. The photographs are all made with a 4 x 5 camera and printed on Ilford multigrade fiber based paper. There is no darkroom trickery used in making these images. The photographs with reflections are created by placing the stones in a large tray of water.

The idea to build my subjects grew out of a difficulty in finding things to photograph that looked and felt like what I could see in my mind. Over the past 28 years I have experimented with many different materials including Styrofoam and wood with various mixtures of paint and sand on them which seemed to work visually but looked too manmade. I then went on to work for a number of years with cement which I would pour into molds which were constructed out of cardboard and plywood. This resulted in a series of photographs which I felt were somewhat closer to my vision, but still lacked the organic feel that I finally achieved with the flagstones. What has motivated me to create this work is a belief that there are new levels of dimensions and harmonies to be found within the formal visual language.

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

Flipping through a family album, we become more cognizant of the histories and memories of our and other families. Using digital technology, I reorient the viewer's connection to time as I collapse the presumed progression, so the past and present appear here in the same virtual space. The final animation is a combination of a scan of an archival image and recent photographs of three generations of women.

These animations weave in and out of spaces of time, allowing the viewer to simultaneously ponder the history, future and aging of the subjects. This malleable flowing object leaves the viewer to wonder where the past and present overlap. Here, history is distorted, evoking a new dimension of memories which is uniquely digital.

This project was funded by the MacColl Johnson Fellowship from the Rhode Island Foundation with additional support from the University of Rhode Island.

Olivia B. McCullough

Temporal Body
Transitory and illusive, the present only exists as a concept. The photographhas always been thought to "freeze" a moment in time. These unfixed images reflect a truer reality. The body is temporal, ever-changing and moving towards entropy. The photogram acts as a memory, a reminder of something that is no longer there. Ultimately, the memory, along with the body, fades with time.

Temporal Body, series I: a series of photograms on BxW photographic paper. They are unprocessed (with the exception of words painted on with developer or fixer). The image will fade in time when exposed to light,leaving only the words.

Temporal Body, series II: a series of photograms on Ektachrome color paper exposed by the sun and developed in BxW chemistry. They are not stabilized with fixer and as a result, the unstable emulsion results in color shifts over time.

Jonathan Sharlin

Pictures from a Small Island
Little La Salle, Upper Peninsula, Michigan

For the past 15 years, my wife and I have traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, near Canada, to an island called Little La Salle. It is a small island, less than one square mile and it has been challenging to work within the confines of this small area. Yet every year I find something to reenergize my work as a visual note taker.

The island is steeped in the memories of five generations and it is partly through this filter that I photograph. The summer light on the lake has special reflective qualities, especially in the early and late hours, and although I am attracted to its pristine beauty, the photographs function more as metaphors or symbols than as document of the place.

Often my exposures are extended. Time reveals itself on film as an accumulation of light and movement. The camera records what the eye and brain do not see, giving form to the invisible, intangible echoes of the past. Through this work, I have begun to understand how deeply a sense of place can influence one's photographic sensibility.

Steven B. Smith

These photographs are selections from the project "Close to Nature," which will be the second publication in a trilogy of photographic artist books that examine the impact of suburban expansion on the natural environment. This phase engages the cultural desire to live next to nature, and specifically, the impulse to emulate and recreate the previously existing landscape in a simulated, idealized form within the yard of the single-family home. This urge is expressed in cliche-ridden decorating themes that borrow elements from the nearby local landscape. Whether the homeowner is incorporating a mountain skyline in a high-tech cinderblock/stucco fence or recreating a landscape in a retaining wall or rock formation tableau in a swimming pool, there is much to be mindful of. Blending in with the natural surroundings, adhering to local decorating themes and regulations while striving discretely to stand out from the neighbors just a bit, provides extra challenges and meaning behind the placement of every rock and shrub. While new homeowners strive to pay homage to an idyllic landscape, I photograph with the goal of constructing a larger portrait of our culture and how its assigns value to nature. I gather and catalog visual facts of these constructed landscapes in the search for criteria with which to sort out the collision between suburban expansion and the love of nature.

David Strasburger

I look out through a friend's kitchen window at his back yard in Somerville, where the carriage house is visible through spring snow. My friend's ex-lover has lived there, for ten years, just across the flower garden. He is moving out this week. What has it been like, I wonder, to wash dishes for ten years looking at Jonathan&aposs windows? And what different sort of loss is it now as Jonathan leaves in this new and more decisive way? I can&apost properly frame the question to my friend at the time; instead I make a photo.

The more intractable dilemma is the question of why, beyond empathy for my friend, this view is so important and alive to me. These images are problems or puzzles or a way of wrestling with questions or even posing questions that I can&apost quite frame in any way other than with a photograph. I come from a family that is all about words. In my childhood the cookbooks were mixed on the kitchen shelf with dictionaries, an encyclopedia, and an atlas so we wouldn&apost have to run to the living room to settle one of our routine dinner table arguments. If my upbringing was intensely verbal and figurative then my academic training, in physics, was intensely quantitative and formal. But there are questions and ideas that don&apost yield well either to words or numbers. And that&aposs why I make photographs. I make them as meditations, particularly on questions about people I am close to. Each image in this body of work has within it a story in which truths intertwine with questions, questions that might collapse under their own weight if asked outright.

So the photo can be a way of talking around a question, circling it, stalking it, being patient with it, maybe not looking it full in the face until much later. The passage of time is important for these images; they function as the scaffolding for long-term inquiry and reflection. Time's flow is also encompassed within each multi-panel composite, assembled from separate moments and perspectives. Intimacy develops in a similar way, from the accretion of single instants and interactions over time.

The portfolio is printed in nineteenth-century handmade processes, kallitype and platinum/palladium. I print this way because I see a symmetry between the experience of the viewer and the maker of such prints. The making process, the reification of image, is painstaking and intimate and requires an ongoing relationship with the physical materials: raw paper and sensitizing chemistry. The small contact prints and delicate tonal scale are similarly demanding of a viewer; engaging this material requires an investment of time and attention.

Suppose you stuck a branch upright in the earth and then every day, at the exact same time of day, you checked the shadow it cast and marked the ground at the shadow's tip. If you did this for a full year the marks would trace out an elongated and asymmetrical figure eight. This figure is called an analemma. Its shape reflects the seasonal changes in the earth&aposs relationship to the sun: we slowly approach or gently pull away; we tilt our axis to one side or the other. At times during this project I have traveled across the country to photograph in the house of a friend, sometimes one I haven&apost seen for years. We circle back, passing one another, maybe closer than the last time, maybe not. The slow paths we trace out with respect to each other are mediated by our histories and the pull of the other people in our lives. Ultimately these photographs aim to investigate and document the gentle variations in those paths.

Willard Traub

"Remnants of the Garden"
25 years of photographs

This exhibit is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Nina May Traub, who planted the seeds of interest in gardening for many

Walking in my vegetable garden one December morning in 1983, I was drawn to the weather-beaten remnants of the summer&aposs harvest. Translucent and faded leaves, dried vines, and weathered pole beans; all of these dancing on the garden fence in the winter wind. I had been recently working on a series of black and white photographs of French funereal sculpture and now these beans in my own backyard suggested a sculptural familiarity.

The beans through cycles of growth, decay, and regeneration were compelling to observe... Sometimes a more inclusive view, sometimes a closer, more abstract observation of the beans, vines, and leaves on the fence provided infinite variety for the camera. Variables of pattern, light, color, texture, and focus were always there for the film to unerringly record.

In the 1980's, I also experimented with a variety of texture and colors in backdrops behind the grid.

The photographs from 2000 and 2001 reflect the inherent strength of larger- sized color prints, yet retain the similar elements of composition that the project had when it was new fifteen years earlier. So the photographer had aged, the garden had changed, yet the possibility of creating new imagery remained as close as my camera and loaded film holders.

The current photographs done in 2007 reflect the elements of how I now photograph. The portability of a medium-format camera and "hand-holding" the camera rather than working with a tripod allows a more spontaneous approach and "looser" images. Composing with the square format permits freshness along with a new set of challenges. Finally, an extended range of development in the negative and the print allows for a more lyrical presentation in these three photographs done in 2007.