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Derivative or divine? Or a little of both? Art-tri-bu-tion, the group show that just opened at the Griffin Museum of Photography offers creative interpretations of artwork from Old Masters to iconic contemporary photographers by five solo artists and two partner teams. Scrappy and inventive, these artists have employed a range of resourceful techniques, from ancient Chinese watercolor to elaborate sets and props built in living rooms, garages, studios and Photoshop, challenging historic assumptions and presenting new ways to look at the world. By turns thought-provoking and amusing, these exhibits will be on view in all of the Griffin Museum galleries in Winchester, MA through June 9th, 2018.
In their ongoing series Muse, collaborators Niki Grangruth and James Kinser explore concepts of beauty, gender identity and gaze with ingenuity and aplomb by replicating the visual aesthetics and mood of painted masterpieces, but in each one, replacing the female subject with Mr. Kinser in costume. There is no mistaking Kinser’s male physique and bearded face, playfully challenging viewer assumptions about gender roles and conventional artist-muse relationships.
In their series Renewed, the mother-son team of photographer Mark Chen and Chinese watercolor painter Shiao-Nan Chen integrates custom, experimentation and technique in an “east meets west” exploration. Mark Chen’s images of power generators and booming urban skylines reference China’s prosperity-induced spike in energy consumption and resulting crises of impenetrable smog. His mother’s exquisite traditional bucolic scenes are hand-painted directly onto his photographs, lightly printed on watercolor paper, inviting viewers to contrast the past with the present and contemplate the future of this economic giant in delicate, original and spiritual composites.
In her series Imagine That, Calli P.McCaw explores our complicated relationship with history, encasing contrasts between modern and traditional viewpoints within the overarching beauty of artistic masterpieces. Employing famous paintings as her backdrops, McCaw digitally integrates an enchanting young girl that she has photographed into each frame, thereby introducing the perspective of youthful innocence. In McCaw’s fantasy world, the girl symbolizes the enduring spiritual power of aesthetics and humanism while prompting us to compare contemporary culture to the wisdom of prior generations.
In her series Grand Scenarios, multi-media artist Torrie Groening incorporates prints, sketches and paintings into her large format digital photographs, electronically layering a succession of narratives about her creative process into a grand fantasy of colorful and unexpected associations. In her Out of Studio series, Groening depicts a traveling artist’s makeshift studio in still-life compositions that similarly employ real and constructed locations, paints, brushes and other materials, in her lyrical conjuring of invented places and inferred memories.
In her series Dramatis Personae, Tami Bahat crafts photographs that precisely reproduce the theatrical lighting, somber mood and sharp definition of Renaissance portraits, but with signature quirky poses and posers. Many of Bahat’s images contain the serendipitous antics of live animals, who interact with her subjects (family and friends) on elaborate sets with period props she constructs in her home. Finished in decorative antique frames, Bahat creates fanciful, inventive stylizations of a beloved art form, updated to engage and reflect contemporary sensibilities.
In her series, Bosch Redux, Lori Pond channels the fantastical imagination of Early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch. Pond photographically recreates the wild and intricate details that populate the background in Bosch’s zealous scenarios. With the insight that Bosch’s works were all morality plays contrived to illustrate good, evil and the consequences of inevitable sin, Pond’s photographs mine her abiding fascination while inviting viewers to ponder what draws us together as humans across time.
Photographer Grace Weston creates vibrant narratives using staged vignettes and miniature characters in highly original combinations of psychological themes and humor. In her series Short Stories/Tall Tales, Weston re-imagines iconic photographs and artists in her deliciously amusing images, on view through June 9th, 2018 in a special “Critic’s Pick” online solo exhibit: http://griffinmuseum.org/show/grace-weston-art%C2%B7tri%C2%B7bu%C2%B7tion/
For hours, directions and more information about the work by artist teams Mark Chen & Shiao-Nan Chen, Niki Grangruth & James Kinser, solo artists Calli P. McCaw, Torrie Groening, Tami Bahat, and Lori Pond, go to: http://griffinmuseum.org/exhibitions/
Feature Image: “Odalisque (after Ingres), 2009” (Detail) from the series Muse by Niki Grangruth and James Kinser (courtesy of the artists).