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Does our biology determine what we think, do and say? Do our genes and hormones dictate how we see the world and the ways we choose to communicate? These age-old questions have no simple, black and white answers. The aptly named Gray Matters, featuring solo shows by Francie Bishop Good, Marina Font, Sandra Klein, J. Fredric May, Liz Steketee and Colleen Woolpert, tackles the ways we see and interpret our world in a range of inventive, photographically-based work. These exhibits will be on view at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA throughout the FlashPoint Boston Photography Festival, during the FOCUS Awards ceremony on Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 and until December 3rd, 2017.
One of best things about this show is the visceral and inventive approach each artist takes, combining media in ways that nimbly reflect the complexity of factors that shape us. Despite the range of work, each artist’s point of departure is intuitive and process-driven, rather than conceptually determined. Francie Bishop Good starts with the “Comus” yearbooks from 1942 and 1967, the years that her mother and she both graduated from Allentown High School in Pennsylvania. Drawing on the similarities and differences across generations in her prototypical small town, Good layers images of her own paintings, drawings, collage and sculpture into the portraits to form a highly personal, yet very universal look at one of our earliest rites of passage. Her psychedelic compression of time and artistic influences merge into vibrant, oversized matrices, an affecting patchwork of our collective American lives.
In her series Mental Maps, Marina Font photographically creates an “everywoman” by utilizing a B&W photograph of a female posed as she would appear an anatomy textbook, then literally and metaphorically weaves in thoughts and meditations on the biological, psychological and social aspects of women’s experiences. Her oversized paper or canvas prints dance with colorful yarns and vintage textiles. Font’s unique and graphically dramatic pieces are at once geometric and biologic, meticulous and free, conscious and subliminal, creating a powerful experience that engage the viewer’s senses and imagination.
In her series Noisy Brain (also see Feature Image), Sandra Klein employs a variety of manmade maps – anatomies from medical texts, geographical maps of the earth and astronomical charts of the heavens – layered with her photographic self-portraits and often woven with colorful “neuronal” threads. As fanciful as they are detailed, moths stand in for frailty, vines become nerve pathways, and insects “bug” our thoughts. With vibrant visions and muted poignancy, Klein ponders mystifying biological processes from human creativity to her own mother’s dementia, adventurously embracing the “nature versus nurture” conundrum.
Liz Steketee explores the idea of “truth” in the context of family history and memory, ripping apart and reconstructing family photographs into new narratives that suggest repressed feelings and unspoken conflicts. In her series Sewn, Steketee incorporates the traditions of sewing and family portraiture, tearing apart and sewing pictures back together in unexpected ways, imploring us to revisit memories idealized in family albums and question the complex relationship between reality and perception. Her incongruent juxtapositions and use of blood red thread powerfully corrupt the mental connections we create between “truth” and memory.
What is the connection between vision and perception – and what happens when those neural networks are severely disrupted? J. Fredric May explores these tricky questions in a combination of analog and digital photographic processes that mimics the complexity of the visual system in his series Apparitions: Postcards From Eye See You. In what began as a therapeutic exploration following the loss of nearly half of his visual field due to stroke, May scans vintage portraits, processes them with data corruption software, then fabricates digitally layered composites. Negatives are created, from which May prints and tones Cyanotype photographs, which are then scanned and printed digitally. Although his photographs do not approximate May’s actual visual perceptions, his creative metaphors prompt us to contemplate and appreciate how we see the world in images that are both alluring and disturbing.
In her project Persistence of Vision, interdisciplinary artist Colleen Woolpert investigates how people perceive the unseen. Working with blind individuals who sculpt self-portraits in clay and studying antique stereographs that render astronomical, flat-looking objects like the moon in three dimensions, Woolpert contemplates the ways in which visual imagination is motivated by emotions like fear, doubt, wonder and discovery. Her compelling multi-media installation physically addresses both the sensory inputs and ingenuity exercised in forming a “vision”.
For hours, directions and more information about the six solo exhibits in Gray Matters, go to: http://griffinmuseum.org/show/francie-bishop-good-sandra-klein-marina-font-and-colleen-woolpert-gray-matters/
Feature Image: “Creative Growth” (Detail) from the series Noisy Brain by Sandra Klein (courtesy of the artist and Griffin Museum of Photography).