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By Suzanne Révy, Associate Editor
Sometimes annual juried photography shows can be an overwhelming mashup of mediums, styles and formats, with so many competing images that any overriding visual theme or narrative is obscured. Not so at this year’s 24th Annual Juried Members’ Exhibition at the Griffin Museum on view through September 2, 2018, which has deftly managed the neat trick of visual cohesion among a stellar and varied group of images. Between the selections by the guest juror, Richard McCabe, Curator of Photographs at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Griffin’s impressive installation, the exhibition is a satisfying journey through places, dreams, memories, families, spirituality and love. In short, everything that great photography brings to our emotional and intellectual attention.
Among the images recognized with awards are Nancy Newberry’s brilliant double portrait from her series Smoke Bombs and Border Crossings, examining myths and folklore in the history of her home state of Texas. Her picture features a man and boy clad in traditional Mexican costume, looking and bowing toward something beyond the frame. The boy is somewhat unsteady on his feet in contrast to the man’s confidence as he kneels with a reverent and steady gaze. Their body language, cloaked in a colorful re-enactment of traditional ritual, delivers a subtly ironic message about cultural assimilation without sacrificing the dignity of Newberry’s subjects.
Andy Mattern’s abstract image from his series Average Subject/ Medium Distance #4200 Correct deconstructs the paper guides once used to determine exposure and other settings in analog photography of the mid-twentieth century. His clever re-imagination of this once useful printing relic engages us with, as McCabe writes, an “almost anti-photographic” composition of color that resembles early 20th century geometric painting.
Finally, McCabe recognized Molly Lamb’s transcendent image, The Fog depicting celestial light filtered through the shimmering leaves and branches of a tree, with Lamb’s dizzying, child-like perspective highlighting their magical spirit. Lamb seems to be metaphorically suggesting that trees offer a way to interconnect our past memories with present and future possibilities. Each of these awarded images is wholly different from one another, yet each touches on humanity through gesture, abstraction and imagined recollections.
Honorable mentions were given to Cody Bratt’s beautifully lit and intimate portrait from his series, The Love We Leave Behind, Ashleigh Coleman’s stunning B&W image of the “Old Sardis Methodist Church” from her series, Piece of Heart: Toccopola, MS and Susan kae Grant’s elusive and surreal “Amelia’s Phantom” from her B&W series Night Journey. With these three images, McCabe highlights psychological and physical notions of family, place and memory that the medium of photography is uniquely adept at suggesting.
Edie Bresler’s charming and delicate “Anonymous Girl, 1880” won the Director’s Award. In it, Bresler has sewn beaded sequins onto a nude figure, which she had scanned from the reproduction of an early anonymous photograph. Re-photographing the figure with a cyanotype as background, she has created an imaginary scene that seems to suggest the moonlit waters of a pond as the figure gingerly enters a new medium.
In touring the gallery space, the Griffin has organized images with a natural cadence and rhythm that points up visual themes and intriguing interrelationships. There are pictures that employ the human form such as Danielle L. Goldstein’s black and white print of mannequins displaying bondage in a storefront in “Hell’s Kitchen” which creates an interesting dialog Susan Swihart’s laundry line of colorful sheer nightgowns in “Passage”, which in turn bears some resonance with Cate Wnek’s submerged figure wearing a red swimsuit bathed in blue water in “Feeling Lightheaded”.
Enthralling abstractions inhabit documentary work by Bill Franson in his study of geometry, scale and spatial relationships in ‘Fayette City, PA”, in Janet Smith’s simple composition of cut paper in ‘Early Light #12″, and in Joshua Sariñana’s high contrast image of MIT’s Stata Center. Conversely, compositionally abstract pieces like Alyssa Minahan’s muted, ethereal experiments with light sensitive photographic papers, and Jane Yudelman’s color grid of the sky in “Mid-Month”, both raise questions about the time of day, month or year and how change itself impacts our perceptions.
Scenes of skies and land bring a sense of wonder to the fore throughout the exhibition, including Katherine McVety’s velvety winter image of a frozen lake and trees in “Pincushion”, Darrell Matumoto’s alien looking “Steaming Volcano’ of smoke, sky and sun, and the saturated clouds of Joyce P. Lopez’s “Cloud 13”.
Structures indicate human presence in Paul Ivanushka’s artful triptych “You Gotta Serve Somebody’ of oil well pumps, in the quietly eerie night view of an isolated home in “Side Yard” by William Hamlin and in Joseph Landry’s Hopper-esque “Morning, Port Royal”.
Poignant juxtapositions of past and present are thought-provoking in Stefanie Klaverns “Wildey Theater, Edwardville, Illinois”, in Paul Eric Johnson’s “Maria’s” from the Boston Color series and in Ashley Gates’ marvelous vintage muscle car parked near a tall brick wall featuring B&W portraits of jazz artists from a segregated era in Jackson, Mississippi. It is a rare treat to see a juried show that so adroitly integrates disparate eras and ideas, methods and messages, in such an imaginative and pleasingly novel way.
Exhibiting simultaneously, two small solo shows are on view at the Griffin Museum: Craig Becker’s Scratch in the Atelier Gallery and Russ Rowland’s Force of Nature in the Griffin Gallery. Both artists use collage to explore loss – specifically, the loss of their fathers. Becker’s images are discomfiting, disoriented responses to the realization that he had lost his father long before death, to dementia, while Rowland reveals faces hidden within vibrant natural flora, alluding to the way in which the earth eventually reclaims us all.
More information on all these exhibits can be found on the Griffin Museum of Photography’s website:
In addition, there is a catalog available for purchase: