Portfolio ShowCase 9 Group Exhibition
The projects I selected for this year’s Portfolio Showcase are the result of a process begun by narrowing down to the most cohesive submissions that have a well-written, fitting artist statement and skillfully crafted images. I gave myself time to think about the work, mull it over and let it sink in. As I lived with the photographs, I rearranged, evaluated and responded to the images until a final edit insisted itself. All the while I was being affected by the images. This year’s projects impacted my view of aging, hardship and the immense beauty to be found in the imperfections of life.
The mystery of aging continues to confound and therefore require examination. In separate projects, Elise Kirk and Suzanne Revy feature young subjects on the precipice of change, but who are presently trapped by the bubble of their adolescence and connection to the environments that molded them. On the other end of life, Susan Rosenberg Jones photographs her second husband. She presents an unfiltered view of the effects of time on the body, but also freedom from vanity. Jones captures her images with tenderness, made from the vantage point of experience and knowing that love and companionship grow with recognition and appreciation. Our inability to exert any influence on time has caused nearly every photographer, at one point or another, to try and stop time with the magic of the still image. Leah Zawadzki makes this sleight of hand convincing by photographing the people she loves, not with stiff camera-ready smiles, but as though she happened upon them, preserving time through moments of authenticity. Zawadzki also uses the camera as a tool to slow time and carefully observe today.
However, careful observation can be a risky endeavor. If we look too closely at our own hardship or the hurt of others, we must contend with that reality. Many of the projects selected show us that the myths we employ to circumvent hard truths and navigate our day-to-day are on unsteady ground. Jessica Harvey presents a view of an early 20th century failed utopia. We might encounter her photographs of objects and empty rooms as a quaint, distant past, or we can recognize the parallels to today. Joseph Stanek’s images offer a comparable story of once-significant things left behind in homes abandoned during the recent housing crisis. He distils the story of collective enthusiasm for homeownership morphing into unhappy personal reality. Camilo Ramirez’s epic images juxtapose the myth of reverence for the gulf coast with the reality of its abuse, showing us the depth of our ability for self-deception. Rationalizing behavior is at the center of Robert Crifasi’s photographs of people in need and asking for help, as viewed through the secure and enclosed confines of a car. By framing his images as he does, Crifasi shifts the focus onto the unseen driver and probes the psychology of empathy. Similarly, Michael Joseph asks, “Does it make you uncomfortable to talk to people whose faces tell stories unlike your own?” His up-close portraits of unconventional strangers also questions if this discomfort is a result of our assumptions. And, if so, why not risk dispelling preconceived notions by finding out more? Over the course of 10 years, Jessica Eve Rattner found out more about her “bag-lady” neighbor. During this time, she uncovered a complex story of an intelligent woman with a rich history living independently in squalor. What these various projects share is an invitation to look closer at hardship and dispel comforting assumptions.
The final grouping of projects presents a wabi-sabi view of life by embracing imperfection. In his beautiful night photographs of unexceptional places, Bob Avakian does just that. Under the lustrous soft glow of fog and light, the world can be squarely composed into manageable doses. It takes a further stretch of the imagination to sentimentalize the formations of Kathleen Taylor’s images, but her consistent framing and dramatic skies transforms rock piles into found art with grandeur. The flat elegance of Clay Jordan’s images is familiar to an audience conditioned to William Eggleston’s democratic use of the camera, but is distinguished by the element of sequencing to build narrative. Jordan arranges unrelated, distinct images in a precise succession designed to create theatrical tension. In JP Terlizzi’s graceful photographs, he shows the practice and rituals of hunting to be, as he puts it, “grittily romantic.” Leah Edelman-Brier writes in her statement, “This series aims to construct beauty out of what appears outwardly grotesque.” Her photographs explore issues of the body, genetics and the mother-daughter connection. They are simultaneously luscious and unpleasant, captivating and repelling. These projects share a holistic view of life where flaws have their own beauty.
When we step beyond our comfort zones and adopt new or unconventional vantage points, we can begin to view our world more fully. This may come as compassion for youth who are exploring their futures, for older people as they experience time working on their bodies, and for ourselves as we each walk through these stages. It may be an unveiling when we approach the “other” and can appreciate the depth and variety of the human lived experience. Perhaps, we become attuned to the overlooked beauty within our daily lives and even within experiences that disturb us. Each of these 15 artists has taken a risk in sharing their unique visions, but in that risk, they have the power to alter our outlooks on the world. Mine is now informed by this Portfolio Showcase.