Tag Archives: Light Work

Seeing the Light

At the artist reception on Wednesday night at Light Work, I fell in love.  Yes!  This is something that I seem to do easily lately.  I am in love with life, so what can I do?

In this case, the objects of my affection are Ben Altman’s photographs, which are hanging in the hallway of this beautiful venue (316 Waverly Ave., Syracuse, NY).  They will be there until July 22, 2016, if you want to see them in person.

Ben

Here is a link  to the whole shebang on the Light Work website –

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Altman uses an old-fashioned camera to take photographs of people using their cell phones to photograph memorial sites around the world.  He is sort of a voyeur looking over the shoulders of these tourists to create images that have an eerie-beauty to them.  The memorial site is blurred but we can see a part of it through the tourists’ viewfinders.

So, you kind of say – ohhh, that’s pretty – then you read the title and you are looking at a picture taken at Auschwitz or one taken at the site of the Oklahoma bombing.  It is just this startling feeling of, like, OMG, I just thought a place of utter sadness was so beautiful.  Then you feel totally weird for liking it.  So you go back and look again with the new knowledge and feel super weird, because it is still so hauntingly beautiful.

And by you, I mean me.

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What a profound experience.  The photos are very large.  They are all the same size, framed the same way, which alerts us to the fact that they are equally important.  I just love the concept, the follow through, the process of capturing frame-in-frame shots that are all different, yet remain in harmony.

Here is his artist statement –

“Tourists at iconic sights almost automatically photograph with their smart-phones and cameras. This act becomes more complicated at memorials, sites, and museums that commemorate episodes of mass violence. Over the past few years I have photographed visitors and their screens at many such places. The people in my images are strangers who are mostly unaware of my intention, even though I use a hand-held 1940’s 4×5 press camera. My vintage equipment fits well with thinking about the present in terms of the past.

“Raising a device between oneself and a site of atrocity can be seen as distancing and reductive. However an impulse to manage and diffuse what these places mean is understandable and perhaps necessary. Often the memorials themselves depict the appalling, chaotic events they represent with unwarranted coherence or with the blankness of preserved artifacts. They invite engagement but also obstruct it. The memorials and the photography each suggest questions: how to see these sites; how to empathize with the unknowable experiences of the people who were caught up in the events; how to understand the ways in which past horrors configure our present world; how to live with our knowledge.

— Ben Altman, March 2016″

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When I was in Jersey City, NJ, I took a picture at the memorial they have honoring the New Jersey residents who died in the Twin Towers.  It is two walls of granite with names on each side and when you walk through towards the waterfront, the Freedom Tower sits between them in your sight line.  It is an emotional experience to stand there and witness.  As a tourist, I took a picture exactly the way Ben Altman explained in his statement.  But my photographs contain my own reflection. I guess in this way, I become one with my empathy and that is a good thing.  Altman’s detachment invites the viewer inside in a way that allows us to see the light of beauty in darkness.

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For more information on Ben Altman, find his website here.

 

Things & Junk Like That

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Even though the Mary Mattingly art exhibit is now over (it was at the Katherine O. Ellis Gallery at Light Work on Syracuse University campus), I still wanted to share it with you.  I saw the show and took these pictures when I was in the building for that Jerome Witkin art talk.

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I loved the way she created these over-sized “junk” sculptures then placed them in environments and photographed them.  They had a similarity to Sandy Skoglund’s work. Kind of reminded me of – okay, I made this weird ball of stuff, now what should I do with it?  I like the idea of taking art into the world and placing it in other environments, and allowing the new place to give the work a fresh perspective or meaning.

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I am working on a self-portrait style texture sculpture with 5th graders and I’m getting inspiration from Mattingly’s work.  Thinking about having them add metallic embroidery floss to their completed pieces – we selected ten pieces of wood for the basis of the sculpture then added the other items to create the texture and personal meaning.  The work here is in progress.  Everything will be painted in the metallic paint, hopefully by next class.

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What do you think about the addition of the string?  I was thinking it’s like My Favorite Things – “brown paper packages tied up with string….” or will it be too weird?  Can art be too weird or do we always need to be pushing the envelope?

I absolutely love introducing students to contemporary artists they could potentially meet in their life-time – as I have been saying a lot lately, the world has become small enough through social media that the thought of interacting with your favorite living artist is a direct possibility!  As so much of what is being done today has a social impact, in this case, the idea of recycling (trash to treasure), I think these new artists have a lot to offer our students/kids/youth – think art in the modern world and what that constitutes with regard to emotion….

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If you want to catch the next art exhibition at the Katherine O. Ellis Gallery, it starts tomorrow night – Wednesday, March 23, 2016 with a reception from 5:00 – 7:00 pm and  a gallery talk at 6:00 pm.  The show is called The Passenger’s Present and is the work of Japanese born artist Miki Soejima.

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According to the Light Work website literature, they “were founded as an artist-run, non-profit organization in 1973.  (Their) mission is to provide direct support to artists working in photography and related media, through residencies, publications, exhibitions and a community-access lab facility.”

The gallery is at 316 Waverly Avenue, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13210.  Contact them at (315) 443-1300 for more information.