WINCHESTER — Arnika Dawkins, the owner of an Atlanta photography gallery, made the selections for the Griffin Museum of Photography’s 27th annual Juried Members Exhibition. Fifty-eight photographers have work in the show. It runs through Aug. 29, as do three other exhibitions currently on display.
Selecting for a juried show is a battle between sense and sensibility: sense, because you can’t let everything in; sensibility, because the juror’s own aesthetic preferences shouldn’t be too limiting. Letting a hundred flowers bloom isn’t an option when there are 58 flowers.
Dawkins comes down more on the side of sensibility. The selections reflect, without being restricted to, what would seem to be a set of clear preferences: for the self-consciously artistic, the painterly, the superimposition of picture planes, dramatic lighting, blurring and visual trickeration generally, vague and/or weighty titles (”Night Traveller,” “Mystery,” “Morning Fog,” “Passage,” “Face”). That said, some of the titles can be pretty cool. Meg Birnbaum’s “Iaritza and the Porcelain Berries” is a García Márquez novel waiting to happen.
Not a few of the photos are pretty cool, too. Julia Vandenover’s “Nebulous” has one of those cue-the-theremin titles, but it’s also splendidly elegant and uses blurring — occlusion might be a better word — to excellent effect. Though there are some black-and-white photos in the show, another of Dawkins’s preferences is for color. Ellen Royalty’s “Red Plush” makes you see why. Its redness is a kind of visual righteousness. Forget about being behind the wheel or riding shotgun. This is one back seat that’s definitely the vehicular place to be.
Whether by chance or design, few images imply the influence of other photographers. In fact, Dutch still life painting is more of a presence in the show. Exceptions include Tokie Taylor’s “An Offering” (another weighty title), which recalls the work of Lalla Essaydi, and Lake Newton’s “Ernest Hemingway House — Key West, FL.” The latter is kin in content, if not form, to Graciela Iturbide’s photographs of Frida Kahlo’s bathroom, which were such a striking part of Iturbide’s 2019 Museum of Fine Arts retrospective.
One of the juried-show photographers, Vicky Stromee, has her own Griffin exhibition. “Envisioning Solitude” consists of 10 photographs that include as primary element the full moon. That’s the sole constant among the pictures, as Stromee variously plays with color and texture and pattern. Actually, there’s one other constant: shape. The photographs are square, which makes for a pleasing geometric interplay with lunar circularity. The results are arresting in appearance and mystical in feeling.
The title of Stefanie Timmerman’s “Blue Morphs” exhibition is fitting. Blue, because the 15 images are all cyanotypes, a photographic process which results in cyan-blue prints. (Architectural blueprints are a version of cyanotype.) Morphs, because Timmerman variously applies acrylic, watercolor, and ink to a photographic image, which means a shifting array of quasi-abstract picture. They, too, partake of the mystical.
Any good photograph should stand on its own; and the six images in Logan Bellew’s “Hard Breath V.2″ are all very good. But context can often enlarge and enhance the viewing experience. That is the case here. Bellew is HIV positive, and the images all relate to his medical situation. Inkjet reproductions of Polaroids, they have that slight lack of precision which is characteristic of Polaroids. They’re also Polaroid-size, meaning small. That combination, a tinge of imprecision and unimposing scale, gives the images an almost-startling intimacy. Seeing is believing, the saying goes. Here seeing becomes feeling, on the part of viewer as well as photographer.
27th ANNUAL JURIED MEMBERS EXHIBITION
VICKY STROMEE: Envisioning Solitude
STEFANIE TIMMERMAN: Blue Morphs
LOGAN BELLEW: Hard Breath V.2
At Griffin Museum of Photography, 67 Shore Road, Winchester, through Aug. 29. 781-729-1158, griffinmuseum.org
Mark Feeney can be reached at email@example.com.