Images of both wit and seriousness
WINCHESTER — Juried photography shows generally come in two types. One prefers to go with fewer photographers, allowing for more images from each. Call this the portfolio approach. The Photographic Resource Center at Boston University’s annual “Exposure” show, in the spring, and next month’s “NEPR Showcase” would be examples. Or a show can maximize the number of photographers by having just a single work from each participant. Call this the multi-solo approach. Each type of show has much to recommend it.
This year’s “Juried Exhibition” at the Griffin Museum of Photography demonstrates how well the one-from-each approach can work. It runs through Sept. 2, as do two other shows, “The Quiet: Photographs by Alysia Macaulay” and “Collected Visions,” an exhibit of photographs by several area high school students.
Fifty-eight photographers are represented in the juried show. Los Angeles gallery owner Paul Kopeikin made the selections. What’s interesting with juried shows, especially one as large as this, isn’t how they connect with what’s going on in photography as a whole (there are much better ways to track trends). Rather, it’s the internal connections: the relationships that emerge among images within the show.
The insouciant pose and blank gaze of the schoolgirl in Sarah-Marie Land’s “Lilley” makes for a fascinating contrast with the determined stare of the young boxer in Noah David Bau’s “14, 86 lbs .” Bau received the show’s $1,000 Legacy Prize. The title of that photograph is, you’ll pardon the expression, a knockout. The best title belongs to Eric Lusito’s “677th Artillery Regiment, Mongolia.” It comes from Lusito’s ongoing project, “Traces of the Soviet Empire,” which aims to document remnants of the military presence of the Soviet Union from an almost-archeological perspective.
Another internal connection is an awareness — even outright acknowledgment — of other art and artists. Miah
Nate Johnson’s “Wellfleet, MA,” with its dominant American flags, could be an outtake from Robert Frank’s “The Americans.” Rich Turk’s “Puffin With a Pearl Earring” is striking in and of itself (the colors are quite luscious) but also hilarious for anyone who knows Vermeer’s famous painting, where the subject is a young woman rather than a pelagic seabird. Even funnier, if also sadder, is Andrea Rosenthal’s takeoff on another celebrated painting. Her “Yearning” takes for its point of departure Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World,” which it incorporates into Rosenthal’s ongoing focus in her photography on issues of female self-image and body type (note the cover from Seventeen magazine in the background).
Throughout the show, one is struck by how frequently witty the pictures are. Turk and Rosenthal are cases in point. Sometimes the wit is deadpan, as in Nancy Grace Horton’s amusingly cropped image of two legs on a chaise lounge, “Bored Stiff.” Or it can be simultaneously overt and subtle, as in Chehalis Hegner’s rear-view nude self-portrait, “Butt Wait, Have You Seen My Cable Release?” The overt part is the title (a bit too overt, actually). The subtle part is how the bulb of the cable release looks so much like a hand grenade — a resemblance all the more startling for the proximity to naked flesh. It’s a visual pun worthy of Man Ray.
Macaulay writes that her photo project “The Quiet” “was created as a visual response to chaos, both past and present, in my life.” The 16 color images are of domestic scenes “of my family and home.” They have a quality of hushed intimacy. Most of the photographs show children (reading, sleeping, bathing) or mundane household objects, such as toys or an alarm clock. The time on the clock reads 11:56. It’s a safe bet that that’s p.m., not a.m.
If wit stands out in “Juried Exhibition,” it’s seriousness, even solemnity, in “Collected Visions.” That’s as one might expect with teenagers interested in art. What one wouldn’t expect is how consistently good these images are. There are one each from Winchester High School and Buckingham Browne and Nichols, and six each from Concord-Carlisle Regional High School and Reading Memorial High School. The winner of this year’s Joan Johnson Scholarship is Avery Stroman, of RMHS. Her freckles, as seen in the self-portrait that earned her the scholarship, are worthy of Joel Meyero-witz’s camera — though Stroman’s does just fine by them.