Portfolio Showcase 2014
Portfolio Showcase July 2 - 30, 2014
Opening Reception: July 5, 5:00PM - 7:00PM
Every photograph tells a story. When part of a body of work, the photograph takes on a new meaning, becoming part of a larger and more complete narrative. A portfolio allows the photographer to explore the complexities of their subject, and provide context that gives it richness and meaning that is more than the sum of its parts. The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to announce its third annual portfolio showcase. Juror Gordon Stettinius will select four photographers to display their bodies of work from July 2 – 30, 2014.
About the Juror:
In 2010, Gordon Stettinius founded Candela Books, a publishing company, and, to date, they have produced three fine art photography monographs with more in the works. In 2011, Gordon founded a fine art photography gallery dedicated to featuring the work of nationally respected photographers. Candela Books + Gallery now inhabits a renovated 3,800 square foot building in the downtown arts district of Richmond, Virginia and is one of the leading advocates for fine art photography in the mid-Atlantic region. As a photographer, Stettinius has been exhibited nationally and internationally over the last twenty years and his work can be found in numerous private and public collections. His work is represented by Robin Rice Gallery in New York and Page Bond Gallery in Richmond, Virginia. Stettinius is also an emeritus member of 1708 Gallery and an adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Thank you to Kat Kiernan for allowing me the opportunity to wade into and make some kind of intuitive sense from such a large and diverse collection of photographic portfolios. As this is a portfolio showcase, the strength of the overall work ultimately reigned over those submissions which had a lot of quality but less coherency. And it is a testament to the work at hand that I really dropped only a small number of portfolios into the 'not for me' folder leaving a large number of artists in the 'maybe' folder which had to be sadly pared away until I arrived at four distinctive visions.
There were several portfolios that were trying to fight their way into the final four but the task at hand was not open to additional numbers. Really, as far as the process goes, curators and editors and jurors and gallery owners all have their biases and hard-wired aesthetics. So, at times quality work is left behind because it just happened to be in front of the wrong person on a certain day. And some of the work that one person doesn't really respond to will be someone else's Best in Show. The subjectivity drives the more rational out there a little crazy, I think.
But in this particular case, I quickly made it down to about thirty artists who I had trouble setting aside. And so that is when one gets up and steps away for a while and lives their life and sits back down to the task another day. Then a few more artists are quickly set aside because the work doesn't amuse, inform, engage as well upon a repeated visit. And certain work, you begin to wonder how it was made and you read those statements again looking for material clues. A few more portfolios get set aside. As a gallery owner, I happen to fetishize the photographic object, so it is always interesting to see if the artist even refers to their process in their artist statement. Even a contemporary digital photograph can be talked about in material terms, descriptions that exhibit the artist's attention to detail. Attention to detail is never a bad thing, even in the most atavistic and intuitive work, choices are made. And choices are meaningful. So, I then look for clues to subtler flourishes that I might have missed while cruising through all of those luminous JPGs on a desktop monitor.
For me, it took a few different days but I got down to about ten portfolios that each had very strong work, work which I really liked, and work which seemed to be of quality. And then I started imagining groupings of those artists together and certain combinations start to unfold in interesting ways. Images unto themselves are pretty magical. But when images are mixed and joined by others and sequenced, then edited down and then added to again, the added depth, the synergy between unrelated works, can be difficult to anticipate. All I can say is it was rough getting these selections down to four. There are more ways than one to parse the work I was given. But I hope that you enjoy the work here as much as I have. I appreciate the opportunity to help put this exhibition together.
Bootsy Holler, Visitor: Rebuilding the Family Album
This constructed album is one of the lighter portfolios in the mix. Humor aside though, there is an interesting liberty being taken with personal history. So many of our personal narratives take place as we recount some aspect of our family history or personal history for someone else's benefit. And so they are oral histories, and somewhat vulnerable to distortion or exaggeration for effect. The autobiographical ether we cloak ourselves with is seldom fact-checked and is essentially an act of myth-making. The older I get, the better I was in sports in high school. Essentially there isn't much stopping us from saying whatever we please about our families. My mother was a saint to me... My mother wasn't there for me... My mother wrote cruel messages with the mustard on my sandwiches... My mother said I was her favorite... Anything is as true as we can be convincing and the stories are usually constructed for the benefit of our audiences. It has always been that way and for that reason, we all must listen carefully when family stories are being unpacked. But, when one decides to break down the photographs—the supposed concrete reminders of actual events—then we have left manipulative distortion behind and entered 'Big Fish' territory where truth becomes unhinged. The stories told by Holler are generally benign and revisionist where she allows herself to join in the holiday highlights of her own pre-history but artistically, I enjoy the creative writer's indulgence of bending real visual narrative to one's own design. Smart.
— Gordon Stettinius
Antoine Bruy, Scrublands
As I pushed and pulled the final four portfolios into shape, I really wanted a pure photographic voice in the mix. My interest in mixed media and alternative process is easy to discern by anyone paying attention but for me the image/idea/content truly does come first, above stylistic concerns, and I think it a significant gesture to reward clear and unfettered imagery, no whistles, no bells. And the mix of environmental portraiture and peculiar details in each image from Scrublands is beautiful with all adding to the overall idea. While I might have been tempted to include another alternative artist in instead of Bruy for the sake of a more coherent representation of four resonant bodies of work, I just couldn't let go of this imagery. Reading the artist statement, I really do hope this body of work keeps expanding as it is a compelling window into a curious subculture.
— Gordon Stettinius
S. Gayle Stevens & Judy Sherrod, Nocturnes
There is a primeval beauty and elemental coarseness to this work which I find to be beautiful. The mammoth wet plate pinholes appeal to the photo nerd in me but the imagery here is stark and unrelenting in a way that reveals a native emptiness to these sea and landscapes. The found pilings are suggestive of civilization but nothing seems to have ended well as the corrosive character of the images suggests a possibly apocalyptic series of events... What a viewer might feel is that they are witnessing a poignant aftermath, setting the stage for a dawning rebirth. But meanwhile, in this moment, we are here in the endless lapping repeat of the slow cured transition wondering about past and future.
— Gordon Stettinius
Susan Keiser, A River Made of Time and Memory
The combination of the these vintage dolls and natural environments has created a nice and creepy narrative. There is something visceral and disturbing about these childish vignettes. And strangely, this is something that many parents have discovered in their own backyards where imaginative play was stopped abruptly by lunchtime or nap time only to have a storm roll through creating tiny and disturbing melodramatic installations which would have roiled Freud's own dreams. It would be tempting to see if the artist might be able to fashion a larger arching narrative including these figurative elements but the stand alone dioramas are pretty unsettling in their own right.
— Gordon Stettinius