Craig J. Barber, Joan Lobis Brown, Jimmy Fike, Ivana Damien George, Emily Hamilton Laux, Marcy Palmer, Paula Riff, and Vaughn Sills
April 11 – June 2, 2019
Reception April 11, 2019 7 PM
Gallery Talk with Paula Riff on April 11, 2019 6:15 PM
Down Garden Paths
Working the Land – Craig J. Barber
There are still those who continue a close relationship with the land and all it has to offer: hunters, farmers, woodsmen, gardeners, foragers. I want to recognize and honor these individuals and their committment, in a seires of portraits in their working environments.
I have chosen to work with the tintype process for it’s feeling of timelessness and it’s aesthetic connection to an era when we were all closer to the land. – CJB
I am a photographer who travels and works using antiquarian processes and focuses on the cultural landscape. During the past 20 years I have focused my camera on Viet Nam, Havana, and the Catskill region of New York State, documenting cultures in rapid transition and fading from memory. My work has been exhibited throughout the United States, Europe and Latin America and is represented in several prominent museum and private collections including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Brooklyn Art Museum; the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina, among others. I have received several grants including from the Seattle Arts Commission, the Polaroid Corporation and the New York Foundation for the Arts. In 2006 Umbrage Editions published my book, “Ghosts in the Landscape: Vietnam Revisited.”
I have been photographing for over 40 years and teaching for 25 of those years. I have taught classes and workshops and Lectured throughout the United States, Europe and Latin America, at the International Center for Photography in New York, the Center for Photography in Woodstock, NY, Charles University in Prague, CZ, and others. – CJB
Phantasmagorical – Joan Lobis Brown
Phantasmagorical is the title of my photo series in which I merged reflections from the exterior with the interior and created my own fantasyland.
I purposely crafted a world in which reality is overtaken by imagination. In my world, birds perch on coffee cups and fly free around my kitchen. Human beings, still central and recognizable in my fantasyland, take on new shapes and dimensions, sometimes friendly, sometimes menacing. The boundary between the objects in the home and the flora and fauna in the garden is blurred. This is a world where magic emerges from the images, where it is a joy to observe, live and design.
As the project continued, I realized this is not simply whimsical and illusory; the photographs could also be viewed metaphorically. “Phantasmagorical” represents the dichotomy of what we as humans present to the world, and what we as individuals keep hidden internally– that which is our own unique true selves. It alludes to the split between what people are feeling on the inside and the mask people put on in their everyday lives. It symbolizes our collective public face and our secret realities. This is our human condition.
I took these images exactly as I saw them through my camera’s viewfinder. Each image represents the “rush” that I feel when capturing what I want to feel in the face of what actually exists. -JLB
Joan Lobis Brown is a portrait and landscape photographer who has been widely shown in group and solo exhibitions in the United States, Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Africa. She has three solo exhibitions scheduled for 2019. Since 2013, she has been selected for eighty-five international juried competitions. Her work has been published online and in print magazines such as The Huffington Post, Zeke, mic.com, Hyperallergic. com, The International Photo Review, Featureshoot, POZ and others.
Her portrait projects highlight segments of our society that have been subjected to intense stigma. Her landscape projects include subjects as diverse as global warming and creating a photographic world where reality is overtaken with imagination.
Brown studied photography in the Advanced Studies Program at The International Center of Photography.
She lives and works in New York City.
J.W. Fike’s Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of the North American Continent
Jimmy Fike (In the Atelier Gallery)
Since 2008, I’ve been creating a photographic archive depicting America’s rich trove of wild edible flora. The project has taken me to fifteen different states, so far, and I’ve amassed a collection of over one hundred and forty specimens. The work sprung from disillusionment with the position of landscape photography in relation to pressing threats like climate change, extinction, pollution and the loss of commons. Too often, the genre traffics in the aesthetics of nature instead of the inner workings of ecology. To address climate change and environmental degradation, I felt a radically different artistic strategy was necessary. The resulting series; J.W. Fike’s Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of the North American Continent; Plates in Which the Edible Parts of the Specimen have been Illustrated in Color seemed a promising vein of work that satisfied the new critical criteria I set for landscape-based artwork – a socially engaged approach that was accessible without sacrificing theoretical depth and possessed the potential to affect change.
By employing a system that makes it easy to identify both the plant and its edible parts, the images function as reliable guides for foraging. This concrete, functional aspect of the project directs viewers to free food that can be used for sustenance, or as raw material for creative economies. The seemingly objective style of the images references early contact prints from the dawn of photography (Henry Fox Talbot, Anna Atkins) when photography’s verisimilitude proved a promising form of scientific illustration for taxonomical undertakings.
Beyond functionality, I try to construct images that operate on multiple levels theoretically and perceptually. Upon longer viewing the botanicals begin to transcend the initial appearance of scientific illustration – they writhe and pulsate trying to communicate with you about their edible parts while hovering over an infinite black expanse. This opticality becomes a physiological parallel to the chemical effects of ingesting the plants and opens up a mystical space for contemplation, communion and meditation. The scientific yields to something potentially spiritual as the viewer begins to experience our symbiotic evolution with the plant kingdom. I’ve been informed and inspired by Buddhist and Native American teachings about ecology, inter-connectivity, and consciousness. I found the Buddhist teaching on dependent origination particularly profound and elegant: “If this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist.” I often find myself marveling at the intricate web of overlapping systems and sheer length of time – incomprehensible fathoms of time – it took to develop this symbiosis.
To achieve this layered aesthetic the plant photographs are meticulously constructed. I photograph multiple specimens of the same plant and combine the best elements from each to create an archetypal rendering of the species. By judiciously rearranging, scaling, and warping I can vivify the plant and turn the ground into space. This subtle reference to shamanic scrying and other mystical forms of seeing nudges the work towards the numinous. I hope viewers carry this numinous experience back out into the landscape, into their communities and see the plants that surround them in a fresh, wonder-filled way. Or, as Ralph Waldo Emerson more eloquently described the phenomenon, “The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them.”
This work offers a dose of something palliative for the ills of alienation – a sense of connection to a certain place, a certain ecosystem, a type of belonging. With this in mind, I plan on continuing the survey until I’ve amassed an expansive enough cross-section of the botanical life on the continent to mount biome-specific exhibitions anywhere within the continental United States. After ten years of work, I’m excited to be approaching this goal. I hope the photographic survey can serve as a historical archive of botanical life during eras of extreme change, and provide viewers all over the country an opportunity to feel the type of bond with their landscapes that will encourage health, engender wonder, help identify free food, and most importantly, inspire greater concern for environmental issues. – JWF
Jimmy Fike was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1970. He earned a BA in Art from Auburn University and an MFA in Photography from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He’s worked as an Art Professor at Wake Forest and Ohio Universities. Currently, he’s Residential Art Faculty and Exhibitions Coordinator at Estrella Mountain College in Avondale, Arizona. His photographic work endeavors to push the tradition of landscape photography into the realm of socially engaged practice. His series on wild edible plants has been exhibited extensively across the USA, featured in the LA times, the Washington Post and accepted into the permanent collection of the George Eastman House Museum. When not teaching or making art Jimmy enjoys hiking with his dogs Sallie and Scrappy Doo, cooking, listening to music and reading.
Sustain – Ivana Damien George
I am passionate about eating delicious food and living an environmentally sustainable lifestyle. One of the ways I reduce my carbon footprint is by eating a predominately plant based diet and growing my own produce. I share my passions for sustainable living and food through my images in my series Sustain.
My husband and I grow fruits and vegetables in containers and a 4’ wide by 50’ raised beds at our small urban lot around our home. We grow much more food than we can consume at the time of harvest, so we preserve it with canning, freezing and drying and eat it through the fall and winter. Growing our own food eliminates the carbon emissions associated with the transit of produce. The vegetables we grow are much more delicious that what can be purchased at the local grocer because we can allow the fruits and vegetables to ripen on the plants. We use non-toxic and organic growing methods. This form of agriculture is beneficial for the pollinator insects and soil enhancing organisms. Since there are no pesticides or waxes on the food, there is no need to peel vegetables, which increases the nutritional value of the food we eat. The experience connecting with the earth through gardening is so calming, meditative and provides a deep sense of satisfaction.
My color images deliver a sense of immediacy and sensual expression of the food I grow. Backyard organic vegetable gardening is something that anyone can do right now to reduce your carbon footprint and increase your health by eating more fresh, nutritious organic produce. The color combined with my use lighting, framing and posing to creatively expresses the beauty, unique variety and deliciousness of the fruits and vegetables that can be grown in a small urban space.
To connect the themes in my project to the history of American vegetable gardening, especially the WWII era victory gardens, where Americans grew 60% of their produce during the war, I create prints with a vintage aesthetic. I want to evoke a sense of nostalgia for a time when more people grew food in the backyard and community gardens. I innovated a technique using mixed media and digital photography image transfer on aluminum to create these unique artworks in warm tones that recall the historic tintype process. Subtle inclusions of the contemporary urban environment connect us from our past to our present and the artworks highlight a means to a more sustainable future. The artworks are protected with a glossy archival ultraviolet light blocking spray. Additionally, I use an analog 8″ x 10″ camera to record in exquisite detail the gorgeous textures of the fruits and vegetables. Baroque inspired lighting glistens off the dewdrops on the freshly harvested produce. – IDG
Ivana Damien George is an interdisciplinary artist working in photography, sound, video, and mixed media since 1998. The starting point in her art practice is a belief that great art not only is visually compelling but that it should also have a subject matter, a meaning, and an inspirational purpose beyond the purely aesthetic. She believes in the power of art to inspire, inform and engage viewers in the critical issues of our time. She is passionate about exploring the relationship between humanity and the natural world and motivated by a love of exploration and learning. She takes on various roles such as gardener, mountain climber, investigator, and environmental activist in order to explore the world. In her art she shares her discoveries, insights and observations. As an artist who uses lens-based imaging, her aesthetic is one of carefully constructing an image rather than taking a picture. She manipulates the media to construct a metaphor, idea or expression in her work.
She has exhibited her work in over 50 national juried and invitational exhibitions including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Flash Forward Photography Festival, The Griffin Museum, Panopticon Gallery, Newspace Center for Photography, CAC in Las Vegas, Soho Photo Gallery, Dallas Video Festival, Junction Arts Festival and the Danforth Museum. She has completed an artist in residency fellowship at the Vermont Studio Residency Center. Since 2002, she has been the recipient of numerous grants for the creation of artworks. Her work has been written about in the Boston Globe, Orion Magazine, the Las Vegas Sun, Atlanta’s Creative Loafing as well as several blogs. She holds a M.F.A. degree from the joint program of The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Tufts University. She is an Associate Professor of Art where she teaches all levels of black and white analog photography, historical processes and digital photography. She also teaches additional subjects including video, digital arts and sustainability.
Ivana is an avid outdoors-woman and Sierra Club member. She loves to teach photography outdoors on field trips, go to national parks, and participate in many outdoor adventure sports such as cross country skiing, biking, kayaking, hiking and rock climbing. She enjoys growing vegetables, cooking, and eating gourmet food with friends and family.
Invasives: Beauty Versus Beauty – Emily Hamilton Laux
Beauty Versus Beauty addresses issues of biodiversity, the complex relationships of native and invasive species within ecosystems, and individual notions of beauty in nature.
Presented as still lifes and using vintage jars and water to isolate species, this series considers the co-mingled, changing relationships of plants that grow in our backyards, along the edges of fields and parking lots, as well flora that are cultivated for their beauty.
Like the notorious kudzu blanketing rural and urban landscapes in the Deep South, invasive species are often considered beautiful and not acknowledged until they are out of control. Invasive species pose a serious threat to biodiversity; scientists estimate that between 25 and 50 percent of America’s native plants are threatened by invasive species. Yet the issue of biodiversity is an increasingly complex conversation; it is no longer a simplistic “natives versus invasives” paradigm.
Beauty Versus Beauty is the first part of a multi-faceted long-term project on biodiversity.
Emily Hamilton Laux is an artist who uses photography and installation to examine ideas about the human relationship with internal and external worlds.
Born in Saigon, and raised in Cambodia, Paris and Washington, Laux has an MA from the American University School of International Service and a BA from Tulane University. Previously, Laux worked in financial publishing in New York, London and Hong Kong. In Connecticut, she worked as a photojournalist, gallery manager and arts publicist.
Since 2016, Laux exhibited her work at the Griffin Museum of Photography, and numerous galleries in the Northeast, including the Davis Orton Gallery, the Westport Arts Center, and the Ridgefield Artists Guild, among others.
Laux maintains a studio at Firing Circuits Studios in Norwalk, and is member of the Westport Artists Collective and the Ridgefield Guild of Artists. She lives in Westport, CT.
Flora – Marcy Palmer (In the Griffin Gallery)
Under the umbrella of the Griffin Museum’s overarching topic of “Down Garden Paths,” Palmer’s Flora is an exploration of beauty as an antidote for personal and political crisis. Writer and philosopher John O’Donohue states, “I think that beauty is not a luxury, but that it ennobles the heart and reminds us of the infinity that is within us.” That idea resonates with me and inspired this project. The images are made from plants and flowers gathered during walks in my neighborhood or in my backyard, which are photographed, printed on vellum, and hand applied gold leaf, varnish, and wax to the prints to create the final images. The project takes reference from Anna Atkins’s botanical studies as well as surrealist photographers who manipulated imagery and materials.
The Flora images are archival inkjet vellum prints with either 24k or 18k gold leaf applied to the back of the print by hand. The print is then varnished with an archival UV varnish and a wax is applied to the front of the prints.
Marcy Palmer’s work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally at The Center for Photographic Art (Carmel, CA), The Griffin Museum of Photography, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, The Berlin Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography (GE), The Brighton Photo Fringe Festival (UK), The Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Center for Fine Art Photography, The Photomedia Center, The Watershed Media Centre (UK), Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle, WA, and other venues. Marcy’s work won Gold in the Fine Art, Abstract category of the PX3, Prix de la Photographie, Paris 2016 awards. Her work was also a finalist in the Fine Art Category for the 7th Edition of the Julia M Cameron Awards. Marcy has an MFA in Photography & Related Media from the School of Visual Arts and a BS in Studio Art from Skidmore College.
Shibui – Paula Riff
The Japanese word “shibui” refers to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle and unobtrusive beauty and it is this concept that reflects the spirit of this series, Shibui. An object of art that employs these characteristics may at first appear to be simple, but upon closer inspection the subtle details and textures balance that simplicity with a rich complexity.
I create camera-less images using the processes of cyanotype and color gum bichromate as a way to physically interact with the natural world as an artist. I cut the paper at various intersections which allows me to enter the conversation with the images in a very intimate way. My intention is to strip away as much as possible so that I am able to focus more on the elements of design and consider elements of nature in a different way.
Paula Riff’s first career did not involve taking pictures. After college, she lived in Tokyo, Japan for several years and upon her return became an interpreter for Japanese production companies in Los Angeles. She switched careers while landing an internship at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the photo department. She also worked at the California Institute of the Arts, taking photos for their publications. Although Paula owns digital and film cameras her new work finds her camera-less, coating her own papers and making photograms. Paula’s work was selected for the Top 50 Critical Mass Award of 2018 and was a finalist in 2018 for the Juliet Margaret Cameron Award in the Alternative Process Category. Her work has appeared in numerous museums, galleries, publications and exhibitions throughout the U.S and internationally. Paula’s work is also held in private collections.
Places For The Spirit, Traditional African American Gardens – Vaughn Sills
One early September afternoon in 1987, I found myself on the porch of Bea Robinson’s house in Athens, Georgia. While my friend and Bea chatted about their lives, I looked around and became entranced by Bea’s garden. Something came over me – or through me – as I stood in the garden, looking, feeling, sensing the energy or magic or spirit, call it what you will, that surrounded me. On that warm, soft, sunny day I took the first of what became into a series of photographs that I worked on for nearly 20 years.
These photographs document a tradition that is a way of using the land that is both historically significant and aesthetically resonant. Scholars (including my friend Sara Glickman) have studied these gardens and traced many of their traits to West Africa, pointing out similar uses of the land and learning that slaves brought with them not only plant seeds and agricultural skills, but a landscape aesthetic still in evidence today. The gardens, however, are disappearing – or evolving – as we become less rural and more assimilated. There is a distinct influence among ethnic groups, so that features of traditional African American yards are now seen in white gardens and vice-versa. As people move into cities, they tend to assimilate more with the dominant culture, which in our society encourages the use of store-bought planters, “garden furniture,” and even a particular style of landscape design that places one clearly in the middle class.
Seeking traditional gardens, I would travel into the neighborhood in Athens where Bea Robinson lived, that was largely, if not all, African-American, or out into the counties south and east, Oglethorpe, Taliaferro, Greene, Morgan, and Wilkes; I also traveled and photographed throughout the deep southern states, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, and Arkansas. I drove through the towns and countryside looking for gardens that felt similar to Bea Robinson’s.
These gardens speak a certain language – a language, I’m convinced, that is about the earth, about beauty, and about spirit. Some of the vocabulary of this language is about cultural mores and spiritual knowledge – the empty bottles, the pipes sticking upright out of the ground, dolls have specific meanings that relate to the spirits of ancestors — and that go back centuries and across an ocean; some of the vocabulary is functional, practical, born of necessity – the vegetable gardens, the chicken coops; and some is quite simply of beauty – the impatiens and petunias and pinks, the rose bushes, prickly pears, and canna lilies. The way the vocabulary is put together is based on tradition, custom, function, and each gardener’s individual creativity — yielding a distinctive style. This style becomes the structure of the language; this structure is aesthetic; and this aesthetic, to my eye, is beauty.
It’s a language different from the one I grew up with in Eastern Canada or New England, where I live now. It is a language, though, that I’ve seen and felt before – mostly in the South, mostly in the yards of African-Americans. It’s a language whose sound is so lyrical that, even though I don’t know the nuances of all the words, I used it to make these photographs. – VS
Vaughn Sills’ deep interest involves how we are influenced by and how we influence the land, how cultures evolve in relation to (and affect) their geography – as well as how individuals become who we are because of our families, social, and environmental circumstances.
Vaughn’s photographs have been exhibited widely in museums and galleries, including the Gibbes Museum in Charleston SC, the DuSables Museum of African American History in Chicago, the US Botanic Garden in Washington, DC and the Carpenter Center of Arts at Harvard University, the DeCordova, and the Trustman, Ellen Miller and Davis Orton Galleries. Her work is in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, DeCordova Museum, Harvard Art Museum, Eaton Vance, Fidelity, Simmons University, and the now-dispersed Polaroid Collection. Her work has earned a number of awards. From the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Vaughn received two Artist’s Fellowships in Photography and was twice named a Finalist. She has also received grants from Artadia Dialogue for Art and Culture, the Polaroid Foundation, The New England Foundation for the Arts, and the President’s Fund for Faculty Excellence from Simmons College. Two books of Vaughn’s work have been published: Places for the Spirit, Traditional African American Gardens (Trinity University, 2010) and One Family (University of Georgia, 2001).
Vaughn is a Visiting Scholar at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center and Associate Professor Emerita of Photography at Simmons University. She lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Prince Edward Island, Canada.