The alternative process powerhouse herself, Barbara Hitchcock gave us some of her time this past week so we could interview her via email.
She shared her latest insights with us and below are some of the ways she hops into her Griffin State of Mind.
Her strong voice in the art community has been a part of the Griffin journey for many years as she has even curated multiple shows for us.
We have always appreciated her true and authentic appreciation for the history of photography and the integration of all photographic processes to create imaginative masterpieces.
How long have you been part of the Griffin team and describe your role at the Griffin?
In 2006, Blake Fitch, the Executive Director then, and her team, established the Focus Awards and I was one of the awardees. I joined the Board of Directors shortly thereafter and continued on the Board the maximum number of terms and then became a Corporater.
I still serve at the discretion of the Board. Periodically, I have curated exhibitions displayed at the Griffin, among them William Wegman: It’s a Dog’s Life; Barbara Crane: Challenging Vision; Patrick Nagatani: Themes and Variations and most recently, Shadows and Traces: The Photographs of John Reuter.
Describe how you first connected with the Griffin.
The then director of the Griffin Center contacted me, asking me to do an exhibition at the Griffin that illustrated creative art photography, a departure from their usual practice. At that time, the center’s mission concentrated on photo illustration and journalism, highlighting the professional work of Arthur Griffin who established the Center that then evolved into the Griffin Museum.
I believe it was the 1990s. I hung an exhibition titled “New Dimensions in Photography” that featured artists making photographs using antique or alternative processes – cyanotypes on fabric, Polaroid image transfers on watercolor paper, platinum prints and the like.
How do you involve photography in your everyday?
I’ve started to take photographs again, much more than I used to. But I have been lucky as I have continued to curate exhibitions – the most recent titled The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology currently at the MIT Museum – and I occasionally write about artists and their artwork for catalogs and books.
Can you describe one photograph that recently caught your eye?
West Coast artists Victor Raphael and Terry Braunstein are collaborating on a series of images that deal with climate change. One dramatic, eye-grabbing image of a partia house on fire floats above palm trees into a hellishly scarlet sky scarred by black and red- reflecting clouds. A man, sitting on the edge of the house’s roof, weeps. The image is searing! Unfortunately, we know this image is not a warning, not fantasy. It is already a reality.
What has been the most eye opening part of our time of physical distancing?
How difficult physical distancing is. You want to embrace friends and family; people want that basic warmth of physical connection. And some people just don’t seem to know how far 6-feet away really is…or their attention is on other things as they wander into your path.
What is your favorite place to escape to in nature…mountains? beach? woods? and why?
I’ve always loved walking in the woods and going to the beach. I grew up in houses with yards, but my brothers and I always used to play in the lots that had underbrush and rocks where garden snakes unsuccessfully hid from us. Walking in wooded parks with the sound and sighting of birds, the smell of plants, trees and fallen pine needles, the occasional deer sighting, the quietude – it is like a loving embrace. And walking barefoot along the ocean with its crash of waves on the beach is similarly magical.
What is one book, song, or other visual obsession you have at the moment?
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway production Hamilton. The music, the choreography, the history, the emotion, the humanity. I still get goosebumps watching it!
If you could be in a room with anyone to have a one on one conversation about anything, who would that person be and what would you talk about?
Georgia O’Keeffe would be an irresistible choice. Her paintings make me weep; I don’t know why. She was such a talented, strong, independent woman who was married to Alfred Stieglitz, an incredibly strong, monumental, stellar figure in the world of art. How did they negotiate the life they shared together and apart that allowed them both to grow and succeed? That, I assume, would be a fascinating conversation.
What is one of your favorite exhibitions shown by the Griffin?
I have too many favorite exhibits to highlight only one. It would be unfair to the ones I don’t mention! In general, I am attracted to work that is experimental in nature, imaginative and pushes the envelope visually and intellectually. What is the artist communicating to the viewer through his/her photograph? Is there a subtle message or is the image straight forward and uncomplicated? Stop. Look. Ponder. What is being revealed?