What do we understand when we experience art? What motivates our interest and why? What is the creative act about? How do we individually translate art and meaning?
According to Visual Arts professor Amy Friend, these were the questions that shaped the curation of invitational art exhibit “Translations”. The exhibit consists of carefully curated photographs. When it comes to the subjects of the photos, from self portraits to landscapes there is no clear unifying theme. The photographic techniques used don’t match up either, yet, they were all placed around the gallery with each other in mind. The hope is that the viewer can make something new out of it.
“The idea of ‘translating’ something is converting words into another form of language which I think is true for all art,” said artist Kaitlyn Roberts. “But because of this, the exhibition reminds me of a story, as if all the pieces together are trying to tell the viewer a secret. I read this because I find all the pieces — when together — in the exhibition to be very ambiguous and mysterious.”
“The idea of translations to me — in this show specifically — is that all of the work is very open to interpretation,” said artist Sarah Martin. “Every individual can translate the medium of photography in any way they wish.”
“Translations” was curated by Friend, who picked specific pieces with the intent of offering a variety of concepts, visual strategies and photographic processes. Friend even oversaw the positioning of the photographs in the gallery with the intent of re-shaping the possibilities of meanings; for instance, some photos are repeated, some are placed quite close to others.
In the end, it’s up to the viewer to interpret not only the art, but the meaning behind their placement.
“I hope people really consider the way Amy curated it by pairing certain works together and what that relationship means in the context of the entire space,” said Martin.
A walk through the gallery offers a wealth of subject matter and plenty of room to create new meaning out of all of it.
Roberts’ work in the exhibit features a black background with a blank book over top, open on different pages depending on the photograph. It may sound simple but the images are painterly, with a rather mystifying element to them.
“I was inspired by the idea of a sketchbook always being the thing to practice art in or sketch out ideas for a final project and not being the final piece of artwork itself,” said Roberts. “Every artist I know has an abundance of sketchbooks that they never even use; they are put in the background and hidden behind the final work. Due to this, I photographed empty sketchbooks with this idea of turning something that is only used for ideas and not ‘art’ into ‘high’ art worthy of exhibition.”
Martin’s is a self portrait that was a darkroom experiment, repeated 30 times over with a different look to each image. At times, her face is clear; other times, shrouded in darkness or painted over and hidden. Each take on the image is completely unique from the rest.
“I tried a new technique called solarization, which is when you try to reverse the development process in the darkroom, so each of the 30 images is an individual experimental version of the solarization process. It’s the same image 30 times but it’s 30 different interpretations of it which fit in with Amy’s theme of translations,” said Martin. “I want people to be interested and excited by the different methods of the photograph because while it is a singular image repeated several times, each one presents a new meaning, a new version of it, because of the experiment I’ve done in the darkroom.”
“Translations” features an abundance of technique and subject matter. Martin and Roberts both hoped that one of the main takeaways from the exhibit would be that viewers would learn that photography isn’t as simple as it seems.
“When you think about the history of art, digital photography is one of the newest forms of art. I feel like photography in the world is the least accepted because of the idea that you can just point and shoot and produce that final image — that’s not how it works, but a lot of people interpret it that way,” said Martin. “With a photograph, it’s so much more than just the image. It’s the idea of the image, it’s the process of the image, it’s the history of the image.”
“Photography is special as a medium because people tend to believe photography,” said Roberts. “Other mediums — painting for example — cannot give the viewer a sense of truth but photography forces the viewer to wonder the actions and events behind the photograph.”
Those who come to see “Translations” will not only be left with their own unique interpretations of the imagery but may walk away with a new take on the medium of photography as well.
“All of the techniques used in the exhibition are so different from one another,” said Roberts. “I would love for people to take away a new perspective on all the possible things that you can do with the medium.”
“Translations” is being held from Jan. 7 to Jan. 31 in the VISA Art Gallery and Student Exhibition Space at Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.