Photo National 2011: A Survey of Contemporary Photography


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UMMA’s Photo National 2011: A Survey of Contemporary Photography features 76 works of art by 34 fine art photographers from throughout the United States. Photographers were chosen through a highly competitive jury process. The exhibition offers a glimpse into the diversity of contemporary photographic processes and various approaches prevalent today.

Photo National 2011 features a considerable quantity of color images which underscore the wide-spread practice of digital photography and archival inkjet printing. Works in a range of styles including historical photographic processes, photo-collage and assemblage, photo-documentary and abstraction are highlighted. While the exhibition attests to the unique vision of these varied photographers, the selection also emphasizes noticeable commonalities regarding style and subject matter.

Photo-documentary approaches are well represented in the exhibition. Lisa Kessler’s Seeing Pink series explores the multitude of associations attached to the color pink. For instance, in one of her images a visiting team’s football locker room is bathed in soft pink tones in hopes to sedate or perhaps crush the spirits of the opponent. With dramatic lighting, Michael Mergen photographs voting precincts located in settings as odd as roller skating rinks and restaurants, but completely devoid of people. Paul Greenberg’s black and white images of museum guards patrolling art galleries document a job that is approached with enthusiasm and authority by some and boredom by others.

For Harold Ross and Jim Nickelson, the landscape is poetic, mythical and ever-changing. Ross’ long exposure of an isolated clothes line, glowing under a focused vignette of light, conveys both the stillness of night and a feeling of absence. Nickelson’s interest in the complexity of the natural world is reflected in his mysterious and ethereal image of a mountain lake’s subtle reflections and atmospheric conditions that almost border on abstraction.

For several photographers, portraits serve as a portal to a greater understanding of self. Rania Matar’s images are of teenage girls taken within the privacy of their bedrooms. These spaces are often adorned with objects of affection, personal photographs and ephemera that straddle childhood and adulthood and allude to the tumultuousness of adolescence. With intensity and directness, Lydia A. Harris’ portraits look past external personas with the intent to reveal the complex and deep inner nature of her subjects.

Interior spaces, with no sign of their inhabitants stirring about, are the subject of several photographers including Alexandru Mandrila, Sarah Szwajkos, Keliy Anderson-Staley, Rylan Steele and Christine Osinski. Steele’s images of abandoned offices document mundane man-made environments that reflect both our disposable culture and, at times, bleak economic conditions. In a similar manner, Osinski’s quiet, almost monochromatic image of an ophthalmologist’s office is peaceful, yet eerily surreal.

Photo National 2011 was juried by Brian Paul Clamp, Director of ClampArt Gallery, NYC and George Kinghorn, Director & Curator, UMaine Museum of Art.

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top, left to right: J.J. L’Heureux (Wandering Albatross Chick), Rania Mater (Jess 20, Boston, Jamaica Plain), Sean Alonzo Harris (I Remember Warm Rain)
bottom, left to right: Robert Moran (Telethon), Magnus Stark (Alchemy), Sandra Stark (Nature vs Not Sure-Rat)
above: Jim Nickelson (The Tarn)

Participating Photographers:

Keliy Anderson-Staley, Jeffery C. Becton, Melonie Bennett, Leslie Bowman, Anne-Claude Cotty, K.K. DePaul, Julie K. Gray, Paul Greenberg, Lydia A. Harris, Sean Alonzo Harris, Tom Hubbard, Rowan James, Greg Kaiser, Paul Karabinis, Lisa Kessler, J.J. L’Heureux, Alexandru Mandrila, Nancy M. Manter, Ben Marcin, Rania Matar, Michael Mergen, Meredith Miller, Robert Moran, Jim Nickelson, Christine Osinski, Rachel Bee Porter, Harold Ross, Dianna Rust, Magnus Stark, Sandra Stark, Rylan Steele, Sarah Szwajkos, Shoshannah White and Mong-Jane Wu.