Face it, mounting an exhibit is a lot of work. Most of the past week I've been engaged in the minutia of preparing one: tending the printer, cutting mat board and foam core, making exhibit labels, buffing out my artist's statement. And it was a long day to hang it, a three hour drive to Portland, four hours to figure out a sequence and adhere the things to the wall, and three hours home. Why, exactly?
This exhibit, at Cameraworks in Portland (just a wall, really, in a college building, but it apparently has a storied past as a long-time photography venue), is the first fruit of my Photo Lucida trial last spring, where I showed my contra dance project. Preparing the work has had a useful impact on assessing the body of material. Out of two decades of work, which are the 25 prints that should function as a summation of the project? Printing the work to size (18” wide) allowed me to see things in the photographs I had never considered before—all that shadow detail gained in significance in ways a 5x7 work print would never reveal. I had to make different decisions on how to print an image once I saw it to scale.
At the gallery I then had to make decisions on the flow of the work. The hanging guidelines of “22 to 28 prints” was wildly optimistic, and I had leave out a fourth of the work I brought. That forced a new line of thought to what should be shown, a harsher distillation, as it were.
And there it was, 18 prints, on exhibit. While I was hanging a few people drifted through. This, I suppose, is the whole point, and a treat for me. Alas, I know too few people in Portland to justify mounting an opening, so the next time I'll see the work will be when I come to take it down in a month. I won't have that evening of conversation and observation which is so rewarding. Nonetheless, the act of giving up control of the work, to allow the opportunity for others to admit the images you've made into their own experience, is reason enough. Art without an observer is a soliloquy with no point. Just to know this comingling of experience is occurring, my life within the photographs, their associations from seeing them, is fulfillment enough. Being in room when it happens is a bonus.
The details: “Joy Unconfined! Contra Dance in America: A Photographic Journey” is at Cameraworks Gallery in Peterson Hall at 2255 NW Northrup, Portland, OR. Work is up from December 29th to January 26th.